The scouting arm of the NHL, NHL Central Scouting (CSS), released their final rankings for the 2016 NHL Draft in April. ISS Hockey (ISS), on the other hand, is still releasing their monthly rankings, with their final ranking yet to come in early June.
At this late stage of the 2015-16 season, it seems doubtful that there will be much movement among the draft prospects given that the season for many of them has come to an end. A few will be competing in the championship series’ of the three CHL leagues, with a smaller number moving on to the Memorial Cup tournament. But, other than those players and a small number competing at the IIHF World Championship in Russia, the vast majority of this year’s draft prospects are moving into their offseason routines or focusing on the upcoming NHL Combine.
Of course, there will definitely be no movement in the CSS rankings given that there will be no further releases from them for this draft. But even the ISS rankings – at least among the top 30 prospects – seem to be solidified to the point where there has been little movement from the April rankings to the current May release.
Given the current, mostly static draft rankings, now is as good a time as any to compare the prospects that the two scouting services consider to be worthy of first round consideration, and more specifically, top-10 status.
The presumptive first pick in the draft appears to be center Auston Matthews, who played for the ZSC Lions in Switzerland’s National League A during the 2015-16 season but is now competing for Team USA at the 2016 IIHF World Championship in Russia. Matthews is ranked first overall by ISS, a postion he has held since the first monthly release back in October. CSS has Matthews ranked first among European skaters in their final rankings, ahead of his two closest competitors for first overall honors, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi of Finland.
While the two services might agree on the top player in this draft, they are not in agreement on which Finn will go second. While Laine is ranked ahead of Puljujarvi by CSS, the opposite is true for ISS. Both players performed well in the Liiga playoffs, with Laine’s Tappara club winning the Liiga championship and Laine picking up MVP honors along the way. Puljujarvi competed for Finland at the 2016 IIHF U18 World Championship, where he notched a hat trick in the gold medal game for the victorious Finnish squad.
After these first three players, the focus turns mostly to North America where the remainder of the players considered top-10 material competed in 2015-16.
Ranked fourth overall by ISS is Mississauga Steelheads right wing Alexander Nylander. The brother of William Nylander was one of the better forwards for the silver medal-winning Sweden squad at the U18 World Championship last month, but his performance wasn’t quite as strong as his showing at the U20 World Juniors earlier this season.
CSS ranks Nylander behind both Pierre-Luc Dubois and Matthew Tkachuk among North American skaters, with Dubois being the top-ranked skater in this group. The Cape Breton Screaming Eagles left winger finished third overall in scoring in the QMJHL this season, picking up 42 goals and 99 points in 62 games. Meanwhile, Tkachuk and his London Knights teammates are preparing for the OHL Championship series against the Niagara IceDogs, with Tkachuk playing a big part in his team’s regular season and postseason success. The son of former NHL forward Keith Tkachuk finished fifth overall in OHL scoring during the 2015-16 season, and is now ranked second in OHL playoff scoring behind London teammate Mitch Marner.
Sitting at #7 overall in the latest ISS rankings is Windsor Spitfires forward Logan Brown. Brown finished second in scoring for the Spitfires during the regular season, scoring 21 goals and 74 points in 59 games. More recently, he competed for Team USA at the U18 World Championship where he was particulary noticeable in the playoff round of that tournament, helping the U.S. take the bronze medal.
Brown is ranked seventh among North American skaters by CSS, with three defensemen ranked in front of him. Sarnia Sting defender Jakob Chychrun is the fourth-ranked skater according to CSS, while he is ranked eighth overall by ISS. The son of former NHL defenseman Jeff Chychrun competed for Team Canada at last month’s U18 tournament where he turned in a mostly solid performance.
Following Chychrun in the CSS rankings at #5 is London Knights defender Olli Juolevi. Like Tkachuk, Juolevi is getting ready for the OHL Championship series after a strong OHL rookie season where he produced nine goals and 42 points in 57 games. Juolevi also won gold with Team Finland at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.
The sixth-ranked prospect in North America according to CSS is Boston University defenseman Charlie McAvoy. McAvoy had a productive freshman season for the Terriers, scoring three goals and 25 points in 37 NCAA games. The Long Island native also represented the U.S. at the U20 World Juniors, going scoreless in seven games.
Juolevi is ranked 11th by ISS in their May rankings, while McAvoy is ranked 23rd by that organization.
ISS has ranked Penticton Vees right wing Tyson Jost ninth overall in their May release, with Jost moving up nine positions from his April ranking. This jump, the second biggest upward move in this month’s ISS list, is no doubt based on Jost’s strong showing with Team Canada at the U18. Jost led the tournament in scoring with 15 points in seven games, and in most games was his country’s best player. Indeed, he was named the Best Forward at the U18 by the IIHF Directorate. CSS has Jost ranked 16th, but that list was compiled before the U18 tournament.
Holding the 10th slot in the latest ISS rankings is Windsor Spitfires defenseman Mikhail Sergachev. Sergachev was recently named the OHL Defenseman of the Year after a strong 2015-16 campaign in which he produced 17 goals and 57 points in 67 games. Sergachev also represented Russia at the U18 World Championship, wearing the ‘A’ for a hastily thrown together squad that replaced the players that had been disqualified due to a doping infraction. Sergachev is ranked eighth among North American skaters by CSS.
Two more potential top 10 picks could be U.S. NTDP center Clayton Keller and Mississauga Steelheads center Michael McLeod. Not unlike Jost, Keller starred for Team USA at the U18 tournament, finishing second to Jost in scoring with four goals and 14 points in seven games. McLeod also competed for Canada at the U18, picking up four points in seven games in what was a mixed performance for McLeod after a strong OHL campaign.
Keller is ranked 12th overall by ISS and ninth in North America by CSS, while McLeod is ranked 13th overall by ISS and 13th among North American skaters by CSS.
The largest upward movement from last month to this month in the ISS rankings belongs to Jost’s Penticton Vees teammate, defenseman Dante Fabbro. Fabbro had a strong showing for Team Canada at the U18 tournament, picking up eight assists in seven games and generally showing why he was highly ranked earlier in the season. Fabbro moved up to #19 in the ISS May rankings after not appearing in the top 30 in the April release. CSS has Fabbro ranked 18th among North American skaters.
Among the draft-eligible goaltenders, Even Fitzpatrick of the Sherbrooke Phoenix appears to be the top-ranked player at that position. Fitzpatrick is ranked first among goalies by ISS, and first among North American goaltenders by CSS. Fitzpatrick turned in a mostly strong showing at the U18, save for Team Canada’s collapse in the bronze medal game. The player chosen as the Best Goalkeeper at the U18 was Filip Gustavsson of Team Sweden. Gustavsson is the top-ranked goaltender in Europe according to CSS, and he was ranked #1 by ISS back in December.