We have officially hit the dog days of summer. With a handful of free agents remaining and not a lot of NHL action happening overall, now is as good a time as any to take a deep dive into the top 100 prospects at every position. We will start with defensemen. Overall, the list of defensive prospects coming up in the NHL is an exciting bunch. Gone are the days of slow, defensive defensemen. Skill dominates the list below, and don’t be suprised to see many of the top 100 in the NHL as soon as next season.
1. Cale Makar (Colorado Avalanche) 5’11” 190 HE 41-16-33-49-31
Makar was the 4th overall pick back in 2017. If he hadn’t spent his last year in the AJHL (a low-level Canadian junior league), he might have gone first (there was a rumor the Devils heavily considered him, but went with Nico Hischier instead). Makar is a dynamic skater, one of the best of recent NHL prospects. As a sophomore last season at UMass-Amherst, Makar averaged more than a point-per-game and took his team the NCAA Frozen Four Final. Makar is an excellent passer and is a beast at zone entries and puck carrying. Makar played for the Avalanche in the playoffs last season after his NCCA season ended, and he looked incredible. Look for him to star in the NHL next season.
2. Bowen Byram (Colorado Avalanche) 6’0″ 193 WHL 67-26-45-71-80
It is extremely rare that an NHL team has the top two prospects at any position, but here we are. The Colorado Avalanche received the 4th overall pick in last year’s draft thanks to the Matt Duchene trade a few years back. As the draft fell last season, the Avalanche were able to nab Byram. Byram is a similar player to Makar in many facets. As a 17 year-old, he scored 26 goals in the WHL and set records all season long. Like Makar, Byram is a play-driven defenseman and single-handedly led his WHL team to the Finals. Byram is a dynamic offensive player who can rush the puck or make a stretch pass look simple. He may play in the NHL next season.
3. Quinn Hughes (Vancouver Canucks) 5’10” 170 BIG-10 32-5-28-33-16
Hughes is your prototypical modern defenseman in today’s game. At 5’10” 170, Hughes is small in stature. However, this seemingly has an adverse influence on his game. Hughes is a dynamic skater and has elite offensive instincts. He has not put up high goal totals playing for Michigan in the NCAA, but Hughes uses his speed to elude the opposition and create plays for himself and teammates. Hughes is a play driver and is excellent at zone entries. He finished the season in the NHL with the Canucks and is slotted in their top 4 for next season.
4. Evan Bouchard (Edmonton Oilers) 6’3″ 195 OHL 45-16-37-53-40
Bouchard began the season in the NHL with the Oilers and didn’t look out of place in limited minutes. The 10th overall pick in 2018 was considered by many to be the best passer in the draft, and it showed again in the OHL last season. Bouchard projects as a two-way defender who plays well in his own zone and can contribute offensively. Bouchard also has goal totals and plays the point on the powerplay, a skill that will project well at the NHL level. Look for Bouchard to be in the Oilers’ top 4 at the beginning of next season.
5. Noah Dobson (New York Islanders) 6’3″ 185 QMJHL 56-15-37-52-60
All Dobson does is win. Two seasons in a row, on two different teams, Dobson led his franchises to Memorial Cup wins. While winning helps a player’s self-confidence, it is Dobson’s speed and two-way ability that has him stand out as a top-5 defensive prospect. The 12th overall pick in 2018 uses his big frame to his advantage. Dobson has an excellent reach and uses it to his advantage defensively. His offensive numbers dipped a bit last season, but it is isn’t a worry, especially considering he averaged over a point-per-game in the QMJHL playoffs. Dobson has nothing left to prove at the junior level and will likely start next season in the NHL. He projects as a top-4 two-way defender.
6. Erik Bannstrom (Ottawa Senators) 5’10” 173 AHL 50-7-25-32-36
Bannstrom took the AHL by storm last year as a 19-year-old. He did not look out of place on an excellent Chicago Wolves team during the first half of the season. Bannstrom is small in stature but uses his excellent mobility and speed to make plays. He possesses an excellent first pass and has elite hockey sense. Look for Bannstrom to crack the Senators’ lineup next season and play in their top 4.
7. Adam Boqvist (Chicago Blackhawks) 6’0″ 181 OHL 54-20-40-60-12
Boqvist made a relatively seamless jump to the OHL last season from Sweden. The 8th overall pick in the 2018 by the Chicago Blackhawks, Boqvist put up excellent numbers on a loaded London Knights roster. Boqvist projects as an offensive defenseman. More of a passer than a puck-carrier, Boqvist uses his quick feet to get out of high traffic. He possesses an excellent first pass and has a deceptive shot. Boqvist will likely need one more year of play, either in the OHL or AHL before making the jump to the NHL.
8. Ty Smith (New Jersey Devils) 5’11” 177 WHL 57-7-62-69-33
Smith is another in a long list of small skilled defenders who are NHL ready. Smith has spent the last few seasons in the WHL playing for Spokane. Smith has put up excellent numbers in every season there, averaging over a point per game in the last two. Smith may not possess the same elite offensive instincts of other prospects, but he is known for making the “right” play almost always. Whether on the powerplay or in his own zone, Smith uses his speed and elite hockey sense to break up plays and create offense. He was the WHL Defenseman of the Year last season as well. The 17th overall pick in 2018 may play some NHL games for the Devils next season.
9. Dante Fabbro (Nashville Predators) 6’0″ 190 HE 38-7-26-33-39
Leave it to the Predators to have yet another top notch defensive prospect. Fabbro, the 17th pick in the 2016 draft, spent the last three seasons playing for Boston University. In each of these seasons, Fabbro showed steady development and improvement. Fabbro does everything well and projects as a top-4 two-way defender. Fabbro is unlikely to be a big offensive producer at the NHL level, but likely a steady 30 points, 20 minute a night player. Fabbro played a handful of games for the Predators at the end of last season, and his excellent play helped make P.K. Subban expendable. Look for Fabbro to play big minutes in the Preds top 4 next season.
10. Rasmus Sandin (Toronto Maple Leafs) 5’11” 183 AHL 44-6-22-28-16
Similar to Bannstrom, Sandin burst onto the AHL scene as a teenager last season, and he did not disappoint. The 29th pick in the 2018 Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs played 44 games for the Toronto Marlies, where he played top 4 minutes as an 19 year-old last season. Sandin projects as a two-way defender who uses his mobility and speed to break up plays and create offense. Sandin’s confidence with the puck is uncanny, and he showed time and time again last season a willingness to hold onto the puck to make an elite offensive play. Sandin will likely play at least one more year in the AHL before regularly playing in the NHL.
11. Cam York (Philadelphia Flyers) 5’11” 175 USHL 62-14-51-65-16
York set records last season for the U.S. National Development Program. Playing on a loaded roster, York had the privilege of being the top defender, receiving minutes in all situations last season. York is small but skilled. He has excellent hockey sense and isn’t afraid to rush the puck. York boasts all the skills of a top 4 offensive defenseman. York will play in the NCAA next season and will need 2-3 years of development before making the NHL jump.
12. Adam Fox (New York Rangers) 5’10” 185 ECAC 33-9-39-48-14
Fox is a prospect teams and prospects have had an eye for a while now. After being drafted by the Calgary Flames, he was packaged in a trade to the Carolina Hurricanes. After being unable to sign him to a contract, the Hurricanes shipped him to the New York Rangers, Fox’s destination of choice. Fox is already penciled in the Rangers top 4 for next season. Blessed with elite hockey sense and an uncanny passing ability, Fox averaged over a point-per-game last season for Harvard University. Fox projects as an offensive minded top 4 blue liner at the NHL level and will play key minutes for the Rangers next season.
13. Alexander Romanov (Montreal Canadiens) 5’11” 185 KHL 43-1-3-4-12
Romanov was the steal of the 2018 draft. A relative unknown, many were surprised the Canadiens picked him in the 2nd round. However, as an 19 year-old in the KHL last season, Romanov did not look out of place, and he dominated at the World Junior Championship against his peers. Romanov is your protypical, modern day defender. He uses his speed to create space for himself and create plays offensive. His mobility and quick feet help him get out of danger in his own zone. Romanov will likely play another year in the KHL, but look for him to be in North America as early as the 2020-2021 season.
14. Juuso Valimaki (Calgary Flames) 6’2″ 212 AHL 20-4-10-14-18
Valimaki began last season in the NHL, playing third-pairing minutes for the Calgary Flames. However, the Flames recognized that he needed to play more minutes to help in his development, and so Valimaki spent 20 games in the AHL where he put up decent offensive numbers for a first year pro. Valimaki plays a strong two-way game. He is an average skater, but an excellent passer and has great offensive and defensive instincts. Look for Valimaki to make the Flames next season in a bottom pairing role.
15. D Victor Soderstrom (Arizona Coyotes) 5’11” 187 SWEHL 44-4-3-7-22
I have written at length about Soderstrom. The 11th overall pick in the 2019 draft projects as a top 4 two-way defender. He is likely two years away from NHL duty.
16. Thomas Harley (Dallas Stars) 6’3″ 188 OHL 68-11-47-58-24
Harley, the 19th pick by the Dallas Stars in last year’s draft, was one of the most improved draft eligible prospects last season. Harley projects as second pairing, offensive-minded defender. Look for him to make the NHL jump in two seasons.
17. Moritz Seider (Detroit Red Wings) 6’4″ 183 DEL 29-2-4-6-8
Seider was the surprise pick of the 2019 draft, going to the Red Wings at #6. Seider possesses all the tools to be a top 4 defender. He boasts a big, strong frame and decent foot speed. He did not look out of place playing in Germany’s top league as a teenager. If all goes according to plan, Seider will likely bump up this list significantly next season. He is probably a few years away from NHL duty.
18. D Philip Broberg (Edmonton Oilers) 6’3″ 203 SWE-1 44-2-7-9-14
Similar to Seider, Broberg has all the tools to be a top 4 defender at the NHL level. Broberg boasts a big frame and excellent speed. Last season, he showed moments of brilliance but overall was inconsistent. Broberg’s biggest question is his hockey sense. Time will tell if he was a stretch to be picked by 8 by the Oilers. However, his skill set still makes him an intriguing prospect.
19. Ville Heinola (Winnipeg Jets) 5’10” 176 FIN 34-2-12-14-26
Heinola is another in a long list of small skilled blue-liners. Heinola put up decent numbers playing in Finland’s top league last season. He projects as a two-way, second pairing defender at the NHL level. He is likely three years away from regular NHL duty.
20. K’Andre Miller (New York Rangers) 6’3″ 206 BIG-10 26-5-17-22-18
Miller was injured for a good portion of last season, but was excellent when healthy. At 6’3″ 206, Miller has the build of an NHL ready defender. He also possesses excellent speed and strength. In his first year at Wisconsin, Miller put up excellent offensive numbers. Miller will likely need at least one more year of development before making the jump to the NHL for the New York Rangers.
21. Bode Wilde (New York Islanders) 6’3″ 190 OHL 62-19-51-70-38
Wilde was a polarizing prospect in the 2018 draft, and he dropped to the Islanders in the second round. However, Wilde turned it around a bit last season. At 6’3″ 190, Wilde was always viewed as having the physical tools necessary to be a top 4 NHL defender. However, scouts were unsure of his overall skill set and work ethic. That changed this season. Playing for Saginaw in the OHL, Wilde averaged over a point per game and was Saginaw’s top player. Wilde is likely still two years away from NHL duty, but has increased his stock with his play of late.
22. Ryan Merkley (San Jose Sharks) 5’11” 163 OHL 63-14-57-71-66
Similar to Wilde, Merkley can be a polarizing prospect. Based on talent alone, Merkley is likely a top 10 defender on this list. Merkley has elite puck skills and vision. However, his work ethic and character have been questioned at times. Still, Merkley’s skills are undeniable. With 71 points in 63 games, he showed he can put up elite offensive numbers. Merkley is likely 2-3 years away from NHL duty.
23. Nic Beaudin (Chicago Blackhawks) 5’11” 175 QMJHL 53-7-49-56-48
Beaudin, the 27th pick in the 2018 draft, once again put up over a point-per-game in the QMJHL hockey league. Beaudin is again another modern defender. He is offensive minded and loves to rush the puck. Beaudin projects as a second-pairing offensive minded defender at the NHL level. He is likely 2-3 years away.
24. Nils Lundqvist (New York Rangers) 5’11” 180 SWEHL 41-3-7-10-7
Lundqvist is yet another Rangers’ prospect on this list. The 28th pick in 2018, Lundqvist played in Sweden’s top league and didn’t disappoint. Lundqvist projects as a second-pairing two-way defender. He needs to improve his offensive consistency, but he has time considering the Rangers prospect pool.
25. Alex Alexeyev (Washington Capitals) 6’3″ 200 WHL 49-10-33-43-34
Alexeyev has adjusted well to the North American game, playing two solid years in the WHL. Alexeyev, the 31st pick in the 2018 draft, plays a solid two way game. He uses his size well and has developed decently on a strong Red Deer Rebels squad. Alexeyev is still likely a few years away from NHL duty, but may be a strong second pairing defender.
26. Ian Mitchell (Chicago Blackhawks) 5’11” 173 NCHC 39-6-21-27-18
Mitchell is the third Blackhawk on this list and is rumored to maybe sign with the Hawks this summer. Mitchell has played for Denver in the NCAA the last few seasons and has dominated. Mitchell projects as a second-pairing defender with some offensive upside. IF he doesn’t sign this summer, he may see some NHL games in 2020-2021.
27. Dmitri Samorukov (Edmonton Oilers) 6’2″ 180 OHL 59-10-35-45-20
Samorukov might be a bit of a surprise to some ranked this high on a list of this nature, but his play in the OHL playoffs proved he is a top defensive prospect. Samorukov came over from Russia a few years ago and was a top pairing defender for the powerhouse Guelph Griffins of the OHL. Samorukov can do it all and even plays a physical game. He is likely a second-pair defender at the NHL level and is a year or so away.
28. Jake Bean (Carolina Hurricanes) 6’1″ 186 AHL 70-13-31-44-26
Bean has been on the prospect radar for a while now. He always puts up excellent offensive numbers, which puts him in our top 30 on this list. Bean isn’t a great skater, and at times, he is a defensive liability. However, his powerplay prowess and puckmoving ability make him a 4/5 defenseman at the NHL level. He saw two games in the NHL last season and may play some NHL next season.
29. Vlad Gavrikov (Columbus Blue Jackets) 6’3″ 205 KHL 60-5-15-20-10
Gavrikov is one of the oldest prospects on this list. After spending the last few seasons playing top minutes in the KHL in Russia, Gavrikov signed with the Blue Jackets and even played in two playoff games. Gavrikov is a late-bloomer, but he is likely to play top 4 minutes in the NHL next season. He projects as a 4/5 NHL defender.
30. Phil Myers (Philadelphia Flyers) 6’5″ 210 AHL 53-9-24-33-78
Myers, an undrafted free agent, ended the year in the NHL and is likely to pick right back up where he left off. Myers has proven he can put up points and be a strong two-way defender at any level. He will likely be eased into regular NHL duty as a third pairing defender for the Flyers next season.
31. Nic Hague (Vegas Golden Knights) 6’6 215 AHL 75-13-19-32-38
32. Connor Timmins (Colorado Avalanche) 6’2 184 AHL injured- did not play
33. Timothy Liljegren (Toronto Maple Leafs) 6’0 192 AHL 43-3-12-15-18
34. Anttoni Honka (Carolina Hurricanes) 5’9 170 FIN 27-3-5-8-12
35. Sean Durzi (Los Angeles Kings) 6’0 187 OHL 35-11-26-37-25
36. Josh Brook (Montreal Canadiens) 6’1 192 WHL 59-16-59-75-89
37. Ryan Johnson (Buffalo Sabres) 6’0 173 USHL 54-6-19-25-26
38. Lassi Thomson (Ottawa Senators) 6’0 190 WHL 63-17-24-41-40
39. Tobias Bjornfot (Los Angeles Kings) 6’0 205 SWEHL 7-0-0-0-2
40. Vlad Kolyachonok (Florida Panthers) 6’1 184 OHL 53-4-25-29-44
41. Jared McIsaac (Detroit Red Wings) 6’1 191 QMJHL 53-16-46-62-56
42. Dylan Samberg (Los Angeles Kings) 6’4 215 NCHC 39-7-12-19-35
43. Josh Mahura (Anaheim Ducks) 6’0 192 AHL 40-1-18-19-10
44. Mike Anderson (Los Angeles Kings) 6’0 196 NCHC 40-6-21-27-18
45. Cal Foote (Tampa Bay Lightning) 6’4 221 AHL 76-10-21-31-53
46. Jett Woo (Vancouver Canucks) 6’0 203 WHL 62-12-54-66-70
47. Jacob Bernard-Docker (Ottawa Senators) 6’0 181 NCHC 36-5-12-17-6
48. Caleb Jones (Edmonton Oilers) 6’1 194 AHL 50-6-23-29-28
49. Olli Juolevi (Vancouver Canucks) 6’3 200 AHL 18-1-12-13-2
50. Mikko Kokkanen (Toronto Maple Leafs) 5’10 190 FIN 56-3-16-19-20
51. Artemi Kniazev (San Jose Sharks) 5’11 178 QMJHL 55-13-21-34-32
52. Sebastian Aho (New York Islanders) 5’10 170 AHL 67-9-37-46-36
53. Ethan Bear (Edmonton Oilers) 5’11 197 AHL 52-6-25-31-34
54. Okasari Laaksonen (Buffalo Sabres) 6’2 165 FIN 46-3-21-24-36
55. Kale Clague (Los Angeles Kings) 6’0 177 AHL 52-7-22-29-34
56. Riley Walsh (New Jersey Devils) 6’0 185 ECAC 33-12-19-31-12
57. Libor Hajek (New York Rangers) 6’2 204 AHL 58-0-5-5-36
58. Joey Keane (New York Rangers) 6’0 181 OHL 66-8-31-39-103
59. Mac Hollowell (Toronto Maple Leafs) 5’10 163 OHL 64-24-53-77-62
60. Calen Addison (Pittsburgh Penguins) 5’10 180 WHL 67-11-54-65-52
61. P-O Joseph (Pittsburgh Penguins) 6’2 170 QMJHL 62-9-38-47-62
62. Matt Robertson (New York Rangers) 6’3 201 WHL 52-7-26-33-26
63. Scott Perunovich (St. Louis Blues) 5’9 165 NCHC 39-3-26-29-32
64. Kaedan Korczak (Vegas Golden Knights) 6’3 192 WHL 68-4-29-33-64
65. Alex Vlasic (Chicago Blackhawks) 6’6 200 USHL 61-4-23-27-40
66. Kevin Bahl (Arizona Coyotes) 6’6 236 OHL 68-6-28-34-87
67. Brendan Guhle (Anaheim Ducks) 6’2 196 AHL 50-5-22-27-34
68. Kyle Capobianco (Arizona Coyotes) 6’1 196 AHL 40-7-25-32-51
69. Jayden Struble (Montreal Canadiens) 6’0 205 USHSE 28-10-30-40-4
70. Chase Priskie (Free Agent) 6’0 192 ECAC 36-17-22-39-23
71. Robin Salo (New York Islanders) 6’1 187 FIN 57-4-12-16-20
72. Mattias Samuelsson (Buffalo Sabres) 6’4 218 NCHC 35-5-7-12-37
73. Ygor Rykov (New York Rangers) 6’2 205 KHL 47-3-6-9-8
74. Wyatt Kalynuk (Philadelphia Flyers) 6’1 180 BIG10 37-9-16-25-32
75. Filip Westerlund (Arizona Coyotes) 5’11 180 SWEHL 23-3-1-4-6
76. Lucas Carlsson (Chicago Blackhawks) 6’0 190 AHL 69-9-24-33-34
77. Drew Helleson (Colorado Avalanche) 6’3 193 USHL 64-5-18-23-28
79. Drew Fensore (Carolina Hurricanes) 5’7 151 USHL 55-6-36-42-26
80. Gustav Lidstrom (Detroit Red Wings) 6’2 187 SWEHL 40-3-3-6-50
81. Axel Andersson (Boston Bruins) 6’0 178 SWE-1 41-0-5-5-20
82. Phil Kemp (Edmonton Oilers) 6’3 200 ECAC 30-3-5-8-35
83. Mario Ferraro (San Jose Sharks) 5’10 190 HE 41-2-12-14-23
84. Max Gildon (Florida Panthers) 6’3 191 HE 31-6-15-21-45
85. John Marino (Edmonton Oilers) 6’2 181 ECAC 33-3-8-11-20
86. Cameron Crotty (Arizona Coyotes) 6’2 190 HE 38-5-5-10-33
87. Filip Johansson (Minnesota Wild) 6’1 176 SWE1 47-1-3-4-28
88. Alex Carrier (Nashville Predators) 5’11 174 AHL 76-5-32-37-47
89. Jordan Spence (Los Angeles Kings) 5’10 164 QMJHL 68-6-43-49-18
90. Samuel Bolduc (New York Islanders) 6’4 210 QMJHL 64-9-28-37-27
91. Simon Lundmark (Winnipeg Jets) 6’2 197 SWEHL 28-0-3-3-6
92. Ryan Lindgren (New York Rangers) 6’0 201 AHL 65-0-12-12-94
93. Jack St. Ivany (Philadelphia Flyers) 6’2 195 ECAC 30-6-8-14-20
94. Jeremy Roy (San Jose Sharks) 6’0 185 AHL 58-6-15-21-18
95. Slava Demin (Vegas Golden Knights) 6’2 190 NCHC 41-4-10-14-14
96. Adam Ginning (Philadelphia Flyers) 6’3 196 SWEHL 48-1-4-5-49
97. Lucas Johansen (Washington Capitals) 6’2 182 AHL 45-3-11-14-22
98. Logan Stanley (Winnipeg Jets) 6’7 228 AHL 73-6-16-22-70
99. Jakob Zboril (Boston Bruins) 6’0 200 AHL 56-4-15-19-38
100. Johnny Tychonick (Ottawa Senators) 6’0 173 NCHC 28-0-4-4-14