The 2017 NHL Draft will mark the first year in the past three without a so-called “generational player”. The battle to be the first overall pick will be a close one, and one that could change drastically in the next year and a half leading up to the draft.
Overall, the draft looks to be a fairly deep one. There lacks a truly special talent at the top, but it is made up by several powerful and exciting scoring forwards coming out of North America.
Europe – It appears to be a weaker draft than usual from Europe, without a true challenger for the top spot. While there are two Europeans listed as honourable mentions here, they will not be labelled as a European skaters by Central Skating, because they both play in North America now.
United States – In North America, the Unites States could be in for a promising year. After having seven first round selections in 2015, they could be in for another possible seven or eight in 2017. There are two standouts in the bunch, one of which should challenge to be the first overall pick in Max Gildon.
Canada – As usual, the CHL will represent a large portion of the first round picks. It will be a very significant year for the WHL, and a quiet one from the QMJHL.
OHL – The Ontario league will have a few less representatives than we have become accustomed to, on pace for five or six picks in the first round. Gabriel Vilardi should separate himself as the best prospect from the OHL, challenging for the first overall spot.
QMJHL – Quebec and the Maritimes are going to have a down year in 2017, with only two or three players projected to possibly go in the first round. Maxine Comtois is far and away the standout from the the league, and should go in the top five or ten overall.
WHL – Western Canada is on pace to have a monstrous year, with up to 10 players having a strong shot at going in the first round. Jusso Valimaki and Kailer Yamamoto both should end up in the top 10, while Nolan Patrick is the consensus first overall pick at this point in time.
Jusso Valimaki (D)- Tri-City Americans
The Tri-City Americans selected Valimaki 14th overall in the 2015 CHL Import Draft. In his first year playing North American hockey, he has made a seamless transition to become one of the Americans most reliable defenceman. Through 34 games, Valimaki has scored six goals and 23 points. He captained Team Finland to a fourth place finish at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
Scott Reedy (C)- U.S. National U17 Team
Reedy is one of many terrific prospects currently playing for the U.S. U17 Team. Reedy is an exceptional goal scorer with a shot that is well above his age level. Playing in 12 games for the U.S. National Development Team in the USHL, Reedy has scored five goals and 15 points as a 16-year-old. In the World U17 Hockey Challenge, Reedy was terrific, scoring six goals and nine points in five games. He is committed to the University of Minnesota.
Eeli Tolvanen (C/LW)- Sioux City Musketeers
Tolvanen is playing in his first North American season for the Musketeers of the USHL. In a league usually dominated by 19 and 20-year-olds, he has made it look rather easy. In 22 games, he has nine goals and 22 points, remaining one of just 12 point-per-game players. He also lit up the World U17 Hockey for Finland, scored nine goals and 10 points in just five games. He is undoubtedly a natural goal-scorer who has unprecedented potential heading into next season.
Top 5 Prospects:
5: Maxime Comtois (C/LW)- Victoriaville Tigres
Comtois should finish the year as the top prospect from the QMJHL without a real challenge. As a 16-year-old, he is having a spectacular rookie season for the Tigres, scoring 15 goals and 31 points in 29 games. He also had the honour of representing Canada at the World U17 Hockey Challenge, scoring a goal and adding six assists in six games. He is a goal-scorer by nature, using a quick release to catch goaltenders off guard. But, he is also a gifted playmaker with tremendous vision of the ice.
4: Kailer Yamamoto (C/LW)- Spokane Chiefs
As a late 1998 born player, Yamamoto is in his second season with his hometown Spokane Chiefs. After a great rookie year in 2014-15, scoring 23 goals and 57 points, Yamamoto has taken his game to the next level. Through 34 games this year, he has scored 14 goals and 48 points, the most among all 2017 NHL Draft eligible players. He also represented the United States at the 2014 U17 tournament, scoring three goals and six points in six games. Yamamoto projects to be a talented playmaker.
3: Gabriel Vilardi (C)- Windsor Spitfires
Vilardi was selected second overall by the Spitfires in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection, drafted from the CIHA Voyageurs of the OEMMHL. So far in his rookie year, Vilardi has scored 10 goals and 17 points in 29 games. The talented center also represented Canada White in the World U17 Hockey Challenge, the gold medal winning squad. In his six tournament games, he tallied four goals and seven points, which ranked fourth overall. Vilardi is a goal-scorer by nature, using quick hands and a powerful wrist shot to find the twine often.
2: Max Gildon (D)- U.S. National U17 Team
At just 16 years of age, Gildon has been drawing comparisons to Seth Jones for several years already. The 6’2 Texas native is a tremendous skater who is just scratching the surface of his offensive potential as well. Drafted by the Vancouver Giants in the third round of the 2014 WHL Draft, Gildon instead decided to go to the U.S. National Development Team. In 26 games with the U.S. U17 Team, he has scored a goal and 12 assists. Gildon’s vision of the ice and sense to make the simple play make him a very reliable defender.
1: Nolan Patrick (C/RW)- Brandon Wheat Kings
Patrick, like Yamamoto, is a late 1998-born prospect who is currently in his second WHL season with the Wheat Kings. He was a point-per-game player in his rookie year, scoring 30 goals and 56 points in 55 games. He also captained Canada Red at the U17 Challenge last year, posting five points in five games. This season, Patrick has taken on more of a playmaker role, scoring 10 goals and 40 points in 35 games. He also represented Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament this year, with five points in four games. Patrick is the ideal power forward that NHL teams envision, with the knowledge to use his 6’3 frame to shield the puck and engage in board battles.
Contributor for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Prospects. Scout with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. For questions, concerns, or comments, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @SlawsonTHW.