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McKeen’s top ranked prospect isn’t the “consensus” number one for the 2016 NHL draft, a distinction that has been bestowed upon Auston Matthews for the past year or more, yet Finland’s Patrik Laine has served notice to the scouting world that the decision on who goes first overall will not be an easy one, and that he is in the discussion.

“He’s the first prospect that reminds me of Mario (Lemieux) since Mario,” noted one senior NHL scout who was blown away by Laine’s performance at the WJC over the holidays, where the 6-4 left winger compiled seven goals and six assists in seven games while leading Finland to a Gold Medal victory at home. 

“It’s ballsy to have him rated number one, but can’t say I disagree… he could be a home run.”

Laine is six months younger, three inches taller, and has outscored Matthews 29 goals to 19 in international play over the past three years.  Up until now, Matthews had been considered the better prospect, but that wasn’t the case at the WJC, where Laine quite simply was the dominant offensive force from tournament start to finish along with linemate and fellow draft prospect Jesse Puljujarvi (ranked third overall).

His size, strength, puck skills, shot and smarts were evident in every game, and as the world juniors went on Laine became more willing to throw his body around as well.

“He competed hard in the big games,” noted one scout. “His point totals slowed down, but his willingness to compete defensively grew as they got closer to winning.”

Matthews, much like fellow American Jack Eichel last season, would be a sterling consolation prize if he went second overall thanks to his first-line center potential.

“He’s a can’t-miss prospect…he does everything well,” said one scout.  “Size, puck skills, vision, skating..if he doesn’t go number one, he’ll be the next guy chosen.  He’ll play in the NHL next season.”

Puljujarvi didn’t hurt his draft status at the WJC either after leading the WJC in scoring and being named the tournament MVP. The two Finnish forwards moved ahead of Michael McLeod in the rankings in large part because of their eye opening offensive performance at the WJC.

“Puljujarvi may be the more complete of the two Finns at this time,” said one scout.  “He’s certainly not afraid to go in the corners and muck it up.”

The player whose stock rose the most at the tournament was Finnish defenceman Olli Juolevi due mainly to his steady, all-around game, natural skating ability and tremendous hockey smarts.  He chipped in nine assists and made the all tournament team for the Gold Medal champions while playing in all situations.

“He was wonderful in that tournament…he may have been the best defenceman” said one scout.  “His hockey sense and poise are tremendous.”

 

RANK PLAYER POS TEAM HT/WT DOB GP-G-A-PTS
1 Patrik Laine RW Tappara (Fin) 6-4/210 19-Apr-98 26-8-9-17
2 Auston Matthews C ZSC Zurich (Sui) 6-1/195 17-Sep-97 25-18-12-30
3 Jesse Puljujarvi RW Karpat Oulu (Fin) 6-4/205 7-May-98 34-6-8-14
4 Michael McLeod C Mississauga (OHL) 6-2/190 3-Feb-98 40-17-29-46
5 Olli Juolevi D London (OHL) 6-2/185 5-May-98 30-4-20-24
6 Alexander Nylander C Mississauga (OHL) 6-0/180 2-Mar-98 35-23-28-51
7 Jakob Chychrun D Sarnia (OHL) 6-2/215 31-Mar-98 37-6-19-25
8 Matthew Tkachuk LW London (OHL) 6-1/195 11-Dec-97 32-15-47-62
9 Mikhail Sergachev D Windsor (OHL) 6-2/205 25-Jun-98 42-11-18-29
10 Charles McAvoy D Boston University (HE) 6-0/205 21-Dec-97 20-1-11-12
11 Tyson Jost C Penticton (BCHL) 5-11/190 14-Mar-98 34-26-41-67
12 Jake Bean D Calgary (WHL) 6-0/175 6-Sep-98 43-15-25-40
13 Pierre-Luc Dubois LW Cape Breton (QMJHL) 6-2/200 24-Jun-98 41-26-35-61
14 Logan Brown C Windsor (OHL) 6-6/225 5-Mar-98 34-6-30-36
15 Julien Gauthier RW Val d’Or (QMJHL) 6-3/225 15-Oct-97 31-30-8-38
16 German Rubtsov C Team Russia U18 (Rus) 6-2/180 27-Jun-98 20-9-11-20
17 Kieffer Bellows LW NTDP (USA) 6-0/195 10-Jun-98 34-26-18-44
18 Max Jones LW London (OHL) 6-3/205 17-Feb-98 36-19-17-36
19 Libor Hajek D Saskatoon (WHL) 6-2/185 4-Feb-98 44-3-15-18
20 Tage Thompson C Connecticut (HE) 6-5/185 30-Oct-97 22-9-9-18
21 Clayton Keller C NTDP (USA) 5-9/170 29-Jul-98 33-21-43-64
22 Dante Fabbro D Penticton (BCHL) 6-0/190 20-Jun-98 30-10-36-46
23 Riley Tufte LW Blaine (USHS-MN) 6-5/205 10-Apr-98 12-22-15-37
24 Sam Steel C Regina (WHL) 5-11/180 3-Feb-98 45-15-27-42
25 Rasmus Asplund C Farjestads (Swe) 5-11/175 3-Dec-97 29-4-2-6
26 William Bitten C Flint (OHL) 5-10/170 10-Jul-98 41-20-23-43
27 Luke Kunin C Wisconsin (B1G) 6-0/195 4-Dec-97 19-8-9-17
28 Tyler Benson LW Vancouver (WHL) 6-0/200 15-Mar-98 28-8-18-26
29 Markus Niemelainen D Saginaw (OHL) 6-5/190 8-Jun-98 41-1-21-22
30 Carl Grundstrom RW MoDo (Swe) 6-0/195 1-Dec-97 30-3-5-8
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