Draft Report Card: NHL Entry Draft 2014

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Teams that hovered between a B and C:

Nashville Predators

It may seem strange to see a team who picked up someone as huge as James Neal during the draft hovering somewhere between a B and a C, but Nashville made some shifty moves when they picked up both Neal and their first round pick, Kevin Fiala. If you Google Fiala, you’ll see report after report of how explosive, elusive, and dynamic he is in front of the net. He can outskate his opponents easily, and in three consecutive season in the Swiss Top Mini series, he scored an average of almost three goals per game. He’s not particularly good on defense, though, resulting in a few seasons with negative +/- ratings despite his high goal numbers, and has been known to deliberately go against the game plan when told to change his game by coaches. Nashville may have filled their offensive arsenal, following the acquisitions of Neal and Fiala with Vladislav Kamenev, Justin Kirkland, and Jack Dougherty being picked in later rounds- but if they can’t meet in the middle with the talent they’ve chosen, they might become the next incarnation of the Washington Capitals.

New York Rangers

The Rangers didn’t pick in the first round for a perfectly justifiable reason. After all, the pick had been sent to Tampa Bay with Ryan Callahan during the middle of the season in exchange for Martin St. Louis, who arguably had one of the biggest impacts on the team in their incredible postseason run to Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final. They also selected two goaltenders; Brandon Halverson of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the second round, and Igor Shersterkin of the MHL and KHL in the fourth, which can be justified by their need to develop strong goaltenders to succeed in the era following King Lundqvist.

What can’t be justified, though, is the way New York failed to address their need for strong scorers in their prospect system. They only grabbed two forwards, instead selecting three defensemen- and none of these five guys are particularly known for their scoring abilities. The lack of a two-way defenseman in the seven players selected by New York makes me think that their scouts spent so long looking for the perfect goaltenders, they forgot to look at everyone else.

Montreal Canadiens

The Habs may have overthrown the Bruins this year during a devastating seventh game in the playoffs, but it’s clear that they still draft with their historic rivals in mind. Two of their first few picks were big, bruiser-like defenseman who seemed to have been chosen in order to add some size and roughness to the club. They also snagged the son of one of the team’s own scouts in the fifth round, as five-foot-nine flier forward Daniel Audette was picked up 147th overall.

Both of these moves seemed poor to me, though. It’s clear that the Canadiens are able to win games against bigger teams through skills, speed, and persistence, so trying to change a system that seems to already be working would appear to be the wrong move. In addition, Audette had +/- ratings in the -30’s during his past two seasons due to a complete lack of defensive ability, which makes him a strange choice in selection on a team that- up until that pick- seemed to be adding bulk and blue-line friendly players. They also nabbed a goalie in one of the final rounds, which seemed odd, considering how rich their netminding prospect pool is at the moment. My only definitive praise is for the team’s first overall pick. Nikita Sherbak, who was selected 26th overall, is inevitably going to prove to be a valuable steal for the Habs. He’s a bit unrefined as a player, but has the kind of extraordinary intangible talent that can take him much farther than any formal training could. With the right development, he could become that breakout star that Montreal has been searching for.