Every year, Brad McPherson is kind enough to pass along his top 30. As with speeds, spOILer and others from the distant past of hfboards, Blue Bullet’s top 30s are an exceptional guide, a worthwhile read and a treat for fans of the draft.
1 YAKUPOV, NAIL SARNIA OHL 5′ 10.5″ 189 RW 42GP-31G-38A-69P-30PIM
Every year I look for the most dynamic game changing player to rank as my number 1 player and with this year it is Nail Yakupov. The difference with this year than the last few years is that Yakupov, while he does have star potential, may not be a franchise player you build your team around. What he does bring to the table is being not only a good sniper with great speed and a heavy shot but also underrated playmaking skills. Yakupov is also not afraid of the dirty areas and has some of that fearlessness similar to Taylor Hall that makes him a great player but can also bring about injuries.
Top line goal scoring winger
2 DUMBA, MATHEW RED DEER WHL 5′ 11.75″ 173 D 69GP-20G-37A-57P-67PIM
Dumba is the kind of player that wants to be a difference maker every time he is on the ice. He is a riverboat gambler of a d-man that loves going for the big hit which he will need to learn to reign in as it sometimes does cost him. Dumba is a strong powerplay d-man with a bomb of a shot as he displayed leading the U-18 tournament in scoring which is extremely rare for a d-man. How you view Dumba and his potential at the pro level all depends on how much you think his size will affect his ability to play his style.
Top pairing two-way d-man
3 MURRAY, RYAN EVERETT WHL 6′ 0.5″ 195 D 46GP-9G-22A-31P-31PIM
In terms of defensive play Murray is the top d-man in this year’s draft class. He is a very mature player for his age and physically developed where he may be able to step into the NHL at 18 years of age which is rare for a d-man. For Murray his puck moving ability, smarts and positioning really stand out in his game and if he was a more dynamic offensive player he would be the #1 pick in the draft. While he may not be a dynamic enough player to be a true #1 cornerstone d-man, Murray could turn out to be a great top pairing d-man and a poor man’s Lidstrom.
Top pairing shutdown d-man
4 FORSBERG, FILIP LEKSAND SWEDEN-2 6′ 2.0″ 181 W 43GP-8G-9A-17P-33PIM
Forsberg is the most complete forward in the draft and could go as high as #2 which would make it two years in a row for a Swede at the draft. Forsberg is a big strong forward who knows how to use his size very well down low. While he is still growing into his frame he is already very hard to knock off the puck and once he fills out he will be very tough to knock off the puck. Another, one of his biggest assets is his hard shot and his ability to find open space to use it. My main question when it comes to Forsberg is how much offensive upside he has and whether he is a true first line winger or more of a 2nd liner.
Complete player with power forward game
5 RIELLY, MORGAN MOOSE JAW WHL 5′ 11.5″ 190 D 18GP-3G-15A-18GP-2PIM
If he wasn’t injured for most of the year Reilly might be my #2 over Matt Dumba but it’s always tough for scouts to judge players at this age to begin with never mind with limited viewings. In terms of puck handling ability and skating Reilly is the best of all the d-men in this year’s draft class. He is a dynamic offensive d-man that has the potential to be a top pairing d-man. You wish he had a little more size and a little more physical game for play in his own zone.
Top pairing offensive d-man
6 GALCHENYUK, ALEX SARNIA OHL 6′ 0.5″ 198 C 2GP-0G-0A-0P-0PIM
Alex Galchenyuk is a player I could be regretting placing 6th on my list when I look at back at my rankings but he has been a tough player to get a read on due to virtually no playing time this year due to injury. What we can be certain of is Galchenyuk is a very good athlete who worked his way back early to return for the playoffs. One concern like any duo like Yakupov and Galchenyuk is who benefits more from playing with each other like past duos such as Kane-Gagner. For me Galchenyuk looks to be a safe pick as he looks like he could develop into a strong two-way center even his offensive upside stagnates.
Two-way first line center
7 GRIGORENKO, MIKHAIL QUEBEC QMJHL 6′ 3.0″ 200 C 59GP-40G-45A-85P-12PIM
In terms of talent, Grigorenko is right up there with Yakupov but he doesn’t bring the same type of consistency game to game as Yakupov. However, he is the big skilled strong center that every team wants and if his consistency improves Grigorenko could be a true 1st line center at the NHL level. However, Grigorenko will need to improve his effort level when the puck is not on his stick because if he does not he will be infuriate coaches at the pro level. One thing to consider is the effects mono had on him late into the season and the playoffs in terms of his production.
First line offensive center with size
8 TERAVAINEN, TEUVO JOKERIT FINLAND 5′ 11.0″ 165 LW 40GP-11G-7A-18P-6PIM
The biggest riser last year in my draft rankings was Jonathan Huberdeau, who jumped to being a top 5 pick by the end of the year. With this year’s draft Teravainen was the biggest riser in the first round and eventually cracked my top 10. A very skilled puck wizard, Teravainen has the speed and skill to be a top line winger at the pro level. However, much of that is dependent on how his game translates to the NHL level and how well he is able to handle the size of NHL d-man as he plays more of a slippery perimeter game.
Small talented first line winger
9 TROUBA, JACOB USA U-18 USHL 6′ 2.0″ 193 D 54GP-9G-23A-32P-71PIM
Trouba is the kind of d-man that any team would love to have as he is a great skater for his size and plays a physical brand of hockey. While he is a more of a defensive d-man I do think Trouba has some decent offensive skills that go underrated. While Reinhart and Trouba have a similar upside, Trouba is the more polished physical d-man at this point in time. While Trouba isn’t a corner stone d-man he has all the tools to be a top pairing shutdown d-man.
#2 d-man with shutdown ability
10 REINHART, GRIFFIN EDMONTON WHL 6′ 3.75″ 197 D 58GP-12G-24A-36P-38PIM
Like Trouba, I don’t believe Reinhart is a cornerstone d-man but is a very solid reliable d-man similar to what his father provided with the Flames back in the day. Reinhart is a jack of all trades d-man with a very big frame that you can put out in any situation. While he does use his size well, using his long reach for containment purposes, Reinhart could be more active in the physical game. However, as the season wore on and the games got tougher in the playoffs, Reinhart stepped up this side of the game which is a good sign.
#2-3 all-around d-man
11 CECI, CODY OTTAWA OHL 6′ 2.5″ 207 D 64GP-17G-43A-60P-14PIM
Cody Ceci is an offensive d-man in a large frame that put up almost a PPG pace in the OHL this season. Ceci is a very strong PP quarterback for Ottawa and has a strong shot from the point that he like to use. One area you would like to see improve is Ceci’s physical game especially for a player of his size as he uses more his positioning and reach when defending in his own zone. He already has the offensive upside and with the right development he has similar upside to what were currently seeing in Oiler d-man Jeff Petry.
#2-3 two-way d-man
12 FAKSA, RADEK KITCHENER OHL 6′ 2.5″ 203 C 62GP-29G-38A-67P-47PIM
The best Czech player in this years draft is North American import Radek Faksa. Faksa already plays a North American power forward game using his 6’3 frame to his advantage as he is a strong player along the wall. Faksa is also a hard working character forward who can be used in all situations and is also one of the safest picks in the draft as even if his offensive does not translate to the pro level he has the tools and character to be a very good role player.
Top 6 big power forward
13 MAATTA, OLLI LONDON OHL 6′ 1.5″ 202 D 58GP-5G-27A-32P-25PIM
Like Reinhart, having a long playoff run really helped the stock of London d-man Olli Maatta. He is the definition of a safe steady reliable d-man and is a coach’s dream. While not the most physical d-man for his size he is similar to Ryan Murray in his own zone as they both use their smarts and positioning to shut down the opposing forwards. In the playoffs, Maatta was able to show more of his offensive game that he did not demonstrate during the regular season.
Steady reliable top 4 d-man
14 LINDHOLM, HAMPUS ROGLE JR. SWE-JR. 6′ 2.5″ 196 D 28GP-5G-12A-17P-16PIM
Lindholm was one of my late draft risers, who worked his way into my top 15 because of his strong play at the end of year in the promotion-round games and into the international tournaments. Through the course of the year he was one of the most improved players in the draft as his offensive game really developed. While the consistency in his defensive game still needs refining, he has all the tools to develop into a strong two-way d-man with size.
2nd pairing two-way d-man
15 GIRGENSONS, ZEMGUS DUBUQUE USHL 6′ 1.5″ 198 C 49GP-24G-31A-55P-69PIM
Girgensons is a Latvian born player who is a strong two-way center with good size. He is a fairly safe pick as he is the type of player that has a lot of intangibles to his game as well as a good work ethic and is willing to do all the little things necessary to win. The question with Girgunsens is does he have the natural scoring ability to be a 2nd line center at the pro level. If not he could at least be a very valuable 3rd line checking center.
Two way 2nd line center with size
16 ABERG, PONTUS DJURGARDEN SWEDEN 5′ 11.0″ 194 LW 47GP-8G-7A-15P-6PIM
Out of all the Swedes in this year’s draft, Pontus Aberg had the best season out of them in terms of play at the pro level. A stocky, smaller player Aberg uses his great speed and skilled hands off the wing to produce his offence and has the upside to be a very good 2nd line winger. While not the biggest guy he isn’t afraid of taking the puck to traffic and is not a perimeter player. Aberg is a player that I believe is getting underrated as many rankings have him outside their top 20.
Scoring 2nd line winger
17 VASILEVSKI, ANDREI UFA 2 RUSSIA-JR. 6′ 3.25″ 204 G
Goalie is the toughest position to judge when doing draft rankings but that did not stop me from having 3 in my top 30 this year. Vasilevski is my #1 of the 3 as he is the best combination of being a very athletic goalie to go along with great size. He jumped on to the scene this year at the World Juniors where he had an incredible .953 SV% and showed he can compete against the best players his age. He is a very composed goaltender who plays with a lot of confidence in net. Probably the weakest area in his game is his puck handling skills and is the type of goalie you rather see stay in his net.
#1 starting goalie
18 COLLBERG, SEBASTIAN FROLUNDA SWEDEN 5′ 11.0″ 176 RW 41GP-0G-0A-0P-0PIM
If you based Collberg’s play this season based purely on his SEL season you would wonder why I had him in my top 20 as he had zero points. However, when looking at European players you must consider there playing time and in Collberg’s case it was very minimal in the SEL. Where he has shown the most this year was at the international tournaments when he was playing against players his own age. While a smaller player, Collberg is very skilled with the puck and is a slippery player who knows how to find himself in the scoring areas.
2nd line scoring forward
19 GAUNCE, BRENDAN BELLEVILLE OHL 6′ 2.0″ 215 C 68GP-28G-40A-68P-68PIM
Guance is one of the most physically developed players in the draft and could be one of the first players from the draft class to make the jump to the pros. A big power forward center, Guance is the type of center all teams covet. Like Girgensons ,who I have rated a little above Guance, he is a player that will be very useful as a 3rd line checking center if his offensive game does not translate to the pros. Whether he end up in a top 6 role will most likely depend on how well Guance improves the explosiveness in his skating which is his weakest area.
Two way 2nd line center with size
20 FINN, MATTHEW GUELPH OHL 6′ 0.25″ 192 D 61GP-10G-38A-48P-58PIM
Matt Finn is an all-around two-way d-man that plays with character and was already leader of the defense on his team despite his age. While not a first pairing d-man, Finn has the upside to be a strong 2nd pairing d-man that can play both on the PP and the PK. The biggest item that would hold Finn back is that he is only 6’ which is slightly undersized for a d-man. However as Oilers fans have seen, with a d-man like Steve Staios, that having character and leadership qualities and the desire to win can make up for it.
Two-way 2nd pairing d-man
21 POULIOT, DERRICK PORTLAND WHL 5′ 11.25″ 190 D 72GP-11G-48A-59P-79PIM
One of the players in the draft that people seem to be split on is Pouliot as some see a strong offensive d-man with top pairing potential while people like me are more of the opinion that he is a 2nd pairing d-man that can also quarterback a 2nd pp unit. He is a smaller smooth skating d-man that loves to carry the puck up ice though sometimes he can try to do too much at times. Since Pouliot is not the biggest d-man he will need to rely on his positioning in his own zone to be an effective defender in the pros.
2nd pairing offensive d-man
22 KOEKKOEK, SLATER PETERBOROUGH OHL 6′ 2.0″ 184 D 26GP-5G-13A-18P-17PIM
Koekkoek is another in a long list of players in this draft to miss the most of the year due to injury. For a player like Koekkoek it has seen his stock slowly drop over the year as scouts were not able to see how his development progressed. In the meantime players like Lindholm leapfrogged over him in the rankings. The thing we do know is that Koekkoek skates very well for a d-man of his size and has some underrated offensive potential and has the potential to develop into a 2nd pairing two-way d-man.
2nd pairing two-way d-man
23 BYSTROM, LUDWIG MODO JR. SWE-JR. 6′ 0.75″ 208 D 34GP-7G-22A-29P-101PIM
Bystrom is a safe steady jack of all trades d-man from Sweden that is good at everything but not great at any one skill. What Bystrom receives the most praise for is his composure under pressure which is an important skillset at the pro level where there is less time for decision-making. Where he will need to improve upon to make the jump to the next level is his strength which is below average for his 6’1 frame.
2nd pairing two-way d-man
24 WILSON, THOMAS PLYMOUTH OHL 6′ 3.5″ 203 RW 49GP-9G-18A-27P-141PIM
Ever since Milan Lucic exploded on the scene everybody is looking for the next Lucic and in this year’s draft it is Tom Wilson. While Wilson will likely never have the hands to put up the numbers that Lucic did he may have some untapped offensive potential as he showed off in the playoffs this year. In terms of physical play there is no better player in the draft this year as Wilson is always initiating contact whenever he can. He also has no problem backing up his physical play and is no slouch when the gloves come off.
Physical 3rd line character player
25 HERTL, TOMAS SLAVIA CZREP 6′ 2.0″ 198 C 38GP-12G-13A-25P-22PIM
Tomas Hertl would likely be a top 15 pick, like fellow countrymen Radek Faksa, if it wasn’t for his skating which will need to improve if he wants to make the jump to the next level. While Faksa is a safe bet to make the pros, Hertl is more of a higher risk/reward player. While he has the size and soft hands needed to be a top 6 scoring forward at the NHL level, if his skating holds him back it’s questionable whether he will be able adjust to being a role player as his defensive game needs a bit of work.
2nd line scoring winger with size
26 SUBBAN, MALCOLM BELLEVILLE OHL 6′ 1.0″ 188 G
Malcom Subban, the younger brother of Montreal Canadiens PK Subban is an extremely athletic butterfly goalie. While not as big as you would like in today’s goaltenders Subban makes up for that with his quick legs and amazing reflexes. However, he has only been playing net since he was 12 so he still has a long ways to go with the other areas such as staying calmer in net, rebound control and working on his glove hand. If he can get the technical side of the position down he will be a star goalie but that’s the big question mark.
Starting goalie with star potential or career backup
27 THROWER, DALTON SASKATOON WHL 5′ 11.5″ 189 D 66GP-18G-36A-54P-103PIM
Dalton Thrower is the type of d-man that you wish was 3-4 inches taller because we would be talking about a top 12 pick rather than a late first rounder. A small but stocky physical defender, Thrower is a competitive warrior of a d-man that will do anything to help his team win. While he is effective at the junior level there are concerns on whether his style of physical play will translate to the pro level when the players get bigger.
2nd pairing two-way defender
28 KERDILES, NICOLAS USA U-18 USHL 6′ 1.5″ 201 LW 54GP-22G-26A-48P-38PIM
In terms of talent Kerdiles should be a top 20 pick for this year’s draft but issues with consistency has dropped him to being a late 1st round pick. Despite the consistency issues, he was the leading scorer for the US development team and for the USA gold medal U-18 team so he can turn on the offensive when he wants. What Kerdiles does have is the shot, skating and size to be a goal producer at the pros and a top 6 forward. He also is a higher risk/reward player because if he doesn’t improve his consistency and work ethic he will have trouble cracking a NHL roster.
2nd line scoring forward
29 SKJEI, BRADY USA U-18 USHL 6′ 2.75″ 200 D 60GP-4G-19A-23P-36PIM
Skjei is another big smooth skating d-man from the US development team like his teammate Jacob Trouba. The difference between the two of them is that Trouba is further along in his development and is a much more polished d-man while Skjei is more of a project at this time. While his skating and size are above average, the rest of Skjei’s game like hockey sense and pucks skills are just average. For him to be successful at the next level Skjei will likely have to develop into more of a defensive d-man.
#2nd pairing smooth skating defensive d-man
30 DANSK, OSCAR BRYNAS JR. SWE-JR. 6′ 2.5″ 186 G
Oscar Dansk is a big Swedish butterfly goalie that has a good combination of athletic ability and technique. He has already played in North America playing prep school at Shattuck-St. Mary’s and will likely be coming over to the CHL next year so he is ahead of the curve for European goalies when it comes to learning the North American game and learning the angles. He is a very tough goalie to beat down low with his long legs and is well composed in net. One area that he will need to work on if he wants to be a starter in the NHL is improving his rebound control.
Starting goalie with size but lacks star potential
31 SAMUELSSON, HENRIK EDMONTON WHL 6′ 2.25″ 211 C/RW 28GP-7G-16A-23P-42PIM
32 SLEPYSHEV, ANTON NOVOKUZNETSK RUSSIA 6′ 2.0″ 187 LW 39GP-4G-3A-7P-2PIM
33 MATTEAU, STEFAN USA U-18 USHL 6′ 1.5″ 210 C/LW 46GP-15G-17A-32P-166PIM
34 JANKOWSKI, MARK STANSTEAD HIGH-QC 6′ 2.5″ 170 C 57GP-53G-40A-93P-54PIM
35 SCHMALTZ, JORDAN GREEN BAY USHL 6′ 2.0″ 185 D 48GP-9G-23A-32P-27PIM
36 LAUGHTON, SCOTT OSHAWA OHL 6′ 0.25″ 180 C 64GP-21G-32A-53P-101PIM
37 MATHESON, MICHAEL DUBUQUE USHL 6′ 1.0″ 178 D 47GP-9G-13A-22P-78PIM
38 SEVERSON, DAMON KELOWNA WHL 6′ 1.5″ 193 D 56GP-7G-30A-37P-80PIM
39 POKKA, VILLE KARPAT FINLAND 6′ 0.0″ 196 D 33GP-0G-3A-3P-12PIM
40 BOZON, TIM KAMLOOPS WHL 6′ 0.25″ 175 LW 71GP-36G-35A-71P-40PIM
41 DI GIUSEPPE, PHILLIP MICHIGAN CCHA 5′ 11.5″ 176 LW 40GP-11G-15A-26P-18PIM
42 PELECH, ADAM ERIE OHL 6′ 2.0″ 194 D 44GP-2G-18A-20P-52PIM
43 PROKHORKIN, NIKOLAY CSKA 2 RUSSIA-JR. 6′ 2.5″ 191 LW 15GP-9G-17A-26P-47PIM
44 PEARSON, TANNER BARRIE OHL 6′ 0.0″ 195 LW 60GP-37G-54A-91P-37PIM
45 KOSMACHUK, SCOTT GUELPH OHL 5′ 11.5″ 183 RW 67GP-30G-29A-59P-108PIM
46 SISSONS, COLTON KELOWNA WHL 6′ 0.5″ 187 C/RW 58GP-26G-15A-41P-62PIM
47 MAIDENS, JARROD OWEN SOUND OHL 6′ 0.5″ 178 C/LW 28GP-12G-11A-23P-4PIM
48 SIELOFF, PATRICK USA U-18 USHL 6′ 0.0″ 198 D 60GP-3G-7A-10P-113PIM
49 VAIL, BRADY WINDSOR OHL 6′ 0.25″ 195 LW 68GP-22G-30A-52P-55PIM
50 WINTHER, MIKE PRINCE ALBERT WHL 5′ 11.75″ 170 C 71GP-32G-24A-56P-59PIM
51 SUTTER, LUKAS SASKATOON WHL 5′ 11.75″ 214 C 70GP-28G-31A-59P-165PIM
52 ZHARKOV, DANIIL BELLEVILLE OHL 6′ 3.0″ 202 LW 50GP-23G-13A-36P-25PIM
53 MCCABE, JAKE U. OF WISCONSIN WCHA 6′ 0.0″ 195 D 26GP-3G-9A-12P-12PIM
54 FRK, MARTIN HALIFAX QMJHL 5′ 11.75″ 200 RW 34GP-16G-13A-29P-41PIM
55 FOX, DANE ERIE OHL 6′ 0.0″ 185 C 62GP-23G-31A-54P-87PIM
56 HART, BRIAN EXETER HIGH-NH 6′ 2.0″ 216 W 27GP-29G-27A-56P
57 NIEVES, CRISTOVAL KENT SCHOOL HIGH-CT 6′ 2.75″ 184 C 26GP-7G-32A-39P
58 MURRAY, MATTHEW SAULT STE. MARIE OHL 6′ 4.0″ 169 G
59 HYKA, TOMAS GATINEAU QMJHL 5′ 10.5″ 164 RW 50GP-20G-44A-64P-30PIM
60 ANDERSSON, CALLE FARJESTAD JR SWE-JR 6′ 2.25″ 208 D 49GP-12G-24A-36P-56PIM