Seven rounds are now in the books, the 2014 NHL draft has drawn to a close, and teams can begin assessing how they did over the two-day spectacle.
Although the Los Angeles Kings are still ringing in their Stanley Cup victory, all 30 teams have begun the process of making roster adjustments and assembling a squad for next season. The NHL draft doesn't offer as many immediate-impact players as some of their counterparts in American sports, but a number of teams grabbed NHL-ready talents, and others stockpiled talent for the future.
But not every team impressed with its moves. Let's take a look at grades and analyze the most notable drafts.
|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)||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)||B+|
|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 (29)||B|
|New Jersey Devils||C John Quenneville (30)||B+|
|New York Rangers||N/A||B|
Grades via Steven Cook, results via NHL.com
Full Draft Results: Complete seven-round results found at NHL.com.
Florida Panthers: A
They made no doubt of their openness to dealing the top pick, but when no deal swept the Florida Panthers off their feet, they nabbed the prospect who stands out from the rest in this year's class.
Aaron Ekblad was taken No. 1 overall by the Panthers, a star defenseman from the Barrie Colts (OHL) who might not have franchise player written all over him but has everything you'd want from a commanding first-line blueliner.
Not only is Ekblad a big body at 6'3" and 216 pounds, but he uses it to impose his will on the defensive side and quickly thwart out opposing chances. When he sets up on the blue line in offense, particularly on the power play, he excels both at running the point and shooting from it.
Ekblad was the first defenseman taken No. 1 overall since 2006 and the first in 20 years to go first to Florida, per ESPN Stats and Information:
Aaron Ekblad was No. 1 pick by Panthers in 2014 NHL Draft yesterday. Ekblad is 2nd defenseman picked 1st by Panthers (Ed Jovanovski, 1994).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 28, 2014
There was no shortage of teams trying to move up to No. 1 overall to take Ekblad, and it's not hard to see why the Panthers got a lot better in this draft—even from just this one pick. Despite his ripe age, Ekblad is good enough to make an impact right away.
The Panthers weren't done there, making five more selections on Saturday—most notably center Jayce Hawryluk with the 32nd overall selection. But the biggest splash came with the No. 1 pick, and it's one that will help shape the Florida franchise for years to come.
Buffalo Sabres: A-
The Sabres were in a coveted position entering the draft. Despite not having the top overall pick, three elite forwards were there for the picking when No. 2 came up, and they took their man.
Sam Reinhart became the first forward taken in the draft when the Sabres selected him with the second overall pick, and the Canada native has the skills and overall ability to become one of the best young players on a Buffalo roster filled with youthful talent.
He's incredibly smart with or without the puck. That's perhaps his best strength: sniffing out plays before they happen and always being in the right spot. Reinhart isn't an elite physical specimen, but his vision, intelligence and good stick-handling more than make up for it.
Buffalo News' Mike Harrington noted how Reinhart affects the ice:
Brycen Martin on WHL foe Sam Reinhart: "Everybody else becomes dangerous when he has the puck." #Sabres— Mike Harrington (@BNHarrington) June 28, 2014
The Sabres undoubtedly made their biggest move with the second pick, but they also selected first on Saturday with the 31st overall selection and grabbed another talented forward with first-round talent.
Brendan Lemieux doesn't have the same ceiling as that of Reinhart, but the American left winger was one of the best offensive weapons for the OHL's Barrie Colts last season.
It also gave the Sabres yet another player with a hockey pedigree, as the team's official Twitter recounted:
With nine picks in all, the Sabres added a number of other talented players—including three picks in the second round altogether. Everything obviously centers around Reinhart and then Lemieux, but the farm system grew considerably with young talent over the weekend in Buffalo.
Anaheim Ducks: B+
The Ducks made waves before the draft by acquiring Ryan Kesler in a trade with Vancouver, but they weren't done there in making draft-day splashes.
They sent their first-round pick to Vancouver (No. 24 overall) in the trade but still had the No. 10 overall selection from last year's Bobby Ryan trade with Dallas to choose from. They turned that into Nicholas Ritchie—arguably the biggest forward in the draft class and also one of the best.
At a seismic 6'3" and over 225 pounds, Ritchie uses his size to plow over defensemen and will his way into scoring situations.
That sort of touch will be much coveted on a Ducks team that is trying to increase its physicality to win in the playoffs, per Brendan Ross:
Absolutely love how Nick Ritchie fell to the #Ducks The West and ANA just got bigger joining Getzlaf, Perry, Kesler. Love it— Brendan Ross (@RossyYoungblood) June 28, 2014
It wasn't a busy draft for Anaheim other than the Ritchie selection at No. 10. The Ducks nabbed defenseman Marcus Pettersson out of Sweden's junior hockey league with the 38th overall pick but only added five players in total from the draft.
But this is one of the top Stanley Cup contenders we're talking about and a team that just added Kesler to the fold. Already with enough weapons to win, the Ducks made the few acquisitions they needed to threaten the rest of the NHL heading into 2014-15.