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The countdown has begun.
We are now one month until Christmas or as some call it - The 2014 NHL Draft.
So with that in mind I'll take may best crack at a mock draft. Today is the first round, with tomorrow's blog covering the second round.
Here we go...
1. Florida Panthers- Aaron Ekblad, D, Barrie
This pick is a no brainer for the Panthers. They have consistently been at the bottom in goals against and they also need a true leader amongst their young players. Ekblad is the perfect building block to slot in next to Barkov and Hubereau.
2. Buffalo Sabres- Sam Bennett, C, Kingston
The rumours are out there that the Sabres like him, so I think they take him. The edge that he plays with will also fit in well with the feisty players they have selected over the past couple years.
3. Edmonton Oilers- Sam Reinhart, C, Kootenay
The Oilers get a gift here with the draft's best player falling into their lap. I know a lot of people have concerns that he is too similar to the guys they already have, but you take the BPA and figure out what you do later.
4. Calgary Flames- Leon Draisaitl, C, Prince Albert
Calgary continues the rebuild by adding another big, "A list centre down the middle. He's the perfect 1A centre to play with Monahan and he will make the Flames tough to play against for years to come.
5. New York Islanders- William Nylander, C, MoDo
The Islanders go a little bit off the board and take a player that is loaded with skill. Nylander is a ways away from the NHL, but with all the Isles young players they have time to let him develop.
6. Vancouver Canucks- Michael Dal Colle, LW/C, Oshawa
Jim Benning breaks Bolt's 100M-world record, as he gets to the podium in about two seconds. Dal Colle brings with him the character, maturity and skill to change the Canucks culture in one pick.
7. Carolina Hurricanes- Jake Virtanen, LW, Calgary
The Canes need wingers to player with the Staal boys and Virtanen is the most physically gifted player in the draft. He likely won't be ready next season because of his shoulder, but he will be a superstar one-day.
8. Toronto Maple Leafs- Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Halifax
Ehlers just feels like a Leafs type of pick. His speed and skill will help their prospect pool and in the long run he'll help them offensively.
9. Winnipeg Jets- Nicholas Ritchie, LW, Peterborough
The Jets love size and they are quietly building a team that will be hard to handle along the wall. Ritchie might even be able to slot in next season and the thought of Ritchie, Scheifele and Kane as a top line should scare a lot of teams.
10. Anaheim Ducks (from Ott)- Alex Tuch, RW, USADP
The Ducks might have the best young talent in the NHL and they add to it by taking a big, physical forward. Tuch projects to be a David Backes style of player and that fits in well in the West.
11. Nashville Predators- Robby Fabbri, C, Guelph
The Preds always take the best player and Fabbri is one of the best left on the board. Fabbri plays a complete game and the kid is a winner. He'll look good in Nashville's top-6 in a few years.
12. Arizona Coyotes- Kasperi Kapanen, RW, Kuopio
All they do is take former players kids, so Kapanen is a no brainer here. He plays a complete game that fits well with the Yotes system and he'll give them a boost offensively.
13. Washington Capitals- Haydn Fleury, D, Red Deer
He's the best player available and he fits what the Capitals need: defence. I also happen to think his upside is every bit as good as Ekblad's upside. Watch him be a steal on draft day.
14. Dallas Stars- Brendan Perlini, LW, Niagara
"I like big wingers and I can not lie, those other brothers can't deny, should be the motto of the Dallas Stars. Perlini, Benn, Ritchie and Chiasson is a lot of skill and beef up front for the Stars.
15. Detroit Red Wings- Travis Sanheim, D, Calgary
The Wings make the first real off the board type of pick as they take this year's big riser. Sanheim has a lot of untapped upside and in the Wings system he'll be a good one once he spends some time developing in the Dub and the AHL.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets- Kevin Fiala, C, HV 71
The Jackets have drafted a lot gritty, hard working, skilled guys as of late, but they don't really have a game breaker in their system. Fiala fills that role in their system and might be NHL ready sooner rather then later.
17. Philadelphia Flyers- Josh Ho-Sang, RW/C, Windsor
The Flyers like the OHL/QMJHL and they take one of the more interesting players of this year's draft. Ho-Sang has some questions surrounding him, but Philly isn't shy about controversy. They take one of the most skilled players in the draft.
18. Minnesota Wild- Jakub Vrana, C, Linkoping
He reminds me a lot of Hertl in his draft year and that is too good to pass on with the 18th pick. He plays a complete game and fits well with the new style that the Wild have played the past couple of years.
19. Tampa Bay Lightning- Jared McCann, C, Sault Ste. Marie
He has some consistency issues, but when he's on, he looks like one of the most complete players in this year's draft. With the Bolts depth they can wait on him to become a very good 2/3 line player.
20. San Jose Sharks- Conner Bleackley, C, Red Deer
Conner Bleakley will be a pro player for a long time. He's one of those guys that can do it all and is in the mold of Sharks stars Couture and Pavelski. Look for this kid to be one of the steals on draft day and play a lot of NHL games.
21. St. Louis Blues- Adrian Kempe, C/RW, MoDo Jr.
He already has the size and skating to play in the NHL next season and as he develops the skill should come along with it. The Blues get a steal here and a player that fits their system perfectly.
22. Pittsburgh Penguins- Dylan Larkin, LW, USADP
He's a real complete player that fills the Penguins need of adding more forward depth in their prospect ranks. Look for Larkin to be NHL ready in two-to-three years and slot into the Pens top-9.
23. Colorado Avalanche- Ivan Barbashev, C, Moncton
The Avs go back to Roy's old stomping grounds and take a player that he would have got a good look at last season. Barbashev has top-6 skill with the right character to win. Another complete player picked here.
24. Anaheim Ducks- Julius Honka, D, Swift Current
With two first round picks you can swing for the fences and take a player with all-world skill. Honka has loads of skill and he has all the makings of being an Erik Karlsson type of player.
25. Boston Bruins- John Quenneville, C, Brandon
The Bruins like complete players and Quenneville has that type of pedigree. He also has NHL bloodlines - Quenneville and Boychuk - so he knows how hard you need to work in the NHL.
26. Montreal Candiens- Nikolay Goldobin, RW, Sarnia
The Canadiens take one of the best pure snipers in this year's draft. Goldobin has a great shot and he's not afraid of driving the net. While he has his defensive deficiencies, the kid can score.
27. Chicago Blackhawks- Brendan Lemieux, LW, Barrie
The Blackhawks like taking tough players that are hard to play against and that is Lemieux to a tee. He'll be an NHLer for a longtime. Hometown fans will love him, road fans...not so much.
28. Tampa Bay Lightning (from NYR) - Sonny Milano, LW, USADP
Milano is the best one of the best players left on the board. He has good skill to develop into a solid top-9 guy, with top-6 upside. He's also going to maybe the best college program in the world - Boston College.
29. Los Angeles Kings- Anthony DeAngelo, D, Sarnia
The Kings have a lot of good young players, so they can afford to take a risk year. There are questions around his character, but no one will deny that DeAngelo has all-world skill.
30. New Jersey Devils- Roland McKeown, D, Kingston
While the Devils are loaded on the backend with prospects, McKeown is too good to pass on here. He has all the makings to be a solid defencman that can log 22-25 minutes a night. Give me that type of player all day long with the 30th pick.
Turn in tomorrow for Round two.
That's a wrap