Edmonton Oiler fans could probably design and build an entire Entry Draft board in their basements—hell, I bet someone has since this one was erected in 2010. It was Taylor Hall that day, who will it be this time? Here’s an early 25—the best players available this season for NHL teams at the entry draft.
The list isn’t a mock draft, but rather a look at the best players available using a slide rule, common sense and things I’ve read on the internet. This is my concoction and it is unique to Oilers Nation in terms of content. Hope you enjoy it!
- C Sam Bennett, Kingston (OHL). A wonderful player with a wide range of skills. We looked at his even-strength numbers awhile back, this is a player who could have a massive kicker based on age and EV/PP point ratio. I’m convinced he’s the best player available.
- C Sam Reinhart, Kootenay (WHL). Only a slight step down to Reinhart, who does in fact look like the best offensive player in the draft. A wonderful power play manager, he’s all about timing and sublime passing.
- D Aaron Ekblad, Barrie (OHL). A terrific range of skills, Ekblad may not have that kicker Bennett (or Reinhart) will likely get in the next 18 months. He’s mature physically, and already maxing out his power-play opportunities. Aaron Ekblad may not have another gear, and despite a terrific set of skills, he ranks third because of it.
- C Leon Draisaitl, Prince Albert (WHL). Many Oiler fans have turned on him BECAUSE the Oilers like him, reflecting the reputation of the NHL team in our town. However, that shouldn’t reflect on the player, who is a very good prospect. I can tell you that big men ALWAYS get accused of being lollygaggers, it was true of Frank Mahovlich and Joe Thornton, too. A little guy like Tie Domi looked like he was passing a kidney stone when he skated, and Mahovlich looked like the wind just blew him from place to place on the ice. It’s a perception thing, honestly. Draisaitl is a quality prospect.
- L Michael Dal Colle, Oshawa (OHL). A terrific scoring winger, I keep reading about power forward potential but his vitals don’t reflect it. Even if he doesn’t add that to his resume, Dal Colle is one of the best offensive players in the draft.
- L Nikolaj Ehlers, Halifax (QMJHL). You’ll read a lot of negative about this draft outside the top three overall, but in my opinion there’s a group of seven at the top who are going to be outstanding NHL players (barring injury). Ehlers is a high-end skill winger with all the moves.
- L Kasperi Kapanen, Kalpa (SM-Liiga). Kapanen and Sam Bennett appear to be the most complete players in the draft. Already playing in a pro league, Kapanen has a great deal of skill and two-way ability.
- C Robby Fabbri, Guelph (OHL). A brilliant offensive center who is suffering from scouts bias (small man syndrome) but will offer an NHL team exceptional value. I think he’ll go 8-10 spots below this number, but he’s an outstanding prospect. Fabbri will play the Oil Kings today at the Memorial Cup.
- L Nick Ritchie, Peterborough (OHL). A huge winger with a reasonable amount of skill, Ritchie might be that rate monster power forward good enough to play with skilled men. If he is, we’ll be swearing at him for a decade.
- L Jake Virtanen, Calgary (WHL). Led the top end of the draft with 45 goals this season, he’s tracking like the modern Willi Plett. A pure scorer, great shooter and a gritty winger. There’s some rumbling about his overall offensive ability being less than the group around him, but 45 goals is 45 goals, folks.
- R Alex Tuch, USNTDP (USHL). A strong showing at the U-18’s has his draft stock rising. Tuch is a bigger winger (6.03, 216) who I would rank as the #2 power forward available (behind Ritchie). I don’t think there’s a lot of difference between the two players offensively, so then it comes down to foot speed and passing. I have zero idea about those comparisons, but would suggest we shouldn’t be surprised if Tuch is taken ahead of Ritchie.
- L William Nylander, MoDo (SHL). A wizard at the U-18 WHC’s, Nylander is probably the most skilled player in this year’s draft. Raw without the puck and not a quality decision maker in terms of passing and using his teammates, he may take awhile to hit his stride.
- R Jakub Vrana, Linköping (SHL). Enjoyed a monster U-18’s (7, 8-2-10) and he’ll scoot up the rankings now. I know it’s small sample size, but a kid playing against men only has a small opportunity to showcase against players his own age. A nice range of skills, these players usually end up in Detroit, New Jersey, Los Angeles or Chicago.
- Haydn Fleury, Red Deer (WHL). His scouting report reads like Jay Bouwmeester’s, although I’m not sure he’ll deliver a lot offensively (defenseman don’t get a lot of points outside the power play). The dearth of defensemen in this year’s draft probably means he goes top 10 overall.
- L Sonny Milano,USNTDP (USHL). Another smaller skill guy, Milano is nicked a little because he also has some issues defensively (not terrible, just raw). A team drafting him will need to be patient, but he’s a really good prospect.
- C Adrian Kempe, MoDo (SHL). I’m not reading much about him, not sure why. 6.02, 187, skilled and works his bag off. What’s not to like? There may be something I’m missing about him, maybe he’s slow as molasses. If he can skate, he should go middle of round one.
- L Nikolai Goldobin, Sarnia (OHL). A very good offensive winger who also has a two-way reputation, Goldobin ranks a little ahead of the rest of the pack because of his range of skills.
- R David Pastrnak, Sodertalje (SWE-2). Another fine offensive prospect, he has great puck skills and scoring ability. His calling card is a bullet shot.
- L Ivan Barbashev, Moncton (QMJHL). Skill winger who can shoot and make a pass, Barbashev is likely to go long after Perlini, but I’m not sure why.
- L Brendan Perlini, Niagra (OHL). A speedy winger whose draft ranking seems to be running ahead of his boxcar value, Perlini could go top 10 overall. My ranking reflects the fact that 58, 34-37-71 isn’t stellar compared to the big guns in this year’s draft.
- C Jared McCann, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL). This is my kind of player. Possesses good offensive skills, but also owns a fine defensive reputation and is relied upon to do the dirty work. He would be really good value at this number.
- R Kevin Fiala, HV71 (SHL). Skilled forward with a lot of momentum after ripping up the U-18 tournament. He’s a gifted offensive player with defensive issues.
- L Dylan Larkin, USNTDP (USHL). Another power forward, Larkin appears to lack the offense of Tuch and Milano. Having said that, he was effective at the U-18’s and could surprise. We’ll get a better idea about him next season at the University of Michigan.
- L Nikita Scherbak, Saskatoon (WHL). Gritty winger lacks the top-end scoring ability of Fiala and the other forwards above him, but could get to the NHL as a two-way player or checker.
- C Nick Schmaltz, Green Bay (USHL). Closed well this season and has a chance to move up the draft charts in a big way. One of several kids in the USHL pushing their way into the (potential) first round, he is the fourth player from that league I’ve listed in my top 25.