NHL Draft: What to expect from 2014 class, prospect rankings

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com

The top draft prospects in Philly's Love Park. (Getty Images)
The top draft prospects in Philly's Love Park. (Getty Images)

More NHL Offseason: NHL rumors | Updating rumor mill | 2014-15 preseason odds

You have heard it for a year now; it's a down year for the NHL Draft. It's not as deep as last year's incredible draft (though few will ever be) and it doesn't have the superstars-in-waiting that 2015 has with Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. It's very average.

All of that is probably true. At the top of the draft you have potential impact players as is always the case but there aren't anywhere near as many of them and none appear to be as sure-fire hits as, say, Nathan MacKinnon was a year ago. Of course we won't really know for a few years when the prospects begin to pan out (or don't) but that's the consensus on this draft.

Of course that's not to say there will be no value to be found. It remains true that the basis for winning in hockey is to build through the draft; this is the where teams build the foundations and find their core players for what they hope is years to come and that's absolutely possible even in supposed down years for the talent pool.

Something else that might indicate this to be the belief of GMs and scouts across the league is the willingness with which so many teams have to part with their picks. From the Florida Panthers at No. 1 to the Islanders at No. 5, Predators at 11, Red Wings at 15 and either of the Lightning's picks, all have been speculated as to being available, and that list is guaranteed not to be complete.

Having said all that, it's not as though there is no hope of getting the next building blocks in the franchise future. If there wasn't value at the top of this draft, the Panthers wouldn't have eight teams, as Dale Tallon said, expressing varying degrees of interest in the pick. It's not a foregone conclusion at all that moribund Florida will make that pick or if it will be somebody else's; the Panthers want to win now.

The question is how soon could a No. 1 overall pick be ready to help them win now? Certainly MacKinnon was able to do that for Colorado this past season and while they haven't been winning much, that's of no fault to Taylor Hall in Edmonton, just to look at a couple of recent top picks.

There is no consensus top player available. Many rankings actually have Sam Bennett No. 1 in their system but at the same time it seems a virtual guarantee that hulking defenseman Aaron Ekblad will be the first player to have his name called. If so, can he be an immediate help at the NHL level as is expected for top overall picks?

Certainly he has the size. Ekblad has been a man among boys in the junior ranks, something which many look at as a concern; is he the best player or just the most advanced physically? Time will tell but it does mean that he's one of the rare players in this draft who can slide right into NHL service. But as we know, the learning curve for defensemen is always higher than forwards, it usually takes a couple of seasons.

The NHL Draft isn't like its counterparts in the NBA or NFL (though is similar to MLB) in that it doesn't really offer instant gratification. Players drafted in hockey, with a few exceptions, take time to grow in the junior and minor ranks. Sometimes you won't see a prospect for a couple years in the NHL, if ever.

Patience is always a key for hockey prospects but this year in particular will require a touch more because time will tell what its true talent level is but what's pretty certain is there are few if any immediate-impact players available.

Of course that doesn't mean the draft isn't worth paying attention to because there are always trades, and lots of them.

The following rankings are an average of International Scouting Service, TSN's Bob McKenzie, The Hockey News and HockeyProspect.com's services. NHL Central Scouting isn't factored in because it lists European and North American skaters separately.

Draft Prospects
Aaron Ekblad
Average ranking: 2
Pos: Defenseman
Height: 6.03.5
Team: Barrie
League: OHL
Weight: 216
Sam Reinhart
Average ranking: 2
Pos: Center
Height: 6.00
Team: Kootenay
League: WHL
Weight: 185
Sam Bennett
Average ranking: 2.25
Pos: Center
Height: 6.00.25
Team: Kingston
League: OHL
Weight: 178
Michael Dal Colle
Average ranking: 5
Pos: Center
Height: 6.01.5
Team: Oshawa
League: OHL
Weight: 182
Leon Draisaitl
Average ranking: 5
Pos: Center
Height: 6.01.5
Team: Prince Albert
League: WHL
Weight: 204
William Nylander
Average ranking: 7
Pos: Right Wing
Height: 5.11
Team: Modo
League: Swedish Elite
Weight: 176
Nicholas Ritchie
Average ranking: 7.5
Pos: Left Wing
Height: 6.02.25
Team: Peterborough
League: OHL
Weight: 226
Nikolaj Ehlers
Average ranking: 8
Pos: Left Wing
Height: 5.11
Team: Halifax
League: QMJHL
Weight: 162
Haydn Fleury
Average ranking: 9.5
Pos: Defenseman
Height: 6.02.5
Team: Red Deer
League: WHL
Weight: 203
Jake Virtanen
Average ranking: 10.75
Pos: Right Wing
Height: 6.00.75
Team: Calgary
League: WHL
Weight: 208
Dylan Larkin
Average ranking: 12.5
Pos: Center
Height: 6.00.75
Team: USA Under-18
League: NTDP
Weight: 183
Kasperi Kapanen
Average ranking: 13.25
Pos: Right Wing
Height: 6.00
Team: Kuopio
League: Finnish Elite
Weight: 181
Brendan Perlini
Average ranking: 13.5
Pos: Left Wing
Height: 6.02.75
Team: Niagara
League: OHL
Weight: 205
Alex Tuch
Average ranking: 14.75
Pos: Right Wing
Height: 6.03.5
Team: USA Under-18
League: NTDP
Weight: 213
Kevin Fiala
Average ranking: 15.75
Pos: Right Wing
Height: 5.10
Team: HV71
League: Swedish Junior Elite
Weight: 180
Robby Fabbri
Average ranking: 16.5
Pos: Center
Height: 5.10.25
Team: Guelph
League: OHL
Weight: 170
Sonny Milano
Average ranking: 17.5
Pos: Left Wing
Height: 5.11.5
Team: USA Under-18
League: NTDP
Weight: 183
Jared McCann
Average ranking: 18.25
Pos: Center
Height: 6.00.25
Team: S.S. Marie
League: OHL
Weight: 179
Ivan Barbashev
Average ranking: 18.75
Pos: Center
Height: 6.00
Team: Moncton
League: QMJHL
Weight: 187
Nikita Scherbak
Average ranking: 20
Pos: Left Wing
Height: 6.00
Team: Saskatoon
League: WHL
Weight: 172
Jakub Vrana
Average ranking: 22.25
Pos: Right Wing
Height: 6.00
Team: Linkoping
League: Swedish Elite
Weight: 187
Travis Sanheim
Average ranking: 22.75
Pos: Defenseman
Height: 6.03
Team: Calgary
League: WHL
Weight: 181
David Pastrnak
Average ranking: 23.75
Pos: Right Wing
Height: 6.00
Team: Sodertalje
League: Swedish 2
Weight: 167
Julius Honka
Average ranking: 24.75
Pos: Defenseman
Height: 5.11
Team: Swift Current
League: WHL
Weight: 178
Adrian Kempe
Average ranking: 25
Pos: Left Wing
Height: 6.01.5
Team: Modo
League: Swedish Elite
Weight: 187
Nick Schmaltz
Average ranking: 27.25
Pos: Right Wing
Height: 5.11.5
Team: Green Bay
League: USHL
Weight: 172
Thatcher Demko
Average ranking: 29.25
Pos: Goaltender
Height: 6.03
Team: Boston College
League: NCAA
Weight: 192
Josh Ho-Sang
Average ranking: 32.5
Pos: Right Wing
Height: 5.11
Team: Windsor
League: OHL
Weight: 175
Ryan MacInnis
Average ranking: 35
Pos: Center
Height: 6.03.25
Team: Kitchener
League: OHL
Weight: 183
Roland McKeown
Average ranking: 39.25
Pos: Defenseman
Height: 6.00.75
Team: Kingston
League: OHL
Weight: 195
 
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