Photo: Plymouth Whalers goaltender and former Belle Tire player Alex Nedeljkovic was chosen in the second round of the 2014 NHL Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes (courtesy of Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
It's no secret that youth hockey in the United States has made great strides the past few decades.
Players from more geographical locations continue to appear on the rosters of major junior teams in Canada, as well as USHL and NAHL clubs in the U.S. The National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, MI and the squads at the northeastern private schools and NCAA college teams also have more American players than ever.
Photo: The players chosen with the top three selections in the 2014 NHL Draft – Leon Draisaitl (L), Aaron Ekblad (C), and Sam Reinhart (R) – pose in front of the draft stage at Well Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA (courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The NHL's Western Conference had some of the most dominant teams in the 2013-14 season — including Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles — thanks largely to forwards such as the Kings' Anze Kopitar, Anaheim's Corey Perry and the Chicago's' Jonathan Toews.
Photo: Barrie Colts defenseman and 2014 prospect Aaron Ekblad is said to be the most NHL-ready player in this year’s NHL Draft class (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)
While it may not be the slam-dunk consensus that previous years have provided, either Sam Bennett or Aaron Ekblad are the odds-on favorites to be the sixth first-overall NHL Draft selection in the past nine years to come from the OHL.
Photo: Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds forward and 2014 prospect Jared McCann picked up seven points in nine postseason games for the Greyhounds (courtesy of Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)
While he may believe that he has to work on his consistency over the course of a season, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds forward Jared McCann was Mr. Consistency when it came to his ranking for the 2014 NHL Draft.
Photo: Kingston Frontenacs center and 2014 prospect Sam Bennett, shown here taking part in the 2014 NHL Combine, is ranked fourth overall for the 2014 NHL Draft by ISS Hockey (courtesy of Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)
There is varied opinions as to which player is the top prospect for the 2014 NHL Draft. Some NHL scouts feel that Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad is the top player by a tiny margin, while the independent scouting service ISS Hockey ranked Kootenay Ice center Sam Reinhart as their top prospect. But NHL Central Scouting hasn't wavered in their belief that Kingston Frontenacs center Sam Bennett is the best of this year's crop.