No consensus on top pick heading into 2014 NHL Draft

Thu Jun 26, 2014 3:34pm EDT
 
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(Reuters) - The only consensus regarding the highly-anticipated first pick in Friday's 2014 NHL Draft is that there is no clear-cut choice for a team to pin their hopes on.

Four players are considered worthy of the coveted first overall spot, a far cry from recent years where Sidney Crosby (2005), Steven Stamkos (2008) and John Tavares (2009) were considered slam dunks to go first overall.

The top pick this year will likely come from one of four players -- Kingston Frontenacs center Samuel Bennett, Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad, Kootenay Ice center Sam Reinhart and Prince Albert Raiders center Leon Draisaitl.

"I think there's more guys that are similar to each other than a lot of years," Tampa Bay Lightning director of amateur scouting Al Murray told NHL.com. "It's a little bit difficult. It tends to come down to team preferences."

Barring a trade, the Florida Panthers select first in this year's draft at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center, while the Buffalo Sabres, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and New York Islanders round out the top five of 30 first-round picks.

The Panthers need depth on the wings but could take Ekblad, considered a solid defenseman with on-ice maturity who can log big minutes and play in all situations.

"I am always hesitant to label as a sure thing any young athlete as they have enough pressure on them as it is, but I would describe Ekblad as one of the most solid NHL prospects you will find in this year's draft class," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dave Marr told NHL.com.

"He is the best defenseman available and would be projected to vie for an NHL job a lot sooner than most."

Buffalo used their two first-round picks last year getting bigger on defense and are looking to add depth at forward this time around.   Continued...