- Fisher’s Top 186 for December
- Fisher’s Top 186 for November
- Fisher’s Top 124 for October
- Fisher’s Top 124 Preseason Rankings
There were no shortage of double-digit risers in my December rankings, with several prospects soaring up 10-plus spots.
The biggest risers overall were two of the standouts from the World Junior A Challenge in American forward Brendan Brisson and Russian defenceman Yan Kuznetsov (both by 68 spots), even though they aren’t highlighted here among the top 10 for this month. They deserved that shout-out — beyond appearing in the honourable mentions — and could continue to trend up in the New Year.
These 10 risers are from within the top two rounds of my December rankings — my top 186 for the 2020 NHL draft — and feature a different American forward as well as a different Russian defenceman, plus a couple German wingers, a pair of QMJHL teammates, two prospects with notable bloodlines, and some real high-skill talents.
1) William Wallinder (LD, Sweden, MODO J20)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 33
DECEMBER RANKING: 17
ANALYSIS: Wallinder has been labelled a poor man’s Philip Broberg and I think that is fair. Like Broberg, Wallinder has impressive raw tools with a high ceiling. I was higher than most on Broberg throughout his draft year, so it makes sense for me to be high on Wallinder for the same reasons. Much of this rise is based on that upside.
Wallinder has the size and skating to be a first-round pick and potentially the second defenceman drafted in 2020 after Jamie Drysdale (No. 7), though I have Wallinder third for now behind Justin Barron (No. 16), who has been trending down. This isn’t a good draft for defencemen — at least not at the top, in the top 20 — but some of them should step up in the second half and I could see Wallinder surging towards the top 10, especially with a strong showing at the under-18 worlds in April.
2) Vasili Ponomarev (LC, Russia, Shawinigan QMJHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 29
DECEMBER RANKING: 22
ANALYSIS: Ponomarev is back on the rise for me, having been a standout at the World Junior A Challenge. He was a consistent threat there, dangerous off the rush and all over the offensive zone. He was even better there than at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in August, which landed him at No. 19 for my preseason rankings following that impressive performance.
Ponomarev stayed at No. 19 for me in October but became a faller in November — down to No. 29 — as I debated his offensive upside in comparison to the other forwards that I had ranked in the latter half of the first round. Ponomarev shot back up for December by flashing enough upside at the WJAC to envision him as a top-six forward in the NHL. Now he’s right there with fellow Russian Alexander Pashin (No. 21), who outshone his peers at the Hlinka but appeared on par with Ponomarev at the WJAC. Ponomarev was arguably more of a catalyst there and he’s certainly the more complete player between the two.
3) Mavrik Bourque (RC, Canada, Shawinigan QMJHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 42
DECEMBER RANKING: 29
ANALYSIS: Bourque is Ponomarev’s teammate in Shawinigan, forming a one-two punch down the middle for the Cataractes. Bourque centres the top line ahead of the rookie import and has been firing on all cylinders in his draft year. Bourque didn’t stand out as much at the Hlinka — in a depth role for Canada — but back in the comforts of the Q, he has been lighting it up and forcing his way into my first round.
Worth noting, Bourque and Wallinder are both first-timers in my first round — the only two newcomers to my top 31 for December.
4) Jacob Perreault (RW/RC, Canada/USA, Sarnia OHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 43
DECEMBER RANKING: 33
ANALYSIS: Perreault is knocking on the door of my first round, with the potential to kick it in. He’s been red-hot lately and may not be denied from my top 31 for much longer. This is the closest Perreault has come to cracking my first round — the highest he’s been ranked for me to date, having debuted at No. 38 in the preseason and staying in the top 50 through October (No. 50) and November (No. 43). Now at No. 33, Perreault is on the cusp of becoming a first-rounder for me.
If anything is holding Perreault back, it is his skating. That is a slight concern, but his vision and offensive instincts are near elite and he’s got the bloodlines — his father is former NHLer Yanic and this apple didn’t fall far from that tree. There are lots of similarities between father and son in the Perreault family. Yanic was also known for his faceoff prowess and Jacob is winning nearly 60 per cent of his draws (59.7, 37-of-62) despite playing mostly wing during his draft year in flanking either Jamieson Rees or Ryan McGregor. Perreault probably transitions to centre in the future.
5) John-Jason Peterka (LW, Germany, Munchen DEL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 47
DECEMBER RANKING: 36
ANALYSIS: The Germans are coming! Don’t sleep on them at the World Juniors — despite a very difficult draw in a group with Canada, the United States, Russia and host Czech Republic. Peterka, who goes by J.J., is among a few draft-eligibles that could shine on that stage for Germany. Peterka is a flashy player with an attacking style similar to 2018 first-rounder Dominik Bokk, a compatriot that rose to 25th overall that year. Peterka is another Deutschland Dangler — that nickname already belongs to Leon Draisaitl — and he’s been showing nice finish lately in continuing to climb my rankings.
6) Lukas Reichel (LW/RW, Germany, Berlin DEL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 77
DECEMBER RANKING: 37
ANALYSIS: Reichel — the nephew of former NHLer Robert of Czech descent — is another fast-rising German. He may not be quite as flashy as Peterka but plays a very mature 200-foot game that might translate better to the NHL. Reichel is more of a complementary player than a catalyst and the World Juniors should be a great showcase for him — projected to play on the top line with top-10 prospect Tim Stutzle (No. 5) and the aforementioned Bokk, while Peterka is slated for the second line with Taro Jentzsch of QMJHL Sherbrooke and Florida draft pick Justin Schutz.
That top six will be fun to watch, followed by a third line featuring three current and former CHL imports with Nino Kinder (WHL Winnipeg) centering Yannik Valenti (formerly WHL Vancouver) and Tim Fleischer (formerly OHL Hamilton). That is a legitimate top nine and I’m telling you this German team could make some noise, with Detroit first-rounder Moritz Seider anchoring the defence and Hendrik Hane as a potential game-stealer in goal despite being a little-known, undersized netminder. You heard it here first if they happen to upset one of the big three from that stacked group to make the medal round.
7) Sean Farrell (RW/LC, USA, Chicago USHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 55
DECEMBER RANKING: 45
ANALYSIS: Farrell helped his stock at the World Junior A Challenge — almost as much as Brisson, his USHL Chicago and USA teammate. Farrell is on the small side, but he goes to the dirty areas and doesn’t shy away from traffic. He’s a finisher around the net and his nonstop motor is constantly generating chances. You notice Farrell almost every shift and almost always for good reasons, so it’s easy to overlook his lack of size. He’s got nice upside as a top-six forward — most likely as a winger — and reminds me a little of Nick Schmaltz, who rose into the first round back in 2014. Schmaltz is a bit bigger and a bit better skater than Farrell, but there are some similarities.
8) Jack Quinn (RW, Canada, Ottawa OHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 66
DECEMBER RANKING: 48
ANALYSIS: Quinn is another fast riser — my highest debutant for November at No. 66 and now into my top 50 for December at No. 48. He’s more dynamic than some of his OHL peers, more of an offensive driver. That has Quinn as the seventh-ranked OHL forward for me right now — behind only Quinton Byfield (No. 3), Cole Perfetti (No. 9), Marco Rossi (No. 10), Antonio Stranges (No. 24), Jacob Perreault (No. 33) and Jaromir Pytlik (No. 34). Rounding out the 10 OHL forwards in my top two rounds are Jean-Luc Foudy (No. 49), Will Cuylle (No. 50) and Oliver Suni (No. 61).
Tyson Foerster (No. 79) and Tyler Tullio (No. 88) are the two OHL forwards in my third round and both also appear here as honourable mentions among my risers for December. Those 12 look like locks for the top 100 as of today and could all potentially crack the top 62 come June. Quinn could make a case for the top 31 — for the first round — with a strong showing at next month’s CHL Top Prospects Game.
9) Alexander Nikishin (LD, Russia, Spartak Moskva KHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 75
DECEMBER RANKING: 52
ANALYSIS: Nikishin is holding his own in the KHL this season — staying afloat and not sinking or getting overwhelmed as a teenage defenceman in one of the world’s top pro leagues. He’s a physical, shutdown defender and has been playing to his strengths but possesses all-around skills and perhaps more offensive upside than meets the eye. Some scouts are very high on Nikishin — comparing him to Alexander Romanov, the Montreal second-rounder from 2018 — but I don’t think his ceiling is nearly that high. Nikishin’s offensive tools and instincts aren’t on that level from what I’ve seen.
That said, I do think Nikishin’s floor is quite high — that he’ll become a serviceable player of some sort — and he’s now challenging Shakir Mukhamadullin (No. 51) as the top Russian defenceman in my rankings. I have them grouped together in my second round, but I’m not sure either of them can climb into my first round going forward. I still prefer Mukhamadullin’s raw upside, though he was a bit erratic at the World Junior A Challenge. The aforementioned Yan Kuznetsov — my third-ranked Russian defenceman at No. 98 and tied for my biggest riser this month — was more impressive and more controlled throughout that short tournament, but Mukhamadullin did deliver the golden goal in double overtime for Russia.
10) Joni Jurmo (LD, Finland, Jokerit U20)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 73
DECEMBER RANKING: 60
ANALYSIS: Jurmo is essentially the Finnish version of Wallinder as far as being a big, powerful blueliner with big-time potential. I’m not as high on Jurmo’s upside as Wallinder’s, but their size and skill-sets are quite similar — thus that comparison. Both are enjoying productive seasons at the junior level and it’ll be interesting to see how Jurmo fares if he gets called up to Jokerit’s KHL team or perhaps loaned to another team in the Liiga.
Wallinder has already debuted for MODO’s pro team in Sweden’s second-tier Allsvenskan league, playing five games at that level without registering a point. It’s always a big jump from junior to pro as Broberg is also finding out with just four assists through 24 games in the top-tier SHL this season after being limited to nine points (two goals, seven assists) over 41 games in the Allsvenskan during his draft year despite dominating the junior tournaments.
Long story short, NHL teams will surely take a liking to the size and skating of both Wallinder and Jurmo, who is now my second-ranked Finnish-born defenceman behind first-rounder Topi Niemela (No. 31) but ahead of third-rounders Ruben Rafkin (No. 71), Kasper Puutio (No. 81) and Eemil Viro (No. 82). Jurmo overtook those three from my November rankings to December, climbing into my second round and slotting in just behind Samuel Knazko (No. 59) — a Slovakian-born defender developing in the Finnish junior league.
NOTE: Here are 13 more double-digit risers from the top four rounds of my December rankings.
Jean-Luc Foudy (RC, Canada, Windsor OHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 59
DECEMBER RANKING: 49
Will Cuylle (LW, Canada, Windsor OHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 60
DECEMBER RANKING: 50
Ronan Seeley (LD, Canada, Everett WHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 106
DECEMBER RANKING: 74
Brendan Brisson (LC/LW, USA/Canada, Chicago USHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 143
DECEMBER RANKING: 75
Ryan Francis (RW, Canada, Cape Breton QMJHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 118
DECEMBER RANKING: 78
Tyson Foerster (RC, Canada, Barrie OHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 114
DECEMBER RANKING: 79
Jack Thompson (RD, Canada, Sudbury OHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 129
DECEMBER RANKING: 87
Tyler Tullio (RC, Canada/USA, Oshawa OHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 98
DECEMBER RANKING: 88
Patrick Guay (LW/LC, Canada, Sherbrooke QMJHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 117
DECEMBER RANKING: 89
Yan Kuznetsov (LD, Russia, Connecticut NCAA)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 166
DECEMBER RANKING: 98
Vsevolod Skotnikov (G, Russia, Krasnaya Armiya Moskva MHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 122
DECEMBER RANKING: 100
Calle Clang (G, Sweden, Rogle J20)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 123
DECEMBER RANKING: 101
Sam Colangelo (RW, USA, Chicago USHL)
NOVEMBER RANKING: 144
DECEMBER RANKING: 111
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.