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.
Ekblad is a sure thing for the Panthers. It’s hard to say what his overall ceiling is (Shea Weber, or Chris Phillips?), but he has the size and maturity to jump straight into the Florida lineup next season, even if it’s likely on the second or third pairing.
Sam Reinhart, the cerebral center from the Western League, went second overall to Buffalo, where he will join an emerging crew of top prospects including Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov and Zemgus Girgensons. Funny enough, the talented two-way pick had past premonitions of heading to the Sabres.
“I’ve pictured myself in this uniform quite a few times,” Reinhart said. “I’m very thankful the way it turned out.”
Att No. 3, Edmonton got the big pivot they needed in German Leon Draisaitl. This was the best fit of all fits and the Oilers have the option of letting him develop more with WHL Prince Albert for a season or bringing him straight to the NHL. Calgary got another very talented asset in Sam Bennett, who could help form a devastating 1-2 punch down the middle with Sean Monahan if both players continue to develop as expected. Monahan and Bennett actually spoke before the draft, so they’re already getting familiar.
Rounding out the top five was Michael Dal Colle, the high-scoring winger from the OHL’s Oshawa Generals. He was tabbed by the New York Islanders, who have quite the recent track record with the Gens. John Tavares and Calvin de Haan both played in the blue-collar town, as did Cal Clutterbuck.
Dal Colle interviewed with the Islanders this morning and said that Tavares and Kyle Okposo already called, while Josh Bailey texted him.
The newest Islander would be best to return to Oshawa where he can add some bulk to his great frame, but once he rounds into form, he’ll be a dynamic presence on the wing and a potential target for Tavares’ passes.