Forward Auston Matthews (Scottsdale, Ariz.), who averaged more than a point per game (24-22—46 in 36 GP) for Zurich in Switzerland’s top men’s league in 2015-16, has been named the top draft-eligible skater for the 2016 NHL Draft after the NHL Central Scouting Bureau released its final rankings.
“Auston Matthews is an extraordinary prospect with NHL size, speed and smarts combined with an exceptional work ethic and a relentless compete level,” said Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr. “The other players in the mix for the top five selections have all improved their stock, but Matthews is our clear choice as the top prospect available for the 2016 NHL Draft.”
Matthews aims to be the seventh U.S.-born player to be drafted first overall, and the first since Erik Johnson (2006 by STL) and Patrick Kane (2007 by CHI) were selected with the top pick in back-to-back years.
Joining Matthews at the top of a deep field of European skaters are a pair of 2016 World Junior Championship gold medalists who have spent the entire season in the Finnish Elite League: No. 2 Patrik Laine (Tampere, Finland), a forward with Tappara, and No. 3 Jesse Puljujarvi (Tornio, Finland), a forward for Karpat.
Four of the five top-ranked skaters from North America come from NHL bloodlines: No. 1 Pierre-Luc Dubois (Rimouski, Que.), a forward for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL), is the son of former NHL Draft selection and current QMJHL assistant coach Eric Dubois; No. 2 Matthew Tkachuk (St. Louis, Mo.), a forward for the London Knights (OHL), is the son of former NHL player Keith Tkachuk; No. 3 Alexander Nylander (Stockholm, Sweden), a forward for the Mississauga Steelheads (OHL), is the son of former NHL player Michael Nylander and brother of Maple Leafs forward William Nylander; and No. 4 Jakob Chychrun (Boca Raton, Fla.), a defenseman with the Sarnia Sting (OHL), is the son of former NHL blue liner Jeff Chychrun. Rounding out the top five in North America is London defenseman Olli Juolevi, a tournament All-Star as a member of Finland’s gold-medal team at the 2016 World Junior Championship.
Evan Fitzpatrick (St. John’s, Nfld.) of the Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL), and Filip Gustavsson (Skelleftea, Sweden) of Lulea’s junior team (SWEDEN-JR) are the top-ranked goaltenders from North America and Europe, respectively.
The final rankings feature the top 210 skaters and 30 goaltenders in North America, as well as the top 150 skaters and 15 goaltenders from Europe.
The 2016 NHL Draft will be held June 24-25 at First Niagara Center in Buffalo. This will be the third time the event will be held in Buffalo. The city previously hosted the NHL Draft in 1991 (Memorial Auditorium) and 1998 (Marine Midland Arena).
By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services