2016 NHL Draft Team Grades and Top Prospects: Central Division

by Eldon MacDonald (edited by Chris Ralph)

This is an in-depth look at the NHL’s Central Division’s team’s:

  • Top 15 prospects
  • 2016 NHL Draft team grades
  • Impact prospects by team
  • Sleeper prospects
  • Under 21 players
  • 2016 NHL Draft results compared to rankings
  • Stats from last season for all of the above

The Central 

The Central Division – Draft and Prospect Table

  Black Hawks Avalanche Stars Wild Predators Blues Jets
Draft Ranking B- B+ C+ C- B+ C+ A+
Prospect Ranking B- B+ B B- B B- A+
3 Impact Prospects DeBrincat Jost Tufte Tuch Fabbro Husso Laine
Schmaltz Rantanen Honka Kunin Fiala Schmaltz Connor
Pokka Pickard Lindell Eriksson Ek Saros Thompson Hellebuyck
Sleeper Impact Kayumov Clurman Point Sokolov Pitlick Fitzpatrick Berdin

Favourite Picks by Round

Who are your favourite picks by round? My favourites are not necessarily the best picks in the round but are the picks with which the team got the best value for when they were picking.

1st round

  1. 11th Ottawa – Logan Brown – C – 6’6, 220
  2. 4th Edmonton – Jesse Puljujarvi – RW – 6’4, 205
  3. 6th Calgary – Matthew Tkachuk – LW – 6’1, 195

2nd round

  1. 39th Chicago – Alex DeBrincat – RW – 5’7, 165
  2. 42nd Ottawa – Jonathan Dahlén – C/LW – 5’11, 176
  3. 38th Florida – Adam Mascherin – LW – 5’9, 193

3rd round

  1. 65th Columbus – Vitali Abramov – RW – 5’9, 175
  2. 78th Nashville – Frédéric Allard – D – 6’1, 179
  3. 76th Nashville – Rem Pitlick – C/W – 5’10, 195

4th round

  1. 114th Florida – Riley Stillman – D – 6’1, 180
  2. 100th Montreal – Victor Mete – D – 5’10, 174
  3. 102nd New Jersey – Mikhail Maltsev – C – 6’3, 198

5th round

  1. 141st NY Rangers – Tim Gettinger – LW – 6’6, 200
  2. 134th Carolina – Jeremy Helvig – G – 6’2, 190
  3. 128th Dallas – Colton Point – G – 6’4, 219

6th round

  1. 153rd Edmonton – Aapeli Räsänen – F – 6’0, 197
  2. 157th Winnipeg – Mikhail Berdin – G – 6’2, 163
  3. 165th Boston – Oskar Steen – RW – 5’9, 187

7th round

  1. 196th – Minnesota – Dmitri Sokolov – LW/C – 6’0, 208
  2. 200th – NY Islanders – David Quenneville – D – 5’8, 183
  3. 208th – Tampa Bay – Otto Somppi – C – 6’1, 183

2016 NHL Draft Team Grades

Chicago Blackhawks: B-

The Top Pick: Alex DeBrincat – RW – 39 – 5’7, 165

Wow, I love this pick. Yes, I had him in the 1st round at 25. DeBrincat brings a Brandan Gallagher type player to the Black Hawks organization. He has more skills, he has less size, and he doesn’t come out from a scrum smiling – unlike his Canadiens counterpart. He is used to playing with star players (Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome). There is always risk in drafting a prospect who is 5’7 but I believe that this is one risk that will pan out as a top 6 player for the Black Hawks.

After DeBrincat, the Hawks drafted 8 players including:

Chad Krys – 45 – D – 5’11, 185

Krys started out the season in the first round on many lists. However, lack of offense for a small guy and poor decision-making in his own zone caused him to slide on most rankings to the 3rd, 4th and even 5th rounds. I had him at him at 75. Sometimes the fallers bring out the best value to the draft table – remember Brandon Saad. Will Chris Krys turn out to be that 3rd to 5th round value i.e. next to nothing or will he result in a Brandon Saad type value? That’s why we love to start watching hockey again in the fall.

Artur Kayumov – 50 – W – 5’10, 158

Chicago Black Hawks believe that they have hit pay dirt in drafting Russian forward Kayumov, an admirer of fellow Russian, Artemi Panarin. Artur is first and foremost a goal scorer with a sniper’s release and a sniper’s shot. He averaged 0.8 points per game playing for the Team Russia U18s in the MHL and was better than a point per game in international competition. His favourite team growing up – you guessed it – the Chicago Black Hawks. He has two more years to fulfill on his contract with the KHL team, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, before coming over. He should ask if he can get extra helpings of the three Ps, poutine, perogis and pizza, before he gets here as he is only 158 lbs. (Note: Elite Prospects already have him at 5’11 and 172 lb. so someone must have already told him about the three Ps.)

Wouter Peeters – 83 – G – 6’4, 205

Peeters is a true project pick. He has size and potential but is still very, very raw. He is a Belgian national who played for the EC Salzburg II U20 team in Austria where he put up rather unspectacular numbers – a 3.27 goals against average. He was not on most rankings including mine. The Hawks must envision something special in this guy to have drafted him in the 3rd round as he would most likely have lasted a few more rounds.

Lukas Carlsson –  110 – D – 6’0, 189

Carlsson is an overage defenseman who played for Brynäs IF in the SHL, the top Swedish professional league, where he put up 9 points in 35 games. While he will never be a star, he represents good value for a 4th round pick. I had him at 96. He is typical of a lot of modest sized Swedish defenseman. They are usually a year behind in weight and strength training compared to their North American counterparts and therefore do not start to truly impress scouts until their post draft year or beyond. As you would expect, Lukas possesses that very good skating ability that Swedish defensemen are noted for. He also possesses a high-end hockey sense and can be played in all situations. He still is in need of some serious weight and strength training to take his game to the pro level on this side of the Atlantic. He is not to be confused with the other Lukas Carlsson (D, 6’2, 201 -Södertälje SK J20) who went undrafted.


Colorado Avalanche: B+

The Top Pick: Tyson Jost – 10 – C – 5’11, 190

What do I think of  Jost? Well, I had him at 5. He possesses Patrick Kane-like physical skills and Jonathan Toews-like mental skills. He is a centreman who put up over two points a game in the BCHL and then followed that up by beating Connor McDavid’s all-time record for most points for Canada at the IIHF World U18 Tournament. He also was named as the Tournament’s top forward. He plays in all situations, provides a consistently high effort level, and is the player you count on in tough situations.

Tyson’s best asset is his ability to create space to make plays or utilize his excellent shot. The reason that I have him higher than most other rankings is that I believe he has the highest potential of the remaining players to be a top line centre in the NHL. He is not small; he is 5’11”, 192 pounds and will likely end up playing in the NHL at Sidney Crosby’s current size of 5’11”, 200 pounds. I love this pick.

Here are my thoughts on some of the other draftees:

Cam Morrison – 40 – C/LW – 6’3, 209

Morrison is that versatile big guy who can play centre or wing. He plays the simple North-South game and has the top speed and drive to make it effective. He also plays a high-end defensive game, supporting the D, winning face-offs which add to his attractiveness as a NHL commodity. He also seems to be good in close as he has been effective in banging in them there puck things into the net. He still needs to work on his skating, acceleration and agility, but there is a lot to like in his game. I had him at 54.

Josh Anderson – 71 – D – 6’2, 221

Anderson is a guy who came to the WHL high on the radar since he was the 3rd overall pick in the 2013 bantam draft by Prince George. He never came close to finding that lofty promise due to two things:

  • Lack of foot speed
  • Inability to add any offense to his game (just 6 points in 39 games last year)

Josh still has the potential to be a defenseman in the NHL if he improves his foot speed. He is a hard to play against defensive defenseman who likes to work the boards, the corners ,and clear the crease. He possesses good defensive hockey sense and has been known to throw a few in defense of his teammates. However, to repeat, it is imperative that he improves his foot speed to make it to the top-level (at least a mile high). I had him at 112.

Adam Werner – 131 – G – 6’4, 198

Werner is an overage goalie with great size (6’5 on Elite Prospects) who had a decent year  in Swedish J20 hockey with a .916 save percentage (.906 in his first year of draft eligibility). The chief things Werner has going for him are his size, athleticism, and calmness. He is still very much a work in progress as his techniques are still in need of major refinements. His biggest weakness so far is that he stays too far back in the net which gives away his size advantage.

Nathan Clurman – 161 – D – 6’2, 198

Clurman is a project pick out of high school, the Culver Military Academy in Indiana. Culver Military has had 22 players drafted by the NHL, 7 of which became NHL players including Ryan Suter and John-Michael Liles. Although still very raw, the Avs believe that they got a potential NHL player in Clurman. He has the 3 Ss that NHL teams find very attractive – size, skating, shot. He is, however, still early in the development process. He also looked like he could be the real deal at the Avs summer development camp – someone to keep an eye on for the future.


Dallas Stars: C+

The Top Pick:  Riley Tufte – 25 – LW – 6’5, 211

I struggled with ranking Tufte. In the end, I had him at 22, close to his Dallas selection at 25. I loved him for his Minnesota High School hockey where he was an ogre playing against boys. He had over 3 points per game (78 points in just 25 games) and was absolutely dominant. He won the award for the best high school player in Minnesota, the Mr. Hockey Trophy.  So what made Tufte so dominant? When his skills are added to his huge size, he becomes almost unstoppable. The skills included the basics – skating, shooting, stickhandling plus good defense and willingness to compete. What made me hesitate in the end was his modest results in the USHL (mainly after the high school season ended) where he had only 14 points in 27 games. However, the skills were still there so I put it down to just a step in the development process. Next year, he will suit up for the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

The Stars made some curious choices with their remaining picks. With the exception of Colton Point in the 5th, most of the picks were off-the-board. Let’s hope Stars management knew what they were doing as they have found some gems in the draft in recent memory.

Fredrik Karlsson – 90 – C – 6’2, 185

Karlsson has the size, hockey sense, top gear skating and defensive game that scouts are looking for. He also ended the season on a high note with a terrific playoff in the Swedish J20 league (11 points in six games and +11). However, his overall skating is a work-in-progress and needs improvement to his acceleration and agility. It is the skating that has kept Fredrik down on most rankings. I had him at 201.

Reid Gardiner – 116 – C/RW – 5’11, 193

Gardiner was drafted by the Dallas Stars in his 3rd year of draft eligibility. The reason that he got drafted this time around is simply that his shot has improved to the point where it became high-end. He also improved his skating and improved his frame. However, the Stars must see something in this guy that most of us don’t (I had him at 204) as he had a good but not terrific last year in the WHL (92 points in 71 games) and most of his game is good but not outstanding. He is eligible to play in the AHL next year.

Colton Point – 128 – G – 6’4, 219

Point provides that big-man goaltending presence that NHL teams crave for. He can be described as a positional goaltender who doesn’t provide a lot of movement and lets the pucks come to him. He tracks the game very well and has good rebound control. He also possesses the calmness in net that teammates love. He had a very impressive season in the CCHL last year with a .915 save percentage in the regular season and was the MVP of the playoffs with a 0.933 save percentage. His team, the Carleton Place Canadians, won the CCHL championship as well as the Fred Page Cup (given to the winner of the post playoff tournament between the CCHL, the MJHL and the LHJQ). He is still raw and must work on his foot work to continue the ascent upwards to the top, the NHL. I had him at 76. The Hockey News rated Dallas the winner of the 5th round because of this pick.

Nicholas Caamano – 146 – LW – 6’1, 188

There are definitely reasons to like Caamano as a potential defensive bottom six winger for the Dallas Stars. He provides decent size, has good speed, is effective in close and provides a very good defensive game.  However, he has not shown much offense to date (37 points in 64 games in the OHL) and his puck skills are generally not at the big league level. I had him at 193.

Minnesota Wild: C-

The Top Pick – Luke Kunin – 15 – LW/C – 5’11, 193

Kunin is a prospect who brings compete, drive and energy to a high-end skill level. He is a good shooter and finisher and has high-end vision and hockey sense. He also brings a bit of chippiness to the rink which can throw his opponents off their game. He can play either centre or left-wing. His ceiling is as a second liner or a high-end third liner. What intrigues me about Kunin is that he hit the turbo button and started to dominate down the stretch – he may be even better than we thought. I had him at 20.

The Wild traded away most of their picks. In the end, they just had a fourth and two sevenths to complete the draft. It is hard to impress anyone with those types of picks. However, I did like the selection of Dmitri Sokolov in the 7thround.

Brandon Duhaime – 106 – LW – 6’0, 185

Duhaime is an overage prospect who finally got drafted because he is a high-end skater whose body finally grew to or at least close to NHL proportions. He is also has a good shot. While, I could see this pick in the late rounds, I would have preferred someone else in the 4th. He still has work on bringing his body up to NHL standards and I am not sure if his offensive game is high-end enough for the NHL as a prospect with only average proportions. Last year he had 42 points in 57 games in the USHL. I had him as unranked.

Dmitri Sokolov – 196 – LW/C – 6’0, 208

I love this pick. When you are down 10 runs in the seventh, why not take a good swing. The Wild didn’t have any quality selection shots after the 1st so they went for the fences with Sokolov in the 7th. Dmitri was a top 10 selection for many going into the season. However, he came into camp out of shape and overweight and was quickly dismissed by most as unmotivated and undisciplined. His coaches tell a different story. They say Sokolov is a good kid who dealt with his issues and was also dealing with a bum shoulder (requiring off-season surgery) throughout the year. In the end, Dmitri ended up 30 goals in spite of playing for one of the worst teams and one of the perpetually bad franchises in the CHL. In the skills department, it is the shot that makes him special – release, velocity, accuracy. He just had that goal scorer’s finish that cannot be taught. He still needs to work on his skating and has to improve on his consistency but there still is the potential that he will develop into the star or close to it that many foreseen in him prior to the start of last season. I had him at 42 because I believe that he is the real meal deal as a goal scorer and that you need to take a throw of the dice sometimes to get one. Sokolov would have been a risky pick in the 2nd but he is definitely a worthwhile gamble in the 7th.

Braydyn Chizen – 204 – D – 6’6, 190

Chizen is defenseman with enormous size who hasn’t shown much to date (2 points in 45 games in the WHL). He is one of those project picks that most teams make in the 6th and 7th rounds. The teams take a prospect with one outstanding characteristic (size, skating or shot, usually) and see if they can build a case for bringing up the rest of the prospect’s skills to the NHL level. In most cases, these project picks don’t work out but there is always that diamond in the rough that keeps NHL prospectors digging.


Nashville Predators: B+

The Top Pick: Dante Fabbro – 17 – D – 6’1, 192

Fabbro is a prospect that I liked all year but I grew to love in the U18’s. Most nights he was Canada’s top defenseman, paired mainly with Jakob Chychrun, drafted at 16 by Arizona. Dante possesses high-end but not necessarily elite physical skills. However, it is the mental skills that are elite and make him a special player. He has a particularly sang-froid ability, he hangs onto the puck for just the last second before making that crisp breakout pass. He holds onto the puck in the offensive zone to draw the offender before making a tic-tac-toe like pass. He also has elite hockey sense and vision and rarely makes a mistake. I would like to see him develop more an edge to his game like Duncan Keith but other than that there is a lot to like. I had him at 17 just like Nashville.

Most teams do not have any exciting picks after the first round. The Predators do – not one, not two but three exciting picks – Samuel Girard, Rem Pitlick, and Frédéric Allard. They also added that Subban fellow after the draft. I think life is going to be a lot more exciting in the Nashville hockey world in the future.

Samuel Girard – 47 – D – 5’9, 160

There is so much to love about Girard. He is the game controller, the leader and the offensive zone wizard that brings your team to life and brings the fans out of their seats. He finished last season with 74 points in 67 games with Shawinigan in the QMJHL. If he was 6’0, he would be in contention for the top 10. He also looked very good at the Preds summer development camp, or to be more precise, he stood out among the prospects. He is, however, only 5’9 and 160 lb. Defensemen of Samuel’s stature are an extreme rarity in the NHL. Could Samuel break the trend or, better still, grow a bit. Stay tuned. I had him at 78.

Rem Pitlick – 76 – C – 5’10, 195

This is one of my favourite picks in the draft. Here is a guy who was a total non-prospect in his first year of NHL draft eligibility at 5’7, 170 lb. and 16 points in 47 games. Then, after a summer of intense workouts, you ended up with a prospect who was 5’10, 195 lb. and who went on to win the USHL scoring championship with 35% more points than the next guy. Wow, talk about transformational. Read my write-up on Pitlick for the full story – link here. I had him at 59.

Frédéric Allard – 78 – D – 6’1, 179

Allard is another of my favourite picks in this draft. Frédéric is a Samuel Girard type player with better size but whose skills are not quite as elite. Last year he finished with 59 points in 64 games in Chicoutimi – slightly better than Olli Juolevi, Mikhail Sergachev and Jakob Chychrun who were all high first round selections, though all from the OHL. He still has work to do in the defense and strength columns but I do believe that there is a NHL defenseman lurking somewhere. If you want to read my extended Allard story, the link is here. I had him at 46.

Hardy Haman Aktell –  108 – D – 6’3, 198

Häman Aktell probably has the best name in the draft. He is one of those project picks that every team seems to have these days. He played deep down in the hockey world, putting up 16 points in 16 games in the Swedish Allsvenskan J18 league. I have never seen him play so I don’t have too much to add. However, with a name like that, I hope to see him in the future.


St. Louis Blues: C+

The Top Pick : Tage Thompson – 26 – LW – 6’6, 195

Thompson was one of those polarizing picks. Some scouts absolutely loved him – the combination of gargantuan size, great shot, high-end top gear and elite passing are something you don’t see every day in a prospect. He was also responsible defensively and played on the PK.   Others, however, are a bit concerned that all but one of his 14 goals were scored on the power play. They point to his lack of acceleration, lack of vision and hockey sense and someone who does not do well in battles for the puck. Which of the above Tage Thompsons will turn out to be correct?

The Blues had two second round picks – I particular liked Evan Fitzpatrick at 59.

Jordan Kyrou – 35 – RW – 6’0, 169

Kyrou is the guy that if you watch him at the right time is someone that you love. However, if you are watching him for a long time, the doubts start to creep in. What you love first and foremost is his skating. He also makes excellent passes and has a good shot. The doubts, however, start to creep in when you see him shy away from tight spaces and lose battles due to his slender frame. The key skills are there. He had 51 points in 67 games in the OHL last season. He also had a good summer development camp. Will Kyrou turn out to be a NHL player wearing the Blues uniform. He will have to ratchet up his willingness to work in tight quarters and bring up his strength to win battles for a chance to be successful at the NHL level. I had him at 45.

Evan Fitzpatrick – 59 – G – 6’2, 203

NHL Central Scouting and I (at 38) had this guy as the top ranked North American goalie in the draft. Why did we rank him so high? In short, he had most of the features that you look for in a top end prospect – size, athleticism, calmness, positioning, game tracking, glove hand, rebound control. He just gives off that NHL goalie vibe. Yes, he looks like Carey Price at times. So why didn’t he go as the top North American goalie in the draft? In short, results and consistency – he had only an .896 save percentage and some nights he looked like he couldn’t stop a beach ball. So where does he go from here? Time, good coaching and dedication to constant improvement could still result in Fitzpatrick being the best goalie coming out of this draft. He still could wear that St. Louis Blues’ uniform for a long time.

Tanner Kaspick – 119 – C – 6’0, 200

Kaspick is a guy who was drafted for his defense, PK, energy, tenacity and forecheck. His footspeed is suspect as is his ability to drive much offense. He could be a valuable bottom six player if his skating were to improve. I had him at 190.

Nolan Stevens – 125 – C – 6’2, 195

Stevens, Mr. Garbage Goal, had a breakout season as a double overager at Northeastern Eastern University. He had both individual success, a point per game, and team success as his team was the Hockey East Champions. He possesses a decent shot but isn’t known for his puck skills. His forte is his work in tight where he uses his size, skills and determination to just bang in those goals in close. His father is John Stevens, an Assistant Coach with the Los Angeles Kings, who played 53 games in the NHL. Nolan is a late bloomer and there is nothing the matter with that as some prospects never bloom at all. It will be interesting to see how much he can build of his breakout season from last year.

Winnipeg Jets: A+

The Top Pick: Patrik Laine – 2 – RW – 6’4, 201

I agree with most everybody. this is a home-run pick with the bases loaded. Laine has the potential to be a goal-scoring superstar in the NHL. He has the size, the shot and the willingness to play a North American style of game and looks ready to be in the NHL this fall. Is he the missing link to Winnipeg’s Stanley Cup aspirations? Time will tell but all the other teams would like to have this link. Yes, of course, I had him at 2.

I really liked the selection of Logan Stanley at 18. His size and defensive ability are a perfect complement to those offensemen on the other side in Winnipeg. The other selections all show reasonable promise but Mikhail Berdin is one of my favourites in the 6th round.

Logan Stanley – 18 – D – 6’7, 224

Stanley is this year’s Mr. Improvement. He took his game from practically standing still to a top-end defenseman. He was on the top unit pairing in Windsor with Mikhail Sergachev, taken 9th by Montreal. He played against the opposition’s top line, played on the lead team on the PK and even got some second unit time on the power play. He will never be known for his offense but he has a nice shot, has the skating ability to lug it out by times and has a nice first pass. However, what Stanley has to sell is his size and willingness to use it – physicality, willingness to clear the crease, the ability to clog the lanes with his long reach. For all his improvements, Logan still has a ways to go to be proficient in the NHL – Jets fans need to be patient. I had him at 23.

Luke Green – 79 – D – 6’0, 189

I like most of the Winnipeg picks but this was not one of them. Green possesses excellent skating abilities but has a slightly less than average size and has not developed the offense expected of a prospect with his abilities. However, his biggest drawback is that his defense is not yet up to par and it didn’t develop to expectations last year. The skating is there to build off. The question is will the Jets be able to develop a NHL defenseman from that core. I had him at 82.

Jacob Cederholm – 97 – D – 6’4, 187

Cederholm is a big guy with an excellent skating ability who could have a future as a shutdown defenseman in the NHL. He can be very physical and is very good in the defensive part of the game. He was the Team Captain for Sweden’s U18 team so he also possesses high-end leadership skills. Now for the not so good news, his offensive game is practically non-existent. He has a weak shot and his puck skills are generally sub-par. In particular, his breakout passes are in need of substantial improvement. There is potential in a guy with Jacob’s size, skating and leadership skills but whether that will result in a NHL defenseman in the future is still to be determined. I had him at 69.

Jordy Stallard – 127 – C – 6’2, 188

Stallard is a prospect with promise. Although he is not an offensive juggernaut, he does well in the three S’s – Size, skating and shot. He also brings the work ethic and competitiveness which is especially appealing for prospects destined for a bottom six role. He still has to work on his offensive game and needs to improve his strength but the core is there. I had him at 117.


2016 NHL Draft Results By Pick, By Team

Plus: Top 15 Prospects by Team

Focus: Central Division

Note: This is a massive spreadsheet. Click on the various worksheets to sort picks and prospects by team.

*Click bottom right hand corner to view fullscreen

In this Series:

2016 NHL Draft Team Grades and Top Prospects: Atlantic Division

2016 NHL Draft Team Grades and Top Prospects: Metropolitan Division