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Top 2014 NHL Draft prospects offer self-evaluations

by Mike G. Morreale

TORONTO -- Prior to the start of every season, NHL Central Scouting already has evaluated hundreds of the top prospects available in the upcoming NHL draft.

In addition to putting together meticulous reports that detail a player's good and bad points, and then sharing them with their colleagues, it's also required that each prospect file some paperwork to Central Scouting.

So long before Samuel Bennett of the Kingston Frontenacs, Leon Draisaitl of the Prince Albert Raiders, Sam Reinhart of the Kootenay Ice and Aaron Ekblad of the Barrie Colts begin a new season, they've already completed the NHL Central Scouting questionnaire.

One of the more intriguing parts of the questionnaire happens to be the section that requires each prospect to admit their strongest asset, weakest area and the NHL player they most resemble. The self-assessments, for the most part, are pretty accurate. They also provide the scouts with a gauge as to what type of player each prospect expects to become.

Here's a summary of what each of the top five North American prospects, top North American goalie and top European skater provided on their questionnaire, followed by an evaluation of that response by NHL Central Scouting.

Players are listed in the order they were ranked in Central Scouting's midterm release in January.

Top-rated prospect Samuel Bennett compares his game to that of Los Angeles Kings forward Mike Richards. (Photo: Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

1. Samuel Bennett, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)

2013-14: 36 goals, 91 points, 118 penalty minutes, plus-34 rating, 10 power-play goals in 57 games

Height/weight: 6-0.25, 178

Comparison: "Mike Richards."

Best asset: "Hockey sense, shooting."

Where do you need improvement: "Strength in the corners."

NHL Central Scouting: "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," 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."

2. Leon Draisaitl, C, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)

2013-14: 38 goals, 105 points, 24 penalty minutes, plus-7 rating, 12 power-play goals in 64 games

Height/weight: 6-1.75, 208

Comparison: "Evgeni Malkin."

Best asset: "Playmaking ability, passing and protecting the puck."

Where do you need improvement: "Skating, shooting and more pressure to the net."

NHL Central Scouting: "He's the best prospect I've seen from this draft class at protecting and handling the puck; he's very Jaromir Jagr-esque," Western Hockey League scout B.J. MacDonald said. "He protects the puck, makes those button hooks and hits guys coming in late. He'll hold onto that puck until he sees the right play to make. He has a great wrist shot and good snap shot, and can surprise a lot of goalies with it."

3. Aaron Ekblad, D, Barrie Colts (OHL)

2013-14: 23 goals, 53 points, 91 penalty minutes, plus-7 rating, 16 power-play goals in 58 games

Height/weight: 6-3.5, 216

Comparison: "Some have said Nicklas Lidstrom, the player I've strived to play like."

Best asset: "My shot from the point, my ability to make good first pass. I support the rush offensively and provide steady play. I do not get beat."

Where do you need improvement: "My mobility, foot speed and physical play; an ability to be intimidating."

NHL Central Scouting: "I am always hesitant to label as a sure thing any young athlete, as they have enough pressure on them in the draft year, but I would describe Ekblad as one of the most solid NHL prospects you will find in this year's draft," director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "He is the best defenseman available and he would be projected to vie for an NHL job a lot sooner than most."

4. Sam Reinhart, C, Kootenay Ice (WHL)

2013-14: 36 goals, 105 points, 11 penalty minutes, plus-24 rating, 12 power-play goals, 2 shorthanded goals in 60 games

Height/weight: 6-0.75, 185

Comparison: "Jonathan Toews."

Best asset: "Hockey sense."

Where do you need improvement: "My skating; I just want to keep getting bigger and stronger."

NHL Central Scouting: "He makes players around him better," WHL scout Peter Sullivan said. "You look at [Sidney] Crosby's draft and you'll recall everyone talking about how Sid made everyone around him better; Reinhart is in that capacity too, where he makes players around him better. When he's playing with even better hockey players, it's going to be even easier for him to play the game."

5. Michael Dal Colle, C/LW, Oshawa Generals (OHL)

2013-14: 39 goals, 95 points, 34 penalty minutes, plus-8 rating, 16 power-play goals in 67 games

Height/weight: 6-1.5, 179

Comparison: "Eric Staal."

Best asset: "My vision and ability to see the ice. I have patience with the puck, am versatile and have offensive abilities with the puck."

Where do you need improvement: "My first three steps; my explosiveness. I want to anticipate better and would like to improve my release."

NHL Central Scouting: "I think the comparison with Eric Staal is a good one, although [Dal Colle] doesn't take many faceoffs," Ontario Hockey League scout Chris Edwards said. "He quietly goes about his business, is not flashy but always good. He kills penalties and plays the point on the power play. Dal Colle is a versatile guy. He's fluid and capable of scoring big goals. He's going to be a really good pro."

Top European: Kasperi Kapanen, RW, Kalpa (FIN)

2013-14: 7 goals, 14 points, 10 penalty minutes, minus-8 rating in 47 games

Height/weight: 6-foot, 180

Comparison: "Ilya Kovalchuk."

Best asset: "My skating, puck handling and shot."

Where do you need improvement: "My defensive play."

NHL Central Scouting: "I would not say Kapanen has the same explosiveness as Kovalchuk, so I don't think that's a good comparison; a better comparison is Steven Stamkos, because Kasperi is a smart playmaker and scorer," Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb said. "I agree with him in regards to his best assets being his understanding of the game, passing and explosive, quick wrist shot. I'd like to see him improve his physical strength and weight, but that's the same for most 17-year-old kids anyway."

Top goalie: Thatcher Demko, Boston College (H-EAST)

2013-14: 14-4-3, 2.13 goals-against average, .921 save percentage, 2 shutouts, 573 shots, 528 saves in 21 games

Height/weight: 6-3.75, 192

Comparison: "Pekka Rinne."

Best asset: "My compete level and will to win. I'm very determined, have a good work ethic and have leadership qualities."

Where do you need improvement: "My play on the post; quickness and reading some plays better."

NHL Central Scouting: "He's still a young kid and he's adapting; he has so many strengths," Central Scouting's chief goalie scout Al Jensen said. "He has that NHL pro-type potential. He just looks like a goalie in net. I can see him three or four years down the road becoming a monster in the net, and for any franchise in need of a future top goalie that's what you want. He's big, aggressive and confident and has remained strong and focused most of the year."


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