There were no major surprises in the opening round of the 2014 NHL draft. The consensus top-five prospects were off the board within the first five picks and most of the round followed suit with only a few minor risers and fallers.
Most of the players drafted, especially those taken outside the top 10, are looking at a few more years of development before they are NHL-ready. It means final judgment of this year's draft can't be passed for at least a handful of seasons.
That said, it's hard to miss badly on opening night given the talented level of the prospects. It would take a major mistake to get a failing mark, and that didn't happen this time around. So let's check out grades for the first round, followed by a look at the day's trades and top picks.
Round 1 Grades
|Anaheim Ducks||LW Nicholas Ritchie (10)||B+|
|Arizona Coyotes||LW Brendan Perlini (12)||B+|
|Boston Bruins||RW David Pastrnak (25)||B-|
|Buffalo Sabres||C Sam Reinhart (2)||A|
|Calgary Flames||C Sam Bennett (4)||A|
|Carolina Hurricanes||D Haydn Fleury (7)||A-|
|Chicago Blackhawks||C Nick Schmaltz (20)||B-|
|Colorado Avalanche||C Conner Bleackley (23)||C+|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||LW Sonny Milano (16)||B|
|Dallas Stars||D Julius Honka (14)||B+|
|Detroit Red Wings||C Dylan Larkin (15)||B-|
|Edmonton Oilers||C Leon Draisaitl (3)||A|
|Florida Panthers||D Aaron Ekblad (1)||A|
|Los Angeles Kings||LW Adrian Kempe (29)||B|
|Minnesota Wild||RW Alex Tuch (18)||B+|
|Montreal Canadiens||RW Nikita Scherbak (26)||C|
|Nashville Predators||LW Kevin Fiala (11)||B-|
|New Jersey Devils||C John Quenneville (30)||C+|
|New York Islanders||LW Michael Dal Colle (5), C Joshua Ho-Sang (28)||A-|
|Philadelphia Flyers||D Travis Sanheim (17)||C|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||RW Kasperi Kapanen (22)||B+|
|San Jose Sharks||RW Nikolay Goldobin (27)||B|
|St. Louis Blues||C Robert Fabbri (21)||B|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||D Anthony DeAngelo (19)||C+|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||C William Nylander (8)||B+|
|Vancouver Canucks||RW Jake Virtanen (6), C Jared McCann (24)||A-|
|Washington Capitals||W Jakub Vrana (13)||B-|
|Winnipeg Jets||LW Nikolaj Ehlers (9)||B+|
Day 1 Trades
|1||ANA||Ryan Kesler, 2015 3rd||VAN||Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, No. 24, No. 85|
|2||TB||Jason Garrison, Jeff Costello, 2015 7th||VAN||No. 50|
|3||NYR||No. 85||VAN||Derek Dorsett|
|4||NSH||James Neal||PIT||Patric Hornqvist, Nick Spaling|
|5||CHI||No. 20, No. 179||SJ||No. 27, No. 62|
|6||NYI||No. 28||TB||No. 35, No. 57|
Outlook for Top Picks
Aaron Ekblad (Florida Panthers)
While there was a debate about which forward was the best available, Ekblad was a clear step above the rest among defensemen. A highly skilled two-way blueliner, he's not only ready to step in right away for Florida, he can play a significant role in his rookie season.
His accelerated development is what really gave him the inside edge to go first overall. He scored 53 points, including 23 goals, in 58 games with the Barrie Colts of the OHL. Those numbers were good enough to earn him a rare honor, as noted by the NHL:
Aaron Ekblad became just 3rd player in 18-yr-old birth year to claim OHL’s Most Outstanding Defenseman in the past 20 years. #NHLDraft— NHL (@NHL) June 27, 2014
Ekblad will face a transition period just like any other prospect, but his should go smoother than most. He's ready for the physical side of the game, and it shouldn't take much time for his offensive talent to shine through. At a time when puck-moving defensemen are vital, Ekblad fits the mold perfectly.
Sam Reinhart (Buffalo Sabres)
The Sabres are in complete rebuilding mode. Reinhart became the face of that effort when Buffalo drafted him second overall. The team actually has good depth in the system on the blue line but is basically void of top-end offensive skill. At least until now.
Reinhart was virtually unstoppable for the Kootenay Ice in the WHL this past season. He put up an eye-popping 105 points in 60 games. That's exactly what the Sabres needed, and he sounds excited to become part of the retooling franchise:
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
The one thing everybody raves about when it comes to the Canadian center is his hockey sense. He has a remarkable feel for the game. Add in his tremendous vision and passing ability to help make his teammates better and he's a perfect cornerstone for the Sabres.
Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers)
Edmonton was probably hoping it wouldn't be drafting inside the top five anymore by this point. The rebuild hasn't gone as quickly as expected, which is a cautionary tale for teams like Buffalo, but they do add another promising piece in Draisaitl.
Who will be the top player from this class?
The German forward is a tremendous offensive talent with great passing ability and a nose for goal. He's also shown nice versatility, working both as a center and a winger, which will give the Oilers some added options as they try to create an offensive group that finally clicks.
One thing he'll need to work on is dealing with size. Opponents have been able to knock him off his game a bit by playing physical, but he has the size to fight through that once he gains more experience. Otherwise, all the signs are positive for Draisaitl.