Craig Button of TSN released his Top 50 NHL-affiliated prospects with Thatcher Demko and Brock Boeser making an appearance in the Top 20. That isn’t overly surprising. Both have had very good seasons in the NCAA and look to be well on track to developing into NHL talent – albeit, at different stages in their development.
Button also included the Top 5 prospects for each of the Canadian teams with Tate Olson making a somewhat surprising appearance above players with a higher draft pedigree.
Any player, prospect or draft ranking is always a subjective venture. No two lists are alike. Some lists carry more weight than others and given Button’s respect in the scouting community, his is an opinion we can hold in high esteem. Whether you agree with Button or not, his rankings merit attention.
One of the key differences in how Button conducts his ranking is the emphasis placed on what the prospects project to be, rather than where they are at the time of evaluation. This causes some variance in rankings when put against his peers who place more emphasis on the now.
Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann are obviously excluded, as they are full-time NHL players.
So let’s start with Demko and Boeser.
Thatcher Demko comes in as the 15th overall prospect, second goaltender only to Washington Capitals first round pick Ilya Samsonov. Just a month ago ESPN prospect writer, Corey Pronman, ranked Demko as the third best goaltending prospect, behind the aforementioned Samsonov and Jusse Saros of the Nashville Predators organization. Saros doesn’t crack Button’s list, but there’s no telling whether that’s based on age or being a full-time AHL netminder.
Brock Boeser comes in at 20th overall in the prospect rankings. Here is an example of where I think Button’s rankings are unique. Boeser is ranked above players who were selected ahead of him like Matthew Barzal, Joel Eriksson Ek and Evgeni Svechnikov. Part of that is due to Boeser having a very good season at the University of North Dakota and also because he is a good skating, big bodied, shoot first goal scorer. That combination is rare to find.
Premier position or otherwise, the players selected ahead of Boeser in his draft class don’t project to have as strong an impact at the next level from where Button is standing.
Boeser is the 11th ranked prospect from the 2015 NHL Entry Draft in Button’s list.
This year’s mid-season ranking from Craig Button has each Canadian team’s Top 5 Prospects. The Canucks Top 5 is below:
Given their position on Button’s list, Boeser and Demko make sense as the premier players on this list. At number three is Hunter Shinkaruk, who is in the midst of a fantastic season for Utica. Nothing overly surprising, especially when compared to where I might rank the top-three Canucks prospects. Where I was caught off guard was with the placement of Tate Olson as fourth.
Thanks Clooney for perfectly representing the majority of Canucks fans.
I am not blown away or shocked that Olson is there as he has been very good this year and is looking like an absolute steal at 210th overall. If you look at the Canucks system, excluding the current young NHL’ers, there is only a handful of candidates that could push Olson out. Brendan Gaunce comes to mind, but he was 1.0 PPG in his D+1 season as centre, where Olson currently sits at 0.84 PPG as a defenceman.
This is where the ‘impact’ part of Button’s rankings rears itself again. Gaunce is much closer to being a full-time NHL’er but likely as a bottom six winger/centre, whereas if Olson continues to trend upwards, he could project to be a Top 4 defenceman. Obviously, everything would need to go right for Olson, but it isn’t inconceivable. A Top 4 defenceman will make more of an impact when compared to a bottom 6 player.
The fifth-ranked player, Guillaume Brisebois, is arguably one of the players that could’ve been ranked higher than Olson. But he has struggled this year, so ignoring draft order entirely, it’s not a stretch to suggest that Olson projects as a better player. Time will tell on that one.
Carl Neill is another arguable case, but he already concluded his D+1 when the Canucks selected him. So Olson has well over a year of development time to go before reaching Neill’s age. Other players like Dmitry Zhukenov and Lukas Jasek come with just as many question marks as green flags.
Jordan Subban is another player who could’ve been in the top 5. I likely would’ve placed him above Olson and Brisebois merely because I am a big fan of his game and being further ahead in his development. But there is obvious concern about his size, and thus his game being able to translate to the NHL level. Subban has had a great start to his professional career in Utica, so there is promise. If he can continue to work on his weaknesses while still continuing to use his strengths (on the PP specifically), then being overlooked here won’t really matter.
I’ve seen Olson a few times live this year, and can see that he has the ‘toolbox’ of skills to be an NHL player. His sees the game very well. Based on his young age (compared to the draft class) height, weight and PPG – If we were using the extinct PCS system, I know that it would rate him very favourably. Likely much higher than Brisebois and Neill.
On the bright side, the Canucks are one of a handful of teams with two players in the top 20. Ideally, you’d have liked to see the Canucks better represented in the top 50. Then again, having Virtanen and McCann graduate so quickly doesn’t help.