2014 NHL Draft Previews

NickRitchie

Get to know a draft pick — Nick Ritchie

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

Nick Ritchie

Height: 6’3”  Weight: 236 Shoots: Left

Team: Peterborough Petes (OHL)

Country: Canada

NHL Central Scouting Ranking: No. 7 North American skater

What kind of player is he?

In a word, and it’s a word you’ll hear a lot, he’s “heavy.” He’s already a pro-sized power forward. He’s physical, he’s strong, he plays the kind of game that wears out opponents. Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray mentioned Ritchie as being one of those players that could wind up pushing their way up the draft order because of the “heavy” game he plays.

“There are some guys that aren’t being talked about that are potentially part of that [group of high-end talent],” Murray said. “It’s a copycat League, so L.A. wins the Cup again and the terminology that they’re ‘heavy’ and you’ve got guys like [Nick] Ritchie and [Jake] Virtanen that are good players that are ‘heavy’ and teams are looking for ‘heavy.'”

The big question with Ritchie is whether that size meshes with talent to make him a top NHL player. The debate on where to take him in the draft centers around that question. He could go in the Top 10 or he could slip to near 20. After seeing speedy skill players that can play physical have success in the postseason, some teams could get spooked on Ritchie’s size alone.

Quotable:

TSN’s Craig Button is one of the top scouting voices in the business and he said Ritchie’s size is what sets him apart as Michael Traikos of The National Post shared.

“Physically, he’s so far advanced,” Button said. “If you put him in the NHL right now, he’s a big man. But the biggest thing with Nick is developmental. He needs maturing.”

Mark Seidel, the Chief Scout at NACScouting has this to say about Ritchie:

“Nasty streak that scares opponents. He showed an ability to fight very well and is a lefty. Dominant at times, physical specimen, looked disinterested at times, very heavy shot. He goes through guys when he wants to, exceptional for some games and then invisible for others. He has the most upside of ANY forward in the draft. Impossible to move when he went to the front of the net.”

For more 2014 NHL Draft profiles, click here.

Get to know a draft pick — William Nylander

WilliamNylander
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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 Sunday in the first round. Nothing too in-depth. Just enough so you know who they are and what they’re about.

William Nylander

Height: 5’ 11” Weight: 181  Shoots: Right

Team: MODO

Country: Sweden

NHL Central Scouting Ranking: No. 2 European skater

What kind of player is he?

If there’s a word to describe Nylander it’s “skilled.”

He jumped around a bit last season and ultimately landed in Sweden’s top league for 22 games with MODO scoring one goal with six assists. Considering he was 17 years old and playing against men, those numbers aren’t bad. For a better part of the year he was in Sweden’s second league and had 19 goals and 33 points in 43 games still against players much older than him.

Nylander grabbed the attention of scouts with his play at the World Under-18 Junior Championships where he had six goals and 16 points in seven games.

Long story short, he’s prepared to be a pro. To help everyone feel old, he’s the son of former NHLer Michael Nylander. If he can have or exceed the kind of career his old man did (679 points in 920 games) he’ll have a long career in the NHL. Considering his dad was a third-round pick by the Hartford Whalers in 1991, the bar is set a bit higher for William.

Quotable:

TSN’s Craig Button, a former GM of the Calgary Flames and scouting expert, said Nylander has tremendous ability as Oilers Nation shared.

“Nylander boasts high-end skills highlighted by excellent puck control. His confidence with the puck is outstanding and he has as much patience with it as any player in the draft.”

Chief Scout of NACScouting, Mark Seidel, has this to say about Nylander:

“Expectations coming into the season were unrealistic. He tried to do too much early and showed frustration. He makes offensive plays his teammates don’t even expect and distributes the puck very well. He loves to challenge with speed. He was the best offensive player at the recent Under 18’s. Size is still a concern, but will create offense wherever he plays.”

For more 2014 NHL Draft previews, click here.

Get to know a draft pick — Jake Virtanen

Lethbridge Hurricanes v Calgary Hitmen
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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.

Jake Virtanen (LW)

Height: 6’ Weight: 208 Shoots: Right

Team: Calgary Hitmen (WHL)

Country: Canada/Finland

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 6 among North American skaters

What kind of player is he?

Teams looking for a power forward will likely consider Jake Virtanen among the top candidates, if not the premier power forward in this 2014 class.

He has the size and hands (45 goals in the WHL this past season) to fit the bill, yet it also appears that he has the wheels to separate himself when brute strength isn’t enough. He took the top marks for 30-meter backward (4.55 seconds) and forward (3.92) sprints at the CHL Top Prospects Game. That doesn’t mean he’s necessarily the swiftest prospect out there, but it’s a strong indication that it’s an area of strength.

The prospect certainly doesn’t lack for confidence, either. He compared his game favorably to Rick Nash when asked by Yahoo’s Buzzing the Net:

“I kind of model myself after [the New York Rangers’] Rick Nash,” Virtanen said in March. “We’re kind of identical players. He likes to take the puck to the net. I think I’m a little more physical than that, I like to throw the body around.”

Quotable:

“It’s a copycat league, so L.A. wins the Stanley Cup again and the terminology is, ‘They’re heavy,'” Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray said. “So you’ve got guys like forwards [Nicholas] Ritchie and [Jake] Virtanen that are good players that are heavy. Teams are looking for heavy.”

“Jake is a great skater with a great shot and when he bears in on defenders, they are on their heels. He has an edge to his game and could be that ‘grand slam’ player all teams would love to get.” – TSN’s Craig Button.

For more 2014 NHL Draft previews, click here.

Get to know a draft pick — Leon Draisaitl

Leon Draisaitl
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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 Sunday in the first round. Nothing too in-depth. Just enough so you know who they are and what they’re about.

Leon Draisaitl (C)

Height: 6’1.5”  Weight: 204 Shoots: Left

Team: Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)

Country: Germany

NHL Central Scouting Ranking: No. 4 North American skater

What kind of player is he?

Draisaitl is the “new hotness” amongst the top prospects. Yes, he’s listed No. 4 by Central Scouting so people were already high on him, but his size and skill have some thinking he could unseat fellow centers Sam Reinhart or Sam Bennett in the Top 3.

He had 105 points this season with Price Albert, the same number Reinhart had with Kootenay, tying them for ninth-best in the CHL. He was a powerful playmaker with 67 assists and in highlight reels from the past season he looks like a man amongst boys not only with his skill but his size.

He has great vision and reach to make passes others cannot and has a very quick wrist shot. Check out this highlight reel for proof.

Quotable: TSN’s Craig Button is one of the smartest guys around when it comes to scouting prospects and his thoughts on Draisaitl are interesting as he shared with the Edmonton Journal:

“Leon is a big center who is smart, can make plays and can impact the game in multiple ways. He’s the type of center who is coveted by many NHL clubs because of his combination of size and skill.”

Mark Seidel is the Chief Scout for NACScouting and here’s what his thoughts are on the big German:

“Went through stages where he was the best player in the draft (November & early December) and stages where you wondered about his future (WJC’s). He learned to use his body more and more and has very soft hands for big kid that makes great passes into tight areas. He got much better defensively, has a heavy shot, and excellent anticipation abilities. He doesn’t have a long torso or limbs but very thick and strong. It’s hard to get the puck away from him.”

For more 2014 NHL Draft previews, click here.

Oilers select Draisaitl with the third overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft

Get to know a draft pick – Nikolaj Ehlers

CALGARY, AB - JANUARY 15: Nikolaj Ehlers #24 of Team Orr skates against Team Cherry during the CHL Top Prospects game at Scotiabank Saddledome on January 15, 2014 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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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.