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July 6, 2013, 11:53 AM ET

Very Early 2014 Draft Ranking

by Corey Pronman

It’s always important to put a disclaimer on a July draft list that this is extremely early and a ton can change between now and December never mind between now and May. As of now the 2014 draft class doesn’t look as strong as 2013, but it’s an average draft class and the first round overall looks solid. The only issue I see is there isn’t a dynamic game breaker at the top of the draft like there was going into last season with Nathan MacKinnon and Seth Jones. The top three prospects as of now are the top tier. One other note is the OHL looks very strong in this coming draft season and all indications are the 2014 NHL Draft will be built off a lot of OHL kids.

1.       William Nylander, Center, Sodertalje-Allsvenskan:

Michael Nylander’s son has the best chance among the top guy in this 2014 draft to reach that next prospect level. His puck possession skills are simply tremendous as he’s top of the line puck handler with a great offensive mind. Nylander also skates quite well. His only issue is his size as he’s a slight 5′10′’ forward. His offensive upside is through the roof though.

2.        Sam Reinhart, Center, Kootenay-WHL:

Reinhart is a great all-around player. His hockey sense is elite and it’s why he projects as a top scorer who can also play in every situation. He has a great skill level and works hard. Reinhart’s a little small and not a blazing skater so even with his other great attributes he doesn’t project as a superstar. There’s still a lot of reasons to be optimistic about him though.

3.        Aaron Ekblad, Defense, Barrie-OHL:

The 2nd ”Exceptional” player from the OHL after John Tavares and before Connor McDavid has looked very good in his brief OHL career. Ekblad is a big, tough, athletic, mobile defenseman who shuts down top players very effectively. He scored a lot of points in the 2012-13 OHL Playoffs but there’s at least some doubts from scouts if his offense is at the dynamic level you want in a top pick.

4.        Jakub Vrana, Right Wing, Linkoping-SHL:

Vrana is one of the top Czech prospects to come around in a few years. His skill level is off the charts as he’s a player who can create a scoring chance out of nowhere and bring observers out of their seats. He’s agile, shifty, and has great hockey IQ. He needs to bulk up though which will likely come with time.

5.        Leon Draisaitl, Center, Prince Albert-WHL:

Germany hasn’t produced many elite hockey prospects but Draisaitl looks like he could be one to come from that nation. He has a ton of offensive skills, be it his great hands, vision and shot but he also accompanies it with a good work ethic and power game. He just needs to get an extra step or two in his skating to really elevate his game to that next level.

6.        Michael Dal Colle, Center, Oshawa-OHL:

Dal Colle is intriguing because of the wide variation of abilities he has. He’s got a nice sized frame and can protect the puck well, but he also has a lot of skill in his game. He can make high-end plays with the puck be it making defenders miss or setting up teammates. He also works hard in both ends. I’ve heard division on his skating where one scout will like it and another will say it can use work.

7.        Kasperi Kapanen, Left Wing, KalPa-SM-Liiga:

Kapanen is a smaller player at around 5′10′’-5′11′’ but he has a really dynamic talent level. Kapanen skates very well with a tremendous first few steps. He’s also a top level playmaker who can make very difficult feeds and really impressed with his hockey IQ given how young he is.

8.        Samuel Bennett, Left Wing, Kingston-OHL:

Bennett had a very impressive rookie season in the OHL and U18 performance as an underage player. Scouts universally praise the speed and energy he plays with but he can also make plays. His vision and instincts with the puck are quite good to go along with his skating and intangibles. He’s averaged sized though and needs to bulk up.

9.        Roland McKeown, Defense, Kingston-OHL:

McKeown has a lot of tools and his upside from the backend is significant. He’s a really graceful skater who moves easily, with very good skill and top-end offensive instincts. He’s still a bit of a work in progress though who needs to address his defensive game. He’s very young and that area of his game could see improvement this season.

10       Blake Clarke, Left Wing, North Bay-OHL:

Clarke has a chance to be a really skilled power forward and a player fans just love to watch. He’s not huge but has a decent 6′2′’ frame and uses it well to throw big hits and protect the puck. He also has a lot of skill and can create scoring chances in bunches.

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):

F Ivan Barbashev, Moncton-QMJHL

F Nikolai Goldobin, Sarnia-OHL

F Josh Ho-Sang, Windsor-OHL

F Jared McCann, Sault Ste. Marie-OHL

F Vladimir Tkachyov, Ak Bars-KHL

F Nick Ritchie, Peterborough-OHL

F Spencer Watson, Kingston-OHL

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