Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Starting today, and for the next week or so, I will be bringing you features on the next wave of NHL players. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical draft profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Sports is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Prospects”! For a Complete Listing of all our 2017 Draft Articles Click here. We will be sure to bring similar coverage of the 2018 NHL Draft.
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 Canada-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 2018 NHL 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 our 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.
2018 NHL Draft- November Rankings and Reports #16-20
16.) Joel Farabee, Left Wing, US NTDP U18, 5’11” 171 lbs
Farabee has had a great start to the year, with 12 goals and 23 points in 21 games for the United States NTDP. Last season, he scored 31 points in 42 games with the U17 team, and 19 points in 22 games with the U18 squad. It was enough to get a role at the IIHF Under 18 World Championships, where he put up six points in seven games and helped the Americans to the gold medal. He is committed to Boston University for the 2018-19 season.
Farabee is an excellent skater, with the agility and edge work to get by defenders in one-on-one situations. He also has outstanding acceleration. If he gets a step on a defenceman, he can blow past him and cut to the net. Farabee has good hands and stick skills allowing him to control the puck while moving at top speed. Defenders must respect his speed, and so they back off him on the rush, creating shooting and passing lanes. Farabee has good vision and is an outstanding playmaker off the wing. He could stand to add some power to his shot though.
17.) Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Centre/Right Wing, Assat, 6’2″ 190 lbs
Kotkaniemi burst onto the scene at last year’s Under-18 World Championships. He put up six points in seven games as an underager and helped Finland to the silver medal. He carried that strong play into this summer’s Ivan Hlinka tournament, where he scored four points in four games. The strong play has been enough to see Kotkaniemi graduate from the Finnish junior leagues, up to the top league with Assat. He has 13 points in 27 games this year.
Kotkaniemi has good size. He takes advantage of his big frame, playing a power game. He loves to take the puck and drive to the front of the net. Without the puck he is also found around the top of the crease, ready to provide a screen or pounce on a rebound. Kotkaniemi is also a good playmaker, with good vision and passing skills. He has the stickhandling ability to protect the puck on the cycle and extend plays to find an open teammate. Kotkaniemi is not a speedster like others in this ranking, but he is not slow either. He can keep up with the play and has the power and balance in his stride to fight through checks. Kotkaniemi reads the play well and plays a strong defensive game.
18.) Benoit-Olivier Groulx, Centre, Halifax Mooseheads, 6’1″ 176 lbs
The first overall pick of the 2016 QMJHL Draft is the son of legendary head coach Benoit Groulx. He has started the season strong with 14 goals and 23 points in 27 games this year. This follows up on a solid performance, winning gold at the Hlinka this summer, as well as 17 goals and 31 points as a rookie last season.
Groulx is a pure sniper. He has the soft hands to finish plays in tight to the net, as well as a strong wrist shot and quick release. His slap shot is an absolute bomb. He is an excellent stick handler and can make plays off the rush as well as on the cycle. Groulx can also play the role of playmaker, with good vision and passing skills. While the offensive skills are there, he did not produce as much as expected last year and needs to do a little more this season. One area he does excel is on the defensive side of the game.
19.) Barrett Hayton, Centre, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, 6’1″ 185 lbs
The ninth overall pick in the 2016 OHL Draft, Hayton has nine goals and 20 points in 24 games this year. He has already matched his rookie season goal total and is just seven points off his rookie total in 39 fewer games. Hayton was also a member of Canada’s gold-medal winning Hlinka squad, with three goals and six points in five games.
Hayton has a heavy shot and a good release. A big reason for his increased goal scoring this year has been his ability to get into the right spots and just use that wrist shot more often. He has also improved his accuracy but can still stand to get better in this area. His slap shot is also very good. Hayton plays a straightforward game. He protects the puck well on the cycle but is not the type of forward to dangle a defenceman in a one-on-one situation. Instead, Hayton looks to keep the puck moving, find the open man, and then get it to the net. He is also good on the forecheck. While he does not lay a lot of big hits, he gets in quickly, pressuring defenders and creating turnovers.
20.) Jett Woo, Right Defence, Moose Jaw Warriors, 6’0″ 205 lbs
Woo has taken his game to a new level this year. He has started strong with six goals and 17 points in 18 games. Last season, Woo had 22 points as a WHL Rookie and also captained Team Canada White at the Under 17 World Hockey Challenge. He also played as an underager and impressed at the Under 18 World Championships, and was a key defenceman for the Ivan Hlinka winning squad this summer.
He is strong in both ends of the ice. Woo shows poise with the puck on his stick, keeping his head up and looking to make plays. He has a strong first pass out of the zone and has shown the ability to quarterback the power play. Woo has dramatically increased his offence this season by joining the rush more and pinching at the blue line. He picks his spots well and is rarely caught out of position. However, the bread and butter of Woo’s game is his defensive game. Even at 16, he was already used as a key penalty killer and playing against top lines in the second half of last season. He battles hard in the corners and wins physial battles in front of the net. He also maintains good gap control at the defensive end, funnelling attackers to the outside and keeping himself between the puck and the front of the net. Woo’s positioning and instincts are already high end.
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