The 2017 NHL draft class is without the fanfare of the prior two seasons, due to the lack of bona fide elite prospects at the very top of the class. That doesn't mean the class is devoid of talent, but everything gets shifted downward without a player such as Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews available for the taking.
Without a true top talent or two, players who would usually be selected Nos. 3-6 go at the top, players who would normally go in the teens are in the discussion in the top 10, and so on throughout the first round. The result is a draft class that is projected to be below average.
Although discussions with many sources in the industry take place to gather information, the rankings, profiles and analysis are completely my own and reflect my opinion of who I believe the top prospects in the draft class are. These might differ from the industry -- at times in a significant manner. This is not a projection of what will transpire on draft day in Chicago; for that, be sure to check out my forthcoming mock draft.
This is a forward-heavy draft class. My board contains four defensemen in the top 20, but I know of some NHL teams with just two or three in that range. If that ends up being the case on draft night, it would be one of the most severe forward-to-defensemen ratios of the past few decades. It could also mean teams that want to pick a rearguard may have to be aggressive to nab one of the few dynamic talents.
In terms of a breakdown by nations, after several very strong years by USA Hockey, including the first overall pick last season, this looks to be a softer crop for America. While Canada is heavily represented at the top of the board, this is also a mild down year by their standards. What is particularly noteworthy is that for a second straight season, Canada has not produced a true elite prospect. Finland has its second consecutive impressive prospect group. It's not of the Patrik Laine-Jesse Puljujarvi-Olli Juolevi caliber like last season, but this has been a great recent cycle for Finnish hockey.
The tiers on this draft class is as follows. The top five players for me are the first tier, followed by another drop off at 14.
Rankings updated as of June 21