The Pros and Cons of the CSS Midterm Rankings


NHL Central Scouting Services released their mid-season rankings on Tuesday. This included potential generational superstars Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel at the top of the list. It also includes the rankings separated into North American prospects and International prospects. The list had, what I thought, were positives aspects and negative as well.

Pro: Top 3 N.A Prospects

Undoubtedly, the most sure thing going into the NHL Draft is the fact that the two best players are Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. McDavid, the OHL’er, and Eichel, the NCAA freshman, have proven time and time again that they both are game changers and franchise changers. So, it isn’t really a pro if it is almost guaranteed to happen, but what is the pro is one below #2 Jack Eichel.

The #3 N.A prospect listed by CSS is defenseman Noah Hanifin. Hanifin is a fellow Hockey East player with Jack Eichel, and is also a freshman. Hanifin is a very mature on the ice. When he is with the puck, he shows no fear to make the big play, but he knows when to do it too.

BOSTON, MA – DECEMBER 19: Noah Hanifin #2 of the USA National Junior Team skates during NCAA exhibition hockey against the Boston University Terriers at Walter Brown Arena on December 19, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. USA won 5-2. (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

Hanifin is deserving of the #3 spot in the rankings. He is 3rd among freshmen defensemen in the entire NCAA in points. He has 3 goals and 11 assists in 24 games this year. He is the best defenseman in the draft this year and has shown us during his season at Boston University and at the 2015 World Juniors as well.

Con: Putting Lawson Crouse #4 

Lawson Crouse is a good player. No, very good. He is a big bodied forward and should have no problem transitioning to the NHL game. Crouse is physically dominant, which isn’t that hard at the CHL level, but he was able to show it at the World Juniors. He is very good, but Crouse should not be #4.

Photo By: Terry Wilson/OHL Images

Crouse has 16 goals  and 7 assists in 30 games this year. Don’t get me wrong, he is pretty good offensively and has a good shot, but he is no #4 prospect. Dylan Strome of the Erie Otters is having a great year this year. He has 28 goals and 52 assists in 43 games and has been a very dynamic player for the Otters. Strome plays his game better than Crouse plays his. Strome has a slick stride and can dish the puck like some in the pros.

Pro: Bumping Up Timo Meier 

When Timo Meier started out this 2014-15 season, he wasn’t noticed much. Coming off a 17-17-34 season in 2014 for the Halifax Mooseheads, he wasn’t thought of as a first round prospect. Then the 2015 season came along and Meier started to pick up some momentum and turning heads.

Meier had built a solid season going into the World Juniors. At the World Juniors, Meier really took off. Playing for the Swiss, Meier proved that he could play without his teammate Nikolai Ehlers, who played for Denmark. Meier had 6 points in 6 games at the World Juniors, and at one point led all 2015 draft eligible players, including Connor McDavid, in points.

Meier came back to the Mooseheads with a bang as well. He is currently at 25-31-56 in 37 games and is making plays like this…

Courtesy: Halifax Mooseheads

Con: Not Putting Rantanen #1 Among ITL Skaters

Both Oliver Kylington and Mikko Rantanen both played at the 2015 World Juniors and are listed as International prospects. Kylington is Swedish and Rantanen is Finnish. If you are just judging them from their stats, you aren’t doing it the right way.

To evaluate these players, you need to see their games live. From what I’ve seen from them, I like Rantanen a bit more than I like Kylington. It is a close race. In fact, as I write this I am almost convincing myself to go the other way.

Kylington is a great defender on both sides of the ice. He has a rare ability to make that first breakout pass, and make it count. He has a beautiful stride too. His skating ability is so smooth and seems effortless. This year in Sweden he has 6 goals and 9 assists in 31 games. At the World Juniors he played very well at the blue line for Team Sweden.

Mikko Rantanen

Courtesy: TPS

Mikko Rantanen is playing in the SM-Liiga for TPS. He has 4 goals and 11 assists in 37 games this year. For TPS he has been a playmaking threat and is dangerous at a place. He has great hands to create the open space in order to make passes to teammates. During the World Juniors, Rantanen showed us a side of his game we don’t often see. His scoring ability.

Rantanen had 4 goals in 5 games for Team Finland at the 2015 World Juniors. Many scouts have stated that he “needs to improve his shot” (Curtis Joe, Elite Prospects), but he showed otherwise during the World Juniors. Rantanen is a very fun player to watch, and it will be very interesting to see how he transitions to the NHL.

Pro: Mackenzie Blackwood #1 N.A Goalie

Mackenzie Blackwood is the best goalie available at the draft this year. Blackwood is a big body, standing 6’4″ and 205 lbs. He can also get around the net rather quickly. Those two attributes are hard to find in a goalie these days.

Mackenzie Blackwood stays sharp during Game 6 at the Barrie Molson Centre, Sunday. ZACH MACPHERSON/BARRIE EXAMINER/QMI AGENCY

Blackwood leads all draft eligible goalies in the OHL in save percentage and is 2nd in goals against average. These stats are good in a deeper manner. Blackwood isn’t facing a lot of shots on a defensively sound Barrie Colts team. His GAA and SV% aren’t inflated by a lot of shots on goal.

Con: Blake Speers Should Be Higher

Blake Speers is playing in the OHL for the offensively loaded Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He is 3rd on the team in scoring with 18 goals and 28 assists in 39 games. He is 13th among all OHLers in age adjusted points per game. He is one of the better draft eligible players in the OHL right now. So why isn’t he higher?

Blake Speers

Courtesy: Soo Greyhounds

A lot of the players ranked above him are not in the OHL. Most of them are in the WHL, QMJHL, or USHL. Two prospects above him, Christian Fischer and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, both play in the USHL. Both have less goals and points than Speers. Yes, they might be a bit stronger than Speers, but without a doubt Blake Speers is a better hockey player than the two previously mentioned.

This was a highly debatable and controversial CSS midterm rankings. Obviously, the top 2 players were already determined, but other players were in spots that were worthy of a second look. Some were good decisions and some were bad.