2017 NHL Draft

10 Draft Prospects You

Should Know About

Steve Kournianos  |  3/14/2017 |  New York  |  

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New York (The Draft Analyst) — The 2017 NHL Draft is less than four months away, and European league postseasons have already begun, with North American major juniors not too far behind. Several players don’t have much time left to make a final impression, so we wanted to highlight some draft-eligible kids who performed well under nonstandard conditions.

No. 129 LHD Dylan Samberg (Hermantown, HS-MN | 1/24/99, 6’3/190): It’s not going to be easy for Samberg to replicate the kind of week he just had. After winning the Reed Larson Award for top defenseman in Minnesota high school hockey, the physcial blueliner netted the Class A championship winner in overtime with a slapper from the point. Thick, mobile and aggressive, Samberg is committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He’s a complete packages, loggin top-pair minutes and achoring both the power play and penalty kill. Samberg can be a devastating open-ice hitter but goesd for the kill shot without sacrificing much in positioning. The combination of skating and physicality, plus a penchant for big game thetrics, could justifiably translate to an early nod on Draft Day.

No. 80 C/W Georgi Ivanov (Loko, MHL | 9/25/98, 6’0/195): Versatile two-way center with leadership qualities who last year played occasionally on German Rubtsov’s wing as a member of the old Russian under-18 program. He’s been a jack-of-all trades for Yaroslavl, playing on the second or third line with skill players like Artur Kayumov (CHI 2nd/2016) and fellow 2017-eligible Kirill Slepts. He plkays bigger than he’s listed and is tough to move from in front of the net. And while finishing is one of his strengths, he’s a solid option for critical draws and late-game situations. Overall speed is pretty good, and he has an excellent shot and release.

No. 47LHD Nate Knoepke (US U18, NTDP | 4/8/99, 6’3/202): The U.S. National Program U18’s had their ups and downs this season, and Knoepke had his share of inconsistent play. But at 6’3 and with sound instincts, there’s a lot of promise for a kid who isn’t tearing up the scoresheet. Knoepke is a very good skater and solid positionally, spending most of the season on Team USA’s first power play unit. Granted, he plays second fiddle to partner David Farrance when it comes to the man advantage. But he has an excellent shot — especially off the pass — that makes goalies earn their paychecks. Knoepke, a Minnesota Gophers commit, was one of the top players at last month’s U18 Five Nations Tournament in Sweden.

No. 85 C/W Joni Ikonen (Frolunda J20, Superelit | 4/14/99, 5’10/169): Ikonen is a tremendous offenisve talent who is one of the few 1999-born forwards the Finns can legitimately brag about. He’s carried the load on offense in each of the last two Five Nations tournaments and should have the same responsibility for Finland come April at the U18 worlds in Slovakia. Shifty, elusive and a deadly passer, Ikonen is an excellent skater who plays inside and doesn’t let his size deter him from the tough areas. He can play center or the wing and is regarded as a power play specialist.

No. 92 G Ian Scott (Prince Albert, WHL | 1/11/99, 6’3/172):Scott is another blue chipper within a pretty deep pool of draft-eligible goalies. He’s your standard butterfly goalie, but he’s more on the aggressive side in terms of challenging shots and breakaways. Scott is a good puck handler and can act like a third defenseman on dump-ins, and he’ll even clear the puck himself during the penalty kill. Like most goalies, Scott will gobble up shots as long as he can see them, but his puck tracking and timing off of shot release has been much better in the second half. Keep in mind that Prince Albert is a horrendous offensive team, so rarely does he have the luxury of a lead to protect. The ice is consistently tilted his way, but the dangerous environment keeps him on his toes and gives us a chance to see how well he handles pressure.

No. 12-OA  G Stephen Dhillon (Niagara, OHL | 9/14/99, 6’4/186): Calling this native Buffalonian a man on an island is a bit of an understatement — no CHL goalie can even fathom the kind of blitzkried Dhillon faces on a nightly basis. Want perspective? Not only does Dhillon lead all CHL backstops in shots faced (2208) and saves (2022), but the guy in second is almost 300 shots short of equaling him. Dhillion has faced 40 or more shots in 28 of his 56 appearances, and only three times after playing a full contest has he seen less than 30. Are we surprised? Not really, as Dhillon was ranked third (63rd overall) in our draft rankings for 2016 — a year in which 30 NHL GMs didn’t think he was good enough to get selected. We can only guess his stellar .916 save percentage is a byproduct of being shunned, but at 6’4 and a late 1998 birthday, it’s safe to say the Dhillon family won’t come away empty handed when they attend the draft in June.

No. 258 C Jacob Peterson (Frolunda J20, Superelit | 7/19/99, 6’0/165): Frolunda is armed with top talent at every level, and Peterson is one player deserving of some serious praise. He plays between the second and third line, kills penalties and is a solid pivot in the faceoff circle. Peterson is a very good skater and has above-average puck skills, using soft hands and awareness to swipe passes in the neutral zone and transition the other way. Most of his goals are from around the goal area, but he’s the kind of smart, three-zone player who would validate a middle to late round selection. He’s played for Sweden internationally and should be at the summer world junior camp.

No. 86 C/W Patrick Khodorenko (Michigan State, Big-10 | 10/13/98, 6’0/206) This former NTDP’er has the luxury of being one of only a handful of first-year 2017 eligible collegian and playing for a rebuilding program in East Lansing hasn’t masked his offensive capabilities. Khodorenko plays that heavy, in-your-face style that is necessary for freshman to survive the physical rigors of the NCAA. He’s bounced around the top two lines and is a special teams regular, winning close to 50 percent of his draws and placing fourth in team scoring. Not bad for a California native who is playing against guys three and four years older than he is.

No. 57 LHD Pierre-Olivier Joseph (Charlotteton, QMJHL | 2/17/99, 6’0/192): The QMJHL isn’t providing the upcoming draft class with any show-stoppers, but Joseph is a mature two-way blueliner who makes good decisions. He’s invaluable to the Islanders and plays a ton, especially when a lead needs to be protected. Why is that important? Because Charlottetown employs three NHL draft picks in Carl Neill (VAN), Guillaume Brisbois (VAN) and Nicolas Meloche (COL). Joseph may not be the anchor of such an experienced group, but nevertheless a key cog that is clearly capable of handling the tough assignments.

No. 54 LW Ostap Safin (Sparta Praha, Extraliga Jrs. | 9/13/99, 6’0/187): A big man with agility and first-step quickness? Sign me up! This draft doesn’t have as many goal-scoring power forwards as a year ago, but Safin is one of the few 1999’s who’s played well enough to earn a senior league promotion. He’s a big kid who fills the lane and can really overpower opponents. It almost unfair when he’s as the ice — he skates very well for his size and can be impossible to knock off the puck.. He’s particiapted in all the major international events for the Czechs, including the 2016 Ivan Hlinka where they took home the title.