The Hockey Gods either have no sense of humor at all, or are hilarious. It's one of the two, no in between. Take as an example the decision looming in Edmonton. They draft third overall, one spot ahead of Calgary, and there are FOUR very good prospects at the top of the draft.
Or is the number four? I spoke to draft guru Corey Pronman earlier this week and he gave the impression that the gap between the top four and number five isn't large, if it exists at all. Who ARE these players who can compete with Ekblad, Reinhart, Bennett and Draisaitl.
2014 DRAFT ELIGIBILES USING VOLLMAN NHL EQUIVALENCIES (per 82gp)
- Sam Bennett (OHL) 16-23-39
- Robby Fabri (OHL) 19-18-37
- Sam Reinhart (WHL) 13-24-37
- Nikolaj Ehlers (QMJHL) 17-18-35
- Michael Dal Colle (OHL) 14-21-35
- Leon Draisaitl (WHL) 13-22-35
- Nick Ritchie (OHL) 16-14-30
- Ivan Barbashev (QMJHL) 11-19-30
- Brendan Perlini (OHL) 14-16-30
- Jake Virtanen (WHL) 14-7-21
Vollman equivalencies take the air out of junior and college numbers (plus Euro) and give us a level playing field. This is an estimate of NHL performance for these prospects based on their junior boxcars. Bennett, Reinhart and Draisaitl are the top ranked forwards (this is the F group, Ekblad is a D), but we see Robby Fabbri and Nikolaj Ehlers in the range, along with Michael Dal Colle.
I'd estimate Dal Colle is #5 on the list, with Ehlers close and then Ritchie. However, that's right now, those numbers will be impacted by the NHL combine and the arguments (and that's what they are) scouting staffs will have from now until the end of June.
Two players we should be talking about are Euro's William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen.
Kapanen's skill set is described by Future Considerations via Elite Prospects: Kapanen is a small and slippery with very creative hands and impressive 1-on-1 arsenal. He has a decent shot with good release but needs added velocity. He has quick feet and impressive lateral agility and is a dangerous goal scorer who can make skilled passes and offensive zone reads.
Nylander's skills, same source: Nylander is an extremely skilled, dynamic player who has quick hands and feet that make him dangerous offensively. He has great top-end speed, a strong burst and elite vision. He can distribute the puck like few other his age. An intelligent player, he out-thinks opponents regularly.
Back to the original question: if you're Edmonton, who do you take?
I think it goes like this.
1. If Florida takes Ekblad, and Buffalo takes Sam Bennett, you trade down to the Islanders. They take Reinhart, the Oilers get #5 and something nice for the transaction.
2. If Florida takes Ekblad, and Buffalo takes Sam Reinhart, the Oilers have to decide between Draisaitl and Bennett. I think there's growing evidence that Bennett is the better prospect, based on math and range of skills.
The more I think about this, the more I like Edmonton to trade out of the number three slot. If the choice is Bennett versus Draisaitl, and they like Dal Colle or Nylander or Ehlers almost as much, the asset received from the Islanders might put this over the top.
What is that asset? No idea.
Math tells us that, offensively, there's not a lot to choose between these prospects. If the players with the widest range of skills (Ekblad and Bennett) are off the board, dealing down might be the better plan.
And there's a chance, a CHANCE, they could trade down, get an asset, and still pocket Draisaitl. This draft is getting more interesting by the minute.