Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column looking at hockey’s stars. Over the next few days we will be previewing the 2017 NHL Draft by ranking our top 30 prospects. We will also do some 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 US National Team Development Program; the Ivan Hlinka Tournament; an international break in Europe; and the CIBC CHL/Russia 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 2017 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 an obvious name left out, we’ll do our best to get a look before the February rankings; as well as before our final rankings that go from April through 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 of those players.
2017 NHL Draft November Rankings: 26-31
26.) Miro Heiskanen, HIFK; Defence (6’0″ 174 lbs)
Heiskanen played as an underager on Finland’s gold medal winning Under-18 team. He also has been playing in Finland’s top men’s league, putting up three goals and seven points in 22 games. He has very good skating ability. Heiskanen has good speed and acceleration in both directions. He also has the agility and edgework to make quick pivots and transition from defence to offence, or vice-versa. He is also a good passer, and can start the rush or make plays on the point on the powerplay. Heiskanen could stand to be a bit more physical; as well as work on his slap shot.
27.) Antoine Morand, Acadie-Bathurst Titan; Centre (5’9″ 170 lbs)
Morand is extremely elusive in the offensive zone. He has a great first step, excellent agility, and the edge work necessary to make quick cuts on a dime. He combines this with the soft hands to control the puck and make plays in tight spaces and at top speed. Morand is deadly in close to the net. He can make a quick deke on a goaltender, fire the puck to the top of the net, or make a quick pass to a teammate. Morand might be small, but he is not afraid to get involved in battles for the puck in the corner, or in front of the net. He is often found at the middle of post-whistle scrums as well. He has 28 points in 27 games so far this year.
27.) Nick Suzuki, Owen Sound Attack; Centre (5’11” 183 lbs)
An excellent skater, Suzuki gets in very quickly on the forecheck, throwing hits or pressuring defenders into turnovers. Once he gets the puck, he uses his speed and agility to create space and open up passing lanes. He has excellent vision and was a very good playmaker at the Ivan Hlinka tournament. He looks to take the next step in the OHL this year. He’s been great for Owen Sound with 16 goals and 34 points in just 27 games this year.
28.) Marcus Davidson, Centre; Djugardens (6’0″ 183 lbs)
An excellent two-way centre, Davidson does all the little things well. He gets in quickly on the forecheck and pressures defencemen into making turnovers. Once a turnover happens he can hit a teammate with a quick pass, drive the puck to the front of the net, or fire an excellent wrist shot on goal. He is relentless in chasing down pucks in all three zones, and has the skating to be able to get to loose pucks quickly. Defensively, he is already good in the face-off circle. He shows a highly advanced ability to pressure puck carriers, and to play a smart positional game in his own end.
29.) MacKenzie Entwistle, Hamilton Bulldogs; Centre/Right Wing, (6’3″ 181 lbs)
Entwhistle is a solid skater who plays a north-south style of game. He is willing to get dirty in the corners and in front of the net, as well as play a grinding game on the cycle. Entwhistle gets to the front of the net where he can bang in rebounds, or quickly one-time passes. He also grabs loose pucks and keeps the offense going by moving them quickly to teammates. Add in a good defensive game, and he could be a first round pick. Entwistle has 10 goals and 19 points in 25 games for the Bulldogs.
30.) Robin Salo, Sport; Defence (6’0″ 181 lbs)
A late 98 birthdate, Salo was another member of Finland’s Under 18 gold medal winning team, and also played in the 2015 Ivan Hlinka tournament. This year he is playing for Sport in the SM-Liiga and has put up seven points in 21 games. Salo is an effective two-way player who shows good mobility. He uses strong positioning and an active stick to cut down passing and shooting lanes in his own end. He also makes a strong first pass, and moves the puck quickly. Salo has also shown ability to handle the puck and lead the rush himself. He also has a good shot which he uses from the point on the power play.
31.) Conor Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds; Defence (6’1″ 181 lbs)
Timmins is one of the quickest risers on our list. He has played like a number one defenceman for the Greyhounds this year, with good mobility and positioning in the defensive end and putting up points in the offensive end. Timmins has very good vision and passing skills. He moves the puck up the ice quickly, and efficiently starting the rush. He also works as a quarterback on the powerplay. Timmins has put up 21 points in 27 games this year. He has also played a physical game in his own end, throwing hits against opposing forwards, winning battles on the boards, and clearing the front of the net.