The NHL season has kicked off and junior and collegiate seasons have been underway for some time, allowing some 2017 NHL Draft prospects to begin to make a name for themselves before the hockey community becomes too invested into the NHL season.
The two biggest names coming into the season were Nolan Patrick and Timothy Liljegren, of course. The pair has been progressing at a steady pace and have stuck to what makes them such an intriguing pair of players to begin with: speed and creativity. Both create offense with ease making them threats in every game they play.
Nolan Patrick 2015-16 highlight reel
Liljegren has two goals in the two games he has played, missing some time due to mononucleosis. Patrick has been producing fine with four goals and five assists in six games. As the season moves along, look for the two to have an increased point-per-game ratio.
Other names that brought interest of a top five spot in draft rankings at the beginning of the season, like Gabe Vilardi, Owen Tippett, Casey Mittelstadt, and Nico Hischier, have been producing enough to maintain the draft stocks that they started the year with.
Gabe Vilardi, like the Windsor Spitfires, has been off to a fantastic start and improving his draft stock day by day. Vilardi, a shifty, playmaking winger, is a very dangerous player on the ice, but his biggest attribute is making the players on the ice around him better by setting them up for scoring chances with his hands.
Owen Tippett has been on a tear to start the season off for the Mississauga Steelheads. With 12 games played thus far, Tippett has potted 12 goals thanks to his shot and ability to find open ice in order to produce.
Goal and two assists for Gabe Vilardi
Casey Mittelstadt has created quite the following after his performances in the U18 World Junior Championship and at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. The hype he has brought with him into the season has been well deserved as he has taken the USHL by storm with the Green Bay Gamblers. His five goals and five assists in 10 showcase how Mittelstadt can produce himself with his elusiveness and shot, but it also shows he can dish to the open man.
Nico Hischier brought his speed and playmaking ability to the 2016 World Junior Championship with Team Switzerland. He has a great stride and hands that fool the average defender. Hischier has been just as impressive with the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL, too. 13 points in 13 games and Hischier shows no signs of slowing down.
One prospect who has risen in draft rankings and impressed quite a bit at the start of the season is Moose Jaw Warrior Nikita Popugaev. Eight goals and eight assists in 12 games, including a very impressive hat trick against the Calgary Hitmen.
Things can change easily, but forwards seem to be the talk of the 2017 NHL Draft at this point. Besides Timothy Liljegren and Callan Foote, scoring is the main focus of the top half of the NHL Draft.