With the draft quickly approaching I was inspired to create a mock draft. Though, as I expect a couple of trades at the top of the order I decided to publish my positional draft rankings rather than striking out in a game of let’s make a date right off the bat.
I pushed back the release of these rankings for the last couple of days. Never have I been so torn on a top ten in my life. Better yet; the order within the top ten. Of course playing rankings can be very subjective so make sure to take this with a grain of salt (or maybe a teaspoon).
Barrett’s 2016 Positional NHL Draft Rankings: Top 10 Forwards
In my opinion if you’re drafting in the top ten and especially the top five (other than via trade), you are in dire need of a franchise-altering performer. As is always a debate when it comes to making these decisions, you have to decide how much weight a prospects NHL probability carries versus their potential ceiling.
Due to the dynamic of this year’s class, you can swing for the fences early with a Logan Brown or Clayton Keller. Or, if you’re shopping for a “safer” investment you still have Matthew Tkachuk and Alex Nylander. A nice blend of the two is rare; so when you have a player that is capable of continual growth, while coming in and making an immediate impact…you take that player and run.
This year, three franchises will be fortunate enough to select such a player in hopes of turning their dismal results around.
So without further ado, the top ten forwards for the 2016 NHL Draft.
The class’ top talent. Matthews is a big, talented centerman who should be the Toronto Maple Leafs’ franchise player for at least the next decade. The soon-to-be seventh American ever to be drafted first overall had 24 goals and 46 points in 36 games playing against men (Swiss-A), and has already shown the ability to lead a team on the biggest of stages. Ineligible for last year’s draft by 48 hours, Matthews will come in and produce immediately.
The second-half stock growth of Patrik Laine was astounding. While he was already a guaranteed top five pick at the time, his stock rise was meteoric. Beginning with a WJC performance that opened the eyes of many, the 6’4 beast went on a goal-scoring tear that included an SM-Liiga championship where he was named playoff MVP. He scored 10 goals and 15 points in 18 games. Winnipeg is the perfect spot for this brash sniper, whose pure scoring ability has never been questioned. A 30-goal rookie season would be a safe bet in my opinion.
An explosive skater and exceptional offensive-talent of his own Puljujarvi has become the forgotten man in all this Laine hype. Puljujarvi is without a doubt the better skater, and even though many scouting reports stated that Laine had the size advantage the NHL Combine disproved that theory when Puljujarvi (6’4″ 203 lbs) came in as the larger of the two top prospects (Laine 6.375 ” 201.3 lbs). While he receives praise for his playmaking skills, he is no slouch goal-scorer either possessing a quick release and the hunger to succeed. Columbus may not be the destination, but Puljujarvi will make somebody very happy at third overall.
He has the talent and mindset you want in a prospect. Some skaters may have higher ceilings and skill levels, but Tkachuk already plays a pro style game. That kind of pedigree is hard to pass up. He can most likely step into a top-nine role immediately while still holding above-average potential. The kind of player that coaches don’t have to worry about.
Size, skating, and skill; all good words when describing a prospect. They’re even better considering Brown possesses those things in spades. The 6’6 centerman makes a 200-foot effort, but one can’t help but notice his offensive acumen. He makes slick plays in tight, showing no panic in high traffic areas while setting up teammates, or burying the biscuit himself. Simply; he has everything you’re looking for in a number one center. There’s a maturity about the way he processes the game that makes me believe his transition to the big leagues will be a smooth one, even if he still has a ton of room to develop.
A man amongst boys in the Q, Dubois has the high-end potential and apparent safe floor that makes general managers everywhere feel confident. His skill level, strong frame, and compete level separate him from the majority of his peers. He’s an active player in all three zones that can provide a team with the kind of energy and versatility that make potential drafters sleep easy at night.
Elite with the puck on his stick, he’s is the type of playmaker who makes everyone around him better. For two-third’s of the ice he may not jump off map, but inside the offensive blueline Clayton Keller is a rare breed. He’s always ahead of the competition when it comes to engineering an attack, and though he’s undersized he’s slick enough to survive in the NHL. His special vision will allow him to play in the NHL sooner than most probably expect.
Undoubtedly more polished than a few ranked above him; Alex Nylander is the type of player you draft if you’re looking to jump start your offense in the near future. He consistently makes good decisions with the puck inside the blueline, while using his advanced technical skills to execute with precision. He’s not the biggest or fastest, but he has excellent footwork and composure. The show shouldn’t be too difficult of an adjustment for the newest family jewel.
A potential future captain, Tyson Jost will be the heartbeat of a team’s offensive game down the line. He plays the game at a high-speed, while looking cool as a cucumber about it all. That poise, combined with his skill level and motor make him a very coveted prospect going into the draft. If he was four inches taller he would be a top-five pick.
The former OHL 5th overall pick could very well be a top ten pick in this draft. Better yet, in any draft. So whoever lands him is getting a nice value. The 6’2 center has incredible wheels, and all the tools to be a dangerous pivot at the next level. He is proficient at stealing pucks and striking on the counter attack. He also does a great job of adjusting to the D and taking what they give him. He may not ever become a point-per-game player, but McLeod is certainly the type of asset any coach would love to have on his bench with the potential to become a No. 1 or No. 2 C.
Next up: Defenseman and Goalies
Main Photo: Auston Matthews of USA celebrates after scoring 3-0 during the 2016 IIHF World Junior Ice Hockey Championship quarterfinal match between USA and Czech Republic in Helsinki, Finland, on January 2, 2016. / AFP / Lehtikuva / Roni Rekomaa / Finland OUT (Photo credit should read RONI REKOMAA/AFP/Getty Images)