- Fisher’s Top 400 for May
- Fisher’s Top 350 for April
- Fisher’s Top 300 for March
- Fisher’s Top 217 for February
- 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 few Finns, a couple enigmatic CHLers, a couple imports from the CHL, a couple American forwards and a Russian defender. It is a real mixed bag with these prospects having little in common, ranging from their size to their playing styles.
1) Anton Lundell (LC, Finland, HIFK Liiga)
APRIL RANKING: 9
MAY RANKING: 11
ANALYSIS: Lundell has lost a bit of his lustre this season, with his skating getting knocked by some scouts, but I didn’t expect to be altering my top 10 this late in the process. However, Jake Sanderson has forced his way into that top 10, with Lundell becoming the odd-man out. Slipping two spots doesn’t constitute much of a fall, but that was a significant displacing worth addressing here. It was more a matter of Sanderson moving up than Lundell dropping down. I’m not personally down on Lundell, but I’ve become so high on Sanderson in recent months that I felt this swap was necessary in finalizing my top 10. I do feel better about locking in that top 10 now, having made room for Sanderson at the expense of Lundell through no real fault of his own.
2) Jeremie Poirier (LD, Canada, Saint John QMJHL)
APRIL RANKING: 26
MAY RANKING: 42
ANALYSIS: Poirier has taken a beating on Twitter lately for his awful display of defending in this much circulated clip, but there have been several examples of lackadaisical and questionable defensive play over the course of his draft year. Some can be written off to laziness, but Poirier’s hockey sense has also come into question. Even the lazy exhibits border on questioning his character. There are red flags and it has become clear that — despite scoring 20 goals as a defenceman — Poirier is going to be this year’s Ryan Merkley or Oliver Kylington. The offensive prowess is plain to see — and shows up in the stat-lines — but the more you watch Poirier, the more frustrating he becomes. Now appearing to be more of a project, Poirier has plummeted out of my first round. He’ll be boom or bust and he’ll also be on do-no-draft lists as a result. The talent and tools are undeniable, but the tool box is suspect to say the least with Poirier, so I couldn’t justify keeping him in my top 31. Reality is, not many teams will be willing to take a defensive liability in the first round.
3) Roni Hirvonen (LC, Finland, Assat Liiga)
APRIL RANKING: 35
MAY RANKING: 44
ANALYSIS: Hirvonen’s fall was due to the fact that, in the end, I still prefer Kasper Simontaival (No. 43) as my second-best Finnish forward behind Lundell. It is a close call and I went back and forth between Hirvonen and Simontaival throughout the draft year, but I feel a bit more confident in Simontaival now that the dust has settled. He was my guy from the outset when I had both of them as first-rounders in my preseason rankings — Simontaival at No. 16 and Hirvonen at No. 21 — and I believe Simontaival has the higher ceiling with more offensive upside. So Hirvonen had to fall in slotting behind Simontaival. It’ll be interesting to see how those top-five Finnish forwards rank in five years or a decade from now, with Veeti Miettinen (No. 55) and Roby Jarventie (No. 72) rounding out that group of potential first- and second-rounders.
4) Topi Niemela (RD, Finland, Karpat Liiga)
APRIL RANKING: 43
MAY RANKING: 56
ANALYSIS: Niemela is the one faller who could trend back up to some degree in my final rankings. Niemela finished strong at the Five Nations tournament — he was arguably the second-best defenceman there, behind Sanderson as the obvious frontrunner — and Niemela is right handed, which makes him more coveted since righties are rare in general and also in this draft class. I like Niemela’s overall game — he is smooth, poised and quite polished, much like 2019 first-rounder Ville Heinola as a fellow Finn — but I continue to question his upside. I see higher ceilings on a couple of lefties in Sweden’s Anton Johannesson (No. 46) and Russia’s Shakir Mukhamadullin (No. 47), while Niemela is right there with another Finn in Eemil Viro (No. 57). Two more Swedes, Emil Andrae (No. 33) and Helge Grans (No. 34), are also among the Euro defenders in my second-round range. I have debated that half-dozen ad nauseam in determining the order that I like them and those decisions will come down to the wire, with Niemela still a potential riser before all is said and done.
5) Sean Farrell (RW/LC, USA, Chicago USHL)
APRIL RANKING: 47
MAY RANKING: 58
ANALYSIS: Farrell was my favourite forward from USHL Chicago throughout the draft year — largely because I liked him so much with The Program the previous season, which gave him a good head start on Brendan Brisson and Sam Colangelo — but after further review over the past month, I feel as though Farrell was the third-best forward among those first-time draft eligibles. My rankings now reflect that, with both Brisson (No. 37) and Colangelo (No. 52) being on this month’s list of risers. I don’t consider Farrell a faller despite appearing on this list and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him rising back up by a few spots in my final rankings. I see shades of Johnny Gaudreau in Farrell’s game — and even a slight resemblance in their physical appearance.
6) Antonio Stranges (LW/LC, USA, London OHL)
APRIL RANKING: 66
MAY RANKING: 81
ANALYSIS: Stranges has been a frequent faller for me, appearing on this list multiple times since debuting at No. 14 in my preseason rankings. I don’t want to kick this kid while he is down or beat the horse any further, but we all know Stranges has the skill level and finesse to be a first-round talent, yet he was unable to shine on a consistent basis during his draft year. That has been his downfall, consistency issues resulting in a relative lack of production as well as some character concerns. Hopefully Stranges can channel his energy in a positive sense for next season — regardless of what round he is drafted in — and prove a lot of people wrong, including yours truly. He is fully capable and I’d fully enjoy watching Stranges destroy the OHL with a chip on his shoulder in living up to his first-round hype after the fact during his draft-plus-one campaign. I no longer expect Stranges to be selected in the top 50 and even the top 75 is looking iffy now.
7) Adam Raska (LW, Czech Republic, Rimouski QMJHL)
APRIL RANKING: 74
MAY RANKING: 84
ANALYSIS: Raska’s stat-line left a lot to be desired during his draft year, playing in a secondary role on the same team as projected first overall pick Alexis Lafreniere. Raska was limited to 35 games due to injuries but made a solid first impression in his North American debut, passing the eye test on most nights thanks to his physicality and strong compete. Raska was also active in getting noticed at the World Juniors — his agent Allan Walsh tweeted that NHL onlookers were labelling Raska as the biggest revelation there — despite not recording any points over five games for the host Czechs in that tournament. Points aren’t everything and Raska does seem to have untapped upside — similar to Sabres prospect and fellow Czech import Matej Pekar, who was taken in the fourth round (94th overall) in 2018 — but more was expected from Raska as an older prospect for this draft class, thus the slight fall in the big picture.
8) Blake Biondi (RC, USA, Hermantown U.S. High School)
APRIL RANKING: 77
MAY RANKING: 90
ANALYSIS: Biondi is still my top high-schooler — having won the Mr. Hockey award in Minnesota — and he could be a top-50 pick, but this isn’t a particularly good year for high-school talent and I’m not convinced Biondi’s success will translate to college and on to pro. He had something of a size advantage in high school, but that may not carry over and might require Biondi to tweak his playing style. I don’t think he’s as good of a shooter as Shane Pinto, but Biondi could become that type of player going forward. If that is the comparable, it makes sense to have Biondi ranked or at least mocked in the second round — since Pinto went 32nd overall in 2019 — but I’m always more cautious than aggressive when ranking high-schoolers. I’m also, admittedly, bad at ranking high-schoolers, but I feel safe with Biondi in my third round and felt more comfortable ranking the second tier of goaltenders ahead of him, along with a couple American defenders on the rise in Eamon Powell (No. 88) and Mitch Miller (No. 89), plus the CHLers that I’m more familiar with. So this fall wasn’t on Biondi by any means.
9) Evgeniy Oksentyuk (RW/LC, Belarus, Flint OHL, overager)
APRIL RANKING: 79
MAY RANKING: 91
ANALYSIS: Oksentyuk is still my top overager and could become an Artemi Panarin-type success story — with plenty of similarities on and off the ice — but this isn’t a particularly good year for overagers either and I don’t envision any of them cracking the top 50. That said, I’m a big fan of Oksentyuk and I’m rooting for this kid to make it. Like Panarin, he comes from humble beginnings and his family couldn’t afford to send him away for showcases, so Oksentyuk’s coming-out party came when representing Belarus at last year’s under-18 worlds. He blew me away there and, in doing my due diligence prior to ranking him for 2019, a source relayed his backstory and assured me that Oksentyuk wasn’t a flash in the pan — that he was always that good but just didn’t get the exposure for financial reasons. Believing that and valuing the information, I did rank Oksentyuk in his draft year — as a fifth-rounder (No. 153) in my final rankings, up from the sixth round (No. 174) immediately following the U18 tourney — but he got passed over presumably because of the small sample size. So it was great to see Flint take Oksentyuk in the CHL import draft and give him the chance to shine in North America. Oksentyuk did not disappoint — even scoring a lacrosse-style goal with a moon-walk celebration to show off his swagger — so he should get drafted the second time around. If Oksentyuk is half as motivated and determined as Panarin, I wouldn’t bet against him. In fact, I would go to bat for Oksentyuk as a third-round pick.
10) Alexander Nikishin (LD, Russia, Spartak Moskva KHL)
APRIL RANKING: 82
MAY RANKING: 102
ANALYSIS: Nikishin is not Alexander Romanov — same first name and same nationality, but different player and different skill-set. More limited offensively but more physical defensively. Nikishin is a shutdown defender with a relatively high floor. He could develop into a capable No. 4 blueliner with penalty killing as part of his duties, but I don’t see him becoming much more than that. He is a strong skater and has a good mind for the game to go with his good size, which had me thinking Nikishin could develop along the lines of Edmonton prospect Dmitri Samorukov or perhaps even Romanov, but I’ve been pumping the brakes on Nikishin over the past couple months. I just don’t think he’s going to get to that level, but Nikishin could make for a fine middle-round pick.
RELATED: THW’s 2020 NHL Draft Guide
NOTE: Here are 10 more double-digit fallers from within my top four rounds.
Alex Cotton (RD, Canada, Lethbridge WHL, overager)
APRIL RANKING: 91
MAY RANKING: 101
Will Cuylle (LW, Canada, Windsor OHL)
APRIL RANKING: 96
MAY RANKING: 113
Dylan Peterson (RC, USA/Canada, NTDP U18)
APRIL RANKING: 97
MAY RANKING: 114
Jack Thompson (RD, Canada, Sudbury OHL)
APRIL RANKING: 104
MAY RANKING: 143
Lleyton Moore (LD, Canada, Oshawa OHL)
APRIL RANKING: 105
MAY RANKING: 144
Jack Smith (LC, USA, St. Cloud Cathedral U.S. High School)
APRIL RANKING: 109
MAY RANKING: 152
Grant Slukynsky (F, USA/Canada, Warroad U.S. High School)
APRIL RANKING: 110
MAY RANKING: 151
Simon Kubicek (RD, Czech Republic, Seattle WHL)
APRIL RANKING: 120
MAY RANKING: 145
Adam Wilsby (LD, Sweden, Sodertalje Allsvenskan, overager)
APRIL RANKING: 123
MAY RANKING: 138
Axel Rindell (RD, Finland, Jukurit Liiga, overager)
APRIL RANKING: 124
MAY RANKING: 137
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.