- Corey Pronman, ESPN Insider
This project asks a simple question: If the top draft prospects of the past three draft classes (2012 to 2014) were all in the same class, which players would be ranked the highest? Note that this is not a reflection of how the players have done since being drafted, but rather how I evaluated these players as they were drafted. Obviously, much would change if we had hindsight on particular players; players such as Olli Maatta and Hampus Lindholm aren't listed here, but very well would be if we took performance in the NHL into account.
For those who missed it, here is this year's top 100, and for a look back, here is 2012 and 2013. There is one slight change in the past rankings, as I give more value to defensive value now than in the past.
There are some obvious bias issues in trying to rewind the clock once you've seen results play out; I attempted to make an honest recall of my evaluations from those summers.
The following top 30 illustrates particular trends about the 2014 NHL draft that I've discussed previously: The very top isn't the greatest -- although Aaron Ekblad is a decent No. 1 prospect, as far as No. 1 prospects go -- and the No. 5 to No. 10 range is pretty strong compared to the No. 5 to No. 10 prospects of recent draft classes.
1. Jonathan Drouin, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning (2013)
Previous team: Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Drouin was the best prospect since John Tavares (although Tavares was a level above) and had an extraordinary draft season. He broke out in a giant way, dominating the QMJHL with 109 points in 49 games. His skill and offensive IQ are as elite as they come, but he was sent back to his junior team in 2013-14 so he could improve physically; the Lightning also lacked an available lineup spot. Based on 2013-14 play, Nathan MacKinnon and Drouin would be flipped in my rankings.
MacKinnon had one of the best 18-year-old seasons we've ever seen, and is tracking to potentially be an elite NHL player very soon. He was also extremely impressive as an under-age player in the QMJHL. I thought Drouin passed him a little in their 17-year-old seasons, but there was obviously a great argument for MacKinnon being No. 1 due to his unbelievable skating, combined with his great skill and power game.
I could have flipped a coin to decide on Jones or Ekblad as the top defenseman from the past three years, but went with Jones because I feel he has a little more room to grow from continued physical maturity. Jones has always been a player who displayed a game beyond his years, right through to his 18-year-old draft season. As a draft prospect, his hockey IQ is what really stood out to go with his great skating, size and skill level.
This project asks a simple question: If the top draft prospects of the past three draft classes (2012 to 2014) were all in the same class, which players would be ranked the highest?