The draft is officially one week away and things are beginning to become a little more clear. Still muddy, mind you, but with a tiny bit of transparency. The following represents my opinion on how the draft will shake out in Philadelphia based on countless interviews with NHL scouts, GMs and execs, plus my own viewings and research into how past drafts have tended to shake out in terms of positional distribution. Goalies tend to go later than their potential worth, for example, because it's so hard to predict which ones will turn out. And size tends to bump a player up, whether or not there is an actual correlation between bulk and talent – it's just how teams have drafted in the past.
This is not a straight-up mock draft, though some consideration was given towards past drafting tendencies – plus trades always muck that up in the end. So without further ado, here are my top 100 draft rankings for 2014:
- Aaron Ekblad, D, Barrie (OHL) – A surefire NHLer who, at worst, can play on a team's second pairing for the next decade or more. Whether Florida keeps or trades the pick, other teams think Ekblad is the top prospect available.
- Sam Bennett, C, Kingston (OHL) – The versatility of skills he brings to the table is incredible. Strong on the puck, talented and competitive, Bennett can also play wing.
- Leon Draisaitl, C, Prince Albert (WHL) – The big, skilled playmaking center most teams need to win, Draisaitl is an Anze Kopitar kind of player.
- Sam Reinhart, C, Kootenay (WHL) – Touted as the smartest player in the draft, Reinhart can play in all situations and has put up some serious numbers in junior.
- Michael Dal Colle, LW, Oshawa (OHL) – Big, creative and blessed with great hands, Dal Colle is a scoring winger who can change the momentum of a game.
- Willie Nylander, RW, Modo (Swe.) – Highlight-reel forward who can also play center, Nylander has incredible puck skills and an NHL pedigree.
- Nick Ritchie, LW, Peterborough (OHL) – Definition of a power forward. Ritchie pushes others around, will drop the gloves and score key goals when the game is on the line.
- Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Halifax (QMJHL) – Makes plays at high speeds, has tremendous vision and doesn't let slight frame keep him out of scoring areas. Scoring machine.
- Haydn Fleury, D, Red Deer (WHL) – All-around talent has a big frame and great mobility. Hockey sense also a key attribute.
10. Kasperi Kapanen, RW, KalPa (Fin.) – Smart player with great awareness who can also dazzle when he has the chance. Has a pro mentality already.
11. Brendan Perlini, LW, Niagara (OHL) – Great frame and excellent goal-scoring skills make him tough to defend, plus he moves pretty well.
12. Jake Virtanen, LW, Calgary (WHL) – Gritty winger is an excellent skater and know how to put the puck in the net thanks to his wicked release.
13. Jared McCann, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) – Talented pivot can make highlight-reel plays thanks to his vision and playmaking, but he's also responsible.
14. Alex Tuch, RW, U.S. NTDP (USHL) – Big power forward has great reach and soft hands. Has an NHL body already and will get even stronger at Boston College in the fall.
15. Dylan Larkin, C, U.S. NTDP (USHL) – University of Michigan commit is a two-way center with speed and talent who also brings a lot of character on the ice.
16. Jakub Vrana, LW, Linkoping (Swe.) – Potent sniper lit up the world under-18s thanks to his wicked shot and some serious wheels. Plays in Sweden.
17. Ivan Barbashev, LW, Halifax (QMJHL) – Russian who plays a "North American game," the winger can put up points and punish opponents physically.
18. Julius Honka, D, Swift Current (WHL) – Offensive defenseman from Finland lit up the Western League thanks to his skating and poise with the puck.
19. Kevin Fiala, LW, HV 71 (Swe.) – Great anticipation and top-end creativity propels his offense. Played at worlds, world juniors and under-18s for Switzerland this season.
20. Conner Bleackley, C, Red Deer (WHL) – Hard-working pivot does the unglamorous jobs and knows how to put the puck in the net. Captain of his junior team.
21. Roland McKeown, D, Kingston (OHL) – Smooth-skating blueliner can contribute at both ends of the ice and has excellent character.
22. David Pastrnak, RW, Sodertalje (Swe.) – Like Vrana, he's a Czech playing in Sweden. Pastrnak is hardworking, talented and has great vision.
23. Robby Fabbri, C, Guelph (OHL) – Helped powerhouse Guelph team win the Ontario League title. Not big, but tenacious and ultra-skilled in the offensive zone.
24. Jack Dougherty, D, U.S. NTDP (USHL) – Strong skater who can contribute at both ends, though leans towards offense. University of Wisconsin commit always gets his shot through.
25. Adrian Kempe, LW, Modo (Swe.) – Speedy and fearless, Kempe plays a physical game and can also help out with the offensive side of the game.
26. Sonny Milano, LW, U.S. NTDP (USHL) – Incredibly gifted hands and exceptional speed make him a serious offensive threat. Committed to Boston College.
27. Thatcher Demko, G, Boston College (HE) – Best goalie in the draft thanks to size and athleticism. Stole the starter's job at Boston College as a true freshman.
28. Travis Sanheim, D, Calgary (WHL) – High-rising blueliner has a great frame and moves well for his size. Confidence with the puck continues to grow.
29. Marcus Pettersson, D, Skelleftea (Swe.) – Raw project D-man can play a shutdown role, but also has power play and puckmoving skills; just needs to bulk up.
30. Nick Schmaltz, RW, Green Bay (USHL) – University of North Dakota commit may be the most skilled player in draft, but needs a linemate to lead him.
31. Nikita Scherbak, RW, Saskatoon (WHL)
32. Josh Ho-Sang, RW, Windsor (OHL)
33. Hunter Smith, RW, Oshawa (OHL)
34. Ryan MacInnis, C, Kitchener (OHL)
35. Ryan Collins, D, U.S. NTDP (USHL)
36. Brycen Martin, D, Swift Current (WHL)
37. Brett Pollock, LW, Edmonton (WHL)
38. Dysin Mayo, D, Edmonton (WHL)
39. Nikolay Goldobin, RW, Sarnia (OHL)
40. Mason McDonald, G, Charlottetown (QMJHL)
41. John Quenneville, C, Brandon (WHL)
42. Jack Glover, D, U.S. NTDP (USHL)
43. Joshua Jacobs, D, Indiana (USHL)
44. Adam Ollas Mattsson, D, Djurgarden (Swe.)
45. Anthony DeAngelo, D, Sarnia (OHL)
46. Brendan Lemieux, LW, Barrie (OHL)
47. Dylan Sadowy, LW, Saginaw (OHL)
48. Chase De Leo, C, Portland (WHL)
49. Andreas Englund, D, Djurgarden (Swe.)
50. Jonathan MacLeod, D, U.S. NTDP (USHL)
51. Shane Eiserman, LW, Dubuque (USHL)
52. Alex Peters, D, Plymouth (OHL)
53. Kaapo Kahkonen, G, Espoo (Fin.)
54. Dominik Masin, D, Slavia (Cze.)
55. Justin Kirkland, LW, Kelowna (WHL)
56. Eric Cornel, C, Peterborough (OHL)
57. Michael Amadio, C, North Bay (OHL)
58. Alex Nedeljkovic, G, Plymouth (OHL)
59. Brandon Hickey, D, Spruce Grove (AJHL)
60. Vladislav Kamenev, LW, Magnitogorsk (KHL)
61. Michael Bunting, LW, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
62. Axel Holmstrom, C, Skelleftea (Swe.)
63. Anton Karlsson, RW, Frolunda (Swe.)
64. Dominic Turgeon, C, Portland (WHL)
65. Ryan Donato, C, Dexter (Mass HS)
66. Jayce Hawryluk, C, Brandon (WHL)
67. William Lagesson, D, Frolunda (Swe.)
68. Warren Foegele, RW, St. Andrew's (ON HS)
69. Daniel Audette, C, Sherbrooke (QMJHL)
70. Aaron Haydon, D, Niagara (OHL)
71. Luc Snuggerud, D, Eden Prairie (Minn HS)
72. Juho Lammikko, RW, Assat (Fin.)
73. Nelson Nogier, D, Saskatoon (WHL)
74. Blake Siebenaler, D, Niagara (OHL)
75. Brayden Point, C, Moose Jaw (WHL)
76. Keegan Iverson, C, Portland (WHL)
77. Steven Spinner, RW, Eden Prairie (Minn HS)
78. Connor Chatham, RW, Plymouth (OHL)
79. Jake Walman, D, Toronto (OJHL)
80. Nicolas Aube-Kubel, RW, Val-d'Or (QMJHL)
81. Vaclav Karabacek, RW, Gatineau (QMJHL)
82. Jacob Middleton, D, Ottawa (OHL)
83. Spencer Watson, RW, Kingston (OHL)
84. Alexis Vanier, D, Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)
85. Ryan Mantha, D, Indiana (USHL)
86. Linus Soderstrom, G, Djurgarden (Swe.)
87. Ben Thomas, D, Calgary (WHL)
88. Nick Magyar, RW, Kitchener (OHL)
89. Anders Bjork, C, U.S. NTDP (USHL)
90. Kelly Summers, D, Carleton Place (CCHL)
91. Arkhip Nekolenko, LW, Spartak (Rus.)
92. Brett Lernout, D, Swift Current (WHL)
93. Pierre Engvall, LW, Frolunda (Swe.)
94. Christopher Brown, C, Cranbrook-Kingswood (Mich HS)
95. Maxim Letunov, C, Youngstown (USHL)
96. Joni Tuulola, D, HPK (Fin.)
97. Matt Berkovitz, D, Ashwaubenon (Wisc HS)
98. Julien Nantel, C, Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)
99. Brent Moran, G, Niagara (OHL)
100. Nick Wolff, Eagan (Minn HS)