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NHL Draft's top 10 right wings eligible for 2016 Draft

Laine, Puljujarvi, Gauthier lead list of best players at the position

by Mike G. Morreale @MikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

Finland forwards Patrik Laine of Tappara and Jesse Puljujarvi of Karpat could become the first right wings selected among the top three in the NHL Draft in almost two decades.

The last time two players were selected at that position that high was 16 years ago when Dany Heatley went No. 2 to the Atlanta Thrashers and Marian Gaborik went No. 3 to the Minnesota Wild at the 2000 draft in Calgary.

If the 2016 draft, which will be held at First Niagara Center in Buffalo on June 24-25, goes according to how most project, Zurich center Auston Matthews will be selected No. 1 followed by Laine and Puljujarvi.

Laine (6-foot-4, 201 pounds), No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of international skaters eligible for the 2016 draft, had seven goals and 12 points at the 2016 IIHF World Championship and was named tournament MVP for Finland, which won the silver medal. He also was named MVP of the playoffs in Liiga, Finland's top professional league, after helping Tappara win the championship.

Video: NHL Draft prospect Patrik Laine

Laine also helped Finland win the gold medal at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship. On May 27, he was added to Team Finland's roster for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Matthews, who played for Zurich in Switzerland's top professional league this season, is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of international skaters. 

Laine was asked what makes him different than Puljujarvi.

"[Puljujarvi] might be a little bit better skater than me, but I have a better skill set," Laine told "I have better hands and a better shot, and have better hockey sense. Jesse has a good shot too, but I have a better one. I feel I'm more physical than him as well."

Puljujarvi (6-3, 208) had a tournament-best 17 points in seven games to help Finland win gold at the 2016 WJC. His scoring total was one point shy of Jaromir Jagr's single-tournament for an under-18 player. He also had 28 points in 50 games with Karpat.

Puljujarvi is No. 3 on NHL Central Scouting's final international rankings.

"A lot of people relate the number of games a major-junior skater plays as the barometer for making him more prepared to play in the NHL when in fact these European players have played in professional leagues and have an even greater advantage not because of the amount of games but the way they train," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "The outlook they have is a more pro-NHL approach. Laine and Puljujarvi have lived it and produced, they've survived the grind of playing in [Liiga].

"They are far better suited to come in and make an impression because they have that pro maturity to their game that you can't necessarily pick up playing junior hockey."

Here are's top 10 right wingers eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft:

1. Patrik Laine, Tappara (FIN): Capable of playing right or left wing, Laine has excellent puck skills, quick hands and one of the best one-timers of this year's draft class. He had 17 goals, 33 points, a plus-6 rating, 253 shots (5.5 per game) and averaged 17:16 in ice time in 46 regular-season games for Tappara. Considered a tough, aggressive competitor capable of delivering hard hits. Laine won the Jari Kurri Trophy as Liiga playoff MVP after scoring 10 goals and five assists in 18 games for league champ Tappara.

2. Jesse Puljujarvi, Karpat (FIN): A big, skilled all-around winger who can score and pass, the Sweden-born Puljujarvi had 13 goals, 28 points, a plus-5 rating and 175 shots on goal in 50 games for Karpat in Liiga, Finland's top professional league. He had five goals and two assists and helped Finland win the gold medal at the 2016 World Under-18 Championships in Grand Forks, N.D., in April. Puljujarvi missed three weeks in March because of a lower-body injury, and had surgery on his left knee in May.

3. Julien Gauthier, Val-d'Or (QMJHL): A skilled power forward with size (6-3, 231), deceptive speed and hard-working in all three zones, Gauthier led Val-d'Or with 41 goals and 11 power-play goals. He also had 57 points, a plus-24 rating and 208 shots on goal. Gauthier was the only 2016 draft-eligible player to represent Canada at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.

4. Carl Grundstrom, Modo (SWE): A 5-11, 195-pound prototypical power forward capable of competing hard and getting under the skin of his opponent. NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb likes the way Grundstrom possesses much "willpower and go." He's reliable because he knows how to keep it simple. Grundstrom had seven goals, 16 points and 86 shots on goal in 49 games for Modo.

5. Alexander DeBrincat, Erie (OHL): The 2015 CHL and OHL Rookie of the Year picked up where he left off last season, scoring 51 goals and 101 points in 60 games for Erie. DeBrincat (5-7, 165), who represented the United States at the 2016 WJC, also had 13 power-play goals, two shorthand goals and 10 game-winning goals. He has good hockey sense and an awareness where to go on the ice to position himself for offensive opportunities. Despite his smaller frame, DeBrincat is tenacious on pucks and not afraid to battle in traffic.

6. Vitaly Abramov, Gatineau (QMJHL): The 5-9, 175-pound left-handed shooter had a strong second half for Gatineau, and lead the team in goals (38), assists (55), points (93) and a plus-36 rating as a rookie. He also scored 11 power-play goals and had 222 shots in 63 games. He's small in stature but has a great compete level and will go into the corners and win puck battles.

7. Vladimir Kuznetsov, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL): No relation to Washington Capitals All-Star center Evgeny Kuznetsov, but Vladimir made a name for himself as a rookie in North America this season. He had 25 goals, 58 points and eight power-play goals in 68 games. Kuznetsov (6-2, 205) was selected No. 1 by Acadie-Bathurst in the 2015 Canadian Hockey League import draft and made a successful transition to the smaller ice rinks.

8. Taylor Raddysh, Erie (OHL): A skilled and confident skater with good speed and decent hands, Raddysh (6-2, 203) was a bit under the radar this season but could be a diamond in the rough come draft day. He had 24 goals, 73 points, 11 power-play goals and a plus-19 rating for Erie.

9. Nathan Bastian, Mississauga (OHL): Bastian (6-3, 206) was anything but a third wheel on a line with center Michael McLeod and left wing Alexander Nylander this season. He's the prototypical power forward capable of using his size and strength in tight spaces. Bastian plays with an edge and is becoming more responsible without the puck. He had 19 goals, 59 points and five power-play goals in 64 games. 

10. Yegor Korshkov, Yaroslavl (RUS): The 6-4, 180-pound forward was outstanding for silver medal-winning Russia at the 2016 WJC, scoring two goals and tying NHL-drafted defenseman Ivan Provorov (Philadelphia Flyers) for the team lead with eight points in seven games. Korshkov was eligible for the 2015 draft but was not selected. He had six goals, 12 points and 43 shots on goal in 41 games for Lokomotiv of the Kontinental Hockey League, and has good hockey sense and an excellent work ethic.

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