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NHL Draft Grades 2014: Round 1 Report Card for Every Team

Steve MacfarlaneFeatured ColumnistJune 27, 2014

NHL Draft Grades 2014: Round 1 Report Card for Every Team

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The first round of the 2014 NHL Draft is in the books. It will be years before the selections made on Friday night can be judged by on-ice evidence (or a lack thereof). But first impressions go a long way.

    We compiled grades and a pick-by-pick analysis for each selection of the opening round.

    Click through to take a look and voice your opinion on your team's choices. Are they the future of the franchise, or will they be busts?

Anaheim Ducks

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    The Pick: No. 10 overall—RW Nick Ritchie (Peterborough, OHL)

     

    The Grade: B-

     

    The Bottom Line: Ritchie is one of those guys who has all the tools to be a dominant player but has to learn how to become a professional. That means training right, and eating right, and likely shedding some weight off his 6'2", 226-pound frame to make an impact at the next level.

    He's a tantalizing prospect and the Ducks can certainly afford to wait.

Arizona Coyotes

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    The Pick: No. 12 overall—LW Brendan Perlini (Niagara, OHL)

     

    The Grade: A

     

    The Bottom Line: One of the things the franchise is missing in the system is depth on the wing. Perlini is a strong prospect who grabbed more and more attention from Christmas on because of his strong play for the Ice Dogs. He's 6'3" and has plenty of time to fill out his large frame and get the strength needed to make an impact. He scored 34 times and had 71 points in 58 games in the OHL this season.

Boston Bruins

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    The Pick: No. 25 overall—RW David Pastrnak (Sodertalje, Sweden)

     

    The Grade: B+

     

    The Bottom Line: Defenseman Roland McKeown was still on the board but the Bruins must have been comfortable with their current back end or hopeful they can pick up one of the next few blueliners on their list in the next round or two. Pastrnak has promise, showing his skill at the world juniors and his work ethic and balance.

Buffalo Sabres

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    The Pick: No. 2 overall—C Sam Reinhart (Kootenay, WHL)

     

    The Grade: A+

     

    The Bottom Line: The Sabres picked up the smartest player in the draft with a center who has the kind of vision and hockey sense that make other players around him better. He could make the jump to the NHL fairly quickly because of his intelligence.

    "He was No. 1 on our list. Watching him play, he rose to the occasion in big games," said Sabres general manager Tim Murray on the TSN broadcast.

Calgary Flames

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    The Pick: No. 4 overall—C Sam Bennett (Kingston, OHL)

     

    The Grade: A

     

    The Bottom Line: Bennett has been compared to his junior coach Doug Gilmour because of his heart and agitating style that complements his top-end skills. After taking Sean Monahan sixth-overall last year, the Flames now have the future one-two punch down the middle that suits a gritty style they want to continue.

    "The skill we talked about, the pace, it's really the intangibles," said Flames GM Brad Treliving.

Carolina Hurricanes

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    The Pick: No. 7 overall—D Haydn Fleury (Red Deer, WHL)

     

    The Grade: B

     

    The Bottom Line: Fleury was the second best choice at the position and the Hurricanes needed another prospect on the back end. The team did pass up on some potentially elite offensive talents, however, which leaves them open to some criticism before Fleury proves his worth in a couple of years. 

Chicago Blackhawks

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    Kerstin Joensson/Associated Press

    The Pick: No. 20 overall (via San Jose)—C Nick Schmaltz (Green Bay, USHL)

     

    The Grade: B-

     

    The Bottom Line: Schmaltz has the offensive skills to make him a top-10 pick but there are some doubts about his defensive commitment. The fit is better with the Blackhawks because they have captain Jonathan Toews as a potential mentor and a kid in Patrick Kane who went through some similar skepticism before he started his NHL career. The fact they traded up seven picks to get him means they like what they see.

Colorado Avalanche

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    Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

    The Pick: No. 23 overall—C Conner Bleackley (Red Deer, WHL)

     

    The Grade: B

     

    The Bottom Line: Bleackley is a strong leader, captaining the Rebels. The franchise's needs, however, lean elsewhere. The top defensemen were already off the clock at pick No. 23 and this might be an indication the team believes impending UFA Paul Stastny will leave as a free agent a few days from now.

Columbus Blue Jackets

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    The Pick: No. 16 overall—C/LW Sonny Milano (USA U-18)

     

    The Grade: B+

     

    The Bottom Line: Milano is a smaller player committed to Boston College next season. He'll need a couple of years in college to get stronger in order to make the jump to the pro ranks but there's no doubt he has the skills to impress in the NHL at some point. The video above shows his incredible hand-eye coordination.

Dallas Stars

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    The Pick: No. 14 overall—D Julius Honka (Swift Current, WHL)

     

    The Grade: B+

     

    The Bottom Line: The Stars did just what they needed to do and picked up a solid offensive defenseman who can fight his way into the top four within a couple of seasons. The Finn put up great numbers in his first season in North America, scoring 16 goals and 56 points in 62 games for the Broncos. His size is a bit of a scare but a couple of years of training should help him fill out the 5'10" frame.

Detroit Red Wings

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    The Pick: No. 15 overall—C Dylan Larkin (USA U-18)

     

    The Grade: B-

     

    The Bottom Line: With Jared McCann still available, I'm a little surprised they went with Larkin. The two have similar styles but McCann seems to have a little more upside offensively. But the Waterford, Michigan product will be motivated to play for the Wings, according to Detroit Free Press writer George Sipple, so maybe the Wings were won over by the local angle.

Edmonton Oilers

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    The Pick: No. 3 overall—C Leon Draisaitl (Prince Albert, WHL)

     

    The Grade: A

     

    The Bottom Line: The Oilers need size up the middle to compete in the Western Conference and they get it in the form of the 6'2" German with stellar hands to go with that size and strength.

    "Wearing the same jersey as Gretzky and Messier and all those stars is a great honor. I can't wait until training camp," Draisaitl said on the TSN broadcast, suggesting a good training camp would mean a spot in the opening-day lineup.

    "We all know how difficult big centers are to obtain. Leon really fits that bill for us. We feel Leon's skill set fits in incredibly well for us in Edmonton," added Oilers GM Craig MacTavish.

Florida Panthers

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    The Pick: No. 1 overall—D Aaron Ekblad (Barrie, OHL)

     

    The Grade: B+

     

    The Bottom Line: Ekblad is easily the best defensive prospect in the draft but will he have the best career? It might take a couple of years to find out. The Panthers add another big, two-way blueliner to the system, and he will help them in a few years if not right away. They shopped the pick hard but didn't get enough back to part with their choice. There are more holes in the system on the wing, but they took the best player available in their eyes.

    "There's a maturity factor to his game that you don't see in a lot of players," said Pierre McGuire on the TSN broadcast.

Los Angeles Kings

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    The Pick: No. 29 overall—C Adrian Kempe (Modo, Sweden)

     

    The Grade: A

     

    The Bottom Line: What a shock, the Kings grab a big center who boasts power and tenacious skill. He dropped to the bottom of the first round because he put up less than impressive offensive numbers overseas, but keep in mind he was not playing a significant role and was suiting up against men much older. With time to develop his game, Kempe could become a key replacement for someone like Mike Richards or Jarret Stoll, or maybe even Jeff Carter down the road a few years. The Kings have plenty of time to wait.

Minnesota Wild

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    Dave Sandford/Getty Images

    The Pick: No. 18 overall—C/RW Alex Tuch (USA U-18)

     

    The Grade: B+

     

    The Bottom Line: Tuch is one of the few power forwards available and the fit with the Wild is fairly strong. They'll be letting Dany Heatley go and have a hole in their system on the flanks when it comes to size and grit. His vision and size is a unique combination and he'll be honing his game in the college ranks for a year or two before making the jump to the NHL.

Montreal Canadiens

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    Derek Leung/Getty Images

    The Pick: No. 26 overall—RW Nikita Scherbak (Saskatoon, WHL)

     

    The Grade: A+

     

    The Bottom Line: The Canadiens need some size on the farm and Scherbak has a 6'1" frame that can be filled out over time. In his first year in North America, the Russian playmaker adjusted well, scoring 28 goals and 78 points in 65 games. Some more seasoning in junior and he may be ready to make the jump right to the NHL.

Nashville Predators

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    The Pick: No. 11 overall—LW Kevin Fiala (HV71, Sweden)

     

    The Grade: A-

     

    The Bottom Line: Fiala is a stellar Swiss player who can play either wing position and jumped from No. 11 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings of top Europeans to No. 3 in its final rankings. He's a shifty and explosive offensive weapon and suits the new-look Nashville Predators perfectly as they attempt to transition to an up-tempo team.

New Jersey Devils

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    The Pick: No. 30 overall—C/LW John Quenneville (Brandon, WHL)

     

    The Grade: B+

     

    The Bottom Line: Brendan Lemieux seemed like a natural fit, but Quenneville is a versatile player with an edge to his game who can play in the middle or on the wing and offers a more balanced game. He is defensively responsible but also put up strong offensive numbers for the Wheat Kings, and played his best games in the playoffs. He's always finding a way to get to open spaces on the ice and his hockey smarts could help him carve out a nice NHL career if he can find his consistency.

New York Islanders

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    The Pick: No. 5 overall—LW/C Michael Dal Colle (Oshawa, OHL); No. 28 overall—C/RW Josh Ho-Sang (Windsor, OHL)

     

    The Grade: A+

     

    The Bottom Line: It's hard to mess up in the top echelon of players and Dal Colle was the right choice for the Islanders, who get a big winger that can already shoot at the NHL level and is extremely mature. He could improve the top six in New York immediately with a strong offseason of training to get ready for the next level. He has tremendous potential and the ability to play two positions.

    They followed that up with a bold move to trade back into the first round to grab one of the most impressive offensive players in the draft in Ho-Sang. He was a controversial player who was no doubt left off many teams' draft lists because of a perceived cockiness (this story via Toronto Sun writer Steve Simmons) that comes from his unique upbringing.

New York Rangers

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Pick: The Rangers gave up their first-rounder to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Martin St. Louis deal. The Bolts flipped it to the New York Islanders, who took Josh Ho-Sang—a player who may torture the Rangers in a few years.

     

    The Bottom Line: St. Louis helped the Rangers get to the Stanley Cup Final, but was that swap worth sacrificing a first-rounder and potential game-breaker for the future? Financially, it probably did. Picking 59th overall in the second round, the Rangers could be looking for a defenseman to add to their top four in a couple of years.

Ottawa Senators

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    The Pick: The Senators gave up their top pick in the Bobby Ryan deal last year and failed to trade Jason Spezza to get one back for Friday's first round.

     

    The Bottom Line: They have the 10th pick of the second round and should be looking for either a center to make up for the impending loss of Spezza or a defenseman given their lack of depth in the system on the back end. Some of the most talented players left on the board, according to the International Scouting Service and Central Scouting Service, include centers Ivan Barbashev, Ryan MacInnis and Vladislav Kamenev, as well blueliners Roland McKeown and Jack Dougherty.

Philadelphia Flyers

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    The Pick: No. 17 overall—D Travis Sanheim (Calgary, WHL)

     

    The Grade: C+

     

    The Bottom Line: Sanheim was a huge riser in the draft rankings and opinions of scouts this season after being on virtually nobody's radar to start the year. Injuries led to an increased role with the Hitmen in Calgary and Sanheim rose to the occasion. He could become the steal of the draft, but might also fall back in his development after a really strong showing in a limited sample size. This pick might have been a little early.

Pittsburgh Penguins

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    The Pick: No. 22 overall—RW Kasperi Kapanen (KalPa, Finland)

     

    The Grade: A

     

    The Bottom Line: Kapanen was a top talent but it's tough to live up to his father's reputation. His dad, Sami, was a Stanley Cup winner who put everything on the line on a nightly basis. He wasn't a high-end offensive talent but was still coveted for his intangibles. His son, Kasperi, has more skill but the knock on him is he may not have the same kind of work ethic. I think he'll prove to be a steal with the 22nd overall pick.

San Jose Sharks

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    Derek Leung/Getty Images

    The Pick: No. 27 overall—RW Nikolay Goldobin (Sarnia, OHL)

     

    The Grade: B+

     

    The Bottom Line: What makes this pick great is that they traded down (via the NHL.com's Trade Tracker) to do it, acquiring an early third-rounder in a deal with the Chicago Blackhawks and still grabbing a solid offensive prospect in Goldobin. The Russian is a well-rounded offensive playmaker but his defensive efforts will need some work.

St. Louis Blues

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    The Pick: No. 21 overall—C Robby Fabbri (Guelph, OHL)

     

    The Grade: A

     

    The Bottom Line: Fabbri was dynamite in the OHL playoffs, scoring 13 goals and 28 points in 16 games after a 45-goal, 87-point, 58-game regular season. He has serious determination and plays hard despite his 5'10" frame. Combine the two and he may be on the same plane as top-four pick Sam Bennett by the time his NHL career is over. It was a smart move to let goalie Ryan Miller walk and hang onto this pick—which they would have had to forfeit had Miller re-signed before the draft.

Tampa Bay Lightning

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    The Pick: No. 19 overall—D Anthony DeAngelo (Sarnia, OHL)

     

    The Grade: A

     

    The Bottom Line: This was an incredibly brave pick but well worth the risk for a Bolts team that is loaded with offensive prospects and needs help on the back end. DeAngelo comes with question marks about attitude thanks to a couple of suspensions for his big mouth and anger issues, but Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman and his team did their due diligence and believe he'll grow as a player and person.

    "We definitely had a long look at it," Yzerman said on the TSN broadcast. "We did our homework with the people he's played for, the people he's played with. His family. We think this is a young man with great potential. He's gonna have to change if he's going to make it as a professional hockey player and we believe in him."

Toronto Maple Leafs

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    The Pick: No. 8 overall—C William Nylander (Modo, Sweden)

     

    The Grade: B

     

    The Bottom Line: The Leafs have had success with a Swedish center in the past and go with another one here. Nylander might be the most talented offensive player in the draft but the knock on him is he often tries to do too much on his own as opposed to utilizing his teammates. It's a trait he may have inherited from his dad, former NHLer Michael Nylander.

    He could be a boom-or-bust type of pick.

    "We were pretty fortunate he was there for us," said GM Dave Nonis on the TSN broadcast.

Vancouver Canucks

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    The Pick: No. 6 overall—LW Jake Virtanen (Calgary, WHL); 24th overall—C Jared McCann (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL)

     

    The Grade: A-

     

    The Bottom Line: If not for Virtanen's shoulder surgery, this might be a slightly higher grade. Virtanen could be the best power forward from this draft and has every element a team wants from a big winger—size, speed, a heavy shot and a feisty edge. The fact he was picked by his hometown team made it an even easier choice for the Canucks. There's some risk but the reward could be incredible.

    "We're trying to change the culture of our team a little bit and he's another piece of the puzzle," said new GM Jim Benning.

    Having traded gritty two-way center Ryan Kesler earlier in the day (via The Canadian Press' Stephen Whyno) as posted on the National Post , the second pick of the first round was a potential replacement—although not right away—for that aspect of the forward corps. McCann was nearly a point-per-game player in his second year in the OHL but also boasts the kind of defensive responsibility teams crave out of their big men in the middle.

Washington Capitals

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    The Pick: No. 13 overall—LW Jakub Vrana (Linkoping, Sweden)

     

    The Grade: C+

     

    The Bottom Line: There's no disputing the talent of the Czech-born winger who has incredible offensive talent. The problem with this pick, specifically to this team, is that new coach Barry Trotz will be busy trying to get his stars to play a more well-rounded style, and the addition of another guy who has yet to learn defensive responsibility could be influenced negatively if others are not buying in.

    Another team and this grade would have been slightly higher. It might be a bad match.

Winnipeg Jets

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    The Pick: No. 9 overall—LW Nikolaj Ehlers (Halifax, QMJHL)

     

    The Grade: B+

     

    The Bottom Line: Ehlers is tiny but incredibly fast and offensively skilled. He was playing alongside Jonathan Drouin, last year's third-overall pick, in junior this year and looks a lot like the small and speedy Mooseheads teammate on the ice, too.

    "He's a dynamic player," GM Kevin Cheveldayoff told TSN. "He loves to play the game."

    Some might have liked to see power forward Nick Ritchie go here instead, but it's hard to argue against Ehlers' ceiling.

     

    Steve Macfarlane has covered the NHL for more than a decade, including seven seasons with the Calgary Sun. Follow him on Twitter @macfarlaneHKY.

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