Ovechkin, a 6'-2", 200-pound Russian forward, will likely be selected by the Washington Capitals, who have the first overall pick. Washington won April's draft lottery, jumping past Pittsburgh and Chicago to earn the top selection.
The final rankings from the NHL Central Scouting Bureau consist of four seperate player lists: North American skaters, North American goalies, European skaters and European goalies. Players from Europe who play for Canadian junior teams are ranked as North Americans.
The scouting reports make Ovechkin look like a near-flawless prospect. His skating, shooting and puck handling are considered outstanding. Often double-teamed by opponents, he turns the coverage to his advantage by finding open team mates. He also has the strength, size and determination to withstand checking and abuse.
While he can dominate junior-aged competition, Ovechkin's 2003-04 numbers in Russia's top professional league are modest - 13 goals and 10 assists in 53 games for Moscow Dynamo. But reports suggest he was willing to play a more defensive game at the senior level, a valuable quality in an 18-year-old.
Sitting behind Ovechkin on the European list is another Russian forward, Evgeni Malkin. At 6'-3" and 186 pounds, Malkin is a skilled center who has posted good numbers in international tournaments this season. Czech centre Rostislav Olesz is ranked third.
Among North Americans, the top skater is Andrew Ladd of the Calgary Hitmen. Ladd, a 6'-2", 199-pound left winger, led all Western Hockey League rookies in scoring this season with 35 goals and 40 assists.
Second on the North American list is another WHL star, Medicine Hat Tigers' defenceman Cameron Barker. He's already 6'-3" and 214 pounds, and has recorded 113 points over the last two seasons. From the Quebec Junior League, left winger Alexandre Picard of the Lewiston Maineiacs is ranked third. He had 80 points in 69 games this season.
Center Kyle Chipchura of the Prince Albert Raiders, listed first among North Americans in the mid-season rankings, drops to fourth after a season that included injury problems.
The top North American goalie is Al Montoya of the University of Michigan, who led the United States to the World Junior Championship in January.
The 2004 NHL Entry Draft will be held June 26 and 27 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Players who turn 18 by September 15 are eligible to be drafted. NHL Entry Draft regulations state that 18-year-olds must declare their eligibility. Those who turn 19 by September 15 are automatically eligible for selection.
Although Ovechkin is the most highly anticipated prospect to come along in several years, 2004 is considered a weaker draft year than 2003.
Sydney Crosby, who has the entire hockey world talking after a phenomenal rookie season in the Quebec Junior League, is not eligible to be drafted until 2005.