Sam Bennett remains No. 1 in the eyes of NHL Central Scouting.
The league’s prospect gurus released their final player rankings Tuesday, and Bennett topped their list again. The 6-foot, 178-pound center also was No. 1 for Central Scouting’s Midterm Rankings.
Bennett recorded 36 goals and 91 points in 57 games with Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League, and he has five goals and nine points in seven playoff games.
“There are guys who elevate their game when it matters most, and you’re looking to project which players will do that consistently at the next level,” NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said. “The guys we have at the top all are in that mold, but when we look at Sam Bennett we see a guy who could potentially have a Jonathan Toews type of career.”
The Buffalo Sabres, who will finish last, have the best chance of winning the draft lottery next week, giving them the best shot at selecting first overall in June.
Defenseman Aaron Ekblad moved up one spot to second overall in the rankings. The 6-3, 216-pounder had 23 goals and 53 points in 58 games with Barrie of the OHL. The Sabres are deep with defense prospects and need offense.
“I would describe Ekblad as one of the most solid NHL prospects you will find in this year’s draft class,” Marr said. “He is the best defenseman available and would be projected to vie for an NHL job a lot sooner than most.”
Center Sam Reinhart moved from fourth in the midterm rankings to third in the final evaluations. The 6-foot, 185-pounder had 36 goals and 105 points in 60 games with Kootenay of the Western Hockey League. He’s added five goals and 17 points in eight playoff appearances.
German-born center Leon Draisaitl, who recorded 38 goals and 105 points in 64 games with Prince Albert of the WHL, fell from second to fourth.
“I would compare Reinhart to Adam Oates,” Central Scouting’s B.J. MacDonald said. “He’s a very cerebral player who takes what’s given to him. He probably has the highest hockey IQ of any player in this draft, and he knows where to go with the puck even before he even gets it.”