If the World Juniors serve as any indication, the next NHL draft could turn out to be a very special affair.
The pinnacle event for world junior hockey has historically been a tournament dominated by 19-year-old's, however this year's event saw numerous underage players make substantial impacts.
The U-20 World Juniors had been billed as the 'Mac vs Jack' showdown with a pair of 'generational' talents in Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel battling for supremacy on the world stage - and ultimately for the first-overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Eichel led a Team USA squad which also featured a pair of high-end 1997-born blueliners in Noah Hanifin and Zach Werenski - the trio already having revived the U.S. collegiate scene.
The leading scorer among NCAA Div. 1 players, Eichel began the tournament on fire but gradually faded (5-1-3-4) as the Americans finished a disappointing fifth place.
It was all a rather conservative performance from the U.S. which served to mute the contributions of Hanifin (5-0-2-2) and Werenski (5-1-1-2), albeit the latter still managed to supercharge his draft stock.
Werenski (Grosse Pointe, MI) showed off his skating, skills and poise, following up a stand-out collegiate start which saw him leading the University of Michigan Wolverines blueline in scoring as a 17-year-old freshman (15-3-9-12).
Cracking the top 10, Werenski moves up to No. 7 - hotly pursued by another WJC underage phenom in Brandon's Ivan Provorov.
The Yaroslavl native played an integral role for Team Russia en route to winning a silver medal - and then celebrated his return to the WHL with a spectacular end-to-end goal against the Calgary Hitmen.
Mikko Rantanen of TPS Turku was another draft-eligible standout at the world juniors, turning heads throughout the tournie with his two-way play.
Rantanen was a one-man show for Team Finland, the defending champions, firing four of the team's eight goals.
Team Canada captured gold for the first time since 2009, receiving stalwart contributions from the only two draft-eligible players on the team - Connor McDavid and Lawson Crouse.
McDavid started tentatively fresh off a lengthy injury layoff, but got better each shift to produce some dazzling moments - not the least of which was his sublime cut behind the net to set up Nic Petan for a sitter in the semi-finals against Slovakia.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Crouse of the Kingston Frontenacs cemented his status as a premier prospect with an outstanding performance.
Crouse emerged a leader on Canada's unstoppable fourth line which ground opponents down with a heavy cycle - alongside bulky linemates Nick Ritchie and Frederik Gauthier.
Despite a disappointing tournament for Team Switzerland, who needed a playoff win over Germany to avoid relegation, the Swiss underager's also made waves.
Jonas Siegenthaler was a rock on the Swiss blueline posting a remarkable plus-9 rating - the only non-Canadian among the tournament's top 10.
Another steady force for the Swiss was Timo Meier (6-2-4-6) who built on a strong opening half with the Halifax Mooseheads.
Meier earned a berth in the McKeen's Top 30 rankings - sitting at No. 24 - while Siegenthaler is ranked as an early second-rounder - at No. 36.
Jens Looke of Brynas also makes his debut in the top 30. As the only `97-born player on Team Sweden, Looke began the tournament as the 13th forward but gained a regular spot in the lineup and wound up scoring three goals - tied for third on the team.
Alexander Dergachyov (Russia), Sebastian Aho (Finland), and David Kase (Czech) added to the list of underager's who excelled at the world juniors - each of whom are ranked in the second round.
Here is a look at the McKeen's Top 30 Rankings for the 2015 NHL Draft.
|1||1||Connor McDavid||C||Erie (OHL)||6-1/195||13-Jan-97|
|2||2||Jack Eichel||C||Boston University (HE)||6-2/195||28-Oct-96|
|3||3||Noah Hanifin||D||Boston College (HE)||6-3/205||25-Jan-97|
|4||6||Mitchell Marner||C||London (OHL)||5-11/160||5-May-97|
|5||5||Lawson Crouse||LW||Kingston (OHL)||6-4/210||23-Jun-97|
|6||7||Dylan Strome||C||Erie (OHL)||6-3/190||7-May-97|
|7||11||Zach Werenski||D||Michigan (B1G)||6-2/205||19-Jul-97|
|8||22||Ivan Provorov||D||Brandon (WHL)||6-0/195||13-Jan-97|
|9||4||Pavel Zacha||C||Sarnia (OHL)||6-3/210||6-Apr-97|
|10||9||Nick Merkley||RW||Kelowna (WHL)||5-11/190||23-May-97|
|11||18||Mikko Rantanen||RW||TPS Turku (Fin)||6-3/210||29-Oct-96|
|12||10||Mathew Barzal||C||Seattle (WHL)||5-11/175||26-May-97|
|13||17||Jeremy Roy||D||Sherbrooke (QMJHL)||6-0/190||14-May-97|
|14||8||Kyle Connor||C||Youngstown (USHL)||6-1/185||9-Dec-96|
|15||26||Evgeni Svechnikov||LW||Cape Breton (QMJHL)||6-2/200||31-Oct-96|
|16||13||Travis Konecny||C||Ottawa (OHL)||5-10/175||11-Mar-97|
|17||14||Oliver Kylington||D||Farjestads (Swe)||6-0/185||19-May-97|
|18||12||Colin White||C||NTDP (USA)||6-0/185||30-Jan-97|
|19||16||Paul Bittner||LW||Portland (WHL)||6-4/210||4-Nov-96|
|20||NR||Thomas Chabot||D||Saint John (QMJHL)||6-1/180||30-Jan-97|
|21||15||Jakub Zboril||D||Saint John (QMJHL)||6-1/185||21-Feb-97|
|22||20||Matthew Spencer||D||Peterborough (OHL)||6-1/200||24-Mar-97|
|23||30||Jake DeBrusk||LW||Swift Current (WHL)||5-11/170||17-Oct-96|
|24||NR||Timo Meier||RW||Halifax (QMJHL)||6-1/210||8-Oct-96|
|25||19||Brandon Carlo||D||Tri-City (WHL)||6-5/200||26-Nov-96|
|26||28||Daniel Sprong||RW||Charlottetown (QMJHL)||6-0/190||17-Mar-97|
|27||24||Jansen Harkins||C||Prince George (WHL)||6-1/180||23-May-97|
|28||NR||Guillaume Brisebois||D||Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)||6-2/170||21-Jul-97|
|29||NR||Brock Boeser||RW||Waterloo (USHL)||6-0/195||25-Feb-97|
|30||NR||Jens Looke||RW||Brynas (Swe)||6-0/180||11-Apr-97|