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 11-15
11.) Mikael Sergachyov, Defence, Windsor Spitfires, 6’3″ 205 lbs: Sergachev was part of the Russian team that won the Gold Medal at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge last year. He can do it all in both ends of the rink. Sergachev is good with the puck on his stick, showing stickhandling poise and great passing skill. He has a strong shot which he can use to score from the blueline, and he already has four goals with the Spitfires this season. Sergachev has the skating skill to join the rush and create offense in transition, as well as recover defensively. He is also a big body on the backend who plays good defence with a physical edge. He has put up eight points in 16 games for the Spitfires, and is looking to win a job on the Russian squad for the World Juniors, but as an underage defenceman it won’t be easy.
12.) Kieffer Bellows, Left Wing, US NTDP, 6’0″, 189 lbs: Bellows has been on a terrific run with the US NTDP with 15 goals and 22 points in 16 games so far this year. The son of ex-NHLer Brian Bellows, Kieffer is showing the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. He has a tremendous wrist shot and release, as well as an excellent one-timer. Bellows also has the soft hands, and quick reflexes, to get deflections and to pounce on rebounds and score in tight. He is a good skater, with the speed to get in on the forecheck and the power to win board battles, and to fight through checks and play a power forward style of game. He sometimes gets a bit of tunnel vision, trying to shoot everything, but when he’s scoring as much as he is, its hard to blame him too much for that.
13.) Olli Juolevi, Defence, London Knights, 6’2″ 185 lbs: Taken in the first round of the CHL import draft, there was a ton of hype on the young Finnish defenceman as he entered the league this year. Part of an excellent group of Finnish-born prospects, and an excellent group of draft eligible players on the London Knights, Juolevi has impressed so far this year. He has three goals and 13 points in 18 games. Juolevi helps to quarterback the Knights powerplay with good skating ability, a powerful slap shot, strong wrist shot, and very good passing skills. On top of that, he’s looked great defensively in the OHL. He’s already making a name for himself and climbing up draft boards, and he’ll have a ton of tools around him in London as he looks to become a first round selection.
14.) Dante Fabbro, Defence, Penticton Vees, 6’0″ 189 lbs: Fabbro has foregone the WHL route in order to play NCAA hockey, and is committed to go to Boston University next season. In the meantime though, he’s playing in the BCHL for the Penticton Vees. Our viewings don’t include his BCHL games, but we did get to see him at last year’s Under-17, and at the summer’s Ivan Hlinka tournament where he helped Canada to a Gold Medal. Fabbro is a smooth skater who does everything well. He moves the puck effectively, with a crisp first pass and good puckhandling ability. He quarterbacks things from the point on the powerplay and can be a playmaker from the back end. Fabbro’s strong skating also allows him good gap control. He takes away the middle of the ice and forces attackers to try to beat him to the outside. His game shows maturity with great positioning in his own end.
15.) Kale Clague, Defence, Brandon Wheat Kings, 6’0″ 177 lbs: Clague is an outstanding skater. He has great top-end speed and acceleration in both directions, which he pairs with good agility, pivots, and balance. This allows him to play a strong two-way game covering a huge amount of ice. He skates the puck up the ice well or can start the transition game with a strong first pass. A natural powerplay quarterback, Clague can walk the line, throws strong, crisp passes, and has an excellent slapshot. He already understands how to keep it low and on net, and how to get it through traffic. He needs to work on his defensive gap control and on being more physical in his own end, but that can come with increased strength. He’s playing big minutes on the Wheat Kings and has eight points in 21 games on the season.