Photo: Getty Images
The 2014 NHL Entry Draft took place June 27-28 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The cry of the tanking teams that year was “Be Bad for Ekblad”, as Aaron Ekblad was considered to be the top defenseman available in the draft. So, the question was, would Ekblad go first or would one of the talented forwards be chosen first.
As it turned out, the 2014 draft class had more surprises than usual. The draft class was one where the vast majority of teams were likely not very happy with their first round pick, as they left a better player on the board.
The German sentence “Nummer Drei War Die Beste” summed up the draft very well. For those who don’t understand German, it means “Number Three Was the Best”. Yes, indeed, the best player in this draft, as far as overall point productivity, was the third overall pick, Leon Draisaitl, who was born in Germany.
Pick #1 — Aaron Ekblad – Florida Panthers – Defenseman
Ekblad has played with the Florida Panthers since his first post-draft season of 2014-15, and remains their number one defenseman. He has also contributed on offense, generally getting more than 10 goals per year. He became an Alternate Captain during the 2016-17 season and has been an Alternate Captain ever since.
Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Pick #2 — Sam Reinhart– Buffalo Sabres – Center
Reinhart played in nine games for the Sabres during the 2014-15 season. He became a full time NHL player in 2015-16, and has been a perennial 20-goal scorer, even during the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. Since Buffalo could never lock him up in a long term deal, they traded him to the Florida Panthers prior to the 2021-22 season. Reinhart signed a three-year deal with Florida after the trade.
Pick #3 — Leon Draisaitl – Edmonton Oilers – Center
Draisaitl played nearly half the 2014-15 season with the Oilers, but after a brief stint in the minors, was brought back to the Oilers during the 2015-16 season when he became a full time NHL player. During 2019-20, he won the Art Ross Trophy for most NHL points, the Hart Trophy for Most Valuable Player, and the Ted Lindsay Trophy for Best NHL Player, as voted by fellow players. He has the most assists and most points among the members of the 2014 draft class and ranks second in goals, with one less goal than David Pastrnak. The choice of him can be described in German as “Nummer Drei War Die Beste”.
Photo: From NHL.com
Pick #4 — Sam Bennett– Calgary Flames – Center
Bennett played in one game for the Flames in 2014-15 and became a full time NHL player during the 2015-16 season. He remained with the Flames through the 2020-21 and was then traded to the Florida Panthers at the trade deadline. His best year was his rookie season of 2015-16, but had fallen out of favor with the Flames by the end of his tenure there. During the 2021 offseason, he signed a four-year contract with the Panthers. The Panthers now have two players named Sam who were early picks in the 2014 NHL Entry draft, Sam Reinhart and Sam Bennett, neither of whom they drafted.
Pick #5 – Michael Dal Colle – New York Islanders – Left Wing
Dal Colle did not appear in the NHL until the 2017-18 season, when he played in four games for the Islanders. It took until January 17, 2019 for him to score his first NHL goal. The Isles declined to give him a qualifying offer after the 2020-21 season, so he is now an unrestricted free agent and has not yet signed another contract.
Pick #6 — Jake Virtanen – Vancouver Canucks – Right Wing
Virtanen debuted in the NHL during the 2015-16 season but did not remain with the Canucks for a full season until the 2017-18 season. He remained with the Canucks from the 2017-18 through 2020-21 seasons. The Canucks put him on leave following allegations of sexual misconduct and bought-out the last year of his contract after the 2020-21 season. He is now an Unrestricted Free Agent who has not yet signed a contract.
Pick #7 – Haydn Fleury — Carolina Hurricanes – Defense
Fleury did not make his NHL debut until the 2017-18 season. He finally remained in the NHL full time in 2019-20. He was traded to the Anaheim Ducks at the trade deadline of 2020-21. He was never able to earn a role with the Hurricanes’ deep defensive squad, and thus, never re-signed. The Ducks left him exposed in the Expansion Draft where the Seattle Kraken chose him.
Pick #8 — William Nylander – Toronto Maple Leafs – Right Wing
Nylander made his NHL debut late in the 2015-16 season as the Leafs strategy was to let him marinate in the Swedish Elite League, and then the AHL. He has been with the Leafs full time since 2016-17 and is one of their key players. He has generally scored 20 or more goals per year, except during the 2018-19 season, when he joined the team late to a protracted contract negotiation, and the shortened 2019-20 season.
Photo: Getty Images from NHLPA.com
Pick #9 — Nikolaj Ehlers – Winnipeg Jets – Left Wing
Ehlers joined the Jets for the 2015-16 season and has remained with them since then. He perennially scores between 20-30 goals for them every year and typically records 30 assists during a full season.
Pick #10 — Nick Ritchie – Anaheim Ducks – Left Wing
Nick Ritchie originally joined the Ducks during the 2015-16 season. He played for them until 2019-20 when he was traded to the Boston Bruins at the trade deadline and has remained with them thru the 2020-21 season, after which he signed a contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He typically scores between 8-15 goals per season.
Pick #11 — Kevin Fiala – Nashville Predators – Left Wing
Fiala played in a handful of games for the Predators in 2014-15 and 2015-16. He played nearly two thirds of the 2016-17 season with the Predators and remained with them for the entire 2017-18 season. He was traded to the Minnesota Wild at the 2018-19 trade deadline and has remained with them since. He typically scores about 20 goals per season.
Pick #12 — Brendan Perlini — Phoenix Coyotes – Left Wing
Perlini played most of the 2016-17 season with the Coyotes and became a full time player with them in 2017-18 and scored 17 goals. He remained with them through early 2018-19 when he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks. After that, he played with Detroit Red Wings and played the 2020-21 season in Switzerland. However, he is returning to North America for the 2021-22 season as he signed a two-way contract with the Edmonton Oilers.
Pick #13 — Jakub Vrana – Washington Capitals – Left Wing/Right Wing
Vrana made his NHL debut during the 2016-17 season, playing in 21 games. He became a full time NHL player during the 2017-18 season and was part of the Capitals’ Stanley Cup winning team of 2018. He remained with the Caps until he was traded to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Anthony Mantha at the 2020-21 trade deadline.
Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Pick #14 — Julius Honka – Dallas Stars – Defense
Honka made his NHL debut during the 2016-17 season, playing in 16 games. He remained in the Stars’ organization through 2018-19 but was never able to earn a full time role. He played the 2019-20 and part of the 2020-21 seasons in the Finnish league but returned to the Stars organization after the NHL pause due to Covid was over. Since he was unable to further his NHL career, he signed a two-year contract to play in the Swedish League.
Pick #15 — Dylan Larkin – Detroit Red Wings – Center
After spending one season at the University of Michigan, Larkin joined the Red Wings for the 2015-16 season. He immediately became a fixture in their lineup and has been with the Red Wings ever since. He became their alternate Captain during the 2018-19 season and became their Captain during the 2020-21 season. His best season was 2018-19 when he had 32 goals and 41 assists.
Pick #16 — Sonny Milano — Columbus Blue Jackets – Left Wing
Milano played in a handful of games for the Blue Jackets during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. He mostly played with Columbus but played some with their AHL affiliate during both the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. He was traded to the Anaheim Ducks during the 2018-19 season and has remained in the Ducks’ organization since, but has still not earned a full-time role in the NHL.
Pick #17 — Travis Sanheim – Philadelphia Flyers – Defense
Sanheim made his NHL debut during the 2017-18 season. He became a full time NHL player in 2018-19 and has remained the Flyers ever since. He recently signed a two-year contract extension with the Flyers.
Pick #18 — Alex Tuch — Minnesota Wild – Right Wing
Tuch made his NHL debut for the Minnesota Wild during the 2016-17 season but only played in a handful of games with them. He was traded to the Las Vegas Golden Knights prior to the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. He generally scores between 15-20 goals per season. He is best known for being the shooter for whom Capitals goalie Braden Holtby made an incredible save in the second game of the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals. He remains with the Knights although he will start the 2021-22 season late because of shoulder surgery.
Pick #19 — Tony DeAngelo – Tampa Bay Lightning — Defense
The Lightning traded DeAngelo to the Arizona Coyotes during the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. He made his NHL debut and scored his first NHL goal on November 8, 2016. He was traded again in June 2017, this time to the New York Rangers. His career included multiple suspensions for maturity, abuse of officials, and other behavioral issues. He became a full-time NHL player with the Rangers during the 2018-19 season. But after multiple behavioral incidents, including a fight with a teammate, the Rangers waived him early in the 2020-21 season and bought-out his contract when the season ended. He signed a contract with the Carolina Hurricanes in free agency prior to 2021-22.
Pick #20 — Nick Schmaltz – Chicago Blackhawks – Right Wing
Schmaltz made his NHL debut during the 2016-17 season, playing most of the season with the Blackhawks, and spent the entire 2017-18 season with the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks traded him to the Arizona Coyotes early in the 2018-19 season where he missed the last half of the season with a major knee injury. He still remains a member of the Coyotes.
Pick #21 — Robby Fabbri – St. Louis Blues – Center
Fabbri joined the Blues for the 2015-16 season and remained with them through the 2018-19 season, except for one conditioning stint in the AHL. He had been a very productive player for the Blues until suffering two severe knee injuries. He was part of the Blues team that won the Stanley Cup in 2019 although he did not play in all the team’s games during their playoff run. The Blues traded him to the Detroit Red Wings early during the 2019-20 season. He has been with the Red Wings ever since.
Pick #22 — Kasperi Kapanen – Pittsburgh Penguins — Right Wing
The Penguins traded Kapanen to the Toronto Maple Leafs prior to the 2015-16 season. He played in a handful of games for the Leafs during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons and nearly half the season with them in 2017-18. He played with the Leafs in 2018-19 and 2019-20. He was traded back to the team that originally drafted him, the Pittsburgh Penguins, before the 2020-21 season, where he remains.
Photo: The Athletic/Getty Images
Pick #23 — Conner Bleackley – Colorado Avalanche – Center
The Avalanche never signed Bleackley to an entry-level contract and, at the 2016 trade deadline, traded his rights to the Arizona Coyotes, who also declined to sign him to a contract. He went back into the 2016 NHL Entry Draft where the St Louis Blues selected him and signed him to an NHL Entry Level Contract. He never did make it into the NHL. Bleackley was truly a first round bust, as he was the only player from the first round of his draft class who never played a single NHL game. Avalanche memories of his selection could be describe by the first syllable of his last name.
Pick #24 — Jared McCann – Vancouver Canucks — Center
McCann played with the Canucks during the entire 2015-16 season, but the Canucks traded him to the Florida Panthers after that season. He became a full time NHL player with the Panthers during the 2017-18 season. During the 2018-19 season, the Panthers traded him to the Pittsburgh Penguins with whom he remained until the Seattle Kraken selected him in the expansion draft before the 2021-22 season.
Pick #25 — David Pastrnak – Boston Bruins – Right Wing
Pastrnak made his NHL debut during the 2014-15 season where he played 46 games with the Bruins and 25 in the AHL. Aside from three minor league games during the 2015-16 season, he has been a full time NHL player ever since. He tied for the league lead in goals during the 2019-20 season with Alex Ovechkin. He is first in goals for his draft class, with one more goal than Leon Draisaitl. He is second in assists and overall points for this draft class, behind only Draisaitl.
Pick #26 — Nikita Scherbak – Montreal Canadiens – Right Wing
Scherbak made his NHL debut with Montreal during the 2016-17 season. He was never able to earn a full time role with the Canadiens and was traded to the Los Angeles Kings during 2018-19. He played in the KHL during 2019-20 but then returned to North America to play for the Dallas Stars’ AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars, during 2020-21.
Pick #27 — Nikolay Goldobin – San Jose Sharks – Left Wing
Goldobin debuted with the Sharks during the 2015-16 season but only appeared in a handful of games before he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks in 2016-17. He bounced up and down with the Canucks but finally played a full season for them in 2018-19. However, in 2019-20, he was waived and sent to the minors where he stayed for the season. During 2020-21, he signed a two year contract to play in the KHL.
Pick #28 — Josh Ho-Sang – New York Islanders — Right Wing
Ho-Sang made his debut with the Islanders and played portions of three seasons with them from 2016-17 through 2018-19, but never earned a full time role with them. His time in the organization was very tumultuous and controversial, to say the least. He played the 2019-20 season in the minors for two different AHL teams. He spent the 2020-21 season on loan to teams in the Swedish league. Afterwards, he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs on a player tryout contract.
Pick #29 — Adrian Kempe – Los Angeles Kings – Center
Kempe made his NHL debut during the 2015-16 season with the Kings and has been with the team ever since. He scores between 10-16 goals per year and has served in a variety of roles with the team. He has played at both center and wing and has played on both the power play and penalty kill.
Pick #30 — John Quenneville – New Jersey Devils – Center
Quenneville made his NHL debut with the New Jersey Devils on 12/1/2016. He played portions of three seasons with them (2016-17 through 2018-19) but never earned a full time NHL role. The Devils traded him to the Chicago Blackhawks before the 2019-20 season where he played in just nine games. He did not play in the NHL at all during 2020-21. He played in just 42 NHL games with two goals and three assists. After 2020-21, he signed a tryout contract with the Swiss club, ZSC Lions, in the National League.
Notable Later Round Picks
The most notable players drafted in rounds after the first round were Brayden Point, who the Tampa Bay Lightning selected in the third round, Viktor Arvidsson, who the Nashville Predators drafted in the fourth round, Kevin Labanc who the San Jose Sharks draft in the sixth round, and Christian Dvorak who the Arizona Coyotes drafted in the second round.
Two notable goalies who excelled for Russia in World Junior Championships were also selected: Igor Shesterkin (Round 4 with Pick #118) and Ilya Sorokin (Islanders in Round 3 with Pick #78). Two goalies drafted in Round 2 also earned regular roles for teams that ultimately made the playoffs: Vitek Vanecek (Pick #37) and Alex Nedeljkovic (Pick #39).
In this draft, two players proved to be head and shoulders above every other player in the draft, Leon Draisaitl and David Pastrnak. Most teams, besides the Edmonton Oilers (who drafted Draisaitl) and the Boston Bruins (who drafted Pastrnak) probably feel like they missed a golden opportunity to draft a superstar.
There were also two later round picks who cracked the Top 10 in goals and points, Brayden Point, who Tampa Bay drafted in the second round, and Viktor Arvidsson, who Nashville drafted in the fourth round. The order of players for productivity in goals and/points did not at all conform to the actual draft order or to any of the mock drafts conducted prior to the actual draft.
The worst first round bust was Conner Bleackley who never made it to the NHL and who Colorado chose two picks before the Bruins chose Pastrnak. Other draft busts who played less than 80 NHL games were Nikita Scherbak, Josh Ho-Sang, and John Quenneville.
Julius Honka played more than 80 NHL games but more than 100. Michael Dal Colle, chosen fifth overall by the New York Islanders, fared relatively poorly among the top ten draftees that year, as he played just 111 NHL games in his career. As a team, the New York Islanders fared poorly in the first round, considering they had two first round picks who prove to be busts, Dal Colle and Ho-Sang.
This draft had several first rounders who had either work ethic or behavior issues. Jake Virtanen had allegations of sexual abuse against him and was put on a leave of absence. Tony DeAngelo was frequently traded due to behavioral issues and most recently had his contract bought out. Michael Dal Colle, Josh Ho-Sang, and Connor Bleackley reportedly had issues with work ethic which led to their demises as potential NHL players.
By Diane Doyle