Get to know a draft pick – Nikolaj Ehlers

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Leading up to the 2014 NHL Entry Draft in Philadelphia, we’ll be profiling top prospects who may hear their names called Friday in the first round. Nothing too in-depth. Just enough so you know who they are and what they’re about.

Nikolaj Ehlers (LW)

Height: 5’10 Weight: 176 Shoots: Left

Team: Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

Country: Denmark

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 13 among North American skaters

What kind of player is he?

We’ll soon find out. His scored an incredible 49 goals and 104 points in 63 games as a QMJHL rookie while playing alongside Jonathan Drouin, the third overall selection of the Tampa Bay Lightning in last year’s draft. So, put Ehlers with quality players, and, in turn, he has the potential to put up some quality numbers.

Also a well-rounded athlete with professional hockey in his lineage. He played soccer in Denmark’s national team program until he was 14, and his father played pro hockey for 16 seasons in Europe, according to NHL.com.

Maybe the one knock against him is his size, weighing about 10 pounds lighter than Drouin did at this time last year.

Quotable:

His speed and shot appear to be his greatest assets, as Mooseheads teammate Darcy Ashley emphasized to The Chronicle Herald.

“He’s one of those players who might not be as big as some of the other guys in the draft right now but scouts are looking at two or three years down the road.

“If you want someone on your team who can score goals, you’re not going to be looking for an 18-year-old to do that right away. You’re looking for a guy to do that starting when he’s 21 or 22. Nik’s a guy that will put on size. When you can skate like that and when he puts on 20 pounds or maybe even grows an inch or two, he’s going to be a superstar in the NHL.”

For more 2014 NHL Draft previews, click here.

Isles sign Northeastern captain Stevens

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John Stevens, who just wrapped a four-year career at Northeastern University, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders, the club announced on Monday.

Stevens, 22, went undrafted but emerged as a valuable player for the Huskies, culminating with a senior season in which he served as captain and averaged better than a point per game (28 in 25 contests).

Stevens is the son of longtime L.A. Kings associate coach John Stevens, who formerly served as the bench boss in Philly.

A third member 0f the Stevens clan, Nolan, also played this season at Northeastern — his junior campaign — and was taken by St. Louis in the fifth round of last year’s draft.

McElhinney to start for Leafs tomorrow

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Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Maple Leafs when they host Florida tomorrow.

Which means Toronto’s regular starter, Frederik Andersen, will not.

Andersen, hurt Saturday in Buffalo, only lasted 20 minutes of practice this morning. The Toronto Star, citing a Leafs source, is reporting that Andersen “took a blow to his jaw from a player in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Sabres.”

McElhinney is 4-5-0 with a .919 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Leafs this season. He told reporters that tomorrow will be the biggest start of his NHL career.

It remains to be seen who will back up McElhinney against the Panthers. The Leafs have recalled goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL on an emergency basis. All three netminders were on the ice today.

Update:

Expect Sparks to be the back-up tomorrow.

Toronto has a three-point playoff cushion, with eight games remaining.

The Leafs also recalled forward Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd overall draft pick in 2014. Kapanen, 20, has 18 goals and 25 assists in 43 games for the Marlies this season. He’s expected to replace Ben Smith on the fourth line, alongside Brian Boyle and Matt Martin.

Habs sign d-man Mete, who ‘does everything’ for junior team

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Victor Mete, Montreal’s fourth-round pick at last year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Monday.

Mete, 18, is in his third year with OHL powerhouse London, and finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 50 games. He’s developed a reputation as a terrific skater, and often plays alongside fellow Knights d-man Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall at last year’s draft.

London assistant coach Dylan Hunter had high praise for Mete this season.

“When it comes to little nuances of his game, stick on puck, knowing when to make a play and when there isn’t a play to just get it out, he’s one of the best there is right now,” Hunter said, per the London Free Press.

“He does everything for us.”

Mete has one year of junior eligibility remaining, so it’s likely he’ll be back in London next season. At 5-foot-10 and just 180 pounds, he’s undersized and could use another year of development before turning pro.

 

After ‘great’ senior year, Pens sign Union standout Taylor

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Pittsburgh wasted little time in getting Jeff Taylor in the mix.

Taylor, the Union College senior defenseman who had his collegiate career end over the weekend, signed a two-year, entry-level deal on Monday, and also inked an ATO to join the club’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Taylor, the club’s seventh-round pick in 2014, enjoyed a career year at Union, helping the Dutchmen advance to the NCAA Tournament by setting career highs in goals (9) and points (33) in 38 games.

Back in December, Pens assistant GM Bill Guerin spoke glowingly about Taylor’s last collegiate campaign, saying he was in the midst of a “great” senior season.

“This is a kid we’ve been looking forward to getting since we drafted him,” Guerin said, per the Post-Gazette. “I remember his first development camp, everybody was like, ‘Oh, wow, look at this kid. He can move the puck, he can skate, he’s quick. He thinks the game well.’ And it hasn’t stopped.

“He’s an undersized guy, but he has the ability to get himself out of trouble because he’s got great feet and he thinks the game well.”