Each year thousands of people watch the NHL Entry Draft with their eyes on who will be the next big star in the league for years to come.
They cheer and boo their team’s choices and everyone has their favourite future star you tout that you knew he would be a dominant player way back when.
Where as many prognosticators will launch up version after version of their own mock drafts taking into account player rankings, team needs and maybe a little wishful thinking, not many look at the players with a purely fantasy hockey value.
These rankings are not a mock draft, not a prediction of where these players will go in the draft, but a potential fantasy hockey value on them based on if everything went right, how quickly they’ll be in the league and what type of player or production could be expected from such a player and the risk/reward of drafting that player.
Nobody is saying Aaron Ekblad will be Scott Stevens, but he projects like him to be a big minute player, a hard-hitter and leader, who while he does have some offensive upside it is quite limited compared to other players. That’s just not his game. So forgive us now as the top ranked player fantasy wise won’t be the big Barrie Colts blue liner, even though he could be the most valuable player team wise.
Our top 20 fantasy hockey value rankings for the 2014 NHL Entry draft are:
1. C – Sam Reinhart (CAN) Kootenay Ice (WHL)
Reinhart is the youngest and most skilled of Paul Reinhart's three sons. He's big and strong and projects as a very good number two centre or a solid first line centre similar to Jordan Staal or Tyler Bozak. With his size, smarts, skill and pedigree he could be in the NHL as early as next season. Watch for him to be a 70-point player down the line.
2. C/LW - Michael Dal Colle (CAN) Oshawa Generals (OHL)
Dal Colle has always been a standout since the days of midget and I see no reason why that trend isn’t going to continue in the NHL. He’s a big guy, with more room to grow and size, skill and power make him a tough person to stop in the offensive zone. He can play centre, but more likely figures as a top two line winger in the NHL, similar to what Jeff Carter has been in Los Angeles. He has the chops to potentially step into the NHL as an 18 year old, though the real progression to 60-70 point seasons won’t come for 4-5 years.
3. C/LW - Sam Bennett (CAN) Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Bennett is a bit of a late bloomer in the world of hockey prospects. He still needs to work on his physical build, but it’s hard not to love what he brings to the table. He’s tenacious, does a little bit of everyone on the ice and is one of those players who picks up his team and puts them on his back when the chips are down. He’s not going to play in the NHL right away, but should have a very long NHL career where he puts up around 65 points a season. Think of the skill of Patrick Sharp and tenacity of Nazem Kadri without the ego.
4. C/LW – Will Nylander (SWE) Sodertalje (SEL)
The son of longtime NHLers Michael Nylander is ready-made for the league… born in hockey mad Calgary, played midget in Chicago with their strong mission team, and the past year or two back to Sweden playing alongside his father against much older players. He’s got very good passing skills, a good shot and is familiar with all styles of the game and how to adapt. He could surprise and be in the NHL in a year or two, but it will take some commitment to the gym to do so. His offensive upside is high and could be a 70-point guy in the league, just like his old man used to be.
5. LW – Nick Ritchie (CAN) Peterborough Petes (OHL)
There’s not a lot not to like about Ritchie’s game. He’s big and powerful, he’s skilled and he can shoot and skate. He has all the makings of not only being a future NHLer, but also being one of the best power forwards in the game. Physically he can play in the NHL right now, however it may take a couple seasons of maturity and learning some of the nuances of his team’s offence before his potential kicks in. Bigger players sometimes take a little longer to develop and when he reaches his peak there’s no reason we won’t have another Rick Nash style player on our hands capable of scoring 70-80 points in a season.
6. D – Aaron Ekblad (CAN) Barrie Colts (OHL)
Ekblad projects as a do-everything NHL defender who should log a ton of minutes and put up modest stats, but will be on the ice when it counts. He is physical, smart, mature and a leader and should be in the NHL as soon as next season. Expect him to lead his team in ice time and put up good all round stats, but never be a scoring phenom like some of today’ premier blue liners. Think a modern day Scott Stevens with a little more offensive upside.
7. C/RW – Josh Ho-Sang (CAN) Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Ho-Sang should be a very good point producer in the NHL. He has some all-world hands and can bury the puck at will, but sometimes has forgotten about teammates or looked a little lazy since coming in highly touted from midget. He has good pedigree and a nice wide base and low centre of gravity, which should serve him well. It may take a few years to make it to the show, but he’s someone who will be a steal in this draft and a future first line winger. There’s no reason he can’t be a 75-point guy in the NHL.
8. C – Jared McCann (CAN) Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
McCann is a smooth skating forward who has a great shot, but also knows how to use his teammates to the best of their abilities. Despite his skill, he’s sometimes a little too quick to pass or defer to teammates, but he’s got all the tools to be a very good pro. His game compares quite well to that of a Jaden Schwartz, who does a little bit of everything well and will be a long-time professional. He’s going to take some time to physically mature and adapt to the NHL game, but there’s no reason he won’t be able to make that next step and be a 40-50 point guy.
9. RW/C – Jake Virtanen (CAN) Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Virtanen is a hard-nosed gritty forward with a developing scoring touch. He’s another example of a player who will be a better as a professional than in junior. Getting dirty is never an issue for the big winger, who excels in the corners and plays a hard-nosed game similar to that of a Corey Perry. Physically he could play in the league now, but is still learning to use all of his tools to the best of his abilities. Give him another 2-3 years to make the jump then watch him grow by leaps and bounds.
10. G – Thatcher Demko (USA) Boston College Golden Eagles (NCAA)
Demko is potential stud in the crease. He’s big, he’s athletic and he’s not afraid of aggressively challenging the shooter. Goaltenders are a tough bunch to call, but a little more work on his fundamentals and he should look like another Mike Smith out there; possibly a more skilled version. Expect there to be at least 4-5 years before he makes it to the league, but when he does there should be no looking back as this kid is a future starter. He’s potentially a fantasy hockey dream come true… if you’re willing to be patient for the dividends.
11. D – Roland McKeown (CAN) Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
McKeown likely isn’t getting the kind of respect he deserves from a lot of draft pundits. He’s a big, smart, mobile defenceman who leads by example and makes his team better. Currently he’s getting a little overshadowed by teammate Sam Bennett, but there’s little doubt he’s going to play in a NHL top four for a long time. He’s not really taken advantage of on the power play so far, but has that upside in his future. He is strong, solid and consistent just like Drew Doughty and should be able to put up second tier NHL point for defenders (40 points) down the line. He’s likely a year or two away from joining the NHL, but has the body and build to do so today. McKeown is a good example of a player who will be better in the pros than in junior.
12. RW – Kasperi Kapanen (FIN) KalPa (Finland)
Sami Kapanen’s son is a chip off the old block in more ways than one, but his offensive upside may be more impressive than his old man. The second generation future NHLer is small and fast like his father and doesn’t mind stirring things up, but his shot velocity and quickness in which he lets it loose tends to surprise others. His slight frame should mean he’ll have a slower development to his NHL game, but if he spends the off-seasons in the gym putting on muscle he could streamline the process down to a few years. He could put up 50-60 points in the show, but will need some line mates to create some space for him to operate.
13. C/LW - Leon Draisaitl (GER) Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
The big German, is looking to become the premier face of Deutschland hockey and it shouldn’t take him too long to do so. He comes from good pedigree and is big and skilled enough to make an immediate jump, however the difference in compete levels may keep him an extra year or so in juniors. He projects as a second line forward, since he has offensive skill and potential, but likely isn’t going to produce in big numbers, just solid 40-50 point seasons playing a solid role.
14. D – Anthony DeAngelo (USA) Sarnia Sting (OHL)
DeAngelo isn’t a very tall defender, but he’s thick and has some powerful legs, which should help him deal with the grind of the long NHL season. He’ still a few years away from getting a spot on a roster, but when he does he should have a good NHL upside of around 40 points. He should be a power play quarterback, who can jump into the rush ala what Brian Rafalski used to bring to the table.
Anthony DeAngelo gives you fits. Absolutely dynamic possession player, but turnovers and one on one defensive coverage are real concerns.— Sean Lafortune (@SeanLafortune) February 1, 2014
15. LW – Nikolai Goldobin (RUS) Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Goldobin is smooth and slick on the ice and seemingly can erupt out of nowhere to go on a scoring binge, but just as quickly can fade away into obscurity at different points in the game. There’s little question to his tremendous offensive abilities, but he needs to become more consistent and learn to put the whole package together or drift off into another Maxim Afinogenov. Goldobin isn’t a very big kid, but he has strong legs and core to help propel him along. He’s likely another three years away from being in the show and contributing, though his raw offensive talents make him a very enticing fantasy pickup.
Goldobin has high end skill. Slippery and cool in possession, some impressive elusiveness. Strength on puck and aggressiveness areas to grow— Sean Lafortune (@SeanLafortune) February 1, 2014
16. C/W – Ivan Barbashev (RUS) Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
While there’s a bit of a stigma with Russian kids in the draft as of late, Barbashev is likely as stigma less as you’ll find. He’s still very young and doesn’t mind coming back in his own zone or stepping into a role to help his team win. He has a big frame, a hard shot and is tenacious on the forecheck creating turnovers and scoring opportunities for both himself and his teammates. He’s very fast and is very complete which makes him a pretty attractive target; not to mention he came over to the CHL this year because he wants to be a NHLer. It’s hard to find a comparison for the big Russian, but the likes of a David Backes or Ryan Callahan come to mind considering his two-way game. He could be in the NHL as early as next year, but likely will take at least a couple seasons to find regular duty. He has the potential to be a 50-60 point guy if all goes according to plan.
17. LW – Brendan Perlini (CAN/USA) Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL)
Perlini was a bit of a late developing player with the Ice Dogs… very similar to the way Ryan Strome was a few years back. That’s not to say Perlini has the same upside, puck skills, and passing as Strome, but he has a solid offensive repertoire in his own right. Perlini has a very smooth wrist shot and should be a solid second line winger when he hits his NHL peak. He’s never going to be a high scorer, but a 50-point season or two shouldn’t be out of his wheelhouse. He’s still a few years away from cracking a NHL lineup.
19. C – Nick Schmaltz (USA) USNTDP Under-18 (USHL)
Jordan Schmaltz’s younger brother is one of those players who got a lot of hype as a younger player, but it’s slowly dropped off as other people stepped up to steal the spotlight. He may not have been lighting up the USHL, but the raw skill and natural ability is there to be a breakout candidate down the line in the NHL. He’s going to take some time to develop, especially since he’s a NCAA guy, but he’s smart, slick and has skills similar to Sam Gagner. Once he gets more confident and physically mature he’s a 50-60 point guy in the NHL; you’ll just have to be patient.
20. D – Haydn Fleury (CAN) Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Fleury is a big kid, who is a really good skater. He stands out in the transition game, where as his defensive presence is solid, but not spectacular. He should have a long NHL career, but likely doesn’t have the kind of game, which translates to big point totals similar to the likes of Jay Bouwmeester. He’ll play a lot of minutes and be a very good NHLer, but don’t expect more than 20-30 points in a season.
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