These are a couple weeks behind schedule — as other pieces took priority — but better late than never with my risers and fallers from October.
Remember these are fallers from my personal rankings, not necessarily the consensus fallers since I was already lower than most on some of the prospects that are presently perceived as fallers in the scouting community at large.
To the contrary, some of the names on this list wouldn’t be considered fallers by the majority, but fit the bill for me since I was higher than I should have been on them in my preseason rankings, which were released back on Aug. 24 following the Hlinka Gretzky Cup tournament.
— The Hockey Writers (@TheHockeyWriter) October 10, 2018
Nevertheless, my latest rankings — published on Oct. 9 — featured plenty of movement, with prospects trending up and down over the first month of their draft year. Given that was a couple weeks ago — at least five games ago for most — some of my opinions have since changed again, which will be reflected in my November rankings following the CHL Canada-Russia Series that concludes on Nov. 15.
Based on my October rankings, here are 10 fallers from my top 124:
1) Arthur Kaliyev (LW, USA, Hamilton OHL)
AUGUST RANKING: 32
OCTOBER RANKING: 50
ANALYSIS: This one is looking bad for me right now since Kaliyev is widely considered a riser, not a faller, with the way he’s lighting up the OHL — most rankings have him closer to 10th than 50th as of today, and certainly in the top 31 as a consensus first-rounder. At the time of my rankings, he was already off to a hot start through a handful of OHL games, but I was down on Kaliyev after he failed to impress me at last season’s Memorial Cup and underwhelmed again at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup this summer. In those tournaments, against elite competition, Kaliyev wasn’t much of a difference-maker, but he’s dominating in the OHL and thus deserving of a higher ranking going forward. In hindsight, I probably should have kept Kaliyev up with Nolan Foote in the late first-round range or at least with Samuel Poulin in the early second-round range. Truth be told, I moved Kaliyev around quite a bit before settling on a grouping with Tag Bertuzzi and Sasha Mutala based on skill-set, but based on production Kaliyev will be back on the rise for my November rankings. There’s no disputing, he’d be a first-rounder if the draft was held today so, barring a drop-off, I’ll be adjusting accordingly. If I could use a mulligan for October, it’d be on Kaliyev.
2) Blake Murray (LC, Canada, Sudbury OHL)
AUGUST RANKING: 14
OCTOBER RANKING: 24
ANALYSIS: I’m a fan of Murray, so this fall isn’t meant as a slight against him by any means. He’s still a first-rounder for me and might still rank ahead of Kaliyev in terms of upside as a pro. If I was picking between the two today, it’d be a tough choice despite Kaliyev’s superior stat-line. Murray is a quality prospect and, like Kaliyev, is quite young for the 2019 class — both will still be 17 on draft day. Those two don’t really belong on this list as fallers, but I might have been a bit too high on Murray to begin with. We’ll see where he winds up in mid-November.
3) Cole Caufield (RW, USA, NTDP U18)
AUGUST RANKING: 19
OCTOBER RANKING: 26
ANALYSIS: Finally a faller that I do believe could slip a bit — based entirely on his size. Caufield has slick skills, somewhat similar to Johnny Gaudreau, but he’s small and that could cause him to slide a little on draft day. Don’t get me wrong, Caufield is fun to watch, but he’ll need to put up big numbers to avoid falling out of the first round. I know the game has changed and there is more emphasis on speed and skill than size but, all things being relatively equal, most teams still subscribe to the bigger is better theory. Caufield has to overcome that reality, but I will say I like his shot — he has a pretty wicked release and that is keeping him in my first round.
4) Xavier Parent (LW, Canada, Halifax QMJHL)
AUGUST RANKING: 29
OCTOBER RANKING: 54
ANALYSIS: Another undersized forward, Parent took a much bigger tumble than Caufield in my October rankings. Probably too big of a tumble, considering I was quite high on Parent coming out of the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, but he got off to a slow start in the Q and became a faller for me as a result. Size is working against Parent, like Caufield, but they will both get plenty of exposure throughout their draft year — Caufield on that stacked NTDP team, which features projected first overall pick Jack Hughes, and Parent on the Memorial Cup host team in Halifax. That exposure can work for or against them but, to his credit, Parent has been stepping up and showing up on the scoresheet on a regular basis since my rankings came out. If he keeps that up, Parent could trend up again in November.
5) Valentin Nussbaumer (LC/LW, Switzerland, Shawinigan QMJHL)
AUGUST RANKING: 21
OCTOBER RANKING: 38
ANALYSIS: An older prospect for 2019, Nussbaumer debuted with a hat-trick in the Q, but then went eight games without another goal. That included three pointless games where he was minus-3 in each of those outings. He’s obviously still adjusting to the North American game and he’s playing for a bad team with no notable NHL prospects, but scouts will want to see more consistency from Nussbaumer in the weeks and months to come. He’s got the talent, but he doesn’t have much of a supporting cast with Shawinigan, which could hurt Nussbaumer’s stock in the big picture.
6) Simon Holmstrom (RW/LW, Sweden, HV71 J20)
AUGUST RANKING: 22
OCTOBER RANKING: 36
ANALYSIS: Here’s a prospect that I’m still trying to get a read on — slotting Holmstrom anywhere from 20th to 40th depending on the day. From August to October, I basically flipped Holmstrom and Nils Hoglander among Swedish forwards in my rankings. Hoglander landed on my risers list, climbing from 36th to 19th, while Holmstrom wound up on this list of fallers after dropping to 36th from 22nd. If you’re reading this and are familiar with both prospects, I’d love to hear more opinions on the two — feel free to reach out with a scouting report, comparing and contrasting Holmstrom to Hoglander. From what I can tell thus far, Holmstrom seems more well rounded and perhaps a safer pick, while Hoglander appears more dynamic with a higher ceiling. Right or wrong?
7) Henry Thrun (LD, USA, NTDP U18)
AUGUST RANKING: 41
OCTOBER RANKING: 70
ANALYSIS: My scouting peers and USHL contacts are very divided on Thrun. Some think he should be pushing for the first round, while others don’t even like him in the third round. So we’re talking inside the top 40 or outside the top 90. That’s a wide range of opinions and, of course, I’m trying to draw my own conclusions on this prospect in the process. My October ranking was on the lower side — based largely on one of my viewings — but that resulted in outrage from one of my trusted USHL sources who has watched Thrun much closer and much more often than me. I’m thinking of splitting the difference and slotting Thrun somewhere in the second round again for my mid-November rankings, depending what he does between now and then. The thing with Thrun, for me, is determining whether he’ll strictly be a shutdown type or whether he’s got some untapped offensive upside. What say you?
8) Michael Vukojevic (LD, Canada, Kitchener OHL)
AUGUST RANKING: 43
OCTOBER RANKING: 60
ANALYSIS: I’ve seen more of Vukojevic than Thrun, so I feel more comfortable with Vukojevic’s appearance on my fallers list. That said, much like Thrun, some of my OHL contacts are quite high on Vukojevic and would like to see him closer to the first round than the third round. I wasn’t overly impressed with Vukojevic’s play at the Hlinka, but he was overshadowed on Canada’s defence corps by a few of my projected first-rounders in Bowen Byram, Kaedan Korczak and Matthew Robertson. I also liked 2020 eligibles Justin Barron and Braden Schneider more than Vukojevic at that showcase, but I’ve promised to pay closer attention to Vukojevic over the next month and re-evaluate my ranking for November.
9) Dmitri Sheshin (RW, Russia, Magnitogorsk MHL)
AUGUST RANKING: 47
OCTOBER RANKING: 78
ANALYSIS: There are so many Russian forwards on my radar — and in my top 124 — for 2019 that it’s tough to track them all, let alone rank them. Sheshin took a fall for the same reason as Caufield and Parent — that being size, they are equally small wingers — but Sheshin is enjoying a splendid season on an MHL team featuring a few highly touted 2019 prospects. Being as small as he is, I can’t see Sheshin getting much first-round hype, but he’s been looking more like a second-rounder again than a third-rounder since my October rankings were released.
10) Massimo Rizzo (LC/LW, Canada, Penticton BCHL)
AUGUST RANKING: 79
OCTOBER RANKING: 90
ANALYSIS: Out of sight, out of mind, Rizzo has been recovering from a lower-back injury sustained in offseason training but is slated to make his season debut tonight as Penticton’s captain. Rizzo was a first-round pick in that stacked 2016 WHL bantam draft but is going the college route, following the same path as Tyson Jost by committing to North Dakota. Penticton garners a lot of attention from NHL scouts, so Rizzo could be trending up in a hurry if he’s healthy and productive. It may take him some time to get up to speed again, but Rizzo does possess nice upside as an offensive catalyst.
Tobias Bjornfot (LD, Sweden, Djurgardens J20)
AUGUST RANKING: 23
OCTOBER RANKING: 30
Sasha Mutala (RW, Canada, Tri-City WHL)
AUGUST RANKING: 37
OCTOBER RANKING: 51
Tag Bertuzzi (LC, Canada, Guelph OHL)
AUGUST RANKING: 38
OCTOBER RANKING: 49
Drew Helleson (RD, USA, NTDP U18)
AUGUST RANKING: 42
OCTOBER RANKING: 59
Ben Brinkman (LD, USA, Minnesota NCAA)
AUGUST RANKING: 44
OCTOBER RANKING: 58
Luke Toporowski (LW, USA, Spokane WHL)
AUGUST RANKING: 49
OCTOBER RANKING: 61
Lev Starikov (LD, Russia, Windsor OHL)
AUGUST RANKING: 53
OCTOBER RANKING: 71
Mike Koster (LD, USA, Tri-City USHL)
AUGUST RANKING: 59
OCTOBER RANKING: 85
Jamieson Rees (LC, Canada, Sarnia OHL)
AUGUST RANKING: 68
OCTOBER RANKING: 87
Graeme Clarke (RW, Canada, Ottawa OHL)
AUGUST RANKING: 69
OCTOBER RANKING: 88
Yegor Chinakhov (F, Russia, Omskie Yastreby MHL)
AUGUST RANKING: 88
OCTOBER RANKING: 120
Ilya Ovechkin (F, Russia, Kapitan Stupino MHL)
AUGUST RANKING: 90
OCTOBER RANKING: 121
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.