- Corey Pronman, ESPN Insider
The decision on the No. 1 ranking in my recent top 100 NHL draft prospects was the toughest to make among the top 10.
I'll address the process I used to make the call in two parts: The first is why Aaron Ekblad is a superior talent to Sam Bennett and the rest of the field, and the second is an explanation of why Ekblad's risks were not risky enough to push Bennett or any of the other top forwards ahead of him.
Talent and skills comparison
It's always tough to explain why one prefers a forward to a defenseman. For ranking decisions of the same position, you simply can compare the skills and illustrate the decision much easier. However, we don't look at skating, offensive skills, physicality and hockey IQ in the same light for forwards as we do for defenders.
Ekblad is a good not great skater and a good not great puck handler. I sense the excitement already! He projects to be an above-average offensive player. He could be a defenseman who plays on a team's top power-play unit, specifically if that team doesn't use four forwards, but he won't be a top-10 scoring defenseman in the NHL.
The areas where he separates from the pack are his physical game and defensive value, with both being elite. It's rare that a big, strong defender like Ekblad possesses such natural hockey skills. In addition, he has high-end to elite hockey IQ on both ends and a huge shot. That total package looks like a player who has an NHL All-Star floor and the ceiling of being one of the NHL's elite blueliners.
Bennett does a lot really well, but I don't see him being an elite player in any one fashion; he's the Sam-of-all-trades in this class.