2016 NHL Draft Rankings: Tom’s Final List

By Tom Hunter (@PuckDontLie)

For those of us who spend all season following the CHL, the month leading up to the NHL draft is among the most fun time of year. The season is over, the World Junior inflation is well past, and we now get to see how the draft prospects compare to each other with a full body of work behind them.

The hot takes will still be plentiful as someone will inevitably overvalue an extra half inch at the combine but any rankings now will be likely to limit recency bias and take a look at a prospect’s true value in relation to his peers.

I have been releasing my list each month since September. This time I will give more that just a list, I will do my best to explain why I have players ranked where I do. I won’t break down every prospect – that will come in a couple weeks with out Bloggers’ Tribune Final Consolidated Rankings –  but I will do my best to explain why I feel come might be higher or lower than expected and how they compare to the other prospects around them.

My Top-30

  1. Auston Matthews – C

He is simply the best prospect in the draft. He’s strong, fast, smart and the type of franchise center that any team would want to build around.

  1. Jesse Puljujarvi – F
  2. Patrick Laine – W

It didn’t take me long eh? Already a take that is sure to have many shaking their heads. I didn’t have the guts to put Jesse Puljujarvi at number two a month ago and I regret it.

Long before Auston Matthews became the consensus top prospect in the draft,l Puljujarvi was the one being talked about in the scouting world – and for good reason. He has the type of raw skill that if harnessed properly, could end up creating an NHL superstar.

Don’t get me wrong, Laine is a tremendous talent and could end up being of the the best pure snipers in the NHL but for me, Puljujarvi’s game is one that has a far more broad impact on the game.

Laine has the headlines, he was great in his league playoffs and impressed onlookers riding shotgun to Sasha Barkov at the World Championship. We keep hearing that Laine’s ascent up draft boards started at the World Juniors, but the confusing part about this is that he was outplayed by Puljujarvi in the tournament. The line of Puljujarvi-Aho-Laine was dominant and the reason Finland won the gold but it was Puljujarvi – not Laine – that drove the 5 on 5 offense for the group.

Puljujarvi also plays a game that many scouts believe allows the potential for him to be moved to center if need be. This versatility might be the single biggest factor as to why I believe Puljujarvi could end up being the better pick.

  1. Pierre-Luc Dubois – F
  2. Matthew Tkachuk – W

I had been bearish in these two prospect all season long. The two of them are guys that I just couldn’t get behind – Dubois because I hadn’t watch enough of him and Tkachuk because he left a sour taste in my mouth with two bad performances when I saw him in person early in the season.

That said, I have been trying to take my bias out of the conversation when it comes to both.  The more I watch of Dubios, the more I think he can be a dominant power winger in the NHL. A poor-man’s Jamie Benn? He’s powerful, fast and has the ability to do dive the play to create his own scoring chances.

Tkachuk is a guy I just kept watching and he just kept chipping away at my bias. Through the OHL playoff and Memorial Cup, he proved to everyone that he wasn’t being carried by his elite linemates. He is definitely a step down from the top-4 forwards in the draft and if he’s your top player you’re going to be in trouble but as a second or third option on an NHL team he could thrive.

  1. Jakob Chychrun – D
  2. Olli Juolevi – D

These two defenders are without a doubt the top two blue line prospects in the draft. I feel that there may be a higher ceiling for Juolevi but he is still very raw and Chychrun is far more developed and more of a sure thing to make an impact in the NHL. This season Chychrun logged big minutes playing in every situation for Sarnia while Juolevi was sheltered many nights in London. Some believe that Juolevi would have thrived with a bigger role but we simply didn’t see it.

One thing that has scouts hesitant to make Chychrun the first defender off the board at the draft is the status of his shoulders. The young prospect has had shoulder injuries in the past and there is a worry from some that it is something that could have an impact on his durability in the NHL.

  1. Clayton Keller – C
  2. Michael McLeod – C
  3. Alex Nylander – W
  4. Tyson Jost – F
  5. Logan Brown – C

Now comes the fun stuff. The top-7 on my list represent the first few tiers of talent in this year’s draft. After Juolevi there are a large group of players that are hard to rank in that there is very little separating their value in my eyes. The five forwards listed above are a group that could easily be interchangeable depending on a given analyst.

In Keller, Jost and Brown you have three players that did nothing but help their draft stock at the World U18 Tournament in April. Keller is the guy that stood out for me. He was a dominant playmaker for the US and showed the hands and vision you expect from a top-6 center in the NHL.

  1. Charlie McAvoy – D
  2. Mikhail Sergachyov – D

McAvoy is becoming the lost man in this year’s first round defense group. He’s not overly big, he’s not overly flashy, but he just finished a season at Boston University that you rarely see from a defender – let alone a freshman. I have him ahead of Sergachyov because I believe he is the safer bet. Sergachyov has the physical tools to be a top pairing defender but through his rookie season in the OHL, he hasn’t shown the mentality for it. He make a lot of mistakes and looks a little disjointed too frequently for my liking. Some will tell you he’s the best blue line prospect in the draft, but his game is going to have to catch up to his physical tools in order for that to happen.

  1.  Max Jones – W

Here’s the thing about Max Jones, some smart team is going to trade into the 17-23 range to draft him and laugh about it in a few years. His production was stunted a little by his role on a stacked Knights team, but keep this prediction in mind; he will outscore Matthew Tkachuk in 2016-17.

  1. Luke Kunin – W

Simply put, Luke Kunin is what many people think Alex DeBrincat is.

  1. Jake Bean – D
  2. Dante Fabbro – D

Bean And Fabbro represent the next tier of defenders in the draft. I give Bean the slight edge due to his season in the WHL, that said, Fabbro proved he can still dominate against better competition with his performance at the U18 tournament.

  1. Julien Gauthier – W
  2. Kieffer Bellows – F
  3. Brett Howden – F
  4. Will Bitten – F

This group of forwards falls into the category of ‘nice secondary prospects’. They all have a lot of talent but in a stronger draft year would likely be a lot further down on the list. Gauthier has the size and speed to be a scout’s dream but the fear is that he is too much of a solo talent. Bellows and Howden are guys that could project to be middle-6 forwards and solid if not spectacular prospects.

Bitten is the one to keep an eye on. He’s a higher risk than some in the first round but he has some incredible offensive talent that was stunted by a bad situation in Flint. If he can find his way to a different OHL team for next season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bitten near the top of the league’s scoring list.

  1. German Rubstov – C
  2. Tyler Benson – F

Benson could have been a top-10 talent if healthy. He’s now fallen out of the first round for many scouts on the back of injury questions. When he played this year, his skating was drastically different. He blamed the skating issues on his injury and if he is truly back to his old self, he will end up being the steal of the draft. The problem is, no one knows which Tyler Benson you’ll be getting.

  1. Kale Clague – D
  2. Boris Katchouk – W

Clague and Katchouk are two guys that I am higher on than most. They haven’t always made my lists this season due in part to my own fear of hot takes. Clague, has the type of puck skill from the back end that have become necessary in today’s NHL. He’s almost like a Jake Gardiner type that is incredibly talented with the puck but will have old school scouts and fans complaining about his ‘defensive ability’.

  1. Carter Hart – G

Hart is far and away the best goalie in the draft and he has the potential to be the best to come out of the CHL in the past few years. Someone will take him at the end of the first round and he will instantly become their ‘goaltender of the future’

  1. Pascal Laberge – F
  2. Jordan Kyrou – F
  3. Vitali Abramov – F

These final three are all guys who have a lot of raw potential and will need time to develop, but with patience could be very solid complimentary NHLers. Abramov has the offensive flair that will play at the pro level assuming he gets strong enough and works on his play without the puck. The other two – in particular Kyrou – are guys that have a long way to go but have shown the skill is there, now they need to show the aptitude to harass it properly.

In all honesty, after Hart there is a jumble of about a dozen players that could go anywhere from the late first to the mid-second round. This year more than most has a huge amount of parity after the top handful of picks. AS a result of the parity, we are bound to see some drastically different draft boards and what might look like a reach to some teams might be viewed as a steal for others.

Here is a look at the rest of my top-60:

  1. Steel – F
  2. Grundstrom – F
  3. Dube – F
  4. Mascherin – F
  5. Asplund – F
  6. Bastian – F
  7. Mete – D
  8. Dahlen – F
  9. Fox – D
  10. DeBrincat – F
  11. Cholowski – D
  12. Niemelainen – D
  13. Krys – D
  14. Day – D
  15. Dineen – D
  16. Sokolov – F
  17. Thompson – F
  18. Girard – D
  19. Tufte – F
  20. Sambrook – D
  21. Lindberg – D
  22. Gregor – F
  23. Fitzpatrick – G
  24. Raddysh – F
  25. Stanley – D
  26. Johansen – D
  27. Gleason – D
  28. Hajek – D
  29. Smith – F
  30. Stransky – F

Don’t forget to take a look at Jon’s Top-120 list (showoff) here



  1. I am surprised Cliff Pu isn’t rated as a low first rounder or high second rnd selection. He played behind Dvorak whick hurt his pt totals but will be the number one guy next year and will really blossam. I think who ever gets this guy won’t be sorry.


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