The 2014 NHL draft was one of the most exciting moments of the offseason thus far, but the focus for many fans has turned to how teams handled their selections and the grades they should receive for their picks.
With top prospects like defenseman Aaron Ekblad and centers Sam Reinhart and Leon Draisaitl taken with the first three picks, the tone of the draft was set, and several teams made a huge difference for the future of their organization.
Here are the grades for every team picking in the first round of the 2014 NHL draft.
|2014 NHL Draft First-Round Results and Grades|
|Florida Panthers||D Aaron Ekblad (1)||A|
|Buffalo Sabres||C Sam Reinhart (2)||A|
|Edmonton Oilers||C Leon Draisaitl (3)||B|
|Calgary Flames||C Sam Bennett (4)||A|
|New York Islanders||LW Michael Dal Colle (5)||B|
|Vancouver Canucks||RW Jake Virtanen (6), C Jared McCann (24)||A|
|Carolina Hurricanes||D Haydn Fleury (7)||B|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||C William Nylander (8)||B|
|Winnipeg Jets||LW Nikolaj Ehlers (9)||A|
|Anaheim Ducks||LW Nicholas Ritchie (10)||B|
|Nashville Predators||LW Kevin Fiala (11)||C|
|Arizona Coyotes||LW Brendan Perlini (12)||A|
|Washington Capitals||W Jakub Vrana (13)||B|
|Dallas Stars||D Julius Honka (14)||B|
|Detroit Red Wings||C Dylan Larkin (15)||A|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||LW Sonny Milano (16)||A|
|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)||C|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||RW Kasperi Kapanen (22)||B|
|Colorado Avalanche||C Conner Bleackley (23)||C|
|Boston Bruins||RW David Pastrnak (25)||B|
|Montreal Canadiens||RW Nikita Scherbak (26)||B|
|San Jose Sharks||RW Nikolay Goldobin (27)||A|
|New York Islanders||C Joshua Ho-Sang (28)||B|
|Los Angeles Kings||LW Adrian Kempe (29)||B|
|New Jersey Devils||C John Quenneville (30)||C|
|Source: NHL.com. Grades vis Donald Wood.|
Biggest Impact Players of the 2014 Draft Class
Aaron Ekblad, D, Florida Panthers
The Florida Panthers had the choice at No. 1 to take any of the top prospects on the board, and the organization decided the talent and maturity of Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad was too much to pass up.
Ekblad spent three years with Barrie learning his craft and honing his skill. After showcasing his ability in the OHL, it’s time for the defender to translate that success to the NHL with Florida.
At 6’4” and 216 pounds, Ekblad is ready for the big leagues.
Panthers general manager Dale Tallon told The Associated Press, via ESPN, why the team took the educated risk with Ekblad at No. 1 overall:
We are thrilled to have selected Aaron with the No. 1 pick. He is a strong, smart and physically mature defenseman who skates well and can play at both ends of the ice. Aaron is another building block for our team and we are confident that he will fit well with our young nucleus of talented players that includes Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Jonathan Huberdeau and Erik Gudbranson. We look forward to his continued growth and contributions to our team and the South Florida community.
While this is undoubtedly a pick for the long-term future of the Florida franchise, Ekblad has the talent and the maturity to step into the NHL right away and be one of the major centerpieces of the team's game plan this upcoming season.
Not only is he a born leader on and off the ice, but he is also a dominant force offensively on the power play while still possessing the ability to shut down even the best players as the top defender on the team.
The Panthers filled a major void by selecting Ekblad.
Sam Reinhart, C, Buffalo Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres may have been forced to pick at No. 2 overall, but the franchise got the best forward in the draft and arguably the best overall prospect in former Kootenay Ice center Sam Reinhart.
In 60 regular-season games last season, Reinhart racked up an incredible 36 goals, 69 assists and 105 points to cement himself as one of the most talented forwards in the 2014 class. Add in his 23 points in the postseason, and Reinhart is a great cornerstone to build a franchise around.
Sabres broadcaster Brian Duff talked about the impression he got from Reinhart when they met:
James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail shared the lineage that Reinhart possesses:
For a Sabres team without a direction, Reinhart is the future of the organization on and off the ice.
The rookie may only be 18 years old, but he already has a unique mixture of intelligence and poise on the ice to make him a legitimate threat. While he can score from anywhere using his gifted hands, his biggest asset for the team will be his ice vision and his ability to find an open teammate with precision passing.
With the ability to create chances on his own while still making the teammates around him better during every shift, Buffalo made the right choice taking Reinhart No. 2 overall and should reap the rewards for many years.