The Fastest Risers in the 2014 NHL Draft Class

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistNovember 13, 2013

The Fastest Risers in the 2014 NHL Draft Class

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    Toronto first-round draft choice Frederik Gauthier at the 2013 NHL draft.
    Toronto first-round draft choice Frederik Gauthier at the 2013 NHL draft.Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

    The 2014 NHL draft may not come with the same sense of anticipation than many of the previous drafts have had.

    That's not a knock against top-rated draft prospects Sam Reinhart and Aaron Ekblad. Instead, it has more to do with the excitement surrounding Connor McDavid, who appears to be the certain No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL draft.

    McDavid is a hockey wunderkind, a phenomenon who may one day be in a class with the elite names in the game.

    The 2014 draft class is solid, and in this piece, we look at the players who are climbing the ladder in the early stages of the season.

    Scouting report information courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

C Michael Dal Colle, Oshawa Generals

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    2013-14 Stats: 21 games; 14 goals, 23 assists

    Why he's moving up: Michael Dal Colle has the kind of size potential that gets scouts very excited. Dal Colle, 6'2" and 173 pounds, has the size and range to cut an imposing figure already, and when he adds weight to his frame, he will become a major factor when he tracks down an opponent in the corner.

    Dal Colle is climbing the ranks because he already has a solid two-way game and understands what it takes to play defense. He has excellent hands for a big man and can put the puck in the top corner. He also does a solid job of setting up his teammates.

RW Kasperi Kapanen, Kalpa (Finland)

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    2013-14 Stats: six games; three goals

    Why he's moving up: Kasperi Kapanen is on the small side at 5'11" and 167 pounds, but he is very quick and agile.

    He is able to maneuver himself and get in excellent scoring positions. When Kapanen displays his top moves to get the best of a defenseman, it's clear that he has an excellent future. Kapanen has a quick release and an accurate shot, but he needs to get stronger so he can get more velocity on his snipes.

    He has excellent offensive instincts and should become a solid playmaker in the future.

C-LW Sam Bennett, Kingston Frontenacs

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    2013-14 Stats: 18 games; 11 goals, 13 assists

    Why he's moving up: The theme of Sam Bennett's development has been constant improvement. He is better in November than he was in October. 

    Bennett is a smart player who is always working to find the weak spot in the defensive setup so he can take advantage and create scoring opportunities. 

    Bennett has surprising quickness because he can accelerate in an instant. That makes him very difficult to defend. Bennett also understands what it takes to be good in all three zones, and that's one of the reasons he has jumped from the 12th-ranked prospect to the ninth.

LW-C Leon Draisaitl, Prince Albert Raiders

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    2013-14 Stats: 21 games; 10 goals, 18 assists

    Why he's moving up: Leon Draisaitl is an imposing prospect who combines excellent power with surprisingly soft hands when he is around the net.

    The German-born Draisaitl is 6'0", 200 pounds, and when he takes a line to the goal, he is very difficult to knock off stride. Draisaitl is a good skater at this point, but he has a lot of room for improvement in that area. When he becomes a bit more maneuverable on the ice, he will become an even more dangerous player.

    While he is strong and powerful, his best asset may be the way he thinks through his options and understands the game. He is very smart and has a chance to develop into a game-changing stud.

RW Nick Ritchie, Peterborough Petes

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    2013-14 Stats: 16 games; 10 goals, eight assists

    Why he's moving up: Unlike many young draft-eligible players, Nick Ritchie is not a mystery.

    He is a big, strong power forward who is going to bull his way to the net. Ritchie is 6'2", 205 pounds, and he can easily put on 15-20 pounds of muscle early in his career. That means he should be a big factor on plays around the net when he gets to the next level.

    Ritchie moves well for a big man, and he can shift his weight and make subtle changes in his position so he can get off his powerful shot. Ritchie is not always on target, but if he can improve in that area, he will become a force to be reckoned with.

RW Conner Bleackley, Red Deer Rebels

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    2013-14 Stats: 21 games; 10 goals, 12 assists

    Why he's moving up: Conner Bleackley has shot up the 2014 draft rankings because he has impressed scouts with his drive, determination and shooting ability.

    Bleackley has climbed up ISS Hockey's draft rankings from the 27th slot to the 15th. Bleackley is 6'0", 198 pounds, and he plays the game with an edge. He also is competent in all three zones, and he has modeled his play after David Krejci of the Boston Bruins.

    Bleackley's shooting ability is what is starting to separate him from other prospects. 

    "Conner Bleackley is Red Deer's most dangerous offensive player and has clear leadership qualities”, ISS Hockey director of scouting Dennis MacInnis told “He has a great pure release on his shot and knows how to place shots dangerously, but he can also be a good playmaker and a strong skater with good balance and shifty edge usage.”

LW Brendan Perlini, Niagara Ice Dogs

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    2013-14 Stats: 20 games; 13 goals, 18 assists

    Why he's moving up: Brendan Perlini has been rising up the draft boards because he is an exceptional offensive talent.

    Perlini has a booming shot off the left wing, and he can get it away quickly. He is difficult for opponents to handle at 6'3", 195 pounds, and he also plays a solid game in all three zones. The more scouts see of Perlini, the more he has moved up the charts.

    Perlini was not in the top 30 prior to the start of the season, but he has already moved up to the No. 16 spot.

D Haydn Fleury, Red Deer Rebels

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    2013-14 Stats: 21 games; 10 goals, 12 assists

    Why he's moving up: Haydn Fleury projects to become an elite shutdown defenseman when his game matures and he reaches the NHL.

    Fleury has got the size and strength (6'2", 204 pounds) to punish opposing forwards in the corner and take possession of the puck. He is already an excellent defenseman who hits hard and has solid defensive skills. Fleury's game has developed to the point that he rarely has to hook or hold in order to stop a talented opponent.

    From an offensive perspective, Fleury is a good passer, but he can improve his accuracy and his decisiveness. He has a hard shot from the point, but he needs work at getting it through traffic. 

    Fleury has improved his stock from the 21st- to the 17th-ranked prospect at this point in the year.