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."
|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|