Now that we’re past the 2015 NHL Draft, which included two generational talents in Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, we can look way ahead to the 2016 NHL Draft.
So far, it looks like there will be one prospect who will run away with the first overall rankings all year long. Auston Matthews missed this year’s draft by just two days, born on September 17th, 1997. Many scouts believe that if he were in the 2015 draft, he would’ve gone second overall, just behind McDavid.
That gives you an idea of the superstar talent available, but what about after Matthews? Well, it could actually be a deeper draft than 2015’s for a large part. But, let’s get into the specifics of that in the rankings.
2016 NHL Draft Rankings
1: Auston Matthews –
Auston Matthews is already drawing comparisons to Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby for his unbelievable competitiveness and drive to win. The Arizona native also comes with an extraordinary package of skills, including silky smooth stick handling and a very hard and accurate wrist shot. His skating is also impeccable as he flew by defensemen. He’s very mature in understanding that he needs to play a two-way game to be successful. Matthews has great vision of the ice and can see plays as they develop.
After breaking records all year for the USNTDP, including most goals with 55, and most points with 117 (Patrick Kane had 52 goals and 102 points), Matthews next step is a little cloudy. With the option of playing in the NCAA or the WHL for the Everett Silvertips, Matthews went off the board and chose to play in Europe for the 2015-16 season. However, because of his lack of professional work, he’s having a difficult time acquiring a work permit, which he needs to play in Switzerland. That means he may have to play elsewhere in Europe, or accept playing in North America. The decision has nothing to do with his dream of playing in the NHL.
2: Jakob Chychrun –
Jakob Chychrun, like Ekblad was, is mature far beyond his years. The 1st overall pick in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection, Chychrun was an assistant captain in his first season. Another top prospect from the south, born and raised in Florida, Chychrun was actually voted as being further in his development than Ekblad was after his first year. The 6’2, 194 pound man-child scored 16 goals and 33 points in his 42 games for a poor Sarnia Sting team. He looks like a surefire franchise defenceman.
What puts Chychrun ahead of everyone else is his sensational skating ability. He uses a wide stride to enhance his strength and is able to reach top speeds very quickly with his lower-body power. He’s virtually perfect on the breakout, using a calming presence to settle a play down before making an accurate pass that often stretches through the neutral zone. He has an excellent shot from the point, finding a lane through multiple screens. He is never shy to join the rush and even go end-to-end. In his own end, Chychrun uses his mammoth frame to impose a physical aspect on his opponents. He could benefit from not over exerting himself so often, sometimes leaving himself vulnerable positionally in his now end.
3: Jesse Puljujarvi –
Jesse Puljujarvi is an offensively gifted winger who has already drawn comparisons to his countryman, Teemu Selanne. As the only 1998 born player in the 2015 World Juniors, he led the entire tournament with 26 shots in just 5 games. Despite not registering a single point, Puljujarvi was the most dominant player on his Finnish team. He already plays with men in the Liiga, where he scored four goals and 11 points in 21 games as a 16-year-old. As Matthews hopes to do, Puljujarvi is benefitting from playing against fully grown men in Europe.
Puljujarvi loves to shoot the puck. Like Alex Ovechkin, he shoots the puck at any opportunity he can. On the power play, he plays the right point, calling for a pass whenever possible so he can rip a hard one-timer on net. For a 6’2 kid, he skates exceptionally well and is very agile and smooth on his feet. He sees the ice well and knows when there is an opportunity to break through, or when he needs to settle down and set up a play. He has quick hands and can find a lane through his opponents before the play has even developed. With his tremendous vision, he is able to go to the tough places in order to create scoring opportunities.
Have your own Top 3 for the 2016 NHL Draft? Share it it the comments below!
Contributor for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Prospects. Scout with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. For questions, concerns, or comments, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @SlawsonTHW.