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 risers from my top 350 for May:
1) Phillip Tomasino (RW/RC, Canada, Niagara OHL)
APRIL RANKING: 25
MAY RANKING: 16
ANALYSIS: Tomasino was terrific for Canada at the recent U18s, which will surely have him surging up the rankings for most. I know some scouts now have him knocking on the door of the top 10 and I think it’s a safe bet that he’ll be selected in the top 20.
Tomasino reminds me a bit of Morgan Frost, a dynamic forward with a real high offensive ceiling. He’s going to torch the OHL next season, the way Frost did in his draft-plus-one campaign, and Tomasino will be a household name before long.
2) Spencer Knight (G, USA, NTDP U18)
APRIL RANKING: 29
MAY RANKING: 20
ANALYSIS: I’m reluctant to rank goalies in my first round, but Knight is this year’s exception. Truth be told, heading into the U18s I was still on the fence about Knight and he was at risk of slipping out of my top 31 — to make room for a couple skaters that I knew I wanted to bump up into my first-round range — but Knight solidified his status at that tournament.
Knight really won me over with his puckhandling skills, both in his ability to play the puck up to his teammates and in his confidence to dangle around opposing players. That was impressive and on full display during the U18s. Stopping the puck is his first priority, something Knight is also very capable of, but his all-around game makes him a first-round talent and a potential franchise goaltender.
3) Tobias Björnfot (LD, Sweden, Djurgardens J20)
APRIL RANKING: 35
MAY RANKING: 25
ANALYSIS: Björnfot captained host Sweden to gold and shone throughout the tournament despite only registering one assist over seven games. That lone set-up was a thing of beauty in the semifinal win over Canada, and Björnfot stood out as a smooth defender in all situations. He logged big minutes and played mistake-free hockey for the most part.
Björnfot’s game is going to translate well to the NHL, you can just tell by watching him, so it wouldn’t be surprising to me if some team reached for him in the teens. He won’t be a bad pick.
4) Anttoni Honka (RD, Finland, KeuPa HT Mestis)
APRIL RANKING: 36
MAY RANKING: 28
ANALYSIS: Honka, on the other hand, will be a riskier pick, but he’s got the high-end tools that make him a risk worth taking in the latter part of the first round. Honka is an older prospect, a late-2000 birthdate, so he wasn’t eligible for the U18s but has continued to impress and improve his draft stock during the Mestis playoffs.
Honka isn’t mistake-free by any means, quite the contrast to Björnfot, but Honka often attempts plays that wouldn’t even cross the minds of other prospects. Honka thinks the game on a very creative level and with some refining or reining in, he could emerge as a steal if selected outside the top 20.
5) Patrik Puistola (LW, Finland, LeKi Mestis)
APRIL RANKING: 52
MAY RANKING: 29
ANALYSIS: Puistola’s stock shot up at the U18s despite Finland’s poor showing as a team. Puistola, like Tomasino, has a ton of upside with a skill-set that could produce a ton of points down the road. Puistola is a pretty raw package right now, but the potential is sky high for this offensive catalyst. I really liked what I saw from Puistola, enough to rank him in my first round.
Puistola is part of my “bubble” tier that actually starts with Björnfot at 25. My tiers for May are 1-2, 3-12, 13-24, 25-43 and 44-63. The latter two tiers could be combined into a large tier of potential first-round candidates since several prospects ranked in my 50s could crack the top 31 on draft day. I’m quite confident, as of today, that my top 24 are locks to be first-rounders, but it’s wide open from there and the rest of these 10 risers are in the mix to round out the top 31.
6) John Beecher (LC, USA, NTDP U18)
APRIL RANKING: 70
MAY RANKING: 31
ANALYSIS: Beecher blew me away at the U18s. Quite literally, with his speed — I knew he was fast, but not THAT fast. He blazed a trail right into my first round. Speed is the name of the game in the NHL right now and Beecher has the size to go with it. He’s been compared to Ryan Kesler — as a two-way force and both wearing No. 17 — but Beecher also reminds me of another Ryan in Ryan McLeod, who fell to Edmonton in the second round last year (40th in 2018).
Beecher has been up and down my rankings to date — 55, 47, 27, 32, 38, 54, 53, 70, now 31 — but his performance at the U18s sold me on him being a top-40 pick. I had concerns over Beecher’s offensive upside — thus the fall into my third-round range — but he alleviated those concerns by scoring a few nice goals in that tourney and displaying good offensive instincts. I think the offence — the numbers — will come for him in time and with increased opportunity. I was torn on Beecher for much of the draft year, but I’ve decided I like the player. He’s going to be a player.
7) Robert Mastrosimone (LC, USA, Chicago USHL)
APRIL RANKING: 54
MAY RANKING: 32
ANALYSIS: Mastrosimone didn’t get to join that juggernaut American team at the worlds because he was busy ripping up the USHL playoffs. Fellow USHLer Bobby Brink looked great upon his late arrival to Team USA and I’m sure Mastrosimone would have been a standout on that stage too.
Now the scouts can circle back to catch Mastrosimone, who is proving he can be a difference-maker when it matters most. If Mastrosimone keeps this up and becomes the playoff MVP in the USHL, you’d think NHL teams would have a tough time passing on him towards the end of the first round.
8) Jamieson Rees (LC, Canada, Sarnia OHL)
APRIL RANKING: 58
MAY RANKING: 37
ANALYSIS: Rees was a real catalyst for Canada at the U18s, with Craig Button taking a special liking to him as TSN’s colour commentator and resident scout. Button, a former NHL GM, raved about Rees rising to the occasion and he’s definitely on the rise now — as one of three Canadian forwards who caught my eye on a consistent basis, along with Tomasino and Alex Newhook (No. 15 for me, just ahead of Tomasino).
Rees may not be as dynamic as the other two, but he’s got a motor that never stops running, he’s got speed to burn, and he’s got decent finishing ability to boot. Not sure I liked or fully understood Button’s comparison to Steve Begin, but Rees is certainly a quality prospect in the making who should be capable of playing up or down the lineup for an NHL team someday.
9) Semyon Chistyakov (LD, Russia, Tolpar Ufa MHL)
APRIL RANKING: 104
MAY RANKING: 44
ANALYSIS: Russian defencemen can be hard to get a read on during the season and often jump out at me during the international tournaments. This year it was Chistyakov doing just that at the U18s, rocketing up my rankings thanks to his rocket shot and rocking bodychecks. There is lots to like about Chistyakov, who boasts offensive tools as well as physicality. If he were Canadian, we might be comparing Chistyakov to a young Dion Phaneuf.
That package could have some NHL teams considering Chistyakov in the first round — I wouldn’t be shocked if a few clubs had him ranked in their top 31 — but I think he flashed enough flair to establish himself as a second-rounder for most.
10) Daniil Misyul (LD, Russia/Belarus, Loko Yaroslavl MHL)
APRIL RANKING: 106
MAY RANKING: 52
ANALYSIS: Another 2000-born prospect, Misyul missed out on the U18s but wasn’t missing in action as he made his presence felt throughout the KHL playoffs. The poise he showed as a teenager in those big games suggested to me that Misyul might be closer to NHL ready than the majority of his draft peers.
Misyul had been flying under the radar for me, but I really keyed in on him over the last month and I’ve liked what I was able to see. Like Chistyakov, it wouldn’t surprise me if a couple teams had Misyul in their first round, especially if they are looking for a player to perhaps contribute sooner than later.
Related: Our Free NHL Draft Guide
NOTE: This was a big month for risers and here are 22 honourable mentions, many of whom I’m quite high on in the present.
Albin Grewe (LC, Sweden, Djurgardens J20)
APRIL RANKING: 41
MAY RANKING: 34
Pyotr Kochetkov (G, Russia, Ryazan VHL, overager)
APRIL RANKING: 66
MAY RANKING: 45
Samuel Fagemo (LW/RW, Sweden, Frolunda SHL, overager)
APRIL RANKING: 64
MAY RANKING: 46
Simon Holmstrom (RW/LW, Sweden, HV71 J20)
APRIL RANKING: 63
MAY RANKING: 47
Maxim Cajkovic (RW/LW, Slovakia, Saint John QMJHL)
APRIL RANKING: 59
MAY RANKING: 51
Tuukka Tieksola (F, Finland, Kärpät U20)
APRIL RANKING: 80
MAY RANKING: 64
Karl Henriksson (LC/LW, Sweden, Frölunda J20)
APRIL RANKING: 94
MAY RANKING: 65
Hugo Alnefelt (G, Sweden, HV71 J20)
APRIL RANKING: 107
MAY RANKING: 66
Justin Bergeron (LD, Canada, Rouyn-Noranda QMJHL, overager)
APRIL RANKING: 88
MAY RANKING: 72
Adam Beckman (LW/LC, Canada, Spokane WHL)
APRIL RANKING: 121
MAY RANKING: 85
Albert Johansson (LD, Sweden, Farjestad SHL)
APRIL RANKING: 209
MAY RANKING: 90
Nikita Alexandrov (LC, Germany/Russia, Charlottetown QMJHL)
APRIL RANKING: 102
MAY RANKING: 93
Roman Bychkov (LD, Russia, Loko Yaroslavl MHL)
APRIL RANKING: 105
MAY RANKING: 95
Shane Pinto (RW, USA, Tri-City USHL)
APRIL RANKING: 116
MAY RANKING: 98
Trevor Janicke (RW, USA, Central Illinois USHL)
APRIL RANKING: 141
MAY RANKING: 109
Brady Meyer (LC, USA, Des Moines USHL)
APRIL RANKING: 140
MAY RANKING: 110
Simon Lundmark (RD, Sweden, Linkoping J20)
APRIL RANKING: 131
MAY RANKING: 113
Marc Del Gaizo (LD, USA, UMass Amherst NCAA, overager)
APRIL RANKING: 273
MAY RANKING: 115
Ronnie Attard (RD, USA, Tri-City USHL, overager)
APRIL RANKING: 138
MAY RANKING: 116
Zac Jones (LD, USA, Tri-City USHL)
APRIL RANKING: 139
MAY RANKING: 117
Layton Ahac (LD, Canada, Prince George BCHL)
APRIL RANKING: 173
MAY RANKING: 118
Aliaksei Protas (LC, Belarus, Prince Albert WHL)
APRIL RANKING: 202
MAY RANKING: 124
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.