2016 NHL draft position preview: Left wingers


We continue our position previews with a look at the top left wingers eligible for the 2016 NHL draft, which will be held June 24-25 in Buffalo, New York.
The Flyers’ current prospect pool is deep. But wing is still the organization’s greatest need. Therefore, wing could be on the minds of Ron Hextall and the Flyers’ brass come June 24.
Let’s dive in with a look at the top left wing prospects in the draft:
1. Matthew Tkachuk, 6-1/195, London (OHL)
A burly, skilled winger named Tkachuk — sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Matthew, the son of five-time NHL All-Star Keith, was already on teams’ first-round checklists months ago. But he continues to rise up draft boards after helping lead London to the 2016 Memorial Cup title. In the regular season, the 18-year-old recorded 30 goals and 77 assists for 107 points. He added 20 more goals and 20 more assists in the playoffs. He also plays with some of the nastiness and physicality his father was known for, as evidenced by the 80 penalty minutes he racked up in the regular season and 40 more he tacked on in the playoffs. Tkachuk also represented the U.S. at the World Junior Championships this past year and finished tied atop the team’s scoring leaderboard with Auston Matthews. His hockey bloodlines run even deeper, as he is cousins with Jimmy Hayes of the Boston Bruins and Kevin Hayes of the New York Rangers.
Draft projection: The scary thing about Tkachuk is that he’ll continue to grow into his body and become even more of a physical force. When you combine that with his goal-scoring prowess, he’s a can’t-miss prospect.
With Matthews (Toronto), Patrik Laine (Winnipeg) and Jesse Puljuarvi (Columbus) the presumed top-three picks, Tkachuk seems next in line. But with No. 4 Edmonton needing defensive depth in the organization so badly, there’s a very good chance a defenseman is the pick there. Tkachuk goes to either Vancouver at No. 5 or Calgary at No. 6.
2. Alexander Nylander, 6-0/179, Mississauga (OHL)
Another top-flight forward prospect, another son of a former NHLer. Alexander, son of 15-year league veteran Michael and brother of acclaimed Maple Leafs prospect William, brings speed and puck-handling as his greatest attributes. Oh, and he can score in bunches, too. He led Mississauga with 28 goals and 45 assists this past season. He added six more goals and six more assists in a six-game first-round playoff defeat. While representing Sweden at the world juniors this past season, he posted three goals and eight assists in six games.
Draft projection: Nylander will be a great addition for a team in the top 10 that’s looking to add offense. I don’t think he’ll fall past Calgary at No. 6 or Arizona at No. 7.
3. Pierre-Luc Dubois, 6-2/205, Cape Breton (QMJHL)
Dubois has it all. Need scoring? He posted 42 goals and 57 assists in the regular season for Cape Breton this past year. He added seven more goals and five more assists in 12 playoff games. Need defense? He can do that, too, as he’s noted for his two-way capabilities. Need speed and strength? He’s got those, too, and will just keep getting faster and stronger as he matures and grows into his body. Basically, he’s a multifaceted power forward who can affect the game in a multitude of ways.
Draft projection: Dubois is the total package. With his abilities, don’t be surprised if he makes his NHL team out of camp. The question is which team will select him? A team won’t go wrong with either Tkachuk, Nylander or Dubois. They each could go to any team in the top 10 depending on preference. But I don’t see Dubois falling past Calgary at No. 6 or Arizona at No. 7.
4. Kieffer Bellows, 6-0/196, USNTDP (USHL)
Starting to sense a theme here with sons of former NHLers? Kieffer, the son of former Stanley Cup champ and 17-year NHL vet Brian, is a product of the U.S. National Development program. Along with fellow 2016 prospect Clayton Keller, Bellows is one of the next in line from the national program. The strong power forward led his team with 50 goals this season and was the pivot on the power play, on which he netted 12 of those tallies. He also has a knack for clutch moments as he recorded nine game-winning goals. In representing the U.S. at the world juniors, he posted five goals and three assists in seven games. For the moment, Bellows has committed to play at Boston University in 2016-17.
Draft projection: Bellows landing anywhere between No. 15 and No. 25 is realistic. Of course, the Flyers pick at No. 18. He could be a fit. But that’s true of any of the teams in the No. 15-No. 25 range. He could be very intriguing for Detroit at No. 16 or Carolina at No. 21.
5. Max Jones, 6-2/203, London (OHL)
Jones, a member of the Memorial Cup championship team in London with Tkachuk, is a big kid with his 6-foot-2, 203-pound frame. He knows how to use it to score, as he had 28 goals and 24 assists in the regular season for London. He also knows how to use it to toe the line with his physical game. The problem with a young player toeing the line with his physical game is he tends to go over that line more often than not. See Jones, who racked up 106 penalty minutes in the regular season and was handed a 12-game suspension for this hit. The hope is that wherewithal of where to draw the line comes with maturity. But that’s what was said when Washington took Tom Wilson at No. 16 in the 2012 draft. Four years later and dumb penalties are still an anchor of Wilson’s game. Jones will have to learn to reel himself in. He’s too talented to let penalties for ugly hits be what he’s most known for.
Draft projection:
With the league being about speed and skill more than anything else these days, Jones’ wild side may turn some teams off. I see him falling down past No. 20. He’ll fit one of those teams that have skill but want to add some sandpaper. A veteran coaching staff will help, too. Carolina at No. 21 and Florida at No. 23 are interesting options. But he just seems to fit the persona of the Ducks, who pick at No. 24, doesn’t he?
Rounding out the Top 10
6. Riley Tufte, 6-4/205, Blaine (high school)
7. Boris Katchouk, 6-1/192, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
8. Jack Kopacka, 6-2/190, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
9. Timothy Gettinger, 6-5/201, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
10. Tyler Benson, 5-11/196, Vancouver (WHL)

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