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: 11-15
11.) Martin Necas, Brno; Centre (6’0″ 167 lbs) (Prev: 16)
With five points in five games at last year’s World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, and six points in four games in helping the Czechs win the Ivan Hlinka tournament, Necas has shone on the international stage. He added three points in five games at the World Juniors, and was impressive given his underage status in that tournament. While we haven’t had a chance to see his Czech league games, he has put up 14 points in 37 games, playing in the country’s best men’s league.
Necas is an outstanding skater with a good stride along with excellent agility and balance. He has very good speed, and can handle the puck and make plays while moving at top speed. His hands are quick and he protects the puck well. Necas has excellent vision and makes tough passes through tight areas. He can also be dangerous as a shooter. Necas needs to get to the dirty areas of the ice consistently. He sometimes has a tendency to play too much of a perimeter game. At his best he gets involved in the corners and in front of the net. This may come as he adds strength to his frame.
12.) Lias Andersson, HV 71; Centre (5’11” 198 lbs) (Prev: 14)
The son of former NHLer, and longtime SHL star, Niklas Andersson, Lias Andersson has been a star for Sweden on the international stage. He scored five goals and nine points in just seven games at last year’s Under-18 World Championships. His efforts were a major reason Sweden took home the silver. He put up three goals in seven games for Sweden at the World Juniors. He has also played in a number of U18 tournaments, and in the 2015 Under 17s.
The first thing you notice about Andersson is his tenacity. He plays the game with a non-stop motor, digging for loose pucks and trying to make plays in all three zones. He gets to the front of the net and plays in the dirty areas of the ice. Andersson is strong on the puck and has a low centre of gravity. He is able to fight off checks and drive to the front of the net, both on the rush and in the cycle game. Andersson has the soft hands to finish plays in close to the net, to get tip-ins and deflections and to pounce on rebounds. When he gains control of the puck in the corner, he moves the puck quickly to open teammates. Andersson is a strong skater. He has an excellent first step along with very good acceleration and agility.
13.) Klim Kostin, Moscow Dynamo; Right Wing (6’3″ 196 lbs) (Prev: 5)
Kostin suffered a season ending shoulder injury in January, ending hopes that he could continue to rise up the board. Limited viewings, along with his penchant for inconsistency in those viewings could see him fall down draft boards. However, he has been a dynamic player on the international stage. With five points in six games, he led the Russians to the silver medal at the 2015 World Under 17 Hockey Challenge. He followed that up with four points in five games as an underager at the 2016 Under 18 World Championships. This summer he had four goals and seven points in five games, helping Russia to a bronze at the Ivan Hlinka.
Kostin has the strength and size to play a powerful game, as he is strong on the puck; effective in maintaining possession down low; and difficult to contain when he drives the net. His skating shows excellent speed, balance and power. He is also highly skilled, with soft hands and excellent stickhandling ability; a fantastic wrist shot and release; along with good vision and passing skills. Kostin plays a gritty game, not afraid to get to the front of the net, or battle for loose pucks at both ends of the ice. He could stand to be a little more selfish, and shoot the puck more as he often looks to make a pass.
14.) Miro Heiskanen, HIFK; Defence (6’0″ 174 lbs) (Prev 26)
Heiskanen played as an underager on Finland’s gold medal winning Under-18 team last season. He also has been playing in Finland’s top men’s league, putting up five goals and 10 points in 35 games. He also played for Finland at the World Juniors, and while he only put up one assist in six games, he looked decent given that he was an underager in a tournament that traditionally showcases 19 year olds.
Heiskanen has very good skating ability. He has good speed and acceleration in both directions. Heiskanen also has the agility and edgework to make quick pivots and transition from defence to offence, or vice-versa. He is also a good passer, and can start the rush or make plays on the point on the powerplay. Heiskanen could stand to be a bit more physical; as well as work on his slap shot. He does make good use of his wrist shot. He has a quick release and gets it on net even when faced with pressuring defenders. Heiskanen is an excellent stickhandler. He can lead the rush and make plays through the neutral zone, and also has the poise to make plays at the blue line.
15.) Cale Makar, Brooks Bandits, Defence (5’11” 180 lbs) (Prev: NR)
Playing in the AJHL, defenceman Cale Makar is flying under the radar. However, he had a real coming out part at the 2016-17 World Junior A Hockey Championship, where he was a tournament all-star. Makar captained Team Canada West, and scored four goals and four assists in just four games. He was also part of the 2015-16 team that won the gold medal in the tournament, though he was in a lesser role. Makar is committed to attend the University of Massachusetts Amherst next season.
Makar is a little undersized, but has impressed with outstanding skating ability. He is quick in both directions, but it is in his agility and edge work where he really shines. Makar has excellent lateral mobility and can cover a ton of ice. His pivots are crisp and clean, allowing him to cover 360 degrees of ice. Makar can be an offensive force. He has a very good wrist shot, as well as a strong slap shot. He also has excellent stickhandling abilities and can rush the puck from end to end. Add in strong passing skills and Makar is a threat every time he touches the puck.