The 2016 NHL draft is shaping up to be one of the more unique drafts in NHL history.
Auston Matthews, an American that opted to play pro hockey in Switzerland this season, will almost certainly go first overall. After Matthews, a pair of Finnish phenoms — forwards Jesse Puljujarvi and Patrik Laine — could go next. At the very least, they’re widely expected to go in the top four or five.
“Matthews is the best prospect available for the 2016 draft,” said Dan Marr, NHL Director of Central Scouting, which today released its midterm prospect rankings.
Matthews, Puljujarvi, and Laine were ranked the top three “International Skaters.”
Typically, the majority of top picks are “North American Skaters.” Like last year, when Connor McDavid went first overall out of the CHL and Jack Eichel went second out of the NCAA. In fact, an “International Skater” wasn’t taken until Colorado called Mikko Rantanen’s name with the 10th pick. The other Europeans taken before him — Pavel Zacha, Ivan Provorov, and Timo Meier — all played in the CHL.
To be sure, there are some excellent “North American Skaters” this season. Like forward Matthew Tkachuk, an American who plays for OHL London.
“It was unanimous that Tkachuk was first overall on the North American list,” said Marr. “He has met and exceeded expectations and continues to excel with London after having a solid World Junior tournament.”
OHL defenseman Jakob Chychrun was the highest-ranked Canadian, coming in at No. 2 on the “North American Skaters” list.
Boston University forward Charles McAvoy was the highest-ranked NCAA player, coming in at No. 9 on the “North American Skaters” list.
Related: Central Scouting releases list of ‘players to watch’