2024 NHL Draft ranking: Macklin Celebrini leads Scott Wheeler’s March top 64 prospects – The Athletic

Scott WheelerMar 25, 2024

Welcome to my March ranking of the top prospects eligible for the 2024 NHL Draft.

This ranking includes full scouting reports on the top 64 prospects and packaged within our new user interface. It follows my way-too-early top 24, preseason top 32, preliminary top 64 and midseason top 64, and will be followed by an updated top 32 post-U18 worlds and my final top 100 (released in June).


The class of 2024 is led by Boston University center Macklin Celebrini, a legitimate star forward prospect, but will be defined by both the quantity and quality of the defensemen at the top. Five of the top 10 prospects on my board are D, and I like each of them more than I liked the two who went in that range (David Reinbacher No. 5 to Montreal and Dmitri Simashev No. 6 to Arizona) in last year’s draft.

The ranking, now completely customizable and searchable, is also broken down into tiers to give you a better sense of the proximity within groupings and the drop-offs between them. This ranking is divided into six tiers. They are: 1, 2-12, 13-20, 21-42, 43-60 and 61-64+. Also included are 41 honorable mentions (sorted alphabetically), for a total of 105 prospects considered for the list.

Note that while I consult scouts, coaches, general managers, team staff and agents in building my draft rankings, the following evaluations are strictly my own.

Pos. C LHD LW RHD RWNatl. 🇧🇾 🇨🇦 🇨🇭 🇨🇿 🇫🇮 🇱🇻 🇳🇴 🇷🇺 🇸🇪 🇺🇸Tier Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 3 Tier 4 Tier 5 Tier 6 Tier Honourable MentionLeague Czechia HS HockeyAllsvenskan J20 KHL Liiga Liiga U20 MHL NCAA NL NTDP Norway OHL QMJHL USHL USHS WHLLoadingTry changing or resetting your filters to see more.Tier 11

Macklin Celebrini

C1Boston U.Height:6 ‘ 0″Weight:190 lbsDOB:Jun. 13, 2006Profile

Celebrini has continued to find new levels and elevate his game this season (during BU’s seven-game win streak before their Hockey East Tournament final loss to BC over the weekend, he’d registered seven goals and 16 points). He has shown, again and again, that he has pretty well everything you look for in the mold of a center and has looked like a true star-forward prospect domestically and internationally. He doesn’t profile in the Connor Bedard-Connor McDavid-Sidney Crosby echelon, but he was a star as one of the youngest players in the USHL with the Chicago Steel last season (where he put together the most prolific 16-year-old season in the league’s history, led the league in scoring and was named the USHL Player of the Year), he was Canada’s best player at U18s and U20s as an underager in both, and he has put himself in the Hobey Baker conversation as the youngest player in college hockey at BU (coming off of shoulder surgery — which he played through at U18s — no less). What he has accomplished to date would be impressive even if he were on the older side of the 2024 draft. It’s even more impressive because of his June birthday.

Celebrini can impact and drive play in so many different areas, too. He plays with confidence and presence that is rare in a player his age, consistently looking to attack and dictate with the puck. He’s also an intelligent off-puck player who understands timing, routes and how to get open and make himself available without the puck in his hands. He’s a plus-level skater and excellent transition puck transporter who has an impressive ability to giddy up and drive the middle third. He’s quick and hard to track on turns and off the wall. He’s a hardworking player defensively, and into battles and races for pucks. He’s got dynamic puck skills that allow him to break down opponents and coverage at speed. He’s a tactile shooter and finisher who can get pucks off in a variety of ways, from a variety of stances, and without needing to tunnel vision for it (plus he has a hard and comfortable one-timer). He’s consistent in approach. He sees and executes through seams with a lot of crispness. He is sturdy and thick for his age and absorbs and plays through bumps extremely effectively, staying over pucks and extending sequences through a strong lower half. He’s a quietly powerful player for a 6-foot kid, and while he’s not going to bully his way around the ice, he commands play and imposes himself on games. Those tools, combined with excellent puck-protection skills and an aggressive approach, allow him to play a heavy-skill game. I expect him to become a frontline, star-level center.

Photo:Richard T. Gagnon / Getty ImagesC🇨🇦Tier 1NCAATier 22

Artyom Levshunov

RHD1Michigan State U.Height:6′ 2″Weight:208 IbsDOB:Oct. 28, 2005Profile

The top D prospect in a strong crop of them for me, Levshunov has led the Big Ten-champion Spartans in scoring as a freshman defenceman and he’s going to become the highest-drafted player ever out of Belarus, besting Ruslan Salei (No. 9 in 1996) and Andrei Kostitsyn (No. 10 in 2003). He had a stellar rookie season in the USHL last year, registering 43 points in 65 combined regular-season and playoff games with Green Bay to fast-track his way into college hockey after just one season playing hockey in North America, and has developed at a breakneck pace ever since. It’s not easy to play big minutes to excellent two-way results, or produce at a point-per-game rate as a teenaged D in college hockey, let alone one with a language barrier in a new culture. While he’s on the older side of the first-year eligibles for 2024 because of his October 2005 birthday, I don’t think he’s on a track that’s far off the one Owen Power and his November birthday took.

Levshunov’s profile checks a lot of the boxes that teams are looking for in a high-end defenseman. He’s a righty with an extremely imposing and physically mature build already. He’s a smooth skater with plus-level four-way mobility (including a long, gazelle-like stride the length of the ice). Though he was a little green defensively when he arrived in the USHL, he has made fast progress and has really figured it out over the last two years (which included becoming a top penalty killer with the Gamblers after not starting there last year, and leading the Spartans in time on ice this year). His ceiling defensively is sky-high with the right development. That ceiling is led by a physical nature that regularly sees him bowl over opposing players (even on reverse hits) and outmuscle in 50/50 battles. He’s a heady passer and shot shaper but mostly impacts games offensively with how eager and loose he plays as a carrier and activator who confidently leads exits and entries and loves to hop off the line (including deep into the O-zone) and join the rush whenever he can with his skating. He also walks the line proficiently and can escape and control the puck against pressure, which allowed him to produce very high shot totals at MSU. And after beginning to take over games offensively and show a more dynamic element over the second half of last season in the USHL, he played with an abundance of confidence and identity in college hockey this season (even if that identity is a little haywire at times). He already possessed all of the tools he needed to become a stud, and he just keeps getting better and better. The decision-making is a little raw, but he’s very much still learning it, and the raw tools are incredibly appealing. With continued fine-tuning, I believe there’s first-pairing upside there. I was very high on him coming into this season, and he still exceeded my expectations. The Spartans have won his 22-23 minutes a game handily most nights. He’s a force.

Photo:MSU AthleticsRHD🇧🇾Tier 2NCAA3

Ivan Demidov

RW1St. PetersburgHeight:5′ 11″Weight:181 IbsDOB:Dec. 10, 2005Profile

The player with the most individual puck skill in the class, Demidov is a skill-first playmaking forward who finished third in the MHL in scoring last year (extremely rare for a player his age in a league typically dominated by 19- and 20-year-olds) and played at a higher point-per-game pace than the two players in front of him, alongside his older brother, Semyon. This season, after a strong preseason with SKA, he won a job out of camp but played little and then, after bouncing between levels trying to rediscover his game, injured his knee and missed a month and a half. After returning, he tore up the MHL with one multi-point game after another and five to 10 shots a night, putting together one of the most productive extended stretches of play ever at Russia’s top junior level and making pretty goals look casual.

He’s on the older side as a December 2005, and he’s got work to do to get stronger, but he’s a true play creator and you want the puck in his hands so he can slip around the ice to make things happen for himself or his linemates. His ability to get off the wall to the middle, either with the puck on his stick into traffic (though I think he falls back on his heel-to-heel skating a little too much), his manipulation one-on-one, his knack for dodging sticks and checks, and his passing through layers to the weak side of coverage is very unique. And while his skating in straight lines doesn’t always look smooth, he’s still a fast skater and very shifty side to side. He’s elite handling (though he can get himself into trouble trying to beat two or three guys in a crowd, he also often beats multiple guys in a sequence) and has made more one-on-one skill plays so far this season than almost any prospect I’ve scouted for any draft. He’s also a pretty engaged off-puck player who keeps his feet moving, hunts pucks on the forecheck, and can turn a steal into a game-breaking play in an instant. He’s not quite at Matvei Michkov’s level (as some have suggested) for me but it’s closer now than it was at the start of the year and he’s still one of the most purely talented prospects to come out of Russia in recent memory (his game also has more of a pro-style/competitiveness/roundedness to it than Michkov’s at the same age) and scouts really like him. He’s going to be a point-producing top-six forward and PP specialist.

Photo:Alexey Fillippov / Associated PressRW🇷🇺Tier 2MHL4

Cole Eiserman

LW1U18Height:6′ 0″Weight:195 IbsDOB:Aug. 29, 2006Profile

A dynamic goal scorer in the truest sense, Eiserman possesses an exhilarating ability to cleanly pick his spots in the net and also regularly beat defenders and goalies one-on-one when the shot isn’t there. He can score in every way: long-range, midrange, jam plays, rush plays, quick hands in tight, the one-timer, a lethal catch and release (there isn’t a pass he can’t take and get off). Last year, he showed one of the better shots and sets of hands I’ve seen in a player that age. This year, he’s on track to break or challenge Cole Caufield’s NTDP goal-scoring record. He’s one of the younger players in the draft with his late-August birthday as well.

Eiserman is a shot creator who, against his peers, usually takes whatever he wants and seems to score at will.

I actually think he’s a better skater than he has been given credit for in conversations I’ve had with folks about him, too, but it’s his puck skill, quick release, shot variety (he can rip it in motion, off catch and releases, standing still and from a one-timer, and he’ll make goalies guess wrong in alone because of how fast his hands are) and sneaky strength (when he uses it, which he has started to do more of) that allows him to create at will against his peers. He can frustrate, though, too, and scouts desperately want to see him round out his game. He can be a little careless and selfish with the puck. He can get carried away trying to do too much, stickhandling into trouble or shooting into shin pads. The play selection and habits definitely need some work, and have led to many understandably lowering him outside the top-five range I still have him in (though I am less sure about it than I thought I’d be). He doesn’t miss when he’s got an opportunity, though, and it’s so, so hard to find goal scorers like him outside of the very top of the draft. I have seen him play pretty complete, competitive games too, so it is there. I also think he’s an underrated passer who actually identifies second and third options quite well even if he doesn’t always give the puck to them.

The puck pops off of his stick so effortlessly and he produces that “he’s about to score here” feeling every time the puck comes to him in a good spot. It’s cliché, but you can’t teach that. He looks to me, with a little coaching, like he’s on track to become a first-line winger and PP1 focal point.

Photo:Jari Pestelacci / Getty ImagesLW🇺🇸Tier 2NTDP5

Zayne Parekh

RHD2SaginawHeight:6′ 0″Weight:179 IbsDOB:Feb. 15, 2006Profile

Parekh has turned me into a total believer the last two seasons, even though that’s not the case for everyone. He might even be in a special tier offensively. Last season, despite playing in just 50 of Saginaw’s 68 games after missing three weeks due to injury from the end of February into March and another couple for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge (where he scored three goals and five points in seven games as the highest-scoring defenseman on the fourth-place-finishing Canada Black), he still broke the OHL’s all-time goals record by a U17 defenseman, scoring 21 times and regularly looking dynamic on the puck. An OHL Cup All-Star and first-round pick into the OHL even before his breakout season last year, Parekh is the most talented offensive defenseman in junior hockey this year and has so far scored at an all-time great draft-year rate, breaking the 30-goal and 90-point mark as the leading scorer on the Memorial Cup hosts by more than 20 points.

He plays an aggressive and natural offensive style that looks to attack off the line into the slot or even the front of the net or below the goal line. He’ll also regularly involve himself in the rush, much like a winger does, driving down the wall in control to look to challenge defenders and attack into his shot or create an odd-man rush. He’s super confident on offense and opening up his feet (where necessary) around the zone without going to his heel-to-heel by default. He’s got great hands and a balanced, almost casual-looking skating posture, which helps him carry pucks and beat the first layer of pressure to get to his spots. When the puck arrives on his stick, it just seems to stop and glue to him through his movements — a very rare quality that almost makes him look lackadaisical with the puck because it’s settled so easily into his pocket. He likes to roam, but he’s also learning to pick his spots better and his head is constantly on a swivel to identify where he is in relation to his teammates. When he plays freely, which is almost always, you’re drawn to him whenever he touches the puck because he’s always a threat to make something happen. He protects the puck extremely well with players leaning on him, escaping situations you wouldn’t expect him to. He’s got great footwork and edges to manipulate across the line and stop up along the boards to change directions or maintain gaps.

I know some scouts were interested to see how he’d do at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on-ice testing and he performed well (he’s not the fastest going forward but his maneuverability compensates). And he also defends at a high enough level to be given free rein to go out there and look to make plays. Though his defense is a common criticism among scouts, I’d argue he’s got a great stick and reads the play quite well. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from him on the penalty kill, and even though he definitely doesn’t play a physical style, I think he’s made important progress in his own zone. There are times when his posture will look disengaged and a little upright, and you’d like him to really get low and battle, but he’s playing to win pucks with his stick and does so fairly well (he’s never going to be a staunch defender). Add in a frame that is a little more mature than I think people realize/give him credit for, that he’s a very good communicator (he’s constantly talking on the ice), passes that are always tape-to-tape and perfectly flat, an ability to draw penalties escaping pressure as well as just about anyone in the draft (he’s never in trouble), and a want to have the puck and make a difference, and there’s a very high-end package. He has regularly played huge minutes for a top team this season and if he can defend at a reasonable level in the NHL (which I believe he’ll be able to) he’s got star power offensively. He won’t be for every team, but I’d pick him early without much hesitation and bet on the rare skill.

Photo:Dennis Pajot / Getty ImagesRHD🇨🇦Tier 2OHL6

Sam Dickinson

LHD1LondonHeight:6′ 2″Weight:199 IbsDOB:Jun. 7, 2006Profile

Dickinson is a very complete, projectable top-four defenceman who has size, high-end skating and a developing offensive game that has really rounded into form this season. Last year, he stepped right onto the Knights blue line at 16 (rare) and played bigger minutes by year’s end than some drafted guys (rarer) on a deep blue line, including in key situations in the playoffs. This season, he has played a leading role in all facets of the game on another strong London team (which has included successfully quarterbacking one of the power-play units and developing his shot into more of a weapon to push for 20 goals).

He’s a strong 6-foot-3/4 defenseman whose skating is a real strength (forward, backward, four-way mobility, the full package for a defender his size). He plays firm and with confidence in who he is and what makes his game so successful. He defends at a very high level for his age both man-to-man, down low and positionally in his own zone. He has skill and poise with the puck (which began to reveal itself more at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup last summer and has stamped itself for the Knights this season) and has started to make better and more consistent reads under pressure (he’s showing real comfort and even deception past opposing forwards these days, and has shown some nice vision and touch as well). He’s not the most dynamic player with the puck, but he has all of the physical tools you look for, he can really shoot it (which I know he has worked on), he comfortably moves it, he has a high floor, and he could have a very high ceiling (at both ends) with continued development along the path he’s on. There are some who want to see him play a little meaner but he’s a dominant defender at the junior level and he competes/plays hard. He’s also helped by a June birthday that gives him some runway to continue to find new levels/layers. Scouts are extremely excited about his toolsy game and potential upside, and I am too. He can command/dominate a game in all three zones and four corners of the rink and there aren’t really any major holes, which is saying something for a defenseman his age. He looks like he’s going to be a two-way stud in the NHL. He is also by all accounts a great kid who has twice worn a letter for Hockey Canada already and could in London next year.

Photo:Natalie Shaver / OHL ImagesLHD🇨🇦Tier 2OHL7

Zeev Buium

LHD2DenverHeight:6′ 0″Weight:183 IbsDOB:Dec. 7, 2005Profile

Buium, like Levshunov, has put together one of the better seasons by a teenaged defenceman in recent college history, producing at or above the rates of some established NHL stars (he came up big, yet again, in the NCHC Tournament over the weekend, too). Because of his December 2005 birthday, Buium (the younger brother of Red Wings prospect Shai) entered the national program a year ahead of Cole Eiserman and company. Last year, in his second season at the NTDP, he really hit his stride, too, becoming a driver for the U18s. But this season, after growing a little (he was listed at 5-foot-11 last year and is now listed at 6 feet by NHL Central Scouting), he hasn’t lost his identity in college and if anything has really expanded it, stepping in at Denver to play roughly 20 minutes per game of very active hockey.

He’s a plus-level skater who plays an extremely involved game in all three zones, whether that’s activating into the rush or off the point, shaking pressure on exits or across the blue line (which he does extraordinarily well), working in and out of give-and-gos, or playing tight gaps against the rush. He’s a very busy player on both sides of the puck and he gets in and out of his transitions and footwork so quickly that he can play that style. When he’s dialed in, applying pressure on and off the puck and using his feet and his skating to influence play, he can really impact a game in a lot of ways. And while I would have said he had good but not high-end skill a year ago, he definitely looks like he has the latter (or close) now. His head is always on a swivel. He opens up and walks the line to create lanes for his shot and pass so well, even working off of his off-side. He shakes past opposing players with relative ease. He’s got great hands (though most of it is in his inside edges and shoulder fakes). Some question his lack of physicality (with one scout even calling him soft) but he plays D, has learned that the faster he cuts off plays the more he can play offense, and will defend with the occasional bump on top of all of his stickwork and footwork.

He has played some very good hockey for a while now (last spring to finish strong at the NTDP, again at the World Junior Summer Showcase, again at the world juniors where he was pretty clearly one of USA’s four best D as its youngest, and all year as a big-time freshman with the Pioneers) as well. He was viewed as a late first-/early second-rounder coming in and is now in the top-10 conversation. He projects to be a second-pairing, playing-driving, offensively involved defenceman with a chance at stardom.

Photo:Jari Pestelacci / Getty ImagesLHD🇺🇸Tier 2NCAA8

Anton Silayev

LHD3TorpedoHeight:6′ 7″Weight:211 IbsDOB:Apr. 11, 2006Profile

Silayev is a unicorn 6-foot-7 defenseman who surprised some people with a hot start offensively in the KHL and has risen to the top of the class playing legitimate minutes for one of the KHL’s better teams for most of the year (including in the playoffs) — an extremely rare feat for a 17-year-old. His 11 points in 63 games broke the league’s under-18 scoring record (Vladimir Tarasenko had 10 points and Kirill Kaprizov and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had eight at the same age). He has played on the power play, consistently registers multiple shots per game and has even played both sides.

Silayev is an excellent skater who walks the line with ease, drops back onto his heels comfortably, and pushes forward to either carry pucks up ice, close gaps, or disrupt a carrier with an active stick. Despite how prodigious his play has been, he looks like he’s only scratching the surface of his true potential as well and seemed to take another step in the playoffs. He’s got more steps to take in his decision-making on the puck (I find he’s a little too trigger-happy — he actually shows good poise and comfort when he doesn’t rush), his shot (which he gets off in volume and does a good job putting on target, but will definitely add power as he gets stronger and works on it), and his ability to really impose himself with his size (which he really learned to do this year, leading Torpedo in hits). He has shown some soft skill for a big man, he’s disruptive in zone defense and hard to beat off the rush because of his length, and there’s plenty of room for continued growth and development within his game. Many scouts think he’s the top D prospect in the draft. I’m still partial to Levshunov but I like Silayev in that next group. His upside is obviously extremely high, especially if he can get stronger (without losing his mobility) and continue to develop his offensive game.

Photo:Maksim Konstantinov / Getty ImagesLHD🇷🇺Tier 2KHL9

Berkly Catton

C2SpokaneHeight:5′ 10″Weight:170 IbsDOB:Jan. 14, 2006Profile

He’s dangerous whenever he’s on the puck and shines with his knifing, slippery game. Inside the offensive zone, the way he baits and shades, drawing players to him and then playmaking past them with a pass or a cut, is pretty impressive. Catton is a heady playmaker who uses spacing to his advantage and sees the ice at an advanced level, regularly executing quick plays through coverage or delaying into a pre-planned play. He’s got multi-dimensional skill, with an ability to play both with speed on the rush (he’s a smooth, fast and nimble high-end skater) and more slowly inside the offensive zone when the pace ramps down and he has to spin away from pressure (which he does so well). He’s got great instincts offensively. He tracks back consistently and will get up and under sticks to win his fair share of battles. He thrives in tight spaces and on cutbacks, he can play on the perimeter or take it to the net, and he’s got a dangerous and quick release while moving. He does such a good job losing defenders with his back to them to avoid getting pinned down because of how adjustable his skating is through stops and starts and tight turns. He draws a lot of penalties with his skating. Catton’s path from fitting right in as a rookie who was asked to play center on a top line and handled it extremely well (he even won the majority of his draws last year) to constantly threatening as a deceptive and dangerous player offensively has positioned him as one of the top forward prospects in the draft. He was also a top penalty killer in the WHL this year. He’s got some very translatable top-six elements with his skating and skill set type. I believe he’s got the chops to stick as a center despite being on the smaller side, as well, because you want him getting touches lower in the zone so that his skating can lead in transition.

Photo:Jonathan Kozub / Getty ImagesC🇨🇦Tier 2WHL10

Konsta Helenius

C3TapparaHeight:5′ 11″Weight:180 IbsDOB:May 11, 2006Profile

Helenius put together one of the most productive under-18 seasons in Liiga history this year, entering into similar territory as names like Patrik Laine, Kaapo Kakko and Mikael Granlund without quite chasing down record holder Aleksander Barkov. He averaged 17 minutes a night, occasionally hit 19 and 20, and stuck at center despite being a 5-foot-11 17-year-old who won’t turn 18 until May. This, after impressing at world under-17s (where he capped off an 11-in-seven tournament with a four-point performance in the bronze medal game) and U18 worlds (where I thought he really drove the bus on an otherwise disappointing team). This, after playing 33 Liiga games (where he was the league’s youngest player and still registered 11 points) as a 16-year-old last season. This, after impressing at the World Junior Summer Showcase last summer months after his 17th birthday and still as the youngest player invited. This, after centering a top-six line as an underager at the world juniors (where he wasn’t a star but I thought played better than his two points in seven games indicated).

There were some who wondered if he’d be a center or winger at the NHL level, but he’s solid in the faceoff circle, his defensive play is where it needs to be, and he has looked like he belongs down the middle in Liiga.

He’s a joy to watch navigate, manipulate and pass the puck with his smarts. He’s got an ability to find his teammates in space and then get pucks to them with the perfect weight and timing, even while he’s well covered. He also stirs the drink through his effort level, regularly coming up with pucks when you don’t expect him to while quietly and efficiently impacting play at both ends of the rink (with more room to grow there still). Against his peers, he’s both a driver and a playmaker. He does such a good job identifying lanes and attacking into them/taking what the defense gives him. He’ll look for his own look when it’s there or play in a quick give-and-go when spacing tightens up. He seems to create constantly. He’s a good though not great skater. He anticipates the play at a very high level off the puck (the puck just seems to find him again and again inside the offensive zone). I like him enough on the forecheck. Every time I see him, he looks like a legit top-10 pick. I’m not sure he’s a top-five guy in this class (for a time, I believed he might be) but this slotting feels low. He got to the inside against pros more this year and has looked pretty clearly like one of the draft’s more intelligent forwards in my viewings. I like the determination he plays with, too. He has already proven to be a pro play driver as well. Last season, Jukurit, which finished 11th in the 15-team Liiga and was outscored 165-155, actually outscored the opposition 18-9 with a 16-year-old Helenius on the ice at even strength. And this season, his underlying numbers remained strong. I think he’s got clear second-line prospects.

Photo:Daniela Porcelli / Associated PressC🇫🇮Tier 2Liiga11

Cayden Lindstrom

C4Medicine HatHeight:6′ 3″Weight:210 IbsDOB:Feb. 3, 2006Profile

Lindstrom is a big center (though his NHL Central Scouting listing dropped him from 6-foot-5 to 6-foot-3.25) and an excellent skater who already uses his size to his advantage, whether through finishing his checks, shielding pucks, powering through contact or going to the net front to provide screens. He’s also got decent-to-very-good skill and quick hands, both in flight and around the net and the wall. He can play off of the puck and take up space in front or jump into space off the rush with his skating, play on the cycle and stay over pucks to help his team maintain possession inside the offensive zone, create in transition — putting defenders on their heels with a head of steam — and even make skill plays from a standstill inside the offensive zone. He’s a strong, powerful skater who can pull away in open ice and win races. He’s also strong in the faceoff circle and competitive overall. He looks like a safely projectable second-line center, which at his height and with his skating would make him a pretty rare player type in the league. There are some who believe he might even have first-line upside as well.

After undergoing a minor hand operation and dealing with a bit of a back issue, he has been sidelined since December. I’m told there’s optimism he’ll be ready to go for under-18 worlds, though, which would give scouts an important final updated set of viewings. He’s an easy player to like and one most scouts see a lot of potential in. The expectation at this point is that he’ll be picked higher than where I have him here, and it’s easy to see why, given his makeup, size and position. I’d certainly sooner slot him higher than lower.

Photo:Jonathan Kozub / Getty ImagesC🇨🇦Tier 2WHL12

Carter Yakemchuk

RHD3CalgaryHeight:6′ 3″Weight:201 IbsDOB:Sep. 29, 2005Profile

One of the highest-scoring and most penalized draft-eligible WHL defensemen in recent WHL history, Yakemchuk broke the 25-goal plateau and sailed past 100 penalty minutes with the Hitmen this year. That’s a year after he scored 19 goals (third among WHL D) on a middle-of-the-pack team and was the only 2024 draft-eligible to make one of the WHL’s All-Star teams when he was named a Central Division Second All-Star last season, which was important considering he was only a couple of weeks away from being eligible for the 2024 draft. I thought he was mostly unnoticeable at U18 worlds for Canada, but part of that was his role/usage and he has looked completely himself in an even greater role on another lackluster team this season.

Led by his instincts, plenty of confidence and legit skill for a D his size, he has generated a lot from the back end for a Hitmen team that has generated little. While his game in the WHL does come with some give and take, he’s got pro size, a pro shot (maybe an understatement given his gaudy goal totals) and an attack mentality that is complemented by good instincts on when to eagerly jump off the line or into the rush and when to hold it or outlet it. He also protects the puck really well for a defenseman, which allows him to make the most of his decisions to involve himself in the play around the offensive zone, holding pucks past and away from reaching defenders and occasionally dazzling one-on-one. It’s not uncommon to see him take a puck to the inside off the wall. And while I’d say he’s a good-but-not-great defender, he’s got the size and tools (it never hurts when you’re a 6-foot-3 righty) to take the steps he needs to there and he plays really hard at both ends. I would like to see his skating, which is fine but not a strength, improve, particularly from a standstill. There have been games this season in which he has dictated terms with his offense and physicality, really taking charge on the ice. If he can get a little quicker and continue to mature in his decision-making, he’s got real upside.

Photo:Jari Pestelacci / Getty ImagesRHD🇨🇦Tier 2WHLTier 313

Michael Brandsegg-Nygard

RW2Mora IKHeight:6′ 1″Weight:198 IbsDOB:Oct. 5, 2005Profile

Brandsegg-Nygard is one of the most well-rounded forwards in this class and the best of a wave of Norwegian players who’ve joined Mora IK’s program. He’s an October 2005 with a pro frame who played to above a point per game at the junior level and scored his first pro goal in HockeyAllsvenskan last season. He lost out on playoff action and a chance to play for the senior men’s national team at the World Championship after undergoing knee surgery last March, but he was healthy in time for his draft year and got off to an excellent start, registering nine points in his first three J20 games and quickly establishing himself back with the pro club.

He’s a multifaceted shooter who can score from the top of the circles with his wrister but also gets down to one knee and really powers through a good one-touch shot — skills that have helped him excel on both the flank and the bumper on the power play across domestic and international levels. He’s not a dynamic individual play creator but he’s got pro size, he works extremely hard and engages himself in the play, he plays well off of his linemates, and he’s got good all-around skill. He also plays the game with a physical tilt even against pros, constantly engaging in battles and keeping his effort level ramped up. He’s got a commitment to staying on pucks and finishing his checks, and uses a long stick to protect pucks well out wide to his body. He’s got good straight-line skating. He looks like a projectable middle-six driver to me, and potentially a solid top-sixer as the third guy on a more talented line with the right progress. There are some who aren’t sure he’s quite skilled enough for the front half of the first round, but you won’t find any who don’t like his game/style.

Photo:Bjorn Larsson / AFP via Getty ImagesRW🇳🇴Tier 3HockeyAllsvenskan14

Michael Hage

C5ChicagoHeight:6′ 1″Weight:187 IbsDOB:Apr. 14, 2006Profile

A star prospect who would have gone at the very top of the OHL draft had he not chosen to go to the Chicago Steel and commit to the University of Michigan, Hage was limited to 13 games last season (five goals, five assists and 10 points) after undergoing shoulder surgery. There are some USHL and NCAA circles who believe that had he not lost that time, he might have been in the top-10 conversation in this draft class. Then, for a time, some viewed him as more of a late first. And while I expect him to go 15-25, I’m starting to really believe in his top-15 merits. The Steel really struggled out of the gate this year but both he and the team found another level in the second half.

Hage is a natural center who has it all. He’s got pro size and skating, he’s got dual-threat skill as a shooter and passer, he’s naturally talented as a handler, he can create for himself or elevate a line, he plays hard, he stays on pucks, he battles, and he reads the game at an advanced level with an intelligent, studious approach to the way he maneuvers around the ice. I like him in puck control/protection. He’s got detail and work ethic. He’s also, I’m told, taller by an inch or two than his NHL Central Scouting listing, with room to fill out his lean and athletic frame after lost time in the gym. And he has driven and produced offensively to stamp himself as one of the USHL’s best players despite there being little around him and after missing most of last season. I could see him following a similar path to the one Joshua Roy has in Montreal as a star minor hockey prospect who wasn’t drafted in the first round but worked his way back into that kind of cachet after the draft (Hage is going to be a first-rounder, though, and I expect we’ll see him step up for Team Canada at U18 worlds in the spring).

Photo:Alina Nelson / Chicago SteelC🇨🇦Tier 3USHL15

Tij Iginla

C6KelownaHeight:6′ 0″Weight:182 IbsDOB:Aug. 1, 2006Profile

After playing his rookie season in a limited role with the WHL champion Seattle Thunderbirds — at times even scratched — Tij, the son of Jarome Iginla and the No. 9 pick in the 2021 WHL Bantam Draft, was traded in June to Kelowna and has taken off with the Rockets, regularly looking dangerous both off the rush and attacking inside the offensive zone.

He’s an excellent skater who can beat you in a straight-out race, cut past you laterally with quick weight shifts, or build speed through tight crossover patterns around the offensive zone. On the puck, he’s a dangerous individual creator who can create in knifing bursts and works quickly to put defenders on their heels, attacking on angles and jumps. Off of it, he’s got great instincts for jumping into gaps in coverage to get open for his linemates. His snapshot, which has a traditional look to it and is more wrists and leverage than the curl-and-drag you commonly see now, is a major weapon, consistently beating goalies cleanly with both its pop and how quickly it comes off. He’s got great handling and adjustability, which blend with real creativity to create a threatening one-on-one player. He’s also a fan-favorite type who gets after it on the forecheck and involves himself in the play often with some sneaky strength. Add in NHL puck skill and a dangerous and heavy wrister from midrange, and you’ve got a fun player and prospect. He’s got a top-six, scoring-skill-jump profile. I debated ranking him a couple of spots higher here.

Photo:Steve Dunsmoor / CHL ImagesC🇨🇦Tier 3WHL16

Liam Greentree

RW3WindsorHeight:6′ 2″Weight:207 IbsDOB:Jan. 1, 2006Profile

After becoming a well-liked player for his consistency on a deep Spitfires team last year (consistency which led OHL rookies in goals with 25 and earned him a First All-Rookie Team nod), Greentree was named captain of a rebuilding team in Windsor this year and led the team in scoring by a wide margin to prove that he could drive offence himself, answering questions some had after he was just OK at the summer’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup. He also had a strong showing at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game (in which he scored, was robbed and had multiple looks) in a measuring stick game against other top prospects.

He’s a big, strong kid whose game is all about being around it. He finds his ways onto pucks inside the offensive zone, stays on them, wins battles, keeps his feet moving, plays an opportunistic style, and then has decent skill and an NHL release (the puck comes off of his stick hard and quickly, and hits his spots). I haven’t seen a dynamic quality, and he isn’t a burner (though his speed is decent when he gets going even if he’s not the quickest through his first few steps), but he’s got pro size and a well-rounded toolkit and has shown more and more individual skill to build out a nice statistical profile to complement the completeness of his game. Nobody was surprised when he was named Windsor’s captain, either. He’s not going to be a front-line guy but he looks like he’s got the makings of a solid NHL forward who can play up and down a lineup. When one part of his game isn’t working, he’s got a B, C and D game that most other players his age don’t have.

Photo:Tim Cornett / OHL ImagesRW🇨🇦Tier 3OHL17

Trevor Connelly

LW2Tri-CityHeight:6′ 1″Weight:156 IbsDOB:Feb. 28, 2006Profile

Connelly is a talented playmaking winger who has been highly productive and consistently flashed exciting individual skill over the last two seasons, with Tri-City in the USHL and for Team USA at both the Hlinka Gretzky Cup (where he led the Americans in scoring with 10 points in five games on route to a bronze medal) and at the World Jr. A Challenge (where he again led the Americans with 11 points in six games on route to a bronze medal). He’s committed to Providence.

Teams have expressed character-based concerns, though, further detailed here.

He’s a high-end talent who has room to develop physically and add strength, and whose slight build doesn’t hold back his shot (which uses a quick release to fool goalies) or his skating (which is fast and fluid even without the muscle/power that’s coming). I like his work rate off of the puck. He possesses some of the better hands, on-puck movement at speed, offensive-zone problem solving, and touch as a passer in the draft, regularly making difficult skill plays in tight coverage. He’s a dynamic one-on-one player who can turn defenders inside out with his hands and uses quick crossovers and a light skating stride to be agile on cuts, jumps and changes of direction. He’s creative. He seems to have a really good understanding of how to deploy his skill and outsmart opposing structures. He’s as comfortable playing off of his backhand as his forehand. Connelly’s ability to beat players laterally and shake around and through coverage, combined with his playmaking sense, gives him top-six, PP1 NHL upside as a player.

Photo:Steven Ellis / Daily FaceoffLW🇺🇸Tier 3USHL18

Aron Kiviharju

LHD4HIFKHeight:5′ 9″Weight:170 IbsDOB:Jan. 25, 2006Profile

Kiviharju is the player on this list who has been on the scene the longest. Due to the time he has lost in his draft year following a lower-body injury which required surgery, his past context is also particularly relevant because of the role it will play in when he’s selected.

He made the leap to Finland’s top junior league at 15 and didn’t just play but excelled, immediately becoming one of its most productive defensemen and even wearing a letter on his jersey. He then played and starred at the U18 worlds twice; first in Germany at 16, topping Finland’s blue line with six points in six games to help steer them (figuratively, but also literally steering the game on the ice) to a silver medal, and then again in Switzerland (still as an underager), where he was the best defenseman on a team that disappointingly lost in the quarters. He also led the Finns to bronze at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, again as an underager. Last season, after an excellent preseason with TPS, it looked like he might play his way into being the youngest full-time player in Liiga and at the world juniors. But then he struggled to establish himself, bounced between levels and was one of the final cuts for Finland’s under-20 national team. This season, after making a move away from TPS to join HIFK for his draft year, he got off to an up-and-down start, scored his first pro goal, and then got hurt (he would have been a top player for a Finnish world junior team that could have used him on the back end, too).

He was always going to need a big year for teams to use a high pick on a diminutive defenseman, which makes the time lost that much more impactful. I still like him in the late first round but even then there are many NHL scouts who’d be hesitant using this high a selection on him at the moment.

I’m a fan of the way Kiviharju plays the game. He manages play in front of him with impressive poise and comfort, directing and influencing play all the way down the ice. He effortlessly advances play under pressure inside his own zone, side-stepping forecheckers to headman pucks. He walks the line beautifully, with a knack for shaping shots through to the net. His first touch on the move is always perfectly caught. He’s clever. He processes the game faster than the opposition and sees things that others don’t see. And he’s a smart defender who gaps up well and gets pucks going the other way quickly with little bump passes and exits in order to offset some of his size limitations.

He’s definitely most noticeable breaking the puck out of his own zone, where his little carries and outlets make a big difference. He shows deception across the line though as well, although there are times when I’d like to see him look to attack and take charge himself in the offensive zone a little more. It can look like he’s always trying to set up the next heady little play instead of just commanding it. When he does really attack, he usually accomplishes what he’s looking to as well because he’s hyper aware out there of the way the play develops. Cerebral is the perfect word. He can lack a separation gear and quickness in straight lines, which can result in a lot of resets, but he’s quick and comfortable through his crossovers and usually makes the right play when he does have to turn back and regroup. He also plays his off-side comfortably. I still like him but there’s a chance he continues to slide on my list.

Photo:Daniela Porcelli / Associated PressLHD🇫🇮Tier 3Liiga19

Adam Jiricek

RHD4HC PlzenHeight:6′ 2″Weight:178 IbsDOB:Jun. 28, 2006Profile

Adam Jiricek, the younger brother of Blue Jackets top prospect David, is a summer birthday who worked his way from junior into Czechia’s top pro rung as a 16-year-old last season. He lost this season to a pair of knee injuries (one right before the world juniors and then another almost right away in the tournament, the latter of which required surgery and ended his season) though and even before he went down I didn’t think his draft year had gone as well as he would have hoped for and I was starting to question why some were as high on him as they were. Still, it’s not a coincidence that he played atop Czechia’s defense alongside Kings draft pick Jakub Dvorak, even as an underager, at the U18 worlds last spring, and it’s not a coincidence he made the early jump to the pro game.

He doesn’t have quite the presence that his brother has, but Adam plays the game with confidence and intention and has shown real ambition at times against his peers. He’s got good four-way mobility, an active disposition (he has also shown at the pro level that he can simplify and play a more effective game), balanced shooting mechanics, and an eye for spacing and for identifying opportunities to jump on both sides of the puck, plus legit skill with the puck to build upon. There are definitely tools and room to grow his game and fill out his frame. He’s also competitive, I like his defensive habits and he’s got size and ability. I remain a little more cautious in my evaluation of him than most scouts because he feels a little rawer than the defensemen in front of him here to me, though. And the injury is a setback. I thought about ranking him one or two spots lower here.

Photo:Vaclav Salek / Associated PressRHD🇨🇿Tier 3Czechia20

Igor Chernyshov

LW3Dynamo MoscowHeight:6′ 2″Weight:192 lbsDOB:Nov. 30, 2005Profile

Chernyshov is a November 2005 who has progressed in line with his older age, establishing himself as a point-per-game MHL player and scoring his first KHL goal (at 16 years and 352 days, he was actually the 11th-youngest player to ever play in a KHL game) last season and bouncing between the MHL and KHL this year. At the junior level, I felt he was creating more looks than his production suggested in the first half of the season and generating some good looks while playing very little in his appearances with the big club. Then, in the second half, the points really started to fall and his production elevated back to where it belonged to reaffirm his clear first-round merits.

He’s a big, strong winger and modern power-forward type who plays a straight-line game and has the individual skill and quick release to go at defenders and make plays off the rush, or finish from the slot with a quick, one-touch shot in zone. He’s a smooth skater, too, which complements his impressive rush game. Add in a committed game off the puck and there’s a lot to like about his mould. He can attack at defenders in a variety of ways, threaten on the puck or get open off of it, and he works hard and profiles like a pro and future top-nine NHL winger.

Photo:Vladimir Fedorenko / Associated PressLW🇷🇺Tier 3MHLTier 421

Emil Hemming

RW4TPSHeight:6′ 1″Weight:201 IbsDOB:Jun. 27, 2006Profile

Hemming is a raw but very interesting prospect who has battled inconsistencies in his play but also often shows real skill and upside/pro tools offensively.

Last year, his deployment at Finland’s U20 level fluctuated with TPS after showing so much promise early on (which included a strong showing at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge before an illness kept him out of Finland’s last two games, and a six-point hat trick with TPS’s junior team). Then, after hitting a bit of a wall late in the year, he was dangerous again internationally at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where his four goals and nine points in five games led the Finns to a bronze medal. This year, Hemming has turned heads with his skill when at the junior level and has had some really nice stretches of play in Liiga as well, scoring his first seven pro goals as a 17-year-old (he won’t turn 18 until next summer). Again, though, after making the Finnish world junior team, bouts of careless play in his own zone resulted in a minutes reduction.

Hemming has clear tools as a 6-foot-1, 200-ish-pound winger with real individual skill as both a handler and a shooter. I’d like to see him use his size a little more, but that’s not uncommon for a player his age. He’s got high-end (or close) skill, a dangerous wrister on the power play (from the flank and the bumper) and a quick, one-touch release and catch-and-release motion. When the puck lands on his stick and he looks to attack and keeps his feet moving, he can create looks and beat defenders and goalies. There are the makings of a potential top-six player in there, but he does have more to work on than most of the players in front of him, and he comes with some risk as a result.

RW🇫🇮Tier 4Liiga U2022

Henry Mews

RHD5OttawaHeight:6′ 0″Weight:181 IbsDOB:Mar. 9, 2006Profile

Mews is a player of varied opinions that scouts aren’t quite sure what to make of. I still think he belongs as a late-first rounder, though. The No. 7 pick in the 2022 OHL Priority Selection, Mews played an important role on one of the best teams in the OHL as a rookie last season but has had more of an up-and-down draft year. He has twice played very well for Hockey Canada, first in a standout showing as the captain of the otherwise disappointing Canada White at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, tying for the team scoring lead with eight points in six games, and then in another strong performance at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, again leading Canada’s defense in scoring. But he has also looked sloppy and unsure of himself at times this season (or like he’s reluctant to play his style with the 67’s), though more so early on than in the second half (I actually think he has made some important progress since the new year). Some have softened their outlook on him but I still like how his game could translate up levels, especially with a team that involves their D.

Mews is an athletic, right-handed shot who is capable (keyword) of consistently driving and tilting play from the back end. When he’s at his best, he dictates play by regularly looking to activate into the rush or off the line to use his skill and playmaking ability from the back end. He’s capable of defending hard, too (though sometimes I think he’s working harder than he is effectively in battles). But he has struggled at times with his positioning and seems to get beat one-on-one or on misreads a little too often (everything, as one scout said to me, is just a little too “chaotic” with him at the moment). He’s actually a good skater, too, so those things should be happening a little less than they do. I love his attack and take-instead-of-give mentality offensively, and it’s complemented by NHL skill, an NHL shot and an ability to execute against coverage and pressure to the middle third of the ice (he’s an impressive slot passer). His business inside the offensive zone, jumping in and out of the play, will occasionally catch him in a bad spot, but can also really impact play and offense when his team needs it. He’s still got some learning to do on how to mitigate risk but he has shown more signs that he’s learning how to apply his game. His ceiling will be determined by the consistency of his reads and choices. His inconsistency this season will leave him out of this range for some, though.

Photo:Luke Durda / OHL ImagesRHD🇨🇦Tier 4OHL23

Beckett Sennecke

RW5OshawaHeight:6′ 2″Weight:177 IbsDOB:Jan. 28, 2006Profile

Sennecke is a high-skill individual player with size who has had some ups and downs this season but whose skill set is exciting. One of the more productive rookies in the OHL last year, Sennecke was a standout on a young Oshawa team, earning Second All-Rookie Team honours and playing both wings successfully (he’s a right-handed shot but often played the left wing with would-be Avalanche draft pick Calum Ritchie, although he has played mostly right wing this year). He looked a little skinny when I first went to see him play last year, and he has still looked that way in recent viewings in Oshawa and Moncton, but his stride and shot, which both lacked power a year ago, have made clear progress (his release, which has always been naturally quick, now has some oomph, and his skating has really smoothed out and looks like a borderline strength, which has helped his rush game).

Sennecke can definitely handle the puck. He’s got extremely soft hands and a confidence on it, even under pressure spinning and weaving off the wall or attacking right into defenders with his stick skill — regularly finding his way out of tough spots and traffic with craft and creativity. The puck just sticks to him. He also moves well in control, side-stepping checks and sticks nicely. He’s impressively dexterous and does a good job catching bad passes and handling the puck in his feet. But he does have a bad habit of playing one-on-one a little too much, which has frustrated some. He’ll dangle past a defender multiple times a game, but also turn it over trying to be a hero when there are better plays. There are also times when he needs to empty the tank on the backcheck, but he has made more of an effort to finish his checks and battle through contact this year (I’ve seen some games in which he has battled and others in which he hasn’t, and I know that has frustrated some scouts, because it is there). Still, he has legitimate skill, he’s one of Oshawa’s only real creators, and his feet and stick move in and out of unison to shade away from opposing reach-ins really well. He also sees through coverage well and — when he’s not so focused on making the individual play — can really pass it through gaps in coverage. I’m not sold on him as a first-rounder but he has clear talent. I know scouts were keen to watch him closely at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, and I thought he was one of White’s most noticeable players with the puck and worked hard, so that was positive. There’s some risk and some potential reward with picking him, because he may be one of the only players taken in the back half of the first round with true top-six skill.

Photo:David St. Louis / CHL ImagesRW🇨🇦Tier 4OHL24

Terik Parascak

RW6Prince GeorgeHeight:6′ 0″Weight:173 IbsDOB:May 28, 2006Profile

Parascak was a fourth-round pick in the WHL Bantam Draft who played at Edge School last year and went scoreless in five WHL games before bursting onto the scene this season, quickly climbing the lists of NHL scouts. He’s got a chance to lead all WHL rookies in scoring and finish top 10 in the league overall. And while he has certainly benefited from playing primarily on a line with veterans Ondrej Becher and Zac Funk (the league’s goal-scoring leader and a recent free-agent signing of the Washington Capitals), he has fit in perfectly with Funk’s power-scoring game and Becher’s play-driving.

Parascak’s off-puck timing and spatial awareness have so far defined his game, as he regularly gets into the right spots at the right time to bang home rebounds, tap in backdoor passes or get out in transition to give his D a stretch option on outlets (without really cheating for it). He anticipates play offensively at a very high level, knows how to get open and play to his linemates’ strengths, has a great wrister and one-touch shot from midrange, always goes to the net when the play funnels there instead of hanging out wide, and has skill around the net and in tight to his body when challenged by defenders. He also uses his linemates well, has shown nice touch as a passer, and has easy handling ability. He’s not a flashy skater (though I think he’s a better, more controlled skater than I and others realized after earlier viewings) or individual play creator off the rush, but with timing and good skill, he makes things happen offensively. He always seems to be around chances and certainly knows where to be and how to get lost in coverage/use spacing to his advantage. He has had some big point total/shot total nights this year where he has gotten or set up looks on a shift-to-shift basis with his timing and sense.

Photo:James Doyle / CHL ImagesRW🇨🇦Tier 4WHL25

Maxim Massé

RW7ChicoutimiHeight:6′ 2″Weight:186 IbsDOB:Apr. 7, 2006Profile

Massé was the first forward taken in the QMJHL’s 2022 draft (No. 3) and lived up to the selection (which was not the consensus choice at the time), playing to nearly a point per game and nearly 30 goals as a 16-year-old last season as the leading goal scorer (second in points) on a young Chicoutimi team and winning the CHL’s rookie of the year award. He has earned high praise from around the QMJHL and also performed well for Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, scoring five goals and six points in five games. This year, though his production has only taken a modest step, he leads Chicoutimi in goals and points.

Massé possesses a natural and versatile shot and above-average skill across the board. But it’s the completeness of his game that really stands out for a player his age. He can penalty kill, he’ll go to the dirty areas and make plays around the net, he battles, and he’s just a well-rounded player who stays around it and goes to the right spots, whether that’s swinging to the wall to pick up cycled pucks before defenders do or popping out into the slot at the right time. With continued work on his below-average skating (which will likely mean he’s picked lower than where I have him here, as some scouts are concerned about his pace of play), he’ll be a good NHL player. I thought he had one of the better performances on a thinner Team Red up front at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, too, which probably helped his softening first-round stock for some. He has been really good since then, too, and was a big part of a recent 10-game win streak (he also had a four-goal game in late January). He reminds me of recent, well-rounded QMJHL draft picks like Dawson Mercer and Zach Dean, though I think he has more skill than the latter did at the same age. I still think he’s a late first-rounder.

Photo:QMJHL ImagesRW🇨🇦Tier 4QMJHL26

Sacha Boisvert

C7MuskegonHeight:6′ 2″Weight:176 IbsDOB:Mar. 17, 2006Profile

It’s not easy to score 30 goals in the USHL in your draft year and this year’s Muskegon team has had two players do it in Boisvert and Matvei Gridin. It’s even harder to do as a center who is counted upon and keyed in on. But as one rival USHL coach put it to me: “Sacha Boisvert is a really good player.” Boisvert, a top prospect in Quebec growing up who was a first-round pick into the QMJHL even after he’d gone to the U.S. for the final two years of his minor hockey, is a North Dakota commit who was named to the USHL’s All-Rookie Second Team last year after he finished third on the Lumberjacks in scoring as a 16-year-old. As a 17-year-old, he was named an alternate captain for Muskegon and has played big minutes, often playing 20-24 in the second half of the season.

Boisvert’s got the desired height and position on his side, room to fill out his once-wiry frame (which he already added a bunch of muscle to last summer; he still looks lean with further growth to come), and NHL skill. That includes a quick and accurate NHL-level release, good instincts on and off the puck, above-average feet (he’s a decent skater, even if a little upright in his stance), a developing power game and great feel with the puck on his stick both at speed and in slowing the game down (though a high grip and long stick can occasionally limit him with the puck so far out in front of his body). Add in some competitiveness and a two-way commitment and there’s a lot to like. He’s got to put some more weight on and improve in the faceoff circle (which will come with more strength) but there’s a projectable game there with the right development/refinement and I’m confident the staff at North Dakota will do a good job with him.

Photo:Courtesy of Muskegon LumberjacksC🇨🇦Tier 4USHL27

Leo Sahlin Wallenius

LHD5VaxjoHeight:6′ 0″Weight:176 lbsDOB:Apr. 10, 2006Profile

I really like this kid (to the point I thought about ranking him in the early 20s instead of late 20s here). He takes what’s given while maintaining an eager game. He’s an excellent skater (one of the better-skating D in the draft) and playmaker who transports pucks through neutral ice, joins the rush, jumps in and out of lanes, and then has the cleverness needed to hold and play pucks into space with proper timing. He’s got good hands for a defenseman. His offensive-zone instincts are already there. And whenever I watch him, it feels like he has taken a step since the last viewing as he builds confidence and finds new ways to impact play. He defends well with his feet and a good stick, is able to get back into the play if he has jumped up into it, and competes well enough. There are two legit 2024 D prospects on Vaxjo’s J20 team this season, and I was partial to Alfons Freij coming into the year but, to me, Sahlin Wallenius has looked like the better prospect basically since the puck dropped. They both have top-two-round talent and some upside. Sahlin Wallenius, led by his mobility, looks like a clear first-rounder to me. I expect him to establish himself as one for everyone else at U18 worlds and, with another good summer of training, play pro hockey next year.

Photo:Steven Ellis / Daily FaceoffLHD🇸🇪Tier 4J2028

Ryder Ritchie

RW8Prince AlbertHeight:6′ 0″Weight:175 lbsDOB:Aug. 3, 2006Profile

Ritchie is another on a long list of summer birthdays in this draft class who excelled as 16-year-olds in their respective leagues last season. He finished third on a bottom-of-the-standings Prince Albert team, scoring nearly a point per game. I liked what I saw of him at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge as well, and he was one of Canada’s most dangerous forwards at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup to kick-start this year as a standout for scouts — play which continued early on as the Raiders’ focal point offensively to start this season before tapering off a bit before being sidelined in mid-December with a lower-body injury. He has since returned and I’ve liked what I’ve seen out of him in the last month or so. While he hasn’t fully met the high expectations I had for him this season, his combination of skill and skating warrants first-round consideration. He’s also now listed at 6 feet, up about an inch and a half from last season.

Ritchie’s a shifty playmaking winger who can make highlight-reel skill plays with the puck. He can play at multiple paces and adjust his tempo between them. He protects extremely well and will commonly shake past or around opposing players, building speed through his crossovers to hang onto the puck inside the offensive zone until a play presents itself. There’s also some real creativity to his game as an equal opportunity facilitator and finisher (he’s got a really nifty curl-and-drag and snap release that can cleanly beat goalies from midrange). He’s a crafty, talented winger who looks like he’s got top-six upside to me, even if the points haven’t popped this year. I could see him, with good health, becoming a 90-to-100-point player next season.

Photo:Jonathan Kozub / Getty ImagesRW🇨🇦Tier 4WHL29

Andrew Basha

LW4Medicine HatHeight:5′ 11″Weight:174 IbsDOB:Nov. 8, 2005Profile

Basha has impressed me this season, both early on while playing on a line with Cayden Lindstrom before his injury and in the second half when has continued to manufacture offense on his own in Lindstrom’s absence. He, like Ritchie, is also a couple of inches taller than he was a year ago. He has just looked really good, very consistently.

He’s a good but not great skater who gets off the mark quickly and attacks in short bursts but isn’t a burner. And while he has excellent hands, he doesn’t hold onto the puck too long (a common problem for players with his skill set), instead using a two-touch short or a quick handle into a deft pass back against the grain to make the majority of his plays. His patience then becomes a utility rather than a crutch, only going to it when he needs to and relying on quick reads the rest of the time. He also shows a willingness to forecheck, play through bumps and fight for positioning and possession. He makes plays under sticks and through feet and into space, he thrives moving off the puck in and out of give-and-gos, and he has legitimate skill. Once the cream of the crop is gone in this draft, he’s right there in that next cluster for me in the late-first/second round. I’ve really liked watching him play.

Photo:Jonathan Kozub / Getty ImagesLW🇨🇦Tier 4WHL30

Marek Vanacker

LW5BrantfordHeight:6′ 0″Weight:174 IbsDOB:Apr. 12, 2006Profile

Vanacker is a player who, after he impressed me in an early season live viewing, I immediately made time for on tape and asked around about. Since then, I’ve become more and more of a fan. After a good showing in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game’s combine testing, he has found another level in the second half to emerge as the leading scorer on the Bulldogs after Chicago Blackhawks prospect Nick Lardis went down with an injury in January.

Vanacker has shown real confidence on the attack this season with the puck in his hands. There’s a lot to like. He’s got size, he’s a really strong skater, he’ll take pucks to the net, he protects and shields the puck well, he knows where to be and go on the ice, he’s got a solid two-way game and he works to get the most out of his above-average skill. He’s got the makings of a complementary winger and he knows who he is and what he’s going to have to be up levels.

Photo:OHL ImagesLW🇨🇦Tier 4OHL31

Cole Hutson

LHD6U18Height:5′ 10″Weight:165 IbsDOB:Jun. 28, 2006Profile

The most productive defenseman at the NTDP over the last two years, Hutson is a highly talented offensive defenseman who doesn’t turn 18 until the day of the draft and is expected to replace his brother as BU’s power-play quarterback and play creator from the back end next season. He’s a little taller than Lane was at the same age, with a light 5-foot-10 listing that is still small but might grow a little yet. His point-per-game U17 season (and well above point-per-game U18 team production) at the program last year was actually more prolific than Lane’s was, and he did it while four and a half months younger than his brother was at the same age (he was the most talented defenseman on either of the NTDP’s teams last year). This year, though the points haven’t come quite as easily for him, it’s clear Cole is trying to really dial in his game defensively, the team doesn’t play as freely as he probably could if he had a longer leash, and the totals are still impressive. He was the most impressive 2024 defenseman at last year’s U18 worlds for me, too, playing 17-19 minutes per game as an underager, and I expect him to rise to the challenge again at this year’s tournament as a returnee.

Cole’s got more of a physical element to his game than Lane does and plays opponents really hard so that his size is less noticeable (Lane’s plenty competitive, but Cole delivers more hits if you will), gluing himself to them in order to be as disruptive as possible and really outwardly battling along the wall. He quickly identifies second and third options, often a step ahead of opposing structures. The way he shows one thing and does another is pretty unique. His little hesitations in control into quick, decisive attacking moments grab your attention and allow him to make plays past the first layer. He has the puck on a string at times. I think he’s a better skater than his big brother was at the same age (he snakes his way through gaps in coverage so effortlessly, and his lateral agility on cuts is a major strength). He executes some beautiful stretch passes. He’s got great touch and feel on his backhand as well as his forehand. And he’s holding his own defensively for my money. His teams have been better with him out there on the back end in each of the last two seasons than without him. Some teams will question whether his game will translate and progress enough to hang at the NHL level but I’m still a big believer in the talent and like him as a late-first/second-rounder even though he might well go later than that.

Photo:Jari Pestelacci / Getty ImagesLHD🇺🇸Tier 4NTDP32

Jett Luchanko

C8GuelphHeight:5′ 11″Weight:180 IbsDOB:Aug. 21, 2006Profile

After registering just 14 points in his rookie season in the OHL last year, Luchanko got off to a good enough start to earn a ‘B’ rating from NHL Central Scouting in the fall (which indicates a second-/third-round candidate) and then rose all the way to No. 21 among North American skaters on their midseason list after emerging as Guelph’s leading scorer.

Luchanko’s an average-sized player with above-average skill and impressive skating ability, but it’s his on-ice intelligence that defines him. He understands timing, spacing and puck movement at a very advanced level, always finding his way into good spots. And there are other tools. He protects pucks well with a wide gait. He’s got really good balance, posture and mechanics, and while I wouldn’t call his upper-echelon skating elite or explosive, it’s a definite asset and he’s got some pull-away speed (he also finished first in on-ice testing results at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game). He plays in and out of give-and-gos. He can penalty kill. But it’s the consistency of his reads, paths and decisions that define his game. He makes the right play with the puck almost always, and he’s extremely unselfish (there are actually times when I’d like to see him hold onto pucks and attack so that I can evaluate his skill better, but he just always gives it to the open man and then gets back open). When there’s a play to be made, he won’t hesitate to make it. I’m not sure whether his lack of a dynamic quality will hold him back up levels, but he’s already a go-to player in all situations for Guelph and he’s got quieter tools and habits that should help him. He’s in the late-first/early-second-round conversation for teams and has held at No. 33 on my last two lists.

Photo:Natalie Shaver / OHL ImagesC🇨🇦Tier 4OHL33

Tanner Howe

LW6ReginaHeight:5′ 10″Weight:175 IbsDOB:Nov. 28, 2005Profile

Howe has been an interesting case study for folks this year. It’s his third full season in the WHL and his fourth in part. And despite having been very productive in the league even before his draft year (69 points in 64 games as the league’s second-most productive under-17 player, and then 85 in 67 as the league’s fifth-most productive under-18 player), he still had to prove to people that he could do it as ‘the guy’ because the player at the top of both of those lists was Connor Bedard, his frequent linemate. He was also largely unnoticeable in front of the NHL’s brain trust in Germany at 2022 U18 worlds, despite playing alongside Bedard (a combination Team Canada probably was a little too reluctant to move off of), and again at last year’s U18 worlds in Switzerland, where he was given more of an opportunity as one of three returnees and was fine but unspectacular, eventually getting banged up and falling out of the top-six. He did play away from Bedard more than I think most people realize (including for stretches as the team’s second-line center behind him) and did show he could be successful in driving his own line in the WHL when he did, though. This season, replacing Bedard as the Pats’ captain, he has led a poor team in scoring by a hefty margin to demonstrate that he can create offense for himself and make his linemates better even when he’s not surrounded by talent. Because of his average size and good but not standout skill/skating, he’s viewed as more of a second-rounder.

There’s still a lot to like about his game, though. He is by all accounts a competitor and leader. He doesn’t necessarily wow you with his skill level for a player with his statistical profile and size, but he makes a lot of small-area plays (little five-to-10-foot passes through feet and sticks under pressure), he always seems to be around the puck inside the offensive zone, he’s tenacious off the puck, he finishes his checks, he can play down the middle or on the wing and he’s got well-rounded skill and decent skating (which he hasn’t always been given credit for but demonstrated in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game’s testing). I like him. He’s a competitor with skill and that can take you a long way. I won’t be surprised if he becomes an NHL player and secondary contributor.

Photo:Jonathan Kozub / Getty ImagesLW🇨🇦Tier 4WHL34

Nikita Artamonov

LW7TorpedoHeight:5′ 11″Weight:187 IbsDOB:Nov. 17, 2005Profile

Anton Silayev drew the majority of the attention with Torpedo, but scouts have also been impressed by what they’ve seen of Artamonov, who had a strong draft-age season for a forward in the KHL and clicked back against his peers in the MHL playoffs once the pro team was eliminated.

Artamonov’s a skilled and spatially aware left-shot right winger who plays the game to get open and apply pressure when the puck gets to him with his quick hands and good feel for the game. He knows who he is and how to best fit into a line, he plays within himself, and he allows the game — and the play — to come to him. He’s a good skater who plays the game with decent pace, though I’d say he’s more above average than high end. He’s got above-average tools in most of the areas that matter. And I think he’s got a little more of a finishing/goal-scoring element to his game than his statistical profile in the KHL indicated, which we saw immediately in the MHL. He’s a solid B or B-plus prospect, even if there isn’t a star quality to his game and he’s a sub-6-foot winger.

LW🇷🇺Tier 4KHL35

Charlie Elick

RHD6BrandonHeight:6′ 3″Weight:194 IbsDOB:Jan. 17, 2006Profile

Elick is a right-shot defenseman with size and an extremely impressive athlete. Though his statistical profile through two seasons in the WHL doesn’t scream first-round consideration, his game has plenty of pro quality and he has impressed alongside his peers, including in a 26-minute performance in the gold medal game at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup last summer.

Led by standout physical attributes and excellent skating both forward and backward, Elick is a steady, engaged defender with real defensive upside and a developing offensive game. I like the way he defends in-zone and boxes out. He’s got a good stick and great feet defending the rush and gapping up, but can also step up and lay the body, which he does with force (he’s one of the hardest-hitting players in the draft, regularly driving through players to sit them down along the wall and occasionally even leaving his feet). He has shown he can use his skating to be more involved in the rush/transition this year. There are times when his decisions can catch him out of position, and he needs to continue to develop some soft skill, but teams are high on his toolsy makeup as a staunch defender with length, athleticism (he crushed on-ice testing at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game with the second-best overall results among the 12 defensemen) and standout mobility.

Photo:Jonathan Kozub / Getty ImagesRHD🇨🇦Tier 4WHL36

Lucas Pettersson

C9MoDoHeight:5′ 11″Weight:168 IbsDOB:Apr. 17, 2006Profile

Pettersson is a well-liked player in this Swedish age group who has played well and worn a letter for the national team, was the first draft-eligible player to play in an SHL game this season, and has really seen his counting stats increase in the second half at the J20 level.

He’s a smart and well-rounded two-way center who has talent and understands how to get the most out of his game. He makes decisions quickly on the ice and shoots it quickly when he gets it in good spots, with a dangerously accurate snap shot and a confident one-touch shot. He’s got great hands and an ability to delay and hesitate on defenders, freezing them off the rush so that he can cut past and gain an advantage. He’s also a fairly fast skater who does a good job forcing turnovers, intercepting passes and creating breaks for himself. Plus, he’s a capable penalty killer. He deserves first-round consideration and, if not, he should go very early on Day 2. I’m a fan.

Photo:Steven Ellis / Daily FaceoffC🇸🇪Tier 4J2037

Matvei Gridin

RW9MuskegonHeight:6′ 1″Weight:182 IbsDOB:Mar. 1, 2006Profile

Gridin, a Russian import to the USHL who is committed to play at Michigan next fall, got off to one of the hottest starts in North American junior hockey and has continued to produce, to the point he’s going to lead the USHL in scoring. That’s pretty uncommon for a draft-aged player and is usually reserved for first-round locks. I don’t quite have him there but he’s in the conversation for me and may be a late first-rounder.

He’s got a desirable makeup as well, including a pro build, skill on the puck and a quick, NHL look to his release. He can play a north-south direct game and an east-west one with a little more poise. He regularly tries and pulls off difficult plays on the ice, he has shown he can snake his way out of trouble or play pucks through or past defenders, but he can also play off of his linemates. Part of that is a credit to his ability to think and adapt quickly on the ice (I’ve seen him lift his head from a pass reception and make a number of instinctual, no-panic plays under immediate pressure in a split second). He has also taken positive steps away from the puck to round out his game. Add in good size and good skating and there’s a lot to like about his upside as a potential middle-six winger.

Photo:Steven Ellis / Daily FaceoffRW🇷🇺Tier 4USHL38

Simon Zether

C10RogleHeight:6′ 3″Weight:186 IbsDOB:Oct. 18, 2005Profile

Zether is one of the older players on this list as an October 2005, but his profile so far also reflects his age. He was a point-per-game J20 player and got appearances at U18 worlds and the World Jr. A Challenge already last season, and took a smart but at times passive game to another level this season as Rogle’s captain at the J20 level — who dominated his peers in ways he didn’t a year ago to start the season — and an almost-everyday player for the SHL club since (he has played more games in the SHL than any other player in this class).

He has pro size to work with, an intelligent game built on plus-level vision, a head that’s always up and hands that control the puck smoothly at a little over 6-feet-2. He’s got work to do to get a little quicker but he has made progress there and he’s so good at knowing where to be and using spacing to his advantage that his average footspeed isn’t usually noticeable. He reads the game at a high level, he’s got some skill, he’s a right-shot center who plays a reliable game, and he has started to take pucks to the interior and look to create for himself a little more instead of always making the efficient but low-upside play. He’s a little more of a high-floor, low-ceiling type than others in this range, and there are teams that view him as more of a mid-round play, but I like him as a second-rounder.

Photo:Jari Pestelacci / Getty ImagesC🇸🇪Tier 4J2039

Cole Beaudoin

C11BarrieHeight:6′ 2″Weight:209 IbsDOB:Apr. 24, 2006Profile

The son of Eric Beaudoin, a former OHL captain and fourth-round NHL draft pick who played parts of three seasons in the NHL and had a successful career in Europe, Beaudoin plays a pro style and makes good reads and decisions around the ice. He’s a big, strong, driven, hardworking, decently skilled player who carried over his standout play at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup into his second OHL season with an eight-points-in-four-games preseason. While his start to the regular season was a little slower in production, he has worked his way back to a point per game and has played well in my viewings at both ends (in Barrie and Moncton for the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game). Both live and on tape, he has created some good looks that haven’t gone in, too.

An incredibly strong athlete in the gym, he already looks like a pro physically. Though he’s definitely not quick (which showed up in the on-ice testing in Moncton) and he needs to work on his skating, he’s a strong and sturdy skater once he gets into his stride, which allows him to get after it on the forecheck (where he excels) and backcheck (he really tracks pucks) and drive play down ice. Beaudoin is a very well-rounded player who supports pucks well on both sides, protects pucks well against defenders and can be relied upon defensively and offensively. He’s already wearing a letter, he’s got great habits and detail, he’s already built like a pro and then some, and I could see him as an OHL captain as early as next year and a really effective bottom-six player in the NHL someday.

Photo:Terry Wilson / OHL ImagesC🇨🇦Tier 4OHL40

Luke Misa

C12MississaugaHeight:5′ 10″Weight:170 IbsDOB:Nov. 25, 2005Profile

Misa is one of the better skaters in the draft and has been the Steelheads’ leading scorer this year as well as one of the leading assists men in the OHL. He’s a November 2005 who is in his third season in the OHL and was a predictable standout in combine testing at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game (he’s a great athlete).

He wins races and can create with his feet, regularly beating his man wide and getting a step on defenders for partial breaks (he rounds corners particularly fast and tight). He’s not the biggest kid, and the knocks on him in his first two years in the league were that he needed to use his speed to get to the middle third of the ice more and play with a more competitive edge, but he has made noticeable progress on both fronts this year to score more (though I know some, given his size, wish he’d put the puck in himself more again this year) and become more of a play-driver at both ends. He sees the ice well and processes the game quickly even at speed, which can sometimes be a problem for faster skaters. I like the way he jumps into gaps and creates quick looks. He’s starting to play into the guts and find his way out more, making better choices about when to go wide and when to drive into teams, push them back and make the kick-out play. And when he’s feeling it, he has the puck a lot and passes it well to the weak side of coverage. His player type does sometimes have a tougher time going from top-six AHLer to full-time NHLer, but I like his skating-sense combination to figure it out.

Photo:Brandon Soto / OHL ImagesC🇨🇦Tier 4OHL41

Yegor Surin

C13YaroslavlHeight:6′ 1″Weight:191 IbsDOB:Aug. 1, 2006Profile

Surin is a talented and multi-dimensional offensive player who really took off in the second half of the MHL regular season and into the playoffs, becoming one of the most impactful forwards in the league as an August birthday who is one of the youngest players on this list. He’s a good skater who plays with plenty of pace and tempo to hunt and win pucks or push play down ice. He can play all three forward positions. He excels on the flank on the power play because of his plus-vision and a dangerously quick release from midrange. He’s very physical and plays with a real chip on his shoulder. He can frustrate with his lack of discipline though, whether by trying to be too cute at five-on-five attempting unnecessary one-on-one plays, or by constantly taking careless penalties (scrums after the whistle, interference trying to be sly, high hits, stick infractions, etc.). Some of it you can live with because he’s competing for possession and battling for pucks or looking to play the body, but there are too many instances in a game where he’s reckless in his decision-making on and off the puck. I expect there will be teams that really like him because of his skill and fire, and others that think he doesn’t have the head for the game. NHL Central Scouting did recently update his listing from 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-1, which upgrades his projection and the likelihood that his style will translate up levels. I thought about ranking him in the late-30s here.

C🇷🇺Tier 4MHL42

Dominik Badinka

RHD7MalmoHeight:6′ 3″Weight:183 lbsDOB:Nov. 27, 2005Profile

Badinka has followed an interesting path, establishing himself across three different levels in three different countries over three different seasons pre-draft. He played at Czechia’s U20 level at 16, was quickly one of the better young D at Finland’s top junior level at 17 (he actually led all under-18 D in scoring at that level, outproducing players from the draft class ahead of him), and after establishing himself as a top D at Sweden’s J20 level this year, has played more games in the SHL than junior. While he’s a November 2005 and on the older side of the draft, he looks further along as well, both physically and in his game.

Malmo’s program has developed a bit of a reputation for how hard it has recruited players from outside Sweden, with a junior roster made up of Czechs, Slovaks, a Slovenian and a bunch of Danes and Norwegians this season. Badinka stood out within that group when he was there, playing with a presence about him at both ends. It was notable that he was cut from Czechia’s world junior team while a player like Tomas Galvas, who is also draft eligible, eventually made it and played, but I expect him to be a big part of that program moving forward. He’s got size, moves the puck and sees the ice well, likes to carry it and influence play, and plays hard and confidently. He’s a strong skater who takes space on both sides of the puck when it’s there. He missed out on playing at U18 worlds due to appendicitis, but I think he would have had some more buzz had he played. There’s a solid player to work with there, once you start talking about the second-round range in this draft. I don’t think I see a first-rounder, though.

RHD🇨🇿Tier 4J20Tier 543

Dean Letourneau

C14St. Andrew’sHeight:6′ 6″Weight:210 IbsDOB:Feb. 21, 2006Profile

Letourneau has drawn a lot of attention from scouts this season as a towering center who can skate. Believe it or not, I’ve had staff at SAC tell me he’s also closer to 6-foot-7 or 6-8 than his 6-6 listing from NHL Central Scouting, too. His skating, shot and puck control in tight to his body all leap out as unusual for a player his size. He’s fluid through his crossovers and comes out of them lighter than you might expect. It can be difficult to project players from the Prep Hockey Conference, but SAC has a track record of developing one or two prospects per draft, and BC did a good job bringing along Jack McBain, another big center who traveled a non-standard path.

When you see him on the ice, his makeup is striking. When he finishes his checks (which he needs to do more of), he can overpower opposing players at the boards or muscle through in control. Off the cycle, players at the prep level don’t engage with him, which allows him to take pucks off the wall and make plays with his good sense on the puck. He plays the flank on his off-side on the PP rather than the net-front/bumper role big men are usually tasked with. He’s got some vision, handling and a natural shot. I don’t love how passive he can be without the puck, though. There’s too much standing around and too much time spent with one hand on his stick. I’d like to see him close out pucks and win them back quicker than he does because he’s actually got a good stick when he’s around it. I’m not sure he’ll make a good penalty killer up levels (which players his size are usually asked to do) without an adjustment to his approach and play style. Those things can be taught, though, and there are definitely some real gifts/tools to work with. There haven’t been many forwards his size who’ve made it (it’s more common for a defenseman) but there are some who believe he can get to where Brian Boyle and a couple of others have as a bit of an exception to the rule. And if he’s more than that, he’ll be a pretty unique player.

He went down to play a couple of games for Sioux Falls in the USHL over the holiday break and didn’t look himself in 11 minutes per game, and hasn’t been able to return after SAC’s season ended due to a nagging injury (I know scouts would have liked to see him down there again). I believe he’s on the outside looking in for Team Canada for U18 worlds, as well. The expectation is that he’s going to play next season full-time in Sioux Falls before going to BC. He’s going to need some time but there are teams that will get excited about his makeup and consider him in the late-first/early second round (though I know there are some, like me, who’d like to see him be more involved off the puck). He’ll be fascinating to track.

Photo:Paul Mosey / St. Andrew’s CollegeC🇨🇦Tier 5HS44

Veeti Vaisanen

LHD7KooKooHeight:6 ‘ 0″Weight:177 lbsDOB:Feb. 15, 2006Profile

The No. 2 Finnish D in this draft class to Aron Kiviharju for me, Vaisanen has also already played ahead of his age group, first to help Finland to bronze at last year’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup, again at the 2024 U18 worlds in Finland, and all season this year as a regular in Liiga. I’d expect him to be a big part of the Finnish world juniors team in the two tournaments after he’s drafted as well.

He’s a competitive and smooth-skating two-way defenseman who established himself as a minutes-eating player at Finland’s U20 level, made his Liiga debut in the playoffs with KooKoo last year, and played in 50 Liiga games this season, registering 10 points (the most by an under-18 D in the league in five years) and playing to decent underlying results. I like his stick, his gaps and his positional awareness defensively. He’s a comfortable distributor, shooter (he’s got a hard shot) and handler with the puck, even if his skill level on offense isn’t dynamic. I have questioned his decision-making in control at times (he has been prone to coughing pucks up when playing against higher-end competition), but I think some of that is just a byproduct of his age and the advanced levels he has been asked to play at. He’s got a chance to be a No. 4-6 D.

Photo:Daniela Porcelli / Associated PressLHD🇫🇮Tier 5Liiga45

John Mustard

C15WaterlooHeight:6 ‘ 0″Weight:180 IbsDOB:Aug. 16, 2006Profile

Mustard was one of the top players in 16U AAA hockey last year and has been one of the top rookies in the USHL in his draft year, stepping right in to become Waterloo’s leading goal scorer and a real driver. He’s a tremendous skater who uses his speed to get out in transition, turn defenders with the puck, get on pucks and win races. A Providence commit, he fits well with the Friars as a hardworking forward who gets after it. He’s also shown some skill, a quick release and a hard wrister this season, and is just a month away from eligibility for the 2025 NHL Draft. His athleticism, skating, competitiveness and well-rounded skill will carry him a long way.

Photo:Steven Ellis / Daily FaceoffC🇨🇦Tier 5USHL46

Kamil Bednarik

C16U18Height:6′ 0″Weight:185 IbsDOB:May 26, 2006Profile

Bednarik’s an easy player to like and is well-liked by scouts for his consistency and his know-how. He’s a heady, methodical player who makes little plays all over the ice and does everything well without having the dynamic quality you’d see in a first-rounder. He’s got well-rounded skill and has shown he can stir the drink and make a play, depending on what’s called for. He also plays to his linemates’ strengths, which has made him a natural fit with different players at the program. His skating isn’t a strength and it can be a little stilted at times, but I’d say his speed is average. I think we’re going to see more offense out of him in college, too (he’s committed to BU). He hasn’t shown the flash of some of the other 2006s at the program, but there’s some talent there, he finds ways to impact shifts and games, and he reads and anticipates play quite well.

Photo:Rena Laverty / USA Hockey’s NTDPC🇺🇸Tier 5NTDP47

Christian Humphreys

C17U18Height:5′ 11″Weight:170 IbsDOB:Feb. 4, 2006Profile

Humphreys has proven he can facilitate and make plays at both center and on the wing this season, and with a variety of linemate types. He missed part of six weeks from late January to early March due to injury but came back with a four-point game. There was a lot of talk heading into this year as to which non-Cole Eiserman/James Hagens forward from the 2006-born NTDP group would emerge from the pack and to my surprise, each of Humphreys, Bednarik, Max Plante, Teddy Stiga and Brodie Ziemer have managed to carve out their own niche without falling behind in their development (which isn’t common at the program, where there is only so much ice-time and focus). Humphreys’ niche is in his offensive craft. He has also developed physically to grow an inch and add some needed weight so that he’s playing at a more playable/projectable size as a closer-to-average-sized player. Humphreys, who scored five goals in his NTDP debut a year ago but was listed at 5-foot-10 and 150 pounds in his U17 year, is now an inch taller and 20 pounds heavier. That added strength has allowed him to get the most out of his talented and intelligent game. He’s an agile skater who side-steps close-outs. And he has quick hands and a great feel for the game as a playmaker, which blend with a heady disposition and good instincts on and around the puck to create an interesting offensive package. I’m still not quite sure where I’m going to land on his NHL projection, and there are people who aren’t super high on him, but I’ve liked what I’ve seen from his development curve to this point. He’s off to Michigan in the fall after decommitting from MSU.

Photo:Rena Laverty / USA Hockey’s NTDPC🇺🇸Tier 5NTDP48

Will Zellers

LW8ShattuckHeight:5′ 10″Weight:163 IbsDOB:Apr. 4, 2006Profile

Zellers is one of two legitimate 2024 prospects who stayed at Shattuck instead of jumping into the USHL full time, and I’ve liked him more than teammate Aidan Park whenever I’ve watched the pair (both at Shattuck and for Team USA at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup). A North Dakota commit who is expected to jump right from Shattuck into the NCAA, Zellers does a wonderful job playing pucks into space and skating into them. He has legit touch and skill on the puck, and has scored some beautiful goals this season. I like his approach to offense and the way he uses the puck to create advantages for himself or his linemates. He can make the quick play or the long one, and makes good decisions about when to pace up or slow it down and hold it. He’s got great hands and a quick, adjustable release. There’s some clear talent there; the question is whether it’ll translate. It’s easy to see him becoming a top offensive player in college, but there are some who question what he might look like in terms of an NHL conversation someday. I like the player/style/makeup for the modern game, though. Drafting players out of the prep school circuit always comes with a longer timeline and a bit of a risk, but he looks like a B or B+ prospect to me. He’s really quite talented.

Photo:Steven Ellis / Daily FaceoffLW🇺🇸Tier 5USHS49

E.J. Emery

RHD8U18Height:6′ 3″Weight:185 IbsDOB:Mar. 30, 2006Profile

Emery is a plus-level skater with athletic genes (he’s the son of former CFL linebacker Eric Emery) and a projectable makeup given his size, handedness and two-way quality. His offense isn’t natural but he has taken enough steps in the way he sees the ice and moves pucks to complement his other two-way pro qualities. Emery is capable of owning his ice defensively (though he has been inconsistent in really taking charge at times), continues to show growth handling and transporting pucks and has major steps that he can continue to take in his development (which does come with some risk if he doesn’t take them). And while his skill level isn’t a strength, he has shown good instincts on when to jump into the play, he’s owed a little more in terms of counting stats, and he defends and skates well enough to project as an effective five-on-five defender and potential penalty killer. Though Emery was raised and developed in British Columbia and his mom is Canadian, his dad is American and he chose the NTDP-to-college route and has committed to the University of North Dakota. He’s going to need time and patience to develop the finer qualities of his game and learn to impose himself more consistently on both sides of the puck, but there’s some upside there.

Photo:Rena Laverty / USA Hockey’s NTDPRHD🇺🇸Tier 5NTDP50

Alfons Freij

LHD8VaxjoHeight:6′ 0″Weight:187 lbsDOB:Feb. 12, 2006Profile

Freij is a smooth-skating, strong-on-his-feet-and-his-edges defenseman who thrives in transition both ways, handles the puck comfortably and confidently on exits and past pressure, walks the line beautifully and will roam and maneuver when opportunities present themselves inside the offensive zone (sometimes to his detriment defensively). He’s an aggressive and skilled defenseman who has the tools to defend better but needs to buckle down a little more defensively and make better decisions with the puck (I think he reads play well, he’s just a little overzealous on both sides and it comes with some mistakes). I’d be eager to work with him because there’s some potential there.

Photo:Vaclav Salek / Associated PressLHD🇸🇪Tier 5J2051

Adam Jecho

C18EdmontonHeight:6′ 5″Weight:197 IbsDOB:Mar. 24, 2006Profile

Jecho has been a name prospect out of Czechia for what feels like years now. He has played in three Hlinkas, a U17 WHC, a U18 worlds, Finland and now the WHL. He’s a huge center (though he has also played a lot of wing coming up and isn’t particularly strong in the faceoff circle) with decent skills. He’s a below-average skater who has work to do on his first three strides (which was evident in a poor showing in testing at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game), but if he can pick up a step there’s enough elsewhere for him to become an NHLer. He can shoot and handle the puck with a wrister that comes off quickly. He protects pucks well and will make the odd soft-area play. He has learned to work and use his frame off the puck to become a more rounded player defensively. But while NHL Central Scouting and some scouts I’ve talked to view him as a potential first-rounder, I’m not there and haven’t seen him take the steps I was looking for him to take this season. He doesn’t generate enough looks for himself individually and remains too much of an off-puck player on his lines (even though he does a good job reading the play off of the puck to pick his spots to drive the middle lane or get open out wide). I expect that he tops out as a bottom-six type.

Photo:Andy Devlin / CHL ImagesC🇨🇿Tier 5WHL52

Leon Muggli

LHD9ZugHeight:6′ 0″Weight:165 IbsDOB:Jul. 9, 2006Profile

Muggli has generated some interest from NHL teams this year for his strong results in third-pairing minutes in Switzerland’s top pro league — which has become one of the better leagues outside the NHL these days and is debatably stronger than the top levels in Finland, Germany and Czechia. His world juniors (one bad game and a suspension mixed in with some good ones, including a leading role in Switzerland’s quarterfinal loss) were a little up and down but he has also played well for the national team over the years and has worn the ‘C’ in his age group.

Muggli’s got good comfort under pressure and will move his feet to beat the first layer. He can run the top of the power-play umbrella. His outlets are crisp and leading. He will block shots and compete for body positioning (though he has at times struggled to win those battles and box-out at the front of the net). He keeps his head up and understands the game. His tools are more above-average than high-end, though, and because he’s average-sized I’m not sure he’s going to be a prominent special teams guy up levels. Still, I could see him becoming a depth defenseman in the NHL and while I’m not fully convinced he’s a second-rounder, he’s probably a third-rounder for sure.

Photo:Steven Ellis / Daily FaceoffLHD🇨🇭Tier 5NL53

Ben Danford

RHD9OshawaHeight:6′ 1″Weight:188 IbsDOB:Feb. 6, 2006Profile

Danford doesn’t maybe have the statistical profile you’d look for out of a second- or third-rounder (though it has continued to improve as he has tried to do more as this season has gone on) and some scouts have been hesitant about his offensive game, but he has the respect of a lot of people around the OHL and the Generals gave him a letter for his draft year (and I know they considered naming him captain and likely will at some point).

Danford gets high marks as a person and as a player who takes care of his own end first but is developing his offensive instincts and starting to take more chances off of the line and involve himself in more plays around the offensive zone. He also shows good poise under pressure to hold pucks with players on his back and find ways to spin off and head-man. His skating is average or maybe slightly above. I wouldn’t call it a strength but it’s decent and he did well in testing at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game (where he also showed those developing offensive instincts and played well at both ends in the actual game). More importantly, the details are already there (stick placement, gap control, reads, positioning, etc.). I’ve also seen him show more comfort under pressure to beat the first layer of late and make better choices atop the blue line to work off of his teammates and use space to his advantage He’s got a strong foundation and has made important progress in key areas this year. There are many who believe he’s going to make a solid third-pairing NHL defenseman someday.

Photo:Terry Wilson / OHL ImagesRHD🇨🇦Tier 5OHL54

Stian Solberg

LHD10ValerengaHeight:6′ 2″Weight:194 IbsDOB:Dec. 29, 2005Profile

Solberg’s a tricky one. For starters, there’s where he comes from as a Norwegian who has played exclusively in Norway to this point in his career, including in their pro league for the better part of the last four (!) seasons. The more I’ve watched of the level this year, I’ve actually found it to be of a little more quality than I thought, though, which does help with comfort level about his projection. Then there’s his game, which has some real identity but also some warts.

He plays really hard and firm on both sides of the puck, with a mean, strong, physical presence that has seen him make life hard on opposing players whenever he has played against his peers internationally. He’s really physical in man-to-man coverage, sometimes even too much so. It’s tough to take him one-on-one and then he can skate the other way, though he can also be a little too eager on that front. But his reads and decision-making need some real tightening as he can be sloppy/turnover-prone. Players with his makeup — a hard-nosed, highly engaged defenseman with good size/athletic tools — do typically go in the second or third round. I’d like to see him to come to North America (where his style should work), though. The Pats currently own his CHL rights but I wouldn’t rule out a lateral move in Europe or even an early(ish) jump to the AHL.

LHD🇳🇴Tier 5Norway55

Daniil Ustinkov

LHD11ZurichHeight:6′ 0″Weight:198 lbsDOB:Aug. 26, 2006Profile

Ustinkov, who represents Switzerland but also has Russian citizenship, impressed scouts last year with his play at U18 worlds and the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, and split this season between Switzerland’s top two pro rungs, but finished the year in the second-tier SL (he was fine-to-good at the world juniors). He’s a late August birthday who has always played a mature game for his age. He makes the right choices with the puck and reads without it, consistently on both fronts and in all three zones. He plays with a great deal of poise, simplicity and efficiency. His head is always on a swivel and he’s just an intelligent player who takes what’s given to him and advances and steers the play. He needs to get a little quicker getting back to pucks, but that will come with age/strength and is compensated by knowing where to be, good edges, a competitiveness and a want to make a difference. When he’s been on the ice, the Swiss national team has typically been able to hang with anybody. That says something. So do his decent underlying results against men. I think his game will fit better on North American ice, too, so I’d be interested to see him come over here (he is an import selection of the London Knights but is also signed with ZSC). He might be more of a mid-round guy for me than a second-rounder, but he’s a good player.

Photo:Steven Ellis / Daily FaceoffLHD🇨🇭Tier 5NL56

Melvin Fernstrom

RW10ÖrebroHeight:6′ 0″Weight:185 IbsDOB:Feb. 28, 2006Profile

Fernstrom impressed scouts this season on a team with fellow 2024 prospect Alexander Zetterberg, leading the J20 level in scoring. He’s a strong kid who can stay over pucks and power through a variety of shot types, with an excellent one-timer and a heavy wrister. He has looked dangerous on the flank on his off-side on the power play this season, but also does a really good job hiding off of coverage and finding gaps to get open into in the offensive zone at five-on-five. While his skating can look hurried at times, it’s actually quite strong. He shades away from sticks with the puck really well. I like the way he supports, tracks and gets the puck back defensively. I like the way he protects and shields it against defenders offensively. He’s a competitor who works hard and likes to mix it up (and occasionally takes bad penalties). There’s a good shell to work with.

Photo:Steven Ellis / Daily FaceoffRW🇸🇪Tier 5J2057

Miguel Marques

RW11LethbridgeHeight:5′ 10″Weight:173 IbsDOB:Mar. 8, 2006Profile

Marques is a shifty player who has really come into his own this season as Lethbridge’s leading scorer. He’s an elusive, playmaking, crafty handler and distributor who functions as the primary carrier on his lines and has a way of pulling opposing players in and then making plays to the weak side of coverage. And while he’s a smaller winger, he’s got some sneaky strength and plays hard off the puck and battles and finishes his checks. He can make plays at speed or really slow the game down to his liking. He’s got slippery one-on-one skill but can also attack right at defenders. There’s deception and patience to his game. He doesn’t have the premiums of high-end skating (even though he plays with tempo), size or position, though, which will limit how high he goes. He’s an entertaining player to watch at the junior level, though, for sure, and I could see him being one of the WHL’s more productive players either next season or the following one.

Photo:Erica Perreaux / Lethbridge HurricanesRW🇨🇦Tier 5WHL58

Max Plante

LW9U18Height:5′ 11″Weight:170 IbsDOB:Feb. 20, 2006Profile

The first time I watched Max Plante play, I was scouting his older brother, Zam, now a Pittsburgh Penguins prospect and then a star at Hermantown High. Immediately, Max stood out even next to his older brother for his dynamic puckhandling ability and hardworking disposition. Where Zam’s game was about smarts, Max’s was all about working to get the puck and then creating with it (his smarts are also a major asset, though). When I was done the viewing on tape, the pair had toyed with the opposition and I texted a Minnesota-area NHL scout to say this: “That Max Plante is a demon.” A year later, he was predictably named to the national program. But there was a hitch: He was really tiny. So even when he made plays in his U17 year, it always seemed to come with a “but.” Now he has grown a couple of inches and the playmaking has continued, still packaged within that hardworking, well-liked character, which is a favorite of coaches and teammates. He has also clearly worked hard to continue to build a sellable identity as an all-around player and worker when he doesn’t have the puck. He supports well, he plays a team game, he skates well, and then the skill enters the equation when it should — rather than as his only thing. I’m a fan of the skill level but also the way he plays the game, which has an endearing quality to it. I could see him surprising some people to become a skilled and determined NHLer (there are many who believe teammate and NTDP captain Brodie Ziemer will get there for similar reasons, too, even if he narrowly missed this ranking). He’s starting with longer odds, though.

Photo:Rena Laverty / USA Hockey’s NTDPLW🇺🇸Tier 5NTDP59

Teddy Stiga

LW10U18Height:5′ 10″Weight:174 IbsDOB:Apr. 5, 2006Profile

When I asked two staff at the NTDP about Stiga recently, one called him the most underrated player on the team and the other said simply, “Teddy Stiga is just a hockey player.” That latter line, as ambiguous as it is, feels rather fitting. Scouts have had a tough time putting a finger on a projection for Stiga this year. He doesn’t have a mold or an archetype in the way that the other players in this ’06 age group do. But he always seems to be in the mix of the play offensively on his line, and producing, and making plays when they’re there to be made. He’s not the biggest, fastest or strongest player, but he’s got a great feel for the game and on-ice awareness. Add in gifts as a small-area player with noticeable handling and finesse skills plus a knack for finishing on the chances he gets and he’s intriguing. He has caught my eye in most of my viewings this year, moves his feet, plays with some jump, seems to make plays in transition and inside the offensive zone, seems to fit with talented players. If he can earn a top-six role at BC next year, I could see him surprising some people in his freshman year.

Photo:Rena Laverty / USA Hockey’s NTDPLW🇺🇸Tier 5NTDP60

Will Skahan

LHD12U18Height:6′ 4″Weight:209 IbsDOB:May 14, 2006Profile

Skahan’s a big, already-200-plus-pound defender with decent mobility for his size and age who has played to good defensive underlying numbers on an NTDP blue line that has had a tough time. His offensive game has developed slower than many hoped and expected it would but he outlets the puck well, he’s got a heavy shot, and with his frame and mobility, scouts are intrigued by his potential defensively. His father, Sean, is also a strength and conditioning coach who has worked with the Minnesota Wild and Anaheim Ducks, so he comes by the power and strength in his game honestly (he’s stronger than his peers and can push junior-level players off pucks, though he also has a good stick). There’s a lot to work with there. I was definitely expecting him to take a bigger step as a big-time two-way defenseman with the U18 team this year than he has, though, and that has slid him into more of a late-second or mid-round range for me as a result. The team that drafts him will be hoping that he can develop into an Alex Vlasic type (Vlasic didn’t have a translatable statistical profile in his three seasons at BU but has made it as an NHLer on the back of his strength, athleticism, size and defensive play).

Photo:Rena Laverty / USA Hockey’s NTDPLHD🇺🇸Tier 5NTDPTier 661

Riley Patterson

C19BarrieHeight:6′ 0″Weight:192 IbsDOB:Mar. 22, 2006Profile

Patterson is a player I stuck my neck out on early on this season, ranking him when NHL Central Scouting didn’t even include him on their players to watch list in the fall (as he found his way as an OHL rookie and the Colts struggled to figure out who was going to play where in their lineup). I’d heard good things about him coming out of the OJHL and into the OHL from a couple of sources, and 16-year-olds don’t often lead their teams in scoring by 19 points or go for 30 goals and 70-plus points in 50-something games in the OJHL (although he did play on a bad team where his defensive responsibilities weren’t the focus). And while it took him some time to get the points to fall, when I watched him both live in Barrie and on tape he seemed to be getting a lot of Grade A chances (posts, goals called back, goals wrong on the scoresheet, etc.). Then the floodgates opened and the points really started to come in the second half, climbing to point per game as one of the Colts’ top offensive players by season’s end. He had some learning to do defensively to start the year in the OHL in terms of picking up marks and keeping his feet moving, but he adjusted quickly and showed a real commitment to improving his play off of the puck and upping his pace when he doesn’t have it (he has really gotten after it and shown a real desire to get to pucks so that he can make plays as the year has progressed).

Patterson’s a strong skater and athlete (though he does carry a little bit of weight). He’s pretty strong on pucks and in the faceoff circle. He goes to the net, attacks the middle third and plays a direct attacking style offensively. He shoots it hard, gets it off quickly and has good feel around the slot. He executes little slip plays one-on-one to take pucks under defenders and to the net. He plays with confidence, he’s very vocal and he wants to take the space that’s offered. The Colts paid a lot to acquire him, sending six draft picks to Flint, which owned his rights (he was previously a Michigan State commit). NHL Central Scouting now have him at No. 116 on their mid-term list and I could still see him outperforming that slot. I’m not alone in that either as it sounds like multiple NHL clubs have expressed real interest in him. I could see him take another big step forward offensively in the OHL next season. He’s got the skill to be a top player at that level.

Photo:Terry Wilson / OHL ImagesC🇨🇦Tier 6OHL62

Harrison Brunicke

RHD10KamloopsHeight:6′ 2″Weight:184 IbsDOB:May 8, 2006Profile

Brunicke garnered increased attention from NHL clubs as the season progressed before getting hurt on a late hit in late February, which effectively ended his WHL season (there’s hope he’ll be good to go for U18 worlds) just as his momentum was really building. His statistical profile doesn’t pop but he’s got good size, skating and sense and he has shown a real willingness to join the rush and look for opportunities off of the offensive zone blue line on a rebuilding Blazers team this year. I think he’s got another level to find offensively (he has shown some skill on the puck even if it’s not dynamic). He makes good reads around the ice, can defend with any of his active stick, length, feet or physicality, can lead exits and entries with his skating or an outlet, and progressed quickly this season after playing limited minutes for the Memorial Cup hosts last year (he averaged 22 minutes a night this year).

It’s worth noting that I did consider slotting defensemen like Matvei Shuravin, John Whipple, Anthony Cristoforo, Tomas Lavoie, Colton Roberts, Noel Fransen and Tarin Smith in this range in his place.

Photo:Allen Douglas / WHL ImagesRHD🇨🇦Tier 6WHL63

Clarke Caswell

LW11Swift CurrentHeight:5′ 11″Weight:170 IbsDOB:Feb. 2, 2006Profile

One of the best passers in the draft and a good Broncos team’s leading scorer this season, Caswell is an elusive and slippery playmaker who facilitates into open space beautifully. He has a knack for drawing coverage and then using the gaps that have been vacated to play pucks back into for his linemates. He’s got quick hands and impressive processing/problem-solving. The No. 6 pick in the 2021 WHL Bantam Draft, Caswell receives mixed reviews from scouts, with some praising his sixth sense in the offensive zone on the puck and others questioning whether he has the roundedness in the rest of his game that he’ll need to make his pass-first style work up levels. There are some skills there that complement his style well, though, including light and adjustable skating. He needs to get to the slot and score more if he’s going to get picked in the draft’s first two rounds, but he does have some unique attributes and I could see him becoming one of the WHL’s more productive forwards in a couple of seasons.

Photo:Jonathan Kozub / Getty ImagesLW🇨🇦Tier 6WHL64

Eriks Mateiko

LW12Saint JohnHeight:6′ 5″Weight:208 IbsDOB:Nov. 18, 2005Profile

Mateiko really caught my eye as Latvia’s captain at U18 worlds last spring, to the point I found myself texting sources about him after each game. Though he only registered two points in five games, he could have had a couple more and the Latvians only scored six goals in all. And while he didn’t leave the same impression on me at the world juniors, that’s not unexpected given his age — he was probably owed more there as well and he has impressed me enough in Saint John to keep him on my list for now. He’s got good skill and soft hands for a 6-foot-5 kid (his listing was recently updated by an inch), and while his stride can still look a little choppy out of the blocks, he can actually really move out there (I think he surprised some people with a pretty strong showing at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game’s on-ice testing) and it quickly went from being awkward to arguably above average (every time I see him play his skating seems to fall in line a little better than the last time, which is what matters at his size). When he first got to Saint John, they called him “Moose” because of how awkward he was. Now they joke that he’s a full-grown one. He gets after it and uses his pro frame well, he has shown he can attack at defenders one-on-one and protect pucks in possession, he stays above pucks defensively, and he has just made a ton of progress since the start of last year with the Sea Dogs to develop a more layered game. He’s also starting to play more physically without sacrificing his commitment to staying above pucks defensively. Though the Sea Dogs named 20-year-old Peter Reynolds captain of their young team this year, I know they considered Mateiko even though he’s a draft-eligible (which would have been a particularly rare nod as an import player, too). I could see him becoming a depth NHLer, even if he’s a bit of a long shot (most are in this range).

I did think about slotting a few other forwards at the back of this list (Brodie Ziemer, Raoul Boilard, Alexandre Blais, Julius Miettinen, Aidan Park, Justin Poirier, Alexander Zetterberg, Mac Swanson).

Photo:CHL ImagesLW🇱🇻Tier 6QMJHLTier Honourable Mention

Raoul Boilard

Baie-ComeauHeight:6′ 1″Weight:188 IbsDOB:Jan. 7, 2006🇨🇦Tier Honourable MentionQMJHL

Alexandre Blais

RimouskiHeight:5′ 10Weight:152 IbsDOB:Nov. 14, 2005🇨🇦Tier Honourable MentionQMJHL

Eric Burger

OrebroHeight:5′ 11″Weight:181 IbsDOB:Dec. 29, 2005🇸🇪Tier Honourable MentionJ20

Anthony Cristoforo

WindsorHeight:5′ 11″Weight:191 IbsDOB:Feb. 23, 2006🇨🇦Tier Honourable MentionOHL

Maximilian Curran

Tri-CityHeight:6′ 2″Weight:179 IbsDOB:Aug. 27, 2006🇨🇿Tier Honourable MentionWHL

Thomas Desruisseaux

ChicoutimiHeight:5′ 11″Weight:162 lbsDOB:Mar. 10, 2006🇨🇦Tier Honourable MentionQMJHL

Will Felicio

WaterlooHeight:5′ 10″Weight:160 lbsDOB:May 19, 2006🇺🇸Tier Honourable MentionUSHL

Noel Fransen

FarjestadHeight:6′ 0″Weight:179 IbsDOB:Dec. 7, 2005🇸🇪Tier Honourable MentionJ20

Gabriel Frasca

KingstonHeight:6′ 0″Weight:175 IbsDOB:Feb. 18, 2006🇨🇦Tier Honourable MentionOHL

Tomas Galvas

LiberecHeight:5′ 10″Weight:148 IbsDOB:Feb 11, 2006🇨🇿Tier Honourable MentionCzechia

Carter George

Owen SoundHeight:6′ 1″Weight:196 IbsDOB:May 20, 2006🇨🇦Tier Honourable MentionOHL

Marcus Gidlof

LeksandHeight:6′ 6″Weight:212 IbsDOB:Sep. 28, 2005🇸🇪Tier Honourable MentionJ20

Spencer Gill

RimouskiHeight:6′ 4″Weight:185 IbsDOB:Aug. 17, 2006🇨🇦Tier Honourable MentionQMJHL

Marcus Kearsey

CharlottetownHeight:5′ 10″Weight:173 IbsDOB:Mar. 17, 2006🇨🇦Tier Honourable MentionQMJHL

Aatos Koivu

TPSHeight:6′ 1″Weight:170 IbsDOB:Jun. 22, 2006🇫🇮Tier Honourable MentionLiiga U20

Adam Kleber

LincolnHeight:6′ 5″Weight:207 IbsDOB:Mar. 24, 2006🇺🇸Tier Honourable MentionUSHL

Felix Lacerte

ShawiniganHeight:5′ 10″Weight:165 IbsDOB:Jun. 14, 2006🇨🇦Tier Honourable MentionQMJHL

Tomas Lavoie

Cape BretonHeight:6′ 4″Weight:215 IbsDOB:Mar. 31, 2006🇨🇦Tier Honourable MentionQMJHL

Ryerson Leenders

MississaugaHeight:6′ 0″Weight:165 IbsDOB:Jun. 1, 2006🇨🇦Tier Honourable MentionOHL

Luca Marrelli

OshawaHeight:6′ 1″Weight:181 IbsDOB:Oct. 4, 2005🇨🇦Tier Honourable MentionOHL

Julius Miettinen

EverettHeight:6′ 2″Weight:203 IbsDOB:Jan. 20, 2006🇫🇮Tier Honourable MentionWHL

Teodor Munther

DjurgardenHeight:6′ 0″Weight:185 IbsDOB:Oct. 27, 2006🇸🇪Tier Honourable MentionJ20

Ilya Nabokov

MagnitogorskHeight:6′ 0″Weight:179 IbsDOB:Mar. 27, 2003🇷🇺Tier Honourable MentionKHL

Sam O’Reilly

LondonHeight:6′ 1″Weight:178 IbsDOB:Mar. 30, 2006🇨🇦Tier Honourable MentionOHL

Aidan Park

ShattuckHeight:6′ 1″Weight:184 IbsDOB:Jan. 6, 2006🇺🇸Tier Honourable MentionUSHS

Kasper Pikkarainen

TPSHeight:6′ 2″Weight:190 IbsDOB:Aug. 7, 2006🇫🇮Tier Honourable MentionLiiga U20

Justin Poirier

Baie-ComeauHeight:5′ 7″Weight:185 IbsDOB:Sep. 4, 2006🇨🇦Tier Honourable MentionQMJHL

Jesse Pulkkinen

JYPHeight:6′ 6″Weight:203 IbsDOB:Dec. 27, 2004🇫🇮Tier Honourable MentionLiiga

Colton Roberts

VancouverHeight:6′ 4″Weight:192 IbsDOB:Jun. 8 2006🇨🇦Tier Honourable MentionWHL

Anthony Romani

North BayHeight:6′ 0″Weight:183 IbsDOB:Jul. 12, 2005🇨🇦Tier Honourable MentionOHL

Joona Saarelainen

KalPaHeight:5′ 9″Weight:183 IbsDOB:Apr. 4, 2006🇫🇮Tier Honourable MentionLiiga U20

Artyom Shchuchinov

ChelyabinskHeight:5′ 11″Weight:170 IbsDOB:Oct. 19, 2005🇷🇺Tier Honourable MentionKHL

Matvei Shuravin

CSKAHeight:6′ 3″Weight:195 IbsDOB:Mar. 22, 2006🇷🇺Tier Honourable MentionKHL

Tarin Smith

EverettHeight:6′ 1Weight:175 IbsDOB:Mar. 24, 2006🇨🇦Tier Honourable MentionWHL

Sebastian Soini

IlvesHeight:6′ 2″Weight:182 IbsDOB:Jun. 10, 2006🇫🇮Tier Honourable MentionLiiga U20

Mac Swanson

FargoHeight:5′ 8″Weight:167 IbsDOB:Jan. 10, 2006🇺🇸Tier Honourable MentionUSHL

Oskar Vuollet

SkellefteaHeight:5′ 11″Weight:173 IbsDOB:Dec. 3, 2005🇸🇪Tier Honourable MentionJ20

Carson Wetsch

CalgaryHeight:6′ 0″Weight:187 IbsDOB:May 4, 2006🇨🇦Tier Honourable MentionWHL

John Whipple

U18Height:6′ 0″Weight:192 IbsDOB:Jan. 20, 2006🇺🇸Tier Honourable MentionNTDP

Alexander Zetterberg

OrebroHeight:5′ 7″Weight:158 IbsDOB:Apr. 27, 2006🇸🇪Tier Honourable MentionJ20

Brodie Ziemer

U18Height:5′ 11″Weight:190 IbsDOB:Feb. 22, 2006🇺🇸Tier Honourable MentionNTDP

(Illustration: Dan Goldfarb / The Athletic. Photos: Michael Miller / ISI Photos, Richard T Gagnon, Dennis Pajot / Getty Images)

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Scott Wheeler covers the NHL draft and prospects nationally for The Athletic. Scott has written for the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, The Toronto Sun, the National Post, SB Nation and several other outlets in the past. Follow Scott on Twitter @scottcwheeler