Reinhart, Ehlers and Nylander lead scouts’ take on top 10 NHL-drafted prospects

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  • Sam Reinhart
    Sam Reinhart
    Canadian Buffalo Sabres ice hockey player
  • Nikolaj Ehlers
    Nikolaj Ehlers
Buffalo's Sam Reinhart topped BTN's NHL-drafted prospects ranking. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)
Buffalo's Sam Reinhart topped BTN's NHL-drafted prospects ranking. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

From Buffalo Sabres top draft choice Sam Reinhart to Winnipeg Jets first-rounder Josh Morrissey, BTN teamed up with a scouting team to lay out the top 10 NHL-drafted prospects.

The prospects eligible for this list require a birthdate no later than 1994 and can’t have played more than nine NHL games. Therefore, a handful of players still deemed prospects such as Edmonton Oilers prized pick Leon Draisaitl and Arizona Coyotes prospect Anthony Duclair were excluded from the ranking process.

The list is courtesy of International Scouting Services scouts Matt Grainda and Paul Dionne. They led the charge of accurately piecing the ranking together.

1. Sam Reinhart, centre, Buffalo Sabres (Kootenay Ice, WHL)

Whether it’s Reinhart and Connor McDavid or Reinhart and Jack Eichel, Buffalo has a bright future down the middle. The second overall pick of the 2014 draft, who has 17 goals and 57 points in 39 contests, may not be as flashy as some high-end prospects, but he’s likely just as effective. He has an enticing blend of skill, vision, poise and leadership abilities. In addition, he has combined his skill set and work ethic to be a dependable player in his own zone.

Scout’s take: “Reinhart brings an extremely well-rounded game to the table,” says Grainda. “He doesn’t have much of a weakness in his overall game and does just about everything well. He’s an excellent playmaker and can really propel his linemates up to another level. He can generate offense on his own based on his great puck instincts and his effortless hockey sense. His elite knowledge of the game helps him read situations and make precise decisions. He is also very responsible defensively and is rarely caught out of position.”

2. Nikolaj Ehlers, wing, Winnipeg Jets (Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL)

Few and far between can catch Ehlers when he’s flying down the wing with his blazing speed. It is business as usual to see him blow by blueliners in the QMJHL. But what makes him a blue chip prospect is how he’s able to handle the puck and fire off an explosive wrister while storming down the ice. The Denmark native appears as though he could bring that speed to Winnipeg’s lineup next year as a 19-year-old based on how he seems ready for a new challenge. He netted 104 points last year as a rookie and has 30 goals and 82 points in 43 games this season.

Scout’s take: “Ehlers has excellent puck control, an explosive skating stride at top speed and very elusive moves with the puck,” says Grainda. “He uses his strong puck protections skills and his abundant hustle to keep opponents guessing. He has great hockey sense and situational awareness that allow him to pop into open space and create unique opportunities. Ehlers also has a pinpoint wrist shot along with a speedy shot release. He knows when to get his opportunities on net and has a sniper’s mentality. His offensive instincts are elite and the way he transitions through all three zones is very impressive.”

3. William Nylander, wing, Toronto Maple Leafs (Toronto Marlies, AHL)

The Swedish Sensation recently embarked on adapting to the North American style of play when Leafs management decided to assign him to the Marlies following the world junior championship. Nylander, who has three goals and nine points in 16 matches in the AHL, has shown that his play-making abilities and vision are off the charts. He’s able to out think his opponents and use his quick hands to distribute the puck to his linemates with tape-to-tape passes. He does, however, seem to be too passive away from the puck and needs to improve his defensive play.

Scout’s take: “Nylander always finds a way to get the puck in the zone,” says Grainda. “He weaves through traffic with his graceful skating stride and fast footwork. His pivots and lateral mobility are really highlighted when the puck is on his stick. He has outstanding puck control and dynamic moves that help him generate offense. His elite puck skills help him navigate the defense and set up other players for quality chances. Nylander is a bit on the smaller side physically (5-foot-11, 174-pounds) and will need to develop and fill out his body to prepare for the rigors of the NHL. He can also use some work on his defe

Sam Bennett edged Max Domi as a top NHL prospect according to a team of scouts. (Aaron Bell/OHL Images)
Sam Bennett edged Max Domi as a top NHL prospect according to a team of scouts. (Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

nsive zone play.”

4. Sam Bennett, centre/wing, Calgary Flames (Kingston Frontenacs, OHL)

Even though he was sidelined until last week because of a major shoulder injury, Bennett deserved a spot in the top five. The 6-foot-1, 181-pounder proved in his second OHL season last year when he racked up 91 points in 57 games that he has the potential to develop into a valuable first-line forward. His pro-like release, quickness, vision and hands make him a strong threat in the offensive zone, but it’s his grit and high compete level that makes him a game-changer at both ends of the ice.

Scout’s take: “He’s an explosive skater with exceptional vision and understanding of all areas of the ice,” says Dionne. “An all-tool, smart hockey player that can impress both offensively and defensively. He plays with passion and has a mean edge while never overexerting himself on a play by consistently maximizing the time and space that's available to him. Has a laser-quick wind up, both slap and wrist.”

5. Max Domi, wing, Arizona Coyotes (London Knights, OHL)

Domi brings the saying “dynamite comes in small packages” to life. He plays a big man’s game on the ice despite his compact 5-foot-9, 185-pound stature. He uses his speed, strength and tenacity to be a physical force while producing offense at a high level. He has netted 28 goals and 94 points in 50 contests for the Knights this season. All signs point to the Toronto, Ont., native making the jump to the NHL next year and being a major component in Arizona’s rebuild.

Scout’s take: “He’s a relentless attacker and physical forward that possesses NHL-ready game speed and skating ability,” says Dionne. “Slightly undersized at 5-foot-9, but has excellent lower and upper body strength that he uses well to both protect the puck and fend off opponents. While he has been considered a top NHL prospect dating back to his days in the GTHL five years ago, the continued professional development of Max Domi over the last year or two has been extraordinary. He has emphatically addressed areas of concern in commitment to both team play and defense that critics had given him.”

6. Darnell Nurse, defence, Edmonton Oilers (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL)

The combination of Nurse’s 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame, physical edge, ability to produce offensively and solid positioning is what made him the top ranked defensive prospect. He put it all on display in the world junior tourney as he was arguably Canada’s top rearguard. The biggest question surrounding the Hamilton, Ont., native, who has nine goals and 31 points in 33 matches, is whether he will need a year in the AHL to refine his game or if he will go straight to the NHL. Regardless of his immediate future, he has the potential to develop into a top-pairing defenceman.

7. Michael Dal Colle, wing, New York Islanders (Oshawa Generals, OHL)

With a big 6-foot-2, 190-pound stature, courageous attitude and top-notch offensive abilities, Dal Colle has the tools to be John Tavares’ future go-to winger. He has bettered his overall game as a more polished player in his third season in Oshawa this year, scoring 37 goals and 84 points in 49 contests along the way. The fifth overall pick of the 2014 draft will likely return for a fourth OHL season and play a big role on Canada’s world junior team next year before going pro.

8. Dylan Larkin, wing, Detroit Red Wings (University of Michigan, NCAA)

As the 15th overall pick of 2014, Larkin was Detroit’s highest selection since 1991 when the club chose Martin Lapointe 10th overall. The Waterford, MI., native has so far made the Red Wings scout staff look brilliant for selecting him. He has not only made a seamlessly smooth transition to the college ranks this season with 12 goals and 40 points in 28 games, but he was also one of the United States’ top forwards in the world junior tourney.

9. Kevin Fiala, wing, Nashville Predators (Milwaukee Admirals, AHL)

Like Nylander, Fiala joined his NHL team’s AHL squad following a strong world junior. He showed off his quick legs, explosive acceleration and soft hands while leading Switzerland in goals with four in six matches. The 2014 first-round pick’s raw skill could see him in the NHL sooner than later, but he still needs to work on his defensive play and at times can get away from playing his coach’s system.

10. Josh Morrissey, defence, Winnipeg Jets (Kelowna Rockets, WHL)

The slick-skating blueliner hasn’t been as offensively productive this year compared to last season (48 points in 47 2014-15 games; 73 points in 59 2013-14 games), but he’s still grown his overall game. It showed in the world juniors through his poised presence on Team Canada. The 6-foot, 190-pounder could skip a season in the AHL next year and go straight to The Show because of the combination of his top-notch skill set and mature attitude.

Honourable mention: Anthony Mantha, wing, Detroit Red Wings (Grand Rapids Griffins, AHL)

The towering 6-foot-5, 204-pound winger solidified himself as an elite prospect last year in his final season of junior puck. His incredible offensive production of 57 goals and 120 points in 57 contests led the QMJHL’s Val’Dor Foreurs to the Memorial Cup. His early AHL struggles (23 points in 45 games) this season is what kept him from earning a top 10 spot for a second year in a row.

Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen

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