Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. As we go through the 2023-24 season, our LWOS Prospects Writers will bring you 2024 draft class profiles and various other articles. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow Ben Kerr, Kyle Pereira and Frederik Frandson on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Today, we have the second part of our first 2024 NHL draft rankings!

2024 NHL Draft Rankings: Part Two (6-10)

6) Trevor Connelly, Centre, USHL

Connelly, an electric centre who plays for the Tri-City Storm in the USHL, is coming off of a season in which he scored 47 points in 57 games as a rookie. He then opened this season with a 10-point Hlinka-Gretzky Cup performance, across five games. Now, after 20 USHL games, Connelly has posted eight goals and 18 assists for 26 points, projecting to finish with close to 80 total points this year. With that, he was ranked fourth (Kyle), sixth (Fred) and 10th (Ben) by the  LWOS prospect crew.

Connelly is a speedster, not only able to burn defenders in a straight line dash into the offensive zone, but also able to catch defenders off guard with elite-level edges. He can change speeds to keep defenders guessing, and change directions on a dime. That skating ability alone makes him a threat with the puck, as he is able to create space for himself constantly. He pairs that skating with high-end creativity and a very impressive ability to manipulate defenders into opening up the slot for him. With that, he can attack himself or find teammates in high-danger areas. He’s a zone entry machine and can generate scoring chances off the rush in his sleep.

However, he is another example of an all gas, no breaks kind of player. He forces passes a bit too often and tries to do too much on his own. Additionally, he has been a bit of a liability in his own end at times. Learning to slow down and be at least a little bit more engaged defensively could go a long way for him unlocking his potential.

7) Berkly Catton, Centre, WHL

Catton, who comes in at seventh on the LWOS board, was actually ranked seventh on every single board on our team. Last season, the Spokane Chiefs young star produced 55 points in 63 games as a rookie. This year, after just 27 games, he’s already closing in on that total. He has scored 19 goals and 22 assists for 41 points thus far, putting him on pace for close to 50 goals and over 100 points.

Catton is another high-end skater who can make defenders look dumb trying to defend him at times. Catton is another forward with incredible awareness and vision, with the ability to find teammates in high-danger. However, he doesn’t attack the slot quite as well, and it’s partly due to his size. Additionally, while his shot is accurate and can be lethal, he needs to add more power moving forward to be a more consistent threat as a shooter. But overall, he plays a complete game, defending well and not shying away from the physical side of the game, despite his smaller size. Could be someone who moves up the ranks over the course of the season, especially if he continues scoring the way he has.

8)  Artyom Levshunov, Right-Shot Defenceman, NCAA

The second defender on LWOS’s draft board, Levshunov has found a lot of early success in the NCAA. In just his second season in North America, he is a point-per-game player for Michigan State University. That comes one year after he scored 42 points in 62 USHL games with the Green Bay Gamblers, and made the USHL’s All-Rookie team. That earned him spots at sixth (Ben) and eighth (Kyle and Fred) from our team.

Levshunov has excellent skating traits, with well-documented four-way mobility. Levshunov displays that mobility most often in the offensive zone, walking the blueline and opening space for himself and teammates. That allows him to unleash a bomb of a shot, and decent passing abilities. While he is very involved offensively, and looks the part of a quarterback on the blueline, there are some minor concerns. For one, his shots do get blocked fairly often, limiting his impact as a shooter. And secondly, there are times he over commits to the offensive end, and makes it more difficult on himself to defend.

However, when he is back there and in position to defend, he is efficient. He plays very physically, engaging in corners and at net-front, using his full frame to move bodies. But similar to his offensive game, he can over commit to the physicality and draw himself out of position. Levshunov needs to reel in his overall game, but the potential is tantalising if he can figure those tendencies out.

9) Sam Dickinson, Left-Shot Defenceman, OHL

Coming in at number nine on our list is a defender who many believe is the top defender in the class. Our team had him ranked fourth (Ben), ninth (Kyle) and 14th (Fred), and that ultimately landed him just inside the top-10. Last year, as a rookie with the London Knights, Dickinson was able to produce 23 points in 62 games. This season, he has already matched that point total (seven goals, 16 assists) in just 29 games. That puts Dickinson on track to over 50 points, and close to 20 goals.

Dickinson is such a fun player to watch. For one, he is arguably the best skater in the draft class. He matches high-end speed with outstanding edges, an explosive first step, and phenomenal processing ability to find skating lanes and space with and without the puck. On the offensive end, he displays outstanding quarterbacking skills, able to flash some beautiful passing abilities and vision. Additionally, he has a dangerous shot if given the space. When transitioning up ice, he is a threat, with unbelievable skating and excellent smarts and timing.

Defensively, he plays an in-your-face style, often pinching up against the rush, and being effective in doing so. But what’s more impressive is the fact that he knows when he can and when he can’t pinch up. Just a brilliant hockey mind. However, he tends to get too cute in the offensive zone, leading to some bad turnovers. Additionally, there have been times where he is too casual with the puck in his own end, which will lead to costly turnovers at a higher level. Dickinson looks and feels a lot like Mikhail Sergachev, stylistically.

10) Anton Silayev, Left-Shot Defenceman, KHL

It’s not often people see a U-18 player getting a role at the KHL level. Silayev is that rare exception. The absolute specimen on the back-end, Silayev stands at a menacing 6’7” and 207 pounds. Last season, he finished with 41 games played in the MHL, scoring just two goals and six assists for eight points. Across 39 games thus far, against men in the KHL, consisting of former NHL players, he has 10 points. Just an impressive step forward from the giant young star. It’s led to him being ranked ninth (Fred), 10th (Kyle) and 12th (Ben) by our crew.

While his size is daunting, it’s his skating that really stands out. Regardless of size, he is an excellent skater. His strides are long and powerful, and he can close down gaps rapidly. But the power and shocking speed isn’t the only thing that stands out. It’s his ability to smoothly open his hips to change angles and direction when skating. Add in the fact he has been trusted by KHL coaches, which is historically very rare, and one has to wonder why he isn’t considered higher up the rankings at this point.

It comes down to his decision-making with the puck, and a bit of an over-aggressive gap when defending the rush. He isn’t a totally dominant physical player at this point, but he can get a bit too tight on his gaps at times. Watch Victor Hedman closely, and see how he gives a bit more room and uses his long reach as opposed to his body, avoiding the potential of getting beaten wide. If Silayev can improve a bit more on his gaps, add more of a physical element of his game, and work on his puck skills, the sky’s the limit. He is the definition of a “Unicorn” in this sport.

 

Click here for part one (1-5)

Main Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

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