Russian Valeri Nichushkin is the big climber in our third look at this year’s top draft eligibles, and we’re far enough into the season to list the top 15. What does that mean? We can project the Oilers ‘draft window’ and what might be available. Top 15 after the jump.
If the season ended today, the Oilers would draft 11th overall. The top of each season’s draft usually goes close to form, with one or maybe two sliders (Filip Forsberg last year, famously Alexei Cherepanov and Angelo Esposito in 2007).
- D Seth Jones: There’s just too much. Big, strong, skilled, massive wingspan, tough, physical, can do it all. I am a believer in taking the forward over the defender UNLESS we’re talking someone who is aces across the board. Jones looks to be such a player. Previous Rank: 1
- L Jonathan Drouin: Since our last update not quite one month ago, he’s gone 8, 10-10-20 for Halifax and is absolutely blowing away the competition (now 39, 34-48-82 for the season) in terms on points-per-game. I don’t know that he’ll go 2nd overall (his teammate could go #1) but this is an outstanding resume.PR:2
- C Nathan MacKinnon: Based on the scouting services I follow MacKinnon will definitely be the first forward and could be first overall at the draft. I move two players above him based on (Drouin’s) offense and (Jones’) wide range of elite skills. No slight against MacKinnon, he’s an outstanding prospect. PR 3
- C Sasha Barkov: A big strong center Bob McKenzie compared to Dale Hawerchuk and that’s a lot of skill. A strong World Juniors has some saying he’s the best Finnish prospect in over a decade. Skating issues have been mentioned in some scouting reports but it doesn’t seem to be a major issue (he’s highly ranked on the major lists like McKenzie and Pronman.PR4
- L Valeri Nichushkin. An exceptional World Junior tournament has the hockey world talking about this big winger. Pronman: "Nichushkin has a ton of upside between his elite skating, his great skill level, and a good power game. He has been playing in the KHL at 17 and had an impressive World Junior showing." PR8
- C Sean Monahan: He’s enjoyed a solid showing since the last time we looked at the 2013’s (7, 6-5-11) and honestly I’d be thrilled if the Oilers acquired him. Team Canada coach Steve Spott on Monahan: "his hockey sense, in my mind, is at a National Hockey League level right now. He has elite hockey sense. He is just one of those players who can play in any situation – 5-on-5, 5-on-4, on your [penalty kill]. Sean has that innate ability. He is going to be an elite NHL player. There is no doubt about that." He is a little shy offensively compared to the kids above him, that’s the reason for this rank. PR 5
- L Anthony Mantha: This guy is going to be a player based on the numbers. Now at 45 goals in 57 QMJHL games, he’s gone 10, 7-4-11 since our last update. Pronman: "Mantha is an intriguing package of tools as he is 6’4” with good speed, a heavy shot, and offensive instincts. I wasn’t all that sold on him last season, but he has developed well over the last six months or so." PR 7
- D Rasmus Ristolainen: Impressive young defenseman already playing in the SM-Liiga. Craig Button: Rasmus has very good offensive skills with an excellent shot. He jumps into the attack and even initiates the attack if he feels it’s necessary. He will play physical, and if he makes contact, you are fully aware of that as an opponent. When the game becomes challenging and the moments important, he is ready, willing and capable of taking a leading role to make a positive difference. A player who is more than capable of being a top defenceman. The description ‘workhorse defenceman’ comes to mind when you assess his potential. Previously Unranked.
- C Elias Lindholm: Has slowed down offensively since January, but remains a quality prospect. Roger Ronnberg (Sweden’s coach at the WJ) sums up the player thusly: "He has the smartness and he has the grit to play–he has the most important combinations and that is both the will to compete and the smarts to be a really good player." PR 6
- L Hunter Shinkaruk. I know, he’s an undersized winger. However, this kid is really putting on a show. 6, 4-7-11 since the last update, he’s going to force someone to step up and take him despite the size issue. Corey Pronman: "Shinkaruk is a dynamic offensive player who is a unique skater with high-end hands and finishing ability. He is a little on the small side, though." PR 10
- D Darnell Nurse. Fast riser and Craig Button tells us why: Big, strong and competitive and he imposes himself on opponents. Very strong skater with quickness, agility and balance that he uses very effectively to close on plays defensively and to move play ahead and out of his defensive zone. Has really developed his offensive game and he shows the capability of being a very well-rounded and dependable player. The type who can ‘log’ lots of important minutes in a game and these are valuable players in the NHL. Previously Unranked.
- C Curtis Lazar: Oil Kings Curtis Lazar has been up and down the draft lists all winter, 32-16-48 this season. In his last 19 games, he’s 17-4-21 while still playing a gritty, effective game. 6.0, 198. Pronman: Lazar is a plus skater with a similar amount of two-way work ethic. His production this year has caused mild concerns, but he remains an above-average but not a great offensive player with an upper tier shot. Previously Unranked.
- D Josh Morrissey: Highly ranked because of his skating and puck moving ability. Morrissey is a great example of the "new NHL" defenseman: good speed, excellent at moving the puck and solid defensively. Corey Pronman: "Morrissey is a really fun player to watch due to his skating and offensive ability. His only real issue is that his physical game is just okay, leading to questions whether he can be a really effective defender." PR9
- L Alexander Wennberg. Craig Button: Can play all three forward positions. Excellent skater who has a free and easy stride with excellent quickness and a change of pace is capable of keeping defenders on their heels. He can open up ice and space for himself with his skating. In traffic, he has the ability to ‘slice’ through tight areas and with very good balance, can be difficult to deter. Previously unranked.
- D Ryan Pulock: Liked this kid from the start. Good offense (50, 14-28-42) from the blueline and a good size/speed combination for the blue (6.01, 211). WHL from Above: Smooth 2-way defender with a bomb of a shot. Button: Very steady, effective and efficient player. His strength is founded on an overall game that is consistent and dependable. Very good puck skills that is augmented by an outstanding shot. Very good vision and awareness and he creates offensive chances. He plays with poise and logs all of the important minutes for his team and he plays with a calming influence.Previously Unranked.
- Pronman is such a great resource, his stuff is a must read for draft followers. Latest is here.
- Bob McKenzie has the inside scoop every year, he is the Bible. You could use his final list in the first two rounds every year, draft bpa and come out looking like a genius. Don’t tell Columbus.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
For the Oilers, I think Lazar will be tough to pass over if he’s available when they pick. There should be several quality defensemen in that area (the Finn and Nurse are all over the place depending on which scouting service you’re reading) and someone like Mantha may fall to them.
The Oilers will not be selecting a Taylor Hall, a Nuge or a Nail this summer. However, the player they get in the first round won’t be a bum, either.