The 2014 NHL Entry Draft is 4 days away and the Wild are looking to find that next NHL star to raise their franchise to the next level. Hockey Wilderness is counting down the days with a daily mock draft. We are at pick number 27 today.
Who is Jakub Vrána?
The speedy 'Hawks take fast forward Jakub Vrána. He thinks the game as fast as his skates move, and his hands can keep up with his feet and his brain. He's a dangler. He also has a great shot with a quick release that can fool goaltenders, and he can shoot while at top speed without losing much accuracy. With all these offensive abilities, he is described as a showman.
There are reasons, though, that he would still be available at the 27th pick. He does have a tendency to try to do all the work himself on offense, even when other players are giving his options, and he can be stripped of the puck when he isn't utilizing the other players on the ice. In some games, he has not put forth effort and his play looks sloppy or lazy. He needs to become more defensively aware. He's 6'0" and 170 lbs., so he's lanky and will need to gain muscle to transition to the NHL.
Leslie Treff of Hockey Prospectus summarizes his positives and negatives:
"Vrána is one of the top European skilled forwards in the 2014 draft. His outstanding skating abilities, top notch shooting skills and very high hockey IQ have had scouts watching him for years. However, he seems to show inconsistent effort on defense and at times tries to do too much in the offensive zone. This has caused his stock to drop over the season, however, a very good U18 WJCs has Vrána on the radar for the first round once again."
Here are some highlights from the last World Junior Championships. His speed is evident in all aspects of his game. He utilizes it for his offensive game as well as in penalty killing and defensive roles.
Why Would the Blackhawks Draft Vrána?
While Chicago doesn't have a ton of needs, their prospect pool is shallow. It's only natural that they would have a weaker cupboard of prospects since they have drafted late in recent years due to their successes. They could definitely benefit from drafting a goalie. Antti Raanta, the best ranked of Chicago's goaltending prospects, still needs to prove that he can demonstrate the success he had in Finland in the NHL. The Blackhawks also have Mac Carruth and Kent Simpson who only recently made the transition to the pro game. Perhaps one of them will become a useful NHLer, but if the Blackhawks aren't banking on that, they may draft a goalie this year.
Goaltenders take some time to be ready, so the Blackhawks may take a long look at the top ranked draft eligible goalie, Thatcher Demko. Once they've looked at him, they will probably decide that they can get more talent and more certainty from a forward prospect. They have a decent stock of centers and are much weaker on the wing. Jeremy Morin is the biggest name that their prospect pool can boast on the wing; this is the number one reason that the Blackhawks would consider drafting the fast skating Vrána. The thought of Vrána joining Patrick Kane and proceeding to dangle around defenses fills me with despair.
Should the Wild Draft Him?
I like Vrána's speed for the Wild, as speed is becoming increasingly more important for high level offensive game. There are, however, players with a similar offensive skill set that the Wild could draft that are closer to being compete players. I would not be too disappointed with the Wild drafting Vrána, but I think there will be better options at the 18th pick. If the Wild decide to trade down he could be a fine choice.