As we prepare for the World Junior Championships, I figured this would be a nice time to update the rankings. Normally, I do this post-tournament (and I’ll probably do that as well), but since some of you may want to follow some draft-eligible players over the Holiday break, this should act as a nice guide.
The players who are at the WJC, have a tremendous opportunity to improve their stock at the short tournament. I place emphasis on the best-on-best competition, but it’s important to understand that it’s not the be-all-end-all. The list will change for the January edition, but it’s unlikely we see too many players rocket up or down due to their holiday showing.
I’ve decided to make this a mini update. That is, I’ll break down the top 31 skaters and give a peek at the next 10. The next edition will be the top 100 and we’ll see where we go from there.
As always, my assessments are limited. I am but one man who also has a three-year-old son, a teaching career, and many writing commitments. However, I’m fortunate enough to have a patient wife and some more experienced scouts to bounce things off of. I’ve had eyes on each of the players listed. If I haven’t been able to get a firm grasp on a player yet (which can still be the case at this point of the process), that player may sit further down then they eventually will after some more viewings.
This is not intended to mock up what the selections will end up as next June. This is how I perceive the player today in conjunction with how I believe they’ll progress and develop. Once again, I’m limited to on-ice products as well. Knowing these young men as individuals would be telling towards their drive and determination. Something that cannot be understated.
Regarding my method, I place immense value on skating ability, puck skills and processing speed. Physical attributes are great, but if you can’t see the play develop or recognize your options quickly, both offensively and defensively, you’ll be destined for an uphill battle. It’s hard not to love a creative player with slick puck skills. But those attributes come behind speed and smarts.
- Jack Hughes, C / 05-14-01 / 5’10 161lbs / USNTDP
We’re running out of superlatives for the electrifying 17-year-old. Hughes brings dynamic acceleration, jaw-dropping speed, sharp edgework, deft puck skills… I can keep going but you get the idea. He’s been at his best when his USNTDP team has played high-end NCAA squads. Hughes will play a prominent role with the Americans at the WJC and has the ability to rack up big totals despite being two years younger than most of the competition. A franchise player in the making.
- Kaapo Kakko, RW/C / 02-13-01 / 6’2 207lbs / Liiga
The Patrik Laine to Hughes’ Matthews. If this was a different year, the Finnish winger would be sitting pretty in the pole position. Kakko blends size, speed, finishing ability and terrific vision. He doesn’t blow you aw