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The 2014 NHL Entry Draft will be held at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia this coming Friday and Saturday.  As is our annual tradition, here is HabsWorld’s official mock draft.  For the second straight year,  Montreal will be picking at the back of the first round as they select 26th  overall.  In our mock, we project the entire first round plus the Habs’ third  rounder.

Joining me to pick the draft this past Sunday (the 22nd) were HW Editors  Norm Szcyrek and Matt Macaskill.  Picks were made on an alternating basis* as follows:

1, 4, 7, etc – Norm
2, 5, 8, etc – Brian
3, 6, 9, etc – Matt

* – Montreal’s selections were made by a consensus vote.

Each writer offers up their rationale for their selections below.  We’ve also included rankings from several sites and publications.  They are: The Sports Network (TSN – Bob McKenzie), The Hockey News (THN), International Scouting Services (ISS), and Central Scouting Bureau (CSB).  Central Scouting has separate rankings for North American and International prospects so the same ranking may appear twice.

#1 – Florida – Aaron Ekblad, D, Barrie (OHL)

Despite the rumours of trading down, Florida will not pass up the chance to get a stud defenceman that will step into the lineup right away for them this fall. Ekblad is the most complete player in this draft offensively and defensively at his position, and should anchor the team’s defence corps for the next decade easily.

Rankings TSN: 1 THN: 2 ISS: 2 CSB: 2N

#2 – Buffalo – Sam Reinhart, C, Kootenay (WHL)

The Sabres have a lot of needs but a glaring one is that they lack a reliable top six forward that plays hard in all three zones.  Reinhart is exactly that.  He may not have the offensive upside of some of the other top players in this draft but he’ll certainly score enough to warrant a top six role while it won’t be long before he’s tasked with shutting down the top players on opposing teams as well.

Rankings TSN: 2 THN: 3 ISS: 1 CSB: 3N

#3 – Edmonton – Leon Draisaitl, C, Prince Albert (WHL)

If the Oilers fail to move their first round pick for help on the blueline, as they notably should, they’ll surprise a few people by selecting Leon Draisaitl of the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders. He has NHL size and could work his way into the lineup sooner rather than later. Drafting him may also encourage management to (finally) move a forward like Sam Gagner if an  adequate offer for the pick isn’t available. With 105 points in 64 games last year, he’s no slouch.

Rankings TSN: 4 THN: 4 ISS: 6 CSB: 4N

#4 – Calgary – Sam Bennett, C, Kingston (OHL)

This guy has first line potential written all over him, and has a great balance of offensive and defensive ability with a solid work ethic and some jam to his game. Calgary will give him a chance to crack their lineup right away, and he may surprise many by doing so.

Rankings TSN: 3 THN: 1 ISS: 4 CSB: 1N

#5 – NY Islanders – Michael Dal Colle, LW, Oshawa (OHL)

The Isles are in good shape down the middle while they’ve stocked up on defensive depth in recent years.  One area that needs shoring up is the wing so New York would be more than pleased to take Dal Colle here.  He has top line potential and would complement John Tavares well.  If he can improve his physical play, he could be a star before too long.

Rankings TSN: 5 THN: 5 ISS: 3 CSB: 5N

#6 – Vancouver – William Nylander, LW, Modo (SHL)

If he’s still on the table come their pick the Canucks will select William Nylander. William’s father, Michael, was a talented Swede in his own right, and the prospect of Nylander playing alongside the Sedin twins in the future is intriguing. If Vancouver wishes to move forward with the Sedins as their leaders, Nylander may prove to be a valuable addition to their line and the organization.

Rankings TSN: 9 THN: 6 ISS: 5 CSB: 2E

#7 – Carolina – Nick Ritchie, LW, Peterborough (OHL)

Carolina looks to add a power forward to bring some size to their wings, and boy is Ritchie their man. He isn’t always consistent, but when he shows up he can really bring it, like he did in the OHL playoffs this season.

Rankings TSN: 6 THN: 9 ISS: 10 CSB: 7N

#8 – Toronto – Nikolaj Ehlers, RW, Halifax (QMJHL)

While Ehlers isn’t the stereotypical Toronto pick (big and physical), his
dynamism with the puck would give the Leafs another major threat in their top six down the road.  He needs to bulk up to be able to withstand the physical rigours of the pro game but he should be able to do so by the time he’s ready for full-time NHL duty.

Rankings TSN: 10 THN: 7 ISS: 11 CSB: 13N

#9 – Winnipeg – Jake Virtanen, LW, Calgary (WHL)

Winnipeg would be thrilled to have Jake Virtanen still available on Draft Day. He’s another power forward that would make moving a guy like Evander Kane easier to swallow. Virtanen is considered NHL ready by several scouts and should have a good chance of competing for a roster spot with the Jets once he recovers from offseason surgery.

Rankings TSN: 7 THN: 11 ISS: 7 CSB: 6N

#10 – Anaheim (via Ottawa) – Brendan Perlini, LW, Niagara (OHL)

Anaheim, with their first of two first round picks, goes with a big forward with a high skill level, but not necessarily a power forward at this point in his career. Some believe he’s a bit soft for his size and showed some inconsistencies in his game. These deficiencies can all be worked on, and his skating, size and vision are all pro quality, which will earn him a chance with the Ducks.

Rankings TSN: 13 THN: 12 ISS: 9 CSB: 8N

#11 – Nashville – Haydn Fleury, D, Red Deer (WHL)

Nashville may already be in good shape long-term on their blueline but they won’t be able to pass up the consensus second best defender in this draft. Fleury has the size, skill, and skating ability to play on a top pairing or at worst in a #3 role and would help give the Preds a defence core that may become the envy of the league before long.

Rankings TSN: 8 THN: 8 ISS: 12 CSB: 9N

#12 – Arizona – Kasperi Kapanen, RW, KalPa (SM-liiga)

Burke, Hextall, Domi, Samuelsson… Kapanen. Why break tradition? With a new team name, Arizona will select a familiar name in Kasperi Kapanen, son of former NHL’er Sami Kapanen. Offensively, Kapanen’s numbers were underwhelming with only 14 points through 47 games in Finland’s SM-liiga but pretty much everyone’s numbers were lousy on that team. If Arizona is patient, Kapanen has the tools to become an effective NHL’er.

Rankings TSN: 11 THN: 10 ISS: 13 CSB: 1E

#13 – Washington – Ivan Barbashev, C/W, Moncton (QMJHL)

Barbashev is a very complete player, capable of scoring a goal, setting one up, or making a strong defensive play to prevent one. The kid is not afraid to lay on the body when it’s necessary and brought his game up a level  when the playoffs came around. He will not disappoint the Capitals management.

Rankings TSN: 23 THN: 22 ISS: 19 CSB: 18N

#14 – Dallas – Dylan Larkin, C, US NTDP (USHL)

Larkin won’t be able to step into the lineup like their first rounder from
last year (Valeri Nichushkin) but he will be an important player as a two-way centre.  He’ll need a few years of development to refine his offensive game but even if that doesn’t happen, his floor is a speedy third line checker, making him a very safe selection.

Rankings TSN: 12 THN: 14 ISS: 15 CSB: 17N

#15 – Detroit – Jared McCann, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

Heralded as a two-way centre, Jared McCann would be given plenty time to develop with the Red Wings. With Datsyuk and Zetterberg already ahead of him, McCann can assume the role of understudy and dedicate the next couple of years for preparing himself for a long NHL career. If Detroit is looking to make a safe pick, this is it.

Rankings TSN: 16 THN: 15 ISS: 17 CSB: 10N

#16 – Columbus – Julius Honka, D, Swift Current (WHL)

A small defenceman in the Ryan Murray mold, Honka is an excellent passer and power play quarterback. His size can sometimes hold him back on defence, but he uses his hockey IQ to anticipate the play, using his stick to break it up then counter attack quickly. Columbus can use a player like Honka within the next few seasons, and can be patient to let him develop in the WHL for now.

Rankings TSN: 20 THN: 16 ISS: 40 CSB: 11N

#17 – Philadelphia – Alex Tuch, RW, US NTDP (USHL)

A Ron Hextall and Craig Berube combo leading the way for the Flyers will have them turning towards adding some size and grit with their first selection. Tuch has the offensive upside to play on a second line while his size and willingness to play physically gives him the potential to be a top-notch power forward if he puts everything together.

Rankings TSN: 17 THN: 17 ISS: 14 CSB: 12N

#18 – Minnesota – Robby Fabbri, C, Guelph (OHL)

It won’t be long before they’re calling him Robby “Flash” Fabbri. If Fabbri dips this deep in the draft, these playoff teams will be happy to select him. His size, 5’10 and 170 lbs, won’t be an issue for the Wild who employ Zach Parise successfully, a player not too different from Fabbri in many respects.

Rankings TSN: 14 THN: 20 ISS: 8 CSB: 21N

#19 – Tampa Bay – Conner Bleackley, C/W, Red Deer (WHL)

Bleackley is a true leader, captaining his junior team at a young age. He’s a character guy with a good dose of offence too. As a RW he fits a longer term depth need for Tampa Bay while he can also shift to centre if need be. The Lightning can be patient with him also with their current forward group.

Rankings TSN: 29 THN: 30 ISS: 26 CSB: 25N

#20 – San Jose – Sonny Milano, LW, US NTDP (USHL)

As part of their rebuild, the Sharks will be looking for skill up front to replace the likes of Marleau and Thornton down the road.  If there’s one thing Milano has, it’s plenty of offensive skill.  He needs to refine his decision making and learn to make the simple play when it’s the best option but his speed and hands make him a worthwhile project at #20.

Rankings TSN: 18 THN: 24 ISS: 16 CSB: 16N

#21 – St. Louis – Ryan MacInnis, C, Kitchener (OHL)

If Al MacInnis’ son is still on the board, he will be extremely difficult for the Blues to pass on. Unlike his father, a 6’1 defenseman, Ryan is a big-body center listed at 6’4 and over 180lbs. With many talented players already ahead of him in the system, St. Louis can take their time developing
Ryan’s overall game.

Rankings TSN: 34 THN: 44 ISS: 25 CSB: 20N

#22 – Pittsburgh – Jakub Vrana, RW, Linkoping (SHL)

The Czech-born Vrana is a speedy winger with several good offensive skills. He’s a deadly sniper with great stickhandling ability. He could fit in well in Pittsburgh and they can afford a couple of seasons for him to develop in Europe then come over.

Rankings TSN: 19 THN: 19 ISS: 21 CSB: 4E

#23 – Colorado – Kevin Fiala, C, HW71 (SHL)

With Nathan MacKinnon and to a lesser degree, Matt Duchene, the Avalanche have a pair of dynamic offensive talents up front.  Fiala, particularly on a team that plays as aggressive and up-tempo as Colorado does, can be another of those players.  His small size is what would bump him back to this stage of the draft but talent-wise, he’s a steal at this pick.

Rankings TSN: 15 THN: 13 ISS: 20 CSB: 3E

#24 – Anaheim – Josh Ho-Sang, C, Windsor (OHL)

If the Ducks play it safe with their 10th overall pick, they will be in a
position to take a chance here on Ho-Sang. Ho-Sang is one of the most talented players available in the draft, but has been criticized for his individual play. With the right coaching, he has the potential to become a star in the league. Don’t be surprised to hear comparisons drawn between him and Toronto’s Nazem Kadri.

Rankings TSN: 30 THN: 27 ISS: 18 CSB: 22N

#25 – Boston – Jack Dougherty, D, US NTDP (USHL)

Dougherty is a decent sized defenceman with an equally good blend of offence and defence to his game. He has good hockey sense with a very good shot from the point. Dougherty has some room to grow a bit and the Bruins can be patient with him to do so in college.

Rankings TSN: 35 THN: 25 ISS: 42 CSB: 30N

#26 – Montreal – Adrian Kempe, LW, Modo (SHL)

There are some parallels to be drawn between Kempe and Montreal prospect Jacob de la Rose beyond their nationality which should endear him to Trevor Timmins and company.  He’s a speedy checker who is defensively responsible but is raw on the offensive side.  If he can develop that part of his game, he could be a top six forward down the road for the Habs.

Rankings TSN: 28 THN: 29 ISS: 22 CSB: 6E

#27 – Chicago – Nikita Scherbak, LW, Saskatoon (WHL)

Chicago is in a great place to draft high-risk high-reward players and may
find one in Scherbak with the 27th overall pick. One thing is for certain, if
the Blackhawks do draft Scherbak, a player that came out of nowhere this year to be considered first round talent, he’s going to be good.

Rankings TSN: 21 THN: 18 ISS: 27 CSB: 15N

#28 – Tampa Bay (via NY Rangers) – Travis Sanheim, D, Calgary (WHL)

Tampa Bay balances their second pick with a defenceman in Sanheim. Travis has good offensive tools in skating and quickness to go with decent size. He needs to work on his defensive decision making and physicality but these areas have improved this season as he vaulted up the rankings.

Rankings TSN: 24 THN: 21 ISS: 30 CSB: 53N

#29 – Los Angeles – Roland McKeown, D, Kingston (OHL)

The Stanley Cup champs don’t have a lot of holes but one area of concern down the road is their aging defence corps.  Adding McKeown, who should be a quality #4 defenceman down the road, would go a long way to alleviating those concerns.  McKeown doesn’t excel in any area but doesn’t have a glaring weakness either; he’s a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ type of player that will fit in well for LA.

Rankings TSN: 25 THN: 26 ISS: 23 CSB: 27N

#30 – New Jersey – Nikolay Goldobin, LW, Sarnia (OHL)

The Devils could always go off the board a bit here and draft the top ranked goaltender at the draft in Thatcher Demko, but why not draft a talented Russian forward instead? Nikolay, or Nikolai, put up 94 points through 67 games in the OHL last year but was a minus-30 on a brutal Sarnia team! The Devils will surely consider him a project, but if Goldobin pans out he may have chemistry with Ilya Kovalchuk down the line. Oh wait…

Rankings TSN: 37 THN: 34 ISS: 28 CSB: 24N

#87 – Montreal – Vladimir Tkachev, LW, Moncton (QMJHL)

Although he’s the exact opposite of a big player, it would be awfully hard to pass up on Tkachev’s raw talent at this point.  He has legitimate top six upside and the back end of the third round is where we started to see a few teams take some home run swings last year.  After a relatively safe pick in Kempe, this is most certainly a boom or bust selection.

Players also discussed: LW Francis Perron (Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL), D
Alexis Vanier (Baie-Comeau, QMJHL)

How do you think the first round will play out?  Test your picks against
ours by entering our annual draft pool.