Matthews, Tkachuk atop NHL Central Scouting Bureau's mid-season prospect rankings
The 2016 NHL Draft lottery's prize appears to be American forward Auston Matthews.
An 18-year-old center playing in Switzerland this season, Matthews headlines the NHL Central Scouting Bureau's mid-season international rankings list. Another American, Matthew Tkachuk, leads the list of North American skaters.
Top 5 international skaters
"Matthews is the best prospect available for the 2016 draft," according to NHL director of central scouting Dan Marr. "I don't believe his play and success this season has surprised NHL scouts, yet it remained to be seen if he would be able to meet expectations. And to date he has shown the hockey world what he is all about."
Matthews had seven goals and four assists in seven games at the World Junior Hockey Championship, showcasing his immense talents and winning a bronze medal. He has an even more impressive 19 goals and 32 points in 26 games with Zurich in the Swiss League - a men's league, it must be noted. His 1.23 points-per-game ranks second.
Finland, which won gold on home soil at the WJHC, is represented well. Jesse Puljujarvi and Patrik Laine had a combined 30 points in 14 games at the tournament, and Puljujarvi was named the best forward and MVP.
"He's big, mobile, skilled, an all-around winger who can score and pass," said NHL director of European scouting Goran Stubb.
Top 5 North American skaters
Tkachuk sits fifth in the OHL in scoring, with 63 points (15 goals) in 33 games. He's on a powerhouse London Knights team that features Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Mitch Marner (64 points in 30 games) and Christian Dvorak, a 2014 second-round pick of the Arizona Coyotes.
"It was unanimous that Tkachuk was first overall on the North American list," said Marr. "He has met and exceeded expectations and continues to excel with London ... Matthew is unique in that he brings a skilled and physical package combination to game situations in which he consistently contributes and impacts."
Tkachuk is the son of former NHL power forward Keith Tkachuk.
Alexander Nylander is the brother of another Maple Leafs prospect, William Nylander, and he impressed at the WJHC as well, scoring four goals and adding five assists for Sweden in seven games.
Carter Hart of the WHL's Everett Silvertips is the top-ranked North American goalie prospect. He has a .927 save percentage in 40 games.
Sweden's Filip Gustavsson is the top-ranked international goaltender. He had a .930 save percentage in five games at the 2015-16 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
The NHL Draft will take place June 24-25 in Buffalo.