11-20 Top NHL Draft Prospects and Reports

11. Juuso Valimaki – LHD – 1998-10-06 – 6’2 / 201 lbs – Tri City Americans (WHL)
GP: 60 G: 19 A: 42 PTS: 61
A mature two way defender who plays a responsible 200 foot game. Valimaki is an intelligent defensive zone player committed to defending the home plate by maintaining strong stick and body positioning and forcing opponents to the outside for low percentage chances. He’s a good identifier on the breakout, and has emerged as more of a puck distributor than transporter. Offensively, Valimaki contributes in a safe manner, rarely jumping on opportunities which could result in an odd man chance the other way. He has a good shot, and much like his breakout distribution skills, he’s able to make intelligent offensive zone reads, making plays that often result in a shot on net. Moving forward, Valimaki will need to continue working on adding strength to his stride and hopefully become a more explosive skater. – Brennen York

Valimaki really made his impact in this past season, produced well in the WHL and was a solid player for Finland at the World Juniors. Valimaki is a two-way defender who loves to jump up in the rush and is effective when attacking the next. A skilled defender who distributes the puck well and can make a strong outlet pass. His transitional game is strong, moves well both ways and can distribute the puck well up ice with confidence. He has good size and an average shot from the point but has the ability to quarterback a power play. A real calm and composed presence on the back end, he is assertive in his own zone, decent defensive game who really excels with his positioning. All around a guy who I believe will be more known for his offensive tools at the NHL level, two-way top four guy with a solid puck moving game. – Brayden Sullivan

Competitive two-way defender who plays big minutes, Valimaki plays the game with poise and confidence, an excellent side-to-side skater who can rush the puck with ease, quick first pass and creates offense with ease. Shoots the puck with accuracy and uses his movement to find lanes and shoot. Moves the puck well and has quick hands to make plays in all ends of the ice. Doesn’t use the body to much but can play the body if needed, an excellent stick which he uses to cut lanes and create gap control to gain the puck defensively. Plays a calm game and doesn’t let the pressure get onto him, can get out of tough situations with the puck with hard fore checkers. Build player who can log big minutes and make simple plays. – Jeff McCarthy
12. Lias Andersson – LHF – 1998-10-13 – 5’11 / 198lbs – HV71 (SHL)
GP: 42 G: 9 A:10 PTS: 19
Andersson is an electrifying offensive catalyst, able to produce offense any time he touches the puck. He’s a strong possession player, however his off the puck offensive zone movement is what makes him intriguing as a potential scorer at the next level given his ability to create space for himself and get a good shot off. He’s a strong competitor, and has shown to be one of the more consistent players over the course of the season. He’s a quick, agile forward and has the ability to create separation from defenders off the rush. Defensively Andersson has proven to be quite reliable, attacking passing lanes and jumping on loose pucks before transitioning up ice. Added strength is required for any player moving into the pro ranks, but if Andersson is able to follow a similar strength path to Jaromir Jagr, he could become one of the leagues elite.  – Brennen York

A potential top 10 prospect who has been able to produce well in the SHL this past season, boasting 19 points in 42 games and help guide HV71 to the SHL Championship. Andersson is a two-way forward who brings a competitive versatile game. He’s a solid skater who is elusive and can change direction on a dime, explosiveness in his first few strides it doesn’t take him long to hit top speed. He has an excellent shot he gets off in stride, makes his effective off the rush. He supports the play well in the defensive zone and has excellent awareness of where he needs to be in the defensive zone. The puck always seems to find him in high scoring areas and he has proven that he can score goals in tight. All around two-way competitive forward who is going to be an effective NHLer, comparable to a Mark Letestu type of player. – Brayden Sullivan

13. Ryan Poehling – LHC – 1999-01-03 – 6’3 / 185 lbs – St. Cloud State University (NCAA)
GP: 35 G: 7 A: 6 PTS: 13
Ryan Poehling is one of the most polarizing players in the 2017 draft class. He plays a very similar style of game to that of Mike Fisher given his defensive zone reliability and net front offensive capabilities. Poehling boasts strong puck skills, namely his hand eye coordination as he’s proven to be a strong net front presence given his ability to get his stick on loose pucks. He’s a vocal leader in the defensive zone, maintaining a tight gap to his assignment, Keeping shooters to the outside, suppressing a lot of opportunities. He’s a strong skater, and plays a very north-south style of game. Moving forward, a more creative offensive touch will make Poehling that much more valuable. – Brennen York

A young man who spent this past season in the NCAA program, struggled at times this season but has been good enough to become a solid first round selection. He is a big kid who does a lot of things well in all three zones. Great two-way build with a dangerous shot off the rush. Outstanding net front presence, he has a great hand eye and has a future in being a net front presence. A big frame he moves pretty well; he has a powerful stride with some dynamicness to his acceleration. With the puck he has a great shot but can also distribute the puck, he has a great hockey sense and really possesses good playmaking abilities. Overall a guy who you know what you’re going to get, he will be an NHL player but there isn’t anything overly flashy about his game, a guy who will have a long career as an effective player. – Brayden Sullivan

14. Nick Suzuki – RHF – 1998-08-10 – 5’11 / 183 lbs – Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
GP: 65 G: 45 A: 51 PTS: 96
Nick Suzuki possesses both the compete level and high end skills to be a difference maker in the NHL sooner than later. He’s an electrifying player whose skating ability, both quick and fast, coupled with his high end puck and distribution skills have made him an offensive juggernaut for the Owen Sound Attack. He’s a highly efficient forward, and a strong puck supporter in the defensive zone, ready to jump on the breakout and create an odd man chance down ice. Suzuki projects to be a point producer at the NHL level, and if not a top six forward, likely one of the better third line centers in the league. There isn’t a ton that stands out in a negative light for Suzuki, however continuing to work on his shot off the rush and from distance could prove to be a valuable trait. – Brennen York

By far one of my favorite prospects in the draft, Suzuki is coming off of a very successful season in the OHL. Where he notched 96 points in 65 games including 45 goals. Suzuki is a dynamic offensive center who has outstanding hands and competitiveness. He has an under-rated two-way game, supports the play well in the defensive zone. High end hockey sense and ability to create and finish offensive opportunities. Takes solid angles to the puck, really does a great job creating turnovers and being defensively responsible. Plays bigger than his size dictates, he is hard to knock off and has speed to burn. Suzuki has potential to really be one of the most effective players in the draft, I don’t think he is 2-4 years away. In my opinion he has one more season of junior hockey before progressing to pro as a solid two-way center who thinks the game and provides offence. – Brayden Sullivan

15. Kristian Vesalainen – LHF – 1999-06-01 – 6’3 / 209 lbs – Frolunda HC (SHL)
GP: 26 G: 1 A: 5 PTS: 6
A rangy offensive minded two way forward who has the puck protection ability to generate a ton of offensive opportunities from below the goal line. He’s an intelligent forward who distributes the puck efficiently, and has the ability to score in many ways. He’s strong in the defensive zone, often leading the charge when it comes to high pressure systems. His skating ability is strong, however similar to Jesse Puljujarvi in that added leg strength could potentially make him a dominant player. Vesalainen projects to be a top six winger, however working on staying coonsistent shift to shift will be a major key in terms of his future success. – Brennen York

Vesalainen had an up and down season where he found himself all over the map on people’s rankings. He really came around at the World U18 tournament where he led in points and was by far the most dominant player at the tournament. Vesalainen has a big frame and moves exceptionally well with it. He is skilled and rangy, can pick up errant passes. He has a hard accurate shot that he gets off well, it makes him dangerous with the puck from anywhere on the ice. A real skilled possession type of player who handles the puck well and has the vision to find anyone on the ice. He utilizes his quick hands and skill well to create space for himself and get creative at times. Zone to zone he is efficient, good zone exit and entry with the puck. Quick hands and quick feet, he is a dangerous player with the puck on his stick. He is physical on the fore-check and loves to throw his weight around. All around a big power forward who can shoot the puck well and is dynamic for a guy of his size, he has an intriguing tool set that could make him one of the most effective NHLers in this class. – Brayden Sullivan

16. Cale Makar – RHD – 1998-10-30 – 5’11 / 179 lbs – Brooks Bandits (AJHL)
GP: 54 G: 24 A: 51 PTS: 75
There is no player in this draft class like Cale Makar. From the defensive zone out, Makar has shown he can be the most dominant player on the ice at any point. His skating ability is second to none as he is deceptive, agile, and unbelievably fast. His skating ability allows him to create a ton of space for himself, and whether it be in the offensive or defensive zone, he’s able to push the puck with poise, resulting in a pass up ice or a strong scoring opportunity. His footwork along the blue line is one of the more noticeable aspects of his game as he’s consistently in motion, readjusting his angle and looking to create a passing lane in order to receive a pass. He has a strong shot, though it could use work from distance. Physically Makar has dominated the entire league as he’s shown to explode through bodies while continuing to control the puck. The biggest question that comes up in regards to his game is where he scores from. The majority of his goals over the course of the season have come from the home plate, with very few coming off shots from the point. Whether or not he’s able to adjust that aspect of his game and utilize it in the NHL remains to be seen. – Brennen York

By far the most intriguing defender in the draft, Makar has been a dominant force in the CJHL for the past two seasons. He is a deceptive two-way defender who is incredibly mobile and dynamic. He is a solid puck transporter but can also make a great outlet pass. I love his gap control, extremely competitive in one on one battles, puts himself between that man and the puck before allowing his feet to create space for himself. Efficient zone to zone. Makar has solid positioning in all three zones, often the most dominant play on the ice. Versatile he can run a power play or man a PK. When he has the puck in the offensive zone he loves to have his left foot outer edge to the net, it makes it hard for forward to read whether he is shooting or moving the puck. He has a bomb of a shot if he needs to use it and can score from anywhere in the offensive zones. All around dominant force in a weaker league, he has that high risk high reward factor to his name and is intriguing prospect to watch in the future. -Brayden Sullivan   

A crafty offensive defenseman, Makar has an elite ability to move the puck up the ice. Extremely gifted skater, Makar has great feet and edgework to maneuver around the ice and enter the play. Not afraid to jump in the rush and play with the puck. Offensively does not shoot the puck a lot, a pass first defenseman but is willing to play down low and could be a fourth forward at times, has the same skill set. Pure playmaker with the puck, sees the ice extremely well in an open ice surface in Jr. A. Positionally sound, but needs a massive amount of strength to gain confidence in the defensive zone. Uses his stick well in pressure situations, but lacks strength along the boards and against bigger opponents. Understands the game at a high level, college route is the way to go, needs to develop his strength and defensive game. A surefire offensive talent.
17. Elias Pettersson – LHC – 1998-11-12 – 6’2 / 165 lbs – Timra Ik (Allsvenskan)
GP: 43 G: 19 A: 22 PTS: 41
Pettersson is a creative two way forward, similar to Mikael Backlund. He’s not the strongest possession player, but makes intelligent playmaking decisions down low in the offensive zone, funneling pucks to the net. Defensively capable forward who maintains good positioning and forces attackers with his stick. His skating is good, but he lacks a dynamic component which would make him a top ten player in this class. He projects to be a third line center at the NHL level, however he does have the offensive upside which could make him a future top six, however given all intangibles involved, a top nine forward is likely his career outlook. – Brennen York

Pettersson was a dominant force in the Allsvenskan league this past season where he produced 41 points in 43 games and put up two points a game in playoffs. Pettersson is a creative two-way forward who has outstanding vision and playmaking abilities. He can thread the needle with a pass, forehand or backhand. He doesn’t lack finishing abilities once so ever, outstanding hands in tight, gets shots off well, great instincts. He is a decent skater who is sturdy, wide stride and can change direction quickly. He is effective in all three zones, supports the play well and is extremely reliable and away. Doesn’t back down from the physical play or lack compete. Overall a well-rounded player/complete player who is going to be an effective player at the next level. I think his skating does need some work, doesn’t really take over the game at all. All around and versatile who coaches will love with top six potential. – Brayden Sullivan

18. Nic Hague – LHD – 1998-12-05 – 6’6 / 214 lbs – Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
GP: 65 G: 18 A: 28 PTS: 46
A polarizing defensive prospect who has shown promise in the offensive end as a producer. His movement along the blue line is strong, as Hague has become a much more dynamic skater over the course of the year. Defensively Hague brings a unique package as he has the reach to slow opponents down before closing with his body. He maintains good positioning, however he has a tendency to get caught up watching the puck, something that will be fixed with maturity. Hague isn’t the most evasive skater, something that could really bolster his game as an outlet passer, both in the defensive end and in the offensive zone. – Brennen York
19. Michael Rasmussen – 1999-04-17 – 6’5 / 203 lbs – Tri City Americans (WHL)
GP: 50 G: 32 A: 23 PTS: 55
A massive two way center who can do serious damage in front of the net. Rasmussen is intriguing because of the fact that he’s shown the capability to adapt his game to fit many situations. Though not the fleetest of foot, Rasmussen’s offensive zone movement is strong, consistently putting himself in a spot where he can jump on rebounds. He’s a strong passer, however hasn’t proven to be overly creative, and has adopted a north-south style of game. Defensively Rasmussen competes well, and given his reach and large frame, he’s able to smother opponents. Moving forward, if Rasmussen is able to become a more dynamic skater and diversify his offensive tool set in terms of creativity, he could be one of the best players coming out of this draft class. – Brennen York

Rasmussen is a top NHL Draft prospect, for his frame, Rasmussen is a fantastic skater who can really get going once on the attack, although not the prettiest skater, Rasmussen needs to work on his initial foot speed, but his strong legs and long strides help his acceleration to get from Point A to Point B. A very hard and accurate shot when used properly, in my viewings he did not use his shot enough in situations, as he was battling in front of the end, or behind the net passing it out to his teammates, a quick release with a lot of power, his shot isn’t used often, but when it is it can easily fool defenders and goalkeepers alike, his ability to move and handle the puck exceeded my expectations, he uses his size and long reach in order to consistently get the puck into the offensive zone with power, followed up with a quick reaction time in order to control bad passes to get onto his stick during a breakout or a battle amongst a defender, In terms of a fore-check and back check, Rasmussen picks his moments on when to really push himself on the defensive side, especially on turnovers or an opponent’s breakout. If the play comes towards him, Rasmussen is in full pursuit of getting the puck onto his stick and creating an offensive opportunity… Reads the ice very well, but usually does not make the play unless it’s a clear cut opportunity or numbers are on his side. Great vision and can pass the puck on the tape, but will usually not make many risky plays. Plays in all situations on the ice, on the power play you can find him down low in the corners and on the penalty kill you can see him use his reach to cover the points and create any shots. Understands defensively, but does not shine as a shutdown player… Clearly plays with an edge, loves to throw the body and make a big hit, someone who lives in the corners who can use his frame effectively to win puck battles. Confident with the puck on his stick, Rasmussen tends to try a little too much in order to make things happen for his line mates, his compete level is there but it needs to be consistent if he wants to be a game changer. Offensively, Rasmussen understands how to create offense and read the play with the puck on his stick. Defensively, although physical can be a bit to hungry on throwing big hits then playing positional and sound defense. Blessed with a great frame, strong on the puck. Needs to work on playing at a high pace consistently, but with that size you can’t do everything. Rasmussen has high end potential, but needs to work on little aspects of the game in order to be a dominant forward in the National Hockey League. – Jeff McCarthy

20. Timothy Liljegren – 1999-04-30 – 6’0 / 192 lbs – Rogle BK (SHL)
GP: 19 G: 1 A: 4 PTS: 5
There’s a lot to love about Timothy Liljegren’s game, however there are an equal amount of components which will make teams shy away from using an early first round pick on him. He’s an intelligent offensive zone player, and shows promise as an elite offensive defenceman, however his deficiencies elsewhere, such as lack of strength and inability to hold fend off attacking forwards, make him a risky target. He’s similar to Justin Schultz in the way he can over commit in the offensive zone, then becoming a defensive liability as he’s caught behind the rush. He won’t be Erik Karlsson, and he has a bit of a road ahead of him, but Timothy Liljegren can realistically become a productive top four defenceman in the NHL. – Brennen York

Liljegren really didn’t progress that much this past season, his numbers flat-lined and he was unable to make the Swedish World Junior squad which he was expected to make. To fuel it even more he was unable to hold a spot on the Rogle SHL squad. None the less, Liljegren is a mobile offensive defender who possesses a great long stride. He possesses a deadly wrist shot that he loves to change the angle on and will use his feet to find lanes to the net. Prefers to transport the puck than move it, he is efficient zone to zone. Loves to make moves to his backhand and is heavily elusive with the puck. He moves to puck alright, real hard accurate passer. Defensive game is very proactive, relies on his feet and stick to make plays. Struggles with ‘Tunnel Vison’ at times. Potential to really be an effective offensive defender at the next level. – Brayden Sullivan

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