The road to the NHL Draft is full of twists and turns.
Players can look like a top-end prospect one month and stall out the next. On the other side, a kid can move from an average prospect with underwhelming skill to developing into a first-round candidate.
Here’s who is rocketing up the rankings, and dropping like a rock due to developments in their game this season.
Filip Zadina, LW, Halifax (QMJHL), 6-0, 200, 11-27-1999
It’s weird to call a consensus top-five pick a riser at this point in the season, but that is exactly what Zadina has been. After strong showing at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, where he was the go to goal-scorer for a plucky Czech Republic squad after dominating the early part of the QMJHL season, we believe Zadina is a top-line talent for the NHL as early as next season. Zadina has closed the gap between himself and everyone else not named Rasmus Dahlin in this class.
Martin Kaut, RW, Pardubice (Czech Extraliga), 6-1, 175, 10-2-1999
Kaut, Zadina’s World Juniors teammate, also had a strong showing for the Czechs after looking good playing in the men’s Extraliga. His smarts, sound decision-making, and two-way abilities were on full display, as were his offensive abilities as he set up plays and finished them off at the World Juniors. Our top European evaluator had glowing things to say about his mature play and this proved to be true on the international stage. NHL teams have also caught on and will likely be following him closely as he returns to Pardubice.
Tyler Madden, C, Tri-City (USHL), 5-10, 155, 11-9-1999
On fire is the best way to describe the play of Madden, son of former NHLer John Madden. His best assets include elite skating, magic hands, incredible awareness and the ability to retain possession of the puck even through heavy traffic. He also has a strong shot that will only improve as he adds much needed strength. His size obviously leaves something to be desired, but Madden’s play reminds a bit of Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson — a diminutive center who is more determined, works harder and thinks faster than his opponent.
Jack Drury, C, Waterloo (USHL), 5-11, 185, 2-3-2000
Drury was closely watched coming into the season, but few predicted the son of Ted and nephew of Chris, both former NHL’ers, being an offensive leader for his team. Drury is not a flashy skill player, but is a battler and someone who plays with lots of heart, plays in all the gritty areas, sacrificing his body and getting the opposition off their game. He is a go-to guy in the faceoff circle and top penalty killer, taking pride in doing the thankless work asked of him while also putting up some impressive offensive production. While not a top-line prospect, we love the energy, work rate and drive this kid could bring to the NHL one day.
Albin Eriksson, LW, Skelleftea AIK (SuperElit), 6-4, 210, 7-20-2000
Albin is a big, lanky power frame forward that has an ability to lower his shoulder and terrorize defenders. We liked him last year as someone with raw but intriguing physical tools, but he had a way to go. Fast-forward to this season and Eriksson has really turned it on, dominating the junior leagues with his size and strength advantage and looking strong in a call up to the SHL men’s league. He is a bull, powering around the offensive zone with the puck and showing solid vision with the hands to either get the puck to an open teammate, or put it on net himself. Eriksson is a prospect with a lot of tools — size, nose for the net, ability to generate offensive opportunities and his physicality. His draft stock is on the rise.
Jay O’Brien, C, Thayer Academy (USHS), 6-0, 175, 11-4-1999
A developing but intriguing two-way NHL package is the best way to describe O’Brien’s game. His prep season just began in late November, but he was on the ice and impressed our guys in the east with his play at the All-American Prospects Game and with the NTDP U18 squad, in addition to his play for Thayer. His skating, vision, decision-making and shot are all assets that will continue to bring scouts to his prep games and rise up our list.
Cam Hillis, C, Guelph (OHL), 5-11, 165, 6-24-2000
Hillis has come on strong after looking pedestrian in our early season views. He has really ramped up his offensive production and has been more engaged, focus and full of energy on the ice. He has been consistently active on the puck and utilizing his speed well to get into good position. Hillis still has room to grow, both physically and skills wise, but he is not afraid to go to the dirty areas and battle. We like him as a solid, hardworking, two-way guy that NHL teams will value on the second day of the draft.
David Levin, LW, Sudbury (OHL), 5-10, 170, 9-16-1999
Levin, the former first overall OHL Priority Selection pick has dropped like a rock in our rankings since being seen as a potential top round pick last winter. This season his game has shown flashes of skill and determined play that the Wolves saw when they took him out of the Don Mills Flyers program three season ago, but overall he has not been consistent enough in his decision-making with the puck when he is in the lineup.
Dmitry Zavgorodniy, RW, Rimouski (QMJHL), 5-9, 160, 8-11-2000
Zavgorodniy had been on our hot list a few months ago after a terrific performance at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial, and equally premier in the QMJHL, but he’s since cooled off considerably. The thing with the talented winger is if he is not consistently producing scoring chances, he is not really contribution much and the holes in his game become more evident. He still has some very impressive abilities that will draw the attention of NHL teams come draft day, but we have cooled off on having him close to the first round.
Nando Eggenberger, LW, HC Davos (NLA), 6-2, 185, 10-7-1999
Eggenberger has looked good at points this season, but really we expected much more from the big Swiss power forward this season. He had a really strong chance to make an impact on the biggest prospect stage but just did little at the World Juniors. He is a goal-scorer who has a strong shot, but the problem is that he is not always able to create his own chances. Our top guy in Europe, who has followed Eggenberger for years, pulled the trigger on his drop in our latest ranking.