Forward Conner Bleackley and defenceman Haydn Fleury of the Red Deer Rebels are among 23 Western Hockey League players who will attend the 2014 NHL draft combine May 26-31 in Toronto.
The combine will feature 119 prospects — including 18 international players — for this year’s entry draft, set for June 27-28 in Philadelphia.
Unlike previous seasons, the player invitation process was revised to enable NHL clubs an opportunity to participate.
“It’s a change from past practice of invites being solely based on Central Scouting’s final rankings,” said Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting. “Research has shown over the last decade that an average of 78 invites to the combine were selected in the top 100 at the NHL draft.
“For the 2014 combine, a two-stage process was adopted. In the initial stage, the top 75 players on Central Scouting’s players to watch list were invited (at an earlier date) and the final stage involved the NHL clubs voting in the remaining 45 players. The number of invites increased this year.”
Among the players invited are forwards Samuel Bennett of the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League and Sam Reinhart of the WHL Kootenay Ice, defenseman Aaron Ekblad of the Barrie Colts of the OHL and top-ranked goalie Thatcher Demko of Boston College.
Additionally, included in the mix of top international players are forwards William Nylander of Modo in Sweden and Kasperi Kapanen of Kalpa in Finland.
l Fleury and Bleackley are 12th and 26th in the International Scouting Service rankings for May. They are ranked ninth and 35th among North American players by Central Scouting.
Reinhart and Ekblad are ranked first and second by ISS.