The 2014 NHL Draft is in the books, and as it turned out, the weaker draft class produced a lot less drama and intrigue than many people thought it might. But the NHL Draft is such an important day that there are always a few storylines that catch attention. Here's a few that caught mine:
-Ugly day for Minnesota high schools
While the battle rages on in the state of Minnesota about whether or not talented players need to leave high school prior to their senior season, the NHL made a pretty definitive statement on how they feel. Luc Snuggerud was the first player that played his senior season of high school hockey last season to be drafted, and he wasn't selected until the late fifth round, 141st overall, which was a significant drop from where he was ranked. A total of only four Minnesota high schoolers were selected in the draft.
Meanwhile, seven players that opted to leave the state of Minnesota to play junior hockey prior to their senior season were selected before Snuggerud was taken, and two more Minnesotans largely ignored in high school were selected after playing junior hockey.
It's by no means impossible for a player that chooses to stay in high school to reach the NHL, but for players that want to get drafted, the junior route appears to be the more attractive option.
-Great day for the USHL
The USHL saw a league-record 35 players selected in the Draft this year. In addition, 16 other players that had played in the league at some point--including Nathan Walker, the first Australian ever drafted--were selected in the draft. Certainly the NTDP helps bump those numbers up a little bit, but the NTDP has also been a part of the USHL for a few years now.
-NAHL development model shows benefits
Goalie Chase Perrry was the only player listed out of the NAHL to be selected in the draft, but that doesn't mean the second day of the draft was a quiet one for them. Five other players that played in the NAHL were also selected, including Zach Nagelvoort, Steven Johnson, and Kyle Schempp, who played full seasons in the league. Four other players that played in the NAPHL, the NAHL's youth league affiliate were selected, including Boston College's Thatcher Demko, and the league also saw a player that played in their Tier III affiliate the NA3HL, goalie Alex Nedeljkovic selected. It certainly showed the depth the league has in finding and helping develop lesser-known players, and providing depth to the American hockey system.
-Lots of older players
In what was classified as a weak draft, teams took the opportunity to draft more second and third-time eligible players than in most years. That was to the benefit of some players like Matt Iacopelli, CJ Franklin, and Dwyer Tschantz, who were all drafted out of the USHL after being passed over in previous years. It also opened the door for some older players that proved they could play at the NCAA level last year like Zach Nagelvoort, Kyle Schempp, and Jeff Taylor.
-The most interesting man in the draft
Hands down it has to be New York Rangers fifth round pick Daniel Walcott. Walcott is from Quebec and selected out out of the QMJHL, but how he got there is remarkable. Walcott is a graduate of New Trier High School in Chicago. Post-high school, he went to Lindenwood University where he played a year of ACHA Division I club hockey, before signing with Blainville-Boisbriand, and evenutally getting drafted in his final season of eligibility.
It's a huge victory for two good but under-appreciated routes. Illinois High School understandably doesn't get a lot of attention, and it certainly lacks the depth of other areas, but there can be some real talent there. Hockey has really grown in Chicago in recent years, and it's not just Chicago Mission and Team Illinois producing players anymore.
Second, it's remarkable to see someone that was playing club hockey get picked in the NHL Draft. It's not often reported on, but ACHA Division I has been increasing in quality for years. With the increase of youth hockey participation, the growing avenues for junior hockey, and the number of teams in NCAA Division I remaining stagnant for years, there's a number of good players getting pushed to the ACHA level, and there's some late bloomers in there that are really nice hockey players.