Florida won the draft lottery last night, meaning the Panthers get the first crack at an interesting field with a lot of variation in it. A lot goes into a draft list and the final results are always thrown into chaos by trades and reaches. As the draft gets closer and teams decide who they like the most, I’ll get a more accurate picture of how things might shake down. But for now, here’s a quick-and-dirty look at what could happen come draft day in Philadelphia, based on the teams’ current situation.
1. Florida – Aaron Ekblad, Barrie Colts, D
Yeah, yeah, defensemen never go first overall anymore (Erik Johnson was the last in 2006), but the Cats are loaded up front with Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad and Jonathan Huberdeau. Their best ‘D’ prospects are still in college, whereas Ekblad can step in right away and play a top-four role.
Turnabout is fair play for the Florida Panthers. At last year’s draft lottery, the second-to-last Colorado Avalanche leap-frogged the Panthers to win first overall pick. This year, it was the Panthers who did the leap-frogging.
Florida moved up one spot in the draft and won the right to select first overall in the 2014 NHL draft June 27 in Philadelphia. The Panthers had an 18.8 percent chance of winning the lottery, held Tuesday night in Toronto. The last-place Buffalo Sabres had the best chance of winning – 25 percent – but will slip to the second overall spot.
The remainder of the top 13 picks follow in reverse order of NHL standings. Edmonton picks third followed by Calgary fourth and the New York Islanders fifth. Vancouver is sixth, Carolina seventh, Toronto eighth, Winnipeg ninth, Anaheim (from Ottawa in the Bobby Ryan trade) 10th, Nashville 11th, Phoenix 12th and Washington 13th. The New Jersey Devils slip to the 30th spot as league penalty for trying to circumvent the NHL salary cap.
Winning the lottery is nice for the Panthers, but it doesn’t mean as much in a draft that is considered very equal among the top three, four, even five prospects according to most scouts. Florida is weakest on the blueline and will surely be tempted to select Barrie defenseman Aaron Ekblad first overall.
With his NHL debut in Calgary, Johnny Gaudreau officially exhausted his eligibility on The Hot List. But it was a great run for the speedy ball of talent, starting as a member of the United States League’s Dubuque Fighting Saints. In fact, thanks to his three years at Boston College, Gaudreau is likely the most frequent name ever to appear on the list (John Gibson is a likely second). But back to the present: Here are some of the new players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Travis Sanheim, D – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Currently over in Finland with Team Canada’s under-18 team, Sanheim has made a remarkable jump up the draft rankings this season. This was his first season with the Hitmen, as he spent last year in midget, building up his game and his strength.
“I could get more ice time and play every role,” Sanheim said. “I could go to the gym more, get stronger and prepare for this year to not only make the team, but make a difference on the team. And I think I did that, I jumped into a pretty key role.”
A ninth-rounder in the bantam draft, Sanheim ended this season with a very respectable 29 points and a plus-25 rating in 67 games. But he started off slow, with just three points through 21 games. Once he adjusted to life in the ‘Dub,’ things picked up. He also got more opportunities when captain Jaynen Rissling went down with an injury in December. Another defenseman who has helped Sanheim is fellow draft prospect Ben Thomas. The two formed a pairing in Calgary and also skated together as Canada took off for the under-18s.
There have been no shortage of sideshow symptoms afflicting the Maple Leafs over the years, but many hockey people will tell you the main ailment that has plagued this franchise for decades is their ineffectiveness on the drafting and development front. Whether it’s collective assessments done by panels of scouts and GMs or the fans themselves, few have been impressed with Toronto’s record on identifying and cultivating high-impact NHLers. Indeed, the reason management often splurges on unrestricted free agents or gambles on high-risk, high-reward trades is because there hasn’t been a steady stream of cost-effective NHL-calibre talent coming through the farm system.
Even Leafs GM Dave Nonis admits the issue of in-house asset development is a real concern.
“We have to get better in all areas, scouting in particular,” Nonis told reporters Monday after the introduction of new Leafs president Brendan Shanahan. “We’re not going to become a contender through free agency if this doesn’t happen. It’s going to be player acquisition through the draft and development, or via the trade route.”
Nonis’ new hockey boss feels similarly, but cautioned against any notion of him coming into his position and clearing house, using his time as a player with the Red Wings as an example. Read more
overlord esteemed colleague Brian Costello laid out a compelling case for the New York Islanders giving their 2014 first-round pick to Buffalo as part of the Thomas Vanek trade. He makes some excellent points, but I disagree. The Isles should work with what they have and use their selection this June. Here’s why;
It’s far easier to plan a team’s future working with what you know. No one can take away that the New York Islanders possess a high first-round selection in the 2014 draft. That pick can end up as high as first and no worse than sixth, depending on the draft lottery. Mr. Costello is correct to say the 2014 draft class is weaker than 2015′s projects to be, but that only applies once you leave the top 10. In the top five or six picks, there are plenty of talented players with superstar upside. Does 2014 have a potentially once-in-a-generation find like Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel? No, but there’s no way of knowing the Isles can land those two anyway. What we do know is they are guaranteed a player from the talented group of Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, Leon Draisatl, Michael Dal Colle, Brendan Perlini, Willie Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen, among others. Why throw away a sure thing for a maybe?
The Islanders will almost certainly be better next year. In the shortened 2012-13 campaign, this team (albeit with Matt Moulson and Andrew MacDonald still there) was good enough to make the playoffs and give Pittsburgh a healthy six-game fight. Next year, John Tavares should be fully healthy and reunited with Kyle Okposo on a powerhouse line. The Isles should also have Ryan Strome in the lineup all season. He’s the No. 5 overall prospect in THN Future Watch and has little left to prove at the American League level, having ripped up the circuit for 49 points in 37 games with Bridgeport. He tallied a respectable 18 points in 37 NHL games this season, too, and will give the Isles a legit secondary scoring threat. A center core of Tavares, Strome, Frans Nielsen, Anders Lee and Brock Nelson ain’t half bad. Maybe hulking blueliner Griffin Reinhart, No. 11 in Future Watch, makes the jump by next year, too.
Canadian teams will be well-represented in Tuesday’s NHL draft lottery.
Hey, we have to find something nice to say as the Montreal Canadiens are the only team north of the border to make the playoffs. The other six Canadian cities are among the top 10 teams vying to win the lottery and earn the right to select first overall.
Below you’ll see a listing for the 14 non-playoff teams and their chances to select first overall in the June 27-28 draft in Philadelphia. Most interesting is the likely outcome column which shows the varying percentage chances your favorite team will place.
The New York Islanders should take their nasty medicine now so they can start moving forward without an albatross around their neck.
Even with the Islanders projected to pick in the top five of this year’s draft, they should give it away to the Buffalo Sabres as compensation in the Thomas Vanek trade. There are just too many things that could go wrong if New York decides to put off the inevitable until next year.
In case you hadn’t heard, the Islanders last October traded their first-round pick in either 2014 or 2015, a second-round pick in 2015 and Matt Moulson to Buffalo for Vanek. It was a dreadful deal at the time and got horribly worse when Vanek, a pending UFA, rejected a contract extension with the Islanders. (Vanek has since been traded to Montreal for pennies on the dollar.)
The Islanders have the option to give either this year’s or next year’s first-rounder to Buffalo. With New York sitting in fourth-last place going into the final weekend of the season, it almost seems like a no-brainer the Isles would keep this year’s top-five pick and delay the compensation until next year.
Here’s a few reasons why I think New York must forsake this year’s pick.
As Brendan Shanahan settles into his new role as president of the Maple Leafs, he’ll have many issues to examine: the Leafs’ cookie-cutter in-game entertainment, for instance; or the deafening volume of the speakers facing press row. But there’s one topic that ought to take priority over all others – and it’s not the employment status of Toronto’s current coach or GM.
It’s drafting and development, an area in which the Leafs have been woefully lacking for as long as anyone can remember. If anything is going to provide meaningful change in the years to come, it’s better results from their group of talent evaluators and groomers.
If you view Toronto’s draft history/results through the prism of THN’s annual Future Watch edition, the reality becomes all the more painful. Let’s look back over the past decade and see where the Leafs’ collection of prospects have ranked every year. (And remember, each issue’s rankings are a result of consultations with a large group of NHL GMs and scouts.) Read more