Finally…the mock…HAS COME BACK to….well, wherever the hell you currently are. 2.0 for 2014, and boy is it a hummmmmmmdinger! Is that how you spell humdinger? Apparently, since it didn’t correct me. Last time I said this draft was reminding me of the 2006 draft. Well now it’s starting to remind me of the 2011 draft. The 2011 draft wasn’t expected to be very good, but the closer we got to the draft, the more guys stepped up and by the time draft day came along you had an elite prospect at the top, a real nice top 10, and solid depth that stretched well into the 2nd round. It’ll remain to be seen if this draft has that kind of depth, but the top of this draft just keeps getting better, despite the fact that the same 2 guys remain on top….they just keep one upping each other!
A few things to point out before we begin, I try to focus on team needs under 27 years of age more than simply just taking the best player available (BPA as I will refer to it from here on out). Also I haven’t seen hundreds of kids play. Maybe 18 of them have I actually seen play. But I do as much homework as I can on them trying to get multiple scouting reports on each kid and making an educated opinion out of that. As for the comparisons, it is mainly in terms of the style of player, not saying that Reinhart is Toews, Ekblad is Weber, Ritchie is Benn, just the style they play and their attributes are the same. Also this year I have divided it up into 3 parts so once you’re done reading the top 10 picks, there are links to both the next 10 picks and the final 10 picks. Hope everyone enjoys the changes I’ve made.
Standings as of 3/2/2014
Sam Reinhart Kootenay WHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 185 Shot: R
Comparison: Jonathan Toews
The Sabres are a total mess, but this team is setup pretty well moving forward. Darcy Regier did a great job stacking the cupboard on his way out the door. The problem is that he drastically rushed a lot of his kids, especially this season. Something incredible here is that thanks to Pat Lafontaine stepping down on Saturday, I didn’t have to change a word of that despite all the front office changes! Now, maybe you think Ekblad is better, that’s fine. Most have Ekblad as the top ranked guy. But there is no doubt after last year’s draft that GM’s trust forwards at the top of the draft because history has told us they should. So Ekblad is going to have to do some pretty special things to get that top spot. Add to this, the Sabres took Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov in the 1st round. They have Tyler Myers, they have Mark Pysyk, they don’t have much of a need at all for Ekblad despite how good he is. Reinhart’s scouting report reads a ton like Jonathan Toews did at this point. Strong 2 ways, good size, good skater, all the intangibles you desire in a player, offensive upside is there but it isn’t elite (although he’s upped his production since the WJC). He probably won’t be at the same level as Toews, but he’s that type of a player.
Aaron Ekblad Barrie OHL
Pos: D Ht: 6’4 Wt: 215 Shot: R
Comparison: Shea Weber
Hard to believe scouts thought he would only be a nice top 4 guy at the start of the season. Maybe that is all he becomes, but the more I see of him and read on him, the more I believe this kid could be a superstar. He is all world, hits it out of the park for me the same way Darnell Nurse did last year. High IQ, great size, good skater, composed, logs big minutes, a bomb from the point though a shooter on the PP not a QB, and is a shutdown D-man. People don’t want to compare him to Weber because he doesn’t make those bone crushing hits. Ummmm, has anyone watched Weber since about his 3rd season?? He plays mean, but he RARELY makes a big open ice hit anymore. Weather Ekblad becomes Weber or a poor man’s version of Weber, that is far and away the best comparison. The only thing that is a concern for me with Ekblad is that it is always tough to tell with D-men at this age if they’re dominating only because they’ve matured quicker than their counterparts? As for the Oilers, while Ekblad paired with Nurse moving forward makes me drool as an Oiler fan, they have a bigger need for a center than they do on D believe it or not. Not on the current roster, but definitely moving forward. If they end up with the choice between Ekblad and Reinhart, I honestly could argue it either way. Can’t go wrong with either guy though. As for trading the pick, I bet they don’t. It’s not as black and white as saying “they don’t need another kid!” Do they need a high end 2nd line center? Yes. Do they need major help on defense? Yes. So why are you going to pass that up?
Sam Bennett Kingston OHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’0 Wt: 178 Shot: L
Comparison: Doug Gilmour
The trendy thing is to compare Sam Bennett to Doug Gilmour, and I’m a trendy guy so there you go. TOUGH spot here for the Panthers and the Flames really if it shakes down like this. The Panthers top guy I’m sure would be Ekblad, but they just miss him. The Flames I’m sure would kill to get Bennett and have him paired with Monahan as an incredible 1-2 down the middle for years to come (although nothing against Flames fans, but I kind of expect them to be in the McDavid hunt…not a bad thing!) But the Panthers without a doubt have room for a kid like Bennett playing behind Sasha Barkov and sliding Nick Bjugstad back to the 3rd line where he would play the Jordan Staal role so to speak. So who does Bennett play like….well how did Dougie play? 200 feet, setup man, in your face, gritty. Bennett actually might be more skilled and has probably 3 more inches and once he fills out likely 10-15 pounds on what Gilmour had. Pretty impressive. CSS has him as the top ranked North American, and while I often roll my eyes at their rankings in this case I can see why they believe Bennett will be the top guy. He’s younger than Reinhart, and as I said earlier D-men are scary to take in the top 5 of the draft.
Michael Dal Colle Oshawa OHL
Pos: LW Ht: 6’2 Wt: 184 Shot: L
Comparison: Patrick Sharp
So they miss out on Bennett, but they get a kid in Dal Colle whom would be a perfect winger to play with Monahan. The kid is a flat out sniper. He’s not very physical, but he can play a heavy game. As they stand right now, the Flames are really desperate for size in their top 6 moving forward. Monahan is a good start to that, but I’m of the opinion that you need at least 3 guys who can play heavy in your top 6….at least. When Dal Colle fills out he’ll likely be 6’2, 200-210 pounds. Despite only being 184 right now (on McKenzie’s rankings they list him as only being 171, I believe that’s a mistake), he has the frame to put on a lot of weight. He doesn’t have elite speed, but he’s a pretty good skater. I hope Flames fans don’t crush me for this, but because at this point I don’t see anyone close to Dal Colle in this spot, I just simply don’t have a lot to add. Who knows though who the new GM will be and what way he will want to go with this pick. Just for fun, my money is on Nashville assistant GM Paul Fenton getting this gig.
Nick Ritchie Peterborough OHL
Pos: LW Ht: 6’2 Wt: 218 Shot: L
Comparison: Jamie Benn
This could be Buffalo’s pick. Wow. And with Tavares now out, we seen on Saturday how ugly it could get for the Isles and this is pre trading Vanek and McDonald. And so you might say “well then if you have the option you simply defer to next season”. Well next season as it stands you have a once in a generation talent, and another potential superstar at the top of the draft. So if you give up that pick, your franchise will never live it down. As long as this pick is lower than 4, give it up. I think I’m still letting it go if it’s the 4th pick, a top 3 pick would be a ridiculously difficult decision. For now, it’s the Islanders pick. Ritchie is ranked this high by nobody, but I love him to go higher than expected. While scouts look mostly at skill, I like to look at players who are difficult to find. A kid like Ritchie is RARE, and so I believe he should be a top 5 pick in this draft. A big traditional power forward like Ritchie riding shotgun with Tavares? That would be pretty damn sweet for the Islanders. Should this pick be used by the Sabres….I wouldn’t change it. Again, a kid like Ritchie is so rare and for me that separates him from the rest of that 2nd level of kids in this draft.
Haydn Fleury Red Deer WHL
Pos: D Ht: 6’3 Wt: 207 Shot: L
Comparison: Mark Giordano
Man would Jim Rutherford start building up his D already?! No picks by this team have been made with the defensive side of the game in mind. Sure, Ryan Murphy is a D-man, but he’s just a forward playing D in reality. If Rutherford were honest about it he would admit in private that the Cup they won was in the most disorganized season in NHL history. Players were out of shape, they had all these new rules to learn, and things were just not normal in 2006. So while you won a Cup with an average at best blueline, no team has won being built like that since, so quit trying to build it that way. They’ve only made the playoffs once since 06, and they’ve been in the SouthLEAST. They’re one of those teams that is just seemingly caught in no man’s land. Stop stockpiling Staal’s and start stockpiling some D (although the next Staal he gets will be a D-man in fairness). Fleury really falls into his lap in this scenario. He is a great skater, moves the puck well, defensive positioning is great, he doesn’t put up as impressive of stats as perhaps you would like to see out of him, and he’s not that physical. Just accept that and you have a damn good defenseman and if he starts upping his physicality or offense, all the better.
Leon Draisaitl Prince Albert WHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 208 Shot: L
Comparison: Vincent Lecavalier
I had a tough time with this pick because the Preds aren’t really loaded in the system. This was a team who knocked it out of the park with their picks for a few years, but of late they’ve missed a lot more than they’ve hit. Colin Wilson hasn’t been a great pick, Ryan Ellis is more what I thought he would be than what a lot of people thought he would be, Austin Watson is a solid prospect but won’t be anything special, and I guess you could say they got Filip Forsberg out of the 2012 draft and while it’s early the jury is still out on how much he will produce at the NHL level. So this franchise is in some trouble. They actually are more set up front right now than they are on D, but you can’t pass up a chance to get a player this talented at this point in the draft. Draisaitl is inconsistent and could continue to fall. He has all the ability to become a legit 1st line center in this league, but the best way I heard it put to me was “if he’s not busting his ass to get into the NHL, what makes you think he’ll start busting it once he starts getting millions?” It’s a great point, although the counter point will always be that perhaps he doesn’t feel challenged in the WHL.
Jared McCan Sault Ste. Marie OHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’0 Wt: 180 Shot: L
Comparison: Patrice Bergeron
This might be a reach according to a lot of rankings right now, but if the Ducks do end up with a pick in the top 10, they HAVE to get that 2nd line center. Now who knows, maybe they go out and trade for that 2nd line center in the days following this post, or perhaps prior to the draft. But if they haven’t by the time they make this selection, they need to do it already. They’ve done a nice job the last few seasons building up that blueline. Prior to the 2012 draft, that was my main concern for this franchise. Hampus Lindholm and Shea Theodore later, it’s looking pretty good along with Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen. McCann is the perfect 2nd line center. He will have ok size once he fills out, plays a great 200 foot game, will win draws, he plays like a seasoned vet. His skill level is just ok but he’s such a smart player that he’ll be a guy who will find ways to create offense despite not being so skilled….kind of like Patrice Bergeron….
Nobody No team No League
Pos: NA Ht: NA Wt: NA Shot: L
Comparison: Sam Gagner
Last time I went off about how awful this is looking like it will pan out for the Devils, so I don’t believe I need to make another rant about Lou or the Devils. I’m sure there will be plenty of people and chances to rip them in the near future.
Brendan Perlini Niagara OHL
Pos: LW Ht: 6’2 Wt: 205 Shot: L
Comparison: James Van Riemsdyk
The Coyotes are in a log jam right now, and I’m sure by the time I get this posted they won’t be sitting in the 10 hole in this draft, but oh well. We don’t know where any of these teams will end up for certain for another month and a half. They need to keep stockpiling forwards. I liked the Max Domi pick last year, Henrik Samuelsson was taken the year before but he has had a rough season, and even should he pan out he isn’t going to be a high end offensive guy. Perlini is that guy however. This kid has risen up quickly in the rankings this season. Nice size, and a pretty highly skilled kid. Great skater, great hockey sense and does a great job protecting the puck. Much like Haydn Fleury, you have to accept what this kid is. He isn’t going to put guys through the boards. He’s got size, and he’ll use it, but he’s a skilled kid and loves to use that skill.
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