- 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 risers feature a handful of defencemen, including four potential first-rounders, plus two forwards from the powerhouse Chicago Steel, two budding centres from the WHL, and last but not least a hard-driving Finnish winger.
1) Jake Sanderson (LD, USA, NTDP U18)
APRIL RANKING: 15
MAY RANKING: 9
ANALYSIS: Sanderson is trending to be the biggest draft riser and I’m on that bandwagon. I have always been a fan — he was a first-rounder in my preseason rankings (No. 22), as my third defenceman behind Jamie Drysdale and Justin Barron — but Sanderson’s dominant performance at the Five Nations tournament in February stands out in the minds of scouts since that wound up being the last best-on-best showcase of the draft year. There is no doubt in my mind that Sanderson would have solidified himself as a top-10 prospect had the under-18 worlds taken place in April. Fully believing that, I took the leap to rank him accordingly. Sanderson’s stock started soaring after the All-American Prospects Game and his entire second half has been top-10 worthy as a consistent force while captaining The Program. Sanderson has closed the gap on Drysdale (No. 5) while pulling away from the rest of the pack, which is also now reflected in my rankings with Barron still being my third-best defender (No. 22). Is Zach Werenski a good comparable for Sanderson? I think so and Werenski went eighth overall in 2015. This ranking just feels right for Sanderson and I expect my top 10 to be locked in now — no more changes from the current order.
2) Joni Jurmo (LD, Finland, Jokerit U20)
APRIL RANKING: 34
MAY RANKING: 26
ANALYSIS: Jurmo is now my top European defenceman and the more I watch him, the more I’m convinced he is a first-round talent. I believe he has top-pairing potential based on his skating ability and his offensive instincts. There is refining and developing to be done, but the raw upside warrants this ranking. The explosiveness is reminiscent of a young Joni Pitkanen. Jurmo also reminds me of Rasmus Ristolainen, who went eighth overall in 2013, but Jurmo hasn’t gotten as much exposure to date. He is still very underrated and could be labelled a sleeper based on other rankings and mock drafts. Jurmo is often labelled a project — thus the conservative rankings — but I’m ready to call him the real deal.
3) William Wallinder (LD, Sweden, MODO J20)
APRIL RANKING: 33
MAY RANKING: 27
ANALYSIS: Wallinder is the Swedish Jurmo — they are very similar in their strengths and styles — with shades of fellow Swede Philip Broberg, who was a top-10 pick in 2019. They have the same explosive skating, a power element that allows them to take over at times. Wallinder also gets the raw label, but he made significant strides during his draft year after bursting onto the scouting radar at the Junior Club World Cup. That isn’t one of the more prestigious events, but that was Wallinder’s coming-out party and he has since rounded out his game as a two-way type. Mattias Ekholm is the comparable that I’ve been using for Wallinder, though his skating is stronger and that makes me think Wallinder could contribute more offensively in his prime. Regardless, I like Wallinder as a first-rounder — right there with Jurmo.
4) Helge Grans (RD, Sweden, Malmo J20)
APRIL RANKING: 42
MAY RANKING: 34
ANALYSIS: Grans has gradually grown on me since I haven’t always been his biggest fan, going back to the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. I’m still not fully sold on Grans — like I am Jurmo, Wallinder and obviously Sanderson — but I’m fairly certain that Grans will be selected in the first round as a toolsy right-handed defenceman with good size and skating. The fact he is right handed helps his chances of cracking the first round since righties are quite rare again this year. Grans remains my fourth-ranked righty behind Drysdale, Barron and Braden Schneider but gained separation from the Finn Topi Niemela in that top five. Grans is also still my fourth-ranked European defenceman behind Jurmo, Wallinder and another Swede Emil Andrae (No. 33). I don’t think Grans is as dynamic as those three, but I may be in the minority with that opinion. There are a lot of Grans fans out there and I’m slowly but surely becoming one.
5) Brendan Brisson (LC/LW, USA/Canada, Chicago USHL)
APRIL RANKING: 48
MAY RANKING: 37
ANALYSIS: Brisson is the first forward on this month’s list of risers, making a significant leap thanks to his recent accolades — winning the USHL’s rookie of the year award and being named to that league’s first all-star team — as well as his general manager Ryan Hardy’s presence on Twitter. Hardy has been a breath of fresh air during this pandemic and has certainly made sure his Steel players are getting their due recognition despite not getting the chance to take a run at the USHL championship with their juggernaut roster full of draft-eligible talent. Hardy’s persistence has paid off in getting me to watch more Steel games and highlight reels, thus gaining more of an appreciation for Brisson’s abilities. I’m starting to think Brisson can make it as a centre — instead of shifting to the wing in college next season or when he eventually turns pro — and that change in how I’m viewing Brisson going forward helped bump up his ranking since centres will always be more valuable than wingers all things being equal. Brisson is now my second-ranked American prospect behind Sanderson, overtaking The Program’s leading scorer Thomas Bordeleau (No. 38) and pulling away from his Steel teammates Sam Colangelo (No. 52) and Sean Farrell (No. 58), who had been grouped with Brisson in the second round of my monthly rankings since January. As a centre, Brisson could burst into the first round — and Hardy’s hype account deserves some of the credit for his continued rise. Hardy could double as Brisson’s agent, though he doesn’t need one as the son of super agent Pat Brisson.
6) Ridly Greig (LC/LW, Canada, Brandon WHL)
APRIL RANKING: 57
MAY RANKING: 50
ANALYSIS: Greig came on strong in the second half, finishing his draft year on an eight-game point streak with 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) over his last 12 games. That included a five-game goal-scoring streak. Going back to Dec. 30, Greig racked up 15 goals and 33 points in 25 games down the stretch to surpass point-per-game status with 60 points (26 goals, 34 assists) in 56 games. Those stats are impressive, but Greig might be just scratching the surface of his offensive potential as one of the younger prospects in this draft class with an August birthdate. That untapped upside is a matter of debate — some see, or anticipate, more than others. I didn’t get a live viewing of Greig this season — Brandon never came to Kelowna, though he did score a power-play goal in their lone meeting on Dec. 10, a 2-1 shootout win for Kelowna in Brandon — but I liked what I saw online, which may not do Greig’s game justice since the sandpaper side is more evident in person. Greig is abrasive and feisty — even nasty, at times — but he has the offensive tools to back up his agitating ways. Brad Marchand is the name that comes to mind and given Greig’s NHL bloodlines — his dad Mark was a first-round pick in 1990, played 130 total games and now scouts for Philadelphia — you can understand why some of the connected insiders are suggesting he could emerge as a first-rounder. Greig has risen into my tier of first-round contenders (21-53), along with this next guy.
7) Sam Colangelo (RW, USA, Chicago USHL)
APRIL RANKING: 59
MAY RANKING: 52
ANALYSIS: Colangelo makes this list for the second straight month — continuing his climb for the same reasons as April, while also benefitting from the Hardy bump on social media. Colangelo is a budding power forward bound for a strong NCAA program at Northeastern, so NHL teams will be taking a liking to his development path and the progress he made over the course of his first and only full season in the USHL — essentially scoring at the same pace from high school to junior. Colangelo is a long-shot for the first round, but that isn’t out of the realm of possibility — and he could totally be taken in the thirties, if not the top 31.
8) William Villeneuve (RD, Canada, Saint John QMJHL)
APRIL RANKING: 73
MAY RANKING: 64
ANALYSIS: Villeneuve has nice underlying numbers as an offensive producer from the back end and has been trending in the opposite direction of Saint John teammate Jeremie Poirier (No. 42), who landed on this month’s list of fallers. Neither of them are overly good at defending and Poirier was more touted throughout the draft year — thanks to netting 20 goals as a defenceman — but Villeneuve might become the better blueliner from the Sea Dogs. That team is going to take a big step as a whole next season as they continue to develop together, so Villeneuve could go higher than anticipated in the draft. I wouldn’t rule out a top-50 selection. He is also right handed, which will make Villeneuve that much more coveted — as mentioned with Grans.
9) Roby Jarventie (RW, Finland, Ilves Liiga)
APRIL RANKING: 88
MAY RANKING: 72
ANALYSIS: Jarventie is also on this list for the second straight month — another steady riser thanks to his success in the Mestis, which is Finland’s version of the AHL under the Liiga. Jarventie is another August birthdate — like Greig — so he should have plenty of room to grow, both physically and offensively. Thinking ahead to my final rankings, Jarventie would be one of my third-rounders that could squeak into the second round based on that potential growth, but I wasn’t ready to slot him in my top 62 just yet.
10) Tristen Robins (RC, Canada, Saskatoon WHL)
APRIL RANKING: 90
MAY RANKING: 78
ANALYSIS: Robins also finished the WHL season on a tear — even more so than Greig. Shifting back to centre when Capitals prospect Eric Florchuk was traded at the deadline, Robins surged with 54 points over his final 33 games from December through March — winding up with 73 points (33 goals, 40 assists) in 62 games. Only Seth Jarvis, a projected first-rounder and potential top-20 pick, had a better point-per-game pace than Robins over that span among draft eligibles from the Dub. My FC scouting colleague Joel Henderson is Robins’ biggest fan and got to further pump his tires with this profile for Dobber Prospects. I’ve liked Robins since my first live viewing last season and wouldn’t be surprised if he became a Brayden Point-type steal in the third round — assuming Robins doesn’t rise into the second round. There are similarities between Robins and Point in terms of their playing styles too. And it should be noted that Robins made the cut for my 54-78 tier as the final prospect among those second-round candidates. Some independent scouts even have Robins in their first round now — another clear sign that his stock is on the rise.
RELATED: THW’s 2020 NHL Draft Guide
NOTE: Here are 11 more double-digit risers from within my top four rounds.
Connor McClennon (RW, Canada, Winnipeg WHL)
APRIL RANKING: 89
MAY RANKING: 79
Evan Vierling (LC, Canada, Barrie OHL)
APRIL RANKING: 93
MAY RANKING: 82
Eamon Powell (RD, USA, NTDP U18)
APRIL RANKING: 98
MAY RANKING: 88
Mitch Miller (LD, USA, Tri-City USHL)
APRIL RANKING: 129
MAY RANKING: 89
Kasper Puutio (RD, Finland, Everett WHL)
APRIL RANKING: 118
MAY RANKING: 99
William Dufour (RW, Canada, Drummondville QMJHL)
APRIL RANKING: 181
MAY RANKING: 109
Zayde Wisdom (RC, Canada, Kingston OHL)
APRIL RANKING: 153
MAY RANKING: 110
James Hardie (LW, Canada, Mississauga OHL)
APRIL RANKING: 140
MAY RANKING: 111
Rory Kerins (LC, Canada, Sault Ste. Marie OHL)
APRIL RANKING: 155
MAY RANKING: 112
Jacob Truscott (LD, USA, NTDP U18)
APRIL RANKING: 134
MAY RANKING: 117
Cross Hanas (LW, USA/Canada, Portland WHL)
APRIL RANKING: 143
MAY 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.