2016 NHL draft position preview: Right wingers


We continue our position previews with a look at the top right wingers eligible for the 2016 NHL draft, which will be held June 24-25 in Buffalo, New York.

Let’s dive in:

1. Patrik Laine, 6-4/210, Tappara (Liiga)
Oozing with self-confidence, Laine sees himself as the best player in the draft.

At the NHL scouting combine, Laine told NHL.com he believes he has "the ability to someday become the best player in the NHL," and that Toronto has a "tough decision to make."

Auston Matthews is the consensus No. 1 overall pick, but Laine is making a late push to be considered with the top selection, though it's unlikely he changes the Maple Leafs' mind.

Laine possesses the best shot in the draft. He has a quick release and delivers it with power, and some have called him the best pure goal scorer since Alex Ovechkin.

The Finn is a big, strong winger whose skating has improved. He uses his body to protect the puck and has a long reach — his wingspan measured in at 75.75 inches at the combine.

In 46 regular-season games with Tappara, Laine scored 17 goals and 33 points, adding 10 goals in 18 playoff games, but he made the most noise at the worlds.

Playing for Finland in the U-20s and the world championships, Laine combined to score 19 goals in 24 games in the two tournaments. He'll play for Finland in the World Cup.

And after that, he'll likely be playing his NHL hockey in Manitoba.

Draft projection: No. 2 overall to Winnipeg.

2. Jesse Puljujarvi, 6-3/201, Karpat (Liiga)
Another elite Finnish prospect in this class destined to be a top-three pick.

Puljujarvi has drawn comparisons to NHL legend Teemu Selanne, and some have him interchangeable with Laine on the big board, but he finishes as the No. 2 right winger.

The 18-year-old, who finished as the No. 3 European skater on Central Scouting's final rankings, racked up honors at the worlds and was the highest scoring under-18 player in the U-18s since 1990.

Helping Finland capture gold in the U-18s, Puljujarvi tallied 17 points and was named the tournament's MVP, Best Forward and an All-Star. He had 13 goals in 50 games for Karpat.

What stands out about Puljujarvi's game is his combination of size, speed and skill. He's a plus skater with quick burst that allows him to fly by his opposition at 6-foot-3.

With his size, he's able to body opponents on the puck, though he can still learn to use it to his advantage more. He's a smart, creative two-way winger with high hockey smarts.

Draft projection: No. 3 to Columbus.

3. Julien Gauthier, 6-4/225, Val d'Or (QMHJL)
When evaluating prospects, teams like to see players trend upwards and not downwards.

With Gauthier, he fits more in the faller category than a riser. In Central Scouting's mid-term ranks, he was listed as the fourth-best North American skater but finished 12th.

Gauthier was thought of as a potential top-10 pick at one point, but now some outlets have him going in the early 20s. Still, he has tools to be a successful NHL player.

He's big, strong and scores a ton of goals. Playing for Val d'Or this season, Gauthier scored an estimated 2.319 goals per 60 minutes and finished with 41 goals in 54 games.

The 18-year-old models his game after the Rangers' Rick Nash and Ducks' Ryan Getzlaf, both skilled power forwards in the league. His game should translate well to the next level.

Draft projection: Could be an option for the Flyers at 18, though they didn't interview him at the combine but that doesn't mean much. Gauthier likely will go between 17-23.

4. Alex Debrincat, 5-7/163, Erie (OHL)
Some teams may be scared off by his size, but Debrincat is a pure sniper. He finished with back-to-back 51-goal seasons playing for the Erie Otters in the OHL.

Debrincat didn't have the best world juniors, as he was kicked out of one game, benched in another and didn't get consistent top-line exposure with Canada. But he's an elite scorer.

The 5-foot-7, 163-pound winger has great offensive instincts and his skillset should offset his size. There have been many small players who produce in the NHL.

In each of the last two seasons, Debrincat's 51 goals led all of the CHL.

Draft projection: Mid-to-late 20s. Could see Florida taking the bet on him on at 23.

5. Vitalii Abramov, 5-9/175, Gatineau (QMJHL)
Another smaller winger who interviewed with the Flyers at the combine last weekend.

Abramov is a skilled winger who backchecks well and works hard. He's a plus skater with the ability to accelerate to full speed quickly, and has soft hands.

He's not quite a first-round talent, but he could turn into a top-six player in the second round. The Russian scored 38 goals and 93 points in 63 games with Gatineau this season.

Draft projection: Mid-second round.

Rounding out the Top 10
6. Nathan Bastian, 6-4/205, Mississauga (NCAA)
7. Taylor Raddysh, 6-1/203, Erie (OHL)
8. Carl Grundstrom, 6-0/190, MODO (SHL)
9. Vladimir Kuznetsov, 6-1/214, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
10. Joey Anderson, 5-11/175, USNTDP (USHL)

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