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.
Lassi Thomson, D, Kelowna (WHL), 6-0, 190, 9-24-2000
Thompson, an import selection, has turned heads early with his production despite the fact Kelowna has stumbled this season. His play has given the team an elite weapon on the back end, as Thomson possesses high-end IQ with the skill and stones to execute risky plays and step up into play consistently. A big frame who can move effectively, Thomson is a puck rusher and active point man who moves the puck seamlessly and possesses a hammer of a shot. The early signs point to improvement in his own zone and also a steady rise up the ranks if he keeps this play up.
Nathan Legare, RW, Baie-Comeau (QMJHL), 6’0, 195, 1-11-2001
Légaré has an incredible competitiveness level and he brings energy to every aspect of his game. He has a great strength and solid edges with which he can throw a big hit, win most of his board battles or protect well his puck. He has some great finishing skills, and a very powerful shot — both slap and wrist. He has a great positioning offensively to get dangerous scoring chances, and backchecks with intensity and always wants to be involved defensively. Overall, he’s shown progression in his offensive game. Though his high-end skills are lacking a bit, there’s still undeniable upside in his game.
Alexander Campbell, LW, Victoria (BCHL), 5-10, 150, 2-27-2001
Campbell, the other Alex on the lower mainland, has almost looked more energized and effective as his teammate, projected first rounder Alex Newhook, in the early going this season. Although he isn’t on the top-100 board just yet, his offensive skills have translated to production. He’s a smaller skill player who sees the ice well and can simply outmaneuver, outskate and outthink opponents consistently night after night. He goes to tougher areas of the ice and although not brash, plays hard on the puck if he can’t create or find a soft spot to generate play. More of a playmaker still, Campbell has impressed every viewing and could continue to make a serious move up rankings as the season advances.
Victor Soderstrom, D, Brynas (SuperElit), 5-11, 180, 2-26-2001
Soderstrom has started to heat up, especially his play in the last few Swedish Hockey League games, and he’s starting to climb in rankings as a result. He’s shown well enough to seemingly take a permanent roster spot on Brynas’ roster after being recalled. Soderstrom has shown great composure and confidence with the puck while retaining his solid play in the defensive zone. He’s a mobile, two-way defenseman with exceptional hockey sense.
Thomas Harley, D, Mississauga (OHL), 6.03, 183, 08-19-2001
Harley has taken the OHL by storm. The tall, rangy defenceman has already surpassed his points total in a third of the games from last season and isn’t showing any signs of slowing. Harley really shines when moving the puck up the ice and exiting his zone with control, utilizing solid vision to find skating lanes as well as passing lanes once in the neutral zone. This vision and terrific passing ability make him a dangerous player in the offensive zone as well. To continue to rise Harley is going to need to improve some of his decision making on the defensive side of the puck, as he occasionally gives his opponents too much space to work with and has also been known to make some bad pinches.
Moritz Seider, D, Mannheim (DEL), 6-4, 190, 4-6-2001
Seider has been on the radar for a considerable amount of time based on his international play, where he typically competes against older opponents. The same has been true, domestically, too. Seider, though now sidelined for more than a month because of injury, started to play games for Germany’s top organization Adler Mannheim in the DEL against men last season and already played over 10 games for them this season. He’s impressing by carrying the puck with confidence, making smart decisions, and developing a reliable own-zone game despite the increased level of competition. His mobile skating, coupled with size, adds to a well-rounded game.
Josh Williams, RW, Medicine Hat (WHL), 6-1, 195, 3-8-2001
For a guy who played on the Canadian Hlinka team and was thought of as an early second rounder, Williams has been spinning his wheels early on in the Western Hockey League. His most noticeable flaw, besides the lack of consistent production, is the lack of jump to his game. He has provided a couple of frustrating views due to his inability to separate from play and use his offensively gifted hands to create play. He’s a guy who often relies on higher skill guys to feed off of, but it’s getting hard to foresee him being a key player on the Tigers offense if he can’t do more than what he’s been asked so far.
Danil Antropov, RW, Oshawa Generals, 6.01, 190, 12.20.2000
Antropov is an interesting prospect in that he appears to have a pro style toolbox to make him a quality power forward, but lacks the consistent compete to reach that potential. In flashes, Antropov has shown to be a smart player with tremendous vision as a playmaker. He’s able to make beautiful tape-to-tape passes when in the neutral or offensive zones, but when it comes to chasing the puck in his own end of the ice Antropov can more often be found circling and waiting for the stretch pass. His production is there, but the all-round game is lacking.
Henri Nikkanen, C, Jukurit (Liiga), 6-4, 200, 4-28-2001
Nikkanen showed decently on a disappointing Finnish entry at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, but has struggled to impress since. He hasn’t been as impressive as anticipated. The potential is still evident in his game, but Nikkanen has not found the results, and he’s not getting as much ice time as a result. There’s no doubting Nikkanen’s skill set, showing a high hockey IQ and good size that makes him intriguing, but he hasn’t been able to show that potential against older competition the way he has against his peers countless times.