The 2014 NHL draft class can be forgiven for feeling as though it has a case of middle-child syndrome. Which is to say, the top of this years draft class is not as dynamic or exciting as the 2013 class of Nate MacKinnon, Sasha Barkov, Jonathan Drouin and Seth Jones and its not as strikingly promising as the highly-anticipated 2015 slate of Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Noah Hanifin. But it would be a disservice to damn Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, Leon Draisaitl and Michael Dal Colle with faint praise. "They are all very good prospects, theyre all going to play in the NHL, they all should turn out to be very good players for a long time," one NHL scout said. But the draft is all about projection. And where MacKinnon, Barkov and Drouin were projected as first-line forwards and Jones was projected a likely No. 1 defenceman – destined for greatness -- this years crop of forwards is projected more as second liners with defenceman Ekblad perhaps getting "top pairing" billing though not necessarily a future dynamic No. 1. Good, maybe very good, but not necessarily great. The draft is also about question marks and, according to the scouts, even the elite picks this year have a few. And once one gets outside the top five of this years draft, question marks really abound. "There are some really talented kids in this draft, and not just at the top either," an NHL scout said, "but I dont recall a year recently when there were as many question marks. Skilled kids who lack size; players who might have issues with attitude or commitment. It seems to be a really volatile draft. Good luck trying to figure out this one." That said, in the eyes of the scouts, at the top, its rock solid, and, really, it has been all season long. Barrie Colt defenceman Aaron Ekblad is No. 1 on TSNs Top 60 Final Rankings for the 2014 draft, a position hes owned or had a share of since last September. Seven of the 10 scouts surveyed by TSN to compile the rankings had Ekblad at No. 1. No scout surveyed had him outside of the top three. Only two other prospects got first-place votes. No. 2-ranked Sam Reinhart, a centre with the Kootenay Ice, had one and No. 3-ranked Sam Bennett, a centre with the Kingston Frontenacs, had two. "The difference between the top guys this year is not significant," a scout said. "Thats why youre hearing more talk of teams drafting with position in mind." To say nothing of those question marks. For example, as good as the 6-foot-4, 216-pound Ekblad is, some scouts wonder if he an upside greater than being a steady, reliable two-way defender. Is there a dynamic quality there that is usually associated with a potential first overall pick? Barrie head coach Dale Hawerchuk, a former NHL star, doesnt know about dynamic, but he does know impactful, because thats what Ekblad has been from the moment he showed up to Barrie as a 15-year-old who was granted exceptional status by Hockey Canada to enter the OHL a year early. "Hes been a top pair, shutdown defenceman who played against the best players in our league from the day he got here," Hawerchuk said, "and theres no doubt in my mind, none whatsoever, that hes going to be a really good top pair, shutdown defenceman who plays against the best players in the NHL. Hes been impactful since Day 1. He does it all and he does it all consistently and hes going to be a 15 to 20 year top-pair NHL defenceman." This years top prospects earn rave reviews for some specific trait or quality, but the praise is accompanied by a question. Reinharts hockey sense, for example, is widely hailed, elite level, as good as it gets. But will his average speed and size put a second-line ceiling on him or reduce his effectiveness against men? Bennetts complete game – equal parts skill, smarts, spirit, edge and work ethic – is lauded but can an average size centre translate that style to the NHL against men? No. 4-ranked Leon Draisaitl, the Prince Albert Raiders German-born and –trained centre, has a big NHL frame and can make plays but will the lack of a dynamic step keep him from being a first-liner? No. 5-ranked Michael Dal Colle, the Oshawa Generals rangy winger who is equally adept at shooting or making plays, but will his play without the puck be an issue? And yet, for all the questions being asked, scouts concede these five are all good NHL prospects with a strong likelihood of having long NHL careers. But there is a high degree – higher than usual – of subjectivity this year. Nowhere is that more evident than in the players, ranked Nos. 6 through 10 on TSNs list. No. 6-ranked Nick Ritchie, the Peterborough Pete winger, has all the physical tools to be the consummate scoring power forward but theres been a lot of immaturity, inconsistency as well as some injuries in his game. No. 7-ranked Jake Virtanen, the Calgary Hitmen winger, is another who has all the tools to be a scoring power forward but some scouts are a little wary because he tends to get tunnel vision when he has the puck. No. 8-ranked Haydn Fleury, the Red Deer Rebel defenceman, has the size and speed scouts love but he has not established himself as either an offensive defenceman or a punishing defenceman. No. 9-ranked William Nylander, the Canadian-born, Swedish-trained winger, may be the most skilled player in the entire draft class, but scouts worry about a stubborn streak that has often seen him play a more individual than team game. No. 10-ranked Nikolaj Ehlers, the Halifax Mooseheads Danish winger, was as prolific as any prospect this year, scoring 49 goals and 104 points in 67 games, and theres no doubting his skill level, but hes listed at 160 pounds, or as one scout put it, "he has to put on 20 pounds to be considered small." "Its a funny draft," a scout said. "A kid like Ritchie, with his size and skill, or Nylander, with his skill level, could one day be the best of this class but theres some real risk associated with these guys. What if Ritchie doesnt get fully committed to being as good as he can be? What if Nylander just decides hes going to play like hes the only guy on the ice?" Thats always a theme in any draft, but this year it seems to be even more prevalent earlier than ever involving more prospects than usual. Size is certainly on the mind of a lot of teams, especially after the very large Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup. Whether anyone likes it or not, thats the standard by which players are now judged. "I look at these kids and I try to project them playing against the Los Angeles Kings one day," a scout said. "Can they play that game at that level?" Even that exercise can be fraught with peril because two of those outstanding Kings – Tanner Pearson, who went 30th overall in the 2012 draft, and Tyler Toffoli, who went 47th overall in 2010 – were passed over by many teams in their respective draft year because they were perceived as too slow or too weak or too incomplete or too flawed. Go figure. Guelph centre Robby Fabbri (No. 14 on TSNs list) scored 45 goals for the Storm in the regular season, was the OHLs playoff MVP and plays a hard-nosed game for a 5-foot-10 pivot, but will he stand up to the L.A. King litmus test? Ditto for smallish Swiss forward Kevin Fiala, No. 15 on the TSN list, though Fiala had the benefit of playing against men in both the Swedish League and for Switzerland at the World Championships. But no two players represent the uncertain quality of this years draft like the 30th and 31st-ranked Josh Ho Sang of the Windsor Spitfires and Anthony DeAngelo of the Sarnia Sting. Ho Sang is an electrifying, highly-skilled albeit undersized skilled forward who has some very firm ideas on how the game of hockey should be played and how he should play it. First-round talent? Absolutely. Will a team step up and take him in the first round? Thats the fascinating aspect of this draft. So much natural talent; so many question marks. "The question with Ho Sang is whether he wants to be a hockey player or he wants to be an artist or an entertainer," one scout said. "When he plays the give and go game, hes effective and dangerous but a lot of the time he only wants to go, theres no give (the puck to anyone else). Is he going to figure it out? Because if he does, the skills he has…" DeAngelos situation, though, takes it to another level of uncertainty. The American blueliner is undersized at 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, but he put up 15 goals and 71 points in 51 games for Sarnia. Imagine how many more points he would have registered if he hadnt been suspended on three separate occasions this season for either violating the OHLs diversity policy or verbally abusing an on-ice official or, as fate would have it, both. In December of 2013, DeAngelo was suspended five games for violating the leagues diversity policy in a verbal spat with an on-ice official. In January of 2014, he received an eight-game suspension for violating the leagues diversity policy in a verbal exchange with a teammate. Five games after returning from that eight-game suspension, he was suspended two games for (verbal) abuse of an official. Many scouts dont know what to make of DeAngelo. The vast majority of them say the north New Jersey kid, wholl effectively be at "home" for this weeks NHL draft in Philadelphia, is (in spite of size concerns) a first-round talent, a smart, mobile and offensively gifted blueliner. "Look at the talented small defencemen and where theyve been taken in the draft, guys like Ryan Ellis, Ryan Murphy, Derrick Pouliot, even Erik Karlsson," a scout said. "DeAngelo should, on talent, be taken in that 10 to 20 range but Im not sure he will be because of the other stuff." Some of the scouts surveyed by TSN said they wouldnt take DeAngelo at all. Others said he would be a consideration in the second round – talent like that is hard to pass – but a couple did say they wouldnt rule out considering him in the first round. "If you read stuff that people write, I think they go overboard with it because they dont know the details," DeAngelo told the Camden Courier Post. "They think I have character issues. I dont think I have character issues." Interestingly, USA Hockey chose to not invite DeAngelo to its summer evaluation camp for the 2015 U.S. national junior team. Of all the stories in what is expected to be an unpredictable draft, DeAngelos is bound to be one of the most compelling. Hes expected to have upwards of 100 friends and family in attendance Friday night and whether hes chosen or not in the first round will be an intriguing storyline. Getting consensus for the TSN rankings was never more difficult than this year. Outside of perhaps the top 35 to 40, there was no real consensus. Even within the top 30 in the first round, there was a far greater variance from player to player than ever before. TSNs rankings do not take into account the teams order of selection; theres no allowance made for a teams personal or positional preference. These rankings are not so much an evaluation of which players will one day turn into the best NHLers as it is a forecast of what order in the draft this Friday and Saturday these players will reasonably be chosen. The list is determined on a mostly objective formula based on numerical rankings assigned by the scouts interviewed by TSN. Brian ONeill Vikings Jersey
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. Last year, Matt Kuchar closed with a 4-under 68 to beat Kevin Chappell by two strokes for his second win of the 2013 season and sixth of his career.With less than a week until the NHL Trade Deadline, check out the latest trade-related reports and speculation from around the NHL beat. And follow TSN.ca right through Deadline Day for all the updates. Is that Your Final Answer? The Pittsburgh Penguins are reportedly ponying up in their efforts to lure Ryan Kesler out of Vancouver. Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported a proposed deal between the Pens and Canucks that he credited to multiple sources. “A proposed deal would send Kesler to the Penguins in exchange for Brandon Sutter, two 2014 draft picks — likely a first- and third-round — and the Canucks choice of defensemen Simon Despres or Brian Dumoulin,” Rossi wrote on Saturday. Rossi continued to say that it is possible the deal could involve another player going in either direction, but that Penguins GM Ray Shero was only looking to acquire Kesler. Goalies Gone Wild The Minnesota Wild are apparently very much in the market for an upgrade between the pipes. According to Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher is after a netminder and was even in on discussions for former Buffalo keeper Ryan Miller before getting priced out. So, who fits the bill for Minnys playoff push? Russo drops a lengthy list that spans from new Sabres acquisition Jarsolav Halak to established number ones like Martin Brodeur and Cam Ward to enigmatic Oilers netminder Ilya Bryzgalov. Snowfall Warning? Could this be Paul Stastnys last week as a member of the Colorado Avalanche? The Denver Posts Adrian Dater writes that if the AAvs are unable to get the 28-year-old re-upped before the deadline, they could deal him rather than risk losing him for nothing over the summer as an unrestricted free agent.dddddddddddd "You want to keep winning and dont want to break that chemistry, but at the same time if something happens, it happens. Its just part of the business. Some things I cant control and I just worry about what I can control — and thats playing hockey," Stastny told the Post. Dater believes the Avs could probably expect a young defenseman in return and one that might still have time left on an existing deal or, if not, a pending restricted free agent. Call Me, Maybe? Jaromir Jagr is an intriguing name to watch prior to Wednesday. The 42-year-old just became the NHLs seventh 700-goal scorer and – as a pending unrestricted free agent – could be an attractive veteran addition for many teams as they push towards the post-season. But the iconic Czech winger cautions that any team looking for his services should probably run it by him first. “The situation with me is I think if any team would try to trade for me they would probably ask me first if I wanted to go there,” Jagr told the Star-Ledger after the New Jersey Devils Saturday win over the New York Islanders. “I dont have a contract (for next season) and Im 42 years old. What if I decided to go home? Nobody is going to give any draft picks or players for me if they dont know. “Same thing happened when I went to Boston (from Dallas last season). They called before. So Im probably going to know whats going on before.” Cheap Jerseys China NFL Jerseys Cheap NBA Jerseys Wholesale NHL Jerseys Wholesale MLB Jerseys Cheap Soccer Jerseys China Wholesale NCAA Jerseys Wholesale Football Jerseys Wholesale Basketball Jerseys Wholesale Baseball Jerseys
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