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2014 NHL Draft Tracker: First Round

Photo: Len Redkoles/Getty Images

The cream of the 2014 NHL Draft crop: (back row, left to right) Thatcher Demko, Brendan Perlini, Sam Bennett, Leon Draisaitl, Aaron Ekblad, Nicholas Ritchie; (front row, left to right) Kasperi Kapanen, Sam Reinhart, Jake Virtanen, William Nylander, Anthony DeAngelo, and Michael Dal Colle

We are covering tonight's first round of the NHL Draft in Philadelphia (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN). Our updated pick-by-pick tracker is below. I'll be adding my thoughts and observations as the festivities move along.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have traded James Neal to the Nashville Predators for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. No picks changing hands. This is all about adding some depth, some much needed net-front presence and saving a few bucks for the Penguins. Pens had to free up cap space since they were so tight with the surprisingly low $69 million ceiling. Great deal for the Preds who haven't developed a scoring forward on their own since taking Alex Radulov back in 2004.

Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon said he'd make his decision to use or swap the No. 1 pick by 5 pm today. That self-imposed deadline came and went as negotiations with the Philadelphia Flyers--who reportedly were dangling Vincent Lecavalier along with Brayden Schenn and their first pick (17)--heated up. Now, sources close to the Panthers say those talks are dead and the Panthers will be using the pick themselves. Another source says he believes that Florida has settled on Aaron Ekblad, although Sam Reinhart remains an option. Panthers also passed on Vancouver's offer of #6, #24 and Hunter Shinkaruk for No. 1 overall.  

Lots of talk that the St. Louis Blues are moving on from Jason Spezza. Price (player/prospect/pick) was too rich for Doug Armstrong's blood. Expect them to focus now on unrestricted free agent Paul Stastny. Blues are about $17 million under the cap, so they have plenty of room to make something happen.

Interesting note from Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area that the Dallas Stars inquired about the availability of Joe Thornton. The Stars have the young talent to catch the eye of Doug Wilson, but Jumbo Joe has shown no willingness to waive his no-trade clause...yet. Gotta love Philly fans. As every team name is announced for the pre-draft roll call, they yell out "SUCKS!" Good effort, guys. Gave the Commissioner an equally warm welcome, but that  guy welcomes the scorn of crowds like a lover's gentle caress.

RELATED: First Round Mock Draft | 30 All-Time Greatest Picks By Slot
Hidden Draft Gems
No. 1 Picks Through The Years

 
  • 1
    1FloridA PANTHERS
     
    Aaron Ekblad, D
    barrie | 6-4, 216
    SCOUTS SAY: “He's the best player available. He's ready to step in and contribute next season. Has an NHL-ready body. You had to laugh when he walked in [at the combine] and saw him up against all these other kids. Plays a smart, physical game. I was surprised how far his offensive game came this season. He's not your next power play QB, but he can make a good first pass, he reads the play well and he can get his shot through to the net. He's the safest pick in the draft. He has all the intangibles you could hope for. You know he's going to play, but how good will he be? He dominates [in juniors], but is that simply because of his size? What does he do when everyone is big and strong? What's his upside? He doesn't look like he has the offensive awareness to be a top-pairing guy to me, but then again Shea Weber didn't have that going for him when he was drafted, either. I worry that he tops out as a safe second-pair guy, which isn't a bad thing to have, but when you're using a pick this high you want to feel better about his upside. Maybe we're guilty of looking for reasons to pick him apart because we've been watching him so long, but it might be a case of what you see is what you get with him.”​
     
    Note: Dale Tallon makes the announcement...huge pause...Aaron Ekblad of the Barrie Colts. Safest pick in the draft. There was significant debate over whether he topped out as a very good second pair defenseman or a true first pairing option. Panthers obviously feel he's has the upside, especially in his offensive game, to fill that role. With his big body and heavy shot, he could be in South Florida next season.

    Ekblad: "I'm confident I can step in and play next year and I think Florida thinks the same." Second Windsor, Ont. native to go first overall to the Panthers (Ed Jovanovski being the other). Dale Tallon raves about his maturity. Says several teams came close with their trade offers, but "it wasn't quite the deal we needed. We want to continue building the way we're building."


  • 2
    2BuffalO SABRES
     
    Sam Reinhart, C
    kootenay | 6-1, 185
    SCOUTS SAY: “Does everything the right way. A hockey player's hockey player. What he lacks in physical ability he more than compensates for with his hockey sense. Reads and reacts better than anyone. He's hockey's version of “A Beautiful Mind.” For my money, he's the best playmaker in the class. Knows where everybody is and finds a way to get them the puck. He's so calm and poised under pressure and that translates to his teammates. We've been watching him for years, but the only thing people can find to tear him down with is that maybe he lacks the sizzle you'd like with a first-overall pick. If we had the top pick, I'd push to take him first. There's not a lot of glamor to him, but you know he's going to be a good player. You can probably pencil him into [an NHL] lineup next year.”​
     
    Note: Good on Tim Murray. No lengthy preamble. "The Buffalo Sabres select Sam Reinhart." You can't watch this kid and not come away amazed at how well he thinks the game. He's calm, poised and always does the right thing at the right time. His size might add another year to his development process, but he has the potential to be an exceptional second-line center.

    Reinhart on Buffalo: "It's a young team. I've pictured myself in that lineup quite a few times. I can't wait to get there."

  • 3
    3EdmontoN OILERS
     
    Leon draisaitl, c
    prince albert | 6-2, 208
    SCOUTS SAY: “Size and hockey sense. You like those, you'll love Draisatl. He's a natural playmaker. On-ice awareness and anticipation are his strongest suits. He has that vision and he can thread the needle to get the puck where it needs to go. Makes his teammates better. He's a player who can drive possession. Good, not great, shot. Gets to the right areas to finish his chances. He's a big enough kid—I'd like to see him be more physical. I think the biggest mistake here is to fall in love with his size. We all want size, but you can't overlook [his inconsistency] in the second half. And don't overlook his skating. Sorry, I'm just not that high on him. His skating is a real concern for me. He's not sluggish, but it's a problem. I would not be inclined to take him in the top-five.”​
     

    Note: Leon Draisatl becomes the highest German-born player ever selected in the NHL Draft. Exactly the player the Oilers needed: a big body for the middle of the ice who can play behind Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Great playmaker, uses his body well. There's real concern about his skating--he lacks the dynamic first step that you'd like to see in a player taken this high--but that's something that you can work on. You can't teach size.  

    Draisaitl on playing in Edmonton. "Wearing the same jersey as Gretzky and Messier is a huge honor." Interestingly, he does not make it seem like he expects to be in Edmonton next season. Nice to see him being realistic about his chances.


  • 4
    4CalgarY FLAMES
     
    sam bennett, c
    kingston | 6-0, 178
    SCOUTS SAY: A Doug Gilmour starter kit. “He's the kind of player you win championships with. Tremendous character, high-end skill and a motor that never idles. He's the ultimate competitor. He has that fire in his belly. Other players talk about winning, but it really is everything to him. You talk about tools, he's stocked. Soft, soft hands, quick feet, good balance, reads the play like a champ, makes his teammates better. He does it all. All the talk about tenacity and grit kind of overshadows everything else he brings to the table. He's very quick, with a very good first stride. He anticipates the play, he's creative. He's relentless on defense. I won't say he has the ceiling of a Jonathan Toews, but he's the same type of player. He can put a team on his back. Obviously people will talk about the strength thing [he failed to complete a single pull-up at the draft combine], but that's something you can build. He's a proud kid, you know he'll address it. He'll use that moment as motivation.”​
     

    Note: The Calgary Flames with the highest pick in franchise history take Sam Bennett. I really believe they didn't expect him to be there for him in this spot and were ready to take Nick Ritchie, but they couldn't pass on Bennett here. He's small but not soft. He backs up a tremendous offensive skill set with gritty, tenacious play that'll fit in perfectly with the way they want to Calgary. GM Brad Treliving on Bennett:  "It's the intangibles, the juice he plays with. We're excited he's a Calgary Flame."


  • 5
    5New YorK ISLANDERS
     
    Michael dal colle, LW
    oshawa | 6-2, 183
    SCOUTS SAY: “Pro size and elite skill. Deadly with the puck in tight and from a distance. One of the best shooters in this draft. Has a heavy, heavy shot. Above-average playmaker. Makes the most of his teammates. High-end puck skills. Has the poise and confidence to make things happen in traffic. Dangerous one-on-one [player]. He can beat you from anywhere, but he's especially dangerous down low. Great character-type player. I'd like to see him use his size more effectively and make a more serious commitment to defense, but those are things you can develop. Pretty much a no-risk pick.”​
     
    Note: Islanders kept this pick and took the risk of surrendering next year's first rounder to Buffalo. They need a home run at 5 and they might have one with winger Michael Dal Colle. He's been compared to Jeff Carter, Ryan Getzlaf and Eric Staal--a big body with high-end offensive talent and an even higher upside. Pretty exciting to consider what he might be able to do skating alongside John Tavares. The concern is his play away with the puck. Does he have the desire to put in the work to be a 200-foot player?

  • 6
    6VancouveR CANUCKS
     
    jake virtanen, lw
    calgary | 6-0, 213
    SCOUTS SAY: “You can't teach goal scoring. Plenty of players can take the smallest opening and turn it into a scoring chance. He can turn it into a goal. Blessed with an abundance of natural ability. Built to succeed at the pro level. Wide body, strong on his feet. Excellent skater. I have him as the fastest skater this year. Tremendous acceleration. Uses his speed to back defenders up and then picks his spot on the fly. Can beat you with a wrister or a slapper. Has that quick release you want to see. I like that he did most of his damage at even strength (32 goals). Hustles to be a presence in his own zone. He's not afraid to drop the gloves. Love the tools, but not sold on his hockey sense. Is he a top-six guy? I don't think so, but he could be a nice complementary player.”​
     
    Note: Big day so far for new Vancouver GM Jim Benning. Three trades and now, at No. 6, Calgary winger Jake Virtanen. Out four-to-six months after having shoulder surgery, but he's not someone who had a realistic chance of playing in the NHL next year. Seems to have the two tools that are in highest demand--skating and goal-scoring ability--and there are plenty of scouts who'll say he has 30-40 goal potential in the NHL. Benning on Virtanen. "He's got the meanness, the ruggedness...we're trying to change the culture of our club a little bit and he's another piece to that puzzle."

  • 7
    7CarolinA HURRICANES
     
    hayden fleury, d
    red deer | 6-3, 207
    SCOUTS SAY: “You know exactly what you're getting here. Solid, not spectacular. Reliable but not an impact player. Good size, good feet. Strong skater. His mobility is probably his most appealing asset. Makes good decisions with the puck. Keeps it simple so he makes the right play more often than not. Good first pass in transition. Offensive game is starting to come together, but it's a work-in-progress. I see some upside [to his offensive game] but he's not someone who you're going to want on your power play. Good in his own end, but you always leave wishing he had more of a physical edge to his game. He can frustrate you that way. More safe than exciting. You need guys like this on your team, but he's not going to sell a lot of tickets. Such a weak draft for defensemen I could see someone with a real organizational need trading up to get him.”​
     

    Note: Former Flyer favorite Rod Brind'Amour makes the pick for the Hurricanes at No. 7 and grabs Fleury.  He's a big, strong defenseman who skates especially well (and not just "for his size"). He's good at both ends of the ice but not particularly great at either...yet. It's all about projection with Fleury and the best-case scenario suggests he could be a solid offensive contributor and a physical menace in his own zone. That kind of development takes time though, and he's probably three years away from making an appearance in Carolina.


  • 8
    8TorontO MAPLE LEAFS
     
    william nylander, LW
    modo (sweden) | 5-11, 169
    SCOUTS SAY: “When it's all said and done, he may end up being the best player in this class. If he was a little bigger, he'd challenge for first overall. He's instant offense. Get him the puck and watch him make something happen. Shifty skater with scary acceleration. Changes pace to baffle defenders and keep himself out of harm's way. Cool under pressure. Maybe the best playmaker in the draft. He can be tough to play with because of the way he thinks the game. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do with smarter players. I'm not worried about [his size]. He'll be okay. I've heard the stories about his attitude problems, but we haven't seen anything first hand. His old man [former NHLer Michael] was a bit of a head case. You hope this apple fell well clear of the tree.”​

    Note: Dave Nonis steps to the podium for Toronto and at No. 8 selects Nylander. He's an amazing individual talent, but some scouts say he's too individual. That said, he might be the most dynamic, most dangerous offensive player in the draft with a terrific shot and a wildly creative streak. If he ever learns to trust his teammates, he could be the steal of the draft.

    Nylander on his awesome flow: "I got it from my mom's side. I hope to keep it!"


  • 9
    9WinnipeG JETS
     
    nikolaj ehlers, rw
    halifax | 5-11, 162
    SCOUTS SAY: “He's a human highlight reel. He doesn't just score, he embarrasses you. You give him a moment and the puck is in the back of the net. Best hands in the draft for my money. Tremendous skater. Great acceleration. One of the top-three skaters in this class. It's just fun watching him fly down the wing. He can dictate the pace of the game with his speed. Great vision. Sometimes it's like he has eyes in the back of his head. Knows instinctively where his teammates are. I don't think he gets the credit for his playmaking that he deserves. Works hard on his defense. Really thin frame. Not ever going to be the most physical guy out there, but he'll need to get stronger. If you can catch him, you can push him off the puck. Low-risk, high-ceiling player.”​
     
    Note: Terrific value here for a team that needs somebody with some flash to his game. Not the biggest kid but he's a magician with the puck. Blistering speed makes him the most dangerous player off the rush in this year's draft. Scored 49 goals this year as a rookie in the Q and projects to be a first-line winger in the NHL...if he can put on some muscle. Right now he's just not physically ready to compete against men. Two or three years at least, but he'll be well worth the wait.

  • 10
    10AnaheiM DUCKS*
     
    nick ritchie, LW
    peterborough | 6-2, 218
    SCOUTS SAY: (Pick from Ottawa.) “He's a beast. Most nights it's man against the boys. Plays a heavy game. Might have the best shot in the draft. Absolute bomb of a shot. Might be tougher than Milan Lucic at this age. There's some Rick Nash in his game. Not quite the same skill level, but elite just the same. Can be the best player on the ice when he wants to be, but there are too many nights when he doesn't want to be. I worry about his intensity. Has it easy [in juniors] because of his size. Can he ramp it up when everybody is as big as him? I think the concerns are legitimate, but he's such a unique talent you can't afford to pass him up. I'd take a chance later [in the first] but if someone wants him top-10, be my guest.”

    Note:  Lots to love about him. Massive 6-2, 220-pound frame already. Scored 39 goals. Has a heavy, heavy shot. Tremendous skater, good hands...all the tools are there, but questions linger  about his intensity and effort. Does that come eventually with maturity, or is this something that will continue to dog him? If he gets it together, this tilts the Ryan trade heavily in Anaheim's favor. 


  • 11
    11NashvillE PREDATORS
     
    kevin fiala, c
    hv71 (sweden) | 5-10, 180
    SCOUTS SAY: “Forced you to pay attention every time he was on the ice. Was a point-a-game guy in Swedish juniors, and didn't blink when he was promoted to play against the men. Thinks as fast as he skates. Has that ability to make a play when it looks like he's out of options. Great vision. He's magic when the puck's on his stick. High-end offensive instincts. High-ceiling player. Some guys lack size and you worry about them. I'm not worried about Fiala. He's a project. Needs to live in the gym for awhile before he can come over here. Not the most focused player away from the puck, but that's something you can teach. You can't teach this kind of skill.”​
     
    Note: This might be the offensive wizard the Preds have been waiting for. Small frame, big, big heart. Scores everywhere he's played, from the juniors up to the Swedish senior league to the World Championships. You still have to worry about how he'll handle the size and strength he'll face in the NHL, but has the upside to be a high-end second-line forward.

  • 12
    ARIZONA COYOTES
     
    brendan perlini, lw
    niagara | 6-3, 205
    SCOUTS SAY: “Size, skill, skating and finishing touch. There's a lot to like. Pure sniper with a quick release. You don't want to get in front of his shot. It's one of the heaviest in the draft. There are pros who dream of having a one-timer like his. Puck is on and off his stick in a hurry. Plays the game at top speed and can get his shot off in full flight. Good size, but lacks a real physical edge. Big, strong kid, but you'd like to see him use it more. He's got some growing up to do but he could be a good pro. You have to question his desire sometimes. The tools are there, but I always leave wondering why he didn't do more. He's someone I can see sliding down in the first round. I've said it before and I'll say it again—I don't buy the hype. There's a real high probability that [he's a bust.]”​
    Note: Big-bodied scorer makes a nice counterpoint to the diminutive Max Domi who they took in the first round last year. Heavy shot and good speed seem to fit team needs.

  • 13
    13WashingtoN CAPITALS
     
    jakub vrana, rw
    linkoping (sweden) | 5-11, 185
    SCOUTS SAY: “He's magic with the puck. Very creative. He's someone who can turn a nothing moment into a scoring chance just like that. Really impressed at the Under-18 [tournament]. Can really dangle. He's an entertainer. Needs to use his teammates better. He can get caught up in doing what he's trying to do and overlook a smarter, easier play. He'll have to get a lot stronger to play in the NHL. Not sure he has the frame to do that. Has a tendency to disappear from games. Expect some inconsistency at this age, but it's a real worry with this kid.”​
    Note: Really thought the Caps would go D here, but the flashy Vrana obviously dazzled them. Listed as a center, but I think he slots better as a wing. Will shoot the puck from anywhere on the ice. Sounds like someone they'd like.

  • 14
    14DallaS STARS
     
    julius honka, d
    swift current | 5-11, 178
    SCOUTS SAY: “Lacks ideal size, but that didn't seem to bother him [in juniors]. He's got a bit of Torey Krug in him. Reads the play so well. Understands when to take chances. Makes things happen in transition. Tremendous poise. You can't rattle this kid. Quick and strong on his feet. Plays a smart, reliable game in his own end. I'm not worried about his size, although he could slip because of it. You'd like him to be bigger but honestly he does a really nice job in his own end. Size isn't ideal but he knows how to work within his limitations and still play an intense game without the puck. You want your D to make things happen with the puck. He does that as well as anybody in this draft.”​

    Note: The Stars go for the small, mobile defenseman at 14. When you're this size, you've got have something special going for you and for Honka it's his hockey sense. He has that knack for reading the play before it happens which allows him to rely on his positioning in the defensive zone and to make plays in the offensive zone. Can't have too much skill on the blueline, so he'll be a nice add to a pool that includes Jamie Oleksiak and Patrick Nemeth.
  • 15
    15DetroiT RED WINGS
     
    dylan larkin, c
    usntdp | 6-1, 190
    SCOUTS SAY: “He's the Kool-Aid Man. He'll go through a brick wall to help his team win. Doesn't take a shift off. Loves to compete. Highly motivated player. One of the fastest skaters this year. Breakaway speed. Creates chances off the rush. USA used him extensively on both special teams. Already a defensively mature player. Will sacrifice his stats for the benefit of the team. [His numbers look lopsided] because of his role. He can finish but he can be the playmaker if that's what he's asked to be. Maybe lacks the high-end skill you'd like, but everything about this kid says he'll be a player.”​

    Note: The Wings make Larkin's dream come true. Local boy made it clear he wanted to play for Detroit, so you can imagine how he's feeling right now after they take him at 15. He can play it any way you want, matching you with speed, tenacity or pure skill. He's not going to be a huge scorer at the next level (maybe 20-25) but he does everything so well that you know he's going to be a perfect fit for their system.

  • 16
    16ColumbuS BLUE JACKETS
     
    sonny milano, lw
    usntdp | 6-0, 183
    SCOUTS SAY: “Love watching this kid play. A dynamic offensive talent. Blazing speed. Has that extra gear that makes him so dangerous. Shifty, snakey, slithery ... whatever you call him, he's a nightmare to defend. Has that knack for finding the dead spots in the coverage. One of the best pure offensive players in the draft. He's magic when he gets the puck on his stick. World-class playmaker, unselfish player. I'd like to see him shoot more. Quick release and a great eye for the net. He's a chirper. Loves getting under an opponent's skin. Needs to commit to playing harder when he doesn't have the puck. Needs to get stronger on his feet. Just kills against his own [age group] but can he be as effective against bigger, stronger, more experienced defenders?”​

    Note: Ville Siren welcomes Milano to the Blue Jackets at No. 16. Most ridiculous hands in the draft and a game-breaking offensive threat. Can make defensemen look silly with this dekes. Needs to work on his play away from the puck and get stronger, but he'll have a few years at U of M to take care of those concerns. Terrific addition to the stable of young talent in Columbus. We might be wondering how he dropped this far in a couple years.


  • 17
    17PhiladelphiA FLYERS
     
    travis sanheim, d
    calgary | 6-3, 181
    SCOUTS SAY: “I like him a lot better than [Central Scouting] does, I'll tell you that. Has made as much progress over the past year as any player in this draft. He's put on some good weight this year. He's going to be a beast when he's done growing. Plays a smart, two-way game. Plays an active role in all three zones. Strong skater, jumps into the rush with confidence, but he's not likely to lead it. Genuinely mobile for his size. Above-average first step and acceleration. A good puck-moving defenseman. Good in his own end, but he's more about positioning than physical play. Would like to see him be more physical. Needs to be more assertive physically.”

    Note: Hometown team finally gets to feel the adoration at 17. Former GM Paul Holmgren dedicates the draft to Keith Allen, the architect of Philadelphia's two Stanley Cup teams. Nice touch. Ron Hextall then steps up and welcomes defenseman Travis Sanheim to Philadelphia. Every year there's a player who rockets up the charts from out of nowhere and this year that player is Sanheim.  Has ideal size (6-3, 191) and is a terrific skater, but it was his late-season offensive play that powered his rise. Really impressed with his poise and creativity with Team Canada at the U-18 tournament. Probably two or three years away, but he joins a really promising stable of young defensemen in Philly. That group has the size, mobility, puck skills and nastiness to become a dominant unit.

  • 18
    18MinnesotA WILD
     
    alex tuch, rw
    usntdp | 6-4, 213
    SCOUTS SAY: “Best American-born player this year. Big, NHL-ready body and he's only going to get stronger. Prototypical power forward. Can go into beast-mode and dominate a game physically. Strong skater for a big man. Can take a defender to the inside, but would just as soon run him over. Relentless on the forecheck. Impossible to knock off the puck. Drives the net fearlessly. Absolute load to move when he gets out front. Doesn't dazzle with his puck skills, but he knows what to do with it when he gets it. He'll be a force on the power play. Solid two-way game. How much will he score at the NHL level? Not sure he's more than a 20-goal guy.”​

    Note: A couple of scouts suggested he might be the best power forward in the draft. Already has that big, NHL-ready body. He can dominate a game physically, taking the puck hard to the net or devastating a defense on the forecheck. Just plant him in front of the net on the power play and watch him wreak havoc. He'll be a fan favorite at Xcel.


  • 19
    19Tampa BaY LIGHTNING
     
    anthony deangelo, d
    sarnia | 5-10, 170
    SCOUTS SAY: “Anthony is a skilled offensive defenseman. His puck skills and playmaking ability are excellent. He sees the ice very well and creates offensive scoring chances with great passes. He has a very good shot and gets it on net. DeAngelo likes to jump up into the rush and makes good decisions with the puck.”​

    Note: Steve Yzerman steps to the podium and makes DeAngelo the first of Tampa's two first rounders at No. 19. Local boy is the first surprise pick of the draft. No argument that he's the top offensive defender in the draft, but there are so many red flags. He's small (5-10, 170) and was suspended three times this past season for character-related issues. High risk, high reward choice here. 

    DeAngelo on what he told teams that questioned his character: "I learned from my mistakes. I'm ready to change."

    Yzerman: "We think he's a great offensive talent. He's a great skater. We think he has a chance to be a top-four defender in the NHL. We did our homework. We know his history. We talked about how he handled certain situations, but we believe in him. We expect him to change for the better."


  • 20
    chicago blackhawkS*
     
    nick schmaltz, c
    green bay | 6-0, 170
    SCOUTS SAY:  “Love his hockey sense. Excellent on-ice vision. Pinpoint passer with a high panic threshold. Always seems to do the right thing. One of those players who makes everyone around him better. Great team player. His teammates rave about him. Loves to compete. He's a long-term project. I have concerns about his strength. The kid's a gamer but I have serious doubts about his [offensive upside]. Probably not going to be a big scorer at the next level.”
     
    Note: Stan Bowman obviously wanted someone here to pay that price to trade up. No doubt Schmaltz has elite skills to dominate, but he can leave you wanting more. Coaches love his work ethic, but there are maturity questions that dog him. The Hawks must not be concerned.

  • 21
    21St. LouiS BLUES*
     
    robby fabbRi, c
    guelph | 5-10, 166
    SCOUTS SAY: (Pick conditional to Buffalo.) “Can blow you right out of your boots with his speed. You have to respect his speed or he'll make you look silly. Fast, but not all that strong on his feet. Natural goal scorer. As good a playmaker as he is a goal scorer. Not afraid to pay the price. He'll go into the dirty areas to score. Doesn't shy away from contact. Maybe the most exciting player in this draft. He draws a lot of attention to himself and that creates time and space for his linemates. Obviously, the big question mark is his size. Not the biggest frame. How much weight can you really expect him to pack on? At some point his skill overrides the risk, but there's a real gamble in calling his name. I'm not sure I'd use a first [round pick] on him.”

    Note: The Blues hold on to their pick, transferring next year's first rounder to Buffalo, and take small forward Fabbri. Scouts will tell you he plays bigger than his 5-10, 166 size. He's tenacious with and without the puck and is fearless when it comes to battling for space. He scored 45 goals this past season, so he knows what to do around the net, but there are some scouts who feel those numbers were inflated by playing with a pair of overagers on the eventual Memorial Cup champion. Still, you can't teach touch, and Fabbri has it.

  • 22
    22PittsburgH PENGUINS
     
    kasperi kapanen, rw
    kalpa (finland) | 5-11, 172
    SCOUTS SAY: “Send him over the boards and watch him go. He does it all, in all three zones. One of the most trustworthy players available. High-ceiling tools, but smarts and determination make him special. His hockey sense is off the charts. Right place, right time, all the time. Quick, agile skater with the ability to change gears on a dime. Solid puck skills. Makes good decisions with the puck. He's just selfish enough. Love his attitude. Kept his chin up despite playing on a lousy team this year. You have to respect his bloodlines (his father was longtime NHLer Sami Kapanen). Usually a bad performance [at the U-18 tournament] would be a red flag, but our guys are willing to write it off. He's a scrawny little kid, but his dad wasn't all that big, either. I could see the whole size issue leading some teams to let him slide.”​
     
    Note: Former Flyer Rick Tocchet steps up to make the announcement and gets booed lustily. "I told you it wouldn't work," he said, laughing. He ends up picking small forward Kapanen, the top-ranked Euro and the only player whose hockey sense comes close to matching Sam Reinhart's. Surprising that he slid this far given his skill level, but his poor performance in the U-18 cost him. You knwo what they say about buying low. This could work out pretty well for the Pens.

  • 23
    23Colorado avalanche
     
    conner bleackley, c
    red deer | 6-0, 197
    SCOUTS SAY: "He deserves every point he has with his strong work ethic and decent size. He hustles every shift, and is not afraid to get in on the forecheck and make things happen. He's solid with smart positioning, and he pays attention to detail at both ends of the rink.”​
     
    Note: I had him tagged as a high second rounder, but that's not a knock. One scout evoked Winnipeg's Mark Stuart as a comparison. Bleackley might not be the most talented guy, and he's definitely not the best skater, but he does everything pretty well. His real selling point, though, is his intangibles. He's a born leader like Stuart, one of those guys who can maybe get more out of others than he can out of himself. He's captain material.

  • 24
    vancouver canucks*
     
    jared mccann, c
    sault ste. marie | 6-0, 179
    SCOUTS SAY: (Pick from Anaheim.) “Solid in every aspect of the game. Player you can use in every situation. Thinks the game as well as anyone. Real strength is his hockey sense. His family's been through a lot and it's given him a mental toughness you don't usually see in someone his age. Leads by example. His teammates love him. High-end character. Phenomenal hands in tight. He can make the highlight reel plays. Dynamic individual skills, but he's not selfish. I'd like him a lot more if he were two inches taller and 20 pounds heavier. Size is a concern. Can he be more than a role player in the NHL? I don't like him as much as I did earlier in the season. Easy kid to like, but I don't see him maturing into that top-six forward.”
     
    Note: Vancouver uses the pick it acquired earlier today from Anaheim on center McCann. He definitely fits with that character rebuild that GM Jim Benning talked about after his first selection. He's solid in every aspect of the game and projects as a 200-foot player.  He hasn't scored the way he was expected to (24 goals last year) with the Sault, but he finds different ways to contribute when the puck's not going in. 

  • 25
    25Boston bruins
     
    david pastrnak, rw
    sodertalje (sweden) | 6-0, 167
    SCOUTS SAY: “I'm not worried about the injury [that cut his season short—rumored to be a back issue]. Beautiful skater. He's a waterbug out there, the way he dashes and darts around the ice. Creates a lot of space for himself with his speed. High-end skill. Gifted stickhandler. Relies heavily on his wrister. It's a rocket. Has a plus-release. Not the biggest kid, but he's not afraid of traffic. Love his skill, but that small frame worries me. His size makes him a project. He's too easy to knock off the puck. As smart as he is with the puck, I wonder sometimes what he's thinking when he doesn't have it. Defensive awareness is a long way from being NHL ready.”​
     
    Note: Boston takes Pastrnak, an electrifying winger blessed with tremendous speed--the one quality Boston lacks both in the NHL and in its system. Not the biggest kid (6-0, 167), but he's not afraid of traffic, which should go over well with Bruins fans. He's probably three-four years away from competing for a job.

  • 26
    26Montreal canadiens
     
    nikita scherbak, lw
    saskatoon | 6-0, 172
    SCOUTS SAY: “He could be a riser on draft day. Good size, smart, strong. Pretty much had to do it all by himself with Saskatoon rebuilding. Took on a lot of responsibility after a couple of veterans were moved out. Hurt his point production, but showed what he's made of. Lots of battle in his game. Strong skater with above-average acceleration. Good but not great tools. Has some edge to his game. Plays a bit soft away from the puck. He's someone we need to talk to, find out where his heart is. You always worry when it comes to Russians, even the ones that played over here. There were some red flags when he missed the combine over visa issues. That shouldn't happen. Just makes you wonder.”
     
    Note: Not the big forward they were looking for, but Scherbak plays bigger than his 6-0, 172 suggests. Sometimes he tries to do too much on his own. Needs to learn how to play away from the puck--and prove he "wants" to play hard away from the puck, but scouts love how hard he works in the offensive end. Has the puck skills and the will to be a reliable secondary scorer for the Habs. 

  • 27
    san jose sharks
     
    nikolay goldobin, rw
    sarnia | 6-0, 185
    SCOUTS SAY: "Goldobin has a high energy level and is smooth out there. He's got good playmaking ability and he probably would have a lot more points if players were able to finish for him. He's the type of kid who receives a lot of ice time because he plays a complete game."​
     
    Note: San Jose traded down because they probably felt secure that they could get their man, flashy forward Goldobin, at 27. Nice asset management...if they made the right choice. In terms of pure skill, especially his one-on-one play, he's someone who could generate top-10 buzz. He had 38 goals and 94 points for a weak Sarnia squad, so the offense is there, but so are the concerns about how he plays away from the puck. I'm surprised he went before Ivan Barbashev. 

  • 28
    new york islanders*
     
    josh ho-sang, c
    windsor | 5-11, 166
    SCOUTS SAY: (Pick from Tampa Bay via NY Rangers.) “I have him on the no-draft list. Not interested. We won't be drafting him, I can promise you that. Genuine talent, but I can't ignore all the red flags. Kid lives in his own world. Thinks he knows it all. Selfish, me-first player. Wants to do it all by himself. I don't know if he'll ever buy into the team concept. He's been hearing he needs to make better use of his teammates for years and it's still not happening. For all the knocks he takes for selfish play, he was top-10 [in the CHL] for assists at even strength. Breathtaking individual talent. Best dangler I've seen [in the OHL] since Patrick Kane. He's magic with the puck. Great shot. Loves to score. Probably has the highest ceiling but he's also the biggest bust potential.”
     
    Note: The Isles trade up and take the ultimate wild card, Windsor forward Ho-Sang at 28. One of my absolute favorite players in the draft. Jaw-dropping one-on-one skill--he'll bring you out of your seat at least once a game. Cocky, sure. Selfish, sometimes. But man, the potential. Yeah, this pick could blow up in their faces, but the Isles already have a "safe" first rounder in the bank with Dal Colle. They were swinging for the fences here and I'm betting they knocked it out of the park.

  • 29
    29Los Angeles kings
     
    adrian kempe, lw
    modo (sweden) | 6-2, 187
    SCOUTS SAY: “I'd be thrilled if he slipped down to us [in the bottom-third of the draft] but I don't think that happens. Lot of quiet buzz building around him. I could see someone trading up to grab him. I love the way he competes. Terrific speed. Really strong on his feet. Skating is his strength. Tough to knock off the puck. Has an NHL-ready body. Going to be a big man when he's done growing. Very effective on the forecheck. High-end but not elite hockey sense. Strong offensive instincts with above-average finish. Reliable away from the puck but could use some work there. Safe pick. Not a huge upside, but he's a good bet to play.”​
     
    Note: Los Angeles takes a guy who fits perfectly with the Kings system. Better offensively than his numbers playing against men in the Swedish league would suggest, but even if that part of his game doesn't mature they way they hope, Kempe does everything else you'd want. Plays a heavy physical game and can really fly. Very reliable in his own end. Smart and determined. I can see him playing on the second line, but it's more likely he tops out as a high-end third liner.

  • 30
    30New Jersey devils
     
    john quenneville, c
    brandon | 6-0, 182
    SCOUTS SAY: "He has the pro makeup and is a hard-worker. He makes good plays very quickly and is good at moving the puck. I'd like to see more consistency from him, but I like the way he finds open spaces and his ability to make any kind of pass."​
     
    Note: And with the final pick of the first round, the Devils select raw forward John Quenneville. One scout described him as "industrious" which is a nice way of saying he gives it all he's got even if the results aren't there. He's a strong skater, though not particularly fast, and has decent puck skills. Hard to get excited about him, but there's a sense that he'll be a reliable worker bee. For a pick they didn't know they were going to have a couple months ago, that's not a bad asset. 

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