There might not be a consensus top pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, but the Canadian Hockey League award voters made their choice Saturday, naming Samuel Bennett the top prospect in the league.
Bennett, a center with the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League, was ninth in the OHL with 91 points in 57 games. He led his team in points, goals (36), assists (55), plus/minus rating (plus-34) and power-play goals (10). He had a league-best 25-game scoring streak in which he scored 17 goals and 46 points.
"My second year [in the OHL], going in I felt a lot more confident and I felt our team was more confident," Bennett said. "We definitely were looking to make maybe a farther run in the playoffs but we had a pretty good season."
The 6-foot, 178-pound forward is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2014 Draft.
2014 NHL DRAFT PROSPECTS
Bennett retains top spot on final CSS list
By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer
In a year where projecting the best player eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft is as challenging as ever, Kingston Frontenacs center Samuel Bennett was the No. 1 choice from start to finish in the minds of NHL Central Scouting. READ MORE ›
"He plays the kind of game you think cannot be sustained for a whole season because it's a high-energy game and compete game at all ends of the ice," Central Scouting's David Gregory said. "He ends up playing that game for the whole year and has led his team. He just never stops, and put that with the skill package he has and how well he thinks the game, he's pretty much a top-notch player."
If Bennett is the first player picked at the 2014 draft, he would be the sixth player from the OHL to go No. 1 since 2005.
"It would be pretty special," Bennett said. "I'm prepared for anything. Just to be drafted into the NHL is a huge honor and it's a dream since I was a little kid. Whatever happens it's going to be exciting. I can't wait."
The other finalists for the award were Nikolaj Ehlers of the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Sam Reinhart of the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League.
Ehlers, a 5-10, 176-pound left wing ranked No. 13 by Central Scouting, was fourth in the QMJHL with 49 goals and 104 points in 63 games.
Reinhart, No. 3 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, also was a finalist for the CHL player of the year award. The 6-1, 186-pound center tied for fifth in scoring in the WHL with 105 points in 60 games, and his 69 assists ranked second. He also had 36 goals (12 on the power play) and a plus-24 rating. He followed that with 23 points in 13 WHL playoff games. He also had five points in seven games for Canada at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship.
"Exceptional player with the puck," Dan Marr, Director of Central Scouting, said. "His offensive hockey sense is off the charts with his vision and playmaking. A good skater whose top-end speed can still improve. A responsible player who quietly leads his team."
Reinhart also had 11 penalty minutes, which helped him win the CHL's most sportsmanlike player award.
Val-d'Or Foreurs forward Anthony Mantha, who had a combined 81 goals in 81 regular-season and QMJHL playoff games, was named the CHL player of the year. Mantha was selected by the Detroit Red Wings with the 20th pick of the 2013 NHL Draft.
Also nominated for the award was Connor Brown of the Erie Otters of the OHL. The Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick had 128 points in 65 regular-season games.
Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad, No. 2 on Central Scouting's list, was a finalist for the CHL's best defenseman award. The 6-3, 213-pounder led all OHL defensemen with 23 goals and was fifth with 53 points.
Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick Derrick Pouliot, who plays for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL, won the award. Val-d'Or's Guillaume Gelinas also was a finalist.
Other award winners were: Erie's Connor McDavid, a top prospect for the 2015 draft, who was named the CHL scholastic player of the year after finishing fourth in the OHL with 99 points and earning a 92 percent school average; Sam Fioretti of the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL for CHL humanitarian of the year; Jordon Cooke of the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL for top goaltender; and Eric Veilleux of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar for coach of the year.