Over the past two weeks, we have profiled the top-10 prospects for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and how they might fit into the plans for the Maple Leafs. If you’ve missed any, here they all are in one place.
1. Auston Matthews – Justin Fisher
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ season is over, so hell yeah we’re kicking off TLN’s draft coverage right away. There’s no need to delay, considering we now know that the Leafs are guaranteed one of the first four selections in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. And with a 20% chance of winning the draft lottery and picking first overall, we may as well start with the almost consensus top prospect – Auston Matthews.
2. Patrik Laine – Jon Steitzer
It’s a bit of an overstatement to say that Patrik Laine wasn’t on the radar at the start of the 2015-16 season. He was certainly a prospect that people had their eyes on in September, but generally as a top 15 or top 10 pick. Bob McKenzie’s rankings had Laine at 4 and was probably pretty telling of how things would eventually play out for the young Finn.
3. Jesse Puljujarvi – Tom Hunter
Before the hockey world outside of Scottsdale, Arizona knew the name Auston Matthews, Jesse Puljujarvi was being discussed as a future top pick in the NHL Entry Draft. The young Finnish winger became known on the international scene after a dominating performance at the U17 tournament two years ago and was thought to be the best 2016 eligible prospect until Matthews burst onto the scene. Now sitting as the consensus number three prospect in this year’s draft, Puljujarvi represents the second player in a Finn vs Finn debate that should probably be a lot closer than appears to be the case recently.
4. Matthew Tkachuk – Jon Steitzer
He has a familiar name and the pedigree that goes with it. Being a 100 point player on the powerhouse London Knights, who just happened to be owned by the guy running the draft for the Leafs. He has NHL size (194 lbs, 6’1), and he’s dominated at every level. That’s pretty much the short version on why we’re talking about Matthew Tkachuk as a Top Five player in the draft.
5. Jakob Chychrun – Tom Hunter
There isn’t a prospect at the top of this year’s draft that has been more polarizing over the past season than Jakob Chychrun. The Sarnia Sting defenseman came into the year as the consensus number two prospect in this June’s draft and only six months later he is being talked about as potentially the third or even fourth best defensive prospect.
6. Pierre-Luc Dubois – Jon Steitzer
There seems to be a belief that Pierre-Luc Dubois is someone who has gone skyrocketing up the draft charts throughout the season, and that CHL Top Prospect was the call to arms to start giving Dubois the attention he deserves. Really, it’s just been a couple of rankings like Craig Button’s (Dubois has gone from 21st in September to 4th in March) and Future Considerations (20 spot jump from September to October) that didn’t have him in their top 15 to begin the year.
7. Alexander Nylander – Justin Fisher
As you’ve probably heard about a million times by now, Mississauga Steelhead winger Alex Nylander is the brother of current Toronto Maple Leaf centre William Nylander. For sentimental fans, that alone is enough of a reason to draft the younger Nylander, but truth be told he could very well be the best player available when it’s the Leafs’ turn to pick this summer.
8. Michael McLeod – Tom Hunter
Michael McLeod is a player that has been all over the draft lists this season. It might seem like a stretch to think that he would be in consideration if the Leafs lost the lottery and were picking fourth, but there are those who believe that McLeod might be drafted in the top-5 ahead of more heralded prospects like Dubois, Tkachuk and Nylander. Along with Clayton Keller, McLeod is in the running to be the second best natural center in this year’s draft class behind Auston Matthews and that is something that could carry him up a lot of draft boards.
9. Olli Juolevi – Tom Hunter
Not many have seen a climb in their draft stock this season more than Olli Juolevi. When the Finnish defenseman came over to North America to play in the OHL this past summer, scouts knew who he was but not necessarily how good he could be. When he joined the London Knights before the season, Juolevi was a little overshadowed by other big name acquisitions like Matthew Tkachuk and Max Jones. Juolevi was drafted later in the CHL Import draft because many thought he might stay in Finland to play with Jokerit.
10. Clayton Keller – Jon Steitzer
After Auston Matthews there’s a steep drop off when it comes to centers in the 2016 draft. Not that the next few options aren’t good, but they are having difficulty climbing into the top ten rankings in draft year that is much deeper on defensemen and power wingers. One of the centers who could hear his name called early in the draft is Clayton Keller. Keller’s offensive numbers certainly warrant him being considered as he has put up 144 points in 86 games for the US Under 18 Team this year.