2008-Born Player Rankings January Update

Posted on Jordan Malette
Mathis Preston

The releases of the past 2008-born rankings have mainly been shuffling in the mid and tail end, while the top range remained relatively constant. Especially on the Canadian side, our focus has been on identifying players for the CHL drafts, naturally impacting the tail end of the ’08 rankings every month as we expand our OHL and QMJHL lists.

However, January was unique as the Youth Olympic Games allowed our team to assess the top of the class in a best-on-best setting. While not every player was present, it gave us a unique opportunity to compare, contrast, and cross-evaluate the top of the 2008 rankings, creating some interesting internal conversations and inevitable changes in our ranking. While there were certainly changes at various points of the list, dedicating this month's ranking update to mainly around the top of the class seems fitting.


A New #1 Canadian

Braidy Wassilyn previously sat at the top of the Canadian ranks, but it became rather obvious early in the Youth Olympic Games that there was a conversation to be had if he was secure in that spot. From an Ontario perspective, Wassilyn wasn't a lock at #1 in our 2024 OHL Draft rankings, so entering the games, Adam Valentini was a known challenger for the top Canadian spot. Over the course of the Youth Olympics, British Columbia’s Mathis Preston and Ryan Lin quickly joined the conversation as names to consider for the coveted top spot.

While there is a case to be made for any four of these players, Preston emerged as the one who belonged at the top spot amongst the Canadian 2008s. The high-end skill and confidence he oozes were so apparent at the Youth Olympics as he simply took over almost every time he was on the ice. He commanded the puck, created so much of the offence for Canada, and was so exciting to watch. All of this yielded an obvious picture of a player with enormous potential that could develop into a sensational talent as the years go by, earning him the top spot in our rankings.


Shuffling of the Top Canadians

All of this debate around the #1 spot inevitably led to some changes in how our top Canadians were ordered. Along with earning the top spot in our 2024 OHL Draft Rankings, Adam Valentini solidified himself as the #2 Canadian. While he wasn't as flashy as Preston, Valentini added no shortage of value for the Canadians. Valentini was the one we thought was quietly making things happen for Canada, winning possession, linking plays together, and just doing so much to advance play into the dangerous parts of the ice. He displayed his highly projectable skillset that should continue to add tremendous value at the junior ranks, thus rendering him a top Canadian prospect.

Vancouver Giants prospect Ryan Lin remains our #1 North American defender but jumps up one spot to our 3rd-ranked Canadian skater. Lin was hands down the top defender at the Youth Olympic Games, more than cementing himself atop our '08 defender rankings. He was so assertive with the puck on his stick and was constantly looking to involve himself in the play and spark offensive chances. Lin’s puck skills, mobility, and playstyle all combine to create a mold of a potential #1 defender at the WHL level, and it isn't that farfetched to think he will hit his top-end potential

While Ontario’s Zachary Nyman wasn't in the #1 Canadian conversation, he had a stellar Youth Olympic Games, solidifying his spot as our 2nd ranked Canadian (and North American) defender. On a team of that included high-end Western Canadian defenders Keaton Verhoeff and Daxon Rudolph, Nyman shined bright as one of their most impactful blue liners in all situations and showed he belonged with the best North American has to offer.

The final notable Canadian to highlight is Tynan Lawrence, who jumped from our 8th to 6th-ranked Canadian skater after the Youth Olympic Games. After the big names on Team Canada mentioned above, there were only a handful of players who were consistently involved, and Lawrence was at the top of that group. Game in and game out, The New Brunswick native was creating scoring chance after scoring chance and was a critical offensive creator for his team, earning him a slight uptick in our rankings.


Storylines on the Top Americans

Team USA, on the other hand, weren't as cut and dry as their north-of-the-border counterparts. Especially since many of the Americans high in our rankings weren't present at the Youth Olympic Games, the internal dialogue around this group wasn't as definitive. The one thing that was clear was that regardless of what game you watched or who was watching, we all agreed on who impressed from their side.

The consistent theme across all of our game reports and conversations after the event was that JP HurlbertMikey BerchildLogan Stuart, and Parker Trottier were the four who consistently impressed and made things happen for Team USA in their gold medal performance at the Youth Olympic Games. There were standout performances from other Americans, but these were the names that kept coming up when discussing who was driving the bus for Team USA.

As many of the top-ranked Americans weren't present at the YOGs, we refrained from overhauling our American ranks with drastic changes, penalizing those who weren't in attendance. However, the one significant change we did make was that it became apparent that Trottier deserved a bump as he moved from 10th up to 5th among American skaters. Across all of our assessments of Parker, his puck pursuit, play along the boards protecting the puck, and ability to get to the interior were the constant themes making for a highly successful showing, more than earning the bump in our ranks.

Despite no changes being made, the #1 American spot was highly debated between the incumbent JP Hurlbert and Mikey Berchild. In our assessment of Team USA, these two separated themselves as the top players, spurring a conversation of who should own the top American ranking. Unlike the Canadians, this one wasn't as obvious and could really go either way, so for now, we have erred on the side of caution and left Hurlbert in the top spot. This leading American duo is a very tight race (and potentially, a few others are in the mix for the top spot), so it's something we'll be keeping a close eye on.


The Top North American Debate

At the end of this all is a discussion around who should be crowned the #1 North American, and for now, we've decided to leave this one as is. Over time, there is an obvious shortlist of players that can win this spot with the right step in their development, but it's anyone's guess as to who will emerge as that guy.

For now, there isn't a clear #1 like we've seen in past years with Connor Bedard and the 2005s, Macklin Celebrini and the 2006s, and now potentially 2009s with Landon Dupont likely being the runaway favourite to earn and keep that top spot. The 2008s are a fluid group that we will keep evaluating and making any necessary changes as we see whose development starts to trend in the right direction, giving them a smidge of separation from their peers in this elite top group.

For the full ranking, along with detailed scouting and game reports, visit the 2008-born North American Player Rankings.

Jordan Malette