2017 NHL Draft Top 62 Prospects: June 9th

I’ve been working on this list for about three weeks if you can believe it.  As much work as it is, I just have a blast digging up information on these kids and trying to piece together this puzzle, even though I know full well I won’t come close to making it all fit!  As per request by a few people I decided to expand it to 62 for this go around.  This will be as many as I put down as from here on out I feel good about that number.  Adjustments will still be made.  Not sure if I’ll put another one out until the night before or perhaps the day of the draft, or if I’ll go with another one on Monday the 19th (which is when my 4th mock draft will come out).  But it’s all tinkering from here on.  Some rankings will still be tweaked, a few names might fall and be added to it, but for the most part this will be the list.  The hill I die on as the NHL likes to say when negotiating…

 

As for what I look for?  The main thing I look to do is view it as if I were a GM.  So I like guys who have the most value above all else, not necessarily how I believe they’ll pan out.  You start getting into the late first/early second round and it just makes more sense for some teams to take a big swing at that point rather than on a kid with a low ceiling.  I really look at trends, so I put risers higher than most, and guys falling lower than most (unless of course I feel the rise or fall is unwarranted).  I also like rare, so I might value things like elite speed, elite size or right handed shooting centres and D more than most.  I’m starting to put more and more stock into birth dates.  So for this draft in particular, late 1998 birth dates I tend to pay more attention to their numbers from last season, and I also put stock into guys who are near the youngest among the draft class.  Five on five points scoring is a big deal to me and something that can get overlooked so I try to find those stats.  I’m also really into building a team not just compiling talent, so I put a big premium on centres and D-men over wingers.  Finally, I tier my prospects.  I’m not sure why more lists aren’t done this way (a few are), it makes much more sense to me and I have been told that this is how most NHL teams tend to look at things as well.  So pay more attention to the tier a guy is in and less as to what the number is beside his name.

 

Also did my mock draft today so if you’re interested on how the pieces may fit: http://soupsonhockey.com/2017/06/09/2017-nhl-mock-draft-3-0/

 

I think I’ve tied up all the loose ends, so let’s get going.

 

Tier One

1. Nolan Patrick  Brandon  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 199  Shot: R

Comparison: Mark Scheifele

I’m surprised.  Last time out I projected most to be falling in love with Hischier as their top guy, but for the most part I’m still mostly seeing Patrick as the top guy coming in.  The injuries are a concern no doubt, but we aren’t talking knee or back injuries, so I don’t believe the groin and collarbone stuff should be a long term concern.  A lot of scouts, for some insane reason, think that if a guy’s skill level isn’t off the charts that he can’t produce big numbers.  He does all the little things that’ll help him produce big numbers.  He’s a kid who’ll be a coaches dream.  He’ll be a cornerstone piece for whichever franchise gets him.  Even if that’s only as a real solid 2nd line centre, he will still be a vital piece to any teams puzzle.

 

hischier2. Nico Hischier  Halifax  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Kyle Turris

One thing I noticed watching him first at the World Junior’s and then in the top prospects game, he’s bigger than I thought.  It turns out, that observation was accurate as he measured at a very respectable 6’1.5 at the combine.  Of course he’s slender right now, but being 6’1 he could get up close to 200 pounds without it hurting his wheels.  Great vision, great shot, can pick teams apart on the PP.  The big thing you’re hearing now is how good his 200 foot game is which if we’re talking about a potential first line centre is an absolute must.  Neither of these top two guys are locks to be first line centres in the league, but as I said with Patrick which will be true here with Hischier, both are going to be vital pieces to any teams puzzle.

 

Tier Two

timothy-liljegren-rogle3. Timothy Liljegren  Rogle  SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11.25  Wt: 180  Shot: R

Comparison: Kris Letang

I believe I’m officially alone on this island, and I don’t care.  Liljegren isn’t moving down my list.  The reason he’s not is because I believe the reason they’re knocking him down (for having mono) is just ridiculous.  As a friend said to me “he’s probably lost 20 pounds!”  If his weight at the start of the season was to be believed, he for sure lost 11 pounds.  Scouts did the same thing with Sean Couturier and Colin White.  I understand if that makes teams hesitant, but it wouldn’t scare me off, especially in a draft that is so weak at the top, and I still believe long term this kid is going to be a star.  Everyone will have their own comparisons, and they will seldom differ.  But I don’t know if I like a comparison I make in the rest of this piece more than Liljegren to Letang.  He plays really smooth, really mobile, terrific in the offensive zone especially running a pp, and ok in his own zone, but not necessarily going to be used in a shutdown role, of course that can change as his game develops.  Add in, size is similar, as is the hand he shoots.  He’s exactly what a lot of teams lack.  With how difficult it is to find a high end RH shot D-man, I’d hope front offices wouldn’t be SO stupid to let a prospect like this slide to the 10-20 range, but it seems likely.

 

4. Cody Glass  Portland  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 178  Shot: R

Comparison: Charlie Coyle

Glass makes the jump ahead of Vilardi for me.  I believe Vilardi is the better player currently, but once Glass fills out I have to believe he ends up as the better player because of skating ability of both players.  Glass is a very good skater, once he fills out to 200-205 pounds he’ll be a very nice size, and from everything I can find he’s a very intelligent kid.  His interview with Jeff Marek and Sam Cosentino at the combine was awesome too, seems like a terrific kid.  Wasn’t just giving standard answers, very engaging.  I don’t see him having first line centre capabilities, but I do see him being that elite second line centre which no team can win a Cup without.  Back in January when I did my top 32 list I kept asking myself what the big flaw is?  Hell, he’s even a right handed shot which is a tougher find around the league.  Now, everyone seems to have finally noticed this kid is a really solid prospect.

 

vilardi5. Gabe Vilardi  Windsor  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2.75  Wt: 203  Shot: R

Comparison: Ryan Johansen

Dropping to five isn’t any knock against Vilardi.  He’s still in my second tier of guys, just that for me personally I believe I’d go with Glass over him if I had the choice, but it’s neck and neck.  I know the calling card on Vilardi is his playmaking, and everyone loves Johansen’s shot, so why the comparison?  Well, obviously the size, the right handed shot, to me the skating ability is very similar, but also Johansen has been much more of a playmaker since that 33 goal 2014 campaign.  And it isn’t as if Vilardi has a muffin of a shot.  So I believe this is a very fair comparison.  A RH shooting centre with real good size who isn’t afraid to mix it up physically…he’s going to be a great add for someone.

 

6. Elias Pettersson  Timra  SWE-Als

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Comparison: Alex Galchenyuk

Here’s the deal: As you’ve likely seen with my rankings before, I put a premium on centres and don’t put much stock into wingers.  With Pettersson, Craig Button was listing him as a LW.  Because of this, I had him as a LW all year.  But everywhere else I look he is listed as a centre….which doesn’t mean a ton.  I was going to gamble here though and suggest he is a centre because his talent and IQ is tremendous, and he really plays a solid 200 foot game.  But now Craig Button also has him as a centre.  So he makes a big jump up my rankings.  The other thing is that even if he does end up a winger, he’s the type of winger who is going to really drive the play.  Right now he’s rail thin obviously, but a lot of scouts are in love with this kids upside because of that.  His numbers this season were off the charts good.  0.95 PPG this season.  At the same age, Filip Forsberg was 0.87 PPG.  David Pastrnak was 0.67 PPG.  Those are pretty damn good players he’s out scoring!!  I’ve seen some question his toughness.  Tough to say when he’s this slight if he’ll get more brave so to speak once he’s up to 185-195 pounds.

 

7. Miro Heiskanen  HIFK  SM Liiga

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 172  Shot: L

Comparison: Mark Giordano

Stays at seven, but I bumped him up a tier which is a deal for my rankings, especially talking about one of the top tiers.  He was maybe the best player for Finland at the WJC this year, which means a lot less in 2017 than it did in 2016.  Last year they won it all, this year they humiliated themselves.  Still, it’s something, and far from the only impressive thing he’s done this season.  The kid is seeing pretty big minutes for HIFK which is pretty rare for a kid in his draft year.  He might have the best stick defensively out of any kid in this draft, and engages physically though at his size he tends to lose a lot more of those battles than he wins.  He provides everything you would expect a D-man ranked this high and at this size to have.  Speed, escapability, great passer, great vision, the only flaw other than his size for me is he doesn’t have a big shot.  He likes using a wrist or snap shot on the point, which can work just fine as it has for the player I compare him to.  Get the shot through and let your forwards to the rest.  I’m not sure he can put up the numbers Giordano does, but a very similar skill set and game.

 

Tier Three

8. Cale Makar  Brooks  AJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11.25  Wt: 187  Shot: R

Comparison: Brian Campbell

Back in February I actually had him two spots higher than this while everyone was still slow on him.  After so many years of following and quite frankly studying the draft, you can see these things developing.  But now I’m starting to get worried that the hype is going too far.  He plays in the AJ.  Remember people going nuts over Joe Colborne and Dylan Olsen?  It isn’t exactly the toughest competition.  Makar is as flashy of a defenceman as there is.  He needs to prove he can play without the puck though.  That’s a vital trait for centre’s and wingers let alone D-men!  He will likely need in my opinion either two years at UMASS or a year at UMASS and at least a bit of time in the AHL, but if he goes top five, which at this point it sure looks that way, he easily could be rushed.    A right handed shooting D who can fly and has the confidence with the puck that this kid has is very intriguing.  It’s one of the toughest pieces to find in the NHL.  I’ve seen him play a lot, and understand the intrigue.  But I have my concerns with what may happen with his development.

 

mittelstadt9. Casey Mittelstadt  Eden Prairie  USHS

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11.5  Wt: 199  Shot: L

Comparison: Derick Brassard

“Two big things could hurt him in some of the rankings over the next two months.  He’s a late 98 birth date and those guys normally drop as the process goes on (you’ll see I talk about this a lot throughout this list).  Also going back to Eden Prairie won’t help.  He started the season in Green Bay of the USHL, and decided he wanted to go home.  Riley Tufte did this last year and while it’s far too early in his development, a lot of people have soured on him”.  That’s what I said the last time around, and that is exactly what has happened.  But he drops all the way to 9th in my rankings because of his five on five production.  If you don’t follow Zac Urback on Twitter and you’re a draft fan, do it now.  The guy does tremendous work!  He pointed out that Mittelstadt is feasting off five on four play.  Sam Gagner did that, and Gagner has never become the player he was expected to be.  It’s tough, because you try to juggle how a kid’s skill set will translate, their numbers this season, their past numbers, upside, bust potential, etc.  For Mittelstadt, even though he has that black eye on his resume, I have a tough time putting him lower than this thanks to the toolkit he possesses.  Speed, skill, willingness to play 200 feet, real good down low.  In time I do believe he can learn to play five on five and become a complete player.

 

lias-andersson10. Lias Andersson  HV71  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 201  Shot: L

Comparison: Frans Nielsen

Another kid who I just had to move up after giving more and more thought to it, because I just truly believe that guys like Andersson and Suzuki are guys you win with.  Owen Tippett, Eeli Tolvanen, these are guys who might put up better offensive numbers.  But I believe Suzuki and Andersson are guys who’ll have a bigger impact on a team.  Versatility is what this kid is all about.  I list him as a centre, but he plays all three forward positions and looks at home no matter where he’s placed.  And while that isn’t a very sexy attribute for fans or media to discuss, coaches adore these guys.  On that alone Andersson is a pretty safe bet to play in the league someday soon.  I do worry about his upside, not that being a 3rd line centre isn’t a need, I probably value it more than most!  But if that’s all he becomes, those aren’t the most difficult guys to find.

 

11. Nick Suzuki  Owen Sound  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 183  Shot: R

Comparison: T.J. Oshie

Craig Button had him 10th on his latest list.  Last time around I said I couldn’t go that high, but the more I think about it, the more I love him and here we are, I got him now 11th!  Others are getting in on this party too.  Put up awesome numbers (96 points in 65 games, 21 points in 14 playoff games), but this kid is going to play in the show because he’s always engaged.  Has a tremendous motor.  I can see him being a guy who’ll do whatever it takes to play in the league someday.  The big concern is with how his game will translate, because he’s a bit undersized (for a centre) and doesn’t have bad wheels but not the type of speed you’d like a player his size to have.  In limited viewings, I really believe it’s just a matter of gaining lower body strength.  Top end speed looks good, just doesn’t seem to have the strength yet needed for those first few steps to be explosive.  But he can play in any situation (five short handed goals this season), has a good shot, good vision, I mentioned the motor and he’s always willing to engage physically.  He said at the combine he tries to model his game after Patrice Bergeron.  If he can do that, I’ll love him even more.  To me, the worst case scenario with him is that he can’t play the middle in the pro’s.  So I see Suzuki as a very safe pick.

 

12. Robert Thomas  London  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11.5  Wt: 192  Shot: R

Comparison: Scott Gomez

I have him higher than most at this point, though it still feels like he’s not done rising.  I watch the kid and he just looks like he has everything it takes to excel in the NHL.  Great wheels, obviously not big but his size is fine, has that right handed shot which I never shut up about, high IQ, and he’s a tremendous playmaker who can change his pace of play.  He’s so damn smooth out there and makes the game look easy.  The more ice he’s seen this season, the better he’s been.  PPG player this season, and stayed pretty close to that clip in the playoffs with 12 points in 14 games.  Another great stat for him, only 14 of 66 points on the PP.  Obviously not near the numbers that Nick Suzuki had, but Thomas didn’t see that kind of ice time and likely has the higher ceiling of the two.

 

13. Erik Brannstrom  HV71  SWE J20

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Sami Vatanen

Something Redline Report said about Brannstrom was a great point.  Why is it that Cale Makar is being touted as this amazing prospect, yet for some people Brannstrom gets looked at as a 2nd round guy?  There for I’m grabbing some balls and he makes a massive jump in my rankings all the way up to 13.  Mainly because they’re right, there isn’t a big difference between the two players.  I said the last time around that if there was anyone who was a threat to jump up my rankings it was him.  His numbers and size aren’t much different from what Erik Karlsson had in 08, and we all saw the show he just put on.  Not a chance I’m going to say he can be that good, but the kid can really deal.  He has the speed, smarts and quickness to makeup for his lack of size.  As high as I now have him, I’m betting he goes even higher in the draft.  With how vital puck moving D have been this spring, and how great an undersized guy like Karlsson was in the playoffs, guaranteed teams picking high will be looking to scoop up all the top D.  For all the love I give Brannstrom and Makar though, tough to see either as a franchise D-man due to their size.  There’s only one Erik Karlsson.

 

juusovlimkitricityamericansvkelownabtjfhmygp2_l14. Juuso Valimaki  Tri-City  WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1.25  Wt: 211  Shot: L

Comparison: Oscar Klefbom

Little bit of a fall in my rankings, but more so just guys jumping up to join him in this tier.  What I really like about Valimaki is what I read about his play in his own zone.  The headliner with him will be his 61 points in 60 games played.  But he will get his nose dirty with the physical stuff, has a great stick in his own zone, and he already has the thick frame to hold up to the punishment.  His point totals suggest he’s flashy, but he really isn’t, which is where the comparison to Klefbom comes in.  This kid is just very solid at both ends of the ice and doesn’t really have a flaw in his game.  He has a bit of swagger out there which I really like as well.  Again something I’ll harp on to keep in mind throughout this list….late 98 birthdate.

 

Tier Four

kristian_vesalainen115. Kristian Vesalainen  Frolunda  SHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 209  Shot: L

Comparison: James Van Riemsdyk

At midseason I had read that his skating wasn’t very good.  As the season has gone on though, I hear and read more and more that his skating is either fine, or pretty good!  I do subscribe to the theory that he’s struggled a lot of the season due to changing leagues.  The ice size is different in Sweden and Finland, so it becomes an adjustment and making that adjustment in season can’t be easy.  His U18’s however suggested he’s still one of the top wingers in this draft.  So if the skating ability checks out, and he has this kind of size, and a legit reason for his inconsistency this season, I like him up in this range.

 

tippett16. Owen Tippett  Mississauga  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 203  Shot: R

Comparison: Joffrey Lupul

I just don’t understand the love in for Tippett.  Don’t in anyway confuse that for me not liking him, but I prefer mutli dimensional players and he in no way projects to be that.  He’s a lot like Kieffer Bellows in last year’s draft, who lots of scouts seemingly loved more than NHL teams did.  Speed, top two shot with Eeli Tolvanen in the draft, and decent size.  For the right team, I think he’d be a great addition.  But I’ve made this point the last few years and I’ll make it again.  Snipers are a luxury, not a necessity.  Teams picking high in the draft are building a house and they need to make sure they have the foundation poured and a roof on over their heads before they start building the kick ass man cave.

 

foote17. Callan Foote  Kelowna  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 215  Shot: R

Comparison: Jake Muzzin

I can’t remember if I read it or heard it recently, but someone came out and said “he’s NOTHING like his dad was…”  That’s all I’ve ever seen on Cal Foote is that he plays mostly like his old man.  Even though I can’t remember who said that (I believe it was Craig Button), the main reason they were saying that is because Cal Foote put up points.  57 points in 71 games this season for Cal.  Out of curiosity I thought I’d look up what Adam had in his second year of major junior.  55 points in 61 games.  So by THAT logic, Adam was a better offensive defenceman at this point.  Point is that you can’t get too wrapped up in what their numbers are in junior, you have to ask yourself how will his game translate.  I don’t see Cal as a guy who’ll put up great offensive numbers (doesn’t have those kind of wheels or that kind of shot).  I do see Cal as a guy who can be a shutdown defender, much like his old man was.  If he can put up points as well, great!  But if you want different comparisons, I see him as a Jake Muzzin, Adam Larsson, Marc Methot type of guy.  All these guys CAN put up numbers (Muzzin in particular has had a good offensive season), but first and foremost they’re shutdown guys.  Late 98 birthdate, I’m sorry you’re sick of that already.

 

hague18. Nicolas Hague  Mississauga  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’5.5  Wt: 207  Shot: L

Comparison: Colten Parayko

He’s a little like Liljegren in that I believe in that scouts are picking him apart rather than asking themselves what Hague brings to the table.  He should be shooting back up boards after a fantastic playoffs by all accounts, yet he’s still dropping on most lists and I frankly just don’t get it.  You see a kid who is 6’5, 208 and you think defensive D-man who is basically a coke machine.  Hague is actually very active offensively, and it’s his defensive game which needs the work.  A lot of the Parayko comparison (other than his similar size) comes from his bomb of a point shot and how much he utilizes it.  So what’s the problem?  Do scouts think he’s dumb?  Scholastic player of the year last season, so I don’t think he’s out and out dumb.  One thing I know is he needs to clean up his skating.  Top speed he’s fine, first step and lateral movement needs to improve though.  Also as I said earlier If he cleans up the play in his own zone this kid is going to be a heck of a pick.

 

necas19. Martin Necas  Brno  Czech

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 178  Shot: R

Comparison: Ales Hemsky

A kid with a ton of skill who plays really inconsistent and doesn’t have good size, he’s just not my kind of guy.  Sometimes I get caught up in trying to keep guys in range of where others like them and not asking myself where I’d take them if I were a GM.  I compare him to Hemsky simply because no matter where he plays, he has that same level of confidence with the puck and is much more of a playmaker than a shooter.  He might need a year or two to pack on the pounds.  Having said all of this, I’m not suggesting I hate him at all, just view him as more risky.  He easily could be an elite point producer in the show someday.

 

Tier Five

rasmussen20. Michael Rasmussen  Tri-City  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’5.5  Wt: 221  Shot: L

Comparison: Patrick Berglund

Last time I had him 7th, but he takes a big fall in the rankings for me and it was the discovery that he wasn’t anything too great five on five.  55 points in 50 games this season, but a lot of that damage was done the on PP.  Their is still a lot of intrigue with Rasmussen without a doubt, can’t ignore the combination of size and speed, but I can’t put him so high knowing nearly half his points are coming five on four.  Won’t be at all surprised if he ends up being a winger in the show.

 

poehling21. Ryan Poehling  St.Cloud State  NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 177  Shot: L

Comparison: Viktor Rask

Unless I got my numbers confused, he weighed in WAY less than what he had been listed at during the season (202).  But he’s 18 going on 30!  If you can find his media scrum from the combine, I’d never buy that this kid is 18 years old the way he handled it.  Had a great Ivan Hlinka this summer, one of the best players in the tournament, but then struggled making the jump to the NCAA this season, and then finished his season with a real strong U18’s.  So was the NCAA season just a product of limited ice time and being so young while playing against more developed kids?  Real good size, seems to be committed to learning a 200 foot game, good hands, good vision, high end speed is good, the foot speed is really the only concern but foot speed can be fixed.  There is no real reason to believe this kid can’t be at least a 3rd line centre in the NHL and definitely has the upside to be a solid 2nd line centre.

 

22. Kailer Yamamoto  Spokane  WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’7.5  Wt: 146  Shot: R

Comparison: Cam Atkinson

He’s tiny (his weight at the combine as you can read was even less than what it had been listed at, and it was already far too light), and I likely wouldn’t have him as a first rounder most seasons.  But this season, he’s worth using a first round pick on.  99 points in 65 games, he’s got a high motor, obviously a ton of speed and skill, and despite his stature is pretty willing to go anywhere on the ice.  Obviously he’s not going to dish out the punishment, but he doesn’t shy away from the corners or front of the net.   You have to keep in mind with him though that he’s only a few weeks younger in a few cases than last year’s picks (9/29/98).  His numbers, while great, weren’t really eye popping for an 18 year old season.  I’m seeing now some guys ranking him in the top 15.  To me that’s going overboard because even though it’s a down year for the draft, there are still kids who play more vital positions who bring more to the table.  Higher now than Tolvanen, and my reasoning for it is that I believe despite the fact he’s smaller than Tolvanen, they’re both small.  So then I look to what kind of player each is and Yamamoto is a kid who’ll be a driver.

 

tolvanen23. Eeli Tolvanen  Sioux City  USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’9.25  Wt: 189  Shot: L

Comparison: Mike Cammalleri

I got him lower than anyone I’m certain, and I’m not wearing that as a badge of honour, but just hear me out.  A winger who if he isn’t scoring isn’t contributing anything, I am by no means suggesting he can’t play or produce in the NHL, I just see a player of this ilk as an easy piece to acquire.  A pure sniper with a tremendous shot, it’s a sexy type of player.  But something that I try to consider in a draft is a players stock value.  Tolvanen could easily end up having better career point totals than some, maybe even a lot of the forwards I have ahead of him.  A 5’10, one dimensional winger isn’t exactly a tough find in the NHL.  You can find this type of player for cheap in free agency, and they’re always available at the trade deadline.  Centres, defencemen, wingers with size, these guys are difficult to find.  So while the bust rate might be lower on a guy like Tolvanen, the impact they actually have on a team is limited and should things go South they have virtually zero trade value.  At least when considering a player like Tippett, he has decent size and great speed to go with that big shot.

 

Tier Six

24. Henri Jokiharju  Portland  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’10.75  Wt: 188  Shot: R

Comparison: Tobias Enstrom

It’s crazy the amount of talent that Finland has produced of late, which makes it even more puzzling why they were so horrendous at the WJC this year.  Jokiharju feels like he’s becoming a forgotten man in this years draft crop, but his tools and numbers matchup with all the other top D-men.  He’s just a pure puck mover.  Great skater, passes the puck very well whether it be with zone exits or on the PP, and maybe his best attribute is how good of a stick he has defensively.  He isn’t real flashy, but he is very effective.

 

25. Jaret Anderson-Dolan  Spokane  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 191  Shot: L

Comparison: Nick Bonino

One of my favourite comparisons, and this kicks off a group of three guys who I see as potentially very undervalued centres who can become second line centres, but most likely are high end third line centres.  Anderson-Dolan’s best trait is that he has one of the best motors in this draft.  He’s also one of the youngest players in this draft (9/12/99) and was over a PPG player this season for the Chiefs.  Great skater (better than Bonino) with a great 200 foot game who can be abrasive out there too.  Last time I said I was tempted to have him up higher, and this time around I couldn’t resist.  The numbers, the birthdate, motor, I just think this kid has the makeup to be an overachiever.  I might have him ranked higher than anyone and I frankly don’t understand why.  I’ve seen some be critical of his skill level, but I can think of a lot more centres who don’t have that elite skill level, are never going to dangle and toe drag defenders, but have great success in the league and better than a lot of guys who can.  I think of a kid I was higher on than most last year in Michael McLeod and said that same thing all year.  At the moment, the scouting community is raving about McLeod.  Right.  Because he’s just a complete player.  You don’t get any extra goals thanks to how pretty it was.

 

26. Shane Bowers  Waterloo  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 178  Shot: L

Comparison: Brandon Dubinsky

Love this comparison.  I should point out, Bowers is a Canadian kid despite playing in the USHL, so don’t think I just compared a 6’1 American centre to another 6’1 American centre.  But if you think of the way Dubinsky plays, it is extremely similar to the way Bowers plays.  He’ll be in a guys face all night, and as we’ve seen this season with Nazem Kadri, that is the type of centre all teams would love to have on their team.  Much like Mittelstadt and Rasmussen though, Bowers is a big producer five on four, and weak numbers five on five, so for that reason he falls a bit in my rankings.  Having said that, I don’t see why he can’t develop into a perfect third line centre.  Going to Boston University in the fall.

 

27. Josh Norris  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 189  Shot: L

Comparison: Shawn Horcoff

The star of the fitness testing, which basically means nothing.  John McFarland tested tremendous at the combine in 2010.  All that stuff is for is to find red flags.  It’s not to separate a guy who tests real good from a guy who doesn’t test good.  The most important part of the combine is the interview process.  Anyway, I’m seeing conflicting scouting reports on his skating ability, which for me, with this type of player, is huge.  If the skating checks out then this is a good spot for him.  Can easily be one of those third line centres who makes his way into the top six often because of how many things he does so well (much like Horcoff did, Tyler Bozak does).  If it doesn’t though, I don’t think I’d consider him until the third round.  Most of his offensive damage was done five on five so I really like that.  He’s going to Michigan in the fall.

 

28. Mason Shaw  Medicine Hat  WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’8.5  Wt: 173  Shot: L

Comparison: Viktor Arvidsson

I’m always going to have a little bit of bias towards a kid who is local and played a lot of high end hockey in Lloyd.  But I’m even more bias towards a kid who plays this style.  Shaw plays gritty, has a really high IQ, and is completely fearless on the ice.  Arvidsson was who I finally settled on for the comparison (not as good of a skater), but another I gave thought to was Brad Marchand.  I wouldn’t ever expect a career year like Marchand just had, but his second and third year major junior numbers are pretty similar to what Marchand’s were.  One of the knocks I’ve read on Shaw is he’s not “dynamic” enough.  Well was Marchand ever that dynamic?  Is Brendan Gallagher?  Dynamic is one of those words that people can get too wrapped up in, much like “game breaker”.  It’s the same thing I said in my write up on Anderson-Dolan.  If I’m running a team, I could care less if a guy scores highlight reel goals, it means nothing.  Shaw also had tremendous numbers five on five this season.  Better than Yamamoto (73-64), better than Glass (73-72).

 

29. Jason Robertson  Kingston  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Patrick Maroon

Last time I didn’t even have him ranked and now I find myself getting sky high on the kid.  What can I say?  It was a mistake and the more information I gathered the more I liked.  He’s definitely gaining traction in the scouting community, with a lot of people now having him inside their top 30 also.  I am extremely worried about the speed, be lying if I wasn’t.  But for me I feel much like you can have a few small guys in the lineup, you can afford to have two or three slower guys in your lineup…as long as they can play with pace and Robertson can because he’s so intelligent.  He DOMINATED the OHL like few others in the second half of the season and into the playoffs.  Brock Otten had a stat where in his final 25 games of the season (including playoffs) he nearly averaged two points a game.  That is unreal for a kid who was draft eligible and didn’t have much talent surrounding him.  Hockey sense is off the charts and he’s extremely difficult to knock off the puck.  And on the off chance he cleaned up his skating, then you have a star on your hands.

 

30. Pierre-Olivier Joseph  Charlottetown  QMJHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2.25  Wt: 163  Shot: L

Comparison: Dan Girardi

Same as Robertson.  Last time I hadn’t heard and read much on him, and now I’ve got him in my first round.  After giving it a lot of thought, I’m willing to admit when I’ve made a mistake and quite frankly I don’t know how I could not only have him out of the top 50, but not in this grouping of D-men.  One guy who immediately sprung to mind is T.J. Brodie.  Similar height, similar size once Joseph fills out, and similar numbers in their draft years.  But I went with Girardi as the comparison, mainly because I see a kid who is great in his own zone and does a lot of the dirty work that doesn’t show up on the score sheet.  Great skater who can really play in his own zone and still has offensive upside to take his game to another level.  Project is a term we use for bigger players, but I’d consider Joseph a bit of a project.

 

31. Urho Vaakanainen  Jyvaskala  SM Liiga

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 188  Shot: L

Comparison: Nick Schultz

It gets a little redundant after a while, but Vaakanainen is much like most other smallish puck moving D-men.  Great skater, moves the puck well (obviously), decision making is suspect at times, keeps a good gap defensively, good stick.  He’s a safe pick, I’d say the big question mark with him right now is how much can his offensive game grow because at his size you expect a guy who can put up at least 30-40 points from the back end.

 

32. Conor Timmins  S.S. Marie  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 184  Shot: R

Comparison: Mark Pysyk

I love that he’s not your standard puck moving, won’t get his nose dirty type D-man.  He plays with aggression in the D zone, in addition to putting up good numbers, being a right handed shot (there it is again), and being a kid who can play in any situation.  Late birthday has him just a bit behind Jokiharju for me, but I see him as being right there and maybe a bit of a safer pick.

 

Tier Seven

oettinger_horizontal33. Jake Oettinger  Boston U  NCAA

Pos: G  Ht: 6’4.25  Wt: 218  Glove: L

Comparison: Braden Holtby

This tier might as well be called “the boom or bust” tier, because with these five guys I see big time potential, but they’re risky.  As weak as this draft is shaping up to be, the one that looks stronger than most years is goaltending.  Oettinger, Mike DiPietro, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Ian Scott, Cayden Primeau, Keith Petruzzelli, Maxim Zuhkov, there are a LOT of goaltenders in everyone’s top 50-75.  Now, perhaps that’s great goaltending, or that’s a product of a weak draft so the attention tends to go more in that direction (it did in 2012).  Oettinger is worthy of this ranking though.  The kid has the size, has the athleticism, very technically sound and smooth, has phenomenal numbers, he’s everything you look for a goaltender to be.  Now, that’s physically.  Mental toughness is the most important component for a tendy which is why they are the biggest wild card’s to draft, which is why I dropped him to borderline 1st round status (for me anyway).  He was the 3rd goaltender for the States at the World Junior’s this year, though he never got a chance to play with Tyler Parsons and Joseph Woll both playing so well.

 

34. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen  HPK  SM Jr. Liiga

Pos: G  Ht: 6’4.25  Wt: 198  Glove: L

Comparison: Pekka Rinne

Size, athleticism, a Fin, I honestly try to stay away from the stereotypical comparisons.  I can’t in this case.  He just reminds me exactly of Rinne.  Unlike Rinne however, he’s not a raw talent.  He already has shown that he’s pretty technically sound for his age and plays a composed style with great rebound control.  Sometimes you see guys with a lot of athleticism like Jonas Gustavsson or Anders Lindback who just can never get away from depending solely on that.

 

35. Michael DiPietro  Windsor  OHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 202  Glove: L

Comparison: Marty Turco

I have railed against people who basically champion for the undersized kids in the draft.  It’s clear to me that they’re A) pulling for who they view as the underdogs, B) they don’t pay close enough attention to how GM’s need to build a team as opposed to just simply compiling talent, and C) pulling for all GM’s to move in this direction because it’s much more fun to watch.  It isn’t as if I disagree with the latter, but I also try to keep in mind what has been much more successful over the last 100 years in the NHL, which is size.  But in THIS scenario, I just believe DiPietro is getting drastically undervalued and it’s obviously because of his size.  Something that he had working for him this season though is Juuse Saros was exceptional, and he was a kid who the Preds debated drafting in the 4th round because of his size.  DiPietro had ridiculous numbers when I did my first list with a 2.15 G.A.A. and a .925 Sv%.  He slipped a bit afterwards, finishing with a 2.48 G.A.A. and a .917 Sv%, and then was tremendous in leading the Spitfires to the Memorial Cup .  He won’t go in the 1st round, might not go in the 2nd round, but this is my list and I like him in the 30-40 range.

 

36. Filip Chytil  Zlin  CZE-Jr

Pos: C Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Rickard Rakell

Has become a big time riser as this season has wore on.  Looked great at the U18’s.  Great speed, vision, good shot, willing to go to any area on the ice, has some grit, plays a 200 foot game, really the only knock on him is going to be that he needs more time.  Watch for this kid to go late first round on draft day, as he really doesn’t have much of a flaw.

 

37. Isaac Ratcliffe  Guelph  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’6  Wt: 200  Shot: L

Comparison: Dustin Penner

As is the case with a lot of big players, Ratcliffe needs to work on his first step.  But at 6’5 and only 196 pounds, you could likely chalk that up to being a lanky kid who doesn’t have the strength to match his frame.  At top speed his skating is great for a player his size.  Hasn’t shown a nasty streak to this point, so doubtful that’ll ever come.  Was the leading goal scorer and second in points on a weak Storm team this season.

 

Tier Eight

38. Aleksi Heponiemi  Swift Current  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 149  Shot: L

Comparison: Sebastian Aho

Obviously has a lot filling out to do, and didn’t have a great playoffs for the Broncos (0 goals, 8 assists in 14 GP).  In fairness to that though, he is a pure playmaker.  Look at guys like Joe Thornton, Nicklas Backstrom, Ryan Getzlaf, etc.  The one thing you’ll always hear about their game is the question “why don’t they shoot more?”  Heponiemi is the same way and will hang onto the puck sometimes too long looking for that seam.  His speed for his size is ok but not great, he has to improve it.  But despite that and despite the size, I find myself really intrigued at how good this kid could be in a few years.  The weight is shocking, and worrisome that he won’t be able to get up to 175-185 that he needs to get to.  If he does, he should play in the league.

 

39. Kole Lind  WHL  Kelowna

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 185  Shot: R

Comparison: Alex Killorn

I’ll start off with a negative, and that is he’s rail thin.  Looks smaller than what he’s listed at.  But the good news there is that he excels at the size he is currently, and will only get bigger.  Good speed, good shot, and plays with a bit of grit despite the lack of weight.  Probably not shocking that these are the qualities a Saskatchewan kid possesses, I know.  But there is always a spot for a kid like this in the show.  I see him as a very safe pick.  Top nine guy who can move up and down your lineup, a lot like the other wingers I have in the 38-45 range.

 

40. Alex Formenton  London  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 166  Shot: L

Comparison: Drew Stafford

The biggest draw with Formenton is that he is going to be one of the youngest (the youngest I’ve come across) player in this draft.  9/13/99.  Even age aside though, he’s very raw so the belief here is that in another two seasons playing for Dale Hunter, Formenton will develop into a very effective top nine winger.  He has awesome wheels and a great work ethic, so if you’re going to gamble on a bit of a project, he’d be a good one to bet on.

 

41. Marcus Davidsson  Djurgardens  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 191  Shot: L

Comparison: Mikael Backlund

It is so rare that you find a Swedish kid who doesn’t play a 200 foot game, it’s unreal the job they do developing their kids.  Like the Luukkonen/Rinne comparison, I just couldn’t not think of Backlund when talking about Davidsson, and I’m guessing this is the comparison most will have.  Needs to keep developing his lower body strength which will help his skating out a lot (not a bad stride, just a little weak) and isn’t very physical.  But he plays a very complete game.

 

42. Stelio Mattheos  Brandon  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0.25  Wt: 189  Shot: R

Comparison: Mike Fisher

He’s dropped a bit this season, but I really like the kid in this early-mid 2nd round range.  Good size, natural centre, right handed shot, good wheels, everyone raves about the way he forechecks, I think he’s got a great shot at being a pretty valuable top nine forward in the league whether it be at centre or on the wing.  The ability is there and I believe a season back in Brandon with it being his team could do big things for his development.

 

43. Scott Reedy  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 201  Shot: R

Comparison: David Perron

His U18 didn’t go too well, seeing he got benched.  But I’m still a fan.  He’s a lot like Jason Robertson.  Better skater (but his own skating isn’t great), probably not as good of a shot (but he has a good shot).  His stick skills are his big claim to fame, but I also like what I’m hearing on his grit and playmaking abilities.  From what I’ve seen in highlights, he loves going to the tough area’s and playing a little greasy.  He’s a guy who I’ll be paying close attention to with how his combine interviews go.

 

comtois44. Maxime Comtois  Victoriaville  QMJHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 207  Shot: L

Comparison: Benoit Pouliot

One of the drafts big time fallers from the start of the season.  I tried to resist back in February, but he’s just had a brutal season production wise and I can’t help but drop him into this range.  Still though, I can’t help but think back to 2013 and Anthony Duclair was basically an afterthought heading into the draft after being a top ranked kid heading into the season.  So for me personally, I would take a chance on Comtois in this range simply because it could have simply been a case of a kid putting far too much pressure on himself in his draft year.  When you just look at the skill set of size, grit, speed, and a great shot, you have to think he’ll still find his way into the league.

 

45. Grant Mismash  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Jason Zucker

Fast and skilled kid who is a bit inconsistent, but when on he is active all over the ice.  Willing to get his nose dirty, of course this becomes a question mark once he gets to the AHL and NHL.  Is he going to start to shy away from it when facing bigger and tougher guys, or is he going to embrace it?  Tough to say how that mental part of the game will ever go for a player, but Mismash definitely has the skill set to be a very effective top nine winger in the league.  Potentially a guy who you can move up and down your lineup.

 

46. Ostap Safin  Sparta  CZE-Jr

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4.5  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Brad Isbister

First, an explanation on the comparison.  If I said Todd Bertuzzi or Milan Lucic, it would be ridiculous expectations.  Isbister had that same talent, just didn’t have the drive.  These types of players are few and far between and the ones who pan out end up dominating, so it’s tough to find a middle of the road guy to compare Safin to.  If he were a Canadian kid I really wonder how much higher he would be in most rankings.  He loves to throw his weight around.  Would that change once over in North America, or would he then become more comfortable playing that style the rougher the game gets?  Foot speed needs work, but his high end speed is real good and has some good skill with a great shot.  The ceiling is really high with Safin.

 

Tier Nine

47. Sasha Chmelevski  Ottawa  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11.25  Wt: 179  Shot: R

Comparison: Marcus Kruger

Congratulations to the 2017 CHL scholastic player of the year, Sasha Chmelevski.  I’m a sucker for kids who show a high IQ.  Of course that doesn’t mean it will translate to hockey sense, but I do believe it shows work ethic and maturity on top of intelligence.  Great wheels, good skill, his 200 foot game has shown a lot of improvement as the seasons progressed, and he’s a right handed shot.  He had consistency issues this season, but the kid really does have all the talent to not only make the NHL, but be a significant contributor.

 

48. Joni Ikonen  Frolunda  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 177  Shot: R

Comparison: Vincent Trocheck

I can’t see him being a centre at the next level.  He’s a dangler with a tremendous shot, and if you try to keep a guy like that in the middle then it can be difficult to find him linemates.  He worked well at the U18’s with Vesalainen because Vesalainen is a kid who can create and tilt the ice.  But either in the middle or on the wing, Ikonen has a chance to be a real good sniper.

 

49. Alexei Lipanov  Balashikha  MHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0.25  Wt: 169  Shot: L

Comparison: Mike Riberio

There is another Russian who you’re probably wondering how I could have Lipanov ahead of him.  Well Lipanov still has a lot of filling out to do, and is a centre which goes a long way in my books.  He’s pure offence.  The 200 foot game needs a lot of work, but this is a kid who has a boat load of skill.  Really similar to Heponiemi (hence them back to back and in the same tier).  The Fin gets the nod because of less risk, Lipanov might be the more talented of the two.

 

50. Josh Brook  Moose Jaw  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 191  Shot: R

Comparison: Jason Demers

I cannot find a consensus on his skating!  Redline Report say “his fluid skating with light edging allows him to play effectively in all three zones”.  Future Considerations say his “overall speed game isn’t flattering”.  And I found some more and again, opinions were split.  I don’t get how that happens, but even with some of the negative things I read I still like the overall package.  Big frame, righty shot, high IQ, plays gritty in his own zone, even without great wheels I’m intrigued at this point in the draft.  If Redline is right and his wheels are as good as they claim, this kid has a chance to be a massive steal.

 

51. Ian Mitchell  Spruce Grove  AJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 173  Shot: R

Comparison: Thomas Hickey

He’s a very understated D-man who is a bit of a project, but any team who drafts him is going to have time to let him grow while he attends Denver beginning next season.  Mobile, solid in his own zone, and untapped offensive potential.

 

52. Dylan Samberg  Hermantown  USHSW

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 211  Shot: L

Comparison: Josh Manson

As the comparison is intended to imply, Samberg is a great skater who is a miserable SOB to play against.  Tough to imagine him as a big point producer, but I personally believe every team still needs that guy on the blueline who makes life miserable for the opposition and Samberg is that kind of player.

 

53. David Farrance  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 195  Shot: L

Comparison: Troy Stecher

He’s so small.  He has ridiculous talent though.  Great speed, great puck mover, he’s a kid who wouldn’t even get consideration for the NHL draft 13 years ago.  He’d be headed for a nice career in Europe.  But now, he has a chance.  And going to BU in the fall, whoever drafts him will get a bit of extra time before needing to sign him to his ELC.  That’ll be great for his development, because he really needs time to work on his defensive play.  Some might wonder why I would have him down this far, but the fact of the matter is that he had very disappointing numbers this season.  Talent is there, no doubt, but that’s the risk.

 

54. Markus Phillips  Owen Sound  OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 202  Shot: L

Comparison: Paul Martin

Just a real solid puck moving defencemen who is equally effective in his own zone.  Not a lot of flash, but plays a very safe and dependable game.  Could be a sneaky good prospect because he’s the type of kid who has had to think the game, not simply overwhelm the OHL with his elite talent.

 

55. Morgan Geekie  Tri-City  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Shot: R

Comparison: Bryan Smolinski

He’s in his second year of eligibility for the draft, but he’s actually only a little over two months older than Yamamoto, and Geekie’s point totals weren’t far off his.  The size is good, the numbers are good, it’s the skating that needs work.  But his IQ and playmaking are tremendous.  There are a few rumours out there that he could be a shock pick in the first round.  For now, I’m going to stay away from that idea in my mock draft, but I have to admit I’m really tempted to fit him in somewhere.

 

kostin56. Klim Kostin  Moscow  KHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’2.5  Wt: 207  Shot: L

Comparison: Thomas Vanek

I’m going for “lowest you’ll see him ranked”, and I was very tempted to not have him on my list, but at some point it’s ok to take the home run swing.  The big, and/or skilled, “unstoppable” Russian winger seems to bust more than any other type of player, and they’ve burnt their bridge with me.  Filatov, Burmistrov, Yakupov, Grigorenko, Nichushkin, I’m just done with these guys as first round picks.  You will likely point out Tarasenko and Kuznetsov, of course there are always exceptions to the rule.  Added to the bust factor, and the flight risk, Kostin missed half the season.  Put on top of all this, now he says he won’t come to the CHL.  What is with so many of these kids?!  Let’s not sugar coat it, so many of these kids are total divas and for me personally I’m sick of it and I have to think most NHL teams are sick of it too.  I’m not touching him anywhere in the top 30 where most have him.  Late 2nd round though, I’d maybe take a swing.

 

57. Jonah Gadjovich  Owen Sound  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 199  Shot: L

Comparison: Marcus Foligno

This kid is a little bit of an old school power forward.  He’s a solid skater for his size, and looks like he has the frame to put on another 15-20 pounds.  17 of 46 goals on the PP is a bit of a concern for me,  as is the late 98 birth date.  But no doubt he has the talent to be a top nine guy in the NHL.

 

58. Nick Henry  Regina  WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 190  Shot: R

Comparison: Brian Gionta

Henry isn’t going to overwhelm anyone with his speed and skill.  Both are solid, but he’s the type of kid who just really understands his role.  This season playing on the top line with the Pats, he understood not to try and do too much and it led to incredible results.  He’s very willing to get his nose dirty too.  Just a perfect complimentary player.

 

59. Jake Leschyshyn  Regina  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10.75  Wt: 189  Shot: L

Comparison: Dave Bolland

Such a shame that he had that knee injury and couldn’t have gone on the playoff run with the Pats.  With the Pats hosting the Memorial Cup next season he’ll obviously get that chance, but who knows what a great playoff run could have done for his draft stock.  From what we saw though, tough not to like the player.  Good (not great) speed, high IQ, gritty, has some skill but more importantly knows how to manufacture goals.

 

60. Matthew Strome  Hamilton  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3.5  Wt: 207  Shot: L

Comparison: Jimmy Hayes

I have a tough time liking Strome to be honest.  But then again, if I got the 57th pick in the draft, don’t you have to take a highly skilled 6’4 kid?  His skating isn’t good, but it’s probably better than Jason Robertson’s, and he’s bigger than Robertson, and he’s as skilled.  I give the IQ edge to Robertson (big time), but still I think you have to take a swing on Strome by now, and a team likely will long before this spot.

 

Tier Ten

61. Jesper Boqvist  Brynas  SHL J20

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11.25  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Comparison: Robert Nilsson

A pretty talented kid, but he is a bit of a mess in his own zone and tends to shy away from the dirty area’s.  So I have trouble liking him.  Still, you can’t knock the kids talent.  He can always be coached up on the defensive end of the ice, and he can always learn to get his nose a little dirty.  His draft combine interview would have been a big deal if I were the GM of a team.  If it checks out, you probably have him in your top 35.  Upside is definitely there.

 

62. Eemeli Rasanen  Kingston  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’6.75  Wt: 214  Shot: R

Comparison: Jonathan Ericsson

I understand that these types of European defencemen have a high bust rate, but at the same time how can you ignore a kid who plays nasty like Rasanen does and will become a better skater simply with time as he grows more into his body?  Virtually the same numbers as Pierre-Olivier Joseph this season.  He has some upside offensively, and isn’t just a banger in his own zone but really does a great job controlling his gaps and angles.  At this point in the draft, you can definitely look at taking a home run swing like this.

 

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