There is no change at the top, of course, as Connor McDavid‘s performance at this WJC only served to enhance his standing as the top prospect available for this year’s draft. McDavid holds onto the top slot, while his main rival for the first overall designation, Jack Eichel, remains the second-best prospect according to ISS. Eichel didn’t have a bad tournament with Team USA, but McDavid got stronger as Team Canada made their run to the gold medal, while Eichel and his U.S. teammates struggled in their final two games of the tournament and were ousted in the quarterfinals by Russia.
But the order in the top 10 features some significant change after the top two players, due mostly to what transpired at this WJC. The first change comes at #3, a position held in previous rankings by Boston College defenseman Noah Hanifin. Hanifin played for the U.S. at the WJC, and like Eichel, Hanifin impressed at times but also had moments where he didn’t stand out. The end result is that Hanifin now slides down one spot to #4.
Taking Hanifin’s place in the third slot is Kingston Frontenacs forward, Lawson Crouse. Crouse was a somewhat surprising choice to play for Canada at this WJC, but he earned full marks for his dogged play for the gold medal winners.
“Crouse is a determined player that does not give up on any loose pucks or puck battles”, says ISS Hockey Director of Scouting Dennis MacInnis. “He has a lean body on a large frame and, once he fills out, he has the potential to be a top six NHL power forward.”
Another strong WJC performer climbing the ranks is Finnish forward Mikko Rantanen, who moved from #13 to the fifth slot in this month’s ranking. Rantanen was viewed by many as being the top player for Finland at this year’s tournament, and he has been rewarded by ISS with a significant move up the ranks.
As a result of Rantanen’s upward mobility, the fifth-ranked prospect from December, University of Michigan defenseman Zach Werenski, slipped one spot to #6. Werenski played for Team USA at this WJC and impressed at times, but his performance wasn’t impressive enough for him to hold onto a top-5 position.
Moving down three slots from last month’s rankings is Erie Otters forward Dylan Strome, who sits at #7. Strome has continued his strong play in McDavid’s absence, so his downward slide is mostly related to Stome not having the international stage to perform upon that some of the prospects ahead of him did.
Coming in at #8 this month is Mathew Barzal of the Seattle Thunderbirds. Barzal is still on the shelf due to an injury suffered in November, but he is close to returning to a Thunderbirds team that is making a push for the WHL playoffs.
Maybe the best indicator of the strength of this year’s top 10 is the presence of London Knights forward Mitchell Marner at #9 in this month’s rankings. Marner is the leading scorer in the OHL with 77 points (32G, 45A) in 38 games. Within the past week, Marner turned in a six-point effort in a Knights’ win. While he doesn’t have ideal size, there is little doubt that Marner has the talent to be a top offensive player in the pros down the road.
Sitting in the 10th position in this month’s rankings is Brandon Wheat Kings defenseman, Ivan Provorov. Provorov had a relatively quiet showing for Russia at the World Juniors, but he has shown enough over the past month to move up six places from last month’s rankings.
Two players slipping out of last month’s top 10 are ranked 11th and 12th in this month’s ISS rankings. Sarnia Sting forward Pavel Zacha drops three slots to #11, while Farjestad defenseman Oliver Kylington moved from #7 to #12. Zacha played for the Czech Republic at the WJC and, while he had his strong moments at that tournament, it remains to be seen how much offensive upside he has in his game. Kylington was supposed to compete for Sweden at the World Juniors but missed the tournament due to injury.
Making the biggest jump up the rankings from last month to this month is Kelowna Rockets forward Nick Merkley. Merkley was ranked 22nd in last month’s ISS rankings, but has moved up nine places to #13 due to his strong offensive play with the Rockets. Merkley currently sits second in scoring in the WHL with 61 points (13G, 48A) in 40 games.
Another player making a sizable leap up the ranks was Saint John Sea Dogs defenseman Thomas Chabot. Chabot is currently fifth in scoring for the Sea Dogs and 13th among defensemen in the QMJHL with 24 points (7G, 17A) in 37 games.
There was only minor movement up or down among the remaining players in this month’s top 30. There were two newcomers to this month’s rankings, both of whom were WJC participants. One is defenseman Brandon Carlo, who plays for the Tri-City Americans of the WHL and competed for Team USA at the 2015 WJC. The big defender slotted in a #17 after a good showing for the U.S. Alexander Dergachev (or Dergachyov) from SKA 1946 St. Petersburg in the MHL is the other new name on this month’s list. Dergachev was an impressive performer for silver medalist Russia at the WJC as he was one of the bigger forwards (6-4, 201) who was contributing both offense and some muscle. He came in at #28 in this month’s rankings.
The two names at the top of ISS Hockey’s goaltender rankings were the same ones that appeared the past couple of months, but their places have switched. Moving into the top position is Callum Booth from the Quebec Remparts, while Czech goaltender Daniel Vladar of Kladno moves down to the second slot.
Below is the January ranking of the top 30 prospects for the 2015 NHL Draft according to ISS Hockey.
|2||Jack Eichel||Center||10/28/1996||R||6.02||193||Boston Univ.||HE|
|3||Lawson Crouse||Left Wing||6/23/1997||L||6.04||211||Kingston||OHL|
|4||Noah Hanifin||Left Defenseman||1/25/1997||L||6.02.75||203||Boston College||HE|
|5||Mikko Rantanen||Right Wing||10/29/1996||L||6.04||195||TPS Turku||FinE|
|6||Zach Werenski||Right Defenseman||7/19/1997||R||6.02||206||Michigan||Big Ten|
|10||Ivan Provorov||Left Defenseman||1/13/1997||L||6.00||191||Brandon||WHL|
|12||Oliver Kylington||Right Defenseman||5/19/1997||L||6.00||180||Farjestad||SHL|
|16||Colin White||Right Wing||1/30/1997||R||6.00||183||US Under-18||USHL|
|17||Brandon Carlo||Right Defenseman||11/26/1996||R||6.04.75||198||Tri-City||WHL|
|18||Evgeny Svechnikov||Right Wing||10/31/1996||L||6.02||199||Cape Breton||QMJHL|
|19||Jordan Greenway||Left Wing||2/16/1997||L||6.04.75||222||US Under-18||USHL|
|20||Jeremy Bracco||Right Wing||3/17/1997||R||5.09.25||173||US Under-18||USHL|
|21||Jansen Harkins||Center/Left Wing||5/23/1997||L||6.00.75||177||Prince George||WHL|
|22||Thomas Chabot||Left Defenseman||1/30/1997||L||6.01.25||181||Saint John||QMJHL|
|23||Nikita Korostelev||Right Wing||2/8/1997||R||6.01.25||195||Sarnia||OHL|
|24||Matthew Spencer||Right Defenseman||3/24/1997||R||6.01.5||200||Peterborough||OHL|
|25||Gabriel Carlsson||Left Defenseman||1/2/1997||L||6.04||183||Linkoping||SweJE|
|27||Nicolas Meloche||Right Defenseman||7/18/1997||R||6.02.5||202||Baie-Comeau||QMJHL|
|28||Alexander Dergachev||Right Wing||9/27/1996||L||6.04||200||St. Petersburg 1946-SKA||RusJr|
|29||Jakub Zboril||Left Defenseman||2/21/1997||L||6.00.75||184||Saint John||QMJHL|
|30||Paul Bittner||Left Wing||11/4/1996||L||6.04||206||Portland||WHL|
Ken McKenna contributed to this article
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