Expect big deals at Philadelphia draft


The hockey world will descend on the Philadelphia area this week in advance of the 2014 NHL draft on Friday and Saturday.

It's a heady, tumultuous time that looks to be marked by big-name trades and significant movement within the top end of the draft board as well.

Here's a look at some possible draft highlights:

• The first round will take place Friday night and has in recent years become a made-for-TV monstrosity often stretching beyond three hours in length while the first 30 selections are made. Who watches that? Insomniacs? The NHL would do well to build in some restrictions to what has become an embarrassment of excess with, for the most part, unknown 18-year-olds as the stars. Enough.

• OK, glad we got that out of our system. If you want to talk streamlined, then look at Saturday's draft finale, when the final six rounds of the draft are conducted in roughly the speed of light and the final two or three rounds have the feeling of an institutional race with team officials looking to bolt town as soon as the final pick is made. We must admit from pure schmoozing purposes we loved the old format that saw the draft split between Saturday and Sunday. It allowed for a more congenial pace, but that's progress for you.

• Remember last year when there was so much debate about the top four picks in the draft: Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Drouin and Seth Jones? The Avs insisted early on they would take MacKinnon, which they did, but the buzz around four potential franchise players was unlike anything we'd seen in recent years. All but Drouin, who went back to junior after being selected third overall by Tampa, made varying degrees of impact in the NHL as teenage NHLers, and safe to say those three teams (Colorado, Florida and Nashville) are more than satisfied with how things unfolded (still too early to tell on Drouin of course). This year? A beast of a different hue to be sure. The Florida Panthers have the No. 1 pick, but GM Dale Tallon has made it clear he's willing to move off it and would likely move back as far as eighth or ninth if there was a deal that gave him some immediate help. That shows just how little consensus there is among the top six or seven players available. It looks as though defenseman Aaron Ekblad will likely be the No. 1 pick, but he's nowhere near as polished as Jones was at this stage a year ago. Beyond Ekblad there is a trio of centers in Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart and German-born Leon Draisaitl. That means there could be a lot of jockeying for position as teams at the top of the draft try to nail down a specific player who fits their needs as opposed to clearly identifiable future NHLers.

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