Here we are. Many players have cleaned out their lockers and are preparing for a massive offseason of training. Some are still fighting it out in their league playoffs, and a handful more are beginning the U18 Worlds which will be the final opportunity to impress the scouts before the combine.
This edition of the rankings will take the entire body of work into consideration. The views have been many. The decisions have been difficult. This list will set the tone for my final edition in June where I spend far too much time going back over notes and tape in an attempt to lock down a spot for 150 draft-eligible talents.
This round I’m trying something a little different. I will publicly release the top 93 prospects and put the remainder (with additional scouting reports) behind a very reasonably priced paywall ($3). Members of my Patreon group receive full access as well
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 very patient (and pregnant!) wife. Additionally, I’m privileged to have several experienced scouts to bounce things off of.
This is not intended to mock up what the selections will eventually be this June. This is how I perceive the player today in conjunction with how I believe they will progress and develop. I’m limited to mostly assessing these players on their on-ice achievements. 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 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 a rocket of a shot or incredibly slick puck skills. But those attributes come behind speed and smarts.
Regarding tiers, Tier 1 isn’t as roomy for Jack Hughes any longer. Kaapo Kakko has joined him and created a 1A/1B situation. It’s still Hughes in the pole position, but Kakko is right there.
Tier two is home to picks 3-10. Tier three is where things start to thicken up. It consists of players in the 11-21 range, while tier four is comprised of picks 21-35. Call tier five 35-55, tier six 56-75, tier seven is 76-100, tier eight is 101-150 and let’s call it a day.
- Jack Hughes, C / 05-14-01 / 5’10 170lbs / USNTDP
Elite skating. Elite edges. Elite puck skills. Vision, creativity, and the spatial awareness to embarrass the opposition on a nightly basis. He’s at his very best with the puck on his stick and surrounded by intelligent mates. The most productive player in USNTDP history will also be the first to ever step out of The Program and directly into the NHL.
- Kaapo Kakko, RW / 02-13-01 / 6’2 194lbs / Liiga
The most prolific U18 goal scorer in Liiga history blends power and precision. There are no holes in his game, as he’s a threat to dish it, finish it, or look for another option. Will immediately step into an NHL top six and produce tangible results. This is no consolation prize, Kakko brings first-overall talent.
- Alex Turcotte, C / 02-26-01 / 5’11 189lbs / USNTDP
Across-the-board talent with a smart and efficient style. Great offensive instincts, quick acceleration and already the most complete two-way player in the crop. A constant battler, with underrated puck skills. Injuries stole the first portion of his season, but he dominated upon returning. A coach’s dream.
- Vasili Podkolzin, RW / 06-24-01 / 6’1 190lbs / VHL
An absolute pit bull. Podkolzin offers high-end offensive awareness, lightning quick hands and a confrontational style. Despite some muted point totals coming from his club team, he’s made a habit of showing up in a big way on the international stage. A potential high-end producer in the NHL.
For a more in-depth look, check out our Deep Dive on Podkolzin
Here he is with the crazy assist.
- Trevor Zegras, C / 03-20-01 / 6’ 168lbs / USNTDP
A creative player with exciting puck skills. Zegras blends good speed with unique lines to cause separation through the neutral zone and distribute effectively to his mates. If you weren’t looking at the nameplate, you may confuse him with Hughes on occasion. High-end production follows him around; as does the puck. The best pure passer in the crop. His blend of patience, visions and soft touch will fill more than a few barrels full of apples in the bigs.
- Bowen Byram, LHD / 07-13-01 / 6’1 193lbs / WHL
An explosive skater who can act as a one-man breakout. He blends his terrific acceleration and north-south speed with lateral edge work and play creation through the neutral zone. Owns a heavy shot that is effective in all situations. His quick hands that embarrass oncoming forwards at the offensive blueline. Can get caught at times, but you take the good with the bad. An efficient power play quarterback in the making. Set a WHL record with SIX overtime winners. Can you say, clutch?
For a more in-depth look, check out our Deep Dive on Byram
- Kirby Dach, C / 01-21-01 / 6’4 199lbs / WHL
A pass-first centre who owns great awareness and deft puck skills. Uses his body well to protect the puck and exploit seams. He lacks explosiveness with his skating and can stand to play with more pace at times. But this is a player with a huge upside. Can pile up points in bunches. Smart.
- Matthew Boldy, LW / 04-05-01 / 6’2 192lbs / USNTDP
Silky, silky, silky. Boldy loves to use his teammates and takes pride in his soft touch and exceptional vision. Owns a deadly release to compliment the play creation. Acts a chameleon by providing exactly what is needed depending on his mates or the situation. Off to Boston College in the fall.
For a more in-depth look, check out our Deep Dive on Boldy
- Dylan Cozens, C / 02-09-01 / 6’3 181lbs / WHL
A long, powerful stride drives his elite speed. He’s a complete player with skill to burn in a sizable frame. Cozens owns an accurate and heavy release and uses that threat to look-off defenders and slide crisp passes into his mate’s wheelhouses. Loves to win one-on-one battles. Top-10 production in the WHL in your draft year is nothing to sneeze at.
- Peyton Krebs, C / 01-26-01 / 5’11 180lbs / WHL
The supremely skilled forward is elusive and shifty with the puck. Takes creative lines to dangerous areas of the ice. The type of player that sees plays develop before those around him and uses that to exploit the opposition. Owns terrific puck skills. First-line talent with a fourth-line work ethic. A playmaker who can impact the game on any shift. Everything runs through him in Kootenay… I mean Winnipeg.
- Cole Caufield, RW / 01-02-01 / 5’6 162lbs / USNTDP
Hyper-skilled but undersized winger brings all the offensive tools you can handle. Owns the best release in the class and that helped him click at a goal-per-game with The Program. Owns good edge work and a non-stop motor but could use that extra gear at his stature. A pure finisher.
- Victor Söderström, RHD / 02-26-01 / 5’11 176lbs / SHL
A puck-moving and fast-paced blueliner who loves to create offence. Enjoys controlling the pace of play. Quick outlets, sharp edges and nice vision. Could use more power on his shot. Maybe not as high an offensive ceiling as some other blueliners in this group, but has a very high floor.
- Bobby Brink, C / 07-08-01 / 5’10 165lbs / USHL
A deadly offensive player with quick hands, great awareness, and a nose for finishing plays. Tore the USHL apart this season while adding a standout performance at the World Junior A Championships. His skating needs more work. The mechanics are off but it hasn’t hindered his ability to produce… yet. A Denver commit.
- Ville Heinola, LHD / 03-02-01 / 5’11 178lbs / Liiga
A talented and effective offensive defenseman who boasts quick acceleration and expert edgework. Makes smart decisions with the puck and already looks confident in the top men’s league. He’ll need to continue to improve his positioning as his stature doesn’t allow him to outmuscle. Had a very nice WJC on the top pair for Finland. Already a pro.
For a more in-depth look, check out our Deep Dive on Heinola
- Alex Newhook, C / 01-28-01 / 5’11 195lbs / BCHL
Speed for days and the disregard for safety to use it anywhere. Dangerous hands, good hockey sense and is equally deadly with the pass or the shot. Already a strong defensive player and effective penalty-killer. Destroyed the BCHL the last two seasons. A new challenge awaits as he heads to Boston College in the fall.
- Pavel Dorofeyev, W / 10-26-00 / 6’ 163lbs / MHL
Shoot-first winger has a knack for scoring big goals. Slight and slippery, he is elusive in the offensive end. Smooth puck skills and the heavy release highlight his skill package. Good balance in traffic despite lacking some strength.
- Cam York, LHD / 01-05-01 / 5’11 175lbs / USNTDP
A mobile and calm defender with tremendous skating ability. Effective on the power play and owns the mobility needed to clean up any mistakes he makes. Defensively, his positioning and use of stick continue to improve. Lots to like about his upside. An all-around player.
- Arthur Kaliyev, RW / 06-26-01 / 6’2 190lbs / OHL
Shoot-first winger who knows how to find the back of the net. Somewhat one-dimensional but that dimension is spectacular. Changes the release point and angle to exploit netminders. Protects the puck well. Engagement is an issue. As are his first few strides. There’s a potential boom here with a hint of bust sprinkled in.
- Moritz Seider, RHD / 6’4 183lbs / 04-06-01 / DEL
Mobile right-shot defender with good instincts and a projectable frame. A little rough around the edges, but that doesn’t hide his massive upside. An athletic piece of clay just waiting to be moulded into a work of art.
- Philip Broberg, LHD / 06-25-01 / 6’3 199lbs / Allsvenskan
One of the more powerful skating strides in this class. At his size, his ability to wheel out of the zone is unique. Lacks the puck-handling skills necessary to be proficient offensively at it at this stage though. Can be accused of trying to do too much. Oozes potential. A raw prospect with big upside.
- Spencer Knight, G / 04-19-01 / 6’3 194lbs / USNTDP
Talented netminder who blends quickness and strong positioning. Size, athleticism and a strong pedigree. Isn’t shaken by a soft goal or bad outing – a great sign for the mental side of the position.
- Thomas Harley, LHD / 08-19-01 / 6’3 188lbs /OHL
An efficient and play-driving defender with good size and speed. He not only accepted a larger role with Mississauga this year, but he’s also thrived with it. Improved lateral quickness and overall speed from last season make him more of a threat off the rush. Just a few weeks shy of being eligible for the 2020 class. High upside.
- Nils Höglander, LW / 12-20-00 / 5’9 185lbs / SHL
A skilled winger with good acceleration and a better release. Plays bigger than his size and has looked capable in the SHL this season. Quick cuts and quicker hands allow him to dart in and out of traffic.
- Ryan Suzuki, C / 05-28-01 / 6’ 176lbs / OHL
Creative and efficient playmaking pivot. He boasts a level of vision and soft touch that few possess in this class. Very poised and patient with the puck. Plus speed. Can get lost on the perimeter for stretches.
- Nicholas Robertson, LW / 09-11-01 / 5’9 168lbs / OHL
A great skater who blends quick acceleration with quick edges. Owns high-end puck skills, vision, and a developing release. One of the youngest players in the crop. A fun player to root for.
- Philip Tomasino, C / 07-28-01 / 6’ 181lbs / OHL
A highly intelligent, two-way centre with good puck skills and a penchant for scoring big goals. Quick stride, good puck-skills and a heavy release. Underrated playmaker. His developmental arc has been racing upwards while being a standout on an elite OHL team – no easy feat for a 17-year-old.
- Jakob Pelletier, LW/C / 03-07-01 / 5’9 161lbs / QMJHL
Lightning quick hands, tight edges, and a flair for the dramatic. Despite his size, he’s not afraid to cut into the dirty area of the rink. Already a deft two-way threat and can play all three forward positions. Would like to see even better acceleration and top-end speed for his size.
- Albin Grewe (Gree-veh), RW / 03-22-01 / 6’ 187lbs / SHL
A high-energy player with speed, physicality and offensive instincts. Terrific one-on-one skills. Is likely projected to a middle six role, but his blend of tools will make him a fan favourite and an opponent’s nightmare.
- Ilya Nikolayev, C / 06-26-01 / 6’ 190lbs / MHL
A capable and all-around centre who shines in pressure situations. Is as effective on the penalty kill as he is on the power play. Nice vision, an accurate release and a non-stop motor.
- Matthew Robertson, LHD / 03-09-01 / 6’3 201lbs / WHL
A smart defender who blends size and mobility. Can impact any situation while chewing up big minutes. Won’t blow you away with his offensive creativity, but makes intelligent plays and has a heavy shot from the point. A safe selection.
- Raphaël Lavoie, C / 09-25-00 / 6’4 192lbs / QMJHL
Powerful forward boasts a deadly release that’s as heavy as it is accurate. Protects the puck well and forces his way into dangerous areas. Just 10 days shy of being eligible for the 2018 crop. Gets around well for his size, but quicker acceleration is needed.
- Samuel Poulin, LW / 02-25-01 / 6’1 208lbs / QMJHL