Early glimpse at the 2014 draft crop

The 2014 NHL Draft takes place June 27-28 in sunny Philadelphia, PA. Sure it's over 300 days away, and yes there is a lot of hockey left to play between now and then, but it's never too early to take a look at the some of the names that will be among the 210 that get called. Here are 15 of them.

Sam Reinhart - RC, Kootenay ICE (WHL)
6'0" | 182 lbs.

Former Calgary Flames workhouse Paul Reinhart has seen his first two sons get drafted, but Sam may be the best of the bunch. Reinhart has consistently displayed his instincts, hands, and vision since arriving in the WHL. He doesn't overwhelm with his strength or physical play, but he reads and anticipates well while having a knack for working his way into scoring position. On top of being a solid finisher, Reinhart has also proven to be an unselfish playmaker. He scored three goals and seven points to help Canada win gold at the 2013 IIHF U18 World Championship, and looks like a serious contender for a top-three pick next June.

William Nylander - RC/RW, Sodertalje (SEL-2) 
5'11 | 180 lbs.

Much like 2013 top-five pick Elias Lindholm, Nylander is an energetic forward with good puck control skills. Much like Reinhart, he comes from NHL bloodlines with his father being former NHLer Michael. Nylander is an excellent skater who gets off a lot of shots. After shredding the J20 SuperElit ranks and getting a sniff in the second-tier pro league, Nylander pumped in just two goals on 17 shots for disappointing Team Sweden at the U18s. His tremendous offensive potential rivals any player in the class of 2014, so a solid professional season in Sweden should see him maintain his spot as the top available European come June.

Aaron Ekblad - RHD, Barrie Colts (OHL)
6'4" | 213 lbs.

A multi-tool defender, Ekblad blends a poised defensive style with excellent skating and two-way sense. His physical abilities make him a reliable shutdown option. He's confident and patient, using his strength to win puck battles and advance it quickly out of the zone. He brings added value with his knack for jumping into the play, be it off the rush or sliding in from the point, when given a lane to unload his shot. Ekblad elevated his play with 17 points (7+10) in 22 games of the 2013 OHL playoffs. If that offense carries over into 2013-14, Ekblad could contend for the top overall pick. 

Leon Draisaitl - LW, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL) 
6'1" | 198 lbs.

"The Deutschland Dangler" showed off his variety of offensive skills as a WHL rookie in 2012-13, using his smarts and vision to collect 21 goals, 58 points, and a plus-22 rating for the emerging Raiders. Draisaitl plays the game at high pace, using a slick handle and elusiveness to break into the zone. He shows good strength on the puck, and isn't afraid of using his body to make plays at both ends of the ice. Draisaitl's passing skills make him a dangerous threat when chased. If he continues to fire the puck more often, Draisaitl could pile up the points in his draft year and cement his status as a top-five pick.

Roland McKeown - RHD, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
6'1" | 185 lbs.

McKeown is a silky smooth defender with excellent mobility, a sound positional game, and dangerous up-ice skills. His puck carrying moxie drives the transition game, and his ability to add motion on the power play sees him zips crisp passes and punch quality shots to the net. An adequate technical defender, McKeown doesn't need blow guys up with open-ice hits. His value comes with the way he sees the ice from the back end. The combination of skating and all-situations prowess projects the Etobicoke, Ont. native as a top-four minute eater at the NHL level.

Kasperi Kapanen - LW, Kalpa Kuopio (SM-Liiga)
5'11" | 175 lbs.

Like other highly-ranked prospects in the class of 2014, Kapanen is the son of a former big league player (Sami). The younger Kapanen is an electrifying skater and playmaker who overcomes his lack of ideal size with loads of energy and offensive skill. The kid can accelerate, create, and score. Kapanen paced Team Finland's offense with five goals and eight points in seven games at the U18s. He's expected to play full-time for KalPa in 2013-14.

Michael Dal Colle - LW/C, Oshawa Generals (OHL) 
6'2" | 171 lbs.

Dal Colle showed enough of a complete game this past season as a 16-year old to earn top line minutes for the Generals and a spot on the OHL All-Rookie Team. A big-bodied power winger with an accurate shot near the paint, Dal Colle's hands and work ethic present an interesting package for teams looking to build out their forward depth. His improved skating and three-zone efficiency create opportunities. It's easy to think that Dal Colle can score 30 goals in his draft year. If he does, he should stay right around the top-five in June.

Jake Virtanen - LW, Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
6'1" | 192 lbs.

A powerful, mature forward with soft hands down low, Virtanen looks the part of a second-line talent who will collect points from the low slot. The first overall in the 2011 WHL draft, Virtanen has proven tough on the puck with a pro-style physical edge to his game. He has a strong skating stride which his uses to dig in on his way to the crease while showing good sense for the two-way game. Teams want to two-way guys who can succeed in the tough areas. Virtanen is well on his way.

Nick Ritchie - LW, Peterborough Petes (OHL)
6'2" | 218 lbs.

Brother of Dallas prospect Brett, Ritchie is big, strong winger with a budding NHL-style power game. He experienced consistency issues at the start with the lowly Petes, but emerged from a shoulder injury in January to become a point-per-game player the rest of the way en route to finishing third in team scoring. Ritchie does a good job using his big frame to protect the puck and has the speed and hitting ability to chip-and-charge his way into the zone.

Blake Clarke - LW, North Bay Battalion (OHL)
6'2" | 196 lbs.

The Missouri-born Clarke is a physical, barreling power forward who provides offense down low. He's at his best when entering the zone with a lot of momentum with and without the puck. He can grind through checks along the wall and does a good job finding his way to the net with his stick on the ice. Clarke's intensity and willingness to engage often sees him go for the big hit. He's a bit raw but his NHL potential is already shining as an 17-year old.

Nikolai Goldobin - RW, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
5'11" | 165 lbs.

The talented Russian import broke through as an OHL rookie in 2012-13, connecting for 68 points (point per game) while playing on the Sting's top line with Charles Sarault and Reid Boucher. The determined Goldobin made headlines in January when he scored four goals, including the overtime winner that halted the London Knights' 24-game winning streak. He'll need to get stronger to crack the elite tier of skaters in the draft class, but his knack for the net and desire to remain in North America under Igor Larionov's guidance should safely see him fall in the top-20..

Samuel Bennett - LW, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
6'0" | 170 lbs.

Bennett is sneaky, agile competitor with high-end offensive skill. He uses his edge speed to take defenders wide, and a employs a very quick release on his shot when coming through the middle. The energetic forward wrapped a successful season with a strong all-around performance for Canada at the U18s. With added strength and ice time, all signs point to Bennett becoming a dominant OHL scorer on his route to the pro game.

Jakub Vrana - RW, Linkoping (Sweden J20)

6'0" | 175 lbs.

The nimble Vrana stood out at the 2013 IIHF World Juniors as a 16-year old mainly due to his speed and stick skills. Already a veteran of five SEL contests, the Czech standout looks like a player with game-breaking tools. He's slippery with the puck on his stick and efficient when he fires it. Vrana has work to do towards rounding out his game, but could prove to be a slick North American threat five years down the line when he blends strength and mass into his game.

Matthew Mistele - RW, Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
6'2" | 175

A big time scorer at every level, Mistele is a hard-working power winger with good size and quickness. He became a consistent fixture around the net in 2012-13, scoring 34 goals with just of them coming on the power play. He is strong on the forecheck and battles to gain position down low, but also shows deceptive separation speed for a bigger man when emerging from the wall.

Haydn Fleury - LHD, Red Deer Rebels (WHL) 
6'3" | 205 lbs.

An effortless skater with a physical side, Fleury's combination of size and skill will no doubt be appealing to NHL scouts. The big defender sees the ice well from his blueline post, confidently carrying the puck with good passing skills. He'll need to become more consistent with his offense and decision-making, but overall looks to have the frame and raw tools to be a solid first-round selection heading into his draft year.

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