This week the Top 100 Prospects countdown cracks the top ten in the second to last installment. Don’t miss next week when the top five are revealed.
10. Thatcher Demko, Vancouver Canucks
Height/Weight: 6’4” / 192
Drafted: 36th overall in the second round of the 2014 draft by Vancouver
Demko had a tremendous season for Boston College, breaking Cory Schneider’s record for shutouts with ten on the season. He was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, posting a 1.88 goals against average and a 0.935 save percentage.
After watching Jimmy Vesey walk away from the Nashville Predators after completing his Senior year, the Canucks decided not to risk losing Demko to free agency and quickly signed their star netminding prospect to the max entry level contract. As such Demko will make his pro debut next season, likely with the Utica Comets, as both Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom have a firm hold on the two NHL jobs.
But don’t be surprised to see Demko force his way into consideration sooner than later. He is the future of the Canucks goaltending.
Scouting Report: Hailing from sunny California, Demko has quickly become a goaltender to watch with his idealistic size, smooth mobility and flair for stepping up in big games. Playing a butterfly style of game, Demko’s ability to cover the net is as good as they come showing great lateral coverage along the ice. He’s an aggressive goaltender who challenges shooters and relies heavily on sound positioning. —Dobber Prospects
9. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
Height/Weight: 6’3” / 207
Drafted: 19th overall in the first round of the 2012 draft by Tampa
After splitting time the past two seasons between Tampa in the NHL and Syracuse in the AHL, it has become quite clear he is ready for the NHL full-time, and is capable of handling the starting job. Two years in a row now he has been thrust into the net during the playoffs to cover for an injured Ben Bishop and he has not looked out of place despite the high stakes of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
With potential NHL expansion looming and the uncertainty of how many goalies each team will be allowed to protect, the Lightning will be forced with a difficult decision soon.
Scouting Report: Coming in at 6’3″ tall, Vasilevskiy has the ideal height and size that NHL teams are looking for more and more in goaltenders today. He is big and takes up a lot of space. When he gets out on his angles he doesn’t leave shooters with a whole lot of net to look at. As evidenced by his performance in the finals Vasilevskiy is mature beyond his years, and this helps him maintain a cool and calm composure in the net.
Vasilevskiy has quick and agile legs that cover the bottom of the net. He is very hard to beat down low. He also has an effective glove hand, something that more and more European goalies are learning to develop in recent years. Vasilevskiy is very good in his lateral movement, he gets side to side in his crease quickly and doesn’t overcommit to cross-ice passes. – Last Word on Sports
8. Nikolaj Ehlers, Winnipeg Jets
Position: Left Wing
Height/Weight: 6’0” / 168
Drafted: Ninth overall in the first round of the 2014 draft by Winnipeg
Ehlers made his NHL debut this season, and while it had its ups and downs, he showed promise. He was a regular on the power play and 11 of his 38 points came with the man advantage. Expect those numbers to spike in the next few years.
His strong finish to the season should be an indicator of things to come as he scored two goals and seven points in his last eight games. With Ehlers, it is not a question of will he produce a 60-point season, but how quickly will it happen.
Scouting Report: Nikolaj Ehlers is an absolutely fabulous skater. His speed is off the charts, and he has outstanding acceleration and great agility. He beats even the quickest of defenders one-on-one, and can take them wide and cut to the net. He is very solid on his skates and has a powerful stride that can fight through checks, hooks, and holds. Despite his size he has good balance and is very difficult to knock off the puck and this should only improve as he adds weight.
Ehlers combines that skating skill with great hands and he can score in close when he cuts to the net. His stickhandling ability is high-end and he can make moves and control the puck while at top speed. He is absolutely lethal off the rush, and if defenders back off on him to avoid being beaten by his speed, he can use the space to let go a great wrist shot which features an excellent release.
His passing skill is also high level, and he has great vision and hockey sense to take advantage of that. Ehlers is willing to work in the dirty areas, and handles the puck well even in heavy traffic areas. He does need to work on adding muscle to his frame and getting better in making more muscular plays down low, on the cycle and in winning battles on the boards. – Last Word on Sports7. William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs
Height/Weight: 5’11” / 174
Drafted: Eighth overall in the first round of the 2014 draft by Toronto
After coming to North America mid-season last year, Nylander had an impressive full season seeing time mainly in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies. He was loaned to Team Sweden for the World Junior Tournament but unfortunately suffered a concussion in the first game.
Despite the setback, he finished the year with a lengthy call up to the NHL before being returned to the Marlies for a Calder Cup run. Nylander clearly has the offensive vision and skill to play a top-six scoring role in the NHL but with the Leafs rebuild in progress he may see some more AHL seasoning where he must continue to work out some warts in his game, namely occasional passive play and holding onto the puck too long.
Scouting Report: He has very good top end speed and excellent acceleration and change of pace ability. He uses this to fool defenders off the rush and to open up passing and shooting lanes by quickly changing speeds. He also shows very good agility and the ability to get around defenders one-on-one. His balance is good, but he could use more core strength in order to avoid getting knocked off the puck by bigger defenders.
In the offensive zone, Nylander shows off outstanding hands, and incredible stickhandling ability. He is an outstanding playmaker with great vision, and can pass the puck through the eye of a needle. His shot features a quick release, and good accuracy, but needs to add some power. He must add mass, and become better along the boards and in front of the net.
He also needs to make smarter decisions with the puck, sometimes he should make the simple play when it is available, instead of making the more complicated and riskier play. These are minor concerns though, most 18-year-olds have the same issues with needing to add muscle, and those with high end offensive talent often need to be coached to take a few less risks with the puck. –– Last Word on Sports
6. Max Domi, Arizona Coyotes
Position: Left Wing/Center
Height/Weight: 5’10” / 198
Drafted: 12th overall in the first round of the 2013 draft by Arizona
Most years, Domi’s 52 point rookie season would be enough to earn a Calder Trophy nomination, but with the seasons Connor McDavid, Artemi Panarin and Shane Gostisbehere had it was not to be. Domi played big minutes and rediscovered the chemistry he and Anthony Duclair had playing together for Canada at the World Junior Tournament where they won gold.
Domi started the season hot, scoring 10 points in his first nine games, before ending the year with 18 goals and 34 assists in 81 games.
Scouting Report: There is no doubt the small feisty Domi owns the offensive skills of a top 10 forward but the criticisms come in many forms – size and strength concerns, too individualistic, and even the fact that he has diabetes have all surfaced as alarms, whether warranted or not. Regardless, Domi is an elite skater with great puck skills, above-average distribution skills (when employed) and absolutely loves to have the puck on his stick. — Dobber Prospects