May proved to be a busy month for movement in my rankings, with plenty of risers and fallers coming out of the world under-18 tournament and based on playoff performances to date.
There isn’t a whole lot of hockey left to be played between now and my final rankings in early June, so I’m really starting to nail down my order, but things are still subject to change following the draft combine, which always adds intrigue and insight on certain prospects.
Heading into the homestretch of the draft year, here are 10 fallers from my top 350 for May:
1) Ryan Suzuki (LC, Canada, Barrie OHL)
APRIL RANKING: 20
MAY RANKING: 35
ANALYSIS: Suzuki’s older brother Nick, a Montreal Canadiens prospect, has been on fire in the OHL playoffs, but the same can’t be said for Ryan, who had an underwhelming showing at the U18s that went from bad to worse when he got hurt. Injury aside, young Ryan’s draft stock took a hit in that tournament.
In saying that, Suzuki could be a steal in the second round should he fall that far. His natural skill is high level, nearly elite, and he could certainly be a top-six forward if everything clicks in the years to come. For now, he’s trending down for me as one of those frustrating prospects who often leaves you wanting more.
2) Connor McMichael (LC, Canada, London OHL)
APRIL RANKING: 24
MAY RANKING: 41
ANALYSIS: McMichael cooled off in the playoffs for London and that may have cooled his draft stock to some degree. Or maybe not, since he’ll have a starring role for London next season and that program produces more NHL talent than any other junior team.
I still like McMichael, he does a lot of things well, but I’m not sure he’s exceptional at any one skill. Most of his skills are above average, but most first-rounders have at least one elite ability. McMichael, a fairly complete player, probably goes somewhere in the 25-45 range. He broke out during his draft year, but his offensive upside is debatable at the NHL level.
3) Nolan Foote (LW/LC, Canada/USA, Kelowna WHL)
APRIL RANKING: 32
MAY RANKING: 57
ANALYSIS: Foote does have an elite skill — his shot is already NHL calibre — and that’s why he hung around my first round for most of the draft year. However, Foote’s team missed the playoffs and he was too old for the U18s, so he’s been out of sight and out of mind for more than a month already. Last year’s early exit — a first-round sweep — really hurt his Kelowna teammates as none of them got drafted, and Foote’s stock could also be dropping due to lack of exposure this spring.
To the contrary, Foote’s guaranteed to get big exposure in his draft-plus-one campaign with Kelowna hosting the 2020 Memorial Cup. Foote will likely be captaining and carrying that team into the national championship tournament, which will provide him with invaluable experience towards launching an NHL career.
Some scouts think average skating will hold Foote back from being a first-round pick, but he’s still got a shot at going in the top 31 thanks to his elite shot. The bloodlines — father Adam and brother Cal — also keep Nolan in that first-round conversation.
4) Brett Leason (RW/RC, Canada, Prince Albert WHL, overager)
APRIL RANKING: 42
MAY RANKING: 58
ANALYSIS: Leason was dominant out of the gate as a double-overager, a revelation ripping up the WHL en route to cracking Canada’s roster for the World Juniors. He’s still going strong in the WHL playoffs, leading Prince Albert to the league final. However, Leason’s production has slowed down in the postseason with only five goals over 15 games through three rounds, including two goals in the same game in the first round. He’s still a point-per-game player with 16 points (11 assists), but Leason has been held off the scoresheet in seven games — nearly half.
The scouts are watching all those games and I’m starting to wonder about the overexposure factor for Leason. If he steps it up in the final, wins a WHL championship and impresses at the Memorial Cup tournament, then he’ll likely be knocking on the door of the first round as many are anticipating. But if he goes out quietly, from here on out, that probably won’t sit well with scouts who have already been observing Leason at that level for three full seasons.
Leason is a late-bloomer, no doubt about that, and he’s hit his stride this season, but I’m not convinced he’s the second-coming of Mark Stone or even Tanner Pearson. Leason has the tools to play pro, but I don’t really see him as a first-round talent.
5) Nathan Légaré (RW, Canada, Baie-Comeau QMJHL)
APRIL RANKING: 43
MAY RANKING: 59
ANALYSIS: Légaré had a decent showing at the U18s and his good games there were really good. His release is wicked and he’s got finishing ability. He’s a scorer. The concerns with Légaré are similar to Foote and thus they have become linked together in my rankings. That had them both trending down for May, but Légaré is another prospect who could just as easily go in the 30s as the 50s or anywhere in between. He’s a second-rounder for me.
6) Ben Brinkman (LD, USA, Minnesota NCAA)
APRIL RANKING: 48
MAY RANKING: 76
ANALYSIS: The offence never came for Brinkman as a freshman, but he gained a ton of experience and more than held his own against older competition. Look for Brinkman to take a big step as a sophomore, in his draft-plus-one season, and for the points to start piling up. He still had a solid NCAA debut by all accounts, but it’s tough to peg where Brinkman will be selected in this year’s draft.
Brinkman held steady in my second round until now, falling to the third mainly because others were rising. There aren’t many direct comparables for Brinkman in this draft class, so he’s harder to rank than most, but I see him going somewhere in the 50-80 range.
7) Matvei Guskov (LC, Russia, London OHL)
APRIL RANKING: 60
MAY RANKING: 80
ANALYSIS: Guskov, like his teammate McMichael, was rather quiet in the playoffs. They could be a dynamic duo for London next season and we should cut Guskov some slack since that was his first taste of North American playoff hockey, but the lack of production (four points, two goals, over 11 games) will be noted by NHL teams ahead of the draft.
Guskov does seem to possess some potentially elite skills, but I would need to see more of him to make that conclusion. Potential is the key word with Guskov. He will be drafted on his potential, which makes him something of a wild card for the second or third round. Playing for London should help Guskov’s stock, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see a team reach for him in the top 50, but I don’t feel comfortable ranking him that high.
8) Ryder Donovan (RC/RW, USA, Duluth-East U.S. High School)
APRIL RANKING: 74
MAY RANKING: 99
ANALYSIS: High-schoolers are the hardest prospects to rank, at least for me. Could Donovan be this year’s Jay O’Brien and come out of nowhere to be a first-round pick? Maybe. He’d be a candidate for that kind of shocking rise, but the fact Donovan didn’t score a goal in a 14-game USHL stint to end his draft year — managing just three assists with Dubuque — has him falling for me.
Donovan is a big, rangy kid with raw skills that will be refined at the University of Wisconsin starting next season. He’ll be a project — is he a scorer or a playmaker, I’m not sure — but he’s definitely got some upside.
9) Yegor Serdyuk (RW, Russia, Victoriaville QMJHL)
APRIL RANKING: 76
MAY RANKING: 126
ANALYSIS: Serdyuk sniped a hat trick in his playoff debut but didn’t score again over the next 10 games before being eliminated with a total of six points in 11 games (three goals, three assists). He was pointless in eight of those games, including the last five in a row to end his draft year. Still, it was an impressive North American debut for Serdyuk — a point-per-game player in the regular season, with 25 goals and 65 points over 63 games — and this ranking is a little low for my liking in hindsight.
Splitting the difference — between 76 and 126 — might be the way to go for my final rankings in June, slotting Serdyuk right around 100. He belongs somewhere in that range, somewhere between the third and fifth rounds.
10) Kristian Tanus (LC/LW, Finland, Tappara Liiga, overager)
APRIL RANKING: 81
MAY RANKING: 140
ANALYSIS: Tanus took a big tumble too, also falling from the third to the fifth round. Tanus has some tantalizing talent, but there are obviously reasons why he was passed over in 2018. The biggest reason is he’s small — listed at 5-foot-8 and 159 pounds — but he put up pretty big numbers at the Mestis level this season, with 44 points in 33 games (13 goals). He failed to score in eight Mestis playoff games, tallying just four assists, so that won’t help his stock.
I do like Tanus and there is more room in the game for little guys now than ever, but he’ll probably fall to the mid-to-late rounds as an overager. He has the talent to crack the top 100, but his lack of size and his age — even though he was really young for last year’s draft (an August birthdate) — are working against him. Tanus developed nicely in his plus-one season, so I’m fairly confident he’ll get selected the second time around.
Related: Our Free NHL Draft Guide
NOTE: This was a strange month for fallers, especially when it comes to these 24 honourable mentions. I was shocked to see many of these names on this list because they don’t strike me as fallers — some of them had strong U18s and I’m a big fan of most — but it’s just the way my rankings worked out for May.
Jakob Pelletier (LW/RW, Canada, Moncton QMJHL)
APRIL RANKING: 27
MAY RANKING: 36
Egor Afanasyev (F, Russia, Muskegon USHL)
APRIL RANKING: 39
MAY RANKING: 48
Daniil Gutik (LW, Russia, Loko Yaroslavl MHL)
APRIL RANKING: 40
MAY RANKING: 49
Vladislav Kolyachonok (LD, Belarus, Flint OHL)
APRIL RANKING: 44
MAY RANKING: 53
Marshall Warren (LD, USA, NTDP U18)
APRIL RANKING: 45
MAY RANKING: 54
Ryan Johnson (LD, USA, Sioux Falls USHL)
APRIL RANKING: 47
MAY RANKING: 55
Valentin Nussbaumer (LC/LW, Switzerland, Shawinigan QMJHL)
APRIL RANKING: 51
MAY RANKING: 60
Artemi Knyazev (LD, Russia, Chicoutimi QMJHL)
APRIL RANKING: 49
MAY RANKING: 61
Antti Tuomisto (RD, Finland, Assat U20)
APRIL RANKING: 53
MAY RANKING: 63
Dominick Fensore (LD, USA, NTDP U18)
APRIL RANKING: 55
MAY RANKING: 68
Dustin Wolf (G, USA, Everett WHL)
APRIL RANKING: 56
MAY RANKING: 67
Blake Murray (LC, Canada, Sudbury OHL)
APRIL RANKING: 61
MAY RANKING: 74
Billy Constantinou (RD, Canada, Kingston OHL)
APRIL RANKING: 62
MAY RANKING: 75
Mads Sogaard (G, Denmark, Medicine Hat WHL)
APRIL RANKING: 67
MAY RANKING: 84
Drew Helleson (RD, USA, NTDP U18)
APRIL RANKING: 72
MAY RANKING: 91
Marcus Kallionkieli (F, Finland, Sioux City USHL)
APRIL RANKING: 79
MAY RANKING: 88
Vojtech Strondala (LC, Czech Republic, Kometa Brno)
APRIL RANKING: 87
MAY RANKING: 96
Martin Hugo Has (RD, Czech Republic, Tappara Liiga)
APRIL RANKING: 82
MAY RANKING: 97
Xavier Simoneau (LW/LC, Canada, Drummondville QMJHL)
APRIL RANKING: 96
MAY RANKING: 112
Oleg Zaytsev (LC, Russia, Red Deer WHL)
APRIL RANKING: 100
MAY RANKING: 122
Vladimir Alistrov (LW, Belarus, Edmonton WHL)
APRIL RANKING: 101
MAY RANKING: 123
Mikhail Abramov (RW, Russia, Victoriaville QMJHL)
APRIL RANKING: 103
MAY RANKING: 127
Trent Miner (G, Canada, Vancouver WHL)
APRIL RANKING: 112
MAY RANKING: 133
Cameron Rowe (G, USA, NTDP U18)
APRIL RANKING: 113
MAY RANKING: 148
Larry Fisher is a senior writer and head scout for The Hockey Writers, having been an at-large contributor for THW since August 2014. Fisher covers both the NHL and the WHL, specializing in prospects and NHL draft content, including his annual mock drafts that date back to 2012. Fisher has also been a beat writer for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets since 2008, formerly working as a sports reporter/editor for The Daily Courier in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada from 2008-2019. Follow him on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.