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. Although 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.
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 Atlantic 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 at right wing
The situation: The team's top three right wings, Jarome Iginla, Reilly Smith and Loui Eriksson, all were acquired from other teams. On top of that, Iginla turns 37 on July 1, when he can become an unrestricted free agent, so the window is closing quickly. The best young player in the system at right wing might be Brian Ferlin (2011, No. 121), who led Cornell University with 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists), six power-play goals and six game-winning goals in 32 regular-season games this season. Goaltenders Malcolm Subban (2012, No. 24) and Niklas Svedberg (2012, free agent) are the future behind Tuukka Rask, and defensemen Joseph Morrow (2013, trade) and David Warsofksy (2010, trade) can be brought along slowly with the Bruins' current mix of talented veterans and youngsters along the blue line.
Possible fits: Right wing Alex Tuch (United States National Team Development Program, United States Hockey League); right wing Nikita Scherbak (Saskatoon, Western Hockey League); right wing Nikolay Goldobin (Sarnia, Ontario Hockey League).
Top priority: Strength and size on the wings
The situation: The Sabres benefitted from a strong 2013 draft that included bookend defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen (No. 8) and Nikita Zadorov (No. 16). Center Mikhail Grigorenko (2012, No. 12) and right wing Joel Armia (2011, No. 16) remain works in progress. Buffalo could use another top prospect in goal now that Ryan Miller is gone. Pinpointing depth at the forward position remains critical for the Sabres and likely will be their strategy with the No. 2 pick unless Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad is available. That would make for an intriguing choice for general manager Tim Murray, who played a big role in the selections of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Erik Karlsson during his time at the draft tables with the Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators.
Top priority: Depth on defense
The situation: The Red Wings got strong contributions this season from members of their 2013 Calder Cup-winning team in Grand Rapids, among them forwards Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco. Their development was crucial considering Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg aren't getting any younger. It's never a bad idea to bolster the prospect cupboard with offensive talent, something the Red Wings scouting staff always has taken great pride in. It would seem, however, that adding depth along the blue line and in goal might be the plan this year, particularly with the rapid development of right wing Anthony Mantha (2013, No. 20). It appears Petr Mrazek (2010, No. 141) will back up Jimmy Howard next season, so now might be the time to groom another young goalie.
Top priority: Depth on the wings
The situation: The Panthers have a bookend pair of defensemen waiting in the wings in Boston College teammates Mike Matheson (2012, No. 23) and Ian McCoshen (2013, No. 31), not to mention Alex Petrovic (2010, No. 36), who is poised to take a full-time NHL role in 2014-15. Florida appears solid for the foreseeable future down the middle of the ice with Nick Bjugstad and Aleksander Barkov. Vincent Trocheck (2011, No. 64) played 20 games late this season and prospect Rocco Grimaldi (2011, No. 33) could be in the NHL next season. The team needs to uncover a gem in net to eventually replace 35-year-old Roberto Luongo. If general manager Dale Tallon opts to keep the No. 1 pick in the draft, it's possible he'll select the best player available who can provide the biggest immediate impact, and that could be defenseman Aaron Ekblad of the Barrie Colts.
Top priority: Strong, physical forwards
The situation: The Canadiens addressed a glaring need for size along the forward lines at the 2013 draft when they selected 6-foot-6 right wing Michael McCarron in the first round (No. 25), but he remains a work in progress and will continue to grow and mature with the London Knights of the OHL. Swedish left wing Jacob De la Rose (2013, No. 34) probably is ahead of McCarron at this stage of his development. Goalie Zachary Fucale (2013, No. 36) and defenseman Jarred Tinordi (2010, No. 22) have made progress in their growth. Tinordi, a 6-foot-6, 227-pound left-shot defenseman, played 22 games with the Canadiens in 2013-14. Montreal hasn't had a 40-goal scorer since Brian Bellows in 1993-94, but at the rate forward Alex Galchenyuk (2012, No. 3) is progressing, having a 40-goal scorer might soon be the least of the team's worries.
Top priority: Shutdown defenseman
The situation: The Senators don't have a first-round pick -- they sent their selection to the Ducks as part of the Bobby Ryan trade -- but that doesn't mean the team won't be focused on filling the need for some skilled defenders to take some pressure off defenseman Erik Karlsson. It also would behoove the Senators to groom some quality forwards now that it's gone public that captain Jason Spezza, who ranks second on the all-time franchise list in goals (252) and points (687), has requested a trade after 11 seasons in Ottawa. Prospects Curtis Lazar (2013, No. 17), Mark Stone (2010, No. 178) and Matt Puempel (2011, No. 24) are the future on offense, and defensemen Mark Borowiecki (2008, No. 139) and Mikael Wikstrand (2011, No. 196) could earn spots with the big club much sooner than later. General manager Bryan Murray has some tough decisions to make with Ryan, defenseman Marc Methot and goalie Craig Anderson eligible to become unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2015.
Top priority: Depth on defense
The situation: Victor Hedman has emerged as a cornerstone defenseman, and the Lightning likely would like to find another quality young player to put alongside him. They'll need to find someone who could step in sooner than later if you look at the ages of the rest of the their defense corps: Sami Salo will be 40 before next season, Eric Brewer is 35, Matthew Carle is 29, and Mattias Ohlund is 37 and hasn't played since 2010-11. The Lightning had six rookies play significant minutes this season: forwards Ondrej Palat, who is a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the League's top rookie, Tyler Johnson, J.T. Brown and Nikita Kucherov and defensemen Radko Gudas and Mark Barberio. There's also ultra-talented forward Jonathan Drouin (2013, No. 3), who likely will challenge for a top-six forward role. Goalie prospect Andrey Vasilevskiy (2012, No. 19) helped Russia to a bronze medal at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship. Defense prospects Slater Koekkoek (2012, No. 10) and Nikita Nesterov (2011, No. 148) need time to develop in the American Hockey League.
Top priority: Power forward for top six
The situation: It's about time the Maple Leafs sought flashy puck-movers from the back end to aid in the transition game after allowing a League-high 35.9 shots per game in 2013-14. There might not be that exact player available when they pick in the first round, but don't be surprised if Toronto plucks a few defensemen in the later rounds. The guess here is that the Maple Leafs will choose the best available player on the board in the opening round, and that likely will be a forward. That's certainly not a bad thing; this year's draft has a plethora of talented centers and wings. It's also possible the Maple Leafs take a flyer on a goalie; the organization is in need of an up-and-comer between the pipes.