- 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 risers — which might be the last batch of the draft year due to COVID-19 (coronavirus) suspending hockey leagues around the world — feature many of the top performers since the calendar turned to 2020.
Fitting, in that sense, if this becomes the finale to my monthly risers. There is plenty of variety in this March group but the commonality is their performance and production as of late.
1) Jake Sanderson (LD, USA, NTDP U18)
FEBRUARY RANKING: 28
MARCH RANKING: 15
ANALYSIS: Sanderson has been rocketing up all the rankings, including mine, since taking his game to another level in 2020 — highlighted by his showing at the Five Nations Tournament in February. He stood out as the best defenceman on display there and now looks like a strong bet to be the second blueliner taken in the 2020 draft — behind Jamie Drysdale (No. 5 for me). When it comes to my mock drafts, there is a decent chance that Sanderson could sneak into the top 10 considering positional preference for the teams picking and the likelihood of two defencemen going in that range. Sanderson has NHL bloodlines, blessed with his dad Geoff’s skating ability, and his all-around game is continuing to develop as a two-way force with the potential to be a top-pairing defender. This rise was as much about his defence and physicality as it was about his offensive tools.
2) Seth Jarvis (RW, Canada, Portland WHL)
FEBRUARY RANKING: 32
MARCH RANKING: 17
ANALYSIS: Jarvis is on this list for the second straight month, continuing his surge towards becoming the WHL’s best prospect for 2020. Jarvis is certainly in that conversation now, having kicked down the door to my first round while leaping over that league’s top two defence prospects in Kaiden Guhle (No. 27) and Braden Schneider (No. 28). That distinction still belongs to centre Connor Zary (No. 16) in my rankings, but Jarvis was hot on his heels when the season was suspended. Zary gets the edge for his efforts in best-on-best showcases — at last year’s under-18 worlds and this year’s CHL Top Prospects Game — but Jarvis is younger and has surpassed Zary’s production in their draft year. Jarvis might have made up that remaining ground at this year’s under-18 worlds but now won’t get that opportunity with the tournament being cancelled in the fallout from coronavirus. So it will come down to playoff performance, if and when the WHL season resumes, to determine whether Jarvis can overtake Zary.
3) Mavrik Bourque (RC, Canada, Shawinigan QMJHL)
FEBRUARY RANKING: 29
MARCH RANKING: 21
ANALYSIS: Bourque isn’t as big of a riser — not quite reaching double digits month over month — but deserved to be highlighted for his bid to become the second forward selected from the QMJHL. Alexis Lafreniere is obviously No. 1 as the consensus choice to go first overall in 2020, but Bourque is now in the mix to be No. 2, along with Hendrix Lapierre (No. 19) and Dawson Mercer (No. 20). It should be noted that my tiers suggest there is still separation between them, with Lapierre and Mercer part of my 11-20 tier as first-round locks, while Bourque marks the beginning of my massive 21-53 tier as candidates to round out the top 31. Of the three, Bourque had been trending up the most in recent months, but Lapierre would be a top-10 consideration if not for his concussions and Mercer might be better built for the pro game as more of a sure thing. But Bourque has surely made a strong case to be a first-round pick if this is where the draft year ends off.
4) Martin Chromiak (LW, Slovakia, Kingston OHL)
FEBRUARY RANKING: 39
MARCH RANKING: 32
ANALYSIS: Chromiak’s rise may seem relatively insignificant at seven spots, but he was on the cusp of returning to my first round and very well could have played his way into that top 31 by building on the momentum from hitting the ground running in the OHL. Chromiak is one of the youngest prospects in this draft class and has flashed upside similar to David Pastrnak in his draft year. Pastrnak went 25th overall in 2014, for reference sake. I was high on Chromiak from the outset, debuting him at No. 25 in my preseason rankings (much higher than most), but Slovakia’s decision to snub him from the world junior team dropped his stock — only to rebound with his decision to come overseas in the aftermath of that tournament. That move paid off, with Chromiak managing to make an immediate impact in the OHL and thus emerging as a riser for the scouting community as a whole.
5) Joni Jurmo (LD, Finland, Jokerit U20)
FEBRUARY RANKING: 44
MARCH RANKING: 34
ANALYSIS: Jurmo’s rise has been gradual but could have been even more aggressive coming out of the under-19 Four Nations tourney. I was very tempted to rank Jurmo as a first-rounder for March — that is how impressive his performance was on that stage — but it is telling that I slotted him ahead of William Wallinder (No. 35), who had been a first-round talent for me prior to those February tournaments. There are similarities between those two, but Jurmo displayed more confidence and swagger in his most recent showcase. Jurmo also overtook Topi Niemela (No. 39) and Eemil Viro (No. 45) to become my top-ranked Finnish defender for 2020. I am really high on Jurmo right now — in case you can’t tell — and if my mocks were publishing tomorrow, he would likely be selected in the first round.
6) Marat Khusnutdinov (LC, Russia, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg MHL)
FEBRUARY RANKING: 76
MARCH RANKING: 41
ANALYSIS: Khusnutdinov is the biggest riser among this month’s top 10, numerically speaking. I have always liked Khusnutdinov’s two-way game — he is going to be a strong 200-foot centre — but he has made great strides in his offensive abilities and creativity. His is taking more risks and tilting the ice by pushing the pace with an attacking mentality. He is no longer thinking defence first or playing it safe, which is turning scouts on to his offensive upside and potential to play a top-six role in the NHL. That has been the biggest development for Khusnutdinov and it has him getting first-round consideration going forward.
7) Theodor Niederbach (RC, Sweden, Frolunda J20)
FEBRUARY RANKING: 78
MARCH RANKING: 47
ANALYSIS: Niederbach is right there with Khusnutdinov as fast-rising European centres with the potential to be taken in the first round. Niederbach has a high offensive ceiling — higher than Khusnutdinov, in my opinion — but was flying under the radar to start the draft year after missing all of last season to injury. Niederbach has made up for that lost time and could be a lot higher than No. 47 on some NHL teams’ scouting lists — that is still something of a conservative ranking, considering his upside. It wouldn’t be shocking to hear an NHL team has Niederbach in their top 31 or even their top 20. He is this year’s Simon Holmstrom — whom the Islanders reached for in the first round of last year’s draft (23rd overall in 2019) — but I believe Niederbach has better offensive tools than Holmstrom, with more development to come upon turning pro.
8) Justin Sourdif (RW, Canada, Vancouver WHL)
FEBRUARY RANKING: 56
MARCH RANKING: 48
ANALYSIS: Sourdif and his Vancouver Giants teammates flipped a switch following the WHL trade deadline and after the CHL Top Prospects Game. Sourdif has been in beast mode since then, scoring several highlight-reel goals and living up to my billing as a hybrid between Giants’ alums Evander Kane and Brendan Gallagher. Sourdif has those power elements and is capable of playing with a chip on his shoulder when fully engaged. He has stayed in my second-round range throughout the draft year and I do anticipate he’ll be a top-50 pick at this point, albeit a long-shot for the top 31. A strong playoff — a repeat of last year — could have propelled Sourdif to first-round status.
9) Pavel Novak (RW, Czech Republic, Kelowna WHL)
FEBRUARY RANKING: 64
MARCH RANKING: 56
ANALYSIS: Novak was a consistent offensive catalyst for Kelowna in his North American debut and would have been a worthy candidate for the WHL’s rookie of the year if not for a heavy-handed eight-game suspension before Christmas. On a team that struggled to score despite being the Memorial Cup host, Novak found a way to reach the scoresheet on a regular basis. He didn’t always stand out from shift to shift or start to finish in games — with a tendency to fade at times — but Novak was very noticeable in the boxscores. That is a credit to him, especially with Kelowna being such an offensively challenged, low-scoring team. Novak led the Rockets in both goals (25) and points (58) over 55 games — numbers that are more impressive than they might seem at first glance. Not every scout loves Novak’s skill-set or his pro potential, but his penchant to produce offence can’t be ignored come the second round. I think Novak can become a Tomas Tatar type.
10) Luke Evangelista (RW, Canada, London OHL)
FEBRUARY RANKING: 70
MARCH RANKING: 58
ANALYSIS: Evangelista has been a steady riser for me — climbing into my second round in March and, in the process, overtaking Antonio Stranges (No. 59) as the top prospect from London for 2020. Those teammates are grouped together in my rankings but couldn’t be more different. Evangelista is a steady, complementary player that can be effective in any situation — moving up and down the lineup, contributing on both special teams — while Stranges is more individualistic and less versatile but possesses some elite tools that could make him a difference-maker in pro. Between the two, Evangelista enjoyed the better draft year and developed into more of a threat in Dale Hunter’s system. That won’t go unnoticed by NHL teams. Evangelista is the safer pick whereas Stranges is a classic boom-or-bust project.
NOTE: Here are 10 more double-digit risers from within my top four rounds.
Anton Johannesson (LD, Sweden, HV71 J20)
FEBRUARY RANKING: 79
MARCH RANKING: 69
Daniel Torgersson (RW, Sweden, Frolunda J20)
FEBRUARY RANKING: 171
MARCH RANKING: 72
Blake Biondi (RC, USA, Hermantown U.S. High School)
FEBRUARY RANKING: 105
MARCH RANKING: 74
Drew Commesso (G, USA, NTDP U18)
FEBRUARY RANKING: 154
MARCH RANKING: 75
Tristen Robins (RC, Canada, Saskatoon WHL)
FEBRUARY RANKING: 96
MARCH RANKING: 86
Charlie Desroches (RD, Canada, Saint John QMJHL)
FEBRUARY RANKING: 111
MARCH RANKING: 95
Jack Smith (LC, USA, St. Cloud Cathedral U.S. High School)
FEBRUARY RANKING: 164
MARCH RANKING: 98
Grant Slukynsky (F, USA/Canada, Warroad U.S. High School)
FEBRUARY RANKING: Not Ranked
MARCH RANKING: 99
Dmitri Ovchinnikov (LW, Russia, Sibirskie Snaipery Novosibirsk MHL)
FEBRUARY RANKING: 133
MARCH RANKING: 100
Bogdan Trineyev (RW, Russia, Dynamo Moskva MHL)
FEBRUARY RANKING: 131
MARCH RANKING: 101
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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.