One athlete’s bad luck is another’s opportunity.
That’s certainly been the case in Canadian Hockey League circles in recent days as two of the top prospects for the 2015 NHL draft, Connor McDavid and Mathew Barzal, have fallen to injuries.
For McDavid, it was broken hand suffered in a fight, and now Dylan Strome will get a chance to demonstrate he can produce the same offensive numbers he was against top checkers and defenders before McDavid was injured. With McDavid not expected back until late December, so that’s an extended opportunity for Strome to really show the scouts what he can do.
For Barzal, it was a freak cracked kneecap suffered while goofing around before a practice in Saskatoon on Seattle’s long road trip through Manitoba and Saskatchewan. He had surgery to insert a screw into the kneecap, and won’t be back until January.
That opens up room for a number of Thunderbirds forwards to shine, including 6-foot-4 Danish import Alexander True, an intriguing prospect who could be a longterm development project for some NHL club.
While McDavid and Barzal are out for extended periods, this isn’t like the 2012 draft when several top prospects—Morgan Rielly, Alex Galchenyuk, Slater Koekkoek—missed close to the entire season. Those three went in the top 10 anyway, and the McDavid and Barzal injuries aren’t likely to impact their ultimate draft standings either.
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 Prospects list for November (October rankings in brackets)
1. (1) Connor McDavid, C, Erie (OHL) Was on an incredible scoring pace before he was injured. He’ll be on Canada’s roster for the world juniors even if he’s not ready to start the tournament.
2. (2) Jack Eichel, C, Boston University (NCAA) Went head-to-head with possible 2016 first-overall pick Auston Matthews last month, each had two goals and an assist.
3. (3) Noah Hanifin, D, Boston College (NCAA) Getting acclimatized to NCAA game and playing against older players on talent-laden BC blueline.
4. (8) Lawson Crouse, LW, Kingston (OHL) The early numbers aren’t eye-popping (eight goals, 18 games), but everybody loves his combination of speed, size and toughness.
5. (6) Dylan Strome, C, Erie (OHL) His challenge will be to get the Otters winning again. They’re 0-2 without McDavid in the lineup. He’s a big centre who manages the puck well.
6. (12) Mitch Marner, C, London (OHL) Had consecutive hat tricks in recent weeks as the Knights offence has started cooking. Loves to dish and control the tempo.
7. (7) Mathew Barzal, C, Seattle (WHL) Speedy centre had 18 points in 16 games before he was injured. He’s been seen a lot, but scouts will want to see him more in the second half.
8. (5) Oliver Kylington, D, Farjestads (Sweden) Really good skater, unclear whether he’ll make Swedish team for world juniors. Was recently loaned to second division AIK from Farjestads.
9. (4) Pavel Zacha, C, Sarnia (OHL) Represented by former first-overall pick Patrik Stefan. He has a great hockey I.Q. Was suspended two games for a slew foot and is still finding his game in North America.
10. (13) Colin White, C, U.S. NTDP (USHL) Some compare him to David Bollard or Patrice Bergeron for his intelligent two-way game. Knows the game well and has deceptive speed and strength.
11. (22) Nick Merkley, RW, Kelowna (WHL) Has 41 points for 20-1-2 the Rockets. He’s the set-up man for San Jose draft pick Rourke Chartier, who has 23 goals.
12. (11) Mikko Rantanen, RW, Turku (Finland) A big forward with a late 1996 birthday. Scouts are looking forward to getting an extended look at the world juniors.
13. (16) Kyle Connor, C, Youngstown (USHL) Has explosive speed in the Michael Grabner mold. Seven goals in 14 games out of the gate.
14. (10) Travis Konecny, C, Ottawa (OHL) Playing on right wing at times, he has just three goals this season on a talent-thin 67’s squad. Suffered a suspected concussion after head shot last month.
15. (23) Filip Chlapik, C, Charlottetown (QMJHL) Had eye-catching five-point game against Drummondville on Sunday and has 32 points in 25 games.
16. (9) Daniel Sprong, RW, Charlottetown (QMJHL) Scouts are seeing him trying to do too much on his own and turning the puck over. An intriguing yet confusing prospect in the early going.
17. (25) Jakub Zboril, D, Saint John (QMJHL) He can really shoot the puck and go end-to-end if he wants to. Makes a great first pass and can be physical in the open ice.
18. (24) Jeremy Roy, D, Sherbrooke (QMJHL) Scouts are being wowed on a nightly basis by his smooth play. He’s both dynamic and responsible on the Phoenix blueline.
19. (18) Zach Werenski, D, University of Michigan (NCAA) Like Hanifin, he’s getting used to playing against much older competition. He’s creating some offence on Wolverines back line.
20. (17) Evgeny Svechnikov, RW, Cape Breton (QMJHL) Played in the CHL Subway Series for Russia. He’s rangy, and a great skater.
21. (21) Matthew Spencer, D, Peterborough (OHL) Drawing some comparisons to Hadyn Fleury, the No. 7-overall pick by Carolina last season. Skating is his strength.
22. (19) Paul Bittner, LW, Portland (WHL) The Winterhawks are starting to roll. He’s a big winger playing in a bottom six role these days, not with top centres Nic Petan and Chase De Leo.
23. (14) Jordan Greenway, LW, U.S. NTDP (USHL) Some debate over whether he might be more consistent at centre. But he’s a big body headed to Boston University next season.
24. (26) Ivan Provorov, D, Brandon (WHL) He’s scored 24 points in 22 games. He and fellow import Rihards Bukarts have bolstered Brandon lineup.
25. (15) Nicolas Roy, C, Chicoutimi (QMJHL) It’s just not happening right now for the Sagueneens or Roy, who has four goals this season. He’s been playing on the wing, and looking a bit lost when he does.
26. (28) Brock Boeser, RW, Waterloo (USHL) He de-committed from the University of Wisconsin and it’s not clear where the former Minnesota high schooler is headed. Plays a heavy game.
27. (30) Dennis Yan, LW, Shawinigan (QMJHL) The pure sniper has 15 goals in 23 games and is moving up the charts.
28. (29) Nikita Korostelev, RW, Sarnia (OHL) The former GTHL player could be a top-six NHL forward. He has 11 goals in 19 games this season.
29. (NR) Timo Meier, RW, Halifax (QMJHL) The solidly-built Swiss winger has jumped up in the estimation of NHL scouts. Plays a Tomas Tatar-like game.
30. (NR) Jeremy Bracco, RW. U.S. NTDP (USHL) At 5-foot-9, he gets a mixed reaction, but the Kitchener draft pick is ripping up Patrick Kane’s assist records in Ann Arbour.
ON THE RADAR
Christian Fischer, RW, U.S. NTDP (USHL)
Jansen Harkins, C, Prince George (WHL)
Tommy Novak, C, Waterloo (USHL)
Adam Marsh, C, Saint John (QMJHL)
Thomas Chabot, D, Saint John (QMJHL)
Vince Dunn, D, Niagara (OHL)
Callum Booth, G, Quebec (QMJHL)
MacKenzie Blackwood, G, Barrie (OHL)
Ethan Bear, D, Seattle (WHL)
Graham Knott, LW, Niagara (OHL)
Jake DeBrusk, LW, Swift Current (WHL)
Alexander Dergachyov, C, St. Petersburg (KHL)