To no one’s shock, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel were ranked first and second in the Central Scouting Bureau’s final list of the top North American skaters available for the 2015 NHL draft.
What’s sure to catch some observers off guard is how little movement there has been in the rest of the top 10.
Despite some dazzling second-half play from highly regarded prospects, Central Scouting’s North American list remained largely unchanged at the high end. The list—which at some point really needs to be combined with the CSB’s rankings of European skaters and North American and European goaltenders to be of any real value—was rounded out by defenseman Noah Hanifin of Boston College, Erie Otters center Dylan Strome (photo above, hugging McDavid), left wing Lawson Crouse of the Kingston Frontenacs, center Mitchell Marner of the London Knights, Brandon Wheat Kings defenseman Ivan Provorov, center Pavel Zacha of the Sarnia Sting, University of Michigan defenseman Zach Werenski, and Halifax Mooseheads right wing Timo Meier.
Of that group only Meier wasn’t a member of the top 10 in CSB’s midseason ranking. He moved up from 12 to 10. Seattle center Matthew Barzal dropped out of the group, falling from 9 to 10.
There was some expectation that Crouse, a big-bodied power forward who has demonstrated limited offensive skills in the OHL, would drop out of the top five and possibly even the top10. That he remains ahead of the sublimely skilled Marner, whose grace and finishing touch reminds some of Patrick Kane, is sure to be controversial.
Skilled Everett defenseman Noah Juulsen was the most noteworthy climber, jumping from 38 at midseason to strong first round contention at 22. CSB’s scouts were less kind to USA NTDP winger Jordan Greenway, who finished at 47 after ranking 22nd at midseason. Given how little the 6' 5", 222-pound power forward produced this season, even that might be an overly generous reflection of his standing.
Finnish winger Mikko Rantanen was rated the top European skater. The playmaking forward is widely regarded as a mid-first round selection in the 10 to 18 range.
In a weak year for goaltenders, Mackenzie Blackwood of the Barrie Colts and Magnitogorsk's Ilya Samsonov are the top-rated puck stoppers from North America and Europe, respectively. Blackwood is expected to go late in the second round or early in the third. Depending on team preferences, Samsonov could remain on the board even longer.