2017 NHL Entry Draft Profile: Don’t be dumb, just draft Kailer Yamamoto

By Tom Hunter (@PuckDontLie)

It’s as if hockey scouts have learned nothing from Tyler Johnson, Johnny Gaudreau and Viktor Arvidsson. As much as we’d like to believe that NHL teams have moved past the size bias that often dominates the draft – the evidence would suggest otherwise. Johnson went undrafted, Arvidsson and Gaudreau were selected in the fourth round – all have led their NHL team in scoring at least once in the past three seasons.

“But scouts are learning” – are they? Ten months ago, one of the most prolific goal scorers in junior hockey history wasn’t drafted until the second round. Alex DeBrincat fell to Chicago at 39th overall for one reason – he’s 5’7.

That brings us to Kailer Yamamoto.

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2017 NHL Entry Draft Profile: Conor Timmins

By Tom Hunter (@PuckDontLie)

One thing that seems to always be in demand in the NHL is a reliable right-shot defender.  With that in mind, let me introduce you to Conor Timmins of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

Had he been born three days earlier, Timmins would have been a sixth or seventh round pick in last June’s draft – this year, he’s likely to be selected in the top-45 with an outside chance of climbing into the late first round.

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2017 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game Preview

This year’s CHL/NHL Top Prospects game will be played at the Centre Vidéotron in Quebec City. Once again the top prospects playing in the CHL from this year’s NHL Draft class have been split between Team Cherry and Team Orr. The top two prospects – Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier – will act as captains as both look to prove they are worth of the #1 selection in June.

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CHL Top Prospects Game Preview: The OHLers on Team Cherry

By Tom Hunter (@PuckDontLie)

Everyone knows the OHL is the best junior hockey league on the planet – that’s just a fact – and as such there are far too many players from Ontario in the Top Prospects game for just one post. Earlier I took a look at the players that will be competing for Team Orr Monday night – now here are the rest.

chl-prospects-gm-ohl-1(Thanks to 307x for the chart, give him a follow for great junior hockey analysis)

Team Cherry

Owen Tippett – Mississauga Steelheads (RW) – Consensus Ranking: 7

Owen Tippett scores – it’s just what he does. The 17-year old winger has 36 goals in only 45 games this season, which is good enough for second in the OHL behind only Alex DeBrincat. Just yesterday I was talking to someone who said Tippett reminded him of Jeff Skinner when he was playing in Kitchener. This is a very good comparison. Tippett is Jeff Skinner – if Jeff Skinner were four inches taller and was a right handed shot. That’s a scary thought.

I think Tippett is the best OHLer in this year’s draft and I have a more in-depth scouting report on him from earlier in the season here.

 

Nick Suzuki – Owen Sound Attack (C) – Consensus Ranking: 26

The Owen Sound Attack have been a huge surprise this season and the main reasons for that are goalie Michael McNiven and breakout star Nick Suzuki.

The 17-year old centerman scored 20 goals in his rookie season after being taken 14th overall in the OHL draft. Despite this, he was still being overlooked by many going into the season – probably because he plays in Owen Sound.

Suzuki is an incredibly gifted offensive player and a guy who was looking like he’d be a sleeper pick when I wrote a scouting report about him earlier this season (here). He’s waking people up one game at a time and is going to look to open a few more eyes against the other top prospects.

 

Gabriel Vilardi – Windsor Spitfire (C) – Consensus Ranking: 5

Gabe Vilardi is being looked as by many as the top OHLer in this summer’s draft. He is big, younger than most in the draft class, and immensely talented.

Vilardi has been working through injuries that have cut down on his game action this season, but when he’s in the lineup he’s shown why many expect him to be a top-5 pick in the draft. He’s very smart player that knows when to create a scoring chance for himself and when to be a playmaker for his linemates.

Vilardi already knows how to use his big frame to shelter the puck, and as he grows up (he won’t be 18 until two months after the draft), his strength on the puck will turn from great to elite.

He’ll never be accused of being one of the better skaters in the league – he’s not overly fast and his stride is pretty ugly, but it’s not something that should hold him back. The potential is there to have a long, fluid stride – if a skating coach can work a few kinks out.

He looks like a very high-end #2 center at the NHL level right now, but it his skating improves, he’s got the talent to be a top-line offensive player down the road.

 

Ivan Lodnia – Erie Otters (RW) – Consensus Ranking: 33

Lodnia is the latest in the line of high powered offensive forwards to put on an Erie Otters jersey. One of the most talented players in his OHL draft class, Lodnia probably would have gone a lot higher than 20th overall if he had not been flirting with NCAA schools.

He does his best work with the puck on his stick. He’s creative in a way that you only see from a handful of players and in a way that helps to overcome his lack of strength. He has great stickhandling and one of the most accurate passes you’ll see. He doesn’t necessarily have elite speed but he is incredibly quick and agile, especially when moving laterally – kind of like Mitch Marner.

The biggest knock on Lodnia is his play without the puck. He’s been accused of giving up defensively and being unable to sustain his intensity through the whole shift. Consistency and drive  to succeed will be key to his development.

With 20 goals and 44 points through 45 games this season, Lodnia isn’t exactly filling up the score sheets – but with Strome, Raddysh and Debrincat moving on at the end of the season, we will likely see Lodnia demolish his career highs when given an expanded role. If he were to contend for an OHL scoring title one day, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

 

Robert Thomas – London Knights (C) – Consensus Ranking: 31

His game can be so smooth – sorry I couldn’t help myself.

The London Knights aren’t a team that usually gives much playing time to young players, so the fact that Thomas played 40 games as a rookie last season is a big accomplishment.

This year, Thomas has moved up into the middle-6 in London and is proving that he has the talent to be a key piece on a winning team. He has 42 points in 45 games and has shown the ability to move up and down in the lineup whenever needed to.

He works the middle of the ice well, using speed and strong puck-handling skills to create space for himself. He’s a playmaker first and is always looking to put his linemates in a position to succeed.

As the season has gone on, Thomas has started to move towards the late first round. A strong prospects game and a run towards the Memorial Cup could push him over the top.

 

Isaac Ratcliffe – Guelph Storm (LW) – Consensus Ranking: 28

When you’re this big (6’5, 200lbs) and you can skate as well as Isaac Ratcliffe can, you’re going to get the attention of NHL scouts. He’s very skilled for a guy his size and when he decides to use his physical gifts to his advantage, there’s no stopping him – the problem is that he doesn’t always use his size the way you’d expect.

He needs to get a lot more consistent when it comes to being aggressive and utilizing his size advantage. If he ever can, he’ll have the ability to be a high-end power forward in the NHL.

Ratcliffe has a very good top-speed and likes to go to the net hard with the puck. He’s got great hands down low and in front of the net – not unlike what we see from James van Riemsdyk.

He has 22 goals playing for a young – but still bad – team in Guelph.

Ratcliffe is finding his way into a number of top-31 rankings, and his blend of raw size and speed would make the ideal pick for a team drafting in the late first round that has the ability to be patient with him as a prospect.

 

Adam Ruzicka – Sarnia Sting (F) – Consensus Ranking: 46

Adam Ruzicka is a guy who has seen his stock drop significantly this season.  He’s struggled to find consistency as a rookie in the OHL – something that should be expected for a young kid playing his first season in North America.

Ruzicka is 6’4 but doesn’t play like it. He is a magician with the puck – some of the best puck handling skills in the OHL. He’s got the raw ability that scouts drool over, he just hasn’t come close to showing them on a regular basis. He’s a boom or bust prospect. A team will draft him thinking they’re the ones that can harness the potential and turn him into a star.

After a poor showing at the World Juniors, Ruzicka will be looking at the Top Prospects game as a chance to re-establish himself as a potential first round pick.

 

Mackenzie Entwistle – Hamilton Bulldogs (F) – Consensus Ranking: 50

Another very big kid, Mackenzie Entwistle stands 6-3 and has a frame that can easily mature into that of a big power forward at the pro level.

Entwistle plays a very solid all-around game and while he may not stand out, he does just about everything well. He’s a good skater and strong kid that contributes more to create chances than the score sheet might indicate. 

He is a very good forechecker that isn’t afraid to use his size. He plays with a physical edge in order to win battles down low and against the boards.

Though he only had 14 points as a rookie last season, Entwistle had a very strong end to his rookie campaign and followed it up with a very good performance at the Ivan Hlinka tournament – playing a 4th line role for Canada.

Entwistle is a guy who will be drafted in the middle rounds with the knowledge that he will play two more seasons of junior before we really know what potential he will have as a pro player. In all likelihood, he’ll be projected as a bottom-6 power forward and be developed as such.
 

Other Participants in the Top Prospects Game

QMJHL

WHL

OHLers on Team Orr

CHL Top Prospects Game Preview: The OHLers on Team Orr

By Tom Hunter (@PuckDontLie)

When it comes to the NHL Entry Draft, the past few years have been filled with high-end talent out of the OHL. While you won’t see the same type of star potential coming out of Ontario this season, there is a lot of talent – something that is evident by how OHL-heavy this year’s CHL Top Prospects game is.

Both Team Orr and Team Cherry will be filled by players from the OHL, many of which will hear their names called within the first two rounds of the draft in June.

chl-prospects-gm-ohl-1

(Thanks to 307x for the chart, give him a follow for great junior hockey analysis)

Team Orr

Matthew Strome – Hamilton Bulldogs (LW) – Consensus Ranking: 24

The youngest of the Strome brothers, Matthew is a power forward that plays a different style of game from his brothers. He plays a very physical game and uses his size to his advantage whenever possible – whether it be in front of the net or in the corners.

He doesn’t skate as well as his brothers and that is going to be the major issue for him as he tries to develop into an NHL player. He has average foot speed – at best – and will need to drastically improve in order to fit into the quick-paced game at the next level. That’s not to say he can’t – Dylan has improved his skating drastically since being drafted by Arizona so we shouldn’t bet against his younger brother doing the same.

Strome likes to play down low and work the cycle. He’s got a good shot and is pretty effective when setting up for the one-timer on the powerplay.

He is currently being rated as a late first-round draft pick, but his size and pedigree could lead to certain GMs valuing him a little higher. Monday night will be his chance to show just how his skating stands up against the best players in his draft class. If he can keep up, it could be a good sign for his draft stock.

 

Morgan Frost – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (C) – Consensus Ranking: 53

Frost is a highly intelligent center who shows great puck control and poise that helps to maximize his line’s scoring chances. Playing down in a deep Greyhounds lineup during his rookie season, he had only 27 points in 65 games. When given a bigger role this year, Frost has shown a much greater ability to contribute offensively.

He is a lot more effective than he is flashy. Frost won’t wow you with highlight real shifts, but more often than not, his name will be on the score sheet at the end of the game.

Frost is still very slight so playing center might be an issue for him going forward. He’s a good back checker, but when lining up against bigger players, it’s easy to see him getting overpowered in all three zones.

He’s the kind of player teams will draft in the late second or third round with the intention of stashing him in junior for a while before ever making any sort of judgment on what he is as a prospect.

 

Nate Schnarr – Guelph Strom – Consensus Ranking: 47

Schnarr is only in his rookie season with Guelph and has a long way to go in his hockey development. He is a big centerman who skates pretty well for being 6’3 and while he doesn’t look like a burner out there, Schnarr has a long, fluid stride that helps him get around the ice at above average speed.

He is well above average when it comes to puck skills and when you combine them with his ability to use his size to protect the puck, Schnarr becomes almost impossible to prevent from getting a scoring chance off the rush. He has a very good shot and should become a high-end goal scorer later in his junior career.

Schnarr’s biggest problems are his consistency and lack of awareness in his own end. Two things that will need to be improved upon.

 

Sasha Chmelevski – Ottawa 67’s (C) – Consensus Ranking: 32

The pride of Huntington Beach Caolifornia, Alexander Chmelevski is a very responsible two-way center that has tremendous work ethic in all three zones.

He has great speed and is very dangerous off the rush. Chmelevski has a tendency to make defenders look foolish when breaking in one-on-one. He’s got a very good shot and with 17 goals so far this season, he has shown this season that he is more than the playmaker some scouts thought he was.

He’ll need to get stronger but you can see that Chmelevski definitely has NHL talent. There’s a very good chance he can sneak into the first round of the draft.

 

Alex Forementon – London Knights (LW) – Consensus Ranking: 45

He plays on the London Knights so you know he’s good. Formenton is another OHL rookie that is looking to make a name for himself among the best prospect in the draft.

Born in mid-September, Formenton is going to be one of the youngest players in the draft – and he started the season playing like it. In his first months in the OHL, Formenton was playing down in the lineup and you could tell that he was spending most of his time just trying to get used to the caliber of junior hockey.

He is a very strong skater with an explosive first step. Formenton has good puck skills and the ability to maintain possession at top speed creating. H is an aggressive player that works well in the high traffic areas and will only get better as he grows.

Formenton has a ton of maturing to do physically. At less than 160lbs, he has a very thing 6’1 frame and he will need to find the balance between getting stronger while not losing his quickness as he gains weight.

He has moved up draft boards quickly and could end up as a very early second round pick – especially for a team that subscribes to the late birthday theory.

 

Nic Hague – Mississauga Steelheads (LD) – Consensus Ranking: 20

Hague is a huge defenseman with a cannon from the blue line. He moves well for a guy who is 6’6 and plays a two-way game that will have general managers drooling on draft day. If someone traded up to draft Logan Stanley at #18, it’s not hard to picture the same being done for Hague in the top-10.

I wrote a more in-depth scouting report on Hague here.

 

Conor Timmins – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (RD) – Consensus Ranking: 46

Timmins is a guy that is probably a little undervalued in this draft class. After putting up only 13 points in his rookie season, he has taken a huge leap forward this year with 38 points in his first 46 games.

In December, Hounds head coach Drew Bannister had glowing praise for Timmins: “He has been our most consistent defenseman since day 1 of the season. He’s been outstanding at times and very good at others. There have been very few nights when he hasn’t played well”

Consistency is always something that alludes young defenders, so it is a great sign that his head coach views Timmins in this way. He is a well-rounded defender that has taken a huge lead in his development due in large part to improved skating. He plays with a lot of intensity, which helps wins battles in his own end.

Timmins shows tremendous control and patience with the puck while the play develops, something that allows him to succeed as the quarterback of the top powerplay unit.

He likely won’t sneak into the first round – but maybe he should. Timmins is a guy that will end up being the top defensive prospect in an NHL organization very soon.

 

Markus Phillips – Owen Sound Attack (LD) – Consensus Ranking: 39

Phillips is another defenseman that has taken a big step in his development this season and is one of the key reasons why Owen Sound has been so good this year. After being named captain of Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament, Phillips leapt into this season showing he is ready to be seen as a top prospect.

He isn’t overly tall (5’11), but he’s a very strong and solid player who has very good mobility that allows him to close gaps and overcome a shorter reach.

Phillips is a very good all-around defenseman that can quarterback your second powerplay until while also being one of your top penalty killers. There isn’t one aspect of his game that stands out either negatively or positively – much like former Erie Otter Travis Dermott.

 

Eemeli Rasanen – Kingston Frontenacs (RD) – Consensus Ranking: n/a

A first-year import, Rasanen is a huge kid who plays like it. At nearly 6’7″, the young Finn knows that his body is his biggest asset and plays the game accordingly.

He’s having a decent season adapting to North American hockey and has shown clear signs of improvement. Rasanen is going to be a kid that is drafted as a long-term project. He’ll never be accused of being an offensive threat but he’s not a liability with the puck either.

Rasanen came over to the OHL to prove that he is worthy of being drafted into the NHL – he has done that while at the same time overtaking Jacob Paquette as the best draft eligible defender on Kingston.

 

Jacob Paquette – Kingston Frontenacs (LD) – Consensus Ranking: n/a

Speaking of Paquette, he is the final defenseman on Team Orr and while having a bit of a disappointing season, he likely got invited to the Top Prospects game thanks to the flashes of intriguing talent he’s shown over the past few years.

After being the 31st overall selection in the OHL draft, Paquette had a very good rookie season – playing in the top-4 on a very good Kingston team. This season, however, Paquette has not made the improvements you would expect from a top prospect.

In fairness, Paquette has missed time with injury and his season has been slowed as a result. He’s a good two-way defender with a very good first pass and NHL size.

Monday night will be huge for Paquette as he will look to show that his game is all the way back and that he could turn into a steal in the middle rounds of the draft. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets selected in the third round, only to have a breakout draft +1 season.

 

Michael DiPietro – Windsor Spitfires (G) – Consensus Ranking: 42

As the top rated goalie in the OHL, DiPietro will look to show he can stand tall against the best of his peers.

The knock against DiPietro is going to be that he’s small. He’s only 6-feet tall, and in today’s NHL, that’s already a strike against him for many coaches and scouts.

DiPietro has 5 shutouts through his first 34 games of the season and has a very steady .925 goals against average, playing behind a very inconsistent Windsor team. Ranked 7th among North American goalies by NHL Central Scouting, DiPietro is probably better than this ranking would indicate. He’s not as good as Jake Oettinger but he’s definitely one of the top guys in the draft – talent wise.

He’ll likely slip into the later rounds of the draft because the second tier of goalies usually do and he already has the size bias against him.

 

Other Participants in the Top Prospects Game

QMJHL

WHL

 

CHL Top Prospects Game Preview: QMJHL

By Tom Hunter (@PuckDontLie)

The last player from the QMJHL to be selected in the top-2 of the NHL Entry draft was Nathan MacKinnon back in 2013 – four years later it’s another Halifax Moosehead forward that has the potential to do the same. Nico Hischier comes into this year’s CHL Top Prospects game as the captain of Team Orr and the consensus number two prospect in the coming draft.

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