It’s been a long time since we released our previous list for the 2017 NHL Draft on September 21st, part of the reason for that is simply the fact that we felt comfortable enough with our list for the past few months without feeling the urge to make major changes.
In the meantime a few things have happened. Scouts in North America have been able to appreciate how good our previous #1 Nico Hischier really is. Central Scouting has moved Elias Pettersson (our ensuing #1 since Nico started his North American season and therefore stopped being eligible for our list) from a B rate in October to the #2 spot in Europe.
Timothy Liljegren was diagnosed with mononucleosis the day after our September ranking was released, leaving him sidelined for some time, while big forwards Kristian Vesalainen and Klim Kostin have struggled to produce.
Even before their production issues, we didn’t have Vesalainen that high in our list nor as a top 10 pick overall and we didn’t have Kostin close to the top in the overall projection either. Similarly, we have also already dropped Liljegren from the top spot in Europe in September just before the news about mono came out. In light of that diagnosis, even if his level of play this season would suggest so, we’re now keen to wait a bit more before dropping Liljegren any further, especially when not many other prospects made a case to replace him in the 2nd spot of our list. Still, the Swede will probably need to pick up his game in the second part of the season to retain a spot that is basically the byproduct of what he showed last season.
Now, with the WJC in the books an updated ranking is definitely due, no matter if injuries and some performances have not really helped the process. Kostin is the other big name whose draft season has been a struggle and unlike Liljegren he won’t have any chance to redeem it after undergoing surgery last week on the shoulder that reportedly has been bothering him for a while. We still have him in the same tier as some of the prospects ranked ahead of him on our new list, but healthier players like Necas and Heiskanen who were already enjoying a much better season than him get the edge in the ranking.
Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for the chance to see Russian goalie Daniil Tarasov play this season, so the waiting game goes on with the hope to see him back 100% healthy at some point before the final part of the season.
Our #1 Elias Pettersson also missed time recently after a WJC where he didn’t have much luck in terms of production. He didn’t play the bronze medal game after his head hit the hard dash of the side boards as a result of a pretty hard bodycheck suffered in the 3rd period against Canada, and was then reportedly out with the flu for the first few Allsvenskan games played by Timra once he was back in Sweden. He has appeared in four games since getting back in action on January 20th, producing at a point per game ratio like he did in the first part of the season.
Among the few guys that have improved their stock with us in recent months are Filip Chytil and Alexei Lipanov. The latter sat just out of our September ranking and had a strong WJAC in December. Chytil is a kid barely eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft who seems to be coming into his own lately and who has been able to get quality ice-time in the top Czech league.
Robin Salo who has also been playing well domestically was an unexpected cut from Finland’s WJC team. Just as surprisingly, in an underwhelming Finnish tournament performance, the coach was sacked midway through the event as it became obvious Finland would have to tackle Latvia to avoid relegation.