Prospects Ramblings: Previewing the 2017 NHL Draft

by Peter Harling on September 5, 2016
2017 NHL Draft

The Ivan Hlinka tournament kicks off the NHL scouting season each year. Throughout the season there are plenty of risers and fallers as prospects either develop by leaps and bounds, or fall flat. There are several tournaments of interest such as the Subway Series, the Top Prospects game and of course the World Juniors. Since so much can happen between today and the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago, this list is not a ranking, but simply a list of 15 prospects who are eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft that you want to keep on your fantasy hockey watch list.

Maxime Comtois

LW/C – Victoriaville Tigers (QMJHL)

The 6-1 189 pound forward had a strong rookie season in the Q scoring 26 goals and 60 points. His season was slightly derailed after he suffered a concussion in January. Comtois has a high hockey IQ, sees plays develop and can make sneaky passes as well as defensive reads. His skating is average but is often in good position to compensate. Comtois finished the season with Canada at the U-18 and played well scoring two points in seven games.

Cal Foote

RD – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

The son of Colorado Avalanche great Adam Foot, Cal is a chip off the old block. At only 16-years-old he is already 6-4 and 198 pounds. For someone who is that big at that young an age, you would expect his skating to be awkward and in need of development, but he is actually a quick skater who is surprisingly agile with good edges. There is room for improvement for sure, but it is not a liability. Like his old man, Foote takes care of business in his own end first and foremost but he has also displayed some offensive ability. Foote could be the next star defenceman churned out of the legendary Kelowna Rockets defence factory.

Nicolas Hague

LD – Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

Hague is a monster at 6-6 and 207 pounds. In his rookie season in the OHL he produced 14 goals and 24 points in 66 games with the Steelheads. Hague has a strong skating stride and is a very good skater for a prospect his age and size. He uses his impressive wingspan and long stride and reach to cover a lot of ice and quickly close gaps on players. His point shot is heavy but he also steps in from the point to unleash a strong and more accurate wrist shot. Hague also uses his straight ahead speed to carry the puck up the ice like a freight train. He has it all, size, skating, skill and smarts. A potential franchise defenceman

Nico Hischier

C – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

Hischier has the potential to be the best Swiss born player of all-time. After playing for a number of teams last year because his development saw him continually graduate the ranks. Hischier made the Swiss World Junior roster as a 17-year-old and produced two assists. He finished the year in North Dakota playing in the U-18 tournament where he made a strong impression scoring a goal and four points in five games. He will come to North America and learn to play on the smaller ice after being selected by Halifax with the sixth overall selection at the CHL Import Draft.

Klim Kostin

RW – MVD (MHL)

Kostin was one of the benefactors of the Russian Meldonium scandal that saw the entire Russian U-18 team to be banned from the tournament in North Dakota. The U-17 team was sent and Kostin was the team Captain and posted four points in five games. He has seen time playing against older players already in the MHL in Russia and he has impressive size as well at 6-3 and 190 pounds. Kostin was selected first overall at the CHL Import draft by the Kootenay Ice, but will play his draft year in Russia. Kostin had a strong showing at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament as well posting seven points and 29 penalty minutes in five games.

Timothy Liljegren

RD – Rogle (SHL)

Arguably the best fantasy defenceman prospect in the 2017 draft class. Liljegren posted 22 points in 29 games playing in the SuperElite league in Sweden last year and also saw 19 games in the SHL playing against men and produced five points in 19 games as a 17-year-old. While he did not crack the Swedish World Junior roster, he had a very impressive U-18 scoring a goal and six points in seven games. He has good size at 6-0 and 190 pounds and is an excellent skater. He has quick feet, a quick first step and elite mobility among his peers. His offensive vision is excellent as he reads plays very quickly, carries the puck effectively up ice and makes crisp hard passes. His offensive skills and overall game are stronger than his defensive game, but it is by no means a liability. Liljegren currently projects as a top five overall pick and should be the first defenceman taken in the NHL draft and fantasy drafts as well.

Casey Mittelstadt

C/LW – Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)

Mittelstadt had a breakout Ivan Hlinka Tournament in 2015 where he produced seven points in four games and was one of USA’s and the tournament’s top performers. He is a high end skill level player who makes good quick offensive reads and decisions. Equally skilled at making plays and passing as he is at finishing and scoring goals on his own. At 5-11 he does not shy away from the dirty areas and he is not a small player as he has 195 pound frame to throw around.

Jacob Paquette

D – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)

Paquette had a breakout season as a rookie on a Kingston team loaded with veterans such as Roland McKeown and Stephen Desrocher and played his way into a top four pairing by mid-season. Paquette was named to the Canadian roster for the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Tournament with Fronts Head Coach Paul McFarland, but suffered an injury that forced him out. His advanced defensive ability quickly earned him the trust and confidence of the Kingston Coaching staff and as the season wore on he was given more offensive leash as well and showed plenty of promise as a two-way defenceman. Paquette is a fluid skater and at 6-2 and 203 pounds is willing to give and take hits to make plays. He moves very efficiently with and without the puck, makes sound decisions with the puck when under duress and makes smart reads. If he continues to develop at this rate he will be a first round pick in Chicago.

Nolan Patrick

C – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

The consensus first overall selection thus far heading into the 2017 NHL Draft, the 17-year-old had a monster season with Brandon scoring 41 goals and 102 points in 72 regular season games. He then helped lead the Wheat Kings to an appearance at the Memorial Cup where he led the WHL in playoff scoring with 30 points, and was named his team’s MVP.  At 6-3 and 195 pounds he has size to compete at the pro level and can play it physical, he has a high compete level, is an excellent playmaker and has a dangerous shot. He is strong on faceoffs, is strong along the boards and has shown leadership skills as well. Overall there are no holes in his game and he should be the first selection in June and in fantasy prospect drafts.

Adam Ruzicka

LW – Sarnia Sting (OHL)

Ruzicka recently committed to playing his draft season for the Sting who selected him in the second round of the CHL Import draft. Ruzicka has size at 6-4 and 209 pounds and has drawn comparisons to former Sting center Pavel Zacha. He has skill to complement his size and as Captain of Team Slovakia at the Ivan Hlinka he posted two goals and four points in four games. He also had a strong performance at the U-18 after last season in North Dakota posting four points in five games.

Matthew Strome

LW – Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)

The third brother in the Strome family line may not have the same offensive upside as his older siblings, but he should still end up being a first round pick in his draft. As an OHL rookie playing on a weak Hamilton team he posted 38 points in 61 games. His first quarter of a season was underwhelming but he adjusted and became an effective first line player. Strome made the Canadian roster at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament and had one goal in four games.

Owen Tippett

RW – Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

Tippett is a speedster with an explosive first step and a high-end top gear that allows him to fly up the ice. His shot is equally quick in both his release and its velocity. He is a shoot first mentality player that projects to score plenty of goals in the future. In his rookie OHL season he posted 15 goals and 20 points in 48 games for Mississauga where he struggled to get quality ice time on a solid Steelheads roster. He did finish the season on Team Canada at the U-18 and three points in seven games. This will be a crucial development year for Tippett and he will need to improve his consistency and assist totals, but his fantasy hockey future looks bright.

Eeli Tolvanen

LW/RW – Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)

Tolvanen will return to the USHL where he scored 38 points in 49 games as a rookie despite being selected 17th overall in the CHL Import Draft by the Oshawa Generals. He has committed to play the following season for Boston College in the NCAA. Tolvanen had a breakout performance in North Dakota scoring seven goals and nine points in seven games. He is a natural goal scorer with a lightning quick release that has power and accuracy. His skating is also and asset as he has good speed and can carry and control the puck at speed as well.

Gabriel Vilardi

C – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

At 6-2 and 193 pounds Vilardi has size and skill that teams covet down the middle. He played a bottom six role as a rookie in Windsor last year and still produced decent numbers38 points in 62 games. An unfortunate knee injury cost him a shot at the Ivan Hlinka tournament and could keep him out of the lineup until early in the season, but with Windsor hosting the Memorial Cup he is sure to have a long season and should play a top six role all season.

Kailer Yamamoto

RW – Spokane Chiefs (WHL)

This year’s undersized and dynamically gifted offensive forward is Kailer Yamamoto. In the ongoing debate of dose size matter, Yamamoto measures in at 5-9 and 160 pounds. That’s small. But in his rookie WHL season he scored 57 points in 68 games. Not bad and he followed that up with 71 points in 57 games last year. Even more impressive was his showing in North Dakota at the U-18 where he scored seven goals and 13 points in seven games for the USA. He followed that up with a seven points in four games outing for USA at the Ivan Hlinka tournament recently. Now, sure he is a prolific offensive player but he is too small right? Nope, despite his uninspiring measurements he plays an aggressive and tough game and is highly competitive. He lacks breakaway speed but is very quick and slippery allowing him to avoid checks and hits. Still only 17-years-old, a growth spurt is not out of the question, but even if it doesn’t happen he has elite offensive skill and vision, with acceptable strength he will produce at higher levels and have significant fantasy value.