It’s the best time of year to be a hockey fan. We’re right in the heart of the NHL playoffs and CHL playoffs, the World Championships medal round has begun in the Czech Republic, and we’re only a month and a half away from the NHL Draft.
As I do every year, here are my Top 60 draft rankings with an in-depth look at the Top 30 players. Enjoy!
1. Connor McDavid – Erie Otters (OHL) – C
I don’t think there is much point to go into why Connor McDavid is ranked #1 in this rankings and virtually every other ranking that’s on the internet. He’s the real deal in terms of talent, future, and promise. McDavid brings it all every time he steps on the ice and with some of his highlight reel moves/goals, it’s no wonder he’s being compared to NHL greats at the age of 18.
2. Jack Eichel – Boston University (NCAA) – C
He’s played second fiddle to McDavid all year long, but Jack Eichel is no slouch either. He’s physically mature and ready for the NHL spotlight. As a freshman, he out-shined players four years his senior and won the Hobey Baker trophy as the nation’s best college hockey player.
3. Mitch Marner – London Knights (OHL) – C
Although Mitch Marner may be smaller than your average center, he’s still not all that tiny. It took me a while to figure out who I would put in the 3rd overall spot, but having watched Marner all season, his finesse with the puck and creativity was too much to pass up. He oozes potential that will make him a marquee center for years to come.
4. Ivan Provorov – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) – D
I’ve been saying this for a few months now – Ivan Provorov is the best defenseman in the draft. He’s exhibited tremendous poise all season long, is committed to playing in the NHL, and is not only an excellent blueliner, but can play any role he’s asked.
5. Dylan Strome – Erie Otters (OHL) – C
Dylan Strome lucked out having gotten the chance to play with Connor McDavid the last two years. He isn’t the by-product of McDavid, though, as some have claimed. He’s a dynamically gifted center with a dazzling array of skills that will make him a top 5 selection in the NHL Draft in June.
6. Mikko Rantanen – TPS (SM-liiga) – C/RW
Since he was 16-years old, Mikko Rantanen has been playing in Finland’s SM-liiga, which is an incredible feat. The kicker is he hasn’t looked out of place and has been one of TPS’s top scorers playing at a higher level than his counterparts. Incredible balance, sensational stickhandling, hockey IQ, and a large frame are aspects that make Rantanen one of the best forwards in this draft.
7. Zach Werenski – Michigan University (NCAA) – D
After watching the college hockey season play out, it took me a while to figure out if I thought Werenski should be ranked higher than Noah Hanifin. Turns out I felt Werenski should, but not by much. Defensively, I think both are relatively similar. Werenski may pinch a bit more than Hanifin does, but offensively I think his potential is much higher than Noah’s. He skates extremely well and loves the transition game. He pushes the play up the ice and has a strong first pass.
8. Noah Hanifin – Boston College (NCAA) – D
I don’t often agree with Craig Button or his rankings, but I was relatively shocked to see he ranked both Provorov and Werenski ahead of Hanifin. I don’t think Hanifin will be a terrible defender – on the contrary. He’s a safe pick on the blueline who plays a positionally sound game and excels at two-way play. He’s projected as a top pairing defenseman, and I see that in his game. He simply didn’t “wow” me in any particular sense watching him this season and I thought Werenski was better than him the majority of the year, including the WJC.
9. Lawson Crouse – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL) – LW
He’s big. He’s skillful. He’s relentless. Lawson Crouse has continually been at the top of the draft rankings all across the board. Crouse stepped up when it mattered most this season, since Sam Bennett was out for the majority of the year. He places so much power behind his shot, crashes the net, works hard on the forecheck. Crouse displays the tools to be an effective, versatile winger in the NHL.
10. Mathew Barzal – Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) – C
An average-sized center, Barzal’s game is anything but average. He missed part of the season to injury, but came back strong, looking to prove to everyone (and himself) that he’s a valuable asset to any team. His legs never stop moving and he traverses defense with elegant puck control at top speed. He has his head on a swivel and finds open teammates through a maze of sticks. Barzal turned up the heat at the U18 tournament scoring 12 points in 7 games for Team Canada. That helped solidify his draft status as a top prospect in 2015.
11. Timo Meier – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) – RW/C
An electrifying player to watch, Timo Meier just barely missed the top 10 in my rankings. Meier has such strong lower body and powers his way around the ice. He shakes off checks and battles in the trenches before getting off a high-quality scoring chances. He was tied for 5th in the QMJHL in goals with 44. A natural goal scorer, Timo Meier is likely a top 15 pick in the NHL draft.
12. Kyle Connor – Youngstown Phantoms (USHL) – C
The USHL doesn’t get nearly enough credit in developing players, but Kyle Connor is looking to change that. The 18-year old center went on a torrid scoring pace this year notching 80 points in 56 games for the Phantoms. He slices through defenses like a knife through butter with his dangles and breakneck speed. The first round will see many centers taken. Connor will be one of the first off the board.
13. Jakub Zboril – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL) – D
I expected Jakub Zboril to have some sort of adjustment period hopping across the pond to North America, however he took to the NA style of play quicker than most foreign prospects I’ve seen over the last few seasons. It’s even more difficult for defensemen, yet Zboril took it in stride. A fluid skater, Zboril is a two-way defenseman that exhibits tremendous defensive awareness. He has just enough height and weight to be a force along the boards and in the open ice. An agile skater from his own blueline, Zboril has a heavy point shot that finds its way to the net. Zboril’s draft stock is starting to pick up steam, and for good reason.
14. Nick Merkley – Kelowna Rockets (WHL) – C
Nick Merkley is one of the elite playmakers in the draft bar none. At 5’10”, he battles for pucks and plays the game as if he’s 4-5 inches taller. He buzzes around the ice with his short, quick strides that leave defenders in the dust. One of his advantages over other players is his hockey sense. Merkley feels and sees the game so well that he knows where to put the puck and what part of the open ice to be at for the perfect scoring opportunity.
15. Filip Chlapik – Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL) – C
Where Sprong is the dominant goal scorer on the Charlottetown Islanders, Chlapik has developed into set-up man, who can also put the puck in the net. It typically takes time to get accustomed to the new ice surface after playing in Europe your entire life, but Chlapik eased in nicely and scored at over a point-per-game pace. Chlapik excels on both sides of the puck and is defensively responsible. His attention to the little details in his game is why I have him ranked in the top 15.
16. Pavel Zacha – Sarnia Sting (OHL) – C/LW
Zacha brings an intensity in the offensive zone that is unmatched by his peers. Injuries held him back this season from producing more, but he was a bright spot on the Czech roster at the U18’s and scored five goals in as many games for his team. While many have him ranked higher, I have him just outside the top 15 because of his lapses in the defensive zone. Too often throughout the year I just wouldn’t see the hustle to get back into the zone and stop the opposition on a rush. Zacha coasted too frequently for my liking and only turned up the play when Sarnia would get the puck into the offensive zone. His top-end skill is the main reason he didn’t drop any futher, however he will need to focus more on developing his two-way play, especially if he wants to crack the NHL as a center.
17. Colin White – USNTDP (USHL) – RW/C
A speedster that is potent in all three zones, Colin White displays a work ethic that allows him to be utilized in any situation on the ice. If you need him to win you a faceoff…he’s money. If you need him to be your go-to point scorer…he’ll light the lamp. If you need him to effectively shut down a team’s top line…he won’t hesitate to step up. Colin White is a jack of all trades.
18. Thomas Chabot – Saint John Sea Dogs – D
It’s been a complete 180 from last year to this year with Thomas Chabot. Last season all he wanted to do was carry the puck and get his team a goal. He was often caught out of position and played almost no defense – his -29 can attest to that.
This year is a different story. While the offensive talent is still very much there, Chabot focused on bettering his defensive zone presence. He wasn’t taking unnecessary risks this year and learned to give crisp outlet passes instead of carrying the puck up ice. Scouts have begun noticing his overall play and his rankings in the draft have started to climb.
19. Oliver Kylington – Farjestad (SHL) – D
Oliver Kylington was ranked in the top 10 last season, but has seen his draft stock drop a bit. It’s not overly concerning as he is still one of most valuable defensemen on the board. Fleet of foot, Kylington is deceptively quick when breaking out of the zone. He couples it with soft hands and hockey IQ. It’s not common to find 17-year olds in the SHL, but Kylington performed outstanding during his time with Farjestad. He is still a first round selection in my eyes.
20. Jansen Harkins – Prince George Cougars (WHL) – C
Jansen Harkins is a diligent worker that finds ways to get the job done. You won’t see him quit on a play no matter how out of reach it may seem. He goes toe-to-toe with opposing team’s best players every night and manages to stand his ground. He’s a “meat and potatoes” type of player with fluid skating and high-end skill. It’s a unique blend that make Jansen Harkins one of the draft’s top prospects.
21. Brock Boeser – Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL) – RW
It’s a joy to watch Brock Boeser skate. He’s a strong kid, stays low to the ground, and powers through his skating stride effortlessly. His 6’1″, 192 lbs frame allows him to get in between the defender and the puck. A quick release gives him the edge over goalies and he often catches them off guard. Committed to the University of North Dakota, Boeser has a few years of development to bufer his all-around game before he cracks an NHL lineup.
22. Evgeny Svechnikov – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL) – LW
Among hockey circles, Evgeny Svechnikov is a sniper in every sense of the word. Along with the power that comes along from his tall, rangy body, Svechnikov is deadly accurate with his shot selection. He’s used frequently on the powerplay because his elusive stickhandling creates time and space for his teammates. He’s another dynamic offensive talent that could stand to use some work in the defensive zone from time to time.
23. Jeremy Roy – Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL) – D
Jeremy Roy took his game to the next level this year for the Sherbrooke Phoenix. He scored almost the same amount of points this season as he did last season in nearly 20 less games. The two-way defenseman stands out when he has the puck on his stick and dictates the pace of the game. A cerebral blueliner, Roy makes intelligent decisions in his own zone in order to transition the game to the attack. A few extra pounds wouldn’t hurt, and he shouldn’t have a problem gaining them over the next few years before he gets the call to the NHL.
24. Travis Konecny – Ottawa 67’s (OHL) – C/RW
The pint-sized forward, Travis Konecy already won the OHL Rookie of the Year Award last year and followed it up with an equally impressive season. Konecy’s small stature gives him speedy legs that burn through defenders. At high speeds, the London-native can deke in a phonebooth by keep the puck close to his body at all times. I’m not entirely sure where he finds the strength to get so much power behind his wristshot, but his shot release is quick and he can wire the puck past unsuspecting goalies. Don’t let his size fool you. Konecny is a gamer.
25. Rasmus Andersson – Barrie Colts (OHL) – D
Rasmus Andersson is one of the most criminally underrated players in the draft. Built wide, not tall, the Swede is superb on his skates, plays physical, and is positionally sound in his own zone. Andersson’s two-way game allowed him to contribute on the scoresheet this season, leading all defenseman on the Barrie Colts with 64 points. Many don’t have him ranked as high as I do, but I feel it’s warranted.
26. Daniel Sprong – Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL) – RW
Sprong is a one-dimensional player, but that one-dimension is purely offense. With some of the smoothest hands in the draft, Sprong dangles around defenders with ease and matches his skill with a bullet of a wrist shot. He’s speedy around the net, but he doesn’t pay enough attention to the defensive game. On skill alone, he’d be ranked in the top 10, but he needs to commit himself somewhat to the defensive side of the puck.
27. Ryan Pilon – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) – D
The Brandon Wheat Kings lucked out in getting a pair of top two-way defensemen in Ivan Provorov and Ryan Pilon. Pilon can plays just as well at even strength as he does on the powerplay or penalty kill. His vision down ice is keen and his outlet passes to open targets always seem to be on point. Like Provorov, Pilon can QB a powerplay with ease. I’d suspect Pilon might get taken a few spots ahead of 27 depending on an team’s need for defense.
28. Filip Ahl – HV71 (SHL) – LW/RW
It’s the year of the big, skilled winger apparently. Filip Ahl is another 6’4″ winger who is quite difficult to play against. His time spent in the SHL will be invaluable in the early stages of his career. Slick stick work allows him to break in wide on defenders and head straight for the crease. In the junior league, he was both a scorer and a passer. At the NHL level, I see Ahl as a creative winger with great puck protection that can distribute the puck, instead of a goal scorer.
29. Nicolas Meloche – Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL) – D
Meloche is a defenseman who makes his presence felt physically and on the scoresheet. A menace in the defensive zone, Meloche plays the game tough and throws his weight (and his fists) around to make players second guess the next time they try to go up against him. He possesses a booming slapshot from top of the slot. His defensive awareness and shutdown abilities are more prominent than his offensive skill, but there is enough I’ve seen from him to be a much needed two-way defenseman in an NHL team’s cog.
30. Brandon Carlo – Tri-City Americans (WHL) – D
The mammoth 6’5″ defenseman, Brandon Carlo, rounds out the top 30. Carlo hasn’t even fully grown into his body yet, which means he’ll be even more menacing when he tops out at 200+ pounds. A prototypical shutdown defenseman, Carlo skates extraordinarily well for his size, uses his long reach to neutralize plays, and is a force in front of the net. At his peak, he has the potential to be a solid 2nd pairing shutdown defenseman.
31. Thomas Novak
32. Jake Debrusk
33. Jack Roslovic
34. Joel Ek Eriksson
35. Denis Guryanov
36. Paul Bittner
37. Jens Looke
38. Julius Nattinen
39. Jeremy Bracco
40. Jordan Greenway
41. Jesper Lindgren
42. Nicolas Roy
43. Noah Juulsen
45. Gabriel Carlsson
46. Dmitri Yudin
47. Blake Speers
48. Jacob Larsson
49. Michael Spacek
50. Jonas Siegerthaler
51. Anthony Beauvillier
52. Dennis Yan
53. Mitchell Stephens
54. Ryan Gropp
55. Adam Musil
56. Gabriel Gagne
57. Parker Wotherspoon
58. Christian Fischer
59. Mitchell Vande Sompel
60. Kyle Capobianco