The draft is still about six months away at this point, but I feel confident enough in the sample size of my information to compile a competent ranking. Obviously, things change and my final rankings will likely look quite different to my mid-season. I’m open to different viewpoints as well as analysis.
I try to create a good balance between qualitative and quantitative analysis, and I feel like I have achieved a good mix with these rankings. With all that said… let’s get started!
1.) Jack Hughes (C, USDP)
What can you say about Hughes that hasn’t already been said? Hughes is an excellent playmaker with tremendous vision and silky smooth skating. His elusiveness and agility are world class. His game translates perfectly to the demands of the modern NHL and he should start becoming a difference maker as soon as next year. Jack has all the tools and then some to become a franchise altering player.
2.) Kaapo Kakko (RW, TPS Turku)
If anyone is going to challenge Hughes for the number one pick, it is going to be Kaapo Kakko. Kakko is putting up numbers in Finland not seen since Laine and Rantanen. Actually as it stands, Kakko has a higher points per game (0.74) than Laine (0.72) and Rantanen (0.5) had in their draft years. The big Finnish winger has an arsenal of abilities including high hockey intelligence, good skating and agility.
3.) Trevor Zegras (C, USDP)
It may seem like a bit of a stretch to rate Zegras this high, but I genuinely think at this part of the season that he deserves this type of praise. The Boston University commit has 41 points in 28 USDP games, including 33 primary points which is more than number one ranked Jack Hughes has. Zegras is a super skilled, crafty, playmaking centre that has top line potential and could be a real impact player at the next level.
4.) Dylan Cozens (C/RW , Lethbridge Hurricanes)
Yukon’s own Dylan Cozens has been a monster so far in the WHL. The six-foot-three centre-winger has 47 points (18G 29A) in only 29 WHL games. This is the highest points per game of any first year draft eligible player in the WHL. Cozens has all the tools to be an impactful NHL’er, including size and strong puck control as well as a great shot.
5.) Anttoni Honka (RD, JYP Jyväskylä)
If you have been following me, you know how much I like Anttoni Honka. Although Honka has had a slow start to his season, he still displays the elite offensive skills and transitional ability that will make him a great NHL defenseman in the long run. He tests well in every statistic I have tracked, including having the highest controlled zone exit percentage and zone entry percentage among any of the defenseman I have tracked so far this year. Although Honka’s defence is awful right now, he demonstrates the defensive fundamentals that will allow for further improvement as he develops.
6.) Kirby Dach (C, Saskatoon Blades)
Despite having just 1 point in his last 10 games, Kirby Dach still has a firm spot in my top 10. The six-foot-four centre still has 42 points in 37 WHL games and continues to be defensively conscious. What makes Dach so offensively productive is his hawklike vision and his soft hands compiled with his towering size. Don’t be fooled by Dach’s recent production, he still has tons of game changing upside.
7.) Arthur Kaliyev (LW, Hamilton Bulldogs)
Although Kaliyev’s effort level has been in question as of late, it is hard to ignore his ridiculous production. The Russian born winger has 52 points in 35 OHL games which is good enough for the highest points per game of any first year draft eligible player in the CHL. He is also a monster at generating shot attempts, generating 3.97 shots per game for the Hamilton Bulldogs. At the end of the day, Kaliyev’s production really speaks for itself.
8.) Bobby Brink (RW, Sioux City Musketeers)
By far the biggest riser for me in this draft so far, Brink brings elite speed and skill that is game changing. The undersized winger has put up a pretty ridiculous stat line, including 33 points in 19 USHL games and a betweenness score of 0.29 which, if you didn’t know, is crazy good. If you haven’t had a chance to see Brink play yet, I suggest making time to watch him. You’ll be surprised.
9.) Jakob Pelletier (LW, Moncton Wildcats)
Looked down upon because of his small size, Pelletier has quietly become one of the best draft eligible producers in the CHL. His 54 points (20G 30A) in 34 games is good enough for second in points per game among all first year draft eligibles. His complete offensive skill set including speed, skill and tenacity is too much too handle for most defenders.
10.) Bowen Byram (LD, Vancouver Giants)
A hyper intelligent two way defenseman, Byram possess offensive creativity and usually remains defensively conscious. The number one ranked defensemen by most put up a 63% corsi and a 81% controlled exit percentage through five games in the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup and has started the season in the WHL with 28 points in 33 games.
11.) Alex Newhook (C, Victoria Grizzlies)
Since being cut from Canada’s Hlinka-Gretzky Cup roster, Newhook has been on a tear for the Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL. His 55 points in 32 games is good enough for the league lead in points and points per game in the BCHL. He also shows no sign of slowing down. His intriguing mix of blazing speed and puck control will make sure that Newhook will not have to wait long to have his name called on draft day.
12.) Alex Turcotte (C, USDP)
A gifted playmaking centre, Turcotte uses his body very well to protect the puck and to create scoring opportunities. The Wisconsin University commit has insane hockey smarts and great passing ability that is deadly on the power play. Although I do have some concerns with his defensive abilities, I think Turcotte still has real potential.
13.) Peyton Krebs (LW, Kootenay Ice)
Playing for one of the worst teams in the WHL, Peyton Krebs has not been held back. His all around game has been phenomenal this year thanks to his great skating abilities and hockey smarts. The Okotoks, AB native has been thrown into a leadership role with a young Kootenay Ice team, and although the team has struggled to succeed, Krebs individual success is hard to ignore.
14. Phillip Broberg (LD, AIK)
Although Phillip Broberg’s point totals in the Allsvenskan is nothing to get excited about with just 7 assists in 20 games, Broberg’s play especially on the breakout has been exceptional. His 61% controlled exit percentage is third among all defensemen I have tracked this year. Oh, and his play internationally for Sweden isn’t half bad either.
15.) Raphaël Lavoie (C/RW Halifax Mooseheads)
Raphaël Lavoie is the full package of speed skill and size. Although his 36 points in 33 games is underwhelming for a player who scored almost a point per game in his D-1 year, he has shown improvements in his defensive game as well as his foot speed.