TORONTO -- Each year, every top prospect eligible for the NHL Draft can usually target a current NHL player he feels has a style similar to his.
In 2015, Jack Eichel (Buffalo Sabres) compared himself to Los Angeles Kings center Jeff Carter. In 2016, center Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs) said he felt Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks best represented what he was trying to do on the ice, and Patrik Laine (Winnipeg Jets) attempted to model his game after that of Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin.
There is no right or wrong answer, but the benefit to all this is getting an idea of what type of player a particular prospect could resemble. What kind of player is he and where does he fit? Will he be a playmaking wing, shooting center, butterfly-style goalie or offensive defenseman? Sometimes a team makes the mistake of drafting a player because it believes he can become something he really isn't.
Here are some NHL comparisons of the top North American skaters and top goaltender on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list. NHL Central Scouting, here this week to determine the final rankings of North American skaters and goaltenders to be released in April, provided analysis.
Players are listed in the order in which they appeared on Central Scouting's midterm ranking in January. All statistics are from the regular season.
1. Nolan Patrick, C, Brandon (WHL)
2016-17: 33 games, 20-26-46, 36 PIM, plus-9 rating
Height/weight: 6-foot-3, 198 pounds
Best assets: Hockey sense, vision
Possible comparable NHL player: Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles Kings)
NHL Central Scouting analysis: "He can do so much off the rush and has elite hockey sense; he'll go around you or through you, whatever is most efficient. The playmaking ability with the size and reach is tremendous. He's an all-around player and can play all situations."
2. Nico Hischier, C, Halifax (QMJHL)
2016-17: 57 games, 38-48-86, 24 PIM, plus-20 rating
Height/weight: 6-1, 176
Best assets: Hockey sense, skating
Possible comparable NHL player: Nicklas Backstrom (Capitals)
NHL Central Scouting analysis: "He has elite skill and hockey sense combined with a compete level that allows him to be effective in any style of game. He plays a complete game but is very good offensively."
3. Gabriel Vilardi, C, Windsor (OHL)
2016-17: 49 games, 29-32-61, 12 PIM, plus-13
Height/weight: 6-3, 201
Best assets: Puck possession, competitiveness
Possible comparable NHL player: Corey Perry (Anaheim Ducks)
NHL Central Scouting analysis: "He has elite hands down low and an ability to create in traffic when nothing is available. We love his size and puck skills, and he can play center or wing. Perry wasn't a great skater in his draft year, but had excellent hands and was very dangerous around the net. That's Vilardi."
4. Owen Tippett, RW, Mississauga (OHL)
2016-17: 60 games, 44-31-75, 36 PIM, plus-24
Height/weight: 6-1, 202
Best assets: Skating, shot
Possible comparable NHL player: Phil Kessel (Pittsburgh Penguins)
NHL Central Scouting analysis: "A natural goal-scorer who is extremely dangerous when attacking with speed. Possesses an excellent release, while also displaying the vision and passing ability to create offense for his teammates, making him very difficult to defend."
5. Casey Mittelstadt, C, Green Bay (USHL)/Eden Prairie (HIGH-MN)
2016-17: Green Bay: 21 games, 11-17-28, 0 PIM, plus-1; Eden Prairie: 25 games, 21-43-64, 8 PIM, plus-2
Height/weight: 6-1, 201
Best assets: Vision, ability 1-on-1
Possible comparable NHL player: John Tavares (New York Islanders)
NHL Central Scouting analysis: "He has excellent hands and skating ability. He can see the ice well and has excellent offensive skills and hockey sense. He could play on all four lines, is quick and fast in all directions with and without the puck and has an ultraquick release. He's a guy you want on the ice late to get a goal and also protect a lead."
1. Keith Petruzzelli, G, Muskegon (USHL)
2016-17: 33 games, 20-10-0, 2.45 goals-against average, 2 shutouts, .915 save percentage
Height/weight: 6-5, 180
Best assets: Size, competitiveness
Possible comparable NHL player: Matt Murray (Penguins)
NHL Central Scouting analysis: "He is similar in size, overall net coverage and similar in the crease with Murray. Petruzzelli relies on good instincts and butterfly style. They both seal the ice quickly with very good leg extension protecting the low corners and they keep their bodies upright protecting against the high shot while down in butterfly. They are both very tough to beat in the lower half of the net."