Defenseman Aaron Ekblad is expected to go first overall in Friday night's NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The Barrie Colts defenseman would go to the Florida Panthers if he does indeed go first -- that is, if the Panthers don't trade the pick.
Terrel of SB Nation's Arctic Ice Hockey has ranked the top-60 prospects in this 2014 Draft. It starts with Ekblad, but the top-six or -seven picks are pretty sure-fire, highlighted by exciting forwards Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart, Leon Draisaitl, Michael Dal Colle and William Nylander.
It gets a little more dicey after that, and most prognosticators don't have much of a consensus on the order of selection behind the top group. That makes for a fun draft, and maybe it'll even lead to some pick movement on the draft floor Friday evening.
Here are Terrel's top-60 rankings. Head over to Arctic Ice Hockey for full blurbs on every single player in the group.
1. D Aaron Ekblad (Barrie, OHL)
Ever since being the "exceptional status" by the OHL, and being only the second player to receive such an exemption, after John Tavares. Ekblad has done nothing but impress. Pretty well a literal man among boys (just look at his playoff beard) he has been completely dominant at the OHL level. He led the OHL defensemen in goals and was third in points per game. Ekblad plays a smart mature pro-style game at 17, something most defensemen don't fully get until their mid-20s.
Offensively he has a hard blast from the point and moves the puck extremely well. Defensively he plays great positionally, hits hard and consistently wins battles for the puck. He has a great first pass. He combines that with a fantastic stride for a man his size and is impressively agile. There is just no weakness in his game which is why he is my top-rated player in this draft. Expect him to impress at the NHL level as quickly as next season. He could contend for a Norris one day.
2. C Sam Bennett (Kingston, OHL)
Bennett is my No. 1-rated forward for this draft. He had a huge year with Kingston finishing fourth in OHL points per game, first among 2014 draftees. Bennett may not be a speed demon like an Ehlers, but he can certainly get around. He is also very elusive and combines that with some very soft hands.
He has a great hockey IQ for finding the soft areas in all three zones. He has great vision and a great shot. He is also effective in tough areas and likes to mix it up. Basically he combines most of the top attributes of the other draft picks from the class. There is little he doesn't do well which is why he is at the top of the forward rankings, even if he can't do a pull-up.
3. C/LW Leon Draisaitl (Prince Albert, WHL)
Draisaitl will be the highest-picked German player in modern era of the draft ahead of 2001's Marcel Goc (20th overall). He was fourth overall in WHL scoring this year, first among all 2014 draft eligible players. He was so impressive that the 18-year-old was named to the German World Championship squad where he was third on the team in scoring. Draisaitl has a think frame, which he uses very effectively, to protect the puck.
Draisaitl is also very effective in tough areas of the ice. He is great at winning battles in every area of the ice. Draisaitl plays a strong effective game across all 200 feet of the ice surface. He also has an efficient fluid skating stride and a hard shot. He is not quite the dynamic talent of players like Nylander or Ehlers, but his consistency and all-around game more than make up for it.
4. C William Nylander (MODO, SHL)
Nylander is yet another "legacy" kid making an appearance on this list. His father Michael played 15 seasons in the NHL with eight different teams. William played for five different teams this season as well as playing internationally for Sweden at the U-18 level.
Much like his father, he has a slick pair of hands and great vision offensively. He sees the ice extremely well and is incredibly adept at finding the soft areas of the ice. He improves on his father's vision with a very elusive skating style and a quick, hard wrist shot meaning he has legitimate potential as a goalscorer in the NHL. He is perhaps the most skilled player in this year's draft.
While his defensive game is still a work in progress, his stick skills mean he can be effective defensively if he applies himself. His combination of playmaking and goalscoring means he has the highest offensive ceiling of any player in the draft although he is not quite as refined as other players in the top six.
5. C Sam Reinhart (Kootenay, WHL)
The younger brother of New York Islander 2012 fourth overall pick Griffin Reinhart and 2010 Calgary Flame third-round pick Max Reinhart, Sam has long been considered a potential first overall pick. He was captain of the Kootenay Ice this year and second in the WHL in points per game behind Jets pick Nic Petan.
Reinhart is not the most physically skilled player by any means, but he makes up for with a fantastic hockey IQ. He is masterful at finding the soft areas of the ice and has superb vision. He has great hands and is very elusive on the ice. He has already used to those skills extensively on an the international stage with a great U-18 tournament in 2013 and a playing a solid role with the U-20s this year. He is also a very hard worker and great leader on and off the ice.
6. C/LW Michael Dal Colle (Oshawa, OHL)
7. RW Alex Tuch (US National Development Program, USHL)
8. C Dylan Larkin (US National Development Program, USHL)
9. C Adrian Kempe (MODO, SHL)
10. RW/LW Nick Ritchie (Peterborough, OHL)
11. RW Jake Virtanen (Calgary, WHL)
12. LW Nikolaj Ehlers (Halifax, QMJHL)
13. RW David Pastrnak (Sodertalje, ALK)
14. LW Kevin Fiala (HV71, SHL)
15. C Jared McCann (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL)
16. C Nick Schmaltz (Green Bay, USHL)
17. LW Jakub Vrana (Linkoping, SHL)
18. G Thatcher Demko (Boston College, HEAST)
19. LW Nikita Scherbak (Saskatoon, WHL)
20. D Julius Honka (Swift Current, WHL)
NHL Mock Draft
NHL Mock Draft
21. LW Brendan Perlini (Niagara, OHL)
22. C Jayce Hawryluk (Brandon, WHL)
23. C/LW Sonny Milano (US National Development Progran, USHL)
24. D Roland McKeown (Kingston, OHL)
25. D Haydn Fleury (Red Deer, WHL)
26. RW Nikolai Goldobin (Sarnia, OHL)
27. D Jack Glover (US National Development Program, USHL)
28. LW Ivan Barbashev (Moncton, QMJHL)
29. C Robby Fabbri (Guelph, OHL)
30. RW/C Nick Magyar (Kitchener, OHL)
31. RW Kasperi Kapanen (KalPa, SMLiiga)
32. D Anthony DeAngelo (Sarnia, OHL)
33. G Alex Nedeljkovic (Plymouth, OHL)
34. D Travis Sanheim (Calgary, WHL)
35. C Vladislav Kamenev (Metallurg, KHL)
36. D Jack Dougherty (US National Development Program, USHL)
37. C Connor Bleackley (Red Deer, WHL)
38. C Ryan MacInnis (Kitchener, OHL)
39. C/LW John Quenneville (Brandon, WHL)
40. LW Brendan Lemieux (Barrie, OHL)
41. LW/RW Juho Lammikko (Assat U20, Jr. A SMLiiga)
42. C/RW Joshua HoSang (Windsor, OHL)
43. LW Shane Eiserman (Dubuque, USHL)
44. LW/RW Anton Karlsson (Frolunda J20, SuperElit)
45. D Adam Ollas Mattsson (Djurgarden J20, SuperElit)
46. C Warren Foegele (St. Andrews College, CAHL)
47. C Eric Cornel (Peterborough, OHL)
48. D Blake Siebenaler (Niagara, OHL)
49. D Gavin Bayreuther (St. Lawrence University, ECAC)
50. G Ville Husso (HIFK, SMLiiga)
51. C Brayden Point (Moose Jaw, WHL)
52. D Bycen Martin (Swift Current, WHL)
53. LW Justin Kirkland (Kelowna, WHL)
54. D Julius Bergman (Frolunda J20, SuperElit)
55. RW/LW Ondrej Kase (KLH Chomutov, ELH)
56. C Lucas Wallmark (Lulea, SHL)
57. D Dominik Masin (HC Slavia Praha U20, Czech U20)
58. C Chase De Leo (Portland, WHL)
59. D Nikita Tryamkin (Yekaterinburg, KHL)
60. RW Richard Nejecchleb (Brandon, WHL)