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2025 NHL Draft: Very early top 12 players to watch

Heck, why not?

On Monday, I released my initial rankings for the 2024 NHL Draft. While it lacks a true superstar like 2023, there’s some solid depth at all skater positions, giving the team some nice variety.

And through watching games all season long, there were a handful of other high-end talent for the 2025 NHL Draft that caught my attention. A few players have been in the spotlight for years – I followed Michael Misa, William Moore and Malcolm Spence quite closely during the 2022 OHL Draft season – while others have excelled internationally.

I’m not considering this a ranking because, obviously, we’re dealing with a draft two years away. Some of these players haven’t even played junior hockey yet. But it’s an initial list of players to watch, with many set to feature prominently in domestic and international competition in the coming months:

Michael Misa, C (Saginaw, OHL)

Taken first overall at the 2022 OHL Draft after earning exceptional status, Misa broke the OHL Cup scoring record last year that was held by Connor McDavid for a decade. Not many U-16 players have ever had an impact in the OHL – it requires exceptional status, after all. John Tavares’ 77-point season in 2005-06 after becoming the first to earn ES is still the gold standard, but Misa scoring 22 goals and 56 points this year was extremely notable. Misa, 16, had 22 goals and 56 points in 45 games as a rookie this season, tying Vegas Golden Knights prospect Matyas Sapovaliv for the team’s scoring lead. Saginaw is hosting the 2024 Memorial Cup, and, if all goes well, Misa will show the hockey world why he’s a coveted prospect.

James Hagens, C (USNTDP)

It was ridiculous just how good Hagens was with the USNTDP this year. He had 85 points alongside Cole Eiserman all year, including a record-breaking 21 points at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge. An incredible setup man, Hagens is an underrated shooter that can drive the net, generate scoring chances and use speed to his advantage. It’s worth noting that he’s uncommitted to NCAA, but the London Knights own his rights – could we see a trip up north ahead of the 2025 draft?

Malcolm Spence, LW (Erie, OHL)

Spence is one of Misa’s best friends, with the pair growing up together and winning the 2022 OHL Cup with the Mississauga Senators. Unlike Misa, Spence didn’t need exceptional status – he just had a late 2006 birthdate. The 6-foot-0 forward was a force with Erie, registering 42 points with one of the worst teams in the league. The team is in better hands next year after adding top 2023 OHL Draft prospect Matthew Schaefer, but Spence will still do a lot of the heavy lifting. Scouts have been amazed with just how much he can get out of his linemates, and he’s only going to get better with an extra year of development.

William Moore, C (USNTDP)

Set to embark on a run with the USNTDP, Moore – who also was a standout on that same Senators team as Misa and Spence – is ready for the big show. The London Knights draft pick had two points per game through 30 GTHL games with the Marlboros this season and is expected to play a big role with the US program this season. He’s big, physical and has excellent hockey IQ.

Jordan Gavin, C (Canada Black)

Gavin had a remarkable rookie season in the WHL, scoring 22 goals and 54 points in 62 games with Tri-City this year. The Surrey, B.C. native was taken second overall in the 2021 WHL Draft after dominating every level he competed in and major junior was no different. He’s not a physical player, with just six penalty minutes in 68 games between the regular season and playoffs this year, but he has enough skill and offensive awareness to burn.

Gabriel D’Aigle, G (Victoriaville, QMJHL)

Goaltenders are hard to get a guage on, especially two years out. But D’Aigle is a big 6-foot-4 goaltender that went second overall to Victoriaville at the 2022 QMJHL Draft – a rare accomplishment for a goaltender to go that high. D’Aigle was named to the U-17 World Challenge all-star team after taking Canada Red to silver and also was in net to win bronze at the U-18 World Championship a few months ago. It’s hard to get starts as a 16-year-old in the Q, but D’Aigle will see a nice bump from his 21 games played this season.

Porter Martone, RW (Mississauga, OHL)

Martone was acquired from Mississauga by Sarnia, and it was with the Steelheads that everything started to come together. He finished with 13 goals and 22 points in 32 games with the Fish before scoring at a point-per-game rate in six playoff games. Martone really shined at the U-17 World Championship with seven goals and 12 points, but he also had six points against older competition at the U-18 World Championship. Scoring dominance has followed Martone everywhere he has gone, and if that continues in the O, he’ll get selected early.

Logan Hensler, D (USNTDP)

We haven’t seen a standout defender for this class yet, but Hensler – a big, 6-foot-5 defender with incredible reach – is near the top. He had a solid 28-point season with the U-17 USNTDP squad but it’s how he thinks the game taht stands out. He uses his body to his advantage, and he skates exceptionally well for his size. Big defensemen that can skate well are popular with NHL teams.

Adam Benak, C (Plzen, Czechia U-20)

Benak is a small, yet skilled forward that’ll likely be the first Czech-born player taken in 2025. A standout in international play, Benak also had over a point per game in the U-20 league and had 24 points in 12 games in the U-17 league. He has played against older competition throughout his career, and it he could very well skate with HC Plzen in the top Czech pro league at some point next year.

Love Härenstam, G (Lulea, Sweden U-20)

Let’s throw another goalie out there, because why not? Härenstam was lights out with Lulea’s U-18 team, going 10-1-0 with three shutouts and a .936 save percentage in the J-18 Region league. He also got into his first U-20 league play and was tremendous with the Swedish U-16 team. Plus, at 16, he already has decent size at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds. There’s something here, for sure.

Victor Eklund, RW (Djurgardens, Sweden U-18)

William’s little brother is ready to carve his own path. Eklund had 25 points in 14 games with Djurgardens’ U18 team and even got into some U-20 action, too. His national team success was quite limited, and he’s small at 5-foot-9, but he has good speed and is a solid playmaker. Djurgardens knows a thing or two about developing quality talent.

LJ Mooney, C (USNTDP)

Seriously, this kid is good. The USNTDP prospect put up 33 goals and 80 points against U-16 competition this year, with his lethal wrist shot being a massive strength of his. He’s small, but shifty, smart and a proven finisher already. He’s been at the top of his class at every level thanks to his incredible hockey sense.

Other notables: Viggo Nordlund, LW (Skelleftea, Sweden U-18), Oscar Davidsson, LW (HV71, Sweden U-20), Brady Martin, C (Soo, OHL), Roger McQueen, C (Brandon, WHL), Zachary Morin, C (Youngstown, USHL)

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