Last week I covered some of the potential top five picks in the NHL’s upcoming Entry Draft, which takes place in Chicago on June 23. The entire first round will be drafted on the evening of the 23rd, while the second through seventh rounds will all be drafted on June 24. There are plenty of players in this year’s draft that will have the staying power to succeed in the NHL for quite awhile, so let’s cover a few more of the first round gems.
Gabe Vilardi (C, Windsor Spitfires - Ontario Hockey League): Ranked number three by the International Scouting Service (ISS), Vilardi will be a top five pick come Friday, June 23. If Dallas keeps the third pick or swaps out remains to be seen, but Vilardi will be there for any team wanting to add a skilled center to their roster and organization. Vilardi led the Spitfires in scoring even after missing 19 games at the beginning of the season with a knee injury just before Ivan Hlinka’s U-18 tournament. That along with an emergency appendectomy in November, which cost him more time. Back and healthy, Vilardi is leading the Memorial Cup host Spitfires at the best time of the year, the CHL Memorial Cup. Skating is the area in which he needs the most improvement, but with the coaching these days and training regiments, Vilardi will cure that ill in his immediate game.
Cody Glass (C, Portland Winterhawks - Western Hockey League): Jumping from 27 points in his first season in Portland to 94 points in his second year brought Glass to the forefront, and getting cut from the Ivan Hlinka U-18 tournament was the fuel that fed Glass and his drive to prove his worth. Ranked #10 by The Hockey News and sixth overall by the ISS, Glass will be taken ahead of some other higher profile names come draft day. Often drawing comparisons to Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele, Glass is still not a finished product, which is scary based on how well he reacted to negative press. Cody scored 32 goals and 62 assists this past season and may be back in Portland for a third season, but I think the team that drafts him will either start him up for the eight-game try-out with the big club or move him to the AHL for seasoning with grown men instead of kids. That’s how well of a game IQ presence he has been reported to have from numerous NHL scouts.
Owen Tippett (RW, Mississauga Steelheads - Ontario Hockey League): Ranked number seven by THN, and fourth in the ISS ranking, Tippett will be a top six pick for sure come draft day. It amazes me how much training goes into these kids' future when at 18 they already are built like men. Tippett is 6’2” and 205 pounds right now and will probably add 10-15 pounds once he joins the NHL. Owen will also need to play better in the middle ice. Many scouts salivate at his play within 15 feet of each net, but the area in between needs improvement. Other scouts question his work ethic and hockey sense, but a good team will place a rookie with a responsible team leader to show him the way. Tippett’s shot is great, he possesses a scorer’s mentality and is drawing Kyle Okposo comparisons. Any team drafting him is praying that projection comes true in their top-ten pick.
Miro Heiskanen (D, HIFK - Finnish Elite League): Much like Cale Makar, Miro jumped up through the projection rankings based on a world stage. Heiskanen did his impressing at the World Juniors over the Christmas break. On a Finnish team that was almost bounced after winning it all the year prior, Heiskanen's performance was better than his Finnish teammate and last year's Canucks first-rounder Olli Juolevi. Drawing early comparisons to Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh, Heiskanen impressed this season in the Finnish Elite League against men. With a pre-draft ranking of sixth in The Hockey News and fifth by the International Scouting Service, Miro will need time to season in the AHL or remain in the Finnish Elite League, as most young defensemen are not NHL ready heading into their first season.
A few more names to keep a close eye on include Russian Klim Kostin. He has dominated at each level he has played and is NHL body ready at 6’3” and 196 pounds. I hope Detroit drafts Kostin at #9. Swedish defenseman Timothy Liljegren was projected as the overall number two player before the season began. Due to a so-so season, he has dropped out of the top ten, but will be taken in the lottery regardless. One more name is Nick Suzuki, who put together a 94-point season for Owen Sound in the Ontario Hockey League.
You can always reach me @PolkaPat to talk hockey, and read more of my fantasy thoughts at Fighting Chance Sports.