The following list represents a first take at the top 31 prospects available for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Why 31? Las Vegas gets their first chance at selecting a future with a lottery selection. This list does not yet take into account our 20-80 system, which drove prospect coverage last year. This season is still too young to have more than early impressions – including both regular season viewings as well as summertime tournaments – for most, if not all, of these prospects. Without further ado:
- Nolan Patrick, C/RW, Brandon (WHL) – 6-3”, 194
The best player available in 2017. The Brandon-player combines size, skill and speed and possesses a very well-rounded game. Patrick is a number-one NHL center and there are not many flaws in his game. Makes use of his long reach and strength when protecting the puck and plays an active game, always looking to create something when on the ice. Can distribute the pass as well as finish off plays.
- Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle (SHL) – 6-0”, 198
The best available defenceman for the 2017 draft. Very strong and matured puckmoving skills, delivers at both ends of the ice, has a booming shot and competes real hard in his own zone. A leader on the blue line who is competing against men in Sweden for the second season.
- Gabriel Vilardi, C, Windsor (OHL) – 6-2“, 192
Vilardi has both great playmaking skills as well as the ability to finish off plays using his hard and accurate wrist shot. Due to his size, he is hard to separate from the puck and uses his long reach to protect the puck successfully. All in all, a very comprehensive offensive weapon who can make plays happen in a variety of ways and whose skill set portends great upside.
- Klim Kostin, RW, D. Moscow (KHL) – 6-3”, 196
Kostin is a big winger who shows good work ethic and contributes at both ends. He backchecks and blocks shots in his own zone just before making an impact play offensively. He has great puckhandling skills for a big guy and can stickhandle through traffic and beat defenders in 1-on-1-situations. Uses his good game awareness to make plays offensively and can protect the puck with his long reach.
- Maxime Comtois, LW, Victoriaville (QMJHL) – 6-2”, 201
Comtois is a tough customer and is always in the face of opponents, either with his tough agitating playing style or while scoring goals. He can beat goaltenders with his hard wrister and good shot release and is very effective around the net. He is a feisty kid, loves to chirp and is extremely good at stealing pucks.
- Eeli Tolvanen, LW, Sioux City (USHL) – 5-10”, 174
The Sioux City winger is a true goal scorer and an offensive weapon. He can make skilled plays when he possesses the puck and plays with good speed. His biggest asset is without any doubt his deadly shot. Fires the puck with great velocity and accuracy. Although he is known for his goal scoring skills, he is also a decent puck distributor and has playmaking abilities.
- Kristian Vesalainen, LW/RW, Frolunda (SHL) – 6-3”, 203
Vesalainen is a big-sized winger who has a high impact on games, even in the SHL against men. He skates with powerful strides and great determination to make plays and open up ice. Possesses a hard shot and good release. Makes use of his big body when protecting the puck and is really hard to separate from the puck as he is extremely balanced on his skates.
- Casey Mittelstadt, C/LW, Green Bay (USHL) – 6-0“, 201
An average-sized smallish player who keeps fans on the edge of their seats with his great puckhandling skills and good hands. Highly skilled offensively, he can twist and turn with the puck using his slick hands and blazing speed. Is a good passer as his vision and passing skills are above average.
- Callan Foote, D, Kelowna (WHL) – 6-3”, 198
Son of former NHLer Allan Foote is a big defenceman who is quite mobile for his size. Uses his very long reach to make plays and shows poise with the puck. He is not afraid of playing physical and benefits from his big body and strength in battles. Possess decent shooting tools and is not only limited to a pure big and mean defender, but also distributes the puck smoothly and creates offence.
- Kailer Yamamoto, C/LW, Spokane (WHL) – 5-8”, 159
A real good playmaking forward who uses vision, Hockey IQ and outstanding passing skills to set up plays. His passes arrive with accuracy and very solid power. Yamamoto is a very good skater, can accelerate fast and shows great quickness in his steps. Is a pass first guy but can also make use of his hard wrister if needed. A offensive talent with good very good playmaking skills.
- Lias Andersson, C/LW, HV71 (SHL) – 5-11”, 198
Andersson is a competitive two-way forward who excels at both ends of the ice due to his very high hockey smarts. He understands the game mentally on a high level and makes smart decisions. His play away from the puck is exceptional and he supports teammates in his own zone very well. Is dangerous on the penalty kill and can create turnovers with an active stick and pressure on the puck carrier.
- Nico Hischier, C, Halifax (QMJHL) – 6-1“, 176
Nico Hischier is slated to become the best Swiss forward the country ever produced. Often compared to Connor McDavid in Swiss media because of his great playmaking abilities, vision and understanding of the game. He is an outstanding stickhandler and can distribute pucks with great accuracy and awareness. He likes to have the puck on his stick and is a poised puck carrier, can make plays no one expects and make line mates better in any of his shifts. Excellent lateral agility is special with which he can beat several opponents while standing almost still. Can escape the corner with ease.
- Owen Tippett, RW, Mississauga (OHL) – 6-2”, 203
Mississauga’s Owen Tippett is a natural goal scorer, a sniper who does not miss a chance to fire the puck with his accurate and powerful shot. He is often at the right position around the net and has a natural scoring touch. Competes hard and has powerful skating and strong strides. Needs to have someone next to him who feeds him. He draws comparison to New York Islander prospect Kieffer Bellows.
- Nicolas Hague, D, Mississauga (OHL) – 6-6”, 214
At 6-6”, Hague is that rare type of big defender who has great puckhandling skills and impressive size. No wonder he dominates physically and can make players pay who do not have their heads up. He is a confident puck carrier and can play that long outlet pass. Overall, a competitive two-way defenceman with skill and size that will make him a valuable pick.
- Nikita A. Popugayev, RW, Moose Jaw (WHL) – 6-6”, 203
Big and offensively minded winger who possesses very good puck skills and offensive awareness. He possesses a great shot release and can fire the puck with good velocity. Can create offence and is a strong puck protector as he uses his long reach perfectly. Has advanced goal scoring instincts.
- Urho Vaakanainen, D, JYP (Liiga) – 6-1”, 187
A very complete two-way defenceman who does not have a lot of flaws in his game. Vaakanainen is a very good puck mover, has great poise and makes crisp, accurate passes. He’s a very mobile skater with impressive edge work and fluid strides. Has a high Hockey IQ and makes a lot of correct decisions with and without the puck. Not the most physical guy but he uses an active stick and cuts passing or shooting lanes.
- Ryan Poehling, C, St. Cloud (NCAA) – 6-3”, 185
A leader on the ice, Poehling has the makeup to become a reliable two-way center at NHL-level. He is big, controls the puck well and is not easy to separate from the puck because of his strong skating balance, puck protection skills and overall compete level. Has leadership skills and communicates actively. Uses his great vision and awareness to see open ice and set up team mates. Can take off in a hurry with a few strong stides.
- Alexander Chmelevski, C, Ottawa (OHL) – 6-0”, 187
Chmelevski is a playmaker that possesses great vision and hard and accurate passing skills. Can distribute the puck really well in tight and finds lanes where there is usually no space for a successful pass. Possesses good top speed and quick acceleration. Has very smooth hands, probably his biggest asset. Possesses a matured understanding of the game as well as elite hockey sense.
- Juuso Valimaki, D, Tri-City (WHL) – 6-2”, 201
A mature and responsible two-way defenceman who makes good decisions with the puck. Not the most flashy player but he shows poise with the puck and plays very reliably at both ends. Shows some leadership skills, especially when quarterbacking the powerplay. Is a patient puck carrier, does not panic on plays and possesses a decent slap shot.
- Shane Bowers, C, Waterloo (USHL) – 6-0”, 170
Waterloo’s Shane Bowers is a workhorse and is very effective around the net. He reads plays well and is very effective on rebounds, often positioned at the right position in front of the net to finish off plays. Possesses great speed with the puck and can escape defenders with 2-3 extra quick strides. Very smart decision maker.
- Elias Pettersson, C, Timra (Allsvenskan) – 6-2”, 161
A creative forward who possesses very good hands and can beat opponents in 1-on-1 situations with his slick hands and puckhandling skills. He can make quick turns in different directions with the puck and keeps his feet moving. Has improved his skating and shot even further as of lately. One of the leading scorers of the Allsvenskan league.
- Miro Heiskanen, D, HIFK (Liiga) – 6-0”, 170
An excellent skater with top notch lateral agility and speed. He shows great confidence with the puck and he processes the game extremely well under pressure. He has great passing skills and vision. A defenseman with a high hockey IQ, he shows good gap control, positioning and awareness. Able to take away time and space with an active stick. A great puckmoving defenceman who is already playing in the Finnish top league against men.
- Antoine Morand, C, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL) – 5-9“, 170
An undersized but very speedy and skilled playmaker. He thinks the game at a high level and is often a step ahead of his opponents mentally. Has a motor that never breaks and keeps working hard in every shift with a great energy-level. Battles hard at both ends of the ice.
- Robin Salo, D, Sport (Liiga) – 6-0” , 181
Salo is a solid, versatile defenseman capable of making an impact at both ends of the rink. He plays an effective and smart game with the puck, moving it quickly and precisely forward. He has a heavy point shot with high velocity. Despite not being the most explosive skater, he can move well for his size. He’s able to shutdown opponents’ forwards with his competitive defensive game and plays with a physical edge. Reliable two-way defenceman with good strength and skill.
- Ivan Lodnia, RW, Erie (OHL) – 5-10”, 181
Lodnia is an undersized forward but an outstanding skater. He can dance through defences with the puck and sneaks in between lanes with ease. Great acceleration and top speed round up his skating skills. Possesses smooth hands and can fool defenders with quick turns. Lodnia is an offensively gifted player who can put up big number at junior-level.
- Mackenzie Entwistle, C/RW, Hamilton (OHL) – 6-3“, 181
A great PK player to have on any team and an offensively gifted player that can also be a decent power forward if given the role. Likes to play head hunter without the puck but his hockey IQ allows him to read the play well enough to cause a disruption in the play. Entwistle has good mobility to skate around players.
- Matthew Strome, LW, Hamilton (OHL) – 6-3”, 201
Like his brothers Dylan and Ryan, Matthew is a creative offensive forward who possess strong puck distribution skills. Uses his big size and long reach to protect the puck well and can drive the net with his puck protection skills. Understands the game at a high-level and shows good hockey smarts.
- Marcus Davidsson, C, Djurgardens (SHL) – 6-0”, 192
A playmaking, two-way center from Sweden. He can take off in a hurry with his powerful strides. Has real good puck distribution skills as he can pass the puck through tight lanes and areas to set up perfect scoring chances. He is a long-term project with strong playmaking upside.
- Martin Necas, C, Brno (Czech) – 5-11”, 148
A rather smallish-sized energy-player with great offensive upside and creativity. A lightning-quick skater who likes to handle the puck and creats scoring chances. Can distribute the puck with accuracy and likes to set up team mates.
- Michael Rasmussen, C, Tri-City (WHL) – 6-5”, 203
A big kid with strong puck protection skills. Works hard all over the ice and has good playmaking skills. Uses his good vision and passing skills to distribute the puck effectively. Rasmussen is rather a pass-first guy and feels comfortable going into traffic areas and can create havoc in front of the net.
- Michael DiPietro, G, Windsor (OHL) – 6-0”, 192
Probably the best goaltender available in this draft class. He is a good communicator and advises his defenders on plays in nearly each shift. Possesses above-average instincts and good athleticism. Does not allow a lot of rebounds and shows good lateral movement. Although he is not overly big in size for a goaltender, he covers the net well and does not give shooters much space.