2014 NHL Draft: Canucks, Kings most prominent Western teams at draft

By Tony Piscotta

2014 NHL Draft - Jake Virtanen - Vancouver Canucks

Photo: Despite having a shoulder injury needing repair, the Vancouver Canucks made Calgary Hitmen forward Jake Virtanen their top pick at the 2014 NHL Draft (courtesy of Derik Hamilton/Icon SMI)

The Vancouver Canucks figure to have a new look in the coming years with new general manager Jim Benning and a new head coach in Willie Desjardins. The makeover in Vancouver started on Friday afternoon even before the 2014 NHL Draft began when the Canucks engineered a series of trades — one of which sent veteran Ryan Kesler to the Anaheim Ducks in a multi-player deal.

While Vancouver was one of the more active teams during the two-day draft at the Well Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA, several other teams made substantial moves and added key players that they feel will strengthen their clubs in the coming years.

Here is a team-by-team thumbnail look at what each Western Conference team did at the 2014 NHL Draft.

Central Division

Chicago Blackhawks

One of the league's more talented teams, the Blackhawks are one of the clubs that may have to find ways to manipulate their roster under the salary cap as their top players earn higher salaries. The Blackhawks had a late first round pick (20th overall) and no second round pick after sending that pick to the Arizona Coyotes in a trade. In all, they had eight picks including two picks in the third and fifth rounds with the Blackhawks focusing on long-term needs.

University of North Dakota-bound forward Nick Schmaltz, is one of seven college bound players chosen by Chicago.

Swedish defenseman Andreas Soderberg is huge but would be considered a project at this point.

Colorado Avalanche

Colorado relied on a core of young players — including Calder Trophy winner Nathan MacKinnon — and were one of the league's top teams this past season.

The Avalanche had no second round pick but had two fourth round picks. Colorado used its first pick on Red Deer Rebels center Connor Bleackley and chose forwards with four of their seven picks.

Third round pick Kyle Wood missed the first half of the season due to a knee injury but was a key force for North Bay in the playoffs as the Battalion reached the OHL finals. He is the type of large body, hard-to-play-against defenseman that would be an added boost to the Avalanche.

Dallas Stars

Canucks GM Jim Benning included Dallas amongst the elite teams in the Western Conference when asked about the impact the Kesler trade would have on his team. The Stars did a lot to supplement their strong core of young, highly-skilled forwards like Tyler Seguin, Valeri Nichushkin and Jamie Benn.

The Stars addressed their needs on the blueline, first taking smooth-skating offensive defenseman Julius Honka of the WHL's Swift Current Broncos.

Edmonton Oil Kings left wing Brett Pollock was too tempting for the Stars to pass up with the 45th overall pick but Dallas used five of its final six picks on defensemen, including a pair of hulking physical defenders in the Plymouth Whalers' Alex Peters and Miro Karjalainen of the Jokerit U18 team in Finland.

Minnesota Wild

Minnesota is another team that appears on the rise after a 98-point season and a rugged six-game series with Chicago in the Western Conference semifinals.

The Wild were right in the middle of two of the big trends in this year's draft — adding a big forward in the first round and selecting player's from the U.S. National Team Development Program.

Right wing Alex Tuch (6'3",  215 lbs.) was taken by the Wild with the 18th pick in the first round. The Wild did not have a second round pick but took Tuch's NTDP teammate Louis Belpedio, a defenseman from Illinois, in the third round.

With their fourth round pick, Minnesota chose Finnish goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen, a goaltender whose stock dropped after being considered the top European goaltender earlier in the draft, then took a big defenseman in the Kootenay Ice's Tanner Faith in the fifth round. The Wild finished the draft taking defenseman Pontus Sjalin from Sweden with the first of their three picks in the sixth round and selecting three centers with their final picks.

Nashville Predators

Nashville made a splash on Friday night when they sent winger Patric Hornqvist and center Nick Spaling to Pittsburgh to acquire James Neal at the beginning of the draft. And, while GM David Poile admitted that the team is still in the market for a first-line center, the Predators continued to accumulate offensively-gifted forwards.

In the first round, the Predators selected 17-year-old forward Kevin Fiala with the 11th overall pick and then selected another gifted scorer in Vladislav Kamenev from Magitogorsk in Russia's junior league. Fiala, a native of Switzerland who had 11 points in 17 games with HV71 in the SHL in Sweden, and Kamenev compare favorably to the young forwards like Filip Forsberg and Calle Jarnkrok that have been acquired by Nashville recently.

Defensemen Jack Dougherty, another product of the U.S. NTDP program, and Joonas Lyytinen, who played for KalPa Kuopio in Finland, are other intriguing prospects; as is Swedish forward Viktor Arvidsson — a 20-year-old who scored 20 goals with 36 assists in 64 SHL games including playoffs.

St. Louis Blues

The Blues used eight of their nine selections on forwards, including seven players who play the wing position. St. Louis used it's first round pick (21st overall) to select Guelph center Robby Fabbri, one of the keys to the Memorial Cup run for the Storm.

Perhaps there was no player more disappointed at being passed over in the first round on Friday night than Moncton Wildcats forward Ivan Barbashev, but any disappointment dissipated when he was selected by the Blues with the third pick of the second round. Barbashev could eventually be reunited with former Wildcats teammate, Dmitrij Jaskin.

The Blues had one of the first surprises of the draft, selecting skilled forward Maxim Letunov in the second round with the 52nd overall pick. The Moscow native, who skated for the last-place Youngstown Phantoms in the USHL last season, will spend one more season with the Phantoms before heading to Boston University in 2015-16.

Defenseman Jake Walman, a Toronto native, will play college hockey in the fall at Providence College and was taken in the third round before the Blues drafted five wingers to finish the draft.

Winnipeg Jets

The Jets grabbed one of the most exciting players in the draft with their first pick, taking Halifax Mooseheads left wing Nikolaj Ehlers with the ninth pick overall. Ehlers is one of the fastest players in this draft group and is a dangerous scorer.

Winnipeg did not have a second round pick but added Jack Glover, a defenseman out of the NTDP program who is from Golden Valley, Minnesota and will skate for the Golden Gophers this fall.

The Jets took players from the WHL with their two fourth-round picks, selecting Portland Winterhawks center Chase De Leo, a Calfornia native, and Saskatoon defenseman Nelson Nogier.

Winnipeg took a pair of 20-year-olds sandwiched around a center from Russia with their final three picks.

Minnesota native Clinston Franklin played for Sioux Falls in the USHL this year and will play for Minnesota State in the fall went in the fifth round followed by Yaroslavl's Pavel Kraskovsky in the sixth round. Matt Ustaski, who played for the BCHL's Langley Riverman, will play at the University of Wisconsin this fall.

Pacific Division

Anaheim Ducks

Anaheim made it's biggest splash prior to the draft, acquiring Kesler and a third-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft in exchange for center Nick Bonino, defenseman Luca Sbisa and first- and third-round picks in this year's draft.

The trade left the Ducks with five picks — three of which came in the first 55 picks in the draft as Anaheim had previously acquired a first round pick and another second round pick in a pair of trades.

With the tenth pick overall the Ducks selected hulking forward Nick Ritchie from the Peterborough Petes. His size and strength, to go along with a heavy shot, should fit in well in Anaheim.

The Ducks used their next three picks on defensemen, taking Skelleftea's Marcus Pettersson (38th overall) and UMass-Amherst commit Brandon Montour (55th) in the second round and Wisconsin high school defenseman Matthew Berkovitz in the fifth round. Berkovitz is committed to the University of Wisconsin for either 2016-17 or the following season.

Arizona Coyotes

Making their first draft selections with their new moniker, the franchise formally known as the Phoenix Coyotes took players with backgrounds in USA midget hockey whose fathers had NHL backgrounds. ("We're going to have a great sons and fathers game.")

Brendan Perlini grew up in the UK and spent two seasons playing in Michigan with the Belle Tire program before heading to the OHL. A big forward, he was selected by Arizona with the 12th overall pick in the first round after a big year for Niagara. Ryan MacInnis, the son of Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Al MacInnis, began his hockey career in the St. Louis area and skated for the U.S. NDTP before joining the Kitchener Rangers. He is a big and skilled offensive player and was selected with the 43rd pick overall.

The Coyotes had nine picks overall, including two picks in the second round, and used the second of the second round picks to select London Knights left wing Christian Dvorak. The suburban Chicago native suffered a serious knee injury in January in his first season with the London Knights — missing the rest of the regular season and the OHL playoffs before returning for the Memorial Cup.

Fourth-round pick Michael Bunting is another intriguing prospect. The Toronto native skated in the OHL as a rookie as an 18-year-old this season after being cut from the league the previous two seasons.

Calgary Flames

The Flames had a big draft weekend — both literally and figuratively.

With the number four pick in the draft, Calgary selected the player that Central Scouting had ranked as the top skater in North America, Kingston Frontenacs center Sam Bennett.

Calgary then added one of the larger players in the draft in the second round, Oshawa Generals right wing, Hunter Smith. Passed over in last year's draft, Smith (6'6", 208) scored 16 goals with 24 assists and had 100 penalty minutes in 64 regular season games for Oshawa after registering just one assist in 30 OHL games with the Generals the previous year.

The Flames traded a third round pick to Chicago in exchange for Brandon Bollig and, after selecting Boston University-bound defenseman Brandon Hickey in the third round, used it's final two picks to acquire another pair of large-bodied players in defenseman Adam Ollas Mattsson from the Djurgarden junior club in Sweden and Victoria Royals 19-year-old defender, Austin Carroll, who was the second-leading scorer for the Royals and led the club with 114 penalty minutes.

Edmonton Oilers

With needs at center and on defense, the Oilers took a huge step in addressing the former, selecting German-born, Prince Albert Raiders center Leon Draisaitl with the third overall pick in the draft on Friday night.

The Oilers did not have a second or third round pick as those picks were part of the David Perron and Ben Scrivens trades respectively.

In the fourth round, using a pick acquired from Minnesota in exchange for goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, the Oilers selected offensive-minded defenseman William Lagesson from the Frolunda junior team in Sweden. The Oilers had two picks in the fourth round and used the 111th overall pick to take University of Michigan goalie Zach Nagelvoort.

Edmonton drafted a couple of college-bound forwards in left wing Liam Coughlin (Boston University) and Tyler Vesel (Nebraska-Omaha) and added another goalie in the seventh round in Keven Bouchard from Val-d'Or in the QMJHL.

Los Angeles Kings

Partly due to the Stanley Cup champion Kings' success and partly due to the prospect group in 2014, it seemed like every team was looking for big forwards with two-way ability.

Using seven of their nine picks on players from the Ontario Hockey League, the Kings appeared to re-stock their own cupboard.

Selecting with the next-to-last pick in the first round, the Kings took left wing Adrian Kempe. Kempe skated for the Sweden U18 team in the 2013 Ivan Hlinka and 2014 U18 World Championship and played 47 games for MODO in the SHL, including playoffs, as a 17-year-old.

Kingston Frontenacs defenseman Roland McKeown, expected to go in the first round, was still available in the second round, so the Kings traded Linden Vey to Vancouver in exchange for the 50th overall pick to select him. With their own second round pick the Kings added bulk and toughness on their blue line by selecting Finnish defenseman Alex Lintuniemi, who played for the Ottawa 67's last year.

Los Angeles added a pair of thick OHL centers in North Bay's Michael Amadio (3rd round) and Jake Marchment of Belleville (6th) sandwiched around defenseman Steven Johnson in the fourth round. Johnson is a 20-year-old who played for the Omaha Lancers last year and will be a freshman at the University of Minnesota in the fall.

After drafting a pair of OHL forwards the Kings took a flier on another Ottawa 67's defenseman, Jacob Middleton, with the final pick of the draft.

San Jose Sharks

There was talk about massive changes in San Jose after the Sharks' disappointing seven-game opening round playoff loss to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. But in the short term, at least, it looks like cooler heads have prevailed.

The Sharks have one of the most talented groups of forwards and could afford to take a chance that offensively-gifted Sarnia Sting right wing Nikolay Goldobin can develop the other elements of his game enough to succeed at the NHL level. The Sharks selected the 18-year-old from Russia with the 27th overall pick in the first round. Goldobin had 94 points in 67 games on a Sting team that missed the OHL playoffs.

San Jose had two second round picks and selected a pair of players from Europe — defenseman Julius Bergman from the Frolunda junior team and right wing Noah Rod from Geneve-Servette in Switzerland's junior league — with their next two picks.

Portand Winterhawks right wing Alex Schoenborn was chosen by the Sharks in the third round as they selected four forwards in their final five picks. San Jose chose Saginaw Spirit left wing Dylan Sadowy with their second pick in the third round.

The Sharks added huge defenseman Alexis Vanier from the Baie-Comeau Drakkar with their fourth round pick and selected two major junior forwards with their final picks.

The Sharks did not have a seventh round pick.

Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks were by far the most active team during draft weekend — acquiring New York Rangers agitator Derek Dorsett for a third-round pick and trading veteran defenseman Jason Garrison to Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for the third-round pick they used to acquire Vey — in addition to the Kesler trade.

Vancouver made an equally big splash with it's first pick of the Benning Era, taking British Columbia native Jake Virtanen with the sixth overall pick.

Currently recovering from shoulder surgery, the right wing scored 45 goals in 71 regular season games despite the bothersome shoulder condition and played for the Canada U18 team. His strength and size should fit in well against the Western Conference opponents the Canucks face.

The Canucks snared Sault Ste. Marie center Jared McCann with their other first round pick (24th overall), then added imposing defensive defenseman Nikita Tryamkin (6'7" 228 lbs), who skated for Yekaterinburg Automobilist in the KHL last season, in the sixth round.

After adding defenseman Gustav Forsling, who skated for the Linkoping junior team in Sweden, the Canucks added two other huge players in Erie Otters center Kyle Pettit and Prince Albert Raiders defenseman Mackenzie Stewart.

Follow Tony Piscotta on Twitter via @HockeyNJ12