Let's re-do the first round of the 2014 NHL draft using the information a panel of scouts provided in our annual Future Watch issue. Keep in mind, these are the blended opinions of 13 scouts, directors of player personnel or GMs and in many cases won't jive with the thought processes of individual teams.
We asked these scouts to assess a list of 300 NHL prospects (the top 10s from each of the 30 teams) and to establish their own top 50 list, based on a five to 10-year projection window. Most of the NHL-affiliated players on this list of 300 were from drafts prior to 2014 or free agents. But about 70 of them were selected in the 2014 draft.
With this information culled from our scouting panel, we can re-order the 2014 draft if it were to be held again today. Two players from the 2014 draft made the immediate jump to the NHL. Florida's Aaron Ekblad and Boston's David Pastrnak fast-tracked this Future Watch rating exercise. For the sake of argument, we’ll rank them one and two even though we know that 2014 draftees returned to junior, college or Europe could surpass them in coming seasons.
Here’s how the remainder of the first round would play out, based on the scouting committee's evaluation of their progression so far in 2014-15. Of course, this exercise doesn’t take into consideration individual team preferences. Though we’ll never know for sure publicly, maybe Carolina would still take Haydn Fleury seventh overall even though the scouting community at large wouldn’t select him until midway through the first round.
1-2. Two NHLers
3. Sam Reinhart, C (actually taken second by Buffalo)
4. Sam Bennett, C, (taken 4th by Calgary)
5. Leon Draisaitl, C (taken 3rd by Edmonton)
6. Nick Ehlers, LW (taken 9th by Winnipeg)
7. Dylan Larkin, C (taken 15th by Detroit)
8. William Nylander, C, (taken 8th by Toronto)
9. Michael Dal Colle, LW (taken 5th by N.Y. Islanders)
10. Kevin Fiala, LW (taken 11th by Nashville)
11. Jake Virtanen, RW (taken 6th by Vancouver)
12. Nick Ritchie, LW (taken 10th by Anaheim)
13. Robby Fabbri, C (taken 21st by St. Louis)
14. Alex Tuch, RW (taken 18th by Minnesota)
15. Sonny Milano, LW (taken 16th by Columbus)
16. Julius Honka, D (taken 14th by Dallas)
17. Haydn Fleury, D (taken 7th by Carolina)
18. Nikita Scherbak, RW (taken 26th by Montreal)
19. Ivan Barbashev, C (taken 33rd by St. Louis)
20. Jakub Vrana, LW (taken 13th by Washington)
21. Brendan Perlini, LW (taken 12th by Arizona)
22. Travis Sanheim, D (taken 17th by Philadelphia)
23. Kasperi Kapanen, RW (taken 22nd by Pittsburgh)
24. Adrian Kempe, LW (taken 29th by Los Angeles)
25. Thatcher Demko, G (taken 36th by Vancouver)
26. Christian Dvorak, LW (taken 58th by Arizona)
27. Anthony DeAngelo, D (taken 19th by Tampa Bay)
28. Vladislav Kamenev, LW (taken 42nd by Nashville)
29. Jared McCann, C (taken 24th by Vancouver)
30. Nikolay Goldobin, RW, (taken 27th by San Jose)
So actual first-rounders from 2014 who wouldn’t go in the first round if it were re-held today are: 20. Nick Schmaltz, C, Chicago; 23. Conner Bleackley, C, Colorado; 28. Josh Ho-Sang, RW, N.Y. Islanders; and 30. John Quenneville, C, New Jersey. Schmaltz would have gone 32nd according to polling results, while Winnipeg's Brendan Lemieux would have gone 31st, the same spot he was actually taken in the draft.
St. Louis did the best in this exercise, selecting a couple players who would have gone much higher than their original slot or in the first round if the draft was re-held today. Nashville, Detroit, Winnipeg, Arizona, Vancouver and Montreal each had one player make a significant jump.
The biggest virtual drops were Fleury 10 spots (from 7th to 17th), Perlini nine spots (from 12th to 21st), DeAngelo eight spots (from 19th to 27th) and Vrana seven spots (from 13th to 20th).
The Winnipeg Jets are on the cover of this year's Future Watch. Their list of prospects and 21-and-under NHLers was graded the best in the NHL.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN