Auston Matthews, C, Zurich (SWISS)
Matthews has lived up to expectations by delivering all season long. A 6-foot-2, 195-pound forward, the teenager impressively posted 24 goals and 46 points in 36 games with the ZSC Lions of the NLA. He owns a heavy shot, is a remarkable puckhandler, and has proven that he can already play a strong two-way game against men. The Arizona native captained the United States at the World Junior Championships, where he scored seven goals in as many games, and has been named to the American team that will travel to Russia this month on a quest for World Championship gold.
Patrik Laine, RW, Tapparra (LIIGA)
Simply put, he’s a game breaker. Like Matthews, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Laine is a bona fide scoring threat every time he steps on the ice, as was demonstrated when he notched 17 goals for Tappara in 46 SM-liiga regular season games before setting a rookie record in the playoffs with 10. On a line with Puljujarvi and Carolina Hurricanes prospect Sebastian Aho at World Juniors, Laine buried seven goals in as many games for the gold-medal winning Finns before being named a tournament all-star.
Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, Karpat (LIIGA)
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound winger has played against men in Finland’s SM-liiga since he was 16 years old. He not only captured World Junior gold on Finland’s top line over the holiday break – adding tournament MVP to that achievement – but also led Suomi to World U18 gold, notching a hat-trick in the gold medal game versus archrival Sweden. He’s hard to defend against due to his large frame and powerful stride (Evgeni Malkin comes to mind) and could arguably have the highest hockey IQ in this draft. His intelligence, combined with his strength, was just not fair at the World U18 tourney.
Jakob Chychurn, D, Sarnia (OHL)
The well-rounded two-way blueliner should be the first defenceman to hear his named called in Buffalo. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound rearguard has a powerful shot, can skate, and can bring a physical game. He recorded a combined 82 points over two seasons with Sarnia. He also has the bloodlines. His father Jeff suited up for 262 NHL games over eight seasons with Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Edmonton while his uncle Luke Richardson was a veteran of 1,417 NHL games after being a first round (seventh overall) pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1987.
Matthew Tkachuk, LW, London (OHL)
The son of former NHL power forward Keith Tkachuk is go, go, go. A relentless fore-checker with incredible playmaking ability, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound winger racked up 30 goals and 77 assists this season under head coach Dale Hunter in London. When looking back at this draft class in 15 to 20 years don’t be surprised if he has pieced together the most impressive career.
Alexander Nylander, RW, Mississauga (OHL)
The swift-skating younger brother of Toronto Maple Leafs rookie forward William Nylander and son of former Calgary Flame Michael Nylander can play a gritty, in-your-face game. He was named the OHL Rookie of the Year after leading the Mississauga Steelheads with 28 goals and 78 points in 57 games. At 6-foot-0 and 176-pounds, the Calgary-born prospect will need to spend an ample amount of time in the gym this summer if he has any hopes of earning a full-time NHL job next season. He is likely to return for one more year of junior, which isn’t the worst thing.
Michael McLeod, C, Mississauga (OHL)
He basically came out of nowhere this season. An elite offensive centre, McLeod notched 21 goals and 61 points in 57 games for his hometown Steelheads. It’s difficult to take your eyes off the 6-foot-2, 190-pound pivot when he rushes the puck through the neutral zone with his smooth and top-end skating ability. His acceleration is uncanny.
Olli Juolevi, D, London (OHL)
One of the most fluid skaters among this year’s eligible defencemen, Juolevi will no doubt be a go-to blueliner in all situations at the NHL level. He has plenty of hockey sense and competitiveness wrapped up in his sturdy 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame. He was a pivotal member of Finland’s gold-medal winning squad at the World Juniors, where he led all defencemen with nine assists and was named to the tournament all-star team.
Pierre-Luc Dubois, LW, Cape Breton (QMJHL)
He will celebrate his 18th birthday by hearing his name called in the first round. Compared by some to James Neal, he is considered the most complete player in this year’s draft. He could go much lower due to his skating weakness, however he competes hard and has a strong two-way game. He can also produce offensively, as he finished third in QMJHL scoring with 42 goals and 99 points. He was a recipient of the Mike Bossy Trophy as the league’s top professional prospect.
10. Jake Bean, D, Calgary (WHL)
As a 17-year-old rearguard, the undrafted WHLer impressively racked up nearly a point per game with 64 in 68 – with 24 of those being goals to set a new Calgary Hitmen franchise record for goals by a defenceman in a single season. He missed the World U18 Championships with a broken foot sustained in a pre-tournament exhibition game, which could cause some concern. However, his knack for puck moving should have teams overlooking his off-season injury.
Mikhail Sergachev, D, Windsor (OHL)
The Russian likes nothing more than to take control of the game from the backend. And he makes it look pretty darn easy. A sixth overall pick at the 2015 CHL Import Draft, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound defenceman remarkably collected 17 goals and 57 points in a seamless first year playing in North America.
Tyson Jost, RW, Penticton (BCHL)
A highly-skilled energy player who’s not afraid to go to the dirty areas and once there can make things happen. As captain of the British Columbia Hockey League’s Penticton Vees, Jost amassed 104 points in only 48 games. The 5-foot-10, 192-pound forward has committed to University of North Dakota for the 2016-17 season.
Clayton Keller, C, USA Under-18 (USHL)
The undersized 5-foot-10, 170-pound speedster who shows great patience with the puck has been rapidly moving up the pre-draft rankings over the course of the season. He finished as the American top scorer at last month’s World U18 Championships in North Dakota. He can be a human highlight reel just from his playing making ability alone. In desperate need of offence? Look no further.
Libor Hajek, D, Saskatoon (WHL)
Each year there is an off the board pick at the NHL draft that shocks. This could be it. He impressed every time I saw him play this season with his brute strength and intelligence. He is, in my opinion, the top draft-eligible NHL ready defenceman that played in the Western Hockey League this season. The Bruins get an absolute steal with the 14th selection.