Ranking the 10 Most Overhyped NHL Prospects Ahead of 2014-15 Season

Allan MitchellFeatured ColumnistAugust 28, 2014

Ranking the 10 Most Overhyped NHL Prospects Ahead of 2014-15 Season

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    It happens every year: The NHL hype machines are doing their job, and teenagers in each of the 30 cities will be feeling the pressure during training camp. It's a fine line between selling the product and overselling the player, and in several cases the gap may be large this fall.

    For some prospects, it's a matter of having a subtle game that may not involve impressive offensive numbers. For others, a new coach with a button-down system may rain on their parade.

    Here are the 10 prospects who are being hyped by their teams and will be viewed as disappointments in their rookie seasons.

10. Ty Rattie, RW, St. Louis Blues

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    Where Did He Come From? Ty Rattie was the No. 32 overall selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. 

    Why the Hype? Rattie had an outstanding pro debut in the Blues system, scoring more than 30 goals for the Chicago Wolves of the AHL. No other player on the team came close, and with St. Louis looking for offense, Rattie would appear to be an obvious solution.

    Why Fans May Be Disappointed: St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock has a veteran group of Blues, and the depth chart has changed over the summer. Rattie's good work in the AHL last season may not be enough to overcome the incoming talent. His status as a quality prospect is unquestioned, but the hype may have to wait another season.

9. John Gibson, G, Anaheim Ducks

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    Where Did He Come From? John Gibson was the No. 39 overall selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. 

    Why the Hype? Gibson was splendid in a short three-game audition with the Anaheim Ducks during the 2013-14 regular season. He also outplayed the other Ducks goalies during the postseason and put himself in the conversation for No. 1 goalie for 2014-15.

    Why Fans May Be Disappointed: He is one of the best goalie prospects in the NHL but has very little pro experience. The Ducks may choose to send him back, or Gibson could struggle in his first full NHL season. Expecting last season's brilliance may lead fans to be frustrated with him.

8. Jiri Sekac, RW, Montreal Canadiens

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    Where Did He Come From? Signed as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, Sekac played the 2013-14 season in the KHL. 

    Why the Hype? The Sekac resume didn't have much to recommend it until last season, when he finished second in scoring for Lev in the KHL. The jump in his offense season over season was outstanding, and he drew interest leading up to free agency.

    Why Fans May Be Disappointed: Montreal won the bidding war, but Sekac is not a proven NHL player. The avid interest in his services—Arpon Basu, managing editor for NHL.com, says the offers came in droves—created a buzz around Sekac. It may not be warranted based on one good season in the KHL.

7. Johnny Gaudreau, C, Calgary Flames

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    Where Did He Come From? Johnny Gaudreau was the No. 104 overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

    Why the Hype? Gaudreau was beyond dominant during his NCAA career. He won the Hobey Baker Trophy, as detailed in this NHL.com article by Bob Snow. After signing a pro contract with the Flames, Gaudreau scored a goal in his NHL debut.

    Why Fans May Be Disappointed: Calgary isn't going to be a good team this season, so it will sell youth in a big way. Gaudreau is the obvious target of the hype, and he should deliver a quality season. If he struggles, Flames fans will not be happy.

6. Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, Washington Capitals

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    Where Did He Come From? Evgeny Kuznetsov was the No. 26 overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

    Why the Hype? Kuznetsov enjoyed a strong NHL debut late last season, with nine points in 17 games. He posted those numbers with less-than-stellar linemates and could explode offensively in the right situation.

    Why Fans May Be Disappointed: Washington hired Barry Trotz in the offseason as the club's new coach, as reflected in this NHL.com article. He is a defense-first coach, and his time in Nashville was marred by several failed auditions from talented Russian forwards. If there's trouble in Washington, Kuznetsov may struggle. Capitals fans are expecting something special.

5. Leon Draisaitl, C, Edmonton Oilers

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    Where Did He Come From? Leon Draisaitl was chosen No. 3 overall by the Edmonton Oilers at the 2014 NHL Draft.

    Why the Hype? Edmonton—famous for rushing its prospects—has very little depth at the center position. Draisaitl is practically a lock for the opening-night roster, barring injury. 

    Why Fans May Be Disappointed: The Oilers will not force Draisaitl to earn the job. Based on the current depth chart at center, a position will likely handed to him. Should the youngster struggle or fail to post quality offensive numbers, it could hamper his development. It's a lot of pressure to put on an 18-year-old, especially a prospect who was not selected No. 1 overall.

4. Griffin Reinhart, D, New York Islanders

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    Where Did He Come From? Griffin Reinhart was the No. 4 overall selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

    Why the Hype? Reinhart turned pro at 20, meaning he's a lottery pick who exhausted his junior eligibility. That should mean he adapts quickly and becomes a big part of the team, and expectations will be high.

    Why Fans May Be Disappointed: Despite that he dominated junior hockey physically, the step to the NHL is a big one. Reinhart's added experience should help, but he is a defensive player, and it will take time to catch up to the speed of the game. Reinhart will not deliver big offensive numbers, and fans may be disappointed with his rookie output.

3. Aaron Ekblad, D, Florida Panthers

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    Where Did He Come From? Aaron Ekblad was selected No. 1 overall by the Florida Panthers in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

    Why the Hype? No. 1 overall picks always get major hype, and in Ekblad's case he is the first defenseman taken as the top pick since Erik Johnson in 2006.

    Why Fans May Be Disappointed: Much of Ekblad's value comes from defensive ability, and his offensive numbers are unlikely to excite the fanbase. Playing defense effectively is a process, and it often takes more than 200 games for defensemen to establish themselves. Ekblad will likely fall short of winning the Calder Trophy—only two defensemen have done it this century—and anything less may be viewed as a disappointment. His long-term potential remains enormous, and Panthers fans will see flashes of brilliance during the season.

2. Sam Reinhart, C, Buffalo Sabres

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Where Did He Come From? Sam Reinhart was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. 

    Why the Hype? Reinhart was the top forward taken in the draft and has exceptional talent. The Sabres are undergoing a complete rebuild and badly need a face of the franchise. Things may change next summer if Buffalo drafts in the top two overall again, but for now Reinhart is the great new hope in Buffalo.

    Why Fans May Be Disappointed: Buffalo does have some depth up front, and Reinhart isn't guaranteed a spot. He's very skilled but has a slight build and may not have the immediate impact that his draft number suggests. Sabres fans may not be pleased if other 2014 draft picks pass Reinhart this season.

1. Jonathan Drouin, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Where Did He Come From? Jonathan Drouin was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

    Why the Hype? Drouin has delivered two stunning junior seasons in a row. His postseason in the spring of 2014, when he delivered 41 points in 16 games, is overwhelming evidence of his NHL qualifications.

    Why Fans May Be Disappointed: The Lightning have the best chance to score the Calder Trophy with Drouin this season. He's older than the 2014 picks, has another year of experience and will play with quality linemates in Tampa Bay. Anything short of winning the Rookie of the Year award will be a disappointment.