Pike’s Picks: 2017 NHL Draft Alternate Rankings

Almost two full months have passed in the junior hockey season, with Halloween and Canadian Thanksgiving having passed us by. Now that there are a fair number of games to analyze and examine, it’s time for the latest edition of draft rankings.

This is the second edition of the 2017 NHL Draft Alternate Rankings here at The Hockey Writers. This is my attempt to rank the top players in this year’s draft class as if I were drafting a team from scratch. My main proviso? I want the players that will help my team win consistently. The usual disclaimers apply: I live in Western Canada so I see Western Hockey League players the most often, followed by the remainder of Canada’s prospects. I have to rely on video for players in the United States and Europe for the most part. I’m also hesitant to draft goalies early due to the sheer number of weird things that can go wrong and derail their development.

Your mileage may vary.

The Top 50

No. Player Pos. 2016-17 Primary Team
 1  Nolan Patrick C Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
 2  Timothy Liljegren D Rogle BK (SuperElit)
 3  Owen Tippett RW Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
 4  Gabriel Vilardi C Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
 5  Maxime Comtois C Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)
 6  Casey Mittelstadt C Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
 7  Kailer Yamamoto C Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
 8  Eeli Tolvanen LW Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
 9  Lias Andersson C HV71 (SHL)
 10  Urho Vesalainen D JYP (SM-Liiga)
 11  Cal Foote D Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
 12  Kristian Vesalainen LW Frolunda HC (SHL)
 13  Antoine Morand C Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)
 14  Juuso Valimaki D Tri-City Americans (WHL)
 15  Robin Salo D Sport (SM-Liiga)
 16  Nicolas Hague D Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
 17  Matthew Strome LW Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
 18  Nikita Popugayev RW Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
 19  Nico Hischier C Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
 20  Elias Pettersson C Timra IK (SuperElit)
 21  Cale Fleury D Kootenay Ice (WHL)
 22  Jesper Boqvist C Brynas IF (SuperElit)
 23  Michael Rasmussen C Tri-City Americans (WHL)
 24  Isaac Ratcliffe LW Guelph Storm (OHL)
 25  Stelio Mattheos C Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
 26  Klim Kostin RW Moscow Dynamo (KHL)
 27  Kole Lind RW Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
 28  Jack Studnicka LW Oshawa Generals (OHL)
 29  Artem Minulin D Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
 30  Shane Bowers C Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL)
 31  Ryan Poehling C St. Cloud State University (NCHC)
 32  Scott Reedy C U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
 33  Marcus Davidsson LW Djurgardens IF (SHL)
 34  Sasha Chmelevski C Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
 35  Austen Keating C Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
 36  Elias Pettersson C Timra (HockeyAllsvenskan)
 37  Ivan Lodnia RW Erie Otters (OHL)
 38  Jason Robertson LW Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
 39  MacKenzie Entwhistle C Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
 40  Adam Ruzicka C Sarnia Sting (OHL)
 41  Luke Martin D University of Michigan Wolverines (Big 10)
 42  Greg Meireles C Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
 43  Miro Heiskanen D HIFK (SM-Liiga)
 44  Ryan McLeod C Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
 45  Max Gildon D U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
 46  Jacob Paquette D Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
 47  Kirill Slepets LW Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
 48  Dmitri Samorukov D Guelph Storm (OHL)
 49  Erik Brannstrom D HV71 J20 (SuperElit)
 50  Jake Oettinger G Boston University Terriers (HE)

Honourable Mentions

  • D Ian Blacker – London Knights (OHL)
  • D Markus Phillips – Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
  • D Ian Mitchell – Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL)
  • F Michael Pastujov – U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
  • F Nick Suzuki – Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
  • F Emil Oksanen – Espoo United (Mestis)
  • F Martin Necas – HC Kometa Brno (Czech.)

The Rundown

Thus far, it looks to be a really strong year for the Ontario Hockey League. Granted, the OHL only has six players in the projected first round of 31 (the WHL leads with 10), but also has 16 players represented in my projected top-50. That’s a testament to the recruiting and development done in those leagues, as the 16 players are a mixture of domestic players that came up through their systems and imports that were lured over from Europe because of the quality of the league. All-told, 11 leagues are represented on this list.

As mentioned, this seems to be a strong year for higher-end WHL talent. Last year was a bit learner on high-end players (aside from Jake Bean), but this season the Dub has a bit of everything in terms of skaters: elite forwards (Nolan Patrick), puck-moving defenders (Juuso Valimaki), physical defenders (Cal Foote), offensive snipers (Nikita Popugayev), strong all-around forwards (Michael Rasmussen) and more. The OHL boasts a similar mixture of talent, though arguably their higher-end talent just isn’t there this year and their strength is in secondary players that could really add nicely to NHL groups.

It also seems to be a strong European season, in the sense that almost all of the most interesting European talent has either (a) come over to North America as an import, thus removing much of the nervousness from NHL clubs, or (b) are playing professional hockey in a really strong European league as teenagers. The ability for teenagers to play a regular shift in a high-end men’s league cannot be discounted, as it can reflect a maturity both on and off the ice.

Just one goaltender cracks the Top 50: Boston University’s Jake Oettinger. But keep an eye on Prince Albert’s Ian Scott and Farjestads’ Olle Eriksson Ek.