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Futures mailbag: Canada's top WJC center, the best for 2017 and more

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

It's mailbag time, folks. We've got some very interesting questions this week, concerning prospects from many different levels. Most developmental leagues have already begun play (American prep and high schools are still on the sidelines), so there's actual action to consider, though naturally we're just at the start of what is shaping up to be a very fun 2015-16 campaign. If you have a question, hit me up on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy and use the hashtag #thnfutures so I don't miss it.

Let's get to it.

Who do you see as Canada's first-line center at the world juniors this year?

– Michael Coady (@bruinsfan87)

Let's couch this question by noting that a lot can change between now and December. Specifically with kids who are in the NHL right now, such as Robby Fabbri. If the Blues elected to send him to the world juniors in Finland, he would be the No. 1 center, no doubt. But we don't know that, so let's look at some other scenarios.

Dylan Strome would be my obvious starting point, since he almost made the Arizona Coyotes as an 18-year-old and has the size, production and smarts to do a lot of damage again this season for the Erie Otters. I believe he can carry that success onto the international stage, so then the only question becomes one of experience. Would the Canadians want someone older as their top pivot?

In that case, Moose Jaw's Brayden Point (Tampa Bay) becomes a great candidate – and really, he's a great candidate period. I could totally see a situation where he and Strome are in a 1A, 1B scenario. Point played for the gold medal squad last year in Toronto too, which certainly helps. Actually, I think I've talked myself into Point as the answer.

Who is the best player eligible for the 2017 draft?

– Simon Laporte (@XzxsimonxzX)

Gun to my head, I'll go with Brandon Wheat Kings center Nolan Patrick right now. He's 6-foot-3, 195 pounds already and one of the Wheaties' top scorers so far with eight points through five games. Patrick also has NHL bloodlines thanks to his uncle, James Patrick. So he ticks off all the boxes. Plus, he's a late 1998 birthday, so if the team that drafts him needs talent right away, they'd be getting a player who will be 19 by the time the season actually starts.

A trio of Americans are right behind Patrick, starting with fellow late-birthday 'Dub' star Kailer Yamamoto of Spokane. He doesn't have the size, but man can he score. There's also defenseman Max Gildon (another Seth Jones?) and sizzling left winger Michael Pastujov, both of whom play for USA Hockey's National Team Development Program.

Why has Sean Day dropped so significantly in draft rankings? I've heard his hockey sense questioned, but with good size and excellent skating, is there a chance a team reaches and selects him in the first round?

– Nick Stoyan (@stoyan_nick)

The hockey sense is certainly a concern, but the more recent questions include conditioning and maturity. Fortunately, both can be rectified and since we're talking about a teenager here, NHL teams will cut him some slack.

Enough to make him a first-rounder? That's the million-dollar question.

Anecdotally, I was chatting with an NHL exec not long ago and asked him about Day being cut from Canada's Ivan Hlinka team. The exec didn't seem too concerned and instead marvelled at the physical tools that Day has at his disposal. So depending on how the season goes, I could see Day still being selected late in the first round by a team willing to take a chance.

Also of note, though, is that Day has just one point in Mississauga's first five games. He'll need to put up numbers for sure if he wants to crack that top 30 this summer.

How long do you think it will take for Brock Boeser to compete for a roster spot on the Vancouver Canucks?

– 2Tall (@Scorvat_53)

Here's how I see Boeser's career going in the infancy: he plays two years at the University of North Dakota, then perhaps one in the AHL with Utica, or at least part of a campaign with the Comets – think Jake Virtanen's route, where he got in a playoff run once his WHL season was done. That's Boeser's most likely trajectory thanks to his size, shot, compete level and two-way game.

This timeline also allows the current crop of Vancouver kids – headlined by Bo Horvat, who has now been joined by Virtanen and Jared McCann, at least for nine games – to become key members of the squad, which is undoubtedly going through a transition period. Can you imagine a Boeser-Horvat-Virtanen line? That would be a downright nasty trio to play against.



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