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Top prospects for 2015 draft provide self-evaluations

by Mike G. Morreale

TORONTO -- Prior to every season, NHL Central Scouting has already evaluated hundreds of the top prospects eligible for the upcoming NHL Draft.

In addition to putting together meticulous reports and sharing those details with their colleagues, it's also required that each prospect submit some necessary paperwork.

So even before Erie Otters captain Connor McDavid and Boston University freshman Jack Eichel begin to impress, they've already completed the NHL Central Scouting questionnaire.

When asked for his ambition outside of hockey in September 2014, Eichel wrote: "Be a good father someday."

McDavid, who submitted his questionnaire in September 2013, wrote: "I would like to be a lawyer if my hockey career does not work out."

In an interview with NHL.com in January, McDavid was asked to expound on his answer.

"I guess I can argue an opinion and I have my opinions about things and I like to get into arguments and make sure I'm defending my opinion," McDavid said. "I just thought that would be an area I would be interested in."

One of the more intriguing parts of the questionnaire happens to be the section that requires each prospect to admit his strong and weak points on the ice and the NHL player he feels he most resembles. The self-assessments tend to be pretty interesting.

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 a scout from NHL Central Scouting.

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

1. Connor McDavid, C, Erie Otters (OHL)

2014-15: 47 games, 44-76-120, 48 PIM, plus-60 rating, 9 power-play goals

Height/weight: 6-foot-1, 195 pounds

Who is the NHL player your play would most likely be compared to: "Tyler Bozak because he is a good skater and is more of a pass-first type of guy."

Best asset: "I think that I am a good skater as well as passer."

Where do you need improvement: "My defensive game needs to get better along with my shot and faceoffs, being a full 200-foot player is very important."

NHL Central Scouting: "Exceptional NHL prospect; skating, skills and hockey sense are naturally ultra-quick. He makes plays that are truly amazing placing him in a class of his own. Effective on every shift in whatever role he is given. A great shot with outstanding release and a gifted playmaker and scorer."

2. Jack Eichel, C, Boston University (Hockey East)

2014-15: 36 games, 24-42-66, 22 PIM, plus-46 rating, 6 power-play goals

Height/weight: 6-2, 196

Who is the NHL player your play would most likely be compared to: "Jeff Carter."

Best asset: "Skating, hockey IQ, size and shot."

Where do you need improvement: "Keeping my compete level going every shift. I always want to make a difference."

NHL Central Scouting: "He's a power player. His speed is very good and he has that second gear where you think you have him measured, and then he'll fly by you. He snaps the puck and gets it off in traffic really well and just elevates his game against the better players. This is the kind of player who wants the puck and wants to make a difference with his play. His speed, power, strength and shot are high end."

Noah Hanifin of Boston College. (Photo: Jon Quackenbos/Boston College)

3. Noah Hanifin, D, Boston College (Hockey East)

2014-15: 36 games, 5-18-23, 16 PIM, plus-15 rating, 1 power-play goal

Height/weight: 6-3, 203

Who is the NHL player your play would most likely be compared to: "Drew Doughty."

Best asset: "My skating and hockey IQ."

Where do you need improvement: "I need to work on my shot and one-timer from the blue line."

NHL Central Scouting: "He's one of those guys who, when he gets the puck, knows how to transition out with a pass or by skating it out. He'll get it up to the blue line, dish it out and gets up in support of the rush really well. He can run the power play and is a good point-producing defender from the back end. His defense is a little underrated. The offensive part of his game is so high that sometimes his defense gets overlooked a bit."

4. Lawson Crouse, LW, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)

2014-15: 56 games, 29-22-51, 70 PIM, plus-10 rating, 7 power-play goals

Height/weight: 6-4, 211

Who is the NHL player your play would most likely be compared to: "Milan Lucic."

Best asset: "My size, skating, shot and compete level."

Where do you need improvement: "More offensive instincts."

NHL Central Scouting: "A physical presence who is extremely tough for opponents to handle in battles. He goes to the net hard and crashes around in front. He has very good hands and passing ability. He plays a complete two-way game and is very effective on the penalty kill. He is used in all situations in Kingston and is effective in every role he is given."

5. Dylan Strome, C, Erie Otters (OHL)

2014-15: 68 games, 45-84-129, 32 PIM, plus-47 rating, 14 power-play goals

Height/weight: 6-3, 187

Who is the NHL player your play would most likely be compared to: "Joe Thornton."

Best asset: "Ability to create in the open ice for linemates and myself."

Where do you need improvement: "My speed and agility."

NHL Central Scouting: "What we learned about Dylan [when McDavid was out with injury] was that he has a more complete game than maybe some originally thought. He's more of a passer and his hockey sense is elite where he can create opportunities himself, so it makes sense that the coaching staff put him on the second line because he's going to create that secondary scoring. He's very reliable to come back and play and responsible in his own zone. He's one of the better faceoff centers in this year's draft class."

Oliver Kylington of Sweden's AIK. (Photo: Färjestads BK)

Top European: Oliver Kylington, D, AIK (SWE-2)

2014-15: 17 games, 4-3-7, 6 PIM, minus-2 rating

Height/weight: 6-0, 180

Who is the NHL player your play would most likely be compared to: "No one."

Best asset: "My skating, and ability to understand the play."

Where do you need improvement: "My shot and defense in front of my goalie."

NHL Central Scouting: "Mobile, good fast two-way defenseman with excellent skating ability. Loves to join the offensive rush. Plays a solid positional game in the defensive zone and makes a good first pass. Solid, reliable, competes hard on every shift. A finesse type of D-man with all the tools needed to become a star. Even if he is not overly aggressive, he doesn't shy away from the rough stuff."

Top North American goalie: Mackenzie Blackwood, Barrie Colts (OHL)

2013-14: 51 games, 33-14-2, 3.09 GAA, .906 save percentage, 2 shutouts, 1,612 shots, 1,460 save

Height/weight: 6-4, 215

Who is the NHL player your play would most likely be compared to: "Mike Smith or Pekka Rinne."

Best asset: "My quickness, size and speed."

Where do you need improvement: "Playing the puck; I can improve several areas of my game."

NHL Central Scouting: "Mackenzie's overall net coverage is excellent. He's able to get across laterally with ease and very quickly, always being in control. Another advantage is when he drops in the butterfly he covers the lower corners post-to-post with his excellent leg extension while sealing the ice. While he's in the butterfly he also keeps his upper body in an upright position with his glove in the proper position as well to cover the upper half of the net. There are not many holes for the shooters to shoot at."

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