The 2014 NHL Draft will be a great opportunity for teams to shore up positions of need with an injection of energetic, young talent.
As the first round of the draft draws near, there's no better time to take a glimpse at the possible draft needs of all 30 NHL teams.
While there still may be trades and surprises in the works leading up to the draft, which will be held June 27-28 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, the priorities likely will remain the same. Here's a breakdown of what Metropolitan Division teams could be looking to do when they arrive in Philadelphia. Keep in mind the possible fits for each team are based on draft position.
Top priority: Strength on the wings
The situation: The Hurricanes have five NHL defensemen signed through 2014-15, so one would think the position will need some attention in the draft. Their top prospect along the blue line, Michal Jordan (2008, No. 105), has shown steady progress in the American Hockey League and will have a role with the big club much sooner than later.
Carolina likely will pick a forward with power and strength with its first-round choice. Offensive prospects Brock McGinn (2012, No. 47) and Victor Rask (2011, No. 42) are in line to earn roles if they have strong showings in training camp.
Carolina might also be wise to start building some depth in goal in the later rounds. The Hurricanes' top prospect between the pipes right now is Daniel Altshuller (2012, No. 69), who had a strong 2013-14 season with the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League.
Top priority: Offensive defenseman
The situation: The Blue Jackets selected centers Alexander Wennberg (2013, No. 14) and Marko Dano (2013, No. 27) and left wing Kerby Rychel (2013, No. 19) with their three 2013 first-round picks, so the forward position appears to be in good standing. That doesn't mean general manager Jarmo Kekalainen will forego an opportunity to draft a forward in the first round this year, but it certainly opens up opportunities to target help on defense and in net.
Goalie prospect Oscar Dansk (2012, No. 31) likely will spend the 2014-15 season with the Blue Jackets' American Hockey League affiliate, the Springfield Falcons, to acclimate himself to professional hockey. Top defensive prospect Tim Erixon (2012, trade) likely will spend much of next season in Springfield.
Top priority: Playmaking center
The situation: The Devils have stockpiled their prospect cupboard with high-caliber performers in recent years, particularly on defense. Defensemen Eric Gelinas (2009, No. 54) and Jon Merrill (2010, No. 38) played key roles in 2013-14. Forwards Stefan Matteau (2012, No. 29) and Reid Boucher (2011, No. 99) and defensemen Steven Santini (2013, No. 42) and Damon Severson (2012, No. 60) also are progressing nicely.
However, New Jersey could be looking to add some creativity to its offense. Any fan of the Devils likely will point to the their failures in the shootout in 2013-14, when they lost all 13 tie-breakers and finished five points behind the Detroit Red Wings for the second of two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference. Additionally, the Devils scored four times on 45 shootout chances to finish with a League-low 8.9 percent efficiency.
Top priority: High-scoring forward
The situation: The Islanders have some solid, up-and-coming pieces along the blue line in Griffin Reinhart (2012, No. 4), Ryan Pulock (2013, No. 15), Ville Pokka (2012, No. 34), Scott Mayfield (2011, No. 34) and Adam Pelech (2012, No. 65). General manager Garth Snow resolved his goaltending dilemma when he signed Jaroslav Halak to a four-year contract in May. Still, Halak is 29 years old, meaning the Islanders probably need to start developing another goalie to step into a starter or backup role in the next few years. New York doesn't have a first-round pick in 2015 so it's imperative in this draft that it establishes a future presence alongside captain John Tavares and progressing youngsters Ryan Strome, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Casey Cizikas.
Top priority: Power forward
The situation: The Rangers could use some homegrown talent up front. The defense appears to be in good hands for the foreseeable future due in part to prospects Brady Skjei (2012, No. 28), Conor Allen (2013, free agency), Dylan McIlrath (2010, No. 10) and Ryan Graves (2013, No. 110), all of whom are progressing nicely. There's no question Henrik Lundqvist is one of the top goalies in the world, but he is 32 years old; it might be time to start looking for his eventual successor. This year's goalie class may include the type of player capable of becoming a No. 1 in 4-6 years.
Top priority: Defensive depth
The situation: The Flyers slowly are building a pretty formidable prospect pool with the likes of defensemen Samuel Morin (2013, No. 11), Shayne Gostisbehere (2012, No. 78), Robert Hagg (2013, No. 41) and Mark Alt (2013, trade). They also have forwards Scott Laughton (2012, No. 20), Nick Cousins (2011, No. 68) and Taylor Leier (2012, No. 117) in the fold. Philadelphia also recently signed versatile 29-year-old French forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who had played well in Sweden, to an NHL contract.
When Ron Hextall was promoted to general manager in May, he acknowledged that the more balanced teams and those that fare best in a salary-cap system are those that draft well. Former GM Paul Holmgren used 10 of the team's 13 picks in the 2012 and 2013 drafts on defensemen and goalies. Hextall probably won't concentrate on one specific position; rather, he and his staff likely will choose the best player available. It will be hard to pass on offensive-minded defenseman Anthony DeAngelo of the Sarnia Sting in theOHL, who grew up in the Philadelphia suburb of Sewell, N.J., if still on the board.
Top priority: Skill on the wings
The situation: It seems like the Penguins always are in the market for players to skate beside Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Chris Kunitz has rode shotgun with Crosby on the top line for a few seasons now, but he'll be 35 when the 2014-15 season starts. The Penguins finished 2013-14 with one wing player under the age of 26 (Beau Bennett, 22) on the roster, and the only top prospects on the horizon who play primarily on the wing are Josh Archibald (2011, No. 174), Tom Kuhnhackl (2010, No. 110) and Anton Zlobin (2012, No. 173). The Penguins do have good, young talent on defense in Derrick Pouliot (2012, No. 8), Brian Dumoulin (2012, trade) and Scott Harrington (2011, No. 54).
Possible fits: Left wing Sonny Milano (United States National Team Development Program, United States Hockey League); center/right wing Joshua Ho-Sang (Windsor, OHL); right wing Nikolay Goldobin (Sarnia, OHL).
Top priority: Depth at left wing
The situation: When the Capitals traded left wing Filip Forsberg (2012, No. 11) to the Nashville Predators in exchange for right wing Martin Erat and center Michael Latta at the 2013 NHL Trade Deadline, their prospect pool took a big hit. Forsberg had 12 points for silver medal-winning Sweden and was named most valuable player of the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship. Erat, since traded to the Phoenix Coyotes, and Latta combined for two goals for the Capitals in 2013-14. While center Evgeny Kuznetsov (2010, No. 26) is beginning to find his North American groove, there is more talent coming in left wing Andre Burakovsky (2013, No. 23), right wing Riley Barber (2012, No. 167) and Latta. The Capitals need to reload at left wing.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL
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