Ryan Kennedy’s 2015 NHL draft rankings

Ryan Kennedy
Erie center Connor McDavid (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

The excitement is palpable. Even before the 2014 draft had taken place, folks were already talking about 2015, when phenom centers Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel would be eligible for selection. But it goes far beyond those two pivots – there is also Noah Hanifin and Oliver Kylington on the back end to consider, plus a host of skilled forwards and burly power forwards. Here’s my initial take on the top 30 picks for 2015:

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Scouting reports from Traverse City, part one

Buffalo's Sam Reinhart (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

The annual Traverse City prospects tournament is in the books for another year and this time, Columbus came out on top despite losing 2014 first-rounder Sonny Milano in the first game.

Despite boasting some of the biggest names in the tournament, the Sabres ended up dead-last, losing to the Blues in their final match to go winless overall. Coach Chadd Cassidy believes bad starts doomed the squad and the fairly young group just couldn’t get over the pressure once they got down.

But how did the individuals fare at the tourney? Here are my thoughts on players from the first four teams. Since games were staggered between two rinks, I saw more of some squads than others and the amount of reports reflects that.

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Why Kevin Hayes chose the New York Rangers

Kevin Hayes (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

Kevin Hayes is one of the biggest names playing at the Traverse City prospects tournament in Michigan. Heck, he’s been one of the biggest names in hockey this summer. That’s because his senior season at Boston College was so scintillating that teams were fiending to sign him up once it became apparent he would not sign with the team that drafted him, the Chicago Blackhawks.

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Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are great, but don’t sleep on Noah Hanifin

Ryan Kennedy
Noah Hanifin is heading to Boston College (Tom Sorensen/USA Hockey)

You’ve heard of top 2015 draft prospects Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel already and while there’s little doubt those two phenomenal centers will be the first names called at the podium in Florida next summer, the prizes for poor teams don’t end there. The 2015 draft is looking incredibly stacked and the next name that needs to be stamped in your memory is defenseman Noah Hanifin.

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Calgary prospects Gaudreau and Bennett dream about the future

Ryan Kennedy
Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau on the move (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Not a lot of wins have come out of Alberta in recent years, but at least there is hope in both markets. Edmonton has toiled for years and had the more high-profile rebuild, but Calgary is quickly putting together a nice coterie of players as well.

Sean Monahan has already made a dent in the NHL and two other names are poised to join him up front on the Flames sooner than later: Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett.

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The All-American Prospects Game will be loaded this year

Ryan Kennedy
Zach Werenski is part of an excellent cast headed to Buffalo (Tom Sorensen/USA Hockey)

The third annual USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game takes place in Buffalo on Sept. 25 and no doubt organizers will tell you it’s looking like the best one yet. People say that about all sorts of events every year, but if everyone shows up, this will be the best yet.

The game is only as good as the talent available and last year’s installment in Pittsburgh was hampered by the fact the U.S. didn’t produce any top-10 talents for the 2014 class. Sonny Milano, Alex Tuch and Dylan Larkin were the best of the bunch and ended up as mid-round picks. The debut of the game in Buffalo a year prior featured Seth Jones, at the time thought of as the No. 1 overall prospect and ultimately a fourth overall pick who went straight to the NHL. But Adam Erne pulled out and hometown kid Justin Bailey sustained a concussion just before the festivities, meaning a better lineup was possible.

But this year? Assuming everyone shows up healthy, this is a stacked bill. Here’s a look at some names to keep in mind.

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