Thursday January 8th, 2015

For the most part, NHL draft-eligible players used the big stage of the 2015 World Junior Championship to cement their reputations in the eyes of the scouting community. Connor McDavid lived up to his billing as hockey’s most dynamic prospect since Sidney Crosby. Jack Eichel looked like the best consolation prize since Evgeni Malkin. And Noah Hanifin showed the poise and mobility that every team is looking for in a top-pairing defenseman.

But plenty of others also revealed something about themselves while showcasing their skills against the best under-20 players in the world. And the bird dogs at North American Central Scouting took notice.

The service released updated draft rankings in the wake of the event, and it’s clear that several prospects made an impression. Here’s what NACS chief scout Mark Seidel had to say about some of the top prospects who caught his eye:

Lawson Crouse, LW, Canada: “Despite some eyebrows being raised upon his selection to Team Canada, Crouse showed why he is our third ranked prospect. He has a very high hockey IQ, skates well for a big kid and will become an absolute physical force when he is done growing. His offensive game will come, but he is a prototypical power forward ready to become a star in the NHL.” (Rank: 3)

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Zach Werenski, D, USA: “Zach showed why he keeps jumping up our list with his play in the WJCs. At times, he was more impressive than Noah Hanifin, his more highly touted teammate, and his overall skill set will prove to be very effective at the NHL level. Playing against grown men while playing at the University of Michigan has been good for his game and he will only continue to improve.” (Rank: 7)

Pavel Zacha, C, Czech Republic: “Despite playing on a poor Czech team, he was very effective using his speed and instincts to create offense while being a physical force against 19-year-olds. He’ll only get better as he plays with better teammates at the NHL level.” (Rank: 8)

Mikko Rantanen, RW Finland: “He arguably was Finland’s best player throughout the tournament and showed that he has a physical side to go with his varied offensive gifts. He uses his size very effectively and has a high ceiling, which moves him into our top 10 in a very strong draft.” (Rank: 9)

Vladislav Gavrikov, D, Russia: “We had him on our list last year [No. 57, but he was passed over]. He will surely be drafted this year. He was a rock for the Russians during the WJC, playing in all situations and helping lead a wild group of kids to within two goals of the gold.” (Rank: 98)

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Denis Godla, G, Slovakia: “[His] performance brought back memories of a young Dominik Hasek in his ability to make saves that he had no business making. His size (5' 11", 176 pounds) and age (19) will hurt him in the draft but there can be no doubt he is worth a shot." (Rank: 134)

Seidel also made note of one player who wasn’t at the tournament, Mitch Marner. The London Knights forward rocketed up the NACS charts from 13th to fifth. “It’s taken us longer than most to completely buy into Marner because we weren’t convinced he could provide offense at the NHL level but we are now fully on board. He has incredible vision, unique offensive instincts and he sees the game two steps ahead of his opponents. He’s the 2015 version of Jonathan Drouin.”

Here's the complete rundown of the top 30 prospects, courtesy of NACS:

1. Connor McDavid, C, Erie Otters

2. Jack Eichel, C, Boston University

3. Lawson Crouse, LW, Kingston Frontenacs

4. Noah Hanifin, D, Boston College

5. Mitchell Marner, C, London Knights

6. Dylan Strome, C, Erie Otters

7. Zach Werenski, D, University of Michigan

8. Pavel Zacha, C, Sarnia Sting

9. Mikko Rantanen, RW, TPS Turku

10. Oliver Kylington, D, AIK

11. Kyle Connor, C, Youngstown

12. Mathew Barzal, C, Seattle Thunderbirds

13. Nicolas Roy, C, Chicoutimi Sagueneens

14. Travis Konecny, C, Ottawa 67s

15. Nick Merkley, C, Kelowna Rockets

16. Colin White, RW, USNTDP

17. Jeremy Roy, D, Sherbrooke Phoenix

18. Paul Bittner, LW, Portland Winterhawks

19. Jansen Harkins, C/LW, Prince George Cougars

20. Evgeny Svechnikov, RW, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles

21. Jeremy Bracco, RW, USNTDP

22. Zachary Senyshyn, RW, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

23. Ryan Pilon, D, Brandon Wheat Kings

24. Daniel Sprong, RW, Charlottetown Islanders

25. Graham Knott, LW, Niagara Ice Dogs

26. Jordan Greenway, LW, USNTDP

27. Adam Musil, C/RW, Red Deer Rebels

28. Jake Debrusk, LW, Swift Current Broncos

29. Ivan Provorov, D, Brandon Wheat Kings

30. Yan Dennis, LW, Shawinigan Cataractes



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