With the 2014 NHL Entry Draft barely two weeks in the rearview mirror, the preparations for the highly-anticipated 2015 Draft are already underway. That took on a more official tone when NHL Central Scouting Services released its initial “Futures List” for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
The list, which basically provides a list of names of players for each league that are already on the draft radar, is highlighted by the duo whose hype overshadowed that of the 2014 top prospects selected a few weeks back in New Jersey.
Connor McDavid, the talented center for the Erie Otters who has widely been considered “The Next One” as in the next big thing in hockey, is among those on Central Scouting's list of course. He has been receiving a lot of attention since he was granted “exceptional status” to enter the Ontario Hockey League a year earlier than its age rules allow. McDavid put up 99 points in 58 games this season in Erie, quickly turning that franchises fortunes around, but he is expected to be challenged a bit by another top forward.
That would be American Jack Eichel, who is slated to attend Boston University next year after accelerating his education to graduate high school a year ahead of schedule. Another gifted center, Eichel put up 86 points at the National Team Development Program, which has the last three U.S.-born players that have been taken with the No. 1 overall pick among its alumni.
"McDavid is an exceptional talent and he's been on display now for the world to see for two years [in the OHL] and he's lived up to all the expectations that were kind of placed on his shoulders," CSS director Dan Marr told NHL.com. "That's not an easy burden for a young man. This year just happens to be his draft year and the expectation is he'll continue to be the frontrunner for the No. 1 spot. But Jack Eichel has already made known that this is a two-horse race."
"Every year the scouts think that it's a good crop of prospects. There's just been a little more emphasis in 2015 because there's been a couple more top-end frontrunners and the fact that there were a number of underage players performing in their various junior leagues and performing well. That leads to high expectations for this draft class."
Among the other players that will be particularly worth keeping an eye on include defenseman Noah Hanifin, who is widely considered the top defenseman available for the 2015 Draft. He is a Boston College commit that earned a spot on the U.S. Under-18 Team last year at the NTDP after getting called up from their Under-17 squad.
There is expected to be a rather exciting crop out of the Ontario Hockey League, obviously led by McDavid, but full of other interesting prospects.
Travis Konecny turned heads last seasons with 70 points in 63 games for the Ottawa 67's. He was the first overall pick in the 2013 OHL Draft and was a top performer for Canada at the World Under-18 Championship in April as one of the younger players on the squad.
Out in the Western Hockey League, Mathew Barzal is one of the more exciting prospects according to CSS as he posted 54 points for the Seattle Thunderbirds last year.
The United States Hockey League touts Kyle Connor, who had 31 goals and 74 points for the Youngstown Phantoms last year. He is slated to attend the University of Michigan in the fall of 2015.
Among the top Europeans to watch is Pavel Zacha of the Czech Republic. The big forward comes in at 6-foot-3, 201 pounds and was selected first-overall by the OHL's Sarnia Sting in the Canadian Hockey League's import draft last week. His agent, the boisterous Allan Walsh, said that his client won't be reporting, however, as he is under contract to play professionally in his home country next year. He saw 38 games in the Czech Extraliga last year and posted eight points. He'll be an interesting player to watch, especially considering his option to come to North America next year.