Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column looking at Hockey’s Future Stars. Over the next few days we will be previewing the 2017 NHL Draft by ranking our top 30 prospects and honourable mentions.
With the Junior seasons not just in Canada but throughout the world gearing up for the stretch drive and a number of international tournaments (Ivan Hlinka, Four Nations, Subway Super Series, World Juniors, Five Nations) in the books, we have gotten a decent overview of what some of the biggest prospects for the draft are doing this year. This is an up to date look and ranking of these prospects. That said, there is still plenty of work to be done and many important games to be played including junior league playoffs, European playoffs, and of course the Under-18 World Championships. While the rankings still have some fluidity, a pecking order is also starting to define itself. For now, this is what we have, we hope you enjoy the early preview and be sure to be ready in late March as we roll out our full player-by-player draft preview.
2017 NHL Draft February Rankings: 6-10
6.) Owen Tippett, Mississauga Steelheads; Right Wing (6’1″ 181 lbs) (Prev: 7)
Tippet announced himself to the world at last year’s World Under 17 Hockey Challenge, where he put up five goals and eight points in six games to lead Canada White to the gold medal. Tippett is extremely dangerous off the rush. He has excellent speed and acceleration. His ability to change speeds allows him to take defenders wide and drive to the front of the net, where he has the soft hands to finish in tight. If defenders back off to respect his speed, he can use his excellent wrist shot or snap shot and beat goalies with a quick release.
Tippett’s shot is amongst the very best of anyone in this draft class. He is a pure sniper who is dangerous anytime he finds open space to get a shot off. He also shows the ability to find soft spots in the defensive zone, and get open to let off a one-timer
Tippett could stand to work on his play making skills. He can stand to slow things down and hold on to the puck just a little longer before rushing a play. This has improved as the season has gone on though there is still a bit more to imporve. Tippett has put up 39 goals and 68 points in 52 games this season. Tippett also works hard in his own end and is a solid two-way player. Mississauga started the season off slowly, but has played well in the second half, and Tippett has been a big part of that change.
7.) Elias Pettersson, Timra IK; Centre (6’2″ 161 lbs) (Prev: 13)
Pettersson is playing in the Allvenskan, and has had a tremendous year with 16 goals and 37 points in 38 games. He was also very good at the Under 18s with eight points in seven games, and looked good at World Junior tryout camps, making the Swedish team. During the tournament itself, he was much more dangerous than his statline of just one assist in six games shows.
Pettersson has a very good frame, but really needs to bulk up. He has very good offensive instincts and makes smart plays with the puck. His hockey IQ is his biggest weapon, as it seems that Pettersson almost always makes the right play with the puck on his stick. Pettersson is very good at give and go type plays, dishing the puck and then skating too open ice.
His stickhandling and puck possession are also extremely good, and he can create plays off the rush or in the offensive zone. He can make plays with the puck while moving at top speed. He also controls the puck well down low, but this is an area where the added bulk will really be needed before he moves to the next level. Pettersson is extremely hard to stop if he gets a defenceman one-on-one. He also has excellent vision and passing skills. To top it off, he has a strong wrist shot and quick release.
8.) Michael Rasmussen, Tri-City Americans, Centre, (6’5″ 203 lbs) (Prev: 9)
Rasmussen is a towering 6’5″ centre who has put up 32 goals and 55 points in 50 games this year. With that size, and stat line, its no surprise he is getting plenty of attention from NHL Skates. Rasmussen is a pretty good skater for his size. He has a strong stride which gives above average speed and good agility. While he is not the biggest hitter, he plays a powerful game. He uses his size to win board battles and protect the puck down low on the cycle. A strong core, and good balance make him difficult to knock off the puck.
Rasmussen also has the power in his stride to fight through checks and take the puck to the net. His long reach makes it very hard to get the puck off of him, and he has the slick hands to control it in tight areas, or make plays in close to the goalie. Rasmussen also has a very heavy wrist shot, with good accuracy and an excellent release. While it is Rasmussen’s offensive numbers that have turned heads this season, he is also very good in his own zone. He brings the same grit and tenacity to the defensive end that he does to the offensive end.
9.) Eeli Tolvanen, Sioux City Muskateers, Left Wing (5’10” 174 lbs) (Prev: 8)
Tolvanen is another player who really excelled at last year’s World U-17 tournament. He put up nine goals and 10 points in just five games for Finland. He followed that up with 38 points in 49 games for Sioux City in the USHL in the USHL last year. Tolvanen has 20 goals and 36 points in 37 games this year. He also impressed at the World Juniors with six points in six games. Tolvanen is committed to Boston College for the 2017-18 season.
Tolvanen is a pure sniper who scores goals in a variety of different ways. He reads the play extremely well, and uses a quick first step and excellent acceleration to elude defenders and get himself open to fire a shot on goal. Tolvanen has an outstanding one-timer, with great power and accuracy. He also has a lightning quick release on his wrist shot. Tolvanen has the soft hands to make quick moves and beat defenders with his stick handling ability. He can bury rebounds and has the hand-eye coordination to get deflections in front of the net as well.
While he is known for his goal scoring, Tolvanen also has good vision and passing skills. He can be a playmaker both in the cycle game, and when coming down the wing with the puck. He can also use his strong stickhandling, and changes of pace in his skating, to open up passing lanes and find an open teammate.
10.) Cody Glass, Portland Winterhawks; Centre (6’1″ 168 lbs) (Prev: 20)
Glass picked up 27 points in 65 games as a WHL Rookie, but a lot more was expected of him this year. While he played very limited minutes last year, he has been given a lot more responsibility on this year’s team. Glass has thrived, as he has put up 26 goals and 81 points in just 58 games for the Winterhawks. His strong season has been key to the rebuilding Winterhawks offence, and keeping the team in a playoff spot.
Glass has good hands, with the ability to stickhandle in tight spaces and make moves one-on-one. He protects the puck extremely well down low, extending plays and keeping possession. He shields the puck well, using his body to keep defenders away, while also having the good balance to fight through checks. Glass is good in board battles, and could be even better as he adds some muscle to his frame. He also has the passing skills and vision to make his linemates better and put up points. Glass is an creative playmaker, finding a way to get the puck to a teammate, even when there doesn’t appear to be much of a lane to do so. He also has a decent shot and good release.
Main Photo: MISSISSAUGA, ON – NOVEMBER 27: the Mississauga Steelheads the Erie Otters during OHL game action on November 27, 2015 at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***