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.
Brady Tkachuk, LW, Boston University (NCAA), 6-2, 195, 9-16-1999
Tkachuk is impressing with size, skating, skill and bloodlines. He has the ability to play the game any way you want, and can still dominate. The kid consistently shows heart winning puck battles, and displays patience with the puck as he waits for plays to develop. Tkachuk hits his marks with a booming shot and likes to play physical. While it will not be a dramatic rise into a top-5 spot (Tkachuk was sixth in our preliminary ranking), we have just fallen in love with this big power forward’s game and his ability to control the play. He is a serious challenger to Andrei Svechnikov as top forward in the draft.
Adam Boqvist, D, Brynas (SHL), 5-11, 170, 8-15-2000
Boqvist has pushed his way into the top tier and in the conversation for first overall with his early season performance both internationally and in regular season play. He is playing a confident, well-rounded game while dominating offensively. This intelligent, silky-smooth puck-handling blueliner has so much offensive upside that we cannot keep him down our list despite the fact he lacks ideal size. Boqvist plays in the SHL, the top men’s league in Sweden, so if he can use that exposure to showcase his ability to control the pace of the offensive attack, then he will be in the conversation for No. 1 overall.
Serron Noel, RW, Oshawa (OHL), 6-5, 200, 8-8-2000
Noel is a huge presence on the ice that can dominate the OHL competition with his size advantage along the walls and in front of the net. His puck protection utilizing his impressive strength and reach is close to tops in the league, and allows him to control the puck while waiting for a play to develop. He battles hard and has the skills to finish off plays as evidenced by his early offensive production this season. Noel was not among his peers in Future Considerations’ preliminary ranking last June, but will surly be featured this fall.
Rasmus Kupari, C, Karpat (Liiga), 6-1, 185, 03-15-2000
Kupari is one guy who stuck out most at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial despite being left out of the preliminary ranking. He won’t be missed again. We love the size, skill and willingness to play in traffic. He is a calm, cool customer who plays smart and knows what is expected of him in each situation with strong two-way positioning. He has looked solid during his first few games in the Liiga, Finland’s top men’s league, this season.
Barrett Hayton, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL), 6-1, 185, 9-6-2000
Another Hlinka darling for our evaluators, Hayton has continued his solid play this season with Sault Ste. Marie as he plays an up-tempo, two-way, power style of game. He is a solid frame who has a quick shot, powerful stride and strong levels of speed. He plays a gritty game, putting himself in the mix for puck battles and battles for position all over the ice. Hayton can also flash some soft hands with the puck at times. He’s a hot riser, no doubt.
Jacob Olofsson, C, Timra (AllsvenSkan), 6-2, 185, 2-8-2000
Olofsson is a solid, 200-foot player who plays in all-situations being relied upon heavily by his coach even while playing against men. He has very good size, is a good skater who can produce impressive speed, and possesses a hard shot. Most impressive is Olofsson’s ability to instinctively think the game, his anticipation, knowing what to do in each situation. We had an oversight when slotting him at No. 100 in the preliminary ranking, but after a few early season viewings, we are sure he is a borderline first round prospect who just needs to show more offensive ability and consistency to reach that status.
Dmitri Zavgorodny, C, Rimouski (QMJHL), 5-9, 175, 8-11-2000
We did not know much about Zavgorodny last spring, but that’s changed with his arrival in Rimouski. The Russian import has a wicked shot release and smooth hands that make him dangerous each and every time he touches the puck. He is a point-per-game player so far in his first season in North America after destroying the competition at the Hlinka this past August. His size might influence where he gets picked, but really we feel it will not hold him back on the ice due to the determination he plays with.
Noah Dobson, D, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL), 6-2, 175, 1-7-2000
Dobson is tall and lanky, but his skating stride is strong and his great athleticism allows him to smoothly transition in his skating. He is comfortable handling the puck, is a positionally-sound defender doing a good job boxing forwards out around the net and using his big wingspan to prevent players from getting around him. He is off to a very strong start to the season and is trending up the rankings.
Zack Malik, Sudbury, D, (OHL), 6-2, 165, 8-3-2000
We were less than blown away in our first few views of Malik this season with Sudbury, as we expected more of a two-way game based off previous international viewings. It is apparent, though, that the son of former NHLer Marek Malik plays more of a stay-at-home style like his father. While his mobility looks smooth, Malik needs to make better decisions with the puck and push the play up ice more effectively to stay in the opening rounds of the draft.
Alexander Alexeyev, D, Red Deer (WHL), 6-3, 200, 11-15-1999
The skill and size package is impressive with Alexeyev, although most would agree that some work needs to be done on his feet and mobility for further progression to be made. Also factoring in on his stock is a lack of dictating pace from the blue line, something worth monitoring in what could be a high-end prospect.