Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column looking at Hockey’s Stars. Over the next few days we will be previewing the 2016 NHL Draft by ranking our top 30 prospects and honourable mentions. As always, you can check out the previous Top Shelf Prospects articles here.
With the CHL season a good eight weeks old, a month or so of NCAA hockey, plenty of games for the USNTDP, the Ivan Hlinka tournament, an international break in Europe, and the Subway Series all being played since we last updated our draft rankings, we have gotten a decent overview of what some of the biggest prospects for the 2016 draft are doing this year.
That said, myself and the rest of the LWOS staff haven’t seen everyone yet… its quite simply not possible at this point in the season, so if there is someone you feel is an obvious name that has been left out, we’ll do our best to get a look before our final ranks come out in April, May, and June. At this point the group we haven’t seen a lot of are those European prospects who for whatever reason haven’t had much exposure on the international stage. With the World Juniors, Five Nations, and the Under-18 all to come later in the year, we should get a better look at most. For now, this is what we have, we hope you enjoy the early preview.
2016 NHL Draft Rankings November Edition 6-10
6.) Michael Mcleod, Centre, Mississauga Steelheads, 6’2″ 187 lbs: McLeod shows strong passing skills and excellent vision. He is an absolute speedster, with great top end speed and outstanding acceleration. On top of that he has excellent agility, and the ability to change directions quickly. McLeod uses his skating ability to its full advantage to elude defenders and open up passing and shooting lanes. With his non-stop motor, a willingness to get in quickly on the forecheck, and to provide great support on the backcheck, McLeod makes the most of those skills. As a 17-year-old, he’s developing such a strong two-way game that the Steelheads match him against the other teams top lines, and use him to kill penalties. McLeod has put up six goals and 21 points in 21 games this year.
7.) Julien Gauthier, Right Wing, Val D’Or Foreurs, 6’4″ 212 lbs: Gauthier is a power forward prospect with the size and the strength to dominate the game down low. Gauthier throws big hits on the forecheck, protects the puck on the cycle, takes the puck to the front of the net, and wins battles with opposing defenders. He also has an outstanding wrist shot, with great power and a hair trigger release. Gauthier is a great skater for a big man with very good top end speed. He also has the power to fight through checks, or bowl over a defender on the way to the net. Gauthier put up 38 goals and 73 points last season, and already has 20 goals and 24 points in 23 games this year.
8.) Max Jones, Left Wing, London Knights, 6’2″ 200 lbs: Jones is yet another one of the fantastic rookies playing with the Knights this season. He has an elite shot with a tremendously quick release. Another big winger who plays a power game, gets in quickly and throws hits on the forecheck and battles for pucks in the corners and in front of the net, Jones protects the puck extremely well, working the cycle game to create opportunities for his linemates. He has a very good first step, and a strong stride that gives him good speed and acceleration as well as the power to fight through checks. Jones can sometimes be too much of a shoot-first player though, getting tunnel vision and not being enough of a passer. Jones has nine goals and 15 points in 15 games for the Knights so far this year.
9.) Pierre-Luc Dubois, Left Wing, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, 6’3″ 201 lbs: After being the fifth overall pick in the 2014 QMJHL draft, Dubois put up 45 points in 54 games as a rookie. He was also part of Team Canada at this summer’s Ivan Hlinka tournament, picking up three assists on his way to helping Canada win gold. He’s followed that up with 15 goals and 30 points in 25 games this year. Dubois is a power forward type, who has a powerful skating stride and fights through checks as he takes the puck to the front of the net. He has a very good wrist shot and a quick release as well. He gets himself open in good areas on the ice. The son of former AHL journeyman and QMJHL coach Erik Dubois, the younger Dubois’ game is very mature, and he already shows defensive skills and awareness that are very advanced for a 17-year-old.
10.) Alexander Nylander, Right Wing, Mississauga Steelheads, 6’0” 172 lbs: The son of Michael Nylander and brother of Toronto Maple Leafs prospect William Nylander, Alexander is another highly skilled member of the family. He made his way over to the OHL, joining the Steelheads this season and has put up 10 goals and 26 points in 21 games. Nylander has tremendous speed and great acceleration. Add excellent agility and the ability to change directions extremely quickly, as well as top notch stickhandling ability and he can be a nightmare for defencemen. He has the ability to handle the puck as well as make precise passes while moving at top speed. His wrist shot features a quick release, but he must add some upper body strength in order to add more power. He also has to work on being more conscientious on the back check and not cheat to create offensive chances.
Main Photo: ST CATHARINES, ON – FEBRUARY 12: Michael McLeod #9 of the Mississauga Steelheads skates during an OHL game against the Niagara IceDogs at the Meridian Centre on February 12, 2015 in St Catharines, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)