The future of the NHL was well on display on Friday night.
After the first round came to an end, 30 of the world's brightest young players were fortunate to have their dreams realized, as they received homes in the NHL—hockey's greatest stage.
Last year's draft featured a star-studded cast, and it won't be long before we know how this year's class will fare.
Plenty of prospects entered the draft with NHL-ready skill sets, while others will benefit from some time to develop. That said, we may not know the full impact of this draft until several years down the road.
Well, it's never too early to speculate.
Given prospect upside, draft position and team needs, let's look over the entire first round and grade each team's selections.
|2014 NHL Draft Selections and Grades|
|Panthers||Aaron Eckblad (1)||A||Pro-ready prospect. Great size, good facilitator and shooter.|
|Sabres||Sam Reinhart (2)||A+||Good control and vision with the puck. Highly intelligent.|
|Oilers||Leon Draisaitl (3)||A||Great puck handler and accurate shooter.|
|Flames||Sam Bennett (4)||A||High-energy player with plenty of potential and upside.|
|Islanders||Michael Dal Colle (5); Josh Ho-Sang (28)||A||Solid playmaker and special-teams contributor; a capable winger despite some character issues.|
|Canucks||Jake Virtanen (6); Jared McCann (24)||A-||A couple of crafty players sure to bring a nice offensive boost to Vancouver.|
|Hurricanes||Haydn Fleury (7)||B||Mobile player and solid passer; in need of some development.|
|Maple Leafs||William Nylander (8)||A-||Very skilled with great vision. High-upside prospect with good bloodlines.|
|Jets||Nikolaj Ehlers (9)||B+||High-octane player but lacks elite NHL size.|
|Ducks||Nick Richie (10)||B+||Big player with a powerful shot and good speed.|
|Predators||Kevin Fiala (11)||A-||Solid offensive player who proved himself against good Swiss competition.|
|Coyotes||Brendan Perlini (12)||A||Great value here with a big winger who has nice speed.|
|Capitals||Jakub Vrana (13)||C+||Natural scorer, but need for development makes this a reach.|
|Stars||Julius Honka (14)||B+||Solid puck handler and two-way player.|
|Red Wings||Dylan Larkin (15)||B||Not the most skilled center but solid overall scorer.|
|Blue Jackets||Sonny Milano (16)||B||Fantastic puck-handler capable of putting up nice numbers.|
|Flyers||Travis Sanheim (17)||C+||Projects as nice two-way player but very raw right now.|
|Wild||Alex Tuch (18)||B+||Great size and good scorer but needs a bit of development.|
|Lightning||Anthony DeAngelo (19)||B+||Great two-way player but has some character concerns.|
|Blackhawks||Nick Schmaltz (20)||B||Plenty of skill but can be an underachiever.|
|Blues||Robby Fabbri (21)||A||Strong skater and good puck-handler who can put up points.|
|Penguins||Kasperi Kapanen (22)||A||Great speed and hands with good upside and NHL bloodline.|
|Avalanche||Conner Bleackley (23)||B||Very skilled with good upside but raw at this point.|
|Bruins||David Pastrnak (25)||B||Has upside but needs to build on his frame to max out potential.|
|Canadiens||Nikita Scherbak (26)||A+||Best player available with great size and an immense ceiling.|
|Sharks||Nikolay Goldobin (27)||B||Lots of ability but rather inconsistent.|
|Kings||Adrian Kempe (29)||B+||Young player with good upside; needs time to develop.|
|Devils||John Quenneville (30)||B+||Sound two-way player with nice potential.|
|Sean O'Donnell's Grades|
2. Buffalo Sabres: Sam Reinhart, C, WHL
This could be one of the most impactful selections of the first round.
Reinhart is not only young and highly skilled with a great amount of potential but also boasts the highest level of hockey intelligence in the draft, according to this tweet from ISS Hockey:
At 6'1" and 183 pounds, he isn't overly physical, but he makes up for it with his vision and intelligence.
ISS scout Ross MacLean summed up the center the best, via Kelly Friesen of Yahoo Sports:
He's a great offensive thinker with great skills and a natural nose for scoring goals. He's a very smart playmaker who can really control his time and space well around the puck. He's got a great release on his shot, a release that reminds me a lot of James Neal. He has a natural ability to adapt to his surroundings and seems to build chemistry quickly with whomever he lines up with. He's a quality individual with good character and leadership qualities as well, so not only is the skill there but he brings some very valuable intangibles.
Even though Reinhart has a bit of a smaller stature, he's very much an NHL-ready player. Expect to see him suiting up in Buffalo in the very near future.
17. Philadelphia Flyers: Travis Sanheim, D, WHL
Philadelphia opted to look to the future with this pick to eventually improve its blue line.
Sanheim wasn't the best defensive player available at No. 17 overall; however, he does project to be a nice two-way player as long as he develops accordingly.
At 6'3", he has nice size, and he's no stranger to putting up numbers, tallying 29 points in 67 games last season with the Calgary Hitmen.
Due to his raw skill set right now, this appeared to be a bit of a reach for the Flyers; however, he does have the potential to make a major impact down the road.
After all, according to a tweet from Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly, the defenseman may feel right at home in Philadelphia:
26. Montreal Canadiens: Nikita Scherbak, RW, WHL
Scherbak stood out rather quickly this past season when he put up an impressive 28 goals and 78 points in 65 games on a horrid Saskatoon Blades team.
A versatile player, he has played all three forward positions. His high level of intelligence, solid passing ability and willingness to facilitate make him a very useful tool in Montreal's offensive system.
He may not be known as much of a sniper, but he does have the ability to pick his opportunities and make the most of them.
ISS Hockey tweeted a brief but highly accurate scouting report on the forward:
At just 18 years of age, Scherbak has plenty of upside. The Russian-born skater adapted quickly to the North American game, and with a little more development, he will make a strong impact in the NHL.
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