For the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Untied Magazine rounded up some great hockey minds, including Joe Yerdon from NBC’s Pro Hockey Talk, Kurt R. from Broad Street Hockey and James Centifonti, one of the most knowledgeable sources for prospect information on social media.We are honored to have them take part in our draft primer and answer our biggest questions.
1. Who is/are the big sleeper pick(s) in this year’s draft?
Joe Y: Sleepers are hard to pick out mostly because you’re not thinking of them. That’s not the case with Joshua Ho-Sang. He’s gotten a lot of talk recently and he has tremendous upside as well as a lot of questions about him. He’s a risky pick to take early, but if his talent carries him, someone will be well rewarded.
James C: Not sure how many have heard of him but I am going with Alex Schoenborn a right winger with the Portland Winterhawks. A power forward with size, skill, and good hands in tight. In a limited amount of ice time he put up 36 points on a deep Portland team, next year with some players moving on he should look at getting increased playing time.
Kurt R: I’d be lying if I said I knew really anything at all about the lower levels of the draft, but one name that I know enough about to at least throw it out there is Chase De Leo from Portland. He’s a bit smallish for a center (5’10”, 175) but all accounts I’ve read of him seem to suggest that he plays a bigger game than that, uses his speed to his advantage (as he’d have to), and is a solid two-way player. He topped a point per game with Portland this year, and I’ve seen that team crank out so many good NHL prospects just within the last couple of years that I think taking a chance on another one of them may be a decent investment with a mid-round pick.
2. Which team is poised to make a big splash at the draft (i.e. trade big name players for picks, move up/down)?
Joe Y: Call it a homer pick if you want, but the Buffalo Sabres are a team to watch. If Aaron Ekblad is available at No. 2, you could see them deal down to a team desperate to land the defenseman. You also could see them move any of their second-round picks to get another first-round selection from a team looking to move down or out of the first. Runner-up? Chicago Blackhawks only because of the level of talent the established guys have that they may be dealing for or trading away.
James C: I think Anaheim has the picks to make a big move if they want to in this draft. Having Ottawa’s pick at #10 allows them to sit and stay or make a move into the top 5 and get one of the big names.
Kurt R: There have already been rumors about it, but I’m thinking the Islanders are a team to watch out for in terms of making a move — in particular, out of the #5 spot and for an immediate contributor. Everything Garth Snow has done this summer (deciding to keep this year’s first-round pick and give up next year’s as part of the Thomas Vanek trade, signing Jaroslav Halak for four years, attempting — and ultimately failing — to bring in Dan Boyle) has indicated that he’s a guy who knows that his jig is up if he doesn’t drastically improve his team this year. I don’t know if there’s a perfect match out there, but that fifth overall pick has got to be appetizing to some team that’s looking to get a little younger.
3. Every year, there seems to be one player who slips further than expected down through — and sometimes out of — the first round. Is there a player this year that could fall prey to this?
Joe Y: I already mentioned Ho-Sang, but if there’s another guy to watch it’s goalie Thatcher Demko. He’s got first-round ability and was a stud in his first season at Boston College. He’s going to be a very good goalie and a team looking to get someone to groom may be hesitant to grab him in the first-round. He’s worth picking in the 15-25 range but teams are afraid of passing on a skater that could be more helpful sooner there.
James C: I am going with Josh Ho-Sang. While Ho-Sang has an unlimited amount of offensive potential he tends to try doing everything by himself forgetting he has team mates. Along with that in games I’ve watched he is lazy on the back check & at times just stands around in the D zone.
Kurt R: About a week ago at this time, I would have said Windsor winger Josh Ho-Sang, a guy who undeniably has a ton of talent but who seemed to be falling to the bottom of the first round due to character concerns or some crap like that. But his story’s been profiled in a number of places since then (ESPN and the Toronto Sun, for instance), and I feel like he’ll have picked up more attention. So the jury’s out there. Another one of the draft’s more interesting stories could end up falling for the same sort of reasons — Anthony DeAngelo, the local kid from South Jersey, is quite possibly the best offensive defenseman in this draft, but has been cited on character issues for everything from shouting slurs to his teammates to abusing officials. How early will you find a team willing to take a chance on talent despite the character questions? That will be interesting to watch.
4. Will Florida move the first overall pick?
Joe Y: Yes. They can take Ekblad and be very happy, but they could also use some top prospects on the wings (William Nylander, Nikolaj Ehlers) and could get them outside of the top five. If someone in that 4-10 range is itching to get Ekblad (Oilers? Canucks? Hurricanes? Flyers further down?) they can command a solid price to make it happen. It’s a potentially big draft for Florida and the world is their oyster. They can have a big day by doing anything.
James C: There is always a chance Flordia will move the 1st overall pick. If they do I’d imagine they won’t want to fall to far down the draft board. Florida could use Ekblad but maybe not as much as they can use a promising winger to play a top 6 role.
Kurt R: Never say never and all, but I don’t think so. This conversation seems to happen every year, but I don’t think people realize how rare it really is for #1 overall picks to get moved, and I don’t exactly think that Florida is a team that’s in position to trade the #1 pick for immediate help. They’re in clear rebuilding mode and they’re a year away from hosting the draft and possibly getting one of Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel in their own building. They’re exactly the team that doesn’t need to trade the top overall pick, short of some crazy Lindrosian haul (and as good as Aaron Ekblad looks to be, is he really that good?).
5. For anyone looking to get a last-minute cramming session in to learn about the draft prospects, what do you consider to be the top three resources?
Joe Y: I enjoy the work the gang at HockeyProspect.com does. They offer a draft guide you can download (you have to pay) but their scouts are hard at work all year watching games and players and constantly evaluating. The gang at RedLineReport.com also does strong work. A lot of solid scouting info you won’t find freely available. There’s not really a Mel Kiper, Jr. type out there, but I’ll always give credit to those out there spending the bulk of the season hitting the trails and living out of rinks across North America and Europe
James C: This year I elected to purchase the “Black Book” from Hockeyprospects.com while also checking with with The Hockey Writers, & The Hockey Guys. All are good to help learn about the more known prospects & plenty of the ones that are never or rarely mentioned.
Kurt R: In terms of the free stuff, I typically stick with some of the standards — Bob McKenzie (of TSN fame, of course) puts out the most accurate mock draft year after year, and he and Craig Button at TSN typically profile the top 60 guys in the draft (http://www.tsn.ca/draftcentre/feature/?id=95289) so that’s a great place to start. And as someone who enjoys the numbers side of things, I do love Extra Skater’s recent addition of CHL fancystats to their site (http://www.extraskater.com/chl/players) — those are really cool to look at for comparison purposes. And McKeen’s (http://www.mckeenshockey.com/draft/) is another site that I look to for a little bit of everything, though they do charge a bit.