The 2014 NHL Entry Draft will kick off at the Wells Fargo Centre in Philadelpha on Friday. On Friday, Original Joe's will be hosting a draft day party for Prince Albert Raiders fans to support their No. 1 centre. The festitivies at Original Joe's will begin at 4:30 p.m. Herald photo by Perry Bergson
There’s no doubt Prince Albert Raiders centre Leon Draisaitl will be handed a NHL sweater on Friday.
Which NHL crest sewn onto that sweater, however, is anyone’s guess.
Heading into the 2014 NHL Entry Draft at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, there appears to be a consensus top five.
Based on rankings and media speculation, Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, Michael DalColle and Draisaitl should be off the board when it comes time for the Vancouver Canucks to make their sixth overall selection.
With all five players capable of being selected first overall, the order in which they are taken is a bit of a crapshoot.
Still, as hockey fans love to do, there’s no stopping The Herald from speculating.
The Herald’s mock 2014 NHL Entry Draft
1.) Florida Panthers
Although nailing down a concencus No. 1 pick has been difficult, the majority are pointing to Barrie Colts defenceman Ekblad.
With a deep pool of talented young forwards including Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau already in their system the Panthers are likely to go with the 6’4”, 217-pound blue liner to support them.
According to scouts, Ekblad is mature beyond his 18 years of age and ready to make the leap to the professional level. It’s been awhile since a defenceman was picked first overall, but Ekblad’s NHL-ready frame, exceptional vision and puck moving abilities may be too tough for the Panthers to pass on.
Draisaitl may want to hang on to his Prince Albert winter gear.
The Herald prediction: Aaron Ekblad
2.) Buffalo Sabres
Selecting second overall, the Sabres will have the pick of the litter of the draft’s forwards, likely narrowing things down to Draisaitl, Reinhart and Bennett.
There is room in the Sabres organization for all three forwards and they are likely to select whichever they feel has the most upside, regardless of their natural position.
While passing on the smart and skillful Reinhart, they may opt for the unique combination of size and skill possessed by the Raiders prized centre, which does not come along in a draft as often.
With size becoming an increasingly critical commodity in today’s NHL, the Sabres could find Draisaitl to be the most valuable forward on the board and grab him early.
Much to the chagrin of Prince Albert’s strong contingent of Edmonton Oilers fans, Draisaitl will join fellow German Christian Ehrhoff in Buffalo.
The Herald prediction: Leon Draisaitl
3.) Edmonton Oilers
With the draft’s can’t miss defenceman and Draisaitl off the board, Kootenay Ice forward Reinhart falls directly into the Oilers lap.
The Sabres faced a tough decision in choosing between Draisaitl and Reinhart, who is the natural pick for the Oilers and will add to their already deep pool of young forwards.
The Oilers made no secret of their feelings towards Draisaitl throughout the course of the 2013-2014 WHL season and by most accounts he’s their guy.
Should the Sabres find more upside in Reinhart’s leadership and hockey sense over Draisaitl’s combination of size and skill, P.A. Oilers fans will get their wish.
The Herald prediction: Sam Reinhart
4.) Calgary Flames
Most reports agree that Draisaitl is unlikely to slip past third overall, leaving the possibility of him joining the Oilers fiercest rival incredibly narrow.
With Draisaitl off the board, the Flames will opt for the next best thing in 6’2”, 179-pound Oshawa Generals forward Michael DalColle.
Like Draisaitl, DalColle utilizes his big frame well against opponents and has proven natural scoring ability by netting 39 goals and 95 points in the OHL last season.
The Herald prediction: Michael DalColle
5.) New York Islanders
With four of the five consensus top picks off the board, the Islanders will opt for the best remaining forward in Kingston Frontenacs Bennett with the fifth overall selection.
A versatile forward, Bennett tallied 36 goals and 55 assists in the OHL last season.
The Herald prediction: Sam Bennett
No matter where Draisaitl lands on Friday, Prince Albert fans will be able to join in on the 2014 Draft festivities.
Starting at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Original Joe’s will be hosting a Draft Party, giving fans the opportunity to show their support for the Raiders prospect as his NHL fate is determined.
All fans in attendance will be entered to win a Draisaitl jersey of whichever team drafts him. If The Herald’s prediction is correct, one happy Raiders fan will look good in Sabres blue and gold.