Auston Matthews, C, Zurich (SWISS)
Dubbed “very worthy of being a top pick” by Zurich coach Marc Crawford, Matthews has been the top prospect for 2016 for well over a year. He’s a strong skater, has excellent puck possession skills, and an ability to create for himself and his linemates.
Patrik Laine, RW, Tapparra (LIIGA)
The winner of the Jari Kurri Trophy as playoff MVP after helping Tappara to their first Liiga championship since 2003, Laine has been quickly trending towards the top pick and is a real threat to challenge Matthews’ spot. He’s got size, soft hands, and natural scoring talent.
Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, Karpat (LIIGA)
The second Finn and third challenger to Matthews has had a very fruitful year, helping Finland to golden finishes at both the World Junior Championship and World Under-18 Championship. Puljujarvi’s heavy shot and high-end speed have him translating into a dynamic scorer.
Jakob Chychurn, D, Sarnia (OHL)
Widely regarded as the top defenceman available in the draft all season, Chychrun has developed well since being the top pick in the OHL Priority Selection in 2014. He’s an exceptional staightaway skater with the ability to haul the puck up ice or make the choice for a strong outlet pass. His size allows him to blend a physical brand of hockey with the elite skill he does possess.
Pierre-Luc Dubois, LW, Cape Breton (QMJHL)
One of the draft’s fastest risers, Dubois topped all North American skaters in Central Scouting’s ranking. He finished in the top-5 among QMJHL scorers in goals and points without sacrificing his 200-foot game, which excels regardless of which of the three forward positions he plays.
Matthew Tkachuk, LW, London (OHL)
Tkachuk, the son of former NHLer Keith Tkachuk, blends a similar style of force and finesse in his game. He shredded the OHL on a powerhouse London team with 107 points in 57 games and was named the Western Conference's second smartest player in the annual Coaches Poll behind Arizona Coyotes prospect Dylan Strome.
Olli Juolevi, D, London (OHL)
Considered by many to be the best defenceman available after an elite showing at the World Juniors, Juolevi finished third among OHL rookie rearguards with 42 points. He’s a smart, composed two-way blueliner that plays the game in a very mature, experience manner. He is calm and focused, and his ability to move the puck is elite for his age.
Clayton Keller, C, USA Under-18 (USHL)
Keller is as much an offensive threat as anyone available on draft day. He led the U.S National Under-18 Team with 96 points in 56 games, 22 points more than the second place, and fellow draft eligible Kieffer Bellows. The centre, who can play all three forward positions, will be highly coveted because of his playmaking and scoring abilities.
Mikhail Sergachev, D, Windsor (OHL)
Sergachev, the fastest rising defenceman in the draft, has impressed greatly in his first season of hockey in North America. The Russian blueliner is a smooth skater and an elite rusher, pushing the pace up ice. He’s equally good at both ends of the ice, too.
10. Tyson Jost, RW, Penticton (BCHL)
The most dynamic player in the CJHL this season, Jost led Penticton to a 50-7-0-1 regular season record and was named the BCHL’s Vern Dye Memorial Trophy recipient as league MVP. He’s an agile, slippery skater who blends dangerous playmaking with a quick shot.
Michael McLeod, C, Mississauga (OHL)
McLeod has continued to build momentum through his draft year, starting with a gold medal finish at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial in August and a trip to the Under-18’s in April. He has excellent puck possession skills and a strong passing game that goes uncompromised when playing his developed two-way game down the middle. Grit and tenacity help round out his game.
12.Alexander Nylander, RW, Mississauga (OHL)
Nylander, the brother of Toronto Maple Leafs prospect William Nylander, possesses similar talent to his sibling. He has a pinpoint shot and is poised with the puck, blending those skills with a strong skating ability. It’s evident in leading all OHL rookies in points this season with 75. He was a standout for Sweden at the World Juniors, too.
Julien Gauthier, RW, Val-d’Or (QMJHL)
Gauthier, the nephew of longtime NHLer Denis Gauthier, was the lone NHL Draft eligible skater to represent Canada at the World Juniors earlier this season. He’s participated at every draft showcase this season, displaying his power-forward style with adept hockey sense, offensive instincts and playmaking skills.
Jake Bean, D, Calgary (WHL)
As dynamic a defenceman to roll through Calgary’s system in recent memory, Bean is a slick, pass first, puck moving blueliner who is absolutely deadly in transition. He has quick feet and a strong ability to scan developing plays up ice. He can find the back of the net himself, too, scoring 24 goals to set a new franchise record among defencemen.