The 2017 NHL Draft has not been as highly regarded compared to the past two seasons. At the top of the draft, Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick are very good prospects but not necessarily franchise altering picks. Although there is not a bonafide franchise prospect coming out this year, the 2017 draft still has the possibility to produce some good NHLers.
Here are some players to keep an eye on down the stretch….
Cale Makar/Defenseman/AJHL Brooks Bandits
Makar is an interesting prospect. Currently playing in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, Makar has just this year started to gain momentum as a prospect. Even more recently Makar is gaining a ton of steam around the scouting world and has the potential to be the first defensemen off the board come draft time. Although only 5’11”, Makar brings a lot to the table as an offensive defenseman with speed, skill, and creativity on the blue line. With 75 points in 54 games he is 6th in AJHL scoring and 1st for defensemen. Right before the World Junior Championships Bob McKenzie wrote about the buzz surrounding Makar. When talking about Team Canada’s selection camp one scout told McKenzie,
“He should be there. He would be the Canadians’ best defenceman for the World Junior Championship.”
As you can see Makar has the ability to make good outlet passes and can move the puck well in the offensive zone. He possess a good shot and as seen in his second goal, he has the ability to make dazzling play. Makar is one of my favorite prospects in this draft and the hype surrounding him is definitely warranted. Makar should certainly be on your radar as one of the top defensemen for your rookie drafts this summer.
Lias Andersson/Center/SHL HV71
Andersson is a prospect that somewhat reminds me a little of Joel Eriksson Ek. Although not as tall as Eriksson Ek, standing at only 5’11”, Andersson is a reliable two-way center. He possess the skill set, offensive ability, and quickness to become a factor in the NHL. With 19 points in 42 games, he ranks number one in points for U19 players in the SHL this season. Andersson ranks, at a respectable, 23rd overall for U19 scorers all time. He possess a pretty good wrist shot but has to work on putting himself in the right positions to score.
In his first goal Andersson fights off a defender and takes the puck to the net for a gritty goal. In his second goal we really get to see his impressive shot. Andersson may not be a top ten pick but any team that gets him will likely be happy. Long term I could see him becoming a good top six NHLer. If Andersson can put it all together he has the potential to go even further.
Kailer Yamamoto/Center/WHL Spokane Chiefs
Yamamoto really caught my eye as a prospect at the 2015-2016 U18 World Junior Championships. Standing at only 5’8″, his small stature may stick out to fans but after seeing him play I took away the immense ability he has. Yamamoto is a very skilled player. His 13 points in 7 games at the U18 WJC were among some of the top prospects, including Clayton Keller and Alex Nylander. Yamamoto’s 1.45 points per game are second only to Sam Steel, who is having a historically great season, for U19 players in the WHL.
Yamamoto’s highlights, from his game against Prince George about a month ago, show his ability to create space and create opportunities for his teammates. In Yamamoto’s goal he intercepts a pass and steps in to rip a shot past the goaltender. His first assist shows his hockey IQ by quickly finding the man back door and getting the puck right to his stick. On his second assist Yamamoto drives down the ice and takes the attention of both defensemen before passing the puck off to his teammate who makes a nice play to also find the man in front. Yamamoto is an exciting prospect but isn’t getting as much love as he should likely due to his size. If all goes well Yamamoto could be yet another 5’8″ star to come out of Spokane.