Top 100 NHL prospects: 1-50

Jonathan Drouin, Aaron Ekblad and Evgeny Kuznetsov all appear ready to make an impact in the NHL. USA Today Sports, Getty Images

With the junior evaluation camps in Lake Placid, New York, and Montreal in the rearview mirror, it's time to roll out my initial top 100 drafted prospects rankings for 2014-15.

The 2014 draft class shows very well in these rankings, which is not a huge surprise given the number of new No. 1 prospects around the league.

Changes in my ranking philosophy from previous lists include more emphasis on upside, and a little less on older players who are closer to the NHL and have AHL experience. I also value defensive defenders a little more, thus a player like Scott Harrington makes the list in a significant spot after being previously omitted.

The criteria for a player to be no longer eligible for this list are: more than 25 games played in any one regular season or 50 career NHL regular-season games. For example, Mikhail Grigorenko is eligible, but Beau Bennett and Brett Connolly are not.

As part of this package, we will also have the organization pipeline ranks, and will have the top 10 prospects by team running next week.

Here are prospects Nos. 1 through 50 for the 2014-15 season, listed with the highest-level team for which they played this past season. Previous ranking here refers to the ranking the player was given last summer:

Top 100 index | No. 1-50 | No. 51-100 | Top 10 goalies

1. Jonathan Drouin, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning (Previous ranking: 1)
2013-14 team:
Halifax (QMJHL)
2013-14 stats: 46 GP | 29 G | 79 A | 43 PIM

After the Lightning elected to not keep him on the NHL roster for 2013-14, Drouin had another elite season in the QMJHL, torching the league in terms of point production. He led the QMJHL playoffs in points (41 in 16 games) despite Halifax not advancing to the final round. His skill level and hockey sense are both off the charts, he's a very elusive skater and he has the ability to create a scoring chance at will. When you combine all of his offensive elements (all of which are high-end), Drouin is the clear best forward prospect outside the NHL. He converted to center this season, showing pretty effective play in the defensive zone, which was previously a weakness. With a good summer from a physical development standpoint, he should be a player to watch for next year's Calder Trophy.