While the two players ranked at the top of ISS Hockey’s March rankings for the 2016 NHL Draft remain unchanged from last month’s list, there has been somewhat noteworthy movement elsewhere in the top 10 .
As has been the case since the first ISS list for the 2016 draft was released back in October, ZSC Lions forward Auston Matthews is considered by ISS to be the top-ranked player for this year’s draft. The Arizona-born Matthews is currently tied for 10th in National League A scoring with 24 goals and 22 assists in 36 games. His points-per-game figure of 1.28 places him second among skaters that have played in 25 or more games this season, behind only former NHL forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
Holding down the second slot for the third straight month is Karpat right wing Jesse Puljujarvi. The burly Finn has scored 11 goals and 15 assists in 48 games in Finland’s top league while averaging 15:07 of ice time for Liiga’s second-ranked team.
Moving into the third slot this month is Puljujarvi’s fellow countryman, left wing Patrik Laine of Tappara. Laine was ranked fourth in January, but has continued to impress as a 17-year-old competing in a men’s league. In 42 games for Tappara, the 6’4”, 209-pound Laine has scored 17 goals and added 16 assists for the third-ranked club in Liiga.
Making an upward move of three positions is fourth-ranked Alexander Nylander, a right wing competing for the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL. Nylander has displayed skill and scoring chops this season, although his scoring pace has fallen off somewhat from earlier in the 2015-16 campaign. Nylander is still among the top 20 scorers in the OHL, however, having netted 28 goals and adding 44 assists in 52 games for a Steelheads club that is still trying to lock down a playoff position.
Dropping two places to fifth is London Knights left wing Matthew Tkachuk. Like Nylander, Tkachuk has NHL bloodlines but has earned his high draft standing with a strong OHL rookie season. In 48 games for the playoff-bound Knights, Tkachuk has scored 23 goals and chipped in 70 assists for 93 points, a point total that currently has him ranked fourth overall in the OHL.
The sixth-ranked prospect is also the first defenseman on this list, as he has been all season long. But Jakob Chychrun of the OHL’s Sarnia Sting has slowly slid downward from a second-place ranking at the start of 2015-16 to his current standing. Chychrun is among the top offensive defenders in the OHL, having posted 10 goals and 35 assists in 57 games, while his +18 rating places him fourth in that category among the OHL’s top 10 offensive defensemen.
Falling one position this month is Mississauga Steelheads center Michael McLeod, who is ranked seventh by ISS this time around. McLeod has scored 19 goals and added 37 assists in 50 games. He is currently ranked third in scoring on the Steelheads roster behind Nylander and another highly-ranked 2016 prospect, Nathan Bastian, who is slots in at #23 in this month’s list.
Making his first appearance in the ISS top 10 is Cape Breton Screaming Eagles left wing Pierre-Luc Dubois. Dubois turned in a strong performance at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January, which boosted him to a 13th-place ranking in February. He has continued his climb in this month’s rankings, in part due to a strong offensive showing that has him sitting fourth overall in points (57GP, 37G, 50A) in the QMJHL.
Holding onto his ninth-place ranking from ISS Hockey’s February list is Windsor Spitfires defenseman Mikhail Sergachev. The 6’3”, 206-pound CHL import has turned in a steady and productive 2015-16 season to date, scoring 14 goals and 33 assists in 59 games. His point total places him third among OHL defensemen, and he will no doubt be an important performer for a Spitfires team that has clinched a playoff position.
Sitting 10th on this month’s list is Sergachev’s teammate on the Spitfires, center Logan Brown. The hulking Brown was a part of the top 10 up through the December list, but was most recently ranked 12th by ISS in the February rankings. The Chesterfield, MO native is second in scoring on the Spitfires roster, netting 16 goals and adding 46 assists in 51 games.
As a result of the rise of both Dubois and Brown, two players from the February top 10 were displaced to the 11-15 range. One was London Knights left wing Max Jones, who fell from eighth to 11th. Another OHL player and Jones’ London teammate, defenseman Olli Juolevi, is the other player that slipped in the rankings. Juolevi held the 10th slot last month, but is sitting at #12 this time around.
Outside the top 10, there was very little significant movement. Perhaps the most notable move was made by U.S. NTDP defenseman Chad Krys, who went from #23 in February to missing the top 30 entirely this month.
New arrivals to this month’s list include University of Connecticut Tage Thompson, a 6’5”, 185-pound center who has posted 13 goals and 18 assists in 34 games for a Huskies squad that is heading into the postseason. Vitali Abramov, a left wing who plays for the Gatineau Olympiques, slots in at 27 this month as he remains among the top 10 scorers in the QMJHL. The third addition to the top 30 is Kelowna Rockets center Dillon Dube, who currently sits third in scoring for the Rockets with 23 goals and 34 assists in 56 games.
Abramov has previously appeared in the ISS top 30, but Thompson and Dube are both making their debuts among the top 2016 prospects.
There is no change with the top two goaltenders as both Evan Fitzpatrick of the Sherbrooke Phoenix and Joseph Woll of the U.S. NTDP remain 1-2 in the rankings, as they were in February.