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FOUR WHEAT KINGS ON FINAL NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKINGS

(Story by Mike Morreale / NHL.com Staff Writer)

Brandon center Nolan Patrick is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters for the 2017 NHL Draft.

NHL Central Scouting revealed its final list of the top North American skaters and goaltenders, and top international skaters and goaltenders Tuesday.

Patrick (6-foot-2, 198 pounds), the son of former NHL player Steve Patrick and nephew of former NHL player James Patrick, is No. 1 despite missing 35 regular-season games because of an upper-body injury and all four WHL playoff games because of a lower-body injury.

[Full 2017 NHL Draft rankings]

His injury issues actually started during the 2016 WHL playoffs and he needed surgery in July to repair a sports hernia. He returned to play the first five games of the season but then left the lineup until Jan. 13. He returned and had 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in 33 games, but then was unavailable for Brandon in the 2017 WHL postseason.

Despite Patrick’s injury issues, he is the first WHL forward since Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Red Deer in 2011 to be No. 1 on Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters, and the first WHL player since defenseman Seth Jones of Portland in 2013.

“He’s got a good understanding of the game, has been taught good fundamentals from a young age,” said Matt Ryan of NHL Central Scouting. “There are a lot of guys who don’t seem to have that understanding of the effort it takes to play at a high level with and without the puck. Nolan Patrick does.”

Last season, Patrick was fifth in the WHL with 102 points (41 goals, 61 assists) in 72 regular-season games, and tied for the league postseason scoring lead with 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) in 21 games and was named the most valuable player of the WHL playoffs.

“He has more than proven over the last three years that he is the real deal and he will be an impact NHL player,” said Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting.

The No. 1 skater on Central Scouting’s international list is forward Klim Kostin (6-3, 196) of Dynamo Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League. Kostin had shoulder surgery performed in January and hasn’t played since. Like Patrick, Kostin proved in earlier viewings that he has the necessary tools to excel at the next level.

“[Kostin] is as close to a complete package with a good combination of size and mobility,” said Goran Stubb, European director of NHL Central Scouting.

Center Nico Hischier of Halifax in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is No. 2 among North American skaters, followed by center Casey Mittelstadt of Eden Prairie High School in Minnesota, center Gabriel Vilardi of Windsor in the Ontario Hockey League and center Michael Rasmussen of Tri-City (WHL).

“After Patrick and Hischier, the next few players are all projected to develop into solid NHL players and the line of separation between them is quite thin,” Marr said.

Patrick jersey

Hischier (6-1, 176) was 10th in the QMJHL with 86 points (38 goals, 48 assists) in 57 games and was named rookie of the year and best pro prospect in the league. What has scouts excited about Hischier is his exceptional hockey sense and ability as well as his willingness to throw a hit, dig for loose pucks and block shots.

Mittelstadt (6-1, 201) moved to No. 3 after being No. 5 on the midterm list. In addition to his high school team, he played with Green Bay in the United States Hockey League.

“He’s been an impact player in both the United States Hockey League and Minnesota high school ranks this year,” Marr said. “Mittelstadt possesses some elite skills and assets and the utilization of those to consistently impact and produce results in both these environments is quite impressive and a big reason why he has moved up in ranking.”

Mittelstadt averaged 2.56 points per game with his high school team and was named Mr. Hockey as the best senior player in Minnesota. He had 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) in 24 USHL games, and led the league with 1.25 points per game.

“Watching Mittelstadt play at the USA Select 17 Camp two seasons ago, he was clearly the most dominant player and his potential was evident,” said David Gregory of Central Scouting. “I hadn’t seen this type of dominance at this time of the season since Alex Galchenyuk several years earlier.”

Vilardi (6-3, 201) had 61 points (29 goals, 32 assists) in 49 OHL games. Rasmussen (6-6, 215) had 55 points (32 goals, 23 assists) in 50 WHL games prior to sustaining a season-ending wrist injury Feb. 1.

The highest-rated North American defenseman is right-shooting Cale Makar (5-11, 180) of Brooks in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Makar had 75 points (24 goals, 51 assists) in 54 games and was named the league’s best defenseman and best player. He’s No. 9 overall on the list.

The top North American goalie is Boston University freshman Jake Oettinger (6-4, 212), who was No. 3 in the midterm rankings. He led Hockey East with a 2.09 goals-against average in league games and became the ninth BU goaltender named to a Hockey East All-Star Team.

Keith Petruzzelli (6-5, 180) of Muskegon, who was No. 1 in the midterm ranking, is No. 2, followed by Ian Scott (6-3, 172) of Prince Albert (WHL).

Center Elias Pettersson (6-1, 165) of Timra in Sweden is No. 2 on Central Scouting’s final ranking of international skaters, followed by center Lias Andersson (5-11, 198) of HV 71 (SWE), defenseman Miro Heiskanen (6-0, 183) of HIFK in Finland, and center Martin Necas (6-1, 180) of Brno in Czech Republic.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (6-4, 196) of HPK in Finland is the No. 1 international goaltender, followed by Olle Eriksson-Ek (6-2, 196) of Farjestad (SWE) and Adam Ahman (6-0, 165) of HV 71 (SWE).

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