2016 NHL Draft Prospects Whose Stock Is Rising
The NHL draft is drawing closer, and with the World Junior Championships behind us, there is movement in the 2016 rankings.
Some of the surging prospects used the World Junior tournament to increase their profile, while others rocketed up the rankings by dominating junior leagues back in North America. We are seeing the emergence of a solid top seven in this year's draft, and there is still some time for prospects to improve their final rankings.
Here are the eight NHL prospects whose stock is rising most as we enter the second half of the 2015-16 season.
Note: This list does not represent a ranking of the top players in the 2016 NHL draft, only the ones who are trending in a good direction.
8. Dillon Dube, C, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Where Does He Play? Dillon Dube is an emerging offensive player for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL.
Why Has His Stock Improved? Dube is delivering consistent offense for the Rockets. He entered the year as a well-known prospect—this Ryan Kennedy article for the Hockey News being an example—but his ability to be a reliable player at 17 has helped his cause.
Can He Sustain It? Dube has all kinds of positives, including 16 even-strength goals and only four on the power play. Scoring at even strength usually indicates true offensive ability, and Dube's improvement season over season is also a good sign.
7. German Rubtsov, C, Team Russia (MHL)
Where Does He Play? German Rubtsov is a complete center for Team Russia of the MHL—a new Russian junior league somewhat similar to the USHL in the United States. He emerged on the international scene at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Tournament.
Why Has His Stock Improved? Rubtsov doesn't get the kind of exposure players in North America do, but the scouting services are raving about him. Steve Kournianos of the Draft Analyst suggests he’s arguably the 2016 draft’s best two-way forward.
Can He Sustain It? There is always an air of mystery about European players, as we don't see them unless they attend the World Juniors or other major tournaments. Rubtsov seems to be bucking the trend and has universal appeal—reflected in Craig Button's latest ranking. The TSN draft analyst has Rubtsov No. 13 on his January list.
6. Mikhail Sergachev, D, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Where Does He Play? Mikhail Sergachev stars for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL.
Why Has His Stock Improved? He is among the leading scorers among defensemen in the OHL this year. Sergachev also possesses the complete range of skills, and that will bode well for him as we get closer to draft day.
Can He Sustain It? Brock Otten of OHL Prospects suggested recently that Sergachev was a major part in the improvement of Windsor's blue line. Added to his obvious offensive ability, NHL teams won't let him get too far into draft evening without being selected.
5. Olli Juolevi, D, London Knights (OHL)
Where Does He Play? Olli Juolevi stars for the London Knights of the OHL.
Why Has His Stock Improved? Like all draft-eligible Finns at the World Juniors, Joulevi received a bump from being center stage at the tournament. He was outstanding in his role, finishing with nine assists and leading many offensive sorties.
Can He Sustain It? He has the complete range of skills—as the Elite Prospects bio indicates—and added to his offense he could be one of the first defensemen off the list at the 2016 entry draft. Juolevi's speed was the one thing that stood out in his game, and NHL teams love mobile defenders.
4. Alexander Nylander, W, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Where Does He Play? Alexander Nylander is an impact winger for the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL.
Can He Sustain It? He may have been in his brother's shadow among hockey fans before the Christmas tournament, but Nylander's impressive offense—his release is a major positive—impressed everyone. His offensive ability is on display in the OHL, and he should land well inside the top 10 picks for the draft.
3. Patrik Laine, W, Tappara (SM-Liiga)
Where Does He Play? Patrik Laine is a solid contributor for Tappara of the SM-Liiga. He has been a quality offensive player for the team this year.
Can He Sustain It? He is a strong player with a rugged style. His release is outstanding, and the offensive potential we saw at the World Juniors looks bona fide. Like many players in this draft, Laine gives the appearance of being NHL-ready.
2. Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, Karpat (SM-Liiga)
Where Does He Play? Jesse Puljujarvi is a regular winger for Karpat of the SM-Liiga, Finland's top league.
Why Has His Stock Improved? Aside from playing in a pro league and scoring with some regularity, Puljujarvi was an impact player at the World Junior Championships. He led the tournament in scoring and Finland to the gold medal.
Can He Sustain It? Visually he was one of the biggest, fastest players on the ice despite being one of the youngest in the tournament. If he avoids injury he should finish this season as one of the top options at the draft.
1. Matthew Tkachuk, F, London Knights
Where Does He Play? Matthew Tkachuk stars for the London Knights of the OHL. He is enjoying a dominant season and is currently posting close to two points-per-game on average.
Why Has His Stock Improved? Tkachuk was a well-known prospect before the World Juniors, but his range of skills and exceptional offense demonstrated his abilities very well. In a tournament that boasted an unusual number of draft-eligible players, Tkachuk was terrific and a major part of the success of Team U.S.A. during the two weeks.
Can He Sustain It? He is currently ranked No. 1 on the Central Scouting Bureau's North American list. Tkachuk has six points in six OHL games since his return. He remains inside the OHL's top five scorers and looks like he will be among the top four selections at the 2016 draft.