The NHL Central Scouting Bureau released its final rankings this week, and 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. Swiss forward Nico Hischier, a center for the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, follows closely at number two.
The 2017 NHL Draft will be held June 23-24 at United Center in Chicago, marking the first time the Blackhawks and city of Chicago will host the event.
Patrick averaged more than a point per game this season (20-26—46 in 33 GP) despite missing significant time due to 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 NHL games.
“He has more than proven over the last three years that he is the real deal and will be an impact NHL player," said Director of NHL Central Scouting, Dan Marr, of Patrick. "The poise, the presence, the attention to detail, the way he processes and executes plays — everything has been far more precise, far more accurate and a lot quicker this season.”
Hischier – who looks to become the highest-drafted Swiss player in NHL history (Nino Niederreiter: 5th overall by NYI in 2010) – led QMJHL rookies with 38-48—86 in 57 games this season, and added 3-4—7 in six playoff contests. He was named the QMJHL Rookie of the Year and awarded the Mike Bossy Trophy as the league’s Best Professional Prospect.
“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.”
Joining Patrick and Hischier among the top five-ranked skaters from North America are a group of skilled forwards: No. 3 Casey Mittelstadt, a center for Eden Prairie High School (Minn.); No. 4 Gabriel Vilardi, a center for the Windsor Spitfires; and No. 5 Michael Rasmussen, a center for the Tri-City Americans (WHL).
“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.”
Forwards Klim Kostin (Russia) of Dynamo Moscow and Elias Pettersson (Sweden) of Timra maintain their ranks of first and second, respectively, among international skaters.
“A fast, speedy star, [Pettersson] had a sensational season for Timra in Sweden’s second division, consistently producing offense despite the fact he’s playing with and against much older players,” said NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb.
Jake Oettinger of Boston University ranks as the top North American goaltender, while Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Finland) of HPK’s junior team tops international netminders.
The final rankings feature the top 217 skaters and 31 goaltenders in North America, as well as the top 140 skaters and 13 goaltenders internationally.
By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services