NHL Draft 2014: Team-by-Team Needs and Targets
The NHL draft has become the most important step in creating a winning team. Drafting well and getting players to contribute while still on entry-level contracts is critical to success in the salary-cap era.
This weekend, all 30 clubs will be attempting to fill their gaps with players who may be able to come in and make an impact right away and others who will take a couple of years of seasoning before they make their mark.
From power forwards and offensive defensemen to shifty wingers and beefy centers, all the teams' due diligence on what's available comes to fruition this weekend.
Here's a look at what every NHL team needs in their system and which impact players they may target in the early rounds.
Steve Macfarlane has been covering the NHL for more than a decade, including seven seasons on the beat with the Calgary Sun. Follow him on Twitter @macfarlaneHKY.
Top draft selections: First round, 10th overall (via Ottawa); first round, 24th overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Elite defenseman. Top-six forwards.
The Anaheim Ducks have a few players who could graduate from prospect to pro on a full-time basis this season thanks to the retirement of Teemu Selanne and the fact general manager Bob Murray will not be offering new contracts to Saku Koivu, Daniel Winnik and Jonas Hiller.
Those who move up have to be replaced in the system, which will leave the cupboards a little more bare next year. But the glaring hole on the Ducks roster in the playoffs was the lack of an elite defenseman, which they could attempt to find in the draft.
Potential targets: D Aaron Ekblad (Barrie, OHL), C Robby Fabbri (Guelph, OHL), D Haydn Fleury (Red Deer, WHL), C Jared McCann (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL), D Roland McKeown (Kingston, OHL).
With an extra first-round pick courtesy of the Bobby Ryan deal to Ottawa, the Ducks could be a huge player on the trade front come draft day.
Murray said in his end-of-season availability (via the Ducks website) that he knows he needs a game-changing defenseman and there's only one of those in this year's draft—likely top pick Aaron Ekblad. The Florida Panthers could deal that pick and the Ducks have the picks and prospects they'd likely need to make the swap.
Top draft selection: First round, 25th overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Forward scoring depth. Defensemen with top-pairing potential.
With such a deep roster and plenty of young players already pushing for spots, the Boston Bruins do have the luxury of taking the best player available when they are called to the podium.
A defenseman may win a tiebreaker, however. Dennis Seidenberg's injury really hurt the Bruins this season. Zdeno Chara is getting up in age and the team's top blue-line prospects are already regulars on the roster.
Potential targets: D Jack Dougherty (USA U-18), D Roland McKeown (Kingston, OHL), D Marcus Petterson (Skelleftea, SHL), RW/C Joshua Ho-Sang (Windsor, OHL), LW Nikita Scherbak (Saskatoon, WHL).
Dougherty, who heads to the University of Wisconsin next season, isn't in the ISS top 30 but the 6'1" 186-pounder has grown his game to become a solid two-way defender with size and an edge to his game.
McKeown, of the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs, is more offensive but less dependable and plays much smaller than Dougherty. If the Bruins go defense, these could be the top targets later in the first round.
Top draft selection: First round, second overall.
Biggest holes to fill: A face of the franchise.
The Buffalo Sabres have some young and talented players that will grow during this rebuild, but Tyler Ennis and Cody Hodgson aren't about to change the fate of the franchise.
The team needs a new face to build around, one that will ultimately make his teammates better and bring some excitement back to Buffalo.
Potential targets: C Sam Reinhart (Kootenay, WHL), C Sam Bennett (Kingston, OHL), D Aaron Ekblad (Barrie, OHL).
It would be hard to pass up on the hockey smarts of Reinhart, but the grittiness and bite to the smaller Sam Bennett's game is attractive, too. You can't teach Bennett's determination and inner drive the same way you can't teach the sort of vision Reinhart is blessed with.
The WHL's player of the year, Reinhart was tops on the ISS Top 30 rankings, even ahead of likely top pick Ekblad.
Top draft selection: First round, fourth overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Forwards with size and skill.
With president of hockey operations Brian Burke in charge of the Calgary Flames, bigger bodies are inevitable.
He and new GM Brad Treliving aren't going to pass up on a bigger talent for a larger frame, however, so it's possible they snag a smaller player at No. 4 overall—or trade back to pick up more assets and still get a player they covet.
Potential targets: C Sam Reinhart (Kootenay, WHL), C Sam Bennett (Kingston, OHL), C Leon Draisaitl (Prince Albert, WHL), LW Nick Ritchie (Peterborough, OHL).
If Reinhart falls to fourth overall, there is little doubt they will scoop up the son of former Flame Paul Reinhart. They already have his brother, Max, in the system. Bennett's tenaciousness—something Burke covets—might be the next best thing.
The big body and supreme talent of Draisatl or the power of Ritchie will also tempt the Flames, who could also choose to trade down a few spots and still claim their most coveted of the second tier in the top round.
Top draft selection: First round, seventh overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Top-six wingers.
The Carolina Hurricanes' last few first-round picks have made an early impact in the NHL, and that could prove to be the case again this year with another top-10 selection.
The quick promotion to the pros means the Hurricanes system isn't teeming with prospects of high quality, especially up front. That offers them time if they pick a European who wants to stay overseas another year, or one in North America who just needs a little seasoning before becoming a star.
Potential targets: RW William Nylander (Modo, SHL), LW Nikolaj Ehlers (Halifax, QMJHL), RW Kasperi Kapanen (Kuopio, Fin), RW Jake Virtanen (Calgary, WHL).
Nylander can play center or wing and has arguably the most skill at the top end of the draft. There's a good chance the Swede will stay in Europe for another year of development, but the 18-year-old looks like he can make the jump to the NHL quickly.
Former Vancouver Canucks player Jeff Tambellini, who played part of last season with Nylander for Modo, told Vancouver Province writer Jim Jamieson about his confidence: "He’s got the potential to be a guy who scores 100 points in the NHL. He’s got that swagger. He wants to be the guy. Not a lot of players have that."
If the Canucks decide to take the chance on Nylander at No. 6, Ehlers is a Dane who has speed and a stellar shot and could be an offensive dynamo at the next level.
Kapanen is just 17 but plays a mature game that may be influenced by his dad Sami, a former NHLer. His two-way play makes up for his less dynamic offensive abilities when compared to other potential targets.
Top draft selection: First round, 27th overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Depth at forward or defense.
The 2013 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks have plenty of young players on the pro roster and need to replenish the prospect pool.
The franchise has the ability to gamble a little with its first pick regardless of position, which could mean a boom or bust selection is an option.
Potential targets: C Nick Schmaltz (Green Bay, USHL), RW Nikita Scherbak (Saskatoon, WHL), C Conner Bleackley (Red Deer, WHL).
Schmaltz has the kind of offensive skills that would make him much higher than a late-round pick if not for questions about his attitude and commitment to defense. The Blackhawks have a great role model in Jonathan Toews for Schmaltz to learn from.
Scherbak is another who may have top-10 talent but as a Russian who has just a year of hockey in North America under his belt could drop because of the lure of the KHL. Bleackley is similar to Toews in that he thrives in all aspects of the game and shows a maturity beyond his years.
Top draft selection: First round, 23rd overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Depth on the wings.
The Colorado Avalanche's NHL roster is clearly lacking on defense but the prospect pool is hurting up front with so many talented youngsters already up in the pros.
Potential targets: LW Brendan Lemieux (Barrie, OHL), D Roland McKeown (Kingston, OHL).
There is plenty of offensive firepower among the Avs forwards. With Cody McLeod and Patrick Bordeleau, they have grit as well.
Lemieux combines both as a throwback player in the mold of his dad, Claude Lemieux, who was a central part of championship Avalanche teams of the past as a teammate of current coach Patrick Roy.
The fit seems natural, but the Avs could also add to the defensive corps with a big and strong two-way defender like McKeown in the first round and address the forward depth in the later rounds.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Top draft selection: First round, 16th overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Defensive prospects. Depth up front.
The Columbus Blue Jackets took forwards with their top three picks last year and could look to the blue line early this time around.
The idea of grabbing one of the top power forwards available, however, could see them go back to that well again.
Potential targets: D Haydn Fleury (Red Deer, WHL), RW Jake Virtanen (Calgary, WHL), Alex Tuch (USA U-18).
Fleury is big and physical but also has offensive upside and should be a top-pairing guy at some point in his NHL career. With a shortage of first-round talent on defense this year, it's possible he'll be gone.
Same goes for Virtanen, who may be the top power forward in the draft. But Tuch could be available and would be tempting because of his raw skills, net presence and heavy shot with a quick release.
Top draft selection: First round, 14th overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Offensive defensemen. Skilled prospects on wing.
The Dallas Stars have options picking around the midway point of the first round. A talented winger could drop into their laps, or they could grab one of the handful of offensive defensemen expected to go during the first two rounds.
Potential targets: D Julius Honka (Swift Current, WHL), D Haydn Fleury (Red Deer, WHL), D Anthony DeAngelo (Sarnia, OHL), RW Kevin Fiala (HV71, SHL).
Honka's first year in North America showed he's capable of putting up offensive numbers against much bigger bodies on the smaller ice surface. The Finn is undersized at 5'11" and about 174 pounds but has elite puck-moving abilities. Fleury may be more safe a pick if still available but Honka has huge upside.
Alternatively, the Stars could opt for skill on the wing with Fiala, a Swiss forward playing in Sweden and displaying the kind of speed and smarts NHL teams salivate over. He might take time to develop the strength and defensive responsibility needed at the NHL level but the Stars have time to wait.
Detroit Red Wings
Top draft selection: First round, 15th overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Power forwards. Skilled centers. Well-rounded defensemen.
Much is made of the Detroit Red Wings' immediate need on the blue line to aid an underwhelming defensive group.
Free agency could easily solve that problem, however, and defensemen can be found in the later rounds. During the first round, the Wings have a chance to grab another important member of the future with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk getting on in years.
Potential targets: C Jared McCann (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL), C Dylan Larkin (USA U-18), C/LW Adrian Kempe (MODO SHL).
McCann might be the best two-way center in the draft and has top speed and high-end skill that will only improve as he develops his strength at the pro level. He showed some clutch play with a big goal in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, too.
Larkin is similar in stature and skill and could be an option if they value the position and McCann goes first. Kempe is one of the top prospects out of Europe and considering how well the Wings have done overseas in the past, he could be a nice power forward project for a team that doesn't have a lot of skilled size coming up in the system.
Top draft selection: First round, third overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Size. Solid two-way defensemen.
Unless the Edmonton Oilers are lucky enough to see Aaron Ekblad slip to them, make a move up to grab him, or trade down to a spot more suitable to grab one of the second-tier defensemen available, they'll be adding another skilled forward to the mix this weekend.
Potential targets: C Leon Draisaitl (Prince Albert, WHL), C Sam Reinhart (Kootenay, WHL), C Sam Bennett (Kingston, WHL).
The Oilers are most linked to Draisaitl because of his size. The German-born forward has a 6'1" frame and is nearly 210 pounds but has elite skill to go with it.
He has the frame to withstand the beating as a middle man in the Western Conference. Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald compared him to Jaromir Jagr in his scouting report:
He’s the best prospect I’ve seen from this draft class at protecting and handling the puck; he’s very Jaromir Jagr-esque. He protects the puck, makes those button hooks and hits guys coming in late. He’ll hold onto that puck until he sees the right play to make. He has a great wrist shot and good snap shot, and can surprise a lot of goalies with it.
Top draft selection: First round, first overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Winger depth.
There's no doubt the Florida Panthers will be listening to all offers on the top pick with plenty of defensive prospect depth already and the top prospect this year a highly coveted blueliner.
The Panthers need wingers in the system to complement a nice array of centers and rearguards. They'd have to move down more than a couple of spots to pass up on one of the top centers, however.
Potential targets: D Aaron Ekblad (Barrie, OHL), C Sam Bennett (Kingston, OHL), C Sam Reinhart (Kootenay, WHL), RW William Nylander (MODO, SHL).
Ekblad might be the only choice here if they can't move down for a significant package, but his selection would free the Panthers up to make other moves with their defensive prospects to add to the wings.
Los Angeles Kings
Top draft selection: First round, 29th overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Centers with size.
The Los Angeles Kings are Stanley Cup champions again this season because of their depth and strength down the middle of the lineup. But there are no big centers in the pipeline to replace he likes of Jarret Stoll, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter behind Anze Kopitar.
If they could grab one late in the first round, the Kings would be thrilled.
Potential targets: C Ryan MacInnis (Kitchener, OHL), C Conner Bleackley (Red Deer, WHL).
MacInnis has NHL bloodlines with dad Al MacInnis a star defenseman for years. As a big-bodied center with a two-way game, Ryan fits the Kings mold. He has a long way to go to fill out his huge frame but the Kings can afford him the opportunity to do so.
Bleackley will be familiar to Kings coach Darryl Sutter, whose brother, Brent, owns and operates the Red Deer Rebels. Bleackley is a natural leader and strong two-way player who is climbing draft charts.
Top draft selection: First round, 18th overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Forward depth, especially at center.
The Minnesota Wild have a nice blend of veterans and young players in the NHL now with a few prospects graduating to the pros and making a nice playoff push. Now some replenishing needs to be done.
Potential targets: C Ivan Barbashev (Moncton, QMJHL), C Dylan Larkin (USA U-18), G Thatcher Demko (Boston College, H-East).
In 48 games with the Moncton Wildcats, Barbashev put together 25 goals and 68 points. He was the youngest member of Russia's bronze medal team at the world juniors and his high-end skill would make him a top-10 prospect if not for his nationality. Barbashev is also a well-rounded player, not shying away from contact or defensive responsibility.
Demko is the best goaltender in the draft and while the Wild have Darcy Kuemper as an up-and-coming netminder, they may want to add another promising young prospect between the pipes thanks to questions about the health of Josh Harding.
Top draft selection: First round, 26th overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Grit and size on offense and defense.
If the talent is equal, the Montreal Candiens have to start drafting using size as the tiebreaker. That's especially true up front.
Potential targets: LW Adrian Kempe (MODO, SHL), C Ryan MacInnis (Kitchener, OHL), C Conner Bleackley (Red Deer, WHL).
Kempe is a power forward in the making despite the fact he didn't put up spectacular numbers in Sweden while playing with men. He's a strong skater, has an edge and loads of potential. As a late first-rounder he's a bit of a project but could wind up a steal.
MacInnis and Bleackley both have size and two-way ability and are bigger bodies up the middle.
Top draft selection: First round, 11th overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Elite talent up front. Prospect defensemen.
The Nashville Predators are hoping for more offense with Peter Laviolette as head coach than they got with Barry Trotz. Personality is a big part of that, though, and the Preds don't have a tremendous amount of top talent on the farm. They can add to that with the 11th overall pick.
Potential targets: LW Brendan Perlini (Niagara, OHL), LW Nick Ritchie (Peterborough, OHL), D Haydn Fleury (Red Deer, WHL).
Perlini is a big and speedy winger ranked ninth overall by the International Scouting Service. His only knock with Niagara was his inconsistency, but he has the ability to dominate games when he wants to.
Ritchie is a nasty and powerful winger who brings more edge to his game than Perlini but also has the kind of skill that can make him very dangerous at the next level.
Fleury is a top two-way defenseman who has the size team's covet as well. There's a steep drop in blueline talent after him and Ekblad, which makes him a tempting grab.
New Jersey Devils
Top draft selection: First round, 30th overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Skilled wingers. Goaltending depth.
The New Jersey Devils could have used a shootout specialist this season, going 0-13 in the crucial showdowns. It ultimately cost them a playoff spot.
The team is fortunate to have a pick after originally forfeiting it for circumventing the salary cap with the Ilya Kovalchuk deal, and now they are looking to replace some of the scoring lost when Kovalchuk bolted for Russia.
Potential targets: LW David Pastrnak (Sodertalje, SHL), RW Nikolay Goldobin (Sarnia, OHL), LW Brendan Lemieux (Barrie, OHL).
Pastrnak, a Czech Republic product, is a talented finisher with spectacular hands and a major drive. He's one of those players who could become a star within a couple of years without costing a team defensively.
Goldobin isn't as reliable defensively, but he put up 94 points in the OHL in 67 games. If available at the bottom of the round, he would be a major steal.
New York Islanders
Top draft selection: First round, fifth overall.
Biggest holes to fill: High-end wingers.
John Tavares could use some more company up front, and the New York Islanders have the chance to provide it with a top-five pick. Another elite forward—even if he takes a year or more to make the jump—will provide the NHL roster with more balance.
Potential targets: LW Michael Dal Colle (Oshawa, OHL), C Sam Bennett (Kingston, OHL), C Sam Reinhart (Kootenay, WHL), Leon Draisaitl (Prince Albert, WHL).
It's quite possible the two Sams will already have heard their names called by the time the Isles pick, but Dal Colle is no consolation prize.
The 6'1", 182-pounder was ranked third overall in the ISS Top 30 and fifth among North American skaters by the Central Scouting Service thanks to a lethal shot and playmaking ability that helped him to a 39-goal, 95-point season. Another year in junior will allow him to grow into that large frame.
New York Rangers
Top draft selection: Second round, 59th overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Offensive, puck-moving defensemen.
The New York Rangers have a strong top four on the back end at the moment but little in the way of depth and nothing when it comes to the offensive side of the blueline position in the pipeline.
Unfortunately, they don't have a first-round pick after dealing it to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the trade for Martin St. Louis.
Potential targets: D Travis Sanheim (Calgary, WHL), D Roland McKeown (Kingston, OHL).
If the Rangers are fortunate, they might land one of these two defensemen near the end of the second round.
Sanheim is rated the 53rd-best skater by CSS but improved steadily all season with the Hitmen. His stock is much higher now as a two-way player capable of a future in the second pairing if not better.
Top draft selection: Second round, 40th overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Impact defensemen with top-pairing potential.
With the Anaheim Ducks owning their top pick from the Bobby Ryan acquisition, the Ottawa Senators might be looking to add a first-rounder before the draft to recoup their losses.
Potential targets: D Marcus Pettersson (Skelleftea, SHL), D Roland McKeown (Kingston, OHL), D Travis Sanheim (Calgary, WHL), D Jack Glover (USA U-18).
Pettersson is the top European defenseman, and he may not last to the 40th overall pick. Same goes for the other two North American blueliners, who are part of a pool of defenders who could go anywhere from middle of the first round to the third or fourth rounds depending on teams' lists.
Glover might be the best bet for what's available at the 40th pick, with good overall skills in both ends of the ice but nothing flashy.
Top draft selection: First round, 17th overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Strong defensive prospects. Goaltending depth.
The Philadelphia Flyers defense corps is aging. They made a smart move in drafting Samuel Morin last year and could take a shot at another strong prospect to shore up the blue line for years to come.
Potential targets: D Anthony DeAngelo (Sarnia, OHL), D Haydn Fleury (Red Deer, WHL), RW Alex Tuch (USA U-18).
DeAngelo put up 56 assists and 71 points in 51 games to lead all OHL defensemen in scoring.
He might have had more attention as a top-five or top-10 pick had it not been for two suspensions when he let his big mouth get him into trouble, starting with a slur directed at a teammate that led to a team benching of eight games.
DeAngelo has told teams he's learned his lesson, via NHL.com's Mike Morreale:
The most important thing I learned out of this is that I didn't just hurt myself for being suspended, but I hurt a teammate and the organization. I've realized that letting my emotions get to me isn't the best thing for me or the team. I'm a very passionate person and player, and I learned that I need to control that into more positive instead of letting it be negative like it was in that situation. I let the frustration get the best of me and realize it was wrong.
Top draft selection: First round, 12th overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Depth on the wings.
Max Domi and Henrik Samuelsson offer the soon-to-be Arizona Coyotes a couple of strong center prospects. They could use some support on the wings in the system to complement those young players. At 12th overall, the Coyotes will have a wide variety to choose from.
Potential targets: RW Kasperi Kapanen (Kuopio, Fin), LW Nikolaj Ehlers (Halifax, QMJHL).
Son of Sami Kapanen, Kasperi is considered the top European skater by CSS and a solid two-way prospect. He is quick and versatile—he can also play center—and has loads of potential once he comes over to North America and acclimates to the environment in the pros.
Ehlers has more high-end skill and put up 49 goals and 104 points playing with Jonathan Drouin, last year's third overall pick, in Halifax this season. The Dane has blazing speed, but his size is probably the only concern for the transition, and it may take time.
Top draft selection: First round, 22nd overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Scoring forwards.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are loaded with defensive prospects but lack serious depth up front with their best prospects already cracking the NHL roster.
Potential targets: RW Jakob Vrana (Linkoping, SHL), RW Nikita Scherbak (Saskatoon, WHL), RW Joshua Ho-Sang (Windsor, OHL).
Vrana was a guiding force in the Czech Republic's U-18 silver medal and has unlimited offensive potential. He would look great in a couple of years flanking Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, or even Brandon Sutter in the interim, making the Pens' third line deadly.
His defensive game needs work, but Crosby would be a great mentor in that department. Scherbak now has some North American hockey under his belt, and Ho-Sang is a nice option if the Pens are fine with a smaller frame.
St. Louis Blues
Top draft selection: First round, 21st overall (conditional to Buffalo); second round, 33rd overall (from Edmonton).
Biggest holes to fill: Strong centers. Winger depth.
With Ty Rattie making a push for the St. Louis Blues' main roster, more scoring wingers are needed in the system. But it's hard to pass up on a big, strong center when you play in the Western Conference.
Fortunately for the Blues, they have picks close together late in the first and early in the second round—as long as goalie Ryan Miller remains unsigned by draft time.
Potential targets: C Ryan MacInnis (Kitchener, OHL), C Vladislav Kamenev (Magnitogorsk, RUS), LW Sonny Milano (USA U-18), LW/C Kevin Fiala (HV71, Swe).
MacInnis has ties to St. Louis, with his dad Al a legendary Blues defenseman still working for the franchise. Fiala can play down the middle—although he's extremely small for a center in the NHL—or on the wing.
Milano is a gritty but talented winger who would fit in with the tough Blues in the long run. Kamenev is a risk, but the center has high upside and may be there when they pick in the second round.
San Jose Sharks
Top draft selection: First round, 20th overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Strong blueline prospects. High-end developmental forwards.
With Dan Boyle out, the San Jose Sharks are letting their young defensemen play. But up front it's also a good idea to get some new blood in the system when it comes to scoring wingers. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau won't be around forever.
Potential targets: RW Josh Ho-Sang (Windsor, OHL), D Roland McKeown (Kingston, OHL), RW David Pastrnak (Sodertalje, SWE).
Ho-Sang has incredible skill offensively, able to score and make the pretty pass. He comes with some baggage, though, as he discussed with The Windsor Star's Bob Duff:
It’s an unpredictable day for sure. I don’t think it’s from unfair labels, it’s from stuff that I’ve done. I’m accepting of everything that I’ve done. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve been late to stuff. I’ve just not done certain things the proper way. That’s just all part of maturity, so if that’s going to hurt me in the draft, that’s something that I’m accepting of, because that’s all me. It’s something that’s a part of growing up.
He's a great skater and is exciting to watch, which means he'd fit in well with some of the electric Sharks forwards in a few years. He needs some seasoning and another year of junior but has great potential.
McKeown would help bulk up the Sharks blueline in a couple of years with a killer point shot and a big frame to work with.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Top draft selection: First round, 19th and 28th overall (via New York Rangers).
Biggest holes to fill: Top-four defensemen. Bigger wingers/centers.
The extra first-round pick gives the Tampa Bay Lightning options. They could deal them both to move up and grab a more surefire defenseman like Haydn Fleury or take a chance with at least one of the selections hoping he pans out long term.
Potential targets: D Roland McKeown (Kingston, OHL), D Travis Sanheim (Calgary, WHL), D Anthony DeAngelo (Sarnia, OHL), LW Sonny Milano (USA U-18), C Jared McCann (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL).
DeAngelo's character concerns wouldn't worry me as much as his potential to be one-dimensional in the NHL as a purely offensive defenseman.
McKeown is more well-rounded in the vein of Victor Hedman. Milano offers some grit the Bolts currently could use in the system.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Top draft selection: First round, eighth overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Impact forwards.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in need of some high-end skill up front for the Marlies, with most of the team's top prospects already graduated to the NHL. With Brendan Shanahan guiding things as the new president of hockey operations, look for more size to be added.
Potential targets: RW Jake Virtanen (Calgary, WHL), LW Nick Ritchie (Peterborough, OHL), D Haydn Fleury (Red Deer, WHL), LW Nikolaj Ehlers (Halifax, QMJHL).
Virtanen is a beast. He scored 45 goals with the Hitmen this season, using his size, speed and heavy shot to his advantage. He's got an edge, too, which Shanahan has to like. Former Hitmen head coach Mike Williamson sure does, via Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun:
Jake is just so dynamic. He's an explosive skater. He can go from standing still to full speed in no time flat. He's strong on his skates and he's got a bit of a mean streak.I don't think I've seen a 17-year-old player that has the skill set as early as he does. He shoots the puck well, he's got a great release. you can't knock him off the puck. He projects to be a high-end power forward and he's going to continue to get better.
Ritchie is more raw but even bigger than Virtanen. Ehlers played with Jonathan Drouin in Halifax and has similar skills to last year's third overall pick.
Top draft selection: First round, sixth overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Skill and depth on wings.
The Vancouver Canucks have a couple of strong prospects from last year's draft in Hunter Shinkaruk and Bo Horvat. Both of those players have a shot at making the Canucks roster with strong training camps, so similar players in this draft could replace them in the prospect pool.
Potential targets: RW Jake Virtanen (Calgary, WHL), RW William Nylander (Modo, SWE), RW Michael Dal Colle (Oshawa, OHL).
Virtanen's rugged style could offer the Sedin twins more room to roam later in their careers. Nylander and Dal Colle have more slickness, but one of them could be gone by the sixth pick (likely Dal Colle).
Top draft selection: First round, 13th overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Power forwards. Two-way defensemen.
Mike Green is getting up in age and has struggled to stay healthy for the Washington Capitals, and the team is in need of some stability on the back end in the prospect system. Defensively responsible forwards are also a necessity under head coach Barry Trotz.
Potential targets: D Haydn Fleury (Red Deer, WHL), D Anthony DeAngelo (Sarnia, OHL), C/RW Alex Tuch (USA U-18), C Dylan Larkin (USA U-18).
Fleury might not last as far as the 13th pick, but if he does, he's a great fit for the franchise and could stabilize the top four for a decade if he continues to grow his game in both ends of the ice.
DeAngelo is a risk/reward pick who is arguably the best offensive defenseman in the draft.
Larkin is a mature and responsible two-way center who may be able to eventually temper—or at least counter—Alex Ovechkin's cheating.
Top draft selection: First round, ninth overall.
Biggest holes to fill: Top-talent wingers, preferably with size.
Who knows what may happen between the Winnipeg Jets and Evander Kane? In the meantime, the team might want to draft his eventual replacement.
At the same time, the Jets will take skill at any spot to bolster a system devoid of many stars at the development level outside of Nicolas Petan.
Potential targets: RW Nick Ritchie (Peterborough, OHL), RW Nikolaj Ehlers (Halifax, QMJHL), RW Jake Virtanen (Calgary, WHL), RW William Nylander (Modo, SWE).
At 6'3", 230 pounds, Nick Ritchie seems ready to power his way into the NHL. But he may be a little more Dustin Byfuglien than Evander Kane at the moment and needs some big league training to get ready for the next level.
Ehlers or Nylander are more high-end in terms of skill but don't bring the other elements Ritchie or Virtanen offer.
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