It’s the final installment of our countdown of the top 100 prospects in hockey. The countdown began at the start of the season, and since then the top five have all graduated from the prospect ranks and three of the final five came in at the top of Calder Trophy voting. We hope you enjoyed the series, and thanks for reading.
5. Sam Bennett, Calgary Flames
Position: Center/Left Wing
Height/Weight: 6’1” / 185
Drafted: Fourth overall in the first round of the 2014 draft by Calgary
Bennett missed an entire year of development after his draft and was returned briefly to Junior before being recalled to the NHL for a brief but impressive playoff run.
With a full healthy offseason to train, Bennett made the jump to the NHL full time and posted decent point totals of 18 goals and 18 assists in 77 games. His season was rather streaky, with long slumps of point draughts combined with short explosive hot streaks.
Inconsistency isn’t uncommon with young prospects, so look for Bennett to begin to develop more consistency in his game as he matures.
Scouting Report: A magician with the puck who always brings creativity on offence. As equally adept at scoring goals as he is at passing the puck. A well-rounded talent on offence with many weapons in his arsenal. Can play either on the perimeter or around the net thanks to his evasiveness and unpredictability with the puck.
Deceptively quick release and strong wrist-shot. Boasts a full repertoire of skills in all areas of the game. Possesses explosive speed with the puck and loves to attack the net. Very shifty & elusive skating ability that allows him to transition in no-time and get to open ice. Have really liked this player for a number of years. Needs to add more strength, but always plays with a mean edge and never backs down physically. — International Scouting Service
4. Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks
Position: Left Wing
Height/Weight: 5’11” / 180
Drafted: Undrafted, signed as a free agent in 2015
Putting Panarin in the top five of this list at the start of the season would have been considered to be a stretch by a lot but in hindsight, ranking the Calder Trophy winner as fourth overall is actually on the low side.
He played for Russia at the World Championship against NHL players and passed the eye test with flying colors, and in his past season in the KHL he scored an impressive 62 points in 54 games. Panarin took the NHL by storm, clicking on a line with Patrick Kane and the duo found the back of the net consistently all season long, culminating in the Rookie of the Year Award.
Scouting Report: From a scouting report perspective, he possesses an above average one-timer. He has a sneaky quick release, and an innate ability to find the soft spots in defenses and gravitate toward the right goal scoring areas. The velocity and accuracy on his wrist shot isn’t going to set the world on fire. He’s no Alex Semin in that department, but his wrist shot is certainly more than adequate. Some of the stickhandling moves he can pull off on the rush may remind some Blackhawks fans of watching Patrick Kane. – Kyle Morton, THW
3. Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings
Position: Center/Left Wing
Drafted: 15th overall in the first round of the 2014 draft by Detroit.
Larkin was the Calder Trophy favorite after the first quarter of the season when he got off to a red-hot start. Larking finished his college career early and signed his pro contract last summer. He was impressive for USA at the World Championship, and despite the Red Wings’ tendencies to over-ripen players in the AHL, Larkin made the jump straight to the NHL.
With Datsyuk leaving to the KHL, expect the Wings to hand the keys to the team over to Larkin.
Scouting Report: Larkin has shown he can be an elite-level power forward in addition to showing a high level of offensive ability. His ability to take the puck hard to the net allows for unique scoring chances most players would not be able get because of a lack of size and strength. — Aaron Vickers, Future Considerations
2. Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
Height/Weight: 6’2” / 201
Drafted: Second overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by Buffalo
Despite failing to be a finalist for the Calder Trophy, Eichel had a successful NHL rookie season as an 18-year-old, scoring 24 goals and 56 points in 81 games for Buffalo. Eichel lived up to the lofty expectations in his first year playing on the top line in Buffalo showing flashes of his ability to dominate games offensively. Eichel has just begun his journey of breaking plenty of Buffalo Sabres all-time scoring records.
Scouting Report: He has an uncanny ability to change the complexion of a game at a moment’s notice with or without the puck. Possesses a heavy, accurate shot with a quick release, and is adept at getting it through screens and clogged shooting lanes. Does not need backswing to generate velocity, and the deceptiveness of his off-wing wrist shot is reminiscent of Mark Messier.
He is an excellent skater with breakaway speed and NHL-caliber leg drive. Eichel can also cover a lot of ground in little time. Tremendous playmaker with superior vision, Eichel finds the open man, even with his back turned while drawing two or three defenders towards him. He is an outstanding puck handler with a variety of moves to beat you one-on-one or one-on-four. Is a great option in the defensive zone due to his long reach, excellent faceoff abilities and strength along the boards. — Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst
1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
Height/Weight: 6’1” / 196
Drafted: First overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by Edmonton
A disappointing shoulder injury caused McDavid to miss almost half a season, limiting him to just 45 games. Despite the setback, he still produced over a point a game, posting 16 goals and 48 points and was a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year.
There is little doubt that McDavid is the best player in the 2015 rookie class, but the sample size proved to simply not be enough to clinch the award. Like Wayne Gretzky before him, the Calder Trophy will likely be the one and only trophy that eludes him at the end of his career.
Scouting Report: McDavid, regarded as the top draft prospect since Sidney Crosby, has game-changing potential. He was third in the Ontario Hockey League in the regular season with 120 points despite playing 47 games. He’s been even better in the OHL playoffs; he had 11 points in a four-game sweep of London and leads all players in goals and points.” – Mike Morreale, NHL.com