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 Central 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: Depth on wing
The situation: The Blackhawks already have identified Teuvo Teravainen (2012, No. 18) as their No. 2 center behind Jonathan Toews for the foreseeable future. Teravainen had two goals and 15 points for Finland en route to the gold medal at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship. Center Drew LeBlanc (2012, free agent) is also another center working his way up the ladder and defenseman Adam Clendening (2011, No. 36) is coming off a productive season with Rockford of the American Hockey League. Right wing Ryan Hartman (2013, No. 30) and Jeremy Morin (2010, trade), both versatile forwards, are two upcoming energy performers in the system. After Antti Raanta, who played in 25 games for the Blackhawks this season and can become a restricted free agent July 1, there isn't much among the goalie prospect pool; Corey Crawford turns 30 on Dec. 31.
Top priority: Power forwards
The situation: The Avalanche have a stable of quality defensemen waiting to make their mark in Stefan Elliott (2009, No. 49), Chris Bigras (2013, No. 32), Duncan Siemens (2011, No. 11) and Will Butcher (2013, No. 123). Goaltending is set for a while with Calvin Pickard (2010, No. 49), Sami Aittokallio (2010, No. 107) and Spencer Martin (2013, No. 63) in the mix. It would seem the Avalanche would best be suited to set their sights on some big, physical forwards in the early rounds to join a growing list of outstanding centers in Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and Nathan MacKinnon, and then continue to build upon its depth along the blue line.
Top priority: Playmakers for top-six forward group
The situation: The Stars could use some depth at the center position and perhaps some puck-moving defensemen. This year will be the first for director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell at the Stars' draft table; he had spent the previous 10 years in the same capacity with the Detroit Red Wings and consistently found high-caliber performers in all rounds. The organization's top prospect is defenseman Jamie Oleksiak (2011, No. 14). Right wing Brett Ritchie (2011, No. 44) will need to prove himself in the American Hockey League on a consistent basis and goalie Jack Campbell (2010, No. 11) still might be a season away from assuming backup duty to Kari Lehtonen.
Top priority: A future goaltender
The situation: Without a second-round pick, the Wild need to make their first-round choice count, and selecting a goalie may be in their best interest. The Wild have Darcy Kuemper in the fold but he can become a restricted free agent next month. The defense looks to be in good shape with prospects Matt Dumba (2012, No. 7) and Gustav Olofsson (2013, No. 46) in the system. The team also has center Zack Phillips (2011, No. 28), right wing Brett Bulmer (2010, No. 39) and left wing Mario Lucia (2011, No. 60) patiently waiting their turn, but it wouldn't hurt to bolster the depth at forward before looking for that diamond in the rough between the pipes in the later rounds. The Wild likely will choose a goalie in the draft, but in what round remains the question.
Top priority: Power, strength and skill on wing
The situation: There's a good chance center/left wing Filip Forsberg (2013, trade) and center Calle Jarnkrok (2014, trade) will be playing full-time rolls under new coach Peter Laviolette in 2014-15. Additionally, center Colton Sissons (2012, No. 50) and goalie Magnus Hellberg (2011, No. 38), who was drafted one spot ahead of John Gibson (Anaheim Ducks), are progressing nicely. The Predators likely will shift their focus to power forwards early in the draft and build its defensive depth in the later rounds. Though the team is stacked at the position at the NHL level, there is a need to tab some future prospects.
Top priority: Depth at center
The situation: The Blues didn't opt to sign goalie Ryan Miller because they believe the tandem of veteran Brian Elliott and 23-year-old Jake Allen (2008, No. 34) can work moving forward. With goaltending settled, the choice this year could be stocking centers as there aren't many top-tier players at that position in the system. Right wings Dmitrij Jaskin (2011, No. 41) and Ty Rattie (2011, No. 32) are knocking on the door. Defensively the Blues have several transitional gems but need more offensive production from the back end. Joel Edmundson (2011, No. 46) and Jordan Schmaltz (2012, No. 25) are the organization's top defense prospects but remain in the development stage.
Top priority: Depth down the middle
The situation: The Jets have a few solid goalie prospects in Eric Comrie (2013, No. 59) and Connor Hellebuyck (2012, No. 130), and some impressive defensemen in Joshua Morrissey (2013, No. 13) and Julian Melchiori (2010, No. 87), but the initial focus should be at center. The Jets have some impressive centers close to earning roles in 6-foot-4 Adam Lowry (2011, No. 67) and 5-9 Nicolas Petan (2013, No. 43), but depth is needed. Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff likely will stick to his usual draft plan of picking the best player available, but hockey IQ is an important prerequisite. Cheveldayoff has acknowledged that hockey sense is one of the core foundation points for a hockey player. It's also the hardest attribute to measure and gauge, but he and the Jets' scouting staff have done an admirable job the past three years with their first-round selections of center Mark Scheifele in 2011, defenseman Jacob Trouba in 2012 and Morrissey in 2013.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mikemorrealeNHL
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