NHL Prospects

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NHL Prospects

Poslaťod andy_hawk » Uto Jan 16, 2018 9:22 pm

Diskuze o prospectech draftovaných do NHL. Nech sa páčí.

Pro neregistrované na The Athletic, žebříček Coreyho Pronmana TOP 50 prospects po WJC:

We have reached the midpoint of the NHL season when teams convene for their midterm scouting meetings. Our team has convened, as well — and by “our team,” I mean me — to evaluate on the change in prospects’ stock for both drafted and draft-eligible players.

We start with a look at the top 50 drafted skaters, as well as a few of the top goalies. The midseason draft-eligible list will follow in a few weeks.

I have seen almost all of these players live, and a significant majority of them I have seen live this season. I also talk to a lot of scouts, watch these players on video, and research their numbers and backgrounds.

My preference is for highly skilled players with upside. I look for prospects with speed, skill and intelligence. I prefer forwards to defensemen, and centers to wingers. My ranking philosophy is the No. 1 goal of draft and development is to find stars, and even a minor chance of becoming a star has significant value.

While I talk to many scouts over the course of a season to collect information on players, these rankings are solely my own and are not meant to reflect the opinion of anyone else in the industry. Some NHL people may disagree with these placements, at times even seriously disagree.

In terms of prospect eligibility, players outside the NHL with 25 NHL games in a single season, 50 games played in their career or over the age of 27 are considered graduates. Eligibility criteria were determined as of Jan. 11. Due to the nature of a midseason update, any players up in the NHL are not considered. Some recent graduates with the talent to warrant consideration included Joel Eriksson Ek, Daniel Sprong, Jack Roslovic, Tage Thompson, Vladislav Kamenev, Andrew Mangiapane, Travis Dermott, Brendan Guhle and Filip Chlapik.

1. Casey Mittelstadt, C, Buffalo

Age: 19 | Height: 6-foot-1 | Weight: 201 pounds

Drafted: First round, eighth overall in 2017

2017-18 team: University of Minnesota (Big 10)

Mittelstadt, the MVP of the World Juniors, stands out with his elite offensive abilities. There are very few players outside the NHL who can create offense like he can, and he often brings fans out of their seats. He skates well, has arguably the best set of hands outside the league and has great overall offensive instincts as a playmaker. Off the puck, he’s not the best. Despite having fine size, he isn’t going to be a high-end physical player and needs work defensively. However, he shields pucks fine and, given his size and elite skill package, it gives him the potential to be a star in the league. I have small reservations about his production at various levels relative to his age that raise a tiny alarm in my brain, but I’ve watched him so much and see a consistently high-end guy that I’m not too concerned especially given he was playing high school hockey a year ago.

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2. Eeli Tolvanen, LW, Nashville

Age: 18 | Height: 5-foot-10 | Weight: 181 pounds

Drafted: First round, 30th overall in 2017

2017-18 team: Jokerit

Tolvanen is having a season for the ages in the KHL. He surpassed the record for most points by a U19 player by Christmas. He has high-end skill, he has the hockey sense to make highly skilled plays at a quick pace, he sees the ice well and he has an elite shot, which is what many observers know him by. Is he a perfect player? Not at all. His speed isn’t bad but it’s average, and he’s small. However, he balances those flaws by being a dominant player with the puck who can control the game on the man advantage and works hard to win pucks back. He could be one of the top triggermen in the NHL.

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3. Miro Heiskanen, D, Dallas

Age: 18 | Height: 6-foot | Weight: 170 pounds

Drafted: First round, third overall in 2017

2017-18 team: HIFK

Heiskanen has been one of the top defensemen in Finland’s Liiga, playing all situations and pushing the play forward when on the ice. When you watch him, he initially doesn’t scream elite prospect. While he skates well, he doesn’t go end to end and possess dynamic speed/skill. What drives his value is elite hockey sense at both ends. He’s a great passer who rarely makes mistakes and gets the puck into good spots quickly. He also defends well using his feet and brain, and he can be trusted on any shift. I have questions on his ultimate upside. Scouts say Nicklas Lidstrom played the same way, but I have a small alarm bell going off in my head. Still, when I’ve watched him, it’s hard to dispute the highly positive impact he has on his pro and national team at 18 years old.

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4. Martin Necas, C, Carolina

Age: 19 | Height: 6-foot-1 | Weight: 168 pounds

Drafted: First round, 12th overall in 2017

2017-18 team: HC Kometa Brno

Necas was one of the best players at the recent world juniors, he made the Hurricanes briefly out of camp as an 18-year-old and he has been good in the top Czech league. He’s a dynamic center who can control a shift. His skating and skill both get very high grades. Few defensemen can stop him when he gets going through the neutral zone. What impresses me about his skill isn’t the pretty plays he can make, but how he executes them so consistently and uses his skill to create space to make plays. He needs to get stronger and improve his play off the puck a bit, and I’d like to see him score a tad more versus pros, but I have little doubt he can be an impact player in the NHL.

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5. Henrik Borgstrom, C, Florida

Age: 20 | Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 185 pounds

Drafted: First round, 23rd overall in 2016

2017-18 team: Denver

Borgstrom may not be on many NHL fans radars having had a poor world juniors and being a prospect of a smaller market team, but scouts see this scoring machine barreling his way to the NHL. His talent level is off the charts. He has elite hands, great vision, skates well and is 6-foot-3. In other words, he’s the total package in terms of tools to be a top scorer in the NHL and appears on college highlight reels with regularity. So why isn’t he in the argument for the No. 1 prospect? I have some minor concerns. He’s on Denver's PK now, but I have some doubts about how he’ll do defensively at the top level, especially with his physical play. His production over the years at various levels has also never lined up with the talent.

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6. Robert Thomas, C, St. Louis

Age: 18 | Height: 6-foot | Weight: 192 pounds

Drafted: First round, 20th overall in 2017

2017-18 team: Hamilton Bulldogs

Thomas' development has been shooting upwards at a rocket speed the past few years, as he is now clearly one of the best players in his age group. He’s a complete player who can drive play as a center and make high-level offensive plays. He’s such an intelligent forward who sees the ice very well and understands how to use his skill and speed to create space and make plays. Every game this season I’ve watched Thomas I don’t remember a bad outing. He shows you flashes of being a dynamic player while staying committed defensively. Thomas has the potential to be an important center for the Blues.

Read more: Blues are the glue that brought future teammates Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas together as friends

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7. Kirill Kaprizov, LW, Minnesota

Age: 20 | Height: 5-foot-10 | Weight: 192 pounds

Drafted: Fifth round, 135th overall in 2015

2017-18 team: CSKA Moskva

Kaprizov has been the top scorer for one of the top teams in the KHL this season. He stands out in so many ways. He skates very well, is a great playmaker and stick handler who makes plays at pro speed, and can finish chances, too. I don’t think he’s fantastic defensively, but he’s decent, has killed penalties at times this KHL season and can win some puck battles despite not being the biggest guy. The only downside for Kaprizov from an NHL standpoint is, well, if he’ll ever come to the NHL. He is signed in the KHL through 2019-20 after re-signing in the summer, and I’ll continue to rate him as an NHL prospect until the end of that deal. He could be in the Olympics for Russia if Wild fans want to get a glimpse of him.

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8. Gabriel Vilardi, C, Los Angeles

Age: 18 | Height: 6-foot-2 | Weight: 203 pounds

Drafted: First round, 11th overall in 2017

2017-18 team: Kingston Frontenacs

I’d be lying if I said this ranking was based on how Vilardi has played this season, because he’s been hurt for most of the season. A nagging hip injury caused him to miss L.A.’s camp and the first half of the season, before his rights were traded to Kingston in the OHL. When he’s healthy, I see a big, strong center with high-end skill and vision who can make a ton of plays due to his skill and effort. The main issue with Vilardi is no secret. He’s a slow and at times awkward skater, which is the main reason he was available for the Kings at 11 last summer. That concerns me. However, he can break a shift open with his ability even while not being fast. L.A. has made great players out of slow players before, like Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson; we’ll see if they can repeat that trend, but I believe in Vilardi.

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9. Dylan Strome, C, Arizona

Age: 20 | Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 185 pounds

Drafted: First round, third overall in 2015

2017-18 team: Tucson Roadrunners

Dylan Strome has been a great player at most levels. He tore up the OHL year after year. He was great at two world juniors. He’s destroyed the AHL like few 20 year olds in recent years. The one level he has yet to do it in is the NHL. It’s kind of an important league, but it doesn’t mean he never will. The thing with Strome is the book on him has been the exact same for years. He’s a big center with great hands, fantastic vision, can finish chances from a distance and he’s a dominant player from the offensive blueline in. His skating is bad though, and what’s concerning has been the lack of improvement. I believe in his ability, it’s hard to ignore his AHL production and think he’s anything but a top prospect still. But the lack of progress in his feet is starting to raise alarm bells.

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10. Elias Pettersson, C, Vancouver

Age: 19 | Height: 6-foot-2 | Weight: 165 pounds

Drafted: First round, fifth overall in 2017

2017-18 team: Vaxjo Lakers HC

As a great playmaker on Vaxjo’s top power play unit, Pettersson has been one of the greatest offensive producers in the SHL since Peter Forsberg and the Sedin twins. He has some standout offensive attributes. His hands are fantastic, he sees plays developing well, and he has a unique way of controlling the puck and spotting gaps in coverage that distinguishes himself from his peers. While he’s a great playmaker, he’s also a goal-scorer who can finish chances from afar and can be a nightmare to check on the power play. He’s not without warts though. His speed is mediocre and he’s not incredibly tough off the puck due to his wiry frame.

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11. Filip Chytil, C, New York Rangers

Age: 18 | Height: 6-foot-2 | Weight: 190 pounds

Drafted: First round, 21st overall in 2017

2017-18 team: Hartford Wolfpack

Chytil opened eyes in training camp for the Rangers, starting the season up with the big club briefly before being sent down to the AHL where he’s been very good. The 21st overall pick from last year’s draft is a big center with excellent speed, good puck handling skills and his instincts are there to use his talents to make high-level plays versus men. I’m not sure if his skill is dynamic, but he’s shown me it could be in flashes. He’s a playmaker with size who can be a reliable center and be a driving force for his team. That has a lot of value.

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12. Cale Makar, D, Colorado

Age: 19 | Height: 5-foot-11 | Weight: 181 pounds

Drafted: First round, fourth overall in 2017

2017-18 team: UMass

One of the most frequent debates I’ve been having with NHL people in the last year is about players like Makar who are incredibly dynamic with their feet and skill but have questions defensively. The argument is trying to figure out whether they’ll become P.K. Subban or Ryan Murphy. My stance is somewhere in the middle. You should incorporate the risk, it’s greater for defenders with that question than forwards, but you don’t want to overblow it, because if that player becomes a Subban or Erik Karlsson, that’s a franchise changer. Makar had those dynamic elements in bunches. His skating is explosive and elusive. He has great hands. He moves the puck very well, too. I don’t think he’s a horrible defender and have seen him be OK on the PK in college, but it’s not a strength.

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13. Timothy Liljegren, D, Toronto

Age: 18 | Height: 6-foot | Weight: 192 pounds

Drafted: First round, 17th overall in 2017

2017-18 team: Toronto Marlies

After a disastrous 2016-17 season, first contracting mono and then performing poorly internationally, Liljegren has rebounded well in 2017-18. He’s played well for the Marlies in the AHL, and he was solid at the world juniors. Is he all the way back to being considered an elite talent like he was two years ago? I’m not there yet. I have concerns regarding his defense/turnovers, but they’re much more minor than I thought going into the draft. I see a highly creative defenseman with great offensive instincts, shifty feet and someone who makes unique plays around the puck due to how well he thinks the game offensively. His defense has shown enough improvement, as well, to where I think he’ll be able to handle himself at even strength at the top level.

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14. Cody Glass, C, Vegas

Age: 18 | Height: 6-foot-2 | Weight: 179 pounds

Drafted: First round, sixth overall in 2017

2017-18 team: Portland Winterhawks

Despite being cut by Canada’s world junior team and causing some concerns after his second straight poor showing in international play after last spring’s U18 championship, Glass is tearing it up in the WHL, and when I’ve watched his games in Portland, he’s looked dynamic. Big centers like him with hands, but especially with the great vision he has are not easy to find. He’s often a catalyst for starting offense due to how creative a playmaker he is. He’s a fine skater for his size, but I wouldn’t characterize him as explosive. Also, he has work to do off the puck in terms of winning a few more battles and being more reliable defensively.

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15. Kasperi Kapanen, RW, Toronto

Age: 21 | Height: 6-foot | Weight: 181 pounds

Drafted: First round, 22nd overall in 2014 by Pittsburgh

2017-18 team: Toronto Marlies

There is a lot to like about Kapanen. When you see him play, his high-level ability stands out immediately. He’s a fantastic skater who can play a skill game and push the pace at even strength. He can dominate a shift and be a difference maker in a game with his playmaking. He’s right on the cusp of being a regular due to a logjam on the wing in Toronto. He has made significant improvements to his defensive game. Just getting him to be a tad more consistent and stronger in battles off the puck will likely push him over the edge into being a good NHL player.

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16. Adam Fox, D, Calgary

Age: 19 | Height: 5-foot-11 | Weight: 181 pounds

Drafted: Third round, 66th overall in 2016

2017-18 team: Harvard

Fox is very cunning. Puns aside, he’s actually a very smart defenseman. He stands out with the puck due to his skill but especially with how good a passer he is and how few errors he makes while displaying a skilled game. He’s made believers among some of his hardest detractors when he was a draft prospect, and after multiple great seasons and tournaments, he’s established himself as a top prospect. He’s not incredibly fast and is small for a defenseman, but as he showed at the world junior level this season, he can still be a pillar.

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17. Nick Suzuki, C, Vegas

Age: 18 | Height: 5-foot-11 | Weight: 183 pounds

Drafted: First round, 13th overall in 2017

2017-18 team: Owen Sound Attack

Suzuki has been very good in the OHL this season, scoring at a 1.5 points per game rate. His stock is holding steady from last season. He’s an incredibly gifted playmaker. His hockey sense is elite, and he can control the play when he gets an inch of space. Suzuki also has very good puck skills and can create chances for himself. While he’s at his best making plays, he can finish chances. While I think he’s fine defensively at the junior level, the major issues in his pro projection are his size and mediocre speed. I like him a lot, but I know those concerns stand out when you watch him.

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18. Owen Tippett, RW, Florida

Age: 18 | Height: 6-foot-2 | Weight: 203 pounds

Drafted: First round, 10th overall in 2017

2017-18 team: Mississauga Steelheads

Tippett has generated a lot of offense since being sent back to the OHL after briefly making the Florida Panthers out of camp and showing fine in his initial NHL stint at 18 years of age — although he wasn’t invited to Canada’s World Junior Championships selection camp. He’s one of the most dangerous forwards in junior because of his elite speed and shot, on top of having pretty good skill. His east-west game has never been great, but defensemen know when he has the puck, and he creates a ton of offense by himself. His issues come more without the puck in terms of effort as well as making smart decisions on when to make the extra play.

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19. Jordan Kyrou, RW, St. Louis

Age: 19 | Height: 6-foot | Weight: 185 pounds

Drafted: Second round, 35th overall in 2016

2017-18 team: Sarnia Sting

Kyrou has been excellent this season in the OHL, even getting some looks for Canada’s Olympic team, although he ultimately wasn’t invited. He has dynamic qualities in his game. He’s a great skater and puck handler who can push the pace and make highlight reel rushes. Kyrou’s decision-making used to worry me, but he’s getting better in that regard and his playmaking has impressed me more recently. He’s averaged about an assist per game for the last two years. His shot is solid, as well. His play off the puck can still be better, particularly physically, but with the puck he can change a shift.

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20. Kailer Yamamoto, RW, Edmonton

Age: 19 | Height: 5-foot-8 | Weight: 154 pounds

Drafted: First round, 22nd overall in 2017

2017-18 team: Spokane Chiefs

A few months ago, I was full of optimism for Yamamoto. A consistently great player in junior with so much speed and skill who made the Oilers and looked solid in his first few NHL weeks warrants excitement. Since then though, I’ve had some concerns. He seems to not be playing with as much pace. His world juniors were a major disappointment. I know he can be a high-end player. He has the talent and the IQ, and at NHL camp, he showed the will, so I’m hoping his is just a long letdown period after being sent down.

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21. Kristian Vesalainen, LW, Winnipeg

Age: 18 | Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 209 pounds

Drafted: First round, 24th overall in 2017

2017-18 team: HPK

Vesalainen has been very good this season in Finland, showing some of the promise of his 16-year-old campaign and rebounding nicely from a so-so draft season. It’s easy to be impressed by a 6-foot-3 forward who can skate and handle the puck the way Vesalainen does. He can break open a shift by way of being a playmaker or a goal scorer and can put defensemen on their heels. I worry about some of his reads, although I think that area of his game looked fine at the world juniors, and he’s not very engaged off the puck, but the upside is tantalizing.

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22. Nick Merkley, RW, Arizona

Age: 20 | Height: 5-foot-10 | Weight: 194 pounds

Drafted: First round, 30th overall in 2015

2017-18 team: Tucson Roadrunners

The average hockey fan may have forgotten about Merkley. He’s been injured a few times, was cut from the Canadian world junior roster and, when healthy, he wasn’t as great as he was three years ago as a draft-eligible player. However, as a first year pro, Merkley has gotten his groove back. He is torching the AHL and is a huge part of one of the best teams in the A. He’s a skilled playmaker who can flash high level ability with the puck. Merkley also isn’t shy from being physical despite his smaller frame, although he’ll need to bulk up to continue doing that in the NHL. He skates fine, but I don’t think he’s an elite speedster. He’s worked to improve his shot and has looked like a more dangerous goal scorer this season.

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23. Sam Steel, C, Anaheim

Age: 19 | Height: 5-foot-11 | Weight: 185 pounds

Drafted: First round, 30th overall in 2016

2017-18 team: Regina Pats

The reigning CHL top scorer is a very interesting prospect and one who brings upside to the table. He’s a skilled puck handler and, while he can make great individual plays, he’s much more at home using his excellent vision to be a playmaker like few players in his age group can. He’s somewhat undersized and not very physical, but Steel is fine defensively due to his excellent IQ, has killed penalties at various levels for years and projects as a center at the top level. While he’s not slow, the main thing I want to see from Steel is a little more explosiveness, especially from his first few strides.

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24. Alexander Nylander, LW, Buffalo

Age: 19 | Height: 6-foot-1 | Weight: 192 pounds

Drafted: First round, eighth overall in 2016

2017-18 team: Rochester Americans

Nylander was one of, if not the toughest player to rank of all the prospects. There are going to be some people who read this and think he’s way too low, he’s immensely talented and you’re crazy, Corey. There are going to be people who read this and think he’s way too high. They’ll see a handful of points this AHL season as a 19-year-old and think you’re crazy, Corey. Ultimately, there’s some sweetspot in the middle where his value is accurate that accounts for the fact he has great hands and vision, and can be a driving force for an offense, balanced against the fact he’s struggled against pros and has questions on his ability to play with pace and win battles.

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25. Erik Brannstrom, D, Vegas

Age: 18 | Height: 5-foot-10 | Weight: 181 pounds

Drafted: First round, 15th overall in 2017

2017-18 team: HV71

Asides from Brannstrom’s size at 5-foot-10, there is so much to like about his game. His skating is high-end, if not elite. He evades pressure easily due to how quickly he moves and can push the pace in transition. He has nice hands, but I wouldn’t characterize him as a dangler, rather he’s better moving the puck due to his IQ and making a smart quick play off a zone entry. Despite his size, he’s decent defensively due to his feet and brain, and projects as a two-way defenseman in the NHL.

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26. Troy Terry, RW, Anaheim

Age: 20 | Height: 6-foot-1 | Weight: 174 pounds

Drafted: Fifth round, 148th overall in 2015

2017-18 team: Denver

I went out to Boston to watch Denver for a weekend earlier this season. Terry was a key player and the rink was flooded with scouts. Some likely remember him as the shootout hero in last year’s gold medal game in the world juniors. The impressions from almost all scouts I talked to after the weekend, as well as those who’ve seen Denver at other instances, was he’s emerged as a top-end guy. There’s so much to his game. He’s highly skilled, smart, quick, tenacious and makes plays at both ends.

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27. Logan Brown, C, Ottawa

Age: 19 | Height: 6-foot-6 | Weight: 220 pounds

Drafted: First round, 11th overall in 2016

2017-18 team: Windsor Spitfires

Brown is a frustrating prospect because of his immense potential. He’s a 6-foot-6 center with skill, he’s not slow and can make high-end plays. That is typically a top-five pick caliber prospect. However, he is incredibly inconsistent, particularly in how he battles game to game. I’ve seen games from him where he looks unstoppable and others where you need to recheck the lineup card. I still see so many flashes from him, particularly with his great vision, that you try to be realistic about his negatives and see the value he brings to a team. He’s getting better, and his experience in Ottawa showed him what he needs to do to be a pro.

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28. Oliver Kylington, D, Calgary

Age: 20 | Height: 6-foot | Weight: 183 pounds

Drafted: Second round, 60th overall in 2015

2017-18 team: Stockton Heat

Longtime readers know I haven’t come off the Kylington bandwagon yet, and I have continued to be impressed by his play this season. I see a dynamic skater and puck mover whose game is steadily starting to mature and, as a third-year player in the AHL, is advancing as a professional hockey player. He’s been manning the top PP unit for lengthy stretches in Stockton and excelling with his entries and puck movement. The bad decisions with the puck aren’t gone, but they are lessening and his defense still isn’t a calling card but continuing to add bulk to his frame will help that cause.

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29. Klim Kostin, LW, St. Louis

Age: 18 | Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 196 pounds

Drafted: First round, 31st overall in 2017

2017-18 team: San Antonio Rampage

Kostin’s draft season was derailed by injuries, but he’s looked quite good this season. He had an excellent training camp with the Blues, has been fine — albeit not great — in the AHL and had an excellent world juniors. The things to get excited about are obvious. He’s a big, strong winger with skill who not only can dangle but shows the quality offensive instincts to make plays around him at high speeds and score, too. I worry about his foot speed and his defensive play, and there’s a small question in my brain about how high-end his skill is, but overall I think he’s shown why there was such optimism for him at one point.

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30. Nikita Gusev, LW, Vegas

Age: 25 | Height: 5-foot-11 | Weight: 181 pounds

Drafted: Seventh round, 202nd overall in 2012 by Tampa Bay

2017-18 team: SKA St. Petersburg

Gusev is not your typical NHL prospect as a 25-year-old seventh-round pick playing in Russia, but anyone who's seen him understands. He’s been one of the very best players in the KHL the past two years, was great last spring at the World Championships and is expected to be an Olympian. He’s a game breaker with the puck below the offensive blueline. He’s highly creative with fantastic puck skills and vision. He’s a small guy though, and while he’s a shifty skater, he’s not a burner. Editorially, we’ve made the decision to keep him eligible as a prospect until his age 27 season, as the Calder does as well.

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31. Morgan Frost, C, Philadelphia

Age: 18 | Height: 5-foot-11 | Weight: 170 pounds

Drafted: First round, 27th overall in 2017

2017-18 team: Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

Frost has been one of the best players on the best team in the CHL, being a critical part of their 25-game win streak and doing so through an exhibition of his skill and hockey sense. When I’ve watched him this season, I’ve really been impressed by how well he controls play and how smart he is. He dictates the pace of a shift with his vision and patience. He’s skilled, too, and can gain the zone with his hands but prefers to make a play. Getting stronger will be key for Frost, and while he can skate, he could play with a little more pace.

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32. Aleksi Heponiemi, C, Florida

Age: 19 | Height: 5-foot-10 | Weight: 148 pounds

Drafted: Second round, 40th overall in 2017

2017-18 team: Swift Current Broncos

Heponiemi is currently lighting the WHL on fire and pouring gasoline on it. In his 18-year-old season, he is scoring at well over two points per game. One can imagine he’s an offensive player. I think he skates fine, but I don’t think it’s as high level as his skill and particularly his IQ. His brain drives so much value as a playmaker. The guy is averaging roughly two assists per game. He makes beautiful passes seem routine and controls things so well on the power play. He’s got to bulk up and increase his speed, as the increased pace of the world juniors exposed those elements to a degree, but he has a lot of upside.

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33. Olli Juolevi, D, Vancouver

Age: 19 | Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 198 pounds

Drafted: First round, fifth overall in 2016

2017-18 team: TPS

There’s been a lot of digital ink spilled over the Canucks' fifth-overall pick in 2016. While it would be hard to argue he’s an elite prospect, he’s still a very good one who's been solid in Finland’s top league and had a nice world juniors. Juolevi isn’t flashy but does a lot well. He’s a mobile defenseman who skates very well for a player his size. He moves the puck quickly and intelligently. His skill isn’t high-end, but he controls the puck fine. I wish he was a little tougher defensively, but he’s smart in his own end and closes gaps well so he makes enough stops. He still projects as a top-four defenseman.

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34. Vitaly Abramov, LW, Columbus

Age: 19 | Height: 5-foot-9 | Weight: 172 pounds

Drafted: Third round, 65th overall in 2016

2017-18 team: Gatineau Olympiques and Victoriaville Tigres

Abramov didn’t have a great world juniors, but I’ve watched him closely for a long time and know the highly talented player he is. The reigning QMJHL MVP has a ton of skill and can be a driver for a line. He makes highly skilled dekes seem effortless and his vision surprises me at times even when you know he’s looking to make a play. His warts are that he’s small; not a real speedster, which isn’t ideal at his height; and while he works to win pucks, defense will be a question for him at the top level.

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35. Drake Batherson, RW, Ottawa

Age: 19 | Height: 6-foot-2 | Weight: 187 pounds

Drafted: Fourth round, 121st overall in 2017

2017-18 team: Cape Breton Screaming Eagles

Ottawa is starting to love the Drake after a breakout season in the QMJHL and being a leading goal scorer at the world juniors. Usually excitement over a 19-year-old CHL player having their first big year is an unwise bet, but it’s different with Batherson. A late growth spurt has resulted in in a pro frame with good puck skills, excellent hockey IQ and a decent shot. His feet have been his main weakness, but at the world juniors, he didn’t seem particularly slow, albeit he’s not a speedster. Players with his size and skill usually go in the first round, and Batherson seems to be trending up fast.

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36. Henri Jokiharju, D, Chicago

Age: 18 | Height: 6-foot | Weight: 181 pounds

Drafted: First round, 29th overall in 2017

2017-18 team: Portland Winterhawks

Jokiharju has been one of the top defensemen in the WHL this season and had a quality world junior tournament. He’s a smooth player. He won’t stand out with a flashy rush, but he makes a lot of quality plays all over the ice and can QB a power play. Jokiharju’s skating stands out when you watch him due to how fluid a skater he is and how he can transition the play with his feet. He has excellent vision and makes a lot of high-level passes. He has some skill, but I don’t see him as a player who relies on his hands. Defensively he’s solid for his age, but he needs to get stronger and more confident checking before he reaches the NHL.

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37. Kale Clague, D, Los Angeles

Age: 19 | Height: 6-foot | Weight: 176 pounds

Drafted: Second round, 51st overall in 2016

2017-18 team: Brandon Wheat Kings

When he’s not being victim to many amazing kale puns on Twitter, Clague has been arguably the best defenseman in the CHL this season and was leaned on as Canada’s No. 1 defenseman at the world juniors. He’s an excellent skater and a very smart two-way defenseman. You see the monster point totals he’s put up this season and a lot of that is through good decision-making, vision and activating into the play effectively. He’s also a very reliable defender who shuts down top players regularly due to his advanced defensive reads and mobility. Clague’s size is average, but he’s not afraid to grind in front of the net or along the boards.

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38. Ryan Poehling, C, Montreal

Age: 19 | Height: 6-foot-2 | Weight: 185 pounds

Drafted: First round, 25th overall in 2017

2017-18 team: St. Cloud State

There’s no doubt Poehling has been quite good in the past year. He blew people away at the world junior summer camp, has been an important part of one of college hockey’s best teams and, while he wasn’t great, he was an important part of the U.S. junior team as an 18-year-old. I have my concerns about Poehling’s upside. His hands and skating are not poor, but they’re not great. He is very smart though and his offense comes through his excellent vision. He’s also a fierce competitor who battles hard in each zone, is strong on the puck and is quite good defensively down the middle.

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39. Juuso Valimaki, D, Calgary

Age: 19 | Height: 6-foot-2 | Weight: 205 pounds

Drafted: First round, 16th overall in 2017

2017-18 team: Tri-City Americans

Valimaki didn’t have the best world juniors, but he’s overall had a very nice season between the WHL, NHL camp and other international showings. His skill isn’t high-end, which is my major concern about his upside, but I still see a pro-sized defender who skates quite well and makes smart plays at both ends. He shows me flashes of hitting another level with the occasional great rush or heady puck carry, but I don’t think that’s his game. He transports the puck and defends well, and can make a skilled play if he senses an opportunity.

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40. Ian Mitchell, D, Chicago

Age: 18 | Height: 5-foot-11 | Weight: 174 pounds

Drafted: Second round, 57th overall in 2017

2017-18 team: Denver

Mitchell was a player who intrigued me last season as a draft-eligible player at various events, but this season he’s firmly established in my mind that he’s a top prospect. He’s been the top defenseman on one of the best college teams in the country as an 18-year-old. He brings a lot of components to the table in terms of his skating and skill, but his IQ stands out the most to me. Mitchell is very calm moving the puck and controls things well on the PP. He isn’t offense-only, as he plays tough minutes and kills penalties in Denver, and despite being small, he defends OK.

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41. Luke Kunin, C, Minnesota

Age: 20 | Height: 6-foot | Weight: 192 pounds

Drafted: First round, 15th overall in 2016

2017-18 team: Iowa Wild

Kunin has been up and down between the Wild and AHL this season. He’s been fine in the NHL but won’t be up permanently until a spot opens up for him to get real ice time. He has a lot of value from his versatility. Kunin can play center or wing, make plays on both special teams, be a setup man or wire his high-end shot to finish chances. His skill and speed are solid, albeit he’s not a spectacular offensive player. He’s earned the notice of fellow coaches who selected him to the AHL All-Star Game in his first full year as a pro. I expect he’ll be up with the Wild for good soon.

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42. Dylan Sikura, LW, Chicago

Age: 22 | Height: 5-foot-11 | Weight: 174 pounds

Drafted: Sixth round, 178th overall in 2014

2017-18 team: Northeastern

I normally would hesitate hard on pumping the tires on a 22-year-old college player whose major statistical seasons came after he turned 20, but Sikura is a player I’ve paid very close attention to in the last year. I’m not sure how high-end his offense will be in the NHL, but I do see a skilled player with at least the potential to be a top-six forward. He’s a good skater with impressive hands and has good offensive instincts, too. He drives play for Northeastern and, as of this writing, leads college hockey in points and shots per game. He’s not overly physical and not great defensively, but I see a well-rounded offensive threat who could score as a NHLer as soon as this spring.

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43. Philippe Myers, D, Philadelphia

Age: 20 | Height: 6-foot-5 | Weight: 209 pounds

Drafted: Undrafted

2017-18 team: Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Myers has been an all-situations player for Lehigh Valley in his first AHL season and generally has looked solid. There are very few 6-foot-5 defensemen who can skate like Myers and watching him lead a rush can be a treat. I think his skill is OK, and he has fine instincts, although in my viewings as a pro I’ve seen a few too many errors. He defends well, using his size, wingspan, brain and feet to make stops. My major question with him is how high his upside is offensively, but he’s such a good athlete that I’m willing to keep betting on him.

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44. Sebastian Aho, D, New York Islanders

Age: 21 | Height: 5-foot-10 | Weight: 170 pounds

Drafted: Fifth round, 139th overall in 2017

2017-18 team: Bridgeport Sound Tigers

Longtime readers will likely chuckle at the older Sebastian Aho making yet another appearance on a prospect ranking for me, but damn if he’s not having a great season. Drafted in his fourth eligible season last summer, Aho quickly signed with the Islanders, has been an All-Star playing all situations in the AHL and earned a few games up in the NHL. He skates very well, and his hockey sense also gets a high grade. He moves the puck so well due to his IQ but has enough creativity and speed to skate it up if he needs to. Despite being small, he competes defensively and makes smarts reads there, but perfecting his D-zone work will be the area he’ll need to improve for the NHL.

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45. Janne Kuokkanen, C, Carolina

Age: 19 | Height: 6-foot-1 | Weight: 187 pounds

Drafted: Second round, 43rd overall in 2016

2017-18 team: Charlotte Checkers

Kuokkanen has had a very solid season outside of a disappointing world juniors. He made the Hurricanes out of camp and has been a reasonably good AHL player for a teenager. While he skates and handles the puck fine, I don’t see him as a highlight reel kind of player. He seems to always be around the play due to how smart he is. He makes a lot of quick, smart plays and has excellent vision. I’m unsure how high his upside is, but betting on hockey IQ to drive play is usually a good bet. He could be a reliable center for all situations.

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46. Conor Timmins, D, Colorado

Age: 19 | Height: 6-foot-1 | Weight: 185 pounds

Drafted: Second round, 32nd overall in 2017

2017-18 team: Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

Timmins has grown on me a lot this season. He’s a very smart two-way defenseman who has been excellent in the OHL and was one of the top defensemen at the world juniors. The questions for me on Timmins is whether he has elite upside due to his rather average speed/skill combo. However, he gets a lot accomplished because of his excellent vision, quick decision-making and overall quality offensive instincts. He gets pucks out of trouble quickly and has enough skill in his game to create space for himself. Timmins drives play forward and can check good forwards. That’s a nice combo.

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47. Alexandre Texier, C, Columbus

Age: 18 | Height: 6-foot-1 | Weight: 192 pounds

Drafted: Second round, 45th overall in 2017

2017-18 team: KalPa

A raw look at Texier’s numbers relative to his age and league would likely underwhelm an analyst, even if he was a few days away from being eligible for the 2018 NHL draft. However, I feel in cases like Texier, where he played in France for so many years, which with all due respect, is not high-level hockey, he may be behind the development curve of a similar prospect in talent and age. He’s got great skills and is always on the cusp of making a highlight reel play. Texier has impressive offensive instincts and can be a great playmaker. Despite playing pro for nearly two years now, his game needs to mature a lot. He’s got average height but needs to bulk up. He needs to be a lot better defensively, and he needs to get faster. He’s a bit of a longshot but has massive potential.

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48. Nikita Scherbak, RW, Montreal

Age: 22 | Height: 6-foot-1 | Weight: 174 pounds

Drafted: First round, 26th overall in 2014

2017-18 team: Laval Rocket

Scherbak had a rough go at it his first two pro seasons, but it seems like he’s been turning it around in his third season, being one of the more dangerous offensive players in the AHL. He has a good skill level and stands out with the puck because he can make high-level passes and flashy plays. He’s not a perfect player by any means. His skating is average, and he’s not great defensively. It’s nice to see him back on track though after looking promising as a draft-eligible player four years ago, and he has enough upside to be intriguing.

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49. Jeremy Bracco, RW, Toronto

Age: 20 | Height: 5-foot-9 | Weight: 181 pounds

Drafted: Second round, 61st overall in 2015

2017-18 team: Toronto Marlies

Bracco started the season with a focus on his off-ice conditioning and strength, and as a result, he didn't play a ton to start his first pro season. With notable progress in that area in the past month or so though since he’s been getting regular playing time, he’s looked very impressive. His brain stands out, as he’s a fantastic playmaker, and with his unique skating stride, he also stands out whenever he’s near the puck. Bracco needs to continue to be better off the puck and get stronger, and I’d like to see him score a bit more, but I really like his upside.

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50. Patrick Harper, LW, Nashville

Age: 19 | Height: 5-foot-9 | Weight: 161 pounds

Drafted: Fifth round, 138th overall in 2016

2017-18 team: Boston University

Harper is by no means a perfect player. I realize he’s not a speedster, is short, can be taken out of the game physically and could stand to shoot a lot more, but he has so much skill that I had to squeeze him in at the No. 50 spot. I’ve seen flashes of brilliance from Harper, whether it’s an end-to-end rush, a great deke or an elite pass, he can make high-level plays happen frequently due to his skill and IQ. He needs to get stronger and quicker to have a shot as a pro, but he has the talent to be a valuable NHL scorer.

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Honorable mentions (alphabetical order)
Lias Andersson, C, New York Rangers

Jake Bean, D, Carolina

Kieffer Bellows, LW, New York Islanders

Jonathan Dahlen, LW, Vancouver

Ryan Donato, C, Boston

Dillon Dube, C, Calgary

Adam Gaudette, C, Vancouver

Jordan Greenway, C, Minnesota

Joshua Ho-Sang, RW, New York Islanders

Mathieu Joseph, RW, Tampa Bay

Michael McLeod, C, New Jersey

Michael Rasmussen, C, Detroit

Yegor Rykov, D, New Jersey

Samuel Blais, LW, St. Louis

Tyler Steenbergen, RW, Arizona

Urho Vaakanainen, D, Boston

Colin White, C, Ottawa

Christian Wolanin, D, Ottawa

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TOP 5 GOALIES

1. Ilya Samsonov, Washington

Age: 20 | Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 205 pounds

Drafted: First round, 22nd overall in 2015

2017-18 team: Metallurg Magnitogorsk

Samsonov has been very good in the KHL the past few years, although his playing time has been lower than the ideal amount given his KHL club has two very good goalies. He has a unique physical package of being tall, bulky and explosive in the net. He recovers out of his butterfly quickly and doesn’t shy away from playing an aggressive style. Samonov is a very competitive goalie who battles in the crease well. I like his aggressiveness but he can be a little all over the crease; but he makes up for that with all the high quality saves he makes with consistency. His KHL contract expires at the end of this season.

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2. Carter Hart, Philadelphia

Age: 19 | Height: 6-foot-2 | Weight: 181 pounds

Drafted: Second round, 48th overall in 2016

2017-18 team: Everett Silvertips

Hart is in the middle of one of the all-time great goaltending seasons in WHL history. His .961 save percentage is a full 20 points higher than the next best season on record among goalies with regular starts. A back to back WHL goalie of the year, Hart is a very smart and technically sound netminder. His knowledge of how to read the game, track pucks and position himself in the net is high-end, if not elite. He’s a calm goaltender who never seems to get out of his technique on tough saves. His athleticism is decent. He moves around at a solid level and has an above-average glove hand, but he doesn't have an explosive element in his game.

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3. Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders

Age: 22 | Height: 6-foot-2 | Weight: 176 pounds

Drafted: Third round, 78th overall in 2014

2017-18 team: CSKA Moskva

Sorokin is in the middle of yet another dominant season over in the KHL, anchoring one of the league’s best teams in CSKA. Sorokin can make a ton of stops due to his top-level athleticism moving across the crease or stopping pucks away from his body. He’s a smart positional player, as well as a battler between the pipes who doesn’t shy away from playing aggressive angles. He’s a goalie without a clear fault and is the projected starting goaltender for Russia at the Olympics. He is signed in the KHL through the 2019-20 season.

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4. Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers

Age: 22 | Height: 6-foot-1 | Weight: 183 pounds

Drafted: Fourth round, 118th overall in 2014

2017-18 team: SKA St. Petersburg

Shesterkin is a very entertaining goalie to watch and has put up monster numbers the past two seasons on a powerhouse SKA club. He is a very athletic goalie with high-end reflexes. His glove can get him out of tough situations with consistency, and his lateral agility helps him make a lot of difficult saves. He's become more sound in tracking pucks and squaring up shots, but his value comes from getting to pucks other goalies can’t. He is signed in the KHL through the 2018-19 season and will likely be Russia’s backup at the Olympics.

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5. Thatcher Demko, Vancouver

Age: 22 | Height: 6-foot-4 | Weight: 192 pounds

Drafted: Second round, 36th overall in 2014

2017-18 team: Utica Comets

Demko was named an AHL All-Star this season after a great rebound campaign as a second year pro. Demko stands out as a huge goalie who moves well, can be aggressive with his positioning and recovers well, but generally holds in a good position and doesn’t get too out of control. Demko’s 6-foot-4 frame has always been a selling point, but as he’s filled out and maintained quality athleticism, it has allowed him to become a top-end player at the pro level.

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