The 2014 NHL draft from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has brought a lot of talent and after six years it is hard to narrow it down to the top five picks. So many players from this draft have become solid role players, key contributors to their respected teams and quite a few have an All-Star game under their belt. This draft also produced two of the best forwards in the league today, Leon Draisaitl, age 24 with 168 goals in 422 games and David Pastrnak, age 23 with 180 goals in 390 games. Barring no injuries, nothing will slow these two down from having a successful career in the NHL. Players such as Victor Olofsson and Ondrej Kase who were drafted in the 7th round have become well known players across the league no wonder why it has become one of the best drafts during the 2010’s across the four major sports.
The 5th best player coming out of the 2014 NHL draft is Center, Brayden Point who was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning 79th overall out of the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors. Point was expected to take the starting role on the second or third line until the team’s superstar, Steven Stamkos retired. Once he got called up from the NHL for the 2016-17 season, he took off with 40 points in just 68 games giving him a top 10 finish for the Calder Trophy. His second year was better as he notched 66 points and led the league in game winning goals with 12. However, that was nothing compared to the 41 goals and 51 assists he notched in 2018-19 with the record setting 62 win Lightning squad.
At 4th we have the 1st overall pick, Defenseman, Aaron Ekblad who went to the struggling Florida Panthers out of the OHL’s Barrie Colts. He burst onto the scene by winning the Calder Trophy with an impressive 39 points and became the heart and soul of the Panthers defense. He has continued to impress with three All-Star Game appearances and was a finalist for the Norris Trophy twice. This season, Ekblad has set a career high in points with 41, he could have easily reached 50 points with roughly a month left in the season if the coronavirus pandemic didn’t shut down the league.
Next in line, the 15th overall pick, the Detroit Red Wings tried to find their replacement for future Hall of Famer, Pavel Datsyuk, well no one's Datsyuk but Center, Dylan Larkin has done a fantastic job in filling in the role. Despite the Red Wings being one of the worst NHL teams over the past three seasons, Larkin has notched 63, 73 and 53 points respectively. He also took home the Rookie of the Month (November 2015-16) and was selected to the 2016 All-Star Game. It’s a good thing for the franchise they picked him up as now the seats at Little Caesars Arena have filled up.
Coming in extremely close in 2nd place we have Boston Bruins all-star Right Winger, David Pastrnak who was drafted 25th overall out of Czech Republic. At first, he was not the dynamic goal scorer as we know him today, he only scored 27 and 26 points his first two seasons. In 2016-17 he began to tally up the points as he made his first of four All-Star Game appearances with 70 points. In the same year, Pastrnak scored 34 goals and served 34 penalty minutes, this is a rare oddity to have matching goals and penalty minutes. Maybe the refs did miss some calls? (Dunkin Donuts commercial, 2019). Pastrnak would become a first liner with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron and that’s when the fireworks started going off, 80 points in 82 games. Playing in a mere 66 games the following year, Pastrnak struck 81 points and had plenty of clutch moments in the Bruins Stanley Cup run. He led the league in goals with 48 and had one less assist in a shortened 70 game season, who could be better?
The Buffalo Sabers drafted Center, Sam Reinhart 2nd overall but he has been nowhere near the center taken 3rd overall, Edmonton Oilers, Leon Draisaitl from the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders. In 37 games his rookie year, he notched a whopping 9 points! Not to worry as he bounced back nicely with a 51 point effort in 72 games, the following year he played a full 82 game season and had 77 points. After another good 2017-18 season, out of nowhere, Draisaitl shocked the world with 105 points in a full season, you can thank Connor McDavid for feeding him the puck whenever he can. If you thought that was crazy, he has tallied 110 points in just 71 games leading the league with 67 assists this season. Truly incredible!
Those were just the top 5 players, we haven’t mentioned guys like Nikolaj Ehlers, Kevin Fiala, Ryan Donato, Travis Sanheim, Elvis Merzlikins and the list goes on and on. There simply hasn't been a better NHL draft since and based on how the 2019-20 rookies played this season, it’s looking like it will remain the best draft for a while longer. Ehlers has been great as the right wing replacement for the aging Blake Wheeler with 257 points in 369 games, three seasons with 58 points or over ain't too shabby. Kevin Fiala and Ryan Donato have been the main reason as to why the Minnesota Wild have stayed in playoff contention, Fiala with a steller 54 point season and Donato is looking like he could be replacing Mikko Koivu as the first line center in the next season or two. Despite only playing 200 career games, Sanheim has totaled 70 points this season anchoring the Flyers defense with 51 assists and who could forget about Blue Jackets’ hot rookie goaltender, Elvis Merzlikins who has taken the league by storm with a 13-9-8 record, 5 shutouts and a .923 save percentage.