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.
K’Andre Miller, D, NTDP (USHL), 6-3, 205, 1-21-2000
Miller has started the USHL season very well with the U18 squad where he has put up better than a point-per-game, jumping out of the shadow cast by fellow highly regarded teammates — and potential first round NHL picks — Bode Wilde and Mattias Samuelsson. He handles the puck well, skating it up ice or making strong passes up ice. His effortless and fluid skating and size combo are rare, but his biggest asset is his dangerous and blasting shot from the point. Though 34th in the Fall ranking, he’s a certain first round pick should he keep his pace.
Filip Hallander, C/RW, Timra (Allsvenskan), 6-1, 185, 6-29-2000
This seems to be a really strong year for Swedish prospects and Hallander just adds to the depth coming out of the country. He is a solid forward with good size, speed and strength, and he possesses skilled hands able to maintain puck possession as the puck seems magnetized to his blade. He battles hard along the boards winning many of his battles, plays in high traffic areas and has a nose for the net. He utilizes solid awareness, impressive vision, accurate passes and a strong shot to create offensive chances. Playing on a scoring line with fellow 2018 NHL Draft prospect Jacob Olofsson in Allsvenskan, Hallander has not looked out of place one bit. Hallander is 91st in Future Considerations’ Fall ranking, but is quickly becoming a sure riser.
Danila Zhuravlyov, D, Irbis Kazan (MHL), 6-0, 165, 4-8-2000
An instinctive and creative offensive-minded blueliner, Zhuravlyov is at his best manning the point on the power play where he can utilize his vision to make skilled passes to open teammates, as well as a pin point accurate wrist shot of his own which he uses to get pucks on net. His one-timer, skating ability and puck-handling are also assets to his game. Like most offensive guys, however, he can lack the same instincts in his own zone. He has played a few games against men in the second highest league, the VHL, this season where he has looked comfortable producing offensive chances. While not currently ranked inside the top-100, he’s certainly trending that direction.
Toni Utunen, D, LeKi (Mestis), 5-11, 175, 4-27-2000
His size is not great, nor is the strength right now, but Utunen moves well and shows an ability to jump in offensively when he sees the open ice to do so. His shot is powerful and his passes are consistently crisp. He displays outstanding defensive work with an active stick, with which he breaks up offensive plays and uses positioning to keep the opposition to the outside. He understands the game well and plays a mature game, and has been looking good playing against men and in numerous international competitions this season. Utunen should continue to gain attention from NHL teams as the season progresses.
Blake McLaughlin, C, Chicago (USHL), 5-11, 170, 2-14-2000
McLaughlin has shown very well early in the USHL season, putting up strong numbers for the Chicago Steel. While he has displayed impressive skills like vision, soft hands and an effective shot, it is his awareness and hockey IQ that stand out most. Word is he has decided to stay with Chicago this season instead of transferring back to Minnesota to play for his high school team in Grand Rapids as he originally planned, a strong choice in our opinion. Look for McLaughlin to continue his rise up the rankings as he consistently produces and plays well.
Curtis Hall, C, Youngstown (USHL), 6-2, 195, 4-26-2000
After a very solid showing at the summer’s Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament for Team USA and again at the All-American Prospect Game in September, Hall has continued to shine well into the season. His skills include explosive skating, impressive strength to hold off checks, and a solid shot. He also has a mature anticipation to his game and plays hard with strong levels of aggression on the fore check. Hall hasn’t cracked the top-100. Yet.
Nathan Dunkley, LW, Kingston (OHL), 5-11, 185, 5-3-2000
Dunkley has gone on a tear over the last few weeks, putting up solid production and helping the Kingston Frontenacs to an impressive record. He has the ability to finish as well as the patience and poise to hold the puck and make the correct pass at the correct time. His mobility is strong, his hands are skilled and he will fill any role asked of him with a strong work ethic. He slots in at No. 67 in the Fall ranking, but after taking his game up a notch this season, expect him to climb even higher.
Kirill Nizhnikov, RW, Barrie (OHL), 6-1, 190, 3-29-2000
Nizhnikov was 37th in Future Considerations’ Preliminary ranking, and 50th come Fall, however with his pedestrian performance to date he is in danger to tumble right out of the top-100. It isn’t due to the talent, but more the lack of determination he shows on a nightly basis. He has high-end speed and a dynamic offensive arsenal, but has shown inconsistency more than anything.
Owen Lalonde, D, Guelph (OHL), 6-1, 175, 2-1-2000
Lalonde was identified as having top talent last year during the World Under-17’s and in his rookie season with the Sudbury Wolves. He moved the puck well, showed good overall mobility and solid smarts in his own end but this season, after a trade to Guelph and a diminished role, his development seems to have stalled. He still shows some flashes of upside, like a skilled rush up ice with the puck or a solid defensive play and quick transition, but those flashes are a little too few and far between to have Lalonde pushing upwards.
Anderson MacDonald, LW, Moncton (QMJHL), 6-2, 205, 5-16-2000
MacDonald impressed our scouts last season with the Sherbrooke Phoenix as a QMJHL rookie who liked to use his size to get to scoring areas and shoot the puck. This season has been a different story. MacDonald was never seen as a strong defensive player, but the lack of execution in his own end has been worrisome. He still has the talent displayed last winter, but he needs to up the intensity in his game. MacDonald needs to show more dimensions to his game to climb.