2016 NHL Draft: Top 20 Prospects (Pre Lottery)
About an hour to go before the 3rd most anticipated draft lottery in NHL history. Crosby and McDavid lottery’s were obviously a bigger deal, but with the new lottery rules it makes for a lot more intrigue and will be pretty fun to watch unfold.
So with that being said, I did my new list of top prospects. A top 50 list will be done up real soon, but I couldn’t get it done in time for tonight. But since this only affects 14 teams, a top 50 list isn’t really that necessary for tonight’s proceedings.
Why top 20 and not top 14? Mainly because of who I have at 17 in the newest rankings. A kid who’ll certainly be back in the 1st round discussion for a lot of scouts. But also because no two lists are going to be the same, and this isn’t a mock draft. Maybe you can do your own mock draft using this list to compile who fits where? Or maybe you’ll laugh at it and call me names? Dick.
In these new rankings I’ve added my tiers. Basically I put players in tiers to select based on need in the top tier of players left…if that makes sense. So many people are dinosaurs and think you just need to go BPA. A few people will tell you that need is the way to go. I like a hybrid. I have become more of a “pick based on need” guy in the last 5 seasons or so because of how difficult it has become to make a trade in the NHL anymore, but if you need a D-man and Connor McDavid is starring you in the face, you aren’t passing on him. Lots of teams in this draft will really need a kid like Olli Juolevi, but you aren’t taking Juolevi if somehow Patrik Laine has fallen to you.
Ok, I’ll shut up now.
1. Auston Matthews Zurich Suisse A
Pos: C Ht: 6’1.5 Wt: 194 Shot: L
Comparison: Anze Kopitar
All this talk of Laine making a push for 1st overall is absurd. Laine is amazing, but you don’t take a potential elite sniper over an elite 1st line centre. Even looking at a situation like the Oilers or Sabres. If they the top pick tonight, there is a chance that those are 2 teams who may prefer Laine, but neither would take him at 1. You move back, load up, and take Laine because an elite 1st line centre is just such a valuable piece to have. So is a sniper like Laine, but as I’ve said a million times you NEED a centre like Matthews to win, you don’t NEED a guy like Laine. Matthews will come in as one of the most polished all around 1st overall picks. His talent isn’t up there with McDavid, but he’s
2. Patrik Laine Tappara SM-Liiga
Pos: RW Ht: 6’4 Wt: 206 Shot: R
Comparison: Ilya Kovalchuk
CHILL with the Ovechkin comparisons! He’s damn good, but other players have played this style not just Ovechkin. Everyone is in love with him and Puljujarvi, but it is a must you keep in mind that teams simply do not win with these wingers. Everyone always falls in love with them. Rick Nash, Kovalchuk, Thomas Vanek, 3 years ago some were clamouring for Valeri Nichushkin to go as high as 2nd overall. The myth is that these players can do it all and will be unstoppable. The fact is that they are so physically gifted that they’ve never had to think the game. And if they could think the game at a high level, they would be centre’s, not wingers. It doesn’t mean they can’t learn to think it, but that is a talent too. I hope they both have a 2 way game like Marian Hossa, but most wingers of this ilk never become more defensively then they have to be. Having said all this, there are a limited amount of players in the league who have a shot like his, and even less who have a one timer like his. Ovechkin, Stamkos, Subban, Burns, maybe a few others but those are the ones that come to mind and the point is there are VERY few. He moves up to 2nd on my list more because of Chychrun proving to be less of a sure thing in my mind, and it’s something I’m guilty of forgetting when ranking these kids is that a players certainty needs to be kept in mind.
3. Pierre-Luc Dubois Cape Breton QMJHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’2.5 Wt: 202 Shot: L
Comparison: Shane Doan
I love my power forwards and I love my centres. So all season I was of the understanding that Dubois, one of my favourites, was projecting as a LW. I knew he played some centre, but didn’t know it was a lot. Kyle Woodlief from the Redline Report however says Dubois is a full fledged centre and won’t have a problem playing the middle. So that, combined with his continued tremendous play this season, has him shooting up my rankings yet again. And Bob McKenzie said it, Dubois plays a pro style game. For me, that’s huge. That means he’s willing to get his nose dirty and go to the tough area’s on the ice. Really has no holes in his game, just doesn’t have a skill that he possess at an elite level. Then again, that might be his competitiveness. Call me nuts, but I’m taking the do it all centre over the highly skilled winger. And even if Dubois ends up only playing the wing, while he likely won’t have the points Puljuarvi will have, he’ll be more of a player teams crave. Think Toews v Kane, not that either play like them, but I would take Toews over Kane anyday of the week.
4. Jesse Puljujarvi Karpat SM-Liiga
Pos: RW Ht: 6’3.5 Wt: 203 Shot: R
Comparison: Jakub Voracek
I decided to come up with a new comparison since Craig Button and Damian Cox were both using Blake Wheeler, but you get the idea. A winger who can carry a line and has a great all around game. Anyway, like Laine, Puljujarvi is a stud prospect whom my only concern is being able to think and process the game, because he has all the tools imaginable just like Laine. Make no mistake though they do play different games. Puljujarvi uses his size and will lean on defenders much like Peter Forsberg used to do, but don’t expect him to ever put anyone on their ass.
Pos: LW Ht: 6’1 Wt: 195 Shot: L
Comparison: Andrew Ladd
He’s more of a playmaker than the old man was, and he’s a little smaller than the old man was, but that’s about it. The game is pretty damn similar. Unlike Laine and Puljujarvi, he’s going to do it with grit and toughness just as much as skill. He’s the type of winger who is the exception to my rule, because this type is nearly impossible to find. In the 90’s, every team had 1 or 2 guys like this. Today, I’m not sure there are 3 guys like that in the league.
Pos: D Ht: 6’2 Wt: 215 Shot: L
Comparison: Rob Blake
He’s been over scouted, without a doubt. He had nowhere to go but down this season, yet he still had a great year, just not a year that left scouts wanting to see more. And at the end of the day you still have to look at what the upside is, and it’s incredible. 6’2, 215, Craig Button calls him the best skater in the draft, high IQ, can run a PP, has a big shot (loves to use it too), plays mean in his own zone, there is nothing this kid doesn’t bring to the table. Chychrun has the tools to do it all in every situation. I feel like Juolevi and Bean have limitations, Sergachev is a Russian and the fact is Russian players are massive wildcards in the draft.
7. Mikhail Sergachev Windsor OHL
Pos: D Ht: 6’2.5 Wt: 206 Shot: L
Comparison: Dougie Hamilton
As much as I love Chychrun, the only thing that separates him and Sergachev is that historically it is a higher bust rate with Russians. There really isn’t anything different with the way either guy plays the game. Both great size, both LH shots, both play physical, both are terrific skaters, both love to shoot the puck, both can move it well, they’re just very similar in skill sets.
Pos: D Ht: 6’2.5 Wt: 179 Shot: L
Comparison: Oliver Ekman-Larsson
He’s closing the gap on Chychrun for most people. For me however, I still like the all world guy better, and the offensive numbers are very similar. Still, should Juolevi end up near the level of Ekman-Larsson…whoever picks him won’t be complaining! Smooth skater, great breakout pass, great stick defensively and takes great angles. Offensively he’s just so smooth. Walks the line as good as any 18 year old you’ll see, and his passing ability is elite.
9. Michael McLeod Mississuaga OHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’2 Wt: 188 Shot: R
Comparison: Ryan Kesler
I still like McLeod better than most, because I just fully believe you win in the NHL with a kid like McLeod. Can play in any situation, size, RH shot, this is the type of centre every team craves. Unlikely he becomes a number 1 guy, but a great number 2 guy, and even if he doesn’t meet expectations he’s still going to be a valuable guy to have. I realize he had a poor U18’s, but it’s 1 tournament. Much like Dubois I believe he plays more of a pro game that will translate very well and leave a lot of teams and scouts looking foolish. And if I’m wrong….I’ve been wrong before and I’ll be wrong again.
Pos: D Ht: 6’1 Wt: 173 Shot: L
Comparison: Tyson Barrie
He continues to be a riser in this draft. He put up great numbers, but there is just a lot of work to be done. Still though, the numbers are absurd for playing in the WHL as an 18 year old D-man. 64 points in 68 games. I worry about his defensive game, and it’s simplistic to say that can be learned. It can, but the player has to want to learn it. In a way though he looks to be a very safe pick because even if he can’t be reliable defensively, that didn’t hurt a kid like Gostisbehere this season. If you can run a PP like that, all is forgiven elsewhere.
11. Clayton Keller USA NTDP USHL
Pos: C Ht: 5’9.5 Wt: 168 Shot: L
Comparison: Tyler Ennis
Corey Pronman has Keller 4th on his list. Pronman….I listen to what he has to say and respect his opinion, but man we just see things different. Not to speak for him, but he seems to base everything completely on point projections on the next level. I prefer players who’ll have the biggest impact on the team and that doesn’t always show up on the stat box. If it’s a perfect situation, then it makes sense to draft him. But rarely does a team ever have a need for a 5’9, sub 170 pound centre. Also, while other area’s of the game can be taught, I think some scouts get caught up in that and simply assume the player will learn, but he has to be willing to do it. I’ve softened my stance on him a bit as you can see by my ranking this time around, but I still just look at players like Keller as final pieces to the puzzle, and teams drafting in the top 10 normally need to finish building the house before they buy the 60 inch 4K TV.
12. Alexander Nylander Mississuaga OHL
Pos: RW Ht: 6’0.5 Wt: 179 Shot: R
Comparison: Milan Hejduk
Nylander is the same deal as Keller. We aren’t talking about him having Patrick Kane type talent. And again, I don’t HATE Nyalnder at all, an extremely talented kid who can put up a lot of points in the NHL. But I wouldn’t take him top 10 in this draft unless you have a situation similar to the Jets in 2014 when they took a similar guy in Nik Ehlers. They were pretty loaded everywhere and had grit and size, so that’s where it made sense. There are teams who can really use a guy like Nylander, like Keller, I just would want to make damn sure I had the more important holes filled first.
Pos: C Ht: 6’6 Wt: 222 Shot: L
Comparison: Nick Bjugstad
I’m proud that I had Brown higher than most back when I did the first list, and he proved me right at the U18’s. He and Jost really separated from Kunin at that tournament (in my eyes, though Kunin obviously wasn’t at the U18’s) and Rubtsov but that could be a messy situation for the Russian. Anyway, no chance NHL teams won’t love the package that is Logan Brown. This kid can SKATE despite his massive size! That is tough to pass up if you need a centre. Could be up there with McLeod, but for me right now even though McLeod is smaller he still has real good size and is quicker, maybe plays a grittier game. But obviously with this size Brown gives a team literally a lot to work with.
Pos: C Ht: 5’11 Wt: 191 Shot: L
Comparison: Claude Giroux
He answered the doubts I had about him. I still don’t like him as much as Brown for the pro’s, not just because Brown is so much bigger but I have a tough time loving centre’s under 6’0. But Jost is a kid that can play in any situation. I won’t be shocked if he exceeds this ranking and becomes a number 1 centre at some point in his career. So then why have him ranked here and McLeod ranked 9th? Because at the end of the day Jost isn’t as big, isn’t as fast, and might end up being put on the wing in his career. Just a little more doubt with Jost in my eyes. Loved what I saw in Grand Forks though.
15. Dante Fabbro Penticton BCHL
Pos: D Ht: 6’0 Wt: 189 Shot: R
Comparison: Kevin Shattenkirk
Same deal as Jost, the teammates answered a lot of my concerns at the U18’s. Fabbro was outstanding, and even though he isn’t THAT big he plays a very complete game. Add to that, he and Charlie McAvoy are the only 2 D-men…at least as of late April, who are RH shots that could go in the 1st round.
16. Charlie McAvoy Boston University NCAA
Pos: D Ht: 6’1 Wt: 208 Shot: R
Comparison: Keith Yandle
Full disclosure, I get sick of doing write up’s on a lot of the D-men who come out of the USHL/NCAA. They are all SO similar. Smooth skating, puck movers who have big questions about playing in traffic and playing with the type of toughness it takes to play in the NHL. Now don’t get me wrong, we see a LOT of Canadian D-men like this, European D-men like this, but the States produce a ton of the same type of D-man. McAvoy is one of these guys. Does a great job quarterbacking the PP, does a nice job of jumping in the play when the time is right, and while he’s not physical he takes good angles and has a good stick.
Pos: D Ht: 6’0 Wt: 177 Shot: L
Comparison: Matt Niskanen
Massive jump! And again, I might be just being very biased. But Clague has just gotten better and better as the season has gone on. His game elevated after the prospects game, elevated even more when the playoffs began. He has maybe been the Wheat Kings best player in the playoffs. Remember, they have Ivan Provorov, Nolan Patrick, etc. Again I’ll say, he has a ways to go with his defensive game, but he is back on track after a rough start to the season that saw his draft ranking plummet.
18. Julien Gauthier Val d’Or QMJHL
Pos: RW Ht: 6’3.5 Wt: 225 Shot: R
Comparison: James Neal
Upside is great, but the motor is the big question with this kid and a lot of kids seemingly keep passing him on the rankings. I still can’t help but think how valuable he’s going to be if he puts it together. For this comparison I completely admit I’m echoing what Craig Button said. The comparison to Neal is just spot on. He won’t put guys on their ass very often, but he is great down low and on the wall, has real good wheels and an awesome shot.
Pos: LW Ht: 6’3 Wt: 205 Shot: L
Comparison: Scott Mellanby
Much like with the other power forwards, I love how Jones game SHOULD translate. Also, it has to be tough for him in London playing behind so many guys like Marner, Tkachuk, Dvorak, etc. He plays an old school power forward game, he has a nasty streak. Combine that with the way he can skate and shoot, I have to think he’ll be capable down the line of being a complimentary top 6 player. Not a driver of a line, but a perfect guy to pair with your skilled players.
Pos: C Ht: 6’0 Wt: 193 Shot: R
Comparison: Derek Stepan
He falls by a spot, but it is not to do with me liking him any less than I did. Plays a very smart game. I don’t know if I like a comparison better than Kunin to Stepan and while I did come up with that, I’m sure I can’t be the only one making this comparison. Great speed, great shot, and a great motor (I’m using motor now instead of compete level, easier to type). He’ll be one of the safer picks in this draft.
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