NHL Central Scouting released their Final Draft Rankings for this summer’s NHL Draft. This is the part where I usually remind you that these are “final” in the sense that they’re the last list Central Scouting will put out, and are used as a final check for scouts heading into junior league playoffs and the World U18 Tournament. But this year, they are, uh.....pretty darn final.
Some notes on what stood out to me on the list:
-The biggest story here is the steady, continued rise of USA NTDP defenseman Jake Sanderson(North Dakota commit), this time all the way to fourth among North American skaters.
-Wisconsin’s Dylan Holloway, one of the rare players with the ignominious distinction of not having his season cut short by pandemic, held steady in mid-first round territory at 12th among NA skaters.
I maintain that there’s a lot to like about each player, but each player being ranked that high, leads me to believe this year’s draft ranks below average in terms of overall talent.
-Another notable riser with college ties was Chicago(USHL) forward Brendan Brisson(Michigan commit), who moved from 31 in the mid-terms to 20th in the final ranking. If Chicago would have made a long playoff run, which it looked like they were poised to do, Brisson may have continued to rise even higher. I don’t think he’ll make it to the back-third of the first round, and if he does, it may be a huge value for the team that drafts him.
-Central Scouting continues to be high on Andover(MN) defenseman Wyatt Kaiser(Minnesota Duluth commit). Kaiser moved up from 56 in the mid-terms to 37th in the final rankings. Minnesota Duluth will have a ton of minutes to replace on the blue line next season with Scott Perunovich, Dylan Samberg, and Nick Wolff all signing NHL contracts. With it unlikely that recruit Will Francis is able to play next year, the Bulldogs might be short on defensemen. They should return Hunter Lellig from injury, and add NTDP defenseman Connor Kelley and USHL D Darian Gotz. Otherwise, they’ve got a lot of guys that would probably be better served by playing juniors next year, Kaiser included.
If NHL teams agree with Central Scouting—not a certainty; I tend to believe CSB is a little more generous to MN HS players than NHL teams are—Kaiser should be a top-60 draft pick, which increasingly, is becoming the minimum threshold for an 18-year-old to have any sort of success as a freshman in college hockey. But given that he played high school hockey this past season, and didn’t even get the opportunity to play a few juniors games after the HS season, along with the fact that he’s not the most physically developed kid lead me to believe he’d benefit from a year in the USHL, even if he does end up being selected that high.
-Six NTDP U18 players are ranked between 32-63 in the CSB rankings, and you add two more if you extend the parameters to 29-68. While there may have a lack of real superstar power on this year’s NTDP team—give or take your opinion on Jake Sanderson, I guess—and in the top part of the draft in general, I tend to believe there were more pretty good players on this year’s NTDP team than people give them credit for, and some good value to be had in those potential second round picks.
-Rosemount(MN) defenseman Jake Ratzlaff comes in ranked 90th on the list, up from 103 in the mid-terms. Ratzlaff is committed to play college hockey for Minnesota, but is also being recruited by Minnesota and Wisconsin to play football. Where he is selected in the NHL Draft may play a role in which path he decides to follow.
-I didn’t do an exact count, but it felt like there were a lot more second-year draft eligibles populating the bottom of this list than most years. I’m not sure if that’s a result of CSB following the lead of NHL teams, who tended to draft more second and third year guys than CSB ranked, or if missing the past month or so of hockey gave less time for younger players to shine.
Regardless this year’s draft will be an extremely interesting one to look back on and see what the effect of missing two months of scouting had on the draft. Maybe the effect will be nothing, but I have a feeling we might see more players drafted in later rounds that go on to have big NHL careers than the average year.