NASHVILLE – Now the fun really begins.
We had the excitement of Day 1 of the NHL Draft on Wednesday, led by Connor Bedard, Leo Carlsson and Adam Fantilli. But Day 2 is when scouting departments show their worth.
Here’s a look at the top 15 prospects still on the dashboard:
Andrew Cristall, LW (Kewlona, WHL)
Cristall would have easily passed the 100-point mark if he hadn’t suffered a lower-body injury. Skill-wise, Cristall has it all. His skating can however be a bit catastrophic in points. In the void, there is much to love. When he has the puck on his stick, however, he is dangerous. Surround him with quality teammates and you should be fine.
Riley Heidt, C (Prince George, WHL)
One of the WHL’s top point producers, Heidt has been instrumental in Prince George’s resurgence this year. I know the scouts were hoping to see him remain a consistent producer throughout the year – no problem there. It’s his play away from the puck that concerns some people the most. Count on me as a believer, though.
Gavin Brindley, LW (University of Michigan, NCAA)
Small but feisty, Brindley flew under Michigan’s radar, in large part because of Fantilli’s heroism. He’s as competitive as he can be and he’s a solid straight-line skater, but there’s still room to improve in terms of overall puck skill and hockey acumen. Another year of college will help.
Gracyn Sawchyn, C/RW (Seattle, WHL)
Sawchyn left the USNTDP in 2022 and used it as a chance to earn more ice time and opportunities with Seattle. After scoring at a point-per-game pace, it worked, but he’s incredibly smart and deceptive with the puck. He’s going to be a solid playmaker one day, and I really think there’s more to his game that we haven’t seen fully realized at this point.
Ethan Gauthier, RW (Sherbrook, QMJHL)
One of my favorite players from a style standpoint, Gauthier is fierce, aggressive and never stops moving. He’s seen his offensive output jump 30 points to a handsome 69 this year, establishing himself as a solid scorer. His power forward style suits him well in a mid-range role.
Oscar Fisker Molgaard, C (HV71, SHL)
Mølgaard hasn’t produced much in the SHL, but the fact that a 2005-born has played over 40 games against some of Europe’s top competitions is nothing to sneeze at. He was excellent against U-20 competition and, honestly, the smart, controlled center could end up becoming one of the biggest steals in the draft given his pro-ready tools.
Lukas Dragicevic, D (Tri-City, WHL)
Dragicevic likes to join the attack and get involved in the game in any way possible. There aren’t many draft-eligible defenders who can put up plays like him, using as much of their available time as possible to make the right play. He needs to work on his foot speed if he’s going to excel in the NHL.
Nick Lardis, LW (Hamilton, OHL)
Late-season dominance can be very deceiving, but there may not have been a more interesting striker than Lardis. After collecting just 19 points in 36 games with the Petes, he exploded with 25 goals and 46 points in 33 games with Hamilton before clinching in the playoffs.
Kasper Halttunen, RW (HIFK, Liiga)
Halttunen didn’t produce anything against the men but was too good for HIFK’s U-20 side. He’s tall, has a strong wrist and has produced at every level up to the Liiga. Next year will be great. A little more maturity will help him take his game to another level next year, but he hits as hard as anyone, and it’s fun to watch.
Caden Price, D (Kelowna, WHL)
His game varies from game to game, but when Price is activated, he can take over and be the best player in a given shift. He’s a strong skater who throws shots with determination and likes to rush the puck.
Anton Wahlberg, C (Malmo, SHL)
Standing at 6-foot-3, Wahlberg was a C-rated prospect in the NHL’s first central scouting standings. NOW? I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go in the first round. He had an impressive season against men with Malmö to help the team avoid relegation. Wahlberg then closed out the year helping Sweden to silver as one of the team’s most valuable threats. He’s a good skater for a prospect his size and he works hard, hits hard and wins a ton of battles along the boards. Teams will appreciate his work ethic.
Luca Cagnoni, D (Portland, WHL)
Another fast and modern two-way defender. He’s not the fastest skater, and he’s certainly not a physical defender, but he has good clearance and can dominate the power play.
Beau Akey, D (Barrie, OHL)
While most eyes have been on Brandt Clarke in Barrie this year, it’s hard to ignore Akey who has jumped 30 points this year. He does a great job of rushing the puck down the ice from his own end and he passes the puck a lot less in a panic these days.
Michael Hrabal, G (Omaha, USHL)
The University of Massachusetts’ commitment numbers might not look like much in the USHL, but he’s made plenty of charges this year. His international play was solid and despite an early exit to the U-18s, Hrabal gave his side a fighting chance. It also helps that he is 6ft 6in but moves like a much smaller and more agile goalie.
Timur Mukhanov, C (Omskie, VHL)
At 5-foot-8, Mukhanov is undersized, but that hasn’t stopped him from producing in Russia. He is an excellent skater, plays a dynamic two-way game and is difficult to remove the puck despite his height. You don’t see a ton of players his size playing in the middle, so expect him to move to the wing in the NHL, if he’s successful.