2016 NHL Draft: Ninth Overall Targets

With the 2016 NHL Draft just around the corner, it’s time to look at potential selections for the Montreal Canadiens ninth overall pick. With just the fourth top-10 pick since Trevor Timmins took over in 2003, it’s an exciting time of the year!

This season, I expanded the size of the profiles (compared to my normal work) and ranked them in order of preference. Furthermore, each profile contains a ranking explanation, which should explain my reasoning.

There’s not a chance that Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Jesse Puljujarvi are available, so I excluded them from the rankings. I broke the list into four tiers, which noted by the colour.

This goes without saying, this is of course all in my opinion. Without further ado, here’s my draft list for the Montreal Canadiens’ ninth overall pick:

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Prospect Profiles

1) Pierre-Luc Dubois
LW/C/RW | 6’3″ 202 | Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
Regular Season: 62GP 42G 57A 99P | Playoffs: 12GP 7G 5A 12P

| Photo: NHL.com

Of Dubois’s 99 points, 83 were primary. Dubois is a dominant force who took his game to the next level in the second half. | Photo: NHL.com

It’s rare to come across a prospect as complete and multi-dimensional as Pierre-Luc Dubois on draft day. Dubois might very well be the most well-rounded prospect after Auston Matthews, possessesing elite skill, tremendous defensive zone ability, and the versatility to play all situations at all three forward positions.

Dubois possesses all the tools–speed, skill, size–and the toolbox: smarts, sense, and work ethic. Dubois can play a variety of roles, either as a highly skilled playmaker or goalscorer, while adding in a legitimate mean streak. In his own zone, Dubois is a highly capable backchecker with positioning and patience beyond his years.

Once primarily known for his playmaking, Dubois started shooting more and potted 42 goals, pointing to high-end goalscoring upside at the NHL level. He’s a powerful net driver, who will dangle defenders then make a straight line to the net. A dominant possession player down low. Furthermore, his laser beam for a shot and constant movement make him a threat to score.

Off the rush, Dubois’s playmaking is extremely evident. He is a meticulous dish master who finds the smallest of seams. He hovers around the zone, drawing attention towards himself, only to reverse and walk right through traffic. Although his one-on-one dekes can be hit or miss, he dekes and weaves through traffic with ease.

There isn’t a single individual flaw with Dubois. The complete forward appears to be a lock for the top-five.

Ranking Explanation: Dubois’ 83 primary points are the best out of the entire CHL draft class. Furthermore, he’s the most well-rounded player other than Matthews, and possesses better skating, defensive play, and goalscoring upside than Tkachuk. Although not quite as flashy as Nylander or Keller, his upside as an all-around impact player is higher.

 

2) Clayton Keller
LC | 5’10” 164 | USNTDP
USHL: 23GP 13G 24A 37P | Total USNTDP: 62GP 37G 70A 107P

Clayton Keller was a force this season, recording 107 points, the second most in USNTDP history in just 62 games. | Photo: Minas Pantagiotakis, HHOF-IIHF Images.

Clayton Keller was a force this season, recording 107 points, the second most in USNTDP history in just 62 games. | Photo: Minas Pantagiotakis, HHOF-IIHF Images.

Clayton Keller has racked up the points everywhere he has played, and this season was no different. Keller’s 107 points are only topped by Auston Matthews’s total a season ago, and his single season point-per-game is third in USNTDP history. If Keller’s USHL PPG of 1.61 is impressive, then his PPG against D-1 NCAA squad of 1.75 is unreal.

Keller is an elite offensive talent known for his playmaking ability. Keller’s ridiculous hands and creativity allow him to beat defenders with ease, opening up passing lanes. Through incredible vision, Keller locates his teammates in a variety of ways. Furthermore, he distributes off the backhand better than most do off their forehand. If no passing lane is available, Keller’s skill, speed, and agility will allow him to create one.

Even more impressive is that Keller makes these highlight reel passes at full flight. His ability to change gears at given moment makes defending him a monumental task. He’s a big-time forechecking threat, who has a natural instinct for creating turnovers.

While Keller doesn’t project as a high-end goalscorer at the NHL level, there’s certainly lots of talent there. He’s an accurate shooter with a deceptive release. Additionally, he is constantly around the net and in dangerous areas.

Although Keller is undersized, he wins more battles than he loses, and plays an underrated defensive game. What really stands out is how little time he spends in his own zone. He enforces his skill level across the ice.

Ranking Explanation: I’m unsure why Keller isn’t more consistently in the mix with Dubois, Tkachuk, and Nylander. On merit alone, Keller deserves to be in it. He’s more purely skilled than Tkachuk, and is a more consistent all-around performer than Nylander.

 

3) Matthew Tkachuk
LW | 6’1″ 194 | London Knights (OHL)
Regular Season: 57GP 30G 77A 107P | Playoffs: 18GP 20A 20A 40P

| Photo: London Knights

Tkachuk has always played with elite talent–Auston Matthews last season and Mitch Marner this season–but make no mistake, he’s an elite talent in his own right. | Photo: London Knights

Matthew Tkachuk answered all questions about his ability to drive the play on his own in the playoffs this season. From emerging as London’s second biggest threat after Christian Dvorak cooled off, to a dominant postseason and the Memorial Cup winning goal, Tkachuk proved his ability. He was the highest scoring draft eligible in the entire CHL, and while his primary totals trailed Dubois in the regular season, his primary points per game rocketed from 1.16 to 1.70 in the post-season.

Although I disagree with assertions about Tkachuk’s high-end goalscoring ability, he is a high-end offensive threat. His ability to locate seams in the defence and exploit them, whether that be through playmaking or scoring, is the among the very best in the CHL. A tremendous net-front presence, Tkachuk scores the vast majority of his goals in tight, but also has the rare ability to dish from there. He’s a better dangler through traffic than one-on-one.

Tkachuk’s playmaking is exceptional. Off the rush, he utilizes his teammates well and really opens up space for them; however, it’s his ability to make plays around the net that really stands out. He has mastered the art of winning battles, and loves to drag defenders with him to the net. This draws attention towards him, which he promptly uses his vision to then locate the open man. In tight spaces and through traffic, there might not be a better distributor in the draft class.

There weren’t many games that spent a majority of time in his own zone–if any. He’s a solid defensive player, but most of his value comes from the fact that he single-handedly creates extended periods of offensive zone pressure.

Going forward, Tkachuk will have to continue to improve his skating, which lacks a quality top-end gear. Overall, he’s a complete threat with a package of high-end skills that makes him among the best bets to be a great NHLers in the draft.

Ranking Explanation: I grappled with having Tkachuk as #1, but ultimately settled him here. Although a highly skilled, and often underrated because of his linemates, Tkachuk’s skating is a tad concerning. He’s a tremendous player around the net, and projects to be a threat there in the NHL, too. However, he lacks the dynamic skill of Dubois, Keller, and Nylander.

 

4) Alexander Nylander
RW/LW | 6’0″ 179 | Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Regular Season: 57GP 28G 47G 75P | Playoffs: 6GP 6G 6A 12P

OHL, U20s, U18s--You name it, Alexander Nylander has ripped it up. While he trailed off in the OHL regular season, he returned with vengeance in the playoffs. | Photo: Aaron Dell, OHL Images.

OHL, U20s, U18s–You name it, Alexander Nylander has ripped it up. While he trailed off in the OHL regular season, he returned with vengeance in the playoffs. | Photo: Aaron Dell, OHL Images.

The numbers don’t do Alexander Nylander’s season justice, and he tallied a hair over 1.3 points-per-game. Mississauga was a troubled team, despite the high-end talent. In a trio of international tournaments–the Ivan Hlinka, WJC, and U18s–Nylander was Sweden’s best player, recording a combined 26 points in 19 games.

Nylander is an elite offensive player, combining a variety of high-end-to-elite tools. Nylander owns a ridiculous arsenal of shots, featuring a lethal one-time slapper from the point, a deadly wrister and snapper, and a sneaky backhander. Additionally, he positions himself scoring position, has great hand-eye and pass reception abilities, and creates his own shooting lanes.

Just as deadly as a playmaker, Nylander can rip defences apart. His vision is elite, as his stickhandling ability. Although not super flashy, he can waltz through traffic with ease, allowing him to create passing lanes. He lacks a separation gear, but his slippery lateral agility adds to his already great stickhandling. The same tools he utilizes to create shooting lanes he uses to open up passing lanes, which he does with such ease.

Without the puck, Nylander can be quite frustrating. Even though he’s a solid defensive player in terms of positioning, he doesn’t engage the puck carrier enough. He also has a tendency to just use his stick in battles instead of throwing his body in there. However, there are games where he starts engaging, and successfully.

Simply put, Nylander is a player you want to be in possession of the puck. His elite shooting, playmaking, and sense allow him to arguably the draft’s most skilled offensive threat outside of the top-three. He’s a potential top-line forward in the NHL, and a tremendous consolation prize for the team’s that missed Matthews/Laine/Puljujarvi.

Ranking Explanation: Nylander’s high-end skill level falls short of the Matthews/Laine/Puljujarvi tier, but just barely. While his defensive game, consistency, and strength are lacking, these are all easily fixable areas. He will take longer than Tkachuk to make an impact in the NHL, and I believe their long-term upsides are similar.

 

5) Olli Juolevi
LD | 6’2″ 183 | London Knights (OHL)
Regular Season: 57G 9G 33A 42P | 18G 3G 11A 14P 

| Photo: Aaron Bell, OHL Images

The London Knights have a history of Finnish defenders named Olli, and Juolevi is even better than Maatta at the same age. | Photo: Aaron Bell, OHL Images

Olli Juolevi came to the OHL with a fair amount of a hype and he certainly lived up to it. The 6’2″ defenceman emerged as the London Knights’ number one, playing in all situations. At the WJC, Juolevi put up a historical nine-point performance en route to a Gold Medal.

Although Juolevi lacks the flash of Mikhail Sergachev or Jake Bean, he’s every bit as, if not more effective. Juolevi’s offensive ability is heavily based on his playmaking and vision. From the point, he fires the puck around the ice accurately with ease. There’s a certain calmness and poise that makes it seem Juolevi is always one step ahead of the play. He utilizes this rapid puck distribution to open up passing and shooting lanes.

Juolevi excels at holding the offensive zone, utilizing his explosive acceleration to race down loose pucks and then keep the pressure on. Although Juolevi lacks a booming point shot, he’s an accurate shooter with a deceptive wrister. He could stand to shoot more often, as he does get pass-happy.

The Helsinki, Finland native was one of the OHL’s top defenders this season, and for good reason. Juolevi’s fluid pivots, powerful top-end speed, and quick first step make him a tough defender to beat. He proactively shuts down lanes with his great stick work. However, he could stand to improve his ability to win battles.

What Juolevi brings on a gamely basis exceeds what other defencemen bring. His elite hockey smarts and vision, along his high-end skating, make him an excellent two-way defender. Although he lacks the dynamism that others have, projecting his game to the NHL is quite easy.

Ranking Explanation: Starting a new tier of prospects, Juolevi falls short of Dubois/Keller/Tkachuk/Nylander, but is still a high-end option. He’s superior at defender and playmaking than Sergachev, which ultimately led me to giving Juolevi the edge.

 

6) Mikhail Sergachev
LD | 6’2″ 222 | Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Regular Season: 67GP 17G 40A 57P | Playoffs: 5G 2G 3A 5P

| Photo: NHL.com

Sergachev’s booming shot, explosive skater, and smooth hands make him arguably the OHL’s most entertaining defenceman. | Photo: NHL.com

It took a month and a half for Sergachev to adjust, but from there on, there wasn’t a better defenceman in the OHL. Sergachev, the reigning OHL Defenceman of the Year, racked up 57 points in 67 games this season.

Sergachev matches Juolevi’s gracefulness with unbridled power. Sergachev’s powerful first few steps turn into a smooth, fluid top-end stride. He’s a powerful backwards skater with incredibly impressive lateral movement. He utilizes this top-end gear to quickly rush the puck out the zone or jump into the rush as often as possible.

From the point, few are deadlier than Sergachev. His slapshot has a lightning fast windup and already high-end NHL power. Furthermore, he explodes off the line to find quality shooting lanes and create space for himself. Sergachev is a quality puck distributor, although he derives most of his offence from his shooting and space creation.

Sergachev’s zone exit/entry ability is highly impressive. He prefers to carry himself, but also possesses a quality breakout pass. Sergachev’s rushes are reminiscent of an elite NHL forward, as he will barrel down the wing and then challenge defenders one-on-one, often successfully. These hands are also evident when he evades forecheckers or activates from the blue line.

There are concerns about Sergachev’s commitment in his own zone, but I don’t agree. He could stand to be more assertive in the corners and in front of the net, but overall his defensive game is well above-average. Tough to beat one-on-one, as he’s just as likely to lay a crushing body check as to steal the puck.

Ranking Explanation: Another high-end defender. Sergachev possesses immense upside, perhaps even more (albeit slightly) than Juolevi, based off his superior shooting ability. However, Juolevi’s playmaking and defensive game are better. His raw upside and dynamism from the blue line have me more convinced that he will be a high-end contributor in the NHL than Brown, Chychrun, Fabbro, or Jost.

 

7) Logan Brown
LC | 6’6″ 220 | Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Regular Season: 59GP 21G 53A 74P | Playoffs: 5G 0G 6A 6P

Logan Brown finished second in Windsor Spitfires scoring this year with 74 points in 59 games. | Photo: Terry Wilson, OHL Images.

Logan Brown finished second in Windsor Spitfires scoring this year with 74 points in 59 games. | Photo: Terry Wilson, OHL Images.

After a slow start, Logan Brown took massive steps forward and became a force at the OHL level. A breakout four-point game was the precursor to a dominant final third of the regular season and a tremendous U18 performance.

Brown excels as a puck distributor. At the junior level, Brown’s vision is most definitely elite, as he finds his linemates with ease. He’s a constant threat to create plays across the offensive zone. In all situations, he presents a major challenge to defend. Off the rush, his soft hands and ability to create seams stand out. Brown is also prolific at playmaking in tight areas, particularly behind the net and along the boards, where he utilizes his massive frame and reach to protect the puck and attract attention.

A quality skater, Brown is able to weave his way through traffic with ease. While his first few steps could use work, his top-end speed and acceleration are both well-above average. But it’s his agility, combining with his great hands and reach, that really allow him to walk around players with a comical ease for a player so large.

In the second half, Brown started shooting the puck more, and as a result he scored 16 of 21 goals in the final 24 games played. He’s at his best as a slot shooter, where his power, accuracy, and improving release make him a threat. Although not a big-time long-range threat, he’s great at whacking in loose pucks around the goal. He’s still fairly pass-happy, but overall his offensive game is becoming more multi-faceted.

Brown’s backchecking is quite good as he can get his stick in lanes and disrupt the puck carrier. His in-zone reads still need work, but there has been notable improvement there.

All-in-all, Brown is a tantalizing package of skill packed into a 6’6″ frame. He’s a highly skilled playmaker who has really improved all other facets of his game. Going forward he will have to add more changes in tempo to his game, as he can get predictable at times.

Ranking Explanation: One of the most tantalizing prospects in the draft class, Brown’s projection is based more on potential than the players around him. I’m not convinced that he will be a top-line centre at the NHL level because of his lack of tempo changes and overall dynamism. However, I think his upside is tad higher than Bean or Jost’s because of vision, skating, and sense combination.

 

8) Jake Bean
LD | 6’1″ 172 | Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Regular Season: 68GP 24G 40A 64P | Playoffs: 5GP 0G 2A 2P

Jake Bean didn't just set a franchise record for goals by a defender, he also led the entire CHL in the cateogry this season. | Photo: Brad Watson, Calgary Hitmen

Jake Bean didn’t just set a franchise record for goals by a defender, he also led the entire CHL in the cateogry this season. | Photo: Brad Watson, Calgary Hitmen

I’ll say it now, Jake Bean is definitely the most underrated player by the media. For some season, the defender with the highest offensive upside gets almost no talk. He didn’t just score goals this season, he scored a Calgary Hitmen franchise record 24, while piling on 40 assists in just 68 games. He also scored 10% of his team’s goals.

Defencemen don’t come much more dynamic than Bean. In the offensive zone, Bean is a lethal shooter thanks to his overwhelming power, pinpoint accuracy, quick release, and ability to locate/create/exploit shooting lanes. Unlike other big shooters, Bean’s isn’t limited to the point. He instinctually activates from the point and then fires a shot, stickhandling and head-faking his way through traffic on the way.

Bean is also a quality puck distributor, demonstrating the ability to connect with teammates from virtually any range. He moves the puck quickly and accurately, particularly from the point. Given the opportunity to start the breakout, Bean relies on his vision and passing. He’s also a quality puck rusher, which isn’t surprisingly given his stickhandling ability and high-end skating ability.

The big concern about Bean’s game is defence. But, I’m not concerned. His biggest problems are getting beat by speedier forwards, which can be fixed by adjusting his positioning, and lack of proficiency in battles, which can be fixed by increasing strength and improving body positioning. Plus, he spends a significant portion of his time in the offensive zone. Clearly, he’s doing something right.

Overall, Bean is an elite offensive threat, possessing great shooting, playmaking, and agility. The flaws in his defensive game aren’t link to hockey sense or decision-making, which makes me believe that those flaws are easily fixable.

Ranking Explanation: One of the most skilled players in the draft class, I group Bean closely with Juolevi, Sergachev, Brown, Jost, and Fabbro. I believe that he will become a more valuable scorer at his position than Jost will become. Furthermore, Bean is a better skater, shooter, and equally as good playmaker as Fabbro, which gives Bean the edge.

 

9) Tyson Jost
LC | 5’11” 190 | Penticton Vees (BCHL)
Regular Season: 48GP 42G 62A 104P | 11GP 6G 8A 14P

| Photo: Garret James Photography

While the Vees suffered an early exit in the playoffs, Jost turned it into a dominant performance at the U18s. | Photo: Garrett James Photography

The 2015-16 CJHL Player of the Year posted one of the greatest BCHL seasons in history, sitting fourth in All-Time PPG by a first-time draft-eligible forward behind Jeff Tambellini, Kyle Turris, and Scott Gomez. At the WJAC, Jost won Gold and was named the tournament’s MVP in the process. At the U18s, Jost racked up 15 points, beating Connor McDavid’s record, and winning top forward honours in the process.

Jost brings elite hockey smarts that translate across the entire ice surface. He’s a deadly offensive player, who proactively anticipates the play and exploits the spaces given to him. Across the ice, he makes his presence felt with great reads, smart positioning, and a never-ending motor. Jost is one of the best forecheckers I’ve ever seen, constantly forcing defenders into uncomfortable plays and never falling behind.

Jost’s tools allow him to get full mileage out of his smarts. His wide skating base makes him a deceptively fast skater with high-end acceleration and above-average edge work. Quality stickhandling allows him to make plays at top speed. He’s a high-end shooter, with a crazy fast release.

Just as proficient at playmaking, Jost rapidly locates passing lanes and exploits them. He’s not the type to risk a turnover, so he often distributes with short passes. This passing style is really effective on the powerplay, where Jost racked up 44 points.

The overall game of Jost projects well to the NHL, unfortunately the league doesn’t. With that said, his play on the international level has been very impressive. Jost is headed to the University of North Dakota, where he should instantly become a top-six forward.

Ranking Explanation: Although a tad “vanilla” compared to many of the players in the draft class, Jost could be among the best. Concerns about projecting him are still relevant, but I’m confident his smarts will translate to the NHL. He could become a valuable second line centre, which gives him a slight edge over his teammate, Fabbro, to me.

 

10) Dante Fabbro
RD | 6’0″ 192 | Penticton Vees (BCHL)
Regular Season: 45GP 14G 53A 67P | 11GP 0G 8A 8P

| Photo: Garrett James Photography

An RBC Cup Champion during his 16-year-old season, Fabbro turned his performance into an incredible sophomore year. | Photo: Garrett James Photography

This season, Fabbro won: BCHL Defenceman of the Year, Top 3 Player of Team Canada at U18s, Ivan Hlinka Gold Medal, and WJAC Gold Medal. At the age of just 16, Fabbro was one of the BCHL’s top defenders.

Just like teammate Tyson Jost, Fabbro’s decision-making and smarts are what immediately stands out. Despite lacking a quality top-end gear, Fabbro’s calm demeanour and smart decisions making a high-end puckmover. From his own zone, Fabbro’s can easily evade pressure and carry it out himself or connect with a brilliant stretch pass.

In the offensive zone, Fabbro’s an equally skilled shooter as he is passer. Not an overwhelming shooter by any means, rather an accurate shooter who excels at getting pucks through traffic. He distributes with purpose, truly thinking a few steps ahead.

As a defensive player, Fabbro is really impressive. He routinely showcases excellent anticipation, gap control, and awareness of his surroundings. His hand-eye coordination and strength allow him to strip players of possession and win battles regularly. Although Fabbro can get beat by speedy forwards off the rush, his excellent edge work and smarts make him a difficult player to beat along the boards.

A true two-way defender, Fabbro could one day become a quality NHL player. While he has minor flaws, the biggest remains projecting the BCHL’er. He’s headed to Boston University, where he will be joined by Kieffer Bellows and Clayton Keller as part of the school’s massive influx of talent.

Ranking Explanation: At the U18s, Fabbro was Canada’s best defender, outplaying Jakob Chychrun by a fair margin. Fabbro isn’t as physical gifted as Chychrun, but is an overall smarter player.

 

11) Jakob Chychrun
LD | 6’2″ 200 | Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Regular Season: 62GP 11G 38A 49P | Playoffs: 7GP 2G 6A 8P

At the age of 16, Jakob Chychrun won OHL Defenceman of the Year and was seen as a challenger to Auston Matthews. Now, he may not even be the first defender taken in the draft. | Photo: Metcalfe Photography.

At the age of 16, Jakob Chychrun was a finalist for OHL Defenceman of the Year and was seen as a challenger to Auston Matthews. Now, he may not even be the first defender taken in the draft. | Photo: Metcalfe Photography.

Jakob Chychrun entered the season as the potential number #2 pick and the undisputed top defender in the draft class. While it wasn’t a season of regression, Chychrun plateaued.

Chychrun is a high volume shooter, firing at a 3.21 SOG/GP clip this season. His powerful shot is boosted with quality accuracy and decent ability to find shooting lanes. Sarnia’s PP setup often placed Chychrun at the right side circle, where his shooting prowess was heavy utilized.

Although Chychrun isn’t a particularly skilled playmaker, at least not when compared to Juolevi or Sergachev, he still makes crisp, accurate passes. He can try to do too much, but for the most part his breakout is consistently solid. Chychrun’s hands are a tad clunky, yet highly effective because of the speed of his movements.

Where concerns begin is in the defensive zone. Chychrun has a tendency to get beaten backwards and laterally, despite having explosive forwards skating. His indecisiveness makes him prone to getting exploited one-on-one. Furthermore, he has a tendency to crippling decisions at unforgiving times.

This isn’t to say that Chychrun’s defensive game is all bad—it’s not. Not an overly physical player, but still makes his presence felt in the corner and around the net. Down low, he quickly removes pressure and starts the play back the other way. There isn’t a better defender in the class, other than perhaps Fabbro, who has a stronger positional game at this point.

Overall, Chychrun could be a really valuable player in the NHL in a short period of time.

Ranking Explanation: I was once really high on Chychrun, but I found his performance this season underwhelming, particularly in the second half. He’s still a tremendous athlete with high upside, but I’m less confident that his decision-making flaws will be fixed now. Ultimately the physical tools were too good to drop too far.

 

12) Luke Kunin
RC/RW | 5’11” 192 | University of Wisconsin (NCAA)
Regular Season: 34GP 19A 13A 32P

Luke Kunin wrapped up the season on a nine-goals-in-11-games run. | Photo: University of Wisconsin Athletics

Luke Kunin wrapped up the season on a nine-goals-in-11-games run. | Photo: University of Wisconsin Athletics

One of the lesser talked about prospects for this year’s draft class, Luke Kunin was “Mr. Everything” for the Unviersity of Wisconsin. He finished just one point back of the team lead in points, was far and away the leader in goals, and was among the best volume shooters in the entire NCAA, at a staggering 3.74 SOG/GP.

Kunin is a highly-skilled goalscorer, possessing an elite release and excellent accuracy. Through excellent positioning and slipperiness, Kunin is a challenge to defend as he can exploit the smallest of spaces. Furthermore, he’s a quality finisher across the ice, which makes a varied goalscorer.

Although Kunin isn’t a high-end playmaker, he still displays smarts and awareness. He’s able to rapidly locate and connect with his teammates, although he doesn’t have much creativity in regards to playmaking. However, he is a deft stickhandler, which creates space for himself and teammates.

A smooth skater with a separation gear, Kunin is able to make full usage of his 200-foot intelligence. He displays excellent awareness on the backcheck, and his ability to cut down lanes makes him a deadly penalty killer.

A super-pest, Kunin thrives when the physical intensity ramps up. He’s a hard hitter, thanks to good technique and sneaky strong base. He’s also really strong with his stick, as noted by his knack for cleanly stripping players of possession.

Kunin might not be as flashy as other players available, but he is a tremendous scorer, who plays a well-rounded game.

Ranking Explanation: A high-end talent, Kunin brings a diverse and lethal skill set to the table. I was really tempted to put Kunin over Chychrun and Fabbro, but decided that I liked the former’s physical tools and the latter’s smarts more.

 

13) Michael McLeod
RC | 6’2″ 185 | Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Regular Season: 57GP 21G 40A 61P | Playoffs: 7GP 3G 6A 9P

Arguably the fastest skater in the draft class and a quality playmaker, Michael McLeod is one of the draft's most intriguing players. | Photo: Aaron Dell, OHL Images

Arguably the fastest skater in the draft class and a quality playmaker, Michael McLeod is one of the draft’s most intriguing players. | Photo: Aaron Dell, OHL Images

Every year there’s a prospect or two whose statistics don’t align with their ranking. Michael McLeod is this draft’s incarnation. His 1.07 points-per-game clip is far behind what you would expect for a potential top-10 pick, but the flashes definitely are enticing. He finished 20th in CHL first-time draft eligible scoring–a tad concerning.

Speed is the first element that stands out. McLeod is the OHL’s fastest skater, and he makes sure that everyone knows it–to a fault. He plays at one speed, which gets predictable. Defenders back up and give him space, but he properly utilize it, instead skating right into the stick, or firing a soft shot on goal.

At McLeod’s best, he uses his speed to blow past the opposition, then either drive the net or dish to a teammate and take a lane. The rush is where McLeod is at his best. He does a fairly good job of being aware to take defenders with him to the net. In the offensive zone, McLeod’s positioning isn’t particularly good, and his lack of creativity is evident on the powerplay (which can explain the fact that his 15 powerplay points were far back of Alex Nylander and Nathan Bastian’s totals).

McLeod’s defensive game and attention to detail are also lauded. He led all draft eligibles with a staggering 58% in the dot, and he’s routinely utilize as Mississauga’s shutdown centre. He can get annihilated against the tougher matchups, but for the most part he does a good job. He puck watches sometimes, but he usually pressures hard without taking himself out of position.

McLeod will need to improve his decisions while in possession. His hands have yet to catch up to his feet, as evident by his reluctance to stickhandle while skating. He reaches for too many pucks instead of taking an extra step.

I spent a lot of time in the Hershey Centre this season. My high initial impression of McLeod quickly turned sour. However, it’s important not to fall victim to recency bias. He’s still a quality player, and by no means a bad selection high in the draft. He’s a project, and one with higher upside than he gets credit for.

Ranking Explanation: The powerful, speedy player is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential. As a result, I found it tough to put him further down. I like his upside more than McAvoy’s, who I feel is an unspectacular, albeit solid prospect. While Bellows projects as a better goalscorer, McLeod impacts all other aspects of the game significantly more.

 

14) Charlie McAvoy
RD | 6’0″ 200 | Boston University (NCAA)
Regular Season: 37GP 3A 22A 25P

McAvoy contributed on an impressive 21% of BU's goals this season. He also represented USA at WJC. | Photo: Steve McLaughlin, BU Athletics

McAvoy contributed on an impressive 21% of BU’s goals this season. He also represented USA at WJC. | Photo: Steve McLaughlin, BU Athletics

As a freshman, McAvoy steadily improved throughout the season, finishing with 11 points in his last 12 games. McAvoy was among the top freshman in the entire NCAA, and was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team.

Although unspectacular, McAvoy is extremely solid. Possessing consistency beyond his years, McAvoy is typically a low-risk, medium-reward defender. His high-end skating ability and thick, strong frame allow him to compete for pucks and jump into the play.

McAvoy loves to activate offensively. From his own zone, he’s more of a distributor than a rusher, but he will jump into the rush without hesitation. With the puck McAvoy loves to extend his possession time by little fakes and dekes to find the perfect passing option.

McAvoy’s shot packs serious power, but he displays a reluctance to use it, often passing up quality shooting lanes. As a playmaker, McAvoy is intelligent and effective. His puck movement is great, as is his ability to find and exploit seams in the ice.

In his own zone, McAvoy’s smooth skating style and graceful edge work shine as he rapidly closes the gap. He’s solid with his stick, and will showcase his strength from time to time. His decision-making has made noticeable improvement in the past two years.

Although not a high-end offensive player, McAvoy’s tools make him a solid bet to become a quality NHLer.

Ranking Explanation: I’m unconvinced that McAvoy will become a legitimate offensive at the NHL level. His best offensive skill, playmaking, isn’t high-end. However, he’s a solid bet to the become an NHLer, particularly as a minute-munching middle pairing guy.

 

15) Kieffer Bellows
LW | 6’0″ 197 | USNTDP
USHL: 23GP 16G 16A 32P | USNTDP Total: 62GP 50G 31A 81P

 | Photo: Rena Laverty, USA Hockey

At just 16 years old, Kieffer Bellows led the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stempede in scoring with 33 goals and 52 points. | Photo: Rena Laverty, USA Hockey

The record holder for USHL goals by a 16-year-old followed it up with a 50 goal season with the USNTDP. Bellows knows how to score goals, and that component of his game is definitely top-10 in the draft class.

Bellows is a shooter first-and-foremost. He racked up 4.83 SOG/GP across 23 USHL games. The high-volume shooter can score in a variety of ways. His incredible release compliments his overwhelming power, which makes him a lethal medium-to-long range threat. Through a combination strength, balance, and puck control, Bellows is a gifted net-front presence.

Bellows is also a crafty stickhandler with a decent set of one-on-one moves. After beating the defender, Bellows typically makes powerful net drives, running over anyone in the way. He’s a merely average distributor, and sometimes wastes possession with a poor shot.

Without the puck, Bellows loves to throw his weight around and ramp up the physical intensity. His merely average top-end speed sometimes hinders his ability to get back into the play. Furthermore, he’s far from a polished defensive player, as he’s too stationary and reliant on his teammates.

Ranking Explanation: Bellows gets the edge over German Rubtsov and Max Jones because of his goalscoring ability. Julien Gauthier displays a similar level of goalscoring ability, but I like Bellows’ physical nature and stickhandling more.  While it is just one-dimension, I believe that one dimension could make him a 30+ guy in the NHL one day. However, for him to reach that, his play without the puck and decision-making must improve substantially.

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4 Responses to 2016 NHL Draft: Ninth Overall Targets

  1. Hi Mitch:

    1) 1st of all, great work, very impressive draft report. Unlike like you, I have not seen the type of hockey tape on these players, but I do have a few opinions. My top player like you is PL Dubois. From what I have seen he is very impressive. All the tools to play at the NHL level. Bad part unless Bergevin makes a bold move, Habs have no chance to get him.

    2)My next choice would be Keller. I suspect you are too young to remember but what I have seen of Keller, he strongly reminds me of the skill that a young Denis Savard had & the habs sadly passed on him when they had the opportunity to draft him. I’ll say no more.

    3) Next choice whom we could get at 9 is Logan Brown. Described comparable to Joe Thornton with a slightly meaner streak has me very impressed and he is a big center, big on my list of must haves as well.

    Lets talk about the elephant in the draft room. PK’s trade rumor & its seems to be building steam as we get closer to July 1st. Well that would make a big difference to be sure if it came to pass. I would hate to see Habs trade a bonafide #1 puck moving, point producing former Norris winning defenseman. But they (Bergevin & Therrien) just don’t like PK, especially at $9 mil per season. So I have my doubts that it is not on the table. Only Geoff Molson can put a stop to this rumor and if he planned to why hasn’t he? Makes me nervous.

    So lets discuss this. If PK gets moved that may alter the draft board. I assume PK would garner a high pick so you may get Dubois. But who plays D? Then your next pick at 9, hopefully Bergevin is able to keep it, he must draft the next best available D man, hopefully Sergechev.

    Plenty of drama to come this Friday.

    Dave

    Dave Jursic June 22, 2016 at 11:16 pm Reply
  2. Bergevin must be going out of his mind looking at this list and not seeing what he needs to draft –> a 4th liner

    The combination of Bergevin and Therrien have taken steps to undermine this team’s future with their stupidity. By putting a harness on the team’s best defender(Subban) + our other guys like Petry and Beaulieu is like playing with one hand tied behind your back. This insane 1950’s style of hockey led by Therrien has killed this team’s Offense. Our Zone Exit Strategy looks like something drawn up in the dirt for a Road Hockey game. Therrien is so proud of our diminishing Offense and non existant Power Play. We saw exactly what type of “coach” he was last season when Price went down. He refused/wasn’t smart enough to make the necessary changes to pull this team together. He skated away from that and got his “puppet” foxhole buddy to come out and blame the players while giving that POS vote after vote of confidence and refusing to do the right thing and fire his ass!

    The Draft: how will Bergevin screw this up……..lets count the ways.
    1) we need Offense specifically Goal Scorers so if he drafts a Forward he’ll no doubt grab a “playmaking” type of guy who is more suited to pass off the puck then shoot it. We don’t have enough talented forwards that are capable shooters to redirect passes for goals.

    2) Bergevin will in his mind think he’s actually thinking ahead with Markov’s retirement on the horizon so he’ll spend our 1st pick on a defensemen to replace him. He’ll no doubt settle for a “Defensive” guy instead of a playmaker.

    3) Back to #2 – selecting an Offensive DMen is actually a terrible idea if you are planning to retain Therrien as coach. The way he neuters their talent and offensive skill and turns them into grinders…..like his collection of 4th liners.

    I have no confidence in Bergevin on Friday and Saturday this week. My expectations are to be simply disappointed once again. I think he will do the easiest thing possible in drafting a “French Cdn” kid either Dubois and if he’s gone(guaranteed) he will then reach for that other French kid who is in the #16-20 range on the board. I also expect to see him choose some more small forwards who will get battered on the Rock with Therrien’s half brother who coach’s there. He’ll draft some foreign talent that is very light on offensive skills.

    Going to be a long, long season even though Price and Muller back on board.

    Ned Stark June 23, 2016 at 3:22 am Reply
  3. Bergevin and Molson have come out not just once and said PK is not tradeable. Why does no one read these articles. Everyone wants PK, but are they willing to give up their best player for him and is their best player equal to PK. I’ll happily make the trade if I ca get McDavid.

    Denis June 23, 2016 at 10:50 am Reply
    • Except McDavid is never going to be available.

      Michael Gomez June 25, 2016 at 1:28 am Reply

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