NHL Mock Drafts Revisited: 5 Takeaways from 2014

Hindsight is always helpful, often enlightening, and sometimes humorous too.

In the build-up to my seventh annual NHL mock draft — to be published the morning after the Stanley Cup is handed out in June — I’ve decided to revisit my results over the last six years and provide five takeaways from each of those drafts.

I will highlight my steals and misses, the good and the bad — even the ugly. It should be a fun trip down memory lane for better or worse. There will be humbling reflections and perhaps some boasting too.

For the first three years — 2012, 2013 and 2014 — I was mocking on my own blog site prior to joining THW for the 2015, 2016 and 2017 drafts.

I started by mocking only the first round in 2012, then expanded to two rounds for 2013, before returning to one round in 2014 when I did two versions — one with potential trades and one without.

For THW, I mocked three rounds for 2015 and then attempted all seven rounds for 2016 and 2017, which will be the case again this year as I try to predict all 217 picks while providing at least 100 honourable mentions.

That’s something to look forward to, but let’s turn back time to 2014.

Mock Draft

1) Florida Panthers — Aaron Ekblad (RHD, Canada, Barrie OHL)

2) Buffalo Sabres — Sam Reinhart (C, Canada, Kootenay WHL)

3) Edmonton Oilers — Leon Draisaitl (C, Germany, Prince Albert WHL)

4) Calgary Flames — Sam Bennett (C, Canada, Kingston OHL)

5) New York Islanders — Nikolaj Ehlers (LW, Denmark, Halifax QMJHL)

6) Vancouver Canucks — Jake Virtanen (LW, Canada, Calgary WHL)

7) Carolina Hurricanes — Michael Dal Colle (LW, Canada, Oshawa OHL)

8) Toronto Maple Leafs — Alex Tuch (RW, USA, U18 NTDP)

9) Winnipeg Jets — William Nylander (RW, Sweden, Modo)

10) Anaheim Ducks (from Ottawa) — Haydn Fleury (LHD, Canada, Red Deer WHL)

11) Nashville Predators — Robby Fabbri (LW/C, Canada, Guelph OHL)

12) Arizona Coyotes — Nick Ritchie (LW, Canada, Peterborough OHL)

13) Washington Capitals — Ivan Barbashev (C/LW, Russia, Moncton QMJHL)

14) Dallas Stars — Kasperi Kapanen (RW, Finland, KalPa)

15) Detroit Red Wings — Kevin Fiala (LW, Switzerland/Czech Republic, HV71)

16) Columbus Blue Jackets — Nikita Scherbak (RW, Russia, Saskatoon WHL)

17) Philadelphia Flyers — Brendan Perlini (LW, Canada, Niagara OHL)

18) Minnesota Wild — Sonny Milano (C/LW, USA, U18 NTDP)

19) Tampa Bay Lightning — Julius Honka (RHD, Finland, Swift Current WHL)

20) San Jose Sharks — Dylan Larkin (C, USA, U18 NTDP)

21) St. Louis Blues — Jakub Vrana (RW, Czech Republic, Linkopings)

22) Pittsburgh Penguins — Roland McKeown (RHD, Canada, Kingston OHL)

23) Colorado Avalanche — Travis Sanheim (LHD, Canada, Calgary WHL)

24) Anaheim Ducks — Jared McCann (C, Canada, Sault Ste. Marie OHL)

25) Boston Bruins — Marcus Pettersson (LHD, Sweden, Skelleftea)

26) Montreal Canadiens — Adrian Kempe (C, Sweden, Modo)

27) Chicago Blackhawks — John Quenneville (C, Canada, Brandon WHL)

28) Tampa Bay Lightning (from New York Rangers) — Nikolay Goldobin (RW, Russia, Sarnia OHL)

29) Los Angeles Kings — Conner Bleackley (C, Canada, Red Deer WHL)

30) New Jersey Devils — David Pastrnak (RW, Czech Republic, Sodertalje)

NHL Draft

1) Florida Panthers — Aaron Ekblad

2) Buffalo Sabres — Sam Reinhart

3) Edmonton Oilers — Leon Draisaitl

4) Calgary Flames — Sam Bennett

5) New York Islanders — Michael Dal Colle

6) Vancouver Canucks — Jake Virtanen

7) Carolina Hurricanes — Haydn Fleury

8) Toronto Maple Leafs — William Nylander

9) Winnipeg Jets — Nikolaj Ehlers

10) Anaheim Ducks (from Ottawa) — Nick Ritchie

11) Nashville Predators — Kevin Fiala

12) Arizona Coyotes — Brendan Perlini

13) Washington Capitals — Jakub Vrana

14) Dallas Stars — Julius Honka

15) Detroit Red Wings — Dylan Larkin

16) Columbus Blue Jackets — Sonny Milano

17) Philadelphia Flyers — Travis Sanheim

18) Minnesota Wild — Alex Tuch

19) Tampa Bay Lightning — Anthony DeAngelo (RHD, USA, Sarnia OHL)

20) Chicago Blackhawks (from San Jose) — Nick Schmaltz (C, USA, Green Bay USHL)

21) St. Louis Blues — Robby Fabbri

22) Pittsburgh Penguins — Kasperi Kapanen

23) Colorado Avalanche — Conner Bleackley

24) Vancouver Canucks (from Anaheim) — Jared McCann

25) Boston Bruins — David Pastrnak

26) Montreal Canadiens — Nikita Scherbak

27) San Jose Sharks (from Chicago) — Nikolay Goldobin

28) New York Islanders (from New York Rangers via Tampa Bay) — Josh Ho-Sang (RW, Canada, Windsor OHL)

29) Los Angeles Kings — Adrian Kempe

30) New Jersey Devils — John Quenneville

6 Hits

Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
Aaron Ekblad was ranked as the top prospect for 2014, but he wasn’t a consensus first overall pick and there was speculation at the time that Florida preferred some of the forwards. But Dale Tallon went with the defenceman — as did I — and it proved to be the right choice.

My 2014 mock was a smashing success, especially off the top in going 4-for-4 and getting five of the first six picks bang-on, while nailing both of Vancouver’s first-round selections — even if the second one was acquired on the draft floor from Anaheim as part of the Ryan Kesler trade.

I recall Ekblad being the consensus No. 1, followed by three closely grouped forwards, but there was plenty of debate over the order in which Reinhart, Draisaitl and Bennett would be selected. I did my research and managed to get those three right.

I also had Vancouver selecting local boy Virtanen at No. 6 and had McCann going at the No. 24 spot, originally to Anaheim.

3 Misses

(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
Nick Schmaltz was seen as something of a reach in the first round of 2014, but now he’s centering Patrick Kane and looking like a key cog for Chicago’s future.

Part of what makes a good mock is matching the prospects to the teams — the hits — but I’ve always felt the more important part is getting as many of the prospects as possible within a round.

The first round of 2014 was another strong showing for me, with my only misses being Barbashev, McKeown and Pettersson – replaced by DeAngelo, Nick Schmaltz and Ho-Sang.

Not sure what I had against the Schmaltz brothers — likely just a lack of USHL scouting and connections back then — but I had previously missed on Jordan in 2012 as well.

DeAngelo and Ho-Sang both had big upside — and still do — but questions about their character, which also still persist, scared me off.

Barbashev, McKeown and Pettersson were all selected in the second round at Nos. 33, 50 and 38, respectively. Those three have all played NHL games and should be able to carve out full-time roles in the future. So at least I didn’t “reach” for any obvious busts.

Stellar Draft

This isn’t so much an observation on my mock – though I’m proud to say I got 27-of-30 prospects right in the first round — but the 2014 draft in general produced terrific results.

Back then, it wasn’t viewed as a particularly strong or deep draft class, but the 2014 prospects have exceeded expectations and are mostly impact players in the present.

(Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)
Conner Bleackley belonged on the stage as a first-round pick in 2014, but he didn’t develop from there and Colorado decided against signing him. He was drafted again in 2016, in the fifth round (144th overall) by St. Louis, but played more games in the ECHL than the AHL in 2017-18.

Bleackley is the only first-round pick who has yet to make his NHL debut and more than half — 16 — have played at least 100 regular-season games to date. Ekblad is the only one to eclipse 300, but a half-dozen others have already surpassed 200 games.

It’s possible that all but two will be NHL regulars next season. Those two being Bleackley and Dal Colle. That is some good drafting, both in mock and in reality.

Big-League Blunders

Michael Dal Colle
(THW file photo)
Michael Dal Colle may not be a full-on bust yet, but he probably wouldn’t be a first-round pick — certainly not top 10 — in a re-draft of 2014.

Almost everybody got a player out of this draft, but Garth Snow was the only general manager to go wrong in the top 10. The Islanders obviously wish they went my guy, Ehlers, instead of Dal Colle.

Virtanen is becoming a useful player, but Vancouver would swap him in a heartbeat for Ehlers or Nylander or just about anybody else in the top 30 not named Bleackley or Dal Colle.

Speaking of Bleackley, could you imagine Pastrnak playing for Colorado? Or even Kempe? That pick continues to haunt the Avs, but they have done much better in recent years under Joe Sakic.

Still Liking My Picks

Ehlers over Dal Colle is a no-brainer today, but my order after the top six was quite different than how it played out.

I was a little late on a lot of guys, but some of my picks would have worked out just as well or arguably better — such as Fabbri over Fiala to Nashville at No. 11, Kapanen over Honka to Dallas at No. 14, and Kempe over Scherbak to Montreal at No. 26.

Worth noting, my just-for-fun mock involving trades was wildly wrong for the most part, but that version had Edmonton drafting Ekblad at No. 3 and Tuch at No. 16 — the latter pick fictitiously acquired from Columbus for Sam Gagner, who did eventually become a Blue Jacket. Could you imagine Ekblad and Tuch on the Oilers?

That version, for all of its inaccuracies from top to bottom, also only had three misses and was better in a couple ways. It had Ho-Sang in the first round (No. 24 to Anaheim) over Quenneville, and it also had Pastrnak higher at No. 22 from No. 30. Barbashev and McKeown were still misses, but the third was Thatcher Demko (No. 27 to Chicago) instead of Pettersson. Depending how he does at the NHL level in the coming seasons, that Demko pick may end up looking like a good one in the first round. In reality, Demko was a second-rounder, No. 36 to Vancouver, and he appears to be the Canucks’ goaltender of the future.

All in all, 2014 stands out as an impressive draft — more so than anticipated at the time.