Welcome to the 2014 Dobber Sports NHL Mock Draft. Finished on the eve of the draft, this mock draft was completed by the DobberProspects scout team, DobberProspects managing editor Brendan Ross, Dobber, Steve Laidlaw, Chris Pudsey and myself. We all took prospects from the point of view of bring an NHL GM making the best pick available, then provided a paragraph of fantasy-focused advice. There are over 8000 words waiting for you, get reading!
Austin Wallace-Associate Editor, DobberProspects
1 Florida Panthers (Jake Patterson):Aaron Ekblad
Ekblad is the best pick for the Panthers at first overall, with the depth that Florida has up the middle with Barkov and Bjugstad, grabbing a potential franchise defenceman is the best option. Ekblad will fit right into the top four, with the potential to start with another top three pick Erik Gudbranson. Ekblad is a strong two way defenceman who is confident in all three zones of the ice. He can be looked to on the power play for his powerful shot and can be trusted to protect the net during a penalty kill. With the growth of Florida's many forward prospects and Luongo in net, adding another big defenceman who can be a potential star is a no brainer.
2 Buffalo Sabres (Travis Watson):Sam Reinhart
With Ekblad off the board it comes down to Sam Bennett, Leon Draisaitl and Reinhart. Sam Reinhart seems to be the best fit based on Buffalo’s need with Reinhart owning the right intangibles the Sabres are looking for from a number two pick. He possesses an above average game in multiple offensive areas including a solid dependable two-way game packed with the heart and hustle needed from a player poised to take on a future leadership role with a franchise in desperate need. Outside of Ekblad, Reinhart is the only other player that I personally envision becoming a potential captain in the NHL.
Not only that, but Sam is the best of the Reinhart trio having brothers Max taken by Calgary 64th overall and Griffin selected at number 4 by NY Islanders and he therefore should be treated as so which leads me to predict Buffalo drafting him at number two.
He fits a need for the Sabres down the middle but he’s also one of the most ready prospects potentially being able to step into the NHL as early as next season. This is a plus for a team desperate to have some offense injected into their attack after finishing the 2013-14 campaign as the lowest scoring team in the entire association.
Reinhart has a high motor and has a very high ceiling, which makes him a fantastic complement to the horde of prospects already in the Sabres cupboard. Draft with confidence this kid is going to be a star!
3 Edmonton Oilers (Steve Laidlaw):Leon Draisaitl
The Deutschland Dangler has a strong case to go number one overall in this draft. Draisaitl may have the highest offensive potential of any prospect in this draft. He combines world-class vision and playmaking skills with NHL ready size and strength. There is very little not to like about his offensive game; while his skating has often been critiqued he plays a cerebral game that doesn't require him to be a burner to be effective. After potting over 100 points with the Raiders this past season Draisaitl has a shot of stepping onto an NHL roster right away. Draisaitl seemingly checks all the boxes for the kind of player Edmonton needs and should add the size and skill needed down the middle to one day compete with the western conference elite.
4 Calgary Flames (Brad Wilson):Haydn Fleury
We tried very hard to trade down, but we could not find a trade partner (editors note: Trades were not allowed, that would have been even more difficult to track). We have a significant imbalance in the system, with not enough defense prospects. With Ekblad gone, and no trade-down available, I was forced to take the best available defensemen, Haydn Fleury. Fleury is a top-end defensive prospect and we are excited to have him on board. Fleury may not be super-elite in any one area, but he is great in almost every facet of his game. He has great size at 6'3" and 200lb, he is a very good puck mover who earned 36 points in 70 games, is a top-end skater, and is very good defensively. He is far and away better than any other defensemen in this draft, other than Ekblad, and projects as a top-pairing minute cruncher in the mold of Brent Seabrook.
5 New York Islanders (Brad Wilson):Sam Bennett
We are looking for a high-end player to help on the left wing, and Bennett fits the bill perfectly. We believe Sam Bennett is the top player in the draft, and NHL Central Scouting agrees with us. Bennett, who is young for this class, dominated the OHL with 91 points in just 57 games. He has elite hands, compete-level, vision and quickness, and plays a complete game at both ends of the ice. He is able to post gaudy point totals despite being defensively responsible, and rarely making the flashy plays at the other end of the ice; all of this was done this year without top-end line mates. While he needs to build muscle, we believe him to be ready to contribute offensively at the NHL level immediately.
6 Vancouver Canucks (Austin Wallace):Michael Dal Colle
The Canucks are ready to start their rebuild in earnest with their highest pick since they took the Sedins in 1999. We were not expecting Dal Colle to fall into our lap, but we are not going to complain. Dal Colle scored more points than any other 2014 draft pick in the OHL, with 95 points in 67 games; he even stepped it up from there with 20 points in 12 games, finishing seventh overall in the scoring race despite playing eight fewer games than the scoring leader. Dal Colle is a top-end playmaker, might possess the best shot in the draft, is 6'2" and is actually sound defensively. Without any glaring issues in his game, Dal Colle could see the NHL as early as this year, but certainly by 2015-16. He will certainly be a top-six player, and he definitely has top-line upside.
7 Carolina Hurricanes (Andrew Ward):Nikolaj Ehlers
Nikolaj Ehlers is just too good to pass up at number seven. Similar in readiness to Drouin, he may benefit from an extra season at juniors, however based on Carolina’s youth and inexperience he could step in and grow with the team. Ehlers plays fast and hard and his intensity level is hard to match. When Ehlers is on the ice you watch intently knowing something amazing could happen at any moment. His reckless abandon and willingness to use his physicality is exactly what Carolina needs. Ehlers has been said to have the vision of Peter Forsberg, the speed of Pavel Bure and the skill of Markus Naslund, which shows you the type of dynamic ability this guy has. The Mooseheads were surely expected to miss Drouin and MacKinnon, however Ehlers has filled in the empty spaces quite nicely. MacKinnon and Ehlers have a very similar style of play and Ehlers could develop into a real steal at seven. He has an incredibly quick and impressive shot and his speed up the ice is really something to see. Ehlers is excellent in the corners and his fearless style of play and ability to protect the puck makes for an exciting player to watch. At 5’11”, 175 pounds Ehlers has some room to grow but at only 18 he should do just that.
8 Toronto Maple Leafs (Jason Banks):Brendan Perlini
Perlini had a breakout season with Niagara (OHL) by posting 71 points (34-37-71) in 58 regular season games to go with four points (3-1-4) with Canada in the World Junior Tournament. A strong skater with above-average puck handling skills, most mock drafts had Perlini as a top 10 pick. He has good power on his slapshot but his wristshot gets the most attention. His aim is top rate and if a defender doesn't get in the way, goalies have a tough time. With a high hockey-IQ and good decision-making, it is tough to find a chip in his game. The big one is this, until this season Perlini has never posted more than 44 points (2011-12) and the Leafs will need to bring him along at a pace that allows his game to develop the consistency he has yet to show.
9 Winnipeg Jets (Kevin Won):William Nylander
Winnipeg Jets select William Nylander – If a player with the skills that Nylander has dropped to the Jets on draft day, they would be ecstatic. The Winnipeg Jets have no problem drafting small crafty forwards, as they have shown with Nic Petan (2nd round, 43rd overall) back in 2013. The son of former NHLer Michael Nylander has wheels and oozes creativity; he will give the defense nightmares once he gets to the NHL. The Jets don’t have a very deep system on the wings (Lowry, Kosmachuk, Blomqvist; Telegin has most likely left the organization), so snagging Nylander at this spot would be a dream come true.
10 Anaheim Ducks (Kevin Won):Kasperi Kapanen
Anaheim Ducks select Kasperi Kapanen – With Finnish ties in Selanne, Koivu, and Vatanen, the Ducks would be happy to get Kapanen at #10, a pick they got from Ottawa in the Bobby Ryan trade. Kapanen is a speedy forward that is the complete offensive package. He has a strong wrist shot, quick hands, and incredible on-ice vision. Kapanen is the son of former NHLer Sami Kapanen, whom he played with in KalPa this season. He has poise just like his father did and will fit well into the Ducks’ system. The Ducks have an incredible wealth of forwards and they will ensure Kapanen will not be rushed ahead, setting him up for great success in the NHL.
11 Nashville Predators (Donesh Mazloum): Jake Virtanen
Jake Virtanen is an elite offensive talent and may be the most physically gifted player in this draft. Virtanen is a spectacular skater with speed to burn. He routinely beats defenders clean and he creates space with the respect opponents show for his wheels. Additionally Virtanen possesses a world-class shot capable of beating goalies from anywhere. Virtanen shows good instincts in the offensive zone and is a talented goalscorer overall. The only reason he is not ranked right at the top of this draft is due to his sometimes-questionable hockey IQ. While Virtanen’s top end potential is clearly very high he may also be ready to step into an NHL lineup sooner rather than later. He already shows impressive size at 6’1″ 212lbs and he doesn’t shy away from physical play. Surely the Nashville Predators would count their lucky stars if Virtanen fell in their laps. He fills an organizational need for more skilled potential top line forwards and additionally brings the size and grit required to succeed in the western conference.
12 Arizona Coyotes (Keith Duggan):Nick Ritchie
It is a huge surprise that Ritchie fell to 12th overall but a pleasant and exciting one for the Coyotes. A rare combination of size and skill, the budding power forward would look great patrolling the left side for the Arizona Coyotes. He easily would be a fan favorite with his physical play; some scouts have compared him to Milan Lucic but with more skill. Skates well for a big player and bulls his way around the ice, possessing an impressive, erratic shot. Has the physical tools to play in the NHL now, but his conditioning and like most young players, play in his own end could use some work.
13 Washington Capitals (Chris Pudsey):Robby Fabbri
The Capitals have two areas of concern heading into this year's draft: defense and center. This year's draft isn't as deep when it comes to defense but there are plenty of quality centers available and Fabbri is easily one of the better ones to draft. A bit under-rated, probably because of his smaller stature, Fabbri owns top-end offensive skill and hockey sense. Easily one of the fastest skaters in this year's draft, his ability to control the puck and elude defenders at top speed is his greatest asset. A goal scorer at heart, Fabbri will win over Capitals fans with his non-stop work ethic and energy. He will need to put on some muscle before making an impact with the Caps but his desire to be a winner should pave his way to the NHL quicker than most expect.
14 Dallas Stars (Chris Bagwell):Jared McCann
Jared McCann is a terrific all-around player. While his offensive numbers aren’t as great as some of the prospects expected to go in the first round, he possesses great hockey IQ, on-ice vision, and passing ability. McCann’s contributions come in all three zones and he’s shown a propensity to involve himself in the dirty areas of the ice. He may not project as a top-line center, but McCann has all of the skills to produce a lengthy NHL career. Dallas is happy to select him with the 14th overall pick and hope his offensive game continues to progress.
15 Detroit Red Wings (Travis Watson):Sonny Milano
At 15 I liked a couple of names and was really hoping for Jared McCann of the Soo Greyhounds to fall into my lap. When that didn’t happen it came down to two players, the offensive Sonny Milano versus the well-rounded Dylan Larkin. Both players are capable of playing the wing and centre but what pushed Sonny Milano over the top for me over the local Detroit native was that his offensive game is much more dynamic and I figured with the mentors and coaches that the Wings have they can help transform that side of his game. Milano is an offensive wizard with the puck and his ability to create offense for himself and for others is first class. Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Franzen are at the twilight stages of their careers and the Red Wings need to prepare for their eventual exit. Milano is a great addition to the already impressive contingent of prospects in the system and should fit in well after a couple seasons at Boston College where he will be heading this fall. Hopefully there he can focus on strengthening his overall game as well as his body to handle the everyday rigors he is to endure in the future. If Milano can earn the trust to play in both ends of the ice he looks the bit of a future top sixer with 70+-point potential. Look for him to step in and make an impact in three to four years, which suits the trend in Detroit as they enjoy sitting and waiting for their prospects to develop.
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