Forward Nolan Patrick, who skates for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League, has been named the top draft-eligible skater for the 2017 NHL Draft as the NHL Central Scouting Bureau this week released its mid-season rankings.
Patrick aims to be the first player drafted No. 1 overall out of the WHL since Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011 by EDM) and just the third in the past 22 seasons (also Chris Phillips in 1996 by OTT). The 2017 NHL Draft will be held June 23-24 at United Center in Chicago, marking the first time the Blackhawks and the city of Chicago will host the event.
Director of NHL Central Scouting, Dan Marr, stated that Patrick is “[a] strong, power center with speed and skill who has already established himself as a leader after earning MVP honors in the 2016 Western Hockey League playoffs. It is unfortunate he had to miss so much time, but it was necessary for him to be able to return at 100 percent. His game continues to show that he is a top prospect.”
Patrick has recorded more than a point per game this season (6-7—13 in 8 GP) despite missing significant time with an injury. In 2015-16, he was named MVP of the WHL Playoffs after helping Brandon win its first championship in 20 years. From a hockey family, his father, Steve Patrick, played 250 games with the Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers and Quebec Nordiques from 1980-86, while his uncle James Patrick skated in 1,280 career regular-season NHL games.
Joining Patrick among the top five ranked skaters from North America are a group of skilled forwards.
Second-ranked Nico Hischier (Naters, Switzerland), a center for the Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL), also has received glowing reviews.
“Hischier is definitely worth the price of admission," said Marr. "He has a high skill level, but what’s most impressive is the way he competes, his drive and work ethic. He is a player who is first on the forecheck forcing a turnover and when the play transitions, he’s the first player back. He’s in that category as a special player.”
Third-ranked Gabriel Vilardi (Kingston, Ont.), a center for the Windsor Spitfires (OHL), has been praised for his intangible qualities.
“Vilardi is a high-end possession center with excellent hockey sense and puck-handling ability," said Marr. "He plays a very composed game with the puck using his vision and playmaking ability to influence the game in all three zones. Vilardi excels below the dots in the offensive zone where he utilizes his size and reach to control the play and generate scoring opportunities.”
Fourth-ranked Owen Tippett (Peterborough, Ont.), a right wing for the Mississauga Steelheads (OHL), is one of the faster players in the draft.
“A power winger with exceptional speed and acceleration, Tippett is one of the best skaters in the 2017 NHL Draft class," said Marr. "An expert at recognizing opportunity, his prime scoring area is anywhere inside the offensive zone. He possesses a heavy, accurate snap shot with an instant release.”
Fifth-ranked Casey Mittelstadt (Edina, Minn.), a center for Eden Prairie High School (HIGH-MN), has been noted for his consistent play.
“Mittelstadt is one of these anomalies that come along every few years [from high school hockey]," said Marr. "We’ve watched him play against his peers in international tournaments and have seen him play in the USHL and at various camps, and he always makes a difference. It doesn’t really matter where he plays because you get the same game from him no matter the environment.”
Among European players, forwards Klim Kostin (Penza, Russia) of Dynamo Moscow and Elias Pettersson (Sundsvall, Sweden) of Timra rank first and second, respectively.
“Kostin is a big power forward who plays a physical game," said NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb. "He is a strong skater with good speed, very good hockey sense and is an excellent competitor.”
Keith Petruzzelli (Wilbraham, Mass.) of the Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL) ranks as the top North American goaltender, while Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Espoo, Finland) of HPK’s junior team (FINLAND-JR) tops international netminders.
The mid-season rankings feature the top 217 skaters and 31 goaltenders in North America, as well as the top 120 skaters and 10 goaltenders internationally.
In its 42nd year of operation, NHL Central Scouting provides evaluation and scouting of draft-eligible players to NHL member clubs. Headed by Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr, NHL Central Scouting employs nine full-time and 15 part-time scouts throughout North America. To report on prospects playing internationally, the NHL employs the services of Goran Stubb and his staff at European Scouting Services based in Finland.
By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services