The first SN Top 31 is out en route to the NHL Draft in Dallas on June 22-23.
With several CHL fans set to attend rinks across the country this Thanksgiving weekend, here are a few players to keep your eye on for the draft. We’ve taken the top-ranked draft-eligible players and condensed the list to a top 11 compiled only of players from the CHL.
It looks to be a banner year for CHL players leading up to the NHL draft.
1. Andrei Svechnikov, RW, Barrie Colts, OHL: Brother Evgeny (Detroit 19th overall in 2015) paved the way for Andrei, but little brother will hold his own at this year’s draft. The big right winger can play it a variety of ways. He brings a pro mentality to the rink daily and the only early-season concern for Barrie head coach Dale Hawerchuk is being able to balance Svechnikov’s game, practice and workout schedule.
2. Filip Zadina, RW, Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL: Possesses similar character traits to Nico Hischier. On the ice, a shoot-first mentality to go along with good vision makes Zadina a double threat. The Mooseheads rarely miss with their import picks and this looks like another good one in a group that includes Hischier, Timo Meier and Nik Ehlers.
3. Jared McIsaac, D, Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL: An all-around game to go along with a good, athletic frame places McIsaac in the top 10 overall. He can handle minutes in all situations and has lived up to his billing as the second overall pick in the 2016 QMJHL draft.
4. Joe Veleno, C, Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL: Things will not come easy for Veleno on a Saint John team in a rebuild. Having said that, he’ll get more minutes than he did the past two seasons on what was a veteran-laden team. Mentored by Spencer Smallman last season, Veleno learned to be a good leader. His game is even more dangerous when he plays with some bite.
5. Ty Smith, D, Spokane Chiefs, WHL: Another smallish, puck-moving defenceman whose skating is amongst the best in this draft class. Smith was a first overall pick in the WHL bantam draft a couple years ago. He uses his skating as an asset on both sides of the puck and is a high-character player who should flourish under the eyes of Chiefs bench boss Dan Lambert.
6. Ryan Merkley, D, Guelph Storm, OHL: There’s no questioning his offensive abilities as he can do things few others can with the puck. Must turn his attention to defending while not giving anything away on the creative offensive side. Guelph head coach George Burnett dealt with a similar situation years ago in Belleville, and that individual turned out to be a pretty darned good NHL player named P.K. Subban.
7. Ryan McLeod, C, Mississauga Steelheads, OHL: Trying to follow the path of his brother Michael, Ryan has all the tools needed to be a top-six forward. He’s started to heed the advice of the coaching staff by lengthening his stick. A breakout is a certainty and that’s bad news for the rest of the OHL’s Eastern conference.
8. Jett Woo, D, Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL: High character and compete are a couple important traits Woo possesses. He loves to play a physical game and has mastered the age-old art of the open-ice hit. He can add offence in junior, but scouts are trying to determine whether or not that will translate to the next level.
9. Akil Thomas, C, Niagara Ice Dogs, OHL: Has shown a great developmental curve year over year and came back from the Ivan Hlinka with a boatload of confidence. From a team perspective, the early returns have been positive at centre, but scouts wonder if he will be better served as an NHL winger. Off the ice, he was fast-tracked through high school to begin taking post-secondary courses, which speaks to the pro mentality he brings to the rink on a daily basis.
10. Evan Bouchard, D, London Knights, OHL: Hockey sense is his greatest asset. Bouchard started to play with an edge to his game last season and with more strength and size, that trend should continue in 2017-18. With his smooth skating ability, he’ll be able to conserve enough energy where playing upwards of 25 minutes per game shouldn’t impact his effectiveness. He’s a player you have to see often to properly appreciate.
11. Barrett Hayton, C, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL: Similar to Veleno, Hayton was stuck behind more talented and experienced players in Sault Ste. Marie last season. He did show some flashes of brilliance and durability, especially in the second half. Important showing at the Ivan Hlinka as a versatile forward. He will play a more prominent role for the Hounds this season.