The 2014 NHL Draft is nearly three weeks away and TSN Scout Craig Button is sticking to his guns, for the most part, in his final list of the Top 100 draft eligible players.
Sam Reinhart of the Kootenay Ice completes his sweep of Button's rankings, finishing in the top spot for the seventh time. Aaron Ekblad, Sam Bennett, Leon Draisaitl and Michael Dal Colle round out an identical top five from the previous list.
"It's my projection of where players will be in three to five years time as they progress and mature," explains Button. "There will never be agreement on any ranking of this type and it is never static or without debate. There is nothing final about the players as they will develop and progress into NHL players of varying skills and types."
Ekblad is the outlier of an emerging trend in the Top 100. Of the top 10 ranked skaters, seven are forwards. If the list were to mirror the upcoming draft, only seven defencemen would be selected in the first round and 28 in the top 100 - with some of those blueliners spending time at forward.
"Each draft has its own unique 'personality' and must be treated as such," adds Button. "We get hyped as we anticipate the next potential superstar and while this draft may not have that hype, it has players who will be stars in their own right and will help their NHL teams compete for the Stanley Cup."
A few surprises shook up the rankings with Calgary Hitmen defenceman Travis Sanheim making the leap from 32 down to No. 8. The 6-foot-3 standout was a plus-25 in 67 games for the Hitmen, who finished third in the WHL's Eastern Conference but fell in the opening round of the playoffs in six games.
Centre Vladislav Kamenev also caught Button's attention, slicing his ranking by more than half in a jump from the No. 25 spot to No. 12. The Russian junior league product played just 15 games this season but did manage 10 points and a plus-10 rating.
The final ranking, however, was not so kind to some.
After reaching a high of the No. 8 spot on the previous list, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds centre Jared McCann nearly fell out of the top 20. Despite his 27 goals and 62 points in 64 games this season, McCann managed just one goal in March.
"What history tells us is that this draft will be like all others, with players not achieving greatness and its 'steals,' whereby the question inevitably becomes - 'how did they get him there?'" said Button. "But make no mistake, the players have reached for their goal of playing in the NHL and all sacrifices are worth it because with no sacrifice, there is no reaching one's potential. That we can all agree on."
For Craig Button's final list click here.