NHL Top-30 prospects – Fall edition

Auston Matthews


The 2016 NHL Draft may be eight months away, but it is never too early to take a look at the upcoming prospects.

This year’s draft will be a special one for Buffalo, as the city will host its third NHL Draft, and first since 1998.

Right at the top of this year’s draft class is United States born forward, Auston Matthews. Matthews, 18, is currently playing over in Switzerland for the ZSC Lions of the National League A.

Last year with the U.S. National Team’s Development Program, Matthews shattered Patrick Kane’s scoring record with 55 goals and 61 assists in 60 games. Also as part of the U.S. National Team in the United States Hockey League, Matthews posted 20 goals and 28 assists in 24 games played.

So far this season with Zurich, Matthews has ten goals and seven assists in just 14 games. The 18-year old currently leads the league in goals, and is tied for 13th place for points with 16. What is also amazing is that Matthews has played three fewer games than the NLA’s leading scorer, Pierre-Marc Bouchard.

Currently, Matthews is battling a minor back injury that could sideline him for some time. It could be just a matter of day, or it could string out to weeks. Matthews should be back in plenty of time for the IIHF World Junior Championships in Finland this December.

Right behind Matthews is a great group of young talent that have the potential to be top players at the NHL level in the next five to ten years.

Here is the fall rankings for the prospects of the 2016 NHL Draft.

1.) Auston Matthews – Center – ZCS Lions (NLA)

ZSC_Lions_logoHeight: 6′ 2″

Weight: 194 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: United States

Birthday: 9/17/1997

We touched base on his stats, but what makes Matthews the top of his draft class?

Matthews is the most complete player available in this draft class. Matthews can do it all on the ice: Score, set up plays, pass, skate, you name it.

Matthews is the best game changer in the NHL Draft. His composure on the ice is what should be expected of a top-rated prospect. Matthews will be a player that will play in every situation on the ice when his name is called upon.

Matthews is one of the smartest players available in this year’s draft class. His anticipation of plays, and where he sets up plays is superb. His patience to let a play develop, and his ability to control the pace of play is incredible.

Matthews’ intelligence may be great, but his physical play is also up to par as well.

Matthews is a strong skater, and has the ability to break free with some short, but powerful strides. His 6′ 2″ frame allows him to protect the puck very well, and allows him to create space for himself to make a play with or without the puck.

And finally, Matthews has one heck of a shot. His release is quick, and he can pick his spots with ease.

Matthews flashed his brilliance at the IIHF World Junior Championships in Canada last year. Matthews may have only posted a goal and two assists for the United States, but showed that he was clearly living up to his hype, and that he would be the top prospect in 2016.

Matthews was the most valuable player at the IIHF U-18 World Championships in Switzerland this past April. Matthews posted an incredible eight goals and seven assists in just seven games played in the tournament. Matthews led the tournament in points, and also had a tournament-high 42 shots on goal for Team USA.

Matthews was born just two days late for eligibility in the 2015 NHL Draft, where he likely would have gone third overall to his hometown Arizona Coyotes. This year, he will go at the top. His skill and overall ability as a hockey player makes him the best player available this year, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Sting logo2.) Jakob Chychrun – Defense – Sarnia Sting (OHL)

Height: 6′ 2″

Weight: 214 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 3/31/1998

Son of former NHL defenseman, Jeff Chychrun, Jakob is this year’s best defenseman available at the 2016 NHL Draft.

Chychrun this season with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League has three goals and eight assists in 15 games played, and is expected to later contend for a spot on Team Canada for the IIHF U-20 World Junior Championships this winter in Helsinki, Finland.

What makes Chychrun so good is that he plays a solid, two-way game that you would see out of a top defenseman in the NHL. Chychrun is also a smart defender, who will stay positionally sound and make the right decisions on the ice. He also has a good shot, and can be utilized in all on-ice situations at the point.

Chychrun is very strong on his feet, as he stands tall at 6′ 2″ and 194 pounds. He is very tough to beat in the defensive end, and he has a great reach, which he uses to take the puck off the opposing player’s stick.

Chychrun has great skating abilities that he uses to join an offensive rush, or to stick with a play coming back into the defensive end. Chycrun has great control on his feet, and can be relied on to be a mobile force on the ice.

Chychrun may be the best defenseman to enter the NHL Draft since 2014 when Aaron Ekblad was the top of the draft class. He has the potential to develop into a franchise defenseman, and be a leader on the blue line when he fully develops at the NHL level. Chychrun may also have the potential to be an NHL defenseman in his rookie season as an 18-year old.

3.) Jesse Puljujärvi – Right Wing – Kärpät (Liiga)

Oulun-Kärpät-LogoHeight: 6′ 3″

Weight: 198 pounds

Shoots: Right

Nationality: Finland

Birthday: 5/7/1998

Puljujärvi is an offensive juggernaut who loves to have the puck on his stick.

Many have compared Puljujärvi to the next coming of Teemu Selanne, and those comparisons are deserving. If Puljujärvi gets the puck, watch out, because he can burn you in more ways than none.

Puljujärvi is shifty, and is capable of finding open space on the ice to throw the puck on net. Puljujärvi has underestimated speed, and is able to generate quick bursts of speed to set himself up for great scoring opportunities on the opposing net.

Puljujärvi also has the size to protect the puck and create space for himself in scoring areas.

One thing Puljujärvi loves to do on the ice is shoot the puck. In the Finnish professional league, Liiga, Puljujärvi entered the league last season as a 16-year old kid playing amongst men. Last year, Puljujärvi put up four goals and seven assists in just 21 games with Kärpät.

This season, Puljujärvi has five goals and four assists in 19 games. May not be the best of stats, but Puljujärvi generates offense by shooting the puck on goal. In the Liiga, Puljujärvi has 61 shots in his 19 games, which is an average of 3.2 shots per game.

Last year at the IIHF World Junior Championships, Puljujärvi led all players in the tournament in shots on goal with 26. Puljujärvi and the Finns were eliminated in the quarterfinal round, but he still averaged over five shots per game.

At the U-18 World Championships, Puljujärvi registered two goals and five assists in seven games played, and compiled 21 shots on goal in the tournament for the silver medalists.

Puljujärvi may not put up some flashy numbers, however he is still an electrifying player on the ice. Puljujärvi has the potential to play as a top winger in the NHL, and could come over to the NHL to play as an 18-year old kid. He will continue to grow in the Liiga, and will once again be up for host nation, Finland at the IIHF World Junior Championships this winter.

Knights logo4.) Matthew Tkachuk – Left Wing – London Knights (OHL)

Height: 6′ 1″

Weight: 194 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: United States

Birthday: 12/11/1997

Like father, like son. Matthew Tkachuk has drawn very similar comparisons to his dad, Keith, who played over 1,200 games in his NHL career.

Matthew is a great play-making winger, who has a knack for setting up great offensive chances for his teammates.Tkachuk is one heck of a passer, and also has a strong and deceptive wrist shot.

So far, with the London Knights of the OHL, Tkachuk has five goals and 19 assists in 15 games played this season.  Last season with the United States National Team’s Developmental Program, Tkachuk registered 96 points (38 goals and 58 assists) playing on a line with Auston Matthews.

At the IIHF U-18 World Championships in Switzerland this past April, Tkachuk had two goals and 10 assists playing with Matthews, and Winnipeg Jets’ prospect Jack Roslovic. Tkachuk set up Roslovic in the third period of the gold medal game against Finland to tie the contest 1-1. Team USA would go on to win the gold medal against the Finns in overtime 2-1.

Tkachuk is also a smart player with a lot of patience on the ice. Tkachuk is a weapon on the ice, especially on the powerplay, as he can control the pace of play when he has the puck on his stick. Tkachuk allows his teammates to get in position, and he has great anticipation as to where his teammates are going to go for the perfect pass.

One are of his game that is underrated is his size, and his love for being around the net. Tkachuk is not afraid to crash the net to find the loose puck, and will get to the net to make a play when necessary.

If Tkachuk needs to improve anything in his game it is his skating and speed. Tkachuk is not the fastest skater, and his footwork needs to improve. But if there is a program in the OHL to allow him to improve his overall game, the best place to do so is with the Knights in London.

Tkachuk will also contend for a roster spot at the IIHF World Junior Championships this winter in Finland, where we may see the magic between Matthews and Tkachuk once again.

Logo_of_Tappara.svg5.) Patrik Laine – Right Wing – Tappara (Liiga)

Height: 6′ 4″

Weight: 209 pounds

Shoots: Right

Nationality: Finland

Birthday: 4/19/1998

The last time two Finns went in the top five of the NHL Draft was back in 2002 when goalie Kari Lehtonen went second overall to the Atlanta Thrashers, and defenseman Joni Pitkanen went fourth overall to the Philadelphia Flyers.

In 2016, Puljujärvi and Patrik Laine could be the next Finnish duo to go in the top five of the NHL Draft.

Laine is a big bodied kid, also playing in the Finnish Liiga at the age of 17 with Tappara. In 12 games with Tappara this season, Laine has four goals and three assists with 45 shots on goal.

Standing tall at 6′ 4″ and 209 pounds, Laine plays a similar skill-set to that of Minnesota Wild winger, Thomas Vanek.

Laine may not be a flashy player, nor may he skate fast, but he is a very skilled player. Laine is a force on the ice with his size, is a very strong skater, and is good with his stick defensively.

Laine has a very good shot, and is very patient with the puck. Laine wants to make plays with the puck, and is hungry for loose pucks laying in and around the net.

Laine also has the ability to control the pace of play, and his anticipation is only improving. Laine is a player who knows where a play is developing, and when to be in a certain spot on the ice for his teammates to get him the puck.

At the IIHF U-18 World Championships, Laine was tied with Matthews for the tournament lead in goals with eight, and also put up a total of 33 shots on goal, which was second to Matthews.

Laine is another player who could be ready to play in the NHL to start the 2016-17 season. Laine has the potential to become a top-six forward in the NHL, but this year he needs to continue to improve while in the Finnish Liiga.

Steelheads logo6.) Alexander Nylander – Left Wing – Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

Height: 6′ 0″

Weight: 172 pounds

Shoots: Right

Nationality: Sweden

Birthday: 3/2/1998

The son of Michael Nylander, and younger brother of Toronto Maple Leafs prospect William Nylander, Alexander is possibly one of the best play-making forwards available in this year’s draft.

The 17-year old Swede has 10 goals and 12 assists in 17 games played this season with the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL. The OHL rookie is currently tied for sixth in the league with points, and is only getting better with every game.

Nylander has good speed, and is crafty with the puck when he is given time and space. Nylander also is very smart with the puck, and his mental awareness on the ice is present every shift he takes.

Coming to play his junior hockey in North America may be most beneficial for Nylander, and it helps that his dad is part of the Steelheads coaching staff. If Nylander continues to play like he has with Mississauga, his stock may rise, and he could be selected higher come June.

Alex will also probably contend for a roster spot on Sweden’s team in the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championships in Finland this winter.

Steelheads logo7.) Michael McLeod – Center – Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

Height: 6′ 2″

Weight: 187 pounds

Shoots: Right

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 2/3/1998

Michael McLeod may be one of the more well-rounded prospects available in the 2016 NHL Draft.

When watching McLeod, one would quickly notice that he is always moving on the ice. His feet never stop, and he is always involved in ongoing play. If your team needs a big play, McLeod would be the guy you would want to have with the puck.

McLeod is a strong skater who can break free with the puck and set himself and his teammates up for a clutch play. McLeod may not play a big game, but he protects the puck well with his body, and is not afraid to take the puck straight to the net.

So far in 17 games with the Steelheads this season, McLeod has four goals and 14 assists. As the season goes on, McLeod’s stock is expected to continue to rise with Mississauga.

McLeod is another name that we could see in Helsinki, Finland at the IIHF World Junior Championships for Team Canada.

Knights logo8.) Max Jones – Left Wing – London Knights (OHL)

Height: 6′ 2″

Weight: 201 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: United States

Birthday: 2/17/1998

Max Jones is a gritty winger who plays a very heavy and skilled game with the London Knights in the OHL.

Through 13 games in London, Jones has nine goals and four assists playing a second line left wing role under fellow American and draft classmate, Matthew Tkachuk.

Jones works hard for the puck, and is willing to get in the dirty areas to take a hit or gather a loose puck. Jones is also not afraid to throw around his body and make big hits along the boards.

As for his offensive game, Jones has a booming shot and is calm, cool and collective when he has the puck on his stick. Jones’ puck pursuit is good as well, and plays a strong two-way game. Jones can also fly down the ice with his powerful speed.

Like Tkachuk, London was the best choice for Jones’ development, as the Knights continue to have one of the best development programs in all the Canadian Hockey League. Jones could certainly be a top 10 pick in the NHL Draft if he can continue to improve his game.

USAH NTDP Logo9.) Kieffer Bellows – Center – United States National Team’s Developmental Program (USHL)

Height: 6′ 1″

Weight: 194 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: United States

Birthday: 6/10/1998

It is another son of a former NHL player on the top 30 list, this time it is Brian Bellows’ son, Kieffer.

Brian was the second overall pick of the Minnesota North Stars in the 1982 NHL Draft, and played over 1,100 games in his NHL career. Brian would end up scoring 485 goals and registering 537 assists with five different NHL teams.

As for Kieffer, he could be just as good as his dad was in the NHL, and maybe even better.

What drives Bellows’ game is his speed and goal scoring ability. With hiss crafty hands and strong shot, Kieffer could be one of the top-rated goal scorers available in this year’s draft.

In addition to scoring goals, Bellows has a physical side to his game, and loves to throw his body around to make a hit.

Last season with the Sioux Falls Stampede in the United States Hockey League, Bellows had 33 goals and 19 assists in 58 regular season games. In 12 postseason games, Bellows had nine goals and 12 points, and helped the Stampede to a USHL Championship title.

In three games this season with the U.S. National Team in the United States Hockey League, Bellows has four goals and an assist. In twelve games with the U-18 National Team, Bellows has eleven goals and five assists.

Bellows is only going to get better playing with the U.S. Developmental Program in Plymouth, Michigan. If Bellows continues to score with the U.S. Developmental Program, his stock and demand will only grow.

Chicago Steel vs USA National Team Development Program

Knights logo10.) Olli Juolevi – Defense – London Knights (OHL)

Height: 6′ 2″

Weight: 183 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Finland

Birthday: 5/5/1998

He may be the next coming of Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman, Olli Määttä, in London. The 17-year old Finn is a dynamic two-way defender who possesses great skating ability and also a great shot.

In his first season playing North American hockey, Juolevi has three goals and nine assists in 15 games played with the Knights. Juolevi has played well with the Knights’ powerplay, and has played some very consistent hockey.

Juolevi will be a potential factor for Team Finland at the IIHF World Junior Championships in Helsinki this winter. He will also be an important player in the top four for London’s defense, which makes to make a deep run in the OHL playoffs this season.

olli juolevi

Pats logo11.) Sam Steel – Center – Regina Pats

Height: 5′ 11″

Weight: 176 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 2/3/1998

Even though he is not a big guy, Sam Steel is a quick, play-making center that can be a difference maker in any game.

This season in Regina with the Pats, Steel has five goals and nine assists in 14 games. Steel’s ability to make plays on the fly is why he is ranked as high as he is. Steel’s speed and his hockey IQ has been really good, and is improving.

Steel may get his shot at cracking the top 10 at some point this season, but he still has some room to get stronger physically on the ice. If he can get physically more tougher, and if he can progress with his game, Steel could slide into the top 10 rankings.

sam steel

Erie_Otters logo12.) Alex DeBrincat – Right Wing – Erie Otters (OHL)

Height: 5′ 7″

Weight: 161 pounds

Shoots: Right

Nationality: United States

Birthday: 12/18/1997

Last year, he scored 51 goals playing alongside Edmonton Oilers center, and 2015 first overall pick, Connor McDavid.

Question going into the 2015-16 season was could DeBrincat continue his success without McDavid feeding him the puck. So far, that answer is a sure-fire “absolutely.”

Standing “tall” at 5′ 7″, DeBrincat is an offensive and gritty forward with flashes of Martin St. Louis in his game. DeBrincat can pass, score, skate, and play physical at a high level in a tough league in the OHL.

This season, DeBrincat has posted 17 goals and added eight assists in just 13 games. DeBrincat already had a five-goal game just two games into the season against the Niagara IceDogs on October 1.

DeBrincat may be small, but his heart and game is much bigger than that. DeBrincat is only going to continue to make amazing plays on the ice and get better with every game. He is surely a treat to watch.

Cape_Breton_Screaming_Eagles.svg13.) Pierre-Luc Dubois – Left Wing – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)

Height: 6′ 3″

Weight: 201 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 6/24/1998

Dubois is a big bodied, play-making winger playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.

In Cape Breton this season, Dubois has eleven goals and 13 assists in 21 games played. Dubois is only growing in size, and is improving his physical and mental game.

Dubois also represented Canada at the IIHF U-18 World Championships this past April. Dubois only registered an assist playing on the fourth line, but showed that he could become a great second or third line threat in the future.

If Dubois can continue to improve in his game, he could keep climbing the rankings before June’s draft.

Pierre-Luc Dubois

Brandon_Wheat_Kings_logo.svg14.) Kale Clague – Defense – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

Height: 6′ 0″

Weight: 176 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 6/5/1998

Clague is a very good two-way defender who is smart, and very level-headed in both ends of the ice.

Clague may be small, but he is a strong skater who can go up the ice on a rush, or can stay back and stick with a play coming the other way. Clague moves the puck fairly well, and has a decent shot to boot.

So far this season, Clague has six assists in 16 games with the Brandon Wheat Kings.

Clague could continue to climb up the rankings if he continues to progress with his two-way game, but he also needs to bulk up a bit and be physically more effective. Either way, Clague is one of the better defensemen available in the draft.

Kale Clague

Calgary_Hitmen_logo.svg15.) Jake Bean – Defense – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)

Height: 6′ 0″

Weight: 172 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 9/6/1998

Jake Bean is one of the top offensive defenders available in the 2016 NHL Draft.

Bean is a very good puck mover, who can quarterback a powerplay and direct guys where to go on the ice. Bean is also a very good shot that should be accounted for on the blue line. Bean is also not afraid to join an offensive rush when his opportunity comes about. Bean’s skating ability is very good, and generates good power in his strides when he takes a puck down the ice himself.

So far this season in Calgary with the Hitmen, Bean has seven goals and eight assists in 15 games played. Bean is also tied for the team lead in powerplay goals with five.

Bean is an exceptional back checker, but the defensive side to his game could still use some improvement. Playing with a good two-way defender in Travis Sanheim could be beneficial for the 17-year old.

Bean is one of those players who will be closely watched all season, and he will surely turn heads with his offensive play. If he can improve defensively, Bean could make a name for himself at the draft.

1Windsor_Spitfires_Logo.svg6.) Logan Brown – Center – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

Height: 6′ 6″

Weight: 218 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 3/5/1998

Size. That’s the best way to describe Logan Brown.

The big center for the Windsor Spitfires may not be a flashy offensive talent, but he is a force in front of the net. Brown has scored two goal so far in eleven games with the Spitfires, and has added 13 assists, but he has gone nearly 58-percent on his face-offs, and seems unstoppable in front of the goaltender.

Brown is not only big, but he possesses good offensive skill, and is a smart player in terms of puck movement. It also helps when you have a dad like Jeff Brown, who played over 700 games in the NHL and is currently the head coach with the Ottawa 67’s in the OHL.

Brown last season had a productive season with 43 points (17 goals and 26 assists) on a Windsor team that finished near the bottom of the OHL standings.

This season, Windsor is one of the top teams in the OHL, and the team will continue to look to Brown to be a force out on the ice every night.

Logan Brown

Vancouver_Giants_Logo.svg17.) Tyler Benson – Left Wing – Vancouver Giants (WHL)

Height: 6′ 0″

Weight: 196 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 3/15/1998

Benson began the 2015-16 season with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League on the shelf after having surgery to remove a cyst in his tailbone.

Since then, Benson has returned to action and has netted a goal and added an assist in five games played thus far.

Benson is a play-making left winger with good speed and good puck moving ability. Last season with the Giants, the Edmonton, Alberta native put up 14 goals and 31 assists in 62 games for a team that finished the third last in the WHL last season.

Benson also played for Team Canada at the IIHF U-18 World Championships in April.

Now is the time for Benson to stay healthy and get to work after missing some time. Benson has room to grow in his game, and he could develop into one of the better passers available in this draft.

tyler benson

sudbury_wolves_classic18.) Dmitry Sokolov – Center – Sudbury Wolves (OHL)

Height: 6′ 0″

Weight: 216 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Russia

Birthday: 4/14/1998

He was the third overall pick of the Sudbury Wolves in the 2015 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft, and for good reason.

So far with Sudbury in his rookie season, Sokolov has six goals and five assists in 16 games.

He’s a tank down the middle of the ice, and is also offensively gifted with a great shot and some slick hands. Sokolov is crafty when he has the puck on his stick, and is a powerful skater who can make some great moves on the ice.

It took some time for Sokolov to get used to the North American style of play, but his energy and style of play is very reminiscent of fellow countryman, Alex Ovechkin.

Sokolov is another player who could climb up the draft rankings. Sokolov also has a chance to represent Team Russia at the IIHF World Junior Championships this winter in Finland.

Dmitry Sokolov of the Sudbury Wolves. Photo by Terry Wilson / OH

Val-d'Or_Foreurs_logo_1993-2007.svg19.) Julien Gauthier – Right Wing – Val-d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL)

Height: 6′ 4″

Weight: 224 pounds

Shoots: Right

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 10/15/1997

Julien Gauthier is a big force on the ice that can score goals, and a lot of them.

So far this season, Gauthier has scored 15 goals, and has added an assist in 19 games played with Val-d’Or in the QMJHL. Gauthier has a good shot, while being a big body in front of the opposition’s net.

The Foreurs had a similar player a few years back who went in the first round to the Red Wings, that was Anthony Mantha.

Gauthier needs to continue to work on improving his overall game, but his ability to score goals makes him a hot commodity in this year’s draft.

julien gauthier

Boston_University_Terriers.svg20.) Charlie McAvoy – Defense – Boston University (NCAA)

Height: 6′ 0″

Weight: 205 pounds

Shoots: Right

Nationality: United States

Birthday: 12/21/1997

In a draft deep with left-handed defensemen, McAvoy could be one of the top right-handed defensemen available.

McAvoy is a solid two-way defenseman who can skate very well and make plays for his teammates. McAvoy is also strong with his stick, and is good at tying up his counterparts and not allowing them to make plays. With McAvoy’s size, he is physically strong on the puck as well and protects the puck well.

So far this season at Boston University, McAvoy has a goal and two assists in six games. McAvoy will grow in a great hockey program, and will only continue to improve his overall game with the Terriers.

McAvoy_Charles4

University_of_Wisconsin_Waving_W.svg21.) Luke Kunin – Center – University of Wisconsin (NCAA)

Height: 6′ 0″

Weight: 196 pounds

Shoots: Right

Nationality: United States

Birthday: 12/4/1997

Kunin is a goal-scoring force down the middle with some impeccable skill. Kunin also is a good skater with a very good shot.

So far with the Wisconsin Badgers, Kunin has scored two goals and added four assists in eight games. Kunin has spent a majority of his playing time on the wing this season on Wisconsin’s top line.

There has been some question as to whether Kunin will leave Wisconsin to join the Sarnia Sting in the OHL, but for now Kunin will remain a Badger.

Kunin also performed well at the CCM All American Prospects Game in Buffalo this past September. In the game, Kunin had two goals, an assist, and six shots playing for Team Roenick and centering a line with Matthew Tkachuk and Joey Anderson.

Playing in Wisconsin, and against bigger players would probably benefit Kunin more for his development. However, Kunin will most likely remain in the top 30, and should be taken in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft.

Luke Kunin

Penticton_Vees_logo.svg

22.) Tyson Jost – Center – Penticton Vees (BCHL)

Height: 5′ 11″

Weight: 192 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 3/14/1998

Jost is one of the best underrated offensive weapons in this year’s draft, as he plays with the Vees in the BCHL. However, Jost is expected to win the scoring race in the BCHL this season and will look to carry his Vees to a repeat championship.

In 19 games this season, Jost has scored 16 goals while piling up 22 assists, which is good for a two points-per-game pace through the young season.

Jost is incredibly fast, with a great shot, and a great sense of what is happening around him. His offensive prowess was key in landing him a commitment with the University of North Dakota beginning in the 2016-17 season.

Jost is another player who could climb the rankings as the year goes on, and could be a popular name in the future of Hockey Canada.

Tyson Jost

Penticton_Vees_logo.svg23.) Dante Fabbro – Defense – Penticton Vees (BCHL)

Height: 6′ 1″

Weight: 185 pounds

Shoots: Right

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 6/20/1998

Fabbro is a good puck-handling defender with a booming shot from the point. He also plays bigger than he may look, as he protects the puck well and can throw around his body.

So far in 13 games with the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey league, Fabbro has five goals and 17 assists.

However, Fabbro is not the greatest skater, and needs to improve if he wants to move up in the draft rankings. Fabbro has committed to the Boston University Terriers for the 2016-17 season, and will be a nice addition for BU come next season.

Dante Fabbro

FlintFirebirds24.) Will Bitten – Center – Flint Firebirds (OHL)

Height: 5′ 10″

Weight: 168 pounds

Shoots: Right

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 7/10/1998

Bitten’s size may not be his strong point, but Bitten is fast and his skill set makes him a dangerous offensive weapon.

In his second season with the Flint Firebirds organization (last year as the Plymouth Whalers), Bitten has scored seven goals and added nine assists in 14 games. Bitten has stepped up his game compared to last season in Plymouth where he scored 15 goals and had 31 points in 63 games.

While Bitten may be small, he still has room to grow in his overall game. Bitten can bulk up, and get himself ready for the NHL Draft. But if Bitten continues to score and play a strong offensive game, he may climb the rankings throughout the season.

Will Bitten

Windsor_Spitfires_Logo.svg25.) Mikhail Sergachev – Defense – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

Height: 6′ 2 “

Weight: 205 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Russia

Birthday: 6/25/1998

A big, lumbering defender from Russia, Sergachev has been regarded as one of the best offensive defenders in the NHL Draft.

In 17 games this season, Sergachev has four goals and four assists with the Windsor Spitfires.

Sergachev is a good skater, also uses his size to protect the puck when it is on his stick. Sergachev also has a decent shot from the point, and is a dangerous weapon on a high-powered Spitfires team.

Playing in North America will only allow Sergachev’s game to grow even larger, and with that his stock rising even more.

Sergachev_OHL-640x431

Modo_Hockey_Logo.svg26.) Carl Grundström – Left Wing – MODO Hockey (SHL)

Height: 6′ 0″

Weight: 190 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Sweden

Birthday: 12/1/1997

For a 17-year old to be playing in a professional hockey league is impressive, and Carl Grundström is no exception.

Grundström plays for, arguably, one of the best hockey programs in all of Sweden with MODO. So far in 15 games with MODO of the Swedish Hockey League, Grundström has a goal and two assists.

At the IIHF U-18 World Championships, Grundström scored three goals, added two assists, and was tied for the team lead in shots with 19, even though Sweden did not medal in the tournament.

Grundström may spend some time this season in the SuperElit league, playing with MODO’s J20 team, but Grundström is one of Sweden’s top prospects available at this year’s draft.

Carl Grundstrom

USAH NTDP Logo27.) Chad Krys – Defense – United States National Team’s Developmental Program (USHL)

Height: 5′ 11″

Weight: 183 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: United States

Birthday: 4/10/1998

Krys is quickly developing into one of the top offensive defenders in the 2016 NHL Draft.

Krys can move the puck very well, and is a player who loves to join the rush and contribute in the offensive zone. He is also very sensible when it comes to positioning, where he does not put himself out of position too much, and when he joins the rush, he quickly back checks to get back into defensive position when the play comes back the other way.

So far in three games with the U.S. National Team in the USHL, Krys has four assists, while he has a goal and seven assists in 12 games with the U-18 National Team in the U.S. Developmental Program.

Krys needs to develop his shot a bit more, but he is definitely a set-up man along the point, which will pay its dividends.

Krys will continue to grow his game with the U.S. Developmental program, and is expected to join the Boston University Terriers for the 2016-17 season.

Chad Krys

Färjestads_BK_Logo.svg28.) Rasmus Asplund – Center – Farjestad BK (SHL)

Height: 5′ 11″

Weight: 176 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Sweden

Birthday: 12/3/1997

Another young 17-year old kid playing in the SHL with Farjestad BK.

Asplund has scored two goals and has an assist in 16 games this season in Farjestad, while staying out of the penalty box. Asplund has already matched his totals last year in his rookie season in the SHL.

Where Asplund excels in his game is his skating and speed. Asplund is also good at handling the puck on the fly, and has a nice, strong shot on goal.

Like fellow countrymen, Alexander Nylander and Carl Grundström, Asplund also represented his home country at the IIHF U-18 World Championships, where he posted two goals and added three assists while throwing 12 shots on goal in five games.

Asplund just needs to bulk up and improve his all around game, and he could climb the rankings as well.

Ishockey, SHL, Färjestad - Örebro

Steelheads logo29.) Sean Day – Defense – Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

Height: 6′ 3″

Weight: 240 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 1/9/1998

Day is one of the more intriguing prospects this season, as he is a tank on the blue-line for the Steelheads.

He was granted exceptional status as a 15-year old, but has not put up the production that he was, at first, expected to put up. Day has a booming shot, can move the puck, and is a physical force on the ice, but is not the best of a skater. Many scouts have noticed that Day has had issues with his mental game, and his work ethic has been lack luster.

So far this season, Day has put up three goals and six assists in 17 games with the Steelheads. Day has put up 19 career goals and 42 assists in his 138 career games with Mississauga.

While Day was an early bloomer, there is still more to be desired from the 17-year old. Day has dropped significantly in his rankings, and needs to find some way to rebound his game. If not, Day’s stock will continue to fall.

Sean Day of the Mississauga Steelheads. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Moose_Jaw_Warriors_logo.svg30.) Brett Howden – Center – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)

Height: 6′ 3″

Weight: 190 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 3/28/1998

The younger brother of Florida Panthers forward, Quinton Howden, Brett Howden could follow in his brother’s footsteps.

Like his brother, Howden is a big two-way froward who can play physical, but yet produce on offense. Brett is just as big as his brother, and may be bigger than Quinton later down the road.

So far this season with the Moose Jaw Warriors in the WHL, Howden has eight goals and nine assists in 16 games.

Brett is good at taking the puck hard to the net and playing a physical game in front of the net. His game is centered on being up-close to the net and cashing in on loose pucks.

There is room for Howden’s game to grow, and his rankings could also rise as the season goes on. Brett will hope to go in the first round, just like his brother did in 2010.

Brett Howden

Honorable Mentions:

  1. Clayton Keller – Center – United States National Team’s Developmental Program (USHL)
  2. Dillon Dubé – Center – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
  3. Simon Stransky – Left Wing – Pronce Albert Raiders (WHL)
  4. Luke Kirwin – Center – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
  5. Samuel Girard – Defense – Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
  6. Ryan Lindgren – Defense – United States National Team’s Developmental Program (USHL)
  7. J.D. Greenway – Defense – United States National Team’s Developmental Program (USHL)
  8. Evan Fitzpatrick – Goalie – Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)

Keep it locked to Better Live Than Dead for all the latest from around the NHL.

Written by Brayton Wilson

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