Draft Report Card: NHL Entry Draft 2014

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The C’s:

Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh has been a weird team to watch this offseason; after losing every 3-1 lead the team had in the playoffs, they became the last team to hire a new head coach in the scramble for new administration following a mildly abysmal cup run this spring.

For this reason alone, I expected new GM Jim Rutherford to go one of two ways with his draft selections- either play if safe and pick solid, Pittsburgh-friendly players to develop (much like the picks made by Boston), or make the first moves towards rebuilding the team (much like the picks made by Arizona). Instead, he sort of floated along, picking up a mish-mash of players that didn’t fit into any particular system ideal moving forward. His first round selection was Kasperi Kapanen, the son of former player Sami Kapanen, who went twenty-second overall. This seemed like an obvious move, since not only had Kapanen fallen far from his projected eighth overall pick, but his father had played for Rutherford back when he was GM of the Carolina Hurricanes.

After this pick, though, Rutherford picked up a lukewarm right wing in the third round, two big, bruiser-like forwards in the fifth and six rounds, and a stay-at-home defenseman from Union College in the final round. None of these players look particularly exciting, nor do they fit the current mold Pittsburgh has formed. I won’t fail them, because Kapanen is a solid pick- but if I were a Penguins fan, I can’t say I’d be happy with the way the draft went, overall.

Florida Panthers

Florida started off strong, picking up Wonderboy defenseman Aaron Ekblad first overall. This was an expected move, though. It’s not difficult or shocking to net the top ranked prospect with the first overall pick; I would have applauded the team far more had they made good on the rumors that they had been shopping the pick, and picked a more solid group to add to their system. Once the first pick had been made, the Panthers didn’t put much effort in. They brought home Jayce Hawryluk, Juho Lammikko, Joe Wegwerth, Miguel Fidler and Hugo Fagerblom- none of whom were diamonds in the rough, nor the kinds of players that could stand out on their own. The team may be trying to build a future around Ekblad, but that seems like a poor move to make. It’s hard to tell how well a player will fit into a system before his entry draft, and this could hurt the Panthers in the long run if the OHL superstar ends up a no-go.

Obviously Ekblad was the best player they were going to find, but the fact he’s the best value player they netted is something that shouldn’t be said- especially for a team that’s deeply entrenched in a rebuilding period. They should have spent less time fielding offers and done more scouting. Aside from Ekblad, simple not good enough for the Panthers.

Edmonton Oilers

Edmonton is one of the teams that I’ve been keeping a close watch on recently. The team’s first line is young, dynamic, and already well-established as a trio, and their captain- former Bruins D-man Andrew Ference- has brought phenomenal leadership skills to the young team. I give them a ‘C’, though, because I don’t necessarily agree with their decision to draft Leon Draisaitl third overall. I had expected them to pick up a fast, dynamic forward like Sam Bennett, or even the first defenseman of this year’s draft class; instead, they picked up a player who doesn’t shine to me like I want the Oilers to in the coming seasons. They also failed to address how weak the goaltending prospects are on the Oklahoma City Barons, which seemed like a poor move to me. Teams like Boston didn’t need to draft another goalie; Edmonton did.