The 2017 World Junior Championships have come and gone and while the hockey world was abuzz about the quality of the games and the high drama of the medal round, the tournament was rather lean on high-end NHL Draft eligible talent. That’s not to say that nobody from this year’s draft class was on display at the tournament, but compared to last year’s showcase for Auston Matthews, Matthew Tkachuk, Patrik Laine and several others, it’s a bit lean.
With the World Juniors in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to update our draft rankings.
This is the third edition of the 2017 NHL Draft Alternate Rankings here at The Hockey Writers. This is my attempt to rank the top players in this year’s draft class as if I were drafting a team from scratch. My main proviso? I want the players that will help my team win consistently.
The usual disclaimers apply: I live in Western Canada so I see Western Hockey League players the most often, followed by the remainder of Canada’s prospects. I have to rely on video for players in the United States and Europe for the most part. I’m also hesitant to draft goalies early due to the sheer number of weird things that can go wrong and derail their development.
Your mileage may vary.
The NHL Draft 2017 Top 50
|No.||Player||Pos.||2016-17 Primary Team||Ht||Wt||Born|
|1||Nolan Patrick||C||Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)||6’3″||198||9/19/98|
|2||Timothy Liljegren||D||Rogle BK (SHL)||6’0″||198||4/30/99|
|3||Owen Tippett||RW||Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)||6’2″||203||2/16/99|
|4||Nico Hischier||C||Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)||6’0″||174||1/4/99|
|5||Casey Mittelstadt||C||Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)||6’1″||201||11/22/98|
|6||Gabriel Vilardi||C||Windsor Spitfires (OHL)||6’2″||192||8/16/99|
|7||Martin Necas||C||HC Kometa Brno (Extraliga)||6’0″||168||1/15/99|
|8||Klim Kostin||RW||Moscow Dynamo (KHL)||6’3″||196||5/5/99|
|9||Maxime Comtois||C||Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)||6’2″||201||1/8/99|
|10||Eeli Tolvanen||LW||Sioux City Muskateers (USHL)||5’10”||179||4/22/99|
|11||Juuso Valimaki||D||Tri-City Americans (WHL)||6’2″||201||10/6/98|
|12||Kristian Vesalainen||LW||HPK (SM-Liiga)||6’3″||207||6/1/99|
|13||Elias Pettersson||C||Timra IK (HockeyAllsvenskan)||6’2″||161||11/12/98|
|14||Miro Heiskanen||D||HIFK (SM-Liiga)||6’0″||174||7/18/99|
|15||Cal Foote||D||Kelowna Rockets (WHL)||6’3″||209||12/13/98|
|16||Lias Andersson||C||HV71 (SHL)||5’11”||198||10/13/98|
|17||Urho Vaakanainen||D||JYP (SM-Liiga)||6’1″||187||1/1/99|
|18||Nicolas Hague||D||Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)||6’6″||214||12/5/98|
|19||Michael Rasmussen||C||Tri-City Americans (WHL)||6’5″||203||4/17/99|
|20||Robin Salo||D||Sport (SM-Liiga)||6’0″||185||10/13/98|
|21||Nikita Popugaev||LW||Prince George Cougars (WHL)||6’6″||203||11/20/98|
|22||Matthew Strome||LW||Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)||6’3″||201||1/6/99|
|23||Cody Glass||C||Portland Winterhawks (WHL)||6’2″||170||4/1/99|
|24||Sasha Chmelevski||C||Ottawa 67’s (OHL)||6’0″||187||6/9/99|
|25||Kailer Yamamoto||C||Spokane Chiefs (WHL)||5’8″||159||9/29/98|
|26||Ryan Poehling||C||St. Cloud State University Huskies (NCAA)||6’3″||185||1/3/99|
|27||Stelio Mattheos||C||Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)||6’1″||194||6/14/99|
|28||Marcus Davidsson||LW||Djurgardens IF (SHL)||6’0″||192||11/18/98|
|29||Shane Bowers||C||Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL)||6’0″||170||7/30/99|
|30||Cale Makar||D||Brooks Bandits (AJHL)||5’10”||176||10/30/98|
|31||Nick Suzuki||C||Owen Sound Attack (OHL)||5’11”||183||8/10/99|
|32||Kole Lind||RW||Kelowna Rockets (WHL)||6’1″||176||10/16/98|
|33||Erik Brannstrom||D||HV71 (SHL)||5’10”||172||9/2/99|
|34||Jake Oettinger||G||Boston University Terriers (NCAA)||6’4″||205||12/18/98|
|35||Luke Martin||D||University of Michigan Wolverines (NCAA)||6’2″||201||9/20/98|
|36||Henri Jokiharju||D||Portland Winterhawks (WHL)||6’0″||170||6/17/99|
|37||Cale Fleury||D||Kootenay ICE (WHL)||6’1″||201||11/19/98|
|38||Issac Ratcliffe||LW||Guelph Storm (OHL)||6’5″||194||2/15/99|
|39||Lucas Elvenes||RW||Rogle BK J20 (SuperElit)||6’0″||174||8/18/99|
|40||Ostap Safin||C||HC Sparta Prata U20 (Czech Jr.)||6’4″||198||2/11/99|
|41||Robert Thomas||C||London Knights (OHL)||5’10”||176||7/2/99|
|42||Pierre-Olivier Joseph||D||Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)||6’0″||161||6/1/99|
|43||Ivan Lodnia||RW||Erie Otters (OHL)||5’10”||181||8/31/99|
|44||Mackenzie Entwhistle||C||Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)||6’3″||181||7/14/99|
|45||Jaret Anderson-Dolan||C||Spokane Chiefs (WHL)||5’11”||181||9/12/99|
|46||Scott Reedy||C||U.S. National Development Team (USHL)||6’1″||187||4/4/99|
|47||Conor Timmins||D||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)||6’1″||181||9/18/98|
|48||Grant Mismash||C||U.S. National Development Team (USHL)||6’0″||183||2/19/99|
|49||Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen||G||HPK U20 (Jr. SM-Liiga)||6’4″||190||3/9/99|
|50||Nathan Schnarr||C||Guelph Storm (OHL)||6’3″||181||6/15/99|
- G Michael DiPietro – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
- D Jacob Paquette – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
- D Dmitri Samorukov – Guelph Storm (OHL)
- F Adam Ruzicka – Sarnia Sting (OHL)
- F Jesper Boqvist – Brynas IF (SHL)
- F Emil Oksanen – Espoo United (Mestis)
The current projected first round (the top 31) includes players playing in 11 different leagues and six countries, with the Ontario Hockey League and Western Hockey League the most represented. The top 31 includes zero goaltenders, eight defensemen and 23 forwards. The European players are entirely individuals currently playing in professional leagues.
The mix of goaltenders seems somewhat similar to what we saw in the 2014 Draft; there are lots of good netminders that should be featured prominently in the draft’s second and third rounds, but aside from Boston University’s Jake Oettinger (who made the American World Junior team as their third goalie) nobody has really separated themselves from the pack.
On the blue line, the right-shooting Liljegren is the standout (and barring anything unforeseen should go second overall) but there’s lot of secondary depth spread throughout the remainder of the top 50. It’s difficult to project where defensemen could go simply because each team’s preference depends on what they need.
There are a lot of right shot defenders, which are usually coveted by teams. There are big guys like Hague, Foote and Paquette, smooth-skating guys like Valimaki and Salo, and basically everything in-between. Keep an eye on Makar, who has shot up most draft rankings with a tremendous start to the AJHL season.
Up front, Patrick is the standout but Hischier has made a big push to join him and Liljegren in the top group. Mittelstadt could become one of the highest draft picks ever from the USHL, and will likely be the highest-drafted player from that league from a team other than the U.S. National Development Program.
As with the defensemen, there seems to be a really small “core” group of top guys and then a lot of variability. Once you get past the top six or seven, there really isn’t a ton of separation between players until you get to the mid-to-late second round.
World Junior Representation
Some prominent individuals in the 2017 NHL Draft mix helped their stock quite a bit with their World Junior performances. First and foremost among that group is Hischier, who was over a point per game for a rather out-gunned Swiss team. Martin Necas (Czech Republic), Eeli Tolvanen (Finland) and Lias Andersson (Sweden) were also impressive. I don’t think it’s possible to hurt your draft stock by making the World Juniors as a 17/18 year old, but the Finnish contingent (Juuso Valimaki, Kristian Vesalainen and Urho Vaakanainen) had to be hoping for a better showing. They just avoided relegation.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.