The buildup to the 2014 NHL draft featured many questions. With the first round now finalized from the Wells Fargo Center, we now have answers to most of them.
Certainly, the biggest question revolved around the first pick. The Florida Panthers don't have much history with the top selection, but they made a big splash by going with defenseman Aaron Ekblad. The 18-year-old's selections represented a bit of a rarity.
NHL Public Relations provided the historic context for the selection:
From there, the draft mostly played out as the experts predicted with offensive stars such as Sam Reinhart and Leon Draisaitl selected in short order.
Below is a complete look at each of the picks from the opening round along with analysis and grades.
|Florida Panthers||D Aaron Ekblad (1)||A||Panthers have well-stocked batch of forwards, now they have defensive cornerstone.|
|Buffalo Sabres||C Sam Reinhart (2)||A||Excellent distributor who should provide some excitement after a horrid season for the Sabres.|
|Edmonton Oilers||C Leon Draisaitl (3)||A-||Went with the size and strength of Draisaitl over the quickness and speed of Bennett. Won't matter as long as he can score.|
|Calgary Flames||C Samuel Bennett (4)||A||Getting a player who should have garnered No. 1 consideration at No. 4 has to be considered a win.|
|New York Islanders||LW Michael Dal Colle (5), C Joshua Ho-Sang (28)||A||Dal Colle's size and offensive capabilities will make him a solid addition. Not as well-rounded as peers.|
|Vancouver Canucks||RW Jake Virtanen (6), C Jared McCann (24)||B||Both Virtanen and McCann will add much-needed athleticism and speed on the offensive end. Physicality a question for both, though.|
|Carolina Hurricanes||D Haydn Fleury (7)||A||Fleury's NHL-ready size makes this the ideal pick. Carolina's defense could be top level sooner rather than later.|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||C William Nylander (8)||A||Offensive skills project a very bright future. NHL pedigree says he can live up to that projection.|
|Winnipeg Jets||LW Nikolaj Ehlers (9)||B+||Winnipeg showed a preference for intelligent, athletic wingers here.|
|Anaheim Ducks||LW Nicholas Ritchie (10)||A||Ducks score a player with top-three potential at No. 10. The massive winger has size to make immediate impact.|
|Nashville Predators||LW Kevin Fiala (11)||B||Predators add a skilled winger who excels at passing. Not a game-changer, but certainly adds depth.|
|Arizona Coyotes||LW Brendan Perlini (12)||B-||Newly branded Arizona teams gets a nice athletic winger here. But center was much more pressing need.|
|Washington Capitals||W Jakub Vrana (13)||B+||Vrana should provide the Capitals with a spark offensively. The question is if he will develop much more beyond where his game is right now.|
|Dallas Stars||D Julius Honka (14)||B-||Offensive-minded defenseman doesn't really have the bulk or demeanor to move the meter defensively.|
|Detroit Red Wings||C Dylan Larkin (15)||B||Larkin is a versatile player who should be considered a jack-of-all-trades, but master of none.|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||LW Sonny Milano (16)||B+||Add another exciting, young forward to the mix for the Blue Jackets.|
|Philadelphia Flyers||D Travis Sanheim (17)||B-||Again, a team took a defenseman who is simply a long way away from being as physical as he'll need to be to have an impact.|
|Minnesota Wild||RW Alex Tuch (18)||A-||Great value for the Wild. Tuch has the size and strength to be a difference-maker up front.|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||D Anthony Deangelo (19)||B-||Character red flags make Deangelo a risky pick. If he stays out of trouble he could be a steal, though.|
|Chicago Blackhawks||C Nick Schmaltz (20)||B||Blackhawks move up the draft board to grab a fairly sure thing in the late first round.|
|St. Louis Blues||C Robert Fabbri (21)||B||Scrappy center won't win many physical battles, but he should give the Blues a capable scorer.|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||RW Kasperi Kapanen (22)||B+||Finnish speedster is a gifted passer with a good shot. Not much to dislike there.|
|Colorado Avalanche||C Conner Bleackley (23)||B-||Bleackley is unlikely to turn out to be a bust. He has good skills, but defense was a more pressing need.|
|Boston Bruins||RW David Pastrnak (25)||B||The Bruins are in need of promising forwards to develop and they got a good one here.|
|Montreal Canadiens||RW Nikita Scherbak (26)||C||Scherbak has been successful with his ice IQ, but isn't incredibly gifted in any one facet of the game.|
|San Jose Sharks||RW Nikolay Goldobin (27)||B+||Goldobin is a capable creator. Considering the Sharks traded down and still got him, this was a strong pick.|
|Los Angeles Kings||LW Adrian Kempe||B||An excellent skater with good size, Kempe fits the Kings mold perfectly.|
|New Jersey Devils||C John Quenneville||B+||Quenneville will need some time to develop, but was best available at No. 30.|
Grades and Analysis via Alex Ballentine; Results via NHL.com
New York Islanders
Once the dust settled on the first round, the New York Islanders stuck out as a team that did a lot to help itself going forward.
The Islanders started the night off strong by taking Michael Dal Colle. The 6'2" winger brings offensive versatility that should make him a consistent offensive presence as he develops into an NHL player. However, the fun didn't stop there for Islanders fans.
The team traded back into the first round to take boom-or-bust prospect, Joshua Ho-Sang. TSN provided the details of the trade:
Many will scoff at the selection of Ho-Sang. Although he's a dynamic scorer, critics have said that he might be too selfish to pan out at the NHL level. However, Ken Campbell of The Hockey News provided some insight as to why the risk is a calculated one:
Like that Islanders pick. 28 is a crapshoot anyway, might as well swing for the fences. Don't forget, Garth Snow has excellent draft record.— Ken Campbell (@THNKenCampbell) June 28, 2014
With Dal Colle and Ho-Sang in the fold, the Islanders put forth a concerted effort to upgrade their front lines. It might take a while, but these are two investments who should make a long-term impact.
It wouldn't have been surprising if commissioner Gary Bettman announced Sam Bennett as the top pick of the draft. His stick skills are second to none in this draft, and his ice IQ make him a blue-chip prospect.
Instead, Bennett slid all the way to No. 4 and the Flames were happy to end that slide. Though Bennett's strength has been called into question, there's plenty of time for that aspect of his game to catch up to his cerebral skills.
For the Flames, Bennett should combine with Sean Monahan for a long time, as noted by Corey Pronman of ESPN:
CGY now has two building blocks down the middle in Sam and Sean. I think Bennett could be the better player though down the line.— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) June 27, 2014
That's great news for a franchise that desperately needs it. Don't expect the Flames to continue drafting early going forward.
With the second-best record in the NHL last season, it almost didn't seem fair that the Ducks were picking in the top 10. When they used the No. 10 pick on Nick Ritchie, it seemed even more unfair.
Not only is Ritchie one of the more skilled forwards in the draft, he's among the most NHL-ready. More than one analyst has made note of his incredible size and strength for a prospect, including Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register:
Ritchie is listed at 6-2 1/2 and 226. Looks bigger. Had 39 goals, 74 points in 61 GP with Peterborough (OHL). Classic power forward.— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) June 28, 2014
With the rare opportunity to add an elite young talent to an already-strong roster, the Ducks didn't disappoint. This is a player who can play right away and may be just what the team needs to be even better next season.