NHL Central Scouting released its Futures List of North American and international prospects for the 2017 NHL Draft on Saturday.
"The 2016 draft class lived up to all the hype regarding the exceptional talent available and the unpredictability of the order in which prospects would be taken," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "It's anticipated that 2016-17 will again be a deep draft class for prospects, and there is a lot of depth at all positions."
The Futures List consists of 148 North American players and 142 international players who NHL scouts will be keeping a close eye on heading into the 2016-17 season.
"The list is based on evaluations we made of the players during the 2015-16 season," Marr said. "A number of these players will be changing teams for 2016-17 and that will be reflected in our preliminary players to watch list in September."
The preliminary players to watch list will provide the A, B and C ratings for draft-eligible players.
Read more: 2016-17 NHL Central Scouting Futures List
Among the top players for the 2017 draft is center Nolan Patrick of Brandon of the Western Hockey League. Patrick is expected to be ready for training camp after having sports hernia surgery in July. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound forward, who missed being eligible for the 2016 draft by four days, had 102 points (41 goals, 61 assists) in 72 regular-season games, and was the most valuable player of the WHL playoffs after leading the league with 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) in 21 games and helping Brandon win the league championship.
Patrick is the son of former NHL forward Steve Patrick and nephew of former NHL defenseman James Patrick.
The projected top skater on the international list could be 6-2, 202-pound forward Kristian Vesalainen of Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League. The Helsinki-born forward had 34 points (15 goals, 19 assists) in 37 games for Frolunda's team in Sweden's under-20 league, and also had one goal and one assist in 19 games with Frolunda in the SHL.
"He's a big, physical power forward who likes to go straight for the net," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb said.
Here is a look at some other potential first-round candidates for the 2017 draft, to be held at United Center in Chicago on June 23-24:
Maxime Comtois, LW, Victoriaville (QMJHL): Comtois (6-1, 190) had 60 points (26 goals, 34 assists) and 12 power-play goals in 62 games last season. Central Scouting's Troy Dumville said Comtois reminds him of Cape Breton forward Pierre-Luc Dubois, who was selected No. 3 in the 2015 draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Callan Foote, D, Kelowna (WHL): The 6-3, 200-pound right-shot defenseman from Englewood, Colo., had eight goals, 36 points, 14 power-play points and a plus-16 rating in 71 games last season. He is regarded for his shot and smart, two-way game. He is the son of former NHL defenseman Adam Foote, and was invited to Canada's summer evaluation camp for the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship, which starts July 31.
"He's a strong, mobile defenseman who handles the puck well in transition and has displayed a good offensive upside," Marr said.
Nicolas Hague, D, Mississauga (OHL): Hague (6-5, 208) might be the top Ontario Hockey League defenseman in the 2017 draft class. He had 14 goals, 24 points and a plus-4 rating in 66 games last season.
"He's a big defenseman who is a fluid skater," Central Scouting's Matt Ryan said. "He moves the puck extremely well, enabling his team to create a ton of offense. He shows an ability to run the power play and has an excellent shot that he gets through with consistency."
Nico Hischier, C, Halifax (QMJHL): The 5-11, 163-pound Switzerland-born forward will play for Halifax after being the sixth pick of the 2016 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft. He had one goal in 15 games for Bern in National League A, Switzerland's top professional league, last season.
Klim Kostin, C/LW, MVD Balashikha 2 (RUS-JR): The 6-3, 183-pound Russian forward will work toward playing in the Kontinental Hockey League this season rather than join Kootenay of the WHL, which selected him No. 1 in the 2016 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft. Last season, he had eight goals and 13 assists in 30 games with MVD Balashikha. He also had two goals and three assists in six games to lead Russia to a gold medal as captain at the 2015 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
"He's a first-round candidate; a big power forward who plays a physical game," Stubb said. "He is a strong skater with good speed, very good hockey sense and an excellent competitor."
Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle Jr. (SWE-JR): Liljegren (6-0, 191), a right-handed shot, is a projected top-five pick because of his understanding of the game and ability with the puck. He had seven goals and 15 assists in 29 games for Rogle in Sweden's under-20 league last season. He also made his Swedish Hockey League debut with Rogle last season, and had one goal and four assists in 19 games.
"He's a very good talent; an effective two-way player and puck mover," Stubb said.
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, G, HPK U-18 (FIN-JR): Luukkonen (6-3, 196) led Finland to a gold medal at the 2016 IIHF World Under-18 Championship when he finished with a 2.00 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in three games.
"He's the No. 1 goalie in Europe," Stubb said. "He was a key player in the [World Under-18] playoff games and a tower in net. He has very good vision, reads the game well and plays with very good concentration. He could be a first-round pick."
Luke Martin, D, Michigan (BIG10): The 6-2, 207-pound right-handed shot from St. Louis had four goals, 16 assists and 32 penalty minutes in 63 games for USA Hockey's National Team Development Program Under-18 Team last season. Martin will attend USA Hockey's National Junior Evaluation Camp in Plymouth, Mich., from July 30 to Aug. 6.
"A complete package with size, strength and skating," Marr said. "Can play a complete game and is effective in all situations."
Casey Mittelstadt, C, Eden Prairie (HIGH-MN): Mittelstadt (5-11, 192) will play for Green Bay in the United States Hockey League before and after his high school season. He had 68 points (28 goals, 40 assists) in 28 regular-season and playoff games for Eden Prairie last season and is committed to the University of Minnesota for 2017-18. Mittlestadt also will attend the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp.
Jake Oettinger, G, Boston University (H-EAST): Oettinger (6-4, 203) went 25-8-1 with a 2.38 GAA and a .908 save percentage in 37 games for the NTDP U-18 team last season. Al Jensen, the top evaluator of goaltenders for NHL Central Scouting, said Oettinger, from Lakeville, Minn., has a good glove hand and excellent balance. He is one of four goaltenders taking part in USA Hockey's NJEC.
"He's a big presence in the net and plays mostly a positional blocking style," Jensen said. "He has great positional play and excellent net coverage, even when he drops in the butterfly."
Stuart Skinner, G, Lethbridge (WHL): Skinner (6-3, 209) was 27-10-1 with a 2.73 GAA and .920 save percentage in 44 games last season.
"He's a big goalie and a huge presence in the net with excellent command of his crease," Jensen said. "He's good at reacting to shots and using both his glove and blocker to prevent rebounds."
Owen Tippett, RW, Mississauga (OHL): Considered a threat to produce offense any time he's below the dots in the offensive end, Tippett (6-0, 177) had 15 goals and five assists in 48 games last season.
"[Tippett] is a skilled offensive winger with exceptional high-end speed and quickness," Marr said.
Eeli Tolvanen, RW, Sioux City (USHL): The 5-11, 181-pound left-handed shooting forward from Vihti, Finland, had 38 points (17 goals, 21 assists) in 49 games last season, his first in North America. He's committed to Boston College for 2017-18.
Urho Vaakanainen, D, JYP (FIN): Stubb believes Vaakanainen (6-1, 187) will play for Finland at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship. He had one goal and five assists for Blues in Liiga, Finland's top professional league, last season.
"Vaakanainen is a smooth skater with vision and a good set of skills, including skating, passing, shot and vision," Stubb said.