Here are three things you need to know about the 2014 NHL Entry Draft!
It's in Philadelphia
The first round of the 52nd annual NHL Entry Draft will take place in Philadelphia, Pa. on Friday, June 27 at 7 p.m. ET. The rest of the draft - from Round 2 through Round 7 - will take place on Saturday, June 28 beginning at 10 a.m. ET. Over the course of two days 210 players will be selected by the NHL's 30 member teams.
The vast majority of eligible players for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft were born between January 1, 1994 and September 15, 1996. Also eligible: players who were drafted in 2012, went unsigned, and were born after June 30, 1994. Among that latter group of draft eligible players, Windsor Spitfires forward and former Montreal Canadiens prospect Brady Vail is probably the highest profile.
Ekblad, Reinhart, or Bennett?
At the very top of the NHL draft are two skilled centerman in Sam Bennett and Sam Reinhart, along with a potential cornerstone defenseman in Aaron Ekblad. Which one of these three highly regarded prospects will hear their name called first overall?
The answer to that question will depend on which team is making the first overall selection. The Panthers have very publicly shopped the No. 1 pick for the past six weeks, though at the moment they appear to be leaning towards making the selection themselves. If the Panthers can't find a trading partner, they're expected to make man-child defender Ekblad the No. 1 overall pick.
It's still possible that Florida moves the pick though, in which case, Bennett and Reinhart could come into play. Bennett is the top-rated North American skater according to NHL Central Scouting, but because of his size and upper-body strength issues, he's generally thought to be the most likely of the three top-end prospects to slide.
Reinhart is the third-rated North American skater, but because of his NHL-ready size and extreme on-ice intelligence, he's generally rated a bit more highly by scouts and executives than Bennett is. It seems unlikely that Reinhart will get past the Buffalo Sabres, who conveniently own both the second overall pick and the worst offense in the league.
It'll be very interesting to see if a prospect like hefty German-born forward Leon Draisaitl can bump one of Bennett, Reinhart, or Ekblad out of the top-three. Adding some additional intrigue it's worth noting that the Edmonton Oilers - who will select third overall on Friday - are reportedly high on the sizable centerman.
Tricks of the Trade
For a variety of reasons, namely a lack of franchise altering talent at the top of the draft and a historically weak unrestricted free agent class, the hockey world is anticipating plenty of trades at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
"Some teams look at free agency as not an ideal route," Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher told NHL.com's Dan Rosen on Thursday, for example. "I think there will be a lot of movement."
Fletcher is hardly along in predicting a significantly level of player movement on draft day. That sentiment has been echoed in recent weeks by the likes of Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis and Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, among others.
As evidence of the appetite for horse trading among the league's general managers, three teams with Top-5 draft picks - the Florida Panthers, the New York Islanders, and the Edmonton Oilers - have either explicitly expressed, or are reported to have, a willingness to move those selections.
Among the higher profile names that could be dealt on draft day, Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler and Ottawa Senators captain Jason Spezza appear the most likely to move, but players like San Jose Sharks captain Joe Thornton, Edmonton Oilers center Sam Gagner, St. Louis Blues forward Patrik Berglund, Phoenix Coyotes defender Keith Yandle, Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer, and pretty much everyone on the Maple Leafs roster could be in play as well.
With so many names in play and so much uncertainty heading into Friday's festivities, the 2014 NHL Entry Draft has a chance to be exceedingly eventful.
Feature photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports/Ed Mulholland