Why did the Winnipeg Jets take Nikolaj Ehlers ninth overall in the NHL draft last weekend? THN senior writer and prospect guru Ryan Kennedy takes a closer look at the talented winger in this scouting report, part of a series of videos we did in conjunction with Bleacher Report spotlighting the best players available in the 2014 draft. Read more
All the big free agents are off the board and the trade dominoes have fallen. While some players still need homes for next season, the difference-makers are gone: Ryan Kesler, Jason Spezza and Matt Niskanen among them. Will a David Legwand or Dany Heatley turn a team’s fortunes? Probably not. So while it’s very early, let’s take a look at one of the more intriguing subplots of the upcoming season: The Connor McDavid Derby.
Each year, Team USA holds its Select 17s camp, where the best from that age group square off in a tournament, followed by an all-star game. Once again the camp was held in Amherst, NY near Buffalo and for early June, the hockey was pretty solid. The best of the best were chosen for the all-star game and the best from that group was also chosen to represent the Americans at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which takes place in August.
The Americans don’t send the official National Team Development Program squad to the Ivan Hlinka, instead using the summer showdown to reward kids from the United States League, major junior and the high school ranks. Here are some of the players that impressed me at the all-star game, many of whom will be heading over to the Ivan Hlinka.
The CHL Import Draft is complex. On the surface of course, it’s straight-forward: Every team from the Ontario, Western and Quebec League has the opportunity to select two European players, assuming they have two import slots open on their roster.
But if one of your Europeans went in the first round of the NHL draft, you can keep the rights to three, in case the first-rounder bounces between the pros and junior (it’s basically the Mikhail Grigorenko rule). And you’re not allowed to take goalies anymore, which is protectionist and ignores the fact American netminders have been “taking jobs” from Canadian kids as much as Europeans were.
Also, some folks will tell you it’s not quite a draft because some teams have unofficial deals with players beforehand – which led to last year’s awkward situation where Washington Capitals pick Andre Burakovsky thought he was going to Windsor, only see to Erie scoop up his rights first. After a lot of fuss, Burakovsky went to the Otters and helped Erie make a nice playoff run.
The 2014 installment of the Import Draft happened on Wednesday and as always, there was drama, beginning with the first pick. The OHL’s Sarnia Sting tabbed Czech power forward Pavel Zacha first overall, but the youngster’s agent, Allan Walsh, immediately took to Twitter to announce that Zacha, a potential top-10 NHL pick in 2015, has a contract with Liberec back home and that Sarnia just wasted the pick.
The 2014 draft had little consensus going into Philadelphia and it showed in the results on Day 2 as teams went all over the board with their picks. One thing that became very clear is that teams were valuing upside and potential, swinging for the fences instead of settling for safe selections.
But with the full draft in the books, some teams helped themselves more than others. Here are my winners and losers from Day 2.
The evening began with uncertainty and Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon even had some fun by revealing that his team would be selecting a player from the Ontario League – but pausing before actually saying the name Aaron Ekblad.
“I was freaking out a bit,” Ekblad admitted.
But with five picks in the books, the most likely top five players were all claimed: Maybe the 2014 draft class was more straight forward than we thought.
One of the reasons William Nylander is pegged to go so high at the NHL draft in Philadelphia this weekend is that he’s hard to catch up with on the ice. The center/right winger has electrifying hands and eye-catching moves, but he was also hard to pin down geographically this season.
People love mock drafts, we know that they do. And despite the fact the actual first round of the draft blows up said mock drafts time and again thanks to trades, reaches and hail Mary picks, it’s always fun to play armchair GM. So here’s my stab at a 2014 mock draft; the real picks go down Friday night in Philadelphia.
1. Florida – Aaron Ekblad, D: The Panthers already have two young big centers in Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad. Ekblad is a safe choice that can patrol the blueline for the next decade and a half and at worst, be a solid NHLer.
2. Buffalo – Sam Bennett, C: The accumulation of assets continue in Buffalo. Bennett can also play wing if need be, but either way he brings a different skill set than Zemgus Girgensons or Mikhail Grigorenko.
3. Edmonton – Leon Draisaitl, C: Because duh. Draisaitl is a big, strong, playmaking center that the Oilers’ top six desperately needs. They’ve got finesse but no size and the German helps rectify that. Read more