- 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
This month’s fallers include a Russian goaltender, several European forwards, a couple Nordic defencemen, and an enigmatic American. As per usual, I remain relatively high on most these fallers despite their stock trending down in the present.
1) Yaroslav Askarov (G, Russia, SKA-Neva St. Petersburg VHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 4
JANUARY RANKING: 9
ANALYSIS: Askarov is still, by far, the best goaltending prospect for 2020 and still a good bet to go in the top 10. Any goalie projected for the top 10 is obviously a stud prospect and Askarov’s inconsistent showing at the World Juniors shouldn’t sour scouts on his elite upside. He has performed incredibly well in pressure situations at previous international tournaments — backstopping Russia to a handful of medals — so the scouting world is well aware of what Askarov is capable of. Most are already anticipating a bounce-back effort from him at next year’s World Juniors in Edmonton. Having drawn favourable comparisons to Carey Price and Andrei Vasilevskiy, Askarov won’t be falling far based on this blemish. However, he’s no longer in the conversation for first overall and probably won’t crack the top five.
2) Zion Nybeck (RW, Sweden, HV71 J20)
DECEMBER RANKING: 18
JANUARY RANKING: 25
ANALYSIS: Nybeck is enjoying a stellar season, torching the Swedish junior league and earning a call-up to the pro ranks. He is on the small side and that reality was a factor in this little fall, slipping behind some bigger forwards as well as some defencemen on the rise. But Nybeck is still a solid first-rounder for me — albeit just above my bubble tier from 26 to 48. I am a fan of Nybeck’s skill-set — he is fun to watch when he is on his game — but we’ll see how he fares as a pro and whether his strengths will translate against men. If he starts producing in the SHL, Nybeck will trend up again.
3) Kasper Simontaival (RW, Finland, Tappara Liiga)
DECEMBER RANKING: 20
JANUARY RANKING: 34
ANALYSIS: Simontaival has some similarities to Nybeck — they are about the same size and both are high-skill forwards — but Simontaival doesn’t skate as well and that tends to be a must for smaller prospects to be selected in the first round. As a result, Simontaival has slipped into my aforementioned bubble tier, but I still like his offensive upside and I believe it has become easier for NHL teams to improve skating in recent years through their development programs. Several prospects have overcome skating concerns from their draft year and Simontaival has offensive instincts that otherwise can’t be taught. I liken him to Aleksi Heponiemi, who was a second-rounder for Florida (40th overall).
4) Antonio Stranges (LC/LW, USA, London OHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 24
JANUARY RANKING: 35
ANALYSIS: Stranges is the enigmatic American, a stellar skater with elite puckhandling and deking ability. His shootout moves have been well documented. He also has a decent shot and finishing skills. He isn’t a bad playmaker either. Add it all up and Stranges should be a first-rounder. But that should also add up to more production for London — he should be producing more consistently and more in general. Stranges should be lighting up the OHL in his draft year, but that is hardly the case. He is below a point per game and often doesn’t show up on the scoresheet. Stranges is guilty of indifferent play at times and defensive lapses. That has spawned comparisons to former Knight Robbie Schremp and also to Josh Ho-Sang, which won’t help his draft stock. Stranges has a high ceiling, he could develop into an Anthony Duclair or Andreas Athanasiou type, but they were third- and fourth-round picks, respectively. Stranges will have to pick up the pace to get back into my first round. For the record, I’m still fond of this player and enjoy watching him when he isn’t invisible.
5) Oliver Suni (RW, Finland, Oshawa OHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 61
JANUARY RANKING: 76
ANALYSIS: Suni got off to such a strong start in his North American debut but hasn’t been able to sustain that early success — at least not statistically. Suni still passes the eye test and has plenty of tools to be a successful pro, but he has been sliding down my rankings in recent months — now into the third round, though he is still in my second-round range at the bottom of a large tier from 49 to 76. I can’t imagine Suni falling much further, but he could certainly become a riser again.
6) Michal Gut (LC, Czech Republic, Everett WHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 64
JANUARY RANKING: 83
ANALYSIS: I quite like Gut’s game — he plays bigger than he is and has a nose for the net in addition to nice skill and a strong two-way presence — but I was probably too high on him from the outset and thus he is falling in my rankings through no real fault of his own. Gut is having a decent season as a first-year import for Everett after impressing at the Hlinka summer tournament. He was also invited to audition for the World Juniors and might have made the Czech roster but missed that opportunity due to injury. I feel a lot of people are sleeping on Gut’s potential, but I also feel the third round is fair for now. If the draft were held tomorrow, I’m not convinced Gut would be taken in the top 100, but I think he could prove to be a steal outside the top 75.
7) Adam Raska (LW, Czech Republic, Rimouski QMJHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 63
JANUARY RANKING: 84
ANALYSIS: Raska is much the same as Gut and I have had them grouped together thus far. Raska also plays bigger and with a fair bit of bite, projecting as more of a middle-six role player than an offensive contributor. He can score, but that isn’t his calling card. He’ll get drafted for his tenacity, much like fellow Czech prospect Matej Pekar — a fourth-rounder for Buffalo in 2018 (94th overall). That is a decent comparable and Raska might wind up in that range. Worth noting, Raska is almost a full year older than Gut (Sept. 25, 2001 to Aug. 16, 2002 birthdates), so Gut may have more untapped upside between the two. Raska did represent the host Czechs at the World Juniors and many onlookers were impressed with his effort, according to his agent, despite not recording any stats over five games in that tournament.
8) Kasper Puutio (RD, Finland, Everett WHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 81
JANUARY RANKING: 95
ANALYSIS: Puutio was stuck on a poor team in Swift Current, which has negatively impacted his draft stock. On the positive side, he got plenty of opportunity and prime deployment there, but he didn’t have much to work with in terms of talented teammates. I’m excited to see how Puutio will produce in a better situation with a more skilled supporting cast in Everett following that trade-deadline move. I like his skating, passing and puckhandling abilities, which make him a promising prospect. He doesn’t have the best shot and his defensive awareness leaves a bit to be desired. His decision-making isn’t great at times and he needs to add strength, but he does a lot of things well and can skate the puck out of trouble. There is enough upside to be draft worthy, but Puutio probably wouldn’t go in the top three rounds as of today. I have bumped him down accordingly, landing at the top of the fourth round — just below fellow Finnish defence import Christoffer Sedoff (No. 94).
9) Theo Rochette (LC, Canada/Switzerland, Quebec QMJHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 77
JANUARY RANKING: 104
ANALYSIS: Rochette is looking like this year’s Xavier Parent, who went from potential first-rounder to undrafted in 2019. They have a fair bit in common, including representing Canada at the Hlinka. Rochette hasn’t fallen that far yet, but he is struggling and required a change of scenery. That trade hasn’t been able to spark him and he is enduring a sophomore slump of sorts in the Q. Rochette has the skills to turn it up at any time and start rising again, but he is a faller for now. Rochette has chosen to represent Canada internationally, but he may have benefitted from a WJC showcase with Switzerland in hindsight. Hopefully he won’t fall off the map entirely in the second half.
10) Ryder Rolston (RW, USA, Waterloo USHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 76
JANUARY RANKING: 109
ANALYSIS: Rolston is a faller following the World Junior A Challenge, having been outshone by many of his American teammates in that tournament. He only managed two assists over six games there, while fellow draft-eligibles Brendan Brisson (12 points) and Sean Farrell (eight points) both scored five goals as standouts. To the eye, Rolston looked a step behind and wasn’t able to elevate his game at that level despite producing at a point-per-game pace in the USHL this season. Rolston’s production was also impressive for the U.S. National Team Development Program last season, which had him ranked in the top 50 to start his draft year (No. 48 in my preseason rankings). The bloodlines helped get his name up there and out there too — his dad Brian is a former NHL forward — but Rolston will need a strong second half to overcome that mediocre showing at the WJAC. There is still a good chance that Rolston will crack the top 100, but the top 50 is looking like a long-shot now.
NOTE: Here are 15 more double-digit fallers from within my top four rounds.
Leo Loof (LD, Sweden, Farjestad J20)
DECEMBER RANKING: 83
JANUARY RANKING: 97
Landon Slaggert (RW/LC, USA, NTDP U18)
DECEMBER RANKING: 90
JANUARY RANKING: 111
Blake Biondi (RC, USA, Hermantown U.S. High School)
DECEMBER RANKING: 108
JANUARY RANKING: 119
Ben Schoen (RC/RW, USA, Youngstown USHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 91
JANUARY RANKING: 121
Alex Gaffney (LC, USA, Muskegon USHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 112
JANUARY RANKING: 122
Alex Laferriere (RW, USA, Des Moines USHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 92
JANUARY RANKING: 123
Ethan Bowen (LC, Canada, Chilliwack BCHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 93
JANUARY RANKING: 139
Evan Vierling (LC, Canada, Barrie OHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 106
JANUARY RANKING: 132
Donovan Sebrango (LD, Canada, Kitchener OHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 107
JANUARY RANKING: 129
Brock Faber (RD, USA, NTDP U18)
DECEMBER RANKING: 109
JANUARY RANKING: 128
Noah Ellis (RD, USA, Des Moines USHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 110
JANUARY RANKING: 125
Kyle Crnkovic (LW, Canada, Saskatoon WHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 119
JANUARY RANKING: 138
Dylan Garand (G, Canada, Kamloops WHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 120
JANUARY RANKING: 135
Aidan Campbell (G, USA/Canada, Erie OHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 122
JANUARY RANKING: 133
Antoine Coulombe (G, Canada, Shawinigan QMJHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 123
JANUARY RANKING: 150
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.