Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

Mooseheads’ Nikolaj Ehlers, Blades’ Nikita Sherbak lead NHL Central Scouting Service’s risers

The road to the 2014 NHL entry draft is well on its way with the release of NHL Central Scouting Service’s second preliminary ranking.

Although CSS simply put players in three categories, A-list (first-round candidates), B-list (second-third round), and C-list (fourth-sixth round), it’s safe to assume Kootenay Ice centre Sam Reinhart, Barrie Colts defender Aaron Ekblad, and Swedish sensation William Nylander lead the pack. The trio are widely regarded as the top three candidates to go first overall in June.

Past the triple threat, it is not as cut and dry. From Prince Albert Raiders centre Leon Draisaitl to Kingston Frontenacs winger Spencer Watson, scouts’ opinions greatly vary on who should be ranked ahead of whom.

In Central Scouting’s second take at the draft class, they made some noticeable changes to their A-list group. The scouting service bumped a handful of players up to the A-list largely because of their hot starts to the seasons. Here is a look at the those risers.

Nikolaj Ehlers, wing, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) – The Denmark native joined Moncton Wildcats forward Ivan Barbashev as only the second A-list prospect in the QMJHL. Frankly, Ehler’s jump in the ranking was expected because of his smooth transition to major junior puck from the Swiss A league. He has potted 12 goals and 30 points in 24 games, lessening the offensive work load off Tampa Bay Lightning first rounder Jonathan Drouin's shoulders.

"He's come over here and living up to the reputation that preceded him," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said to NHL.com on Ehlers. "The big question was how he would handle the durability of playing in the [QMJHL] and playing more games. But he's proven to be a skilled forward who can work some magic with Drouin. He's got that quickness where he can separate from a check and get to the net. He's got soft hands and passes with authority, is a clever playmaker and very unselfish. Most teams are viewing him as a first-round candidate."

Nikita Sherbak, wing, Saskatoon Blades (WHL) – Sherbak is making Blades GM Lorne Molleken look like a genius for selecting him with the 109th pick of the 2013 CHL import draft. The Russian native has taken the league by storm, leading all rookies in points with 12 goals and 31 points in 23 games. His superb play and impressive point production skyrocketed his draft ranking from unlisted to the A-list. It seems a player hasn’t went from ultimately unknown to a potential first-round pick so fast since Calgary Flames first-rounder Sven Baertschi did so in 2011 with the Portland Winterhawks

Robert Fabbri, centre, Guelph Storm (OHL) – The 17-year-old centre has gotten off to a great start out of the gate. His 10 goals throughout his first 17 games has already matched his previous season’s goal total, which took him 59 contests to reach last year. In addition, with 24 points, he is only seven points back of his rookie point total (33). But regardless of how many points Fabbri scores, it seems he will remain a first-round wildcard because of his small 5-foot-10, 165-pound frame.

Brendan Perlini, wing, Niagara IceDogs (OHL) – There is enough to like about Perlini to think the odds are in his favour to be chosen as a top-30 pick. He possesses an imposing 6-foot-2, 205-pound stature, is regarded as mature beyond his years and has broken out into a star in his sophomore season. He has already doubled and then some his rookie season’s point total with 13 goals and 31 points in just 20 contests. At this point all indications are that he will only continue to rise on scouts’ lists.

Arkhip Nekolenko, wing, Spartak 2 (RUSSIA-JR) – Despite currently being sidelined because of an illness, Nekolenko jumped to the A-list from the B-list. He is thought of as one of Russia’s top prospects because of his elite hockey sense, willingness to work hard in the dirty areas and appealing 6-foot-2, 176-pound frame.

Other notes

The Plymouth Whalers’ Alex Nedeljkovic and Boston College’s Thatcher Demko are pegged as the top two goalies of the draft. Both netminders are ranked as A-listers and have posted outstanding numbers in their respective leagues.

Kelowna Rockets forward Tyson Baillie cracked the C-list following going unlisted in Central Scouting’s first preliminary ranking. It was by all means surprising to see the 5-foot-10, 187-pounder go unlisted originally based on his previous 56-point season and outstanding showing in the post-season.

Even though Red Deer Rebels centre Conner Bleackley has broken out into a superstar this year with 10 goals and 22 points in 21 games, he remained ranked as a B-list prospect.

The OHL led the way with 13 A-list prospects. Among those players were three Frontenacs – winger Spencer Watson, defenceman Ronald Mckeown and sniper Samuel Bennett.

Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen

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