NHL Prospects

Observations on the final NHL Central Scouting rankings

August 4, 2014: USA Hockey forward, Auston Matthews (19), skates during exhibition win over Finland during USA Hockey Junior Evaluation Camp at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, NY.

NHL Central Scouting released their final draft prospect rankings for the 2016 draft today, and while some players stayed right where everyone expected, there were certainly some surprises, including who took the top spot among North American skaters.

Top 5 North American Skaters:

  1. Pierre-Luc Dubois (LW, Cape Breton)
  2. Matthew Tkachuk (LW, London)
  3. Alexander Nylander (LW, Mississauga)
  4. Jakob Chychrun (D, Sarnia)
  5. Olli Juolevi (D, London)

There are a few observations to make about this North American list:

1. There are two players from the OHL’s London Knights in the top five. You may recognize the Knights as the team that also produced Max Domi and Mitch Marner.

2. The top three North American skaters are all left wings. Wingers are usually the least highly rated of the positions, as centers typically are considered more “valuable”.

3. Pierre-Luc Dubois moved up from No. 7 all the way to first, which usually doesn’t happen in the top 10. While Dubois is a very good player, this jump could also be a case of recency bias, or ”what have you done for me lately” syndrome.

The inherent question with his leap is this: Is he really a better player than Matt Tkachuk, or did he just have a very good second half while Tkachuk continued to play at his consistent high level?

4. There’s quite a bit of debate on who is the best or most valuable defenseman out of the trio of of Chychrun, Juolevi, and Mikhail Sergachev (D, Windsor, ranked 8th). At this point, whoever is taken first seem like it will come down to a team’s preference in playing style.

Sergachev has terrific wrist and slap shots and a high hockey IQ, Juolevi was paired with the top line of Laine, Aho, and Puljujarvi as an underager at World Juniors for a gold-medal Finland team, and Chychrun’s skill is evident to whoever watches him. Charlie McAvoy, from Boston University and ranked 6th, has also worked himself into the conversation with his strong play.

August 6, 2015: USA Hockey F, Matthew Tkachuk (11), stretches prior to 5-2 exhibition loss to Sweden during USA Hockey Junior Evaluation Camp at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, NY.

August 6, 2015: USA Hockey F, Matthew Tkachuk (11), stretches prior to 5-2 exhibition loss to Sweden during USA Hockey Junior Evaluation Camp at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, NY. John Crouch/Icon Sportswire

 

Top 5 European Skaters:

  1. Auston Matthews (C, Zurich)
  2. Patrik Laine (RW, Tappara)
  3. Jesse Puljujarvi (RW, Karpat)
  4. Rasmus Asplund (C, Farjestad)
  5. German Rubtsov (C, Russia U18)

Matthews is still hanging on to the number one spot, despite a concerted effort of late to replace him with Laine. Something that you have to remember when comparing these three skaters is that Matthews has already finished his season, while both of the Finns are still playing. Because people are still watching them while Matthews is at home presumably resting up for the World Championships, there’s a potential for recency bias.

Consensus seems to be that Laine has a higher offensive ceiling than Puljujarvi, but there’s talk that teams might consider taking Puljujarvi at 2nd overall because he’s the ‘safer’ option of the two.

Top 3 North American Goalies:

  1. Evan Fitzpatrick (Sherbrooke)
  2. Carter Hart (Everett)
  3. Tyler Parsons (London)

Each CHL league saw representation in the top three North American goalies, and Parsons lept from sixth to third.

Top 3 European Goalies:

  1. Filip Gustavsson (Lulea Jr)
  2. Daniel Marmenlind (Orebro Jr)
  3. Veini Vehvilainen (JYP)

On the European side, Marmenlind moved up from 6 at midterm to 2.

 

Some final observations:

1. Cliff Pu (RW, London) moved from 83 to 75. However, several scouts feel he should’ve broken into the top 50 due to his play down the stretch and his overall hockey IQ and skill.

2. Chad Krys (D, USA U18) dropped from 30 to 53, and you’ve got to wonder if that’s due to his less than impressive showing at World Juniors. A caveat on that, however, is that World Juniors probably shouldn’t be weighed as heavily as it is both for and against prospects, given that it is such a small sample size.

3. Max Jones (LW, London) dropped from 11 to 14. It’s very possible that his discipline issues allowed other talented prospects putting their foot on the gas to pass him, because his own play didn’t fall off.

4. One prospect making a leap was Ryan Johansen’s brother Lucas (D, Kelowna), who rose from 38 to 26.

5. Michael McLeod (C, Mississauga) is an interesting prospect. He fell from No. 6 to No. 13 amongst North American skaters on Central Scouting’s rankings, but McKeen’s had him at third overall (their rankings combine European and North American), and ISS has him at ninth overall (also combined rankings) so there’s clearly some contention there. He had surgery on a small meniscus tear on Feb. 16 that may have played into Central Scouting’s decision to drop him, but McKeen’s decision to rank him so high is more intriguing.

Overall, when it comes to looking at prospect rankings, the most important thing to remember is this—there are 30 teams out there with 30 sets of priorities and 30 scouting staffs coming to approximately 7 billion different conclusions, all of which play some small role in the decisions they make on draft day in June.

Buckle up. The ride just gets bumpier from here.

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