The 2014 Stanley Cup may have gone through Los Angeles this season, but the road to future Stanley Cups were built in the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. That's where the NHL entry draft took place on Friday night with teams hoping to fortify their rosters with top-shelf young talent.
Some of the prospects' names will be familiar to fans. Sam Reinhart and William Nylander each have family legacies in the league. Meanwhile, other prospects such as Aaron Ekblad will look to carve out their own names for fans of their new clubs.
Now that we know where these exciting players will make their NHL homes, the question remains—who were the big winners?
Here's a look at all the first-round selections, a grade for each team and some overall first impressions from an interesting night of picks.
|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)||B+|
|Vancouver Canucks||RW Jake Virtanen (6), C Jared McCann (24)||B|
|Carolina Hurricanes||D Haydn Fleury (7)||A|
|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)||B-|
|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 Alex Ballentine, Results via NHL.com
Florida Panthers Make Aaron Ekblad No. 1 Pick
Unlike years past, the No. 1 pick truly seemed up for grabs this season. With Reinhart and Sam Bennett representing exciting offensive options, it was unclear which way the Panthers would go.
As it turns out, the Panthers instead went the defensive route. By taking Ekblad over Reinhart and Bennett, they turned back the clock to the last time they had the first pick, as noted by ESPN Stats & Info:
Aaron Ekblad is No. 1 pick by @FlaPanthers in 2014 NHL Draft. Ekblad is 2nd defenseman picked 1st by Panthers (Ed Jovanovski in 1994).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 27, 2014
Ekblad won't just be a defensive force for the Panthers, though. He proved to be a capable scorer in the OHL, scoring 23 goals and 53 points for the Barrie Colts last season.
With the Panthers choosing talented forwards over the course of the last four years, this was an excellent choice. At 6'3" and 213 pounds, he has NHL-ready size and will make his impact felt sooner rather than later.
Sam Reinhart Sets Family Record
The Reinhart name is one that fans have become familiar with. Sam's father was an NHL defenseman, while his brothers, Max and Griffin, are currently in the league. However, Sam may be the most talented member of the family.
As NHL Public Relations tweeted, he's now the family's highest-drafted player. The Buffalo Sabres made him the No. 2 selection:
Reinhart himself was thrilled about the fit. The official Sabres Twitter feed provided the center's reaction to being drafted:
Reinhart: I've pictured myself in this uniform quite a few times. I'm thrilled. Thankful. Looks like a bright future ahead. #Sabres2014Draft— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) June 28, 2014
This pick should make Sabres fans happy. Reinhart's ability as a facilitator on the offensive end and defensive capabilities make him a potentially franchise-anchoring star. With the success of his brothers in the league, he has the pedigree to back up his amateur credentials.
It might be a long climb for the woeful Sabres of yesteryear, but Reinhart is definitely a strong step toward rebuilding the Sabres roster.
Trade Market Surprisingly Quiet
Going into the draft, there was some speculation that there could be a sizable amount of trades on draft night. Even the No. 1 pick seemed as though it might get traded with no clear-cut option.
As it turns out, the night was all quiet on the trade front. The first major trade didn't even involve any picks, actually. The NHL reported a trade between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators involving James Neal:
Outside of that, there were only two trades that actually involved picks. Both are detailed in the table below:
|Teams Involved||Team 1 Receives||Team 2 Receives|
|New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning||Islanders receive: 28th pick||Lightning receive: 35th and 57th picks|
|Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks||Blackhawks receive: 20th and 179th picks||Sharks receive: 27th and 62nd picks|
The lack of trades made for a rather straightforward draft night. With plenty of talent for teams to scoop up, most clubs were content to stay put and gather the talent that came to them.
Now fans will have to wait to find out how that strategy plays out over the long haul.