Bennett was named the top North American skater in Central Scouting’s mid-term and final prospect rankings, thanks in large part to his 2013-14 season with the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL, where he accumulated 91 points (36-55-91) in 57 games while adding nine more tallies (5-4-9) in seven playoff games.
Bennett has been lauded for his hockey smarts, his excellent hands, and his quick shot. His game has been compared to that of NHL Hall of Famer and current Frontenacs General Manager, Doug Gilmour.
Unanimously viewed as the top defenseman in the draft, Ekblad was ranked second in Central Scouting’s final rankings for North American skaters, finishing behind forward Samuel Bennett. The 6’4” blueliner captained the OHL’s Barrie Colts during the 2013-14 season and tallied 53 points (23-30-53) in 58 games.
In 2011, Ekblad became the first ever defenseman to be granted exceptional player status by the OHL, which allowed him to compete in the league at the age of 15. This past season, he wrapped up a successful three year junior career by winning the 2014 Max Kaminsky Trophy, awarded annually to the OHL’s top defenseman.
Reinhart moved from fourth on Central Scouting’s midterm rankings to third on the final rankings, thanks to a strong 2013-14 WHL campaign that saw him put up 105 (36-69-105) points in 60 regular season games as captain of the Kootenay Ice. He added 23 more points (6-17-23) in 13 playoff games.
Reinhart is the son of former NHL player Paul Reinhart and the brother of recent NHL draftees Max and Griffin.
The top-ranked European prospect in the draft, Kapanen started playing in Finland’s top league, SM-Liiga, in December, 2012, at the age of 16. The young Kapanen was not without guidance, as he joined his father and former NHLer Sami Kapanen on the KalPa Kuopio roster.
Kapanen boasts excellent stickhandling skills, on-ice vision and playmaking ability. He scored 14 points (7-7-14) in 47 games with the KalPa Kuopio during the 2013-14 regular season and would have represented Finland at the World Junior Championships had he not suffered an injury.
Ranked fourth in Central Scouting’s final rankings, Draisaitl tallied 105 points (38-67-105) in 64 regular season games for the Prince Albert Raiders, en route to being named a First Team WHL Eastern Conference All-Star.
Draisaitl has already become a fixture for the German national team. The 6’1” forward played in the 2013 and 2014 World Junior Championships, recording four points (1-3-4) in this year’s tournament.
The 18-year-old is poised to become the top drafted German in NHL history. Marcel Goc (20th selection in 2001 Draft) currently holds that honor, but it is a safe bet that Draisaitl will be taken much earlier.
Many scouts have been impressed by Dal Colle’s impressive blend of size and skill at both ends of the ice. The offensive side of that strong two-way game was on display all season with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals, where Dal Colle put up 95 points (39-56-95) in 67 games. Dal Colle was also instrumental in Oshawa’s run to the OHL’s Eastern Conference Finals, as the winger accumulated 20 points (8-12-20) in 12 playoff games.
Dal Colle draws his motivation from his strong family ties. His older brother, Jonluca, is autistic while his mother, Wendy, is a cancer survivor. These relationships have given Dal Colle a perspective not usually seen in teenage draft prospects.
"Every day, I know I'm blessed with the opportunity I have in front of me in my career," Dal Colle said. "Everyone who plays hockey these days doesn't realize how good they have it.”
William Nylander comes into the draft ranked second on Central Scouting’s final list of European skaters. The son of former NHL forward Michael Nylander, William played alongside his father on Sodertalje SK of Sweden’s second division Allsvenskan. During the 2013-14 season, the younger Nylander scored 28 points in 35 games, while splitting time between Sodertalje and Rogle BK.
With top end speed, excellent puck-handling ability and a willingness to shoot the puck, Nylander is viewed by many scouts as possessing all the attributes needed for a top scorer in the NHL.
The 17-year-old Virtanen jumped from ninth on Central Scouting’s midterm rankings to sixth on the final rankings thanks to a productive season in which he tallied 71 points (45-26-71) in 71 games with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL.
The Abbotsford, British Columbia native knows a thing or two about being taken early in drafts, as he was the first overall selection in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft. Most recently, Virtanen participated in the IIHF World Junior U-18 Championships, scoring six points (3-3-6) in seven games, while helping Canada to a bronze medal.
A native of Switzerland, Kevin Fiala spent the 2013-14 season playing in Sweden, where he split time between the HV71 junior team in the J20 SuperElit league and the senior team in the Swedish Hockey League. The 17-year-old scored 11 points (3-8-11) in 17 games playing for HV71’s senior team and finished the year ranked third on Central Scouting’s list of European skaters.
The offensive minded forward had an active season at the international level, as he participated in both the U18 World Junior Championships and the U20 World Junior Championships. Fiala also made his debut with the Swiss senior squad at the 2014 IIHF World Championships, where he tallied two assists in seven games.
Ranked seventh in Central Scouting’s final rankings of North American skaters, Nicholas Ritchie comes from a gifted family of athletes. Ritchie’s father played in the OHL, his mother was a three sport collegiate athlete (volleyball, softball and basketball) and his older brother Brett was selected 44th overall by the Dallas Stars in the 2011 draft.
At 6’2”, the 18-year-old Ritchie possesses the combination of size and speed needed to develop into an effective power forward at the NHL level. He led his OHL team, the Peterborough Petes in goals (39) and points (74) during the 2013-14 regular season, and added another ten points (5-5-10) in eleven postseason games.
Born in Prague, Jakub Vrana spent the 2013-14 season plying his trade in Sweden. The center tallied three points (2-1-3) in 24 games with Linkoping’s senior squad in the Swedish Hockey League and 25 points (14-11-25) in 24 games with Linkoping’s junior team, finishing the season ranked fourth on Central Scouting’s final list of European skaters.
At just 18, Vrana has already made his mark at the international level with Czech squads. Vrana participated in the last three U-18 World Championships (2012-14), as well as the last two World Junior Championships (2013-14).
Brendan Perlini is coming off a strong season with the Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League, where he tallied 71 points (34-37-71) in 58 regular season games. He also tallied four points (3-1-4) in seven games as a member of Canada’s bronze medal winning team at the 2014 U-18 World Championships.
Ranked eighth on Central Scouting’s final list of North American skaters, Perlini is set to become the third member of his family to be selected in an NHL draft. His father Fred played in eight games with the Toronto Maple Leafs after being drafted in 1980 (158th overall), while Brendan’s brother Brett was selected by Anaheim in the seventh round of the 2010 draft.
Haydn Fleury finished the 2013-14 season ranked ninth on Central Scouting’s final rankings of North American skaters. The Saskatchewan native is the second ranked defenseman in the draft, behind Aaron Ekblad.
Playing for the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL during the 13-14 season, Fleury was the team’s top scoring defenseman, tallying 46 points (8-38-46) in 70 games. The 6’2” blueliner was a member of Team Canada at the 2014 U-18 World Championships, where he was named Best Defenseman.
Ranked tenth on Central Scouting’s final rankings of North American skaters, Jared McCann had a strong 2013-14 OHL season with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, recording 62 points (27-35-62) in 64 games. The performance was a strong follow up to McCann’s 2012-13 rookie season that saw him named to the OHL All-Rookie Second Team.
The Ontario native won a gold medal with Canada at the 2013 U-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and a bronze medal with Canada at the U-18 World Championships.
A native of the Czech Republic, David Pastrnak spent the 2013-14 season playing in Sweden with Sodertalje SK of Allsvenskan, where he tallied 24 points (8-16-24) in 36 games. The 18-year-old has been on the NHL’s radar since the 2011-12 season, when he was the leading scorer in the Czech Republic’s U18 league, tallying 68 points (41-27-68) in 40 games.
Pastrnak, who was ranked fifth on Central Scouting’s final list of European prospects, is a tremendously gifted winger with excellent hands and a strong shot. He has represented the Czech Republic on numerous occasions, playing in both the U18 and U20 World Championships during the past year.
As the youngest NCAA hockey player this past season, goaltender Thatcher Demko made quite an impact. The Boston College freshman started 24 games, compiling a 16-5-3 record with two shutouts, a 2.24 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage.
The top-ranked North American goaltender on Central Scouting’s midterm and final rankings, Demko looks likely to become the first American goaltender to be taken in the first round of a draft since the Dallas Stars selected Jack Campbell at number 11 in 2010.
The San Diego native is an imposing figure in the crease, as his 6’4” frame leaves little room for shooters.
Mason McDonald made an impressive jump from seventh in Central Scouting’s midterm rankings of North American goalies to second in the final rankings. The 18-year-old recorded a 3.44 GAA and a .900 save percentage in the 2013-14 season, while splitting time between the Acadie-Bathurst Titan and the Charlottetown Islanders of the QMJHL.
The Halifax native greatly improved his draft stock with a strong performance in January’s CHL/NHL Top Prospect Game, stopping 15 of the 16 shots he faced in the showcase of draft eligible players.
Topping Central Scouting’s final rankings of European goaltenders, Ville Husso spent the 2013-14 season playing for HIFK in Finland’s SM-liiga, where he appeared in 41 games, recording two shutouts, a 1.99 goals against average and a .923 save percentage.
Born in Helsinki, Husso has competed for Finland at the international level. He most recently appeared in two games during Finland’s gold medal performance at the 2014 World Junior Championships.