Below is Hockey Prospectus’ pre-combine Top 30 ranking for the 2014 draft. We include our March ranking numbers in parentheses next to a player’s name (and explain why he has moved up or down if a significant change in positioning has occurred). The U18 World Championship performances have affected the rankings, as has playoff performance, where appropriate.
Our final ranking will be out by the 15th of June.
1. (1) Sam Reinhart, C, Kootenay Ice (WHL)–Reinhart has the top overall package of skills and hockey IQ in this draft. A clutch player, with very good speed and leadership abilities, as well as exceptional hands, Reinhart remains the player we believe will be the best selected this year
2. (2) Aaron Ekblad, D, Barrie Colts (OHL)–Barrie’s physically mature blueliner remains the second player in our rankings. A leader in every sense of the word, Ekblad can carry the puck and distribute it well. He is excellent in his own zone, has offensive upside and is a good skater.
3. (6) William Nylander, F, Sodertalje (Sweden-Allsvenskan)–Nylander has moved up in our rankings, jumping over Michael Dal Colle, Leon Draisaitl and Sam Bennett because of a magnificent performance at the U18s in Finland. After not appearing for Sweden in the U20s, which caused his stock to go down a bit, he came back to lead the tournament in scoring at the U18s. The best natural goal scorer in this year’s draft, Nylander is quick, creative, and has outstanding vision.
4. (5) Sam Bennett, C, Kingston Fronts (OHL)–There are few forwards in hockey who just can’t get enough of the puck and the puck always seems to find them. Bennett is one of those rare breeds. It is no accident that NHL Central Scouting ranked Bennett number one overall among North American skaters eligible for this draft–he can score goals, make plays, and motor down the ice to make it count. Recently named the CHL’s Prospect of the Year, Bennett should be amongst the top five selected, but he is not quite in the class of Reinhart of Ekblad, who are elite talents and more complete players than Bennett. Nylander’s offensive skill puts him in a class by himself – and now that he’s shown he can blow away his competition, he has an edge on Bennett, too. He certainly has the potential to be a top line forward, but is hard to see being elite.
5. (4) Michael Dal Colle, LW, Oshawa Generals (OHL)–Dal Colle has excellent hockey instincts and elevates his game when everything is on the line. A two-way playmaker, who can score and play in traffic, Dal Colle could move up with a good Combine.
6. (3) Leon Draisaitl, C, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)–Draisaitl fell slightly in our draft rankings because he did not have an exceptional playoffs with the Raiders, while both Dal Colle and Bennett stood out in the CHL post-season and Nylander was fantastic in the U18s. Draisaitl will still be a solid top 10 selection for any NHL team, with size and excellent protection of the puck.
7. (9) Nick Ritchie, LW, Peterborough Petes (OHL)–A big power forward, Ritchie has outstanding size and good hands. He enjoys playing in traffic and protects the puck well.
8. (11) Jake Virtanen, LW, Calgary Hitmen (WHL)–With very good size and good offensive instincts, Virtanen finished off the season impressing everyone who saw him play. After posting six points for team Canada in the U18s in Finland (tied for first with defenseman Travis Sanheim), it was announced that Virtanen was undergoing shoulder surgery and will be out 4-6 months. He is an excellent power forward, with a good shot and release, and he has a nose for the net.
9. (7) Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)—An excellent skater, Ehlers is an outstanding offensive player, with good vision and hockey smarts, as well as a quick release on his shot.
10. (14) Haydn Fleury, D, Red Deer Rebels (WHL)–Fleury moved into the top 10 of prospects eligible for this draft with his outstanding play at the U18s. A fine two-way defenseman, he is big, can skate and also can excel at the physical game.
11. (12) Brendan Perlini, LW, Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL)—Perlini combines good size with hockey sense, good speed and strength on the puck. It is unusual for a man of his size to have such good hands, but Perlini can score beautiful goals as well as garbage ones.
12. (13) Adrian Kempe, LW, Modo (Sweden-SHL)—Excellent in all zones, Kempe has a big frame and does not shy away from using it. With a very strong work ethic and a good shot, Kempe made a splash in the U18s .
13. (10) Kasperi Kapanen, RW, Kalpa (Finland—Liiga)—One of the more offensively dangerous forwards in the draft, Kapanen is a very good skater, with excellent vision and a very quick release.
14. (NR) Robby Fabbri, C, Guelph Storm (OHL)–A newcomer to the list, Fabbri does not have some of the high end talent of the top ten ranked players in this ranking, however, he works incredibly hard, the puck finds him, and Fabbri is a finisher. Not afraid to take physical punishment, even though he is small. Fabbri also had a great post-season with the Storm.
15. (8) Alex Tuch, RW, US NTDP (USHL)—Tuch dropped somewhat in this month’s rating, mostly because of a somewhat lackluster U18 performance. However, he still has first half of the top round potential. He plays well in both zones, has excellent size which allows him to win battles along the boards, and consistently contributes offensively.
16. (21) Sonny Milano, LW, US NTDP (USHL)–Milano is one of the skaters that moved up the most this month, mostly due to his outstanding performance during the U18s. With 10 points in seven games, Milano was one of the best players in the entire tournament. He has very good wheels and vision to go along with excellent hands.
17. (NR) Jakub Vrana, LW/RW, Linkoping (SHL)–After dividing his time during the 2013-14 season between the U20 team and the SHL club, Vrana went into the U18s and blew everyone away. With a nose for the net and an excellent shot, Vrana led the tournament in goals scored (eight in seven games). His eye-opening performance in Finland moves him into the top 30 for the first time.
18. (16) Ivan Barbashev, C, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)—A very good playmaker, who can pot a timely goal, Barbashev has had a very productive season. He has good size and projects to be a forward that plays well in all zones.
19. (17) Dylan Larkin, C, US NTDP (USHL)—A center with a nose for the net, Larkin can score goals, while at the same time excel at checking. Always putting forth his best efforts, Larkin is likely be more of a checking forward in the NHL.
20. (NR) Kevin Fiala, LW, HV71 (SHL)–Fiala split his time between the U20 team and the men’s hockey club this season. In addition to his outstanding play in the U18s, Fiala participated in both the U20s WJC in January and the World Championships earlier this month for Switzerland. Showing his excellent offensive upside in these international competitions, Fiala has garnered a lot of attention over the last couple of months.
21. (19) Thatcher Demko, G, Boston College (NCAA)—The only goaltender likely to go in the first round, Demko has excellent size, good lateral movement, stays square to the shooter very well and has a better than adequate glove.
22. (30) Jack Dougherty, D, US NTDP (USHL)—Dougherty keeps moving up in the rankings, coming from obscurity to notice this season. He had an excellent American prospects game last September and an even better U18s. A solid two-way defenseman, with good vision and a high hockey IQ, Dougherty is quickly moving up the draft list.
23. (25) Josh Ho-Sang, RW, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)—Ho-Sang is a playmaking winger, who has excellent speed and vision.
24. (20) Roland McKeown, D, Kingston Fronts (OHL)—A good positional blueliner, who has some offensive upside, McKeown is an excellent skater who will be effective in all zones.
25. (23) Jared McCann, C, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)—McCann is a two-way scoring center, who has good size, excellent hockey sense and a very good work ethic.
26. (15) Nikita Scherbak, RW, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)—A winger with excellent vision, Scherbak has outstanding speed and passes the puck extremely well. He is very slippery and often skates his way out of trouble. Unable to come to the Combine because of Visa issues and not playing in the U18s hurt Scherbak’s chances to be taken in the first round.
27. (24) Nick Schmaltz, C, Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)—An excellent playmaker, with near elite vision and passing abilities, Schmaltz combines those talents with good speed and hockey sense to be a top round prospect.
28. (29) Jack Glover, D, US NTDP (USHL)—A big, strong two-way defenseman, who skates well, is good positionally and can distribute the puck, Glover had an excellent U18s.
29. (22) David Pastrnak, RW, Sodertalje (Sweden—Allsvenskan)—High end offensive skills, combined with good skating and an excellent work ethic make Pastrnak a prized prospect. After he recovered from a concussion sustained in late January, Pastrnak had a decent, but not great, U18s in April.
30. (NR) Vlad Kamenev, C, Magnitogorsk (MHL/KHL)–Kamenev drew rave reviews after an excellent U18 performance in April. A high end talent, who has said he is looking to come play hockey in North America as soon as it can be arranged, Kamenev has started to be in the conversation for a first-round selection. With good size and good work along the boards, Kamenev can produce a combination of those things with his excellent offensive instincts.
Leslie Treff covers professional and amateur scouting for Hockey Prospectus.
Follow Leslie on Twitter at @HFNYRangers.