Ranking Draft Eligibles from the WJC

As we did last year, the Hockey Prospectus prospect team again took the World Junior Championship tournament as an opportunity to see 2016 NHL draft eligible talent compete against one another. While each of us has the leagues that we cover regularly, it was good to see high end talent form disparate backgrounds team up and play for the rights to call themselves the best under-20 players in the world.

While the Finnish squad, itself loaded with incredible draft eligible players, won the event, they were not the only ones to impress. Five members of the Hockey Prospectus prospect team took part in this exercise, with myself (RW), Craig Smith (CS), Dennis Schellenberg (DS), Jason Lewis (JL) and Miika Arponen (MA) focusing on the 38 draft eligible who made their native lands’ rosters. Three of those players, Niklas Andersen (Denmark), Emil Larmi (Finland) and David Hrenak (Slovakia), either did not play at all, or not enough to make an impression. What follows is an early ranking of the remaining 35 draft eligible players with comments from the five of us.

1              Auston Matthews, C, USA. CS: “I feel he is close to complete in terms of development. Franchise center.” JL: “A complete player if there ever was one.” RW: “Excellent wrist shot. Near elite. Very quick to transition from puck scrum to offensive attack. Can lower his head and bull rush through coverage. Great hands. Can take pass in his skates and kick it out to his stick without breaking stride. Very strong hands. Dangling made easy. Pretty much always the most dangerous player on the ice. Shields puck and arms well with big rear and strong legs. Speed is sneaky fast. Seems to be taking it easy, as he breezes through the neutral zone with the puck.”

2              Patrik Laine, RW/LW, Finland. MA: “Did not score as many points as his linemate Puljujärvi, but his offensive upside is still a notch up. Could be an elite goalscorer at the NHL level.” DS: “Great shot, exceptional stickhandler, makes plays in tight, great vision, backchecks, strong accurate pass, skating much improved.” JL: “If you don’t get Matthews, getting Laine is a nice secondary prize. Is huge and plays huge.”

3              Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, Finland. RW: “Very good skater – has nice small space acceleration. Gives him an advantage when racing for loose pucks. Doesn’t need a lot of open net to score. Very quick trigger.            Can shrug off checker even while working through his finishing moves. Great passing vision. Reads goalies well. Good at fighting for real estate near the crease.” MA: “A winger version of Matthews. Puljujärvi is quite complete player and has all the tools to become a 1st liner in the NHL.” CS: “Dynamic forward who is good in three zones. A rare winger who can have the impact of a center. Still lots of room to improve physically.”

4              Matthew Tkachuk, LW, USA. RW: “Sniper’s wrist shot. Will use the D as a screen.              Very good hands. Plays puck nicely. Will plant himself right in front of the crease for screens and tips.”. CS: “Well balanced offensively. can shoot, drive the net, and is also a very good playmaker.” DS: “Smart, hard-nosed player with skills, good work ethic and is good around the net. 360 degree player.”

5              Olli Juolevi, D, Finland. MA: “Juolevi was one the players that boosted his draft stock most during the tournament. He was very good in both ends of the ice.” JL: “A lot of Finnish attacks really started with this guy moving it out of his own zone.” CS: “Speed and offence, needs to work on gap and timing at own blue line. PP specialist.”

6              Alexander Nylander, RW/LW, Sweden. RW: “Has a hard slapshot. Wrist shot is a wire. Great vision with the puck, sees passing lanes well. Great finishing move when in all alone. Fantastic hands. Great puck skills. A dynamic player.” DS: “Vision, hands, both finisher and passer.” CS: “Top 6 forward, offensive dynamo.”

7              Julien Gauthier, RW, Canada. MA: “Did not get to show his skills as much as the other top guys because of Canada’s stacked roster, but did not at all out of place among the best U20 skaters in the world.” JL: “Like most of Canada’s team, he had his flashes of strong play but it was inconsistent at best.” CS: “Power forward.  Decisions in d zone coverage are inconsistent.”

8              Rasmus Asplund, C/LW, Sweden. RW: “Has a strong burst of speed. Very strong wrist shot. Hands may be a bit stiff. Nifty puck carrier. Has playmaking capabilities. Good timing, placement on a set up pass made from the corner. Plays on PK. Sees the ice well. Good, creative passer.” MA: “Played a good tournament and showed that he can score at this level. Very solid defensive game too.” DS: “Good patience with puck, puckhandling, agile skating.”

9              Charlie McAvoy, D, USA. DS: “Smart decisions, doesn’t commit a lot of mistakes, good mobility, decent puckhandler.” MA: “Very solid tournament. Positioned himself well and showed good skating abilities.” RW: “Prefers the simple pass to begin the transition. Hard hitting blueliner.”

10           Alex DeBrincat, C, USA. RW: “Has a burst of speed, which is necessary at his size.” MA: “Could not get his game going at all in the tournament. Was held out of scoresheet in all but one game.” JL: “Really just a tournament to forget, from the spearing major to the goallessness. He is better than this.”

11           Yegor Korshkov, RW, Russia. JL: “Quietly had a good tournament. Passed over in 2015, but really looked strong in this WJC. Hulk-ing player.” DS: “Good size, long reach, produces a lot of chances, always trying to do something.”

12           Carl Grundstrom, LW, Sweden. DS: “Goes into traffic areas, strong on his skates, good puck protector, knows how to score.” RW: “Good closing speed. Useful on the forecheck.”

13           Simon Stransky, LW, Czech Republic. CS: “Limited offensive ability, flashes are there.” MA: “Like the Czech team as a whole, Stransky did not impress. Flashed his skating a few times but could not get to the scoring sector.”

14           Chad Krys, D, USA. DS: “Good puckmover, agile skating, can quarterback powerplay.” JL: “Got such limited minutes and one of the youngest players, but you can tell he can play. Outlets are sharp.”

15           Stepan Falkovsky, D, Belarus. RW: “Moves well for his gargantuan size. Change of direction will always be a weakness, as it is more difficult for him to stop and start.  Can be beat by higher end agility. Spots opportunities to engage in offensive end.” CS: “3rd pairing, PK NHL defensemen. Very effective first pass. Faster than he looks. Pivot and acceleration are average but top speed is good. Will not produce points.”

16           Filip Hronek, D, Czech Republic. RW: “Decent skater. Not a burner, but smooth and more than mobile enough. Can begin a rush with pace. Calm on the backlilne. Solid stick defender. Makes the safe play in his own zone. Uses hands well to defend in own zone. Lacks muscle – bounces off checks.” JL: “Cool, calm defender. Noticeably small, but was pretty strong defensively.”

17           Mathias From, LW/RW, Denmark. DS: “Good size, top speed, few strides to hit top speed and rushes through neutral zone.” MA: “From was one the best players of Team Denmark and created multiple scoring chances in every game even against the top teams.”

18           Pius Suter, C/LW, Switzerland. RW: “Has second gear. If he had better hands, he would have been drafted last year.” DS: “Smart player, strong two-way game, good pass receiver, strong work ethic, does all the little things right to win the game, good in all three zones.”

19           Alexander Polunin, LW, Russia. JL: “Great games against Finland and Belarus. Like his drive to net.” DS:: “Agile skater, good puckhandler, dancer, backcheckes well, good energy level.”

20           Alexandar Georgiyev, G, Russia. CS: “Very, very fast. Gets low early, very low. Uses athleticism to make saves. Skill set is there. With some coaching he could be very good.” JL: “With the style and talent he faced considered, good tournament. Thought is rebound control was excellent. Seemed to do well in traffic.”

21           Veini Vehvilainen, G, Finland. DS: “Not a good WJC had issues tracking puck, still, outstanding U18 and good in Liiga, solid technique, strong with glove.”

22           Sebastian Repo, C/RW, Finland

23           Roger Karrer, D, Switzerland

24           Kasper Bjorkqvist, LW, Finland

25           Nikolaj Krag Christensen, C/LW, Denmark

26           Filip Lestan, LW/RW, Czech Republic

27           Tomas Soustal, C, Czech Republic

28           Auguste Impose, LW/RW, Switzerland

29           Matias Lassen, D, Denmark

30           Ilya Sushko, D, Belarus

31           Christian Mieritz, D, Denmark

32           Jeppe Jul Korsgaard, LW/RW, Denmark

33           Yegor Sharangovich, C, Belarus

34           Calvin Thurkauf, C/LW Switzerland

35           Nicolai Weichel, D, Denmark

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