Connor McDavid tops Mid-Season NHL 2015 Draft Rankings

January 20, 2015

The NHL Central Scouting Bureau today released its mid-season rankings for the 2015 NHL Draft, as center Connor McDavid of the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters has been named the top draft-eligible skater from North America, edging Boston University freshman Jack Eichel for the top spot.

McDavid, who was granted exceptional player status by Hockey Canada to be eligible for the 2012 OHL Priority Selection as a 15-year-old, is skating in his third season with Erie, where he has recorded 60 points (21-39—60) in 23 games. A member of Canada’s gold medal-winning entry at the 2015 World Junior Championship, McDavid tied for the tournament lead with 11 points (3-8—11), led the tournament in assists, and was named to the media all-star team.

“He’s a craftsman with the puck," said Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr of McDavid.  "His hockey sense, with his vision, his anticipation, his sense of timing and the ability to do those things at a top-end speed, you’re looking at the best skilled player in the draft.”

McDavid aims to be the seventh OHL player selected first overall in the past nine years, following Patrick Kane (2007, London Knights), Steven Stamkos (2008, Sarnia Sting), John Tavares (2009, London Knights), Taylor Hall (2010, Windsor Spitfires), Nail Yakupov (2012, Sarnia Sting), and Aaron Ekblad (2014, Barrie Colts).

Eichel, a freshman center at Boston University, leads all NCAA Division I skaters with 34 points (11-23—34) in 20 games. Internationally, Eichel has won gold with Team USA at the 2014 Under-18 World Junior Championship and represented his country at the 2014 and 2015 World Junior Championships.

"He is proving to be such an amazing game-breaker; he's relentless and driven on the play and has the smarts, speed and skills to deliver a needed scoring drive to tie up or win a game,” said Marr of Eichel.

Joining McDavid and Eichel among the top North American skaters are: No. 3 Noah Hanifin (Norwood, Mass.), a freshman defenseman with Boston College (H-EAST); No. 4 Lawson Crouse (Mount Brydges, Ont.), a left wing with the Kingston Frontenacs (OHL); and No. 5 Dylan Strome (Mississauga, Ont.), a center with the Erie Otters (OHL) and brother of New York Islanders center Ryan Strome.

"Everybody looks at him and says he's a gifted offensive player, and he is, but what makes him so special is his transition game," said Marr of Hanifin.  "He 'gets it' that you have to play defense first and the offense will follow.”

The scouting report on Crouse, according to NHL Central Scouting’s Chris Edwards, is that “He’s a big-bodied guy, protects the puck and is solid on his skates. He can see the ice and barrels through everyone. He’s got good hands to go along with that big body.”

As for the fifth-ranked Strome, "He has that competitive edge and grittiness; he wants to succeed, wants the puck, wants to score and wants to win," said Marr.  "He's a skilled, driven player, a strong skater with the agility and reach that scouts love.”

Defenseman Oliver Kylington (Sundbyberg, Sweden) and right wing Mikko Rantanen (Nousiainen, Finland) are the No. 1- and 2-ranked skaters from Europe, respectively.

“Oliver is a very good skater with first-step quickness and fine balance," said Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb of Kylington.  "He’s a two-way defenseman who loves to join the offensive rush. He’s smart, with excellent hockey sense and passing skills, and can read situations very well.”

Both Kylington and Rantanen have skated in their country’s top league, with Kylington recording 2-3—5 in 17 games with Farjestad of the Swedish Hockey League before joining AIK in the second division, and Rantanen notching 4-11—15 in 36 games for TPS of the Finnish Elite League.

“He’s a physically strong power forward with very good playmaking abilities, smart, active and involved on every shift," said Stubb of Rantanen.  "He has very good speed and quickness for a big man and plays with authority. He’s difficult to check, protects the puck well and has good hands.”

Top-rated North American goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood (Thunder Bay, Ont.) is 20-7-1 this season with a 2.81 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in 29 appearances for the Central Division-leading Barrie Colts (OHL). His 20 wins are fourth-best among OHL goaltenders.

“He takes a calm and relaxed approach and has excellent positional play," said NHL Central Scouting’s Al Jensen of Blackwood.  "He has a butterfly style with great low net coverage and controlled lateral movements.”

The mid-season rankings feature the top 210 skaters and 35 goaltenders in North America as well as the top 112 skaters and 11 goaltenders from Europe.

In its 40th year of operation, NHL Central Scouting provides evaluation and scouting of draft-eligible players to NHL member clubs, employing eight full-time and 15 part-time scouts throughout North America.  For prospects playing in Europe, the NHL employs the services of Goran Stubb and his staff at European Scouting Services based in Finland.

Combined, NHL Central Scouting and European Scouting Services will see in excess of 3,000 games this season.

The 2015 NHL Draft will be held June 26-27.

By Staff of and news services

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