2014 NHL Draft Ranking: Part 3
Read Part One Here
Read Part Two Here
21. Kasperi Kapanen – RW – KalPa (Sm-Liiga) – 5’10 – 171lbs – Shoots R – 7/23/1996
Son of former NHL great Sami Kapanen, Kasperi Kapanen is a young, flashy winger who is equal parts playmaker and goal-scorer. While he may not have the flashy skating of his father, he can cruise around the ice at an above-average pace. Kapanen’s awareness is also above-average and his hands enable him to distribute the puck around the ice effectively. Kapanen’s calling card is his shot, which has a quick release and pinpoint accuracy. Kapanen can fool goaltenders by finding open spaces and squeezing pucks in with elite precision. His shot and game as a whole would be bolstered if he played with his head up a bit more. Kapanen doesn’t have a traditional howitzer of a sniper, but what he lacks in velocity he makes up for with stealth. His release is quick and deceiving. Kapanen is adequate defensively, and while his game in his own end isn’t an eyesore, some seasoning will be necessary for the next level. His game in the tough areas of the ice and in the department of physicality is a cause for concern. Kapenen doesn’t necessarily avoid contact as much as frame and approach hurt him. Having missed out on the World Junior due to injury, there’s still a large element to his game that has yet to be seen on an extremely large stage despite the fact that he was playing against grown men in Liiga. Kapanen’s fast hands, elite shot, and overall offensive skill set make him a strong asset in this draft that can deliver a large ROI with the investment that comes with it.
2013/14 Liiga Statistics: 47GP – 7G – 7A – 14PTS – 10PIM – -8
22. Julius Honka – D – Swift Current (WHL) – 5’11 -175lbs – Shoots R – 12/3/1995
Julius Honka is a fleet-footed two-way defenseman that has the rare ability as a blueliner to make other team’s defensemen concerned about what he’s doing on the ice. Honka can fly from end to end and his quick feet, agility, and speed make him a treat to watch from a skating perspective. Honka has an elite shot, and while his top notch power might not be there, his shot is efficient and above-average from both a wrist-shot and slap-shot perspective. Honka also has a knack for keeping his head up and surveying the ice on a grand scale. This makes him an excellent asset with the man-advantage as he’s capable of keeping his feet moving, assessing a play, and finding the correct lanes. Honka is an effective puck distributor but his mobility makes his ability to join the rush and carry the puck up ice two of his best assets. Honka is extremely responsible with his defensive responsibilities even if there is room to grow there, primarily a result of his size and strength. Honka does not put himself in compromising positions in transition or in jumping into the play. While he can be bullied on the ice a bit, his work ethic is there and he plays the game the right way. His on-ice leadership is bolstered by his high hockey IQ and offensive awareness. Overall, this is a smooth-skating defenseman that has the makeup coveted by the current NHL environment.
2013/14 WHL Statistics: 62GP – 16G – 40A – 56PTS – 52PIM – +10
23. David Pastrnak – LW – Sodertalje (Swe-1) – 5’10 – 167lbs – Shoots R – 5/25/1996
David Pastrnak has the ability to put the game in fast-forward, whether that be via his quick, shifty skating or his electrifying shot. Pastrnak thinks and operates an extremely fast-paced level and has the ability go inside-outside on both defenders and goaltenders. His shot meets modern-day NHL sniper criteria. His release is effortless but his shot is hard, accurate, and on a rope. From accuracy to velocity, Pastrnak’s wrist shot is without question his best asset. His skating ability makes him a handful for even the best defender. He can destroy tight gaps kept by elite defensemen by changing direction quickly and turning on the jets to break outside. He keeps you guessing by changing his approach seemingly to test for weaknesses like a skating predator. The issue with Pastrnak lies within his size, strength, and the obstacles those will present on a smaller ice surface. Pastrnak’s mindset in his approach to the tough areas is present, but where the mind is willing, the body is simply not able. If he can continue to bulk up and improve his skating-base, his offensive skill set will serve him that much better. Overall, Pastrnak is an exciting talent with a great first step, top gear, and shooting ability.
2013/14 Allsvenskan Statistics: 36GP – 8G – 16A – 24PTS – 24PIM – +7
24. Jakub Vrana – RW – Linkopings (Swe1) – 6’0 – 181lbs – Shoots L – 2/28/1996
Last season, there was a lot of discussion about Jakub Vrana’s chances to end up in the top ten this season. The main issue he’s fallen in the rankings has been his inability to jump to the Swedish Elite League, as he’s sort of found himself in a bit of a limbo between leagues. That being said, his skills were on showcase at the World Junior this season and this Swedish league Czech star has all the tools offensively to exhibit a high reward scenario. Vrana has a great shot with solid velocity and pinpoint accuracy. His release is the most talked about aspect of his shot for good reason. Vrana is also a speedster with great breakaway speed and a penchant for burning the opposition. Perhaps the most intriguing part of his game is one that you would not expect from the previous descriptions. He’s a presence in front of the net in a major way. He’s relentless around the puck and is a goal-hound in addition to being a sniper. Not only is his shot elite, but he gets to the front of the cage and is extremely heads-up in getting to loose pucks around the net. He’s not an overly physical player, but his size deems him effective in the tough areas. I would not go as far as to say he is a 200 foot player, but he’s aware of his responsibilities and does not shirk them. Overall, Vrana needs to improve in the boards and continue to develop the use of his size to his advantage. His game needs to continue to round out as he attempts to make the jump to the Swedish Elite League full time next season.
2013/14 Superelit Statistics: 24GP – 14G – 11A – 25PTS – 26PIM
25. Travis Sanheim – D – Calgary (WHL) – 6’3 – 189lbs – Shoots L – 3/26/1996
Travis Sanheim is a smooth skating defenseman with a solid shot and a great two-way approach to the game. His reverse-pivot on the offensive blueline is perhaps the most electrifying aspect to his game. He can moonwalk the blueline and effectively corral the puck in tough areas of the ice. His wrist shot and snap shot are adequate and end up on net with regularity despite the fact that he doesn’t take a ton of shots. His stick work is superb and he keeps an extremely effective gap at the blue line. His stick on puck approach to one-on-one defense makes him effective at being a shutdown defender. The key with understanding the situation with Sanheim is to understand how he progressed through the year. Starting out with minimal and erratic minutes, Sanheim responded with added responsibility and ice time as the season progressed and made the absolute most of it. Sanheim’s mobility and assessment of events on the ice make him an effective player in both zones. The main issue here is that Sanheim needs to continue to round out his game and become better at taking abuse over the course of a 60 minute period. He’s excellent in the defensive aspects of the game that don’t require bodywork and simply average in the areas that do. There is a question about consistency here that, for me, exists on a shift-by-shift basis more than longer stretches of time. Overall, this is an extremely competent defenseman with excellent skating ability that just needs to tweak a few things in the way of his approach before he starts to truly benefit the team that selects him.
2013/14 WHL Statistics: 67GP – 5G – 24A – 29PTS – +25
26. Nikolay Goldobin – RW – Sarnia (OHL) – 6’0 – 185lbs – Shoots L – 10/7/1995
Nikolay Goldobin is one of the more electric players in this draft class. His ability to set-up his teammates, dangle through traffic, find loose pucks in front, and snipe is top notch. He’s an elite offensive talent with an electric, darting, and effortless skating stride. He’s a specialist with the puck on his stick and has quick hands that are difficult to read. This is a player that will bring you to the edge of your seat when he gets his top gear going heading into the offensive zone because he’s a magician and a dangle expert. He’s a very consistent offensive presence and produced a 22 game point streak in the meat of this season. Goldobin’s deficiency comes at the opposite end of the ice in his defensive zone. It appears that, at times, Goldobin completely shirks his responsibilities on the backend. Despite his electric approach to offense he’s also capable of getting lost in the shuffle and sneaking into good areas. His anticipation is top notch and he can create offense simply by opening up space in a lane or taking up an area of the ice. His wrist-shot is difficult to track and he’s capable of firing the puck off balance as effectively as he can with time and space. He stalks prime scoring chances on the ice from an offensive standpoint. Another key issue to his game lies in his physicality as he’s not very strong and does not go to war in key areas of the ice. The perception can be that he’s not interested in physical play or in the defensive aspect of the game. Both of these issues are coachable, the offensive skill set he brings is not. This is a player that would be well served spending time with a talented, playmaking center that could play equal parts set-up man and finisher with Goldobin.
2013/14 OHL Statistics: 67GP – 38G – 56A – 94PTS – 21PIM – -30
27. Roland McKeown – D – Kingston (OHL) – 6’1 – 186lbs – Shoots R – 1/20/1996
Roland McKeown is the first player I would consider to be a jack of all trades, master of none type performer. McKeown is a solid skater who is fundamentally sound in every aspect of his mobility. In fact, from top to bottom, good form and approach are simply inherent n McKeown’s game. His skill set is enhanced by his heads up approach to everything he does. He survey’s the ice extremely well, and although he’s prone to mental lapses at certain points in the game, he’s able to play at a higher level because of his vision. His pass, especially cross-ice on offense, is a major asset to his game. He’s got what I would consider to be the nicest and most traditionally sound slapshot in the CHL. His shoulders square to the target and he’s able to will the puck to any corner by exhibiting the proper approach to shooting. McKeown’s major knock is a spell of poor decision making when it comes to carrying the puck up ice and activating his offense. His skating is strong, but his top gear isn’t nearly enough to allow him to immediately cover for his mistakes. His one on one gap with defensemen is sound and he’s a physical player without being over-the-top in that regard. Overall, McKeown is a safe project to me. If he’s able to develop more patience and hesitation at the correct moments, his steadfast approach to offense alone makes him a key asset in today’s NHL.
2013/14 OHL Statistics: 62GP – 11G – 32A – 43PTS – 61PIM – +38
28. Thatcher Demko – G – Boston College (NCAA) – 6’4 – 192lbs – Catches R – 12/8/1995
Thatcher Demko has the size that makes him immediately coveted by NHL franchises. Couple that with his athleticism and attitude and you have a what equates to the surefire best goaltender in this draft class. A subscriber to the butterfly style of goaltending, Demko uses his athleticism and size as a nice compliment to his sound angles and his aggressive approach to the position. Demko improved with every start this year and seemed to enhance his aggressive approach game by game. Demko loves to come out to the top of the net and step up to the shooter. He attempts to dictate every circumstance that he finds himself in. In all the games he’s played this year, you’d be hard pressed to find a true moment where he lost himself in the game or got stuck in an avalanche type situation. His glove is underwhelming but effective. He could do a better job of protecting himself in his area and giving more pushback to screens. Also, he has been known to have the tendency to recklessly use his pads which puts him in a bad position. Overall, Demko has the size, athletic ability, and attitude to be a future starting goaltender in the NHL.
2013/14 NCAA Statistics: 23GP – 16-4-3 – 2.16GAA – .920% – 2SO
29. Nick Schmaltz – C – Green Bay (USHL) – 6’0 – 172lbs – Shoots R – 2/23/1996
Nick Schmaltz is a gifted, play-making center with excellent vision and an elite set of hands. His crisp, accurate passes enhance the value of his teammates and he’s constantly surveying the ice with his head up looking for an outlet pass or an open lane. His shot is adequate but is not his bread and butter. His release is quick and the best asset to his wrister. Schmaltz rarely takes slap shots. I’ve seen his skating listed as a deficiency by many people and I have to respectfully disagree with those assessments. While he might lack the edgy flash of some of his peers, he’s capable of getting up ice quickly and has an elusive speed about him. Schmaltz has a lot of work to do on defense and will be a bit of a project in that regard as he often shirks some of the important responsibilities that a center has at the defensive level, especially below the circles in the offensive zone. The plus side to this problem is he’s going to be attending North Dakota this year and will get the chance to play with his brother Jordan, a defenseman, in a program that won’t tolerate defensive lapses. Schmaltz benefits from having quick hands and can willingly take the puck into tight areas because of the immediate advantage he boasts in puck control and dekeing. Schmaltz will also benefit from gym time at the NCAA level as the going will really get tough in the boards for him there. If he can bring an added element of size to his game, his long skating stride will allow him to drive to the net with a higher level of efficiency.
2013/14 USHL Statistics: 55GP – 18G – 45A – 63PTS – 16PIM – -3
30. Conner Bleackley – C – Red Deer (WHL) – 5’11 – 195lbs – Shoots R – 2/7/1996
With three years experience in the CHL environment under his belt, Conner Bleackley is another of many talented centers in this draft class. Bleackley is an average skater with a great work ethic and a fantastic sense of on-ice leadership. His shot is accurate and he isn’t afraid to use it. He grew by leaps and bounds on the defensive side of the puck as the season progressed. He doesn’t shirk responsibilities on defense, he just needs to be coached up on the backend. He’s willing to contribute in all phases of the game and skates a 200 foot game even though he might have positional defects to be worked out. Bleackley’s shift by shift consistency is top notch and he comes at the defense in waves. He’s capable of utilizing his teammates to his advantage and isn’t afraid to mix it up along the wall. The pro and con to Bleackley’s game lies in the power-play. The first criticism you’ll hear is that the majority of his points came with the man advantage. This is true, but if he can continue to bring his work ethic to the even-strength game the points will come. Bleackley is an intriguing case because there’s an amount of safe to selecting him, but the upside has yet to be determined. He has many aspects of his game that need to be refined, but he has the attitude and approach of a leader and responds well to coaching. With his skating being as good as it is, if he can put the rest together he’ll be a player that can make an impact at the next level.
2013/14 WHL Statistics: 71GP – 29G -39A – 68PTS – 48PIM – +3
Stay Tuned for 31-40.