Latest Updates on the Top Prospects in the 2016 NHL Draft
This year's best draft prospects are scattered across North America and Europe, playing junior, college—and in a few cases—pro hockey.
A typical draft year starts with one or two favorites for the No. 1 spot and then sees a few months of jockeying for position. Shuffle in a few slumps and injuries, and the muddy waters of the draft are a long way from being crystal-clear. This year, there's a clear No. 1, but it's shades of gray after the top prospect.
Here's the latest on the 10 best draft prospects for 2016.
10. Tyler Benson, LW, Vancouver Giants (WHL)
Where Is He Playing? Tyler Benson is playing for the Vancouver Giants of the WHL. He enjoyed a strong year in 2014-15, giving scouts every indication he was going to be a good draft prospect.
What's the Latest? Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province details Benson's difficult fall so far, including a Sept. 9 operation to remove a cyst near his tailbone. Benson is back with the Giants and now playing for the team.
Why Will He Go This High in the Draft? Craig Button of TSN ranked Benson No. 21 in October, but a healthy Benson will move the needle and soar up the charts. A good bet for his final ranking will be around the top 10.
9. Patrik Laine, RW, Tappara Tampere (SM-Liiga)
Where Is He Playing? Patrik Laine is a big scoring winger for Tappara Tampere of SM-Liiga, Finland's top pro league. He is one of several Finns in this year's draft who are pushing for a top-10 selection.
What's the Latest? Laine suffered a shoulder injury earlier in the season, as Mike Morreale reported for NHL.com. He has played two games since returning, adding an assist to his season total.
Why Will He Go This High in the Draft? The Morreale article quotes Goran Stubb, who is the NHL Director of European Scouting. Stubb's description of Laine as a sniper with size, skill and strength will impress scouts, as will the fact he is flourishing in a pro league at such a young age (17).
8. Dante Fabbro, D, Penticton Vees (BCJHL)
Where Is He Playing? Dante Fabbro is a modern prototype defenseman for the Penticton Vees of the BCJHL.
What's the Latest? Fabbro (17) is an excellent skater and passer who can transition from defense to offense in a heartbeat. He is patient and calm beyond his years and is already a brilliant playmaker.
Why Will He Go This High in the Draft? Fabbro is ideally suited to the modern NHL game. His speed, vision and passing are useful in the offensive and defensive end and will see him go early at the 2016 draft. A player from Canadian Tier 2 hockey going high in the draft is rare, and that reflects his outstanding skills.
7. Alexander Nylander, RW, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Where Is He Playing? Alexander Nylander is an impact winger for the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL.
What's the Latest? Nylander's high-octane offense turns heads and has to be impacting scouting reports. His nine goals in 13 October games confirmed his exceptional status, and if he can sustain a high level of offense, he'll hear his name called early on draft day.
Why Will He Go This High in the Draft? A draft year that features several power forwards, complete defenders and a possible franchise player will keep him out of the top five, but he won't fall much past that spot in the draft.
6. Michael McLeod, C, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Where Is He Playing? Michael McLeod is among the best young playmaking forwards in the OHL. He plays for the Mississauga Steelheads, and his numbers are way up over last season.
What's the Latest? McLeod's emergence as one of the most creative players available in the draft is no surprise. Along with the success—he's among the league leaders in assists—is the recognition of his complete skill set.
Why Will He Go This High in the Draft? McLeod may end up going higher than this ranking. He is playing in all three disciplines—and has scored at even strength, power play and the penalty kill—and if he spikes offensively, scouts may deem him a possible franchise center.
5. Max Jones, LW, London Knights (OHL)
Where Is He Playing? Max Jones is scoring goals in bunches for the London Knights of the OHL.
What's the Latest? Jones is rocketing up the charts because he's been scoring a tremendous amount in recent games. After being blanked in the season's first six games, Jones has nine goals in his last seven.
Why Will He Go This High in the Draft? Jones offers a speed-and-skill game, and his 23 penalty minutes show a willingness to engage physically. NHL teams love skill players who can take care of themselves, and Jones appears to be such a specimen.
4. Matthew Tkachuk, LW, London Knights (OHL)
Where Is He Playing? Matthew Tkachuk is dominating the OHL this season for the London Knights.
What's the Latest? This is Tkachuk's first season in the OHL, and his skill level is probably more impressive than the advanced scouting reports suggest. He ranks inside the top five in scoring this year and is an elite-level player in the world's best junior league.
Why Will He Go This High in the Draft? The buzz around Tkachuk since the season began is growing. A lot of the success he's having so far reflects a high skill level and a willingness to drive into high-traffic areas. Scouts value a rugged skill player highly.
3. Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, Karpat (SM-Liiiga)
Where Is He Playing? Jesse Puljujarvi is a substantial power-forward prospect playing for Karpat in Finland's highest pro league.
What's the Latest? Puljujarvi is 6'3", 198 pounds and has a terrific combination of size, skill and speed. Mike Morreale of NHL.com breaks down the story on the impressive prospect and tells us there have been comparisons to Teemu Selanne.
Why Will He Go This High in the Draft? NHL teams are always looking for big, skilled players, and the additional speed asset gives Puljujarvi an exceptional range of skills. A team that is lacking in skilled wingers who have size up front may jump up and take him higher than his final ranking, but at this point it's reasonable to project him at No. 3 overall.
2. Jakob Chychrun, D, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Where Is He Playing? Jakob Chychrun patrols the blue line for the Sarnia Sting of the OHL. He is posting impressive numbers and should be an early selection in the 2016 draft.
What's the Latest? Brock Otten of OHL Prospects reports that Chychrun is off to a good, if not great, start. Otten also states he is the most complete defenseman in the OHL since Drew Doughty.
Why Will He Go This High in the Draft? Chychrun has across-the-board skills and is playing in the best junior league in the world. The OHL's recent success with graduating talents such as Connor McDavid, Aaron Ekblad and others should reduce the amount of risk in taking him high in the draft. He's a bona fide talent with a complete skill set—that's a rare thing.
1. Auston Matthews, C, Zurich Lions (Swiss)
Where Is He Playing? Auston Matthews is playing for the Zurich Lions of the Swiss League. This is an unusual place for a draft-eligible player, but he's old enough to play pro (18) and is excelling at that level.
What's the Latest? Tim Wharnsby's article for NHL.com offers great insight into Matthews' current situation, including a recent injury that kept him out of some league games. The article also quotes his coach—former NHL coach Marc Crawford—as saying it took him little time to become one of the best players in the top Swiss league.
Why Will He Go This High in the Draft? Matthews is No. 1 on most lists, including Button's in October. It's fun to debate a prospect pushing Matthews for the top spot at the 2016 draft, but there's no evidence so far this is anything more than speculation. Matthews is the class of the group for 2016.