TORONTO – Center Samuel Bennett of the Ontario Hockey League’s Kingston Frontenacs and right wing Kasperi Kapanen of Finland’s Kalpa have been named the top 2014 draft-eligible skaters from North America and Europe, respectively, by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau.
Bennett, a native of Holland Landing, Ont., led the Frontenacs and finished ninth in the OHL with 36-55—91 in 57 games this season. A two-time gold medalist, he was an assistant captain on Canada’s gold-medal squad at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and also captured gold as the second-youngest member of Team Canada at the 2013 Under-18 World Championship. Bennett aims to be the sixth OHL player selected first overall in the past eight years, following Patrick Kane (2007, London Knights), Steven Stamkos (2008, Sarnia Sting), John Tavares (2009, London Knights), Taylor Hall (2010, Windsor Spitfires) and Nail Yakupov (2012, Sarnia Sting).
Kapanen, a 6’0” forward from Kuopio, Finland, recorded 7-7—14 in 47 games with Kalpa of the SM-Liiga during the 2013-14 season. He also finished second among all players with five goals, including the winner in the bronze-medal game against Russia, at the 2013 Under-18 World Championship. The son of former NHLer Sami, Kapanen is looking to become the first Finnish-born player selected No. 1 overall in the NHL Draft.
Defenseman Aaron Ekblad (Windsor, Ont.), center Sam Reinhart (North Vancouver, B.C.), center Leon Draisaitl (Cologne, Germany) and left wing Michael Dal Colle (Richmond Hill, Ont.) round out the top-five North American skaters. Ekblad, of the Barrie Colts, led all OHL defensemen with 23 goals in 58 games this season. Reinhart, the brother of recent draft picks Max and Griffin and son of former NHLer Paul, posted 105 points in 2013-14, matching Draisaitl for fourth in the Western Hockey League. And Dal Colle recorded 39-56—95 in 67 games to lead the OHL’s Oshawa Generals to a first-place finish in the Eastern Conference.
Joining Kapanen among the European skaters is No. 2-ranked center/right wing William Nylander (Calgary, Alta.), the son of former NHLer Michael. Nylander posted 1-6—7 in 22 games with Modo of the Swedish Hockey League in 2013-14 and also played part of the season with his father on Rogle in Sweden’s second division.
Thatcher Demko (San Diego, Calif.), a freshman at Boston College (Hockey East), remains the top-rated North American goaltender. The youngest player in NCAA hockey this season, he compiled a 16-4-3 record with a 2.16 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in 23 appearances with the Eagles. Demko aims to become the highest-drafted, California-born goaltender in NHL history.
The final rankings feature the top 210 skaters and 30 goaltenders in North America as well as the top 140 skaters and 15 goaltenders from Europe.
In its 39th year of operation, NHL Central Scouting provides evaluation and scouting of draft-eligible players to NHL member clubs.
Headed by Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr, NHL Central Scouting employs eight full-time and 15 part-time scouts throughout North America.
To report on prospects playing in Europe, the NHL employs the services of Goran Stubb and his staff of seven scouts at European Scouting Services based in Finland. Combined, NHL Central Scouting and European Scouting Services will see in excess of 3,000 games this season.
The 2014 NHL Draft will be hosted by the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia from June 27-28. It will be the first time the city and facility host the NHL Draft.
The 2014 NHL Draft Lottery will take place on Tuesday, April 15, at 8:00 p.m. ET on TSN in Canada and NBCSN in the United States.