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Three T-Birds crack NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings

Sami Moilanen had 44 points in 70 regular season games and has five points in six playoff contests. (T-Birds photo)

On Tuesday morning, NHL Central Scouting released their final rankings for prospects eligible for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

Three T-Birds made the list led by Jarret Tyszka, who finished ranked No. 41 among North American skaters. He was joined by Sami Moilanen, who was ranked No. 110, and Matthew Wedman, who cracked the list at No. 210.

Tyszka saw a big jump in production in his second season with the T-Birds, registering 25 points on six goals and 19 assists, up from six points during his 16-year-old rookie season.

For the second straight year, however, Tyszka missed significant time due to injury. He missed a quarter of the team’s regular season games due to upper-body injuries, suiting up for 54 contests after playing in just 48 as a rookie, when he missed two months due to a hand injury. Perhaps most unfortunate for Tyszka was that one of his injuries this season coincided with the Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, a great opportunity to gain visibility against other top prospects that he was forced to miss.

Still, Tyszka was able to show improvement in all areas of his game. Aside from the increase in total points, his points per game increased from 0.13 to 0.46. His plus/minus rating jumped from a minus-one as a rookie to a plus-five in his sophomore campaign. So far in the playoffs, Tyszka has three points in six games. During last season’s run to the WHL Championship, he had one assist in 18 games.

Moilanen’s final ranking is perhaps the most shocking of the three Thunderbirds listed. The native of Finland is undersized at 5-foot-8 and about 180 pounds which no doubt has some scouts shying away.

Despite his stature, Moilanen has made fantastic contributions to the T-Birds lineup this season and is one of the players that you can point to when comparing how this year’s depth is even better than last year’s. His adjustment to the North American game was brief as he registered 43 points in 70 games, demonstrating offensive ability as well as the durability that should, in theory, help scouts overlook his lack of height.

But for Moilanen, the biggest contributions we’ve seen all season are those that haven’t come on the scoresheet. He’s been outstanding on the forecheck and played almost all year on Seattle’s best defensive line. He and Nolan Volcan, who also suffered in the draft rankings last year due to his size, have been consistent contributors despite playing with numerous different centers during the season. He’s a plus-six on the season, usually while facing the opposition’s best scoring line, and scored 35 of his 43 points while at even strength or shorthanded.

The playoffs are offering Moilanen a chance to turn even more heads as he’s been outstanding in registering five points in six games, is a plus-six and has shown no hesitation in continuing to assert his style of play against two very good and very different teams.

As for Wedman, the playoffs are perhaps the biggest for him when it comes to his draft stock. Listed at No. 210 among North American skaters, it’s very possible that he could be passed over entirely in this draft. Unfortunately for Wedman, he missed the majority of the second half of the season with a lower-body injury. As a result, he played in only 48 regular season games and registered 20 points. Just six of those points came in 2017 when Wedman played in 12 games.

So far in the playoffs, Wedman has one goal and no assists in six games. He’s become a crucial part of the T-Birds’ depth, lining up on the third line, now with Alexander True and Tyler Adams, and providing a scoring threat past the top two lines that can’t be overlooked. Wedman has good size at 6-foot-3 and almost 200 pounds, so he projects well as a power forward if he can stay healthy. Having an increased role next season, whether he gets drafted this year or not, could go a long way in showing what his professional future may look like.

Whatever the future holds for the Edmonton, Alta. native, he’ll be immortalized in Thunderbirds lore for his Game 4 double overtime goal in last season’s Western Conference Championship that sent the T-Birds to the league final. Wedman has two career postseason goals and each was a game-winner. Wedman’s knack for clutch goals will surely have plenty of opportunities to present itself in the remainder of the playoffs and beyond, something that would surely please scouts.

Looking at the rest of the U.S. Division, the Tri-City Americans have seven players listed, Portland has five, Spokane has four and Everett has zero. We’ve talked extensively about how bright the futures are for Tri-City and Spokane in particular and their NHL prospects would confirm that.

Last year, no T-Birds were taken in the NHL Draft. Only Turner Ottenbreit, who was actually 18 and in his second year of draft eligibility, cracked Central Scouting’s final rankings at No. 174. Volcan, who was listed at No. 206 in the midterm rankings, was an honorable mention. Both should continue to be watched closely by scouts as they’ve shown marked improvement from last season. Ottenbreit led the Western Conference with a plus-45, also while playing against the opponent’s best scorers, and registered 32 points, three more than he had in his previous three WHL seasons combined. Volcan set career-highs in points (44), plus/minus (plus-13) and penalty minutes (71).

2015 was one of the best years in Seattle history as far as the NHL Draft is concerned with four players selected. Those four spearhead the team this season in what is likely their final WHL campaign. Mathew Barzal (No. 11), Keegan Kolesar (No. 65), Ryan Gropp (No. 71) and Ethan Bear (No. 97) all made the final rankings among North American skaters and heard their name called at the draft.

NHL Central Scouting’s full prospect rankings for 2017 can be seen here.