2014 NHL Mock Draft: Updated Projections, Conference Finals Edition

14 NHL DraftThe 2014 NHL draft will be held June 27-28 in Philadelphia, and with Memorial Cup and AHL playoff action heating up over the last few weeks, it’s time to look at an updated mock draft.

This year’s draft class doesn’t have the franchise cornerstone-type prospects such as Nathan MacKinnon or Seth Jones (both from the 2013 draft), but there’s lots of depth at all three forward positions.

For analysis of the 13 lottery pick predictions, check out the first edition of NESN.com’s 2014 NHL mock draft. Pick predictions for the teams that have been eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs are below.

Picks 26-29 will be determined by the results of the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final. The New Jersey Devils will pick 30th.

1) Florida Panthers — Aaron Ekblad, D, Barrie (OHL)

2) Buffalo Sabres — Sam Reinhart, C, Kootenay (WHL)

3) Edmonton Oilers — Sam Bennett, C, Kingston (OHL)

4) Calgary Flames — Leon Draisaitl, C, Prince Albert (WHL)

5) New York Islanders — Michael Dal Colle, LW, Oshawa (OHL)

6) Vancouver Canucks — Jake Virtanen, LW, Calgary (WHL)

7) Carolina Hurricanes — Kasperi Kapanen, RW, Kalpa (SM-Liiga)

8) Toronto Maple Leafs — William Nylander, C, MODO (SHL)

9) Winnipeg Jets — Ivan Barbashev, C, Moncton (QMJHL)

10) Anaheim Ducks (From Ottawa Senators) — Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Halifax (QMJHL)

11) Nashville Predators — Nick Ritchie, LW, Peterborough (OHL)

12) Phoenix Coyotes — Brendan Perlini, LW, Niagra (OHL)

13) Washington Capitals — Haydn Fleury, D, Red Deer (WHL)

14) Dallas Stars — Julius Honka, D, Swift (WHL) 

The Stars need more offense from the back end, and in a draft that lacks depth at defensemen, it’s important for general manager Jim Nill to select a blueliner in Round 1. Honka is an offensive D-man who tallied 56 points (16 goals, 40 assists) in 62 games for the Broncos as a WHL rookie. He moves the puck well out of the defensive zone, has a heavy shot from the point and jumps into the play in the attacking zone when appropriate. Honka lacks size, but he’s poised with the puck and isn’t afraid to play physical. He also excelled for Finland during its gold-medal triumph at the 2014 World Junior Championships.

15) Detroit Red Wings — Jared McCann, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

The age of veteran centers Pavel Datsyuk and Stephen Weiss might result in Detroit using this pick on a player who excels offensive in the middle of the ice. McCann back-checks consistently, plays physical and excels on faceoffs. This is the type of two-way game the Red Wings expect from their centers. His offensive game needs polishing (although he did tally 62 points in 64 games this season), but that shouldn’t be a concern because Detroit doesn’t rush players to the NHL before they are ready to contribute at both ends of the ice.

16) Columbus Blue Jackets — Adrian Kempe, C, MODO U-20 (SWE)

As a power forward who goes hard to the net, plays physical and is willing to play defense in all three zones, Kempe would be a good fit in the Blue Jackets’ blue-collar style of hockey. His powerful shot and ability to protect the puck with his size and strength are quite impressive. He still needs more experience before making an impact in the NHL, but Columbus can afford to be patient because it isn’t an elite contender in the Eastern Conference yet.

17) Philadelphia Flyers — Kevin Fiala, LW, HV71 J20 (SWE)

Fiala is a speedy winger with good goal-scoring skills and a high hockey IQ. The Flyers would be better off taking a defenseman if Honka or Fleury are available, but passing on a player of Fiala’s caliber also would be difficult.

The 17-year-old forward needs to get stronger to compete for pucks at the NHL level, but there’s no doubt he has the potential to be a quality top-six forward for a long time based on his impressive offensive skill. He has a super-accurate wrist shot, soft hands and makes good decisions with the puck. Defensively, he needs improvement, but he has shown a willingness to work hard in his own zone.

18) Minnesota Wild — Thatcher Demko, G, Boston College (NCAA)

A goalie at No. 18 is a bit of a reach for the Wild, but after starting seven different netminders this season, this certainly is a position of need. Demko excelled as a freshman for the Eagles with a 16-5-3 record, 2.24 goals against average and .919 save percentage. He helped BC win the regular-season Hockey East championship and the Beanpot tournament. His NHL comparable is New Jersey Devils starting goalie Cory Schneider.

19) Tampa Bay Lightning — Alex Tuch, C/RW, NTDP-18

Tuch would give the Lightning versatility with his ability to score goals and create scoring chances at center or on the wing. After losing veteran winger Martin St. Louis, in addition to Ryan Callahan’s pending free agency, Tampa Bay might be in desperate need of depth on the wings in the offseason. Tuch would provide the physicality, strength, penalty killing ability and defensive awareness that the Lightning lack at right wing. He has the potential to be a more offensively skilled version of Callahan.

20) San Jose Sharks — Robbie Fabbri, C, Guelph (OHL)

Fabbri lacks size, but he’s a skilled offensive player with a powerful shot, soft hands and great play-making skills. He excels on the power play and would be a great fit in the Sharks’ uptempo style of play. He was one of the OHL’s better scorers this season with 87 points (42 goals, 45 assists) in 58 games. The presence of Sharks veterans Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski would help ease him into the center position at the NHL level.

21) St. Louis Blues — Dylan Larkin, C, USNTDP (USHL)

The Blues lack goal scoring at the center position, which was evident in their first-round playoff series loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. Larkin would fit in with St. Louis’ physical, defense-first style of play with his power forward skill set while also adding much-needed goal-scoring ability and speed. He protects the puck well and has great offensive awareness. If veteran center Vladimir Sobotka doesn’t re-sign, the Blues will need additional depth down the middle.

22) Pittsburgh Penguins — Nikita Scherbak, LW, Saskatoon (OHL)

Pascal Dupuis’ ACL injury and the Penguins’ overall lack of depth on the wings makes Scherback a quality choice at No. 22, if he’s still available. Pittsburgh lacked scoring production on the wings during the playoffs, specifically from the bottom six forwards. Scherback tallied 78 points (28 goals, 50 assists) in 56 games for the Blades last season and also excelled on the power play. His speed, offensive skill and creativity with the puck would be real assets to the Penguins’ offense.

23) Colorado Avalanche — Sonny Milano, LW, NTDP (USHL)

Milano is an emerging power forward who crashes the net, battles for pucks in the corners and has improving offensive skill. He tallied 39 points (14 goals, 25 assists) in 25 games in the USHL last season. Milano would be able to protect Colorado’s skilled centers, such as Nathan MacKinnon, while also creating scoring chances and bringing physical play to all three zones.

24) Anaheim Ducks — Aaron Irving, D, Edmonton (WHL)

Irving is a physical defenseman who clears traffic from the crease, battles for pucks in the corners and is capable of killing penalties. He’s a smart player who makes the simple, safe plays in his own zone and is rarely caught out of position. His offensive game needs work, but he is a decent puck mover with a good first pass out of the defensive zone.

Anaheim already has several offensive D-men capable of making a strong impact at the NHL level, including Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen. The Ducks need a defensive D-man to form a second shut-down pairing, which is a role Irving should be able to play in a few years.

The Ducks also need a second-line center, but they would be better off acquiring that player via trade.

25) Boston Bruins — Josh Ho-Sang, RW, Windsor (OHL)

Ho-Sang is a gifted offensive player who goes hard to the net, battles for pucks below the goal line and possesses a hard, accurate wrist shot. He’s also a quality skater with great speed and puck-handling skills. The 18-year-old winger tallied 85 points (32 goals, 53 assists) in 67 games this season.

The Bruins have plenty of young defensemen ready to make an impact in the NHL, and they also don’t need any more depth at center, especially when Ryan Spooner isn’t able to crack the lineup on a full-time basis. Selecting a winger with high-end offensive skill such as Ho-Sang is the most logical choice for the B’s.

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