The 2013 NHL draft is firmly in the rear view now, with top draftees already inking their entry-level deals and heading out to development camps around North America. That leaves plenty of spotlight for the kids that are due to be drafted in 2014.
Who will be the next Seth Jones or Nathan MacKinnon? Can Aaron Ekblad rise to the top of the draft class where Jones fell?
Will Leon Draisaitl become the highest drafted German ever?
There is a whole year ahead for these kids to answer any and all questions about their abilities. This is an early look at a handful of players that could be selected first overall at the 2014 NHL draft.
All stats appear courtesy of hockeydb.com unless otherwise noted.
2013 Stats: 68 GP, 19 G, 32 A, minus-two
Height: 6'1'' Weight: 190 lbs
Current Affiliation: OHL, Brampton Battalion
Scouting Report: A big, strong player that likes to drive to the net off of the wing, Blake Clarke is considered the best power-forward in the draft at this juncture. While he lacks elite-level skating and defensive awareness, his ability to make things happen in the offensive zone is evident.
Clarke could still stand to be more noticeable without the puck, however. While other top prospects such as Sam Reinhart and Aaron Ekblad thrive in all three zones, Clarke seems one-dimensional.
He has an entire year to work on these elements to his game though, and even a moderate improvement in the neutral zone would be a massive boost for this talented-but-raw winger.
2013 Stats: 54 GP, 7 G, 27 A, plus-29
Height: 6'3'' Weight: 207 lbs
Current Affiliation: OHL, Barrie Colts
Scouting Report: Aaron Ekblad was granted exceptional status by the OHL, allowing him to enter the league as a 15-year-old instead of requiring him to wait until he was 16 like usual. After watching him play just a few shifts, it's easy to see why.
His poise with the puck is well above-average, and even as an under-ager Ekblad was one of the most patient players in the league. 2013 saw him improve in his own zone dramatically, going from a minus-five in 2012 to a plus-29 in 2013.
His shot is outstanding, and Ekblad is also an excellent skater. The size is already there, and he'll be a consensus top-five selection throughout the year barring an unforeseen drop in play or (hockey gods forbid) an injury.
2013 Stats: 72 GP, 35 G, 50 A, plus-eight
Height: 6'1'' Weight: 186 lbs
Current Affiliation: WHL, Kootenay Ice
Scouting Report: The first thing that you notice about Sam Reinhart is his hockey sense. The game seems to revolve around him even when he doesn't have the puck, and his ability to create time and space for teammates is second to none.
He's excellent in making passes out of the corners and isn't afraid to go to the dirty areas to create scoring chances.
Reinhart isn't just an offensive-zone specialist though, and is trusted to defend leads as well as attack them when the Ice are down in games. He's one of the most complete players available already, and he still has another year to improve.
2013 Stats: (SuperElit, per Eliteprospects.com) 27 GP, 15 G, 28 A, plus-14 (Allsvenskan) 8 GP, 4 G, 2 A
Height: 5'10'' Weight: 170 lbs
Current Affiliation: Allsvenskan, Sodertalje SK
Scouting Report: One of the most highly touted offensive prospects at this point, William Nylander-Altelius could be the first European selected at the 2014 draft. His skating is top notch, and he's able to puck handle, pass and shoot while at top speed.
Capable of being an offensive leader for his team, Nylander-Altelius loves to shoot the puck. While he's not a selfish player by any means, he sometimes holds onto the puck for too long, causing turnovers.
This wasn't nearly as apparent in the SuperElit, but once he jumped to the Allsvenskan, the higher-quality defenders gave him issues at times.
Which is understandable, considering Nylander-Altelius was a 17-year-old playing against grown men for the first time in his career.
2013 Stats: 63 GP, 15 G, 33 A, plus-19
Height: 6'2'' Weight: 171 lbs
Current Affiliation: OHL, Oshawa Generals
Scouting Report: With a mass exodus of talent occurring in Oshawa, the opportunity is there for Michael Dal Colle to grab a ton of playing time with the Generals this season. While he's naturally a center, he played wing during his first OHL season and didn't seem out of place.
That said, Oshawa could potentially lose its top two centers (Boone Jenner and Scott Laughton) which would free up the space for Dal Colle to move back to the middle of the ice.
He's a developing power-forward that plays a sound game in all three zones. What he lacks in flash, he more than makes up for with finish, and his name could be one of the more noticeable risers throughout the next year.
2013 Stats: 41 GP, 18 G, 17 A, minus-10
Height: 6'2'' Weight: 218 lbs
Current Affiliation: OHL, Peterborough Petes
Scouting Report: Whoever drafts Nick Ritchie next summer will be getting a project-player with a ton of upside. His point total actually dropped during his second year of play in the OHL, which raised some eyebrows among scouts, but Ritchie is still one of the more attractive players available in 2014.
His shot is outstanding, and he's able to get his big frame behind him slappers with relative ease. He could weigh more than 220 pounds by the time he's drafted, giving Ritchie a projectable and NHL-ready frame.
While he's a strong passer from the wing, Ritchie still needs to polish all aspects of his game if he hopes to be a top player in the NHL someday. Still, there's a lot to like about his game and a good season with the Petes will jump him into contention for the No. 1 overall selection.
2013 Stats: 61 GP, 7 G, 22 A, minus-24
Height: 6'1'' Weight: 186 lbs
Current Affiliation: OHL, Kingston Frontenacs
Scouting Report: If anyone will be able to knock Aaron Ekblad from his perch as the No. 1 available defenseman in this draft, it'll be Roland McKeown. The fleet-footed and supremely quick 17-year-old is one of the best skaters in the draft, and has outstanding offensive upside.
While he's phenomenal while holding down the blue line on the offensive side of things, he's not so good in his own zone—evidenced by his atrocious minus-24. McKeown has a high hockey IQ though, which should make evolving a more well-rounded game easier.
He played in all situations for a Frontenacs team that struggled to make the playoffs in 2013, and the experiences will only help McKeown in the long run.
2013 Stats: 64 GP, 21 G, 37 A, plus-22
Height: 6'1'' Weight: 198 lbs
Current Affiliation: WHL, Prince Albert Raiders
Scouting Report: Look beyond the fact that he's refereed to as the "German Gretzky" and you'll see a remarkably talented and intelligent hockey player.
Leon Draisaitl may be the best puck-possession forward available in 2014, and he could put up monster numbers for the Raiders after a superb 58-point North American debut.
Draisaitl has produced nearly a point per game at every level he's played, and is always among the scoring leaders at the season's end. Few guys available in the 2014 draft can pile on the points like this German native, and Draisaitl is gunning to be the first German ever selected at first overall.
While his skating could use some work, his smarts and abilities with the puck overshadow that deficiency greatly.