It’s just one measuring stick. And not all will be measured by it. But the World Junior Championship in Montreal and Toronto, which starts December 26 and finishes early in the New Year, will offer some players who are eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft the opportunity to shine in front of the scouts and compare themselves to some of the elite teens around the world.
Again, only some will get this chance—about one half of those players ranked as “A” players by NHL Central Scouting at most—and many won’t be used in a role that they would normally be used in for their club teams. Still, we’re all looking forward to the Connor McDavid versus Jack Eichel clash, No. 1 versus No. 2, on New Year’s Eve.
Kingston’s Lawson Crouse, who has been steadily rising in the estimation of many and remains No. 4 on Sportsnet’s draft list, may be there if he can make Team Canada. American blueliners Noah Hanifan, Zach Werenski and Brandon Carlo are trying to make Team USA, as is diminutive winger Jeremy Bracco, along with Eichel.
For Sweden, flashy defenceman Oliver Kylington has been named to the preliminary roster, and Finnish winger Mikko Rantanen is hoping to skate for his country. For the Czechs, a group of ’15 eligibles may include forwards Pavel Zacha, Filip Chlapik and Michael Spacek along with defenceman Jakob Zboril.
Russian blueliner Ivan Provorov, who made the biggest move on this month’s Sportsnet list (No. 10 from No. 24) is on the preliminary list for his country.
Next month, NHL Central Scouting will deliver its first set of numbered rankings just before the CHL Top Prospects Game in St. Catharines, and the debate over the order for the June draft will really start to heat up.
With contributions from NHL and CHL scouts and executives, and CHL insiders Gare Joyce, Jeff Marek and Sam Cosentino, here’s Sportsnet’s Top 30 NHL Draft Prospects list for December (November rankings in parentheses):
1. (1) Connor McDavid, C, Erie (OHL) Team Canada is hoping he’ll be ready to play in WJC exhibitions next weekend. No signs he won’t be as his broken hand heals on schedule.
2. (2) Jack Eichel, C, Boston University (NCAA) With 27 points in 16 games at Boston University, he’s leading the nation in scoring and has been everything he was expected to be as a freshman.
3. (3) Noah Hanifin, D, Boston College (NCAA) There’s hope his BC defence partner, Steve Santini, will be healthy enough to skate with him at the world juniors.
4. (4) Lawson Crouse, LW, Kingston (OHL) Scouts are hoping to see a little more finish from the big winger before they anoint him as a sure-fire top five pick.
5. (5) Dylan Strome, C, Erie (OHL) Otters have not been as dominant without McDavid, losing four of their past five with Strome taking all the big minutes and tough opposition checkers.
6. (6) Mitch Marner, C, London Knights (OHL) Has emerged as the OHL’s leading scorer, but didn’t get an invite to Team Canada’s selection camp.
7. (7) Mathew Barzal, C, Seattle (WHL) Still sidelined by a broken kneecap that has limited him to 16 games. There’s some hope he’ll be ready for the CHL Top Prospects Game.
8. (8) Oliver Kylington, D, AIK (Sweden) Lots of scouts looking forward to seeing him handle the forechecking pressure of teams like Canada and the U.S. at the world juniors.
9. (11) Nick Merkley, RW, Kelowna (WHL) Scouts say multiple viewings make you like him more because they showcase all the little things he does very well.
10. (24) Ivan Provorov, D, Brandon (WHL) Some scouts believe he may step right in to the NHL next season. Reminds some of Ray Bourque because he thinks the game really well.
11. (10) Colin White, C, USNTDP (USHL) Missed some games with illness but is now a point-per-game player. Didn’t get an invite to Team USA camp for world juniors.
12. (9) Pavel Zacha, C, Sarnia Sting (OHL) Was suspended for the second time this season in late November, this time for six games. Limited viewings so far.
13. (12) Mikko Rantanen, RW, Turku (Finland) It will be interesting to see what kind of role the big winger gets on the Finnish junior team.
14. (15) Filip Chlapik, Charlottetown (QMJHL) He's been lighting it up for P.E.I. this season, steadily moving up the rankings.
15. (14) Travis Konecny, C, Ottawa 67's (OHL) He isn’t putting up huge numbers (11 goals) while trying to play right wing and a 200-foot game for Jeff Brown’s Ottawa squad.
16. (16) Daniel Sprong, RW, Charlottetown (QMJHL) As a Dutch citizen, he has no team to play for in the WJC. But has 18 goals coming off a big week.
17. (17) Jakub Zboril, D, Saint John (QMJHL) Will be interesting to see how he and Provorov compare while playing for their countries at the WJC.
18. (13) Kyle Connor, C, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL) His 27 points in 21 games weren't enough to get him an invite to Team USA's world junior camp.
19. (19) Zack Werenski, D, University of Michigan (NCAA) Might end up paired with Hanifan at the WJC. They played together last year with the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbour.
20. (18) Jeremy Roy, D, Sherbrooke (QMJHL) Sixth among all QMJHL junior defencemenn this season with 26 points in 28 games. Very smooth.
21. (21) Matthew Spencer, D, Peterborough (OHL) Playing a steady game on a troubled Petes team that has struggled with multiple player suspensions.
22. (22) Jordan Greenway, LW, USNTDP (USHL) He’s committed to Boston University next season. The big winger has only two goals so far this season in 20 games.
23. (20) Evgeny Svechnikov, LW, Cape Breton (QMJHL) He's been injured in recent weeks and was not invited to play in WJC for Russia after skating in the Subway Super Series.
24. (28) Nikita Korostelev, RW Sarnia (OHL) Turning into a very solid scorer on a surprising Sting squad. Strong on the puck.
25. (25) Nicolas Roy, C, Chicoutimi (QMJHL) Has the size at 6-foot-4, but just isn't putting up the numbers so far and was very average in Subway Super Series game.
26. (26) Brock Boeser, RW, Waterloo (USHL) He couldn’t earn an invite to the world junior camp. Plays a grinding, up-and-down game.
27. (29) Timo Meier, RW, Halifax (QMJHL) Moved up to an “A” player by Central Scouting. After a big week for the Mooseheads, he's off to the Swiss world junior camp.
28. (22) Paul Bittner. LW, Portland (WHL) He has battled injuries and just hasn’t shown the scouts enough to get them excited yet. He won’t be playing in the WJC.
29. (30) Jeremy Bracco, USNTDP (USHL) He's lighting it up with 46 points in 28 games and trails only Auston Matthews in team scoring. Small, but clever with the puck.
30. (UR) Adam Marsh, C, Saint John Intriguing story of a kid from the Chicago suburbs who has soared after moving to play in Atlantic Canada.
ON THE RADAR
Thomas Chabot, D, Saint John (QMJHL)
Christian Fischer, RW, USNTDP (USHL)
Tommy Novak, C, Waterloo (USHL)
Jansen Harkins, C, Prince George (WHL)
Gabriel Carlsson, D, Linkoping (Sweden)
Adin Hill, G, Portland (WHL)
Michael Spacek, F, Pardubice (Czech)
Brandon Carlo, D, Tri-City (WHL)
Dennis Yan, LW, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
Nicolas Meloche, D, Baie Comeau (QMJHL)
Vince Dunn, D, Niagara (OHL)
Blake Speers, RW, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Noah Juulsen, D, Everett (WHL)
Alexander Dergachyov, C, St. Petersburg (KHL)