Let's start at the top with the #1 pick won by the Florida Panthers. Sam Bennett took the #1 Ranking from the Central Scouting Service, but I think Florida is going to take Aaron Ekblad here. The last three drafts have seen them take two top flight forward talents in Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov. Tallon will not go the Edmonton route and forget about his defense. Top defensive talent is hard to come by and Ekblad has been proclaimed by many to be ready to play next year. If nothing else, Tallong selects Ekblad for this reason alone: He is not going to be the only GM in the league who had a crack at Seth Jones and Aaron Ekblad and passed on both. I don't knock Tallon for passing on Jones last year. He must have seen something in Barkov who does look like an incredible young talent. One does have to wonder though what that team would look like in three or four years with Jones and Ekblad on the back end. Oh well, it's a moot point. Ekblad goes #1.
The Sabres have options at #2, but I have to think Bennett is the call here. He's extremely skilled and tough - a mix that will fit right in with what Ted Nolan wants his team to be. Comparisons to Doug Gilmour are hard to ignore and hopefully don't burden him, but when listening to this kid speak he sounds like a confident young man who's ready for the challenge.
Edmonton at #3. This is where it's going to get interesting. Do we really think the Oilers are going to take another forward here? The two highest rated d-men (other than Ekblad) sit at nine amongst North American skaters and seventh amongst European skaters - Haydn Fleury and Marcus Pettersson, respectively. The only way Edmonton calls a forward is if they deal another part of their top six for defensive help. What I think is going to happen is this: Edmonton will move the #3 pick for a solid offer consisting of a young defenseman and a pick. Ironically enough, who has young defensive depth, a lot of picks and a need for top offensive talent? Buffalo. They have three first round picks next year, assuming the Islanders give up their 2015 pick, and enough quality d-men that they could part with one or two if necessary. Would Myers and a '15 first rounder be enough? Ehrhoff still has several good years in him with a modest cap hit. With Mark Pysyk, Nikita Zadorov and Rasmus Ristolainen about ready to make the jump the Sabres have room to make a deal like this if they feel that Sam Reinhart or Leon Draisaitl are a good fit for their progress.
I don't like looking beyond the top three because there's just no way of knowing how things are going to go. Even the top three picks are tough to call. If you took the top three picks from 10 different people you'd probably have seven different answers. To me Ekblad is set. Other than that, let the fun and the guessing begin!