Ahead of the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago, CalgaryFlames.com will highlight the top players available by position, as ranked by NHL Central Scouting.
Here is a breakdown of the top centres in this year's draft class:
TOP NORTH AMERICAN CENTRES
1. Nolan Patrick - Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
The Brandon Wheat Kings captain is a mature, big-bodied pivot who may be able to step into the NHL next season. While he isn't as flashy as the likes of Nico Hischier, there are no glaring deficiencies in his game and he processes the game at a much higher pace than most of his peers. He was limited to 33 regular-season games last year due to injuries but put up 20 goals and 46 points during that stretch.
2. Nico Hischier - Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
The Mooseheads centreman led all QMJHL rookies with 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games this past year, an output that could lead him to becoming the highest-drafted Swiss player in NHL history. Hischier is blessed with speed, skill and creativity. He's very agile on his skates, making it extremely difficult for opponents to defend against him while on the forecheck.
3. Casey Mittelstadt - Eden Prairie High (USHS)
The winner of this year's Minnesota Mr. Hockey award excelled with both his high school varsity team, Eden Prairie High, and with the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL. With Eden Prairie, he put up 64 points in 25 games and in Green Bay, he registered 30 points in 24 games. Mittelstadt led both teams in puck possession and was an offensive threat every time he was on the ice.
4. Gabriel Vilardi - Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Known for his top-notch playmaking ability, Vilardi is coming off a 61-point regular season with the Windsor Spitfires. He also put up seven assists on route to Windsor winning the 2017 Memorial Cup. While he scored 29 goals last year, Vilardi's best assets are his passing and vision. He creates plenty of chances for his linemates and his 6-foot-3, 203-pound frame makes it nearly impossible to knock him off the puck.
5. Michael Rasmussen - Tri-City Americans (WHL)
At 6-foot-6 and 221-pounds, Rasmussen already has an NHL-size frame and has the skill set to develop into a high-impact power forward for whichever team selects him in this year's draft. He skates well for his size, possesses a hard, accurate shot and isn't afraid to muscle his way through bodies and along the boards. In 50 regular-season games this year, Rasmussen scored 32 goals and 55 points.
TOP INTERNATIONAL CENTRES
1. Klim Kostin - Moscow Dynamo (KHL)
While he was limited to just eight games in the KHL this season due to injury, Kostin's top-end skill earned him the top spot in the NHL Central Scouting's final rankings. The forward, who can play at centre or on the wing, is gifted with the puck and sees the ice extremely well. He can do it all offensively, acting as a goal-scorer or a playmaker as needed.
2. Elias Pettersson - Timra IK (Allsvenskan)
When Pettersson adds more muscle onto his 6-foot-2, 165-pound frame, the sky could be the limit for the Swedish pivot. He has high-end skill, is very creative and has speed to burn. While he isn't able to outmuscle most players at this juncture in his career, he is usually the fastest player on the ice each night and uses that to his advantage. Playing against men with Timra in 2016-17, Pettersson scored 19 goals and 41 points in 43 games.
3. Lias Andersson - HV71 (SHL)
Mature beyond his years, Andersson plays a strong two-way game and is ahead of the curve when it comes to defensive responsibilities. He is reliable in all situations, is excellent in the face-off circle and can be utilized on both the powerplay and penalty-kill. Playing in Sweden's top league last year, Andersson scored nine goals and 19 points in 42 regular season games. He helped HV71 capture the SHL Championship this spring with four goals and five points in the playoffs.
4. Martin Necas - HC Kometa Brno (CZECH)
Thanks to his puck skills, skating and high hockey IQ, Necas has all the tools to develop into a offensive powerhouse at the next level. He is extremely dangerous on the powerplay thanks to his elusiveness and ability to distribute the puck. Given his style of play, Necas will likely need to add muscle onto his 6-foot-1 frame to elevate his game in North America.
5. Jesper Boqvist - Brynas IF (SHL)
The Hedemora, Sweden product split the 2016-17 season between Brynas' junior squad, Allsvenskan's Timra IK team and Brynas' SHL club and showed steady development throughout the course of the year. He has strong offensive instincts and is terrific on the forecheck. One of his best assets is his skating. He has top-end speed that allows him to get through the offensive zone with ease. He is also agile, turning on a dime and eluding defenders.