It’s time for The Peerless’ peerless prognostication for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. The draft, which will be held this Friday and Saturday in the cheesesteaky, soft pretzelly goodness that is south Philadelphia at CoreStates/First Union/Wachovia/Wells Fargo Center, is a celebration of hope, an orgy of optimism, a carnival of cheerfulness.
Actually, we eagerly anticipate the reception the Phans of Philly will bestow upon Commissioner Gary Bettman as he confidently strides to the podium to announce the first overall selection. If those folks would boo Santa Claus, well, it should be entertaining.
The object of the exercise, though, is for 30 young men to model the latest in NHL on-ice fashion as those chosen in the first round of the draft. And so we offer you our scientific take* on who will go where when the teams take their turns on the clock on Friday night. When the booing of the Commish fades, here is how the first round will unfold.
1. Florida Panthers -- Aaron Ekblad, D (Barrie/OHL)
2. Buffalo Sabres – Sam Reinhart, C (Kootenay/WHL)
3. Edmonton Oilers – Sam Bennett, C (Kingston/OHL)
4. Calgary Flames – Leon Draisaitl, C (Prince Albert/WHL)
5. New York Islanders – Michael Dal Colle, LW (Oshawa/OHL)
6. Vancouver Canucks – Nicholas Ritchie, LW (Peterborough/OHL)
7. Carolina Hurricanes – William Nylander, RW (Sodertalje/SWE-2)
8. Toronto Maple Leafs – Jake Virtanen, LW (Calgary/WHL)
9. Winnipeg Jets – Nikolaj Ehlers, LW (Halifax/QMJHL)
10. Anaheim Ducks (from Ottawa) – Haydn Fleury, D (Red Deer/WHL)
11. Nashville Predators – Brendan Perlini, LW (Niagara/OHL)
12. Arizona Coyotes – Kasperi Kapanen, RW (Kalpa/FIN)
13. Washington Capitals – Kevin Fiala, LW (HV-71 Jr./SWE-JR)
14. Dallas Stars – Alex Tuch, RW (USA-U18/USHL)
15. Detroit Red Wings – Jared McCann, C (Sault Ste. Marie/OHL)
16. Columbus Blue Jackets – Julius Honka, D (Swift Current/WHL)
17. Philadelphia Flyers – Sonny Milano, LW (USA-U18/USHL)
18. Minnesota Wild – Dylan Larkin, C (USA-U18/USHL)
19. Tampa Bay Lightning – Robert Fabbri, C (Guelph/OHL)
20. San Jose Sharks -- Anthony DeAngelo, D (Sarnia/OHL)
21. St. Louis Blues – Thatcher Demko, G (Boston College/Hockey East)
22. Pittsburgh Penguins – David Pastrnak, RW (Sodertalje (SWE-2)
23. Colorado Avalanche – Adrian Kempe, LW (Modo Jr./SWE-JR)
24. Anaheim Ducks – Jack Dougherty, D (NTDP-18/USA)
25. Boston Bruins – Ivan Barbashev, LW (Moncton/QMJHL)
26. Montreal Canadiens – Jakub Vrana, C (Linkoping/SWE-2)
27. Chicago Blackhawks – Nikita Scherbak, LW (Saskatoon/WHL)
28. Tampa Bay Lightning (from NY Rangers) – Roland McKeown, D (Kingston/OHL)
29. Los Angeles Kings – Brendan Lemieux, LW (Barrie/OHL)
30. New Jersey Devils – Joshua Ho-Sang (C/RW (Windsor/OHL)
This looks like a draft that has no “generational” player, but rather a consistently well thought of top-five in Ekblad, Reinhart, Draisaitl, Bennett and Dal Colle. Ekblad was the consensus first overall pick in the mock drafts we looked at, and Dal Colle showed up almost without exception at number five. In between the other three players jockeyed for position, but almost without exception were in the 2-4 slots.
As for the Capitals, they will likely be in a no-man’s land part of the draft. The 11-15 neighborhood since the 2004-2005 lockout has produced such players as Anze Kopitar (11th overall in 2005), Ryan McDonagh (12th overall in 2007), and Erik Karlsson (15th overall in 2008), stars all. It has also offered up Marek Zagrapan (13th overall in 2005), Kyle Beach (11th overall in 2008), and Derek Forbort (15th overall in 2010), none of whom have dressed for an NHL game to date.
Over that same period the Caps have had only one draft pick in this neighborhood, that being Sasha Pokulok (selected 15th overall) in 2005. Even though the lack of changes in the front office make the Caps’ recent draft history more relevant than it might be if there had been wholesale changes, there just is not a lot to go on here.
Kevin Fiala fell out of the chute to the Caps on the basis of the way we compiled the assorted mock drafts, not as the product of keen analysis (hey, did that ever stop us?). But this pick does make some sense. The under-25 group at left wing at the moment look to be Marcus Johansson (a converted center), Evgeny Kuznetsov (who might be called upon to play center, given the Caps lack of organizational depth at the position), and Andre Burakovsky. And after the top three centers in this draft (Reinhart, Bennett, and Draisaitl) the talent seems to drop off quite a bit.
As for defense, another position on the Caps’ “to-fill” list, it would appear that Julius Honka would be available if the team chooses to go in that direction. His would be a logical pick here for similar reasons to those of Fiala. While both are a bit undersized for their position, they share a quality that seems to be gaining importance in the way the game is being played in the NHL – speed. For example, Goran srubb, NHL Director of European Scouting said of Fiala…
"He impressed with his explosive skating, great puck-handling skills and overall quickness and speed. He has great offensive instincts and is full of surprises in the offensive zone…”
NHL Central Scouting’s Peter Sullivan had this to say about Honka…
“Let’s just say that when you go to a game and you see his name in the lineup, you’re excited to watch the game because he’s got about four or five different gears. You think he’s just skating normally and he puts it in another gear, then another gear…”
There are a host of other concrete reasons to look hard at Honka as well. Whether Fiala or Honka, both have size issues, but the Capitals had one of the bigger teams in the NHL in recent seasons. It has not been a harbinger of success.
* If by “scientific” you mean “look at a bunch of other mock drafts and mash them all up.”