The 2017 NHL Draft is just over a week away. The future of the NHL is almost here. The future of your team is on the way. Get excited.
Leading up to the NHL Draft, one of my favourite things to do here at TheSportster is to take a look back at some of the recent NHL draft classes and selections. It's always exciting to see which players turned out to be stars, which guys have been busts -- and it's especially fun to always speculate how some draft selections could have been different.
In the case of the 2014 NHL Draft, most teams probably regret their first-round selections. Very few players have turned out to be studs -- and many of the guys that have lived up to expectations weren't even top-five picks.
So with that being said, let's take a look at how a 2014 NHL re-draft would go down.
*Stats courtesy of HockeyDB.com
30 1. Florida Panthers: Aaron Ekblad
Original Pick: Aaron Ekblad
No change needed.
The Panthers drafted the best player available in defenceman Aaron Ekblad. They now have one of the NHL's most dynamic blueliners who has already transformed into the best player on this team.
Ekblad helped the Florida Panthers win the Atlantic Division title in 2016, and he's been instrumental in turning them from long-time losers into at least a playoff bubble team each year. He's scored 37 goals and 96 points in 227 NHL games, but is also among the most reliable and sound blueliners in his own end.
Florida didn't have an elite superstar to build around for the longest time. Once they drafted Ekblad, everything changed for the better. They have no reason to regret taking him with the first pick.
29 2. Buffalo Sabres: Leon Draisaitl
Original Pick: Sam Reinhart
The Sabres rebuilding project just finishes its fifth year, and they're no closer to competing for the playoffs now than they were when they drafted Sam Reinhart. There's been massive turmoil between the owners, front office, players and coaches. Owner Terry Pegula controversially fired GM Tim Murray and head coach Dan Bylsma after reports surfaced that star player Jack Eichel didn't want to play for the latter any more.
Reinhart simply hasn't been at fault for Buffalo's struggles. He has 40 goals and 90 points through his first two NHL seasons, but Leon Draisaitl has done just a little bit better.
The German standout has been a mega star for the Edmonton Oilers, scoring a total of 50 goals and 137 points through his first 191 NHL games. Draisaitl helped the Oilers make the playoffs in 2017, forming a scary duo with scoring champion Connor McDavid.
Imagine if Eichel had Draisaitl as his sidekick. Perhaps the Sabres would be a lot closer to winning now.
28 3. Edmonton Oilers: David Pastrnak
Original Pick: Leon Draisaitl
It's safe to say the Oilers are thrilled they got David Draisaitl at third-overall. But in a re-draft, they wouldn't get the chance to draft him. That means they'd have to go with the next best player, which has turned out to be Czech sensation David Pastrnak.
Pastrnak fell to the Boston Bruins at 25th, and he's turned out to be one of the few elite stars to emerge from the 2014 Draft. He broke out this season with 34 goals and 70 points. This came after scoring a total of 25 goals and 53 points over his first two seasons in the NHL.
Now, just imagine if Pastrnak was playing on a line with Connor McDavid. His amazing totals would reach elite totals. But he's happy in Boston and the Oilers made good use of the third pick, so they have little to complain about here.
27 4. Calgary Flames: William Nylander
Original Pick: Sam Bennett
The Flames thought they were using their fourth-overall pick wisely on Sam Bennett, but the talented centre hasn't been able to live up to the hype yet. Shoulder surgery cost him all but one game in 2014-15. He then showed signs of breaking out last year, potting 18 goals and 36 points. He then had just 13 goals and 26 points altogether this season.
Then there is Swedish standout William Nylander, who has lived up to all of the hype with the Toronto Maple Leafs thus far. Nylander -- whose father Michael was once a star for the Flames -- somehow fell all the way down to the eighth slot.
In his first full NHL season this year, Nylander potted 22 goals and 61 points. He helped the Leafs reach the playoffs in what was supposed to be a massive rebuilding year. Did I mention it was his first NHL season? Nylander's only getting started. Those poor Flames really missed out on this guy.
26 5. New York Islanders: Nikolaj Ehlers
Original Pick: Michael Dal Colle
Besides drafting John Tavares with the first-overall pick in 2009, the Islanders have found many ways to waste such high draft selections. So far, 2014 sixth-overall selection in Michael Dal Colle has been such a disappointment. He hasn't even played a game in the NHL yet.
Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Jets drafted a gem in Nikolaj Ehlers with the ninth-overall selection. He showed promise in 2014-15, scoring 15 goals and 38 points. But he broke out big time in 2016-17, scoring 25 goals and 64 points. He brings incredibly gifted speed and an excellent shot. It's truly a joy to watch.
Instead of playing on a line with Mark Scheifele, Ehlers should be right there on Long Island. Lighting it up with John Tavares. But oh, the Islanders drafting is just not good at all.
25 6. Vancouver Canucks: Sam Reinhart
Original Pick: Jake Virtanen
As a long-time follower of the Canucks, let me make it clear that Sam Reinhart is exactly the type of player this team needs. Reinhart brings remarkable speed, skill and all-around play that could help this desperate team right now.
I touched base on Reinhart's stats and performance thus far in Buffalo, and he'd surely be more recognized in Vancouver. It's a shame he didn't fall down to them on the draft board, because Reinhart could have been instrumental in fixing the identity of this team.
Instead of winding up with Reinhart or another quality player, the Canucks drafted power forward Jake Virtanen instead. He's only played in 65 NHL games and has seven goals and 14 points. He's clashed with Canucks coaches and has expressed his frustration with having to spend so much time in the AHL. That's not a player the Canucks need, and Virtanen is running out of time to show he was worthy of the sixth-overall selection.
24 7. Carolina Hurricanes: Dylan Larkin
Original Pick: Haydn Fleury
Though defencemen take a while to develop, it's somewhat alarming that Haydn Fleury has yet to suit up for an NHL game. It's also worth noting that Carolina is loaded with young defencemen -- such as Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin and Jaccob Slavin. Is there really a need for Fleury? Probably not, but time will tell.
In the mean time, it's safe to say the Hurricanes would have been better off drafting speedy centre Dylan Larkin with the seventh selection. Larkin is arguably the NHL's fastest skater and brings a huge knack for goal-scoring to his game.
Larkin scored 23 goals and 45 points for the Detroit Red Wings last year but struggled in 2016-17, finishing with just 17 tallies and 32 points. But the Michigan kid is just getting started and will be a face of Detroit's future for a long time. Carolina really could have used his incredible talents -- given their lack of superstar at forward.
23 8. Toronto Maple Leafs: Sam Bennett
Original Pick: William Nylander
Well, the Maple Leafs are more than content in the fact they wound up getting William Nylander. Their fans have no reason to wish that a re-draft was possible, because Nylander has been better than most guys taken before him.
But in a re-draft, they'd probably have to settle for Sam Bennett. Yes, his struggles in Calgary have been well-documented now, but perhaps playing for head coach Mike Babcock would be a difference maker.
Sam Bennett hasn't had the best of linemates in Calgary, but playing with guys like Nylander or Connor Brown could have helped Bennett reach his full potential. At the very least, he'd surely be a 20-goal scorer for Toronto. He'd be their safest bet in this re-draft, given his all-around ability as a scorer and playmaker.
22 9. Winnipeg Jets: Robby Fabbri
Original Pick: Nikolaj Ehlers
Like the Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets fans really can't complain about their original selection in 2014. They got Nikolaj Ehlers who has already shown his talents and is about to emerge as one of the top scorers in the NHL. But in our re-draft, Ehlers would be long gone, so they'd have to settle for the next best player.
That man would be Robby Fabbri, who fell to the St. Louis Blues with the 21st selection. The crafty 5-foot-10, 195-pound centre showed promise in his rookie 2015-16 season. He scored 18 goals and 37 points and helped the Blues reach the Western Conference Final -- adding 15 points in 20 playoff games.
But Fabbri missed 31 games in 2016-17 and was limited to 29 points. But he's proved many doubters wrong and is extremely reliable as a second or third-line centre. He'd fit in nicely on a Jets team that's built entirely around speed and skill. But taking Ehlers instead wasn't a bad call for GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.
21 10. Anaheim Ducks: Viktor Arvidsson
Original Pick: Nick Ritchie
2014 was a little too kind to the Anaheim Ducks. They won the Pacific Division and were one win away from reaching the Western Conference Final, but they wound up falling to the Los Angeles Kings in the second round.
But yet, the Ducks wound up with the 10th selection. That's because the Ottawa Senators surrendered their first round pick in 2014 to land power forward Bobby Ryan. So far, the Sens have won the trade.
Nick Ritchie hasn't gotten it done for Anaheim, scoring just 16 goals and 32 points through his first two seasons. Meanwhile, Viktor Arvidsson (taken with the 112th selection by the Nashville Predators), just scored 31 goals and 61 points in 2016-17. His Predators have eliminated Anaheim in the last two postseasons.
Yup. Anaheim really could have used Arvidsson's services. Perhaps he would have helped them dispatch Nashville in the 2016 and 2017 playoffs.
20 11. Nashville Predators: Jake Virtanen
Original Pick: Kevin Fiala
Jake Virtanen hasn't been able to contribute for the Vancouver Canucks yet. But given how poorly that team has drafted, it's somewhat safe to guess he could have been a regular on the Predators by now. At least, he would have done more than Kevin Fiala -- who has just 17 points in 60 NHL games.
The 6-foot-1, 229-pound winger would be a great fit on a Nashville team that has built around both speed and toughness. Maybe Virtanen wouldn't blossom into a 25-plus goal scorer that scouts expected. However, there's no reason to believe he wouldn't be a quality 15-goal scorer who would make Nashville much tougher to play against.
The fact is that the re-draft would be pretty lacking in talent after the first 10 selections. At this point, the Predators would just be smart to take a chance on Virtanen.
19 12. Arizona Coyotes: Thatcher Demko
Original Pick: Brendan Perlini
It hasn't been five years since Mike Smith was an elite goalie who backstopped the Coyotes to the Western Conference Final in 2012. But it has been a half-decade, and the Coyotes have not had an above-average netminder since Smith had that career season.
So they would have been better to take elite prospect Thatcher Demko with the 12th-overall selection. They selected Brendan Perlini -- who has just 21 points in 57 NHL games. TSN's Craig Button ranked Demko as the 33rd best player "not skating in the NHL". The Vancouver Canucks are lucky to have gotten their hands on the former Boston College star with the 36th selection. The Coyotes really could have used Demko to shore up their weakness in goal. But the search for Arizona's next great goalie continues...
18 13. Washington Capitals: Michael Dal Colle
Original Pick: Jakub Vrana
Well, I touched base earlier that the Islanders are a porous drafting team -- so Dal Colle can't get the blame for not playing an NHL game yet. Meanwhile, the Washington Capitals (great at drafting, by the way), would surely have found a way to make the most out of Dal Colle.
Perhaps he wouldn't have turned out to be the top-notch scorer that we expected of him, but he'd definitely be a great fit in Washington. With Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Marcus Johansson in the fold, you have to believe Dal Colle would find his feet somewhere in D.C. He'd at least probably turn out better than Jakub Vrana. He's played just 21 NHL games and has just three goals and a trio of assists thus far.
17 14. Dallas Stars: Nick Ritchie
Original Pick: Julius Honka
This was a difficult decision. The Stars are excited about the potential of defenceman Julius Honka, but he's played just 16 NHL games up to this point. Blueliners often take a while to develop, so it's tough to know if Julius Honka will become a star or if he will disappoint. But right now, it's safe to say Dallas would probably take a player like Nick Ritchie at this point of the draft.
Now, Ritchie hasn't put it together in the NHL yet. However, he did score 14 goals and 28 points this season -- his first full campaign in the big leagues. Ritchie is also a left winger, so you'd figure that he would score a bunch with Tyler Seguin and/or Jason Spezza as his centre.
16 15. Detroit Red Wings: Haydn Fleury
Original Pick: Dylan Larkin
The Red Wings are thrilled to this day that Dylan Larkin somehow fell to them with the 15th selection. As said earlier, Larkin is set to be a face of the new era for Red Wings hockey. But in this re-draft, Larkin was taken much earlier -- so Detroit would have to go with a Plan B. That plan would be defenceman Haydn Fleury.
Detroit has struggled to find a star blueliner since Nicklas Lidstrom retired in 2012, so Fleury would be their best option here. The Red Wings also have a knack for developing some of their young players quickly, so Fleury could have been a top-pairing blueliner in the Motor City by now.
But once again, this is only a re-draft. No way are the Red Wings regretting the selection of Larkin. He's been a gem for this franchise.
15 16. Columbus Blue Jackets: Christian Dvorak
Original Pick: Sonny Milano
The Blue Jackets have not been a great drafting team over the years. Keep in mind core players like Brandon Saad, Nick Foligno and Sergei Bobrovsky came over in trades. Columbus drafted Sonny Milano with the 16th selection, and boy they have to be frustrated with this pick.
Milano just hasn't been able to adjust to the NHL level. In fact, he's barely been able to get to the pros. Milano has played in just seven NHL games thus far and has registered one assist.
Now, Christian Dvorak hasn't exactly blossomed in the NHL himself. But he's just a year removed from a 121-point campaign in for the London Knights of the OHL. He scored 15 goals and 33 points for the struggling Arizona Coyotes this season. I'm sure he would be scoring a lot more on a now-great Blue Jackets team.
14 17. Philadelphia Flyers: Nick Schmaltz
Original Pick: Travis Sanheim
Just a warning, the re-draft gets extremely low in talent at this point. Now that I got that out of the way, let's take a look at who the Philadelphia Flyers REALLY should have drafted with their first round pick.
That man would be centre Nick Schmaltz, who fell to the Chicago Blackhawks at the 20th spot. He struggled in his first NHL season, scoring just six goals and 28 points for them in 2016-17. But this is a guy who scored 46 points in 37 games for the University of North Dakota in the NCHC -- so we know the upside is there.
Travis Schmaltz is young and just getting started with his NHL career. He'd surely do more than Travis Sanheim, who hasn't played an NHL game three years after getting drafted.
13 18. Minnesota Wild: Jared McCann
Original Pick: Alex Tuch
The Wild spent years trying to build through the draft. In some ways, it has worked. But most of their core players (Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Nino Niederreiter and Devan Dubnyk), came via trade or free agency. They showed their inconsistent drafting ways by drafting forward Alex Tuch with the 18th pick.
Tuch has only played in six NHL games up to this point and doesn't have a single point. They would have been better off going with speedy centre Jared McCann -- who fell to the Canucks at 24. McCann has just 25 points in 98 NHL games, but he has plenty of all-around talent and should blossom into a reliable number two/three centre at some point in his career.
Perhaps McCann wouldn't become a great player in Minnesota, but he'd probably perform more than Tuch at this stage of their respective careers.
12 19. Tampa Bay Lightning: Kasperi Kapanen
Original Pick: Anthony DeAngelo
The Lightning hoped that defenceman Anthony DeAngelo would be able to provide support for Victor Hedman on the blue line. He didn't even play a game for them, and DeAngelo is now a member of the Arizona Coyotes. Perhaps Tampa would have actually used this draft pick sparingly if they took Kasperi Kapanen, though.
Kapanen was taken 22nd by the Pittsburgh Penguins, but was traded a year later to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Phil Kessel deal. Kapanen has plenty of upside and showed it with the Marlies of the AHL -- scoring 18 goals and 43 points in 43 games this season.
If he had played with Steven Stamkos or Tyler Johnson, perhaps Kapanen would emerge as a quality top-six forward. The Lightning really could have used a player like Kapanen, to say the least.
11 20. Chicago Blackhawks: Julius Honka
Original Pick: Nick Schmaltz
The Blackhawks built their dynasty around great draft selections like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford and Duncan Keith. But over the years, Chicago hasn't been able to find many studs in the first round. That's life when you're always picking late -- winning so many championships and all.
Any who, Nick Schmaltz hasn't transitioned properly into the NHL just yet. The jury is out as to whether or not he actually will pan out. In the mean time, Chicago would select defenceman Julius Honka in our re-draft.
Though Honka is still trying to find his groove in Dallas, it's easy to imagine him being a top-four blueliner on this Blackhawks team. Honka is a slick puck-moving defenceman who would easily excel in Chicago's system. If anything else, he'd be a bottom-pairing blueliner on the 'Hawks. He'd probably do more than what Schmaltz has done so far.
10 21. St. Louis Blues: Josh Ho-Sang
Original Pick: Robby Fabbri
The Blues managed to land one of the few studs from the 2014 draft in Robby Fabbri. Obviously, he'd go way earlier in a re-draft. So plan B would have to be Josh Ho-Sang, another talented prospect that has yet to get started in the New York Islanders organization. Go figure.
Ho-Sang -- who was taken by the Islanders with the 28th selection -- didn't make the NHL until 2016-17. He had four goals and 10 points in 21 games. Those are decent numbers to begin with, but it's still in question as to whether or not he truly will blossom into a top-six forward.
Seeing how great the Blues are at developing their own players, perhaps Ho-Sang would have been among their top forwards by now. He's got a great shot and brings tremendous speed which fits their system well.
9 22. Pittsburgh Penguins: Sonny Milano
Original Pick: Kasperi Kapanen
Like the Blackhawks, Pittsburgh built their dynasty right through the draft. This includes Sidney Crosby (duh), Evgeni Malkin (duh), Kris Letang, Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray. But when it's come to finding studs late in the first round, the front office hasn't exactly been able to make good use of their selections.
The Penguins used their first-round selection in 2014 on Kasperi Kapanen, who was later flipped to the Maple Leafs in the Phil Kessel trade. But what if the Penguins drafted talented winger Sonny Milano?
Well, considering little-known players like Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel have absolutely dominated with Sidney Crosby -- I'm going to go ahead and say that Milano would be scoring 20-30 goals with No. 87. He has the tools to excel in the NHL, and working with a world class player like Crosby would be the final piece in taking him to the next level.
8 23. Colorado Avalanche: Brandon Montour
Original Pick: Conner Bleackley
One of the weakest links on the Avalanche all these years? The blue line. Since losing the likes of Rob Blake and Adam Foote over the years, Colorado hasn't had a superstar defenceman. Tyson Barrie is extremely talented and brings nice offence to his game, but he's not necessarily going to win Norris Trophies.
So Colorado really could have used a defenceman like Brandon Montour -- who put the NHL on notice with his strong play for Anaheim in the 2017 playoffs. Montour would at least be a better pick then Conner Bleackley -- who has yet to play an NHL game up to this point.
Montour made his NHL debut in 2016-17, suiting up for 27 games. He was great in that small sample size, and is going to be a reliable top-four blueliner for his Ducks team. Too bad Colorado missed out on him.
7 24. Vancouver Canucks: Brayden Point
Original Pick: Jared McCann
The Canucks made another porous selection in the first round? No way?
Yeah, Vancouver acquired a second first-round pick from Anaheim in the Ryan Kesler trade. McCann showed flashes with his speed and nice finishes, but speculation persists that his arrogant attitude was toxic in the locker room. As a result, he was packaged in a deal with the Florida Panthers that brought Erik Gudbranson the other way.
The Canucks probably could have used a quality scorer like Brayden Point, who's just getting started with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Point had 18 goals and 40 points in 68 games this season -- his first in the pros. I also wish Vancouver took him just so I could say "Point taken" any time he scored for them.
6 25. Boston Bruins: Adrian Kempe
Original Pick: David Pastrnak
The Bruins got one of the very rare superstars to come out of the 2014 Draft in David Pastrnak. They're extremely fortunate that there is no such thing as a true re-draft, because then they wouldn't have been able to select the Czech standout.
But in this imaginary re-draft, they'd probably have to just take a chance on Adrian Kempe -- whom the Los Angeles Kings took with the 29th pick. Kempe has just six points in 25 NHL games. He has the size to fit their system well, but the team's defence-first mentality will hold Kempe back.
In Boston, Kempe would be able to play with great scorers like Patrice Bergeron, David Backes and Brad Marchand. Perhaps he could have reached his full potential in Beantown. At least, he'd do more there than he has with the Kings.
5 26. Montreal Canadiens: Gustav Forsling
Original Pick: Nikita Scherbak
The Canadiens decided to take a chance on big 6-foot-2, 190-pound defenceman Nikita Scherbak. GM Marc Bergevin was looking to upgrade his defence, but Scherbak has played in just three NHL games thus far. The Habs would have been better off selecting Gustav Forsling, who has shown flashes of being a reliable second-pairing blueliner.
Forsling fell to the Vancouver Canucks in the fifth round, but he's now part of the Chicago Blackhawks organization. Forsling had five points in 38 games and posted a plus-three rating, and he should fit in nicely as a speedy depth defenceman.
It's hard to see Forsling turning into a superstar, but you can never have too many blue liners. He could have been a nice piece on Montreal's back end. If any thing else, he'd be a better selection than Scherbak.
4 27. San Jose Sharks: Alex Tuch
Original Pick: Nikolay Goldobin
The Sharks did draft a solid winger in Nikolay Goldobin, but he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks in the Jannik Hansen deal at this year's deadline. Goldobin appeared in just 11 games with San Jose and had a goal and one assist. So this team really should have drafted any body else.
At this point of the re-draft, the Sharks would probably be best off taking Alex Tuch. Yes, he hasn't been able to find his feet in Minnesota. But imagine him playing with the likes of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. Tuch would have a solid supporting cast and would fit in nicely as a top-six forward. The Wild haven't been able to develop Tuch very well. For all we know, he's a hidden gem waiting to break out on another team.
That team in this case, would be the Sharks.
3 28. New York Islanders: Nikolay Goldobin
Original Pick: Josh Ho-Sang
The Islanders had two first round picks in the 2014 NHL Draft, and none of them have panned out thus far. At this point in the re-draft, it'd be logical for them to take a chance on the previously mentioned Nikolay Goldobin.
Goldobin did show some flashes with his puck skills and dazzling speed with the Vancouver Canucks this season. If he were to play with a world class star like John Tavares, perhaps Goldobin would be a 20-plus goal-scorer by now.
Then again, Goldobin would at least be a much better pick than Ho-Sang, who has played in just 21 NHL games. If anything else, Goldobin could have been a solid bottom-six forward on Long Island. Once again, we had to change up the Islanders draft selection in a re-draft.
2 29. Los Angeles Kings: Brendan Perlini
Original Pick: Adrian Kempe
Los Angeles won the Stanley Cup in 2014 (it was their second title in three years), so the pressure to use their 29th selection wisely wasn't all that high. The Kings took a chance on 6-foot-2, 202-pound Swedish standout Adrian Kempe -- but he hasn't developed into the star they were hoping for. Plus, Kempe wouldn't be available in this re-draft.
Perhaps if Los Angeles took a chance on Brendan Perlini, it could have worked out for both side. Perlini would be a great fit in the Kings system that is built around size and muscle (he's 6-foot-2, 212 pounds). Perlini showed some promise this season, scoring 14 goals and 21 points in 57 games for the lowly Arizona Coyotes this season.
Would he be a star in Los Angeles? Probably not, but Perlini would definitely have been more helpful than Kempe has been thus far.
1 30. New Jersey Devils: Kevin Fiala
Original Pick: John Quenneville
Hard to blame New Jersey for striking out on this draft selection. For one, most first-round selections from 20-30 don't pan out to be stars. For another, the 2014 NHL Draft has been one of the worst in recent memory thus far.
Nonetheless, using the 30th pick on big centre John Quenneville hasn't gone as planned. He didn't make the NHL until this season, and scored just four points in 12 games played. As for Kevin Fiala?
He hasn't exactly lived up to expectations since Nashville drafted him 11th-overall. But the Swiss winger does have a nice set of wheels and did score a somewhat respectable 11 goals in 54 games for the Predators this season. Fiala is by no means a star, but New Jersey could have had a reliable top-six forward in their lineup if they drafted him.
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