The 2013 NHL Draft will be remembered as being touted all of last season for its quality. You won't find any argument from me on all the hype: that draft class had both a great top end and good depth.
With the 2014 NHL Draft cycle underway, the quality is not as strong as 2013. But this is not a weak class. The first round as a whole is solid, and early on, it looks like a good draft crop for goaltenders in particular. Due to the fact I am very conservative in how I project goaltenders, however, none are currently in my Top 60.
That being the case, there is a lack of elite-level prospects as the start of the 2013-14 campaign looms. Currently, I would prefer any of the top four picks in 2013 -- or Dallas Stars pick Valeri Nichushkin -- to anybody in the 2014 class.
The top tier is shaping up to be a four-player group, with reasonable arguments to place them in any order. There isn't a consensus at the moment as to who is definitely in that tier as I'll hear some scouts argue Kasperi Kapanen, Leon Draisaitl or Michael Dal Colle into it, or argue Sam Bennett or Aaron Ekblad out.
After a mediocre draft by the OHL's standards, with eight first-rounders selected out of the league in 2013, the 2014 draft looks like it could go through Ontario early and often, with 13 OHL players in my Top 30.
The notes procured for these rankings are based on my discussions with scouts, on top of my own observations. And be sure to check out our NHL Draft blog for updates throughout the season. But as the start of the 2013-14 season looms, here's how I rank the Top 30 draft prospects (along with a handful that just missed).
TEAM: Rogle (Allsvenskan)
Nylander has the best chance out of anyone in this draft class to be a star. He's an electric offensive player with very good to elite puck skills and hockey sense, and is a good skater. He's somewhat small, and needs to improve his defense, but nobody else in the 2014 class as of now can break open a game as he can. He's currently playing on the same team with his father and ex-NHLer Michael Nylander.
TEAM: Kootenay (WHL)
Reinhart's hockey sense is off the charts. He's a tremendous playmaker who can dictate the tempo of a game, as he's an advanced two-way player who makes plays in every situation. Reinhart may be the first player in this draft class into the NHL if he continues to develop well. He's the youngest brother of the Reinhart clan with Max Reinhart (Calgary Flames) and Griffin Reinhart (New York Islanders) already having gone through the draft process.
TEAM: Barrie (OHL)
Ekblad was the second "Exceptional" OHL player in between John Tavares and Connor McDavid. While he's not at that level of prospect value, he's still a very, very good one. Ekblad is extremely advanced defensively for a player his age. He also skates well, is big, tough and can move the puck. He isn't a dynamic player skill-wise, but can do everything on the ice.