Well, it is about that time I put out my annual top draft eligible list of Americans that I will surely be wrong on half of them lol!!
I do want to add that this year is a strong year for the Americans overall. I can see anywhere from 6-8 players taken in the first round (4 possibly top 10-12) and a strong second round as well that should add another 8-10 names possibly getting their names called in June.
This is a very strong draft for the USHL especially at forward. It has been a while since I have seen this many highly skilled forwards coming out of the USHL that are Non USNDP kids. Very impressive group IMO and a good sign of spreading out the talent throughout the league.
Now to the good stuff, the list:
#1. Oliver Wahlstrom - 6'1 205lbs - F - He is the top American player for me hands down. I understand the love for Tkachuk or those that think Hughes could be one of the most dynamic players for this draft, but for me, it is this kid that has wow'd me for years. Simply put, I feel he is one of the top 2 snipers in this draft. His skillset is off the charts, his vision, elite hands, and wheels are all star level. He is just a complete player for me. He wasn't getting ranked nearly as highly as he should have been early on last year, but now the secret is out and he seems to be right around #5 overall, but wouldn't surprise me if he went right after the big 3.
#2. Brady Tkachuk - 6'3 196 lbs - F - Brady has his fair share of haters and fans on this board. Those that strictly look at stats are missing out on a hell of a player. I have no doubts he will be in the NHL either this coming season or the following. He has the size, character, and tenacity to be a pro player- he is a pain in the ass to play against but also has such nice hands and scoring ability that has gone so underrated. He goes top 5 in this draft, great start for USA Hockey to have him and Wahlstrom as future stars on the wing.
#3. Joel Farabee - 6'0 164 lbs - F - Joel seems to be the odd man out typically in discussions on the USNDP, but make no mistake about it, this dynamo can do it all on the ice. He has been consistently ranked right around the top 10-12 all season long, and for good reason. Such a high IQ offensively, the player that makes his linemates better around him. He just does it all extremely well- a 200ft player that has elite skills and elite shot. He can play up tempo or grind it out, perfect player for today's game.
#4. Quinn Hughes - 5'10 174 lbs - D - This is the player that will draw the most debate IMO when his name is called. Some "old school" fans are going to say a kid this size cannot be a top defensemen in the league. I like many others are going to argue that his IQ, vision, speed and balance are elite for a player of his size. The game is changing, and players like this are now in demand. I believe he goes top 10, and some might say that is too high, there are others who think he should go top 5...we all know about his brother Jack but don't sleep on this kid, he has some growing to do, but his skillset is elite.
#5. Bode Wilde - 6'2 197 lbs - D - Bode has been a man amongst boys the past few years. Simply put just a physical specimen since the age of 13. He has all the skills you could want for a #1 dman in today's game but has some issues to work on. His IQ has left me wanting more, his pinching at the wrong times and errant outlet passes at times has put his overall game in question. But what he does bring to the table is tantalizing if put together. So much raw ability here, strong shot, strong balance, solid passing and vision for a bigger dman. This kid is going to go high and the likely first of the USNDP defenders taken IMO.
#6. Mattias Samuelsson - 6'4 217 lbs - D - Simply put, he has been a rock out there all year for the USNDP. He has been their most consistent dman this year but has made some errors and some growing pains as well. He is such a big body in the mold of a Derek Forbort, the ceiling is through the roof for this kid who likely makes it as a shut down defender at the NHL level. Top 20-25 pick.
#7. Blake McLaughlin - 6'0 162 lbs - F - This is the start of many USHL forwards listed for me. Blake has had a magnificent year so far and the Minnesota native has not failed to impress at all. Seems ranked in the top 45 everywhere, I think he has a solid shot at a top 31 ranking as his tool set is just amazing. He has the vision, hands, and wheels that we are seeing more and more out there. Headed to Minnesota next year, this kid will have a very solid role and likely there for just 2 years. This kid can snipe with the best of them as well, he has such a promising future.
#8. K'Andre Miller - 6'3 206 - D - The wild card player here. He can easily go in the top 30 if scouts are buying all in on his upside. He is raw, very raw. A forward for most of his career, defense has been a learning experience for him this year, but you can clearly see why scouts love his upside. He is that star/flop type player that if he hits, he can be an absolute home run. He comes with risk though which is why I safely see him in the 30-40 range.
#9. Jake Wise - 5'10 -170 lbs - F - The one time potential #1 overall pick, Jake has battled inconsistent play last year and an injury to start the season to finally getting on the ice and being a ppg player behind that powerful #1 line. Wise hasn't really grown much the past few seasons which has hurt him IMO, but the hands, speed, vision are all there for him to take his time, find his stride and be a top player again. Rankings are putting his name back in the top 45, if he has the U18 tourney I expect he will be another riser to focus on in June.
#10. Jack Drury - 5'11 175 lbs - F - Where to begin with this kid? Talk about your risers. Such a smart cerebral player that has great bloodlines and a hockey IQ that is off the charts. This kid has the ability to be a top scorer as well as he has been on one amazing run this year. To me, he is a Joe Pavelski type player that just does everything above average and can carve out a 10 year career at the NHL level. He has been rising on many lists to the point where some say he might go in the first round. I am conservative with him as I see him in that 2nd round range, but he clearly has all the skill and smarts you could want to sneak into the top 31.
I will work on more bios for the remaining players, but for now, here are players #11 through 25.
11. Slava Demin - 6'2 190 lbs - D
12. Blade Jenkins - 6'1 195 lbs - F
13. Curtis Hall - 6'2 197 lbs - F
14. Tyler Madden - 5'10 155 lbs - F
15. Ryan O'Reilly - 6'2 201 lbs - F
16. Ty Emberson - 6'0 195 lbs - D
17. Jay O'Brien - 5'10 185 lbs - F
18. Jacob Pivonka - 5'11 198 lbs - F
19. Jonathan Gruden - 6'0 172 lbs - F
20. Patrick Giles - 6'4 203 lbs - F
21. Adam Samuelsson - 6'6 240 lbs - D
22. Tyler Weiss - 5'10 158 lbs - F
23. Alec Regula - 6'3 201 lbs - D
24. Alex Steeves - 5'10 180 lbs - F
25. Jaxon Nelson - 6'4 208 lbs - F
HM: T.J. Walsh - 5'9 170 lbs - F - hurt for most of the season
I am sure there will be some debate here and I welcome it. I just have fun with this stuff and view players skills over others like any one does. This is a solid and deep group for USA Hockey, I think more names are rising on this list then falling - should be a real good draft for the Americans.
So who am I missing that you think deserves to be here??? I left a few names off, I have an idea who will be talked about as needing to be on this list.