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.
4. Calgary – Sam Reinhart, C: Can you imagine playing the Flames in five years if Reinhart and Sean Monahan reach their potentials as NHL pivots? Reinhart is whip-smart on the ice and would be a great building block.
5. NY Islanders – Michael Dal Colle, LW: The Isles have a history of liking Oshawa Generals (Tavares, Clutterbuck, de Haan) and Dal Colle would bring some primo scoring power to the wing in New York.
6. Vancouver – Willie Nylander, C: Nylander can also play wing and if his dynamic skill set didn’t mesh with the Sedins on a line, at least the Canucks would get a fantastic secondary threat.
7. Carolina – Nick Ritchie, LW: The Canes seriously need some beef and Ritchie is the answer. Not only will he contribute on the scoresheet, but he can drop the gloves, too.
8. Toronto – Nikolaj Ehlers, LW: The Leafs won’t find a big No. 1 center in this spot, so might as well grab some high-end skill. Ehlers will be lethal once he fills out a bit more, leaving teams to pick their poison between him and Phil Kessel.
9. Winnipeg – Jake Virtanen, LW: The Jets need to get more dangerous up front and Virtanen is a goal-scorer who also plays the game with an edge.
10. Anaheim – Haydn Fleury, D: This was originally Ottawa’s pick, so the Ducks are playing with house money. In Fleury they get a big, promising defenseman for the future who would look great in a future corps with Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen.
11. Nashville – Brendan Perlini, LW: Perlini is a big-time producer with size who is great at shielding the puck. The Preds haven’t drafted a lot of offensive talent like him very often and it’s past time to do so.
12. Arizona – Kasperi Kapanen, RW: On a well-run bench, Kapanen would fit right in as a responsible player who would also give the Coyotes some much-needed scoring pop once he comes over.
13. Washington – Dylan Larkin, C: The Caps could use Larkin’s combination of two-way play and skill. Nicklas Backstrom’s still the No. 1 center, but Larkin would work perfectly behind him.
14. Dallas – Robby Fabbri, C: Dallas already has his Guelph teammate Jason Dickinson in the fold and Fabbri would make an already dangerous core even more scary.
15. Detroit – Jakub Vrana, LW: Hits pretty much all the Red Wings checkmarks. Vrana has a high level of skill, he’s developing in Europe against older competition and he plans on staying in Sweden for a couple more years.
16. Columbus – Alex Tuch, RW: The Jackets are building a stable of big, edgy players and Tuch would fit right in once his time at Boston College is done. He’s a power forward with great hands.
17. Philadelphia – Thatcher Demko, G: I mean, we know the Flyers are going to do something bold, right? Demko is the best goalie in the draft and given the way Anthony Stolarz is trending, it won’t hurt to diversify on “goalie of the future” options.
18. Minnesota – Jared McCann, C: Just another toolsy asset for a Wild franchise that is really coming together right now. McCann has great vision and plays at both ends of the ice.
19. Tampa Bay – Roland McKeown, D: The Bolts are flush with talent up front, so now it’s time to focus on the back end. McKeown is a great skater who does a little bit of everything.
20. San Jose – David Pastrnak, RW: One of San Jose’s few recent lightning strikes was Tomas Hertl. Perhaps his fellow Czech can also bring luck? Pastrnak is offensively gifted and active on the forecheck.
21. St. Louis – Kevin Fiala, LW: The Blues have no immediate needs, but adding high-end skill to complement Vladimir Tarasenko is a worthy long-range goal. Fiala brings that type of package.
22. Pittsburgh – Ivan Barbashev, LW: Big, strong and more than happy to play a 200-foot game, Barbashev can also put up points and is repped by the same agency as Evgeni Malkin.
23. Colorado – Jack Dougherty, D: It’s clear the Avs need more ‘D’ prospects and Dougherty presents a low-risk gamble thanks to his two-way game with decent upside.
24. Anaheim – Sonny Milano, LW: Anaheim always, always takes somebody who played for the NTDP. Literally, since 2003. If it’s not Milano and his sick hands, it’ll be someone else later on.
25. Boston – Adrian Kempe, C: A fast Swede who doesn’t mind playing physical, Kempe will be yet another barrier for opponents to overcome when they face the Bruins in the future.
26. Montreal – Travis Sanheim, D: Sanheim took off in the second half and even though he’s more of a long-term pick, the Habs are good enough now that they can wait for the two-way puckmover to get heavier.
27. Chicago – Julius Honka, D: He’ll need some time to bulk up a bit, but the Hawks can wait. A pure offensive defenseman would be a great long-term weapon.
28. Tampa Bay – Conner Bleackley, C: With the Bolts taking a blueliner with their first selection, Bleackley adds variety with his hard-working approach to the pivot position.
29. Los Angeles – Nikita Scherbak, RW: The Russian Factor means nothing to GM Dean Lombardi, who has successfully navigated around it in the past. Scherbak is a potent producer and another great asset for the Kings.
30. New Jersey – Anthony DeAngelo, D: Call this a super-hunch. GM Lou Lamoriello has never shied away from players with red flags and as a player, the New Jersey-bred DeAngelo is an ultra-skilled offensive defenseman.
Editor’s Note: A previous draft was incorrectly published. The order of players has been shifted around.