The physical testing kicks off today at the 2017 NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo and the top-ranked North American defensemen will be under the microscope.
Check out NHL Central Scouting's Final Rankings for the 2017 Draft, and what the draft analysts are saying about the North American blueliners.
1. Cale Makar, D, Brooks Bandits, AJHL
HT: 5-11 WT: 180
DOB: 10/30/98 (18)
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
"A dynamic offensive defenceman from the Alberta Junior Hockey League's Brooks Bandits, jumped from No. 12 to No. 7. His Bandits won the AJHL crown and are in the five-team Western Canada Cup championship tournament that begins this weekend in Penticton." - Bob McKenzie, TSN, 4/27/17
"The mystery guy in the draft. Makar has put up statistics, and has noticeable skills, but he's done it against inferior competition." - Ted Kulfan, Detroit News, 4/18/17
"Tim Murray watched Erik Karlsson up close while he was in Ottawa, and Makar conjures up images of Karlsson. He's a dynamic offensive player." - Craig Button, TSN, 4/10/17
"A lot of times these guys will start out low and their play will dictate how high they rise up. We really wanted to see how he did against elite competition. We knew he was a good player in the AJHL. We wanted to see him against the best in that tournament against the best players. He was a cut above. He was by far one of the best players there, for sure." - John Williams, NHL Central Scouting, 3/23/17
"The dynamic defenceman (24 goals and 51 assists in 54 games) looks like the best blueliner available in the draft. I can't help but think of Erik Karlsson when I watch Makar on the ice, right down to his size and style of play." - Craig Button, TSN, 3/21/17
"Makar has been lights-out good this season in the AJHL, and he had a dominant performance at the World Junior A Challenge. Small, older (a late 1998 birth date) defensemen from Junior A don't get me excited that often, but Makar deserves a ton of recognition. Makar skates very well and has a strong burst out of each stride. He's aggressive jumping into the play and can pressure with his speed. Makar also is a highly skilled puck handler with high-end offensive instincts. He can make tough offensive plays with consistency and quarterback a power play. His defense was passable at the Junior A level, but scouts are concerned about him checking pros due to his size and defensive IQ." - Corey Pronman, ESPN.com, 2/14/17
"Dominated the Alberta Junior Hockey League and was just as good when he stepped up a level to play for Canada at the 2016 World Junior A Challenge, with four goals and four assists in four games. Scouts have been impressed by his speed with and without the puck, which allows him to lead the rush then get back into the defensive zone if play turns the other way." - Adam Kimmelman, NHL.com, 1/20/17
2. Jusso Valimaki, D, Tri City, WHL
HT: 6-2 WT: 204
DOB: 10/6/98 (18)
ISS Hockey - Mar. 11th: "Underrated offensive upside. Very good shot/gets it to the net rarely using a slap shot"
Jeff Marek of Sportsnet - Mar. 8th: "A good all-around blueliner who's enjoyed great experience at the junior and international level. Not huge, but possesses great awareness. Has drawn comparisons to Olli Juolevi (VAN)."
ISS Hockey - Feb. 11th: "Smart w/great passing skills. Very good shot & gets it to the net; rarely using a slap shot."
Mike Morreale NHL.com - Jan. 20th: "The two-way defenseman has brought more assertiveness to his game in his second WHL season. Valimaki (6-1, 204) has 39 points (12 goals, 27 assists) in 38 games and has shown more offensive drive and confidence in his game."
Dennis Schellenberg Hockey Prospectus - Nov. 9th: "A mature and responsible two-way defenceman who makes good decisions with the puck. Not the most flashy player but he shows poise with the puck and plays very reliably at both ends. Shows some leadership skills, especially when quarterbacking the powerplay. "
3. Callan Foote, D, Kelowna, WHL
HT: 6-4 WT: 212
ISS Hockey - Mar. 9th: "Two-way defenseman with high hockey IQ in all three zones. Almost never out of position on a play."
Jeff Marek of Sportsnet - Mar. 8th: "Will be a 12-year NHLer. A really solid, safe pick."
ISS Hockey - Feb. 8th: "Rock solid. Defensively shuts down the rush extremely well w/good positioning & active stick."
Mike Morreale NHL.com - Jan. 20th: "The 6-3, 213-pound son of former NHL defenseman Adam Foote probably won't be the physical presence his father was, but plays all situations and uses his smarts, reach and strength to contain his opponent and gain position."
Dennis Schellenberg Hockey Prospectus - Nov. 9th: "He is not afraid of playing physical and benefits from his big body and strength in battles. Possess decent shooting tools and is not only limited to a pure big and mean defender, but also distributes the puck smoothly and creates offence."