The 2016 NHL Draft is still more than a year-and-a-half away, but that doesn’t mean that players eligible for that draft aren’t being observed by scouts. ISS Hockey is one of those scouting groups taking the measure of late ’97 and ’98-born players eligible for that draft, with that organization releasing their December ranking of the top 10 prospects for the 2016 draft.
Leading the pack this month is U.S. NTDP forward Auston Matthews. The Scottsdale, AZ native has competed primarily for the NTDP’s Under-18 squad this season, leading that team in scoring with 45 points (20G, 25A) in 24 games. The productive start to his 2014-15 season follows a strong showing by Matthews at the 2014 U18 World Championship back in April, where he notched seven points in seven games and tied Jack Eichel for the team lead in goals with five on the way to winning gold with Team USA.
Follwing Matthews in the rankings is the player that he supplanted, Sarnia Sting defenseman Jakob Chychrun. Chychrun recently missed out on a chance to play for Canada at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge due to an injury, and has not played in any games for the Sting since early November. In 12 OHL games this season, Chychrun has scored three goals and added four assists for seven points.
The first European player to make this ranking is Finnish right wing Jesse Puljujarvi. The offensively talented and solidly built Puljujarvi has already spent time this season in Liiga, Finland‘s top league, with Karpat Oulu. In 10 games for that club, he has scored three goals and added an assist. Puljujarvi, who was born in Sweden, represented Finland at the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in August, posting five points (3G, 2A) in four games.
The second American player in this ranking is fourth-ranked Max Jones, who plays for the NTDP’s Under-17 squad. Jones appeared in 20 games for that club, posting 11 goals and six assists. The Rochester, MI native also played for Team USA at the World U17 Hockey Challenge last month, where he finished second in scoring with 11 points (7G, 4A) in six games for the silver medalists.
Rounding out the top five in the ISS rankings is Russian left winger Dmitry Sokolov. The burly forward competes for Omsk Yastreby in the MHL, where he has posted 10 points (9G, 1A) in 13 games. Sokolov also competed for the gold medal-winning Russia squad at the World U17 Hockey Challenge, where he tied for the lead in scoring on his team with nine points (6G, 3A) in 6 games.
The final five slots in the top 10 begins with Penticton Vees defenseman, Dante Fabbro. The offensively gifted rearguard has appeared in 20 BCHL games this season, posting three goals and 13 assists so far. Fabbro played for Canada Red at the Under-17 tournament, posting three points (2G, 1A) in five games.
The third of four NTDP players on this list is seventh-ranked Clayton Keller. The smaller but skilled forward competes for the NTDP’s Under-17 team, where he has posted 32 points (14G, 18A) in 21 games to date. He also suited up for Team USA at the Under-17 tournament, leading all scorers with 13 points (6G, 7A) in six games.
Eighth-ranked 2016 prospect Olli Juolevi is a defenseman for Jokerit’s Under-20 squad. In 24 games for that club, the lanky Finnish defender has posted five goals and 15 assists in the 2014-15 season. Juolevi also played for Finland at the 2014 Ivan Hlinka, posting an assist in four games.
The only WHL player in this top 10 is Vancouver Giants forward Tyler Benson. Benson, the first pick overall at the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, has appeared in 18 games for the Giants this season, posting four goals and 10 assists. He played for Canada Black at the Under-17 tourney, notching a goal and assist in five games.
Completing the December top 10 is NTDP defenseman Chad Krys. The offensively talented defender has played in 21 games for the Under-17 team, notching two goals and adding 17 assists to date. Krys competed for Team USA at the Under-17 tournament, picking up seven assists in six games to tie for sixth overall in tournament scoring.
Below is the December ranking of the top 10 prospects for the 2016 NHL Draft according to ISS Hockey.
|1||Auston Matthews||9/17/97||USA Under-18||NTDP||Right Wing||L||6.01.5||194|
|2||Jakob Chychrun||3/31/98||Sarnia||OHL||Left Defenseman||L||6.02||195|
|3||Jesse Puljujarvi||5/7/98||Hokki||Mestis||Right Wing||R||6.02||189|
|4||Max Jones||2/17/98||USA Under-17||NTDP||Left Wing||L||6.01.75||189|
|5||Dmitry Sokolov||4/14/98||Omsk Yastreby||MHL||Left Wing||L||5.11.5||191|
|6||Dante Fabbro||6/20/98||Penticton||BCHL||Right Defenseman||R||6.00||193|
|7||Clayton Keller||7/29/98||USA Under-17||NTDP||Center||L||5.09.25||165|
|9||Tyler Benson||3/15/98||Vancouver||WHL||Left Wing||L||5.11.5||198|
|10||Chad Krys||4/10/98||USA Under-17||NTDP||Left Defenseman||L||5.10.75||182|
Ken McKenna contributed to this article
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