2016 NHL Draft – Ranking the Tools

With the annual NHL draft now only days away, and with the big draft board available for all to see, ow is the time to break that board down and look at the best skaters, shooters, puck players, hockey IQs and physical games. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Hockey Prospect team – Craig Smith, Dennis Schellenberg, Jimmy Hamrin, Kevin Olexson, Jason Lewis, Alessandro Seren Rosso, Miika Arponen, Krist Hayes, Scott Crawford and myself, we can explore the top five in each category, broken down between defensemen, centers and wingers. We will also show the top 3 goalies in each of the following categories – athleticism, quickness/speed, vision/play reading, compete/temperament, technique/style, rebound control and puck handling.

Skating

Defensemen

  1. Jakob Chychrun, Sarnia, OHL (4th overall)
  2. Olli Juolevi, London, OHL (7th overall)
  3. Victor Mete, London, OHL (41st overall)
  4. Mikhail Sergachev, Windsor, OHL (14th overall)
  5. Sean Day, Mississauga, OHL (62nd overall)

While the top three were clear, there were many other blueliners who are practically equal to Sergachev and Day and who would not have looked out of place in the 4-5 slots. As the list stands, two things stick out. First, that the OHL had some serious mobility among their young blueliners this year. Second, like the Pittsburgh Penguins and how they won the Stanley Cup with great mobility up and down the roster, the London Knights won the Memorial Cup with a similar recipe, relying heavily on two of the best skating defensemen in this draft class in Juolevi and Mete.

Wingers

  1. Alex DeBrincat, Erie, OHL (13th overall)
  2. Jesse Puljujarvi, Karpat, Liiga (3rd overall)
  3. Alexander Nylander, Mississauga, OHL (5th overall)
  4. Jesper Bratt, AIK, Allsvenskan (74th overall)
  5. Riley Tufte, Blaine HS, Minnesota HS (24th overall)

More of a mixed bag on the wings, there were many in competition for the fifth spot, with Tufte winning out as he combines it with great size. A great contrast as well to the top skating winger in DeBrincat, around nine inches shorter, who scores high marks for his agility as much as for sheer stride power.

Centers

  1. Michael McLeod, Mississauga, OHL (10th overall)
  2. Clayton Keller, USNTDP, USHL (9th overall)
  3. Auston Matthews, Zurich, NLA (1st overall)
  4. German Rubtsov, Russia U18, Russia Jr (17th overall)
  5. Rasmus Asplund, Farjestad, SHL (35th overall)

It would not feel right if the presumptive first overall pick was not an above average skater. Matthews does not provide a wow factor for his wheels like Michael McLeod does, but the more you watch him, the easier he is to appreciate in terms of all around skating ability.

Shooting

Defensemen

  1. Jakob Chychrun, Sarnia, OHL (4th overall)
  2. Mikhail Sergachev, Windsor, OHL (14th overall)
  3. Jake Bean, Calgary, WHL (21st overall)
  4. Olli Juolevi, London, OHL (7th overall)
  5. Frederic Allard, Chicoutimi, QMJHL (139th overall)

It should not be a surprise to see the top three blueliners overall all represented again in the list of best shots after all making the cut for their skating. They are all really, really good.

Wingers

  1. Patrik Laine, Tappara, Liiga (2nd overall)
  2. Alexander Nylander, Mississauga, OHL (5th overall)
  3. Jesse Puljujarvi, Karpat, Liiga (3rd overall)
  4. Kieffer Bellows, USNTDP, USHL (20th overall)
  5. Julien Gauthier, Val d’Or, QMJHL (26th overall)

Laine is a cut or two above everyone else on this list. The positioning of Nylander, Puljujarvi, Bellows and Gauthier is open to discussion. Laine’s status as the king of all shooters is not up to dispute. His shot tool is the most impressive tool of any player in this draft class. He can be employed on the power play much like the Capitals use Ovechkin and the Lightning use (used?) Stamkos.

Centers

  1. Auston Matthews, Zurich, NLA (1st overall)
  2. Rem Pitlick, Muskegon, USHL (34th overall)
  3. Ross Colton, Cedar Rapids, USHL (96th overall)
  4. Pierre-Luc Dubois, Cape Breton, QMJHL (8th overall)
  5. Logan Brown, Windsor, OHL (19th overall)

Once again, Matthews sticks out. The two USHL nominees, Pitlick and Colton, are both in their second years of eligibility, suggesting that there might be an edge from additional physical maturity. That said, neither prospect has anything to be ashamed about. They can both shoot it. So, too can Dubois and Brown, the latter of whom is known more for his passing game than for shooting.

Puck Skills – includes both puck handling and passing

Defensemen

  1. Olli Juolevi, London, OHL (7th overall)
  2. Jakob Chychrun, Sarnia, OHL (4th overall)
  3. Mikhail Sergachev, Windsor, OHL (14th overall)
  4. Dante Fabbro, Penticton, BCHL (15th overall)
  5. Scott Perunovich, Hibbing/Chisholm HS, Minnesota HS (163rd overall)

Fabbro was pretty close to makig the top five in skating as well. He has a bit of everything to his game. Did I already mention that Juolevi, Chychrun and Sergachev are all elite players? Scott Perunovich is woefully undersized and a liability in his own zone, but he has very entertaining puck skills. Worth a late round gamble.

Wingers

  1. Jesse Puljujarvi, Karpat, Liiga (3rd overall)
  2. Alexander Nylander, Mississauga, OHL (5th overall)
  3. Patrik Laine, Tappara, Liiga (2nd overall)
  4. Matthew Tkachuk, London, OHL (6th overall)
  5. Vitaly Abramov, Gatineau, QMJHL (22nd overall)

The top three could go in any order without complaints from me. Others competing for this list were DeBrincat, Johnathan Dahlen, Janne Kuokannen and Maxime Fortier.

Centers

  1. Auston Matthews, Zurich, NLA (1st overall)
  2. Clayton Keller, USNTDP, USHL (9th overall)
  3. Michael McLeod, Mississauga, OHL (10th overall)
  4. Tyson Jost, Penticton, BCHL (16th overall)
  5. German Rubtsov, Russia U18, Russia Jr (17th overall)

Matthews is the clear number one here and Keller also has daylight between his spot and number three on the list. Logan Brown also shows occasional elite puck skills as well, particularly his passing game.

Hockey IQ

Defensemen

  1. Olli Juolevi, London, OHL (7th overall)
  2. Jakob Chychrun, Sarnia, OHL (4th overall)
  3. Mikhail Sergachev, Windsor, OHL (14th overall)
  4. Charlie McAvoy, Boston University, Hockey East (11th overall)
  5. Jake Bean, Calgary, WHL (21st overall)

Get a blueliner who has a high hockey IQ and can skate and you are set. These young men all fit the bill and should all be off the board by the middle portion of the first round.

Wingers

  1. Matthew Tkachuk, London, OHL (6th overall)
  2. Jesse Puljujarvi, Karpat, Liiga (3rd overall)
  3. Janne Kuokannen, Karpat Jr., Finland Jr (46th overall)
  4. Patrik Laine, Tappara, Liiga (2nd overall)
  5. Tyler Bensen, Vancouver, WHL (25th overall)

Hockey IQ is not as important on the wing as it is up the middle, but these five players all contribute to their teams’ successes even away from the puck. In some cases, like Kuokannen, he is as likely to be developed as a center than as a winger making his standing here more notable.

Center

  1. Pierre-Luc Dubois, Cape Breton, QMJHL (8th overall)
  2. Auston Matthews, Zurich, NLA (1st overall)
  3. Clayton Keller, USNTDP, USHL (9th overall)
  4. German Rubtsov, Russia U18, Russia Jr (17th overall)
  5. Tyson Jost, Penticton, BCHL (16th overall)

Honorable mentions to Michael McLeod, Sam Steel, Henrik Borgstrom and Linus Lindstrom. Dubois received the highest Hockey IQ grade of anyone in the draft class.

Physicality

Defensemen

  1. Charlie McAvoy, Boston University, Hockey East (11th overall)
  2. Logan Stanley, Windsor, OHL (61st overall)
  3. Victor Desharnais, Providence, Hockey East (190th overall)
  4. Keaton Middleton, Saginaw, OHL (unranked)
  5. Jakob Chychrun, Sarnia, OHL (4th overall)

Outside of McAvoy, the other four listed here are all very large young men. McAvoy packs more punch per pound than anyone. Kudos also to Chychrun, for earning a top five spot at all five tools.

Wingers

  1. Max Jones, London, OHL (27th overall)
  2. Givani Smith, Guelph, OHL (184th overall)
  3. Kasper Bjorqvist, Blues Jr., Finland Jr. (116th overall)
  4. Eetu Tuulola, HPK Jr. Finland Jr. (101st overall)
  5. Beck Malenstyn, Calgary, WHL (141st overall)

An elite physical game can only get you so far, especially on the wings. The only high end prospect in this group is Jones, who combines snarl with plus skating ability and above average marks in the other areas as well.

Centers

  1. Pierre-Luc Dubois, Cape Breton, QMJHL (8th overall)
  2. Luke Kunin, Wisconsin, Big 10 (12th overall)
  3. Michael McLeod, Mississauga, OHL (10th overall)
  4. Logan Brown, Windsor, OHL (19th overall)
  5. Connor Bleackley, Red Deer, WHL (112th overall)

While physicality is not generally a highly sought-after trait among centers, these five all combine their agitating game with plenty of other skills. That includes Bleackley, the unsigned former Colorado first rounder who re-enters the draft this year.

Goaltenders

Athleticism

  1. Evan Sarthou, Try-City, WHL (63rd overall)
  2. Tyler Parsons, London, OHL (33rd overall)
  3. Veini Vehvilainen, JYP, Liiga (161st overall)

These are the guys who demonstrate the best movements, most easily seen in side-to-side agility, but also in their ability to recover quickly from challenging saves to make another one.

Quickness/Speed

  1. Tyler Parsons, London, OHL (33rd overall)
  2. Colton Point, Carelton Place, CCHL (54th overall)
  3. Carter Hart, Everett, WHL (53rd overall)

Hart and Point were pretty close, with the edge going to Point on account of doing it while three inches taller and around 40 pounds heavier.

Compete/Temperament

  1. Tyler Parsons, London, OHL (33rd overall)
  2. Colton Point, Carelton Place, CCHL (54th overall)
  3. Reilly Pickard, Acadie-Bathurst, QMJHL (149th overall)

These are all guys who will fight through screens and battle to make saves. Further, points in this category are awarded to guys who demonstrate the ability to bounce back from tough goals.

Vision/Play Reading

  1. Filip Gustavsson, Lulea Jr., Sweden Jr. (78th overall)
  2. Evan Fitzpatrick, Sherbrooke, QMJHL (40th overall)
  3. Dylan Wells, Peterborough, OHL (146th overall)

These are the goalies who seem to anticipate where the puck will go before it does, cutting precious milliseconds off their recovery time.

Technique/Style

  1. Evan Fitzpatrick, Sherbrooke, QMJHL (40th overall)
  2. Filip Gustavsson, Lulea Jr., Sweden Jr. (78th overall)
  3. Carter Hart, Everett, WHL (53rd overall)

Points here for consistency of style. Most frequently being in position to stop pucks.

Rebound Control

  1. Tyler Parsons, London, OHL (33rd overall)
  2. Evan Fitzpatrick, Sherbrooke, QMJHL (40th overall)
  3. Carter Hart, Everett, WHL (53rd overall)

If they don’t hold on to the puck cleanly, these are the goalies most apt to keep it close enough to pounce on, or to throw it to safety in the corners.

Puck Handling

  1. Tyler Parsons, London, OHL (33rd overall)
  2. Ty Edmonds, Prince George, WHL (176th overall)
  3. Joseph Woll, USNTDP, USHL (126th overall)

And this is why Parsons is our top ranked netminder. The outright leader in four of seven categories.

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