The top 100 NHL prospect countdown continues, and the top 20 boasts some impressive prospects from franchise defensemen to power forwards and elite snipers who all have the promise of playing full-time in the NHL during the upcoming season.
20. Michael Dal Colle, New York Islanders
Height/Weight: 6’3” / 198
Drafted: Fifth overall in the first round of the 2014 draft by New York Islanders
After leading the Oshawa Generals to an OHL and Memorial Cup Championships, the skilled winger was returned to his major-junior team after failing to make the jump to the NHL. Perhaps suffering from an early case of NHL-itis, his offensive production in Oshawa was disappointing.
In his final year of juniors and with the Generals rebuilding, he was traded to the Kingston Frontenacs. There his offensive game exploded, as he formed a dominant line with Spencer Watson (Los Angeles Kings) and Warren Foegele (Carolina Hurricanes), jumping from 25 points in 30 games with the Generals to 55 in 30 with the Frontenacs.
Kingston was swept in the second round of the OHL playoffs and Dal Colle finished his season in the AHL with Bridgeport. He failed to make an impact there, going pointless in the final three regular season games and posting a minus-6. In three playoff games he managed his first career point as a pro with one assist and a minus-2.
Dal Colle showed in junior he has elite offensive skills and vision, he is a very creative player and equally adept at playmaking and scoring. He has pro size and skating skills. He projects as a top-six winger, but still needs time in the AHL to adjust to the pro game before he can make an impact in the NHL.
Very good straight ahead speed. Good acceleration and can reach for extra gear as needed. Dal Colle’s wrist shot is a fantastic weapon, with a deceptive release that adds to its allure. Very skilled at using opposing defenders as a screen to hide his release.
Has a reasonable slap shot as well, but aims to shoot from in close enough that his wrister is generally his best bet. Has the confidence and skill to skate with the puck into traffic. Dal Colle is a very creative passer, and has been known to fake a shot to set up a teammate with a goalmouth feed on occasion. Dal Colle’s hockey smarts are mostly seen in the offensive zone and in transition. He is a very passive player in his own zone, frequently floating near the point, waiting for a teammate to corral the puck so that he can break forward for a long pass.
In the offensive end, he is a dynamo with incredible vision, patience and instincts. Dal Colle has a large frame, although he tends to shy away from the dirty areas. Very infrequently engages in physical play. He will battle if he gets caught in a jam, but generally is successful at avoiding those jams in the first place. The rangy winger will also take a hit to make a play is he feels that is the best option. – Hockey Prospectus
19. Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets
Height/Weight: 6’1” / 176
Drafted: 17th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by Winnipeg
The Jets’ top prospect is on the fast track to the NHL. After dominating the USHL in his draft year, Connor went to the NCAA and took command with the University of Michigan, scoring 71 points in 38 games and earning a nomination for the Hobey Baker Award.
His fast track to the NHL continued after he was named to Team USA for the World Championship in Russia, where he put up two assists in five games. Connor will leave the NCAA after signing his entry-level conract with the Jets and will make his pro debut next season. Don’t be surprised if the Jets add both Connor and Patrik Laine into the roster next season.
The prototypical two-way forward, Connor excels in all three zones of the ice, and in any situation. His elite vision and hockey sense make him best-suited at the center position, where he can see the ice best and decide whether to make the pass or shoot. An exceptional passer, Connor has a very underrated power and accurate shot as well, making him both a lethal playmaker and sniper. His puckhandling skills allow for maximum creativity, and his speed and boundless energy make him difficult to contain.
Connor’s defensive game is well-advanced when compared to that of his fellow 2015 NHL draftees; the forward knows where the puck is at all times and knows how to get it on his stick (he is known for causing turnovers). He oozes confidence in his abilities and never fails to show up in a game, making him an incredibly tough opponent to go up against every night. – Today’s Slapshot
18. Noah Hanifin, Carolina Hurricanes
Height/Weight: 6’3” / 205
Drafted: Fifth overall in the first round of the 2015 NHL draft by Carolina.
After just one season with Boston College, Hanifin made the jump to the NHL playing in 79 games with Carolina and posting an impressive 22 points. His minus-14 rating is a concern, but if he can continue to develop at his current rate, that will improve as well.
His play also earned him a roster spot on the American World Championship roster where he didn’t look out of place, posting three points in ten games and an even plus-minus. Hanifin looks to be the real deal and should anchor the Carolina blue line for years to come.
His high panic threshold and overall poise under pressure allows Hanifin to dictate the pace of the game from the backend. Through strong positioning and an edgy defensive game, Hanifin proves to be as impactful on the defensive end as he is on the attack. Hanifin owns a high-end processor and rarely ever gets goaded into a mistake. He’s composed, confident and calculated with his decisions and is expected to develop into a franchise defenseman. — Dobber Prospects
17. Anthony Mantha, Detroit Red Wings
Height/Weight: 6’5” / 214
Drafted: 20th overall in the first round of the 2013 draft by Detroit
After a monster final year in junior where Mantha scored at a goal-a-game pace through the regular season, playoffs and Memorial Cup, his first year as a pro was underwhelming. In his rookie season in Grand Rapids, Mantha had a late start after a broken leg and never got back on track.
Jim Devellano the Wings Senior Vice President described it as “Very, very, very disappointing.”
This year, he played much better, scoring 45 points in 60 games and earned his NHL debut playing in ten games and scoring two goals. Mantha has shown significant improvements in his sophomore season in the speed of his hands, feet and the rate in which he thinks the game. Look for Mantha to crack the Wings roster on a full-time basis.
Mantha is purely and simply a goal scorer. He has a great frame that he uses to fight through traffic, solid puck awareness and offensive positioning, all topped with a heavy wrister that he can fire quickly and smoothly. For a player of his size, he skates very well but he needs to keep his feet moving and work hard on both sides of the puck. Mantha is does not mind physical play and will willingly engage in battles, but can sometimes be goaded into undisciplined penalties. – Hockeys Future
16. Ivan Provorov, Philadelphia Flyers
Height/Weight: 6’1” / 202
Drafted: Seventh overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by Philadelphia
The Flyers boast an embarrassment of riches in defense prospects and Provorov may turn out to be the crown jewel. The big Russian dominated the WHL, posting 73 points in 62 regular season games as a defenseman.
He led the Brandon Wheat Kings to a WHL Championship and was impressive on the big stages of both the Memorial Cup and the World Juniors. He has demonstrated that he’s ready to make the jump into the NHL next year, and will push for top pairing minutes with Shane Gostisbehere.
Provorov projects as a big minute two-way franchise defender. He has size, skating ability and elite level vision.
I see Ivan as the best and most complete defenceman in the draft. His command of all the situations in the game allows him to contribute and make an impact regardless of what’s confronting him. Ivan can make the game look effortless with a brilliant understanding of what’s unfolding in front of him either from a defensive or offensive standpoint.
His skating, quickness and balance, pinpoint passing, poise under pressure and a great competitive determination align to make him a defenceman who can influence the play and the outcomes in a consistent and positive manner. – Craig Button, TSN