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, as a staff we haven’t seen every player yet—it’s quite simply not possible this early in the season. 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 rankings come out in April, May, and our final NHL Draft rankings in June. The group we haven’t seen a lot of are 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.
2016 NHL DRAFT RANKINGS NOVEMBER 21-25
21.) Logan Brown, Centre, Windsor Spitfires, 6’5″ 215 lbs: Another player with good bloodlines, he is the son of former NHLer, and current Ottawa 67s coach, Jeff Brown. Big and strong, Logan Brown can be a dominant player below the hashmarks. He has a powerful stride, protects the puck and takes it to the front of the net. Brown has the soft hands to finish plays in close to the net, and also has a powerful shot from further out. He uses his size and strength to protect the puck in the cycle game, extending plays and waiting for teammates to get open. He has the ability to put the puck on the tape, and make saucer passes to get it through traffic in order to set up teammates. Brown must learn to be more consistent game-to-game in his draft year, as doing that could shoot him even higher on the draft board. Brown has five goals and 23 points in 18 games this year.
22.) Dmitri Sokolov, Centre, Sudbury Wolves, 6’2″ 215 lbs: Sokolov showed off his skill at the Under-17s where he scored six goals in six games and led the Russian team to the gold medal. As an under-ager he also played for Russia at the Under-18s. He is a big power forward type who uses his size to protect the puck well and drive the net. His wrist shot has an extremely quick release and his powerful arms and forearms put it on net quickly. He is very good in front of the net, with the quick hands and good hand-eye co-ordination to get tip-ins and rebounds in front of the net. Sokolov also has good lateral agility and can make slick moves to open up passing lanes, and create space. He needs to work on his overall skating though, as his stride is choppy which takes away from his overall top-end speed and acceleration. He has nine goals and 18 points in 23 games for a weak Sudbury team this year.
23.) Charlie McAvoy, Defence, Boston University, 6’0″ 205 lbs: A late birthday, McAvoy was a star on the US NTDP club last year, putting up 40 points in 63 games during the season, and four points in seven games in helping the team to win gold at the IIHF U-18’s. Now at BU, he has five points in nine games for the Terriers. He is an excellent skater, and moves the puck with good stickhandling and a strong first pass. McAvoy can lead the offense from the back end, either at the front of the rush or as a trailer. He shows poise at the blue line and has the vision and playmaking skill necessary to be a power play catalyst. His strong skating allows him to defend against the rush and he has shown the willingness to play physical. He needs to time his hits better though, as he has a tendency to get caught looking for a big physical hit instead of staying back and making the play. He could use some work reading the play and with his positioning but that will come with time. Overall he’s been impressive for a freshman defender.
24.) Clayton Keller, Center, US NTDP, 5’10” 165 lbs: Led the US NTDP U-17 team in scoring and was part of the U-18 team for the U-18 World Championships as an under-ager. He is a quick skater with an outstanding first step and an ability to quickly turn on the acceleration. He can dart into openings in the offensive zone, creating space to get a pass and get off a quick shot. His snapshot and wrist shot are lightning quick and deadly accurate. Keller can be a pure sniper. He also uses his skating skills to make plays with the puck on his stick, creating passing lanes where he can set up a teammate with a tape-to-tape pass. His stickhandling is smooth and he can beat defenders one-on-one. Keller will need to add muscle to his frame going forward though, as he can get knocked around by bigger defenders at this point. Keller has 11 goals and 29 points in 16 games this year.
25.) Sean Day, Defence, Mississauga Steelheads, 6’2″ 225 lbs: Day has excellent size as he is already 6’2″. He also has great skating. His strides both forwards and backwards are long and smooth. His mobility is already top notch. He has great offensive instincts, the ability to rush the puck and to run the power play from the point, a hard shot, and great passing skill and vision. Day has some things to work on in his own end, but the talent and work ethic are there. He is not intimidated and willing to play a physical game against opponents who are older and who have more muscle on their frame at this point in their development. Quite simply, Day has all the tools a scout looks for in a defenceman, and has the potential to be elite. So why does he fall all the way to 25th overall, and outside the top 10? Though all the tools are there, Day doesn’t put them together on a game-in, game-out basis. He really needs to work on being consistent and avoid some of the mental mistakes that have plagued him over his first two years in the OHL. He might be the player on this list with the biggest range of both upside or downside. I could see him at the top of the draft if he puts his skills together, and I could see him falling outside of the first round if that doesn’t happen. For now, I haven’t been impressed and he’s falling down my list. Can he stop that drop? It’s a huge year for the player who came into the OHL as an “exceptional player” two years ago.
Main Photo: Logan Brown of the Windsor Spitfires. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images