We’re just over a quarter way through the junior hockey season, and the tiers of prospects are sorting themselves out. With Nolan Patrick and Timothy Liljegren suffering injuries early on this year, I couldn’t justify swapping Liljegren with Patrick or Vilardi simply because it wouldn’t make sense. I do think Vilardi begins his push for the top spot and will likely end up going there when it’s all said and done, but we’ll see how things play out. Outside of the top three, Nico Hischier has been dominant and is currently tied for second in QMJHL scoring with 34 points. Callan Foote isn’t necessarily falling, but it’s pretty clear he’s not the guy to puch for a top five spot unless he has a great end to the season. Owen Tippett has been scoring at a very good pace, recording 16 goals in only 19 games. Tippett isn’t the only Steelhead impressing early as Nicolas Hague has been a strong producer from the back end, and at 6’6 he could be a big riser by draft day.
1. Timothy Liljegren (RD) – Rogle BK (SHL)
2. Nolan Patrick (C) – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
3. Gabe Vilardi (C) – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
4. Casey Mittelstadt (C) – Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
5. Owen Tippett (RW) – Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
6. Max Comtois (C/LW) – Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)
7. Kristian Vesalainen (LW) – Frolunda HC (SHL)
8. Kailer Yamamoto (LW/C) – Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
9. Nic Hague (LD) – Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
10. Eeli Tolvanen (LW) – Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
11. Klim Kostin (RW) – Dynamo Balashikha (VHL)
12. Lias Andersson (LW/C) – HV71 (SHL)
13. Michael Rasmussen (C) – Tri City Americans (WHL)
14. Callan Foote (RD) – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
15. Elias Pettersson (C) – Timra IK (Allsvenskan)
16. Ryan Poehling (C) St. Cloud St. University (NCAA)
17. Nico Hischier (RW) – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
18. Nikita Popugayev (RW) – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
19. Martin Necas (LW) – HC Kometa Brno (Czech)
20. Cale Makar (RD) – Brooks Bandits (AJHL)
21. Shane Bowers (C) – Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL)
22. Scott Reedy (C) – U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)
23. Urho Vaakanainen (LD) – JYP (Liiga)
24. Jake Oettinger (G) – Boston University (NCAA)
25. Luke Martin (RD) – University of Michigan (NCAA)
26. Erik Brannstrom (LD) – HV71 (SHL)
27. Sasha Chmelevski (C) – Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
28. Marcus Davidsson (C) – Djurgardens IF (SHL)
29. Matthew Strome (LW) – Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
30. Jesper Boqvist (RW) – Brynas IF (SHL)
31. Samuel Bucek (LW) – Shawinigan Cateractes (QMJHL)
Since being drafted in 2010, Philipp Grubauer has been one of the more consistent young goalies in both the NHL and AHL. Through 45 career NHL games, Grubauer has yet to finish below a .915 save percentage. The majority of Grubauer’s professional time has been spent in Hershey, where he played 105 games and recorded a .919 save percentage throughout his AHL career. Due to the fact Brayden Holtby won’t be giving up the crease anytime soon, it’s possible we see Grubauer on the move to Las Vegas during the expansion draft as the Caps will be unable to protect his rights.
Getting a scouts attention is one thing, but being able to hold that attention throughout the course of a 60 minute game is something else entirely. Nikita Soshnikov is one of those rare cases. Perhaps I saw him on a good night, but the consistent intensity he brought on a shift to shift basis is something that few players are able to do, and is something that all aspiring hockey players should look to add to their arsenal. The 23 year old winger plays a very quick* game, and given the speed and puck skills he possesses, Id bet he becomes a 40-50 point player in the very near future. Soshnikov currently sits with one goal and one assist through five NHL games.
Quick* Game: The term can be interpreted differently, so when I say a player plays a “quick game” what I’m describing is a combination of foot speed, intensity, and quick hands. Patrick Kane and Joe Pavelski are great examples of what it means to possess a quick game or quick style.
The Edmonton Oil King blue liner recently fell out of our top 30 rankings, however after a fairly strong start in November, you will likely see him back next month. We had high expectations for Brayden heading into the season after a strong outing at the U18 camp this summer, however he struggled in nearly every aspect of the game through the first quarter of the schedule. Though he still has much to work on, Gorda has been better in November, showing the promise we saw towards the end of last season and into the summer. What I didn’t like about his game when he was struggling was the lack of intensity and awareness he showed, especially in the defensive zone. He also seemed timid at times, opting to make difficult passes over rushing the puck, something he can do very well.
After completing two games in Utica, Jake Virtanen still sits with only one point in 12 games this season. He was rushed to the NHL far too early, and should have been left in the WHL during the 2015/16 season. Jake Virtanen is not a “bust”, rather a victim of poor management, something that may hurt him in the long run. Virtanen brings a lot to the table including speed, size, and an innate offensive IQ, and if I were to put some money on the line I would bet he becomes an effective top six forward down the line. Due to his perceived declining value, I believe Jake Virtanen would provide excellent value to any team willing to trade a first round pick plus for his services if the opportunity came up. We’ve seen stranger things happen in Vancouver.
The Leafs top three scorers are under 20 years old and it seems as though the rebuild will be over within the next two years. It’s not just that they’re putting up points, but they’re putting up dominant shifts against strong competition. With the trio leading the way offensively (which is unbelievable), as well as Morgan Rielly on the back end and Freddy Andersen between the pipes, the Leafs have a strong base which they will continue to build off of. Heading into the draft the team should have their eyes set on Timothy Liljegren as they have been unable to bring in a top flight right handed defenceman, and as we’ve seen in Edmonton that position is extremely valuable. They’re a fun team to follow simply because they built this squad from scratch and it will be exciting to see where they are five years down the road.
I said Sam Steel would break out offensively this year and he’s done just that. Steel currently leads the WHL with 16 goals and 18 assists through only 15 games. Anaheim got an excellent player and really it’s not a surprise if you’ve ever had the chance to watch him play. Behind Sam sits four draft eligible prospects in Mason Shaw, Cody Glass, Kailer Yamamoto, and Nikita Popugayev, with draft eligibles Michael Rasmussen and Skyler McKenzie in the eight and nine spot, making it six draft eligibles in the top ten. The most impressive point producer within the group of six is Cody Glass, who after what I believed was a rough outing at the U18 camp, bounced back in a major way. The goal scoring ability of Glass has really helped Skyler McKenzie in terms of draft stock as the two have been a dynamic tandem for the Winterhawks. Also impressing early on in the WHL season is Regina’s import draft pick and Sens prospect Filip Ahl who currently has 24 points in 17 games. Oil Kings defenceman Aaron Irving leads the Kings in scoring with 23 points and may very well be a player who is moved near the deadline for picks, and may end up signing an ELC like Macoy Erkamps did last season.
Carolina is an interesting team to follow. They always seem to stay competitive even if their team on paper looks like a team contending for the first overall pick. They have a strong defensive group coming up, and the Aho/Teravainen duo may carry them far in the future.
Tanner Kaspick (STL) and Michael Spacek (WPG) are two of the best players in the WHL and fall in the category of underrated prospects. Both have a future in the NHL, however I think it’s Kaspick who has the longer career.
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