While the top four players in the ISS Hockey March rankings for the 2015 NHL Draft remain unchanged, one player managed to move up a few slots to land among the top five prospects.
London Knights forward Mitchell Marner, the OHL’s leading scorer, has moved up three places to fifth in this month’s rankings. In a different year, Marner might well be a candidate to be chosen first overall given his offensive ability. In 56 games in 2014-15, the Thornhill, ON native has scored 43 goals and added 76 assists for 119 points, a figure that doubles his output from 64 games in 2013-14.
Of course, when you have major talents like Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel – the top two prospects in these rankings since the beginning of the season – sitting above you, simply landing a top-5 position has to be considered a positive development.
For the dynamic duo at the top of the rankings, it has been business as usual. McDavid last week passed the 100-point mark in just 38 games, with he and his Erie Otters teammates preparing for what they hope will be a lengthy run through the OHL playoffs. Meanwhile, Eichel and his Boston University teammates last week won the 2015 Beanpot Tournament, and are now ranked third in the nation as the postseason approaches. Eichel leads the nation in scoring as a freshman, with 55 points (18G, 37A) in 32 games.
Sitting in third for the second straight month is Kingston Frontenacs forward, Lawson Crouse. Crouse is leading the Frontenacs in scoring with 39 points (25G, 14A) in 47 games, and is no doubt happy to have Calgary Flames prospect Sam Bennett back in the Kingston lineup.
Boston College defenseman Noah Hanifin sits in front of Marner in the fourth slot. While the Eagles have had a more difficult season than is normally the case, the play of Hanifin has not contributed to this down season. The Norwood, MA native has played as advertised, showing few holes in his game while taking care of business at both ends of the ice.
Erie Otters forward Dylan Strome moved up one place to sixth in this month’s rankings. Strome did not miss a beat while McDavid was out of the Otters’ lineup from November through early January, and he currently sits second in scoring in the OHL with 109 points (36G, 73A) in 59 games.
Another player moving up in the top 10 sits in the seventh position in this month’s ISS draft rankings. Seattle Thunderbirds forward Mathew Barzal returned to action in late January after a lengthy layoff due to injury, showing little or no rust in his on-ice play upon his return. In 35 games this season, Barzal has scored 12 goals and added 32 assists for 44 points.
With players moving up in the rankings, it means that others are falling. One such player moving downward is the eighth-ranked prospect, Mikko Rantanen of TPS Turku. Rantanen’s small drop likely has more to do with the play of prospects like Marner and Barzal than it does with any shortcomings in Rantanen’s game. The Big Finn has produced 23 points (7G, 16A) in 52 games competing in Finland’s top league, Liiga.
Moving back to the WHL, the ninth-ranked prospect is Brandon Wheat Kings defenseman, Ivan Provorov. The talented Russian impressed at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, and has done little since then to suggest that he isn’t one of the top defenders available in this draft. In 51 games this season, Provorov has scored 14 goals and added 41 assists for 55 points in 51 games, a point total that has him ranked second in scoring among WHL defensemen.
Holding down the tenth spot this month is another player that moved slightly downward from last month’s rankings, University of Michigan defenseman Zach Werenski. Not unlike Rantanen, Werenski is probably more a victim of the play of those ahead of him than with any dip in play in his own game. The Grosse Pointe, MI native has produced 23 points in 28 games, and he sports a +16 rating for a Wolverines’ squad that is currently ranked 16th in NCAA hockey.
There has not been a great deal of movement outside the top 10 of ISS Hockey’s March rankings. One player showing a significant drop is Farjestad defenseman Oliver Kylington. Kylington had routinely appeared among the top prospects until last month, when he slid to 12th. A less than stellar showing at last month’s Five Nations Tournament sent Kylington further down the list this month, as he now sits at #24.
The biggest riser this month is Kylington’s Farjestad teammate, forward Joel Ek Eriksson. Eriksson was very productive with Farjestad’s SuperElit (J20) squad, posting 29 points (18G, 11A) in 23 games. The Karlstad, Sweden native is also getting his first taste of SHL action, posting 5 points (3G, 2A) in 32 games in his country’s top league. Eriksson lands at #21 after being ranked 30th in February.
The lone new arrival in the top 30 this month is another Swede, defenseman Jacob Larsson from the Frolunda organization. Larsson has split time between the Indians’ SuperElit squad and their SHL team. Larsson is the youngest defenseman on the SHL roster in his first season at the top level. In 18 games, Larsson has produced a goal and two assists along with a +4 rating.
Czech goaltender Daniel Vladar remains the top-ranked netminder in this month’s rankings. There is a new face behind Vladar, however, with Russian Ilya Samsonov sliding into the spot held by Mackenzie Blackwood last month. Samsonov plays for Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk of the MHL, where he has posted a 2.66 goals-against average and .918 save percentage. Like Vladar, Samsonov is a big body, standing 6’3″ and 200 pounds.
Below is the March 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|
|8||Mikko Rantanen||Right Wing||10/29/1996||L||6.04||195||TPS Turku||FinE|
|9||Ivan Provorov||Left Defenseman||1/13/1997||L||6.00||191||Brandon||WHL|
|10||Zach Werenski||Right Defenseman||7/19/1997||L||6.02||206||Michigan||Big Ten|
|12||Timo Meier||Right Wing||10/8/1996||L||6.01||209||Halifax||QMJHL|
|16||Paul Bittner||Left Wing||11/4/1996||L||6.04||206||Portland||WHL|
|17||Colin White||Right Wing||1/30/1997||R||6.00||183||U.S. Under-18||USHL|
|18||Thomas Chabot||Defenseman||1/30/1997||L||6.01.5||180||Saint John||QMJHL|
|19||Jakub Zboril||Left Defenseman||2/21/1997||L||6.00.75||184||Saint John||QMJHL|
|20||Brandon Carlo||Right Defenseman||11/26/1996||R||6.05||196||Tri-City||WHL|
|21||Joel Ek Eriksson||Center||1/29/1997||L||6.01.75||180||Farjestad||SweJE|
|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||U.S. Under-18||USHL|
|24||Oliver Kylington||Right Defenseman||5/19/1997||L||6.00||180||Farjestad||SweE|
|25||Jeremy Bracco||Right Wing||3/17/1997||R||5.09.25||173||U.S. Under-18||USHL|
|26||Jansen Harkins||Center/Left Wing||5/23/1997||L||6.00.75||177||Prince George||WHL|
|27||Jacob Larsson||Left Defenseman||4/29/1997||L||6.02||191||Frolunda||SweJE|
|28||Jeremy Roy||Right Defenseman||5/14/1997||R||6.00||188||Sherbrooke||QMJHL|
|30||Gabriel Carlsson||Left Defenseman||1/2/1997||L||6.04||183||Linkoping||SweJE|
Ken McKenna contributed to this article
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