Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column looking at hockey’s future stars. Over the next few days we will be previewing the 2016 NHL Draft by ranking our top 30 prospects and honourable mentions.
With the junior seasons not just in Canada but throughout the world gearing up for the stretch drive and a number of international tournaments (Ivan Hlinka, Four Nations, Subway Super Series, World Juniors, Five Nations) in the books, we have gotten a decent overview of what some of the biggest prospects for the draft are doing this year. This is an up to date look and ranking of these prospects. That said, there is still plenty of work to be done and many important games to be played including junior league playoffs, European playoffs, and of course the Under 18 World Championships. While the rankings still have some fluidity, a pecking order is also starting to define itself. For now, this is what we have, we hope you enjoy the early preview and be sure to be ready in late March as we roll out our full player-by-player draft preview.
2016 NHL Draft Rankings February Edition (11-15)
11.) Mikhail Sergachev, Defence, Windsor Spitfires, 6’3″ 205 lbs (November Rank 11): Sergachev was part of the Russian team that won the Gold Medal at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge last year. He also played on Team Orr at the CHL Top Prospects Game. Sergachev can do it all in both ends of the rink. He is good with the puck on his stick, showing stickhandling poise and great passing skill. He effectively starts the rush with good breakout passes, and can also break down the defence with good passes on the power play. Sergachev has a strong shot which he can use to score from the blueline, and he already has 14 goals with the Spitfires this season. Sergachev has the skating skill to join the rush and create offence 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 43 points in 53 games for the Spitfires. Sergachev’s offensive game is amongst the best of any blueliner in this class, and he could be a power play quarterback in the NHL in just a few short years.
12.) Jake Bean, Defence, Calgary Hitmen, 6’1″, 172 lbs (Nov 17): It’s rare to see 16-year-olds play big minutes in all situations in junior hockey, but that was Bean last year. He played on the powerplay, on the penalty kill, and took a top four role at even strength. He’s continuing his form this season, playing big minutes with 50 points in 54 games for the Hitmen this season. Bean shows outstanding skating, with good speed, and outstanding edgework and agility. He has great puck control, combined with his skating skill to elude forecheckers, can move the puck into good areas to start the rush. He walks the line well in the offensive zone opening up passing and shooting lanes. His shot could be harder, and he can play a more physical game if he can add some muscle this year. He’s got good height, but needs to add strength to his frame. Bean is not a huge hitter, but he’s not afraid to get involved physically battling for pucks in the corners or in front of the net. His defensive game matches his offensive game. Bean has very good positioning, he shuts down the middle of the ice and keeps attackers to the outside. He uses an active stick to cut down passing and shooting lanes.
13.) Clayton Keller, Center, US NTDP, 5’10” 170 lbs (Nov 24): Keller 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. Keller might be undersized, but the type of numbers he is putting up are eye popping. His 80 points in 44 games are ahead of what both Patrick Kane and Jack Eichel produced at the US NTDP, and trails only Auston Matthews’ production last year. Keller is a quick skater with an outstanding first step and an ability to accelerate extremely quickly. He can dart into openings in the offensive zone, creating space to get a pass and get off a quick shot. Keller’s ability to change speeds on the rush can create nightmares for defencemen. He also has excellent agility and the edgework necessary to weave through traffic and create scoring chances. 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, and he needs to get stronger in the corners.
14.) Dante Fabbro, Defence, Penticton Vees, 6’1″ 185 lbs (Nov 14): 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 many of 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. We also had a more recent look at Fabbro at the World Junior A Hockey Championship where he led Canada West to Gold. 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 has a hard and accurate slapshot, and has an excellent release on his wrist and snap shots, allowing him to be a goal scoring threat at the point or on the rush. 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.) Tyson Jost, Centre, Penticton Vees, 6’0″, 195 lbs (Nov 16): Drafted by the Everett Silvertips in the WHL, Jost has spurned the team and instead will head to North Dakota next season. In the meantime he’s lighting things up in Junior A with Penticton where he has 37 goals and 91 points in 43 games. Like his teammate, we haven’t seen a lot of Jost in the BCHL, but we have seen his performance in the Hlinka and at last years Under 17 World Hockey Challenge. Jost was particularly effective at the World Junior A Hockey Challenge in December where he had three goals and nine points in just four games, captaining Canada West and bringing home the gold medal. Jost has great hands, and the ability to stickhandle in a phone booth. Jost protects the puck extremely well, extends plays, and can feather a pass through a small opening, putting it tape-to-tape for a teammate. Jost also has a very quick release on his shot, which helps him fool goalies and score goals. In addition to being able to score with his shot, he also drives the net and has the good hand-eye coordination to finish in tight. Jost is a shifty skater, with good acceleration and edgework allowing him to manuever through traffic and beat defenders one on one.
Main Photo: LONDON, ON – DECEMBER 4: Mikhail Sergachev #31 of the Windsor Spitfires skates against the London Knights during an OHL game at Budweiser Gardens on December 4, 2015 in London, Ontario, Canada. The Knights defeated the Spitfires 6-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)