Michael Finewax

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2014 NHL Draft: First Round

Friday, June 27, 2014


11. Nashville - Kevin Fiala - (LW) HV 71 


Fiala is a slick-skating Swiss forward who can break open a game with his elite offensive skills and excellent determination. The 5'9, 178 pounder is a slippery skater who controls the puck exceptionally well and has a wealthy arsenal of shooting tools. Fiala is a gritty player who drives into the dirty spots for scoring chances, but has a lot of work to do before breaking into professional hockey in North America. Fiala needs to get stronger, improve his defensive game drastically and learn how to better play a coaches’ system rather than acting on his own. But a few more years of productive seasoning will set Fiala up for a solid NHL career. Nashville has sorely lacked game breakers and high-upside forwards, and in time, Fiala could become just that at the NHL level.

12. Arizona - Brendan Perlini - (LW) Niagara Ice Dogs


Brendan Perlini is an enticing package of size, skill and speed who came from nowhere to be a first-round pick due to a breakout 71 point campaign in 58 games for the OHL’s Niagara Ice Dogs this past year. The 6"2, 205 pound winger is a smooth skater with elite acceleration and quickness amongst this year’s draft class. He is patient and has a knack for making the smart plays, but does not play to his size. He sometimes loses battles to smaller opponents and is not overly physical, but is still a solid contributor in all areas of the ice, including his own zone. Perlini thrives with the puck on his stick, and should grow into an offensively capable winger playing a Max Pacioretty-style game. Perlini may need a year or two to fully develop so don't expect to see him in the NHL during the 2014-15 campaign.


13. Washington - Jakub Vrana - (RW) Linkopings


Jakub Vrana is a scoring winger who plays confidently, creatively and can unleash a remarkable shot. The 5'11", 172 pound Czech controls the game on his stick and creates quality scoring chances with masterful acceleration and all-around skill. Vrana fools goaltenders with a quick and accurate wrist shot, but is inconsistent defensively and has a lot of bulking up to do. Vrana was performing at over a point-per-game pace in Sweden’s junior league this season, but his success did not transfer well into the Elite League after he made the jump, managing just three points in 24 games. With a few years of on and off ice development, Vrana could play his way into a top-six role in the NHL as a scoring forward. The Capitals could certainly using the scoring depth after Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, but Vrana should be regarded as a bit of a project.

14. Dallas -Julius Honka - (D) Swift Current Broncos

The Finnish-born defenseman shares the mindset of Erik Karlsson and models his game after him too. The 5-11, 180-pound Honka is a player you pay to see and is regarded as the best power-play quarterback in the WHL. He has a forward mentality, with great vision, elusiveness and a heavy shot. He handles the puck well and has quick-strike ability in transition due to his dynamic skating ability. At times, he's steps ahead of his teammates because his offensive instincts and awareness are off the charts. He relies on positioning and smarts on the defensive side, and though it is steady, it still needs to catch up to his offensive game, especially from a physical standpoint. He tallied 16 goals and 40 points for Swift Current and was a member of Finland’s gold-medal winning team at the World Juniors. The Stars have plenty of good, young defenders in their pipeline and Honka brings another element to that depth.

15. Detroit - Dylan Larkin - (C) USA NTDP 18


Larkin is a scrappy two-way center who consistently injects relentless energy in all three zones. Larkin has been a very good offensive weapon thus far throughout his career, but projects to be a secondary scorer in the NHL with the ability to shut down the opposition’s top line. The 6'1", 190-pounder is a gifted skater who pushes the pace of the game and is tough to push off the puck. With 29 goals and 49 points in 53 games this year in the USHL, Larkin created offense by making simple plays rather than pulling flashy, risky moves. Larkin will attend the University of Michigan this fall and is poised to develop into an effective NHL center a few years down the road. You know he'll be more than ready when the Red Wings decide he's ready.

16. Columbus - Sonny Milano - (LW) USA NTDP 18

Sonny Milano is a highly gifted forward with magic hands who can dictate the pace of the game with his dominant stickhandling and poise with the puck. He is a versatile, pass-first center and wing who averaged nearly an assist per game in the U.S. Development Program in 2013-14. In 58 games, Milano put up 28 goals and 86 points and constantly drew defenders away from the play,which opened up passing lanes. The six-foot, 183 pounder reads the game very well and possesses a skill set similar to U.S. Olympian T.J. Oshie. Milano could take two or three years to groom in the NCAA, but has the tools to emerge as a top-six forward in the NHL. We will follow his progress during the 2014-15 season while he plays for Boston College.

17. Philadelphia - Travis Sanheim - (D) Calgary Hitmen

h the WHL Calgary Hitmen in 2013-14. Ever since Chris Pronger's career ended, the Flyers have been in a constant struggle to find high-end defenseman and while Sanheim will need some time to develop before he's NHL-ready, he certainly has top-four potential. That might not have been apparent even a year ago, but he's impressed scouts with the progress he's made. It helps that he now stands at 6'3", but he's also proven himself with and without the puck thanks in part to his smooth skating and poise.

18. Minnesota - Alex Tuch - (RW) USA NTDP 18

Tuch is a towering, bulky winger with a powerful stride who can hit hard, forecheck and score. The Baldwinsville, N.Y. native put up an impressive 28 goals and 60 points in just 53 games in the USHL this season with 58 penalty minutes. Tuch is a robust forward who grinds into opponents with the puck, and protects his linemates with his big body. Many of Tuch’s goals come through his impressive ability to attack the net and tip in pucks from the point, but he also owns a sublime pair of hands that could dish out the puck. Tuch is committed to Boston College this autumn, and should develop into a gritty second line power forward in the future.

19. Tampa Bay - Anthony DeAngelo - (D) Sarnia Sting

DeAngelo is an offensive-minded defenseman who led all Ontario Hockey League blueliners in assists (56) and points (71) during the 2013-14 campaign. He comes with baggage — he was suspended twice during the season for violating the OHL’s harassment, abuse and diversity policy. All the same, some see him as being the best offensive defenseman in the draft, with stellar stick-handling ability. NHL Network analyst Craig Button likens DeAngelo to Sergei Zubov. DeAngelo is a smooth skater, likes to join the rush and sees the ice very well; he is adept at the stretch pass. He possesses excellent offensive awareness and a good, accurate shot. His risk-reward game has improved, though his defensive positioning needs work and he needs to get stronger. DeAngelo is an exciting player who adds a dynamic offensive element on the back end for the Lightning, though it won't be immediately.


20. Chicago (via San Jose) - Nick Schmaltz (C) Green Bay Gamblers


Nick Schmaltz is an offensive juggernaut who shreds defenses with elite stickhandling, passing and shooting skills. He is a superb skater who constantly finds ways to feed his linemates even when few options are apparent. The six-foot, 172 pound center needs to add considerable muscle and improve his play away from the puck, but when the disc finds his stick, Schmaltz displays elite skill and poise while honing flashy one-on-one abilities.  Schmaltz is also known for rising to the occasion, seeming to play his best when the international spotlight is on him. The Green Bay Gambler posted 63 points in 55 USHL games this year, and should have a strong offensive impact when he’s ready to break into the NHL. It may take a season or two but Schmaltz will benefit from playing on the same squad as Patrick Kane, a player he can pattern his game after.

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Michael Finewax is entering his 10th season as the Senior Hockey Writer and Editor for Rotoworld. You can follow him on Twitter @mfinewaxhockey.
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