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Ekblad, Nedeljkovic named OHL First Team All-Stars

by Mike G. Morreale

Defenseman Aaron Ekblad of the Barrie Colts and goalie Alex Nedeljkovic of the Plymouth Whalers, two top prospects from North America eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft, were recognized as First Team All-Stars by the Ontario Hockey League on Wednesday.

The OHL All-Star teams were selected by the league's general managers.

Ekblad, who was named the defenseman of the year in the OHL after finishing with career highs in goals (23), assists (30), power-play goals (16), points (53) and penalty minutes (91) in his third season, is No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American skaters. He is projected by many scouts to be the first defenseman off the draft board in the first round on June 27 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

Nedeljkovic (26-27-7), No. 4 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American goalies, faced the second most shots (2,207) in the OHL and finished with a 2.88 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in 61 games. He was the third American-born goalie to garner OHL goalie of the year honors after Michael Houser (Pennsylvania) of the London Knights in 2012 and Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson (Illinois) of the Guelph Storm in 2001.

Oshawa Generals left wing Michael Dal Colle (39 goals, 56 assists), No. 5 on Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters, was named a Second Team All-Star in the league, along with 2015 draft-eligible center Connor McDavid of the Erie Otters.

Kingston Frontenacs center Samuel Bennett, No. 1 on Central Scouting's final list, was a Third Team All-Star pick after producing 36 goals, 55 assists and 91 points in 57 games.

Any team opting to pass on Bennett in the first round should take a long, hard look at what the 6-foot, 178-pound left-handed shot was able to accomplish in just his second season.

He scored 18 more goals, 33 more assists, 51 more points and went from a minus-2 to a plus-34 rating in three fewer regular-season games this season. He has showcased an edge to his game, as evidenced by his 118 penalty minutes.


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