Redoing the First Round of the 2014 NHL Draft

Redoing the First Round of the 2014 NHL Draft

With the sports world paused due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to take a look back and re-do the first round of several past NHL Entry Drafts. Each article will feature a brief summary of who the team selected at the time, and who we believe they would select now in hindsight. 

Part 4 – featuring the class of 2014, is below...

(Note: team needs are not taken into account at the time of selection)

1- Florida Panthers: Leon Draisaitl (F, Edmonton-WHL), Original Pick: Aaron Ekblad (D, Barrie-OHL): Ekblad is a perfectly solid NHL defenseman but he, like 99.9 percent of the NHL, are not on Draisaitl's level. Draisaitl was leading the NHL in scoring (43 goals, 110 points in 71 games) at the time of the stoppage and is the heavy favorite to take home the Hart Trophy as league MVP this season. 

2- Buffalo Sabres: David Pastrnak (F, Sodertalje-Sweden), Original Pick: Sam Reinhart (F, Kootenay-WHL): Pastrnak was viewed as a fringe first-rounder heading into the draft. He had always played well for his native Czech Republic in international tournaments but not everyone was convinced his skills would translate to North America. Pastrnak has scored no fewer than 34 goals in each of the past four seasons and he easily would have hit 50 (he has 48 right now) had this season not been paused. Reinhart has played well but he isn't Pasta.

3- Edmonton Oilers: Brayden Point (F, Moose Jaw-WHL), Original Pick: Draisaitl: Say what you will about some of the Oilers' draft picks, but they nailed this one. Point was originally taken 79th overall by the Lightning.

4- Calgary Flames: Dylan Larkin (F, US NTDP-USHL), Original Pick: Sam Bennett (F, Kingston-OHL): This was not the Flames' finest moment. Bennett was universally adored by the vast majority of the scouting community but he's settled into a role as a bottom-six depth player. Calgary refuses to move on from him but he badly needs a change of scenery. Larkin has been an excellent player for the Red Wings and he would probably look even better if he wasn't playing for what is one of the worst teams in recent memory.

5- New York Islanders: Ekblad, Original Pick: Michael Dal Colle (F, Oshawa-OHL): To give you an idea of how the Dal Colle selection has gone, the Islanders would likely trade him for Bennett in a nanosecond. He's a big body but he doesn't skate well and he's never been able to score at the NHL level. I see no reason to expect a turn around.

6- Vancouver Canucks: Reinhart, Original Pick: Jake Virtanen (F, Calgary-WHL): Reinhart is a Vancouver native and the Canucks would have been thrilled to see him drop on draft night. Virtanen wasn't worth the No. 6 overall pick but he has actually turned into a pretty useful depth forward. He has set career-highs in both goals (18) and points (36) this season for Vancouver.

7- Carolina Hurricanes: Igor Shesterkin (G, Spartak-MHL), Original Pick: Haydn Fleury (D, Red Deer-WHL): This is a bit of a projection pick but I'm all in on Shesterkin becoming one of the NHL's best goaltenders starting next season. It took the Rangers four years to get him to North America but he's going to be worth the wait. He was originally a fourth-round pick (118th overall) by New York. Fleury has yet to establish himself as an NHL regular. I like him a bit more than most but his ceiling is limited.

8- Toronto Maple Leafs: William Nylander (F, MODO-SHL), Original Pick: Nylander: Nylander takes a lot of flack from Toronto fans and he makes a ton of money ($6.96 million through 23-24), but he's a highly skilled player and is still just 23 years of age. He seems like a smart investment given his youth and the talent surrounding him.

9- Winnipeg Jets: Nikolaj Ehlers (F, Halifax-QMJHL), Original Pick: Ehlers: Back-to-back original picks! Ehlers was dreadful a season ago (37 points in 62 games) but he was really good in 2017-18 (29 goals, 60 points in 82 games) and he's been good this season (25 goals, 58 points in 71 games). There have been some rumors of Ehlers potentially being on the trade block but he just turned 24 years of age in February and there's no real incentive to move him.

10- Anaheim Ducks: Jakub Vrana (F, Linkoping-SHL), Original Pick: Nick Ritchie (F, Peterborough-OHL):  Vrana continues his development for Washington. He scored 24 goals a season ago and he already had 25 this season prior to the stoppage. He seems like a good bet to crack the 30-goal mark next year. He's an excellent skater and battles hard. Ritchie's a big-bodied depth option who was recently dealt to Boston after not being able to carve out a top-six role in Anaheim.

11- Nashville Predators: Kevin Fiala (F, HV71-SHL), Original Pick: Fiala: Fiala has been a chronic underachiever for most of his NHL career but he was one of the hottest players in the NHL prior to the stoppage and he's always had the ability to be a top-flight offensive weapon. It's anyone's guess if it will last, especially on a poor team like Minnesota, but he's hot at the moment. 

12- Arizona Coyotes: Viktor Arvidsson (F, Skelleftea Jr.-Sweden), Original Pick: Brendan Perlini (F, OHL): Arvidsson has scored 30 goals in two of the past three years and the one season he did not, he finished with 29. He was far less effective this season (15 goals, 28 points in 57 games) prior to the stoppage, and given his age (27), he seems like a considerably worse bet moving forward than a lot of the other guys on this list, but he's been a heck of a story for a former fourth-rounder. Perlini will always have a chance because of how well he skates but the fact he has one goal in 39 games for Detroit this season is highly, highly concerning. 

13- Washington Capitals Anthony DeAngelo (D, Sarnia-OHL), Original Pick: Vrana: Vrana seems a bit better bet than DeAngelo moving forward, but it's close. Tony D has finally found a home in New York after a pair of trades from Tampa Bay and Arizona. DeAngelo has had a breakout season. He's tied for third in goals by a defensemen with 15 and is tied for fourth in points by defenders with 53. He also has a plus-12 rating. His poise with the puck and ability to run a power play are remarkable. The off-ice and character concerns have also quieted over the past year-plus.

14- Dallas Stars: Victor Olofsson (F, MODO-Sweden), Original Pick: Julius Honka (D, Swift Current-WHL): Olofsson was the first pick of Round 7. He made his NHL debut this season and would be in the conversation for the Calder Trophy had he not missed time due to injury. He has 20 goals and 42 points in 54 games. I've always been high on Honka but the Stars never gave him a real chance. They own his rights but he's currently unsigned and went home to play in his native Finland this past season.

15- Detroit Red Wings: Nick Schmaltz (F, Green Bay-USHL), Original Pick: Larkin: Schmaltz isn't for everyone but he's an excellent play maker and an asset with the man advantage. He looks like a really solid long term second-liner. Think in the range of 50-60 points per season for the foreseeable future. 

16- Columbus Blue Jackets: Ilya Sorokin (G, Mettalurg-KHL), Original Pick: Sonny Milano (F, US NTDP-USHL): This selection is entirely projection. Sorokin has been the best goaltender outside of the NHL for years. He's expected to sign with the Islanders before the start of next season and should immediately take over as their starting netmider. Milano was never able to earn the trust of John Tortorella but has played well (five points in nine games) following a recent trade to Anaheim.

17- Philadelphia Flyers: Kevin Labanc (F, Barrie-OHL), Original Pick: Travis Sanheim (D, Calgary-WHL): Labanc led the OHL in points (127), assists (88) and plus-minus (plus-60) in his final OHL season. The Staten Island native adapted remarkably quickly to professional hockey and played for a laughable $1 million last season. Sanheim is also trending upwards and we'll get to him momentarily.

18- Minnesota Wild: Sanheim, Original Pick: Alex Tuch (F, US NTDP-USHL): Sanheim and Tuch are of equal value in my mind and either would be a reasonable pick at this point depending on your team's needs. Sanheim could probably fill a number-one PP role if he had to but that may not be needed in Philadelphia. Tuch has been a third-liner on a deep Vegas team but he has a good set of hands and can fill a variety of different roles.

19- Tampa Bay Lightning: Tuch, Original Pick: DeAngelo: Tuch's ceiling is considerably lower than DeAngelo's at this point but that doesn't mean he would be a bad pick here. The odds of any player taken at this point developing into an NHL regular are less than 50/50 and Tuch is clearly that.

20- Chicago Blackhawks: Kasperi Kapanen (F, KalPa-Liiga), Original Pick: Schmaltz: Kapanen is a useful player and his strengths are almost entirely centered around his speed. I don't think he's a particularly gifted offensive player but it's hard not to contribute when you move as well as he does. 

21- St. Louis Blues: Jared McCann (F, Sault Ste. Marie-OHL, Original Pick: Robby Fabbri (F, Guelph-OHL): McCann's versatility is a real asset and I think his best hockey is ahead of him. Fabbri's career has been torpedoed by injuries. I'm not all that high on him moving forward despite the solid numbers he has produced (31 points in 52 games) for Detroit this season.

22- Pittsburgh Penguins: Ondrej Kase (F, Pirati Chomutov-Czech), Original Pick: Kapanen: Kase was the 205th player selected in a draft that saw 210 players selected in total. He's a really good, underrated player who should fit in very well with Boston moving forward.

23- Colorado Avalanche: Christian Dvorak (F, London-OHL), Original Pick: Conner Bleackley (F, Red Deer-WHL): Dvorak is good on faceoffs and has some offensive ability, but this is all about Bleackley, who will go down as one of the worst draft picks in recent memory. He never played an NHL game and managed just 11 goals and 33 points in 133 AHL contests. He's split this season between the AHL and ECHL.

24- Vancouver Canucks: Elvis Merzlikins (G, Lugano-Switzerland), Original Pick: McCann: Elvis arrived in Columbus this past fall and struggled before going on a historic run. In 33 games for a middling team, Merzlikins posted a 2.35 GAA, .923 save percentage and five shutouts. He should be the starter for the Jackets moving forward.

25- Boston Bruins: Brandon Montour (D, Waterloo-USHL), Original Pick: Pastrnak: No disrespect to Montour but this would have been a disaster scenario for Boston. Pastrnak has joined forces with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand to form the NHL's most dominant trio the past few seasons. Montour has been an underachiever to this point but he's talented and in a prime position to contribute in Buffalo.

26- Montreal Canadiens: Thatcher Demko (G, Boston College-NCAA), Original Pick: Nikita Scherbak (F, Saskatoon-WHL): Demko has played well for Vancouver at times but he's been constantly injured and that makes you wonder if the Canucks will look to re-sign Jacob Markstrom this summer when he hits unrestricted free agency. I think Demko would be a perfectly capably NHL starter if given the opportunity. Scherbak had a couple nice seasons in the AHL but could never carve out an NHL role. He has since headed to the KHL.

27- San Jose Sharks: Marcus Pettersson (D, Skelleftea Jr-Sweden), Original Pick: Nikolay Goldobin (F, Sarnia-OHL): Pettersson was acquired by the Pens from Anaheim in a trade for Daniel Sprong in December of 2018. Most everyone thought Pittsburgh got fleeced in the deal but nearly a year and a half later, it appears as if they have come out way ahead. Pettersson is a steady stay-at-home defender who can chip in a bit offensively here and there. I haven't given up on Goldobin but he needs a trade from Vancouver at this point.

28- New York Islanders: Devon Toews (D, Quinnipiac-NCAA), Original Pick: Josh Ho-Sang (F, Windsor-OHL): The Islanders also ended up with Toews but they waited until the 108th selection to grab him. That pick has worked out far better than the Ho-Sang selection. Ho-Sang had some character questions leading into the draft and they have only gotten worse since he turned pro. He's a tremendously gifted offensive player who offers nothing defensively and doesn't use his teammates enough. The Islanders placed him on waivers at the start of this past season and noone claimed him.

29- Los Angeles Kings: Adrian Kempe (F, MODO-SHL), Original Pick: Kempe: Kempe is one of the few players on an aging Los Angeles team that might be there for the long haul. He's a useful third-liner with the potential for a bit more. He's actually developed into a better pro that I initially envisioned.  

30- New Jersey Devils: Virtanen, Original Pick: John Quenneville (F, Brandon-WHL): I mentioned Virtanen above and he would have made for a reasonable option at any point in the later stages of Round 1. Quenneville played all of 31 games with the Devils (posting five points) before being traded to Chicago for John Hayden last June. He's nothing more than an up-and-down guy.

- Oskar Lindblom (F, Brynas Jr-Sweden): Lindblom clearly would have made this list had it not been for the health concerns he is currently dealing with. We wish him all the best.
- Ryan Donato (F, Dexter-Mass HS)
- Warren Foegele (F, St. Andrew's-Canada HS)
- Danton Heinen (F, Surrey-BCHL)
- Milano 

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Jon Litterine
Jon Litterine is RotoWire's lead MMA Writer and MMA Editor. He has covered numerous MMA events live. He's also RW's NHL Prospect Analyst. Jon has been writing for RotoWire since 2005. He is a graduate of U Mass-Lowell.
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