Dynasty Hockey League

Scouts’ Honour Ranking System Draft Preview, Top 10 Edition

With the DHL season well underway and the halfway point coming closer, it’s becoming clear which teams are already making plans toward the draft and how many are making plans to jockey for position up the standings. Teams like Buffalo, the NY Islanders, Columbus, Los Angeles, and Calgary have separated themselves from the rest of the pack in terms of positioning for the draft and lottery. It will make for an interesting season for these teams and their scouting staffs as they sort through all the viewings and reports to decide how to rank the prospects heading into the draft.

With that in mind, this is by no means a mock draft, that will come later, this is simply a look at who we at SHRS feel are the top 10 prospects available for the draft, period.

Without further ado, the top 10:

1. Nolan Patrick, C, Brandon Wheat Kings

Unfortunately for scouts and the regular fan alike, they haven’t been treated to a lot of the real Nolan Patrick. Having been injured off and on for a season now, Patrick has struggled to show a full glimpse of what he is capable of. So, just what is he capable of? Many look at this draft class and suggest that the top end talent is lacking. Others argue that the talent is there, it will just require more projecting to decide which players will be the homeruns and which will be the busts. Patrick typifies that ideas. Many in the scouting community view him as a safe #1. A player that should be no worse than a big, puck possessions #2 centre while others see a Joe Thornton, Ryan Getzlaf type player capable of being a dominant top line centre. Patrick’s game is built around 200 foot play with an all around solid package of skills, able to score and set up others at the same time. There really are no weaknesses to his game, but also no outstanding aspects which has lead many to label him “safe”. He is pro ready.

2. Nico Hischier, LW, Halifax Mooseheads

No player benefited more from the WJC than Hischier, who put on an offensive show for the Swiss. Blessed with great skating ability in both straight-away speed and agility, Hischier makes defenders miss all over the ice and has the speed to pull away on the rush. He combines that skating ability with tremendous puck skills and ability to make high end plays. There are those out there that feel Hischier is challenging Patrick for the 1st overall pick and may in fact be the first overall depending on which team is picking first. Based on the history of Swiss prospects, teams will be leery, no doubt, which will lead some to shy away from taking him. That could be a big miss as he has all the makings of a player recently drafted from a non-hockey market in Nikolas Ehlers.

3. Casey Mittlestadt, C, Eden Prairie High School (USHS)

From here on out the intrigue begins. On pure skill, it’s hard to argue with Mittlestadt. A little slight in stature, he makes up for it with sublime skill and the ability to produce points in bunches, which he has done in both the USHL and the USHS system. Some question his decision to go chasing a high school championship while others will see that as a sign of character and drive that he would bypass higher levels of competition to compete at a lower level to win. The big question will be what happens at the next level, whether the NCAA or CHL, when Mittlestadt faces bigger, stronger, and faster competition. Our money is on him thriving as he has done at every level to this point in his short career.

4. Owen Tippett, RW, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

Scoring, scoring and more scoring. That’s what you’re going to get with Tippett. For that reason, scouts are torn on where to slot him in this draft. Those that want scoring will reach this early to take him, while others may have him down their draft boards in favour of players that offer a more complete package. There is no doubt that Tippett will be one of those players that will make some teams wish they had taken him and others smart for avoiding him depending on what route his career takes. There is no doubting, however, the elite level release and accuracy he possesses with his shot. Tippett is always around the puck and subsequently the net, sniffing out goals.

5. Gabe Vilardi, C/RW, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

Vilardi is a tough player to gauge. Many view him as an equal to Nolan Patrick, and a year younger which would give another year of development to be on par with Patrick, or ahead. Plays a very similar game, solid in all areas of the game but not necessarily excelling in any one. Vilardi projects as a quality #2 centre with the potential to be more depending on how his game develops and rounds into form. At worst, teams are likely seeing a 3rd liner with the possibility of playing a much more significant role for whatever team drafts him. The bonus to Vilardi is that he has played both the wing and centre which gives that flexibility. He has drawn comparisons to Charlie Coyle.

6. Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle U20 (SWE)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Nah, the curious case of Timothy Liljegren. 6 months ago he was viewed as a challenger for the 1st overall thanks to his skating ability, offensive upside from the back end and potential as a top pairing dman. Since then, he was left off the Swedish WJC team and has seen his stock fall. Ask the scouts about it, and many can’t put their finger on exactly why. They simply say there is something off about his game. Some question his lack of a two way game that people would like to see more of, while others wonder if there are attitude issues keeping him from excelling. Despite those concerns, Liljegren could leave one team walking away from the draft with a potential cornerstone on the back end if his game continues to develop.

7. Nicolas Hague, D, Mississauga, Steelheads (OHL)

Hague is a tricky player to slot when it comes to the draft. Big, skilled and quite fleet of foot for a player his size but yet scouts still see him as a mid to late 1st. The obvious concerns, can a big man move the way he needs to in order to be able to compete against the speed they will find at the pro level. Those that are willing to gamble on that assumption could see themselves with a monster of a man that has the ability to skate, play both ends of the ice and be on the PP. At worst, you’ll have on your hands a Chris Phillips type player who plays in your top 4 for 15 year, at best, someone along the lines of Zdeno Chara, with less of a physical element.

8. Eeli Tolvanen, LW, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)

If not for an up and down season that included a struggle for the Finnish team at the WJC, Tolvanen could see himself being mentioned at the top of the draft. His speed and skill certainly speak to that. The question surrounding him is can he do it all the time and show the consistency required of an elite level point producer. Tolvanen will be able to answer that challenge moreso next season when he heads to the NCAA and takes on more polished, older competition than he has found in the USHL. There is no doubt that teams have a close on him.

9. Miro Heiskanen, D, HIFK (FIN)

Unlike most that played for Finland at the WJC, Heiskanen didn’t suffer the same sort of slip in the rankings. In fact, he has continue to move up and up the rankings as the season has progressed. A quality, two way game is the hallmark of what Heiskanen brings each and every night. He skates well and can move the puck and can be deployed in all situations. Some consider his game to be very safe without the high end upside of Liljegren or Hague, which many scouts are just fine with. There is no doubt Heiskanen is a riser in the scouting community right now and could see himself push towards the top 5 by season’s end.

10. Michael Rasmussen, C, Tri City Americans (WHL)

Big, skilled centre who can score, set up plays and skate. Sounds like a nice combination. It will be awful tough for a team to pass on Rasmussen and feel good about it. He brings a tantalizing package, but so did players like Jason Bonsignore, Nik Antropov and so many other big, skilled centres who just couldn’t put it all together and become elite. Let’s not be mistaken, Rasmussen isn’t viewed as an elite #1 centre, but instead as seen as a very good #2 centre in the mold of Mats Sundin but on a lesser level. He is one of those players that could see himself move up draft boards, but could also drop down depending on how enamored teams are with the package he offers.

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