Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column looking at Hockey’s Future Stars. Over the next few days, we will be previewing the 2018 NHL Draft by ranking our top 31 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) 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 the five nations, 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. Be sure to check back in late March as we roll out our full player-by-player draft preview.
Our last update, the late November Rankings are here.
February Edition 2018 NHL Draft Ranking #26-31
26.) Jesse Ylonen, Right Wing, Espoo, 6’1″ 168 lbs
Ylonen was dominant at last year’s Under-18 World Championships, putting up four goals and five assists in seven games, helping Finland to a Silver Medal. He has put up 12 goals and eight assists in 40 games for Espoo United this season, playing in the Mestis, Finland’s second division of Men’s hockey.
Ylonen is a strong skater. He has good speed and acceleration. He also has the agility to make quick cuts. This is coupled with good stickhandling skills makes him dangerous off the rush. While he works to protect the puck down low and does a decent job in the cycle game, he could be even better with added muscle mass. Ylonen has a good wrist shot and release, as well as strong passing skills and decent vision. He is a threat as both a goal scorer and playmaker.
27.) Benoit-Olivier Groulx, Centre, Halifax Mooseheads, 6’1″ 176 lbs
The first overall pick of the 2016 QMJHL Draft is the son of legendary head coach Benoit Groulx. This season he has 21 goals and 40 points in 52 games this year. This follows up on a solid performance, winning gold at the Hlinka this summer, as well as 17 goals and 31 points as a rookie last season.
Groulx is a pure sniper. He has the soft hands to finish plays in tight to the net, as well as a strong wrist shot and quick release. His slap shot is an absolute bomb. He is an excellent stick handler and can make plays off the rush as well as on the cycle. Groulx can also play the role of playmaker, with good vision and passing skills. While the offensive skills are there, he did not produce as much as expected last year and this seems to be continuing this season. One area he excels is on the defensive side of the game though.
28.) Rasmus Sandin, Left Defence, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, 5’11” 190 lbs
The 52nd overall pick in the CHL Import Draft, Sandin is playing on a stacked Greyhounds team. He has six goals and 30 points in 34 games this season. Sandin also played for Sweden at the Ivan Hlinka, with three assists in five games; bringing home a bronze medal. Last season he put up two points in six games at the Under-17, winning a gold medal.
Sandin is an extremely intelligent player. He is poised with the puck on his stick and makes smart plays. Sandin has great vision and the ability to thread the needle to the open man with good passing skills. He also has a good shot, which he has a knack for getting on it. He keeps it low giving his teammates the opportunity for tip-ins and rebounds. Sandin always seems to be in the right place. His positioning is very strong, both in the offensive and defensive zone. Skating wise, he is just average. He has gotten quicker and improved his first few steps over the year. However, it is something that he will need continue to improve though.
29.) Jack McBain, Centre, Toronto Jr. Canadiens, 6’3″ 196 lbs
McBain has scored 19 goals and 52 points in 43 games for the Jr. Canadiens this year, playing in the OJHL while being committed to Boston College for next season. He played for Team Canada in this summer’s Ivan Hlinka, scoring five points in five games and helping the squad to gold. McBain scored six points in four games at the World Junior A Hockey Challenge. He also won a silver medal at last year’s Under-17.
McBain has excellent size and reach. He uses his frame effectively to win battles in the corners and to get to the front of the net, where he screens goalies and gets tip-ins and rebounds. McBain also protects the puck well, extending plays in the cycle and finding teammates with a pass in front of the net. Skating is a concern here though. McBain has a short, choppy stride. If he can lengthen it out to something more appropriate for his size, he can gain power and speed and will shoot up the ranks.
30.) Calen Addison, Right Defence, Lethbridge Hurricanes, 5’10” 179 lbs
Addison put up six points in five games for Team Canada in helping his country to gold at this summer’s Ivan Hlinka tournament. The 2nd overall pick of the 2015 WHL Draft, he put up nine goals and 33 points as a WHL rookie. He has improved on those numbers this year as he already has seven goals and 49 points in 50 games.
Addison is a very good skater who is strong at both ends of the ice. He has very good vision and passing skills, with the ability to start the transition game and play the point on the powerplay. Addison also has a very good slapshot and one-timer. He loves to drive offence and jumps into the play, both off the rush and pinching at the blue line. Defensively, he maintains good gap control and is not afraid to be physical. Addison throws hits in the corners and battles for position in front of the net. His size is an issue though, and he will need to continue to add muscle to play a stronger defensive game.
31.) Alexander Alexeyev, Left Defence, Red Deer Rebels, 6’3″ 190 lbs
Alexeyev has upped his offensive game this year with six goals and 31 points in 36 games for Red Deer. Last year, he had some issues adjusting to North America in his first season away from home, but still, put up 21 points in 41 games. He has played internationally for Russia both the Under-17 and Under 18 levels, winning a silver medal with the 2016 Under-17 team.
Alexeyev has good vision and passing skills. He can start the play with a good pass out of his own end, as well as quarterback the play from the blue line. Strong skating ability, with good speed in both directions, as well as strong pivots, allow him to play an effective two-way game. He also has a hard shot but must find a way to get it through to the net and keep it low for teammates to grab deflections and rebounds.
BOISBRIAND, QC – OCTOBER 20: Benoit-Olivier Groulx #19 of the Halifax Mooseheads skates against the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada during the QMJHL game at Centre d’Excellence Sports Rousseau on October 20, 2017 in Boisbriand, Quebec, Canada. The Halifax Mooseheads defeated the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada 4-2. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)