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Experts Talk: Ranking the top North American skaters in the '17 NHL Draft

Check out what the top NHL Draft analysts are saying about this year's prospects

by Brian Born @BrianBorn /

Hundreds of possible 2017 NHL Draft prospects will be under the microscope this week in Buffalo as they prepare to show off their skills with a series of tests and interviews at the NHL Scouting Combine. The Devils hold the number one overall pick in the draft and will be meeting with the drafts most elite talents. The order of players featured in this series is based on NHL Central Scouting's Final Rankings for the 2017 Draft. Here's what the top analysts are saying about the top three North American skaters. 


1. Nolan Patrick - Center, Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL
HT: 6-2 WT: 198
Shoots: Right
DOB: 9/19/98 (18)
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

"He has more than proven over the last three years that he is the real deal and will be an impact NHL Player. The poise, the presence, the attention to detail, the way he processes and executes plays - everything has been far more precise, far more accurate and a lot quicker this season." Dan Marr, Director of NHL Central Scouting

"He's got a good understanding of the game, has been taught good fundamentals from a young age," said Matt Ryan of NHL Central Scouting. "There are a lot of guys who don't seem to have that understanding of the effort it takes to play at a high level with and without the puck. Nolan Patrick does." - Matt Ryan, NHL Central Scouting, 4/11/17

"Scouts evaluate a player's skill, attributes and potential. Medical staff will evaluate what injury risk is or isn't on a going forward basis. There is no better player in the draft than Patrick." - Craig Button, TSN, 4/10/17

"He can do so much off the rush and has elite hockey sense; he'll go around you or through you, whatever is most efficient. The playmaking ability with the size and reach is tremendous. He's an all-around player and can play all situations. Comparable to Anze Kopitar." - NHL Central Scouting, 4/1/17

"Patrick has done nothing but solidify his spot at the top of our rankings for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. After missing much of the first half of the season due to injury, Patrick's game is rounding into form (20 goals and 26 assists in 33 games). He's showed he has all the attributes and potential to become a top centre at the next level." - Craig Button, TSN

"Patrick combines high-end sense and feel for the game with considerable skill and size, leaving no doubt that he belongs on the top of the list." - Craig Button, TSN, 3/21/17

"Back from injury and from all appearances, not suffering. Patrick has the size, skill and all-around game to be an instant NHLer."- Ryan Kennedy, The Hockey News, 2/10/17


2. Nico Hischier, Center, Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL
HT: 6-1 WT: 176
Shoots: Left
DOB: 1/4/99 (18)
Naters, Switzerland

"Hischier is definitely worth the price of admission. He has a high skill level, but what's most impressive is the way he competes, his drive and work ethic. He is a player who is first on the forecheck forcing a turnover and when the play transitions, he's the first player back. He's in that category as a special player." Dan Marr, Director of NHL Central Scouting
"He came here with such a concern on learning the defensive side of the game and being good defensively," Russell said. "He's just such a well-rounded kid." Halifax GM Cam Russell

"When we spoke to him, before he came here, the questions were: 'Explain to me the development, talk to me about practice, talk to me about after practice' - these aren't questions you're normally expecting from 17-year-old kids." Halifax GM Cam Russell

"He manages the game like an adult, like a man," said Guy Boucher. "Great vision, great poise, but he's always in the right place defensively too, which puts him ahead of a lot of young guys - they rarely have both sides of the ice figured out, especially at this age."

"(Hischier) was the best player we've seen in this tournament. We tried all four lines against him, and I thought he was playing every shift because every time he got out there, the ice was tilted. It was the first thing we said when we got into the locker room; 'That's the best player we've seen in the tournament.'" - Team USA head coach Bob Motzko (Jan. 2017)

"He can beat you in so many ways. He can beat you with faceoffs. he can beat you with defensive play. He's really, really proud of his defence, he can beat you with his work ethic, his intensity, his skill, he can beat you on the rush. He can beat you on the power play, he can beat you on the PK. He's a really complete player. I compare him a lot to Henrik Zetterberg when he was in his prime. When you were playing against him he was always efficient in every area of the game." Halifax Coach Andre Tourigny 

"If you pick top five that means you have to build your team around that player, I would be so happy to build my team around him for the next 20 years …a person like Hischier…a player like Hischier. Nico is such a good man, good heart. He's very polite, respectful, I've spoke to his parents and I can't say enough about the values. A lot of reasons why he'd be a really, really good pick." Andre Tourigny 


3. Casey Mittelstadt, Center, Eden Prairie, Minnesota High School
HT: 6-1 WT: 201
Shoots: Left
DOB: 11/22/98 (18)
Edina, Minnesota

"Mittelstadt is one of these anomalies that come along every few years (from High School Hockey). We've watched him play against his peers in international tournaments and have seen him play in the USHL and at various camps, and he always makes a difference. It doesn't really matter where he plays because you get the same game from him no matter the environment." Dan Marr, Director of NHL Central Scouting.

"Was over a point per game player in the USHL and since going back to play high school hockey at Eden Prairie he's more than doubled that rate of production." - Jeff Marek, Sportsnet. March 8.

"Skill-set among top in the draft class. Elusive one-on-one talent and electric quickness." - ISS Hockey. Feb. 7.

"The University of Minnesota recruit has elite puck skills, NHL quickness, and has excelled at every level. Mittelstadt (6-1, 201) was MVP of the USA Hockey All-American Top Prospects Game in September, had 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 16 games with Green Bay of the United States Hockey League early in the season, and now is the leading scorer for his high school team." Mike Morreale, Jan. 20.

"An average-sized smallish player who keeps fans on the edge of their seats with his great puck handling skills and good hands. Highly skilled offensively, he can twist and turn with the puck using his slick hands and blazing speed. " - Dennis Schellenberg, Hockey Prospectus, Nov. 9.

"Barry Sanders could run as fast laterally as he could forward," Eden Prairie Coach Lee Smith said of Detroit's Hall of Fame running back. "Casey can do that with the puck, plus see his teammates and make plays." 

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