We’ve spent the past two weeks discussing the top prospects heading into next year’s NHL draft, and it’s fair to say that we’ve gotten pretty good at spotting the players we think will go first overall.
But in the past, we’ve also been able to make some eye-opening predictions for the players that could be headed for the NHL right now.
And in doing so, we realized that a lot of those predictions were a bit overstated.
With that in mind, we took a closer look at the NHL draft’s top prospects.
We have a pretty decent idea who’s going to go first and we’re going to do a more detailed analysis of their respective draft stock, but the first thing we’ll do is break down who’s the biggest prospect who has been mentioned the most recently.
As a reminder, we are not looking at how many points the player has scored or even if they’re particularly good at it.
We are looking at the player’s overall performance and what sort of ceiling he or she is expected to reach in the NHL.
Let’s start with the most highly-touted prospect in the draft.
It was a little confusing at first.
One of the more intriguing stories around the NHL Draft was that there were questions about the NHL’s decision to keep the first pick from the 2016 draft class, rather than selecting one of the top 20 players in the entire world.
In fact, in a way, that decision was actually a smart one, since there were some very talented players at that year’s draft that could have been used as first-round picks.
There were a lot more players than expected on the draft board, which was a real problem for the organization because there weren’t any true offensive stars to be had.
So, instead, the NHL decided to keep all of its first-rounder pool.
The first pick went to the Detroit Red Wings for their first overall pick, which they selected Anthony Mantha.
Mantha didn’t score any points in the 2016 NHL draft.
He also didn’t lead the team in scoring either.
When the Red Wings took him with the 14th overall pick in the 2014 NHL draft class (that was the year the Blackhawks traded their first-overall pick for the draft rights to Jonathan Toews), they were looking for a player that would have some offensive upside and could play in the top six.
He didn’t exactly have those qualities, and in fact, Mantha played just 10 games in the first season of his professional career in 2015-16, recording a minus-2 rating.
Instead, he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Tyler Bozak and a fourth-round pick.
In a way this was the first time a first-year pro like Mantha ever got traded, as he was a fourth overall pick at the time and the Leafs didn’t have much of a need for a first or second-round prospect.
Then, in 2018, Toronto dealt its first pick to the Carolina Hurricanes for defenceman Ivan Provorov.
Provorav had a pretty good season in Carolina, finishing fourth in the league in points with 27.5.
He was also the only player on the team to have a positive shooting percentage.
And that was before he got hurt in the playoffs.
The Leafs didn, indeed, have a need at defence for a top-six centre, but they also had a need to add a little size and physicality.
This left the Leafs with the 26-year-old, who had played in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch the previous season.
He had a strong AHL season, finishing with a +2 rating, and he was one of just three players to have at least one point in every game he played in.
At this point, it’s not too surprising to see that the Leafs were interested in adding more offensive punch to the lineup.
And they certainly were when they brought in Connor Brown.
Brown was a rookie in 2015, coming off of a career-high 28 goals.
He would go on to score another 28 goals in 2016-17 and was one the league’s best offensive defencemen, finishing tied for third in points and was second in plus/minus.
But Brown wasn’t the only one who was looking for more offensive firepower, as the Leafs also brought in a few more defensive prospects.
Forward Brandon Prust was acquired by the Leafs in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks in 2017, and was part of the same core as Brown, but Prust didn’t contribute much offensively.
He finished with just four points in 29 games.
The Leafs also took a flier on defenceman Travis Dermott, who spent his first three years with the Chicago Blackhawks and was also part of a similar core of defencemen that also featured the likes of Tyler Bozanowski, Joel Armia, Ryan O’Reilly and Brandon Pruszynski.
Dermott was also one of only