Here we are, all together again for the holiday season. I've been hard at work since late August watching and tracking hundreds of players around the world, and my first preliminary list is now ready for public consumption. Be forewarned, there are takes, but rather than farming clicks, I've explained where my head is at with the vast majority of where I diverge from the norm. This season, I feel like I diverge quite a bit from the norm moreso than average, and I'm really curious to see and hear the feedback from you all, both in and out of the league.
Overall, this is a very strong class in my opinion. Any team in the bottom half of the NHL standings, especially in the top 10 or so should be very excited about their potential options. There are some exceptional forwards available especially, headlined by two wonderfully talented players, with a handful of high skill and high intensity defensemen mixed into a forward-heavy group that could be great adds as well. I would say that where my "bar of excitement" where I throw my hands in the air and go "pick whoever", within reason of course has expanded from around 25 players last year, to almost two full rounds this year. I really think that anyone in my top two rounds have something in their game that can get you excited about what they could be in the NHL. Obviously not every single player will play, but this is a class that gives me stronger feelings than the last two at least.
It's almost important to outline exactly what I'm looking for and how I value players transparently, which can be imperative for communicating with the public. I'll copypasta from last year's final ranking post because my philosophy hasn't particularly changed for quite a while. I don't mind taking on more risk if it means the player in question could bring skills that make them talents you wish you had more of at the NHL level. I will always value players with higher end individual traits that could slot into a clear NHL role with possible success over players that are competent all-around if not exciting. Some may disagree and go for "safety" over risk, but that's the beauty of evaluating talent in a professional sports environment. There are many ways to be successful, it's just a matter of having a strong organizational philosophy that you trust can bring you success over the long term. In terms of the types of players I gravitate to, I've always held that speed, skill, pace and the ability to problem solve and make plays in close quarters are major factors that can make a player impactful at the NHL level. Biometric factors and other intangible factors carry a certain level of weight with me, but I always go back to the end results and the quality of play coming from a player. If the results are great but the players lack that speed, skill, pace and problem solving ability that I look for, that player is devalued, especially if they're undersized on top of it all. If they are struggling to produce those results on the scoresheet but carry those traits, they may be worth nurturing and working with over a long period to try to get that puck to go in the net more often than it does, and in my experience, betting on those traits leads to generally greater success, especially outside of the early rounds of the draft.
If you're a Patron of the project, you can view my rankings as they change over the year, with the full list unlocked at the $25 tier along with my full data sheet of >700 skaters and goaltenders' data.
If you're new here, I generally tend to think of my rankings in "Tiers", which attempts to group players into a pool from which I feel the order could be interchangeable, with the numbers ordering the players as how I might push for them in a draft discussion. I find that it creates much more balanced and nuanced discussion, especially considering these players are so young and may have wildly different potential trajectories that may differ reasonably depending on which NHL organization picks them up. I'd also like to thank InStat Hockey and McKeens Hockey for providing access to the video and data tools that are invaluable to my work. If you'd like an outline of the metrics below, here they are:
Thank you so much for having a peek at this preliminary list and we'll see you on the other side!
Tier 1 - A Tale of Two First Overalls
Tier 2 - "Consolation Prizes"
Tier 3 - A Few Really Really Good Options
Tier 4 - Offensive Threats Galore
Tier 5 - The Meat of the Class
Tier 6 - Great Supplementary and Development Options
Tier 7 - Re-Entries, Longshots, and Ol' Faithfuls
Thank you for reading over my thoughts on these impressive players. It's going to be an exciting class to say the least, and there are tons of guys I'm really excited about. I imagine this will look quite a bit different by year's end, but it's always fun to put out a cross-section of where my head is at. As always, have a happy holiday season, enjoy the time off, and I'll see you all in 2023! In the meantime, the World Juniors are coming, and they are going to be a doozy, I think. Lots of draft eligibles, and plenty of returning players that could electrify hockey fans all over the world. If you'd like to read my World Junior writeup, click here.