Drafting and developing your own players is integral if you want to have long term success in the NHL. When you take a look at all the top teams in the league, most of the franchise players were all drafted by their respective teams. The 2016 NHL Entry Draft is a very deep one and there are a ton of prospects who have the potential to be franchise players. It looks like there is a good mix of high end forwards and defenseman who will be selected in the first round. The top players available in the draft are not being hyped up as "generation talent" like Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, but have enough potential for teams to get really excited about the future.
The top three players in the draft are pretty much locked in, but after those three picks it's really a toss up for who goes next. It will all depend on a team's needs. There are plenty of quality forwards available in the draft, with a ton of offensive skills. If a team is looking to improve their defence, there are three great defenseman in particular, who are expected to go in the top ten. When it comes to goalies, the 2016 draft isn't the strongest with no goalies expected to go in the first round.
This list is nowhere near perfect, as in almost every draft some team will go completely off the board when selecting a player. However, like in every draft class their is going to be some players that won't live up to their potential and will eventually be labelled a "bust."
Here are the potential top 20 picks of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
20 Auston Matthews, FW
The Arizona native is the consensus number one draft pick of the upcoming draft. Auston Matthews spent the past year playing in the top Swiss league for the ZSC Lions, where he excelled, scoring 46 points in just 36 games. Matthews boasts the complete package, as he can skate, shoot, and has an amazing hockey mind to boot. Having already played against grown men, Matthews is ready to make an instant impact at the NHL level and is an early favourite to win the Calder Trophy in the 2016-17 NHL season.
19 Patrik Laine, FW
Patrik Laine is goal scorer plain and simple and to say he has an elite shot would be a big understatement. It doesn't matter where he is in the offensive zone, his shot is dangerous from anywhere. When it comes to his skills besides his shot, Laine excels on all levels. His puck handling is on another level. Combine that with his size and it's almost impossible to get the puck off him. Laine would instantly give a team a boost on the powerplay with his powerful one-time shot. He has all the skills to be the NHL's next elite goal scorer and one scout even compared him to the great Alexander Ovechkin.
18 Jesse Puljujarvi, FW
At 6'3, 200 lbs, Jesse Puljujarvi is a force to be reckoned with every time he hits the ice. For a player his size, he can still blast by opposing players with his blazing speed. With his size and superb puck control, trying to get the puck off of Puljujarvi is quite the challenge. He knows how to score but is more of a set-up man. He solidified his ranking in the draft with an outstanding performance at the 2016 World Junior Championship. He led the entire tournament in points with 17 and was named the MVP, helping Finland win the Gold medal. Puljujarvi could be ready for the NHL as early as next season.
17 Pierre-Luc Dubois, FW
Pierre-Luc Dubois might just be the most complete player in the 2016 draft. He doesn't excel at anything particular but is instead great at every facet of the game. His hockey-IQ is almost unmatched in this draft class, as he knows where to be on the ice at all times. Dubois can dish out great passes, and knows how to receive them and put the puck in the net. He had a true breakout year offensively for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in 2015-16, recording 42 goals and 57 assists. Scouts have compared him to 2014-15 Art Ross Trophy winner Jamie Benn. Dubois has all the skills to be the an elite two-way forward in the NHL.
16 Matthew Tkachuk, FW
Matthew Tkachuk is the son of former 500 NHL goal man Keith Tkachuk. Like his father, he knows how to put the puck in the back of the net. He's proven he's more than just a goal scorer, recording 77 assists in his rookie OHL season with the London Knights. To go along with his offensive skills, Tkachuk has a bit of nastiness to his game. He is not afraid to go into the corners in order to get the puck. His hard nosed style of play makes him very unique compared to the other top forwards in the draft.
15 Mikhail Sergachev, D
Mikhail Sergachev is arguably the best defenseman available in the 2016 draft and might just be the most NHL ready one too. The Russian born Sergachev has skills which are more suited to the North American style of game. He is a two-way defenseman who is capable of being very physical, but will also put goals in the back of net with his very hard shot. Last season he led all OHL defenseman in goals with 17 and finished third in points with 57. Sergachev is capable of being a team's powerplay quarterback, as well being a team's best penalty killing defenseman.
14 Alexander Nylander, FW
The brother of Leafs prospect, William Nylander, has seen his stock rise after a dominating performance for Sweden at the 2016 World Junior Championships. Nylander made his North American debut this season with the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL, where he had a fantastic year. He led all OHL rookies in points with 75, in just 57 games played. Nylander has all the offensive skills a team could want: he has a heavy shot, he can skate, and he has some of the best puck control out of all players available in the draft. His older brother William looks like a very promising prospect , but Alexander is looking to give his brother a run for his money.
13 Olli Juolevi, D
The Finnish native, Olli Juolevi, has the talent to eventually become one of the best all around defenseman in the NHL. He has great hockey sense and always seems to know the perfect time to join the rush. Defensively he is as solid as they come, as he uses his 6'2 frame to hold off opposing players. Juolevi is a player you can trust in all situations. In his first year in the OHL last season, he led all London Knight defenseman in points with 42.
12 Jakob Chychrun, D
The former first overall pick in the 2014 OHL Draft was at one point the runaway choice to be the first defenseman selected in this draft. Jakob Chychrun's drop in the rankings isn't all his fault, as other defenseman have emerged in the past year and simply have performed better. The team that does draft Chychrun is still getting a potential franchise defenseman. He plays a solid two-way game, as he knows how to use his stick and body to break up plays. On the offensive side , he knows how to get the puck to his teammates and makes an excellent first pass. His shot makes him a perfect candidate for the powerplay.
11 Clayton Keller, FW
Standing at just 5'10 and 170 lbs, Clayton Keller is not the biggest guy, but he makes up for his lack of size with his quick feet. Keller can skate like the wind, but is also able to control the puck at high speeds. Keller is an offensive threat every second he is on the ice. He knows how to make tape to tape passes and on the flip side, he knows how to put the puck in the net when the opportunity comes. During the 2015-16 season while playing for the U.S. National U18 Team, Keller recorded an incredible 107 points in 62 games. Keller is committed to Boston University for the upcoming 2016-17 season.
10 Michael McLeod, FW
Michael McLeod is a power forward who is capable of taking over a game all by himself. He is one of the best stick handlers in the entire draft and he can handle the puck at super high speeds. The center has superb faceoff skills and is very responsible in his own end. McLeod is one of the highest rising prospects in the 2016 draft. His rise in the rankings is well deserved after his great season playing for the Mississauga Steelheads, alongside fellow 2016 draft hopeful Alexander Nylander.
9 Tyson Jost, FW
Tsyon Jost has proven to be an offensive dynamo while playing for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL. The captain of the Vees had a fantastic 2015-16 season, breaking the 100 point plateau. His 104 total points was a 59 point increase from the previous season. Yost has drawn comparisons to Chicago Blackhawks centre Jonathan Toews and that comparison is even more fitting considering Yost is committed to the University of North Dakota for next the season, where Toews once starred.
8 Kieffer Bellows, FW
The son of former NHLer Brian Bellows, Kieffer is great goal scorer just like his father. His shoot first mentality allowed him to score 16 goals in 23 games playing for the U.S. National Development Team last season. Along with his goal scoring ability, Bellows has a lot of grit in his game. He has committed to play for Boston University for the 2016-17 season.
7 Jake Bean, D
Jake Bean is a bit of a late bloomer, having never being drafted by a Major Junior team. With the way he has performed so far in his junior career, he has proved that teams made a mistake by not taking a chance on him. Although Bean has a decent defensive side to his game, it's his offense that really gets the scouts excited. In his rookie season with the Calgary Hitmen, Bean showed a great deal of promise recording 39 points in 51 games. In his second season, he exploded for 64 points, which included an incredible 24 goals. Any team looking for a future powerplay quarterback should take a long look at Bean.
6 Julien Gauthier, FW
Julien Gauthier has elite offensive skills. He can skate, shoot, and puck handle with the best of them. Gauthier has proven to be a goal scoring machine in the QMJHL, scoring a combined 79 goals the past two seasons. At 6'4, Gauthier isn't afraid to get in the dirty areas in order to score goals. Gauthier also has a great hockey mind and is determined to do anything in order to win. His combination of skill has drawn comparisons to Rick Nash. If Gauthier can produce anywhere close to what Nash has done in his NHL career, then Gauthier would be a steal as mid-round draft choice.
5 Dante Fabbro, D
Dante Fabbro is as complete of a defenseman as there is available in the 2016 draft. On the defensive side he knows how to properly use his stick and body to break up plays. Offensively he has shown that he is no slouch, recording 67 point in 45 games, which was good enough to crack the top twenty in BCHL scoring. Fabbro has already committed to Boston University next season, so the the team that selects him knows there is going to be a bit of a wait before he makes his mark in the NHL.
4 Logan Brown, FW
Logan Brown is an opposing figure at 6'6 and 218 lbs, but still skates as smooth as anybody. The power forward uses his size to shield the puck and win puck battles in front of the net. When it comes to shooting the puck, Brown has one of the best shots in the entire draft class. In his second season with the Windsor Spitfires, he recorded 74 points in 59 games. Players with Brown's size are very sought after in today's NHL, so whatever team ends up drafting him, will walk away happy knowing they might have the leagues next elite power forward.
3 German Rubtsov, FW
German Rubtsov might be the best two-way forward available in the draft. He is an excellent playmaker, but always makes sure he is responsible in his own end. Scouts have already compared the Russian to the great Pavel Datsyuk. With Datsyuk's possible NHL retirement luming, the Red Wings will take a hard look at Rubtsov come draft time. Rubstov will most likely hone his skills in Russia for a few years before making his way over to North America.
2 Charlie McAvoy, D
Charlie McAvoy was the youngest player in all of NCAA last season, although you would not have known that by his outstanding performance. The offensive defenseman put up twenty-five points for Boston University as a freshman. His offensive skills may be the main reason why scouts are high on him, but McAvoy isn't afraid to throw his body around either. McAvoy could turn out to be a stud for the right team.
1 Max Jones, FW
Max Jones is one of those players you hate playing against. He never takes a shift off and will do whatever it takes to put a puck in the back of the net. The 6'3 power forward recorded nearly a point per game during his first season in the OHL with the London Knights. Jones should be back in London next year for some more seasoning. With the potential departure of some star players on the Knights, Jones will be relied on to play a bigger role, which will only help his development.