If it was a year from now and the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft was up for auction, there would be a massive scramble by clubs to get their bids in. It wouldn’t be quite like the feeding frenzy that ensued when the Quebec Nordiques gave up and finally decided to trade the rights to Eric Lindros, but it would be close. Connor McDavid is that good. Moreover, U.S. prospect Jack Eichel is being mentioned in the same breath now as McDavid, setting up something along the lines of Taylor versus Tyler or Nathan McKinnon versus Seth Jones. McDavid we know about. Eichel, meanwhile, tore up the USHL this season with the U.S. national development program and has committed to attend Boston University next season, although the QMJHL Saint John Sea Dogs own his major junior rights and there’s lots of chatter the Quebec Remparts would like to get their hands on those. But that’s next year. This year’s draft is another animal altogether, which is why last week’s pronouncement by Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon that he plans to aggressively shop the top pick came and went with little fanfare. Every year, of course, whichever GM holds the No. 1 pick says he’ll entertain offers, but that really doesn’t happen. Tallon, however, says this year is different, largely because Panthers owner Vinnie Viola wants to get better now and is willing to spend on free agents and talented veterans to make that happen. For the 2014 draft, most scouts would tell you there is no McDavid, no Eichel, no MacKinnon. As it stands, Barrie defenceman Aaron Ekblad, Kingston centre Sam Bennett and Kootenay centre Sam Reinhart stand at the top of the prospects list. Prince Albert centre Leon Draisaitl has received honourable mention, while two sons of former NHLers — Willie Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen — head the European group. To say it’s a weak draft would be wrong. To say it’s a draft absent potential NHL franchise players is closer to the truth, and even more accurate would be to suggest a team might get the best player in the draft with the fifth pick. Or the 10th.
Maple Leafs might want to make a play for Panthers’ No. 1 pick
Toronto Star | May 6