2014 NHL Draft: Notes and numbers from Philadelphia

By Ken McKenna
2014 NHL Draft - Aaron Ekblad - Florida Panthers

Photo: Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad signifies his draft position after being chosen first overall at the 2014 NHL Draft by the Florida Panthers (courtesy of Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

The 2014 NHL Draft has come and gone, and another 210 players become the property of NHL teams for at least the next two years in most cases.

This year’s draft was held at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA, with the highly anticipated 2015 NHL Draft being hosted by the Florida Panthers next year at their home, the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL. The buzz surrounding next year’s draft comes from the high-end talent expected to be available in the first round of the draft, led by Erie Otters forward Connor McDavid and U.S. NTDP forward Jack Eichel.

As is the case with each draft, there is many smaller stories that play out over the course of the two-day event, including the breakdown of where all of the drafted players originate from. This article takes a look at that breakdown, plus a handful of other notes surrounding the makeup of the Class of 2014.

First, a breakdown of the birthplaces for those players chosen at this year’s draft:

Canada            77
United States 67
Sweden           27
Russia             13
Finland              9
Czech Republic 8
Latvia                2
Switzerland      2
United Kingdom 2
Denmark          1
Germany          1
Slovakia            1
TOTAL          210

G’day, Washington

It should be noted that, despite the fact that it is technically true that two of the drafted players were born in the UK, Washington Capitals fifth round selection Nathan Walker calls Australia home, making him the first player from that country to be chosen at the NHL Draft. Walker hasn’t played competitively in his country for several years, instead spending several seasons in the Czech Republic before playing the 2013-14 season with the Capitals’ AHL farm team, the Hershey Bears.

Canada’s hockey factory continues to produce

The Canadian Hockey League (CHL) has been the main supplier of talent for the NHL for many years. And, although there is more competition from the U.S. and Europe these days, the three leagues that comprise the CHL provided 45% of the players selected at the 2014 draft.

In all, 95 of the 210 players selected by the 30 NHL clubs came from either the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), or Western Hockey League (WHL). 20 of those 95 draftees were chosen in the first round of the draft, including Florida Panthers’ first overall selection Aaron Ekblad, who is the eighth consecutive CHL player to be the first to the draft podium and the sixth from the OHL in those last eight years.

In terms of the league breakdown, the OHL once again led the way with 41 of their players donning an NHL jersey, including 10 in the draft’s first round. The WHL tied their second-highest output by producing 37 draftees, including the draft’s top forward, Buffalo Sabres‘ top pick Sam Reinhart from the Kootenay Ice. The QMJHL wasn’t able to match their strong draft class of 2013, but they still produced 17 NHL draftees in 2014, including the top goaltender chosen in the draft, Calgary Flames pick Mason McDonald of the Charlottetown Islanders. That selection completed the trifecta of the CHL clubs having produced the top player at forward, defense, and in goal.

Three CHL clubs produced five draftees each, including the Memorial Cup champion Edmonton Oil Kings and the Calgary Hitmen (both WHL), and the Plymouth Whalers (OHL). Among the NHL teams choosing CHL players, the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings led the way with seven selections. The Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks each chose six CHL players, with six other clubs drafting five from the CHL ranks.

USHL a growth market for NHL teams

While the CHL is still king of the hockey prospect world, the USHL continues to graduate more players to the NHL each season. When you combine the U.S. National Development Team Program players into the USHL count, that league produced a record 35 draftees at the 2014 NHL Draft. 13 of the 35 players chosen came from the NTDP while the remaining 22 players were produced by USHL Member Clubs (non-NTDP).

Four USHL players were selected in the first round of the draft on Friday night, including Detroit Red Wings top pick Dylan Larkin who, at 15th overall, was the USHL player chosen the highest in this draft. Forward Nick Schmaltz of the Green Bay Gamblers was the player chosen the highest from the USHL Member Clubs when the Chicago Blackhawks moved up to the 20th slot to select the scoring forward.

The USHL Member Club that produced the most draftees was the Omaha Lancers, who had six players chosen in Philadelphia. The Clark Cup champion Indiana Ice had three players chosen from their roster, as did the Sioux Falls Stampede.

In addition to the players drafted directly from the league, there were 16 former USHL players also chosen by NHL clubs. The top draft pick from this group was Sarnia Sting defenseman Anthony DeAngelo, who was chosen in the first round by the Tampa Bay Lightning with the 19th pick overall.

Another former USHL player, San Diego, CA native Thatcher Demko, is now the highest-drafted goaltender born in California after being chosen 36th overall by the Vancouver Canucks. And along those lines, former USHL defenseman and Raleigh, NC native Josh Wesley is the first North Carolina-born player to have his name called at the NHL Draft. Wesley is the son of former Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Glen Wesley, which is the team that chose the younger Wesley at this draft and also employs the elder Wesley as a defensive coach.

Good weekend for Swedish junior leagues

Sweden‘s total of 27 draft picks includes 21 players chosen from the Swedish junior leagues. While the Swede chosen the highest at the 2014 draft was Toronto Maple Leafs top pick William Nylander, the top prospect drafted directly from the Swedish junior ranks was Nashville Predators top selection, forward Kevin Fiala. Fiala is Swiss, but moved to Sweden to further his development, a move that seems to have paid off so far. The top Swedish defender chosen from that country’s junior ranks, Marcus Pettersson of Skelleftea, was a second round pick of the Anaheim Ducks.

Florida by way of Windsor

When the Florida Panthers announced Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad as the first pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, it was the first time since 2006 that a defenseman had been chosen first overall. That distinction had been held by current Colorado Avalanche defender Erik Johnson, who was the first overall selection by the St. Louis Blues eight years ago. In all, 13 defenseman going back to 1966 have been chosen first overall in the draft.

As for the Panthers, they have used two of their first overall selctions on defensemen, the first being used to select Ed Jovanovski back in 1994. The Panthers have held two other first overall selections (2002, 2003), but dealt both of those picks. Both Jovanovski and Ekblad hail from Windor, ON, but they will not be teammates since Jovanovski was bought out by the Panthers leading up to this draft.

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