One of the more interesting pre-draft practices for most fans is taking a look at the Draft rankings that are available on the web. Every fan has loads of sources and opinions to pick from. The wide variety of evaluations out there can make it awfully confusing, but that’s probably how it should be.
The thing about scouting and ranking is that it’s an inexact science. Sometimes lists are compiled by a conglomeration of scouts, sometimes it’s just one person’s opinion. Some players are seen 20 times, others are seen once. It makes it tough to decide who to believe.
When it comes to some American prospects, the range of opinions is vast. That’s why I decided to compile a group of public rankings, including some from scouting services, reputable media outlets, and since this a blog, a take from a fellow blog. I did not include Central Scouting’s rankings due to the fact that they separate the North American and Europeans, which skews the ranking a little bit.
Coming up after the jump, a look at the Top 10 Americans based on average ranking and notes on each.
Due to the fact that some services only make their Top 30 available to the general public, I decided to break up the list into tiers. The players listed below are tiered by the number of rankings that list them, then by the average ranking.
Here are the outlets I used to compile this list (Editor’s note: I will be compiling my own Top-15 American ranking next week, but wanted to get outside takes for this).
Hockey Prospectus — Cory Pronman has a Top 100 that he has compiled based on his own viewings and supplemented by opinions from NHL scouts. It’s a pretty strong resource.
Craig’s List — Former Calgary GM and current TSN analyst Craig Button gets out to a lot of games throughout the season and put together his Top 60 based on his personal viewings. This is one of those one’s man opinion rankings.
ISS Top 30 — International Scouting Services’ recently released its final Top 30 for the draft.
Future Considerations Top 30 – A big ole group of independent scouts and writers compiled this Top 30.
Grant Sonier’s Top 50 — ESPNInsider Grant Sonier was a scout for the Atlanta Thrashers and has offered his take on players all season long.
The Hockey Writers — Representing the blogger contingent is the group from The Hockey Writers, which had a few guys offer their takes on this 60-player ranking.
Key: CB - Craig Button, TSN; HP - Cory Pronman, Hockey Prospectus; ISS – International Scouting Services; FC – Future Considerations; GS - Grant Sonier, ESPN; THW — The Hockey Writers.
Tier I Prospects (Listed on at least five rankings)
1. Alex Galchenyuk — Sarnia Sting — The Milwaukee-born center missed almost the entire year with a knee injury, but his 83 points as 16-year-old rookie in the OHL last year are likely enough to get him an early selection. More than that though is his seemingly unlimited potential. The puck skills, size and strong offensive instincts are all in line with a top-5 pick, but not everyone agrees. Some are awfully scared by the injury, others fear Galchenyuk hasn’t proven enough without Sarnia teammate Nail Yakupov (the consensus No. 1 pick). The fact remains that Galchenyuk is a special talent and he showed he’s in good health at the combine. He won’t last long on Day 1. CB: 4; HP: 3; ISS: 12; FC: 2; GS: 9; THW: 4. Average: 6
2. Jacob Trouba — U.S. National Under-18 Team — Michigan-commit Jacob Trouba is a bruising defenseman who showed what he can do with his big frame at the National Team Development Program. He also proved he can play above his head by his performance at the World Junior Championship. Some are considered Trouba relies on his physicality too much and that there might not be much offensive upside. However, for a physical defenseman, Trouba can skate well and has good agility. His hockey sense has vastly improved, even though he’s still prone to the bad decision now and again. A lot have labled Trouba as a “safe” pick in that he’s not far from NHL ready and is already built like a pro. CB: 12; HP: 12; ISS: 5; FC: 6; GS: 14; THW: 9. Average: 10
3. Brady Skjei — U.S. National Under-18 Team — Brady Skjei rose a great deal throughout the year on a lot of lists. The only outlet that didn’t view him as a Top-30 prospect was Future Considerations. The main things that stand out about Skjei are his size and his skating. His fluid stride and explosive speed is handy in transition. Additionally, Skjei is becoming meaner along the boards. As he adds more grit to his game, which I think he did steadily over the year, he’s going to have a good shot at becoming a top-four defenseman down the line. There are concerns that Skjei doesn’t possess enough offense, and that is an area where he could use some work. Still, he’s a smart defenseman with elite speed. CB: 26; HP: 37; ISS: 26; FC: N/R; GS: 19; THW: 17. Average 25 (on 5 rankings)
4. Nicolas Kerdiles — U.S. National Under-18 Team — Opinions very greatly on Kerdiles, who has been listed mainly in the late first round, but is viewed more as a late second rounder by Button. Kerdiles is helped by his solid 6-2 frame and good speed. There is concern that his puck skills aren’t high end enough for his offensive production to translate at the next level. While Kerdiles is more of a north-south type player, he has shown flashes of offensive know how. A big plus for Kerdiles is his ability to play defensively. He spent time at center and wing, and has shown good defensive responsibility. Kerdiles looks likely to make a pretty good pro and it appears he’ll be a first-round pick come June. CB: 51; HP: 27; ISS: 15; FC: 17; GS: 30; THW: 18. Average: 26
Tier II Prospects (Listed in four rankings)
5. Henrik Samuelsson — Edmonton Oil Kings – The last few years have been a roller coaster for Samuelsson. Raised in Arizona, while dad Ulf was an assistant with the Coyotes, Samuelsson played at the NTDP as a U17 and was called up for the World U18 Championship, where Team USA won gold. He then moved with his family back to Sweden to play for Ulf’s MODO squad. After struggling at the pro level, Samuelsson left Sweden for the WHL. Back in his comfort zone, he was close to dominant. He put up 23 points in 28 regular-season games and another 14 for the WHL champs in the playoffs. Samuelsson plays with a mean streak, has good puck skills and has tremendous strength on his 6-2, 192 frame. Concerns about his skating may keep him locked into the early second-round, but he has some good tools not to wait too long on. CB: 29; HP: 39; ISS: 27; FC: N/R; GS: N/R; THW: 30. Average: 31
6. Stefan Matteau — U.S. National Under-18 Team — I think the IIHF decision to rule Matteau ineligible really hurt Matteau’s draft stock. He needed that event to showcase himself against his own age group, but didn’t get it, unfortunately for him. He was a first-round lock early in the year, but has started to look like more of a safe bet for early second round. Personally, I still think Matteau is a first-round talent. He plays with some nastiness, has a terrific shot and his skating has been underrated this year. Matteau gets into penalty trouble and occasionally makes other questionable decisions, but the physical tools are really hard to come by this year. CB: 48; HP: 41; ISS: N/R; FC: N/R; GS: 22; THW: 29. Average: 35
7. Patrick Sieloff — U.S. National Under-18 Team — The quintessential defensive-defensemen, Sieloff is a little undersized for a player in that role, but his strength more than makes up for his lack of relative height. Sieloff hits everything in sight, but he needed to show that he knows how to reign it in. He did that at the World U18 Championship. Instead of trying to behead everything that came at him, he made the hit if he could, but he made sure the puck was the priority. He was part of a defense that allowed just four goals in seven games and played a ton of minutes with D-partner Jacob Trouba. Sieloff’s offensive tools are minimal, which is why he stays in the mid second-round range. CB: 42; HP: 69; ISS: N/R; FC: N/R; GS: 39; THW: 54. Average: 51
Tier III Prospects (Listed three times)
8. Jordan Schmaltz – Green Bay Gamblers — Schmaltz’s draft stock has been on a bit of a ride this year, but it’s been trending downward from easy first-rounder to likely second-rounder. Schmaltz is a very smooth-skating defenseman with good offensive instincts. He put up 41 points in 55 games in the USHL and shows pretty good vision. The concerns about Schmaltz involve his ability to make good decisions under pressure and his lack of physical prowess. Schmaltz has good size and the puck skills are where teams are going to take a shot with him. Very strong chance he goes in the early- to mid-second round. CB: N/R; HP: 46; ISS: N/R; FC: N/R; GS: 32; THW: 24. Average: 34
9. Cristoval “Boo” Nieves — Kent School/Indiana Ice — After a strong season with Kent in prep school, and an inconsistent, but sometimes flashy performance at the Ivan Hlinka, Nieves’ stock was holding as a pretty solid late-first round pick. However a 13-game stint in the USHL confirmed some of the concerns that Nieves struggles with the physical aspects of the game. The thing is, he has some filthy puck skills and a really nice 6-2, 185 frame. Nieves could have calmed concerns in a long USHL playoff run, but he had to return to Kent to finish his schooling so he could get into Michigan for next year. Still, those puck skills allude to some nice potential, but he’s still a likely mid- to late-second round choice. CB: 50; HP: 58; ISS: N/R; FC: N/R; GS: N/R; THW: 40. Average: 49
10. Brady Vail — Windsor Spitfires — Vail is another player that has a wide array of opinions about him, however everyone agrees that he’s a terrific defensive forward. He had to go head-to-head with top offensive units for the Spitfires and had success in shutting a lot of them down. While defense is important, it’s not going to get a forward picked in the first round. However, some team is going to get a great pick in Vail, who has come a long way in the last season. Though defensive ability is his best skill, he’s no slouch offensively, having put up 22 goals and 52 points in Windsor this year. Still, he projects more as a bottom-six type player, though a good one. Expect him to go semi early on Day 2. CB: 40; HP: 85; ISS: N/R; FC: N/R; GS: 37; THW: N/R. Average: 54.
A few other players appeared on the rankings twice.
Brian Hart of Exeter Prep showed up at No. 48 on both Pronman and Sonier’s lists. The big forward turned a lot of heads, but concerns about lack of competition make him a little tougher to project. It sounds like Hart has a good chance at going in the second round. Kirk Luedeke has a great look at Eastern prospects like Hart at New England Hockey Journal.
Jake McCabe, a defenseman at the University of Wisconsin, is coming off a really strong freshman campaign. Pronman has McCabe at No. 67 on his list, with The Hockey Writers putting him at No. 58. McCabe could sneak into the second round as he has shown improved offensive abilities to go along with an already-established reputation as a steady blue liner.
The only goaltender to show up twice in the six rankings was Indiana Ice behemoth Jon Gillies. He was slotted 56th by Craig Button and at No. 43 by The Hockey Writers.
Two other goaltenders got a mention once each on the rankings. Third-year eligible London Knights netminder Michael Houser got a nod from Craig Button at No. 53, while Grant Sonier put U.S. National U18 goalie Collin Olson at No. 47 on his list.
This is probably going to be a weaker draft for American prospects in the first two rounds this year. It’s going to be an unpredictable draft overall anyway. Everyone has their own opinion about how it’s going to go, so if you’re going to read up, read a lot. There’s tons of great prospect content floating around. Hopefully this gives you a good place to start.