Center Nolan Patrick of Brandon in the Western Hockey League is No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft.
Central Scouting revealed its midterm rankings of the top North American and International skaters and goaltenders Wednesday. The 2017 draft will be held at United Center in Chicago on June 23-24.
View midterm rankings: North American Skaters | North American Goalies | International Skaters | International Goalies / PDFs: NA Skaters | NA Goalies | Int'l Skaters | Int'l Goalies
Patrick (6-foot-3, 198 pounds) had two goals and two assists in his return to the lineup Friday after missing 35 games because of an upper-body injury. In eight games he's scored six goals and 13 points.
"It definitely is a two-player field for the top [North America] ranking and Nolan Patrick was the frontrunner going into the season for the 2017 draft and remains the top candidate for NHL Central Scouting," Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "It's unfortunate [Patrick] had to miss so much time but it was necessary for him to be able to return at 100 percent. He's been well known to NHL scouts for the past three years; his game continues to show he's a top prospect."
Last season, Patrick was fifth in the WHL with 102 points in 72 games. He then had 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) in 21 games to tie for the WHL playoff scoring lead and was named postseason MVP.
He is the son of former NHL forward Steve Patrick and nephew of former NHL defenseman James Patrick.
No. 2 on the list is center Nico Hischier (6-1, 175) of Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He leads QMJHL rookies with 30 goals, 30 assists and 60 points in 36 games. Playing for Switzerland at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship, Hischier scored four goals and seven points, most among draft-eligible players.
"Hischier was also a known commodity coming into the season and we've been able to see the continued growth of his game and development as he transitioned into an impact player with Halifax," Marr said. "He also displayed his talents on the World Junior stage."
Rounding out the top five North American skaters is center Gabriel Vilardi (6-3, 201) of Windsor of the Ontario Hockey League; right wing Owen Tippett (6-1, 202) of Mississauga (OHL); and center Casey Mittelstadt (6-1, 201) of Eden Prairie (Minn.) High School.
Six of the top eight players on the North American list are centers. The highest-ranked defenseman is Juuso Valimaki (6-1, 204) of Tri-City (WHL) at No. 9. He's followed by No. 10 Cale Makar (5-11, 179) of Brooks in the Alberta Junior Hockey League; No. 11 Nicolas Hague (6-5, 206) of Mississauga (OHL) and No. 12 Callan Foote (6-3, 213) of Kelowna (WHL).
"Valimaki and Makar are very dynamic and elite skilled defensemen who can play with speed, quickness and conviction," Marr said. "Hague and Foote are bigger defenders who can skate and move the puck well while impacting in all zones."
The No. 1 North American goaltender is Keith Petruzzelli (6-5, 180) of Muskegon in the United States Hockey League. Ian Scott (6-3, 174) of Prince Albert (WHL) and Jake Oettinger (6-4, 212) of Boston University (Hockey East) are Nos. 2 and 3, respectively.
Petruzzelli stopped all 21 shots he faced in 27:15 of ice time and was named MVP for Team East at the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Jan. 10. Committed to Quinnipiac University for 2017-18, he is 11-7-0 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in 20 games.
"[Petruzzelli] uses his size effectively, is very calm and relaxed," Al Jensen of NHL Central Scouting said. "He has shown steady improvement and has turned into an excellent NHL goalie prospect. His style resembles Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray."
The No. 1 skater on the International list is center Klim Kostin (6-3, 196) of Dynamo Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League. Kostin, 17, was a plus-1 while averaging 4:28 of ice time in eight games prior to sustaining a shoulder injury that is expected to keep him out for two months.
"[Kostin] is big, strong, mobile, and has a good understanding of the game," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb said. "He had a somewhat difficult fall playing on different club and junior national teams but is so dynamic."
Rounding out the top five International skaters are center Elias Pettersson (6-1, 156) of Timra in Sweden's second division; center Lias Andersson (5-11, 198) of HV 71 (SWE); forward Kristian Vesalainen (6-3, 207) of Frolunda (SWE); and center Martin Necas (6-0, 167) of Brno (CZREP).
"Pettersson is close to Kostin in the International rankings," Stubb said. "[Pettersson] is having a great season in the Swedish minor league and getting a lot of useful experience playing with and against men. He's the leading scorer on Timra (27 points in 27 games). He's a great skater with very good offensive instincts."
The No. 1 International goaltender is Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (6-4, 196) of HPK in Finland's junior league.
"[Luukkonen] was key as an underage player for Finland at the [2016 IIHF World Under-18 Championship] in April," Stubb said. "He plays an effective butterfly style and does a good job of controlling rebounds."
At that tournament, Luukkonen played the final three games in place of starter Leevi Laakso (illness), and had a 2.00 GAA and .917 save percentage to help Finland win the gold medal.