Less is more when it comes to the 2016 NHL Draft class, and there’s little movement at the top.
With the season slowly coming to a head, there are no changes at the head of the 2016 class as skilled offensive center Auston Matthews is still the consensus top prospect with the two skilled Finns, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi following close behind.
At No. 4 there has been some discussion.
There has been plenty of talk among media and scouts in the industry centering around defenseman Olli Juolevi, who is said to not only challenge Jakob Chychrun for the title of the draft’s top available blueliner, but that he has already overtaking him as the top option.
To that, it would be a huge mistake to overlook the Sarnia defender as Chychrun will very likely develop into a staple No. 1 defenseman for a NHL team in a similar manner to what Aaron Ekblad has been able to accomplish since being selected first overall by the Florida Panthers. That’s not to say Juolevi isn’t a top prospect that any team would be lucky to add to their cupboard of young defensive prospects, but that he is not looked at in the same level of potential NHL impact as Chychrun.
Chychrun has turned it on to close out the season posting 15 points in 16 February and March games, and is a plus-10 over that same span for the playoff-bound Sting. The eyeball tests confirms those numbers, as Chychrun has proven to be a major talent and driver of the play for Sarnia and that is why he remains at No. 4 in Future Considerations’ March ranking.
Another defenseman is making noise too, in Windsor’s Mikhail Sergachev.
If there is one defender that could be in the conversation to challenge Chychrun in this regard and possesses a comparable NHL upside, it has to be Sergachev. The way he sees the ice and reads the developing play, intelligently interjecting himself in the action, taking what is available and making a shift to shift impact, we are sure he has a bright future as a major contributor with the potential to be leading a NHL blue line in the not too distant future.
Three other big bodied forward prospects that are on the rise in the first round after stretches of impressive play are Pierre-Luc Dubois of Cape Breton, Logan Brown of Windsor, and Riley Tufte of Fargo.
Dubois has been a beast in the QMJHL since the New Year, tearing it up to the tune of 21 goals and 52 points in 31 games. Brown has elevated his play as he hopes to guide the Spirtfires into the OHL playoffs with 35 points in 25 games. He has also started to shoot the puck and drive the net more often during that stretch leading to a dramatic increase in goals. He had just six goals up until Jan. 21, and has since added 14 more in just 22 contests.
Tufte finished up his season with Blaine High School by winning the 2016 Mr. Hockey trophy as the top senior player in the state of Minnesota. He has rejoined Fargo in the USHL to finish off his season.
|6||Pierre-Luc Dubois||Cape Breton||QMJHL||LW||6'3"||200|
|9||Clayton Keller||NTDP U18||USHL||C||5'10"||170|
|15||Charlie McAvoy||Boston U||NCAA||D||6'0"||210|
|17||Kieffer Bellows||NTDP U18||USHL||C||6'0"||195|
|18||Riley Tufte||Blaine HS||USHS||LW||6'5"||205|
|19||German Rubtsov||Team Russia U18||MHL||C||6'2"||175|
|20||Luke Kunin||U Wisconsin||NCAA||C||6'0"||195|
|25||Rasmus Asplund||Färjestad BK||SHL||C||5'11"||175|
Future Considerations’ Swedish scout Mikael Hedberg has been singing the praises of Timra winger Jonathan Dahlen most of the season but really turned up the volume with Dahlen’s play late in his season. His two-way game has been strong, but his goal scoring took a drastic spike in the Allsvenskan playoffs as he scored six of his team’s total of 12 goals in his five playoff games, good for second overall in Allsvenkan playoff scoring.
“I absolutely believe that Dahlen has taken his game to another level and should climb in the rankings,” Hedberg said. “Maybe not all the way to the first round, but he could challenge for a spot there if a team loves his impressive upside.”
Sparta Praha U20 defender Vojtech Zelenak is a 6-foot-5 and 215-pound physically mature kid who plays a physical and imposing two-way game, and has gone from unheralded to heated.
“He caught my attention instantly,” Future Considerations’ Miro Simurka siad. “He’s a big defender who uses his long reach and plays good physical hockey. For his size he skates well. Under pressure with the puck does not panic, but is patient and made some really nice plays. He has a great shoot; exceptionally hard for a 17 years old kid. With his size and skill set he should get some more NHL attention.”
In Ontario, there have been a couple players not considered top round guys but deserve attention for what they have been able to do in very different circumstances.
Kitchener Rangers scoring winger Adam Mascherin has been dynamite for one of the top teams in the OHL this season, while Sudbury Wolves center Michael Pezzetta has been one of the only bright spots competing night-in and night-out for the OHL’s second last placed squad.
“Mascherin continues to impress, and has developed into an absolute force offensively,” Future Considerations’ Scott Wheeler said. “More and more he’s demonstrating his 5-foot-9 frame isn’t going to impede his progression. He just keeps creating, and leads all draft eligible OHL players in shots.”
Pezzetta has 28 points this season.
“He has taken his game to another level in the last half, scoring goals and winning his share of face-offs all while playing on a bottom feeder, which is never easy, but Pezzetta has been consistent in anchoring the Wolves penalty kill and defensive efforts,” Future Considerations head Ontario scout Daniel Deschenes said. “For a team that spends a majority of time in their own zone, Pezzetta has been able to show off his good defensive play and ability to adapt to incoming plays before focusing on the offensive side of the game.”
Pascal Laberge of the Victoriaville Tigres has left no choice but to move himself into the first round in Future Considerations’ monthly ranking.
“He has been impressive since a not so strong start to the season, has offensive tools that should translate well at the next level, but needs to continue to add some muscle to his frame and play better without the puck,” noted Future Considerations’ QMJHL evaluator Guillaume Gervais. “He also has good, quick feet with the speed to play at the next level. I also like his hockey senses and the way he anticipates the play.”