Whether it’s Jakub Vrana rising to 13, or Ivan Barbashev falling out of the first round, one thing is for certain; the NHL entry draft can go any way imaginable.
There’s no way to predict the first round with 100% accuracy, and there’s a few factors that play into why that’s not possible. First off, teams have vastly different draft lists. This was evident in 2013 when the Sharks traded away their 20th pick along with a second rounder in order to get a player whom many believed would still be there at 20. Did they make the right call in jumping up and grabbing Mirco Mueller? That’s still up for debate, but as for now he’s looking like a top 15 guy from that year. Another large factor that plays into the rise and fall of a prospect is the information that comes out mere days before the draft. Though lists are finalized prior to the draft, the investigation doesn’t stop until the team finally drafts the player. The hockey world is small, and information can be easy to attain given you have the proper credentials and networks.
This year is full of players who have the potential to go anywhere from the first to fourth round. That’s a huge gap, but when you look at players like Ryan Pilon, Dennis Yan, and Nicholas Roy, you can see why different services and independent scouts have these guys ranked all over the place. It would be quite surprising to see a player like Pilon drop into the 4th, and though I’m not a fan of his, there’s something to be said for projects with potential.
Now looking at the possible risers or fallers who are ranked in the first few rounds, there are a few names that stick out:
– Denis Guryanov: The speedy Russian winger wowed scouts at the U-18’s. He showed his ability to be a burner on the outside and wasn’t afraid to drive the net. He’s a fiery guy who has good offensive capabilities. He’s ranked in the top 10 by The Redline Report, and could very well be a top 10 pick.
– Colin White: Much like Guryanov, White had a very impressive showing at the U-18’s. At the beginning of the season, White was a consensus top 10 player, but after a rocky start he saw his stock begin to slide. He wasn’t a point per game player this season, but still put up an impressive 71 points in 74 games (USHL and USDP combined) I would love to see a team take him in the top 14.
– Jacob Larsson: It’s not so much the fact he played 20 games in the SHL, rather the points he put up in the U20 program are more than impressive for this 6’2 left shot defender. Larsson has an underrated physical edge to his game but by no means is he a stay at home defenceman. He’s a brutish, two way offensive defenceman. Many services have him around 30, but in my opinion he’s a top 25 guy.
– Jansen Harkins: I fell in love with Jansen Harkins during a preseason game in St. Albert, Alberta, when he went dad to head with Adam Musil. Not only does he have elite playmaking ability, he thinks the game at another level. It was clear this season he was the best Cougar, and in terms of an NHL career I believe he will be able to fill in a second line center spot.
– Jake Debrusk: I believe it to be true that Jake Debrusk watched his father at an early age and decided to do the complete opposite. Though the fiery nature of Louie lives inside of him, Jake adopted the pure offensive side of the game from somewhere else. He put up an impressive 42 goals for Swift, and after playing in the Top Prospects game, returned with a ton of confidence. If there’s going to be an unexpected riser into the top 15, its Jake.
Other notable risers include Noah Juulsen, Vince Dunn, Filip Ahl, Julius Nattinen, Parker Wotherspoon, Christian Jaros, and Nikita Korostelev.
– Lawson Crouse: I’m a fan of his game and hope all the best for Lawson in the future, but the boom or bust potential is there. We’ve seen power forwards who were taken early before wash out rather quickly, and it’s possible Crouse suffers the same fate. Personally, I like Crouse, and I think his stats tell an interesting story.
– Kyle Connor: Some services have Connor ranked as high as 5 but I really don’t see it. Like Crouse, Connor’s stats are intriguing. I’ve looked into it a bit, and though I can’t claim to have done a ton of research on the subject, I couldn’t find a USHL player who put up numbers as good as his in the past 5 years. He’s a bit of a wildcard and it will be interesting to see where he goes.
– Paul Bittner: I’ve been high on Bittner all season, but he has shown some signs that leave me second guessing him. He has a lot of raw tools like size, defensive ability, and skating, but the inconsistency he’s shown is a bit of a red flag. Some people, including myself have said he looks like the next Max Pacioretty, but in order for that to come to fruition he has to do what he does best on a more consistent basis.
– Jakub Zboril: Throughout the season Zboril has seen a good chunk of among the top half of the first round prospects. He brings a sort of nastiness scouts and GM’s love. The one thing I have a problem with is when he’s labelled an offensive defenceman. He did put up 33 points this season, but doesn’t necessarily have elite offensive instincts. He’s a mean two way defenceman, who will be an NHL’er, but may not bring the offence many hope for.
– Gabriel Carlsson: Though I do see Carlsson going near where he is projected (30-40ish) I think he’s a guy who could fall a bit further, possibly into the 50’s. He didn’t have a bad season, in fact I was rather impressed that he saw time in the SHL, but the fact that he’s projecting to be a stay at home defenceman. It’s possible he ends up similar to a Dennis Seidenberg, but in today’s NHL, I believe it’s safer to go after good puck moving D who can jump up in the rush.
A few other potential fallers to keep an eye out for are Nicholas Roy, Travis Dermott, Jordan Greenway, Guillaume Brisebois, Graham Knott, Vladislav Gavrikov, and Ryan Pilon.
There’s a few notable players who have a large trajectory in terms of where they could go. Some, such as Barzal in the first round could go anywhere from pick 4 to pick 14. Here’s a few guys to watch for who fall into the “wildcard” category.
– Mathew Barzal: After an injury plagued season, Barzal showcased his skill at the U-18’s putting up an impressive 12 points in 7 games. Barzal is an offensive catalyst who can pass the puck like few others in the league. He sees the ice extremely well, and in my opinion is poised to dominate as a 19 year old. At the next level, he’s a really good second line center who may push for the number one spot, similar to Logan Couture.
– Yevgeni Svechnikov: The nearly 6’4 Russian forward burst out of the gate during his first year in North America and finished up with 78 points in 55 games. He needs some work on his defensive play, and maybe needs to find a way to keep himself engaged for all 60 minutes, but Svechnikov has some great tools to work with. He takes pride in his shooting as he has a deadly one timer, and his ability to get into open space means he’s usually able to get a few on net each game. He’s usually listed as a left wing, but he did play the majority of the season on the right side, and ended the year at center.
– Brock Boeser: The Waterloo winger had a good campaign offensively recording 68 points in 57 games. He’s committed to North Dakota for next season and should be nearly a point per game as a freshman. He’s drawn comparisons to Patrick Sharp, primarily due to his ability to hold his own in the defensive end. He’s not a defensive player by any stretch, but rarely does he make a mistake in his own end. His best tool, like Svechnikov, is his shot. He can beat goalies at point blank range and that’s reflected on his stats page as he put up 35 goals. At the NHL level, I see a bit of a Beau Bennett curve. A very good third liner who can be a second line player.
– Oliver Kylington: No one has slipped this season like Oliver. A consensus top 5 pick at the beginning of the year, Kylington fell consistently month to month. He has all the tools, they’re just not put together. For a team looking at a project with extreme upside, look no further. He skates like the wind and sees the ice extremely well. His defensive zone coverage, though highly criticized, isn’t as bad as many say. He does need some work putting all of his tools together, and rounding out his game, so a team like Tampa Bay may be the best fit.
– Brandon Carlo: For the majority of the year Carlo sat in the 20th to 24th spot for most services. It was only recently we began to see him fall out of the top 30. Though many services and scouts have him out of the top 30 in terms of rankings, he’s almost always gone in the first round when you look at mock drafts. He’s 6’5, nearly 200 pounds. With a frame like that you have to consider him an option no matter where you’re drafting. Though he could fall to 35 maybe even 40, I could see him being the surprise of the draft and going in the top 20.
Other wildcards include Travis Konecny, Timo Meier, Daniel Sprong, Anthony Beauvillier, Alexander Dergachyov, Matthew Spencer, Conor Garland, Rodrigo Abols and Erik Cernak.
And finally, a player who may be a riser, may fall, and is definitely the most highly debated prospects: Jeremy Bracco. I have to admit, I have absolutely zero clue where he may end up. He has the skill and skating ability to be a top 15 pick, but the size is such a glaring issue. You have to take a step back and look at the success he’s had at every single level and ask yourself “why not the NHL?” Bracco tore apart the USDP this season, stole the show at the U-18s with the tournament winning assist, and even put up 32 points in 24 USHL games (also a +20 which is odd, but says a lot). The Boston College commit has dominated offensively at every level he’s played at, so he may very well be the gem of the draft. I feel as though a team already deep in prospects (Anaheim, Tampa Bay, or Winnipeg) NEED to take a shot on Bracco as he could be an offensive dynamo for years to come.