Lias Andersson is the center of attention in Sweden this season

Ryan Kennedy
Lias Andersson (photo courtesy of Rena Laverty/USA Hockey)

The 2017 NHL draft has a lot of fluidity to it right now. And yes, I recognize that the season hasn’t even started yet, but still: In 2016 we knew Auston Matthews would be on top, Jesse Puljujarvi wouldn’t be far behind and Matthew Tkachuk would be top-10.

Right now, we’ve got Brandon Wheat Kings center Nolan Patrick in front (though he’s recovering from sports hernia surgery) and then a whole lotta names in a blender. Maxime Comtois is a good one, as is Kristian Vesalainen and Eeli Tolvanen.

Sweden boasts a couple nice defensemen in Timothy Liljegren and Erik Brannstrom, but the player that really caught my eye this summer is center Lias Andersson. And Sweden’s world junior coach agrees with me.

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Detroit Red Wings have a “tank” in prospect Givani Smith

Givani Smith (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)

Givani Smith didn’t have an enviable situation in his draft year. The physical left winger played for literally one of the worst teams in all of major junior – the Guelph Storm – and watched coach Bill Stewart walk out on his troops after Guelph won just two of its first 27 games. But scouts saw Smith’s unique combination of brawn and skill and knew he’d be a good one. Detroit nabbed him in the second round this summer and now he’s already impressing NHLers.

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CWHL’s Blades select Kayla Tutino first overall, six countries represented at draft

Jared Clinton
Kayla Tutino and Boston Blades GM Krista Patronick (Courtesy CWHL)

Kayla Tutino has plied her trade with the NCAA’s Boston University Terriers for the past five seasons, and she’s staying put in Beantown to begin her professional career.

Tutino, 23, was taken first overall by the Boston Blades at the 2016 CWHL draft after an impressive season with the Terriers in 2015-16. Named the captain of the club ahead of the campaign, Tutino, a Montreal native, scored 11 goals and 30 points in 39 games to finish tied for 52nd in scoring. Over the course of her five-year stay with the Terriers, Tutino had notched 63 goals and 144 points in 164 games.

However, even with Tutino being taken first overall, she may not be the player who has the most immediate offensive impact.

Tutino’s 30 points were the third-most of players selected out of the NCAA, with Montreal’s first-round pick Sarah Lefort and Toronto third-round choice Michela Cava outproducing Tutino in 2015-16 with 35 and 38 points, respectively. The top scorer of the draft from the college ranks, though, was CIS standout Iya Gavrilova. Read more

Pittsburgh signs Thomas Di Pauli, still has a building advantage

Ryan Kennedy
Thomas Di Pauli (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed free agent center Thomas Di Pauli to a two-year entry-level contract, adding an asset to an organization that does not have a deep prospect pipeline right now. But here’s the thing: the Pens are staying in the NHL’s top echelon without a traditional building strategy and Di Pauli is part of that.

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Rumor Roundup: Bruins, Blackhawks, Rangers favorites for Jimmy Vesey

Jimmy Vesey. (Getty Images)

With the NHL off-season now in its dog days, notable trade and free-agent activity has slowed to a crawl. As a result, speculation over where promising free-agent prospect Jimmy Vesey could end up is garnering headlines.

Vesey, 23, is the 2016 Hobey Baker Award winner. Earlier this year, the Buffalo Sabres acquired his rights from the Nashville Predators in hopes of signing him to an entry-level contract. However, Vesey is eligible for unrestricted free agency on August 15 and intends to test the market.

For the past two months, it was believed the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs were front-runners for Vesey’s services. The college star is a Massachusetts native who grew up cheering for the Bruins. Meanwhile, his brother and father are employed by the Leafs.

As August 15 approaches, however, there are conflicting reports over where the Bruins and Leafs stand among the Vesey suitors.

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Kristian Vesalainen is Finland’s power forward threat for the 2017 draft

Kristian Vesalainen  (Photo by Tommy Holl/Frolunda Gothenburg/Champions Hockey League via Getty Images)

It’s impossible to watch Kristian Vesalainen right now and not get excited about where he’ll be once the world juniors roll around almost five months from now. Already 6-foot-3 and 203 pounds, Vesalainen has a gold medal under his belt from Finland’s world under-18s victory in North Dakota this past season and has already played against men in the SHL.

Yes, one of Finland’s best prospects is playing in Sweden.

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The top 40 players at the National Junior Evaluation Camp

Joel Eriksson-Ek (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

There was a lot of international talent in Plymouth, Michigan last week. Team USA hosted its summer National Junior Evaluation Camp (NJEC) in the town, with the dual purpose of seeing what the Americans have for the upcoming world juniors and facing great competition from Canada, Sweden and Finland.

In the end, Canada lost all three of its games, while the other nations went 2-1. Is that a concern for the Canucks, who host the world juniors in Toronto and Montreal this winter? Not so much. As coach Dominique Ducharme pointed out, it was August. There’s still a lot of hockey to be played and his charges hadn’t seen meaningful competition in months.

On the other hand, what do you say about players who had great performances in Michigan? Surely that says something about those teens’ preparation.

Here’s a look at the top 40 players that I saw in Michigan – with a caveat. I saw each team play twice and in the case of Canada and the U.S., sometimes I saw a player once or not at all. So I’m not going to rank those kids, as it wouldn’t be fair. That means players such as Pierre-Luc Dubois, Travis Konecny and Anthony Beauvillier aren’t eligible.

Others, such as Carl Grundstrom and Lucas Carlsson, got injured either before I got there or within the first few shifts.

So if you don’t see your favorite prospect here, that could be the reason. Or, they just didn’t distinguish themselves to me. Doesn’t mean they’re a bust, doesn’t mean I hate them. With that out of the way, let’s get to the list:

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