Compared to the much-anticipated 2013 NHL draft class -- a group that featured projected elite talents like Nathan MacKinnon and Seth Jones -- this year's prospect pool has been flying a little under the radar. But when you start to put the 2014 crop under the microscope, it's clear that there is still plenty of talent to be harvested.
To put it in perspective, compared to last year's draft class (without our current hindsight), I'd have ranked Aaron Ekblad behind MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, with a tough debate about how close he was to Jones and Valeri Nichushkin. He'd have ranked ahead of Aleksander Barkov, however. I'd then have Sam Bennett and the rest of the top tier after Barkov.
Although the No. 1 and 2 prospects are below-average compared to the players who have fallen in that range historically, the middle of the top end -- the No. 5 to 10 range -- is somewhat above-average. This draft may not be one that produces superstars, but there are some very useful players here.
There is a slight drop-off after Ekblad, and the next tier runs three prospects deep, with another tier from No. 5 to 9. There's a good argument to fit any of the next seven prospects after the No. 9 slot into that group, but the rest of the draft is a gradual decline from there.
The OHL is represented well, with 10 players in the top 30. This is also a strong year for European leagues, particularly the Swedish ones, as for the first time those leagues emerged as the preferred alternative for top non-Swedish prospects overseas. Kevin Fiala (Switzerland) as well as David Pastrnak and Jakub Vrana (Czech Republic) played in Sweden's top leagues and developed well.
It's also a comparatively strong class in terms of netminders, led by Thatcher Demko. However, this is a poor year for defensemen. After my No. 1 overall prospect, Ekblad, it's a big drop to Haydn Fleury (No. 10), and on the whole, there are only four defensemen in my top 30 skaters.
Bear in mind that this is a personal ranking, and I am aware it does not necessarily reflect an industry consensus. For example, it is likely that both Leon Draisaitl (No. 7) and Michael Dal Colle (No. 8) go in the top five on June 27.
With the stage now set, here's how the top 100 prospects stack up: