Only one of the seven rounds of the 2014 NHL draft is through with, but that means the first 30 selections are in the books and some were certainly better than others.
The top of the draft was flooded with top talent. Aaron Ekblad became the first defenseman in eight years to go No. 1 overall, but he was just the first of many future NHL stars who flew off the board early.
But while many teams nabbed can't-miss standout prospects who are sure to excel, some of the other moves were far from inspiring and left supporters of their teams shaking their heads.
Let's break down grades for each team in the first round of the draft and highlight who was selected.
|Florida Panthers||D Aaron Ekblad (1)||A|
|Buffalo Sabres||C Sam Reinhart (2)||A-|
|Edmonton Oilers||C Leon Draisaitl (3)||A-|
|Calgary Flames||C Samuel Bennett (4)||A|
|New York Islanders||LW Michael Dal Colle (5)||A-|
|Vancouver Canucks||RW Jake Virtanen (6), C Jared McCann (24)||B|
|Carolina Hurricanes||D Haydn Fleury (7)||B+|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||C William Nylander (8)||B+|
|Winnipeg Jets||LW Nikolaj Ehlers (9)||B+|
|Anaheim Ducks||LW Nicholas Ritchie (10)||B|
|Nashville Predators||LW Kevin Fiala (11)||B|
|Arizona Coyotes||LW Brendan Perlini (12)||B-|
|Washington Capitals||W Jakub Vrana (13)||B+|
|Dallas Stars||D Julius Honka (14)||C+|
|Detroit Red Wings||C Dylan Larkin (15)||B|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||LW Sonny Milano (16)||B+|
|Philadelphia Flyers||D Travis Sanheim (17)||B-|
|Minnesota Wild||RW Alex Tuch (18)||B+|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||D Anthony Deangelo (19)||A-|
|Chicago Blackhawks||C Nick Schmaltz (20)||B|
|St. Louis Blues||C Robert Fabbri (21)||B|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||RW Kasperi Kapanen (22)||B+|
|Colorado Avalanche||C Conner Bleackley (23)||B-|
|Boston Bruins||RW David Pastrnak (25)||B|
|Montreal Canadiens||RW Nikita Scherbak (26)||C+|
|San Jose Sharks||RW Nikolay Goldobin (27)||B|
|New York Islanders||C Joshua Ho-Sang (28)||B+|
|Los Angeles Kings||LW Adrian Kempe||B|
|New Jersey Devils||C John Quenneville||B+|
Grades via Steven Cook, results via NHL.com
Note: Complete draft results can be found at NHL.com.
Notable Team Grades
Florida Panthers: A
There's no telling how often Florida was linked to moving the top overall pick or even how many offers it fielded in the hours leading up to the draft. But at 7 p.m. ET, with the first pick still in their laps, the Panthers got their guy.
Ekblad was taken No. 1 overall by Florida. After flirting with the prospect of getting tons in return, the Panthers decided that the best offer they got just wasn't enough to pass on the best defenseman—and overall player—in the class.
Before the pick was announced, though, general manager Dale Tallon dramatically paused, leaving NHL.com's Dan Rosen and others on the edge of their seats:
FLA selects Aaron Ekblad. Tallon deserves an Oscar for the drama he created about trading the pick and then stalling as he announced it.— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) June 27, 2014
At 6'3" and already playing beyond his years in terms of maturity, Ekblad's biggest strengths are those you can't teach. He's big, already "gets it" and has a natural knack for affecting both the offensive and especially the defensive side of the ice.
There really was little doubt that Ekblad was the best player there for the taking, even with elite forwards like Sam Reinhart and Leon Draisaitl in the mix. It's a huge move for Florida—a team that has a few skilled young forwards but not much young defensive talent to look forward to.
Drafting Ekblad won't be enough to immediately reverse the fortunes of a team that finished 29th or worse in the following: goals for, goals against, power play and penalty kill. But it's a heck of a start.
Edmonton Oilers: A-
With the likely event of the Panthers selecting Ekblad out of the way, Buffalo went with the first of three top-tier forwards in Reinhart at No. 2. That left both Draisaitl and Sam Bennett available, and Edmonton hand-picked the one that best fit the team.
The Oilers nabbed Draisaitl with the third overall pick in Friday night's first round, immediately becoming one of the best prospects in an organization that is now filled with them after years of selecting early in the draft.
Draisaitl shared his emotions with the media after being picked, per the team's official Twitter:
The German standout is just 18, but he won't take long—if at all—to make his impact felt in the NHL. At a whopping 6'2" and 210 pounds, Draisaitl is the prototypical big center many of the top contenders boast—think Joe Thornton or Anze Kopitar.
Draisaitl won't reach that ceiling right away or maybe ever, but if he's anything close, he will be the big forward the Oilers covet. He's a great fit in Edmonton and will be a key piece to what should be a contender in the coming years.
Toronto Maple Leafs: B+
No stranger to early picks in the draft, the Maple Leafs added William Nylander in a big move with their No. 8 overall pick to add to a growing farm system.
There's no doubt that Nylander is a young prospect with plenty of growing to do before he's ready for the big stage, but when he is ready, he'll make his mark as one of the Maple Leafs' most skilled offensive weapons.
Weighing in at under 170 pounds, Nylander uses his small size to execute well with the puck in close quarters. He's a true artist with the puck and can get himself into scoring situations on his own.
TSN's Jonas Siegel notes that Nylander could get his chance right away:
Dave Nonis says Nylander will be given an opportunity to make Leafs next season. As free agent, he can play with Marlies as well.— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) June 28, 2014
Whether he gets his chance in his rookie season or not, Nylander is just what the Maple Leafs need. They're already an above-average offensive team, but not nearly where they need to be to make a playoff run. Perhaps Nylander is the missing piece.
His youth begs a bit of a question, and Toronto might have been able to find a more NHL-ready prospect. But if he pans out, nobody will be complaining about this pick.
Although he's not on the same level as Ekblad, Draisaitl and a few other players at the top of the draft, Nylander is among the best in the second tier of prospects. Toronto did well to get him with the No. 8 pick.