The National Hockey League is based increasingly upon raw skill and tantalizing talent.
Gone are the days in which offence was generated largely from behind the goal line, and in are the times in which players of blazing speed dart around the ice and create spectacular plays on the fly. With the 2017-18 NHL campaign set to unfold, such remains the case exactly, as the latest wave of astonishing young talent stands poised to make their mark on a continually evolving league in which speed and skill are at the forefront.
Now, while the coming season will feature a number of intriguing storylines, such as the inaugural season of the Vegas Golden Knights and the Pittsburgh Penguins’ quest for a third consecutive Stanley Cup, arguably neither are as appealing as the tremendous talent eager to grace NHL ice.
With a wealth of promising prospects set to enter the league, it’s time to take a look at the top-100 NHL affiliated assets. Although some hold greater promise than others – as we will see below – all of which boast immense potential and the abilities necessary to thrive at the NHL-level.
Before we dive into the 2017 Top-100 NHL Prospects Ranking, let’s take a quick moment to determine the criteria upon which these players have been selected.
- All players listed below must retain their rookie eligibility prior to the 2017-18 NHL season.
- In accordance with the NHL’s rookie qualifications outlined in the Hockey Operations Guidelines, no player listed below will have skated in greater than 25 games in a preceding season, nor will he have appeared in six or more games in each of any two previous seasons.
- Lastly, any player who will be 26 years-of-age or older by Sept. 15th, 2017, has not been considered.
Now, without further ado, dive into the ranking. As always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. Given the breadth of this article and the fact that it is based upon my opinion, I am more than open to alternate perceptions and perspectives.
The NHL’s Top-100 Prospects
100: Taylor Raddysh
A gifted two-way player who possesses innate offensive abilities, Taylor Raddysh enjoyed his best OHL season to date with the Erie Otters in 2016-17, netting 42 goals and collecting 67 assists in 58 games played. A second-round choice of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2016, the next major step in Raddysh’s development will be to prove himself as capable independent force, and one not overly reliant upon his linemates for support. In all, a fantastic talent of significant upside.
99: Noah Juulsen
A first-round choice of the Montreal Canadiens in the 2015 NHL Draft, Noah Juulsen’s development can be best described as slow and steady. Although his offensive totals dipped in the two seasons following his selection by the Canadiens, Juulsen has progressed into a much more reliable defender and one capable of playing a smart two-way game. His captaincy with the Everett Silvertips in 2016-17 was a major indication of his increasing maturity both on and off of the ice.
98: Anders Bjork
The Boston Bruins took a chance on Anders Bjork in the fifth-round of the 2014 NHL Draft, and it is a decision which appears destined to pay off for both parties. An intelligent forward who thinks the game at a high pace and has the ability to anticipate scoring chances, Bjork improved on a yearly basis with the University of Notre Dame and appears set to make his professional debut in 2017-18 with the Providence Bruins.
97: Anthony Cirelli
A hard-working centre whose determination fails to waver, Anthony Cirelli is an excellent two-way forward who emphasizes the defensive aspects of the game. Capable of winning faceoffs with startling regularity as well as shutting down his opposition’s best players, Cirelli’s drive on the ice makes him a potent threat in all three zones.
Although he isn’t an elite offensive producer, Cirelli is more than capable of providing timely offence on a fairly consistent basis. The 2017-18 season will be integral to Cirelli’s development, as he will have to prove himself capable of thriving at the AHL level.
96: Kale Clague
A smooth skating defender with great on-ice vision and playmaking abilities, Kale Clague could prove to be a steal for the Los Angeles Kings considering his 51st overall selection in the 2016 NHL Draft. Calm and composed with the puck, Clague is an excellent puck-moving defenceman who is responsible within his own zone and plays to his strengths. Capable of moving the puck to his forwards and crafty in the offensive zone, Clague is an assist machine whose intelligence and creativity make him a unique two-way threat.
95: Ethan Bear
Awarded the Bill Hunter Trophy as the WHL’s Top Defenceman in 2016-17, Ethan Bear is an asset of the Edmonton Oilers who is steadily on the rise. Having set new career-highs in goals with 28 and points with 70 this past season, Bear established himself as a premier defence prospect whose offensive abilities were second to none. Set to begin the 2017-18 season with the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL, Bear will need to prove that he can transition his impressive style of play to the professional level if he wishes to retain his immense value.
94: Carter Hart
One of the many goaltending prospects affiliated with the Philadelphia Flyers, Carter Hart is a sound netminder whose game is founded upon both composure and intelligence. Never erratic within his crease and always positioned accurately in order to maximize his size, Hart uses his angles well and is always aware of his location between the pipes. Improving on a yearly basis with the Silvertips, Hart was recently awarded the Del Wilson Trophy as the WHL’s Top Goaltender.
93: Adam Mascherin
An often overlooked player, Adam Mascherin is a unique talent who is fresh off of the best season of his OHL career. While he tied his career-high for goals with 35, Mascherin notched an impressive 65 assists 2016-17 – a combination which saw him hit the 100-point plateau for the first time. Although slightly under-sized, Mascherin compensates for this perceived deficiency through his intense and admirable work-ethic. Blessed with excellent speed as well as skill, Mascherin’s mature approach has allowed him to become a lethal offensive player of considerable upside.
92: Caleb Jones
Somewhat similar to Bear, Caleb Jones is yet another Oilers defender whose game has drawn incredible praise of late. While his offensive totals aren’t as spectacular as Bear’s, Jones still managed to post 62 points in 63 games last season in the WHL. The younger brother of Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman Seth Jones, Jones is a hard-working and intelligent player whose strong all-around game should allow him to enjoy notable success at the AHL level in 2017-18.
91: Carl Grundström
A relative unknown prior to the 2016-17 season, Carl Grundström’s strong play throughout multiple levels of hockey has put himself on the NHL’s radar with authority. Incredibly impressive with Team Sweden during the World Junior Championship, Grundström parlayed a solid campaign with Frölunda HC of the Swedish Hockey League into a three-year entry-level contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The coming 2017-18 season will present a massive opportunity for Grundström to prove that he can successfully – and consistently – succeed playing the North American style of game.
90: Jake Walman
Although his offensive totals slipped slightly in his third season with Providence College, Jake Walman’s overall game continued to progress at a substantial rate. A third-round choice of the St. Louis Blues in 2014, Walman is a defender of good size who knows how to use his strength and intelligence to his advantage. Inserted into a leadership role in 2016-17, Walman enjoyed a steady season which was eventually capped off with a seven-game stint in the AHL.
89: Ryan Poehling
Ryan Poehling’s freshman season with St. Cloud State University was a strong one, as the towering centre notched seven goals and six assists in 35 games played. An intelligent player who boasts a strong work-ethic and excellent puck protection skills, Poehling is a positionally sound center who is committed to his defensive game. Although his skating could use some work, Poehling could be a legitimate option for the Montreal Canadiens in the near future.
88: Samuel Girard
Two consecutive seasons spent leading the QMJHL in blue line scoring has put Samuel Girard on the Nashville Predators’ radar with authority. A second-round choice in the 2016 NHL Draft, Girard is fresh off of an impressive third campaign with the Shawinigan Cataractes in which netted nine goals and 66 assists. However, what makes Girard so valuable is his ability to thrive at both ends of the ice. While he boasts incredible offensive traits and an accurate shot, Girard is also reliable defensively and has the willingness to learn and develop.
87: Jaret Anderson-Dolan
One of the youngest players chosen in the 2017 NHL Draft, Jaret Anderson-Dolan is a steadily progressing offensive talent who could become one of his draft class’ biggest surprises. A forward of slightly smaller stature, Anderson-Dolan is a lethal player whose creativity and intelligence combine to make him a persistent and all-around threat. With a 39-goal season in hand in just his second campaign in the WHL, Anderson-Dolan displayed the incredible ability to improve his game over a short period of time as well as the willingness to lead his team at a young age.
86: Trent Frederic
Nabbed by the Bruins in the first-round, 29th overall, of the 2016 NHL Draft, Trent Frederic is a powerful centre who took his game to a higher level as a NCAA freshman in 2016-17. As a first-year player with the University of Wisconsin, Frederic netted an impressive 15 goals and 18 assists in 30 games played – an effort which saw him named as the NCAA (B1G) rookie of the year. Boasting a long reach and the ability to physically dominate his opposition at both ends of the ice, Frederic has the potential to become a solid two-way centre at the NHL level.
85: German Rubstov
The 2016-17 season was slightly tumultuous for German Rubstov. After skating with Vityaz Podolsk of the KHL as well as Russkie Vityazi Chekhov of the MHL, Rubstov made the move to North America in order to take to the ice with the Chicoutimi Saguenéens of the QMJHL. Although he would only skate in 16 games with the Saguenéens, Rubstov made an immediate impact scoring nine goals and 13 assists in just 16 games played. A first-round choice of the Flyers in the 2016 NHL Draft, Rubstov is a dominant puck possession player who can shoot, score, pass, and defend. An excellent all-around talent, Rubstov could see time with Philadelphia in the near future.
84: Danny O’Regan
An asset of the San Jose Sharks, Danny O’Regan has quieted his critics in resounding fashion since his fifth-round selection in the 2012 NHL Draft. A standout over four years at Boston University, O’Regan has parlayed an excellent NCAA career into notable early success within the professional ranks.
Awarded the Red Garrett Memorial Trophy in 2016-17 as the AHL’s rookie of the year, O’Regan’s 23 goals and 35 assists in 63 games played with the Barracuda solidified him as a lethal and legitimate offensive talent. Although he will need to add greater size to his frame, O’Regan is a quality playmaker who can also fill the net on a regular basis.
83: Tyler Benson
Named as team captain of the Vancouver Giants at the age of 17, Tyler Benson is an incredibly mature and poised prospect of the Oilers. Chosen 32nd overall in the 2016 NHL Draft, Benson’s WHL career to date has, rather unfortunately, been plagued by a variety of injuries. Of great size and intelligence, Benson boasts incredible hockey sense and the ability to make the right play with stunning regularity. Capable of improving the play of his teammates, Benson is an excellent talent who, if able to stay healthy, could become a tremendous depth option for the Oilers in the immediate future.
82: Kristian Vesalainen
A first-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets in the 2017 NHL Draft, Kristian Vesalainen is a highly skilled winger of immense size and determination. Capable of physically dominating his opponents with relative ease before pounding a heavy shot on net, Vesalainen is a natural goal scorer who is also more than willing to distribute the puck to his teammates. Although his skating will need work before he is able to stick at the NHL level, Vesalainen boasts all the makings of a successful power-forward.
81: Robert Thomas
The St. Louis Blues wasted little time before selecting Robert Thomas with the 20th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. A smart and reliable centre whose game is founded upon excellence at both ends of the ice, Thomas is as trustworthy as he is lethal and certainly boasts the potential to become a quality player at the NHL-level. While additional strength will surely come, Thomas’ playmaking qualities speak for themselves while he is also a notoriously hard-worker – abilities which should translate well to the NHL game.
80: Jason Robertson
An uber-talented forward whose game progressed rapidly in 2016-17, Jason Robertson is a powerful winger with innate offensive abilities. A second-round choice of the Dallas Stars in 2017, Robertson is a natural goal-scorer who can record points with ease – a result which comes from his ability to shoot and pass the puck. Given the time to fill out his 6’2″ frame and improve his skating, Robertson could very well become a top-six forward for the Stars.
79: Brett Howden
While Tampa Bay boasts an impressive crop of young prospects, arguably none of which is more skilled offensively than Brett Howden. A natural leader and the team captain of the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors in 2016-17, Howden is a mature and consistent player who is a role model both on and off of the ice. As a highly competitive skater who can shoot and pass the puck, Howden and his 6’2″ frame project to acclimate well to the professional game.
78: Jake DeBrusk
A former 40-goal scorer in the WHL, Jake DeBrusk — the son of former NHLer Louie — made the jump to the AHL in 2016-17 and enjoyed considerable success. Although his goal total slipped to 19, his 49 total points were still good for the fifth-best amongst all AHL rookies.
As a natural goal scorer, DeBrusk pairs a high-level of intelligence with ample creativity to make himself a truly lethal threat on the ice. Although he would do well to strengthen his body, DeBrusk is a legitimate talent whose two-way game should provide the Bruins with critical depth scoring.
77: Tyler Bertuzzi
The nephew of former NHL star Todd Bertuzzi, Tyler Bertuzzi is a competitive winger whose game is based upon a combination of grit and skill. Although he is no stranger to the penalty box, Bertuzzi’s offensive play has continued to develop in recent years and has seemingly become the most notable aspect of his game. In fact, not only did Bertuzzi record new career-highs across the board in 2016-17 – netting 12 goals and 37 points – but he did so in a mere 48 games played. Further, once you factor in an additional 19 points in the playoffs and a Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the AHL’s postseason MVP, Bertuzzi suddenly appears set for a highly successful NHL career.
76: Pierre-Olivier Joseph
A relative unknown in the QMJHL following his rookie season, Pierre-Olivier Joseph exploded in his sophomore campaign of 2016-17 and wound up as a first-round choice of the Arizona Coyotes. Not known for his offence, Joseph quickly began to establish himself as one of the league’s most promising young defencemen – netting six goals and 39 points in 62 games played. An excellent puck-mover who boasts the ability to move the puck to his teammates quickly and efficiently, Joseph is a premier young defender who should become a much more intimidating force once he fills out his 6’2″ frame.
75: Tage Thompson
A first-round pick of the Blues in the 2016 NHL Draft, Tage Thompson is a towering forward whose strength and raw skill are his best assets. Seemingly impossible to knock off of the puck and, as a result, an excellent possession player, Thompson is more than willing to drive hard to the net yet can pass the puck as well.
Following a successful NCAA campaign in 2016-17 with the University of Connecticut, Thompson skated in 26 total games with the Chicago Wolves where he, unfortunately, struggled to adapt to the professional game. Ultimately, foot speed and acceleration will be key to Thompson’s game if he wishes to thrive at the NHL-level.
74: Roland McKeown
An incredibly mature defender of ample size, Roland McKeown is an asset of the Carolina Hurricanes who could very well enjoy substantial playing time at the NHL-level in the near future. A second-round choice of Carolina in the 2014 NHL Draft, McKeown is a natural leader who thrives at both ends of the ice. Although his offensive game has yet to translate to the AHL-level, McKeown remains a sturdy two-way defender of immense upside.
73: Philippe Myers
Come to the conclusion of the 2015 NHL Draft, Philippe Myers had failed to be drafted an NHL organization. As a towering defender of immense size, Myers’ skill-set – at the time – was deemed to be of little interest. However, the Philadelphia Flyers stepped forward and took a chance on Myers, signing him to an entry-level contract in September of the same year. Now, roughly two years later, Myers stands as one of the class’ most promising prospects given his incredible offensive abilities and steady defensive play. A tantalizing talent to watch, Myers could see NHL time soon depending on the amount of success he enjoys in the AHL in 2017-18.
72: Jon Gillies
A towering goaltender at 6’6″ and 225 pounds, Jon Gillies is a prospect of massive importance within the Calgary Flames’ organization. A third-round pick of the team in the 2012 NHL Draft, Gillies has steadily progressed since his days with Providence College and recently completed a successful season with the Stockton Heat of the AHL. Posting a 2.93 GAA and .910% SVP in 39 games played, Gillies proved that, despite enduring his fair share of tough times, he is capable of tending the crease at the professional level.
Although he will have to battle with Tyler Parsons for playing time within the organization, Gillies remains a netminder of incredible intrigue and one with the potential to solidify the Flames’ crease long into the future.
71: Vitali Abramov
A steal in the third-round of the 2016 NHL Draft, Vitali Abramov has quickly progressed into a lethal offensive talent and prospect of immense promise for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Despite his short stature, Abramov packs a punch on the ice through his excellent playmaking skills and ability to shoot the puck with authority. Named as the QMJHL’s MVP in 2016-17, Abramov’s 46 goals and 58 assists in 66 games combined for a whopping 104 points – the most in the entire league. While he will need to get stronger and improve his play away from the puck, Abramov is a natural talent of immense skill who simply can not be ignored.
70: Yevgeni Svechnikov
A first-round pick of the Red Wings in the 2015 NHL Draft, Yevgeni Svechnikov is an undeniable talent who was fantastic in his rookie AHL season in 2016-17. A Calder Cup champion with the Grand Rapids Griffins, Svechnikov’s 20 goals and 31 assists in 74 games marked an impressive start to a promising professional career. Of great size, Svechnikov’s 6’3″ frame stands as the foundation of a strong and powerful game. In possession of an accurate and powerful shot, Svechnikov’s heavy release and magical hands make him a potent threat. While his work away from the puck could use some improvement, Svechnikov should develop into an elite scoring winger for the Detroit.
69: Kailer Yamamoto
While many NHL Organizations were hesitant to select Kailer Yamamoto in the 2017 NHL Draft given his lack of size, the Oilers were not deceived by the misconception. Sure, he is far smaller than his peers, but Yamamoto more than makes up for this perceived deficiency through his extremely hard-working style of play. An excellent skater who is both agile and shifty, Yamamoto uses his crisp edges to meander around his opponents before snapping off a quick shot or passing the puck to an open teammate. Incredibly elusive as well as intelligent, Yamamoto’s innate talents combine to make him a persistent threat and one capable thriving at the NHL-level.
68: Jakub Zboril
Complete, two-way defenceman are extremely difficult to attain in the modern-day NHL. Fortunately for the Bruins, Jakub Zboril appears poised to become exactly such, as the Brno, Czech Republic, native excels at both ends of the ice with relative ease. A smooth-skating defender of notable offensive traits and innate defensive abilities, Zboril can seemingly do it all on the ice and plays with an edge to his game. Willing to throw his weight about or stand up for his teammates, Zboril’s simple yet effective game has allowed him to grow tremendously as an individual since his first-round selection in the 2015 NHL Draft. Slated to begin the 2017-18 campaign with the Providence Bruins, Zboril will need to prove that his game can bend but not break against increasingly competitive competition.
67: Kieffer Bellows
Despite a solid freshman season with Boston University – during which time he netted seven goals and seven assists in 34 games – Kieffer Bellows decided to change his developmental course. Set to take to the ice with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL to begin the 2017-18 season, Bellows will bring an incredible level of competitiveness and drive to his new team. A classic power forward who thrives within puck battles and has the ability to drive through his opposition, Bellows’ strong and accurate shot as well as willingness to drive the net makes him an intimidating on-ice threat. In short, there is a reason why the New York Islanders selected Bellows in the first-round of the 2016 NHL Draft, 19th overall.
66: Joshua Norris
Set to begin the 2017-18 season as a member of the University of Michigan Spartans, Joshua Norris’ intelligence and decisive nature should bode well for the Oxford, Michigan, native in his freshman campaign. Of ample patience and composure with the puck and never in a hurry to relinquish possession, Norris takes time to select his shots and will wait for clear lanes to appear. A pass-first player who loves to dish the puck to his teammates, Norris can also shoot the puck with authority — a trait which is certainly one of the most easily overlooked aspects of his game. In all, a sizeable centre with skills and smarts, Norris should develop into a sturdy and reliable depth player for the Sharks.
65: Jordan Greenway
A towering winger who thrives upon the opportunities which his size creates, Greenway is a surprisingly lethal forward who can make opposing teams pay on the score sheet, as well as physically. Standing 6’6″ and 230 pounds, Greenway is a bulldog on the ice who protects the puck well and can drive hard to the net once in possession. A capable goal-scorer who is a pass-first player, Greenway is a unique yet dominant talent who should thrive at the NHL-level. With two years of play with Boston University in the books, Greenway could jump straight to the NHL – when deemed ready by the Minnesota Wild, of course.
64: Logan Brown
A Memorial Cup champion with the Windsor Spitfires in 2016-17, Logan Brown is a towering centre whose success revolves around his imposing physicality. Standing 6’6″ and 220 pounds, Brown uses his body to protect the puck from his opponents and will release his quality shot on goal once he has fended off his foes. Not necessarily a physical player, Brown is ultra-competitive and loves to battle for the puck below the goal line — an area of the ice which acts as a platform for his overall game. Reliable defensively, Brown is a quality all-around prospect who should thrive at the NHL-level given his maturity and intelligence.
63: Filip Chytil
Capable of playing – and thriving – at top speed, Filip Chytil is an undeniable offensive talent whose skating and elusive nature allow him to excel. Well noted for his ability to score goals, Chytil boasts an impressive shot which has the ability to fool and overpower opposing netminders. A first-round choice of the New York Rangers in the 2017 NHL Draft – 21st overall – Chytil has the tools, and the size, to become a legitimate top-six forward at the NHL level. Given his young age at the time of his selection, don’t expect to see Chytil in the Rangers’ uniform this season. However, a season of continued development in 2017-18 could make him a serious option down the road.
62: Michael Dal Colle
Don’t give up on Michael Dal Colle yet, as the fifth-overall selection in the 2014 NHL Draft is steadily achieving his immense potential. A winger of excellent size, Dal Colle is a talented forward who boasts natural offensive skills and the ability to produce on a consistent basis. A long-time star of the Oshawa Generals and a former captain in the OHL, Dal Colle is a mature and intelligent player whose only major downfall is that he has taken longer to develop than many would have liked.
Blessed with an above-average shot, Dal Colle will need to drastically improve his skating abilities if he wishes to become an elite threat at the NHL-level. Regardless of this fact, Dal Colle’s 15 goals and 26 assists in his rookie AHL campaign in 2016-17 certainly signaled a step in the right direction for the Richmond Hill, Ontario, native.
61: Tristan Jarry
While the Pittsburgh Penguins appear to have their long-term starting goaltender in Matt Murray well in hand, the two-time Stanley Cup champion could face stern internal competition in the coming years. Although the Penguins don’t boast an overwhelming farm system, one excellent prospect who has developed substantially of late is netminder Tristan Jarry.
A second-round choice of Pittsburgh in the 2013 NHL Draft, Jarry’s size and athleticism have combined to earn the Surrey, British Columbia, native notable success early in his professional career. Having enjoyed a career-best season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in 2016-17, Jarry’s 2.15 GAA and .925% SVP in 45 games played garnered massive attention from both the Penguins and the NHL as a whole.
Yes, he will have to battle for the Penguins’ backup role to begin the 2017-18 season, however, given the abilities which Jarry has displayed thus us far, it would be surprising to see him toil in the AHL for yet another full campaign.
60: Ryan Pulock
Blessed with a blistering shot, Ryan Pulock is highly promising defenceman within the Islanders’ development system. While he has skated in 17 career games with New York, as well as in six playoff contests, Pulock’s professional career to date has been spent largely at the AHL-level.
As a mature defender of incredible strength, Pulock is an intimidating presence in the defensive end and uses his size to his advantage. In the offensive zone, Pulock remains a persistent threat, as his overwhelming shot and consistent production combine to make him a valuable all-around player. Although his skating will need some work, Pulock – a former first-round selection in 2013 – has all the tools of a legitimate top-four NHL defenceman.
59: Klim Kostin
Injuries devastated Klim Kostin in his draft year of 2016-17, as the hulking Russian skated in just 18 total games due to a significant shoulder injury. As such, it came as no surprise to see Kostin fall in the 2017 NHL Draft, as it appeared as though many organizations were hesitant to select a relative unknown and largely unproven talent. The Blues had done their homework, though, and quickly traded up in the Draft in order to nab the highly talented power-forward.
Standing 6’3″ and 200 pounds, Kostin is a beast on the ice who uses his raw strength to fend off his opponents with ease. A natural skater with a powerful first step and blistering acceleration, Kostin can speed around the ice before unleashing a devastating shot on goal. Widely regarded as the potential steal of the 2017 NHL Draft, Kostin is a tremendous talent who will surely put his critics to rest with a strong season in the WHL in 2017-18.
58: Jack Roslovic
Quietly chosen by the Jets in the first-round of the 2015 NHL Draft, Jack Roslovic is an emerging talent who could see time at the NHL-level in the immediate future. A strong centre whose game is founded upon both speed and skill, Roslovic is a natural offensive producer who finds a way to contribute to his team’s success on a nightly basis.
Despite being capable of shooting the puck with great accuracy, Roslovic is a pass-first player who tends to look for open teammates in high-percentage scoring situations. A smart player who is well aware of his surroundings and position on the ice, Roslovic is an intelligent individual whose versatility and consistency should translate well to the NHL-level. All in all, Roslovic is an up-and-coming talent who should play a major role in Winnipeg’s future success.
57: Eeli Tolvanen
Drafted by the Predators with the 30th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, Eeli Tolvanen is an incredibly skilled winger of immense potential. A natural goal scorer whose shot is both accurate and heavy, Tolvanen can snap a quick wrister on net or set up for a booming one-timer while on the power play.
Headed to the KHL following two seasons with the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL, Tolvanen will be under pressure to prove himself as a capable professional player and one not easily overcome by his perceived lack of size. Boasting top-six talent and the drive to improve on a yearly basis, Tolvanen is a legitimate prospect whose wide-ranging arsenal of abilities should allow him thrive at the NHL-level.
56: Julien Gauthier
The 2017-18 AHL season will be one of immense importance for Julien Gauthier. As a 40-goal scorer in his draft year of 2015-16, Gauthier looked to be a bonafide sniper en route to the NHL. Since his selection by the Hurricanes, though, Gauthier’s offensive totals have endured a steady decline. Sure, he remained as nearly a point-per-game player throughout his QMJHL career, however, the towering winger will need to step up his game if he wishes to find success at the professional level. Fortunately, Gauthier is an extremely hard-worker who learns from his mistakes and is always looking to improve his play. Blessed with an elite shot and the size of an NHL power-forward, Gauthier has drawn comparisons to Rick Nash due to his ability to play physically while looking to contribute on the scoreboard.
55: Julius Honka
Julius Honka graced NHL ice for the first time in 2016-17, as the Jyväskylä, Finland, native skated in 16 regular season games with the Stars, netting one goal and four assists. A natural offensive defenceman, Honka is a consistent point producer who is especially dangerous on the power play. Able to move the puck to his teammates with authority and confident in his decision making, Honka stands poised to become a top-four defender with Dallas and one capable of logging major minutes in the process. Although his defensive game will need to be fine-tuned if he wishes to stand as an all-around threat, Honka’s innate hockey sense and impressive skating abilities should allow him to land and thrive at the NHL-level.
54: Jake Oettinger
The first goaltender chosen in the 2017 NHL Draft, Jake Oettinger is a towering talent who could be the long-term solution to the Stars’ perpetual problems in goal. Composed in the crease and rarely erratic, Oettinger exudes confidence and is an intimidating target given his 6’4″ frame. Highly athletic and well aware of his positioning at all times, Oettinger is a hard-working individual who is always looking to fine-tune each and every aspect of his game.
Considering his immense size, however, Oettinger will need to work on his lateral movement and the speed in which he is capable of traversing the crease. While he is seemingly unbeatable, Oettinger is susceptible to attack when forced to move from post to post within his crease. If he is able to perfect his game, Oettinger could quite easily become a bonafide star at the NHL-level.
53: Jakub Vrana
Jakub Vrana’s development has been slow, yet steady. The 13th overall selection in the 2014 NHL Draft, Vrana has consistently improved on a yearly basis and, as such, stands poised to play in his first full NHL season in 2017-18. A natural goal scorer who boasts an excellent shot, Vrana is an exceptional skater who uses his speed and creativity to keep his opponents on their heels. Although he would do well to add additional strength to his frame, Vrana’s 21 games played with the Washington Capitals in 2016-17 should springboard him to success in the coming season.
52: Martin Necas
A relative unknown prior to the 2017 NHL Draft given his development within various leagues in the Czech Republic, Martin Necas is now poised to become a household name following his 12th overall selection by Carolina.
An explosive offensive talent who can play both centre and the wing, Necas is known for his incredible speed, agility, and confidence. Willing to handle the puck in traffic and confident in his ability to do so, Necas drives hard to the dirty areas of the ice in order to generate offence for his team. Further, with tantalizing puck skills and the ability to fool opposing players with ease, Necas’ creativity and unpredictability make him a consistent threat in all three zones of the ice. Skating with HC Kometa Brno of the Czech Extraliga in 2016-17 and slated to return once again in 2017-18, Necas’ fierce competition should prepare him for an introduction to the NHL at a relatively young age.
51: Vili Saarijarvi
Every year, Vili Saarijarvi seems to improve – a fact which has led to his high placement within this ranking. A third-round choice of the Red Wings in the 2015 NHL Draft, Saarijarvi’s ability to adapt and learn while, at the same time thriving, has contributed to the development of a strong all-around game for the young defender.
A native of Rovaniemi, Finland, Saarijarvi recently completed a startling year with the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL, in which he netted 11 goals and 31 points in just 34 games played. Although he missed substantial time due to a wrist injury, Saarijarvi’s incredible speed, agility, and creativity were on full display following his return to the ice. A focal point on the power play and a threat from the blue line at all times, Saarijarvi’s innate offensive abilities separate him from the pack on a nightly basis.
While his work away from the puck will need to improve, Saarijarvi’s expected debut at the AHL-level in 2017-18 should place greater emphasis – and development – upon his need to play a stronger all-around game.
50: Jordan Kyrou
A dynamic two-way player who can pass the puck as well as shoot it, Jordan Kyrou’s natural offensive abilities have catapulted him into the 50th overall spot in this year’s ranking. A smooth skater of great speed and acceleration, Kyrou uses his wheels to create space in the offensive zone, where his creativity and composure command the ice. In addition to his ability to produce, Kyrou also plays a highly responsible defensive game – a secondary aspect which increases his overall value as a prospect. As an incredibly hard-working player and one who strives to improve his game, Kyrou is a terrific talent who should have no trouble adapting to the NHL-level.
49: Jusso Välimäki
A calm and composed defender, Jusso Välimäki is a prospect of massive potential for the Flames. Standing 6’2″ and 215 pounds, Välimäki is an intimidating presence who knows how and when to use his size and strength to his advantage.
Calculated in his decision making and never in a rush to move the puck, Välimäki’s natural hockey sense allows him to out-wait his opponents before making crisp and accurate breakout passes to his teammates. Highly skilled with the puck, Välimäki excels in both the offensive and defensive zones and is well regarded for his ability to produce offensively. As a smart and patient defender with innate offensive abilities, Välimäki stands poised to become an integral piece of Calgary’s future.
48: Tyler Parsons
Yet another product of the Flames, Tyler Parsons is an extremely talented goaltender who proved himself time and time again during his career with the London Knights of the OHL. Named as the Memorial Cup’s Most Outstanding Goaltender in 2016, Parsons is an athletic netminder whose compete-level and drive to succeed allow him to outplay his competition on a regular basis. Calm in the crease and always focused, Parsons has no trouble playing against stern competition and is driven to improve on a yearly basis.
Set to begin the 2017-18 season with the Stockton Heat, Parsons will undoubtedly find himself in a heated battle for playing time with the aforementioned Gillies, as both will enter to year looking to establish themselves as legitimate professional goaltenders.
47: Erik Brännström
The third first-round choice of the Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural NHL Draft, Erik Brännström is an excellent puck-moving defenceman who should become a major piece of the Golden Knights’ future success. Although he is slightly lacking in size, Brännström more than compensates for this perceived deficiency through his highly skilled style of play.
Capable of quarter-backing his team’s power play, Brännström boasts a terrific shot and natural passing abilities – two qualities which combine to make him a solid all-around threat. Further, Brännström is a tremendous skater, as his ability to traverse the ice with relative ease allows him to be a force at both ends of the ice.
With considerable professional experience already under his belt, Brännström’s coming season in the SHL should do wonders for his individual development.
46: Igor Shestyorkin
While Henrik Lundqvist remains the New York Rangers’ definitive starting goaltender, the organization should feel extremely fortunate to have an incredibly competent replacement waiting in the wings. A standout in the KHL, Igor Shestyorkin is a highly athletic goaltender whose best qualities are his drive and high-compete level. A fourth-round selection of the Rangers in the 2014 NHL Draft – 118th overall – Shestyorkin posted a 1.30 GAA and a .949% SVP in 39 games played with SKA St. Petersburg in 2016-17, totals which saw him named to the KHL All-Star Game and First All-Star team.
Under contract with his current team through the 2018-19 season, the main question surrounding Shestyorkin is whether or not he will make the jump to the NHL in two seasons time. A tremendously talented netminder of incredible potential, New York could be a legitimate contender long into the future if they can convince Shestyorkin to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
45: Callan Foote
Callan Foote is as calm and composed as they come. The son of former NHL defenceman Adam Foote, Callan, more commonly referred to as Cal, is a tremendous two-way defender whose game flourishes at both ends of the ice. Reliable in the defensive end due to his immense size and ability to physically dominate his opponents, Foote is also a threat in the offensive zone, where his incredible hockey sense and underrated shot make him a focal point. In addition, Foote is immensely versatile, as he can play in seemingly any situation – whether it be the power play or penalty kill – and find great success in doing so.
While he would do well to play a more physical style and his skating could use polishing, Foote remains a tremendous talent of top-four potential at the NHL-level. Although he could be a few seasons away from debuting with the Lightning, he is surely a prospect to watch.
44: Michael Rasmussen
The ninth-overall choice in the 2017 NHL Draft, Michael Rasmussen is a massive centre whose game revolves around his physicality and abilities in front of the net. Seemingly impossible to force from the goal mouth, Rasmussen uses his strong lower half to anchor himself in front of opposing netminders before either deflecting incoming shots or cleaning up loose rebounds.
Outside of his net-front capabilities, Rasmussen is also an above-average skater considering his immense 6’5″, 220-pound frame, and has the ability to explode from a flat-footed position. The main challenge for Rasmussen in the coming years – and especially during his transition to the professional game – will be to prove himself as more than a one-dimensional player. Yes, he is a strong offensive player, however, Rasmussen’s game must diversify and he must find other ways to score goals and produce offence.
If Rasmussen can improve his shot and lethality from long range, his combination of size and skill could very well make him a lethal power-forward.
43: Ilya Sorokin
Much like the Rangers’ Shestyorkin, Ilya Sorokin’s NHL future remains shrouded in mystery. Currently skating with CSKA Moskva of the KHL, Sorokin is a sensational goaltender who, despite his skill, may or may not play in the NHL in the near future. An asset of the Islanders stemming from his third-round selection in the 2014 NHL Draft, Sorokin is an athletic netminder who never gives up on a play despite the situation.
Capable of stealing games as a result of his insane skill level, Sorokin has the ideal size of an NHL goaltender and is of massive potential. Having recently signed a three-year extension with CSKA Moskva, landing Sorokin could prove rather difficult for the Islanders – unless they can convince him to end his KHL contract early. In all, Sorkin is a tremendous goaltender who could very well become a star at the NHL-level.
42: Linus Söderström
If the Islanders prove unable to land Sorokin, they can rest assured knowing they still possess a goaltending prospect of immense promise. Linus Söderström, New York’s fourth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, is a towering netminder who enjoyed a stellar SHL campaign with HV71 in 2016-17. Posting a 1.34 GAA and .943% SVP in 22 games played, Söderström illustrated his capabilities at the professional level with authority and proved himself ready for a greater challenge in 2017-18.
While his mobility in the crease still needs improvement, Söderström’s great size allows him to cut down shooting angles before calmly deflecting rebounds away from the goal mouth. Having inked a three-year entry-level contract with the Islanders early in May of 2017, Söderström is clearly intent on an NHL career.
41: Luke Kunin
Named as team captain of the University of Wisconsin in his sophomore season, Luke Kunin is an extremely mature player whose game oozes confidence and ability. A highly intelligent centre, Kunin is a dynamic offensive player whose incredible puck skills and scorching shot make him a lethal threat to his opponents. Capable of reading the play before it develops and able to position himself appropriately, Kunin is incredibly opportunistic and makes the very most of his chances.
Of solid size, Kunin’s one minor drawback to date has been his skating. Although it will be relatively simple to address, improved skating should allow Kunin to be more effective as well as consistent on the ice. Set to join the Iowa Wild in 2017-18, Kunin’s five goals and three assists in just 12 AHL games played late last season was a shimmering indication of his true potential at the NHL-level.
40: Dante Fabbro
A refined defender whose game is sound at both ends of the ice, Dante Fabbro is yet another prospect of the Predators who is of immense potential. As a highly intelligent player, Fabbro makes high-percentage decisions under pressure and is incredibly composed while in possession of the puck. Strong in his own end owing to an active stick and smart positioning, Fabbro knows how to block passing and shooting lanes and is willing to sacrifice his body.
The facet of Fabbro’s game which sets him apart from most is his lethal offensive game. Boasting a powerful and accurate shot, Fabbro is a threat from the blue line who can record massive point totals with relative ease. A quality all-around defenceman, Fabbro is a legitimate talent set to enter his sophomore season with Boston University in 2017-18.
39: Josh Ho-Sang
Although he skated in 21 games with the Islanders in 2016-17 – scoring four goals and six assists – Josh Ho-Sang still qualifies as a rookie under the specifications outlined above. A polarizing personality who has garnered split opinions throughout the hockey world, Ho-Sang began to put his critics to rest this past season, as not only did he reach the NHL but Ho-Sang enjoyed significant success in a short period of time.
A former first-round selection of New York in the 2014 NHL Draft, Ho-Sang is an incredibly crafty playmaker whose puck-skills and offensive awareness combine to make him a persistent threat. With great speed and agility, Ho-Sang can carve through his opponents’ zone with ease before setting up a teammate. Likely to begin the 2017-18 season with the Islanders, Ho-Sang will be under significant pressure to prove himself as a more mature, all-around player at the professional level.
38: Mark Jankowski
Many were quick to scoff at the Flames’ selection of Mark Jankowski in the first-round of the 2012 NHL Draft. Skating for Stanstead College at the time, little was known about Jankowski other than the fact that he boasted a unique combination of both size and skill. Now, a whopping five seasons down the road, Jankowski has slowly yet steadily developed into a highly promising power-forward of immense skill.
The 2016-17 campaign marked Jankowski’s first professional season and it was one in which he thrived with the Heat. In his 64 regular season contests, Jankowski blasted 27 goals and accumulated 56 points – a total which awarded him a place on the AHL’s All-Rookie Team. A tremendous talent whose stock as a prospect is often diluted due to his prolonged development, Jankowski is a youngster who could play a major role with Calgary in the immediate future.
37: Brock Boeser
Brock Boeser’s game revolves around one critical quality: intelligence. Uber-aware of his positioning as well as that of his linemates, Boeser is a gifted offensive player who can pass and shoot the puck with authority. Capable of generating offence with ease and never willing to give up on a play, Boeser’s ability to protect the puck before creating a scoring chance is a truly unique capability.
Of solid size, Boeser projects to become a player of massive importance for the Canucks as they continue to rebuild their thin roster. Drafted by Vancouver in the first-round of the 2015 NHL Draft – 23rd overall – Boeser is a winger of great potential whose game should develop nicely if provided with ample playing time at the NHL-level.
36: Daniel Sprong
One of the Penguins’ top prospects, Daniel Sprong is an extremely talented winger known for his ability to bulge the twine. A consistent and lethal goal-scorer, Sprong boasts an excellent shot which is defined by its velocity and quick release. While his shot is capable of overpowering opposing netminders, Sprong also possesses a creative on-ice vision with the puck which allows to him dish the puck to teammates in high-percentage scoring situations.
An excellent skater who can stickhandle and create plays at top speed, Sprong has the potential to become a dynamic scoring winger for Pittsburgh. With 18 games of regular season action under his belt, Sprong’s game as matured drastically since his first taste of NHL action way back in 2015-16.
35: Michael McLeod
Blazing speed and tantalizing skill – these are the traits upon which Michael McLeod’s game is founded. Of great size, McLeod stands 6’2″ tall and weighs in at 200 pounds, making him a physical force capable of competing against his opponents’ most intimidating players. What makes McLeod truly unique, however, is his ability to take the game to his opponent. A tremendous skater, McLeod aches for the puck and has no issue pushing the play up the centre of the ice.
A first-round choice of the Devils in the 2016 NHL Draft – 12th overall – McLeod is a highly skilled player who should slot nicely into New Jersey’s top-four, likely as the team’s second line centre.
34: Jacob Larsson
Calm, cool, and collected – these three words sum up Jacob Larsson, a highly promising defender who is a highly valuable asset of the Ducks. A first-round choice in the 2015 NHL Draft, Larsson is well-regarded for his composed play and all-around ability on the blue line. Carrying the puck with authority and capable of making accurate passes with ease, Larsson facilitates efficient breakouts from his own zone and, in doing so, strengthens his team’s offensive attack. In the opposing zone, Larsson is a sturdy player whose shot is one of his most underappreciated qualities.
Slated to begin the 2017-18 season in the AHL with the San Diego Gulls, Larsson could see playing time at the NHL-level if his game continues to improve at such a rapid pace.
33: Juuse Saros
Juuse Saros was spectacular for the Predators in 2016-17, as the native of Forssa, Finland, tended Nashville’s crease in a career-high 21 regular season games played. Slightly under-sized given his 5’10” frame, Saros more than makes up for this deficiency through his highly athletic style of play. Boasting a powerful lower-body, Saros has lightning-quick lateral mobility and can traverse his crease with ease. Further, with sensational reflexes, Saros is never out of a play and has the ability to make highlight-reel saves with startling regularity. Although Pekka Rinne remains the Predators’ definitive number-one goaltender, Saros will surely make a significant push for the starting position in the immediate future.
32: Olli Juolevi
The fifth-overall selection in the 2016 NHL Draft, Olli Juolevi is a major piece of the Canucks’ on-going rebuild. Projected to develop into a reliable top-four defender at the NHL-level, Juolevi is a balanced all-around defenceman who can be played and trusted in all situations on the ice. Highly versatile, Juolevi thrives largely due to his incredible skating skills, as his mobility, immense speed, and incredible acceleration allow him to pressure his opponents with unrelenting consistency. A reliable defender in his own zone and well aware of how to use his size to his advantage, Juolevi also stands as a potent threat in the offensive zone, where his natural playmaking abilities allow him to quarterback his team’s power play.
31: Haydn Fleury
The seventh-overall selection in the 2014 NHL Draft, Haydn Fleury is a towering young defender who excels at both ends of the ice with ease. Standing 6’3″ tall and weighing 220 pounds, Fleury is an intimidating presence whose physicality and natural defensive instincts combine to make him an immensely valuable asset of the Hurricanes. A strong skater considering his size, Fleury excels in his own zone and can smother opposing players with his mobility and strength.
Fortunate to boast strong on-ice intelligence, Fleury’s ability to read the play before it develops allows him to proactively disassemble opposing scoring chances. Further, as no stranger to accumulating points in the offensive zone, Fleury is a true all-around talent capable of logging major minutes in a variety of situations.
30: Colin White
Having inked an entry-level contract with the Senators in early April, Colin White stands poised to make his NHL debut with Ottawa in 2017-18. An incredibly talented forward of decent size, White is a dynamic yet consistent force who excels in all aspects of the game. Highly intelligent, White is always in search of scoring opportunities and uses his strong frame to secure legitimate chances with startling frequency. Further, White is an excellent puck-possession player who commands control of the disk and fails to relinquish it despite insistent opposition.
Capable of playing a complete, 200-foot game, White is quality talent whose game should transition well to the NHL-level. In need of dependable depth scoring, the Senators could possess a skilled young player ready to contribute on a large scale heading into their coming season.
29: Alex Nylander
Alexander Nylander plays a game incredibly similar to that of his brother William – an approach which is based upon immense natural skill and creativity with the puck. The eighth-overall selection in the 2016 NHL Draft by the Sabres, Nylander boasts a lightning-quick release and one capable of fooling opposing netminders. Shifty on his skates in addition to his great speed, Nylander keeps his opponents on their toes at all times due to the fact that he can pass and shoot the puck with tremendous authority.
Unfortunately, Nylander’s rookie AHL season in 2016-17 was not a strong one, as the budding star battled with major consistency issues despite seeing significant ice time. Likely headed back to the Rochester Americans to begin the 2017-18 campaign, Nylander – just 19 years old – will once again be forced to prove himself at the professional level despite his very young age.
28: Alex DeBrincat
Take a quick look at Alex DeBrincat and one factor immediately stands out: his size. Standing 5’7″ and roughly 170 pounds, DeBrincat is incredibly under-sized and especially so for a player with NHL aspirations. However, if you take a closer look, you will see that DeBrincat is an incredibly dominant player whose game is not only spectacular but also consistent.
A three-time 50-goal scorer in the OHL with the Erie Otters, DeBrincat capped off his major junior career in style in 2016-17, as the sniper netted a jaw-dropping 65 goals and 127 points in a mere 63 games played. Further, not only did he help the Otters secure an OHL Championship but he was awarded the Red Tilson Award as the OHL’s Most Outstanding Player.
A natural goal scorer who is fearless with the puck and shies away from no one, DeBrincat is a truly lethal talent whose ability to bulge the twine will make him a quality professional player for years to come. In all, the Blackhawks landed a true steal with the 39th choice in the 2016 NHL Draft.
27: Sam Steel
Nabbed by the Ducks with the final choice of the first-round in the 2016 NHL Draft, Sam Steel is quickly rounding into an absolute steal for Anaheim – no pun intended. Following his selection, Steel returned to the WHL in 2016-17 and was the definition of dominant. Not only did Steel pot 50 goals for the first time but he also recorded a whopping 131 points, a mark great enough to land him the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as the WHL Player of the Year.
A centre of average size, Steel is a fantastic playmaker whose drive and determination fails to waver. Further, as a natural leader, Steel makes quick and accurate decisions with relative ease and exudes immense confidence with the puck.
26: Timothy Liljegren
Originally projected to be made a top-five pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, Liljegren’s stock fell dramatically as the 2016-17 season progressed due to a prolonged bout with mononucleosis. Regardless of his health, the Leafs were quick to snatch Liljegren with the 17th overall selection, as the young defender simply boasted far too much potential to pass up.
A fluid skater of tremendous speed and mobility, Liljegren is an excellent all-around defender who can score and defend consistently. Although his defensive game is in need of fine-tuning, Liljegren has the ability to stifle opposing scoring chances before transitioning the puck up ice with a crisp pass. Boasting a powerful shot, Liljegren can fire the puck on net too, although he is much more successful when it comes to creating plays. In all, Toronto has an excellent prospect in Liljegren, as he could very well develop into a crafty top-four defenceman at the NHL-level.
25: Mathew Barzal
A first-round choice of the Islanders in the 2015 NHL Draft, Mathew Barzal is an incredibly gifted playmaker whose natural skating abilities and personal drive should see him log substantial playing time in the NHL. Of average size, Barzal utilizes excellent edges and tremendous mobility to provide him with an advantage over his competition. Always in search of his teammates and well aware of his positioning on the ice, Barzal makes crisp, accurate passes with ease owing to his innate ability to read the play.
Notching just 10 goals with the Seattle Thunderbirds in 2016-17, Barzal added a whopping 69 assists – a total which illustrated his natural offensive tendencies. However, don’t be convinced that Barzal can’t shoot the puck as well, as he boasts a solid shot and wicked release which serves as a legitimate secondary threat.
24: Travis Sanheim
Sturdy, sizeable, and skilled – these three qualities comprise Travis Sanheim’s remarkable style of play. Standing 6’4″ tall and weighing in at 200 pounds, Sanheim is an intimidating physical presence who knows how to utilize his strength in all three zones of the ice.
Known primarily for his offensive flair, Sanheim can blast the puck from the point as well as move the puck to open teammates with ease. A staple on his team’s power play, Sanheim can act as a lethal quarterback or a secondary option from the point. Defensively, Sanheim is also spectacular, as his ability to battle for, control, and then move the puck under pressure speaks to his reliability as a defender. In all, Sanheim should develop into a dependable defenceman for the Flyers, who seemingly stole him at 17th overall in the 2014 NHL Draft.
23: Gabriel Vilardi
Nabbed by the Kings with the 11th overall selection in the 2017 NHL Draft, Gabriel Vilardi is an excellent puck-possession forward whose style of play will fit that of Los Angeles’ like a glove. Capable of protecting the puck behind the goal line with ease, Vilardi is seemingly impossible to knock off of the puck and can ensure possession against the most intimidating of opponents.
Standing 6’2″ tall and weighing 205 pounds, Vilardi’s immense size and strength contribute to his powerful game, as the native of Kingston, Ontario, can protect the puck before moving it to open teammates in front of the net. In addition to his dominating offensive game, Vilardi is also reliable defensively, as the same qualities which allow him to thrive offensively also strengthen his defensive play.
22: Jake Bean
A poised defender of immense intelligence, Jake Bean is a tremendous two-way player who thrives at both ends of the ice. Strong in his defensive zone through the use of his stick and the ability to read plays before they develop, Bean can transition the puck to his forwards with ease and is capable of joining the rush as it progresses. A hard-worker and relentless talent, Bean drives offence in the opposing zone through his ability to create plays and willingness to unleash his crisp shot when the appropriate moment arises.
Excellent throughout the ice and in all situations, Bean is an all-around talent capable – and deserving – of logging major minutes. Sure to develop into a top-four defender at the NHL-level, Bean will kick-start his success at the professional level if he is able to add additional strength to his game.
21: Casey Mittelstadt
An insanely creative player whose ability to devise complex plays is the hallmark of his game, Casey Mittelstadt is an undeniable talent and promising asset of the Buffalo Sabres. Blessed with incredible puck-handling skills and an unwavering compete level, Mittelstadt keeps his opponents on their heels due to his crafty and unpredictable nature. A natural leader in addition to his incomprehensible talent, Mittelstadt thinks the game at a high-level and, as such, is a consistent threat every time he steps on to the ice.
Headed to the NCAA and the University of Minnesota to begin the 2017-18 season, Mittelstadt will now be forced to prove himself as a capable player against much more competent competition. However, given the success he has enjoyed to date, it would appear as though Mittelstadt will enjoy anything but in his Freshman campaign.
20: Nick Suzuki
Nick Suzuki was selected by the Golden Knights with the 13th overall selection in the 2017 NHL Draft, and what a choice it was. Although he was nabbed outside of the top-ten, Suzuki likely should not have been, as the native of London, Ontario, improved drastically as the 2016-17 OHL season endured. Having scored 20 goals as a rookie in 2015-16, Suzuki amped up his game and netted an incredible 45 in his second season with the Owen Sound Attack.
The fifth-highest scorer in the OHL last season with 96 points, Suzuki’s determination and drive on the ice allowed him to become one of the league’s most lethal threats. An intelligent centre who thinks and plays at a high pace, Suzuki protects the puck well and is not afraid to drive hard to the net. A capable skater whose speed creates offensive opportunities, Suzuki’s hockey sense and drive combine to produce immense point totals for him and his teammates – a quality which will surely spill over to the professional level.
19: Owen Tippett
Blessed with incredible size, speed, and skill, Owen Tippett may be the most NHL-ready player to emerge from the 2017 NHL Draft. Chosen by the Florida Panthers 10th overall, Tippett’s incredible goal-scoring ability should immediately address an issue which has plagued the Panthers for quite some time now. The one facet of Tippett’s game which stands tall above the rest is his insane shot. With a lightning-quick release and speed, Tippett’s shot is consistently overwhelming and, on top of its weight, is surprisingly accurate.
A natural goal-scorer, Tippett’s game is incredibly similar to that of Phil Kessel – the only difference being that Tippett boasts much greater size and strength. While his play away from the puck is certainly in need of improvement, Tippett has the capability to become a 50-goal scorer at the NHL-level, if he can put all the pieces of his game together, that is.
18: Cody Glass
Also drafted by the Golden Knights, Cody Glass is an incredibly competitive two-way centre who plays a comprehensive game. More than willing to backcheck and always present in his defensive zone, Glass can transition the puck up ice with ease and is incredibly determined in doing so. Once he reaches the offensive zone, Glass is as creative and unpredictable as any, as his immense hockey sense and ability to devise plays combine to make him a lethal threat. What’s more is that Glass can both shoot and pass the puck – a capability which makes him a tremendously shifty and dubious player. Set to return to the WHL in 2017-18, Glass will surely display the talent which made him the sixth-overall selection in the 2017 NHL Draft. My only issue with him returning to the Portland Winterhawks: what more does he have to prove?
17: Elias Pettersson
Crafty and agile, Elias Pettersson is an elusive forward of immense potential for the Canucks. The fifth-overall selection in the 2017 NHL Draft, Pettersson’s game is defined by a combination of elite skill and personal drive. Never one to give up on a play and tirelessly tenacious in pursuit of the puck, Pettersson loves to battle for loose pucks before feeding the puck to his teammates. Further, as an electrifying skater with speed to burn, Pettersson utilizes his edges well in order to keep opposing defenders off balance with his shifty and creative nature.
Sure to develop into a top-six forward at the NHL-level, Pettersson has all of the skill – and size – necessary to thrive as a professional player. Endlessly exciting with the puck and incredibly unpredictable, Pettersson will have a fantastic opportunity to further develop his game in 2017-18, as he is slated to take to the ice with the Växjö Lakers HC of the SHL.
16: Pierre-Luc Dubois
Long in search of a bonafide first line centre, it appears as though the Blue Jackets have found their man in Pierre-Luc Dubois. Although his development slowed slightly in 2016-17 in the eyes of some, Dubois remains an excellent power-forward of tremendous ability in all three zones of the ice.
Responsible defensively, Dubois takes pride in shutting down his opposition – something which he has very little trouble doing thanks to his 6’3″, 210-pound frame. A competent transition player, Dubois moves the puck well to his teammates as they charge up the ice into the offensive zone. In the attacking zone is where Dubois is especially valuable, as his physicality allows him to thrive below the goal line while he soft hands and vision combine to make him a lethal threat.
A playmaker as well as a goal scorer, Dubois has all the tools of an elite centre at the NHL-level.
15: Kirill Kaprizov
He may be under contract with CSKA Moskva of the KHL for the next three seasons, however, if Kaprizov decides to test himself at the NHL-level, the Wild will have found an absolute steal in the fifth-round. Acquired by Minnesota in the 2015 NHL Draft, Kaprizov has developed into a lethal offensive talent at an extremely young age. In fact, Kaprizov scored 20 goals and 42 points in the KHL this past season in 49 regular season games played – all of which coming at just 19 years-of-age.
A strong skater who is difficult to knock off of the puck, Kaprizov has represented Russia at multiple international tournaments and has continued to progress on an annual basis. Blessed with soft hands and a lethal shot, Kaprizov already excels at the professional level and will surely improve as he gains greater experience. In all, Kaprizov could become an elite scoring forward at the NHL-level – should he choose the leave the KHL.
14: Lias Andersson
Lias Andersson is mature beyond his years – a quality which surely played a massive role in the Rangers’ decision to select him with the seventh-overall selection in the 2017 NHL Draft. Reliable in all three zones of the ice and a tireless worker, Andersson is a true team player who never takes a night off.
Determined to secure the puck regardless of the score or situation, Andersson plays a strong two-way game and can be counted on to produce both defensively and offensively. Of great speed and explosive acceleration, Andersson flourishes in the opposing zone, where his quality shot, puck skills, and creativity pose a serious threat. With fantastic on-ice intelligence and the drive to improve every game, Andersson should develop into a solid top-six player for the Rangers, and one capable of becoming a go-to player long into the future.
13: Mikhail Sergachev
Mikhail Sergachev is a difference maker – plain and simple. Dominating the ice with his immense 6’3″, 220-pound frame, Sergachev is a staple at both ends of the ice who can contribute with startling consistency. A fantastic skater whose natural stride allows him to traverse the ice with authority, Sergahcev can jump up in the play to support his offence or, conversely, back check quickly to foil plays developed by his opposition. Always aware of his positioning on the ice, Sergachev is as poised as they come, as his composed nature allows him to make difficult plays with little issue.
Originally drafted by the Canadiens in the 2016 NHL Draft, ninth-overall, Sergachev was traded rather shockingly to the Lightning early in the 2017 offseason, where he will surely develop into a star defender under the watchful eyes of Victor Hedman.
12: Ilya Samsonov
Braden Holtby is the Capitals’ definitive starting goaltender. However, with that being said, he could find himself in the midst of a fiery battle for the crease in the near future. When the Capitals drafted Ilya Samsonov 22nd overall in 2015, it marked the acquisition of their goaltender of the future. A netminder of great size and athleticism, Samsonov has dominated the KHL over the last two seasons despite his incredibly young age and stands poised to do the same in 2017-18.
Standing 6’3″ tall and weighing 205 pounds, Samsonov is an intimidating presence in goal and offers little opportunity for opposing shooters. Excellent at cutting down potential angles to the twine and capable of making lightning-quick reaction saves, Samsonov has the potential of an elite starting goaltender at the NHL level. The only drawback? He won’t be able to crack Washington’s lineup until the 2017-18 campaign comes to a close.
11: Cale Makar
In search of highly skilled defenders, the Colorado Avalanche made a tremendous decision in drafting Cale Makar – an uber-talented blueliner who plays a terrific all-around game. Nimble on his skates with ample speed and mobility, Makar is an elite talent who reads developing plays quickly and makes accurate decisions under pressure. A tremendous stick-handler who protects the puck with ease before driving it up the ice, Makar commands possession and supplements his team’s offensive attack with startling regularity.
Arguably the best player to emerge from the Alberta Junior Hockey League, Makar has the potential of an NHL franchise defenceman and the skills necessary to become one. Comparable to Duncan Keith of the Blackhawks, Makar’s road to the NHL will continue in 2017-18 as he takes to the ice at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
10: Dylan Strome
Well, here we are, the top-ten prospects in the NHL. Fortunately for Dylan Strome, he manages to squeak into the class of especially elite prospects, yet just barely.
Returning to the Otters of the OHL in 2016-17 did little to further Strome’s development, as the hulking centre was clearly too skilled and too consistent for the major junior game. Regardless, Strome returned to Erie and shot out the lights, scoring 22 goals and 75 points in just 35 regular season games played. Further, Strome was crucial to the Otters’ OHL Championship and Memorial Cup run, as the Mississauga, Ontario, native garnered 34 points in 22 playoff games.
Comparable to Ryan Getzlaf of the Ducks, Strome is a physically imposing player whose work-ethic and innate offensive abilities combine to make him a lethal threat in all zones of the ice. Reliable defensively and strong in the faceoff circle, Strome boasts the skill-set of a future first-line centre at the NHL-level, he just must prove himself capable of doing so.
9: Kyle Connor
A dynamic offensive talent, Kyle Connor of the Jets stands poised to become an elite producer at the NHL-level. A first-round choice of Winnipeg in the 2015 NHL Draft, 17th overall, Connor boasts lightning-quick speed and the unique ability to create plays while at top speed. Incredibly creative and highly unpredictable, Connor keeps opposing defenders off balance through his ability to either shoot or pass the puck – two capabilities which are well above average.
What’s more is that Connor can be relied upon to play a sound game in a variety of scenarios, as the native of Clinton Township, Michigan, plays a strong and determined style in all three zones. Capable of developing into an elite offensive player at the NHL-level, Connor’s 20-game stint with Winnipeg in 2016-17 should act as a sturdy stepping stone as he enters his first full season of play with the team.
8: Joel Eriksson Ek
The 2016-17 season was interesting for Joel Eriksson Ek, to say the least. After beginning the campaign with the Wild, Eriksson Ek was loaned to Färjestad BK of the SHL where it was hoped he would bulk up for an NHL return. Following 33 games played with the team, Eriksson Ek made his return to Minnesota, suiting up for an additional six regular season games and three playoff contests.
A natural goal-scorer of intimidating size, Eriksson Ek is an uber-competitive centre who can skate, pass, and shoot with authority. Blessed with an elite shot, Eriksson Ek can release the puck in the blink of an eye and with startling accuracy.
While he is known for his ability to put the puck in the net, Eriksson Ek is also a reliable defensive player, as he is more than willing to backcheck in order to foil plays devised by his opposition. Intelligent and calculated, Eriksson Ek’s natural skill-set should allow him to become star player for the Wild in the near future.
7: Tyson Jost
A product of the British Columbia Hockey League, Tyson Jost is yet another superb talent who grew his game within the Canadian Junior-A ranks.
A crafty puck-handler who creates and carries out elite-level plays with consistency and authority, Jost is a legitimate offensive threat whenever he steps onto the ice. A terrific skater who can burn opposing defenders wide before driving to the net or passing to an open teammate, Jost’s ability to see the ice and the possibilities which it holds is – rather simply – off of the charts.
Further, as a workhorse, Jost is driven to battle for and secure loose pucks, a tendency which ensures possession for his team and scoring chances as a result. Of top-six potential at the NHL-level, Jost should fit nicely into the Avalanche’s mold which has become based on raw yet coachable skill.
6: Miro Heiskanen
A relative unknown prior to the 2016-17 season, Miro Heiskanen rocketed up respective Draft Rankings due to his calm and composed style of play. Skating amongst men with HIFK of Liiga this past season, Heiskanen quickly proved himself as a mature defender capable of making high-stress decisions quickly and with confidence.
With an offensive edge to his game, Heiskanen also displayed his willingness to drive the puck up ice in order to create scoring opportunities for his team. Conversely, Heiskanen is tremendous within his own zone and is most effective when he utilizes an active stick and forces his opponents to the outside of the ice.
Although he doesn’t boast tremendous size standing 6′ tall and 180 pounds, Heiskanen is by no means afraid to play a physical brand of hockey and is more than willing to step up on an opposing player. In all, Heiskanen’s smooth skating and calm demeanour should translate well to the NHL-level, where his natural skill-set will allow him to become a pillar of the Stars’ defence-core.
5: Nolan Patrick
Nolan Patrick has all the makings of a first line centre at the NHL-level. Of significant size, standing 6’2″ tall and weighing in at 200 pounds, Patrick is a physical force who uses his size to his advantage at both ends of the ice.
In the defensive zone, Patrick utilizes his strength to win face-offs with regularity as well as dominate his opposition in board and puck battles. An excellent transition player, Patrick leads his team up ice having gained possession and can create plays a top speed.
In the offensive zone is where Patrick is truly lethal. With soft hands in close and a hard, accurate shot, Patrick can beat opposing netminders from a distance as well as finish a particular play off while in tight to the goal.
A versatile player who can play in all situations, the Flyers have found their franchise centre in Patrick, provided he can stay healthy of course.
4: Clayton Keller
Although he remains undersized, Clayton Keller has the potential to develop into a dynamic offensive player for the Coyotes. Drafted by Arizona in the first-round of the 2016 NHL Draft, Keller’s seventh-overall selection signified his immense value as an NHL prospect.
Of blazing speed and tremendous ability, Keller is a lethal force who can create plays with ease as well as finish them. Capable of devising plays at full speed, Keller always keeps an eye open for his teammates and can fire off an accurate pass when the moment presents itself. Further, given his excellent vision and on-ice intelligence, Keller remains a consistent threat and one capable of producing offence from low-percentage opportunities.
Standing 5’10” and 170 pounds, Keller will undoubtedly have to strengthen his frame if he wishes to reach his immense potential at the NHL-level. Named as the NCAA’s Freshman of the Year in 2016-17, Keller’s 45 points in 31 games played with Boston University as an 18-year-old indicated his sky-high skill set and promise.
3: Thomas Chabot
Will the Senators soon boast the top defence-pairing in the entire NHL? Quite likely, as Thomas Chabot’s addition to Ottawa’s lineup will surely provide the team with two top-pairing defenders.
Known for his speed and ability to think the game at an elite level, Chabot is a workhorse who can log major minutes while acting as a consistent threat at both ends of the ice. A persistent defender who is relentless in his pursuit of the puck, Chabot uses his strong frame and active stick to knock the puck from opposing players with ease. Having transitioned the puck up ice, Chabot then stands as a lethal offensive threat, as his ability to create plays from the blue line is simply remarkable.
Always improving and striving to further develop his game, Chabot has the skill-set and drive of an elite NHL defender who now simply needs an opportunity to prove himself at hockey’s highest level.
2: Nico Hischier
The first-overall selection in the 2017 NHL Draft, Nico Hischier is an incredibly talented centre whose game improves on a daily basis. A student of the game who learns from his mistakes and adapts to the tendencies of his opposition, Hischier is a potent offensive threat whenever he takes to the ice.
An incredible stick-handler who can operate at top speed and create plays in doing so, Hischier is uber-creative and, as such, always keep opposing defenders on their heels. Capable of burning defenders with his blistering speed or laying a crisp shot on net, Hischier can beat you in a manner of ways and is unpredictable in doing so. What’s more is that Hischier plays a sound defensive game as well, meaning he can foil a play within his own end before flying up the ice to create a dangerous offensive opportunity.
Set to begin the 2017-18 season with the Devils at the NHL-level, Hischier’s ability to learn and adapt should allow him to enjoy considerable success in his rookie campaign.
1: Charlie McAvoy
Charlie McAvoy is the NHL’s top prospect ahead of the 2017-18 season, and for good reason. A first-round choice of the Bruins in the 2016 NHL Draft, McAvoy’s 16th overall selection must be viewed as nothing other than a steal for Boston, as the franchise landed a legitimate top-pairing defenceman in doing so.
Of tremendous size at 6’1″ tall and 215 pounds, McAvoy boasts size, strength, skill, and speed all at the age of 19 years-old. A sound defender who can diffuse plays devised by his opposition with ease, McAvoy is in no way afraid to use his size to his advantage and will do so against even the most intimidating opposition.
A natural puck-mover who transitions the puck to his forwards with ease, McAvoy loves to jump up in the play yet is calculated and aware of the situation when doing so. In the offensive zone, McAvoy can quarterback his team’s power play due to his ability to move and shoot the puck. In possession of a heavy shot and innate playmaking abilities, McAvoy garners points with startling regularity and can be counted upon to kick-start his team’s offensive attack.
In all, McAvoy flaunts all the tools of an ideal NHL defenceman. Boasting a calm and composed demeanour and always confident in his abilities, McAvoy’s steady play will be a sight to behold long into the Bruins’ future.
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Brett Slawson is a four-year veteran of The Hockey Writers who covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL prospects, and the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads.
Contact Brett on Twitter @brettslawson92, or by email at email@example.com.