With the 2014 NHL Draft set for June 27-28 in Philadelphia, Kris Baker from SabresProspects.com has meticulously compiled his list of the top 30 players. We've revealed two players each weekday complete with analysis and video.
Now, here are Kris' top two picks of the 2014 NHL Draft.
The full mock draft can be found here.
#2 – SAM REINHART
C, Kootenay Ice (WHL)
6’ 0.75”, 185 lbs.
2013-14: 60 games, 36-69-105, 11 PIM
There is little flash to Reinhart's game, but the lack of sizzle is made up with consistent smarts, vision and character that puts the productive pivot among the elite forwards in the 2014 draft class.
The son of former NHL defenseman Paul, the poised Reinhart is equal parts leader and gifted playmaker, but his standout quality is his patient, confident circulation of the puck in all three zones.
He can slow it down and speed it up, and his ability to see open passing lanes is a skill that cannot be taught. While a smooth offensive pivot, Reinhart is also a highly proficient finisher who finds space down low to pop off quality wrist shots and bang home second chances.
Reinhart’s skill set came together in 2013-14 to produce a 105-point regular season, highlighted by an impressive 20 goals and 55 points over his final 27 games following a stint with Canada at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship.
The Kootenay captain continued building with another 23 points (6+17) in 13 playoff games. The full body of work included points in 57 of 73 contests, earning Reinhart the WHL’s Player of the Year award. Reinhart’s 69 assists were a new Kootenay franchise record, and he scored a team-high six game-winning goals and two shorthanded markers.
His disciplined nature saw him get called for just four penalties all year, with one of them being a fighting major.
Reinhart’s knack for knowing where everyone is at all times could plug into any team’s future plans as a legitimate top line center prospect. The advanced ability to read and anticipate translates in all three zones, making him an effective penalty killer in additional to being a potent power play producer.
Reinhart will need to absorb more contact when he graduates to the pro level, but countering intimidation with smarts works, and he does it well.
#1 – AARON EKBLAD
D, Barrie Colts (OHL)
6’ 3.5”, 216 lbs.
2013-14: 58 games, 23-30-53, 91 PIM
A steady and dominant “man-child” at the junior level, Ekblad’s well-rounded skill set presents perhaps the lowest risk and most NHL-ready prospect in the 2014 draft class. He’s simple yet effective with very few holes in his game.
It’s been a steady rise through the OHL for Ekblad since being the first 15-year-old defenseman to earn Exceptional Player Status” in 2011. (Ekblad was just the second player to receive “exceptional player status,” with John Tavares being the first in 2005. Connor McDavid in 2012, and Sean Day in 2013 have also received this designation.)
This past season, it all came to a head with Ekblad displaying his fluid skating stride, smart shutdown game, and ability to pound the puck.
Ekblad led all OHL bleliners with 23 goals, including 16 on the power play. Among Ekblad’s season highlights was a four-goal performance against Kingston on Jan. 11, and the always-popular “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” in a 5-4 loss to London on Feb. 1. Ekblad also collected one goal and one assist in seven games for Canada at the 2014 World Junior Championship in Sweden.
Ekblad’s monster year was rewarded with the Max Kaminsky Trophy as the OHL’s Best Defenseman and an obvious spot on the First All-Star Team.
He ran the table with first-place honors in the Best Shot, Hardest Shot, Best Offensive Defenseman and Best Defensive Defenseman categories in the OHL Eastern Conference Coaches Poll.
While Ekblad can jumpstart the transition game and produce his share of points, the cornerstone of his game is his low-panic decision making and effort on the penalty kill. His footwork and long limbs push forwards to the perimeter, and he regularly goes down to block shots and close off passing lanes.
Bundle in an emerging physical dimension and he’s simply been a do-it-all player at the junior level.
With excellent size and four-way mobility, all signs point to Ekblad becoming all-situations NHL workhorse in short order.