While there is still postseason play and the U18 World Championship yet to come, the pecking order at the top of the ISS Hockey rankings for the 2015 NHL Draft is becoming more well defined just past the halfway mark of the season.
The top 10 in ISS’s February rankings doesn’t look all that different from the top of the order in January. The first seven players this month are the same ones in the same order as last month’s top seven. Beyond that, the players occupying the top 10 slots are the same ones that were ranked in the top 10 in January.
As he has all season, leading the way is Erie Otters’ forward Connor McDavid. Although McDavid didn’t garner Player of the Game honors at the 2015 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, his play in that game made it very evident that he is a more advanced player than his peers. After winning gold at the 2015 World Junior Championship, he is now trying to lead the Otters to the top of the OHL’s Western Conference with 46 days left in the OHL regular season.
Following McDavid yet again is Boston University forward Jack Eichel. Eichel has picked up where he left off in NCAA play after a mildly disappointing showing at the World Juniors with Team USA. He sits just one point out of a tie for the scoring lead in D1 hockey but has played in three less games than the leader, Daniel Ciampini of Union College. BU is currently ranked third in the nation, so a run to a National Championship is not out of the question for Eichel and his Terriers teammates.
Ranked third overall according to ISS is another WJC gold medalist, Kingston Frontenacs forward Lawson Crouse. While Crouse’s offensive number aren’t eye-popping – he has 18 goals and 28 points in 35 games – he seems to be on course to become a power forward with two-way capabilities.
The first defenseman in this month’s top 10 is Boston College defenseman Noah Hanifin. After a disappointing start to the 2014-15 season, the Eagles have picked up the pace in the season’s second half, with Hanifin being very much a part of that success. In 25 games, Hanifin has scored four goals and posted 15 points to go along with a +11 rating.
Sitting in the fifth slot for the second straight month is TPS Turku forward Mikko Rantanen. The big Finn was his country’s best player at the World Junior tournament, and he is competing in Finland‘s top hockey league, Liiga, for the third consecutive season.
Just as the ISS top five has remained the same from last month to this one, so too are the players holding down the next two positions. University of Michigan defenseman Zach Werenski remains the sixth-ranked player on the basis of a strong freshman season for the Wolverines. Werenski has notched five goals and 18 points in 21 games, further solidifying his credentials as an impact player for Michigan this season.
Sitting in seventh is Erie Otters forward, Dylan Strome. Strome was named Team Cherry’s Player of the Game at the CHL Top Prospects Game, albeit in a 6-0 loss. More importantly, Strome remained effective for the Otters during McDavid’s lengthy absence due both to injury and his participation in the WJC. Strome is currently second in scoring in the OHL with 92 points in 48 games.
The man that is in front of Strome in the OHL scoring race, London Knights forward Mitchell Marner, is behind him in the ISS rankings. Marner sits in the eighth slot, moving up one position from his January ranking after surging to the top of the OHL scoring race with 93 points in 45 games.
The ninth-ranked player, Brandon Wheat Kings defenseman Ivan Provorov, looked good playing for Team Orr at the 2015 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. The Russian import picked up an assist and was +3 in that game while also delivering a big hit that led to the first goal of the game, scored by his Wheat Kings teammate, Ryan Pilon. Provorov is currently the top offensive defenseman in the WHL with 49 points in 45 games.
Returning to action in January after missing two months of action due to injury is the tenth-ranked prospect, the Seattle Thunderbirds’ Mathew Barzal. After going pointless in his first five games back, Barzal notched five assists in two games this past weekend, giving him 23 points in 22 games so far this season.
Outside the top 10, four players made significant moves up the ranks in February. Making the biggest move was Halifax Mooseheads forward, Timo Meier, who was ranked by ISS in the 31-40 range in January but moved all the way up to #13 in February. Meier turned in a strong performance at last month’s CHL Top Prospects Game, picking up three points (1G, 2A) while playing on a line with McDavid and Team Orr Player of the Game, Travis Konecny of the Ottawa 67’s. Meier’s good showing comes on the heels of his equally good play at the 2015 WJC for Switzerland, so his climb into the top 15 is no fluke.
Moving up 12 positions in the February rankings is Portland Winterhawks forward Paul Bittner. After a pedestrian start to his 2014-15 season, Bittner has come alive over the past couple of months, posting 27 points in his last 24 games. He is another Team Orr player that showed well at the CHL Top Prospects Game, where he picked up a goal in his team’s win.
Making a jump from the 29th position in last month’s rankings to the 19th slot is Saint John Sea Dogs defenseman, Jakub Zboril. The Czech import did not take part in the CHL Top Prospects Game due to injury, but has been a force for the Sea Dogs when healthy. In 33 games, Zboril has 8 goals and 22 points along with a +5 rating.
Another riser from the QMJHL is also from the Sea Dogs, defenseman Thomas Chabot. He is part of a young defensive corps that has Saint John competitive again and very much in the hunt for a playoff spot. Chabot moved up five places this month, from 22 to 17, due in part to a good showing at the CHL Top Prospects Game.
Two players re-entered the Top 30 this month after being left off the list the past two months. Sherbrooke Phoenix defenseman Jeremy Roy lands at #26 while Waterloo Black Hawks forward Brock Boeser is one place lower at 27. Both players last appeared in the ISS Top 30 back in November.
There is one newcomer to the Top 30 this time around, Swedish forward Joel Ek Eriksson. The talented two-way center this season has split his time between Farjestads’ J20 squad and their SHL team, appearing in 23 games at each level.
The top of the goaltending rankings in ISS Hockey’s February list has changed slightly from last month. Czech goaltender Daniel Vladar has taken back the top ranking from the Quebec Remparts’ Callum Booth while Barrie Colts netminder Mackenzie Blackwood has moved into the second slot behind Vladar.
Below is the February 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|
|9||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|
|13||Timo Meier||Right Wing||10/8/1996||L||6.01||209||Halifax||QMJHL|
|17||Thomas Chabot||Left Defenseman||1/30/1997||L||6.01.25||181||Saint John||QMJHL|
|18||Paul Bittner||Left Wing||11/4/1996||L||6.04||206||Portland||WHL|
|19||Jakub Zboril||Left Defenseman||2/21/1997||L||6.00.75||184||Saint John||QMJHL|
|20||Colin White||Right Wing||1/30/1997||R||6.00||183||US Under-18||USHL|
|21||Brandon Carlo||Right Defenseman||11/26/1996||R||6.05||196||Tri-City||WHL|
|22||Evgeny Svechnikov||Right Wing||10/31/1996||L||6.01.75||199||Cape Breton||QMJHL|
|23||Jordan Greenway||Left Wing||2/16/1997||L||6.04.75||222||US Under-18||USHL|
|24||Jeremy Bracco||Right Wing||3/17/1997||R||5.09.25||173||US Under-18||USHL|
|25||Jansen Harkins||Center/Left Wing||5/23/1997||L||6.00.75||177||Prince George||WHL|
|26||Jeremy Roy||Right Defenseman||5/14/1997||R||6.00||188||Sherbrooke||QMJHL|
|28||Nicolas Meloche||Right Defenseman||7/18/1997||R||6.02.5||202||Baie-Comeau||QMJHL|
|29||Gabriel Carlsson||Left Defenseman||1/2/1997||L||6.04||183||Linkoping||SweJE|
|30||Joel Ek Eriksson||Center||1/29/1997||L||6.01.75||180||Farjestad||SweJE|
Ken McKenna contributed to this article
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