Ranking the Top 10 Scorers in the 2014 NHL Draft
NHL teams are evaluating the best players available in this year's entry draft. As always, players who can impact the game offensively have the highest value.
The Canadian junior leagues dominate this year's top 10, with a strong group of offensive options. Teams have a wide variety of talent to choose from in 2014.
Here are the top 10 scorers available in this year's draft.
10. Jake Virtanen, LW, Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
The Numbers: 71GP, 45-26-71 with the Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
The Skill Set: Jake Virtanen has size, speed and a scorer's touch. He is a first-shot scorer, and as Scott Fisher from the Calgary Sun details, Virtanen is focused on his play away from the puck. The more complete the player, the higher his value.
The Projection: It's likely Virtanen will return to junior for another season. His goal-scoring ability should get him on the fast track with his new NHL team. He is also closing his draft season well, as detailed in this report by Chapin Landvogt in Hockey's Future.
9. Brendan Perlini, LW, Niagra Ice Dogs (OHL)
The Numbers: 58GP, 34-37-71 with Niagra Ice Dogs (OHL)
The Projection: Perlini is a young forward without much OHL experience—just 117 regular-season games. He is probably headed back to junior for another year or two.
8. Nick Ritchie, LW, Peterborough Petes (OHL)
The Numbers: 61GP, 39-35-74 with Peterborough Petes (OHL)
The Skill Set: Ritchie is a power forward prospect who has a wide range of skills, according to OHL Prospects. He doesn't bring all of the elements in his game consistently, but he's a proven goal scorer and easily qualifies for the list.
The Projection: He is physically mature compared to most of the prospects, but there may be issues based on the lack of consistency. Ritchie is a quality goal-scoring prospect.
7. William Nylander, C, MODO (SHL)
The Numbers: 22GP, 1-6-7 with MODO (SHL)
The Skill Set: Nylander is a center with high-end passing skills. His biography at Elite Prospects tells us Nylander can do it all at high speeds. His impressive showing at the IIHF U18 World Championships will help his draft ranking.
The Projection: His range of skills means Nylander isn't as much of a pure shooter as some of the prospects on this list. However, his skill level across the board makes him one of the 10 best scoring forwards in this year's draft.
6. Leon Draisaitl, C, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
The Numbers: 64GP, 38-67-105 with Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
The Skill Set: Leon Draisaitl is getting a lot of attention for his size and playmaking skill, but he's a quality scorer, too. As detailed by Bruce McCurdy of the Edmonton Journal, Draisaitl may benefit from being a bit more selfish, shooting more when the opportunity presents itself.
The Projection: He is one of a very few in this draft who could be considered for NHL employment this fall. But it's a good bet he will remain in junior for one more season.
5. Sam Reinhart, C, Kootenay Ice (WHL)
The Numbers: 60GP, 36-69-105 with Kootenay Ice (WHL)
The Skill Set: Sam Reinhart is more playmaker than sniper, but his offensive prowess allows him to score goals at a rapid rate. He has 101 career goals in the WHL in 203 games and finished the season on fire. In his final 40 games—including playoffs—Reinhart posted 26 goals.
The Projection: Reinhart is one of two players in this year's draft who has a good chance to play in the NHL next season. We should expect good production, especially if he's given power-play time.
4. Michael Dal Colle, LW, Oshawa Generals (OHL)
The Numbers: 67GP, 39-56-95 with Oshawa Generals (OHL).
The Skill Set: Michael Dal Colle has a wide range of skills, including a quick release, which accounts for his goal total. He also plays a power game, so he can score from high-traffic areas.
The Projection: As the evaluation process grows deeper and we get closer to draft day, Dal Colle's stock is rising. He is probably a year away, but a strong training camp with his NHL team may allow him to play in 2014-15.
3. Robby Fabbri, C, Guelph Storm (OHL)
The Numbers: 58GP, 45-42-87 with Guelph Storm (OHL)
The Skill Set: Fabbri is fighting the size bias with exceptional skill. His 5'10", 165-pound frame is a down arrow, but 45 goals in 58 games is an up arrow. He possesses the entire range of offensive skills, as detailed by OHL Prospects. A team willing to overlook the size issue may be rewarded handsomely.
The Projection: Fabbri's draft number will suffer because of his size. Any team selecting him will make certain he's mature enough to face older and physically bigger players, meaning two more years of junior hockey is guaranteed.
2. Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
The Numbers: 63GP, 49-55-104 with Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
The Skill Set: Nikolaj Ehlers is a high-octane offensive winger with magic hands. His Elite Prospects bio details his speed and skill, and the QMJHL site shows he took an incredible 287 shots during this past season. This is a future NHL sniper.
The Projection: Ehlers may spend another year in junior, but he's going to be impressive in an NHL training camp if given half a chance to show his skill. Ehlers is underrated by many draft rankings and is the most likely player to advance into TSN's Top Five, as described by Bob McKenzie.
1. Sam Bennett, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
The Numbers: 57GP, 36-55-91 with Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
The Skill Set: Sam Bennett owns a wide range of skills, including foot speed and a quick release. He finished with 36 goals in his second OHL season, compared to most in this group who are in their third years at this level.
The Projection: Bennett is a June 1996 birthday, meaning he's younger than most of the draft group. His progress so far, considering his age, makes him a strong candidate to be the best scorer available in this year's draft.