In part two of our draft breakdown we’re looking at the top 25 prospects that could fit into the first 15 slots for the draft. For each prospect we’re breaking it down to the vital stats, the ISS (International Scouting Services), NHL Central Scouting and ESPN Rank. We’ll look at what they’re expected to deliver and how quickly they can be delivering it. Prospects are listed in order based on the three scouting ranks added together, with the lowest in theory being the best, though since the NHL breaks their ranks up between North American and European skaters, the results are skewed towards Europeans. While these are the prospects that could go in the top 15, it’s possible a team may go “off the board” and select someone else. All ranks are taken from the end of April rankings, before the playoffs. Any major differences in current rankings will be noted for each player.
Aaron Ekblad: Defence – 6’4” – 216 pounds
ISS Rank: #2 Overall
NHL Rank: #2 North American Skaters
ESPN Rank: #1 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 1 – 3
Ekblad is a big, mobile, two-way defenceman. He uses his size well and plays the body. He’s also an excellent passer who can quarterback a power play. Ekblad has good hockey sense and is able to play smartly in all three zones. Was only the second player to be granted exceptional status in the OHL after John Tavares but has since been joined by Connor McDavid and Sean Day. His size, speed and skill makes him NHL ready, though defenceman mature slower than forwards. 53 points in 58 games for the Barrie Colts this year. His floor looks to be an All-Star defencemen, with a ceiling of a top tier defender. He isn’t considered exceptional in any one area, but extremely good in all. The only real knock against him is that he’s a fully grown man playing against boys in the OHL.
Sam Bennett: Left Wing/Centre – 6’0” – 181 pounds
ISS Rank: #4 Overall
NHL Rank: #1 North American Skaters
ESPN Rank: #2 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 1 – 4
Deceptively fast, Bennett saw his stock rise throughout the year. He uses his speed and high offensive IQ to create space and chances. Not overly flashy, Bennett has a tireless work effort with a strong shot. A strong puck handler and playmaker, Bennett had 91 points in 57 games in the OHL with Kingston. He has a strong sandpaper element to his game, as he took 118 penalty minutes this year. His grit and determination makes him a natural leader. He doesn’t shy away from contact, but could stand to put on a few pounds. He may be the most complete forward in the draft. It should be noted that Bennett is a June 1996 birthday, making him significantly younger than other top end talent. He also has a solid defensive game, making him a low risk pick. The knock against him is that he’s very good to great at everything, but not elite at anything, which others in this draft are.
Sam Reinhart: Centre – 6’1” – 186 pounds
ISS Rank: #1 Overall
NHL Rank: #3 North American Skaters
ESPN Rank: #4 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 1 – 4
Reinhart owes a lot of his success to his elite hockey IQ and vision. He has great hands and offensive instinct. Reinhart is a strong battler and leader. He has good speed and is versatile, which will help when adapting to the NHL. While he has played wing (and even defence when younger) he’s a natural centre. 105 points in 60 games for Kootenay in the WHL. He can contribute to an NHL team right away, albeit in a sheltered role. Reinhart may be the best passer and playmaker in the draft. While some scouts have knocked him for his physical play (which is at least average, if not better), Reinhart is an excellent defensive forward as well, capable of shutting down the opponents top players. Could develop into a very strong two way centre.
William Nylander: Centre/Right Wing – 5’11” – 176 pounds
ISS Rank: #5 Overall
NHL Rank: #2 European Skaters
ESPN Rank: #3 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 4 – 7
While on the smaller side Nylander is considered to be extremely skilled and offensively dangerous. He has superb top-end speed with a strong burst and great on ice vision. High hockey offense IQ and his quick hands make him a natural playmaker. He’s the son of former NHLer Michael Nylander. 7 points in 22 games with Modo in the Swedish Hockey League playing against men. Also played for Sodertalje SK and Rogle BK in the second tier of the Swedish System. 19 points in 17 games for Sodertalje, 8 points in 18 games for Rogle. Was named the top forward at the U18s. He can take over a game with his skill and speed. That being said Nylander could drop in the draft like Nichuskin or Grigorenko. Despite that he may have a higher ceiling than other higher ranked prospects like Bennett and Reinhart if his defensive game rounds into form. May be the best offensive player in the draft. Probably the biggest ‘X-Factor’ as well, as scouts have ranked him as high as #2 and as low as the early teens. While he could fall out of the top 5 easily, the chances of him falling into double digits are much lower, but possible if teams are afraid of his size. Those teams would be very short sighted.
Michael Dal Colle: Left Wing – 6’2” – 182 pounds
ISS Rank: #3 Overall
NHL Rank: #5 North American Skaters
ESPN Rank: #8 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 3 – 7
Dal Colle might have the best hands of any player in the draft. Despite that, he can play a power forward game and drive the net as well. His good hockey sense helps him keep his penalty minutes low. With good speed and being solid on his skates, Dal Colle has the ability to control the play. While a solid backchecker, his defensive game is still a work in progress. 95 points in 67 games with Oshawa in the OHL. Dal Colle is a June 1996 birthday, making him significantly younger than other top end talent. Offensively he’s in the same category as Reinhart and Bennett. He’s got a good shot but only average speed.
Leon Draisaitl: Centre – 6’2” – 208 pounds
ISS Rank: #6 Overall
NHL Rank: #4 North American Skaters
ESPN Rank: #7 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 3 – 8
Draisaitl has a good combination of size, speed and natural ability. With great hockey sense and strong puck handling, Draisaitl will need to improve his skating for the NHL. He’s strong on his skates and against the boards, with a solid work ethic. Poised to become the highest drafted German player in NHL history, Draisaitl has been compared to James Van Riemsdyk and Anze Kopitar. Marcel Goc is the current highest drafted German ever, at 20th overall in 2001. 105 points in 64 games for Prince Albert in the WHL. Both Edmonton and Calgary have shown an interest in him, so he likely lands in one of those two spots. Exceptional vision, Draisaitl has the ability to force defenders to move to open up lanes. Draisaitl is solid defensively but nothing spectacular. If he drops in the draft it will be due to his average skating and sluggish burst.
Kasperi Kapanen: Right Wing – 5’11” – 181 pounds
ISS Rank: #13 Overall
NHL Rank: #1 European Skaters
ESPN Rank: #9 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 6 – 12
Another possible wildcard of the first round, Kapanen is ranked higher than Nylander by the NHL, but the ISS has Nylander 5th and Kapanen 13th. Smaller than most of the forwards early in the draft, Kapanen is very creative with soft hands. His shot is only okay, as he needs to add velocity. Quick on his feet with great agility, Kapanen is a skilled passer and goal scorer and an offensive zone threat. His hockey sense is on par with other player in the draft. He played alongside his father, Sami Kapanen, in the Finnish Elite League where he had 14 points in 47 games for KalPa Kuopio. He had a significant growth spurt in the last year, growing several inches and putting on 20 pounds. Scouts are mixed on him, as some see him as a top line player, but not a superstar, while others see him as a second liner. Could be the steal of the draft, depending on how far he falls.
Jake Virtanen: Left Wing/Right Wing – 6’1” – 208 pounds
ISS Rank: #10 Overall
NHL Rank: #5 North American Skaters
ESPN Rank: #10 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 7 – 11
Virtanen may have the best shot of the draft class and may also be the best skater. While predominately a left winger, he shoots right and can play the right side. He also played limited centre, but is a natural winger. Strong on his skates and able to win battles, he has good hands and a strong stride. Previously won the 30 metre sprint, both backwards and forwards, at the CHL top prospects game. May be the most polished all around power forward in the draft as his speed, size and shot are NHL ready. 71 points in 71 games with the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL, 45 of those points were goals. May have to work on playing with an edge, as 100 penalty minutes for 71 games is high. Solid defensively, he hustles to make up for average defensive IQ. Despite the upside, some scouts view him more as an exceptional second line player, rather than a first liner. Virtanen jumped from #10 to #7 in the ISS final ranking.
Brendan Perlini: Left Wing – 6’3” – 205 pounds
ISS Rank: #7 Overall
NHL Rank: #8 North American Skaters
ESPN: #12 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 8 – 12
Great speed and puck skills make Perlini a force to be reckoned with. He can play in all three zones and has a high puck possession game and strong hockey sense. Equal parts playmaker and sniper, Perlini can fill both roles. He put on a lot of weight this year, as he started around 181 pounds. Despite the new bulk, he needs to improve defensively if he’s to transition quickly to the NHL. 71 points in 58 games for Niagara in the OHL where he played on a line with Maple Leafs prospect Carter Verhaeghe. For a big man his skating is exceptional. His two way game needs some work as he’ll need a year or two of conditioning before making the jump to the NHL.
Nikolaj Ehlers: Left Wing – 6’0” – 175 pounds
ISS Rank: #11 Overall
NHL Rank: #13 North American Skaters
ESPN Rank: #5 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 6 – 13
Ehlers is explosive, lighting up the QMJHL with 104 points in 63 games with the Halifax Mooseheads. Very fast, with a quick start and good top end speed, Ehlers also has a good shot. His linemate Jonathan Drouin, the #3 overall pick last year, had 108 points in 46 games. While his ceiling is lower, Ehlers is considered an exceptional complimentary player. A very good passer, he can play an up tempo game and would work best with a similar up tempo centre. He can open defensive gaps into scoring opportunities with the blink of an eye due to his speed. He sometimes plays his off wing, giving him an exceptional cut back to the middle opportunity off the rush. Another question mark in the draft, as he could easily go very high depending on the scouting of the top tier teams.
Haydn Fluery: Defence – 6’3” – 203 pounds
ISS Rank: #12 Overall
NHL Rank: #9 North American Skaters
ESPN Rank: #10 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 8 – 14
The consensus second best defencemen available, he’s projected as a top four two-way defencemen who may reach top two status. Big and physical, Fluery also has offensive ability. A smart player who understand how a play develops, he uses his body to stop opposing forwards. Despite physical play he doesn’t take many penalties. His footwork and speed has been described as exceptional for a player of his size. Fluery’s role model is Brendan Morrow, who babysat him when he was three and Morrow was playing in the WHL. 46 points in 70 games for the Red Deer Rebels in the WHL. Can quarterback a powerplay if there isn’t a better option, but is inclined to make costly mistakes as he tries to do too much. Where Fleury goes in the draft depends completely on finding a team with a defensive need, otherwise he could drop into the teens before clearly being the best prospect. Therefore, shouldn’t fall further than the Capitals, who need defencemen, at 13. Fleury was named the top defenceman at U18’s.
Nicholas Ritchie: Left Wing – 6’3” – 229 pounds
ISS Rank: #9 Overall
NHL Rank: #7 North American Skaters
ESPN Rank: #18 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 7 – 14
A big and tough power forward with good speed and skill. He skates well for his size and is agile but can run over players. He enjoys bulldozing over players and shrugging off checks as he drives the net. Strong shot but he needs to work on consistent accuracy, though he scored 39 goals this year. Plays with an edge, which landed him in the penalty box for 136 minutes this year. 74 points in 61 games for Peterborough of the OHL was highlighted by a five goal game. A player with a high upside, his defensive game needs work, as it’s inconsistent at the best of times and non-existent at others. Ritchie’s main drawbacks are his consistency and time missed due to injury, as he’s missed 40 games in 3 OHL seasons.
Kevin Fiala: Left Wing – 5’11” – 194 pounds
ISS Rank: #28 Overall
NHL Rank: #3 European Skaters
ESPN Rank: #6 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 12 -18
Fiala shot up the draft charts with a strong second half of the season this year. A solid skater but elusive due to his acceleration and agility, Fiala has a solid offensive skill set. He’s got good hands and puck control with a very good shot. He has good vision and is a great passer, meaning he may be the kind of forward to play the point on the powerplay. He rarely turns the puck over and is a great puck possession player. Below average defensively, Fiala still has room for improvement. His skill set is on par with Draisaitl, his size however is not. While selecting Fiala early carries with it a lot of risk, he’s a game breaker and the kind of high risk high reward prospect some GM’s will gamble on. 11 points in 17 games with HV71 Jonkoping of the Swedish Elite League. Fiala jumped up to #20 overall in the ISS final rankings.
Alex Tuch: Right Wing – 6’3 ½” – 213 pounds
ISS Rank: #8 Overall
NHL Rank: #12 North American Skaters
ESPN Rank: #21 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 12 – 18
A big power winger with average but improving speed, he’s a solid basics guy who can screen a goalie and win battles in the corners. A very good forechecker, Tuch can use his frame to protect the puck. He can pass and shoot well, but his slapshot may be most impressive. He has an excellent mind for the game and can play the point on the powerplay. Strong leadership personality and team first mentality will grab GM’s attention. While a power forward he can also be a playmaker, agitator or sniper depending on linemates and need. 32 points in 26 games for the U.S. National Team Development Program Juniors. 57 points in 51 games for the U.S. Under-18 National Team. Tuch is committed to Boston College next year. He may be more of a long term development than other prospects in this range. While one of the biggest players in the draft, he doesn’t run guys over, instead using his size to win puck battles. Tuch fell from #8 to #14 in the final ISS rankings.
Jared McCann: Centre – 6’1” – 179 pounds
ISS Rank: #15 Overall
NHL Rank: #10 North American Skaters
ESPN Rank: #19 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 12 – 18
A two way centre, McCann is a hard worker with good wheels. While effectively defensively, he still had 62 points in 64 games for St. Sault Marie in the OHL. He needs to fill in more, but his speed and skill are already there. McCann has a lower ceiling than most of the prospects who will be taken above him, as he projects to a solid second or third line centre. Physical for his size, he doesn’t shy away from contact and seems to enjoy facing bigger competition. It should be noted that McCann had 44 points as a 16-year-old in the OHL. His role this year was a shutdown centre who can score, in the mold of a Bergeron or Toews, although less skilled.
Sonny Milano: Left Wing – 5’11 ½” – 183 pounds
ISS Rank: #18 Overall
NHL Rank: #16 North American Skaters
ESPN Rank: #12 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 12 -19
An offensively gifted winger, Milano can skate and score and is a consistent threat. He’s fast and elusive, using a more finesse style game to beat bigger slower defenders. He’s undersized and not physical and his defence is still coming around, but should improve next year where he’ll play at Boston College. A product of the U.S. Under 18 program, Milano had 39 points in 25 games for the U.S. National Team Development Program Juniors and 86 points in 58 games for the U.S. National Under 18 Team. Very soft hands and great instincts should carry him far in the NHL. He also has this great video. http://www.thescore.com/news/510804
Jakub Vrana: Right Wing – 6’0” – 176 pounds
ISS Rank: Outside the top 30
NHL Rank: #4 European Skaters
ESPN Rank: #13 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 15 – 25
Another question mark in the draft, some scouts find the flashy and shift Vrana to be a top tier player with great speed and solid offensive attributes. Other scouts find him to be selfish with a mediocre defensive game. While a point a game player on the junior team for Linkopings HC in the Swedish Elite League, in the majors he managed only 3 points in 24 games. His development may be flattening out, which is a major red flag. He has the highest potential to be a first round bust in the draft, but his upside is high enough that he shouldn’t be around by the second round.
David Pastrnak: Right Wing – 6’0” – 168 pounds
ISS Rank: Outside the top 30
NHL Rank: #5 European Skaters
ESPN Rank: #16 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 16 – 24
24 points in 36 games for Sodertalje in Sweden, showed the world that Pastrnak could be the real deal. He’s elusive with great hands and agility, and a bullet for a shot. While a good size, he needs to put on weight and build up his strength. His defensive game needs work, but he showed the talent to be an effective second line scorer in the NHL if he rounds into form. His development will hinge on building his strength up and his defensive game, as he loses too many battles currently. Pastrnak is another higher upside prospect that will be around in the mid to late first round.
Robert Fabbri: Centre – 5’10” – 170 pounds
ISS Rank: #16 Overall
NHL Rank: #21 North American Skaters
ESPN Rank: #15 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 15 – 23
Described as a buzz saw, Fabbri makes up for his small size with determination and strong physical play. With speed to burn, Fabbri may be one of the fastest in the draft. While playing a physical game, he can also be elusive and hard for defenders to lock down. Good hands and a good shot led to 87 points in 58 games for Guelph in the OHL this season and he was on fire in the playoffs as well. Fabbri is a promising, if undersized, prospect. Can play the penalty kill and be a risk to score shorthanded. His size is without a doubt his biggest negative, but Fabbri doesn’t shy away from contact, playing a bigger style of game than his frame dictates. Fabbri ended his season by jumping from #16 to #8 overall in the final ISS rankings.
Ivan Barbashev: Left Wing – 6’0” – 180 pounds
ISS Rank: #19 Overall
NHL Rank: #18 North American Skaters
ESPN Rank: #17 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 16 – 23
A skilled playmaking winger, Barbashev has good speed and thrives with a centre with equal speed. He’s got a good shot and very good passing ability. His play style is that of safe puck possession, which leads to solid defence and he can use his size to win battles along the boards. He was drafted into the KHL but turned down big money to play in North America. 68 points in 48 games for Moncton in the QMJHL. There are questions about his mental toughness, as his work ethic is inconsistent, but if he can put it all together could be a top tier player. Other than that there are very few flaws to his game, as while he’s not elite at anything he’s very good at everything. One of the better mid to late first round picks.
Dylan Larkin: Left Wing/Centre – 6’1” – 190 pounds
ISS Rank: #14 Overall
NHL Rank: #17 North American Skaters
ESPN Rank: #26 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 18 – 28
Like Tuch and Milano, Larkin is a product of the U.S. Under 18 program. He had 26 points in 26 games for the U.S. National Team Development Program Juniors and 56 points in 60 games for the U.S. National Under 18 Team. He’s got good offensive ability with some scouts projected his ceiling as high as an elite-level power forward. That’s unlikely to come true, but Larkin does have good wheels and a tough and gritty play style to complement his point per game production. If he can bring his defensive game around, could develop into a strong two way player. He’s versatile, as he can play the wing or centre, but is probably better suited to wing. Should be a solid second line winger.
Joshua Ho-Sang: Centre/Right Wing – 5’11” – 175 pounds
ISS Rank: #17 Overall
NHL Rank: #22 North American Skaters
ESPN Rank: #20 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 18 – 24
Elite speed and good offensive instincts allowed Ho-Sang to score 85 points in 67 games for the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL. Ho-Sang is small but makes up for it with his speed and soft hands. While his offensive game is sound, his neutral zone and defensive zone game need work. He’s also capable of turning too one dimensional and relying on only himself at times. May have been exposed in the playoffs as he was a -10 in only four games this year, though the London Knights did score 26 goals in those four games. Ho-Sang is a big question mark for a lot of teams. He has the tools of a much higher ranked prospect, but his decision making is questionable and needs time to develop. He’s the epitome of a mid to late first rounder who years from now fans will wonder why their team passed on.
Nikita Scherbak: Left Wing – 6’2” – 175 pounds
ISS Rank: #25 Overall
NHL Rank: #15 North American Skaters
ESPN Rank: #24 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 20 – 30
69 points in 54 games for Saskatoon in the WHL, Russian born Scherbak transitioned well to the North American game this year. With good size and grit to his game, Scherbak also chips in with solid offensive outbursts. A good to very good shot and strong hockey sense help him in the offensive zone. Despite his size he’s very agile and has good hands, allowing him to lose defenders. Still a work in progress, as his defensive game isn’t where it needs to be and effort is inconsistent, but doesn’t translate to a long term issue. His coaches have been impressed with his development and he’s learning English on and off the ice. If he can improve his strength and grow into his frame, his skating could come around and make him a very strong pickup.
Roland McKewon: Defence – 6’1” – 194 pounds
ISS Rank: #20 Overall
NHL Rank: #27 North American Skaters
ESPN Rank: #23 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 20 – 27
A two way defencemen who still managed 43 points in 62 games for Kingston in the OHL, McKewon can do it all. He’s got a great mind for the game but focuses on simple and effective plays. A good shooter and passer, McKewon can help on the powerplay while still being defensively responsible off of it. While the consensus top two defencemen are clearly Ekblad and Fleury, the third best is a matter of some debate, but may be McKewon. Other more offensive options will be available, but McKewon may have the most complete game. On the ISS’s and ESPN board, he’s the third best defenseman, while he’s the sixth best on the NHL’s board. That being said, it’s extremely unlikely he’ll go in the top 15.
Julius Honka: Defence – 5’11” – 176 pounds
ISS Rank: Outside the top 30
NHL Rank: #11 North American Skaters
ESPN Rank: #29 Overall
Likely Picked Between: 20 – 30
He had 56 points in 62 games for the Swift Current Broncos in the WHL. His puckhandling skills are very high and he’s an excellent skater. With superior vision and the speed and agility to be elusive, he’s an ideal offensive defenceman, if slightly undersized. Having just made the jump from Finland to North America, he seemed to enjoy the culture change, so it shouldn’t be something to be concerned about. Was part of Finland’s gold medal winning world junior team. The defensive side of his game still needs some work, and he isn’t very physical, but has solid positional play and expected to improve. He’ll benefit from a lack of top tier defencemen in the draft, putting him among the five best for a team that wants a blueliner. Again though it’s unlikely he’s a top 15 pick.
Anthony DeAngelo: Defence – 5’11” – 168 pounds
ISS Rank: Outside the top 30
NHL Rank: #14 North American Skaters
ESPN Rank: Outside the top 30
Likely Picked Between: 30+
71 points in 51 games as a defencemen for the Sarnia Sting in the OHL jumps right off the page, but DeAngelo saw his draft stock plummet due to multiple off ice issues. DeAngelo was suspended eight games for a comment he made to a teammate this year. The comment, which isn’t known, fell under the harassment and abuse/diversity policy of the OHL. You can read into that what you’d like, but eight games is a major suspension. Despite the ugly suspensions, DeAngelo is a quick, offensive defenceman capable of quarterbacking a powerplay. He’s got great offensive awareness and is very creative with the puck. He’s small though, and slight, which makes him easily knocked off the puck in his own end. His defensive positioning needs between some and a lot of work, depending on who you ask. DeAngelo took his suspension and admitted to his mistake, so if it was truly a one time blip, DeAngelo will be able to help an NHL team on the back end for years to come. Scouts are incredibly mixed on him, but he’s likely a top five defencemen in this draft with incredibly high offensive ability and questionable defensive ability. If scouts look past his mistakes, he could possibly be a mid to late first rounder. If not, he could easily fall into the second.
That’s it for part two of our draft breakdown. Part three of this series will look at multiple ways the draft could play out. You can view part one, looking at the top 15 picking teams this year and what there needs are here.