Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column looking at hockey’s stars. Over the next few days we will be previewing the 2017 NHL Draft by ranking our top 30 prospects. We will also do some honourable mentions. As always, you can check out the previous Top Shelf Prospects articles here.
With the CHL season a good eight weeks old; a month or so of NCAA hockey; plenty of games for the US National Team Development Program; the Ivan Hlinka Tournament; an international break in Europe; and the CIBC CHL/Russia Series all being played since we last updated our draft rankings, we have gotten a decent overview of what some of the biggest prospects for the 2017 draft are doing this year.
That said, as a staff we haven’t seen every player yet—it’s quite simply not possible this early in the season. If there is an obvious name left out, we’ll do our best to get a look before the February rankings; as well as before our final rankings that go from April through June.
The group we haven’t seen a lot of are European prospects who, for whatever reason, haven’t had much exposure on the international stage. With the World Juniors, Five Nations, and the Under-18 all to come later in the year, we should get a better look at most of those players.
2017 NHL Draft November Rankings 16-20
16.) Martin Necas, Brno; Centre (6’0″ 167 lbs)
With five points in five games at last year’s World Under 17 Hockey Challenge, and six points in four games in helping the Czechs win the Ivan Hlinka tournament, Necas has shone on the international stage. While we haven’t had a chance to see his Czech league games, he has put up 12 points in 24 games, playing in the country’s best men’s league.
Necas is a solid skater with a good stride along with excellent agility and balance. He has very good speed, and can handle the puck and make plays while moving at top speed. His hands are quick and he protects the puck well. Necas can be dangerous as both a passer and a shooter. He must add muscle to his frame before he’s ready for the next level though.
17.) Ryan Poehling, St. Cloud State; Centre (6’3″ 185 lbs)
Poehling fast-tracked through high school in order to join St. Cloud State, and play NCAA hockey a year early. He wanted to join his brothers, Jack and Nick on the Huskies team. As an underage freshman, Poehling has three goals and five points in 11 games. He also played for Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka, putting up four goals and six points in four games.
Poehling has decent speed, but it could be improved. He has good size and gets in quickly on the forecheck looking to pressure defenders and cause mistakes. Poehling plays a gritty game, battling in the corners and in front of the net. He also has a very good wrist shot and release. Poehling’s stickhandling is decent, but he plays a very straightforward north-south style of game, and isn’t the type to take on defenders in one-on-one situations. Instead he looks to move the puck to an open teammate and then try to find an open area on the ice.
18.) Matthew Strome, Hamilton Bulldogs; Left Wing
The youngest of the Strome brothers, Matthew Strome was the Bulldogs first round pick, 8th overall in the 2015 OHL Draft. He shows the size and skill that have become trademarks of the Strome name. After scoring 38 points as an OHL rookie, he’s come into his own this year with 15 goals and 27 points in 25 games. Like his brother Dylan, Matthew Strome has outstanding hockey IQ, but could spend some time working on his skating going forward. He has very good vision and excellent passing skills, including the ability to thread the puck through tight areas. Strome also has a very good wrist shot and release. He could stand to shoot more this season though. Spent his time on the wing last season, but could be moved this year.
One thing that really stands out about Strome in comparison to his brothers, is the fact he plays as much more of a power forward. He gets in on the forecheck and plays the body. He is very physical in the corners as well as battling in front of the net. Stome is also willing to take the puck to the front of the net. Strome is already one of the Bulldogs leaders and most important players at 17-years-old
19.) Kailer Yamamoto, Spokane Chiefs; Left Wing/Centre, (5’9″ 159 lbs)
Last season Yamamoto put up 19 goals and 71 points in just 57 games to lead the Chiefs in scoring. He was invited to play for Team USA at the IIHF U18s. Yamamoto scored seven goals and 13 points in just seven games in the tournament. This year, he’s at it again. Yamamoto has already scored 17 goals and 31 points in just 21 games.
Yamamoto has tremendous hands, he is a great stickhandler and can bury goals in tight to the goalie. He also is very quick to loose pucks with great acceleration and a really quick first step. More a playmaker than a goal scorer, he uses his quickness and stickhandling to open up passing lanes. Yamamoto can feather passes tape-to-tape to his linemates and has outstanding vision. Coming in at just 5’9″ tall, Yamamoto’s draft stock will raise significantly if he can grow an inch or two before the draft combine.
20.) Cody Glass, Portland Winterhawks; Centre (6’1″ 168 lbs)
Glass picked up 27 points in 65 games as a WHL Rookie, but a lot more was expected of him this year. While he played very limited minutes last year, he has been given a lot more responsibility on this year’s team. Glass has thrived, as he already has 12 goals and 36 points in just 25 games.
Glass has good hands, with the ability to stickhandle in tight spaces and make moves one-on-one. He protects the puck extremely well down low, extending plays and keeping possession. Glass is good in board battles, and could be even better as he adds some muscle to his frame. He also has the passing skills and vision to make his linemates better and put up points. He also has a decent shot and good release.