The 2016 NHL Draft is only a couple of months away now. Rankings are being finalized, but not before some minor tweaks are made after the month of April provided some extra insight.
The rankings don’t change drastically throughout the course of the year, but April is a huge month. Not only do most league playoffs take place in April, namely the three CHL leagues, but the IIHF U18 World Championships also showcase top prospects playing head-to-head.
As a result, the hockey world has been lucky enough to see some excellent competition over the last 30 days. And with that, some prospects have been able to show an extra edge, one that could bump them up 10 or more spots in the draft. Unfortunately, others struggled under pressure, giving scouts a sour taste to finish the season.
Tyson Jost (C/LW) – Penticton Vees (BCHL)
- Regular Season: 48GP, 42G, 62A, 104PTS
- Playoffs: 11GP, 6G, 8A, 14 PTS
- IIHF U18’s: 7GP, 6G, 9A, 15 PTS
Although Jost’s Penticton Vees were shockingly eliminated in the second round of the BCHL playoffs, it gave him the opportunity to shine at the IIHF U18 tournament. And boy did he ever take advantage. Jost led the tournament in points with 15 and was named the Best Forward of the Tournament by the IIHF.
Jost was the most dynamic player on the ice each night for Canada, showcasing his speed and vision. He is a shifty player with creative hands and has a nose for the net. While he is a playmaker by nature, Jost can also score goals using a quick release. He has proven to have top-six potential for the NHL.
Jost was previously ranked 15-20th overall by most scouting outlets, but will likely jump into the 5-10th overall range in May rankings, an enormous increase this late in the year.
Jake Bean (D) – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
- Regular Season: 68GP, 24G, 40A, 64PTS
- Playoffs: 5GP, 0G, 2A, 2PTS
Bean and the Calgary Hitmen were ousted in the first round of the WHL playoffs, leading to an invitation to Team Canada’s U18 team. Unfortunately, Bean broke his foot during camp and was unable to participate in the tournament. Luckily, it is an injury that shouldn’t affect his draft status, nor his hockey future.
During the last month of the season, Bean put any concerns of his defensive responsibility to rest. He played an intense game, using his body to separate opponents from the puck, as well as smart stick positioning to take away passing lanes. Offensively, Bean is gifted. He is a terrific skater and is poised with the puck, breaking pucks out with ease.
Bean had been ranked 15-20th overall at the beginning of April, but should finish the year sitting 10-15th overall. He has certainly caught the pack of top available defencemen.
Logan Brown (C) – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
- Regular Season: 59GP, 21G, 53A, 74PTS
- Playoffs: 5GP, 0G, 6A, 6PTS
- IIHF U18’s: 7GP, 3G, 9A, 12PTS
Brown’s Windsor Spitfires were eliminated in the first round of OHL playoff action. He was then invited to represent Team USA at the IIHF U18’s. Brown had an excellent tournament, finishing fourth in points with 12 and showcasing tremendous ability as a responsible, 200-foot center.
While Brown seemed to fly under the radar for parts of the season, the 6’6, 218 pound American has finally caught the eye of his critics. He uses his size effectively to shield the puck from defenders, as well as using his long reach to maintain possession. Brown has a powerful shot and a deceptive release which could likely earn him more goals if used more often.
Brown had been ranked in the teens, 13-20th overall before an excellent month, which should vault him into the 10-15th overall range. Don’t be shocked if he even cracks the top 10.
Brett Howden (C) – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
- Regular Season: 68GP, 24G, 40A, 64 PTS
- Playoffs: 10GP, 4G, 11A, 15 PTS
- IIHF U18’s: 6GP, 5G, 3A, 8PTS
Howden had a successful playoffs personally, but he and the Warriors were eliminated in the second round. That gave him just enough time to make the trip to Grand Forks to join Team Canada at the U18’s.
Howden used the opportunity to separate himself from other top prospects at the tournament, finishing second on the team in points. His game thrives on strong skating and tremendous vision of the ice. Howden is able to effectively drive to the middle of the ice to create scoring chances and owns a powerful shot to boot.
Previously ranked 25-40th overall, Howden should see a significant bump in the May rankings. Expect to see Howden’s name in the range of 17-25th overall, thanks in large part to a spectacular U18 showing.
David Quenneville (D) – Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
- Regular Season: 64GP, 14G, 41A, 55PTS
- IIHF U18’s: 7GP, 5G, 3A, 8PTS
Unfortunately, the Tigers did not qualify for the WHL playoffs, and so Quenneville joined Team Canada for the IIHF U18’s. He would go on to have an incredible tournament, ranking second in points among defencemen. He was also named to the All-Star team for his performance.
Quenneville is a complete defenceman whose game revolves around his ability to skate well. At just 5’8, he is not the most physical of defenders but has the strength to stand his ground. He makes smart decisions in regards to breaking the puck out, as well as when setting up a power play formation. Overall, a smart defenceman who understands the importance of positioning and possession.
Quenneville had been projected to go in the fourth or fifth round of the draft but has become a mid-second rounder after his phenomenal performance in April.
Jakob Chychrun (D) – Sarnia Sting (OHL)
- Regular Season: 62GP, 11G, 38A, 49PTS
- Playoffs: 7GP, 2G, 6A, 8PTS
- IIHF U18’s: 7GP, 1G, 3A, 4PTS
The Sarnia Sting were upset in the first round of the OHL playoffs, resulting in Chychrun’s invitation to the U18 tournament. He was given top pairing minutes, matching up against the opponent’s top forwards. Unfortunately, Chychrun was beaten to the net on multiple occasions, presenting some rare moments of concern.
Chychrun has had unrealistic expectations placed upon him since before the season even began. He has great strength and can transition the puck with the best of them. Defensively, Chychrun is proactive with his stick and body positioning but has been knocked lately for failing to tie up opponents in front of his own net.
While Chychrun has been ranked among the top two defencemen in the draft throughout the season, there are some who could see him falling to fifth on that list, which translates to anywhere between 5th and 15th overall.
Mike McLeod (C) – Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
- Regular Season: 57GP, 21G, 40A, 61PTS
- Playoffs: 7GP, 3G, 6A, 9PTS
- IIHF U18’s: 7GP, 2G, 2A, 4PTS
After having surgery for a small meniscus tear, McLeod was able to join the Steelheads in time for the playoffs. After being ousted in the first round, he also joined Canada at the U18’s. Unfortunately, the tournament did not go as well as planned, as McLeod got lost in the shadows of his fellow draft-eligibles.
While McLeod is a tremendous skater with unparalleled hands and vision, he is often criticized for his lack of physicality, as well as recent struggles to create goals. Playing alongside Alexander Nylander in Mississauga, McLeod has often been wrongly compared to a player who plays a different style than himself.
McLeod was ranked 5-10th overall in April rankings, but will likely slide down to 12-15th for the final rankings due to a lackluster U18 performance.
Nathan Bastian (RW) – Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
- Regular Season: 64GP, 19G, 40A, 59PTS
- Playoffs: 5GP, 0G, 4A, 4PTS
Along with McLeod, Bastian found himself out of the playoffs after just one round. His subpar performance down the stretch, most notably during the playoffs, with Mississauga, led to him being left off of the USA U18 team.
Bastian is a smart playmaker who sees the ice well. He skates well for a guy with a 6’4 frame, but rarely joins the physical battles along the boards. He also struggled in the second half of the year to find the back of the net, leading to worries of his consistency and competitive nature.
Bastian has been ranked everywhere from 20th to 40th overall during the season, but his stock is slowly falling. Come draft day, Bastian will likely find himself going late in the second round.
Contributor for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Prospects. Scout with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. For questions, concerns, or comments, contact me at email@example.com or on twitter @SlawsonTHW.