Just like back in February, allow me to start all of this off by saying that this is not shaping up to be a good draft. There is a clear cut top two, but don’t expect either of them to be superstars. No Matthews, no Laine, sure as hell no McDavid (and no Adrian Dater, Laine will never be the player McDavid is or will be). And from what I understand at this point (and I make no bones about it, I learn as I go about these draft classes) this draft doesn’t have a ton of depth either. Maybe a better draft than 2012 (which is probably the worst draft in the last 17 years), maybe better than 2007’s top ten (no first line centre’s or number one D-men were in that one), but it’s not looking pretty.
This is my first top 50 of the year. Back in February I did a top 32, now I got my 50 and I really like the kids I have in there, but you really notice the hype level being down for so many of these kids. It’s as if either one of the last two drafts were to simply start at ten. But having said that, kids will undoubtedly emerge from this draft and fans will always want to look at how their team can or will improve.
As for what I look for? I really look at trends and try to project where these kids may end up, so I put risers higher than most, and guys falling lower than most. 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 birthdates. So for this draft in particular, late 1998 birthdates I tend to pay more attention to their numbers from last season, and I also put stock into guys who are near the youngest amongst the draft class. 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/2017/05/05/2017-nhl-mock-draft-2-0/
So we good? I don’t care, I’m getting started anyway, enjoy.
1. Nolan Patrick Brandon WHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’3 Wt: 198 Shot: R
Comparison: Mark Scheifele
Most aren’t going to have him number one come draft day. I know how this works. Hischier will be the guy, Hischier will go first, but until I get what I feel is a good reason to move off this, I’m sticking with Patrick as my top guy. 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. 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 anyone’s puzzle.
2. Nico Hischier Halifax QMJHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 176 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. He’s a very legit 6’1. 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. Neither of this top two 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.
3. Timothy Liljegren Rogle SHL
Pos: RD Ht: 6’0 Wt: 191 Shot: R
Comparison: Kris Letang
Scouts can knock him down all they want, I’m not. The reason I’m not is because the reason they’re knocking him down is for having mono this season. It’s ridiculous. As a friend said to me “he’s probably lost 20 pounds!” 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. As an Oiler fan, I’d kill to land him, as Liljegren is EXACTLY what the Oilers lack. 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.
4. Gabe Vilardi Windsor OHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’3 Wt: 198 Shot: R
Comparison: Ryan Johansen
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. I can’t bring myself to rank him ahead of Liljegren even though I’m about the only one left who wouldn’t. I still see Liljegren as having elite potential while Vilardi at this point projects as a high end second line centre. But a RH shooting centre with real good size and isn’t afraid to mix it up physically…he’s going to be a great add for someone.
5. Cody Glass Portland WHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’2 Wt: 180 Shot: R
Comparison: Charlie Coyle
Glass is a tremendous skater, has real nice size, as always with me I would want to know how intelligent of a kid he is (not saying he’s not, I just have no idea). Size, speed, big numbers (94 points in 69 games), so 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.
6. Casey Mittelstadt Eden Prairie USHS
Pos: C Ht: 6’0 Wt: 194 Shot: L
Comparison: Matt Duchene
Two big things could hurt him in some of the rankings over the next two months. He’s a late 98 birthdate 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. It’s tough because you try to juggle how a kid’s skillset will translate, their numbers this season, their past numbers, upside, bust potential, etc. For Mittelstadt I have to think the skillset translates perfectly. Speed, skill, willingness to play 200 feet, real good down low, I compared him to Duchene but as time goes on a Chris Drury type wouldn’t shock me in the least because of that willingness to play 200 feet already.
7. Michael Rasmussen Tri-City WHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’6 Wt: 215 Shot: L
Comparison: Jeff Carter
Just to tame the comparison a bit, Jeff Carter in that he skates real well (not as well as Carter) and he’s a shoot first centre. Rasmussen was another kid I was bigger on than most around midseason, but unlike with Glass, he’s dropping for some because of the fractured wrist that shut him down for the season. Still had 55 points in 50 games this season, and I think his combine testing and interviews could shoot him back up on a lot of teams lists.
8. Miro Heiskanen HIFK SM Liiga
Pos: RD Ht: 6’0 Wt: 170 Shot: L
Comparison: Brian Campbell
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 Flames Mark Giordano. Get the shot through and let your forwards to the rest.
9. Cale Makar Brooks AJHL
Pos: RD Ht: 5’10 Wt: 175 Shot: R
Comparison: Dan Boyle
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 get the intrigue. But I have my concerns with what may happen with his development.
10. Juuso Valimaki Tri-City WHL
Pos: LD Ht: 6’1 Wt: 204 Shot: L
Comparison: Wade Redden
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 Valimaki 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. This kid is just very solid at both ends of the ice and doesn’t really have a flaw in his game although again something I’ll harp on to keep in mind throughout this list….late 98 birthdate.
11. Owen Tippett Mississuaga OHL
Pos: RW Ht: 6’1 Wt: 202 Shot: R
Comparison: Joffrey Lupul
He’s very one dimensional. He’s a lot like Keiffer Bellows in last year’s draft, who lots of scouts seemingly loved more than NHL teams did. I never too high on these types of players early in the draft, but frankly it just goes to show you how thin this draft is. Speed, shot, and decent size. I fear he’ll never become more than a one dimensional player, but he has the tools to be more of a complete player than he shows right now.
12. Martin Necas Brno Czech
Pos: C Ht: 6’0 Wt: 167 Shot: R
Comparison: Ales Hemsky
Another guy who is listed as a centre, but I’m not sure he’ll be a centre at the next level. 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’ll need a year or two to pack on the pounds if he wants to play centre in the pros, but this kid could be an elite point producer in the show someday. He’s been extremely inconsistent all season so expect to read a lot of varying opinions on him.
13. Elias Pettersson Timra SWE-Als
Pos: LW Ht: 6’1 Wt: 156 Shot: L
Comparison: Teuvo Teravainen
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 for a draft eligible kid in Sweden (though keep in mind he’s a late 98 birthdate). Highly skilled, and plays a complete 200 foot game. 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 180-195 pounds.
14. Eeli Tolvanen Sioux City USHL
Pos: RW Ht: 5’10 Wt: 170 Shot: L
Comparison: Mike Cammalleri
Originally had him lower than most, but much like with Glass and Makar, more people are seeing it the same way. So a 5’10 winger, I am by no means suggesting he can’t play or produce in the NHL, but I just see it as an easy piece to acquire which for me hurts a players draft stock. Also, I see Tolvanen as a one dimensional guy, much like the guy who I compare him to. No doubt that one dimension is vital to an NHL teams success. A pure sniper with a tremendous shot. But something that gets overlooked by most when it comes to drafts is a players draft stock. You can find this type of player for cheap in free agency, and they’re always available at the trade deadline.
15. Callan Foote Kelowna WHL
Pos: RD Ht: 6’3 Wt: 200 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 (which I did switch), I see him as a Jake Muzzin, Adam Larsson, Marc Methot, Marc-Edouard Vlasic type of guy. All these guys CAN put up numbers, the latter two have had a few good offensive seasons, but first and foremost they’re shutdown guys. Late 98 birthdate, I’m sorry you’re sick of that already.
16. Nicolas Hague Mississuaga OHL
Pos: RD Ht: 6’5 Wt: 208 Shot: L
Comparison: Colten Parayko
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. I still have him relatively high even though McKenzie’s rankings had him dropped to the 20’s. I wonder if that’s scouts once again believing that a guy isn’t intelligent because of his defensive zone play, but he was the OHL academic player of the year in 2016 which at least tells me at worst he isn’t a dumb kid. If he cleans up the play in his own zone this kid is going to be a heck of a pick.
17. Lias Andersson HV71 SHL
Pos: C Ht: 5’11 Wt: 198 Shot: L
Comparison: Frans Nielsen
Versatility is what this kid is all about. I list him as a centre, but he plays all three forward positions. 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 question his upside though. 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.
18. Nick Suzuki Owen Sound OHL
Pos: C Ht: 5’11 Wt: 187 Shot: R
Comparison: T.J. Oshie
He’s been trending up all season, and I totally get it. Craig Button now has him 10th on his latest list. I couldn’t go that high, but I totally get it. 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. I personally wouldn’t be concerned with being a top six guy, which can end up hurting a lot of players. Wheels are good, can play in any situation (four short handed goals this season), size is fine, and a good shot. So to me Suzuki is a very safe pick. Some like him as a winger, but the more I dig on him, the more I find people believing he’ll be a centre in the show.
19. Ryan Poehling St.Cloud State NCAA
Pos: C Ht: 6’2 Wt: 202 Shot: L
Comparison: Steve Rucchin
I’m going back a ways and a little obscure with the comparison here! Had a great Ivan Hlinka this summer, one of the best players in the tournament, but then has struggled making the jump to the NCAA this season. Still, 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. Out of all the centres in this tier, he definitely has the biggest upside.
20. Shane Bowers Waterloo USHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 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. Going to Boston University in the fall.
21. Robert Thomas London OHL
Pos: C Ht: 5’11 Wt: 185 Shot: R
Comparison: Daymond Langkow
Shocking, another London Knights prospect. This kid is a major riser this season. I have him higher than likely anyone, but his trending arrow is pointing straight North and it’s pretty rare that draft risers don’t continue to rise. But also just look at the assets he has. Awesome wheels, obviously not big but his size is fine, has that right handed shot which I never shut up about, and he’s a tremendous playmaker who can change his pace of play. 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. Obviously not near the numbers that Nick Suzuki had being just three spots higher and the same tier, but Thomas didn’t see that kind of ice time and has a higher ceiling offensively in my opinion.
22. Kailer Yamamoto Spokane WHL
Pos: RW Ht: 5’7 Wt: 153 Shot: R
Comparison: Cam Atkinson
He’s tiny, and I likely wouldn’t have him this high 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 really like the kid thus far in the process, and I believe he’s a very safe pick. But 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.
23. Kristian Vesalainen Frolunda SHL
Pos: LW Ht: 6’3 Wt: 207 Shot: L
Comparison: James Van Riemsdyk
He’s been inconsistent this season, but tore up the U18’s last month. Still for me, the big concern is the skating. If he can clean that up, I like him a lot, but that’s a big ask. He has that great size, and he’s great around the net (where the JVR comparison comes from). But I just have trouble getting past his wheels and his motor, which obviously isn’t an original story for a big/skilled winger.
24. Henri Jokiharju Portland WHL
Pos: RD Ht: 6’0 Wt: 176 Shot: R
Comparison: Tobias Enstrom
Another Finnish D-man. 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. Erik Brannstrom HV71 SWE J20
Pos: LD Ht: 5’10 Wt: 173 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 isn’t a big difference between the two players. I’m still a little leery to shoot him up my rankings at this point because so many guys I respect are down on him. But if there is any candidate to make a big jump in my rankings before the draft it is this kid.
26. Conor Timmins S.S. Marie OHL
Pos: RD Ht: 6’1 Wt: 180 Shot: R
Comparison: Mark Pysyk
I love that he isn’t 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 and Brannstrom for me, but he could be the safest pick of the three.
27. Urho Vaakanainen Jyvaskala SM Liiga
Pos: LD Ht: 6’0 Wt: 185 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.
28. Mason Shaw Medicine Hat WHL
Pos: LW Ht: 5’8.5 Wt: 180 Shot: L
Comparison: Viktor Arvidsson
Tough to see him being this small and playing the middle in the pro’s so I’ve got him on the wing, but you’ll likely see him listed as a centre. 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 guy who plays this style. Shaw plays in your face all night long, and is completely fearless on the ice. Arvidsson was who I finally settled on for the comparison, 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.
29. Kole Lind WHL Kelowna
Pos: RW Ht: 6’1 Wt: 176 Shot: R
Comparison: Alex Killorn
Good speed, good shot, and plays gritty. 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. Something that helps separate Lind from other kids around this range is also nothing of a shocker which is that Kelowna simply pumps out more quality prospects than anyone else in the WHL.
30. Jake Oettinger Boston U NCAA
Pos: G Ht: 6’4 Wt: 203 Glove: L
Comparison: Braden Holtby
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.
31. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen HPK SM Jr. Liiga
Pos: G Ht: 6’4.5 Wt: 196 Glove: L
Comparison: Pekka Rinne
Size, athleticism, a Fin, I really 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 this skill set like Jonas Gustavsson or Anders Lindback who just can never get away from depending solely on their size and athleticism.
32. Jaret Anderson-Dolan Spokane WHL
Pos: C Ht: 5’11 Wt: 180 Shot: L
Comparison: Nick Bonino
One of my favourite comparisons. 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 with a great 200 foot game who plays in your face all night. Was very tempted to have him up in the group with Bowers and Thomas, but until I find out more an early 30’s ranking will do.
33. 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.
34. Josh Norris USA NTDP USHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 192 Shot: L
Comparison: Shawn Horcoff
Norris can’t be left out of the group with Anderson-Dolan, and Davidsson. And I’d say it’s pretty damn difficult to separate these three players. All of them around the same size, similar skill sets, lefty shots, playing in three completely different leagues, it’s just tough to rank one ahead of the other in my opinion. Same thing though, plays a good 200 foot game, will be able to score a bit thanks to the speed and energy he plays with, maybe has the lowest ceiling of these three centres, but tough to think he won’t play in the league at least as a bottom six guy.
35. Filip Chytil Zlin CZE-Jr
Pos: C Ht: 6’0.5 Wt: 178 Shot: L
Comparison: Rickard Rakell
I don’t consider Chytil to be in that group of centres, even though he is listed as one, simply because he’s different style of centre who is a little more of a risky pick. 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.
36. Isaac Ratcliffe Guelph OHL
Pos: LW Ht: 6’5 Wt: 196 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.
37. Stelio Mattheos Brandon WHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 190 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.
38. Michael DiPietro Windsor OHL
Pos: G Ht: 6’0 Wt: 196 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 has 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 last 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%, but still real solid and he’ll have the Memorial Cup to build on that. 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.
39. Aleksi Heponiemi Swift Current WHL
Pos: C Ht: 5’10 Wt: 147 Shot: L
Comparison: Sebastian Aho
Obviously has some 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. 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.
40. Alexei Lipanov Balashikha MHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’0 Wt: 165 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 is likely the more talented of the two.
41. Scott Reedy USA NTDP USHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1.5 Wt: 204 Shot: R
Comparison: Boone Jenner
Ignore that Jenner had 30 goals in 2016 with this comparison. He’s a threat to move up on my list. Right now I’m reading mixed reviews on his skating and hockey IQ, but this kids upside is tremendous. His stick skills are his big claim to fame, but I also like what I’m hearing on his grit and playmaking abilities. And we’ll see what comes out of the combine, but for now I got Reedy as a mid 2nd rounder.
42. Maxime Comtois Victoriaville QMJHL
Pos: LW Ht: 6’2 Wt: 199 Shot: L
Comparison: Milan Michalek
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 2015 and Nicolas Roy who had a very similar fall to where he was an afterthought heading into the draft. Another kid like this was Anthony Duclair. I’m not intending to just pick kids out of the Q, but that’s the two that stand out to me. 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.
43. Grant Mismash USA NTDP USHL
Pos: LW Ht: 6’0 Wt: 186 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.
44. Sasha Chmelevski Ottawa OHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’0 Wt: 186 Shot: R
Comparison: Marcus Kruger
Congratulations to the 2017 OHL 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.
45. Ostap Safin Sparta CZE-Jr
Pos: RW Ht: 6’4.5 Wt: 191 Shot: L
Comparison: Brad Isbister
First, an explanation on the comparison. If I said Todd Bertuzzi, 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.
46. Alex Formenton London OHL
Pos: LW Ht: 6’1 Wt: 162 Shot: L
Comparison: Drew Stafford
The biggest draw with Formenton is that he is going to be one of the youngest (possibly the youngest) 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 great 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.
47. Klim Kostin Moscow KHL
Pos: RW Ht: 6’3 Wt: 196 Shot: L
Comparison: Thomas Vanek
I’m going for “lowest you’ll see him ranked”, and I’m tempted to not have him on my top 50. 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. 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, this kid missed half the season. So I’m not touching him anywhere in the top 20 where most have him. Mid 2nd round though, for me, he would be worth a shot.
48. Matthew Strome Hamilton OHL
Pos: LW Ht: 6’3 Wt: 206 Shot: L
Comparison: Greg Adams
Both his brothers have been disappointments to this point, he is the least talented of the three, and the book is that he has really heavy feet. So while I would take a chance on him, I wouldn’t be taking that chance anytime early. Big and skilled, so I understand a bit of the intrigue. But again I’ll say it, the speed in the league has gone to another level.
49. Josh Brook Moose Jaw WHL
Pos: RD Ht: 6’2 Wt: 185 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.
50. Eemeli Rasanen Kingston OHL
Pos: RD Ht: 6’6 Wt: 216 Shot: R
Comparison: Tyler Myers
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? Most have Pierre-Olivier Joseph as a better prospect, yet Joseph and Rasanen had virtually the same numbers 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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