2016 NHL Draft: Top 50 Prospects June 6th

0118-draft16I hope you’re bouncing back and forth between this article and my mock draft if you want to find out about the prospects, because the whole reason I do this piece is to talk more about why teams will pick players, and less about the player himself.

 

3rd addition this season of my top 50, could be the last one I do, but I might make a top 60 pre draft, or I might make a few more updates but as you’ll see in this one, not much has changed the last 3 weeks.

 

I compile information, I don’t get to watch a lot of these kids play so I look around, ask around, do whatever I can to find out how these kids play, and TRY to find out their weaknesses because one thing about when talking about draft prospects is that unless they have attitude issues, nobody will ever point out a flaw.  “His skating isn’t great but it is good enough”.  No, just say the kid doesn’t skate good.  “He’s not the most physical player…”  So he’s soft?  Just say it!  It is likely better for the kid anyway.  If you hear something negative about you and DON’T get pissed off and try to prove that person wrong, who would then still want that kid on their team?

 

So if a kid is considered somewhat soft, I’m not a fan.  If a kid is considered an average skater I’m going to knock him down.  I’m a “sizest”, and much to a lot of fans and media’s dismay, a team full of small players never wins anything.  You can afford to have 3 or 4 small guys on the roster, but that’s about it.  If you want rankings that don’t take size and how a game will translate in the NHL into consideration, check out Corey Pronman of ESPN.  That’s not a knock on his work, but I just see things vastly different from him.

 

This is where someone will point out the exception to the rule.  I love how sports is the only walk of life where people will point out the exception to the rule as if that wins an argument.  Anyway, the exception to that rule is the 08 Detroit Red Wings.  That was a small team.

 

Again though, that is the exception.  The rule is that you win with speed, grit and size.  You win with high end centres and high end defencemen.  Goaltenders are an enormous crap shoot, but I’m not anti goaltenders being taken high (last year for example I was very high on Ilya Samsonov).

 

Last year when doing this list I talked a lot about tiering the players and that to me it was more important to have tiers than what number the players were ranked.  After a few picks, there won’t be much separating players and that’s when it should boil down to need over BPA…because there will likely be hot debates over who is the BPA past pick 3…maybe even pick 2.

 

Tier 1

635873478224268717-AP-Finland-Ice-Hockey1. Auston Matthews  Zurich  Suisse A

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2.25  Wt: 216  Shot: L

Comparison: Anze Kopitar

Matthews will come in as one of the most polished all around 1st overall picks.  His talent isn’t up there with McDavid, but he’s, very polished and should step right into the 2nd line centre spot on the Leafs, and likely be the 1st line centre by the 17-18 season.

 

Tier 2

etupate3112SP_nu2. Patrik Laine  Tappara  SM-Liiga

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3.75  Wt: 201  Shot: R

Comparison: Ilya Kovalchuk

CHILL with the Ovechkin comparisons!  He’s damn good, but other players have played this style not just Ovechkin.  Everyone is in love with him and Puljujarvi, but it is a must you keep in mind that teams simply do not win with these wingers.  Everyone always falls in love with them.  Rick Nash, Kovalchuk, Thomas Vanek, 3 years ago some were clamouring for Valeri Nichushkin to go as high as 2nd overall.  The myth is that these players can do it all and will be unstoppable.  The fact is that they are so physically gifted that they’ve never had to think the game.  And if they could think the game at a high level, they would be centre’s, not wingers.  It doesn’t mean they can’t learn to think it, but that is a talent too.  I hope they both have a 2 way game like Marian Hossa, but most wingers of this ilk never become more defensively then they have to be.  Having said all this, there are a limited amount of players in the league who have a shot like his, and even less who have a one timer like his.  Ovechkin, Stamkos, Subban, Burns, maybe a few others but those are the ones that come to mind and the point is there are VERY few.

 

Tier 3

0f8f40bd-3c2e-4760-8b55-3856be63946e_JDX-NO-RATIO_WEB3. Pierre-Luc Dubois  Cape Breton  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2.25  Wt: 205  Shot: L

Comparison: Shane Doan

I’m not going to move off of this point.  He’s a 6’2, 205 pound, highly skilled centre who plays a pro style.  I am going to take that guy all day over a winger unless the winger is like a Laine where there is 50 goal potential.  Puljujarvi might put up more points, but Dubois is going to be the guy who plays in every situation and can lead a team deep into the playoffs.

 

Jesse%20Puljujärvi4. Jesse Puljujarvi  Karpat  SM-Liiga

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3.5  Wt: 203  Shot: R

Comparison: Jakub Voracek

I’m sure some people will think I’m doing this for shock value, whatever.  The other night I watched The Big Short and for those who haven’t seen it yet it is a true story about Wall Street investors who after doing their research they bet big on the housing market to tank in 2006 and were laughed at for doing so.  Of course in 2008, it did, and they made billions.  I won’t make billions, or even hundreds on this, but I do really believe Dubois is the better prospect than Puljujarvi.  Not that I don’t like Puljujarvi, he’s an elite winger.  Likely a guy who is going to put up bigger point totals.  But there is so much more

 

635811302260340869-GTY-4900609205. Matthew Tkachuk  London  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 195  Shot: L

Comparison: Corey Perry

I use Corey Perry as the comparison, but he has much more of a mean streak than Perry.  He’s Andrew Shaw with serious skill.  He is an extremely rare talent.  Normally when you find an Andrew Shaw or Brad Marchand or Brendan Gallagher it is in rounds 3-7 because part of what sparks that game is survival and being overlooked.  Tkachuk has had every advantage imaginable growing up!  And as I said, he is highly skilled.  He can score a finesse goal, a power goal, a greasy goal, and he’s a damn good playmaker too.  His skating isn’t great, but he seems to overcome it.

 

Tier 4

jakob_chychrun_sarnia_sting_36. Jakob Chychrun  Sarnia  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 200  Shot: L

Comparison: Rob Blake

He’s been over scouted, without a doubt.  Corey Pronman had him ranked 11th and said in one section comparing him to Dante Fabbro “I was continually impressed by Fabbro while waiting for Chychrun to have those “wow” games”.  What does that even mean?  That’s over scouting.  Chychrun didn’t meet his astronomical expectations, while Fabbro exceeded his which weren’t near as high.  Darcy McLeod was on Inside Sports in Edmonton last week and he spoke about some of the analytics behinds Chychrun.  Said that they showed he had a 16 year old season similar to Drew Doughty’s, and that his lack of progress is due to a shoulder injury and first year head coach Darian Hatcher basically trying to make him a more defensive defenceman (like Hatcher was).  He had nowhere to go but down this season, yet he still had a great year, just not a year that left scouts wanting to see more.  And at the end of the day you still have to look at what the upside is, and it’s incredible.  6’2, 200, Craig Button calls him the best skater in the draft, high IQ, can run a PP, has a big shot (loves to use it too), plays mean in his own zone, I liked everything I heard in his interviews this weekend, one of the best tested at the combine, there is nothing this kid doesn’t bring to the table.  Chychrun has the tools to do it all in every situation.  I feel like Juolevi and Bean have limitations, Sergachev is a Russian and the fact is Russian players are massive wildcards in the draft.

 

Mikhail+Sergachev+CeCK7oxNcXdm7. Mikhail Sergachev  Windsor  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2.25  Wt: 221  Shot: L

Comparison: Dougie Hamilton

As much as I love Chychrun, the only thing that separates him and Sergachev is that historically it is a higher bust rate with Russians.  There really isn’t anything too different with the way either guy plays the game.  Both great size, both LH shots, both play physical, both are terrific skaters, both love to shoot the puck, both can move it well, they’re just very similar in skill sets.

 

Olli+Juolevi+NAPsrAuj9rcm8. Olli Juolevi  London  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2.5  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Oliver Ekman-Larsson

He’s closing the gap on Chychrun for most people.  For me however, I still like the all world guy better, and the offensive numbers are a little lower for Juolevi compared to the other two.  Still, should Juolevi end up near the level of Ekman-Larsson…whoever picks him won’t be complaining!  Smooth skater, great breakout pass, great stick defensively and takes great angles.  Offensively he’s just very smooth.  Walks the line as good as any 18 year old you’ll see, and his passing ability is elite.

 

Tier 5

Jost3-CM9. Tyson Jost  Penticton  BCHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 190  Shot: L

Comparison: Claude Giroux

He answered the doubts I had about him.  Jost is a kid that can play in any situation.  I won’t be shocked if he exceeds this ranking and becomes a number 1 centre at some point in his career.  I had him ranked behind McLeod and Brown in my top 20 rankings, but above them now even though nothing has really changed.  But the more I think about it, I just don’t see how Jost isn’t a centre at the next level which was my only concern.  Loved what I saw in Grand Forks though.

 

Logan Brown10. Logan Brown  Windsor  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’6.25  Wt: 220  Shot: L

Comparison: Viktor Kozlov

Some might scratch their heads at this new comparison I’m using, but Kozlov was the 6th pick in the 93 draft, and had very similar size and game to what Brown has.  Well, I’m proud that I had Brown higher than most back when I did the first list, and he proved me right at the U18’s.  He and Jost really separated from Kunin at that tournament (in my eyes, though Kunin obviously wasn’t at the U18’s) and Rubtsov but that could be a messy situation for the Russian.  Anyway, no chance NHL teams won’t love the package that is Logan Brown.  This kid can SKATE despite his massive size!  That is tough to pass up if you need a centre.  Obviously with this size, Brown gives a team literally a lot to work with.  Needs to not only work on his shot, but learn to use his shot a lot more.  Right now he’s purely a playmaker.

 

Apr18_OHLplayer11. Michael McLeod  Mississuaga  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 185  Shot: R

Comparison: Ryan Kesler

I keep dropping him!  I don’t like this!  I still like McLeod better than most, because I just fully believe you win in the NHL with a kid like McLeod.  Can play in any situation, size, RH shot, this is the type of centre every team craves.  Unlikely he becomes a number 1 guy, but a great number 2 guy, and even if he doesn’t meet expectations he’s still going to be a valuable guy to have.  I realize he had a poor U18’s, but I believe people are overrating things like skill level (as dumb as that may sound), underrating things like all around game, and I still like him 5-10 years from now to be one of the most valuable players to be picked in this 1st round.  When Kesler was drafted, Bob McKenzie said during the broadcast that he would be a 3rd line centre, and we all know he’s exceeded that expectation.

 

bean_jake212. Jake Bean  Calgary  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’0.75  Wt: 173  Shot: L

Comparison: Tyson Barrie

He continues to be a riser in this draft.  He put up great numbers, but there is just a lot of work to be done.  And I watched a guy in Edmonton for 4 seasons who was highly touted, awesome offensively and supposed to figure out the defensive end of the ice.  It never happened, and while D play can be learned, the player has to be willing to learn it.  If I were interested in Bean, the interview process would be huge for me.  I want to know how intelligent this kid is, and what kind of passion he has for the game.  If both those things check out, then he’s got massive potential.  If they don’t, he could be another Justin Schultz.

 

orig-mediaitemid19992-526913. Dante Fabbro  Penticton  BCHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 192  Shot: R

Comparison: Zach Bogosian

Same deal as Jost, the teammates answered a lot of my concerns at the U18’s.  Fabbro was outstanding, and even though he isn’t THAT big he plays a very complete game.  He can play in any situation.  Not as good of a skater as some of the other potential 1st round D-men, but it’s highly likely he can improve it to another level, it isn’t as though it is a weakness.  But he’s tough, moves the puck extremely well, he’s got a rocket of a shot, great stick and positioning in his own zone can be matched against the opposition’s top line, and he’s one of a very few highly ranked D-men in this draft who is a right handed shot.

 

Keller NTDP314. Clayton Keller  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 164  Shot: L

Comparison: Johnny Gaudreau

Corey Pronman has Keller 4th on his list.  Man we just see things different.  Not to speak for him, but he seems to base everything completely on point projections on the next level.  I prefer players who’ll have the biggest impact on the team and that doesn’t always show up on the stat box.  If it’s a perfect situation, then it makes sense to draft him.  But rarely does a team ever have a need for a 5’10, sub 170 pound centre.  Also, while other area’s of the game can be taught, I think some scouts get caught up in that and simply assume the player will learn, but he has to be willing to do it.  I’ve softened my stance on him a bit as you can see by my ranking this time around, but I still just look at players like Keller as final pieces to the puzzle, and teams drafting in the top 10 normally need to finish building the house before they buy the 60 inch 4K TV.

 

Barrie+Colts+v+Mississauga+Steelheads+_3jDcRCjYQRl15. Alexander Nylander  Mississuaga  OHL 

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 178  Shot: R

Comparison: Ales Hemsky

Nylander is the same deal as Keller.  We aren’t talking about him having Patrick Kane type talent.  And again, I don’t HATE Nyalnder at all, an extremely talented kid who can put up a lot of points in the NHL.  I have him MUCH lower than most, but I wouldn’t take him top 10 in this draft unless you have a situation similar to the Jets in 2014 when they took a similar guy in Nik Ehlers.  They were pretty loaded everywhere and had grit and size, so that’s where it made sense.  There are teams who can really use a guy like Nylander, like Keller, I just would want to make damn sure I had the more important holes filled first.

 

Tier 6

McAvoy U1716. Charlie McAvoy  Boston University  NCAA

Pos: D  Ht: 6’0.25  Wt: 199  Shot: R

Comparison: Keith Yandle

Full disclosure, I get sick of doing write up’s on a lot of the D-men who come out of the USHL/NCAA.  They are all SO similar.  Smooth skating, puck movers who have big questions about playing in traffic and playing with the type of toughness it takes to play in the NHL.  Now don’t get me wrong, we see a LOT of Canadian D-men like this, European D-men like this, but the States produce a ton of the same type of D-man.  McAvoy is one of these guys.  Does a great job quarterbacking the PP, does a nice job of jumping in the play when the time is right, and while he’s not physical he takes good angles and has a good stick.

 

Hamilton+Bulldogs+v+London+Knights+Lhmt7IUo1Bhl17. Max Jones  London  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 205  Shot: L

Comparison: Boone Jenner

Much like with the other power forwards, I love how Jones game SHOULD translate.  Also, it has to be tough for him in London playing behind so many guys like Marner, Tkachuk, Dvorak, etc.  He plays an old school power forward game, he has a nasty streak.  Combine that with the way he can skate and shoot, I have to think he’ll be capable down the line of being a complimentary top 6 player.  Not a driver of a line, but a perfect guy to pair with your skilled players.

 

julien-gauthier-600x33818. Julien Gauthier  Val d’Or  QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 231  Shot: R

Comparison: James Neal

Upside is great, but the motor is the big question with this kid and a lot of kids seemingly keep passing him on the rankings.  I still can’t help but think how valuable he’s going to be if he puts it together.  For this comparison I completely admit I’m echoing what Craig Button said.  The comparison to Neal is just spot on.  He won’t put guys on their ass very often, but he is great down low and on the wall, has real good wheels and an awesome shot.

 

Rubtsov19. German Rubtsov  Russia U-18  MHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 190  Shot: L

Comparison: Tomas Plekanec

Ok so I have no idea what to make of him, as he was in the middle of the drug scandal with the Russian U18 team.  So does this hurt his draft ranking?  I don’t see how it won’t.  But I still love the way he plays the game, and still think he’s a top 20 or so prospect.  A true 2 way centre who can be a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th line centre on a team so whoever picks him at worse is likely getting an NHL player.  But he definitely is expected to be a 2nd line centre who a team will be able to use in any situation.  Good size, speed, vision, shot, IQ, he just does everything very well.  If he can take his offensive game to another level, this kid could develop into a 1st line centre someday.  I’ll have him higher in my rankings than I will in my mock drafts, unless we get an answer one way or another whether or not the scandal will hurt him.

 

Kunin20. Luke Kunin  Wisconsin  NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11.25  Wt: 193  Shot: R

Comparison: Derek Stepan

Plays a very smart game.   I don’t know if I like a comparison better than Kunin to Stepan and while I did come up with that, I’m sure I can’t be the only one making this comparison.  Great speed, great shot, and a great motor (I’m using motor now instead of compete level, easier to type).  He’ll be one of the safer picks in this draft.

 

Kale Clague21. Kale Clague  Brandon  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 5’11.75  Wt: 184  Shot: L

Comparison: Matt Niskanen

A little dip from my top 20 but still in the same tier.  And again, I might be just being very biased.  But Clague has just gotten better and better as the season has gone on.  His game elevated after the prospects game, elevated even more when the playoffs began.  He has maybe been the Wheat Kings best player in the playoffs.  Remember, they have Ivan Provorov.  Again I’ll say, he has a ways to go with his defensive game, but he is back on track after a rough start to the season that saw his draft ranking plummet.

 

Tier 7

Bellows22. Kieffer Bellows  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 197  Shot: L

Comparison: Brian Bellows

I’m sorry if you want a different comparison, but he does, he plays like his old man.  He’s a pure sniper.  Great shot, ability to get to where he has to score whether that’s the front of the net or find the dead/open ice in the slot.  You aren’t getting a complete player with Bellows, but he is a kid who will fill the net if he has the right centre feeding him the puck.

 

rtufte23. Riley Tufte  Blaine  USHSW

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 211  Shot: L

Comparison: Chris Kreider

I want to know why Tufte didn’t want to play in the USHL.  Left Fargo after 12 games, and that’s a red flag.  The competition he is now playing against is also a big red flag.  He’s a boom or bust guy.  Is he Hugh Jessiman, or is he Blake Wheeler?  But there is no denying his domination of the Minnesota high school ranks.  If a team has a stocked cupboard, they might be willing to take a shot on him.  The Kreider comparison is basically spot on if you look at Kreider in his draft year.  Scouts were intrigued about the skill set, but worried about the competition he had played against.  Great skater for a kid this size, great shot, has a little bit of a mean streak, good vision too.

 

Tier 8

Stanley24. Logan Stanley  Windsor  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’7  Wt: 224  Shot: L

Comparison: Brooks Orpik

He’s a classic stay at home D-man, a dying breed.  But any coach will take a guy who can put out against the other teams top line and eat 25 minutes a night.  But is Stanley going to be that guy, Orpik was that kind of guy for a lot of years. Or, will he just be an Eric Gryba type?  He’s more mobile than Gryba, but we’ll see.  He does show some flashes offensively, but chances are he’s just a stay at home guy.  But I’m a guy who still believes you need 1 or 2 D-men like this and being so unique, worst case scenario is he’ll get a lot of chances to make it.  You hear about complimentary wingers, well I see Stanley as perhaps a complimentary defenceman.  The type of guy you want your top puck mover to have on the opposite side.

 

2015-02-24-01-15-32-Tremblay2_détourée25. Pascal Laberge  Victoriaville  QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 174  Shot: R

Comparison: Ryan Strome

I’m a big fan of Dubois, Laberge was the MVP of the prospects game.  He showed off how skilled he is in that game, and while it’s just 1 game it’s a big game.  Your going against the best prospects in the CHL, it’s a big stage, and he showed up.  Was the 2nd overall pick in the 2014 QMJHL draft, and had a tough start to his Q career last season and was dealt to Victoriaville.  But this season he’s starting to show why he was that pick and while I have him at 25, I could see him continuing to ascend.  He’s really slick, the question will be whether or not he’s willing to get his nose dirty and can do it in traffic.

 

Bitten26. Will Bitten  Flint  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 167  Shot: R

Comparison: Dave Bolland

He’s limited, but I love the way this kid plays.  He’s really going to have to fill out to play the feisty game in the pro’s.  Still, a lot of talent and an extremely high motor.  Last time I regretted not having him higher, so I got him jumping 14 spots.

 

Dube27. Dillon Dube  Kelowna  WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10.5  Wt: 183  Shot: L

Comparison: Brendan Gallagher

He’s small but this kid has bite in his game.  He’s been able to shine this season for the top ranked team and defending WHL champs, going at over a point per game pace.  Dube really shows no fear out on the ice and is willing to play a very greasy game.  You hate to play against him, but you love him on your team.  Didn’t have a great playoff showing, just 2 goals and 5 assists in 18 games, but teams were able to key in on him.

 

Tier 9

Gustavsson28. Filip Gustavsson  Lulea  SWE-J20

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 190  Glove: L

Comparison: Tuukka Rask

This kid really boosted his stock at the U18’s, he was fabulous.  He had a very inconsistent season, but for me I’m more forgiving of D-men and goaltenders who have inconsistent seasons as 18 year olds than wingers or centres.  Pretty tough to find a U20 team like Gustavsson played for that has total buy in from their forwards to a 200 foot game, which will obviously hurt the D and tendy’s.  He is technically sound and depends on his positioning a little too much.  When he improvises is when he becomes elite so he just needs to learn to do so more often.

 

Lucas+Johansen+PdSm_9goczsm29. Lucas Johansen  Kelowna  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 175  Shot: L

Comparison: Anton Stralman

The Rockets have a BIT of a history of developing D-men, and Ryan’s little brother could be the next in that line.  Some like him as much as Clague and it’s tough to argue.  Similar size and attributes.  But Clague’s playoff performance as pushed him up the board in my eyes.  Still, if a team needs a D-man late in the 1st, Johansen would be a safe bet.  Real solid at both ends of the ice.  Not very physical, but he has a great stick defensively.

 

Cliff+Pu+Oshawa+Generals+v+London+Knights+mhSMY6zcVQPl30. Cliff Pu  London  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 192  Shot: R

Comparison: Frans Nielsen

He’s risen a ton for a lot of people as scouts have looked closer at him.  Obviously in London he’s hidden behind a lot of high end talent.  But the more people watch them, the more they are noticing this extremely well rounded centre who is giving a big effort every night.  Pu is a bit of a project, but a safe project.  Once he fills out, and gets more ice time, we’ll see if he’s a bottom 6 guy or a top 6 guy.

 

Howden-Preseason-Sep831. Brett Howden  Moose Jaw  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Shot: L

Comparison: Shawn Horcoff

This is the type of kid any team would love.  And his scouting report really reminds me of Ryan O’Reilly.  Honest player, gritty as can be, will do anything to win.  He reaches his potential and he’s wearing a “C” some day in the show.  It was tough for me to have him behind some of the kids I have him behind, but the fact is the heart and soul guys are no sure thing either.  Perfect example right now is Anton Lander in Edmonton.  He’s a heart and soul guy, wore a “C” at every level, he’s simply not good enough.  Howden is a better skater than both of those guys though and he’s a pretty safe bet to be at least a bottom 6 centre, and a kid all Cup contenders need.

 

Tier 10

Asplund32. Rasmus Asplund  Farjestad  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10.25  Wt: 176  Shot: L

Comparison: Mikkael Granlund

Will he play the middle should he make the show?  I don’t know, he’s right on that line of centre or winger.  I would project him as a winger, but when he fills out he should play around 190 so it isn’t as though he is too small.  He is a limited player offensively, but he plays with some edge and works his ass off.  The worry with a kid like Asplund and next up Steel is if they are “tweeners” much like Sam Gagner and Cody Hodgson are.  Good enough to play in the league, but no real role for them.

 

Sam Steel33. Sam Steel  Regina  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 178  Shot: L

Comparison: Mike Riberio

I thought about it, and asked myself “why should Asplund be an early 2nd rounder and Steel be so much lower”.  You won’t get 2 players more similar in this draft.  One of the best playmakers in the draft, putting up a point per game, yet some scouts have soured on him.  For me it’s more of an issue of his skating being good enough to overcome his size which he obviously isn’t tiny, but not at all big.

 

Libor Hajek34. Libor Hajek  Saskatoon  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Dan Hamhuis

Has good wheels and is very gritty.  Point totals have really dropped off.  Had 13 points in the first 18 games, just 13 points in his final 51.  But when you see him play you can see the talent is there to do it at both ends of the ice.  Still, even if he never develops offensive consistency, he’ll be a miserable guy to play against.

 

Niemelainen35. Markus Niemelainen  Saginaw  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 189  Shot: L

Comparison: Mattias Ekholm

Plays an extremely safe game.  I would say there is more offensive upside with Niemelainen then there is with Hajek, but Hajek has a lot more bite in his game.  Obviously he has a lot of filling out to do, but normally lanky guys like this are awkward skaters.  Niemelainen though is a very smooth and effective skater.

 

Tyler-Benson36. Tyler Benson  Vancouver  WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11.5  Wt: 197  Shot: L

Comparison: Mark Stone

I had a real tough time slotting Benson this time around.  I knew his skating wasn’t great, but when I see more and more scouts being concerned about it then it really concerns me.  I think he really has to change the way he plays to succeed in the NHL, but he has the ability to do just that.  He is one of those kids who might be a smart enough player to overcome the lack of wheels, and it isn’t as though he can’t improve his skating.

 

Carl-Grundstrom37. Carl Grundstrom  Modo  SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11.5  Wt: 195  Shot: L

Comparison: Patric Hornqvist

He’ll play in the show, it’ll just be a matter of whether he will be a top 6 winger or top 9 winger.  Out of all the comparisons I have (50 in case you’re keeping count), I don’t know if any is more spot on than Hornqvist to Grundstrom.  High motor, isn’t that big but miserable to play against and wreaks havoc down low and in front of the net.

 

Tier 11

Boris+Katchouk+SYxA2bJoemxm38. Boris Katchouk  Sault Ste. Marie  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1.25  Wt: 190  Shot: L

Comparison: Justin Abdelkader

Katchouk is the first of 3 guys who have good size (he is the smallest of the 3), play a tough game, but have skating issues.  I believe Katchouk is the best skater of the 3, and he’s got the better 200 foot game of the 3.  He also put up pretty good numbers (51 points in 63 games) while playing with lesser talent.  Bastian had McLeod and Nylander on his line, Raddysh played with Strome and DeBrincat.  That’s going to help anyone.

 

Bastian39. Nathan Bastian  Mississauga  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4.5  Wt: 206  Shot: R

Comparison: Patrick Maroon

Is it because of playing with McLeod and Nylander that he’s improved so much, or is it just coincidence?  Tough not to love his game.  Very physical, does all the little things you want a player to do.

 

Raddysh40. Taylor Raddysh  Erie  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 203  Shot: R

Comparison: Troy Brouwer

Having a great year, has nice size, has a well rounded game, but his skating is a question mark and will likely keep him out of the 1st round.  Also much like Nathan Bastian, are his numbers (73 points) strictly a result of playing with Strome and to a lesser extent DeBrincat?

 

Top_5_players_to_watch_-_Alex_DeBrincat___Gallery41. Alex DeBrincat  Erie  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’7  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Mats Zuccarello

Obviously the comparison comes from the size, but also because both players play with some bite.  The question for me is whether or not DeBrincat has, not the speed, but the kind of speed he’ll need to overcome his lack of size.  He put up monster numbers with Dylan Strome this season though (101 points).

 

Tier 12

635967499001659552-Hockey-Card-27-Dennis-Cholowski42. Dennis Cholowski  Chilliwack  BCHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 177  Shot: L

Comparison: Josh Gorges

2 red flags are the competition he played against and the fact that he’s currently only 170 (though we’ll see if that’s improved once they measure him at the combine).  Those aren’t bad red flags though, just makes teams hold off on drafting him until the proper time.  He is great offensively though and will likely have teams intrigued.  Doubt he can sneak in the 1st round, but really early 2nd won’t shock me.

 

Tage Thompson43. Tage Thompson  Connecticut  NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’5.5  Wt: 195  Shot: R

Comparison: Nik Antropov

I’ve soured on him after doing some more research.  Credit Redline Report with this, and that of his 14 goals this season, only 1 was 5 on 5.  I’d be interested in taking him for any team because as you can read he has assets you can’t teach, but he is a big time project.  So he goes from a top 30 guy for me to outside the top 40.  Mid 2nd round he sounds a lot more appealing than with a 1st round selection.

 

Tier 13

giavani smith44. Givani Smith  Guelph  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 194  Shot: L

Comparison: Brayden Schenn

You have to think of what Schenn has developed into, not what he was projected to be, and you have Smith.  I LOVE this kid.  Of course, if I got him ranked I obviously like him, but the guy is a bull out on the ice.  High motor, has a bit of skill too, not to say he will be one of these guys but if you’re looking for a Jamie Benn or Milan Lucic in this draft I would put my money on Smith.  On a bad Storm team he managed 23 goals and 42 points in 65 games.

 

Kitchener+Rangers+v+London+Knights+oCJQSYS4Lvil45. Tyler Parsons  London  OHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 184  Glove: L

Comparison: Corey Crawford

A lot of people have other goaltenders ahead of Parsons.  He’s not that big, and he’s playing behind a great team.  But he was great in the OHL playoffs, particularly in the series against Kitchener, and then proved it further with a great Memorial Cup.

 

Abramov46. Vitali Abramov  Gatineau  QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 175  Shot: L

Comparison: Cam Atkinson

I have him pretty low for a kid who had 93 points in just 63 games this season.  Obviously size is a large part of that, but I don’t doubt this kid can be a 2nd line winger in the pro’s.  It’s just that outside of being a scorer I have my doubts he can contribute elsewhere.

 

gettinger47. Tim Gettinger  Sault Ste. Marie  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’5.75  Wt: 200  Shot: L

Comparison: Eric Daze

He never jumped like I thought he might midseason.  Still, he is a great skater for a kid his size.  No doubt he’s a project, but man…this kid could be something real good down the line.

 

TR-6-Adam-Fox48. Adam Fox  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: D  Ht: 5’10.75  Wt: 185  Shot: R

Comparison: Torrey Krug

I’ve found more and more on Fox as the week’s have gone on, and I keep liking what I read.  I’d be flat out lying to you if I said I’ve seen him play.  But he is bigger than I thought (as you can read, measured at nearly 5’11 at the combine), plays with a lot of poise, as you would expect from a smaller puck moving D he is a smooth skater, and in a draft that really lacks right handed shot D-men, he is one of the few.

 

North+Bay+Battalion+v+London+Knights+brmZ37hMOqdx49. Cam Dineen  North Bay  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Alex Goligoski

Dineen is pure offence.  59 points in 68 games this season.  He has a lot of work to do defensively, but the NHL is becoming more and more accepting of a high risk defenceman like Dineen.

 

Carter Hart50. Carter Hart  Everett  WHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 180  Glove: L

Comparison: Jarolsav Halak

I finally dropped Sean Day off this list as everyone else had.  I said all season I wanted to see what he did at the combine, and what he did at the combine was essentially not give a f***, so while I would still swing for the fences with him at some point in the draft, it definitely wouldn’t be in the top 50 or 60 picks.  Wanted to put that in somewhere here.  Anyway, Hart re-enters my list, and he didn’t do anything to fall out the last time, just nowhere to put him.  I think he’s right there with Parsons and not far behind Gustavsson in this draft, so look for him to go anywhere from the early 2nd to the early 3rd round.  Size is the only thing that may prevent him from making it to the show some day.

 

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