Central Scouting announced this week that it rates Kingston center Sam Bennett as the top prospect available for the 2014 NHL Draft. TSN draft expert Craig Button followed up by listing Kootenay center Sam Reinhart atop his list.
And North American Central Scouting? They like Aaron Ekblad.
“He’s so smart, very cerebral” Mark Seidel, chief scout for NACS, said of the 6′-5″, 205-pound defender for the OHL Barrie Colts. “He plays better in big games, [he has a] bomb from the point [and] is very mature. [He shows] tremendous poise, excellent leadership.”
Ekblad, who will captain Team Orr at tonight’s CHL Top Prospects Game, is coming off a strong, but unspectacular under-aged turn at the World Junior Championship. He earned the faith of coach Brent Sutter and handled a much heavier workload than any 17-year-old defenseman has in years for Team Canada. He’s nowhere near as smooth as Seth Jones, the defender who topped last year’s midseason rankings, but he’s mobile, good with the puck, and capable of handling a shutdown role. That’s exactly the sort of player that most teams, outside of the defense-prospect heavy Buffalo Sabres, wouldn’t mind using a top pick to acquire.