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A CLOSER LOOK: The Top 15

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers

Countless hours spent on the road or in the film room scouting the draft-eligible prospects has led to many opinions on where players belong on draft boards across the league. Scouting services have released their lists, and many draft prognosticators have begun to release theirs.

The NHL Scouting Combine has come and gone, and the NHL Draft is right around the corner.

Bring on the rumours, the mock drafts and the analysis.

As you sift through the mountain of information available at your fingertips, you may be wondering, just who are some of these players? What can we expect from the first round of this year’s draft?

“We’ve liked the draft right from the very beginning,” said Oilers Director of Player Personnel Bob Green. “Obviously, the top end is very good. Everybody’s going to get a good player in the first round. There’s depth to it. You know that some of the kids later on are going to turn into players, you’ve just got to figure out which one it is.”

At the four spot, the Oilers sit at what has been thought to be the top of the second tier group of players, behind Auston Matthews and Finnish phenoms Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi.

With players like Matthew Tkachuk and Pierre-Luc Dubois pushing to be considered close to the top tier, things may have changed in that regard. Perhaps, in some teams’ minds, four and five aren’t as far away from three.

Regardless, the Oilers sit in a good spot. Should Edmonton choose to stay at fourth overall, they could have their pick of high-quality forwards. Or, they could be in position to move down with a team desperate for help up front, and have a look at the top defencemen available. Oilers General Manager Peter Chiarelli has heard from teams interested in the pick.

Whether they keep the fourth pick or move down within that second tier, they have many options to choose from.

“There’s some good forwards there (and) there’s some good defencemen there,” Green said of the second group. “They’re just good players. You want to take the best one at that point in the draft, for sure. We like the guys there. There’s a mix of positions: centre, left wing, D. There’s a nice combination of players and we like all of them.”

Chiarelli sees a lot of good quality defencemen and size at forward in the group of prospects they’re looking at.

“Those are two needs we’re looking at so we’re going to look a little more closely,” said Chiarelli.

“If we keep the pick or if we move it and get another pick, there’s still a lot of those good players that are big or are defenders.”

What does the first round of the draft look like? Here’s a quick guide to the top 15 prospects, as ranked by International Scouting Services, with analysis gathered from interviews and scouting services. Stay tuned for our edmontonoilers.com mock drafts coming soon.

ISS TOP 15 SKATERS:

1. AUSTON MATTHEWS - The American centre has been touted as the top prospect in the draft for some time now. He took his talents overseas to play with Zurich in Switzerland this past season. He had 46 points (24-22-46) in 36 games. Matthews projects as a franchise centre, with comparisons to NHL centres like Jonathan Toews and Anze Kopitar.

2. PATRIK LAINE - For some time, Laine and his Finnish counterpart Puljujarvi were neck and neck for the number two spot. Laine pulled away with it at the end of the season, earning the Jari Kurri Trophy and was named Worlds MVP. A goal-scorer with elite potential in that regard. Laine played for Tappara in Finland.

3. JESSE PULJUJARVI - Puljujarvi played for Karpat in Finland. The playmaking winger is not the same offensive player as Laine, but he’s got good size at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds and has a high motor and high compete. Definite top three or four talent in the draft.

4. MATTHEW TKACHUK - Son of former NHL player Keith Tkachuk, Matthew is a winner. The winger has proven that with his play and helping lead the London Knights to a Memorial Cup Championship. Tkachuk posted a 107-point season this year in the OHL, and had 20 goals and 20 assists during the playoffs. Tkachuk can complement elite skaters with his play, and goes to the net.

5. PIERRE-LUC DUBOIS - NHL Central Scouting’s top-ranked North American skater had a heck of a season for Cape Breton in the QMJHL. The projected power forward can play wing or centre, and brings size up front (6-3, 201). Dubois had 99 points (42-57-99) in 62 games this season and showed he has a close to complete game.

6. ALEXANDER NYLANDER - With hockey bloodlines, dynamic offensive talent and creativity, this Mississauga winger is expected to go top 10 in the draft. Nylander had 75 points (28-47-75) in 57 games his first OHL season.

7. LOGAN BROWN - The size is tantalizing to teams. Brown, a centre for Windsor, is 6-foot-6 and 218 pounds. Brown is described as having great vision and playmaking ability. Big, strong, two-way centre with potential to go along with size.

8. JAKOB CHYCHRUN - Chychrun is battling with Olli Juolevi and Mikhail Sergachev to be the top blueliner picked. Chychrun is a big defender, who had 49 points (11-38-49) in 62 games for Sarnia this season. Chychrun is described as a big, strong blueliner who can do everything you ask.

9. TYSON JOST - Jost lit up the BCHL this season with 104 points (42-62-104) for Penticton. Jost is a dynamic offensive talent with top-end skill and vision. “Exceptional” hockey IQ.

10. MIKHAIL SERGACHEV - The Windsor defenceman drew a fair amount of attention at the Scouting Combine. The Russian blueliner is a smooth skater with a good release on the puck. Some scouts call him close to NHL ready. There have been comparisons to Los Angeles Kings Drew Doughty.

11. OLLI JUOLEVI - The London Knights defenceman could be a top-pairing guy at the next level some day. He is a two-way defender who can do everything well at the OHL level. His size and skating are one thing, but his hockey IQ and overall intelligence make him a top prospect.

12. CLAYTON KELLER - The centre from the USA U 18 club (USHL) was tournament MVP at the U18 World Championship. His skating, puck skills, compete level and hockey sense are above average to excellent. Top-six guy who can play in a lot of situations.

13. MICHAEL MCLEOD - The Mississauga centre could go pretty high in the upcoming draft. Good size and strength with comparisons to Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler. Had 61 points (21-40-61) in 57 games this season.

14. MAX JONES - Tkachuk and Juolevi’s teammate in London is a big, skilled power forward with a physical edge to his game. Scored 28 goals this season, who can, on the wing, complement a top six at the next level.

15. GERMAN RUBTSOV - Another forward with size and strength. Described as the “complete package” for a two-way forward. Had 12 goals and 26 points for Russia’s junior team in the MHL. Was the “best” player at the World Jr A Challenge.

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