Sam Bennett of the Kingston Frontenacs has vaulted to the top of the McKeen’s March rankings for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
Bennett’s game has grown steadily during a breakout sophomore season highlighted by a 25-game consecutive point streak from November to late January, the longest of the OHL season so far (17-29-46).
The Holland Landing, Ontario native sits sixth in league scoring and is now the one to catch in the race for the coveted first-overall pick.
There’s nothing sewn up just yet, however, as Bennett’s lead is certainly a modest one with no clear-cut consensus among the top group of three including Barrie Colts’ blueliner Aaron Ekblad and Kootenay centre Sam Reinhart.
Reinhart has kept pace with his ‘Sam’ counterpart by posting the WHL’s longest consecutive point streak of the season – a 22-game run (18-30-48).
The Kootenay Ice captain and Vancouver native saw his streak come to an end at the start of this month – in a game against Prince Albert and Leon Draisaitl, who trails closely behind Reinhart in the draft rankings in the No. 4 slot.
The German-born Draisaitl has also been scorching hot since disappointing showings at the World Juniors and Top Prospects Game. After going nine straight games without a goal in January, Draisaitl has 17 goals in his past 18 games (17-22-39) and has nudged past Reinhart into fourth among WHL scorers with 99 points.
The top four haven’t pulled away from the pack either. If anything, the gap has been closed by the likes of Danish roadrunner Nikolaj Ehlers of the Halifax Mooseheads.
Like Draisaitl, Ehlers never got the engines ignited at the Top Prospects Game, but has been sensational otherwise in an incredible rookie year.
The native of Aalborg, Denmark is in the midst of an 11-game points streak in which he has scored 17 times including six multi-goal games (17-12-29). Ehlers has climbed up to third overall in QMJHL scoring with 100 points including 47 goals, fifth-most in the league. In fact, after an initial transition period, he has hit the back of the net 39 times in his last 41 games.
The balance of an impressive top 10 are highlighted by a quartet of OHL forwards with Michael Dal Colle of the Oshawa Generals holding down the sixth spot, and followed closely by Jared McCann (Sault Ste Marie), Nick Ritchie (Peterborough), and Brendan Perlini (Niagara).
Haydn Fleury of the Red Deer Rebels fills out the top 10 – sitting in the No. 9 spot – and remains the only other defenceman besides Ekblad to hold down a top-ten place.
Other significant risers in the March rankings include William Nylander, the son of former NHLer Michael Nylander, and Czech-born forward David Pastrnak, playing together for Sodertalje in Sweden’s second division Allsvenskan.
NHL scouts have seen a pair of 17-year-old’s often standing out as the best players on their team – with Nylander flashing dominant form at times – and rebounding from a dreadful start to the season.
Kasperi Kapanen (KalPa), Jakub Vrana (Linkopings), Robby Fabbri (Guelph), and Roland McKeown (Kingston) also made noteworthy gains in the March rankings.
Despite plenty of movement among the top 30 however, it remained a rather exclusive group with the only new entrant being Swiss-born forward Kevin Fiala, playing for HV 71 in the Swedish J20 League, who makes his debut at No. 28.
|1||3||Sam Bennett||C||Kingston (OHL)||6-0/180||20-Jun-96|
|2||2||Aaron Ekblad||D||Barrie (OHL)||6-3/215||7-Feb-96|
|3||1||Sam Reinhart||C||Kootenay (WHL)||6-1/185||6-Nov-95|
|4||5||Leon Draisaitl||C||Prince Albert (WHL)||6-2/210||27-Oct-95|
|5||8||Nikolaj Ehlers||LW||Halifax (QMJHL)||5-11/165||13-Feb-96|
|6||4||Michael Dal Colle||LW||Oshawa (OHL)||6-2/180||20-Jun-96|
|7||7||Jared McCann||C||Sault Ste Marie (OHL)||6-0/180||31-May-96|
|8||6||Nick Ritchie||LW||Peterborough (OHL)||6-2/230||5-Dec-95|
|9||10||Haydn Fleury||D||Red Deer (WHL)||6-2/200||8-Jul-96|
|10||9||Brendan Perlini||LW||Niagara (OHL)||6-2/205||27-Apr-96|
|11||11||Jake Virtanen||RW||Calgary (WHL)||6-1/205||17-Aug-96|
|12||16||William Nylander||C||Sodertalje (Swe)||5-11/175||1-May-96|
|13||12||Julius Honka||D||Swift Current (WHL)||5-10/180||3-Dec-95|
|14||22||David Pastrnak||RW||Sodertalje (Swe)||6-0/170||25-May-96|
|15||25||Kasperi Kapanen||RW||KalPa (Fin)||6-0/180||23-Jul-96|
|16||13||Ivan Barbashev||C||Moncton (QMJHL)||6-1/185||14-Dec-95|
|17||23||Jakub Vrana||RW||Linkopings (Swe)||5-11/185||28-Feb-96|
|18||14||Adrian Kempe||LW||MoDo (Swe)||6-1/185||13-Sep-96|
|19||21||Alex Tuch||RW||NTDP (USA)||6-3/215||10-May-96|
|20||18||Joshua Ho-Sang||C||Windsor (OHL)||5-11/165||22-Jan-96|
|21||17||Dylan Larkin||C||NTDP (USA)||6-1/190||30-Jul-96|
|22||15||Nick Schmaltz||C||Green Bay (USHL)||5-11/175||23-Feb-96|
|23||28||Robert Fabbri||C||Guelph (OHL)||5-10/170||22-Jan-96|
|24||30||Roland McKeown||D||Kingston (OHL)||6-1/195||20-Jan-96|
|25||19||Sonny Milano||LW||NTDP (USA)||5-11/185||12-May-96|
|26||24||Nikolai Goldobin||RW||Sarnia (OHL)||5-11/180||7-Oct-95|
|27||27||Jack Glover||D||NTDP (USA)||6-3/195||17-May-96|
|28||NR||Kevin Fiala||LW||HV 71 (Swe)||5-10/185||22-Jul-96|
|29||29||Jack Dougherty||D||NTDP (USA)||6-1/185||25-May-96|
|30||20||Anton Karlsson||LW||Frolunda (Swe)||6-1/190||3-Aug-96|