One of the best NHL Draft rankings every year comes from TSN insider Bob McKenzie, who cuts out all of the guesswork and just does a straight poll from scouts and decision-makers. This year, his list has expanded to the top 100, representing 93 picks in the first three rounds, plus seven honorable mentions out of respect to round numbers. It’s a great insight into where the conventional wisdom is heading into the NHL Draft.
Here is the complete list.
And a couple thoughts on what this list tells us heading into the draft this weekend:
-The first thing everyone is going to notice is at the top, where Nico Hischier just barely edged out Nolan Patrick for the number one overall spot. It was a close decision, as it has been most of the year. I still tend to believe that Patrick will be the Devils’ pick, but there is legit drama over the top overall pick heading into the Draft.
-Cale Makar is at fourth overall, which appears to solidify him as a potential and perhaps even likely top-five pick. It’s been interesting to watch where he has been ranked throughout the year. A lot of amateur/semi-professional organizations hedged, keeping Makar in the mid-first round, with everybody afraid of veering too far off the norm and moving him up, while somebody like Craig Button, who doesn’t really pay attention to what others are saying in creating his rankings, went all-in on Makar and him top-five months ago. It will be interesting to see if some team pulls the trigger on him that early on Friday, but I suspect they will.
-Gabe Vilardi is a little bit of a surprise at fifth overall. I thought he played his way into a solid third overall with a strong Memorial Cup. But with just Heiskanen and Makar ahead of him, it likely comes down to forward/defenseman preference with those picks.
-Kristian Vesalainen comes in at 15th overall. I have no idea on the voting, but that strikes me as a compromise with some teams having him high in their top ten, and some having down near the end of the first round. That’s part of the problem with consensus polls like this in that they don’t necessarily measure the range of opinions on a player.
-Ever since the World U18s, my biggest draft hot take is that if I had to pick a Swedish defenseman, I would take Erik Brannstrom before I took Timothy Liljegren. A few other outlets joined me on that bandwagon—Redline Report is probably the most notable. Grant McCagg’s new outlet Recrutes.ca ranks them that way too(though I think he correctly still has Liljegren going a bit higher in his Mock Draft). Similar to Jakob Chychrun last year, I think Liljegren is most likely to “drop” at least in the eyes of casual fans in the first round of the Draft. For casual observers that don’t spend a lot of time watching these players play, I think there’s a bit of bias towards players whose name they’ve heard a lot, whereas the people that follow this seriously are much quicker to drop a player who seems to have plateaued in his development.
Meanwhile, Brannstrom is just barely in the first round at 29th. But again, I would expect this is a situation where a handful of teams that like him really like him, and the ones that don’t, really don’t.
-Ryan Poehling is 19th. I like Ryan Poehling, but I’ve been saying for 12 months now that other players were going to emerge and knock him out of the first round. It hasn’t happened yet, and I’m beginning to think it won’t happen before Friday.
-Shane Bowers drops out of the first round at 32nd overall. Similar to Makar, but in reverse, this may be a case where everybody was ranking him mid-first round because everybody else was ranking him in the mid-first round.
-I haven’t seen a ton of him, but Stelio Mattheos seems like he’d be worth taking a lot higher than 65th overall. Maybe he was just an early-bloomer and that is limiting his value, but I think there’d be a lot of value in that pick if he lasted that long.
-Speaking of early bloomers, Ivan Lodnia hangs onto the list at 79th, while Sasha Chmelevski isn’t ranked. Those two were one of the most dynamic bantam duos I’ve ever seen, which only helps confirm that watching bantams is a waste of time.
-It’s interesting to see second-year-eligible Jack Badini sneak onto the list as an honorable mention. Badini was overlooked by Central Scouting all year, but had a nice year, including a great playoff run with the Chicago Steel in the USHL. Badini has always been skilled, and has grown enough that he can at least plausibly lie about being six feet tall. I expect that we’ll see quite a few of those off-the-board picks that haven’t been talked about by anyone on the second day of the Draft.