All the players have a drop down menu to read more about them, and their names are clickable to EP profiles. Go ahead and click around! It is many, many hours of scouting, writing and tweaking. Enjoy!
TIER 1 - "Number One With a Bullet" (1)
What else can be said about Bedard that isn't on every single scouting ranking that you've already read. Elite shot, dangerous playmaker, processes the game so fast that even for somehow who watches a ton of junior and minor hockey, I often can't figure out his next move until he makes it. Every time I watch another prospect I think about how Bedard is a better prospect. That sounds rude, and it most definitely is, but how damn good Bedard is right now is downright rude. He's going to be a superstar within 2 years in the NHL. There was a really interesting video on Bedard from the Eliteprospects.com folks here. I like this video because it demonstrates a hidden quality about Bedard, how he uses the threat of his own skills to convince players to make bad plays. Yes Bedard has excellent hands, passing skills and one of the deadliest shots in a prospect in awhile, but how he uses them is even more impressive. He knows his shot is a threat, so he uses that threat to force defenders to get out of passing lanes to block him, and he slips a pass through the open ice to a teammate. He knows that his handling skills can force defenders back and create space, even if he himself isn't going to get around them. His threatening attack style is amazing to watch because of his fearlessness to attack defenders, forcing them to make a move, and then capitalizing on that threat. It is manipulation that is unseen at this level.
TIER 2 - "Not-Bedard but Damn-good Tier" (2-3)
If you haven't been keeping up with Fantilli after the WJC's in the winter, he has burned down the NCAA in his freshman year. His PPG rate rivaled Paul Kariya's in his draft year. He's a remarkably complete player already possessing a high-level shot, excellent playmaking skills, and a heads-up and aggressive style of play. His mind for transition is far above even the college level, and he is no slouch defensively either. My only concern with him is just how stubborn he can be. He occasionally forgets to make the smart play and forces a hope pass, or tries to bully his way to the net when he doesn't have to. I think most, and myself included, think this will iron itself out as he reaches the NHL likely next year, but it's something to keep an eye on. He projects as a #1C at the NHL level, and there's little doubt to me anyways that he'll reach that projection. His overall size, skating talent, skills and position make him the 2nd most valuable asset to grab in this draft.
I am just going to toot my own horn here, as my first ranking had Michkov here at 3, while others were doing crazy things like dropping him out of the top 5. Then he went ahead and dropped a 5 point game and a Michigan goal in the KHL and people turned their brains on again. One of my biggest pet peeves with scouting is how easy it is for people to forget, so here's a recanting of his pre-draft journey: After recording the highest ever PPG in a draft-1 MHL season (after he had outscored Connor fucking Bedard in the 2021 WJC U-18 tournament), people doubted him. They hated his style of play, how he would shoot from anywhere on the ice, and his over-reliance on below the goal-line bankshots and fancy tricks. Somehow, even after scoring 14 points in 12 VHL games in his draft year (a rate which has never been done before), people hated. They said it wasn't because he was Russian, it was his style of play and how untranslatable it would be past the VHL level. He followed that up by sitting with the highest PPG in the KHL ever for a draft eligible skater, above that of Ovechkin, Malkin and Tarasenko, on the absolute worst KHL team possibly in the league's history. He also again dropped 5 points in a KHL game, which I can say with almost near certainty has never happened for a draft eligible. I watched almost every game of Michkov's with Sochi, and 2-3 VHL games. He's really, really, really good. He's deceptive with his skating and his movements up the ice that fool KHL defenders. His shot needs no fluffing up. It's excellent. His spacing to find that shot is even more advanced. He's developing a playmaking game but this still has some ways to go. He'll frequently launch area passes that are ill-advised, or just not put the right touch on passes to his teammates. He's doing more work along the boards to retrieve pucks. There are warts, and his contract is the biggest wart of them all, but for a rebuilding team, who cares? Draft him if you don't get Bedard or Fantilli. Wait and accumulate some complementary players for him over the next couple years. When he arrives, he's going to make waves in the NHL. Michkov has done everything and more to prove he's in the same tier as Fantilli and a clear #3 in my mind. If there was no Russian factor (no oppressive war, no oppressive contract) there would be legit Bedard vs. Michkov debates on TSN nightly. Search your feelings, you know it to be true.
TIER 3 - "Consolation Prizes of All Consolation Prizes" (4-6)
I first noticed Carlsson while watching the summer Four Nations tournament (there's a post about it here!). He stood out immediately in that tournament for his ability to transition the puck with speed, find space, and create using his shot. With his size at 6'3" and a productive SHL season finishing up, there are serious talks about him in the top 3 of this draft. He's very solid overall and with some refinement to his physical play and defensive work he has a very high likelihood to become a top six winger or possibly center (he's been playing primarily wing in the SHL). He gets a little puck focused in the defensive zone and opens himself up to being passed through a lot. His production has been hit or miss especially at even strength, as one might expect from such a young player in a men's league. I originally had Carlsson as low as 5, but I watched more of his late-season play and moved him up. He became more confident with the puck every time I watched him, and his playoffs were excellent for his age. His playmaking has come a long way since the beginning of the year as well. He started to delay, use his frame and handling skill to shield pucks and find teammates with passes. If he goes back to the SHL next year, he's probably going to score a point per game and step into the NHL the year after. He has every tool an NHL club could ask for and I think that puts him at the top of this very small tier. With that being said it is its own tier in my eyes. Bedard, Michkov and Fantilli had near superstar and generational draft seasons. Carlsson had a star draft season. It goes to show just how deep this draft is. Carlsson did turn the heat on just a bit as his World Championship was outstanding for a player his age. He looked very comfortable playing center, which may drive him into top 3 territory for many teams.
I think Smith has serious boom or bust potential. Will Smith was extremely productive in the USDP this year, with a >2.0 PPG average, then he followed that up with one of the most productive U18's ever with 20 points, 1 short of Nikita Kucherov's record. Will Smith is a creative and exciting playmaker. He's one of the most deceptive playmaking forwards on this list, baiting his opponents into attack and slipping passes under their sticks, or faking a shot and passing between their legs. Rinse and repeat. He's got a heck of a shot as well and also displays some fun sneakiness with this (for more on Smith and the USDP crowd click here!). His handling skills are so impressive. He's one of the few forwards on this list, or in any draft that can see the ice will look like 2 plays ahead before he makes his move. Not, makes move, then sees teammate for pass. No. He makes his moves because the teammate will become open after he makes said move. It's a subtle skill that separates junior playmakers from NHL ones. His defensive involvement can lag at times. He's not the most effective retriever at either end of the ice. He's got an average overall skating ability, and he had, at least earlier on this year, a nasty habit of just trying to deke through 3-4 skaters and losing the puck. That won't fly even at his next destination, Boston College and the NCAA. While I think the above is overcomeable, I originally had him as low as 6 because of the above. He's moved up just a tad to 5 now, and is highly likely to be selected by my beloved Sharks. There is definite #1C upside here, and I think it's worth the gamble, but will still be a little salty about missing out on Michkov.
Benson is almost a perfect hockey player. That seems overdramatic but after having watched Benson both this year and last year on the Winnipeg Ice, he's been their best player almost every night. This includes above teammates such as former 9th overall Matt Savoie, and 11th overall Conor Geekie. Benson is an extremely skilled skater, with excellent four-way mobility, even if the absolute top speed isn't high-end. He uses his skating, hands, and mind to steal pucks and create in split-seconds. For his size, he's an outrageously skilled forechecker. For his skill level and production, he's very involved defensively. As a Sharks fan, this pains me to say, but he reminds me of a better William Eklund. Take him, wait a couple years, and he'll very likely be on your top 2 lines LW spot.
I think he perfectly rounds out this tier of players. I originally had him as high as 4, and while he has slipped a little, I think the evaluation is the same. He had an injury late that has taken a bit to recover from, and he hasn't looked as dangerous in the playoff games I've watched of him. While others like Smith and Carlsson were soaring, he has mostly just stayed the same. Still though, if I'm at six and he's here, there's no doubt in my mind I'd take him if the above options are gone. This tier has players that I think would be first or second overalls in most draft years besides this one and 2015.
TIER 4 - "Top Five In Any Other Year" (7-12)
Ryan Leonard has a certain confidence to him that is hard to quantify. He's part of the best line in junior hockey, Perreault-Smith-Leonard. He plays a very effective puck-protection game, able to shield off defenders using his frame, even if he isn't the biggest guy at 5'11". He's got a powerful lower body, and a heck of a shot, able to pick corners with ease. He actually will display some high level playmaking as well when he isn't shooting. He's effective on the boards as well. He's physical, commanding and plays bigger than his size. In any other draft year he would be top five, which is kind of the theme of this tier. I guess maybe he doesn't have the game-breaking ability of some of the other forwards, and it is difficult to parse out how much of his line's success is from him or Smith just being really, really good. I think one day though he finds a home in the middle/top of a lineup for a team given his physical tools, shooting skills, and overall smarts. He also now owns a fancy gold medal from the U18s, after an excellent shift in overtime, capped off with him powering his shot through Sweden's goalie.
This draft is full of good forwards. Really good forwards. Reinbacher is the best defenseman. That doesn't mean a team should take Reinbacher or any other defenseman above the top 6-7 names on this list. Just wanted to make that clear. I think Reinbacher is a very, very solid bet to play top-4 minutes in the NHL, and that chance is a lot higher than most of the defensemen in this draft. He's a big, mobile, right-shot defenseman who is able to create simple and effective offense with the puck on his stick. He can get his shot on net from range and use it to create rebounds. He keeps his head up in transition and has excellent pass accuracy. He plays a mature and simple style that allows him to use his size and mobility to push play. His retrievals are excellent, able to anticipate before he grabs the puck where he needs to go next. I watched him play some difficult minutes in his zone this season, then be the one who finally gets the puck out, and skates off after making sure his team is set up for the attack. Did I mention he's doing all this playing 20 minutes a night in the Swiss men's league as a draft eligible? His draft year production is just a hair behind JJ Moser's draft+3 season, a player who stepped right into the NHL the year after he was taken as a way overager by the Coyotes. I think there's some knock on Reinbacher that he isn't flashy and isn't as skilled or fast as some of the other defensemen in this draft. I just don't think it matters. He's very likely to play high up in the lineup in the NHL, and at #8 that's what a team is going to want. I think there's a chance he goes above Benson and Leonard, but personally that wouldn't be my play.
While at the U20 level, Dvorsky had the skill level and speed to just challenge defenders one-on-one, or beat players to loose pucks in the corner, or simply bully people off the puck and do what he wants with it. He didn't find that space in the HockeyAllsvenskan and had a tendency to fade at that level occasionally. Still though what he does well is undeniable and after an absolutely electric U18s, I think he's going top 10. He's quick, plays a chaotic game of back and forth hockey, has quick-twitch offense built in and is able to make the simple play faster than you can blink. He's got a heavy shot, and can compete for loose pucks really well. There have been multiple articles out about how he's a perfect "grinder" at the NHL level. In some ways sure, but it does seem to be underselling his offense a bit. I think the most interesting route for a team to take next year would be the AHL, if possible. Gives him a chance to play on a smaller ice, where his physical play may shine, and develop against competition closer to his skill level. He has steadily worked up this list for me, and I want to feel rock-solid about my top 10. That's why he's here, because I believe he's a rock-solid option here, one with top six upside.
I was a little down on ASP, but after his U18s I think he showed just how far ahead he is of every other defender not named Reinbacher in this class. He has excellent mobility which drives most of his game, and is able to skate the puck out even at the SHL level. He has some good outlet passes and a decent but not spectacular shot. He has some issues with gapping up his attackers that I think can be ironed out, and he can get caught in the corners not being able to take pucks off attackers given his size. His projection is mostly based on his smarts and his skating. With enough time, there a top 4 defender here for sure, it just may take a bit to work the defense out enough to play huge minutes in the NHL and let his carrying talents shine.
Andrew Cristall tore up the WHL this year, but then had a slightly unproductive playoff and U18s. Concerns have started to be raised with his style of play, size and skating that I think are legitimate gripes. However. However. He's an excellent playmaker, able to thread passes through multiple defenders and use his hands to manipulate defenders. He possesses a really underrated shot as well. He's lacking ideal size, ideal speed, and his overall defensive impact is questionable. He's a project, but one that is worth picking this high. He's also one of the few players on this list who is able to change his pace of attack to match the situation. He's probably only second to Bedard in this specific skill. He'll be full of speed and suddenly pause, wait for the play to develop and execute, or he'll speed up out of that pause and fool defenders. He's so fun. If he had just a bit more of a well-rounded game I think he'd get higher on this list. His offensive skill is that good. I find it really difficult to place him in the tier below this one because his ceiling is sky high.
Moore/Leonard/Smith are really interesting because they all have different qualities that make them top 10ish picks. Moore is a fantastic skater, likely the best skater in this draft. He uses that speed to retrieve pucks off the wall, strip pucks off players defensively and transition the other way. He's effective in using his own speed to open up lanes for his teammates and pass into those lanes. He doesn't just rely on the untranslateable junior swoop-n-score around defenders to drive play, which you might expect given his speed. I have some questions about just how effective of a puck carrier he is at speed, and I see his hands lagging behind his own feet at times, losing the puck behind or missing pass options while he zips around the ice. His pass accuracy needs to improve as well. To me, he feels like an Athanasiou type at the very least with blazing fast speed but maybe the overall dynamism isn't there. However there certainly is room for that projection to grow, especially over some time in college. He's also just so fun to watch that in this range it feels like a no-brainer to me to pick. The skating is simply that good.
TIER 5 - "Best First Round in Years" (13-30)
Wood is super interesting. It's so rare to see someone with all of his skill, his production in the NCAA, his shooting talent, and one single flaw that could prevent him from a NHL future. Wood is a really awful skater. One of the worst I can remember in a first rounder. Like all bad skaters, people will point to clips of them at full speed, racing by a junior player or on a breakaway and say "see! look!". But that's not the point. Wood rounds his back, has upper body noise, and an awkward, choppy stride all at once. He's got no fluidity with his motions and his balance is poor as well. What worries me is not how good Wood can be sitting at the half-wall on the powerplay, or when he has a breakaway with the closest defender 40 feet away. What worries me is how he's going to get back to the play when the transition from offense to defense happens. What worries me is how he's going to get up to the point to block a shot, or take away a passing lane defensively. It has to change or else he'll be hard to place in the NHL. All of that being said, he's extremely intelligent, has good hands in tight, an excellent shot, and playmaking as well. He's the type of prospect that if I have two or three first rounders, he's one of them, but you better be sure you have players with your other picks. He was exceptional the U18s, at least offensively, showing that he belongs in the discussion for the top 15. I suspect a team falls in love with him and he goes higher than I have him. It's absolutely not a bad pick, just a risky one.
Honzek has rocketed up my list. He's a 6'4" winger with decent speed, a rangy stick, and excellent hands for a big player. I've watched plays where he'll enter a near-impossible situation on the rush, and find a way to sneak the puck through to a teammate. He has a really interesting way of pushing defenders' sticks with his own, and completing passes through them. He's got a great mind for transition, for rush offense, and for in-zone creation. He's got a great shot, and elects to get it on net as quick as possible and let chaos reign. I'm really excited about his projection given his size, speed, hands and overall game, and I think an injury mid-season kind of lowered his overall draft stock. It wouldn't surprise me in the least for a team to now even swing a top 10 selection on Honzek.
Perreault scored above 2 points per game this season. That's absolutely nuts, just wanted to get that out of the way. I think there's a world where 5 years from now when Perreault is separated from Leonard and Smith that he is just fine on his own, and we all look like fools for having him so low. The issue is now that his production is so intertwined with that specific line that it's difficult to parse out his contribution. With careful watching he does a LOT correct for his role. He's a play connector, able to move the puck, get himself into space after, and chain plays together in the offensive zone. The question, and the question you'll hear repeatedly about him is how much does the sum matter if the parts don't always look elite. He's a good but not elite skater. He's a decent but not great shooter from distance. He's a great playmaker though, which is his calling-card. He's a good cleanup crew guy at this level, but will that continue when players are significantly more physical? It's a lot of question marks, but the production has to speak for itself at some point. He'll get taken in the first round, and a team will see where the chips fall after.
Ritchie does a lot of things well for his current role. He's a big center with quicker feet than I initially thought. He's lacking some elite skating that would make him a top 10 pick in my mind though. He has some good handling skills in tight. He's a patient playmaker who keeps his head up to make difficult passes seem easy. He can occasionally be a little passive and a little too patient, but the skills are evident with lots of room to grow. He's the type of player that with some work on his stride, some coaching and work on hitting the net from range, you might end up with a top six center someday. If not, a bottom six role still could be had given his overall package of playmaking, size, and game. I see him as a safe pick around this range who can afford to be patient with him. His U18s likely improved his stock as well. He was a connector on his line, and one of the few Canada forwards able to push play.
I'll be honest, this is the hockey man in me making this pick. Barlow is big, physical, and shoots real good (this is the technical term, real good). He's consistent in those above qualities, and possesses some of the spatial awareness in this draft when it comes to finishing. He looks like he's been dropped from a professional league into a junior league in how he can get through defenders and find space for his shooting talent to shine. He feels like a "safe" pick in this range, sort of how Timo Meier did in his draft year at #9 overall. Sure there are other players who may possess some higher end playmaking, speed or skill, but I look at Barlow and I see a player scoring goals in the NHL. He's got just a bit of heavy boots when he accelerates, something that needs to be cleaned up to advance his game, and when he's not driving offense through his shot he can leave you wanting. I had him a bit higher earlier on, but the other players above him simply outplayed him towards the end of the year and at the U18s.
There's definitely risk with this one. Heidt is one of the many WHLers on this list being likely to be taken in the first round. I have specific game notes of Heidt where I make crazy statements like "is this guy top 10?". I have other game notes where he is barely mentioned unless it's on the powerplay. I have notes where I fully believe he made area-passes into spaces where he thinks his teammate should be, even if they are nowhere near there. His offensive mind is really something, but I think he needs to recognize some of the simpler plays. He also has a habit of standing still and waiting for a stretch pass in the defensive zone instead of just carrying the puck out himself. When he's on though he has some of the best manipulative playmaking in the draft for my money, and that's why he's so high up here. He's feisty as well, getting in player's faces and starting shit. He needs refinement but I really like his upside, just know that it's a risky pick. He was mostly okay at the U18s, but I think his hesitance really held him back. I'd watch him have open shooting lanes and pass up chances for worse passing options. Heidt's game seemingly runs on confidence (and can be inconsistent), so that is something that has to be taken into account in his development.
Brindley is also a riser on my list, and I'm sure many other scouts'. He's an undersized but aggressive offensive-minded winger. He's riding shotgun with Fantilli and proving that he can hang just fine. He's got a good one-timer, a heads up offensive mind, and reminds me a bit of Leonard on this list, just in a smaller body and a hair quicker. He is thriving in college despite his size because of a simple and effective rush-offense game, combined with excellent puck-protection and quick playmaking. He's a top 10 pick if he's 6 feet tall, and these types of players can be tremendous value if you get them in the back half of the first or in the second.
Yager has fallen out of favor of sorts with many amateur scouts around the internet after a lightning strike of a Hlinka tournament in the summer. He's had a productive but not dynamic season for Moose Jaw in the WHL. He displays excellent shooting skills, and at certain times it feels like the game is taken over by Yager, and other times he disappears entirely. He's still pretty skinny on his frame, and when I've watched him that shows. He isn't the most effective player on the boards and can get outmuscled looking for pucks. He's the type of player that his open-ice play and puck skills drive the projection, but there is work to be done. If I had two draft picks in the first round, I think Yager is the second, with my first being a less risky proposition.
I was skeptical. I was really skeptical. I saw lots of early lists having Simashev, a pretty much non-scoring MHL defenseman top 15 and I laughed (now I did see a list with Simashev above Michkov and I laughed. I laughed so hard that I'm still laughing). But, I watched Simashev at the MHL level, and I watched him at the KHL level. And you know what? He's really good. He's got excellent speed for his size, and his defensive mind is excellent. I bolded that for effect, but it's really good. He can close on players at both levels, angle them to the outside and kill rushes. He retrieves and has a plan for his retrieval almost every time he grabs it behind the net. He has a good first pass out of his zone and can even carry it out given his speed. This pick is all about tools, because the offensive game still has some ways to go. There are flashes there, but he's still figuring out how to set himself up to activate for shooting opportunities, how to pinpoint players with his passes in the zone and do more than just be an absolute stud defensively. He's a risky pick in some ways because there is a world where he's just a really good 5-6 defenseman, but there's also a world where he's your #2 and allows your Erik Karlsson or Cale Makar to be absolute monsters while your net is defended. There's also the Russian bit.
Danielson is one of those guys that goes top 10 and everyone loses their minds thinking a team made a reach. I think they just did their homework. He's a 6'1" right shot center/winger with an excellent shot. He's consistent with his offensive production and possesses a good mind for creating slot shots. He'll often take the puck wide of a defender, wait for a recovery and slip a pass into a streaking teammate. Defensively he's sound, plays in all situations for a not so great Brandon team. Simple and effective offense with good puck-skills, defensive responsibility in a big body center? Sign me up. I think there are legitimate concerns with just how dynamic he can be, but it's a safe bet that he plays a high-up role in the NHL and in this range I think that's worth it.
Musty is the type of prospect where I don't notice him all game, then look at the scoresheet and he has a goal and three assists. He's a force on the powerplay, and his skill on his team syncs up well with David Goyette, Seattle's 2nd rounder from 2022. He's got a good shot from range, getting it on net quickly to setup rebounds and other opportunities. He's an excellent playmaker, able to hit teammates with stretch passes for breakaways from way back. Still though I sometimes don't really notice him pushing play, being aggressive or hounding for pucks. I think he relies a bit too much on rush-offense, and I worry that his lack of retrieval game might hurt him down the line. Someone said, "is a big guy, plays like a small guy", and I think that's just right.
Dragicevic got an article here on HWH. He's passive and his mind for defense isn't really there, and he can take himself out of plays entirely instead of getting the puck back. But yet, he's #29 on this list. Production has to speak for itself at a certain level. That, and Dragicevic has an outrageously good passing game. He's got every pass in his arsenal, and a mind for transition offense. He's got a deadly shot as well, something he's really dialed in throughout this year. I hesitate to compare him to Ryan Merkley, given how Merkley has fallen flat on his face, but it isn't the worst comparison. Dragicevic though can get the puck on net way better than Merkley, which severely limited Merkley from reaching an NHL floor. Dragicevic is also not THAT awful defensively, just pretty passive and needs a lot of work. In a draft without a lot of high-end defensemen, I think this is the right range for him. His feet also need to improve. He's a project. Also check out the LOS podcast I did with JD highlighting him.
One final note about Dragicevic and his passing game from me can be found here.
I watched Willander in February at the Four Nations tournament, and came away impressed with his ability to break-up cycles, transition the puck effectively with speed, and create simple offense. He has a good shot from the point that can get through traffic well. I went back and watched tape of him at J20 with Rögle, the same team as one of my favorites Felix Nilsson, and man. he's a first rounder. At the U18s, it all came together. He was carrying with ease into the zone and pushing play. I love his ability to stop rushes defensively, and he retrieves the puck behind the net really well already. Overall he seems like an NHL defender one day, in the mold of your Stralmans, Orlovs, or maybe even Matt Dumba on the higher end of projections, if the physicality and his shot ramps up.
Sale. I feel like he's one of those players I've heard about and watched for so long, but still don't know where to place him. Similar to Raty and Lambert, I think Sale is primed for a tumble on draft day because of a less than stellar draft year. He's got 14 points in 43 games in the Czech men's league this season, which isn't strictly awful, but I think everyone wanted a little more. I watched 2 games from him at that level and he did pretty much nothing. He has excellent skating, some great hands and displays some high-level playmaking, but is too often a passenger on his line. He has struggled to find a way to affect play at this level. Compared to watching Jiri Kulich last year in the same league, and I think Kulich found ways to break through a little more often than Sale. Sale did have a hat-trick game out of seemingly nowhere, but did have an entire month of November and December without a point in his league. I watched him at the U18 Four Nations in February, and he displayed some nifty passing, but wasn't creating much unless he had lots of time and space to do so. I think there is a tendency as scouts to underrate players who struggle in a men's league in their draft year though, and in some ways Sale has already proven he's "above" a junior level by his outrageous D-1 Czech U20 production. So I'm trying to fight through that tendency. It's a tough situation, and one that will take a few years to really sort out. Maybe a team brings him over just like Kulich did this season and he shines, but I worry that the change to even AHL play might hinder his output even more. He was good at the U18s this year, but still felt like a passenger in key moments. It's a frustrating lack of a retrieval game / compete level that brings him down here to the 20s for me. Maybe eventually he proves me wrong, but him, Stramel, and Cameron Allen have consistently dropped due to their play, despite lots of early hype.
This may be a bit low to be perfectly honest. Gulyayev is an absolutely phenomenal skater, and is having one of the best, if not the best MHL season for a draft eligible defender ever. He does however look like a junior player right now. He's fast, faster than most everyone he plays against at the MHL level, and he uses that speed to swoop by his competition. That offense gets you somewhere, but not always where you want to go at the next level. Still though he has an excellent mind for getting into open space and activating offensively. He can distribute well and looks comfortable on the powerplay. His size and playstyle means that the entirety of him as a prospect is a work in progress. There's also the Russian thing. It's a supremely risky pick, but I think there's legitimate top-4 upside here, if not a top pairing defender if EVERYTHING, including his geopolitical status, comes together and he rounds out his defensive game.
There's a legitimate chance But is drafted top 15. But is a 6-foot-5 winger who looks like a monster out on the ice. He was productive in Russian juniors this year, going over a point per game this year with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. Corey Pronman is so high on him that he has him ranked top 10. So what's he doing down here at 28? Well, in my mind he's still very much a project pick. He has decent but not great skating, that could improve with strength on his legs. He's a decent playmaker, that could improve if he's able to hold onto pucks longer with the strength of his frame coming around. He's a good shooter who could get even better if he adds more strength to his frame. Sensing a pattern? It's a projection pick that if things improve predictably around his frame, he could develop well. If it doesn't, then he's stuck in the mold of Logan Browns past and you took him #11 overall.
I watched him a few more times since the last list came out and I am starting to get it more. He really can look like a monster out there when his game is on and he uses his frame to dominate. I fully anticipate a team picks him somewhere from 15-30, and hope he blossoms against men later on.
Stenberg has decided he's a first rounder, and I think all of the scouts agree. It took awhile though. I watched a few of his games early in the year and he wasn't doing much of anything, even at the J20. He was hesitant and opted for standing still to create. Somewhere around mid-season though it started to click. He's a gifted puckhandler, playmaker and shooter. Once he gets the puck into the offensive zone, he mixes his routes up, drawing defenders in and finding lanes for his teammates. He's aggressive and manipulates defenders well at the J20 level. His U18s showed just how far ahead he is of the multitude of good Swedish prospects that are on this list. It may have taken the entire year to get there, but I think the prolonged "low" point of Stenberg dropped him down a little too far.
Perron is a highly skilled and intelligent winger who is undersized. His game runs through his playmaking and smarts, able to create around and through defenders at his current level. I think the size doesn't limit him as much as some might think though. He's an effective forechecker, smart about how he angles and gets under defenders. He'll never be the bruiser or the physically dominant driver of play that teams might want in this range. Still, the skill is evident, and how many years do we have to play the game of "well he's under 5'10" so we'll think about drafting him entire rounds later than he should be" from NHL GMs. To be honest, I highly doubt he's taken here, but I'd do it in a heartbeat. There's a legitimate chance he falls to the second round and it's Logan Stankoven all over again.
Perron is the perfect end to this tier for me. The players above are very likely to be first round picks, or in the case of Perron, a first round talent that may look great in a redraft a few years from now after going like #57 overall. This tier really highlights the depth and breadth of this year's first round. It's been a ridiculous scouting season for that reason, as every day I want to ad more players to this tier, but I think where I've landed is some fine balance. The next tier has some excellent players in it as well, and many may get first round grades by teams, but I think the chances of true stardom for them are a bit lower.
TIER 6 - "High upside projects, Snipers, and First/Second Swings" (31-51)
Hands. Hands. Hands. He's got some slick hands. After showing out at the CHL top prospects game, Sawchyn has climbed up my list throughout the year. Sawchyn's production likely is a lot higher if he isn't playing on the second or third line of an absolutely stacked Seattle Thunderbirds team. He's got a mind for transition, able to enter the zone with ease, hit a man up the boards, or delay until a better option presents itself. I think his shot needs some work, but everything else seems to scream a middle six winger, able to push play with his hands, speed and skill. Don't be surprised if next year, once the big names in Seattle have moved on, he becomes a dominant force there and his production skyrockets.
I dropped him into this tier after spending the past few lists amongst the top crowd. He was largely ineffective after coming back from an injury late in the season, and just didn't display the necessary well-roundedness to his game to really take-over when the checking got tight. Still worth a first-round selection, but had to lower him just a tad. This tier has a bunch of project players, with certain flaws or inconsistencies holding them back. It also has some absolute snipers that if a team falls in love with, may go higher based on their shooting talents alone. Lastly it has a few guys that I think are just really solid bets to play an NHL role, but maybe aren't as dynamic as the tiers above.
This is my own little bet here. There's very little chance that Felix Nilsson (maybe Noah Dower Nilsson) is selected in the first round, unless a team has absolutely fallen in love with his game like I have. I first noticed him at the U18 Four Nations Tournament in February, and tweeted about it here. I think this is a time to re-introduce my philosophy on evaluating forwards. Carry, Distribute, Finish, Retrieve are the four categories I look at when I scout forwards. A player can and will naturally be better in a category, and lean into that category to produce at their level. Nilsson seemingly is above average in all of them and has been producing well at the J20 level with 41 points in 36 games. He's a great puck-carrier with a mind for transitioning the puck quickly, entering the zone and creating. He's a manipulative playmaker, baiting opponents into attack and passing through them. He's got a decent shot with a quick release, and a nose for finding open areas. He's a really smart retriever at the J20 level, so smart that I think next year in the SHL he'll succeed simply from the opportunities he'll get because coaches will love his board-play. He's extremely well-rounded, and the knock will be that no single trait stands out. These types of players slide through to the second all the time, and if I'm at a draft table I take him early Day 2 knowing I've got a player coming.
Tanner Molendyk got an entire article here at HWH. He's got an extremely high defensive ceiling for my estimation. For an NHL, and Sharks comparable, I would lean towards Mario Ferraro. Always active, good edges, aggressive to cut off lanes and angle attackers into the corner. It's really impressive how far advanced this aspect of his game is. The trouble is, I think his offensive side hasn't caught up to him. He's very simple in the offensive zone, and doesn't manipulate much at all at the point, except the occasional cut to the inside. If this part can improve though, there could be a top 4 defender here. If it doesn't, I still see an NHL defender, just a simpler one.
Also yet another LOS profile for a WHL Dman!
Cagnoni is a good skater, is a calm distributor of the puck, and one of the more "safe" picks for a defender in this draft. I think the biggest adjective to describe him is calm. He doesn't panic under pressure, and is able to delay until the last second to get his passes off. He's got excellent four-way mobility, and uses it to push play occasionally. Still though, my biggest gripe with him is his rush-defense isn't that refined, and he gets beat wide occasionally. He also will stand waiting for a breakout pass instead of using his feet to carry it out of his zone despite some good feet. He is undersized though, and his type of defenseman is hard to place in the NHL specifically. Still though, he's worth it here.
Also a player I've had limited viewings of, but to be honest the tape maybe is a bit deceiving? He flat out dominates. He's so good at the BCHL level that I end up laughing watching it. He's a super aggressive, rush-style offensive player who uses the threat of his shot to bait defenders. Behind Bedard, Michkov, Barlow, and 1-2 others, he's one of the best shooters in this draft. Defensively he's very average even at the level he's at. His skating is good, but I think needs a bit more explosiveness to really take advantage of his style of play. It's another project folks, but one that I'd feel great about early Day 2, or even as a swing pick late Day 1.
It took awhile for me to watch Ciernik for whatever reason, but once I did I realized that he's going right around this range on draft day for me. He's a winger with soft hands, excellent playmaking talents, and a mature game. His offensive hockey sense, and knowing when and how to attack defenders with speed is why he keeps rising for me the more I watch him.
And yet again, he rises. Ciernik is just so smart, speedy and smooth that I can't help but rate him at the edge of the first round. He's got enough size that I think he can retrieve pucks at the next level, but needs to spend a few years against men to really round out his game. He thrives in transition, and getting the puck back has to become a priority to really accelerate his game.
I have lots of time for Beau Akey. Akey is an excellent skater, which helps him drive offense through his zone entries. The problem is, I don't think Akey knows just how good his hands and skating in combination are yet. Often I'll see him fly into the neutral zone, only to make a dump-in. Or stop and wait for help to arrive instead of trying to challenge defenders. He's an okay defender at this level, but needs lots of refinement to use his skating as a weapon defensively. This is something that Molendyk has mastered, and Akey has not really entirely grasped yet. To me he feels like a project pick in the second round of a defenseman-starved draft, one that could boom or just never get there. There's also a very real possibility that with Brandt Clarke moving on to the NHL next season, that Akey really comes into his own next season as "the guy".
It's goalie time! I think everyone who does public scouting, aside from a select few who scout goalies a lot a lot, often remark how goalies are...difficult...to put into a draft ranking. Some avoid them entirely, defer to other sources, or place a separate list of goalies only. I'm going to attempt to rank them, as long as we are all of the understanding that I am not a goalie scout, goalies are voodoo, and all of my opinions on goalies cannot be used against me in a court of hockey prospecting law. Capeesh? Carpaccio? Cool. Hrabal is the first goalie off my board. He's got more than ideal size and quickness for an NHL goaltender. He's positionally sound, and is aggressive in cutting off angles for shooters coming into the zone. He has the feel of a goaltender who is mature and able to handle the crease. In the U18s, on a mediocre Czechia squad he was more than holding his own, keeping them at least semi-competitive. I think the 2nd round is going to have a run on goalies, and the margin between Hrabal and the other two I have listed here is pretty close.
Similar to But, Halttunen is a project. He's an above-average skater for his size, and an aggressive player. He's a great shooter who knows where to place the puck. He's....hardheaded...in how he attacks defenders, using his frame to muscle the puck through or around them. The handling needs work in my opinion, as too often he is missing those subtle keeps that high-end forwards possess. His playmaking isn't great either, and too often he's focused on getting his shot on goal and not much else. In his limited Liiga minutes, he was very ineffective. At the U18s though on a poor Finland roster, he was brilliant. I think the projection is important here, as his size, shooting and skating is hard to come by. You just hope the rest of the game evolves some layers.
David Edstrom was a monster at the U18s. He opened a lot of eyes, mine included, to what kind of player he can be at the next level. He's aggressive, a good skater, and a sneaky creative playmaker. He looks as comfortable net-front as he does on the perimeter. His craftiness can give him a lot of runway up-and-down a lineup in the future. I went back and watched a J20 game of his from earlier this year, to make sure this wasn't just a flash in the pan type of tournament for him. He was just as versatile, competitive and strong on the puck. I didn't watch any of his tape from the SHL level, so will have to defer to others about how he did there, but 4 points in 11 games ain't too shabby on the surface.
Kantserov is a late addition to this tier. He's one of the oldest players in this draft class, he's undersized at 5'9", and he's Russian. So there could be a tendency to pencil him in a lot lower. But there's just something about Kantserov. He's got an excellent Hockey IQ, playmaking and speed. He reminds me of a discount version of Gabe Perreault. Sounds rude, but at this range that could be extremely valuable. He has a great recognition of play, spacing, and how to shield the puck and create afterwards. He's very effective on the periphery of the ice, and has some issue with getting inside. His shot isn't half-bad either. I think there is a world where he becomes a top 9 winger in the NHL, but I suspect he goes later due to the other factors already mentioned. I want to see him out of the MHL though, as he has already been above a point per game for two seasons there now.
Ziemmer is a skilled winger primarily on Riley Heidt's line for the Prince George Cougars in the WHL. He's risen up my list because his game at the beginning of the year didn't scream first or second rounder, despite the production. He would attempt the same inside-outside move up the middle of the ice to get around defenders, that simply wouldn't work and would kill rushes. He would be a bit passive defensively, and wouldn't backcheck like he should. Now I watch him and occasionally I'll see these plays, but it's a lot less frequent. He's a smart passer, holding well to create off the rush or on the powerplay, but at evens he can disappear a bit. He's got a laser of a shot, but tends to be a little too liberal in where he shoots from. Some speed increases, some refinement with his shooting, and better rush patterns may improve his NHL prospects to a top-9 scoring winger. He also hits really well, which adds to the fun.
Hameenaho has ran a little under the radar for a guy who was as productive as he was in a men's league. The net front is how he will make his money at the net level it seems. He's able to box out, find space, and jam home rebounds. He's a decent shooter from distance, but adding more to this element could really turn his projection up a notch. His puck control and playmaking need improvements, and his speed is just decent, with a little slow acceleration. He feels like a safe bet here for a productive third line forward, but how much higher in the lineup can he fit is the question.
Alternative pun for when he scores: they don't ask how, they ask Hämeenaho
I believe he's the first QMJHL entry here. Gauthier plays like a man possessed sometimes when it comes to taking the body. He's physical, a decent skater, and downright nasty at times. His retrieval game is advanced, able to maneuver the puck out from the wall and pop it out to teammates for chances. I think he can get a little lost in coverage by trying to take the man, but is definitely engaged. His handling skill is fine, but the overall dynamic offensive impact may not be there at the next level for Gauthier. He's excellent net-front as you might expect, and keeps his stick on the ice in the offensive zone. Teams may reach on him at the end of the first, as they know the physicality and motor are going to take him far.
Oh William Whitelaw. I totally understand when some scouts put Whitelaw in their top 20. I get it. He's one of the more gifted shooters in this class, seemingly making it his mission to score goals from anywhere in the offensive zone. He has an absolute laser of a shot. I question some of his shooting choices if I'm being honest, especially because when he does slip that seam pass, or take a second and delay, his playmaking talent can really shine. It just doesn't always get to that point of a play for him. The rest of his game, defensive engagement included, needs work. He's also incredibly skinny looking on the ice right now, and can get bodied physically. This is a prospect that is definitely a project, but if he hits, will fill nets at the NHL level.
So we got Barlow...Whitelaw...Nadeau... I feel like we're missing a shooter here...OH Lardis! Hey if somehow I'm the first one to tell you about Nick Lardis, you might be stuck mentally in January. Since he was traded to Hamilton he's been shooting the lights out with 25 goals in 33 games. This rivals the production of Barlow, often regarded as the best OHL sniper. Also a project pick because aside from a very good finishing ability, he lacks a bit of the handling skill, or playmaking game to really be a top of the lineup player right now. He does have excellent speed to compliment just a laser of a shot. Still, these players can definitely make the NHL on their finishing talent alone, so he's a worthwhile pickup here.
Morin came shooting into the U18s after Quinton Burns got injured for Team Canada. A highly skilled and productive defender at the QMJHL level, Morin immediately became one of their best puck-movers. He's most effective when he's using his fantastic shot to push play. He’s comfortable breaking into the zone himself, as well as challenging forecheckers and finding a passing lane after. He’s a decent skater, able to blend his aggressive style and feet to create. I think his defensive game needs some refinement. He’s just a bit physically underdeveloped right now to project him defensively, and a bit passive when rushers are coming at him. He can take himself out of plays during rush scenarios and really lose his man.
I like Cataford. End of segment. Nah, I got more to say (when do I not?). Cataford plays in the QMJHL, for the Halifax Mooseheads, one of my favorite junior hockey teams (my in-laws have a house in Nova Scotia). Cataford plays a pro-style game, with a good motor, retrieval habits, and is a good finisher. The issue I have may be related to his individual skill as well as the overall coaching of the Mooseheads. They generate offense in one of two ways: either Jordan Dumais carries the puck into the zone, or someone dumps and chases until they can get Dumais the puck. Cataford has prolonged stretches where he skates the red line, dumps the puck in, and skates off. It's difficult to get his projection because of this, but when his skill does come through I think there's a player there.
Bonk, son of former NHLer Radek Bonk, has a lot going for him as a good sized right-handed defenseman with decent skating, a good shot, and a last name like Bonk. All I'm trying to say here is there's a lot to like. No he's not this high because I like saying Bonk. How dare you assume because his name is Bonk that I'm going to rank him high. I am offended at the insinuation here, and I am sure Bonk is too. Bonk does many things that separates him, Bonk, from other non-Bonk defensemen. He's patient defensively, and he's able to bonk pucks out of the zone. Bonk is excellent at breakouts, the puck seems to hit sticks with a satisfying bonk, as his teammates (none of them named Bonk) shoot forward. Bonk is no slouch physically, although I think he could use a bit more bonk to his game. Overall, seems like Bonk is fine for a second round selection, and I think that's just fine. Bonk.
Also I've bumped up Bonk about as high as I can. I think he's a safe bet to play NHL games, but I don't see a slam-dunk first rounder like many outlets are projecting. I see a Gannon Laroque-esque player with a bit more speed. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think the defenders above have higher ceilings. He probably goes in the first on draft day just because hockey men love larger right shot defenders who have decent mobility, and they love bloodlines, and there are very few defensemen worth a first round in this draft.
Speaking of hockey men loving size in their defensemen... It should really be noted that there are no "safe" picks in a draft. A guy like Dvorak could definitely bust, and low-production defensemen bust all the time, or toil in the AHL and you never hear about them. With that being said, Dvorak feels like a player. He's got ideal size, good four-way mobility, and a stout defensive mind. He's very capable breaking pucks out himself or passing through traffic. He's got good hands to beat forecheckers one-on-one in the defensive zone. I question his dynamism offensively though. He had a few injuries related to his collarbone I believe this year that has held him down a lot of boards. I suspect his U18 play vaulted him up though, as he felt like a general out there for the Czech defense. I think once the higher ceiling defenders are gone, Dvorak finds his name called higher than most expect.
Caden Price came into his own as a puck-carrier in the WHL this season, in an offense that ran directly through Andrew Cristall most nights. He’s a highly skilled defender, with good hands, feet, and a mind for transition but is inconsistent with his offensive output. He’s also extremely young, almost eligible for the 2024 draft. He falls into the project side of this tier similarly to lots of defensemen in this range. I like his ceiling a bit more than players like Cam Allen, Tristan Bertucci, and Aram Minnetian, all who come up a bit later on.
I said he would move up a bit by this ranking at 100, and he has. He feels to me as a good ending to this draft tier, one full of projects, stout defenders, and boom/bust types. One or maybe even a few of these players may pop off in the coming years and become your typical second round steals.
TIER 7 - "Smart, Productive, or Excellent Bottom Sixers" (52-77)
NDN has been a bit of a difficult projection for me. It has been difficult to reconcile his outrageous production with his play on the ice. He has great handling skills, and he battles well down low to retrieve pucks. He makes some questionable shooting decisions, often passing up passing options (hehe) for shots into shins or from far out. He's quick and agile on his skates. There are lots to like about him and his production but I just haven't been impressed when I've watched him. I have multiple games where I go in trying to key on him and end up watching Edstrom, Stenberg instead, despite their lower productions. This happens sometimes, and when it does I have to find a way to merge my eyes with others, as I know many are very high on him. This feels like the right slot for that merging of the minds.
Speaking of merging of the minds, that is kind of what this tier is. There are many players here that I think are good, but not as good as some rank them. There are also just highly productive players like NDN that despite some meh viewings of, need to be taken in this range if available based on the possibility that the eye test simply got it wrong. It also has just a multitude of players that are super smart, but for lack of elite talent or size, are held down a bit.
His smarts separate him from the rest of the CHL defenders below him on the list. He knows just where to angle the opposition to steer the puck out of high danger areas. He has a mind for the defensive zone that I wish a few other players (cough Dragicevic cough) had, because it's so hard to teach what he is good at. He's a skilled breakout artist, and also jumps up into the offensive zone when needed. He has okay size, and decent enough speed, but doesn't appear the most agile on his skates. His shot needs a little more oomph, but I think it'll improve. This is a true sum of the parts pick, and I think he fits in that "safe" category we talked about earlier.
It feels like there are too many players with multiple names this draft season. Oscar Dower Pellikka is a skilled defensive forward who possesses a great feel for the game. He’s a great skater and keeps his feet moving when corralling pucks to create quick-hitting offense. He’s constantly got his stick in lanes to try to pick off passes and transition the puck. He's got a mind for transition that helped him dominate the J20 level. He has decent hands, but the struggle is projecting Oscar Sandin Nilsson offensively without elite skills. A “safe” pick that may find his name called higher than he is listed here.
Goalie number 2! Bjarnason was actually Goalie number 1 on my list for awhile, but a poor second half dropped him a bit. Still though, he's an athletic, 6-foot-3 goaltender with great vision through traffic, and sound positioning. He's able to pop off his post quickly, get into position and stone shooters with his glove. He's got to keep himself upright a bit more, as he has a tendency to shrink when battling through traffic. He's a calming presence in net, and I have no doubt that a team scoops him up in either the late first or early second.
FUS, as he has become known on my game reports, is an extremely smart player. He uses his hands to push play, reading the defender's eyes and stick to find creative solutions to defenses. He'll bank it off the wall to himself, bounce it off a defender's skate, or chip up and over players. He's very creative with his attacking patterns. He isn't the largest winger, and not the strongest either, but he has adapted. He has a great playmaking mind, but I worry about some of the hard skills necessary to project him to the NHL. He is quick, but not an elite skater. He has a below average shot right now, and he again isn't the most physical skater. I like him a lot, but there is work to be done and some uncertainty with the height of his projection. Some see a top of the lineup winger on his smarts and playmaking, others don't have him ranked in the top 100. Although if you asked Pronman to rank any sub-6 foot skater with meh skating and good playmaking high his head might explode.
Barkey, Bonk or Cowan. Cowan, Barkey, Bonk? Bonk, Barkey, Cowan? I watched a lot of London hockey this year and it is still hard for me to tell which I prefer. Bonk ended up with the highest slot for me because I recognize his profile is about 45 times more likely to make the NHL than Barkey, but man...Barkey is just so fun. He's very likely going to be like a 4th round pick because of his size, at 5'8"ish, but a deep and productive playoff run may have helped him. So the first thing about Barkey is that he just jumps into plays. He's got a motor that doesn't quit, and he will hound you on the wall until he can't physically get up off the ice. He has a physical mind for hockey that I honestly think would put him in like top 20 territory if he were six foot. He has good hands, playmaking talents and quick-hitting offense to go with his motor. He also just isn't a very effective hitter for that type of game, even with his below average stature. It's just a willingness to hit, but not actual skill at hitting. His shot needs a little work, and his skating is good not great.
Mania reminds me Aram Minnetian, who comes up a bit later on the ranking. He's full send, man. He's just coming into his own as a offensive defenseman who pushes play and carries deep into the zone. He activates, pinches well and tries to keep the play alive offensively. He's a good forward skater, but I think his backwards skating could use a little work. Defensively he needs some tweaks we'll call it to stay positionally sound in the defensive zone. He would be a super fun project pickup for a team lacking some defensive standouts in their prospect pool.
Goalie number 3! I realized the other day, while watching Team USA, just how many times I’ve watched Augustine play. It has to be more than 20 full viewings at this point just because he’s been “the guy” for Team USA. He also has what, like ONE regulation loss this season? Absolute insanity. Augustine, while lacking ideal size, is so sound in net. He’s calm, patient, and quick down low. He can be a bit leaky, and struggles occasionally to spot shots through traffic, but all goaltenders do at this age. If I’m looking for a goalie prospect though and the other two “higher ceiling” picks are gone, he’s next for me. Again, “higher ceiling” is in quotes, because goaltenders are voodoo, and small goalies do perfectly fine when they’re good. Just like large goalies.
I think Stramel is who I differ on the most from many public scouts. He's a large human who can forecheck well and has good hands, can box out in front of the net and play a physical game. I just cannot get over how poor his decision making is with the puck, and just how much he cannot push play offensively. I worry he is picked higher because of his D-1 year, and his physical tools/size rather than his actual ability to play hockey. Maybe he ends up as a net-front powerplay guy, one who bangs home rebounds for you, but maybe he ends up in the AHL, unable to carry the puck long enough without throwing it away. He'll get picked much higher than here, but that wouldn't be my play. Maybe I'll be wrong in the future and he finds an offensive game to round out his physicality throughout college.
Myatovic is big, physical, and has a nose for the net. However, he’s also a better skater than might be anticipated given his build, and he has decently soft hands. Not just because they play on the same team, but he reminds me of Reid Schaeffer from last year’s draft. Seattle is absolutely stacked, and Myatovic and Sawchyn being far down the lineup may harm their draft status come June. I like them both, and I’m excited to see what they do with some more room to breathe next season.
Nelson feels like a bit of a wildcard to me. It's hard to find press when all the air is sucked out of the room by 4 first round forwards, and a high-up goaltender to boot on your team. Nelson, however, persists. He's a hard worker, who excels at getting the puck back, using his 6'3" frame to shield and make the simple play to the skill players around him. He occasionally shows off a bit of playmaking talents, when he has some time in the offensive zone to set up. He feels like a raw prospect, who needs lots of time to develop into an offensive contributor. There isn't specifically one thing holding him back at this point, just time to develop. He could be a bottom six NHLer based on his physical tools alone, but needs more time to see if there is anything beyond that.
Rykov is a young Russian winger prospect playing in the VHL, and was decently productive there with 11 points in 20 games. That's pretty, pretty good. Rykov has good speed but is a little wide in his stance but accelerates great despite it. He has great hands in tight through traffic and is engaged defensively. He switches attackers and keeps on his man, but can get a little puck-focused defensively. He has a killer wrist shot but needs to make faster decisions when gets the puck. Specifically on the wall he can take awhile to decide pass, shoot, or hold and will just get taken out by a check. When he does get free though he can slip passes through defenders really well and has good vision. There are enough physical tools here to project him into a lineup, and given his late birthday, Russian passport, and an injury which prevented some games this year, he could be a second round steal if it all pans out.
More like Theo Lind-fine amiright? Huh? Right? Heh. Nah, he’s fine. I think Willander and ASP are a bit more skilled and have higher ceilings, but Lindstein still is worthy of a pick in this range. He’s got great four-way mobility, and excels in simple, effective defending, simple pass-first transitions, and getting the puck on net in the offensive zone. He’s got the mold of an NHL defender, just one that plays on bottom pairings mostly.
Small, Russian, cross him off the list right? Nope. Mukhanov is indeed small but he’s quick, albeit a little choppy in stride, and resilient. He’s an aggressive backchecker, a hard-worker on the boards, and constantly gets into passing lanes to disrupt play defensively. Both his skill-level and his hockey sense are very high, and I want to find reasons to drop him more, but just can’t. I think there’s a player here, even if you have to wait a long time to find out what kind of player that really is. I watched a few more games and came away super impressed. He skated back and took the puck off an attacker's stick on back-to-back-to-back shifts, then immediately went the other way with it. He's excellent at utilizing space, making himself appears bigger on the ice because of how much ground he covers with and without the puck. I really like him, just as a late second round swing because of the risk involved.
It has taken me awhile to really move Rehkopf up the list. There are times when I just don't see it. Times when I see him as just a big and awkward player who doesn't really show up to do much in either zone. For a Sharks comparable, he reminds me a bit of Brandon Coe with a better shot in juniors. He sort of just is around until the puck happens to find him, then can be off to the races with it, or makes a skilled pass or lasers home a shot. But I don't see the hockey sense to really turn into an effective NHLer, despite his large frame and physical tools. Still, he's young, he has skill, was decently productive, and there is a path for improvement for him. Hes'worth a pick here, but I just don't think a team should swing a first rounder on him given how raw he is.
Pinelli has fallen just a tad for me. I always come away from watching him impressed with his speed, hands, and his aggressiveness. His decision-making with those tools is what baffles me sometimes. He’s sometimes head-strong in trying to get around one-on-one with defenders which means that he can get stymied far too often. He’s a bit small and doesn’t excel in retrieval scenarios. He reminds me of Sawchyn, but the decision making makes them almost a full round separate in my eyes. Still though Pinelli is a skilled forward with lots of areas to focus on to improve, so you take him here and wait.
Lind is all about physicality, possessing good size and a good checking form for the job he likely fills at the next level. He’s not just a grinder though, as he does display flashes of soft hands, scoring touch, and offensive creativity that I think with some careful development, could come a long way. He seems to be a player that goes early on Day 2 judging from recent drafts.
Pitre is a powerful but not overly quick skater, who has excellent scanning habits, physical play and decent hands. He was a driving force for his line this season with Flint. I came away impressed watching him with his puck-protection and transition play. I think there’s a lot to work with in Pitre to turn him from a decent to great player, but it’s hard to really place him too high up in the list lacking any one elite skill. His physical play and utility in a lineup puts him in a conversation to be an NHLer, continuing the theme of this tier.
This is a player who is really all over the draft board for a lot of folks. As high as #34 by Craig Button, and as low as #118 by FCHockey. I'm splitting the difference here at #69. Seems Nice. I think the dichotomy here comes from trying to reconcile his smarts, with his below average size and just okay handling skills, like so many of the players in this tier. He has good defensive footwork, and matches speed with attackers well to create breakups in the neutral zone. He has a good playmaking mind, able to take what the defense is giving him and make a play from nothing. He competes hard, forechecks well and does lots of the little things well that will probably take him into an NHL role. He just doesn't display dynamic offensive talent enough for a higher ranking. He ended up on the bottom of the Bonk, Barkey and Cowan discussion, but I swear it went back and forth for many viewings.
Kiiskinen is a late August birthday, a scoring winger from Finland who had an impressive draft season, putting up 1.4 PPG in his U20 league. He's got a heck of a release, and looks dangerous coming up the half-wall. Could stand to go a bit wider on the powerplay to set up for one-timers. He's tenacious as a forechecker, using his body to separate puck from man. He was one of the better wingers for Finland at the U18s, where I first noticed him. I looked back at his junior tape and overall he's solid. There are legit skating concerns with him, and his game would improve tremendously if his speed could improve a touch. I like him, just as a 3rd/4th rounder, a watch and wait pick that could boom if his speed improves and he starts lighting up lamp in Liiga.
Wahlberg came away from the U18s with only 6 points in 7 games for Team Sweden, but I found him to be consistently involved at both ends of the ice every game. He’s got decent speed, and is a great forechecker with great retrieval habits, with ideal size for a power forward game at the NHL level. He didn’t flash any real high-end skills that tournament really, and his J20 tape is mostly hit or miss. Still though, I think there’s a player that an NHL GM is going to fall in love with a bit earlier than expected.
The Dudiest of Dudes. Lipinski was decently productive, with 51 points in 68 games for Vancouver in the WHL. Aside from the production though, he’s a workhorse. Always involved on the forecheck, I came away impressed with him more and more throughout the season. He’s got a dump and chase game primarily, but when he does get the puck back he can create in an instant. His hands fail him at times, and it is something that will likely hold him back from more than a possible bottom six center. He's not always the most adept playmaker, as he will miss players with passes into their skates or just blindly sail passes into the center of the ice. My own personal opinion is he gets drafted by Arizona in the third round. That's just my Nostradamus coming through based on his size, physicality and simple game. Someone will take him and pencil him into a bottom six role down the line.
It's time to talk about Andrei Loshko. Loshko is a center from the QMJHL with some excellent defensive habits. I first noticed him being SO involved defensively in the neutral zone that I thought I was looking at a defenseman. He's aggressive in matching his speed with his opponent, and trying to disrupt play. He's always coming back defensively. He pokechecks and steals so well at this level. I then went over to Mitch Brown's Patreon page to see if what I saw matched up with the data and...yep.
This dude is so good at breaking up pucks in the neutral zone. He then can turn the puck the other way and create. He's scanning constantly trying to analyze the threat. He also exits the defensive zone very frequently and with a high success rate. So that was what I first noticed about his game, was just how much runway there is with this player as a 6'1" center. Then I noticed his playmaking.
He's got some serious touch on his passes. He's able to thread the needle through multiple players. There are legitimate concerns with two things for him offensively. 1. His speed is fine but could stand to be better. He has some heavy boots that can limit the space he will get at the next levels. 2. His pace is low offensively. He often holds trying to find the slick pass or just wait until the play dies around him. He's got to pick it up a bit offensively to really take over games. Still though, he was greater than a point per game this year, and I think a lot of folks are sleeping on his potential as a future all-situations center.
Kumpulainen is a large center who showed well at the U18s this year. He was involved in all three zones, demonstrated great retrieval skills and a tenacious forechecking energy. I came away impressed with ability to steal, puck protect, and then scan for breakout options throughout the tournament. Because of his size, and retrieval skills there is a definite upside as a bottom six center at the next level. Has to improve his skating, like so many of the options on this tier. Still though, given how young he is, his frame already, there is definite upside here. I think there's more playmaking and handling skills than meet the eye originally.
Gibson showed out extremely well at the U18s. He was calm, effective and made the simple play that helped transition the puck to the higher skilled forwards. He wasn't overly dynamic or creative, he was just calm and steadying. That has value, especially if you're 6'3" and can skate reasonably well. When compared directly to Cameron Allen, he looked significantly better. No handle semed too complicated, and he was actively trying to force defenders to the outside on every play. I went back and watched some Soo tape of his, and it's mostly the same. He's got a defensive mind that will take him up a few levels. The offense may never come with him, but I think he can be a decent first-pass type of player. As the great Jake Middleton once said, "they'll pay you a million bucks to protect the net and flip pucks out". That's probably a paraphrase, but something like that.
Suniev is an outrageous BCHL scorer with a wide stance, good hands, excellent playmaking talents, and great shot. He's going to have issues translating to the pace of higher levels given his current game and lack of quickness. Still, when you're picking around here the options are safe likely bottom six guys or try to swing for the fences. He's the swing. There is legitimate skill here, but I worry that his team is placing him higher than he should be. Nadeau looks the part of a dynamic scorer more consistently. Needs time in college, a skating coach and I need more viewings of him at a different level. It really is hard to assess how much of a 200-ft impact he can have when watching his BCHL tape. It's just a bloodbath most nights.
TIER 8 - "Open Up This Pit" (78-100)
The theme of this tier is that we are opening this pit up. This tier is about 40ish prospects long, but we're only going to cover the names until 100. This tier has goalies, it's got one-dimensional wingers, it's got energy guys, it's got a few swings, it's got defenders with lots of flaws but good individual elements. It's got everything you want, and you might pull some NHLers out from this pile. They get moved into this tier because they either aren't well-rounded enough to be in Tier 7, or just don't seemingly have the highest upside to be in the other tiers. The goalies are in here because these are guys I would draft in the top 3-4 rounds, but where they go and where a team values them really is so variable that it made sense for them to be in The Pit™.
Just want to say that The Pit™ is not a derogatory term. It just is a mess down here that is hard to make sense of. Bodies flying, sticks broken, metal music blasting overhead. You get the picture. The strongest will eventually make me look silly for putting them here.
Minnetian is our first defender in this tier. He proved to be the one draft-eligible defender for the USA squad that seemed worthy of a high-ish pick. He's just so fun. He's aggressive in how he takes the puck off the wall in the offensive zone, cuts to the inside lane and tries to create. Most often that is with his shot, which is explosive, both wrist and slapshot. He's the type of defender that has the right ideas, but may not actually have the handling talent or the footspeed to create in the way his brain wants to. He's aggressive in defending the rush, actively using his stick to swat pucks. He can be a bit aggressive and get walked though defensively, and his balance isn't great to make a speedy recovery. The question remains of what will he be at the next level. Not large enough or overly stout defensively to be a shutdown guy, and not supremely skilled enough to be a true activating defenseman. It's tough, but I'd pick him here and give it time. Maybe he continues to surprise.
Bertucci is a great defender for The Pit™. He's physical, but pretty lanky appearing for his 6'2" frame. He makes a decent outlet pass, and has some shooting talents that allow him to generate offense from the point. He's a good rush defender who pushes attackers outside and can tilt play defensively. He's also just a little baffling at times with his decision making. He doesn't set himself up well spacing wise to get pucks from his D partner in retrieval scenarios, he doesn't hit the passes to open guys in the slot and he flings pucks away when there are clear high-end chances available. He was productive for a defenseman with 50 points in 63 games, so clearly something is going well for him. I think there is a defender there, but unless he improves a bit of his hockey sense it's going to be hard for him to make it.
I feel like I've been hearing about Strbak for so long. He's played internationally so many times and has been just so inconsistent for me when I've watched him. He's a capable defender, with ideal size and strength to play in the NHL. He occasionally has flashes of high-level playmaking and talent that give me reason to believe he should be entire tiers above this one. But, then he also just flings a hope pass in the center of the ice in the defensive zone that makes me wonder where his brain is. He feels like the kind of player that can play higher in the lineup if you need him to, but you don't really want him to. He's got an NHL floor...probably, but a poor USHL season didn't do him many favors. I'm not entirely sold on placing anything more than a third rounder on him given the better defenders above., but he likely goes in the second because of his exposure internationally and his safe-ish projection.
Soto is probably the one name so far that has a chance of not getting picked at all. He's #130 from NA skaters by CSS, which puts him in Round 6-7 territory. He's a very young, late August birthday who plays the game with speed and unrelenting pace. He's 5'10-5'11", and has pretty mediocre handling and okay shooting skills. But he's quick on his feet, with a bit of a wide stance and thrives in making a good one touch pass out of the zone. He can maintain puck possession and he's confident at working the puck to his teammates. Always active netfront on the powerplay, keeping his stick in lanes and battling for position.
There was a specific play which sold him as a draft pick for me, despite some concerns over his skill level. I saw him break into the zone, execute a quick give and go that his partner couldn't feed back to him, then he dug the puck out of two defenders in the corner, protected the puck with his frame and got a pass to slot. I just see a bottom six energy player with him, but can see why he is ranked so low. Concerns over his skill level handling the puck in tight and getting to the inside might limit his offensive production.
Now listen, I'm no goalie scout., but even I can see, Fowler is legit. You watch him and just kind of get it. He's athletic, poised and lightning fast in net. He pushes across the crease so well, and covers a huge amount of the net in a short period of time. He's excellent at seeing through traffic, but can overcommit and be a bit aggressive with his positioning. He was an absolute rock almost every night for Youngstown in the USHL. He's around average size for a goaltender at 6'2", but may go later behind the Hrabal and Bjarnasons of the world due to his size. If he's still available and your team hasn't picked a goalie yet, I'd lunge at the button for him.
I don't think there was a pair of draft-eligible defensemen more in-sync than Cagnoni and Sotheran this year. They complemented each other so well. Sotheran was an effective puck-retriever in the corners, who was able to get the puck to Cagnoni for him to break it out with some skilled passes, or Sotheran himself also became adept at breaking it out. He has a bit of a slower acceleration in his first few steps, but when he gets going his top-speed can be impressive. The amount of plays I saw of him just scooping the puck up behind his net, turning and burning the other way to transition was really what drew me in. He's got a smart mind for transition, and can be physical as well defensively. Offensively he will make some decent reads, but I wouldn't say he's going to be a play-driver at the next level. There needs to be some refinement to his game, but he might actually swing a higher pick than this draft slot.
Hey it's Cameron Allen! I think this is one of the more impressive fall-from-graces that I can remember for a draft eligible. He was in some minds projected to be a top 15-20 pick this year. Then his actual season happened. Then the U18s happened. What drew people in was his speed, quick hands, and playmaking talents. He has a lunging pokecheck style of defending that can work well or look really silly when players beat him. His decision making at the U18s was horrible. He would bait pressure from forecheckers then just pass to their sticks. He would get beat by the simplest fakes defensively. He just was not comfortable in the role he was given. He needs time, but the entirety of this season dropped him into The Pit™. Let's see if he crawls out.
Levis could be a real boom or bust prospect. On the one hand, he's a big, skilled winger with a great hockey IQ, vision and playmaking talent. He's long-legged, with the body type to hold onto pucks and use his frame to shield until he can make a play. However, he's also a bit slow, a bit hunched over, and can be passive offensively. He is involved defensively, but mostly just keeping track of his man and keeping pucks to the outside. I've seen some okay hands, but can lose pucks if this gets too complicated. Seems like a prototypical 3rd rounder who could turn into a great junior scorer down the line, with potential for more if he adds some speed and deception.
I'm here for the Italian invasion. Poised to become the first Italian player drafted into the NHL, Clara is a large human. Stands 6'6", and makes the net seem oh so far away for shooters when he is in good position. He's got an excellent glove, and can track pucks from far out. He has a problem with positioning, leaving specifically the far-side post open that needs to be cleaned up. He also a bit clunky in his lower half, and I don't love his footwork all the time. I think he can recover well enough and match skaters with his skating. He needs A LOT of time. This is like your "pick and wait five years and see if he has become a stud". The trend in the NHL is large system goalies that you pay 3 million dollars and stick them in net. The Adin Hill effect will be in full force this draft season, and expect Clara to get picked high because of it.
There are so many late birthdays this year. He is almost 2024 eligible by a few days. Pekarcik is a decent skater but has some choppiness to his feet, who recognizes space and the flow of the play well. He's an aggressive forechecker who battle for position constantly when he's on the ice. His line with Dvorsky at the U18s was pushing play constantly, and he was a large part of that. He would often gather the puck defensively and be the first to transition the puck the other way. He's adept at slipping pases under defender's sticks. He does have a knack for losing the handle behind his stick that needs improvement. HIs shot is fine but likely won't be a hallmark of his game going forward. There's a lot there with his size, pace, and mind for transition. He just needs to put it all together to become a possible third line type of winger.
Burns is physical, calm and plays a heads-up style in the defensive zone. He's aggressive in cutting off attackers, and can body players into the corners. He's everything you want in a shutdown 3rd pairing defenseman. Very occasionally he can flash playmaking talents, or stretch breakout passes that gives me a little pause in that low of a projection. He has legit size, defensive talent, and physicality that picks tend to have in the 2nd/3rd round.
Sidorov wins my first overager off the board award. He's a supremely skilled, sharpshooting forward for Saskatoon. He wasn't just the straw that stirred the proverbial drink for the Blades, he provided the tequila, chilled the ice and found the mixer in the pantry. He's a versatile forward who relied a lot on his shot to drive offense, but definitely has legit hands, playmaking talents and vision to go far. He's not small, standing a hair over six feet as well, which is often the reason why skilled forwards of his caliber find their way undrafted. For him, it's mostly a decision issue, where he often throws puck on net instead of cutting inside, or just circles the net like 3 times before lobbing a low percentage shot. He's not a super physical player either, and relies on rush offense to create. I can see him doing some real damage if he's paired with a legitimate playmaker, and he focuses more on finding position inside and being a bit more physical.
Nurmi's main weapon is his edgework, his speed, and his pace. He fits the mold of an energy winger at the next level, but his overall skill level isn't the highest. I've seen flashes of good hands at the U20 level, and he was pretty productive there with 50 points in 41 games. He's in The Pit only because his overall playmaking, shooting talents, and hard skills are relatively low compared to the European players above him.
Willis has the potential to go undrafted, much like Soto, but he's making my top 100. He's 5'10" and has average shooting, skating, and playmaking talents across the board. However, however. However. He just is a solid hockey player. He knows positionally where to be at all times on the ice. He's aggressive on the forecheck, the backcheck, and works to connect plays when he's out there. His hockey sense is really high, and he can anticipate play so well that I think down the line he could prove to be a super-valuable bottom six center or defensive winger.
Someone (me) already picked Dionicio last draft for the HWH Sharks project, which means I don't have to spend one of the Sharks 12 picks on him this draft. But, if I was the real life Sharks I would. Last year Dionicio was a skilled defender, with poor feet, and some good ideas offensively, poor execution, on a bad Niagara team. Now, after a trade to Windsor, he was an explosive, highly skilled defender who pushed some incredible results in big time minutes. His feet have improved, but still aren't a major strength. Then he switched to forward. His feet are still poor, but man he might have a future there. He was strong on the wing, and his frame, physicality, allowed him to hold onto pucks, make plays, and push the puck forward, bad skating be damned. He reminded me of a slower Burns, when he would dominate on the wall as a forward and Sharks fans were clamoring for him never to switch back to defense. I swear if Dionicio finds a skating coach and picks up his stride, this dude could be an actual star found late. He's going to get picked here this draft, or I might riot.
Karpovich is a 6'3" decently mobile defender who has a booming shot. He's got a keen recognition of when play is breaking down, and gets back into position well, not cheating for his offense. He has decent defensive skills, but can stop skating when he pokechecks, allowing skaters to go around him easily. I like him, and given the NHL tends to be a copycat league, all 32 NHL GMs just watched 6'3" decently mobile, decent puckmovers win Vegas a cup, he likely gets picked in the top 100.
Strathman may prove to be a much more valuable defender than this 94th position. Strathman has good instincts for the position, knows where to be and how to defend the position he is in at most times on the ice. He has decent scanning habits going into the corner, but can get outmuscled, and isn't the fastest to recover when he does get beat. Feels like a bottom pairing guy, but one that you'll rely on a penalty kill to eat minutes if he rounds out his defensive game. His offense is inconsistent, but not terrible. Has decent hands, and can jump into play when needed. I'd be happy to draft him and see where he starts to naturally develop, offense or defense, and lean into it.
I came away really impressed with Jarventie from the U18s. So much so that I went back and watched some of his Mestis tape. He's very quick, has good acceleration, and likes to create off the rush. He attempts to work 1-on-1 against opponents to force offense. I don't think he has much else to his game, but can certainly carry the puck well. He would have to evolve his game a bit more in the other aspects of a forward to really be a play driver. At some point though, I'd rather bet on speed and skill, and Jarventie certainly has that.
It was an up and down year for Misiak. Misiak is a physical center who transitioned from the Slovakian men's league to a Youngstown squad in the USHL that was absolutely stacked. His offense never really got going, and his production suffered. He had lots of shut-down qualities about him though. He's physical, engaged defensively, and competitive. He's always wanting to force the puck out of the zone and get the puck away from his net. His offense was simple, and largely ineffective. I don't see much more than a fourth liner in the future, but he seems fairly safe to meet that level.
Miedema is a frustrating player, and one I bet some team swings on way too early. His speed is overall not great, and he often starts off his dekes very lazily, really pushing his hands to do the work rather than the rest of him. He's a large human, at 6'4", but doesn't always use the advantage there to push play. He has good hands though, and when the dekes work it makes the defender look silly. He's a decent playmaker and can take a hit to hold onto the puck and make a play after. He has a strong and accurate shot, but his game involves so many failed attempts to get inside that he's just so frustrating. It's also hard to project where he goes from here. He's stubborn in his rush patterns, and speed improvements may certainly help, but I wouldn't say it'll lead to him dominating in a meaningful way in juniors. He is worthy of a pick, just with lots to work on to make him an NHLer.
Gajan has such an unusual path to getting drafted, but a dominant U20s this year means he is assuredly going to a team in a few weeks. To be honest he reminds me of Suchanek, a goaltender that will round out this top 100, only with a more refined technique. He's aggressive, athletic and quick. He's an excellent skater, and can match speed when shooters come at him. He was so good for Slovakia in the U20s, putting the team on his back game after game. His play (I'm told because I haven't seen it) in the NAHL was just as good. Again me, as a non-goalie scout could see a fantastic, good sized goaltender in Gajan, and he should go a lot higher than this. This draft has so many good goalies that are going to be available around this range, that I would honestly just see whoever falls.
Terrance is an off-puck shooter who has good hands, and a good shot. There isn't much else to his game. I don't see a primary playmaker, or a defensive player. I see a player who can catch, shoot, and skate well enough to score some goals in juniors. There could be a better player here, but Erie was not a fun team to watch this year, and would get buried frequently. Often he would spend entire shifts chasing the puck into the defensive zone, or losing the puck and having to come back. There was also times when if the play didn't immediately have a chance of turning into an offensive chance, he would stop skating. I liked him in snippets, and he is getting ranked mostly because he was a decent scorer on a really bad team, and that has value if the situation around him improves.
Suchanek could probably be had much later than 100th overall, but I'll be damned if he wasn't going to be my player here. I've watched him probably 20+ times at this point. I know Suchanek's game, and I love it. He's super aggressive, plays with the highs and lows of his game. He thrives in situations where he is getting shot at from everywhere, and he can get into a rhythm. He can look outrageously impressive when he is on his game. When the chaos is reigning around him, he's flopping like a fish and stacking pads. He's throwing windmill glove saves and poking the puck off brave attackers. It's Hasek-esque, but like very obviously not Hasek level of skill. To be honest, I'd draft him as the second goalie for my team from this draft, if I had enough draft picks (cough, Sharks, cough).
Other players in this tier, some that I didn't write-up - Kalem Parker, Noel Nordh, Gavin McCarthy, Tanner Ludtke, Jeremy Hanzel (OA2), Gabriel Szturc (OA1), Arttu Karki , Aiden Fink, Scott Ratzlaff, Jordan Tourigny, Alex Pharand, Mazden Leslie, Aaron Pionk, Beckett Hendrickson, Albert Wikman, Isac Hedqvist, Yegor Rimashevksy, Tuomas Uronen, Hoyt Stanley, Hannes Hellberg, Ondrej Molnar
The honorable mentions here may or may not be drafted, and they may or may not even be drafted by me when I do the HWH Sharks this year. They're just guys that I found really interesting while scouting this season. Hanzel is first. He's a double overager defender who has a stuttering first few steps, and speed that isn't the greatest. This is his main weakness as a defender right now. Besides this though, he's very smart, active at all ends of the ice, and a good playmaker. He played a key role for Seattle throughout the year, all the way up to the Memorial Cup Final. I really like how effective he is at transitioning the puck and keeping the play in front of him. I see a draft pick here, even if he only tops out as a replacement level NHLer.
Now an overager, Szturc played a vital role for Czechia at the U20s this year, and demonstrated excellent shooting, rush offense. He's a north/south player primarily who likes to carry with speed into the zone, stop up and create. He has a hard shot, but his accuracy isn't fantastic. He can create and distribute on the powerplay. I think the biggest knock is he's a bit simplistic, and without elite skills it is hard to place him at the next level. Still, there is skill here, if not a high ceiling guy. He took a big jump this year in production and looked way more confident when I watched him, so I'd swing on him late.
Hendrickson is a guy who will definitely get drafted. He's got good size, decent but not amazing feet, and can play a lot of different roles at the next level. He's a skilled passer, with soft hands to feather in long-range bombs. He had a few behind the net passing plays that gave me actual pause to wonder if he needs to be placed a whole lot higher. The issue was it wasn't always the front and center for him. He was down the lineup on a stacked team for USA, but the skill is there. Maybe with a more prominent role and the right linemates he could take off.
Parker is one I watched last year, who I really didn't like. I was not sold on his decision making, or his real skill level. He felt incomplete as a defender. This year? Much improved. He's more reserved defensively, and doesn't dive himself out of position all the time like he did last year. He's got great feet, and a good shot. He took over this year in more minutes with the Laroque injury, and did well enough for a bad team. He's developing a more dynamic offense, and has a good base to do so. I'd pick him in the 4th or so.
Wikman is the kind of defenseman that will get drafted. He's simple, effective and the definition of not flashy. I first noticed him at the Four Nations in February, where he demonstrated simple breakouts, positional defense, and a stout defensive mind. That's about it though. I don't think there's really any offense there. He played 11 SHL regular season games in his draft year though, scoring 0 points. If I had an extra sixth or so, I'd take him.
Hellberg was very productive in the J20 this year, his first overage year. I found him to be mostly fine. He lags behind the play a bit, and seems to be poaching for offense in the games I've seen of him. His feet are fine, but not high-end. He has good size, and can be physical but gets way too puck focused on retrievals. He's mostly looking for instant offense. He has a good shot, and a runway for improvement if he develops more of a 200 foot game.
Hugo Fransson is an overage defense prospect out of Sweden. He was one of the youngest draft eligibles for the 2022 draft, being an August '04 birthday, and was unselected after a decent J20 season with 26 points in 48 games. This year, again just being 18 the entire year, he blossomed into 22 points in just 27 games, and also spent half the year in the Swedish 3rd division men's league, putting up 9 points in 17 games. The tape I've watched of him is really good. He's active, with great skating, four-way mobility, and great hands. He's aggressive in cutting off attackers, but almost to his detriment by sacrificing positioning. But he's so fun, active, and mobile, all traits that can maybe someday make an NHL defenseman. Maybe. He has OKAY size, in the 5'11"/6 foot category. There's a draft pick here and I hope he's picked up this time around.
Small. Lots of fun. Like a worse Sawchyn. Good hands.
It's got to be this year right? Milic is a double overager who just carried Seattle to the Memorial Cup Finals. He doesn't have one standout skill as a goalie that I can specifically point to, but he is night in and night out solid. He's undersized though, and the NHL abhors a 6 foot tall goalie. Similar to Suchanek, I'd take him if he was the second goalie my team took this draft. All he has done is win hockey games.
A supremely productive 2nd tier Swedish league player, Asplund plays a really patient pass-first game. He's always holding onto the puck looking for breakout options, rarely using his feet to push play. He's good at it, but it is hard to place him or find a similar NHL comparable.
Anoshko has okay speed, and is always engaged in the neutral zone to transition the puck. He loves short passes, getting the puck to teammates for quick-hitter offense. He has a galloping stride that can get up to an okay top speed but is not efficient at all. He has a good, hard shot, and finds lots of goals around the net. He has a lot of elements that project to an NHL game, and I think someone will find value with him late.
Deagen! McMillan! Not only does he possess one of the best names in this draft, he also has other...stuff that makes him good. I swear. Many things. I can think of them. Give me a bit. Many things.
Alright fine I'll write something. He's got ideal size for a power winger, a good shot, great scanning ability on retrievals and breakouts. He's steadily improved throughout his WHL year, and by the end juuussst started to scratch the surface of being a play driver. His feet are poor, and his playmaking, defensive impacts, etc. are a definite work in progress. But this is the range where you see a tool and you focus on it. McMillan has a shot, offensive instincts, and size. See if he runs with it next year.
Romani was on my radar from last season, but never really took the step forward this year that I was hoping he would. He has decent hands, and can thread a seam pass really well. He has slower boots than he needs to affect play offensively. He isn't able to keep up with play on the forecheck because of his poor acceleration. He shows flashes of offensive potential, but may find his name called next year rather than this one.
Take him at like pick 200 and see what happens. Reminds me of Labanc a bit, a peripheral playmaker who can get inside occasionally and laser a shot. He keeps his feet moving and can cover more ground than Labanc, but I think his brain wouldn't know what to do if he was on a structured team. It makes sense that he thrived when traded to just a terrible Niagara team with free-wheeling offense only.
I'm mostly confused on his development path, because he seems to be taking off to Switzerland next year. I would have reservations about spending a pick on him, as sometimes when a player goes to the NL, they don't come back. I guess it is good living over there? The Sharks spent a 2nd on Noah Rod a lifetime ago, and he never really left Switzerland. Anyways, what I saw of De Luca at Spokane was mostly good. He's got lots of handling skills, plays with decent pace and speed, and can beat defenders one on one. He's smart and plays a defensively responsible game as well.
I was looking through Czechia game reports and Koci kept creeping up. Not a productive player by any means, but simple, effective and tenacious. He has a great ability to take puck off attackers and break it out to a teammate. He's like the Czech Wikman, and maybe worth a pick late, or just keep on a watchlist to see if he gets faster and develops any offense next season.
I don't care man, I'm taking this guy late. Hard to pronounce name be damned. .He's high energy, aggressive and his game is very simple. He wants to get the puck off the wall, and throw it to the middle. He has some decent passes this way, and can set up some highlight reel plays. He was injured for a lot of the year, but was around a point per game in his small sample size. He is undersized, but his motor could take him far.
Felcman I've done a deep dive on. Did you know you can fine Swiss U20 games on Youtube? I didn't until I looked him up! Anyways, he's a big human with a slow stride. He is mostly a patient playmaking type of center, but can wire the puck on the powerplay as well. He misses so many dynamic elements to make him worth a high pick, but maybe a seventh. He has to improve his skating stride to have a pro future.
Bulans is the last HM here. He sort of reminds me of Dionicio from last year. Okay sized, okay feet, and some poor decisions offensively limit his game. He has some elements of offense to his game: a decent stretch pass, a decent point shot, and a willingness to jump into the play down-low in the offensive zone. But there are lots of holes. He's competitive though, and was a great defender for Latvia at the U18s. I'm a little shocked he's not even ranked by CSS to be honest. This list has officially become too hipster, too niche, and with that we close out the honorable mentions.
You all made it! Here's the ranking in photo form. As always there's an indicator of watch time, which is a shading of green on the player's name. Darker green = many, many games watched. Light green = some games watched. All the players above I've watched full games of, as well as highlight packages, read scout reports and rankings, and incorporated their stats into the mix. Tiers are in shades on the left of the chart.
Looking forward to next time. Also if you're interested in signing up for the site (it's free), I'm making a forum where people can request scouting evaluations of players, post their own reports, or ask any other questions about specific draft classes. Should be fun to engage people after this draft and compare picks, etc. Also also, if you sign up (it's free), I'm going to be putting out a download link, to members who want it, with about 100 game reports from games I watched throughout this season, many of which influenced the evals above. A lot of it is nonsense, but some may find it fun to look at.
Thanks again for reading, the growth has been awesome, both in this site and (hopefully) in my ability to evaluate players, and that is from you all!