Connor McDavid may be the youngest player available, but the 15 year old is still the talk of Saturday's Ontario Hockey League draft.
The centre with the AAA minor midget Toronto Marlboros was granted exceptional player status by Hockey Canada last month, becoming just the third player to be granted the draft exemption behind New York Islanders forward John Tavares and current Barrie Colts defenceman Aaron Ekblad.
The Erie Otters hold the top pick Saturday and will select McDavid, team majority owner and general manager Sherry Bassin told reporters Friday.
"It's such a special moment for us," Bassin said. "He has such exceptional ability and it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a franchise. The hockey world thinks he's exceptional because of the ability he has displayed. We know he's exceptional because of his ability and high character."
"It takes character to win a championship and we've just added significant character to our lineup."
McDavid, who stands five-foot-10 and weighs 155 pounds, scored 33 goals and 49 assists in minor midget in 2011-12. The Newmarket, Ont., native added 11 goals and eight assists in seven games at the OHL Cup Showcase in Mississauga, Ont., where he was named tournament MVP.
"It's unbelievable to be drafted first overall," McDavid said. "It's a dream come true. I am very excited to be starting my Ontario Hockey League career in Erie."
His point total was the highest since Edmonton Oilers forward Sam Gagner posted 17 points in five games during the 2005 tournament. Gagner was also a graduate of the Marlboros program.
According to OHL central scouting McDavid "has all the skill and tools to be very exciting and dominate at the next level."
"He controls the puck as if it were on a string and has the ability to make everyone around him a better player by giving them the puck in situations where they can create a scoring chance," OHL central scouting said. "He has the ability to change gears in mid-stride which make him very hard to keep up with."
Ekblad posted 10 goals and 19 assists in 63 games with the Colts this season after being granted exceptional status prior to the 2011 draft. Tavares, meanwhile, posted 45 goals and 77 points in his first season with the Oshawa Generals after being granted exceptional status in 2005. Tavares scored 215 goals and 433 points in 247 games with the Generals and London Knights.
The Kingston Frontenacs, Peterborough Petes, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Windsor Spitfires round out the top five picks in the draft, which will be held online.
McDavid could also see a number of his teammates selected early on.
Marlboros centre Joshua Ho-Sang and defenceman Roland McKeown have also been discussed as early picks coming out of the Marlboros' program.
McKeown has drawn interest from many teams selecting in the top half of the opening round and his name has been thrown out as a possible top-3 pick by some.
The slick-skating defenceman has the ability to play in all situations and log big minutes, scoring 10 goals and 25 assists this season.
Ho-Sang has been considered among the most skilled players in the draft all season. His 31-goal, 79-point performance with the Marlboros only adds to his potential as one of the draft's elite players.