1. Florida Panthers: Aaron Ekblad, D, Barrie Colts
This is a no brainer for the Panthers who need help on the blue line. Ekblad is the undisputed #1 d-man in a first round thin at the position. There has been a lot of buzz about trading the pick if the deal is right. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Florida pull the trigger to improve their roster as the haul for Ekblad should be pretty substantial.
2. Buffalo Sabres: Sam Reinhart, C, Kootenay Ice
The Sabres are entering year two of their overhaul and need an impact player that can step right onto NHL ice. I believe their best chance at that is with Reinhart. Although he fell in the rankings as the year went on, I think the Sabres will take the chance in order to improve their roster immediately.
3. Edmonton Oilers: Leon Draisaitl, C, Prince Albert Raiders
The Oilers have been linked to Draisaitl, and although the Oilers really need defensive depth, I think he is a no brainer at this spot. He is a big, powerful forward with tons of room to grow and the Oilers could use the gritty toughness he brings. The Oilers may also be in the position to trade their pick given the holes they need to fill on defense and the fact that Draisaitl is another coveted player.
4. Calgary Flames: Samuel Bennett, C, Kingston Frontenacs
The Flames would be absolutely ecstatic if Central Scouting’s top ranked North American skater fell into their laps (Seth Jones round two?). Although he is the top ranked players many indications lead me to believe he’ll drop to the Flames. With the likely loss of Mike Cammelleri and the loss of Lee Stempniak, the Flames could add serious depth to a solid core of young forwards. Bennett would be a great fit for the Flames.
5. New York Islanders: Michael Dal Colle, LW, Oshawa Generals
Dal Colle is a great fit for the Islanders who have some room to let prospects develop as the log jam of prospects continue to build up. Dal Colle is not quite there yet physically to be considered a power forward, but the way he plays projects him as a solid, wrecking ball of an NHL power forward. The Isles are constantly in the market for someone to play on John Tavares’ wing and protect him, Dal Colle may very well be their answer.
6. Vancouver Canucks: William Nylander, RW, Sodertalje
The young Swede impressed at the World u18 tournament, leading all players in points. In my opinion the best available player from that plays overseas. He will be a good fit with the Sedin twins and can learn a lot from his fellow countrymen.
7. Carolina Hurricanes: Jake Virtanen, LW, Calgary Hitmen
Virtanen is the complete package. He has both speed and power, making him very hard to play against. He scored the highest overall grade for on-ice testing among CHL prospects and his game should transition well into the NHL.
8. Toronto Maple Leafs: Haydn Fluery, D, Red Deer Rebels
Toronto is a team threatening to shake things up this offseason, therefore it is hard to say that they will be the ones picking here, but if they do, they could use a defenseman. Fluery is the next best available blueliner available. He is a big body with above average offensive ability producing 46 points last season.
9. Winnipeg Jets: Nicholas Ritchie, LW, Peterborough Petes
The Jets are in need of a powerful winger. Ritchie has all of the traits of an NHL power forward, plus the scoring touch to complete his game adding 74 points to 136 PIM in 61 games last season.
10. Anaheim Ducks (from OTT): Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Halifax Mooseheads
The Danish forward has shot up draft boards after a dominate season in the QMJHL, scoring 104 points in 63 games. He was named Rookie of the Year along with Best Professional Prospect, forcing his way up the rankings. He demonstrated solid playmaking ability sharing a line with Jonathan Drouin (Tampa Bay Lightning), making him one of the most exciting prospects available. I do not think that the Ducks will be making the pick at 10, likely moving it to Vancouver for Ryan Kesler, or back to its original owner Ottawa for Jason Spezza.
11. Nashville Predators: Brendan Perlini, LW, Niagara Ice Dogs
Nashville missed out on the opportunity last year to pick a forward in last year’s draft when Seth Jones fell into their laps so this year they will get that chance. Perlini moves the puck well and unselfishly. He also shoots very well and with nice size at 6’2” 205lbs his game rounds out well.
12. Arizona Coyotes: Kasperi Kapanen, RW, KalPa
Kapanen is the son of former NHLer Sami Kapanen and played with his father this past year in Finland’s top league. He showed impressive skill playing with players much older than him. He has the ability to attack straight at the defense with impressive puck skills and a quick release, creating chances for himself. He isn’t overly physical but makes up for it with his skill. It is worth noting that Kapanen is Central Scouting’s top ranked European skater, however he has fallen off the radar a little bit since.
13. Washington Capitals: Kevin Fiala, C, HV 71 Jr.
Fiala is an exciting Swiss prospect that burst onto the radar after competing as the youngest player in the World Championship, at 17. Fiala is small, but still made a visible impact against some NHLers, helping the Swiss with 3 assists in 7 games. He split his professional year between the Swedish Jr leagues, then later got the call to the big club to finish out the season, which he did in impressive fashion. His overall quickness and explosiveness with the puck makes him a dangerous prospect.
14. Dallas Stars: Alex Tuch, RW/C, US NTDP U-18
Tuch is a big, versatile forward at 6’4”who can play both the Center and Wing. He would add to a plethora of big young forwards in Dallas alongside Nichuskin, Benn, and Seguin. He is seasoned on the International level playing with the US NTDP alongside many other 2014 draft prospects.
15. Detroit Red Wings: Anthony DeAngelo, D, Sarnia Sting
Detroit was forced to dive deeper into their organizational depth than any other team last season as their veterans were plagued with injury. They have a very impressive group of young forward prospects including Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, and Riley Sheahan, but are weaker on defense. DeAngelo is an offensive defenseman, leading all OHL blueliners in both assists (56) and points (71). The New Jersey native is looking forward to being drafted just 25 minutes from where he grew up.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets: Julius Honka, D, Swift Current Broncos
The Blue Jackets showed that they are a force to be reckoned with after an impressive season. They have a nice core of forwards and solid goaltending, so the real need here is for a defenseman. Julius Honka, although very undersized at 5’7”, he controls the game well and can always kick it into his offensive gear.
17. Philadelphia Flyers: Jared McCann, C, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
McCann is a very well rounded player that may not be very flashy, but is very consistent. His game doesn’t rely on power or speed, but he makes up for it with his playmaking and passing ability. He reads the game well and can kill penalties. He doesn’t have any overwhelming qualities which will lead to him flying under the radar and being a steal late in the first round.
18. Minnesota Wild: Thatcher Demko, G, Boston College
Demko is the undisputed number one goalie available in this year’s draft. He is very exciting and backed up his dominant junior career with the US NTDP, by putting up impressive numbers in his freshman year at Boston College, leading them to the Frozen Four, all while being the youngest hockey player in the NCAA. He is a bigger goalie at 6’4” which allows him to be aggressive and impact the game. Minnesota’s goaltending situation is an absolute nightmare moving forward with Niklas Backstrom a constant injury concern and Josh Harding’s ongoing battle with Multiple Sclerosis. Darcy Kuemper emerged as a solid option, but it remains to be seen if he can handle the #1 goaltender position long term.
19. Tampa Bay Lightning: Sonny Milano, LW, US NTDP U-18
Milano is arguably has the best hands in this year’s draft class and has been called “Magic Hands” many times over the last few months. He was featured in a video during the Draft Combine where he juggles the puck effortlessly. I highly suggest you check it out, it will leave your jaw dropped. He draws comparisons to Patrick Kane as he is smaller, but has unbelievable skill. His skill leaves defensemen looking silly, which makes him a natural agitator. His unique skill set will transfer over well to the NHL, in the meantime he will be heading to Boston College in the fall.
20. San Jose Sharks: Nikita Scherbak, LW, Saskatoon Blades
Scherbak made the transition from Russia to North America this year and did not disappoint, leading all WHL rookies in scoring with 78 points. He quickly became the star for the Blades in his rookie campaign leading the team in scoring and was named the team’s MVP. Although listed as a LW, he can play all three forward positions well, as his unselfish style of play allows for that. Another skilled player that isn’t afraid to drive to the net. The Sharks are looking to rebuild and a strong young forward would be a great place to start.
21. St. Louis Blues: Dylan Larkin, C, US NTDP U-18
Larkin is another product of the US NTDP that has impressed scouts after more than doubling his production since last season. He is skilled and physical and is not afraid to use his physicality to hang onto the puck. He is well versed on the international level, appearing in many tournaments along his short career. He is headed to the University of Michigan in the fall. The Blues could use some depth down the middle and wouldn’t hesitate to draft another NCAA product after the success of David Backes.
22. Pittsburgh Penguins: Joshua Ho-Sang, RW/C, Windsor Spitfires
Ho-Sang is a winger that can handle the puck at top speed, making him very dangerous with the puck at his stick. He is very explosive and his stickhandling skills allow him to attack the defense with speed. He skates very well and is very strong making him hard to defend. The Penguins’ offensive core isn’t getting any younger and at some point they need to build a good core of prospects as trade deadline roster improvements have proven to be unsuccessful. With a new GM in Jim Rutherford, the Pens will have a new direction and it is believed that Rutherford will start with a forward.
23. Colorado Avalanche: Robert Fabbri, C, Guelph Storm
Fabbri improved exponentially as the season progressed, helping his talented squad turn in the best record in the OHL as the eventual OHL champs. He continued to produce into the Mermorial Cup, but eventually fell short, being defeated by the Edmonton Oil Kings. Fabbri was the most impressive skater on the ice for Guelph during the playoffs and was visibly involved every time his blades touched the ice. Great fit for a young team that may very well be losing top center Paul Statsny to free agency.
24. Anaheim Ducks: Roland McKeown, D, Kingston Frontenacs
McKeown is a strong shutdown defenseman that doesn’t lack offensive skill and has doubled his production since his rookie year. He is a big presence at the blue line and has a booming slap shot. He plays a very well all-around game, making him a very good late first round selection in a weak draft for defensemen.
25. Boston Bruins: Nikolay Goldobin, RW, Sarnia Sting
Goldobin led Sarnia this past season in points, largely due to a 22 game scoring streak he rode through the middle of the season. He was impressive on a struggling Sarnia club, and probably would produce more points with a more solid team around him. He is a playmaker with decent size, a good fit for the Bruins.
26. Montreal Canadiens: Ryan MacInnis, C, Kitchener Rangers
MacInnis plays a very well two-way game, which doesn’t result in an overwhelming amount of offense, but still has value in the defensive zone. It is very surprising that the one major knock on him is his shooting and lack thereof considering his father is longtime NHL hall of fame defensemen Al MacInnis, who won the hardest shot competition a record 7 times.
27. Chicago Blackhawks: John Quenneville, C, Brandon Wheat Kings
Quenneville is a very hardworking center that moves the puck quickly and very well. The fact that he passes well opens up the ice for his line mates and results in scoring chances, allowing him to score almost a point per game pace. He wouldn’t be the first Quenneville to be a part of the Blackhawks organization as he is related to Chicago’s coach, Joel Quenneville, making it that much more special if he ended up falling to Chicago.
28. Tampa Bay Lightning: Ivan Barbashev, LW, Moncton Wildcats
Barbashev is a speedy winger that is a very strong skater. He handles the puck nicely and isn’t afraid to take defenders one on one. He led the Wildcats in assists this past season with 43, proving he can also use his skills to create chances for his teammates when he isn’t creating them for hims
29. Los Angeles Kings: Nick Schmaltz, C, Green Bay Gamblers
Schmaltz is a high octane attacker with tremendous speed that gets somewhat overlooked because he’s not a part of the US NTDP playing in the USHL. He is still a top American talent and has proven that his style of play fits well with his fellow Americans. The Kings are a big, powerful team and have drawn success from being able to wear down teams (see New York Rangers) and a smaller, faster forward would greatly benefit from that.
30. New Jersey Devils: Brendan Lemieux, LW, Barrie Colts
Lemieux is the son of four time Stanley Cup winner Claude Lemieux and draws a striking resemblance to some aspects of his father’s game. He is an agitator, leading Barrie with 145 PIM. He does have the skating and scoring ability to go along with the power however, making his game very solid. He’s a great addition to any hockey team because he gets under the opposite team’s skin and can pitch on offense.
On the bubble: Jakub Vrana, Brayden Point, Brycen Martin, Adrian Kempe, and David Pastrnak