As we reach into the depths of January, with the World Juniors come and gone, it’s time for mid-year draft rankings to start coming out. NHL Central Scouting released their Mid-Term rankings on Monday, while TSN’s Craig Button released his January draft rankings on Wednesday.
Here’s a few thoughts on what stood out to me as I looked through these lists:
-Wisconsin’s Dylan Holloway leads all players with NCAA ties on Central Scouting, checking in at 10th on the North American skaters list and 13th on Button’s list. Holloway is having a decent year at Wisconsin. I’ve loved his speed and ability to win loose pucks in the games I’ve seen Wisconsin play. He’s generating a lot of shots, and while I don’t have access to those types of numbers, I’d be willing to bet his advanced stats look pretty good too.
Only nine points in 18 games is a little concerning though. Wisconsin does have some big gunners that chew up a lot of the prime PP time, and Holloway is still fairly young, but you’d hope for a little more offensive flash if we’re talking about drafting him the top-15-ish range in the draft. The immediate comparison that comes to mind is Cameron Hughes who, like Holloway, came to Wisconsin out of Alberta as a late-year birthdate that just missed the draft age cut-off the year prior. Hughes was a great skater, and nice player, but never really developed into more than a fringe guy/One Game Wonder at the NHL level. Now, Hughes never had the scoring track record Holloway did. Hughes was just over 1.00 pts/gm in his final year of juniors, while Holloway was at 1.67, and Holloway’s .50 pts/gm in the NCAA was better than Hughes’ .33 as a freshman. Hughes was also always considered more of a fringe draft pick—Central Scouting had him in the low-100s, and he was picked in the 6th round—while Holloway has consistently been ranked in first round territory. So maybe the scoring develops and Holloway turns into a player worthy of that high pick. That ranking just feels a little high to me.
-The other players with NCAA ties listed in the top 31 by Central Scouting: 11. Jake Sanderson(UND), 18. Ty Smilanic(Quinnipiac), 26. Thomas Bordeleau(Michigan), 28. Yan Kouznetsov(UConn) 31. Brendan Brisson(Michigan)
-Jake Sanderson at 11 on the Central Scouting list is interesting. Craig Button has him at 33rd, which is funny, because Button was one of the first, if I recall correctly, to start ranking Sanderson as a potential mid-first round pick. I came into the year skeptical of some of the hype surrounding Sanderson, but after seeing him play this year, he’s grown a lot in the last 12-18 months, both physically, and as a leader on the NTDP blue line. I’d probably split the difference on those two rankings and put Sanderson somewhere in the middle.
-UConn defenseman Yan Kouznetsov gets fringe first round consideration on both lists. I haven’t seen enough of UConn to have a really strong opinion. The size and mobility are obviously very intriguing, but his numbers are pretty ugly, even considering he’s the only ‘02 playing in a league that has a fair number of ‘95s floating around. He’s never been a big scorer, and his numbers are fairly modest this year, considering he has seen power play time, and his goals allowed numbers are Alabama-Huntsville/K’Andre Miller-level bad. I don’t know what else is available this year elsewhere, but taking that big of a risk solely on physical tools suggest more of a second/third-round type than a first rounder. Especially given the importance NHL teams have placed on defensemen that can create offense in recent years.
-Brendan Brisson made a big jump from mid-rounder to fringe first rounder thanks to his big performance at the World Junior A Challenge, where he scored 12 points in 6 games. Central Scouting as him at 31, while Craig Button ranks him at 17(If there’s a consistent criticism of Button’s rankings, which on the whole, I think are excellent, it’s that he sometimes tends to overrate whatever the most recent international tournament was, so factor in that Brisson probably slides since he’s not eligible for the World U18s this spring).
Meanwhile, Brisson’s Chicago Steel/WJAC teammate Gunnarwolfe Fontaine did not enjoy the same bump, despite putting up 10 points in six games at the WJACs and averaging over a point per game in the USHL. He checks in at 212 on Central Scouting’s list. Fontaine is in his second year of eligibility, just 24 hours away from being in his third year of eligibility, so he’s a little older, and his size works against him a bit, but I’d think it’s tough to ignore to what he is doing at the junior level. I’d definitely take a shot on him in the later rounds of the draft, especially over some of the long-shot projects that are ranked above him.
-One of the more interesting players, to me, is NTDP forward Dylan Peterson. Central Scouting puts him at 34 on their list while Craig Button doesn’t rank him in the top-93. It’s easy to spot the divide. Every time I see Peterson play, I come away really impressed with his hands and his ability to move the puck. He looks like he has the potential to be a huge scorer at the next level. But......he’s not scoring right now. His offensive numbers are pretty dreadful, and that’s understandably going to scare some teams away. I tend to lean more toward Central Scouting’s line of thinking on this one though.
-Central Scouting is also higher on NTDP defenseman Brock Faber, putting him mid-second round, than Button, who puts him late-third round, is. Faber is the other NTDP player that I think is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential, and could develop into a major prospect.
-Among the long, long list of players that were once but no longer committed to Michigan, obviously the one that hurts most is Cole Perfetti, who will likely go in the first five picks. But many of the others are looking like they won’t sting as much. Antonio Stranges, who started the year as a mid-first round has now slipped into the 2nd/3rd round territory in both rankings. Andrei Bakanov, who drew considerable hype when he committed, is ranked 203 by Central Scouting, and probably not a draft pick at this point, as is Austen Swankler, who oddly, de-committed after going undrafted last summer. Certainly the latter two wouldn’t have been players ready to play college hockey right away next year, if ever.
-Cool to see Andover’s Wyatt Kaiser(UMD) check in at 56th on the Central Scouting list, as he has been one of the my favorites prospects for some time. But I’m also not sure I’d reach that high for any player with that small of a track record outside of high school hockey short of a Casey Mittelstadt(and even then, apparently).