As there seems to be an NHL Mock Draft around every corner lately, I thought I’d toss my hat into the ring and write one, too. This is a list consisting of the Top 10 teams. If you want one that includes the entire 1st Round and whose accuracy is guaranteed, get back to me next Saturday morning. And now, without further ado, my 2014 NHL Mock Draft:
1) Edmonton Oilers: Aaron Ekblad (Defense) (Via Trade with Florida)
The Oilers are stocked with talented young Top 6 forwards and need to start shoring up the defense, but of course they already know this. Originally slotted only two picks back at #3, they won’t have to give up the farm like other teams would to acquire Ekblad; a top-flight rearguard with the capability of anchoring their blue line till 2030.
2) Buffalo Sabres: Leon Draisaitl (Center/Wing)
Yes, the talk’s been all about The Summer of Sam in Buffalo recently. It includes much speculation over which Sam (Reinhart or Bennett) the Sabres will select after Ekblad goes #1 overall. In the end though, the only Top 10 ‘Sam’ draft pick playing in Buffalo this year will be Bills’ wide-out Sammy Watkins. And that’s because the Blades will choose the big German forward with new GM Tim Murray’s first-ever pick. Why? Call it a slight hunch. Buffalo’s talked up the Sams enough to make one ponder whether or not a smokescreen is being employed. Maybe-just-maybe-they want Draisaitl regardless, and are seeing if they can trade down a slot or two while still getting him. Now intuition aside, his 105 points last season are both equal to and greater than both Sams, and were achieved while playing on lesser-talented teams. At 6’2”-208lbs, he’s also the largest of the consensus top three forwards. Size cannot be bought nor taught, and it’s a key factor to Murray. Sure, I could be completely wrong here, but I’ll not be very surprised if I hear Buffalo call Draisaitl’s name from the podium in Philadelphia on Friday night.
3) Florida Panthers: Sam Bennett (Center)
The Panthers will add the speedy, tenacious Bennett to their roster. Along with 2013’s #2 overall pick Aleksander Barkov, the Cats will have positioned themselves to (eventually) be rock-solid strong up the middle on their top two lines for years.
4) Calgary Flames: Sam Reinhart (Center)
The good news for Calgary is that new Flames’ GM Brian Burke, uh, excuse me, Brad Treliving, won’t even have to think at all to make a successful first pick. Much like how Nashville surprisingly found Seth Jones gift-wrapped for them at #4 last year, Calgary will find Reinhart there, too. Similar to Florida, Reinhart and 2013 #6 pick Sean Monahan will ultimately team up solidify the pivot position on the Flames top two lines for many seasons to come. No matter what happens in this draft however, Calgary already made its best decision of 2014 when it showed former GM Jay Feaster the door.
5) New York Islanders: Michael Dal Colle (Left Wing)
Ah, the perfect segue from Feaster is to Isles GM Garth Snow; the Feaster-n of the Eastern. (Conference, that is) The Islanders took a gamble by keeping this pick and opting instead to send a potential Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel lottery ticket to Buffalo in the talent-rich 2015 Draft. That means there can be no mistake made here. New York needs to improve enough to not only generate interest for when they move to their new arena in Brooklyn, but continue to give superstar John Tavares a reason to want to stick around long-term. Dal Colle is the choice here. He’s a big winger coming off a 95-point season who can skillfully either dish off the disc or bury it. Will he and new backstop Jaroslav Halak be enough to propel the Isles up the standings and out of the next Draft lottery? I doubt it. But they will certainly make them better.
6) Vancouver Canucks: William Nylander (Right Wing)
As a huge former Hartford Whalers fan, it’s nearly impossible to believe that both Michael Nylander’s and Sami Kapanen’s sons will both be 1st Round draft picks this year. But time marches on, and I digress. There has been much recent turnover/turmoil in Vancouver’s front office, coaching and goaltending staffs. And (assuming they don’t trade up) with the Sedin twins aging and Ryan Kessler almost certainly on his way out of British Columbia, the Canucks may opt to roll the dice on a potential dazzler. While Nylander may be a reach here and won’t be showcased in any defensive tutorial films any time soon, he does possess the ability to become a top offensive talent in the NHL if he wants to.
7) Carolina Hurricanes: Nicholas Ritchie (Left Wing)
Another former Hartford Whaler, Ron Francis, will be making his first draft pick as the new general manager of the Hurricanes. Presuming he doesn’t choose his old teammate Sami Kapanen’s son Kasperi in an unlikely fit of nostalgia, the correct pick here may be the bruising, high-scoring Peterborough winger.
8) Toronto Maple Leafs: Jake Virtanen (Left Wing)
Obviously, one writes these mock drafts from the top down, not the bottom up. Therefore the later picks must be based on whatever’s left. (Good morning, I’m Chris. Welcome to Common Sense 101.) And while I have no special NHL inside info, my guess is that the Leafs might have taken the Ontario native Ritchie if they’d found him here at #8. But since in my mock he’s not, the choice seems to come down to either Virtanen and Brendan Perlini. That being what it is, you either flip a coin or go with who you think is the better player/fit. Right now though I’d have to get up and go find a coin, and I don’t feel like making the effort. So I’ll just opt for who I think is the better player, Virtanen.
9) Winnipeg Jets: Jared McCann (Center)
Of course, after having just read my Toronto preview paragraph, this is probably where you’d assume I’d say Winnipeg would then take Perlini. But I think perhaps not. Yes, talented left-winger Evander Kane is likely to be dealt soon. And in some respects it’d make sense to replace him ASAP with another top ten left-wing; but I’ll go ahead and assign McCann to the Jets here. Look, I don’t want to go to the Hunch Well twice in one mock, but I will because that’s all it really is. Besides, what fun is it if nearly every mock draft was identical?
10) Anaheim Ducks: Kasperi Kapanen (Right Wing)
As one Finnish Flash (Teemu Salanne) retires he passes the baton to another, with the first of two Ducks’ opening round draft picks this year. (#10, #24)
Well there you have it. I hope you’ve enjoyed my 2014 NHL Mock Draft. And if you didn’t, that’s cool; the real one’s almost here, anyway.
The 2014 NHL Draft takes place Friday, June 27 (7pm ET) on the NBCSports Network.