Introducing the 2016 NHL Draft Class

The National Hockey League
Entry Draft held annually at the end of June serves many a purpose. It serves as
the entry point for hockey’s greatest and youngest future stars, it serves as
grounds for general managers to brainstorm and execute blockbuster trades to
shore up their teams, and it serves as a renewal of hope for many fanbases
crushed by a disappointing season’s past.

The latter is the culmination
of months of hype and banter, with prospect debate steadily intensifying for
months until its eventual climax in June. I call it, The Feeling. A medley of excitement, jubilance and promise, fueled
by your favorite team’s futility, The
Feeling
invades the mind of every hockey fan at some point during the year
– the worse the team, the earlier the contraction – and makes permanent
residence in every Oilers fan.  

Such feelings were
commonplace for a couple of seasons in Calgary as the team undertook a rebuild,
but was quickly extinguished by a miracle run to the second round of the
playoffs last year.

However, 25 games into the
2015-16 season, The Feeling is back.

There have been multiple
requests in the comments for an introduction to this year’s draft class, and
many more tweets about the possibility for the Flames to snag Auston Matthews
with the first overall pick (and even more tweets misspelling
Matthews’ first name). Being a man of the people, introducing this year’s draft
class is exactly what I intend to do.

So just sit back, relax, and
let The Feeling set in. 

(Note: Introduction was
written before Tuesday’s electric comeback win over Dallas. Damn it timing.)

McDavid, Eichel and Matthews?

Most scouts agree  – from the celebrity types like Corey Pronman
and Craig Button, to the low profile, but equally knowledgeable types – that if
Auston Matthews were eligible to be
drafted last season (he missed the cut off for the 2015 NHL Draft by two measly
days), he would’ve been in the generational talent discussion alongside Connor
McDavid and Jack Eichel. Heck, some even suggest he could’ve gone ahead of
Eichel.

Instead, Matthews stands
alone as the jewel of the 2016 draft class. He is the best, period. Playing in
Switzerland’s NLA, Matthews was – before a mysterious upper body injury – over
a point per game with 17 points in 14 games, and has just recently returned to
action, currently sitting at 20 points in 17 games. For a 17-year-old kid playing in a serious pro league, those are
excellent numbers.

Matthews, who broke Patrick
Kane’s NTDP USHL scoring record last season, will play in the National Hockey
League in 2016-17 and will become a franchise cornerstone the moment his name
is called first overall next June. 
 

An interesting/cool tidbit: The 2015 and 2016 NHL Drafts
are eerily mirroring those of 2004 and 2005, with three generational players
produced in two years. It was Ovechkin/Malkin followed by Crosby then, and it
could be McDavid/Eichel followed by Matthews now.
 

Coincidences
are fun.

The Lone Blueliner

The
first thing you notice when looking at anybody’s rankings for the 2016 NHL
Draft is, listed under position, a ‘D’ in an ocean of ‘Fs’. That’s because
Sarnia Sting defenceman Jacob Chychrun is viewed by most as the only
elite defensive talent available next June.

At
FutureConsiderations, we have Chychrun ranked 2nd overall, with
Dante Fabro of the Penticton Vees the next closest defenceman 10th
overall, and “close” is a relative term. Chychrun reminds a little of Aaron
Ekblad as a prospect, in that he’s an imposing 6’2, 194 pounds, has an edge to
his game, can move the puck extremely well and possesses a booming slapshot. Overall,
he fits the mould of today’s ideal NHL defenseman perfectly.

Chychrun
also has been wearing an ‘A’ on his sweater since his rookie year, so you can check off the “leadership” box, too.

Wing Night

Here’s
where the Flames come in. The Flames have accumulated some formidable depth
down the middle over the past few years, and seem set for the future with Sam
Bennett, Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund anchoring the middle of the ice. The
wings are a much different topic. With Jiri Hudler falling off the face of the
earth, Michael Frolik and Johnny Gaudreau are the only legitimate top six wingers
in Calgary right now. David Jones has provided good scoring depth so far this
season but let’s not kid ourseleves, he’s nothing more than a complimentary, third
line scorer on a good team.

Luckily
for almost shoe-in top five drafting Flames, the cream of the 2016 NHL Draft is
dense with wingers, and big wingers at that. Finnish-born beast Jesse
Puljujarvi
has been on the radar for a couple seasons now, dazzling scouts
with his elite skillset and pro size. He’s been playing in SM-Liiga since he
was 16, and has 11 points in 27 games so far this season. Standing at 6’4, 200
pounds, Puljujarvi is currently my favorite prospect for the 2016 draft; his
potential is just sky-high.

Countryman
Patrik Laine is of a similar mould to Puljujarvi, standing tall at 6’3, 205
pounds and playing a fast paced, high-energy game. While not as skilled as
Puljujarvi, Laine has a similar knack for scoring goals. Also playing his second
season in SM-Liiga, he’s sitting with eight goals and 13 points in 21 games this
season and has a rising stock heading into the World Juniors later this month.

Both
Finns posses a coveted blend of size and skill that will have teams desperately
trying to trade up into a position to draft them come June.

Keith
Tkachuk’s offspring, Matthew, playing for the OHL’s London Knights, has clearly
inherited both his father’s scoring ability – currently tearing that league apart
with 48 points in 24 games – and, at 6’1, 194 pounds, his edge. Keith Tkachuk
was known and feared for not only pounding the puck past your goalie, but also
pounding your team into the ground. Matthew, too, has that bulldog personality
about his game. Sam Bennett wouldn’t be a bad comparable, especially in terms
of giving it 110% every shift.

Rounding
out the top nine at FutureConsiderations are QMJHL wingers Julien Gauthier and
Pierre-Luc Dubois, two big power forwards both exceeding 6’3 in height; William
Nylander’s brother Alexander, scoring at over a point per game in his first OHL
season; and Tkachuk’s teammate in London, Max Jones, another power forward
standing 6’3 in height.

A
trend you may have noticed is every single player I listed in this piece is
attached to a height starting with 6. In fact, Matthew Tkachuk and Alexander
Nylander
are the smallest players inside our top nine at 6’1, and everyone is at
or near 200 pounds. It’s really quite fortunate for the Flames that the year
they fall off the face of the earth is the year the NHL Draft is oversaturated
with huge, uber skilled, slick skating wingers.

In
other words, exactly what they’ve been looking for.

Conclusion

In
conclusion, the 2016 NHL Draft won’t produce stars to the level expected of its
predecessors in 2013 and 2015, but rather it’s looking like the draft
sandwiched in between those two, in 2014. You know, the one that produced the
Flames with Sam Bennett.

It
has an elite top end with Matthews, Chychrun, Puljujarvi and Tkachuk, and an
overall exciting Top 10, but drops off from there. Not that there aren’t excellent
players like Olli Juolevi and Tyler Benson still available as you make your
way down the rankings, it’s just they’re looking more like solid NHLers rather
than difference makers.

Think
top nine forwards, not top nine scorers.

As
we approach the midway point of the scouting season, the 2016 NHL Draft picture
is beginning to take shape, and The
Feeling
is beginning to knock on doors, looking for a place to stay.

The
season isn’t over yet in Calgary, but when considering where the Flames will
likely be drafting come June, the silver lining to this so far dark and musty
season will be shining increasingly brighter and brighter.

  • piscera.infada

    While he’s not a top-5 prospect, I still think the Flames should be doing everything they can to acquire another mid-first round pick somehow. I really, really want Jake Bean to be a Flame. That kid is unreal and he’s trending in the perfect direction. Great skater, thinks the game unbelievably well, awesome offensive abilities. Really needs to work on his defensive game though, as is fairly common for 17 year old defensemen that means a lot more strength.

  • piscera.infada

    I have a very, very hard time getting excited about Matthews. Not because he isn’t a great prospect, but because the chances of the Flames ending up with him are almost zero. People throw this line out that “we’ll be bad for the season and draft Matthews”, like it’s some sort of guarantee. Edmonton has made it look so easy, but that’s not reality–look at Phoenix, look at Buffalo. The chances of getting one of those picks is so freaking minuscule in the grand scheme of things, I just see no reason getting excited about it.

    • CofRed4Life

      I agree. But the top 10 propsects look pretty good from Christian’s write-up. I would just rather be excited about watching hockey until the season’s over, and then start worrying about prospects (when we know our final place in the standings).

      In the meantine… GFG!

    • supra steve

      Not counting on getting Matthews, but if Flames finish 26th (5th from the bottom) they have an 8.5% shot at landing #1 overall. Not great odds, but hardly “miniscule”. Edmonton, at 30th, will only have a 20% shot.

      • piscera.infada

        Minuscule enough to not get excited about was my point. Then look at the fact that you “still” have to actually finish in the bottom-5 with 57 games remaining–I honestly don’t see this team being bottom-5 bad, and I still think they go on a run at point.

        I agree with you. I’m just saying I hate the logic that “you just have to be bad for a season”. You don’t. You have to be very, very bad, and get lucky. If the Flames win the draft lottery, I’ll get excited for Matthews, but at this point, I’m more or less resigned to the fact that they won’t end with a top-3 pick, and that’s fine.

        • Kevin R

          I actually agree. When I see games like Chicago & Dallas, I see this team capable of giving the Titans in this league all they can handle. If we had a juggernaut goalie, this team would be right with Vancouver “Kings of the Loser Points” Canucks. Absolutely this team could easily go on a run in the 2nd half. In fact they seem to have a penchant to playing their best hockey in the 2nd half the last few years. But man, what I wouldn’t do for a #1 overall pick. Better leave it at that, if I described it, I would be banned.

        • supra steve

          Hey, same club had a terrible start, then a very respectable finish in 2012-13…and got Sean Monahan at #6 overall. I’m not excluding a strong finish, but with the start this team has had, I wouldn’t bet on them picking any higher than 8 or 10. I think #5 is completely realistic.

  • piscera.infada

    For those that are hoping to get Matthews, try the simulator out and see just how little of a chance we actually have. Our wish lists need to go at least six players deep.

    http://nhllotterysimulator.com/#/

    5th, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 5th

    when I tried it

    I really like Tkachuk and Chychrun as options assuming we get some incredible luck. I know that there is a lot of good hype on the two Finish wingers, but I really struggle to find a high end Finish power winger that has turned out to be any good.

    • piscera.infada

      I’ve heard really strange contradictions about Chychrun’s games from various scouting reports and people that have watched him play. Some say he has really high hockey IQ, some say he thinks the game horribly. Some say he is very consistent in his effort, some say he looks like he just gliding around and very disengaged.

      It’s strange. I’ve never seen him, so it’s tough to get an accurate read.

        • piscera.infada

          I completely agree with your re: offensive players. ALthough, you can never, ever have enough elite defensmen. They’re probably the most valuable commodities, right?

          I’m just interested about Chychrun because it’s kind of weird to be the de facto best defenseman on a lot of these lists, and have people vehemently tee-ing off on areas of his game that are praised by others.

    • cberg

      These top17 Finns don’t seem all that shabby…

      Rk Name GP G A P P/GP

      1 Teemu Selänne 1451 684 773 1457 1.004

      2 Jari Kurri 1251 601 797 1398 1.118

      3 Saku Koivu 1124 255 577 832 0.740

      4 Olli Jokinen 1231 321 429 750 0.609

      5 Teppo Numminen 1372 117 520 637 0.464

      6 Esa Tikkanen 877 244 386 630 0.718

      7 Kimmo Timonen 1108 117 454 571 0.515

      8 Mikko Koivu 704 148 372 520 0.739

      9 Jere Lehtinen 875 243 271 514 0.587

      10 Jussi Jokinen 765 163 312 475 0.621

      11 Jyrki Lumme 985 114 354 468 0.475

      12 Sami Kapanen 831 189 269 458 0.551

      13 Christian Ruuttu 621 134 298 432 0.696

      14 Ilkka Sinisalo 582 204 222 426 0.732

      15 Petri Skriko 541 183 222 405 246 0.749

      16 Valtteri Filppula 666 139 229 368 0.553

      17 Risto Siltanen 562 90 265 355 0.632

    • Kevin R

      How many Slovenian-born players became high-end players (or NHLers of any kind for that matter) before Anze Kopitar?

      Birthplace is utterly, completely irrelevant in this context.

  • Flames should go for broke. Why let the Oilers have all the fun.
    Matthews, get whatever you can for Hudler, Wideman, Russell try and wiggle yourself a second or third first round pick.
    This team is not as bad as they’re playing right now.

    New coach, a bit more top end talent and maturity they are gonna be alright.

    Bennett Johnny Mony TJ Hamilton even role guys liek Ferland, Arnold Granlund (on the farm) up and commers in Kulak, Anderson and hopefully Kylington Hickey.

    add in a Matthews and one or two of those wingers in this draft who maybe become something.

    and you just need to find a goalie and make smart signings with Mony et al.

  • cberg

    The Feeling invades the mind of every hockey fan at some point during the year – the worse the team, the earlier the contraction – and makes permanent residence in every Oilers fan.

    Thanks for the intro. I believe we actually beat the Oilers to the first prospect report of the season. Not that this is a good thing.

  • EducatedHockeyFan

    Christian, just curious where you’d personally have Debrincat in your top 30? 53 pts in 26 gp in the OHL is hard to leave out of a top 10, even considering his 5’7″ height.

    • Christian Roatis

      He’s inside our Top 30 at FC, but my guess he slips out of the first round for two reasons: 1) size, like you mentioned and 2) he’s played on an incredibly talented offensive team so his number might be a little inflated. However, with more and more smallish but hyperskilled players making the jump to the NHL (Gaudreau, Ehlers, Petan) I think if a team wants a boom or bust pick, they take him.

      • BurningSensation

        His goalscoring is bordering on absurd, but it begs the question whether he is more like Ehlers (dynamic all-purpose gunner), or Bjorkstrand (tiny scoring machine with a variety of flaws).

        Given Debrincat lost a high-end running mate from last season – and inproved his numbers anyway, I’m tempted to think he is more like Ehlers.

    • Kevin R

      I have watched Debrincat play and he has good skill, I am not sure the league has advanced to the point of taking a small skilled player in the first round. IMO the league is evolving to value skill first but everyone will take big skilled over small skilled players. With less emphasis on enforcers, there are more jobs for the small crafty players especially with 3v3 OTs. If Johnny goes in the 4th and Mangiapane in the 6th….I would be surprised to see Debrincat go earlier than the second….but who knows.

    • Parallex

      Get over Iggy..his dominance of the dressing room was disruptive to a young team in rebuild..he had far too much say in the type of play required to have brought on the success we had last year. It was time to move on….

  • Parallex

    What is this Oilers nation?

    I cannot get excited about the draft right now.. waaay to early.

    Of course it would be amazing to draft Matthews (Can’t even imagine how deadly a Gaudreau-Bennett- Matthews line would be).. but at this point I will chalk it up to “not very likely”.

    PS. If the Oilers win the draft lottery again this year, I think I will stop watching hockey forever.

  • piscera.infada

    @ CBERG

    how many of those are considered power forwards?

    Maybe Mikko Koivu at best.

    The two Finish wingers this year are power forward types not the fast skilled wingers that are most known for Finish players

    • piscera.infada

      I know that there is a lot of good hype on the two Finish wingers, but I really struggle to find a high end Finish power winger that has turned out to be any good.

      The two Finish wingers this year are power forward types not the fast skilled wingers that are most known for Finish players.

      Does it really matter? I mean, if the kids are good at hockey, they’re good at hockey. If they have plus shooting, are big bodies, and play a physical brand of hockey, isn’t that enough? Or are those traits less important if they’re Finnish?

      I’m not sure I really follow. For example, if the next “generational talent” was from Brazil, would we list a bunch of Brazilian-born players and say “Robin Regher is basically his ceiling”?

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    With the 1st 3 picks being lottery, we could still end up in that draft range even if we go on run and climb in the standings. That would be the best case scenario 🙂

  • It Was In!

    Someone I’d really like to see as a late round pick is Mike Zapp from the hitmen. I like his style, and he never has a bad game (at least when I get to watch). Not an elite prospect, but could make for a good depth pick.