- Fisher’s Top 217 for January
- Fisher’s Top 186 for December
- Fisher’s Top 186 for November
- Fisher’s Top 124 for October
- Fisher’s Top 124 Preseason Rankings
Fresh off covering an entertaining World Junior Championship tournament, with the CHL Top Prospects Game on the horizon next week, here are 10 risers from my January rankings for the 2019 NHL draft.
1) Philip Broberg (LD, Sweden, AIK Allsvenskan)
DECEMBER RANKING: 13
JANUARY RANKING: 5
ANALYSIS: Broberg is a polarizing prospect for 2019, much like Timothy Liljegren and Oliver Kylington in recent years. There’s something about those Swedish defenders. The other two dropped in their respective drafts but are now trending well towards becoming NHL regulars. There is no guarantee Broberg goes top 10 either, let alone top five, but I’m a big fan. I know there are mixed reviews out of Sweden and from those who have watched Broberg far more often and more regularly than me, but he’s been a stud in the two showcases that I’ve seen — the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in August where Broberg was by far the best defenceman, even better than Bowen Byram, and the World Juniors where Broberg didn’t look out of place or intimidated in the least as an underager on a stacked Swedish defence corps.
Broberg has elite tools, especially his skating, and I think his offensive instincts are going to progress nicely as he continues to develop. I had Broberg at No. 4 in my preseason rankings following the Hlinka and he’s back in my top five after impressing me again at the World Juniors. Flame away, but I believe Broberg has the potential to emerge as the best blueliner from this draft class in the years to come.
2) Ville Heinola (LD, Finland, Lukko Liiga)
DECEMBER RANKING: 25
JANUARY RANKING: 15
ANALYSIS: Another standout for me from the World Juniors where Heinola not only made the cut for Finland but was playing a prominent role prior to getting hurt on a hit by Canada’s Max Comtois in the quarterfinals. Heinola had already been opening a lot of eyes in the month leading up to that tournament — he was a riser for me in December as well, climbing 11 spots from 36 to 25, from the second round into the first round — but his performance on that stage really elevated Heinola in my rankings and in the eyes of most scouts that I’ve talked to since the World Juniors wrapped up. If you didn’t get to see Heinola there or weren’t watching him closely, check out this goal as well as this assist from the same game against Slovakia.
Heinola strikes me as being quite similar to his Finnish teammate Henri Jokiharju, who is already establishing himself as an NHL rookie this season. Both are fantastic skaters who seem to think the game one step ahead and who should have decent offensive upside in their prime.
3) Connor McMichael (LC, Canada, London OHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 30
JANUARY RANKING: 18
ANALYSIS: Another repeat riser from December, when McMichael leaped 20 spots from No. 50 in November to a first-rounder at No. 30. He’s been on a meteoric rise for me, considering I had McMichael at 74 in October and outside my top 124 back in August when I published my preseason rankings. Now that we’re into 2019, many are starting to draw parallels between McMichael and Barrett Hayton, the fifth overall pick from 2018 who skyrocketed up the rankings in much the same fashion. I don’t know if McMichael will wind up cracking the top 10 come June, but he’s definitely headed in that direction.
It helps that McMichael plays for a juggernaut in London, and in a near-pro environment there under the Hunters, but he’s a legit driver of offence for those high-powered Knights. I compared McMichael to Robert Thomas last month, with Thomas also developing in London to start his junior career before winning an OHL championship with Hamilton last season as well as World Junior gold with Canada, but I’m starting to think McMichael might have an even higher ceiling. Thomas went 20th overall in his draft year and I do think McMichael will go higher than him this year, barring a second-half drop off. I’m really looking forward to seeing how McMichael stacks up against some of the WHL’s top talents — and projected top-10 picks — in the CHL Top Prospects Game. It’s only one game but McMichael’s stock could shoot up again with a strong showing there in Red Deer.
4) Bobby Brink (RW, USA, Sioux City USHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 33
JANUARY RANKING: 24
ANALYSIS: I, admittedly, didn’t follow the World Junior A Challenge as closely as I would have liked to last month, but those who did and those who were in attendance at Bonnyville came away raving about Brink as a surefire first-round talent. I didn’t need much convincing since I debuted Brink as a first-rounder at No. 28 in my November rankings based on his stellar start in the USHL. There was no real reason for his slight slip to No. 33 in December and there still isn’t much separating that group from 20 to 35 or even closer to 40 in my January rankings.
— World Junior A Challenge (@HC_WJAC) December 17, 2018
Brink is certainly in that mix right now, towards the top end, and some of my scouting peers are bullish on his upside, believing he’ll continue to climb into the teens and become comparable to fellow undersized American scorer Cole Caufield (No. 17 for me). I’m not that high on Brink yet, but maybe I would be had I been in Bonnyville like the others. It’s worth noting how young Brink is for 2019, he’ll still be 17 at the draft as a July birthdate, so that will help his rise assuming he continues to rip up the USHL in the second half.
5) Nick Robertson (LC/LW, USA, Peterborough OHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 48
JANUARY RANKING: 32
ANALYSIS: This may seem like a big jump for Robertson, but do realize he’s a prospect that I’ve been high on before. He blew me away at the Hlinka and I had Robertson at No. 26 in my preseason rankings. He held steady at No. 27 in October before an injury was to blame for Robertson dropping to No. 54 in November — a case of out of sight, out of mind as others overtook him during his absence. Since returning and ramping up his production again, Robertson has been back on the rise from 54 to 48 and now to 32, which is nearly back to where he began for me.
I do think Robertson has first-round talent and he’s even younger than Brink with a September birthdate. In fact, Robertson is among the youngest in the 2019 draft class, born just five days before the cut-off to become a 2020 prospect. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I feel Nick is the better Robertson brother even though the elder Jason, a Dallas second-rounder, is emerging as one of the very best players in the OHL this season. Nick is a better skater than Jason and although he might not be as much of a sniper yet, I think Nick will become more of an offensive catalyst in terms of his overall skill-set.
6) Robert Mastrosimone (LC, USA, Chicago USHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 66
JANUARY RANKING: 39
ANALYSIS: Mastrosimone has bounced around my rankings to date. I liked him at the Hlinka and debuted him as a second-rounder at No. 57 following that tournament, but then dropped him to No. 73 in October and as low as No. 83 in November. Again, no real reason for that fall other than I lost track of Mastrosimone to some degree. My USHL contacts got on me as soon as those November rankings were released — prompting a rise from 83 to 66 for December — and the scouts I’ve talked to that attended the World Junior A Challenge were almost as high on Mastrosimone as Brink. They insisted that Mastrosimone should be knocking on the door of my first round. Not quite, but he’s one of my bigger risers for January at No. 39 and he’s now within striking distance of the top 31 in the months to come.
— Chicago Steel (@ChicagoSteel) January 9, 2019
As mentioned, that range from 20 to 35 and extending to Mastrosimone at No. 39 is pretty tight in my mind, so I wouldn’t rule him out as a potential first-rounder. The ceiling does seem quite high with Mastrosimone.
7) Antti Tuomisto (RD, Finland, Assat U20)
DECEMBER RANKING: 121
JANUARY RANKING: 42
ANALYSIS: Here’s the biggest riser on this month’s list. Get to know the name Tuomisto because he’s definitely trending up in a hurry. This ranking might be a bit aggressive and surely is higher than most of my North American peers, but those overseas are starting to really pump Tuomisto’s tires. He’s outproducing Hugo Has, the Czech defender developing in Finland who has been a second-rounder for me ever since October (57, 59, 57, now 62), so it’s about time Tuomisto gets his due. Truth be told, Tuomisto wasn’t in my top 124 for August or October before debuting at No. 94 in my November rankings. Tuomisto then slipped to No. 121 in December through no fault of his own, falling into a group of a dozen defencemen who all fell victim to a run of forwards and goaltenders that spanned 42 spots from 71 to 112 in my rankings. Shame on me for going more than a full round without a single defenceman, but that’s just how it strangely worked out for December. I’ve attempted to right that wrong for January with a few of those 12 blueliners now cracking my top 100 and climbing into the third round — or in Tuomisto’s case the second round.
Again, that’s an ambitious leap of faith in a foreign player that many of us are still learning about. For example, I just found out within the last month (thanks to Jokke) that Tuomisto is right-handed, not left as incorrectly listed by go-to source EliteProspects.com. But the stats are accurate there and they speak volumes with Tuomisto putting up impressive goal and point totals while also possessing the size and skating ability that NHL teams covet. So expect to hear that name, Tuomisto, more and more in the months to come.
8) Valentin Nussbaumer (LC/LW, Switzerland, Shawinigan QMJHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 54
JANUARY RANKING: 46
ANALYSIS: A rise of eight spots probably doesn’t do justice for Nussbaumer’s strong showing at the World Juniors. I kept a close eye on him there and really liked what I saw. You could definitely see the talent that had many ranking Nussbaumer as a first-rounder heading into the draft year — including myself, at No. 21 in August. He’s got high-end skill, reminding me a bit of fellow Swiss forward Sven Baertschi who I watched develop in the WHL with Portland. Nussbaumer has better wheels than Baertschi but similar dangles. Nussbaumer displayed his share of stickhandling wizardry in Vancouver and he was dangerous off the rush, so it wouldn’t surprise me if some team took a real liking to him — taking Nussbaumer somewhere in the 20s or anywhere in the 30s.
In hindsight, or upon further review of my January rankings, Nussbaumer is a little low for my liking at No. 46, so don’t be surprised if I bump him up approximately another 10 spots for February — especially if he shows well again in the CHL Top Prospects Game, which I fully expect he will.
9) Maxim Cajkovic (RW/LW, Slovakia, Saint John QMJHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 55
JANUARY RANKING: 48
ANALYSIS: Cajkovic didn’t get a chance to shine at the World Juniors — getting cut by Slovakia, to my surprise — but he’s enjoyed a recent scoring spree with Saint John. Picking up the offensive pace and playing with increased confidence are positive signs for Cajkovic as another import who many had pegged as a first-rounder entering the draft year.
I wasn’t as high on Cajkovic as Nussbaumer from the outset — consistently ranking Cajkovic as a second-rounder to date (33, 37, 40, 55, now 48) — but, like Nussbaumer, he’s trending upward for me in the present. Those two have sort of become connected in my rankings, with Nussbaumer following a similar pattern (21, 38, 41, 54, now 46). Like I said, though, Nussbaumer would probably be in my mid-30s with a mulligan whereas I’m content with Cajkovic’s current ranking. Cajkovic, more so than Nussbaumer in my opinion, needs to make a strong impression at the CHL Top Prospects Game if he hopes to get back on the first-round radar.
10) Billy Constantinou (RD, Canada, Kingston OHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 69
JANUARY RANKING: 57
ANALYSIS: I have a feeling that I’m too low on a lot of OHLers outside of the first round or two in my rankings — or so I’ve been told repeatedly by my friends out east. Reality is, 2019 isn’t shaping up to be a strong draft year for the Ontario Hockey League and it’s possible there may not be any OHLers taken in the top 10. But with that said, there could still be a handful of first-rounders and perhaps as many as 10 OHLers selected in the top 62. A few of them made this month’s list of risers — with a couple more among my honourable mentions — and Constantinou certainly deserves a shout-out here. He’s been a steady climber for me, debuting at No. 110 in October, then rising to 75 in November, 69 in December and now 57 in January.
Constantinou, like Thomas Harley (No. 33), is a modern-day defenceman — a terrific puck-mover and a smooth skater with excellent hockey sense and vision on the ice. Those two could both push for the first round, even though Constantinou is presently ranked as a late second-rounder for me. They are both on Team Cherry for the CHL Top Prospects Game, which could be a coming-out party for them as well as this next kid.
NOTE: Here are 24 more significant risers from within my top 125 for January.
Phillip Tomasino (RC, Canada, Niagara OHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 68
JANUARY RANKING: 58
Vladislav Firstov (F, Russia, Waterloo USHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 84
JANUARY RANKING: 65
Matias Maccelli (LW, Finland, Dubuque USHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 76
JANUARY RANKING: 67
Dmitri Sheshin (RW, Russia, Magnitogorsk MHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 78
JANUARY RANKING: 69
Jordan Spence (RD, Canada, Moncton QMJHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 113
JANUARY RANKING: 70
Jamieson Rees (LC, Canada, Sarnia OHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 127
JANUARY RANKING: 71
Kim Nousiainen (LD, Finland, KalPa Liiga)
DECEMBER RANKING: 122
JANUARY RANKING: 77
Marshall Warren (LD, USA, NTDP U18)
DECEMBER RANKING: 120
JANUARY RANKING: 78
Isaiah Saville (G, USA, Tri-City USHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 106
JANUARY RANKING: 79
Shane Pinto (RW, USA, Lincoln USHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 94
JANUARY RANKING: 84
Brady Meyer (LC, USA, Des Moines USHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 103
JANUARY RANKING: 85
Alex Beaucage (RW, Canada, Rouyn-Noranda QMJHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 110
JANUARY RANKING: 88
Reece Newkirk (LC, Canada, Portland WHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 125
JANUARY RANKING: 93
Taylor Gauthier (G, Canada, Prince George WHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 107
JANUARY RANKING: 94
Trent Miner (G, Canada, Vancouver WHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 108
JANUARY RANKING: 96
Yegor Serdyuk (RW, Russia, Victoriaville QMJHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 111
JANUARY RANKING: 97
Ethan Phillips (RC, Canada, Sioux Falls USHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 185
JANUARY RANKING: 100
Alex Campbell (LW/LC, Canada, Victoria BCHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 126
JANUARY RANKING: 101
Brooklyn Kalmikov (LW, Canada, Cape Breton QMJHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 112
JANUARY RANKING: 102
Lucas Feuk (LC/LW, Sweden, Sodertalje J20)
DECEMBER RANKING: NR
JANUARY RANKING: 110
Travis Treloar (RC, Sweden, Chicago USHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: NR
JANUARY RANKING: 111
Michael Gildon (F, USA, NTDP U18)
DECEMBER RANKING: 160
JANUARY RANKING: 113
Semyon Chistyakov (LD, Russia, Tolpar Ufa MHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: NR
JANUARY RANKING: 123
Samuel Hlavaj (G, Slovakia, Lincoln USHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: NR
JANUARY RANKING: 125
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.