The regular seasons for all of the major North American and international leagues are over, and they’re all well into their playoff schedules. The Under-18 World Championships are underway and the World Hockey Championship is just around the corner (as is the Memorial Cup). With so much hockey completed, here’s the latest update of The Hockey Writers’ Alternate NHL Draft Rankings.
This is the fourth update of The Hockey Writers’ Alternate Draft rankings for the 2015-16 hockey season. Developed as a complementary device to Chris Ralph’s long-standing The Next One Rankings and Eldon MacDonald’s War Room rankings, my approach is fairly straight-forward and simple: if I were drafting a team from scratch, which players would I choose (and in what order).
Some disclaimers: I’m based in Western Canada and see most Western Hockey League teams and occasionally see Canadian prospects at Hockey Canada events. Most likely I’m a bit biased both towards and against WHL players because I see them often and have more information about their play than I do about other players. I’ve also found that compared to other consensus rankings, I’m a bit tougher on defensemen and goalies.
Players are listed with their January rankings in brackets, and yes, it definitely looks like Auston Matthews will go bell-to-bell as this draft’s top player.
The First Round
1st [1st]: C Auston Matthews – ZCA Lions (National League A)
2nd [4th]: RW Patrik Laine – Tappara (SM-Liiga)
3rd [2nd]: RW Jesse Puljujarvi – Karpat (SM-Liiga)
The top of the first round has a very distinct top trio, with Matthews ever-so-slightly ahead of Laine. Laine’s success in the SM-Liiga post-season edges him slightly ahead of Puljujarvi.
4th [3rd]: LW Matthew Tkachuk – London Knights (Ontario Hockey League)
5th [5th]: D Jakob Chychrun – Sarnia Sting (OHL)
6th [6th]: RW Alex Nylander – Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
7th [10th]: LW Pierre-Luc Dubois – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League)
Following the top trio, this next grouping of four may be interchangeable in the eyes of some NHL clubs. All have strong skating and offensive talent, while Dubois has been rocketing up the draft rankings with a strong late-season performance.
8th [33th]: D Mikhail Sergachev – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
9th [22nd]: RW Vitali Abramov – Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
10th [27th]: C Clayton Keller – U.S. National Development Team (United States Hockey League)
11th [19th]: D Olli Juolevi – London Knights (OHL)
12th [18th]: C Michael McLeod – Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
This next group of five are close to interchangeable, though one could argue that depending on a team’s needs they may skew towards the offensive skill of Abramov or Keller (or Juolevi, if they need goals from the blueline), or McLeod’s combination of size and skill.
13th [11th]: C Logan Brown – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
14th [15th]: D Jake Bean – Calgary Hitmen (Western Hockey League)
15th [17th]: C Alex Debrincat – Erie Otters (OHL)
16th [41st]: D Charlie McAvoy – Boston University Terriers (Hockey East)
17th [12th]: C Rasmus Asplund – Farjestads BK (Swedish Hockey League)
18th [8th]: C Tyson Jost – Penticton Vees (British Columbia Hockey League)
19th [25th]: RW Taylor Raddysh – Erie Otters (OHL)
Lots of impressive players even this far into the first round: Bean and McAvoy had impressive offensive production on the blueline; Debrincat and Raddysh combined for a crazy amount of offense, and Jost dominated the BCHL.
20th [9th]: RW Julien Gauthier – Val-d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL)
21st [51st]: RW German Rubtsov – Team Russia U18 (Minor Hockey League)
22nd [7th]: D Dante Fabbro – Penticton Vees (BCHL)
23rd [16th]: C Kieffer Bellows – U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
24th [13th]: LW Max Jones – London Knights (OHL)
25th [26th]: D Samuel Girard – Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
Gauthier has size and Rubtsov has skill. Fabbro was dominant in the BCHL, while Jones was pretty good on a great London team. Girard is one of my favourite players in this draft; he can skate like the wind, has a great gas tank and an underrated offensive instinct.
26th [24th]: C Brett Howden – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
27th [Not Ranked]: LW Riley Tufte – Blaine High (USHS)
28th [23rd]: C Dillon Dube – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
29th [32nd]: C Pascal Laberge – Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)
30th [21st]: C Sam Steel – Regina Pats (WHL)
The last group of the first round was tough, in that they really bleed into the top-end of the second round (and really, the first 10 players in the second round could creep into the back handful of spots in the first round). Laberge is a potential riser in this group, a toolsy player with good 200-foot instincts.
The Second Round
31st [50th]: C Luke Kunin – University of Wisconsin Badgers (Big 10)
32nd [29th]: D Chad Krys – U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
33rd [14th]: LW Tyler Benson – Vancouver Giants (WHL)
34th [NR]: C Tage Thompson – University of Connecticut Huskies (HE)
35th [43rd]: D Frederic Allard – Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)
36th [45th]: LW Simon Stransky – Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
37th [35th]: C Nathan Bastian – Mississauga Steelheads (QMJHL)
38th [NR]: LW Boris Katchouk – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
39th [37th]: C Jordan Kyrou – Sarnia Sting (OHL)
40th [38th]: C Dmitri Sokolov – Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
Of this group, arguably the most likely to creep into the late first round are Kunin, Krys and Thompson – three impressive Americans who have had very good seasons. Benson is an interesting case; once pegged as a sure-fire top-10 pick, he spent the majority of this season injured and toppled down most draft rankings. He’s a very talented player, but the season-long injury may have caused doubts in some scouts minds in terms of his NHL ceiling.
41st [20th]: C Jonathan Ang – Peterborough Petes (OHL)
42nd [28th]: C Jonathan Dahlen – Timra IK (HockeyAllsvenskan)
43rd [42nd]: LW Carl Grundstrom – MODO (SHL)
44th [30th]: D Kale Clague – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
45th [31st]: C William Bitten – Flint Firebirds (OHL)
46th [34th]: D Victor Mete – London Knights (OHL)
47th [NR]: D Max Lajoie – Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
48th [36th]: D Luke Green – Saint John Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
49th [NR]: LW Givani Smith – Guelph Storm (OHL)
50th [39th]: C Travis Barron – Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
This mid-second round grouping contains an interesting mix: big defenders, puck-moving defenders, two-way forwards and players with an impressive amount of offensive upside. Dahlen’s well-regarded by European scouts and has a chance to creep into the top grouping (or even into the first round) depending on the needs of the drafting clubs.
51st [NR]: D Lucas Johansen – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
52nd [NR]: D David Quenneville – Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
53rd [44th]: D Markus Niemelainen – Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
54th [NR]: D Libor Hajek – Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
55th [40th]: D Sean Day – Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
56th [NR]: D Logan Stanley – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
57th [52nd]: C Linus Lindstrom – Stelleftea AIK (Sweden U20)
58th [53rd]: D Griffin Luce – U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
59th [NR]: G Carter Hart – Everett Silvertips (WHL)
60th [NR]: G Zach Sawchenko – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
In terms of netminders, this year’s draft feels similar to the 2014 Draft that saw Mason McDonald, Thatcher Demko, Alex Nedeljkovic and Vitek Vanecek. Depending on how antsy general managers get, it’s probable that Hart and Sawchenko kick off a domino-tumbling of goalies (either late in the second or early in the first) also involving Evan Fitzpatrick, Dylan Wells and Tyler Parsons.
Ones To Watch
Beyond the 60 players I project to go in the first two rounds, there are many players that could possibly creep into the second round. The eight most likely to do so are (in alphabetical order):
- Lethbridge’s Brayden Burke
- HV71’s Jacob Cederholm
- U.S. National Development Team’s Trent Frederic
- Lulea’s Filip Gustavsson
- Tappara’s Otto Makinen
- Kitchener’s Adam Mascherin
- Youngstown’s Cameron Morrison
- Calgary’s Carsen Twarynski
This list of eight obviously excludes previously-mentioned goaltenders Fitzpatrick, Wells and Parsons, so for all intents and purposes this “almost-but-not-quite” grouping contains 11 potential second round picks.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.