Like many hockey fans, I participate in fantasy hockey. Mostly that has been confined to Yahoo! leagues; and on any given year I usually am in one or two leagues. Not to brag too much, but I normally do pretty well. Fantasy sports are a huge industry, where over a Billion dollars is on the line all across North America. While NHL Fantasy leagues are far less prevalent than their NFL or even NASCAR counterparts its a pretty big thing overall. Unless you’re in a league which puts down money rewards for how well you finish, the only pride you get is by finishing near the top by the end of the respective sports season. Beyond the end of the season finish, in my opinion the most fun part of fantasy sports is the draft. For some groups, the build up to the draft is spent researching ‘draft guides’ or other sports related publications for any little scrap of information as they set up a list of target players they hope to select. One or two good sleeper picks can often be the difference between finishing near the top or in the middle of the pack. If you don’t do your research you can find yourself being embarrassed pretty quick. Trust me, you don’t want to be the guy that drafts a guy who is out for the season due to some surgery he had to repair a damaged limb. In many cases for those who participate in Yahoo! leagues its a live draft where you select players in a snake-draft like format. You create a pre-draft board of players that you rate to be sort of your guide and you then make your selections. They could follow your board or maybe they don’t. Its really the ‘nerdy’ part of being a hockey fan. We all want to pretend we’re the General Manager on message boards, on Twitter, etc; and Fantasy Hockey provides that outlet. Yet there is one other place where the real hockey geeks get their nerd on, mock drafts.
As far as I know, there is no pool or league for NHL Mock Drafts. Which is just fine by me, but if you go on the internet to your favorite search engine and type in “2014 NHL Mock Drafts” you’re going to be greeted by tons of them. I would also say that most of these places are filled with the same kinds of rubes who are the hard-core fantasy hockey gamers too. I am not afraid to say I’m in that ilk, and just as I do for my fantasy league I do extensive research to make the best mock draft I can. I consider a variety of different draft lists, I look at organizational needs and the state of their prospect pool and then make selections that fit. Whether its to fill a specific void in an organization’s pool or simply to take the ever popular “best player available” those factors work together to create a realistic mock draft. At least that’s how I approach it. Yet at the end of the day, I’ll probably be very lucky if I get even 20% of my draft to be the same as how it really unfolds. The draft in itself is an educated guess and not an exact science. Like they say on Deadliest Catch about the world of crab fishing, “that’s why they call it fishing, and not catching.”
So what I’ve tried to do over the years is combine some of the access to a wide variety of mock drafts all around the internet as well as add some mock drafts of my own, not just from me but other smart, intelligent Wild fans I know to provide their perspective as to who they think will be selected where. Two Wild fans from the Wild.com message boards; DaveyJ and 4-CheckMW8 stepped up and delivered two mock drafts of their own to provide a nice little slice of opinion from the State of Hockey.
2014 Mock Draft Listing
DaveyJ’s NHL Mock Draft
All drafts are unpredictable, but this one might be more so than most. There is virtually no consensus about anything in this draft…except for the fact that it is not very deep and not loaded with team changing talents. The top 4 to 5 players seem to end up in most “experts” top 4 or 5, but the order is rarely consistent. After this, it’s truly a crapshoot. The next 20 to 30 players could go in almost any order. To make things more complicated, there are a number of late bloomers who were virtual unknowns 12 months ago now knocking on the door with 1st round potential. Here is my effort to predict how the first round will go.
1. Florida Panthers ~ D, Aaron Ekblad (Barrie, OHL) – I’m expecting this pick to be traded, but the Panthers love their big defenseman and Ekblad is a lot more than just big!
2. Buffalo Sabres ~ C, Sam Bennett (Kingston, OHL) – Buffalo already has an impressive group of young players and in another couple years, they will have more prospects than they know what to do with. With no real need (other than time), they take the best player available.
3. Edmonton Oilers ~ C, Leon Draisaitl (Prince Albert, WHL) – The struggling franchise wanted Ekblad, but takes “Baby (Jaromir) Jagr” in Draistaitl here to add to their stable of young guns on the front line.
4. Calgary Flames – C, Sam Reinhart (Kootenay, WHL) – many “experts” #1, but he falls to Calgary here and they are happy with Reinhart’s hockey smarts and vision. Reinhart and Sean Monahan offer a lot of hope up the middle for the Flame’s future.
5. New York Islanders ~ LW, Nikolaj Ehlers (Halifax, QMJHL) – the Garth Snow show continues as he reaches for high-octane Halifax star, but the dynamic Dane just might turn out to be a fantastic player with his amazing blend of skill and speed.
6. Vancouver Canucks ~ LW/C, Michael Dal Colle (Ottawa, OHL) – The Nucks would prefer more immediate help but can’t pass up on the future potential of super skilled and super skinny forward.
7. Carolina Hurricanes ~ D, Haydn Fleury (Red Deer, WHL) – Canes address a need and take swift skating, do-it-all 6’3″ defenseman.
8. Toronto Maple Leafs ~ LW, Brendan Perlini (Niagara, OHL) – Big, tough and physical is exactly what Toronto loves and nabs Perlini with the 8th pick.
9. Winnipeg Jets ~ RW, William Nylander (MoDo, SHL) – the Jets have plenty of size on the front end so they go with dual threat (scoring and playmaking) of this Swedish forward. 5 years from now, he might be the best player in this draft.
10. Anaheim Ducks ~ RW, Jake Virtanen (Calgary, WHL) – The Ducks are thrilled that a better, faster, more physical version of Bobby Ryan falls in their laps and sprint to the stage to call the name of game-breaking winger.
11. Nashville Predators – LW, Ivan Barbashev (Moncton, QMJHL) – Preds first team to play “Russian Roulette” and invest in the super potential of Barbashev.
12. Phoenix Coyotes ~ LW, Kevin Fiala (HV71, Swe. Jr.) – Coyotes are too enticed by the slick skating, high-end motor of Swiss-born forward is too good to pass him up.
13. Washington Capitals ~ RW, Alex Tuch (USNDT, USHL) – Adding more beef at the forward position, Caps show some patience and draft college bound power forward who has a high character, and can do it all.
14. Dallas Stars ~ LW, Nicholas Ritchie (Peterborough, OHL) – Adding to their pool of brothers, the Stars are thrilled when the Peterborough power forward is still available. His NHL-ready body will be in a Stars sweater before too long.
15. Detroit Red Wings – D, Julius Honka (Swift Current, WHL) – Never afraid of smallish players, Red Wings select their future powerplay quarterback in the dynamic blueliner.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets ~ C/LW, Dylan Larkin (USNDT, USHL) - is a safe, smart pick as emerging Blue Jackets can finally be patient and wait for his solid, yet unspectacular, all-around game to develop at the U of Michigan.
17. Philadelphia Flyers ~ C, Jared McCann (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL) – The Flyers are ecstatic to see McCann’s name still available and snare the rights to a very solid and competitive all-around talent.
18. Minnesota Wild ~ C, Adrian Kempe (MoDo, SHL) – Wild hope Finns and Swedes can continue to get along when they select a rugged, all-around, and versatile forward. He might never be a star, but will add much needed size, speed, attitude and snarl to the Wild lineup.
19. Tampa Bay Lightning ~ D, Roland McKeown (Kingston, OHL) – their aging blue line gets a boost with dependable, puck-moving defenseman. He is a right-handed shot is always a bonus on the back end.
20. San Jose Sharks ~ LW, David Pastrnak (Sodertalje, Swe. Jr.) – Adds another flashy, high-skilled Czech forward in Pastrnak and cannot wait for him to play on a line with Tomas Hertl someday.
21. St. Louis Blues ~ LW, Brendan Lemieux (Barrie, OHL) – The Blues skip some better talent and continue to add grit and character (and characters) when they select fearless winger whose the son of former lightning rod Claude Lemieux.
22. Pittsburgh Penguins ~ RW, Jakub Vrana (Lingkoping, SHL) – Always looking for wingers to compliment Sid the Kid, the Penguins could not be happier to see super fast sniper’s name still on the board.
23. Colorado Avalanche ~ D, Travis Sanheim (Calgary, WHL) – Stacked on the front end for the next decade, the Avs make a smart choice and take the best available d-man in late-rising, lanky defender.
24. Anaheim Ducks ~ C, Robby Fabbri (Guelph, OHL) – With a stable of big forwards, the Ducks add some speed and skill with smallish center who will help them offset the losses of veterans Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu.
25. Boston Bruins ~ RW/LW, Nikolay Goldobin (Sarnia, OHL) – With a solid team in place for the foreseeable future, Bruins take the slick Russian and are willing to wait for his game-changing skillset to be ready for the NHL.
26. Montreal Canadiens ~ RW, Nikita Scherbak (Saskatoon, WHL) – With plenty of smallish, speedy forwards in the fold, Canadiens make it back to back Russians when they select semi-unknown but potential grand slam forward and his 6 foot 2 inch frame.
27. Chicago Blackhawks ~ LW, Sonny Milano (USNDT, USHL) – Another stacked team set for the present and the future, the Blackhawks select Boston College bound and poor man’s Patrick Kane in Milano and smirk all the way to the podium to call his name.
28. Tampa Bay Lightning ~ RW, Kasperi Kapanen (Kalpa, Sm-Liiga) – Stevie Y. can’t believe his eyes when he sees the gifted, yet enigmatic Finn, is still available.
29. Los Angeles Kings ~ C/W, Nick Schmaltz (Green Bay, USHL) – Stanley Cup Champion Kings take highly-skilled North Dakota bound center and long-term project in Schmaltz and are convinced he will be well worth the wait.
30. New Jersey Devils ~ D, Anthony DeAngelo (Sarnia, OHL) – Devils select super slick, super skilled, future replacement for Andy Greene and/or Marek Zidlicky when they draft undersized defenseman to be their future power play quarterback.
4Check-MW8 2014 NHL Mock Draft
This mock draft does not attempt to forecast trades, which will likely feature several.
1. Florida Panthers ~ C, Sam Reinhart (Kootenay, WHL) – With a strong depth in its defensive prospects, so they pick the highly cerebral and equally talented center Reinhart.
2. Buffalo Sabres ~ C, Sam Bennett (Kingston, OHL) – The Sabres also bypass Ekblad because of having a bunch of solid defensive prospects (Nikita Zadorov, Rasmus Ristolainen), select a forward with no weaknesses, except when doing pull-ups.
3. Edmonton Oilers ~ D, Aaron Ekblad (Barrie, OHL) – Get the ready for the NHL Defenseman they covet in Barrie’s superb backliner who has size, mobility and a well-rounded game.
4. Calgary Flames ~ RW, Jake Virtanen (Calgary, WHL) – Short on right-handed forward prospects, so they choose, despite major shoulder surgery several weeks ago, is big, fast and gritty Hitmen star.
5. New York Islanders ~ LW, Michael Dal Colle (Oshawa, OHL) – With Matt Moulson and Thomas Vanek both gone, Garth Snow falls for lanky winger from Oshawa.
6. Vancouver Canucks ~ LW, William Nylander (MoDo, SHL) – The Canucks love their Swedes so they pick highly skilled and equally flamboyant son of former NHL’er Michael Nylander.
7. Carolina Hurricanes ~ C, Leon Draisaitl (Prince Albert, WHL) – Adds another big forward to go along with the Staal brothers in selecting this very talented German centerman.
8. Toronto Maple Leafs ~ LW, Nikolaj Ehlers (Halifax, QMJHL) – Needs a center, but choose the most talented forward still available, the electrifying Dane.
9. Winnipeg Jets ~ LW, Brendan Perlini (Niagara, OHL) – The Jets like size on the wings, so they go with 6’2 205lbs sniper.
10. Anaheim Ducks ~ RW, Kasperi Kapanen (Kalpa, Sm-Liiga) – Two Finns leave and one takes their place, it’s the 3-zone high end skill of Sami Kapanen’s kid.
11. Nashville Predators ~ C, Robby Fabbri (Guelph, OHL) – Laviolette covets instant offense. The Preds choose lightning in a bottle in speedy sniper.
12. Phoenix Coyotes ~ LW, Nicholas Ritchie (Peterborough, OHL) – Needs an influx of younger, bigger top 6 forwards. They go with 6’2″, 218lbs high scoring power forward that might be the heir apparent to Shane Doan someday.
13. Washington Capitals ~ D, Haydn Fleury (Red Deer, WHL) – Can score, but can’t stop the opponent from doing the same. Their solution is big, smooth skating defenseman.
14. Dallas Stars ~ C, Ivan Barbashev (Moncton, QMJHL) – Needs secondary scoring. They add another young Russian with a complete game.
15. Detroit Red Wings ~ RW, Alex Tuch (USNDT, USHL) ~ Two big bodies recently gone in Tomas Holmstrom and Todd Bertuzzi. Their choice is the American 6’4″, 218lbs power forward.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets ~ LW, Sonny Milano (USNDT, USHL) – The Blue Jackets need scoring off the wing. Their answer is picking the U.S. National Development team’s fancy stickhandling sniper.
17. Philadelphia Flyers ~ RW, Josh Ho-Sang (Windsor, OHL) – Lacks quality prospect forwards. They go the high risk- high reward route in choosing the enigmatic speedster.
18. Minnesota Wild ~ C, Adrian Kempe (MoDo, SHL) – Loves their Finn-Swede connection. This time they go to Modo to choose the swift skating, play with an edge 6’1″, 187lbs winger.
19. Tampa Bay Lightning ~ C, Jared McCann (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL) – Hoping that he can find a clone of himself, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman picks the all-around quality center who plays a team-first game.
20. San Jose Sharks ~ D, Roland McKeown (Kingston, OHL) – With Dan Boyle departed, hope for his eventual replacement falls to the Kingston defenseman who has a well-rounded two-way game.
21. St. Louis Blues ~ RW/LW, Nickolay Goldobin (Sarnia, OHL) – With Russian Vladimir Tarasenko working out well. Make it the hope of 2 Russians to shine for St. Louis as they pick fellow countryman, the explosive scoring winger from Sarnia.
22. Pittsburgh Penguins ~ RW, Jakub Vrana (Lingkoping, SHL) ~ Saturated with defenseman prospects, the Pens add the high scoring Czech speedster.
23. Colorado Avalanche ~ C, Dylan Larkin (USNDT, USHL) – Plenty of young stud forwards on the parent club has emptied the prospect basket. They fill it by selecting the well rounded game of this strong bodied forward.
24. Anaheim Ducks ~ LW, David Pastrnak (Sodertalje, Swe. Jr.) – Another 1st round pick has the Ducks looking for more secondary scoring. Their choice is multi-talented Czech forward.
25. Boston Bruins ~ D, Travis Sanheim (Calgary, WHL) – Zdeno Chara is 37, Dennis Seidenberg soon to be 33. Their pick is a defensiveman soaring up the draft charts in 6’3″, 185lbs kid with loads of potential.
26. Montreal Canadiens ~ C/RW, Conner Bleackley (Red Deer, WHL) – The Habs need size up front. Their selection is 6’1″, 195lbs center. He has decent skills, and is a great leader who plays a 200′ game.
27. Chicago Blackhawks ~ D, Julius Honka (Swift Current, WHL) – Michael Rozsival‘s eventual replacement is the ‘Hawks selection. He is a bit undersized but extremely resourceful who recently led Finland to gold in the World Junior Championships.
28. Tampa Bay Lightning ~ D, Anthony DeAngelo (Sarnia, OHL) – The Bolts need offense from the backline. They choose the great skating, but sometime troubled defenseman. Last year he had 71 pts for Sarnia.
29. Los Angeles Kings ~ LW, Anton Karlsson (Frolunda, Swe. Jr.) – Goes with the all-around talent of the powerful skating Swede.
30. New Jersey Devils ~ LW, Kevin Fiala (HV71, Swe. Jr.) – Desperate for more dynamic play at the forward position. The Devils will hope that the offensive minded Swiss forward can eventually use his explosive skating ability to fill that need.
My 2014 NHL Mock Draft
1. Florida Panthers ~ D, Aaron Ekblad (Barrie, OHL) – He is perhaps the most NHL-ready prospect in the draft with a prototypical NHL frame (6’3″) for a defenseman who can be a franchise centerpiece for years to come.
2. Buffalo Sabres ~ C, Sam Reinhart (Kootenay, WHL) – Reinhart has the skills and leadership to be the future captain of this rebuilding team. He makes those around him better and has the hockey IQ, on-ice skills to be at the core of that effort.
3. Edmonton Oilers ~ C, Leon Draisaitl (Prince Albert, WHL) – The Oilers will seek to add grit as they attempt to shape their team to be one that works hard and not just relies on talent alone. This classic power forward is a step towards changing that identity.
4. Calgary Flames ~ C, Sam Bennett (Kingston, OHL) – The Flames will be delighted to see the skilled speedster fall to them with the 4th pick. He certainly will have to bulk up, but he will add tremendous skill to a club that plays more of a blue collar style of hockey.
5. New York Islanders ~ LW, Michael Dal Colle (Oshawa, OHL) – The Islanders will draft a top level scorer to work with another former Oshawa General in team captain John Tavares.
6. Vancouver Canucks ~ LW, William Nylander (MoDo, SHL) – With the Sedin twins not getting any younger and the Canucks in rebuilding mode they will be happy to draft the skilled son of ex-NHL’er Michael Nylander. Nylander can score or set up teammates just like the aforementioned ‘Children of the Corn.’
7. Carolina Hurricanes ~ D, Haydn Fleury (Red Deer, WHL) – Times are also changing in Carolina and after another frustrating up-and-down season and the management / coaching overhaul it spawned the Hurricanes will looking for a safe selection and will find it in this two-way defenseman.
8. Toronto Maple Leafs ~ LW, Brendan Perlini (Niagara, OHL) – The Maple Leafs will try to draft another scorer they hope can give Toronto a potent top 6 by signing this big, fast forward who proved he can light the lamp with great frequency in the OHL.
9. Winnipeg Jets ~ LW, Nicholas Ritchie (Peterborough, OHL) – After a tough 1st season as part of the NHL’s Central Division, the Jets will try to make themselves bigger and will hope this big bodied power forward can provide the offense and the strength necessary to compete.
10. Anaheim Ducks ~ RW, Jake Virtanen (Calgary, WHL) – The Ducks will be super pleased to select the hard-hitting, deadly sniper that is Virtanen. With Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry locked up long-term the Ducks will hope Virtanen will give them that extra piece needed to become the best team in California all over again.
11. Nashville Predators ~ C, Robby Fabbri (Guelph, OHL) – Sick of being a team that is near the bottom of the league in scoring, and with a new coach Peter Laviolette at the helm, they try to address this scoring issue by signing the energetic center who can just fly and light the lamp in bunches too.
12. Phoenix Coyotes ~ LW, Nikolaj Ehlers (Halifax, QMJHL) – The Coyotes’ want to shore up their offense by adding this young, dynamic Danish-born forward to the mix. Afterall it has worked out rather well with another Dane of theirs, Mikkel Boedker.
13. Washington Capitals ~ D, Roland McKeown (Kingston, OHL) – With new coach Barry Trotz, who is going to expect all of the members of his team to work hard each shift he’s going to want to shore up the Capitals’ blueline. Signing a player who will remind him a lot of Ryan Suter will certainly be a step in that direction.
14. Dallas Stars ~ D, Anthony DeAngelo (Sarnia, OHL) – The Stars are going to open some eyes with this pick with the high-risk, high-reward offensive defenseman. DeAngelo brings some outstanding skill, but he also has questions about his maturity but with an AHL Championship in the background and pretty deep prospect pool they can afford to take a gamble.
15. Detroit Red Wings ~ RW, Kasperi Kapanen (Kuopio, Sm-Liiga) – As Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg keep getting older, the Red Wings leaned more heavily on their youth this season to get back into the playoffs. With the graduation of some of those younger players (like Gustav Nyquist) they will look to restock the pool and Kapanen fits quite nicely.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets ~ D, Travis Sanheim (Calgary, WHL) – Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekkalainen is a master at prospect projection, and he will be very intrigued at the tremendous promise of this defenseman with a 6’4″ frame and oodles of potential that it will make him too good to pass up.
17. Philadelphia Flyers ~ RW, Alex Tuch (USNDT, USHL) – The Flyers would like to be seen as a big tough team, but also one that can bury its chances. Tuch fits in all of these categories as your classic big-bodied forward who can hang out near the crease and light the lamp in great abundance.
18. Minnesota Wild ~ C, Jared McCann (Sault Ste Marie, OHL) – Despite having the 24th best team in scoring, the Wild do not want offense to come at the expense of responsible defensive play. McCann can do both; score and play well defensively making him a pick that the Wild’s coaching staff (who just got contract extensions) will appreciate.
19. Tampa Bay Lightning ~ C/LW, Ivan Barbashev (Moncton, QMJHL) – The Lightning are a team that can blitz you offensively, but stopping opponents has been a problem. Barbashev is the defensive-minded center that can help round out the team, making Tampa Bay tougher to play against.
20. San Jose Sharks ~ LW, Sonny Milano (USNDT, USHL) – With rumors swirling about the team wanting to re-shape itself, drafting this super slick playmaker would be a step in that direction. No player in the draft has the ridiculous hands of Milano and it would be interesting to see how he’d mesh with players like Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl.
21. St. Louis Blues ~ C, Dylan Larkin (USNDT, USHL) – The Blues will be a major player in the Jason Spezza sweepstakes and with the state of their prospect pool I think they’ll want a good role player they can plug in a few seasons and Larkin fits that bill perfectly. Strong, with reasonable speed and a terrific work ethic he’ll be a real force on the 3rd and 4th line someday.
22. Pittsburgh Penguins ~ RW, Jakub Vrana (Lingkoping, SHL) – The Penguins feel its time to add more skill to its prospect pool and adding a dynamic winger like Vrana would be a big boost in that direction. Vrana has outstanding wheels and loves to shoot the puck, who could be a natural to work with great set up men like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
23. Colorado Avalanche ~ D, Julius Honka (Swift Current, WHL) – With the Avalanche feeling as though an injury to Tyson Barrie in the playoffs led to their 1st round exit against Minnesota, they will want to add another player with that skillset to be able to step in needed. This offensively minded Finn will fit that need quite nicely.
24. Anaheim Ducks ~ LW, Brendan Lemieux (Barrie, OHL) – The Ducks will add another hard-hitting forward to their pool of young talent by signing the son of ex-NHL’er Claude Lemieux. Brendan plays a similar game to his father, combining decent scoring touch near the crease and borderline edgy play that drives opponents nuts.
25. Boston Bruins ~ RW, Kevin Fiala (HV 71, SHL) – The Bruins will try to secure its future offense by selecting the speedy Swiss forward. While he’ll need to add strength to his slight frame, but he can fly and put up good points.
26. Montreal Canadiens ~ C, Conner Bleackley (Red Deer, WHL) – Its all about having a player willing to do the dirty work to win games for the ‘Bleu, Blanc et Rouge’ and the unselfish Rebels’ center is lauded for his willingness to do whatever it takes for his team to win.
27. Chicago Blackhawks ~ LW, Adrian Kempe (MoDo, SHL) – The Blackhawks were in the unfamiliar territory of being a bit challenged by their opponents and this two-way Swedish forward brings swagger, tremendous work ethic and whose game will remind some people of Gabriel Landeskog.
28. Tampa Bay Lightning ~ C, RW, Josh Ho-Sang (Windsor, OHL) – The Lightning lost some dynamic punch when they dealt away Martin St. Louis, and they will be happy to get the skilled and immensely creative Spitfires’ forward.
29. Los Angeles Kings ~ LW, Nikita Scherbak (Saskatoon, WHL) – The Stanley Cup Champions will simply be content to take the best player available and they will pick up another skilled, scoring winger who put up reasonable numbers on a weak Saskatoon team.
30. New Jersey Devils ~ LW, Nikolay Goldobin (Sarnia, OHL) – A bit of controversy comes with this pick as the NHL reconsidered its punishment of forfeiting this pick for salary cap circumvention after Ilya Kovalchuk decided to leave to play in the KHL instead of honoring the rest of his contract. Ironically the Devils will sign the supremely talented Russian who is both deadly as a goal scorer and playmaker on a team that could use some youthful scoring.