For the NHL Draft prospect junkie, January is a particularly interesting month given the information available and events that take place. On the event side, the World Junior Championship wraps up in early January, while the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game normally takes place at mid-month (and in fact is taking place tomorrow night).
But the information available is just as enticing since the horse race for the top spot becomes a little more clear moving into the season's second half. The most anticipated information released is the midterm draft rankings from the NHL's Central Scouting Services (CSS). While CSS does release other ranking information prior to the midterm release, the midterm rankings is the first release that lumps players from different leagues into one, more cohesive listing – two listings, actually, since the rankings are split up between North America and Europe.
And of course, ISS Hockey (ISS) releases their usual monthly draft rankings, which gives the draft watcher a way to compare and contrast their rankings with those of Central Scouting. And, with the release of CSS's 2014 midterm rankings yesterday and ISS Hockey's January release today, it's possible to get a bit clearer picture of how things are shaking out for this year's NHL Draft.
And in this case there is disagreement very quickly between the two organizations, with ISS picking Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad as the top prospect for this year's draft, while CSS taps Kingston Frontenacs forward Sam Bennett as their top skater in North America (Kasperi Kapanen is the top-ranked European player for CSS, but he is ranked 12th overall by ISS). Bennett sits third overall in the ISS rankings, while Ekblad holds the same slot in the CSS rankings.
Between the two lists in general, several of the names in the top 10 are similar, but there are a couple of exceptions. One difference is Peterborough Petes forward Nick Ritchie, who is ranked seventh among North American skaters by CSS but 13th overall by ISS. The other, more striking discrepancy is that of Sarnia Sting defenseman Anthony Deangelo, who stands 10th among North American skaters on the CSS list, but 23rd overall according to ISS.
Looking at the European rankings, there seems to be a consensus, more or less, between the two scouting organizations when it comes to the top players playing across the Atlantic. One exception would be Swedish forward Anton Karlsson, who is ranked 10th overall by ISS but just sixth among Euro skaters by CSS. Another Swede facing a discrepancy in the rankings is forward Oskar Lindblom, who is ranked 26th overall by ISS but just 23rd among European prospects by CSS. Said a different way, ISS ranks Lindblom among the top five Euro prospects, but he is ranked just 26th by CSS.
One other glaring discrepancy among North American skaters is found with Red Deer Rebels forward Conner Bleackley. Bleackley is ranked 14th overall in the lastest ISS rankings, but just 31st among North American skaters by CSS.
In goal, there seems to be agreement as to the identity of this draft's top netminder. That honor appears to belong to Boston College freshman goalie Thatcher Demko, who is ranked first overall by ISS and first among North American goaltenders by CSS. The top European goaltender according to ISS is Finland's Kaapo Kahkonen, who is second overall, while CSS views him as the second-best Euro goaltender behind another Finn, Ville Husso.
Below is the latest ranking from ISS Hockey of the the top 30 prospects for the 2014 NHL Draft. In addition to including a player's rank from last month's ISS rankings, a column is also included to show where a player was ranked by CSS in their midterm rankings.
|4||Michael Dal Colle||C||6/20/96||L||6.01.5||179||Oshawa||OHL||3||5NA|
|7||Leon Draisaitl||C||10/27/95||L||6.00.5||199||Prince Albert||WHL||7||2NA|
|8||Haydn Fleury||LD||7/8/96||L||6.02.5||207||Red Deer||WHL||10||6NA|
|14||Connor Bleackley||C/RW||2/7/96||L||6.00.5||192||Red Deer||WHL||13||31NA|
|15||Jared McCann||C||5/31/96||L||6.00.25||179||S.S. Marie||OHL||9||11NA|
|16||Alex Tuch||RW||5/10/96||R||6.03.5||213||USA Under-18||NTDP||20||21NA|
|17||Sonny Milano||LW||5/12/96||L||5.11.5||183||USA Under-18||NTDP||16||16NA|
|22||Dylan Larkin||LW||7/30/96||L||6.00.75||190||USA Under-18||NTDP||23||17NA|
|28||Jack Glover||RD||5/17/96||R||6.03.25||190||USA Under-18||NTDP||27||27NA|
|29||Brycen Martin||LD||5/9/96||L||6.01.75||182||Swift Current||WHL||31||20NA|