2016 NHL Draft War Room: Top 30 Impact Prospects

By Eldon MacDonald (edited by @ChrisRalphTHW)

THW’s War Room Top 210 NHL Draft Rankings for May have already been released.

Here is a more in-depth look the top 30 prospects along with some thoughts behind the rankings, and grouped in tiers. This part one looks at those players slotted one through fifteen.

Number One

  1. Matthews, Auston
  • ZSC Lions, NLA
  • 1.3 points per game (PPG)
  • 36 GP 24 G 22A 46P +6
  • 6’2, 210
  • Centre, L (shoots left)
  • USA
  • THW War Room Ranking: Still number 1; NHL Central Scouting Combined – 1
  • 2016 IIHF U20 Tournament – Link here

Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi may have closed the gap slightly on Auston Matthews with their late season heroics in the Liiga, IIHF U18s, and the World Championships, respectively. It will still be very difficult for any team, particularly the lottery-winning Toronto Maple Leafs, to pass up on a potential big man, superstar centreman. I predict that Auston Matthews will be that centre that Leafs fans have been wishing for, for what seems like forever.

Numbers Two to Three

  1. Laine, Patrik
  • Tappara, Liiga
  • 0.7 PPG
  • 46-17-16-33 +6
  • 6’4, 206
  • RW, R
  • THW War Room Ranking: 2, up from 3; NHL Central Scouting Combined – 2
  • 2016 IIHF U20 Tournament – Link here
  1. Puljujarvi, Jesse
  • Kärpät, Liiga
  • 0.6 PPG
  • 50-13-15-28 +5
  • 6’4, 203
  • RW, R,
  • 3, down from 2; NHL Central Scouting Combined – 3
  • 2016 IIHF U20 Tournament – Link here

The two big Finnish right wingers, Laine and Puljujarvi, hold down the numbers two and three spots. Both have the potential to play in the NHL next year. More scouts have Laine ahead because they love his North American style game, his excellent finish, his explosive shot, and his ability to work well in traffic. Puljujarvi, on the other hand, is a better skater and passer. I have had Puljujarvi ahead until now, but Laine’s play in the Liiga Playoffs and then in the World Championships has been just too impressive to not put him in the ahead. I still love Puljujarvi as he has the ability to run the offense and make all of his teammates on the ice better because of his presence.


Numbers Four to Eight

  1. Tkachuk, Matthew
  • London, OHL
  • 1.9 PPG
  • 57-30-77-107 +45
  • 6’1, 195
  • LW, L,
  • USA
  • 4; unchanged; NHL Central Scouting Combined – 5
  • 2016 IIHF U20 Tournament – Link here


  1. Jost, Tyson
  • Penticton, BCHL
  • 2.2 PPG
  • 48-42-62-104
  • 5’11, 192
  • C/RW, L,
  • CDN
  • 5, up from 18; NHL Central Scouting Combined – 19
  • Highlights: Link here


  1. Brown, Logan
  • Windsor, OHL
  • 1.3 PPG
  • 59-21-53-74 +24
  • 6’6, 218, C, L, CDN
  • 6, up from 14; NHL Central Scouting Combined – 10
  • Highlights: Link here


  1. Dubois, Pierre-Luc
  • Cape Breton, QMJHL
  • 1.6 PPG
  • 62-42-57-99 +40
  • 6’3, 202, C, L, CDN
  • 7; up from 11; NHL Central Scouting Combined – 4
  • Profile – Link here


  1. Nylander, Alexander
  • Mississauga, OHL
  • 1.3 PPG
  • 57-28-47-75 +8
  • 6’0, 176, RW, R, SWE
  • 8, down from 6; NHL Central Scouting Combined – 6
  • 2016 IIHF U20 Tournament – Link here


At slots 4 through 8, a team is getting a high-end talent, likely a first or second line forward.

Matthew Tkachuk is this year’s Timo Meier. Last year Timo Meier had to play with such also-rans like Jonathan Drouin, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Connor McDavid. Matthew Tkachuk, on the other hand, has been stuck with merely Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews, Christian Dvorak, and Mitch Marner, over the last two years. It takes a very good player to play with the best. Matthew has put up high-output offense no matter whom he has been playing with.

Tkachuk is an excellent skater, has a nose for the net, and is an agitator which makes you reminisce about his long-time NHL agitator Dad, Keith Tkachuk (drafted 19th by Winnipeg in 1990). It was close but in the end I went with Matthew Thachuk at fourth because I believe he is destined to be a top line winger in the NHL who can play with the best. He has demonstrated that he contributes big time no matter who he plays with, no matter how critical the situation, and whether injured or not.

At number five, I have Tyson Jost. Add Jonathan Toews-like mental skills to Patrick Kane-like physical skills and you have Jost. Tyson 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.

At number six, I have Logan Brown. Logan, I have also ranked higher than most as I know Logan has all the physical skills to make a big impact in the NHL – huge size, elite passing, hard although under-used shot, intimating net presence, dominant board work, and decent skating ability. The reason that Logan is not ranked higher by many is that he doesn’t always keep the revs up in his engine. He can all but disappear at times in a game.

Windsor General Manager, Warren Rychel, may have found a solution. Warren obtained a guy with a high rev engine from the Barrie Colts in super pest Brendan Lemieux. Brendan, as Logan’s frequent linemate, took it upon himself to rev up Logan’s engine so that he could be a truly dominant player. So how successful has Brendan been? Logan upped his game from 1.0 PPG (points per game) to 1.7 PPG in his last 23 games of the regular season. He followed that up by being the top or close to the top player for Team USA at the U18s. His style of play reminds you of Joe Thornton of San Jose. Joe, at 36, is playing the best hockey of his career (I have San Jose for the Stanley Cup this year because I think they have finally figured out how to win in the playoffs). I think Logan Brown will round out his game long before that age. Like Tyson Jost, I believe that Logan Brown will go higher than the consensus because his potential is so great and he is so much closer to finding the way to achieve it than he was at the start of the season.

For seven, I have Pierre-Luc Dubois. Starting around the BMO/CHL Top Prospects Game, Pierre-Luc has been one of the hottest players in the CHL, averaging 2.1 points per game in February and March. If you saw him in the Top Prospects game I don’t have to tell you that he excels in the big games. He is an offense generator and can be considered a primary player with most of his points being either goals or primary assists. He has that big man size, plays the position (centre) that is toughest to get a good draft choice from, and is a coach’s dream that does all the little things right, on offense and defense.

The reason that I have Pierre-Luc slightly lower than Tyson Jost or Logan Brown is that I believe Pierre-Luc’s high-end is that of a high-end second line centre. However, I think the team that selects Pierre-Luc is going to be very happy that they did.

At eight, I have William Nylander’s younger brother, Alexander Nylander. Alexander is further ahead at this point in his career than William. Alexander demonstrated that at the 2016 U20s when he took over running Team Sweden’s powerplay when his brother got injured. Alexander has the explosive skating, quick hands, and vision to run the offense. Normally I would add some risk element to his ranking due to his slight stature, but seeing how his brother has bulked up post draft, I see no reason Alexander could not do the same. Alexander will likely end up as a top six winger in the NHL, maybe even a first liner if he adds the bulk to his frame that his brother did.




Numbers Nine to Eleven

  1. Sergachev, Mikhail
  • Windsor, OHL
  • 0.8 PPG
  • 67-17-40-57 +15
  • 6’2, 205
  • D, L, RUS
  • 9, down from 7; 11 on NHL Central Scouting Combined – 11
  • Highlights: Link here


  1. Juolevi, Olli
  • London, OHL
  • 7 PPG, 57-9-33-42 +38
  • 6’3, 179, D, L, FIN
  • 10, down from 8; NHL Central Scouting Combined – 8
  • Highlights: Link here


  1. Chychrun, Jakob
  • Sarnia, OHL
  • 0.8 PPG
  • 62-11-38-49 +23
  • 6’2, 194, D, L, CDN
  • 11, down from 5; NHL Central Scouting Combined – 7
  • Profile – Link here


In the 9 to 11 range, you have the top three defensemen available in this draft. These are my rankings, but I fully suspect that at least one of them will go earlier in the actual draft. I could see both Arizona at 7th and Buffalo at 8th both nabbing one of these three.

I am a big fan of Mikhail Sergachev. For me, he has the highest upside, particularly on offense, of any defenseman in the draft. While his game may not as yet be as refined or as consistent as his two chief rivals, Chychrun or Juolevi, he oozes further growth and development. His offense is at a whole other level. Combine elite skating, elite passing, a hard accurate shot, with an uncompromising drive to the net (rare even among NHL level defensemen), and you have an elite prospect. I have Mikhail ninth because of his high-octane offense plus the likelihood of significant additional growth in his game.

Olli Juolevi could very well turn out to be the top defenseman coming out of this draft. The reason he isn’t ranked higher is a combination of his slight build (6’3, 179 lb.) and the fact that he doesn’t make as many flashy plays as Chychrun and Sergachev (though his play in the Memorial Cup may change that view). Olli already shows the poise, consistency, puck movement skills, skating, passing, and decision-making skills expected of a high-end NHL defenseman. Those who think that some added pounds and a little more forcefulness on offense will elevate his game even higher could take him much earlier.

Jakob Chychrun has been controversial among scouts. Some scouts believe he has under-achieved on offense and has been less physical than expected. For me, he is that good-sized blueliner with sublime skating, a wicked hard shot, who averaged close to a point a game. He may not be quite as good as Aaron Ekblad but any team looking for an Aaron Ekblad-type player should take a long, hard look at Chychrun. Jakob is the son of long-term NHLer, Jeff Chychrun (drafted 37th by Philadelphia in 1984).

The reason that I have Jakob as the third man of the top three defenseman is that I believe that his mental processing of the game does not nearly equate to the elite physical part of his game. I am not saying that the mental part of his game is particularly bad. I am just saying that it is not elite. Should the mental part of his game improve, we could look back in at this draft in five years and say, “How could we have not picked this guy as the number one D in that draft?”


Numbers Twelve to Fifteen

  1. McLeod, Micheal
  • Mississauga, OHL
  • 1.1 PPG
  • 57-21-40-61 +10
  • 6’2, 187, C, R, CDN
  • 12, down from 10; NHL Central Scouting Combined – 16
  • Highlights: Link here


  1. Gauthier, Julien
  • Val d’Or, QMJHL
  • 1.1 PPG
  • 54-41-16-57 +24
  • 6’4, 225, RW, R, CDN
  • 13, down from 9; NHL Central Scouting Combined – 15
  • Profile: Link here


  1. Bellows, Kiefer
  • 1.3 PPG, 55-46-28-74
  • 6’0, 192, LW, L, USA
  • 14, down from 13 ; NHL Central Scouting Combined – 13
  • Full game video – Link here


  1. Bean, Jake
  • Calgary, WHL
  • 0.9 PPG
  • 68-24-40-64 +8
  • 6’0, 173, D, L, CDN
  • 15, up from 30 ; NHL Central Scouting Combined – 18
  • Shift by Shift: Link here


Highlighting the strength of this draft at least through the first-half of the second round, any of the players ranked 12 to 17 could easily be taken in the top ten if a team liked their particular skillset.

I have Micheal McLeod at 12th which is lower than most. Micheal McLeod is a player that I have seen a lot of and he has looked good or great in just about every game I saw. He has the explosive acceleration and the top gear speed that scouts covet. He is also a leader (Team Captain of the Mississauga Steelheads) and does all the little things that coaches love, offensively and defensively.

The reason I have him lower than most is Micheal has not been able to produce the high-end offense expected of a top 10 draftee in spite of playing mainly with two other possible first rounders, Alexander Nylander and Nathan Bastian. The difference between Micheal and Pierre-Luc Dubois, a player he is often compared to, is that Pierre-Luc has an elite finish and Micheal has not shown that kind of finish to date.

Julien Gauthier is number 13 on my list. They say Julien Gauthier is a one trick pony. He just drives to the net and scores goals. While there is some truth to that accusation,it’s a great trick to possess. Julien Gauthier is the real meal deal. He is the son of a former Mr. Canada and the grandson of “What was that again?” another former Mr. Canada. Julien Gauthier just skates too well, shoots too hard, runs through too many people, and finishes off too many goals for him not to be taken very high in this draft.

Kiefer Bellows, I have at 14. He is a pure goal scorer, has an elite shot, elite finish, great stickhandling, an aggressive approach to getting into position to deliver the shot, and is very coachable. For an ordinary-sized forward, Kiefer can play a power game. He is the son of Brian Bellows (2nd overall in 1982 to the Minnesota North Stars) who just happened to score 485 goals in the NHL. Pure goal scorers are hard to find and Kiefer will be highly sought after.

I have Jake Bean at 15. He is an offensive dynamo. He has by far the most goals among the top draft-eligible defensemen. He has the big shot, the sublime passing ability, and the sublime skating ability to push up the tempo of the game as well as increase the adrenalin level of the fans in the stands. His only significant downside is a slight frame (6’0, 173) and whether this will affect the level of his defense when he reaches higher levels.

Part 2 (Prospects 16-30) 

THW’s War Room Top 210 NHL Draft Rankings (May Edition)


Check out THW’s quintessential draft resource:

2016 NHL Draft Guide: The Next Ones