Welcome to the third installment of my 2016 draft rankings. I will do one more ranking before the actual festivities throw down in Buffalo, but with the CHL playoffs getting serious and the influential world under-18s about to start, this seemed like a good time for a snapshot. Here are a few notes to frame things:
My rankings are based off numerous conversations with NHL team scouts/executives. They're the only ones with skin in the game, so I value them the most. From those conversations, I've been told that this year's crop is pretty good for about 20-23 picks and then the field is wide open. This is a sneaky way of me telling you the latter half of my first round may turn out to be off when all is said and done.
For now, my rankings are based off "best player available." This is pertinent because we would assume that Edmonton – guaranteed a top-five pick – will take a defenseman, based on organizational need. But anything can happen on draft day, so let's just go with BPA for now.
With that being said, here's my updated top 30:
- Auston Matthews, C – Zurich Lions (Swi): Had a masterful season in Switzerland and despite an early playoff exit, the dominating, all-around center has more hockey to play. He'll join Team USA for the IIHF World Championship in Russia.
- Patrik Laine, RW – Tappara (Fin.): Just won an epic playoff battle against No. 3 on my list. Laine is big, aggressive and can shoot the lights out. He is already incredible dangerous offensively and should have no problem stepping into the NHL next year.
- Jesse Puljujarvi, RW – Karpat Oulu (Fin.): Had some nice heroics himself in the playoffs. Puljujarvi may be a bit more rounded in his game than Laine and could also make the leap to the NHL next year.
- Matthew Tkachuk, LW – London (OHL): Just piling up points in his rookie OHL campaign. Smart, competitive and talented, Tkachuk has a ton of NHL attributes and is one of the best players on a stacked team.
- Pierre-Luc Dubois, LW – Cape Breton (QMJHL): A big riser as the season has gone on. Dubois is a versatile, 200-foot player who can rack up points and plays with a nasty edge.
- Olli Juolevi, D – London (OHL): The world juniors were a huge stage for Juolevi, whom scouts now prefer as the top defenseman in the draft. Smooth, poised and efficient.
- Mikey McLeod, C – Mississauga (OHL): Top-line centers are so hard to find and McLeod can be that guy. A powerful skater with some insane moves, he has also risen to the challenge at big events.
- Alexander Nylander, RW – Mississauga (OHL): Fantastic offensive force has great hands and vision. Great at the world juniors and in his brief playoff run with the Steelheads.
- Mikhail Sergachev – Windsor (OHL): Scouts and GMs love this kid. Sergachev has size, skill, skating and instincts. Plus, he is believed to be one of the most NHL-ready players in the class, too.
- Jakob Chychrun – Sarnia (OHL): Some team is gonna get a very good D-man in Chychrun. Juolevi and Sergachev have stolen his thunder, but the Sarnia product is still a great skater with size and skill.
- Clayton Keller, C – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
- Max Jones, LW – London (OHL)
- Julien Gauthier, RW – Val-d’Or (QMJHL)
- Tyson Jost, C – Penticton (BCHL)
- Logan Brown, C – Windsor (OHL)
- Jake Bean, D – Calgary (WHL)
- Dante Fabbro, D – Penticton (BCHL)
- Charlie McAvoy, D – Boston University Terriers (Hockey East)
- Logan Stanley, D – Windsor (OHL)
- Kieffer Bellows, LW – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
- Luke Kunin, C – University of Wisconsin (Big Ten)
- Riley Tufte, LW – Fargo Force (USHL)
- German Rubtsov, C – Russia J18 (Rus)
- Alex DeBrincat, RW – Erie (OHL)
- Nathan Bastian, RW – Mississauga (OHL)
- Carl Grundstrom, RW – Modo (Swe)
- Pascal Laberge, C – Victoriaville (QMJHL)
- Vitalii Abramov, RW – Gatineau (QMJHL)
- Markus Niemelainen, D – Saginaw (OHL)
- Brett Howden, C – Moose Jaw (WHL)