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Risers at the top of the North American skaters rankings

Who saw their stock rise with strong play in the second half of the season?

Oshawa Generals v Niagara IceDogs Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Each year Central Scouting Services provides rankings for draft-eligible prospects that are likely to be selected later in the year at the NHL Entry Draft. Players are placed into one of four different categories (North American skaters, North American goalies, European skaters, and European goalies) and are ranked once halfway through the season (midterm rankings) and once near the end of the season (final rankings). Over the next two weeks we’ll be taking a look at players that moved up from the midterm to final rankings (risers) and players that moved down (fallers). Today we’re looking at a few players who made noticeable jumps in the top 30 of the North American skaters rankings.

Cole Caufield
Position: Right Wing
Team: USNTDP
Height: 5’7”
Weight: 163 pounds
Mid-term ranking: 15
Final ranking: 8
Difference: +7
DraftSite Projection: 8th overall

It’s sounding more and more like the league has learned its lesson from passing over guys like Brad Marchand, Johnny Gaudreau, and Alex DeBrincat early in the draft, and Cole Caufield might be the one to benefit. Originally anticipated to be a mid-first round pick in this year’s Entry Draft, Caufield’s impressive campaign has most likely made him a top-ten pick. After he was ranked 15th among North American skaters in Central Scouting Services’ midterm rankings, Caufield moved up seven spots to eighth in the final rankings.

At 5’7” and 163 pounds, a lot will be made about Caufield’s size and the fact he played alongside anticipated first overall pick Jack Hughes on the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP), but whatever organization is willing to overlook that will acquire a prospect that knows how to score. Having Hughes as a linemate may have helped Caufield to some degree, but that doesn’t equate to 72 goals and 100 points in 64 games this season (29 goals and 41 points in 28 games with the USNTDP Juniors squad in the USHL) or explain Caufield’s long history of scoring goals wherever he is playing. He scored 75 goals in 45 games for Stevens Point Area High in Wisconsin between the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, 44 goals in 40 games with the U.S. U-17 National Team last season, and has produced 82 goals in 83 games for the U-18 team over the last two seasons (a pretty good amount of goals, if you’re wondering about historical context).

To go along with his great release and accuracy on his shots, one of Caufield’s other impressive strengths is his elusiveness. The smaller forward has a knack for consistently finding ways to lose defenders and set himself up for passes in high-danger areas, which makes it easier for teammates to hit him for a scoring chance. Caufield’s vision and ability to handle the puck also make him a decent playmaker, but it’s safe to say if someone is drafting Caufield it’s because the team needs a goal scorer.

Caufield will play for the University of Wisconsin next season.

Scouting report

“A game-breaking goal scorer that, despite his diminutive frame, thrives under pressure and is difficult to contain. He’s a silky smooth skater that traverses all three zones with jump and jam. Defensively, he’s uncomfortable having the puck in his own end for long and he’ll make the extra effort to pressure around the blue line and take away cross-ice options. Upon procuring puck possession, he’ll be the first to explode up ice in-transition. The hallmark of his game is his exceptional goal-scoring ability. He has a shot that absolutely leaps off his stick with pinpoint accuracy when he lets loose and a low centre of gravity that facilitates fast and flashy puckhandling at pace. He affords his linemates options by taking advantage of any allotted attention he garners, generating time and space by drawing guys in; he’s perpetually hard to play against. All-in-all, Cole Caufield is an electrifying goal-scoring machine that makes some of the most otherworldly plays look like child’s play.” - Elite Prospects

Highlights

More on Caufield: Don’t make the mistake of passing on draft prospect Cole Caufield.

Philip Tomasino
Position: Center
Team: Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 181 pounds
Mid-term ranking: 24
Final ranking: 14
Difference: +10
Draftsite projection: 23rd overall

With a game based on speed and energy while still producing points, Philip Tomasino has a skill set that could thrive in the NHL one day. After he potted just five goals and totaled 24 points in 61 contests for the Niagara IceDogs last season, Tomasino closed his 2018-19 OHL campaign with 64 points over his final 51 games for 34 goals and 38 assists to total 72 points in 64 tilts. On top of this, Tomasino compiled five points in six games for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship earlier this year. Out of the 62 forwards in the OHL that played in as many games or more this season, at 5-on-5 Tomasino ranked sixth with 45 primary points, eighth with 168 shots on goal, third with 0.45 goals per game, and ninth with 0.26 expected goals per game.

When it comes to his style of play, Tomasino’s game is based around his speed and puck handling. He does a lot of damage on the rush by beating defenders to the outside to either create a chance by driving to the net or looking to pass to a trailing teammate, but Tomasino also has the ability to put a move on a defending opponent to provide space for himself in the middle of the ice. The fact it seems as though his goal-scoring and playmaking potential are about equal, Tomasino keeps defensemen guessing as to which play the forward is about to make. Although his speed and puck handling will appeal to many teams at the draft, he still needs to work on handling the puck better in the defensive zone and bulking up (things that should become better over time).

Scouting report

“Tomasino is a dynamic skater. His acceleration is elite. The ability to quickly change speeds allows him to dart into open space in the offensive zone as well as to beat a defender wide and cut back to the net. He also has very good top-end speed. Tomasino adds excellent agility and edgework to his speed, making him very difficult to defend off the rush. Defenders often have to back up on him and give plenty of space to shoot or pass the puck so that he does not beat them wide. He could continue to add core strength to make him stronger on the puck and better able to fight through checks at the next level.” - Ben Kerr on Tomasino’s skating.

Highlights

More on Tomasino: Philip Tomasino plays the game at high speed.

Bobby Brink
Position: Right Wing
Team: Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 163 pounds
Mid-term ranking: 29
Final ranking: 19
Difference: +10
Draftsite projection: 31st overall

Bobby Brink is a sniper with average speed that plays a strong two-way game. After he was ranked 29th in the mid-term rankings, Brink’s strong play to close out the season allowed him to earn USHL Player of the Week honors for three straight weeks and USHL Foward of the Year to move up to 19th in the final rankings. Despite the fact 13 of his teammates played in more games than him this season, Brink still lead the Sioux City Musketeers with 35 goals and 68 points in just 43 games during the regular season before he added two helpers in two postseason games. Brink also had six points in five games for Team U.S.A. at the 2018 World Junior Championship. Out of the 185 USHL forwards that played in 43 games or more in 2018-19, at 5-on-5 Brink was tied for second with 22 goals, tied for third with 34 primary points, was first with 0.93 points per game, and second with a 24.08 relative goals for percentage.

As evidenced by his goal total with Sioux City, Brink can score a little. Although there are a fair amount of issues with his skating and he doesn’t own blazing speed, Brink is still able to create space for himself to utilize his accurate shot. He’s considered a sniper, but he’s a far more responsible player than most skaters given the same label. Not only is he often around the puck and aggressive in the offensive zone to set up chances, Brink takes time and space away from the man he’s marking in the defensive zone and is poised when it comes to helping his team regain possession of the puck.

Brink will join the University of Denver for the 2020-21 season.

Scouting report

“There are, however, some issues to his skating. Technically, he does a good job at getting low to create long strides but lacks the muscle strength to get where he needs to go. That strength is what appears to hold him back in terms of top speed and acceleration but is something that should rectify itself with more coaching, strength, and natural mass.

That said, Brink is agile on his skates and is able to dodge coverage easily. He combines that nimbleness on his skates and hockey sense to find open space on the regular. Brink sees the open space and goes to it. It’s not always the most pretty way, with a little bit of ‘treadmill feet’ when not at a good speed but he is suddenly wide open with the puck coming to him.” - Ryan Biech on Brink’s skating.

Highlights

More on Brink: Breaking down Bobby Brink’s game.

Risers in top 30 North American skaters final rankings

Player Position Team Games Points Midterm Ranking Final Ranking Difference
Player Position Team Games Points Midterm Ranking Final Ranking Difference
Brayden Tracey Left Wing Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL) 66 81 73 21 52
Nikita Alexandrov Center Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL) 64 61 45 29 16
Nicholas Robertson C/LW Peterborough Petes (OHL) 54 55 30 17 13
Philip Tomasino Center Niagara IceDogs (OHL) 67 72 24 14 10
Bobby Brink Right Wing Sioux City Musketeers (USHL) 43 68 29 19 10
Cole Caufield Right Wing USNTDP 64 100 15 8 7
Shane Pinto Center Tri-City Storm (USHL) 56 59 35 28 7
Samuel Poulin Left Wing Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL) 67 76 27 22 5
Arthur Kaliyev Left Wing Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL) 67 102 11 7 4
Connor McMichael Center London Knights (OHL) 67 72 28 24 4
Alex Newhook Center Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL) 53 102 16 13 3
Egor Afanasyev Left Wing Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL) 58 62 19 16 3
Bowen Byram LHD Vancouver Giants (WHL) 67 71 4 2 2
Alex Turcotte Center USNTDP 37 62 5 4 1
Trevor Zegras C/W USNTDP 60 87 7 6 1

*Stats courtesy of Elite Prospects and Prospect Stats

2019 NHL Draft Coverage