2014 NHL Mock Draft: Projections for Top 30 Picks After 1st Round of Playoffs

Allan Mitchell@@Lowetide_Featured ColumnistMay 3, 2014

2014 NHL Mock Draft: Projections for Top 30 Picks After 1st Round of Playoffs

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    The NHL's first round of playoffs has been completed, giving fans another piece of the draft puzzle. The shuffling of draft slots is related to playoff exits, and in some cases, teams have moved up markedly on the draft board.

    This year's draft rankings are also coming into view. The U-18 World Junior Championships were recently wrapped up in Finland, and some of the players who performed well have improved their draft stock. Other teenagers have delivered in their league playoffs and emerged as first-round options for 2014.

    Here's a projection for the top 30 picks in the 2014 NHL entry draft.

1. Florida Panthers: Aaron Ekblad, D, Barrie (OHL)

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    The Stats: Aaron Ekblad posted a 23-30-53 line in 58 games played with the Barrie Colts (OHL).

    The Story: Ekblad is the best player available in the 2014 NHL entry draft. Corey Pronman of ESPN describes him this way (subscription required):

    He's a big and very strong defenseman with an unusual amount of physical and mental development for a 17-year-old. He skates very well for his size, has really developed his offensive skills and reads the game at an extremely high level.

    Why He is Taken Here: The Florida Panthers are a perfect fit for Ekblad. The club is deep with young centers, including Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad. On defense, none of the young players are emerging as top-flight talent, although Dmitry Kulikov shows promise. The Panthers will take Ekblad and insert him directly into the lineup this fall.

2. Buffalo Sabres: Sam Bennett, C, Kingston (OHL)

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    The Stats: Sam Bennett posted a 36-55-91 line in 57 games played with the Kingston Frontenacs (OHL).

    The Story: Bennett has so many positives that it boggles the mind. He may be the most complete player in this year's draft, boasting top-end skill, a motor that won't quit, aggressiveness and attention to detail. Armed with a June birthday, he is fully seven months younger than the other centers in contention for selection. That gives him plenty of room to grow, and added to his impressive even-strength scoring—57 games played, 25-34-59—Bennett is the obvious choice.

    Why He is Taken Here: The Buffalo Sabres go with Bennett because he's a center and possesses a wide range of skills. The Sabres have several young players vying for the No. 1 center job, but none have established themselves yet. The most impressive candidate, Zemgus Girgensons, spent most of his time on the wing and may end up playing there. It's unlikely Bennett makes the jump from junior in 2014-15, but when he arrives, Buffalo should have their future No. 1 center.

3. Edmonton Oilers: Leon Draisaitl, C, Prince Albert (WHL)

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    The Stats: Leon Draisaitl posted a 38-67-105 line in 64 games played with the Prince Albert Raiders (WHL).

    The Story: Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald told NHL.com's Mike Morreale that Draisaitl played a power forward-style game. The Edmonton's Journal's Jim Matheson tells the rest of the story:

    Sam Reinhart (183 lbs) is heckuva C talent but Oilers want D-man Aaron Ekblad or big German-born C Leon Draisaitl in June draft.#oilers.

    — Jim Matheson (@NHLbyMatty) March 12, 2014

    Why He is Taken Here: The Edmonton Oilers are blessed with outstanding young talent, but most of it is on the wings. GM Craig MacTavish needs to build up the middle, and Leon Draisaitl is a perfect fit for Edmonton. He's a big power forward who can play in the middle. It's an open question as to Draisaitl being the best player available, but unless they have a late change of heart, it's Draisaitl to Edmonton.

4. Calgary Flames: Sam Reinhart, C, Kootenay (WHL)

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    The Stats: Sam Reinhart posted a 36-69-105 line in 60 games played with the Kootenay Ice (WHL).

    The Story: Corey Pronman gave a very good description of Reinhart's skills at ESPN (subscription required):

    Reinhart is the best pure passer in this draft class. His ability to dictate the tempo of a hockey game, in terms of increasing or decreasing pace and making plays at all those speeds, elevates his game to a distinct level. Reinhart can make all kinds of plays with the puck, and his elite hockey sense stands out regularly in terms of the passing lanes he sees.

    Why He is Taken Here: The Calgary Flames get one of the three best players available in this year's draft at No. 4 overall. Reinhart may be NHL-ready, but with the Flames already having young Sean Monahan in the fold, don't be surprised if he spends another season in the juniors.

5. New York Islanders: Michael Dal Colle, LW, Oshawa (OHL)

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    The Stats: Michael Dal Colle posted a 36-69-105 line in 60 games played with the Oshawa Generals (OHL).

    The Story: Dan Marr, director of NHL central scouting, told Shawn Cayley of DurhamRegion.com about Dal Colle:

    Michael Dal Colle, from our opinion, is an NHL power forward in the making. He’s one of the more consistent game-in and game-out performers in this draft class. Every game you go to you see the same game from him, the same work ethic, the same energy.

    Why He is Taken Here: The New York Islanders are developing a fine young group of forwards with skill and aggressive play. Dal Colle would continue the trend and give the Islanders a strong addition to their arsenal.

6. Vancouver Canucks: Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Halifax (QMJHL)

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    The Stats: Nikolaj Ehlers posted a 49-55-104 line in 63 games played with the Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL).

    The Story: Ehlers is a skill winger with a great deal of quickness. Craig Button told TSN about his range of skills: He can score goals and set them up. Ehlers was exceptional during the playoffs this spring.

    Why He is Taken Here: The Vancouver Canucks are a team in transition. There will be many changes over the summer, but Henrik and Daniel Sedin will be a big part of the team next season and into the future. A highly skilled playmaker who is also a first-shot scorer is a perfect fit.

7. Carolina Hurricanes: Nick Ritchie, LW, Peterborough (OHL)

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    The Stats: Nick Ritchie posted a 39-35-74 line in 61 games played with the Peterborough Petes (OHL).

    The Story: Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News talked about Ritchie's size, skill and snarl. Scouting reports project Michael Dal Colle as a future power forward, but at 6'3", 229 pounds, Ritchie is already there.

    Why He is Taken Here: The Carolina Hurricanes have some size on the wings, but their roster has smaller, pure skill players on the top lines. If Ritchie continues to develop, he could be that rare item: a big, rugged winger with enough skill to hang with Carolina's best players.

8. Toronto Maple Leafs: Brendan Perlini, LW, Niagara (OHL)

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    The Stats: Brendan Perlini posted a 34-37-71 line in 58 games played with the Niagara IceDogs (OHL).

    The Story: Perlini is a very interesting prospect. The Future Considerations scouting report via Elite Prospects detailed a skilled winger with very good speed. He has NHL size and scores enough to be considered a legitimate impact prospect.

    Why He is Taken Here: The Toronto Maple Leafs spent a lot of money last summer on David Clarkson when searching for a power forward. There's more development time ahead for Perlini, but he could solve the problem for years to come for Toronto.

9. Winnipeg Jets: Jake Virtanen, LW, Calgary (WHL)

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    The Stats: Jake Virtanen posted a 45-26-71 line in 71 games played with the Calgary Hitmen (WHL).

    The Story: Virtanen has a nice range of skills, including a terrific shot and a gritty style. The Hockey News' bio summed up his ability well, saying, "Is a natural scorer with soft hands and an excellent skating stride. Also boasts very good size for the wing position in the NHL. Is effective on either side of center."

    Why He is Taken Here: The Winnipeg Jets have established themselves as a strong team in their three previous drafts since going back to Winnipeg. The club has shown a willingness to take the best player available in all cases, and Virtanen fits that description at No. 9.

10. Anaheim Ducks: William Nylander, LW, MODO (SHL)

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    The Stats: William Nylander posted a 1-6-7 line in 22 games played with MODO (SHL).

    The Story: Nylander may possess the greatest pure skill in the draft. His Elite Prospects bio sheds light on the good and bad:

    A highly skilled player offensively. Nylander skates very well, has impressive hands and is excellent at handling the puck at high speeds. Hockey sense is very impressive and he likes to shoot the puck a lot, but is also capable of delivering perfect passes. A very agile player that protects the puck well and skates hard in the offensive zone.

    On the other hand, his defensive game needs some work. Not a selfish player, but at times he tends to hang onto the puck for too long, instead of making the easier play. Has the tools and skills to lead his team in all offensive aspects.

    Why He is Taken Here: The Anaheim Ducks are one team that can take a chance on a one-dimensional, high-risk prospect. Nylander's deficiencies can be covered by defensively aware linemates, and his offensive ability will be useful to a team that lacks impact offensive players after Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

11. Nashville Predators: Kasperi Kapanen, RW, Kalpa (Sm-Liiga)

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    The Stats: Kasperi Kapanen posted a 7-7-14 line in 47 games played with Kalpa (Sm-Liiga).

    The Story: Kapanen is the son of former NHL player Sami Kapanen. Craig Button from TSN gave the scouting report, saying, "Kasperi is capable of playing in all situations. What separates him from others is his ability to make critical plays that help the team win. He can do it in all areas of the game."

    Why He is Taken Here: The Nashville Predators need quality offensive players, but the impact prospects are all taken inside the top 10 overall. Kapanen has a great deal of skill, and his overall hockey acumen makes him one of the more complete players in the draft. He's the best player available at No. 11.

12. Phoenix Coyotes: Haydn Fleury, D, Red Deer (WHL)

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    The Stats: Haydn Fleury posted a 8-38-46 line in 70 games played with the Red Deer Rebels (WHL).

    The Story: Regarding Fleury, Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald told Mike Morreale of NHL.com, "He's got good, strong mobility, great vision and has a knack for making that first good outlet pass. He's composed and calm with the puck and has an ability of knowing when to join the rush at the right moments."

    Why He is Taken Here: The Phoenix Coyotes are disciplined at the draft and look for value no matter the position. At No. 12, Fleury represents exceptional value and is the second-best defenseman available in the 2014 draft.

13. Washington Capitals: Ivan Barbashev, LW, Moncton (QMJHL).

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    The Stats: Ivan Barbashev posted a 25-43-68 line in 48 games played with the Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL).

    The Story: Barbashev is a winger coming off of an outstanding season in the QMJHL. The Future Considerations scouting report, courtesy of Elite Prospects, tells us about him:

    Barbashev is a skilled playmaking winger with impressive vision and passing ability. He thrives in a high-paced offense. Has a good, hard shot and isn't transparent about making a pass or firing it on net. Has dynamic talent but inconsistent in his efforts.

    Why He is Taken Here: The Washington Capitals had a disappointing season, and part of their problem was offense. The team was below average in goals at even strength, and a skilled winger like Barbashev will help.

14. Dallas Stars: Alex Tuch, RW, U.S. NTDP (USHL)

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    The Stats: Alex Tuch posted a 13-19-32 line in 26 games played with U.S. NTDP (USHL). 

    The Story: Kirk Luedeke of the New York Hockey Journal gave an excellent scouting report on Tuch:

    Massive power forward has every physical tool in the kit: an enormous frame and strength, long reach, powerful skating stride and booming shot. Shields the puck and is dominant on the cycle. Displays surprisingly soft hands and finishing skills around the net. Lightning-quick release on a hard shot; can find the back of the net from just about anywhere around the faceoff circles.

    Why He is Taken Here: The Dallas Stars are building a young team that features big power forwards. Tuch is a perfect match for last year's first-round selection, Valeri Nichushkin. He may be a few years away, but Tuch is a strong option at No. 14 overall.

15. Detroit Red Wings: Adrian Kempe, LW, MODO (SHL)

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    The Stats: Adrian Kempe posted a 5-6-11 line in 45 games played with MODO (SHL).

    The Story: Future Considerations, via Elite Prospects, had this to say about Kempe:

    Kempe is a strong, bullish forward that has size, strength and a work ethic to match. He can be tenacious on the forecheck and never misses finishing a check. He has a heavy shot and isn't shy to drive towards the net.

    Why He is Taken Here: The Detroit Red Wings rarely pick inside the top 20 overall. In the last decade, the Red Wings have had a top-20 pick only twice. Kempe is their type of player, displaying a wide range of skills, a late birthday and a solid resume. Kempe isn't ranked high on Bob McKenzie's midseason draft list at TSN, but it's a good bet he'll move up on the final list.

16. Columbus Blue Jackets: David Pastrnak, RW, Sodertalje (SWE-2)

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    The Stats: David Pastrnak posted an 8-16-24 line in 36 games played with Sodertalje (Allsvenskan).

    The Story: Goran Stubb, director of European scouting for the NHL, told Mike Morreale of NHL.com:

    David is an offensive-minded player with smooth hands, great instincts and a very quick shot. He’s an excellent skater with speed and acceleration. He’s very smart on ice, but will need more weight and strength to excel at the next level.
    Why He is Taken Here: The Blue Jackets have done very well at the draft table in the last several years, selecting the best player available. Pastrnak is the best offensive player at this point in the first round.

17. Philadelphia Flyers: Robby Fabbri, C, Guelph (OHL)

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    The Stats: Robby Fabbri posted a 45-42-87 line in 58 games played with the Guelph Storm (OHL).

    The Story: Tony Saxon of the Guelph Mercury detailed Fabbri's story. He also quoted Guelph Storm general manager Mike Kelly comparing him to former Storm star Ryan Callahan.

    Why He is Taken Here: The Philadelphia Flyers rarely take small forwards, but when they do, explosive offense is the main reason. The team that grabbed Claude Giroux late in Round 1 of the 2006 draft will grab another dynamic skill player in Fabbri.

18. Tampa Bay Lightning: Jared McCann, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

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    The Stats: Jared McCann posted a 27-35-62 line in 64 games played with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL).

    The Story: Future Considerations has the scouting report on McCann, courtesy of Elite Prospects:

    McCann is a hard-working, two-way forward who displays strong agility and mobility. He's effective at both ends of the ice and has the ability to produce strong numbers due to his hands, patience, shot and sense.

    Why He is Taken Here: The Tampa Bay Lightning always deliver high-octane offense but often lack quality two-way depth. McCann has enough skill to play on the top two lines while also possessing the ability to help when the puck is going the other way.

19. San Jose Sharks: Jakub Vrana, LW, Linkoping (SHL)

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    The Stats: Jakub Vrana posted a 2-1-3 line in 24 games played with Linkoping (SHL).

    The Story: Goran Stubb, director of scouting for the league, told Mike Morreale of NHL.com:

    He plays with determination and drive, has an excellent work ethic and is a very fast skater with excellent all-round skills. He's got OK size [6-foot, 183 pounds] and strength. But he's able to control the game and create a lot of scoring possibilities with his quick moves.

    Why He is Taken Here: The San Jose Sharks are an effective organization at the draft, and they love possession players. Vrana's wide range of skills, including speed and puck possession, make him a natural fit for the Sharks.

20. St. Louis Blues: Sonny Milano, LW, U.S. NTDP (USHL)

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    The Stats: Sonny Milano posted a 14-25-39 line in 25 games played with U.S. NTDP (USHL).

    The Story: Kirk Luedeke of the New York Hockey Journal offered a terrific description of Milano:

    Average height, but compact build with room to add strength and mass. … Fine skater with quick initial burst, extra separation gear and excellent lateral agility/edging to shake defenders in 1-on-1 coverage. Slick puckhandler who can make moves at speed and leave opponents grasping at empty air. … Attacks aggressively in the offensive zone and possesses an array of individual skills and creativity to generate scoring chances. … Sees the ice and thinks the game at an elite level. … Three-zone game a work in progress, but improving after always playing a scoring role and not being asked to backcheck or pick up defensive responsibilities.

    Why He is Taken Here: The St. Louis Blues need impact offensive players. Milano's skill set will be a nice complement to the power wingers on the Blues. His recent U-18 IIHF performance has him trending in the 2014 draft.

21. Colorado Avalanche: Kevin Fiala, HV71 (SHL)

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    The Stats: Kevin Fiala posted a 3-8-11 line in 17 games played with HV71 (SHL).

    The Story: Elite Prospects tells us about Fiala:

    Kevin Fiala is an offensive forward with game-breaking potential. He is a respectable and shifty skater with quick legs and explosive acceleration. Fiala owns a slick skill-set with soft hands, good stickhandling and brilliant puck-control. Not known for his defensive play, as he still needs to learn what it means to stick to a game-plan or doing exactly what the coach has told him. Fiala is not very big or strong yet, but his quickness and agility lets him avoid getting hit or held back along the boards. Has a wealthy arsenal of shooting tools which, combined with his creativity and finishing abilities, makes him the player you turn to if you need a goal.

    Why He is Taken Here: Fiala is a trending player after going 4-5-9 in five postseason games for Switzerland at the U-18 IIHF World Championships. The Colorado Avalanche will like his puck skills, and his strong close to the season will also help him at the draft.

22. New York Rangers: Josh Ho-Sang, RW, Windsor (OHL)

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    The Stats: Josh Ho-Sang posted a 32-53-85 line in 67 games played with the Windsor Spitfires (OHL).

    The Story: Jim Parker from the Windsor Star reported on Ho-Sang, quoting ISS Hockey director of scouting Dennis MacInnis as saying, "Ho-Sang has elite puck skills, exceptional playmaking ability and one-on-one skills and is an explosive, quick, fast player. He is, however, a high-risk, high-reward player at times."

    Why He is Taken Here: The New York Rangers are unpredictable at the draft table. In recent seasons, they've taken throwback defenseman Dylan McIlrath and gritty winger J.T. Miller in the first round. The Rangers have shown a willingness to take a chance, and Ho-Sang's skills are too good to pass up at No. 22.

23. Minnesota Wild: Dylan Larkin, LW, USNTDP (USHL)

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    The Stats: Dylan Larkin posted a 17-9-26 line in 26 games played with USNTDP (USHL).

    The Story: Future Considerations has the scouting report on Larkin, courtesy of Elite Prospects:

    Larkin has shown he can be an elite-level power forward in addition to showing a high level of offensive ability. His ability to take the puck hard to the net allows for unique scoring chances most players would not be able get because of a lack of size and strength.

    Why He is Taken Here: The Minnesota Wild are an emerging power in the NHL's Western Conference. They've been adding power forwards like Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter via trade, and the acquisition of Larkin gives them more in the pipeline.

24. Los Angeles Kings: Conner Bleackley, RW, Red Deer (WHL)

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    The Stats: Conner Bleackley posted a 29-39-68 line in 71 games played with the Red Deer Rebels (WHL).

    The Story: Christopher Ralph from The Hockey Writers gives us a nice view of Bleackley as a player:

    Connor is an all around forward in the making who plays effectively and efficiently in all three zones. He could use a little more weight and a little more physicality but good things come to those who work on them. He has a top notch wrister with a quick release, drives to the net and competes hard on the forecheck.

    Why He is Taken Here: The Los Angeles Kings have a production line of forwards who display a wide range of skills. Bleackley's aggressive play and ability to chip in on offense makes him a logical selection for the Kings.

25. Montreal Canadiens: Alexis Vanier, D, Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)

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    The Stats: Alexis Vanier posted a 15-21-36 line in 61 games played with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL).

    The Story: Kyle Woodlief from USA Today wrote about Vanier earlier in the season:

    His puckhandling and offensive game are more advanced than Samuel Morin (the gigantic defenseman who went 11th overall to Philadelphia in last June's draft) at the same stage last season. So, safe to say Vanier is becoming one of this season's more intriguing packages of size and ability on the blue line.

    Why He is Taken Here: In recent seasons, the Montreal Canadiens returned to an old tradition: drafting players from Quebec. In the last three seasons, the club has selected seven QMJHL players. This year, they add giant defender Alexis Vanier, who has some skating issues but is a bona fide NHL prospect worthy of a first-round selection.

26. Chicago Blackhawks: Julius Honka, D, Swift Current (WHL)

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    The Stats: Julius Honka posted a 16-40-56 line in 62 games played with the Swift Current Broncos (WHL).

    The Story: TSN director of scouting Craig Button has the scoop on Honka:

    Honka may be diminutive but he makes a big impact on the game. He recognizes opportunity and is quick to take advantage yet he is also a very patient player. He showed big-time capability on Finland's gold medal-winning World Junior team.

    Why He is Taken Here: The Chicago Blackhawks draft intelligent, mobile players who often emerge fully formed upon NHL arrival. A recent example is Andrew Shaw, who emerged out of nowhere. Honka's size may scare some teams off, but Chicago's clever drafting helps them identify him as a worthy pick.

27. Pittsburgh Penguins: Nikolay Goldobin, LW, Sarnia (OHL)

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    The Stats: Nikolay Goldobin posted a 38-56-94 line in 67 games played with the Sarnia Sting (OHL).

    The Story: Future Considerations provides Goldobin's scouting report, via Elite Prospects:

    Goldobin is a dangerous shooter with a wicked release on his wrist shot. He is quick and creative and can make defenders look foolish. He's weak against bigger opponents and can look lost in his own zone but is extremely dangerous and can quietly slide into prime scoring areas.

    Why He is Taken Here: The Pittsburgh Penguins need skilled forwards. Goldobin offers them a terrific option this late in the first round. Although he'll probably take a couple of years to arrive as a player, he could end up being one of the best offensive players in this draft.

28. Anaheim Ducks: Nikita Scherbak, LW, Saskatoon (WHL)

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    The Stats: Nikita Scherbak posted a 26-43-69 line in 54 games played with the Saskatoon Blades (WHL).

    The Story: Future Considerations delivered the news on Scherbak, via Elite Prospects:

    Scherbak is a skilled but gritty forward who has a strong shot and offensive senses plus the ability to evade would be checkers by using his quick agility and slick hands. He puts pressure on opposing defenses every game. Has some work to do with regards to rounding out his defensive game and effort levels.

    Why He is Taken Here: The Anaheim Ducks are a difficult team to play against, and part of the reason is their gritty play. Scherbak fits the template for Ducks forwards: skilled, aggressive and rugged.

29. Boston Bruins: Brett Pollock, C, Edmonton (WHL)

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    The Stats: Brett Pollock posted a 25-30-55 line in 71 games played with the Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL).

    The Story: Pollock is a skilled center who has taken a big step forward this season. According to Brian Swane of the Edmonton Sun, scouts have noticed. He tallied 10 goals and seven assists in 14 games played in the postseason, and he is the topic of conversation among WHL fans and NHL scouts.

    Why He is Taken Here: The Boston Bruins haven't selected a skill forward in the first round since 2010. Pollock's late break from the crowd gives them a trending player at 29th overall.

30. New Jersey Devils: Brendan Lemieux, LW, Barrie (OHL)

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    The Stats: Brendan Lemieux posted a 27-26-53 line in 65 games played with the Barrie Colts (OHL).

    The Story: Brendan Lemieux is the son of famous former NHL player Claude Lemieux, and the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. As Gene Pereira of the Barrie Examiner explains, he's an agitator who fights for every inch of ice.

    Why He is Taken Here: The New Jersey Devils didn't draft father Claude, but they're in position to select Brendan at the end of the first round. The Devils have always migrated to this player type, and the 2014 draft will see the trend continue with the selection of Lemieux.