32. LHD David Farrance (US U18, NTDP | 5’11, 195):
There will be plenty of defensive-minded defenders in later rounds for the Av’s to choose from, but only a handful of rearguards can orchestrate an attack as well as this Boston University recruit. Farrance, a New York native, placed second among NTDP defensement with 32 points. His ability to successfully run a power play due to his booming shot and smooth skating makes him an important grab here, as Colorado needs help fixing the NHL’s worst unit with the man advantage.
33. RHD Ian Mitchell (Spruce Grove, AJHL | 5’10, 166):
Swift yet responsible puck mover who had a breakout tournament at the Ivan Hlinka, where he eventually unseated some of the CHL’s top defensemen to anchor both the top pair and the first unit on the power play. Mitchell is headed to the University of Denver, which is losing Avalanche prospect and Hobey Baker finalist Will Butcher to graduation. He’s a solid one-on-one defender who can quickly transition the puck the other way and stay pretty calm under duress. Mitchell also makes excellent decisions in terms of joining the rush and putting himself where he’s needed most. He’ll don a Team Canada jersey once again when they play at the U18 worlds in Slovakia later next week.
34. G Maksim Zhukov (Green Bay, USHL | 6’3, 188):
Big-bodied Russian import who is a huge reason why the Gamblers are riding a lengthy winning streak to climb into the USHL final playoff spot. Quick, calm and decisive, Zhukov has yielded two goals or less in 12 of his last 18 appearances and ranks first among all USHL first-year eligibles with four shutouts. He’s uncommitted at the moment but should be expected to received some serious courting from CHL teams north of the border. Zhukov is advanced for his age, and his transition from Russia to North American has been relatively seamless. He’s quite aggressive and isn’t married to the blue paint, and his net awareness is excellent. It’s rare to see such a young goalie be completely aware of his surroundings.
35. C Marcus Davidsson (Djugardens, SHL | 6’0, 191):
A speedy pivot and an absolute assassin near the net, Davidsson gets too much grief for having a poor international tournament resume. He’s always been one of Sweden’s better prospects for the 2017 draft, and he played practically an entire season with Djugarden’s SHL club, potting five goal and nine points while average under 12 mins a game. Davidsson’s instincts from the good side of the red line are excellent, but he’s not all that physical. Still, the Devils could use kids who can both skate and score off the rush, which is exactly what Davidsson does best.
36. C Antoine Morand (Acadie-Bathurst, QMJHL | 5’10, 178):
The Canucks need help on offense, and the shrinking of the average NHL defensemen beginning in earnest it gives smaller skill players like Morand a better chance to exploit the perceived league emphasis on skill over size. Morand was a stud for the Titan, finishing with 74 points — second only to Nico Hischier in scoring among QMJHL first-year eligibles. He’s an excellent skater who is strong on his feet and tenacious in all three zones, using a quick stick and keen vision to pile up points as a pass-first playmaker on Acadie-Bathurst’s top line. Very good on faceoffs as well.
37. C Josh Norris (US U18, NTDP | 6’1, 192):
You’ll get varying opinions on which NTDP player not only had the best season, but also who projects to have the best NHL career. Norris, a playmaking center with size and native Michigander, can certainly have a solid case made for him. Not only does hes lead Team USA in scoring with 51 points, but 22 of his team-best 23 goals were at even strength or shorthanded. Additionally, he is smart enough to use his physicality without taking unnecessary or emotional penalties. He’s committed to the University of Michigan.
38. LHD Pierre-Olivier Joseph (Charlottetown, QMJHL | 6’2, 161):
Putting up points as a major junior defenseman is pretty common. Doing so as a first-year eligible on a loaded blueliner? That’s not so easy to do. Enter Joseph, whose 39 points made him the fourth of four Islanders to finish in the top 20 in QMJHL defenseman scoring — with the other three already NHL draft picks. He’s a mature puck mover and sound decision maker who can be counted on in all special teams and late-game situations.
39. C Robert Thomas (London, OHL | 6’0, 188):
When it comes to understanding not only the game, but the critical role they play in it, only a few draft-eligible kids get it. Thomas is certainly one of them — a heady, creative center who makes the hard plays look easy. Fat chance he doesn’t make a name for himself in the NHL, but if he doesn’t, he’s the kind of kid who should be groomed as either a coach or an analyst — he’s that smart. Pick a random game, and Thomas will stand out as either London’s most dangerous forward or its most responsible, or both. He skates well and is a reliable checker, but his puck distribution skills are off the charts.
40. G Michael DiPietro (Windsor, OHL | 6’0, 200):
Seeing this Toronto-area kid tend goal reminds me of former New York Ranger great Mike Richter, and the similarities between the two backstops are uncanny. Cat-like quickness and competitiveness of the highest order are two things that stand out when you watch DiPietro, who length-wise may not be built like most modern-day goalies, but he sure as heck delivers like one. His post-save recovery is impressive, as he’s more than capable of stopping three and four consecutive shots off just one opposing shift in the offensive zone.
41. LW/RW Kole Lind (Kelowna, WHL | 6’1, 181):
The Flyers love feisty players than can score, and Lind plays with the kind of bite that will endear him to the Philly faithful. He can play either wing as a pass/shot threat and looks quite comfortable along the wall on the power play, where he collected 21 of his 57 assists. He comes from a reputable program that is challenging for a Memorial Cup berth, so getting some playoff battle testing could give this underrated prospect some well deserved exposure.
42. G Keith Petruzzelli (Muskegon, USHL | 6’5, 180):
I’ll cut to the chase — this kid recently pulled a Ron Hextall and scored as clean a 180-foot empty net goal you’ll ever. Moreover, this was well after I assessed him at the Ivan Hlinka as having below-average puck handling skills. Anyway, he is one of the top goalies from a statistical standpoint in the USHL, a league heavy in netminding prospects. He’s committed to Quinnipiac and was named top player at the 2017 USHL Top Prospects Game.
43. C/W Evan Barratt (US U18, NTDP | 6’0, 188):
This native Pennsylvanian is a hard-nosed, two-way center with excellent vision, but he can also throw his weight around and be relentless on the forecheck. Barratt was one of Team USA’s top point producers at even strength, but his elusiveness and soft touch during the power play enabled him to create plays against static zone defenses. He’s committed to Penn State, but his father Jeff is an assistant coach with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting and his draft rights belong to Flint.
44. C Adam Ruzicka (Sarnia, OHL | 6’4, 202):
One of the better Slovak prospects to cross the Atlantic to play in the CHL, Ruzicka is a big-bodied center who can kill penalties and provide offense on either of the top two lines. He dealt with some early ups and downs but closed out his first North American season with 21 points over his final 22 games to earn OHL Rookie of the Month honors for February. Ruzicka is a load to tackle and controls the puck with both confidence and strength, turning an otherwise innocent possession into a lengthy cycle and set up. His skating is average, but he can wire a hard shot and initiate plays once he crosses the blue line.
45. LW Ivan Chekhovich (Baie-Comeau, QMJHL | 5’10, 177):
I’m partial to draft-eligible kids who as rookies not only anchor a top line, but are counted on to jumpstart the offense when things are lagging. Baie-Comeau is a very young team, but that doesn’t mean Chekhovich didn’t earn his ice time. He’s crafty, quick and skilled enough to make something out of nothing, and his chemistry with fellow draft-eligible D’artganan Joly kept them together for most of the season. He was named Player of the Year for the Drakkar, finishing with a team-best 59 points. Chekhovich also played with 2018 draft prospect Andrei Svechnikov on Russia’s top line at the World Junior “A” Challenge, placing second with nine points in four games.
46. G Jake Oettinger (Boston Univ., Hockey East | 6’4, 212):
Goaltending, or lack thereof, has prevented the Islanders from taking the leap towards Stanley Cup contention, and you have to go all the way back to 1993 and Glenn Healey to find one who was able to get them past the second round. The glaring lack of consistency between the pipes will take a few years to rectify, but drafting this BU Terrier is a good place to start. Oettinger this season was the only first-year eligible to tend goal in the NCAA, where he finished among the nation’s best in save percentage (.927), goals against average (2.11) and shutouts (four).
*47. RHD Connor Timmins (Sault Set Marie, OHL | 6’1, 185):
Rising two-way defenseman with very good puck skills and a little bit of flair to his game. Timmins plays with his head up and is a very good skater who can either maneuver his way out of jam or trap opponents with a long headman up the ice. The Soo had a bounceback year, and Timmins was a big part of it — his 61 points tied the WHL’s Juuso Valimaki for the most points by a CHL first-year draft eligible defenseman.
*48. C Aleksi Heponiemi (Swift Current, WHL | 5’10, 147):
Heponiemi was one of the CHL’s most productive imports, recording 89 points for a talented Swift Current squad that improved 30 points in the standings. Electrifying with the puck, 38 of his 58 assists were primary. He’s quite the magician and is almost impossible to contain, which is important since he has some serious weight to add to his frame. Nevertheless, he’s the kind of top-six talent the Lightning seems to have an endless stockpile of. And with expansion coming, that is far from a bad thing.
49. RW Ivan Lodnya (Erie, OHL | 5’10, 182):
Goal-scoring puck magnet whose hard work and instincts helps him work his way into multiple quality opportunities. Lodnya’s stats are respectable (57 points in 66 games), but keep in mind he was fighting for ice time with Erie’s top line of Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Taylor Raddysh who combined for nearly 130 goals. Lodnya is just days from being eligible for the 2018 NHL Draft, meaning he has close to a full extra year of development over some of the top 2017 prospects.
50. LW Matthew Strome (Hamilton, OHL | 6’4, 206):
If the last name rings a bell, it’s because Matthew’s brothers Ryan and Dylan were recent NHL lottery picks. A smart power forward with very soft hands and an excellent shot, Strome has some work to do in the skating department, which is the only thing keeping him from following in his brothers’ footsteps in becoming one of the first names called on draft day. Strome has a prodigious hockey IQ, and his ability to control the puck for what seems like minutes on end compensate for a lack of explosiveness. Nashville needs scoring depth on the flanks, which is exactly what Strome could provide.
*51. G Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (HPK U20, Liiga Jrs | 6’4, 196):
The goaltending situation in Ottawa may seem fine, but the prospect pool is in need of some attention. Enter Luukonen, one of the quickest netminders available in the upcoming draft. He’s simply too good for Finland’s junior circuit, posting excellent numbers and leading HPK U20 to the Jr. A SM-Liiga postseason title. His international play this season has been hit or miss, but it was Luukkonen who slammed the door in Grand Forks to help the Finns with the 2016 U18s.
*52. G Ian Scott (Prince Albert, WHL | 6’3, 172):
Prince Albert was absolutely dreadful this season, and it took several minor miracles for them to finish the year with 21 wins — of which 12 went to Scott. He has very quick pads which make him tough to beat on breakaways. Scott does a pretty good job staying on his feet and will attack either cross-ice or centering passes rather than let things play out. His puck handling is above average, and he tends to gobble up rebounds on bad angle shots as opposed to kicking them into the low slot. I’ve seen this kid play a bunch and he never seems phased with multiple bodies near his crease.
*53. RW Ostap Safin (Sparta Prague, Extraliga | 6’4, 191):
A skilled power forward who skates well and has a very good shot, Safin checks a lot of blocks for what you’d want in a modern-day power forward. One aspect of his game that stands out is the way he can maintain balance and control the puck while extending his lengthy reach. Safin has extremely strong wrists and fires a hard shot with a quick release whether off balance or from his back foot. He’s looked good at several international tournaments and will play for the Czech Republic at the U18’s.
*54. RHD Filip Westerlund (Frolunda, SHL | 5’11, 180):
Poised two-way blueliner with upper-body strength who can be leaned on for top-pairing situations. Westerlund is quick and agile with exceptional edge work, making him one of the better draft eligibles at not only beating pressure, but making a lightning quick transition from defense to offense. He can attack open ice in a variety of ways – with speed, hard stretch passes or methodical puck control. Westerlund can be flashy, at times to a fault, as he is prone to the occasional turnover. But the overall body of work is solid, especially when you factor in his solid one-on-one and positional play for a kid who oozes skill and playmaking. Westerlund, who has an average but accurate shot, is a power play quarterback and penalty killing option.
*55. LW Alex Formenton (London, OHL | 6’2, 165):
An excellent skater with breakaway speed and agility, Formenton has the length and quickness that tend to make scouts salivate. He plays the game at an extremely fast pace with or without the puck, and I have yet to see a draft prospect better on the forecheck than Formenton. He’s lean and wiry, but that doesn’t stop him from launching himself into the tough areas and battling tooth and nail for possession. Finishing could be one area where he could improve, but his birthdate just shy of 2018 eligibility means he’ll have at least two more years of junior hockey to work on it.
*56. RW Stelio Mattheos (Brandon, WHL | 6’1, 192):
Skilled winger in the mold of St. Louis prospect Jordan Kyrou in that he can make plays at high speeds and is just a tweak for two away from being a two-way forward who could become a prominent top-six figure in a team’s offense. Mattheos attacks the puck constantly thanks to a nonstop motor and confidence in his abilities to create turnovers. He’s guilty of overhandling the puck and forcing things, but the raw skill he presents is simply too promising to overlook.
*57. C Austen Keating (Ottawa, OHL | 6’0, 170):
The Ottawa 67’s will have at least one center picked in the top 60, and while it looked like Sasha Chemelevski was a lock to be that guy, I can’t ignore just how consistent a season Keating had. He isn’t the most graceful of skaters, but watching him wear opponents down and making neat plays off an aggressive forecheck almost makes up for it. Keating is a smart player with the puck and shows patience on his zone entries, keeping his head up and timing his passes almost to perfection.
58. C Jaret Anderson-Dolan (Spokane, WHL | 5’11, 188):
Goal-scoring pivot who bounced back from an early-season cut from Team Canada’s Hlinka squad to produce one of the better seasons of any CHL draft eligible. He played a bunch with likely first rounder Kailer Yamamoto, and while there is some truth to the idea the former benefited from the latter, Anderson-Dolan’s impact on the line, especially on the power play, shouldn’t be overlooked. He’s a very good skater with a hunter’s mindset and he favors the controlled zone entry over a dump-in.
59. C Alexei Lipanov (Balashikha, VHL | 6’0, 165):
Though it may seem as all of Russia’s top 1999-born talent are playing in North America, you can make a case that Lipanov could very well become the most impressive Russian prospect than any of his CHL contemporaries. He’s dealt with injury issues, but a star performance in December’s WJAC and a solid showing in the VHL should offset any possible health concerns. Lipanov is as good a passer as he is a shooter, and his ability to create or finish plays while speeding up ice makes him a legitimate top-line threat with point-producing potential.
*60. C/W Joni Ikonen (Frolunda J20, Superelit | 5’11, 172):
There are always several prospects who keep me up at night, making me wonder if I’m shortchanging a potential star. Skill players like Ikonen are pretty rare within the crop of 2017 prospects in that he is not only the best player on his team, but also a productive top-line player in international tournaments. Fast and incredibly dangerous, Ikonen likely assumes Finland’s go-to role on its top line at the upcoming U18’s.
61. RHD Cale Fleury (Kootenay, WHL | 6’1, 201):
Punishing mobile blueliner who had the misfortune of anchoring a defense for one of the worst teams in major junior hockey. Fleury is very good in one-on-one situations and can close on a puck rusher in a hurry. He loves to play physical and looks for open ice hits, which from a positioning standpoint can get him into trouble. He’s pretty active with the puck and consistently looks to escape with his wheels rather than flinging it up for grabs. Fleury hates backing in and will take his chances with bodychecks at his own blue line, but his reaction time is quick enough to make up for giving away an initial stride or two. He’s not all that creative, but he whips the puck around with accuracy and authority.
*62. LW Isaac Ratcliffe (Guelph, OHL | 6’6, 200):
Ratcliffe bounced back from a injury that shelved him for nearly a 1/3 of last season with a team-best 28 goals — 21 that came at even strength. He’s a manchild who needs to fill out, but at 6’6 his skating looks anything but awkward. And I wouldn’t classify him as just a goal scoring winger. Ratcliffe has a pretty solid understanding of the offensive zone and can make nifty plays that turn into scoring chances.