Change has come to ISS Hockey’s February rankings for the 2016 NHL Draft, but not within the Top 10 or much of the Top 30, for that matter. Instead, the significant change has taken place in the goaltender rankings, where the top two goalies from the January rankings have been displaced by a new duo.
Last month, ISS tapped the Everett Silvertips’ Carter Hart and Lulea’s Filip Gustavsson as the top two netminders available for this year’s NHL Draft. But the names have changed in the February rankings, with Sherbrooke Phoenix goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick taking over the top slot, and U.S. National Team Development Program (NTDP) backstop Joseph Woll placing behind Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick last appeared in the ISS rankings back in November, where he was also ranked first. While the impetus for his return to the top of the charts was likely his 17-save performance during his stint at the 2016 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, the St. John’s, Newfoundland native has performed well for a Sherbrooke club that has allowed the most shots of any team in the QMJHL.
“Sherbrooke Phoenix goalkeeper Evan Fitzpatrick has tremendous upside,” said ISS Hockey Director of Scouting Dennis MacInnis. “A butterfly goalie with good size and athleticism. He is calm, relaxed and controlled between the pipes, which has helped him gain the #1 rank of the top eligible goaltenders in the 2016 NHL Draft.”
Holding down the second slot is Woll, a native of Dardenne Prairie, Missouri who has competed for USA Hockey’s national program for the past two seasons. Woll, a Boston College commit, has appeared in seven USHL contests this season, posting a 2.38 goals-against average and .903 save percentage.
“Joseph Woll of the USA Under-18 has been steadily proving that he has the ability to become a solid NHL goalie,” said ISS Hockey Head U.S. Scout Phil Myre of Woll. “Woll has developed patience in the net that adds to his high skill level and consistency game after game.”
As for the Top 30 skaters as ranked by ISS, the Top 5 remains unchanged from last month. ZSC Lions center Auston Matthews continues his season-long reign as the top prospect for this year’s draft. He is followed by Karpat Oulu right wing Jesse Puljujarvi, one of the heroes for Finland at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship. London Knights left wing Matthew Tkachuk maintains both his hold on third and his standing as the top North American-based skater. Another big Finnish winger and WJC star, Tappara’s Patrik Laine, maintains his fourth-place rank, while the fifth slot is held by the first defenseman on this list, Sarnia Sting’s defender Jakob Chychrun.
The remainder of the February Top 10 is slightly altered from the previous month, but most of the names remain the same.
Two teammates from the Mississauga Steelheads traded places in the February rankings. Center Michael McLeod moved up one place to sixth after a solid performance for Team Cherry at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. Steelheads’ right wing Alexander Nylander is the player displaced by McLeod, with Nylander landing in the seventh slot.
London Knights left wing Max Jones maintains his eighth-place ranking, while Windsor Spitfires defenseman Mikhail Sergachev moves up one slot to #9. Making his first appearance in the ISS Top 10 is London Knights defenseman Olli Juolevi, another top performer for gold medalist Finland at the 2016 World Juniors.
The player displaced from the Top 10 by Sergachev and Juolevi is Penticton Vees right wing Tyson Jost. Jost was ranked ninth in the January rankings, but has slipped to 14th this time around. Sitting directly in front of Jost in the 13th slot is Cape Breton Screaming Eagles left wing Pierre-Luc Dubois. Dubois was one of the standouts at last month’s CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, where he collected the game-winning goal and two assists in Team Orr’s 3-2 victory. Dubois moved up from 18th in the January rankings.
Another player making a significant jump in the rankings this time around is University of Wisconsin right wing Luke Kunin. Kunin has put together a solid freshman season for the Badgers, where he has scored 10 goals and 19 points in 23 games. Kunin currently stands as the top prospect out of the NCAA for this year’s draft.
At the 2015 NHL Draft, the first player chosen from the Minnesota high school ranks was defenseman Will Borgen, who was chosen by the Buffalo Sabres as the first pick of the fourth round. This year, the Minnesota prep scene may be well represented within the first round of the draft as there are two high school prospects with a chance to be selected among the Top 30.
Big Blaine High School left wing Riley Tufte was ranked 28th by ISS in their January rankings, but he has now moved up to 22nd in the February edition. The 6’5” Tufte began the season with the Fargo Force of the USHL, but has returned to Blaine where he has scored 29 goals and 50 points in 18 games. Another large forward (6’4”, 186 lbs.) from the Minnesota high school ranks, center Mitchell Mattson from Grand Rapids High School, has also climbed the ISS rankings in February. Mattson was ranked 29th on the January list, but has moved up to the 25th slot. Mattson is another returnee to the high school ranks as he began the season with the USHL’s Bloomington Thunder.
Two newcomers to the ISS Top 30 are Windsor Spitfires defenseman Logan Stanley (#27) and Victoriaville Tigres center Pascal Laberge (#29). In a potential first round grouping that features a number of big bodies, the 6’7” and 220-pound Stanley is the biggest. There is also some skill and toughness to go along with that size, however, so Stanley is not just a one-trick pony. Laberge was the revelation of the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, where he scored two goals and added an assist for Team Orr. Laberge has been hampered by injuries this season, but a strong finish could see him move even further up the rankings.