Evan Bouchard’s Pro-Style Game Is Allowing Him to Find Great Success In His Draft Season

A great draft season can allow a prospect to skyrocket up draft rankings, dramatically increasing their final draft position. Evan Bouchard has taken full advantage of that, and has solidified himself as a member of the consensus top 10 for the upcoming draft.

Bouchard, a defender for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), also holds the title of captain, a role typically reserved for 19 and 20 year old prospects that have already been selected by NHL teams. However, Bouchard’s maturity and leadership allowed him to seize control of the captaincy at the age of 18 after the Knights gutted their roster to kick off a rebuild, moving out their top four scorers, including St. Louis Blues top prospect Robert Thomas, the 20th pick in last year’s draft.

Bouchard has held a crucial role for the Knights this season, drawing top minutes at 5v5 and on the penalty kill all while also serving as the team’s power play QB. He has earned OHL Defenceman of the Month honours three times this year, being recognized in November, December, and February.

A large amount of London’s offence runs through Bouchard. At this time, London has scored 219 goals, and Evan Bouchard has registered a point on 83 of them, good for an involvement % of 38%. It’s very impressive for a player to be involved in over a third of his team’s goals, but for Bouchard, achievements like that are just as much of a part of a normal day as swallowing. In fact, like swallowing, Bouchard probably barely even notices that he does these things.

The right hand shot leads the OHL in points by a defenceman, a truly incredible feat for a draft-eligible player that has not been accomplished since 2013-14, when Anthony DeAngelo took the crown prior to be drafted 19th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Expect even better things from Bouchard than we have seen from DeAngelo. Bouchard brings defensive profiency to the table, something DeAngelo never had, as well as a clean slate in terms of off-ice issues.

DeAngelo was suspended once by his junior team, the Sarnia Sting, for abuse of a teammate, and was forced to sit out more games later that season after directing a racial slur at a referee, and was suspended another time the next year after another verbal altercation with an official. On top of that, he was also benched multiple times due to character issues during his time with the Syracuse Crunch, AHL affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Now, four years after being drafted, DeAngelo finds himself with the Hartford Wolfpack, and is a prospect of the New York Rangers, who are already his 3rd team. He passed through Arizona after being originally traded by the Lightning for a second round pick, just a few years after they originally used a first round selection.

Like I said before, expect none of that from Bouchard, who carries no off-ice issues, and has already demonstrated leadership capabilities as captain of his team.

Despite his point totals, the most impressive aspect of Bouchard’s play this season has been his ability to generate shots. He sits 2nd in shots in the entire OHL out of all skaters, including forwards years older than him. His ability to get shots through from the point, a valuable skill, is world-class. Erik Karlsson has mastered this, and it is part of why he’s the best defenceman in the world.

Being able to force pucks through to the net can generate countless scoring oppurtunities for a team, and it doesn’t take a genius to recognize why. For the majority of these types of shots, there are four to five bodies in between the shot location and the net. If the shot makes it through, that is a lot of moving objects for the goalie to keep track of, making it difficult for him to follow and react to the puck. To further complicate things for the netminder, the puck will often hit these players, changing its direction. Combine all of these factors, and you’ve got a shot with a good chance of bekng a very difficult stop for the goaltender.

Bouchard is very good at creating these shots. As we can see from the heat map above, via prospect-stats.com, the majority of Bouchard’s shots come from the centre and right point, where Bouchard plays as a right handed defenceman.

There are a few things that Bouchard does very well that allow him to avoid having his shots blocked or deflected wide.

Screenshot lifted from https://youtu.be/ksi13vyhK40

In this situation, Bouchard does two things very well that help him get the shot through and score a goal. First of all, he walks the puck in after initially recieving the pass just in front of the blueline. He recognizes that by doing so, he has a higher percentage of scoring on the shot because it will come from closer to the net. Then, once he does that, he winds up for his shot and picks his head up, searching for lanes to shoot through. There aren’t many players seperating him from the net, making it easy for a player of Bouchard’s calibre to put a hard shot at the net.

On top of his shooting ability, Bouchard also possesses impressive puckmoving skills. He utilizes the same “heads up” awareness while moving the puck up ice as he does when shooting, and this, coupled with strong passing, allows him to control the transition game, quickly headmanning the puck to his teammates. Like many defenders, Bouchard uses the net as a tool to give his teammates time to set up for a breakout, but is better than most when it comes to actually leaving the safety of the trapezoid and skating the puck forwards. Unlike other defencemen in this draft, he isn’t one to go end to end, preferring to defer to his forwards to enter the offensive zone. This is the same mindset possesed by most NHL rearguards, and should also lead to a faster transition to the NHL.

This is just one of several aspects of Bouchard’s game that emulates the pros.

Bouchard’s on-ice decision making is very similar to that of an NHL defenceman. He takes calculated risks both offensively and defensively; sometimes he will rush the puck, but only if a clear lane is available. He’ll pinch down the wall when an opposing forward has his back turned, but not when the opponent has a good chance at beating him. Defensively, he’ll aggressively attack a foe when they have their head down or the puck in their skates, but when they don’t, he’ll stick to the defensive system of his team.

Most draft eligible defencemen that have a similar offensive impact to Bouchard lack a lot of ability defensively. However, we have already established that Bouchard is unlike most. He is very much a “two-way” defender, and can be relied upon to shut down top forwards, as he has been trusted to do already with the London Knights. He is still susceptible to defensive mistakes at times; getting drawn out of position seems to be the most prevelant. However, it’s unlikely that that will carry over to the NHL. Expect it to be cleaned up somewhere during the transition to the NHL.

That transition shouldn’t take long for Bouchard. Although he very likely will not have an immediate NHL impact, expect Bouchard to be one of the first defencemen of this draft to reach the big stage.

Rasmus Dahlin, the Swedish defenceman set to be selected 1st overall in June, already possesses 82 games of experience playing against men in the Swedish Hockey League, the top men’s circuit in Sweden. At 6’2 and 183 lbs, he should be able to jump into the NHL next year. After him, the 2nd defender to make it could very well be Bouchard. The other four defencemen with a chance to go in the top 10; Adam Boqvist (5’11, 170 lbs) Quinn Hughes (5’10, 174 lbs), Ty Smith (5’10, 174 lbs) and Noah Dobson (6’3, 179 lbs) are all less physically mature as Bouchard, who is 6’2, 193 lbs and can already grow more facial hair than Sidney Crosby.

Evan will need another year in the OHL to continue to add to his already large frame and finetune his defensive play. After accomplishing that, he should be able to forego his final year of OHL eligibility to jump straight to the top level of professional play, where he should be able to assume a somewhat sheltered role on a team’s blueline as well as the QB role on their second powerplay unit. As he adjusts to the NHL, his ice time and role should increase until he holds a spot on the top pairing and powerplay unit.

The future is bright for Bouchard, who could easily become one of the top two-way defencemen in the league. He projects to be selected somewhere in the 6-10 range at the draft this June. Propeled by his steady, two-way play, whatever team gets him should be back in the playoffs in no time.

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Closing The Gap: How Can Hockey Become More Popular in B-Level Countries?

This is the 2nd post of the Closing The Gap series, where I take a look at the gap between the Big 6 and the B-level countries.

In the first post of this series, I explained the reasons for the gap between the two top tiers of international hockey. The two factors that bear the responsibility for the gap are development and popularity.

In the initial post, I described the developmental factor as:

“how well a prospect is brought along, and how his game grows as he ages. Countries that develop players well give prospects the chance to hit their full potential. Countries with top notch minor and junior hockey programs should develop players well.”

While detailing the other factor, popularity, I wrote:

“It is no coincidence that the Big 6 countries are also the top 6 countries in terms of hockey playing population. If a large amount of people in a country play hockey, that country should produce more good hockey players than one that has fewer people playing the sport.”

If we can even out those factors, these B-level countries should improve.

Unfortunately, we don’t have some magic wand that we can wave to do so. It will require time and effort, but it will be worth it in the long run.

This year’s Olympics offer a glimpse into what all international tournaments would look like. NHLers were not allowed to participate in Olympic hockey, so the event only had players playing in the AHL on AHL-only deals, or in European leagues like the KHL (Russia), SHL (Sweden), and Liiga (Finland). The tournament saw “B-level” team Germany upset Sweden and Canada for a spot in the finals, and the Czech Republic came 4th, ahead of USA, Sweden and Finland. When we get upsets like these on a fairly consistent basis in international tournaments with NHLers, like the IIHF World Championships and possibly future Olympics, that is when we will know that the gap has been closed to an acceptable level.

That’s the end goal. To get to that, we need to even countries out in the two factors mentioned above.

When people are trying to put their fingers on the reason for the gap, the initial thing that typically comes to mind is development. The Canadian Hockey League is thought to be the top developmental league in the world due to a variety of reasons; the most prevelant of which are the top notch coaching available in Canada’s top junior league, as well as the structure of the league, which is fairly similar to the NHL in that both have a North American style of play, and share rigourous schedules with extensive travel. The similarity between the two leagues means that CHL players are developed for the NHL style of game, which should lead to better results and a shorter transition period.

However, I don’t see the fact that CHL players are built for the NHL game as a significant factor in the gap. Top underage players in top European countries are developed the same way as players that will never play in North America; the players that play out their entire careers in Europe. If this truly was a factor, “Big 6” European countries like Russia, Finland and Sweden wouldn’t be producing NHL talent at a similar rate as Canada.

The only possible development-altering difference between the “Big 6” and the “B-level” countries in terms of development is the quality of coaching, and I believe that has a minimal effect.

In my experience, as long as the instruction isn’t terrible, coaching doesn’t have as much as an effect on the growth of a player as is commonly believed. A lot of coaches have similar styles: typically there are coaches that use positive reinforcement, where good plays by players are rewarded, and then there are the ones that believe in negative reinforcement, where players will hear a lot from their coach when they make a mistake. Most coaches will waver between the two, but lean towards one side. Whichever way they prefer to do things, with either positive or negative reinforcement, will only play a very minimal role in the final skill level and potential of a player, if any.

The approach a prospect takes away from the rink is what sets apart the NHL players from the beer-leaguers. Every NHL player had a childhood that revolved around hockey. If you want to go pro, you have to extremely serious about the sport. That means that the majority of your free time must be spent improving your skills; some do it with a backyard rink, while others spend hours every day shooting at the net placed in their driveway.

To grow international hockey, the focus shouldn’t be levelling out development across countries. That may help a bit, but growing the popularity of hockey in the B-level countries will have a considerably larger impact. If more kids play hockey in a country, there will be more serious hockey players within the borders, and more quality NHL players will be produced.

This means that if we want to end the seperation between the two tiers, we have to increase the popularity of hockey in these tier two countries. There are a few ways to do this. Improving the media coverage of hockey in these countries, particularily television coverage, is one, and increasing the amount of NHL games played in these countries is another, while bringing in NHL players to talk to young kids and setting up a program to give kids used hockey equipment couldn’t hurt either.

To get a better idea of how hockey coverage differs from “Big 6” to “B-level” countries, I spoke to three European hockey fans, two of which reside in “B-level” countries, while one lives between “Big 6” borders.

In the “Big 6” country, the top men’s hockey league has its games televised regularily, and NHL games are shown often, if you are willing to pay roughly $65 USD a month for them. If you aren’t willing to fork over the cash, you can watch just one game a month. Both NHL and European hockey are fixtures in the newspapers, and the NHL coverage has an emphasis on the players that call that country home.

The two hockey fans I spoke to that reside in “B-level” countries offered similar responses to my questions. Both agreed that NHL games were broadcast very sparingly at no cost, with just about 8 games total televised per season. Games still aren’t common if you pay for television, with a maximum of four games per week, but typically less. Coverage of European hockey on TV is not common either, with an average of just two games shown on a weekly basis. Hockey doesn’t receive the same attention in the newspapers as it does in the “Big 6” country, with European hockey attracting a fair amount of coverage, and NHL hockey getting little.

It’s clear that there is a recognizable difference in hockey coverage between these two tiers, with stick and puck getting a noticably higher amount of media coverage in the “Big 6” countries.

There is undeniably a gap in media coverage, as would be expected. Closing this gap should also have an impact on the gap that is the topic of this post: the gap between the “Big 6” and “B-level” international hockey powers.

But how can that be done?

It doesn’t require a creative fix, or any creativity, for that matter, because unfortunately, the average fan cannot do much to help out with this one. It has to start with the higher-ups, the media companies, the IIHF, and the leagues, both the European organizations and the NHL. More hockey needs to be televised and written about in these “B-level” countries, with the emphasis on the television component.

The goal of all the efforts I’m going to suggest in this post is to increase the number of hockey fans, particularily those under 18, in these places. I’ve stressed time and time again that more kids playing hockey = more quality hockey players. The important part of that equation is the first part: more kids playing hockey. That’s what will fill the hole. It all comes down to the kids.

The fact that it does all start with children has the unfortunate effect of a delayed impact. Once measures that help are put in place and we begin to see results in terms of an increase in hockey-playing kids, which will already take multiple years on its own, we still won’t see international hockey begin to grow for at least another decade or so, and it will take at least 15 years of that to achieve full balance, and that’s if everything goes just right, as it nearly never does. It could easily be 20 years until the gap is closed, and 25 may be a better ballpark, as it accounts for the bumps in the road along the way.

It’s a long game, but in the end we will be left with a brand of international hockey that has a dozen teams with legitimate #1 hopes, rather than six or seven like today.

To get there, both the European leagues and the NHL need to work with television providers to get more games on TV. The NHL should be involved with the talks between the European leagues and the providers as well, as an organization with plenty of money and experience with TV deals. If the providers need some extra incentive to get a deal done, the NHL should be helping with that, as it will ultimately be good for hockey in the long run.

Hockey needs to be an option on TV for European sports fans looking for something to occupy their time for a few hours. They may discover they like it, and it will then be exposed to the kids that they may have. When kids see hockey on TV growing up, it will become an option for them as a sport to play.

Closing this media gap will be good for international hockey going forwards, but more must be done as well. The NHL played two games in Sweden this season, and just announced that they will play more in Sweden and Finland next season as well. Games in European “Big 6” countries are a good start, but what will really make a difference is games in the “B-level” places. The Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils will both conclude their training camps with games in Germany and Switzerland against European clubs next year, a solid start for NHL hockey in these countries. Next year, this should progress to NHL vs NHL games in those countries next season, while also continuing the NHL vs European club trend, which is a fantastic idea. It allows then to engage European fans while playing the “Europe vs North America” narrative. Upcoming years should also bring NHL contests in Denmark in Latvia, two “B-level” markets. Also, South Korea was just treated to some Olympic hockey; why not follow that up with a preseason game or two? South Korea just established themselves as a “B-level” country, and that’s a market for growth.

Tapping into European markets with NHL hockey will be key for international growth. If the NHL can use this tool while ensuring that it doesn’t lose its marvel, these international games could be responsible for a huge amount of international growth. If the NHL helps orchestrate some TV deals involving European hockey leagues in “B-level” countries that close the coverage gap, they would be two for two in oppurtunities for enormous growth in international hockey.

Unfortunately, not all of this is gonna happen. I believe the NHL truly will do something similar to what I suggested with the European NHL games, but it is extremely unlikely that they take any course of action to assist in closing the media gap.

Once again, the NHL is standing in the way of growth for international hockey, just as they did by blocking NHL players from the Olympics.

By keeping the best players in the world out of a top international hockey tournament in a newly growing hockey country, the NHL passed on the chance to introduce their product to a country that had recently raised their status at the international level from “C” to “B” level, and the chance to spark even more growth in that country.

The NHL could still save itself by taking this chance to grow international hockey and attempt to orchestrate a closed coverage gap, but based on their track record, it’s far more likely that this goes down as another oppurtunity for international growth spoiled by the NHL.

NHL Prospects On the Move At The Trade Deadline

There are always plenty of prospects on the move at the deadline, but the media coverage often doesn’t give them much attention. I profiled every significant prospect that was moved at this year’s deadline, offering that coverage. Get to know everything about your team’s young new new additions below.

Ryan Lindgren

Boston Bruins ➡️ New York Rangers

To Boston: Rick Nash

To New York: 2018 1st, 2019 7th, Ryan Lindgren, Ryan Spooner, Matt Belesky

Lindgren is a responsible two way defenceman playing in a defensive role for his team in the NCAA, which somewhat hides his offensive potential. He’s regarded as a shutdown defenseman, but if given a chance in a more two way role, his offensive numbers could flourish. He skates well, and has underrated puckmoving ability. Has the potential to become a good transition defender in the NHL, likely playing on the second pairing.

Thoughts on Trade

Some people dislike this trade from the Rangers standpoint, and have made it very clear on Twitter, but I think it’s fair value. The first round pick that was also included in the deal could very well produce a top 6 forward, and if you couple that with the future top 4 defenseman in Lindgren, that is solid value for a soon to be UFA second line winger.

Rinat Valiev and Kerby Rychel

Toronto Maple Leafs ➡️ Montreal Canadiens

To Toronto: Tomas Plekanec, Kyle Baun

To Montreal: Rinat Valiev, Kerby Rychel, 2018 2nd

Valiev, a defenseman that is essentially NHL-ready, and could step into a role on the Canadiens’ blueline, likely in a 3rd pairing role. The 3rd pairing will likely be the highest he goes, as he doesn’t look like a player with top 4 potential. He doesn’t offer much in terms of offense, with 15 points in 40 games on a dominant Toronto Marlies team, but he’s good defensively and can move the puck at a decent level.

The other prospect involved in the deal, Kerby Rychel is a forward that offers bottom-6 potential, as well as power play ability, where he’s succeeds as a net front presence. A former first round pick of the Jackets, Rychel has not lived up to expectations, as his power style game hasn’t yet earned an NHL job, despite being drafted in 2013.

Thoughts on Trade

This is an even deal in my books. The Canadiens got two prospects with bona-fide NHL potential for an expiring contract, while the Leafs got a very good 4C, filling their biggest hole offensively. Win-Win.

Filip Gustavsson

Pittsburgh Penguins ➡️ Ottawa Senators

To Pittsburgh: Derick Brassard, Tobias Lindberg, Vincent Dunn, 2018 3rd Round Pick

To Ottawa: Filip Gustavsson, Ian Cole, 2018 1st Round Pick. 2019 3rd Round Pick

Gustavsson, a goalie, has true starting potential, getting Ottawa a player that has a good chance of being the Senators their goalie of the future. He’s a pretty good all around goalie, and is only getting better.

Thoughts on Trade

I like this trade for both teams. Gustavsson and the picks helps set the Sens up for the future, while Derick Brassard will only increase the Penguins’ chances at a three-peat.

Yegor Rykov

New Jersey Devils ➡️ New York Rangers

To New Jersey: Michael Grabner

To New York: Yegor Rykov, 2018 2nd Round Pick

Yegor Rykov is an impressive defensive prospect with top 4 potential. A big two way defenceman, Rykov has gotten into some KHL games this season, and tried out for the Russian men’s Olympic hockey team, a promising sign for the young blueliner. He excels defensively, with an aggressive style that generates turnovers. He has puck-moving potential as well, and could be a good producer of offence at the NHL level.

Thoughts on Trade

New York won this deal, adding a legitimate defensive prospect as well as a pick with a good chance at yielding an NHL player, while giving up a middle six forward with an expiring contract that uses his speed to generate points, a good portion of which come on special teams play.

Nick Moutry

Columbus Blue Jackets ➡️ Ottawa Senators

To Blue Jackets: Ian Cole

To Senators: Nick Moutry, 2020 3rd Round Pick

In terms of NHL potential, you shouldn’t be high on Moutry. The forward doesn’t provide much offensive potential, as shown by his 6 points in 22 AHL games. He’s better on the defensive side of the game, but still likely won’t be good enough to succeed in a checking role in the NHL.

Thoughts on Trade:

Columbus looks like the winner in this trade. The combonation of a not so good prospect and a pick that isn’t until 2020 leaves the Sens with a return that doesn’t look like it will yield an NHL player, and if it does, it likely won’t be until 2022 or 2023 at the earliest, if they manage to harvest a player from the pick. However, Cole was traded late, with not much time left until the deadline, so it is likely that Columbus was the highest bidder.

Victor Edjsell

Nashville Predators ➡️ Chicago Blackhawks

To Nashville: Ryan Hartman, 2018 5th Round Pick

To Blackhawks: Victor Edjsell, 2018 1st Round Pick, 2018 4th Round Pick

Edjsell is a big centre that is underrated by many accounts. He has NHL potential, despite not having a name known by many. He uses his size well, overpowering defenders. Hard to find much dirt on him online, but remember his name.

Thoughts on Trade:

Chicago looks like the clear winner here, and in ny opinion, would still be even if Hartman had gotten just a 1st. I think this will go down as a mistake for Nashville.

Philip Holm

Vancouver Canucks ➡️ Vegas Golden Knights

To Canucks:

Brendan Leipsic

To Golden Knights:

Phillip Holm

Holm was a late bloomer, but now at 26, he looks like he has NHL potential. Was very good in the AHL for the Utica Comets, and now may get a chance at the NHL for the Knights in a season or two. Unfortunately for him, Vegas is deep on the blueline, so he’ll have to wait for his big league oppurtunity.

Thoughts on Trade

Vegas wins this one, getting a pretty good prospect for a bottom six NHLer.

Daniel O’Regan

San Jose Sharks ➡️ Buffalo Sabres

To Sharks:

Evander Kane

To Sabres:

Daniel O’Regan, conditional 2019 1st Round Pick, Conditional 2020 4th Round Pick

O’Regan, a 24 year old centre, has been very good in the AHL with the San Jose Barracuda. He offers offensive potential in what will likely be a bottom six role.

Thoughts on Trade

This is win-win in my opinion, as the conditions placed upon the picks offsets the risk of San Jose getting Kane for more than just the latter part of the season. O’Regan offers NHL potential as well.

Tyler Motte

Columbus Blue Jackets ➡️ Vancouver Canucks

To Blue Jackets:

Thomas Vanek

To Canucks:

Tyler Motte, Jussi Jokinen

Motte has a good chance of becoming an NHL player, as is evident by the 64 NHL games he has already player. However, he only projects to be a bottom sixer, so he isn’t a great prospect.

Thoughts on Trade

I expected Vanek to get a 2nd round pick, but instead they only got a decent prospect and a fringe NHLer. Probably should have gotten more.

J.D Duden

New Jersey Devils ➡️ Edmonton Oilers

To Devils:

Patrick Maroon

To Oilers:

J.D Dudek, 2019 3rd Round Pick

Dudek, a no name prospect, has little to no NHL potential and just 17 points in 33 NCAA games this season.

Thoughts on Trade

New Jersey fleeces Chiarelli. Trades like this are way too common r Chiarelli. If Ryan Hartman gets a 1st, Maroon should too, instead of what is essentially just a 3rd round pick, and it isn’t even this year.

Brett Howden and Libor Hajek

Tampa Bay Lightning ➡️ New York Rangers

To New York:

Brett Howden, Libor Hajek, Vladimir Namestikov, 2018 1st Round Pick, Conditional 2nd Round Pick

To Tampa:

Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller

Howden projects as a bottom six NHLer, and plays a grinding game. Offers some offensive potential, with 58 points in 38 games in the WHL, but it likely won’t be enough for him to succeed in a top 6 role.

Meanwhile, Libor Hajek is a defensive prospect that I really like. He has top 4 potential in my books, A two way defenceman, he’s good defensively, and can move the puck well.

Thoughts on Trade

This one’s even. McDonagh will greatly improve the cup chances of an already very good Tampa Bay Lightning team, while the package going back will be very good for the Rangers’ rebuild, as they added good prospects and picks.

Closing The Gap: Why is There A Gap Between the Big 7 and The B-Level Countries?

This is the first article of a series called Closing The Gap, which will focus on the gap between the “Big 7” and “B-level” countries, and how it could be closed.

Every sport has certain countries that are always top competitors at the international level. Soccer has countries like Germany, England, Spain, Argentina and Brazil, while the USA, Dominican Republic and Cuba own baseball’s international stage.

The sport of hockey is said to have 7 main competitors for the international crown: Canada, USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In reality, there are only six; Slovakia hasn’t won gold since 2002, and are currently ranked as the world’s 11th best hockey power by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).

The countries behind the “Big 6” are commonly referred to as “B-level.” These countries are Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Belarus, Slovakia, France, Latvia, Denmark, Austria and South Korea.

If you follow international hockey, or have watched men’s hockey at a previous Olympics, you will have noticed the distinct gap between these two tiers of countries. If a B-level country managed to defeat a Big 6 hockey power, it would be a huge upset. Most games like that end in a blowout in favour of the traditional hockey power.

This talent gap leads to boring, lopsided games between Big 6 and B-level nations.

The recent World Junior Championship included 4 of those blowouts. On December 26, the United States defeated Denmark 9-0. A day later, Canada beat Slovakia 6-0, and then proceeded to light the lamp against Denmark the following day, winning by 8 goals. Switzerland lost 7-2 to Sweden that same day.

The abyss seperating the two tiers of international hockey causes one-sides contests like these, which lack the back and forth excitement of a game played between two near equal teams. It also generates repetitive tournaments with predictable outcomes. A B-level team has only won an international tournament once; Slovakia won in 2002, and they are sometimes considered to be in the top tier of hockey powers.

Closing the gap would be a huge step forward for international hockey. It would bring more exciting games, and less predictable final scores. Unfortunately, there is no easy fix to this problem, but it can be done. We’ll get into possible solutions in a later article; before we try to remedy the problem, we have to understand why it is happening first.

There are two main factors that could contribute to certain countries being better than others: development and popularity.

Development

Development is how well a prospect is brought along, and how his game grows as he ages. Countries that develop players well give prospects the chance to hit their full potential. Countries with top notch minor and junior hockey programs should develop players well.

Canada is known to be one of the best countries in the world when it comes to player development. As a Canadian who grew up playing hockey, I am familiar with the Canadian minor hockey system.

In Canada, high level teams practice 3-4 times a week, with a game or two every 7 days as well. Teams are also given the chance to work with skills coaches, and in some cases, former NHLers. The best players will also often engage in one in one coaching with skills coaches on a regular basis. A lot of players will play spring hockey as well, and some participate in roller hockey leagues during the summer as well. Players are encouraged to hone their skills on their own time as well, working on shooting and stickhanding. Outdoor rinks are fixtures in the backyards of those serious about their NHL dreams. Young players spend a lot of time focusing on hockey throughout the whole year.

Essentially, in Canada, kids that are serious about hockey will play it year round, and spend a lot of their down time practicing.

At the junior level, players will spend most of their time outside of school focusing on hockey as well, and work with top notch coaches.

It is my understanding that the life of a serious young hockey player in most other countries would be similar, including the tier two nations.

The only notable difference would likely be the quality of the coaching. I’ll expand on this in the next article in this series.

Popularity

It is no coincidence that the Big 6 countries are also the top 6 countries in terms of hockey playing population. If a large amount of people in a country play hockey, that country should produce more good hockey players than one that has fewer people playing the sport.

Top hockey countries have more hockey players than the B-level countries, meaning that there is a correlation between the amount of hockey players in a country and the quality of players coming from that country.

Essentially, this means that if hockey can become more popular in B-level countries, the amount of quality hockey players that come from that country should increase, shrinking the gap between those countries and the ones in the top tier.

Filip Zadina Has Elite Dual-Threat Potential

It’s what seperates the great from the good, and the drivers from the driven.

In hockey, there are two main ways to individually generate offence: shooting or passing. Most players generally rely on one of the two to create oppurtunities, and can be seperated into two categories accordingly: players that typically rely on shooting are categorized as goal scorers, while the athletes with a pass first mentality are grouped as playmakers. But not everyone can be easily divided. The best players are harder to sort. The Connor McDavid’s and the Sidney Crosby’s, can’t be put into just one section, because they excel at both. These players, commonly referred to as dual-threats, are the elite, the ones that can drive a top scoring line, and carry the complimentary player’s that do fit into those two categories.

Filip Zadina, ranked #3 for the 2018 NHL Draft, projects to be one of those sniper-playmaker combos.

Zadina is a great skater, and his hockey IQ is sky high, but his biggest goal scoring asset is his shot. He can snipe, both from a stationary position and on the rush. Zadina has 35 goals in 42 games this season, good for 0.83 goals per game. He generates plenty of shots from the shot, as evident from this shot map from Prospect-Stats, where all statistics and shot maps used in this post are from (as of Feb 11).

*Green squares are goals, orange squares are shots

The shots are mostly sprinkled around the slot area, meaning that Zadina puts himself in good spots to score. The slot is the most dangerous place on the ice. Shots from that area, referred to as “high danger shots,” go in just over 20% of the time, while medium (~9%) and low (~3%) danger shots go in far less often. This means that players that generate a lot of high danger shots should score more goals, and in most cases, they do.

Top 5, NHL 5v5 Goals-Sh/GP

  1. Nikita Kucherov-3.45
  2. Auston Matthews-3.06
  3. William Karlsson-2.16
  4. Alex Ovechkin-4.13
  5. Anders Lee-2.46

The more established three goal scorers (Kucherov, Matthews and Ovechkin), are all over 3 shots per game, while Karlsson and Lee, who are new to the top 5, are in the 2-3 range. This is a sign that they won’t become mainstays as top goal scorers. It’s more likely that they are just getting lucky, and a lot of their shots are going in right now. Getting plenty of shots is key to scoring plenty of goals, so players that don’t get a lot of shots are usually just riding luck and a hot streak. We’ll go with the established scorers, and say that the benchmark for a consistent scorer is 3 shots per game.

So far in the QMJHL this season, Zadina has 4.3, well over the benchmark. Obviously, it’s easier to get shots in the QMJHL than it is in the NHL, but even if he loses a shot a game somewhere during the transition, he’ll still be on par with the NHL’s top goal scorers in shots per game.

He’ll be on par with them in goals scored as well. The combination of speed, skill and smarts that he brings will be too good for him not to score 30+ goals a season.

Nikita Kucherov played his draft plus one season in the QMJHL, the same league that Filip Zadina is suiting up in in his draft year. A year older than Zadina, Kucherov scored 0.88 goals per game. Zadina has put up 0.8 so far this season, very similar, at a younger age. Zadina’s goal scoring statistics are on track with Kucherov, an elite goal scorer.

Goal scoring is only one part of a dual threat player. The other is playmaking, something that Zadina is nearly as good at as he is at scoring.

There are 3 key components of an elite NHL playmaker: vision, passing skill and the ability to open up passing lanes.

Vision is a player’s ability to find open teammates. Players with elite vision are able to find open linemates that don’t appear to be in their sightline. Zadina has that ability. He makes passes that leaves scouts wondering “How’d he see him?”

His overall passing ability is very good. He delivers crisp, tape to tape passes, and has a good understanding of the saucer pass. He knows how and when to elevate the puck, and he uses it to make passes when the defender has good stick positioning.

The future Czech star uses his patience and poise to wait for passing lanes to open up, and if they don’t, he does it himself, changing speeds, making sharp turns, and throwing in the occasional head fake to open up a cross ice pass.

He checks all the boxes of an elite playmaker, and barring a major developmental issue, he will be.

Filip Zadina has all the makings of a dual threat star, with elite goal scoring and playmaking ability. The Czech winger will be a star, and will have a huge impact on the NHL, the fortunes of the team that drafts him, and the Czech international hockey program. His combination of scoring and playmaking skill is rare, and the lucky team that drafts him will be thrilled to have that combo on their roster.

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.

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