Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column looking at hockey’s stars. Over the next few days we will be previewing the 2017 NHL Draft by ranking our top 30 prospects. We will also do some honourable mentions. As always, you can check out the previous Top Shelf Prospects articles here.
With the CHL season a good eight weeks old; a month or so of NCAA hockey; plenty of games for the US National Team Development Program; the Ivan Hlinka Tournament; an international break in Europe; and the CIBC CHL/Russia Series all being played since we last updated our draft rankings, we have gotten a decent overview of what some of the biggest prospects for the 2017 draft are doing this year.
That said, as a staff we haven’t seen every player yet—it’s quite simply not possible this early in the season. If there is an obvious name left out, we’ll do our best to get a look before the February rankings; as well as before our final rankings that go from April through June.
The group we haven’t seen a lot of are European prospects who, for whatever reason, haven’t had much exposure on the international stage. With the World Juniors, Five Nations, and the Under-18 all to come later in the year, we should get a better look at most of those players.
2017 NHL Draft November Rankings 6-10
6.) Casey Mittelstadt, Green Bay Gamblers, Centre, (5’11” 190 lbs)
Mittlestadt spent most of last season playing high school hockey. However, he impressed enough to get a spot on last summer’s American team for the Ivan Hlinka Tournament. A strong performance, seven points in four games, would lead to him being invited to join the US NTDP late in the season. He scored a point per game. Mittelstadt was also invited to the IIHF U18 World Championships. He had another impressive tournament, with nine points in seven games. Mittelstadt is playing for his high school team, as well as for for Green Bay in the USHL this season. In the USHL he has put up eight goals and 21 points in 16 games. He is committed to the University of Minnesota in 2017.
Mittelstadt has excellent puck handling ability. He can beat defencemen one-on-one with a number of moves, and has the soft hands to stick handle in a phone both. He combines this with excellent speed, and the ability to make cuts on a dime. Mittlestadt is an excellent playmaker who creates passing lanes with his quick puck movement, stops and starts, and deceptive moves. He only needs a small opening and can make difficult passes through tight spaces, or the tough saucer pass. He also has a good shot and release.
7.) Owen Tippett, Mississauga Steelheads; Right Wing (6’1″ 181 lbs)
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.
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. Tippett has already put up 17 goals and 27 points in 22 games this season. Mississauga’s record is a bit of a disappointment at this point in the year, but Tippett has been a major bright spot.
8.) Eeli Tolvanen,Sioux City Muskateers, Left Wing (5’10” 174 lbs)
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 12 goals and 20 points in 18 games this year. He 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 allude 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. He also has good vision and passing skills.
9.) Michael Rasmussen, Tri-City Americans, Centre, (6’5″ 203 lbs)
Rasmussen is a towering 6’5″ centre who has already put up 20 goals in just 26 games this year. With that size, and stat line, its no surprise he is getting plenty of attention and rising up our draft board. 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.
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.
10.) Callan Foote, Kelowna Rockets, Defence (6’3″ 198 lbs)
What do you get when you combine the bloodlines of being the son of Adam Foote, with the junior hockey team with the best reputation for developing young defencemen year after year in the Kelowna Rockets? The answer is Callan Foote. After a strong rookie season last year, Foote has started well with 17 points in 24 games this year.
Foote is an excellent skater. He skates well in both directions, and solid pivots and edgework allow him to cover a lot of ice. He isn’t quite as physical as his famous father, but Foote is still willing to play the body. Its more about battling in the corners and clearing the front of the net than throwing big open-ice hits though. Foote has a hard slap shot which he keeps low and puts on net. He also has good poise with the puck on his stick, and the vision to quarterback things from the point on the power play. He reads the play well at both ends of the ice and has extremely good positioning.