- Fisher’s Top 186 for December
- Fisher’s Top 186 for November
- Fisher’s Top 124 for October
- Fisher’s Top 124 Preseason Rankings
With the junior leagues now at their holiday break and the World Juniors nearly upon us, here are 10 risers from my December rankings of the top 186 prospects for the 2019 NHL draft — some of whom have been steadily climbing and others who were surging to end the first half:
1) Victor Söderström (RD, Sweden, Brynas J20)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 22
DECEMBER RANKING: 16
ANALYSIS: Look at Sweden’s stacked defence for the World Juniors and how those puck-movers and power-play quarterbacks have become a coveted commodity in today’s game. Now look at Söderström, who possesses those capabilities, and it’s hard to imagine him falling out of the teens. In fact, he could be the top Swedish blueliner taken, depending on Philip Broberg’s second-half development. For now, I still have Broberg ahead at No. 13.
2) Pavel Dorofeyev (LW/RW, Russia, Magnitogorsk MHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 24
DECEMBER RANKING: 18
ANALYSIS: I’ve been up and down on Dorofeyev all season, but the more I watch him — or his highlights, at least — the more I like him in the teens too. He’s a real high-end talent with game-breaking abilities. A potential impact player, not all that different from Florida first-rounder Grigori Denisenko, who went 15th overall in 2018. For the record, Dorofeyev debuted at No. 48 on my preseason rankings, rose to No. 17 in October, then slipped to No. 24 in November and now he’s back up to No. 18.
3) Ville Heinola (LD, Finland, Lukko Liiga)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 36
DECEMBER RANKING: 25
ANALYSIS: Love me some Finnish defencemen for the 2019 draft, with four in my first round as of December — Mikko Kokkonen at No. 15, Anttoni Honka at 17, Heinola at 25 and Lassi Thomson at 26. Heinola is the biggest riser of that bunch — at least for this month — moving up on the strength of some standout performances in a professional league. He’s a smooth, consistent two-way defender, a bit like the aforementioned Söderström as well as his three countrymen. The World Juniors will be really telling for those four Finns, depending who and how many of them make the final cut — and then how well they show, comparatively, in the tournament. Ahead of that showcase, Heinola has cracked my first round for the first time and ranks the highest of three newcomers to my top 31, followed by these next two.
4) Connor McMichael (LC, Canada, London OHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 50
DECEMBER RANKING: 30
ANALYSIS: These next two have been rising stride for stride and the sky could be the limit. I know some scouts already have both in their top 20, with talk of them potentially cracking the top 10. For me, they have both forced themselves into my first-round range — bumping out a couple of real quality prospects in the process in John Beecher (No. 32) and Nils Hoglander (No. 34). I debated amongst six forwards — those four, as well as Bobby Brink (No. 33) and Albin Grewe (No. 35) — for the final two spots in my top 31, and Beecher and Hoglander dropped out through no fault of their own. They were simply overtaken by McMichael, who is looking reminiscent of Robert Thomas as a fellow prospect from the Hunter factory in London, along with this next guy.
5) Nathan Légaré (RW, Canada, Baie-Comeau QMJHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 49
DECEMBER RANKING: 31
ANALYSIS: Légaré plays with a lot of jam, a goal-scorer with a feisty side. A power forward with finish. Like I said, he’s trending up alongside McMichael and he probably hasn’t peaked in my rankings yet at No. 31. If Légaré keeps it up, he could challenge Raphaël Lavoie (No. 21) and Jakob Pelletier (No. 23) for the distinction of top QMJHL prospect taken in the 2019 draft. Likewise, McMichael is gaining on Arthur Kaliyev (No. 20) and even Ryan Suzuki (No. 11) as the top draft-eligible OHLers.
6) Thomas Harley (LD, Canada/USA, Mississauga OHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 76
DECEMBER RANKING: 36
ANALYSIS: Another OHL riser, Harley is knocking on the door of the first round for me. He might just kick that door down during the second half. It’s hard to say how Harley compares to WHLers like Kaedan Korczak (No. 27) or Matthew Robertson (No. 28) — or a handful of talented European blueliners in my 15-25 range — but Harley is certainly entering those conversations. The CHL Top Prospects Game at the end of January should be an intriguing showcase to see some of those defenders on the same ice surface. If Harley emerges as a standout there, he could leapfrog at least a few of my current first-rounders.
7) Dustin Wolf (G, USA, Everett WHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 57
DECEMBER RANKING: 37
ANALYSIS: Could there be two goaltenders taken in the first round in 2019? It is a stellar draft year for netminders top to bottom, but Wolf is trending up and separating himself from the pack, along with Spencer Knight (No. 29). Those two Americans taking different development paths are 1-2 for me right now, and if teams weren’t so reluctant to take goalies in the first round, I’d probably have both in my top 31 based on ability alone.
Wolf has picked up where Carter Hart left off in Everett, backstopping the Silvertips to the top of their division again and providing Toronto prospect Ian Scott with some competition for the WHL’s top goaltender award.
Dustin Wolf's week:
.967 save percentage
1 shutout against Spokane
Season-high 43 saves at Seattle.
Add all that up and you get Wolf's third WHL goaltender of the week award this season.
— Josh Horton (@byJoshHorton) December 10, 2018
Dustin Wolf of @WHLsilvertips has been lights out in his last 10 starts going 9-0-0-1 with a .934SV% Wolf has backstopped the Tips into a 13pt lead in the US Division and a 7pt lead in the Western Conference
— The Dub Fanaholics. 🏒 (@DubFanaholic) December 10, 2018
8) Vladislav Kolyachonok (LD, Belarus, Flint OHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 77
DECEMBER RANKING: 43
ANALYSIS: Kolyachonok is still a bit of an enigma to me, but by all accounts he’s a legit talent that would be generating much more hype if he played for an OHL powerhouse instead of a bottom-feeder in Flint. Kolyachonok almost played for London — cut loose when Chicago sent back 2018 first-rounder Adam Boqvist — so you can imagine the increased exposure he would have got with the juggernaut Knights. That said, NHL Central Scouting already had Kolyachonok as an A-rated prospect — a projected first-rounder — on their November watch list, so he’s managing to make a name for himself on a bad team.
9) Xavier Simoneau (LW/LC, Canada, Drummondville QMJHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 81
DECEMBER RANKING: 53
ANALYSIS: Simoneau is playing for a much better team in Drummondville — a squad led by red-hot Detroit first-rounder Joe Veleno. Simoneau is playing in that shadow but has been impressing as an offensive catalyst in his own right. Simoneau is a shifty, skilled forward who can make something out of nothing for himself or his linemates. More of a playmaker, Simoneau has shown his share of finish too, which has him soaring up my rankings — seemingly round by round each month — and he could be pushing for the first round before long.
10) Mads Sogaard (G, Denmark, Medicine Hat WHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 152
DECEMBER RANKING: 71
ANALYSIS: Sogaard is another WHL goaltender that I’d like to highlight as a big riser for me — he’s my third-ranked goalie overall for December behind only the aforementioned Knight and Wolf. I debuted Sogaard at No. 98 in October and there was really no reason for his fall to No. 152 in November — other than my goalies being in groupings, for the most part, and he slipped into a lower-round group. Sogaard has frankly been outplaying Ottawa prospect Jordan Hollett all season long while platooning for Medicine Hat. At 6-foot-7, Sogaard is a monster of a young man and an imposing figure between the pipes — much like Mikko Koskinen in Edmonton.
Medicine Hat Tigers draft-eligible goalie Mads Sogaard stopped 49 of 50 shots tonight to steal a 4-1 win over the Red Deer Rebels. He's now up to a .931 save percentage in his first WHL season.
Oh, and did I mention that he's 6-foot-7? Because he's 6-foot-7
— Derek Neumeier (@Derek_N_NHL) December 15, 2018
Scouts are taking notice of both his size and his stat-line, with Sogaard climbing into that second- or third-round range and certainly within the top 100 on most rankings now. He hails from Denmark and no doubt looks up to fellow Dane Frederik Andersen, with some also making that comparison to Toronto’s 6-foot-4 stud netminder. As mentioned, 2019 is shaping up as a terrific year for goalies with seven in my top 75 for December.
RELATED: Fisher’s Rankings Through November
NOTE: Here are 16 more risers of note from within the top 110 of my December rankings:
Ryan Johnson (LD, USA, Sioux Falls USHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 88
DECEMBER RANKING: 58
Robert Mastrosimone (LC, USA, Chicago USHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 83
DECEMBER RANKING: 66
Phillip Tomasino (RC, Canada, Niagara OHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 87
DECEMBER RANKING: 68
Hunter Jones (G, Canada, Peterborough OHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 100
DECEMBER RANKING: 75
Matias Maccelli (LW, Finland, Dubuque USHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 120
DECEMBER RANKING: 76
Vladislav Firstov (F, Russia, Waterloo USHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 119
DECEMBER RANKING: 84
Martin Lang (LW, Czech Republic, Kamloops WHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 111
DECEMBER RANKING: 91
Harrison Blaisdell (LW, Canada, Chilliwack BCHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 108
DECEMBER RANKING: 92
Massimo Rizzo (LC/LW, Canada, Penticton BCHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 107
DECEMBER RANKING: 93
Shane Pinto (RW, USA, Lincoln USHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 121
DECEMBER RANKING: 94
Ty Jackson (LC, Canada, Dubuque USHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 144
DECEMBER RANKING: 96
Antti Saarela (LC/LW, Finland, Lukko Liiga)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 127
DECEMBER RANKING: 101
Matias Mäntykivi (LC, Finland, SaiPa U20)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 131
DECEMBER RANKING: 102
Isaiah Saville (G, USA, Tri-City USHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 155
DECEMBER RANKING: 106
Trent Miner (G, Canada, Vancouver WHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 153
DECEMBER RANKING: 108
Alex Beaucage (RW, Canada, Rouyn-Noranda QMJHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 182
DECEMBER RANKING: 110
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.