NHL International Games Are Good – To A Point

Once again Gary Bettman does the right thing to a limited point. The success of this year’s return of the NHL playing regular season games in Europe – two games by Ottawa and Colorado – to a sold out crowd in Stockholm, Sweden, prompted the NHL to double its European investment next year. At this year’s All Star Game, Bettman took the opportunity to announce that Edmonton and New Jersey will play games in Stockholm next year, while the Winnipeg Jets will play the Florida Panthers in Helsinki, Finland.

It’s a good move by the NHL, not only recognizing the contributions from its European stars, but also with an eye to the future if one day a European branch of the NHL becomes feasible. Unlike the NFL which has staged too many games between the bottom of the barrel teams in London for the liking of British fans, the NHL is at least making an effort to send decent matches to Europe.

But Bettman’s choice of teams seem to be based on nationality, rather than current record. For Finnish fans, they get to see Patrik Laine of Winnipeg and Aleksander Barkov of Florida again. For Swedish fans, New Jersey and Edmonton have Marcus Johansson, Jesper Bratt, Adam Larsson, and Oscar Klefborn. Actually, if these games were based on what was really relevant, the story would be about Canada’s best young player, Connor McDavid, coming to Stockholm to play against his old Edmonton star teammate, Taylor Hall. Bettman is throwing that match-up in as almost icing on the cake.

Edmonton will also play a preseason game in Germany, and New Jersey will play one in Switzerland. All these games will increase the NHL’s popularity in Europe and enhance the game of hockey – except it still doesn’t deal with the heart of the problem that has been stunting the growth of hockey outside of the traditional “Big 7″ countries since before the Canada-USSR match of 1972. The main reason why hockey has not grown in popularity internationally is that no action has been taken to raise the standard of play in any country outside of the “big 7″. Over the past four decades, the NHL has hosted clinics, sent out-of-work NHL coaches, and now plays preseason and regular season games in Europe, but the quality of play in countries other than the “Big 7″ remains inferior.

Bettman himself recognized this problem when he revived the World Cup in 2016 and created two hybrid teams, Europe and North America to fill out his roster instead of inviting more national teams from other countries. Even Slovakia was not allowed to ice a team. Bettman did not want any boring mismatches between “Big 7″ countries and “B Level” teams as was seen at the recent World Junior Championships. But that decision means that quality hockey is confined to a meager seven countries. International hockey will never increase in stature until the quality of hockey is improved outside of the “Big 7″. In particular, there are more than a dozen “B Level” countries, immediately below the “Big 7″ who could really spread and enhance international hockey if their quality of play was raised to the level where they had a real chance to win medals in important international tournaments.

Which brings this article to the third part of Bettman’s important international announcements. The NHL will play exhibition games in China again. This is money talking. China is nowhere near the level of even the “B Level” countries, but it is the biggest market in the world and Bettman wants the NHL to tap into it. Playing preseason games there may help international hockey a tiny bit in the long term but nothing like raising up the quality of play in the “B Level” countries right now. But China’s market is more important to the NHL than the “B Levels”. The NHL won’t dare snub China the way they snubbed South Korea by pulling out of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

The result is that we have the NHL Commissioner with the best of intentions doing many things right to help the growth of international hockey except the one thing that could help it the most, improving the standard of play below the “Big 7″, particularly in the large number of “B Level” countries, including South Korea. All the random, inconsistent, hodge podge efforts of the past four decades simply don’t work. In over 45 years, the “Big 7″ can’t even grow to a “Big 8″. There has to a concerted plan in place to improve the quality of international hockey. Until the NHL and the international powers that be recognize that the quality of play is a serious problem and needs to be dealt with, the growth of hockey will remain stunted. The NHL deserves a few pat on the backs for playing regular season games in Finland and Sweden, but they would deserve a few more accolades if they faced up to the main problem of international hockey and dealt effectively with it.

 

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2018 NHL Draft: Three Underrated Prospects That Are Beginning to Attract Attention

Every year, there are usually two NHL Draft storylines to watch. First off, there is the battle for the top spots in the draft, like Nico versus Nolan last year, and the fight for the #2 spot in this year’s draft. The other storyline is the underrated prospects that rise, seeming out of nowhere, into the first round. A lot of the time, at least one of those under the radar players enters the top half of the draft, and in some cases, even the top 5, like Cale Makar did last draft when he was taken 4th overall by the Colorado Avalanche.

2018 won’t have any prospects like that. There are simply too many top players that have suceeded at the WJHC or in prior years for a team to decide they would prefer some player that exploded into the draft scene in their draft year. However, German prospect Dominik Bokk could come close. Ranked 11th on my February list, Bokk was noticed thanks to his great numbers, 34 points in 29 games, in the Swedish Jr SuperElit, followed by a promotion to the SHL, the top men’s circuit, where he’s put up 2 points in 15 games as a teenager playing against older competition. Ever since he entered the radar of scouts, he has impressed them with his soft hands, quick release, and powerful stride, all of which are good enough for him to be labled with top line potential. Bokk was relatively unkown prior to January, where he managed to break into the top 31 of some lists. In September, Bokk was 46th on Steve Kournianos’ (www.thedraftanalyst.com) rankings. As of January, he is 28th, a significant rise, and I don’t think he’s done yet. I think he’ll end up going in the 10-20 range on draft day, a significant rise for a player that started out as a projected 2nd-3rd round pick. He has passed players like Joe Veleno, Ryan Merkley, Rasmus Kupari, Bode Wilde, and Jared McIsaac, all of which were projected top 20 picks earlier in the year.

Another riser that has broken into the first round is Grigori Denisenko, a Russian winger playing in the MHL, a lesser known league. Denisenko is incredibly skilled, but didn’t get many viewings earlier in the year. Scouts are beginning to realize his high ceiling and he is moving up draft boards. Unfortunately for him, the lack of attention could prevent him from going as high as he could. Choosing which junior league to play in is a big decision for a prospect, and choosing to stay close to home appears to be a good move for a prospect, but if a player really wants to get drafted high, their best bet would be to come over to the CHL, where they would get way more attention. From a purely “I want to get drafted as high as possible standpoint”, the CHL is the place to go. Denisenko is a far better prospect than somebody like David Levin or Giovanni Vallati, but Levin and Vallati have attracted more attention than Denisenko purely because of the league they play in, the OHL.

Aidan Dudas is a player that has just begun their ascent , thanks to an impressive CHL Top Prospects Game, as well as a good season to date, where he has been one of the most productive draft eligible players in the OHL. He first caught my attention when I was sorting through OHL stats on http://www.prospect-stats.com, something I do quite often, trying to identify undervalued prospects. His name was right along those of top prospects like Andrei Svechnikov, Evan Bouchard, Barrett Hayton and Ryan Merkley. I watched Dudas play a week later, and he was underwhelming. He was nearly invisible, and showed none of the speed and skill that he displayed at the Top Prospects Game. That could have been the end of it, but numbers like his aren’t a fluke. A poor player can get some lucky points and easy tap ins, but that many points couldn’t have been luck. I watched him again a few weeks later, and he was 10 times the player he was the first time. He was fast, he played with confidence, and he made things happen. It was obvious that my first viewing came on a tough night for him, but I still wanted to watch him at least one more time before I moved him up my rankings, just to make sure. However, time got in the way, and I couldn’t get another viewing in until the Top Prospects Game, where nobody expected him to excel. Except he did, showcasing his talent to the many scouts in attendance. He was one of my 3 stars of that game. The Top Prospects Game can be a great tool for players to boost their draft stock, and Dudas took advantage. Right now, I think he is commonly viewed as an early 2nd rounder, but if he keeps producing like he has, he’ll break into the first round on more rankings than mine.

Carolina/Hartford: A House Divided Cannot Stand…

I’m addressing this article to the new Carolina Hurricanes owner, Tom Dundon. Are you really a Carolina Hurricanes fan? Do you really want to make things work in Raleigh? Or do you want to move the team back to Hartford?

In less than a month after purchasing the Hurricanes from Peter Karmanos who remains a substantial shareholder, Dundon, who comes from Texas wants to bring back some nostalgia from his new team’s history by wearing old uniforms. There is nothing wrong with that. All seven original teams (including Ottawa) sometimes wear brand new “old” uniforms when they play games. And other NHL franchises who have now been around for a while haul out old uniforms for nostalgia and marketing purposes. Selling nostalgia can be a great way of making extra money. Fanatical fans can now own and wear two or more jerseys, the current model and the oldie.

Hurricanes

But Dundon has put a new twist on nostalgia. He wants to sell, wear, and even play games in uniforms in the Hurricanes original incantation, the Hartford Whalers. Almost every old uniform of every team since the original expansion of 1967 can be purchased somewhere, particularly in sports stores in hockey-mad cities like Toronto. Now Dundon wants to officially sell old Hartford uniforms in Raleigh at games and even do something unprecedented in ANY of the four major professional sports in North America, have the home team play home games in the uniforms of another city.

whalers

This may be a nostalgia money maker but it probably won’t be a big one. How is playing games in Hartford uniforms supposed to start a rebirth of hockey in Raleigh? It makes sense to play games in old Hurricanes uniforms if they exist, but this ploy of playing in Hartford uniforms, if it comes off has to be at least a minimum bewildering act for Hurricanes fans under the new regime which can also be taken as an act of hostility or worse. It came hardly be interpreted as an act that commits the NHL to keep playing in Raleigh.

I doubt if the NHL will allow it if they are serious about keeping the Hurricanes in Raleigh and because it opens up a hornet’s nest. Taken to its logical conclusion, will we see games in which Calgary wears Atlanta uniforms, the Colorado Avalanche wearing the old blue and white of the Quebec Nordiques, Dallas wearing Minnesota North Stars uniforms, etc.? Here’s a couple of fun possibilities. The Winnipeg Jets playing an away game at Arizona only to see the Coyotes come out in old Jet uniforms, so that the Jets can play the Jets. And New Jersey can double the pleasure. All the forwards will wear Colorado Rockie uniforms while the defense and goaltender wear the old logo of the Kansas City Scouts.

And why stop there. Just because your current team once played in another city, why should it be limited to playing games in that old city’s uniforms? What’s wrong with the Montreal Canadiens paying tribute to their old provincial rivals, the Quebec Nordiques who are currently trying to return to the NHL, by playing some of their home games in Nordique jerseys? If they have a particularly bad game, they can always pretend they lost because they were wearing the uniforms of their hated rival. And how about some city bringing back some uniforms that at present can’t be brought back by any team. Who would like to see their home team wearing the jerseys of the old California Golden Seals and the Cleveland Barons?

This is an imaginative, but destructive idea. Sell old Hartford jerseys in Raleigh if you must, but don’t play any games in them. This is a new situation. You are supposed to be burning your past bridges and starting afresh with new hope. I doubt if Gary Bettman will warm to this idea. I can remember reading a book about the Green Bay Packers who had a few bad seasons in the 1950s, just like the Hurricanes have recently been experiencing, and then when Vince Lombardi took over the team in 1959, one of his first tasks was to make the Packer players proud of wearing Green Bay uniforms again. Instead we have Dundon who just bought the team telling his players to wear uniforms from another city. That’s a wonderful way of getting the citizens of Raleigh-Durham to identify with the Hurricanes.

The other thing that has to be considered is what effect does this “promotion” have in Hartford? It is known that Hartford and the state of Connecticut are finally taking active steps to bring back the Whalers, including a major renovation of their old arena. As mentioned in another article, all they lack is a good owner to front an expansion bid or bring back a relocated team. Have they just found one in Dundon?

Can you imagine if Dundon decided to have the Hurricanes wear Quebec Nordiques uniforms instead of the Hartford Whalers? In Quebec City, they would almost start to consider printing tickets for next season’s return to the NHL and even ask Dundon if some, if not all remaining Hurricanes home games for this season be played in Quebec City. Hey Dundon, how about playing some Hurricanes games in the uniforms of the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the CFL? After the agony of the Phoenix Coyotes debacle and all the other times Hamilton has been kicked around by the NHL, if you brought the Hurricanes to Hamilton instead of Quebec and Hartford, you’d be worshiped as a saint.

 

February 2018 NHL Draft Rankings

It’s been two months since my last draft rankings, and a lot has happened in that period. The World Junior Championship has come and gone, as have the CHL, CJHL and USHL top prospects games. Strong performances in those can boost a prospect’s draft stock, especially in the case of the WJHC. Rasmus Dahlin, Filip Zadina, Brady Tkachuk, Isac Lundestrom and Martin Kaut, among others, used it well, either moving up the rankings or widening the gap between them and the next guy. Before we get to those rankings, I’d like to talk about a few things first.

Adjusted PPG

The biggest complication in the scouting process is comparing players that are playing in different leagues. It’s hard to compare players when one plays in the SHL and one plays in the OHL, like Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov. One way that that can be done is through adjusted points per game. Prospect’s PPG numbers are multiplied by league and age translation multipliers that put the players all on the same level, as if they were all the same age, all playing in the same league, in the case, the OHL. I compiled all these numbers in a spreadsheet which I will link to. Here is the top 5:

  1. Andrei Svechnikov-1.19 PPG
  2. Ryan Merkley-1.15 PPG
  3. Dominik Bokk-1.09 PPG
  4. Filip Zadina-1 PPG
  5. Calen Addison-0.98 PPG

You’ll also notice that two of the players, Bokk, and Addison, aren’t regarded as top prospects like the other three players. That’s the other use of this list; finding underrated prospects. Players with top PPG numbers in their draft year typically go on to NHL success.

The full spreadsheet can be found here.

Now that that is out of the way, we can get to some player talk. The first 15 players have a paragraph or two summarizing their game and in some cases, explaining their rise or fall. However, there are a few players outside of the top 15 that I’d like to talk more about.

Grigori Denisenko

The MHL is one of the lesser known leagues, it doesn’t get much attention, and because of that, prospects playing there are often underrated. Grigori Denisenko is one of those players. He’s incredibly skilled offensively, but that will go largely unnoticed because of the league he plays in. The best move a prospect can make if they want to get noticed is to play in a top league like the CHL, NCAA or a good European junior league like the SuperElit. A good player from the OHL will often be drafted over a better player in the MHL simply because of how much more attention he gets.

Aidan Dudas

Dudas has cracked the first round for the first time this year, and he will hope to stay in it by continuing the fantatic season he’s had so far. He’s been on my radar for some time now, thanks to his stats, but it wasn’t until the Top Prospects game that I could really see how he got those numbers. He’s very fast, and can dangle, shoot and pass. I see top 6 upside in him.

Jared McIsaac and Bode Wilde

My ranking of these two players is controversial, so I’ll take some time to explain it. Most rankings have these two in the top 15, or at least the top 20. Both players pass the eye test, they appear to be strong puckmoving defensemen that play with poise and confidence. I’m a big fan the two when I ignore stats, especially Bode Wilde. However, their statistics make them risky picks.

Goals For % (GF%) is a measure of the even strength goals a player’s team scores while said player is on the ice, versus the goals against the player’s team while they are on the ice. GF% rel is a player’s GF% relative to the GF% of their team while the player is not on the ice. Essentially, it measures whether a player has a positive or negative impact on a team’s goal differential (which then translates into wins or losses). Good players rarely dip into the negatives, unless they play on terrible teams, an excuse that neither player is entitled to use. My research actually suggests that if a player’s GF% rel is anywhere below +9, the chances of that player living up to their potential lowers. Both players are well below that. Unfortunately, the sample size for my findings is small, so it may not be completely accurate. GF% rel numbers are only available in the QMJHL, and have only been available since 2015. Doubt me if uou want, you certainly have a basis to do so, but when (if) these guys end up as 3rd pairing D or worse, I’ll be saying I told you so. More on this in a future post.

And now, the rankings. If you have any questions, ask me on Twitter, @DraftLook, or by email, samhappi77@gmail.com.

1. Rasmus Dahlin, LD

Dahlin, a dynamic, offensive defenseman used the WJC to cement his place as this year’s #1, dominating against top competition. He is often compared to Erik Karlsson, but he plays his own style of game. The biggest similarity between those two will likely be the gigantic impact that they will both have on a game, and Dahlin has the potential to leave an even larger footprint. He is more than just a franchise player, he is borderline generational, because he has the potential to be the best defenseman in the league for the majority of his career.

2. Andrei Svechnikov, RW

Svechnikov lost ground in the race for #1, but it wasn’t at all his fault. Svechnikov had only recently recovered from a broken hand, and his play at the WJHC reflected that, although he was still an important player for Russia. Dahlin played his best hockey when it counted, and impressed a lot of scouts, leaving Svechnikov appearing underwheming in comparison. At this point, Dahlin is simply the better player, and that isn’t a knock on Svechnikov. It’s like the 2015 draft with McDavid and Eichel. Eichel is a franchise player, but he couldn’t beat the generational McDavid.

3. Filip Zadina, LW

Zadina exploded at the WJHC, and was one of, if not the best players for the Czech Republic. Out of all the 2018 eligibles at the WJHC, he impressed me the most, playing a lethal dual threat game. He’s an elite sniper and an elite playmaker, and he combines the two in a way that only game changing players can. Most players fit into one pf the two categories, but Zadina fits in both, something only seen in world-class players such as Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews. He’s the type of player that you could build a team around.

4. Adam Boqvist, RD

Adam Boqvist was the only player in my top 6 that wasn’t named to a WJHC squad, a surprising snub from Team Sweden. I think he deserved to make the team, although he hasn’t been able to establish himself in the SHL so far this year. Currently, he’s playing in Sweden’s tier two men’s league, the Allsvenskan. He probably plays the most like Erik Karlsson out of everybody in this draft class; an NHL style game, using his speed, vision and shot to create offensive opportunities. Looks like a future top pairing defender. He’ll probably need another year before he is NHL ready, where he can play in the SHL and get used to a higher level of play.

5. Brady Tkachuk, LW/C

Even if Brady Tkachuk wasn’t as skilled as he is, he might still have been a top prospect for the draft, because he has almost everything NHL teams like; size, NHL bloodlines, physicality, and leadership. In reality, he has all that, and incredible skill. He’s a goal scorer, and has good puck-skills and a quality shot. He also possesses a soaring hockey IQ. His most impressive trait IMO, is his ability to find open space. A lot of players will get the puck and then take the space, but Tkachuk helps himself to the space, then calla for the puck, giving the opposition less time to try to catch him. He has first line tools.

6. Quinn Hughes, LD

This draft is loaded with offensive minded defensemen, including Quinn Hughes, a speedy puck moving blueliner. The staple of his game is his puck rushing, which he excels at. He picks his head up, finds a lane, and takes it. If there isn’t a lane, he either creates one, pr finds a teammate with a hard, accurate pass. He’ll be a top pairing defenseman, and an elite PP QB.

7. Oliver Wahlstrom, RW

Oliver Wahlstrom, a winger for the USNTDP, has great hands and an elite shot. He first attracted media attention when a video of a shootout attenpt of his went viral. He displayed great hands, and now, those great hands will help carry him to a top 10 selection at the draft. He plays on a line with fellow draft eligible Joel Farabee and 2019 top prospect Jack Hughes for the USDP, and they have been lighting it up. He’s a top notch finisher, but doesn’t depend on others to create oppurtunities for him. He uses his hands, speed and vision to do that for himself. He’s destined for the first line, and if placed with a good playmaker, he could score 50.

8. Ty Smith, D

Ty Smith is a two way defenseman that doesn’t always get the respect he deserves, because he doesn’t play a flashy game like Dahlin, Hughes, and partially Boqvist, although he doesn’t make as many end to end plays as those two, and the end to end rushes are typically the plays that get a lot of retweets and attention on Twitter. Also, Smith plays in the WHL, which I have noticed not to get as much attention as other leagues, especially the European leagues. The European leagues get the most attention, since games from the SHL, Liiga and some of the junior leagues can be streamed relatively easily. The OHL is next, simply because of all the scouts situated there, as well as the popularity of that league. After that is the NCAA, then the QMJHL, the WHL, and finally the MHL. Grigori Denisenko, an under the radar prospect plays there, and if he was in the CHL, NCAA, or one of the more popular European leagues, he would get a lot more attention.

Smith can make an offensive impact while also being solid in his own zone. He plays an NHL style game, moving the puck up ice, while also being able to skate the puck up ice himself. Defensively, he can play physically while also possessing a good defensive stick. He could be a staple on a team’s top pairing for a long time.

9. Noah Dobson, D

Noah Dobson has been a big time riser this year. He started out as a projected 2nd or 3rd round pick, but since then, he has exploded onto the scene, establishing himself as a top 15 prospect. He’s put up fantastic numbers in the QMJHL, and has demonstrated impressive puck moving ability, as well as hockey IQ. During the CHL-Russia series, Dobson and Jared McIsaac formed a pairing for Team QMJHL, and the two 2018 eligibles impressed me with their calm, puck-moving play. Dobson appears to have the higher ceiling out of the two, with top pairing potential, while McIsaac has dropped considerably since December.

10. Evan Bouchard, D

Bouchard has exploded in the draft year, climbing draft boards. He is a shot machine, he is one of the shot leaders in the entire OHL, and those shots have led to points, either from rebounds or them just going in. He’s on pace for 80 points, which would be fantastic, especially for a blueliner. He can jump up into the play, and is lethal as the late man in on the rush. He can take advantage of slacking or tired backcheckers and rip one home. He can move the puck up ice, and is incredibly poised and confident. He has top pairing potential, and will be an elite powerplay QB.

11. Dominikk Bokk

One of the mosy underrated prospects in the draft, Bokk is high on some draft lists and low on others. The main difference between the lists that have him high and the ones that have him low is the attention that they pay to stats. A lot of scouting services look at very few stats when formulating their rankings. They depend on the good ol’ fashioned eye test. A prospect should definitely be watched before you make a judgement on their potential, but statistics deserve a place in the scouting process as well. Dominik Bokk has 29 points in 21 games in the SuperElit, 1.3 PPG. Those are very good numbers, 2nd out of all draft eligible prospects in unadjusted PPG, and 3rd when PPG is adjusted for league and age. Following his great 29 SuperElit games, Bokk went to the SHL, where he has put up 2 points in 15 games. There is going to be an adjustment period there, and when you go from playing against youth to men, it can be fairly lengthy. He’s also playing a much smaller role in the SHL, so the decrease is expected.

Stats aside, Bokk is a winger with both offensive and defensive skill. Offensively, he is a goal scorer that finds the prime scoring areas. He has great hands and a great shot. He’s the best German prospect since Leon Draisaitl. Defensively, he takes away lanes, can lend support down low, and is always ready for a counterattack, but not in a way that compromises him defensively.

12. Joe Veleno, C

Veleno has had an up and down season so far, but I think he has started to right the ship, and it will be smooth sailing for him from now on. He struggled with one of the worst teams in the QMJHL earlier in the season, sparking doubts about his potential. However, following a trade to a top team in December, he seems to have regained his production, and if he can keep this up, he may also be able to regain his previous place on draft boards, which was usually top 5. I don’t see that happening, I think the best he’ll do is 8th, but I can’t predict the future 100% accurately, only about 90%. I think slump that came from playing on a poor team spoke a lot about what kind of player he’ll be in the future; he won’t be able to carry a line, he’ll need good teammates to help him out if he’s gonna put up points. As a playmaker like Veleno is, you need linemates that can finish on the oppurtunities you create for them. If your wingers can’t score, you won’t be getting assists, and for Veleno, that’s the majority of his points (85% to be exact). At the start of the year, he looked like he had 1C potential, and he may still, but I’m concerned about his offensive potential, so I think he’s more suited for a 2C role, centering a line that can both shutdown the opposition as well as provide some scoring.

13. Barrett Hayton, C

I have Hayton 13th right now, but he could be a riser. I’ve seen him as high as 6th on some lists, but he’s also in the 25 to even 40 range on others. Hayton started the year as a projected 2nd rounder, but has impressed with his poise and shot to fight his way up. He’s a goal scorer, he’s got a 40-60 goal-assist split as of January 17 (when all stats mentioned are from, unless otherly specified). He has a nice shot, good release; his release almost incorporates a toe drag, he brings the puck back and then towards his body on his shot. He’s very patient, if he isn’t forced to make a move, he won’t. If he’s not being pressured, he’ll hold onto the puck and try to draw a defender out of position, especially on the powerplay. He’ll skate with the puck if nothing opens up as well, I’ve seen him take it back behind his own net from the neutral zone if he can’t find any options. I do have a few concerns though. Sometimes, he is a little too patient, and it results in turnovers, and he does try to do too much with it in his own end sometimes, and he’s lost it there as well. Both should resolve themselves as Hayton develops further, but they are things to keep an eye on. That aside, I think Hayton, like Veleno, has definite top 6 potential, and a 1C ceiling, if he develops well.

14. Isac Lundestrom, C

This Swedish centre is an underrated prospect that is beginning to receive more attention following a strong performance at the WJHC, where he centred an effective line for Sweden. Lundestrom plays against men in the SHL, and has put up impressive numbers for a teenager. He has 10 points in 26 games, good numbers for his age, especially when you incorporate his minimal role on the team. Those numbers are good for a 0.61 league/age adjusted PPG in a men’s league. Lundestrom uses his hockey IQ to make plays, getting into good spots and finding open teammates. He projects as a second line centre long term, I don’t think he has the offensive potential for the first line, but he could be apart of a second line that provides solid scoring.

15. Calen Addison, D

I have Addison ranked pretty high at 15, while most other lists will have him in the 20-40 range. He’s an underrated prospect, another WHL player. He’s a small defender, officially listed as 5’10, but he’s probably closer to the 5’8-5’9 range. I think he’ll end up being picked late first, and his height will be what holds him back. NHL teams continue to have biases towards taller players, despite the success of smaller players like Erik Karlsson or Samuel Girard. In Addison’s case, I don’t think his height holds his on ice play back at all, he plays like a bigger guy. He doesn’t get knocked off the puck very easily, and he can knock others off of it. He can move the puck up ice effectively, and excels in the offensive zone, making smart decisions and generating offensive opportunities. He’s good at keeping the puck in, allowing his team to continue their offensive zone time. Definitely has top 4 upside.

16. Joel Farabee, LW

Slippery winger excelling on line with Jack Hughes and Oliver Wahlstrom for the USNTDP.

17. Ryan McLeod, C

Fast, two way centre can shut down opposition and produce offence.

18. Akil Thomas, C/RW

Smart forward is always moving, creating opportunities.

19. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C

Skilled centre putting up great numbers in top Finnish league, playing against men.

20. Filip Hallander, F

Gritty winger also has skill, good numbers.

21. Grigori Denisenko, LW

Underrated player is very skilled, hidden away in MHL.

22. Ryan Merkley, D

Incredibly talented offensively, struggles in own zone. Boom or bust prospect.

23. Rasmus Sandin, D

Impressive puckmoving ability, good at getting shots through from point. Was great at CHL Top Prospects game.

24. Jacob Olofsson, C

Well rounded centre has few weaknesses, scoring touch.

25. Ty Dellandrea, C

Two way centre can deliver offensive production as well as solid defensive play.

26. Aidan Dudas, C

Speedy forward has a nice shot and puts himself in positions to score.

27. Rasmus Kupari, C

Highly skilled centre doesn’t have the offensive production to match his talent.

28. Jett Woo, D

Two way defenceman moves puck well, plays calm game.

29. Jake Wise, C

Smart player can pass and score. Plays a solid two way game.

30. Bode Wilde, D

Below average skater has poor underlying numbers.

31. Jared McIsaac, D

Passes the eye test, but advanced statistics are concerning. Risky pick.

Prospect Tiers (Top 31)

Tier 1: Rasmus Dahlin

2: Andrei Svechnikov, Filip Zadina, Adam Boqvist, Brady Tkachuk

3: Quinn Hughes

4: Oliver Wahlstrom, Ty Smith, Noah Dobson, Evan Bouchard

5: Dominik Bokk, Joe Veleno, Barrett Hayton

6: Isac Lundestrom, Calen Addison, Joel Farabee, Ryan McLeod, Akil Thomas, Jesperi Kotkaniemi

7. Filip Hallander, Grigori Denisenko, Ryan Merkley, Rasmus Sandin, Jacob Olofsson, Ty Dellandrea, Aidan Dudas, Rasmus Kupari, Jett Woo

8. Jake Wise, Bode Wilde, Jared McIsaac

32. Adam Ginning, D

33. Allan McShane, C

34. Anderson MacDonald, LW

35. Jack McBain, C

36. Alexander Alexeyev, D

37. K’Andre Miller, D

38. Dennis Busby, D

39. Serron Noel, RW

40. Martin Kaut, RW

41. Marcus Karlberg, W

42. Jonatan Berggren, C/RW

43. Albin Eriksson, LW

44. Alexander Khovanov, C

45. Phillipp Kurashev, C/LW

46. Kevin Bahl, D

47. Cole Fonstad, C/LW

48. Jakub Lauko, C/LW

49. Nando Eggenberger, LW

50. Benoit-Olivier Groulx, F

51. Nicolas Beaudin, D

52. Xavier Bouchard, D

53. David Levin, LW

54. Gleb Babintsev, D

55. Vitali Kravstov, F

56. Giovanni Vallati, D

57. Mattias Samuelsson, D

58. Adam Samuelsson, D

59. Miles Roman, C

60. Adam Liska, LW

61. Martin Fehervary, D

62. Filip Kral, D