In taking a look at the top 150 players from NHL Central Scouting’s final draft rankings, it’s interesting to note some major changes. Narrowing that down to just CHL players, and in keeping with a positive spin, we’re looking at a few eye openers.
Of the players inside the top 150 of the year-end rankings, here are the 10 who improved the most from the mid-season rankings, and by how much.
10. Gianni Fairbrother, Everett Silvertips, WHL
Mid-term ranking: 85
Final Ranking: 50 (+35)
Late birthday and a left shot defenceman. Fairbrother’s Silvertips play with great structure, which has put him in a position to move into the top half of the draft. Brings an interesting dynamic to the table in that there’s some old school fight in him along with some modern-game tendencies to put up points.
9. Cole Moberg, Prince George Cougars, WHL
Final: 136 (+39)
Jumped on my radar at an early February game in Kelowna where he showed great assertiveness from the back end. That viewing happened to coincide with his hottest streak of the year, where he put up 15 points in Prince George’s final 15 games. Born in October of 2000, he is somewhat of a late bloomer. A good skater with some size (6-foot-2, 185 pounds), he showed great maturity in his game by playing a boatload of minutes on a rebuilding Cougars team. There’s definitely some offensive upside to be developed.
8. Samuel Bolduc, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, QMJHL
Final: 42 (+45)
A massive jump considering he goes from a projected fourth- or fifth-rounder to a likely third-round pick. Bolduc moves well for a big man (6-foot-4, 211 pounds). He has an old school, defensive defenceman mentality. While he has been able to put up decent numbers in the CHL, he projects more as a complementary player. He passes like a pro, uses his size to defend the cycle well, has good body position and a good stick.
7. Mason Millman, Saginaw Spirit, OHL
Final: 125 (+48)
Another high riser, Millman has been able to mentor under veterans Hayden Davis, Riley Webb and Justin Murray in Saginaw. A 17-year-old rookie, Millman is a fine skater who processes the game well. He has defensive awareness and play-killing ability due to a good stick.
6. Brayden Tracey, Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL
Final: 21 (+52)
With little room on a veteran-laden 2017-18 Moose Jaw roster, Tracey was asked to go back to minor hockey to continue his development. The move offered Tracey an opportunity to play big and meaningful minutes, something he would not have had the chance to do with the Warriors. The year of development proved to be key as Tracey worked his way on to Moose Jaw’s top line with Justin Almeida and Tristan Langan. Tracey has amazing stick skills that make him a legit one-on-one threat. He has a tricky release and an ability to see the ice well, which enabled him a spot on Canada’s U18 team once the Warriors’ season ended.
5. Keegan Stevenson, Guelph Storm, OHL
Final: 95 (+53)
Big push in the second half despite playing on a team that got drastically more experienced at the trade deadline. But as the lineup settled in, he established himself and got enough minutes to produce at a point-per-game pace down the stretch. Head coach George Burnett pointed out Stevenson’s importance during Game 4 of Guelph’s first round series versus Kitchener, when he was out of the lineup.
4. Pavel Gogolev, Guelph Storm, OHL
Final: 140 (+57)
There’s no doubting Gogolev’s skill. He’s adapted well to the North American game. He skates well, is aware of the play around him and can get it to the net with pace. Gogolev was injured shortly after being acquired by Guelph and played in just eight regular season games for the Storm, but was a significant contributor when healthy. As a draft re-entry passed over already, he is projected as a late-round pick.
3. Marc Kastelic, Calgary Hitmen, WHL
Final: 122 (+64)
Not often a player in his third year of draft eligibility gets elevated the way Kastelic did from the mid-term to the final rankings. There are many reasons why, however. One is that he has an NHL bloodline, as his dad Ed played 220 games in the show. Marc has size (6-foot-4, 213 pounds), can play with edge, and he’s had a steady goal increase each year, going from five snipes in the 2015-16 season to 47 this season.
2. Joe Garreffa, Kitchener Rangers, OHL
Final: 135 (+83)
Will always be up against it because of his size (generously listed at 5-foot-7, 174 pounds). But if taking the Marcus Stroman approach where height doesn’t measure heart, Garreffa would be a pro all day long. His versatility is what sticks out the most. Over the past three seasons he’s transitioned back and forth between forward and defence, and many times he’s made that switch in-game. He skates well, gets under sticks, tracks pucks and can spin on a dime. He has great elusiveness to his game and Rangers head coach Jay McKee simply can’t say enough about ‘Mighty Joe.’
1. Ben McCartney, Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL
Final: 117 (+101)
After a mediocre 2017-18 regular season, McCartney took flight in the playoffs, amassing half as many points (six) as he had in the regular season — in 40 fewer games. McCartney came into the 2018-19 season with more confidence, and was given more opportunity. He took full advantage and scored 21 goals in 2018-19. He’s grown two inches and added more than 30 pounds since being selected by the Wheaties in the second round of the 2016 bantam draft and uses his size to play a physical brand of high-energy hockey.