- 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 risers feature a few standouts from the World Juniors and World Junior A Challenge, plus a handful of defencemen trending up and a couple high-scoring CHL forwards.
1) Jan Mysak (LW, Czech Republic, Hamilton OHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 19
JANUARY RANKING: 14
ANALYSIS: Mysak performed admirably for the host Czechs and his role grew as the World Juniors progressed — in part out of necessity, with injuries to top forwards Jakub Lauko and Jan Jenik. He flashed nice offensive upside in a better showing on the under-20 stage than at the under-18 Hlinka back in the summer. Now he is joining Jenik in Hamilton, which should be fun to watch for the second half as Mysak attempts to solidify himself as a top-15 selection while potentially taking a run at the top 10.
2) John-Jason Peterka (LW, Germany, Munchen DEL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 36
JANUARY RANKING: 22
ANALYSIS: I knew Peterka was flashy and a slick puckhandler, but I was blown away by his speed and explosiveness. That took me by surprise, but he can flat-out fly and has quick acceleration — reminding me a bit of Nik Ehlers and surging into my first round. Peterka was still overshadowed by projected top-10 pick Tim Stutzle for Germany, but he pulled away from second-rounder Lukas Reichel in my rankings. I prefer Peterka between those two wingers, but all three Germans should be taken in the top 50. We might get to see what Peterka can do in North America sooner than later because OHL Barrie opened up an import spot for him ahead of the deadline.
3) Topi Niemela (RD, Finland, Karpat Liiga)
DECEMBER RANKING: 31
JANUARY RANKING: 23
ANALYSIS: The more I see of Niemela, the more he reminds me of Ville Heinola — and not just because their names sort of rhyme. Niemela is a smooth defender who consistently makes the right play without much risk in his game. Safe as he might be, there is still a good amount of upside — and reward — for the team taking Niemela. He is well rounded and the offence could come in time. The development path is promising with this prospect and he does pass the eye test.
4) Emil Andrae (LD, Sweden, HV71 J20)
DECEMBER RANKING: 39
JANUARY RANKING: 24
ANALYSIS: Andrae has some similarities to Niemela but has been much more productive at the junior level. The offence is already there with Andrae, who is a bit smaller than Niemela but still a capable defender who also relies on his smarts. Andrae thinks the game at a high level and has the vision — and the mobility — to overcome any size concerns. Andrae may not be an offensive dynamo as a pro — in terms of quarterbacking an NHL power play — but he should develop into a dependable two-way player. Andrae and Niemela both project as second-pairing types but should be worth first-round picks among this draft class, which drops off after the top 15.
5) Jake Sanderson (LD, USA, NTDP U18)
DECEMBER RANKING: 40
JANUARY RANKING: 31
ANALYSIS: Sanderson emerged as my top American prospect for January — just ahead of NTDP teammate Thomas Bordeleau, my top American forward at No. 32. Sanderson is also my lone first-rounder from the United States as of now, though Bordeleau and a few others are in that bubble tier from 26 to 48. Sanderson’s production has picked up — particularly against USHL competition — and he has the tools to perhaps play on a top pairing in the future. Sanderson isn’t as polished in the present as Niemela and Andrae, but he has just as much upside — and arguably more. Sanderson also has NHL bloodlines, inheriting his skating ability from his father Geoff.
6) Brendan Brisson (LC/LW, USA/Canada, Chicago USHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 75
JANUARY RANKING: 47
ANALYSIS: Brisson starred for Team USA at last month’s World Junior A Challenge, using that tournament as his official coming-out party. Prior to that, most scouts knew him as the son of star agent Pat Brisson, but Brendan looked like a good bet to make his own name during that showcase. It was an impressive performance, dominant at times in the preliminary round. Brisson didn’t have as much success in the playoff round, but he has continued to put up nice numbers in the USHL, so that certainly wasn’t a fluke. That Chicago Steel team is stacked with draft prospects, so Brisson will get plenty of attention there and might be able to play his way into the first round over the second half.
7) Ryan O’Rourke (LD, Canada, Sault Ste. Marie OHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 62
JANUARY RANKING: 54
ANALYSIS: This is shaping up to be a strong draft for the OHL — with as many as 15 prospects being taken in the top 75, mostly forwards — and O’Rourke might be flying a little under the radar. He is coming on strong as one of the best defencemen from that league — O’Rourke is my second-ranked OHL blueliner behind top-10 prospect Jamie Drysdale — and seems to be trending towards first-round consideration. I probably could have bumped O’Rourke up another 10 spots into that bubble tier — my ranking is still on the conservative side for him — but he’ll need to sustain his momentum from the last month to fully win me over. There is no denying that O’Rourke has the skill-set to continue rising for me.
8) Eemil Viro (LD, Finland, TPS Liiga)
DECEMBER RANKING: 82
JANUARY RANKING: 62
ANALYSIS: On paper, Viro is very similar to Niemela — besides being left-handed, with Niemela a more coveted righty — so it made sense to get Viro on the rise as well. Viro hasn’t been as eye-catching in my very limited viewings, but he has played his way up to the pro ranks — to the Liiga — and thus is obviously impressing the Finnish brass. Viro has been more offensive than Niemela at the lower junior levels, so perhaps I’m still sleeping on him to some degree, but he is now in my second round for the time being. I look forward to watching more of Viro as a pro to get a better read on him.
9) Ryan Francis (RW, Canada, Cape Breton QMJHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 78
JANUARY RANKING: 67
ANALYSIS: Speaking of sleeping, I have admittedly been too low on these last two to date. They have continued to produce beyond my expectations and I have continued to bump them up from month to month. It has been a gradual climb, but I believe they are in the right range for now — with the potential to keep rising. I don’t think either of them are first-round talents, but I could be wrong come June. They are on the cusp of becoming second-rounders for me. Francis is undersized, but his stats speak for themselves. He is lighting up the Q and scouts are taking notice — slowly but surely in my case.
10) Tyson Foerster (RC, Canada, Barrie OHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 79
JANUARY RANKING: 68
ANALYSIS: Foerster hasn’t wowed me in my viewings — and he may not be a “wow” type prospect — but he has been consistent and has already doubled his goal and point totals from last season. Foerster has clearly taken a big step as a sophomore in the OHL and has become a pretty clutch performer for Barrie. He is well over a point per game and his stats do suggest a second-round pick — if not a first — but I prefer the prospects that I have ranked ahead of him right now, including that group of WHL forwards (from 63-66) that I’m more familiar with.
NOTE: Here are 11 more double-digit risers from within my top four rounds.
Tyler Tullio (RC, Canada/USA, Oshawa OHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 88
JANUARY RANKING: 69
Sam Colangelo (RW, USA, Chicago USHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 111
JANUARY RANKING: 70
Yan Kuznetsov (LD, Russia, Connecticut NCAA)
DECEMBER RANKING: 98
JANUARY RANKING: 71
Theodor Niederbach (RC, Sweden, Frolunda J20)
DECEMBER RANKING: 156
JANUARY RANKING: 73
Brady Burns (LC, Canada, Saint John QMJHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 124
JANUARY RANKING: 86
Jacob Dion (LD, Canada, Drummondville QMJHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 135
JANUARY RANKING: 89
Anton Johannesson (LD, Sweden, HV71 J20)
DECEMBER RANKING: 132
JANUARY RANKING: 98
Yegor Guskov (G, Russia, Loko Yaroslavl MHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 130
JANUARY RANKING: 101
Marko Stacha (LD, Slovakia, Dukla Trencin)
DECEMBER RANKING: 134
JANUARY RANKING: 108
Brandon Coe (RW, Canada, North Bay OHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 165
JANUARY RANKING: 114
Cole Shepard (LW/LC, Canada, Vancouver WHL)
DECEMBER RANKING: 140
JANUARY RANKING: 118
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.