Connor McDavid Tops NHL Central Scouting Bureau's 2015 Draft Rankings

April 8, 2015

As expected, the NHL Central Scouting Bureau has named center Connor McDavid the top 2015 draft-eligible skater from North America, edging Boston University freshman Jack Eichel for the honor.  McDavid plays for the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters.

McDavid finished third in the OHL with 44-76—120 in 47 games this season. A member of Canada’s gold medal-winning entry at the 2015 World Junior Championship, he tied for the tournament lead with 11 points (3-8—11), paced 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.  "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, who compares his style of play to Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter, was named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and paces all NCAA Division I skaters with 24-43—67 in 38 games.

“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.

Eichel led the Terriers to their first conference title in six years and was named Hockey East Player of the Year, Hockey East Rookie of the Year, and was the only unanimous first-team Hockey East All-Star selection.  He could be the first NCAA player selected in the top five of the NHL Draft since 2006.

Joining McDavid and Eichel among the top six North American skaters are another college freshman and three standout OHL forwards: defenseman Noah Hanifin, center Dylan Strome, left wing Lawson Crouse, and center Mitchell Marner.

Crouse, who joined McDavid on Canada’s gold medal-winning squad at the 2015 World Junior Championship, led the Kingston Frontenacs in goals (29) and points (51).

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

Hanifin, who at age 17 became the youngest player ever to don a Boston College uniform, patterns his game after Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings, and finished third among NCAA freshmen blueliners with 5-18—23 in 37 games.

“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.  "He ‘gets it’ – that you have to play defense first and the offense will follow.”

Strome, McDavid’s teammate with the Erie Otters and brother of New York Islanders forward Ryan Strome, won the OHL scoring title with 45-84—129 in 68 games.

“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.”

Marner, of the London Knights, finished three points behind Strome in the OHL scoring race, finishing second with 44-82—126 in 63 games.

Across the pond, right wing Mikko Rantanen of Finland’s TPS has been named the top 2015 draft- eligible skater from Europe. A 6’3” forward from Nousiainen, Finland, he patterns his style of play after Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks and recorded 9-19—29 in 56 games as an alternate captain with TPS of Liiga during the 2014-15 season.

“He’s a physically strong power forward with very good playmaking abilities, smart, active and involved on every shift," said Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb.  "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.”

Rantanen also skated for the club’s junior team in the playoffs, collecting 6-8—14 in seven games en route to a league championship and Playoffs Best Player honors. Internationally, he represented Finland at the 2015 World Junior Championship and was named one of the top three players on his team (4-0—4 in 5 GP).

Also among the top European skaters is No. 2-ranked Gabriel Carlsson (Orebro, Sweden), a defenseman who spent the majority of 2014-15 with Linkoping’s junior team, registering 0-7—7 and a plus-21 rating in 39 games.

“Carlsson is a tall, physically strong two-way defenseman who has improved a lot during the season," said Stubb.  "He plays a smart, cool, mature game and uses his size without being overly aggressive. A smart player who can both pass or play the puck out of danger.”

As for the goaltenders, Mackenzie Blackwood (Thunder Bay, Ont.) of the Barrie Colts, who finished fourth in the OHL with 33 wins, and Ilya Samsonov (Magnitogorsk, Russia) of the Magnitogorsk junior program are the top-rated players at the position from North America and Europe, respectively.

The final rankings feature the top 210 skaters and 30 goaltenders in North America as well as the top 120 skaters and 10 goaltenders from Europe.  The 2015 NHL Draft will be held June 26-27.

By Staff of and news services

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