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NHL Central Scouting keeps Sam Bennett as No. 1 draft prospect

By John Vogl

Sam Bennett remains No. 1 in the mind of NHL Central Scouting.

The league's prospect gurus released their final player rankings this morning, and Bennett topped the list. The 6-foot, 178-pound center also was No. 1 for Central Scouting's Midterm Rankings. Bennett recorded 36 goals and 91 points in 57 games with Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League, and he has five goals and nine points in seven playoff games.

"There are guys who elevate their game when it matters most, and you're looking to project which players will do that consistently at the next level," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "The guys we have at the top all are in that mold, but when we look at Sam Bennett we see a guy who could potentially have a Jonathan Toews type of career."

The Sabres, who will finish last, have the best chance of winning the draft lottery next week, giving them the best shot at selecting first overall in June.

Defenseman Aaron Ekblad moved up one spot to second overall in the rankings. He had 23 goals and 53 points in 58 games with Barrie of the OHL. The Sabres are deep with defense prospects and need offense.

"I would describe Ekblad as one of the most solid NHL prospects you will find in this year's draft class," Marr said. "He is the best defenseman available and would be projected to vie for an NHL job a lot sooner than most."

Center Sam Reinhart moved from fourth in the midterm rankings to third in the final evaluations. The 6-foot, 185-pounder has 36 goals and 105 points in 60 games with Kootenay of the Western Hockey League. He's added five goals and 17 points in eight playoff appearances.

"I would compare Reinhart to Adam Oates," Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald said. "He's a very cerebral player who takes what's given to him. He probably has the highest hockey IQ of any player in this draft, and he knows where to go with the puck even before he even gets it."

Here is the complete list.


NHL Entry Draft
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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl |

About Sabres Edge

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington |

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz |