The spring is an interesting time in the hockey world. The Memorial Cup is around the corner. The Stanley Cup playoffs are heating up. European and college hockey is over for the year. And with the majority of the draft eligible players having played a full season, many of the ranking agencies and individuals mull over their final rankings for the upcoming National Hockey League entry draft.
This is the fourth and final edition of my 2017 NHL Draft 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, so if I seem like I’m drafting a bit conservatively it’s because consistency is what I’m valuing if all other things are equal.
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.
As always, your mileage may vary – especially in a draft as wide-open as this year’s looks to be.
The NHL Draft 2017 Top 62
(Players are listed with their 2017 NHL Draft profile linked, if applicable.)
|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||Nico Hischier||C||Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)||6’0″||174||1/4/99|
|3||Casey Mittelstadt||C||Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)||6’1″||201||11/22/98|
|4||Gabriel Vilardi||C||Windsor Spitfires (OHL)||6’2″||192||8/16/99|
|5||Owen Tippett||RW||Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)||6’2″||203||2/16/99|
|6||Cale Makar||D||Brooks Bandits (AJHL)||5’11”||179||10/30/98|
|7||Cody Glass||C||Portland Winterhawks (WHL)||6’2″||170||4/1/99|
|8||Michael Rasmussen||C||Tri-City Americans (WHL)||6’5||203||4/17/99|
|9||Juuso Valimaki||D||Tri-City Americans (WHL)||6’2″||201||10/6/98|
|10||Miro Heiskanen||D||HIFK (SM-Liiga)||6’0″||174||7/18/99|
|11||Timothy Liljegren||D||Rogle BK (SuperElit)||6’0″||192||4/30/99|
|12||Lias Andersson||C||HV71 (SHL)||5’11”||198||10/13/98|
|13||Cal Foote||D||Kelowna Rockets (WHL)||6’3″||209||12/13/98|
|14||Eeli Tolvanen||LW||Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)||5’10”||179||4/22/99|
|15||Martin Necas||C||HC Kometa Brno (Extraliga)||6’1″||168||1/15/99|
|16||Klim Kostin||RW||Moscow Dynamo (KHL)||6’3″||196||5/5/99|
|17||Elias Pettersson||C||Timra IK (Allsvenskan)||6’2″||161||11/12/98|
|18||Nick Suzuki||C||Owen Sound Attack (OHL)||5’11”||183||8/10/99|
|19||Ryan Poehling||C||St. Cloud State University Huskies (NCAA)||6’3″||185||1/3/99|
|20||Nic Hague||D||Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)||6’6″||214||12/5/98|
|21||Kole Lind||RW||Kelowna Rockets (WHL)||6’1″||176||10/16/98|
|22||Shane Bowers||C||Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL)||6’0″||170||7/30/99|
|23||Erik Brannstrom||D||HV71 (SHL)||5’10”||172||9/2/99|
|24||Joshua Norris||C||U.S. National Development Team (USHL)||6’1″||192||5/5/99|
|25||Isaac Ratcliffe||LW||Guelph Storm (OHL)||6’5″||194||2/15/99|
|26||Kailer Yamamoto||C||Spokane Chiefs (WHL)||5’8″||159||9/29/98|
|27||Henri Jokiharju||D||Portland Winterhawks (WHL)||6’0″||170||6/17/99|
|28||Robert Thomas||C||London Knights (OHL)||5’10”||176||7/2/99|
|29||Urho Vaakanainen||D||JYP (SM-Liiga)||6’1″||187||1/1/99|
|30||Marcus Davidsson||LW||Djurgardens IF (SHL)||5’10”||176||10/30/98|
|31||Jaret Anderson-Dolan||C||Spokane Chiefs (WHL)||5’11”||181||9/12/99|
|No.||Player||Pos.||2016-17 Primary Team||Ht||Wt||Born|
|32||Maxime Comtois||RW||Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)||6’2″||201||1/8/99|
|33||Conor Timmins||D||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)||6’1″||181||9/18/98|
|34||Matthew Strome||LW||Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)||6’3″||201||1/6/99|
|35||Kristian Vesalainen||LW||Frolunda HC (SHL)||6’3″||209||6/1/99|
|36||Alex Formenton||LW||London Knights (OHL)||6’1″||159||9/13/99|
|37||Ivan Lodnia||RW||Erie Otters (OHL)||5’10”||181||8/31/99|
|38||Jake Oettinger||G||Boston University Terriers (NCAA)||6’4″||205||12/18/98|
|39||Michael Dipietro||G||Windsor Spitfires (OHL)||6’0″||192||6/9/99|
|40||Robin Salo||D||Sport (SM-Liiga)||6’0″||185||10/13/98|
|41||Scott Reedy||C||U.S. National Development Team (USHL)||6’1″||203||4/4/99|
|42||Nikita Popugaev||LW||Prince George Cougars (WHL)||6’6″||203||11/20/98|
|43||Sasha Chmelevski||C||Ottawa 67’s (OHL)||6’0″||187||6/9/99|
|44||Stelio Mattheos||C||Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)||6’1″||194||6/14/99|
|45||Grant Mismash||C||U.S. National Development Team (USHL)||6’0″||183||2/19/99|
|46||Luke Martin||D||University of Michigan Wolverines (NCAA)||6’2″||201||9/20/98|
|47||Cale Fleury||D||Kootenay ICE (WHL)||6’1″||201||11/19/98|
|48||Pierre-Olivier Joseph||D||Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)||6’0″||161||7/1/99|
|49||Mackenzie Entwhistle||C||Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)||6’3″||181||7/14/99|
|50||Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen||G||HPK (Jr. SM-Liiga)||6’4″||196||3/999|
|51||Jesper Boqvist||C||Brynas IF (SHL)||6’0″||179||10/30/98|
|52||Jason Robertson||LW||Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)||6’2″||194||7/22/99|
|53||Aleksi Heponiemi||C||Swift Current Broncos (WHL)||5’10”||143||1/9/99|
|54||Antoine Morand||C||Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)||5’9″||170||2/18/99|
|55||Max Gildon||D||U.S. National Development Team (USHL)||6’3″||187||5/17/99|
|56||Jarret Tyszka||D||Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)||6’3″||192||3/15/99|
|57||Morgan Frost||C||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)||6’0″||170||5/14/99|
|58||Adam Ruzicka||C||Sarnia Sting (OHL)||6’4″||209||5/11/99|
|59||Nate Schnarr||C||Guelph Storm (OHL)||6’3″||181||6/15/99|
|60||Alexei Lipanov||C||Dynamo Balashikha (VHL)||6’0″||170||8/17/99|
|61||Lucas Elvenes||RW||Rogle BK (SHL)||6’0″||174||8/18/99|
|62||Ostap Safin||C||HC Sparta Praha (Extraliga)||6’4″||198||2/11/99|
In terms of “ledges,” I would classify things as follows:
- Patrick and Hischier are on their own top ledge.
- Just underneath them are Mittelstadt, Vilardi and Tippett, and you can make a case that Makar and Glass are almost on this level as well.
- The next ledge goes from Rasmussen to Kostin, who are almost as good as the previous ledge but lack a few higher end attributes. Pettersson to Yamamoto are a notch below that ledge.
- Everyone after Yamamoto could potentially go in any kind of order, as the second and third rounds basically blend together into a veritable free-for-all of pretty good players lacking elite qualities (or players with elite qualities lacking size).
The quality of the draft seems very resemblant of 2012, which was quite chaotic beyond the first handful of picks – likely a product of 30 NHL clubs with 30 very different evaluations of the talent in that draft class.
Top 62 ranked players here are a really diverse group in terms of their origins. 14 leagues are represented from five countries, spanning European pro, Canadian major junior, Canadian junior A, American college, American major junior and Finnish junior hockey.
The Ontario Hockey League leads in overall presentation with 17 players, followed closely by the Western Hockey League with 14. Here’s a quick glance at the two 31-pick projected rounds.
- The first round breakdown: WHL 9, OHL 6, USHL 4, SHL 3, SM-Liiga 2, QMJHL 1, AJHL 1, SuperElit 1, Extraliga 1, KHL 1, Allsvenskan 1, NCAA 1
- The second round breakdown: OHL 11, WHL 5, QMJHL 3, USHL 3, SHL 3, NCAA 2, SM-Liiga 1, Extraliga 1, Jr. SM-Liiga 1, VHL 1
There are three goaltenders in the Top 62, all falling into the second round: Oettinger, Dipietro and Luukkonen are the top ‘tenders in this draft class. Oettinger’s experience and success as a freshman with Boston University make him a bit more alluring to teams than the other two, but there’s not a big drop off between the trio.
Makar has come from seemingly nowhere to establish himself as arguably the top defenseman in this draft class (but only slightly). He’s had a monstrous season, putting him just a hair above Valimaki, Heiskanen, Liljegren and Foote. Liljegren may be this year’s Oliver Kylington, as he’s toppled down the rankings in some circles due to some injury and inconsistency issues. He’s still one of the better blueliners out there, so don’t expect him to fall very far on draft day.
There are a lot of really strong puck-movers at the high end of the draft, but this class overall has a lot of strong two-way defenders in the first couple rounds. There may not be a lot of “home run swing” players here, but there are a lot of guys that could become really solid NHLers given some time.
The past few years have had “Taylor or Tyler,” “The Sham for Sam,” “Fail for Nail,” and the “McEichel Draft.” This year there’s a pretty interesting debate between Nolan (Patrick) and Nico (Hischier). Hischier has had a fantastic season and dazzled scouts and on-lookers at several big hockey events this season. Patrick has had a strong junior career and thus has a much larger sample size of excellence than Hischier, but Hischier has arguably been better (and more often) this season than Patrick. I’m leaning Patrick, but Hischier has really bowled his way into the conversation and made it a coin-toss basically.
Names of note that have really impressed and could go higher than I have them ranked: Cody Glass, Lias Andersson, Klim Kostin, Kole Lind, Robert Thomas and Marcus Davidsson. In addition, there are several European players who have played a lot of pro hockey this season. They may not have put up incredible offensive numbers, but the value of these players having skated with grown men for a full season (if not more than that) is often discounted and could lead to a lot of the European forwards going a bit higher than I have them ranked.
Because of the number of odd factors that could play into the draft itself, expect things to be fairly chaotic in Chicago on June 23 & 24.
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.