The 2019 NHL Draft is just around the corner, and this means Scrimmage and Stats is bringing you some content on players coming out of this very exciting 2019 class. After spending the better part of 9 months watching over 100 young men play this beautiful game, we’ve compiled, after great debate, our top-31 list. This list was compiled at the conclusion of the U-18 World Championships and will be revised once again in June leading up to the actual draft.
Without further ado, here’s who we’ve got your team picking in the 1st round ( with our spoilers on who we think will win the Stanley Cup)!
1. New Jersey Devils: C – Jack Hughes 5’10/170 lbs
We’ve heard about Jack Hughes for the better part of the last 18 months and the time is almost night for the middle Hughes brother. After a record-breaking season for the USNTDP, where he put up 112 points in 50 games, Hughes went on to dominate the U-18s this past April with 9 goals and 20 points in 7 games.
Measuring himself to past American-born players like Auston Matthews, Phil Kessel, and Jack Eichel, Hughes looks primed for the NHL as early as next season. He has the high-end speed to separate himself from his competition, and his acceleration is second to none at the top end of this draft.
His vision is especially noteworthy, as he can QB a powerplay from the right half-wall and distribute pucks in a similar way to Patrick Kane for Chicago. He does possess a deadly wrist shot and can also clap it quite efficiently. In short, Hughes looks like a bonafide top-line player in the making, whether at centre or at wing.
2. New York Rangers: RW/C – Kaapo Kakko 6’1/ 180 lbs
Kaapo Kakko has also had himself a record-breaking season in the Finnish Liiga this year for TPS. Splitting time between RW and C this season, Kaapo was an absolute machine and even broke Alexander Barkov’s U-18 scoring record with 22 goals in 45 games!
Kakko plays a very mature game already and already possess a very mature frame at 6’2 and 190 lbs. He is not shy to play along the boards and deliver punishing hits, while also using his mean streak to create space for his teammates in the slot.
His shot is absolutely deadly, as, evidenced by his 22 goals as an 18-year old, and his release is extremely deceptive and powerful; especially on the rush. Kakko has very good speed as well and can separate himself from a defender quite well at full stride. Personifying the modern-day definition of an NHL power forward, Rangers fans should get really excited!
3. Chicago Blackhawks: LD – Bowen Byram 6’/193 lbs
Bowen Byram is hands down the most complete defenseman in the entire draft. The first word that comes to mind when thinking of Byram’s game is clutch. Scoring 6 OT goals, he broke the WHL record for most amount of OT goals in a single season, as a 17-year old defenseman(!!!).
On top of being money in clutch situations, Byram possesses elite hockey sense and always seems to be at the right place at the right time during odd-man rushes (especially in a 4th man rover). He is then able to release his great wrist or slap shot ( both just as precise, and just as devastating) which fooled many goalies in the WHL and resulted in 26 goals for Byram, a feat that hasn’t been seen since the Pre-Lockout Era.
Byram’s physical, defensive game is also noteworthy, as he billed at 6’1 but plays like he’s 6’4. His strong lower body of gravity allows him to stand up his competition at the blueline and limit zone entries. He is an extremely mobile prospect as well, often using his speed to counter the most elusive opponents in order to start the counter-attack.
Needless to stay, Byram is a force at both ends of the ice and he would instantly make Chicago’s blueline pipeline, which is already very strong, likely the best in the NHL.
4. Colorado Avalanche (Ottawa): C – Alex Turcotte 5’11/185 lbs
Many will likely discount Alex Turcotte’s achievements because he plays on the same team as Jack Hughes, but this pivot is a force in his own right. He is a powerful stick handler with great vision. He is extremely hard to defend, as he can beat defenders 1-on-1 in almost any way, be it with speed, with a quick deke, a sharp pass or even a screened shot. In short, Turcotte is your prototype for a top-line C ( unless your current #1C is Nathan MacKinnon).
Turcotte’s main asset is his vision, followed closely by his speed. He uses both to enter the opposing zone quite efficiently and then distribute the puck for his teammates. However, don’t let his offensive abilities let you think he’s a defensive liability. He is a full, 200-foot player that can play down low and support his defensemen, while also using his stick to actively cut passing lanes.
Described as a pivot that makes his teammates better, Turcotte possesses a game that reminds many of a young Ryan O’Reilly, but with more flair for skill and far better wheels. Turcotte could easily come and solidify the C position for the Avalanche, who acquired this pick in the now infamous Matt Duchene trade, well, at least the first one.
5. Los Angeles Kings: RW – Cole Caufield 5’7/ 162 lbs
Cole Caufield can straight up score goals. After breaking Phil Kessel’s US National Development team goal-scoring record (105 goals), Cole Caufield went on to finish the season with 72 goals in 60 games for the USNDPT. He was named the MVP of the most recent U18 World Championships and has been touted as the best pure goalscorer of the draft. Caufield has a monster one-timer, which many believe is already NHL ready. He also possesses a quick and devasting wrist shot which can fool a goalie at point blank range.
Caufield uses his high hockey IQ and his solid positioning to overcome his lack of size (5’7, 163 lbs) and lack of top-end speed in order to retrieve pucks and get them in the net with lightning speed. Although he is not a speedster, Caufield’s top-speed execution is almost mesmerising on the ice.
He is also extremely tenacious, often throwing himself into harm’s way to retrieve a puck along the boards. Caufield uses his good positioning to anticipate where to best receive a puck in almost any situation, as he has a knack for being at the right place at the right time to execute a zone break-out and offensive zone entry.
Caufield would be a perfect fit for the Kings, as they are already a huge team that could easily insulate Caufield on the wing, a position of dire need for them.
6. Detroit Red Wings: C – Kirby Dach – 6’4/197 lbs
Dach is easily one of the most intriguing prospects of this draft. Standing at 6’4 and weighing 197 lbs, the young pivot is already almost NHL ready. He has elite vision and passing skills, likely having the best cross-ice/saucer pass in the draft.
He can run an entire powerplay from the half-wall and can distribute the puck just like Ryan Getzlaf does for the Anaheim Ducks. He is able to use his size and his reach to protect the puck in order to attract defenders and make a pass to an opened teammate in the slot.
Although he would not be categorised as very fast, Dach has deceptive speed, as he is able to get to his top-speed after only two or three strides. This helps him separate himself from the opposition, while always being very good at creating turnovers. He also has some very good acceleration and lateral movement for such a big man, easily shifting his weight laterally to cut side to side on a zone entry and giving defensemen nightmares on the rush.
His overall offensive game allows scouts to project him as a bonafide top-6 centre in the making, with a very good chance to become a #1 C, should his development continue as it has.
7. Buffalo Sabres: C/LW Peyton Krebs 5’11/ 180 lbs
Krebs may not have the sexiest statline in the top-end of the draft (68 points in 64 games for the Kooten—uuuuughh… Winnipeg Ice), but that was mostly because the team was one of the worst in the entire WHL. Kreb’s main asset is his playmaking. He can make passes and drive plays that leave many fans amazed. His speed of execution and his ability to distribute strong and crisp passes make him a force in the offensive zone.
Although he is not the biggest player in the draft at 5’11 and 180lbs, Krebs is a heart and soul player that gives it all on the ice. He likes to possess the puck as is extremely shifty along the boards when trying to protect it. He is elusive for defenders because he is able to shift directions in a moment’s notice and often uses that elusiveness to his advantage in tight around the goal crease.
Krebs’ speed and ability to transition the puck from the defensive zone to the offensive zone is most certainly his strong suit. He is able to hit top speed within a few strides and can quite literally blow by defensemen. He is equally as shifty, making it almost impossible to know which direction he’ll try to beat you one on one.
Many question whether Krebs will be able to translate that offense at the next level, but our viewings make us confident that he will be an effective top-6 centre down the line with great vision and a ton of heart.
8. Edmonton Oilers: C – Dylan Cozens 6’3/ 180 lbs
A strong, two-way pivot, Cozens possess a game that is eerily similar to a Jeff Carter. He plays a very hard-nosed game, using his size and grit to extract pucks along the boards to feed his teammates in the slot or on the blueline.
Cozens is also a very strong shooter, possessing an arsenal of shooting options, especially his one-timer. He can absolutely rip it from anywhere on the ice and quickly. He can also stickhandle his way out of a phone booth, making him an ideal player for tight-checking games, especially down-low.
He also loves to use his size in defensive situations, making him ideal for a full two-way game and a clutch player in a tight game. Cozens also uses his strong hockey IQ to send off passes in tight, especially along the boards, for players streaking into the slot. He is also very willing to go to the dirty areas or in front of the net to pot home a loose puck or rebound, making him extremely difficult to contain.
Cozens does have solid wheels, as he can get going with just a stride or two, but doesn’t possess elite wheels like Hughes or Turcotte. Cozens projects as a hard-nosed, top-6 C in the NHL and that is solid value at 8th overall for the rebuilding Oilers.
9. Anaheim Ducks: C/LW – Alex Newhook 5’11/ 195 lbs
Alex Newhook went a little under the radar this season, as he played for the BCHL’S Victoria Grizzlies. He put up a staggering 102 points in 53 games, which is slightly less productive than past alumni like Tyson Jost or Kyle Turris. However, Newhook established himself as a top draft pick during the World U-18 Championships this April for Canada, putting up 10 points in 7 games and even leading the team in scoring.
Newhook’s greatest asset is his speed of execution. He is able to do pretty much anything at top speed, whether it’s shooting, passing, checking, stickhandling or deking. He is also extremely fast and can beat defenders one on one with his sharp edge work and great acceleration.
He possesses a great shot, which can get high in little time at all. He projects as a top-6 C, but can also effectively play the right wing. His strength in the faceoff circle and on the defensive side of the game leads us to believe he will stick at center.
10. Vancouver Canucks: LW – Matthew Boldy 6’2/ 196 lbs
Matt Boldy (6’2, 196 lbs) plays a strong, goal-scoring power forward game that reminds many of Matthew Tkachuk. Although he may not be a pure goal-scorer like Cole Caufield, rest assured knowing that Boldy has one of the strong offensive arsenals in the draft. He possesses one of the strong combinations of powerful and accurate wrist shots of the draft, while also having very good vision.
He is able to play very rough against the boards, possessing a little bit of an edge to his game. He is also very good on the rush, as his size and deceptive speed force many defensemen to back up in their coverage and open up the play. Zone entries are one of Boldy’s specialties, as he can straight up charge the offensive zone, sometimes dragging players in with him.
Boldy’s defensive game is not exactly the prettiest, but it is extremely effective. Boldy is a bit of a puck hound, as he chases down the opposition and is often causing turnovers by his relentless pursuit of the puck. Expect Boldy to establish himself as a strong, two-way force in Vancouver’s top-6 within the next 2 years.
11. Philadelphia Flyers: RD – Victor Soderstrom 5’11/187 lbs
Victor Soderstrom has had one heck of a year playing for Brynas of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). At just 18 he was playing 16 minutes a game versus men in one of the top leagues in the world. Soderstrom strong and mature game allowed him to hang with the big boys on a physical level, as he likes to lay the body early on in the season.
Soderstrom best quality is his puck-moving ability, as he able to get the puck up the ice in quite a hurry, with a strong first pass and good speed for zone entries. Although he may not be as offensively focused as former top Swedish defenders, Soderstrom makes up for that with a sound defensive game. He is able to shut a play down quite well with his size and solid positioning in the defensive end. His ability to create turnovers and counter-attacks are very noticeable on the ice and quickly make him a fan favourite.
Soderstrom isn’t going to wow you with a dynamic toolbox, but he has all the tools to become a steady, high-end top-4 defenseman in the NHL.
12. Minnesota Wild: C/LW – Trevor Zegras – 6’/169 lbs
Trevor Zegras plays a very similar speed and skill game to that of Matt Barzal. He is incredibly quick and uses his speed and hands to create a high level of offensive zone entries, especially during a powerplay. Playing both C and LW this season, Zegras is easily able to switch between positions and can be placed pretty much anywhere in your top-6 without a problem.
Zegras does not possess the world’s strongest slap or wrist shot, but he makes up for that with excellent vision and a deceptively good passing game. Able to quarterback a powerplay, Zegras is a magician when it comes to distributing pucks at a high speed.
His defensive game is extremely mature for his age. He’s an ace in the face-off circle and possesses some of the best positional awareness in the draft. His strong 200-ft game has many scouts believing he’ll be a bonafide top-6 centre in the NHL and a damn good one at that.
13. Florida Panthers: LD – Philip Broberg 6’3/193 lbs
Probably the most polarising prospect in this draft, Philip Broberg is a scout’s wet dream. Standing at 6’ 3 and 193 lbs, Broberg has solid size for a young blueliner. He is also incredibly mobile for his size, cruising through the ice and often creating odd-man rushes due to his quick zone entries.
Broberg’s best asset is his skating, as he is just able to take off after two or three strides and command the respect of opposition defenders, who back up into their zone. Broberg’s zone entries are a thing of beauty, and he is then able to use his size and good edge work to cross into centre ice for a quality shot or pass to a streaking teammate.
Broberg possesses a strong wrist shot and an accurate slapshot, which he likes to us on the powerplay. Although he was not an offensive for in Sweden’s Division II Allsvenskan this season, Broberg was far more noticeable at both the U-18 Ivan Hlinka tournament in August, the U-20 World Junior Championships and the most recent U-18 World Championships in April.
Broberg’s defensive decision making has been called out at times, but he has greatly improved in this field. He now uses his reach and size far more to try and separate the opposition from the puck. He still over-commits at times, as he is trying to force a turnover and rapid counter-attack, but this can be rectified with good coaching.
All in all, Broberg would be a solid gamble to take at this point in the draft, as he has top-4 D man potential and maybe even more, should he unlock all the tools in his rather full toolbox.
14. Arizona Coyotes: RW – Arthur Kaliyev – 6’2/190 lbs
Kaliyev similarly to Cole Caufield, is a goal scoring machine. Putting
up 51 goals and 51 assists for 102 points in 67 games, many believe that
Kaliyev has top-10 talent and could eventually become a game-breaker for the
team who drafts him.
His shot is lethal, especially on from the right circle (his offside), and he is able to get it up with great velocity, rather quickly. His one-timer is also very strong and accurate, which is why Hamilton quickly identified Kaliyev as the trigger man for their powerplay.
Kaliyev is known as a goal scorer, but his passing and vision are also excellent, as he is able to find players with solid tape-to-tape passes at full speed, or make a quick play with a cross-ice saucer pass for a solid scoring chance.
With all that talent, there is generally a lot of risk that goes with
it, and this is mainly way Kaliyev is not in the top-10. He is an electric
winger, but his compete level and overall discipline have given him a bad
reputation in the OHL. His Hamilton Bulldogs were not a very good team this
season, and Kaliyev often took over games on his own, when he wanted to.
Nonetheless, with good coaching, he could blossom and mature in his development to become that player that everyone looks back on and says: ‘’How was he available that low?
15. Montreal Canadiens: RW – Vasili Podkolzin 6’1/195 lbs
This young, bulky winger (6’1, 195lbs) plays a strong power-forward game which is centered around solid physical play in danger areas and tenacity. He possesses soft hands and a strong shot, which make him incredibly difficult to defend, especially on the rush. His wrist shot is most certainly one of the most accurate in the draft, as he can pick his spots quite well, even from the narrowest of angles.
He also possesses great vision and high hockey-IQ, which prompts many of his coaches to trust him with defensive missions and penalty-killing duties. Podkolzin’s game is similar in practice to a young Jamie Benn, while playing more of a playmaker than a pure goal scorer.
Podkolzin should be higher on this list, if it pertained to talent alone, but many teams could shy away from the Russian winger because of his two remaining years in the KHL. As a team that already boasts a strong core and many young prospects, Montreal can take their time with this prime prospect and allow him to continue developing KHL, similarly to their 2018 second rounder Alexander Romanov.
16. Colorado Avalanche: LD – Cam York 5’11/ 175 lbs
Many believed that Cam York was a product of his very productive USNDPT team, but this past April during the World U18s, Cam York silenced those people. York uses his speed and agility to the ice to create offense, while also using his great positional awareness and hockey-IQ to limit zone entries and odd-man rushes.
York uses his speed and his vision to make solid plays in the offensive zone, such as a cross-ice powerplay pass or a one-touch one-timer set-up play from the slot. Cam York can also put the puck in the net himself, making him a veritable force on the power play. He can unload a very hard and precise one-timer which is very often placed in the top corner, where mama hides the cookies!
York’s attention to detail and his strong defensive awareness make him a realistic top-4 D prospect and have many comparing him to a young Cam Fowler. I wouldn’t be surprised if he jumps in this list come Draft Day, should a team truly value a defenseman over a forward.
17. Vegas Golden Knights: LD – Thomas Harley 6’3/188 lbs
Thomas Harley is one the youngest players in the draft (born in August 2001), and yet highest gambles a team can take. He has realistic top-pairing upside, but his defensive lapses and decision making have many scouts question whether he can ever achieve his potential.
His offensive potential is obvious, as he has strong vision and a good overall hockey IQ. Netting 11 goals and 47 assists assist for 58 points in 68 games, Harley proved he was able to make plays and distribute many pucks, especially on the powerplay.
Standing at 6’3 and weighing close to 185 lbs, Harley has the build that every scout wants. He possesses good speed and very good acceleration. He is effective in the defensive zone at limiting shots against and separating the opposition from the puck with his size and long reach. He needs to work on getting stronger and using his shot more often if he wishes to be effective at the next level.
With such a high ceiling, he has the potential to develop into #3 D man, capable of quarterbacking a power play and playing big minutes for his team ( should he reach his potential). While he is not a sure thing, he would be one of the most high-reward picks in this draft.
18. Dallas Stars: C/RW – Philip Tomasino 6’/179 lbs
Tomasino has to be one of the most hidden gems in all of amateur hockey. Playing behind a stacked team for the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs, Tomasino was still able to put up 34 goals and 38 assists for 72 points in 67 games. That’s over a Point Per Game playing mostly third line minutes! The last player to do so was picked 5th overall in last year’s draft by the Arizona Coyotes (Barret Hayton). He projects as a top-6 C, but could easily slot into the right wing should the team need to distribute the talent evenly in the lineup.
Tomasino has great speed and is able to use it to drive the puck into the opposing zone and gain entry with ease. He then uses his elite vision to find an open player in the slot who is coming in as a rover, or he can tap into his relentless drive for the net to take the puck to the danger area to create a scoring chance. He plays a very tenacious game and is often seen mixing it up and driving to the net. His offense looks like it could translate very well in the NHL by the effort and skill he uses.
With Tomasino, the real argument is whether he made his team better or if his team made him look better. After multiple viewings this year in the season and playoffs, it became evident that Tomasino was a big part of Niagara’s season and playoff push and he will have a central role in their success next season.
19. Ottawa Senators (Columbus): C – Ryan Suzuki 6’/176 lbs
Ryan Suzuki was an absolute horse for the rebuilding Barrie Colts. With Andrei Svechnikov gone, the Colts became Suzuki’S team, and he was easily their best player right out of the gate. He plays a very similar intelligent game to his brother Nick (MTL), but possesses the elite speed to go with his quick hands and excellent vision.
Suzuki is a playmaking C that can also play the wing in a pinch. He doesn’t shy away from the physical game and is a powerplay general that loves to distribute the puck with high-end passes (often playing on the right board).
Suzuki’s 75 points in 65 games may seem unimpressive at first, but Barrie quickly fell out of contention and into seller’s mode as of January, leaving Suzuki relatively alone in terms of high-end talent.
Similarly, to Krebs, Suzuki looked far better when surrounded with better players at the U-18 World Championships. He was often described as making those around him better and that is the kind of player you look for at this point in the draft.
20.New York Rangers (Winnipeg): LW/RW – Pavel Dorofeyev 6’/184 lbs
Pavel Dorofeyev is probably not as known as some of those above him, but you should get acquainted real soon. The Russian winger was absolute dynamite this season in the KHL junior league (MHL), where he potted a staggering 17 goals and 14 assists in 31 games.
He was then promoted to play with Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL, which is a rare accomplishment for an 18-year-old. Although he only put up 1 goal and 1 assist in 23 games, Dorofeyev proved that he could hang with men already, even when he was not at physical maturity ( 6’ft and 168 lbs with room to grow).
Dorofeyev plays the game similarly to a Filip Forsberg, in the sense that he uses his body very well to protect the puck and come out of board battles and 1-on-1s successfully. He is a great passer, often threading the needle in impossible situations and his wrist shot is deceptively accurate and hard
In comparison to other players of his ilk, Dorofeyev is a comparable prospect to Florida’s 2018 15th overall pick Grigori Denisenko in terms of potential, that of a top-6 all-around winger. Some teams may try to take him earlier; he is one of our three 1st round dark horses.
21. Pittsburgh Penguins: RD – Moritz Seider 6’4/198 lbs
Mortiz Seider is perhaps the most perplexing prospect to rank in this first
round for us. The German rearguard played the entire season in the Deutsche
Eishockey Liga (German Hockey League) as a 17-year-old. Unlike fellow countryman Leon Draisaitl,
Seider decided to stay and play his draft year in Germany rather than play in
He is a steady two-way defenseman that is known for being able to effectively shut down the opposition and quickly transition the puck into offensive zone time with a strong first pass or his good mobility. Seider is very strong at inhibiting zone entries and in promoting more zone exits from his end. He does not project as being a high offensive player in the NHL, but he will surely be able to keep up with the speed and physicality.
What is most impressive with Seider is his speed. He is able to quickly extract a puck and carry it out himself and into the offensive zone with his excellent speed and incredible acceleration.
He can also skate very well and is not shy to pinch along the boards when he sees an opportunity to maintain possession in the offensive zone. Seider does not have an elite shot from the point, but he doesn’t possess a strong, low slap shot that can be deflected quite easily. He is a very strong puck possession defenseman that prefers to distribute the puck, which might help him collect many assists at the next level.
As of now, Seider has been called upon to play for Germany at the Men’s World Hockey Championships, which is unheard of for a player that just turned 18 a few weeks ago. He’s only the 3rd 18-year-old player to score a goal in the tournament and he isn’t done yet! Seider projects as an all-around two-way defenseman in the NHL with top-4 potential.
22. Angeles Kings (Toronto): G – Spencer Knight 6’3/197 lbs
Spencer Knight was hailed as the best goalie to ever come out of the USA minor hockey as early as this March. Many perceive him as a dominant goalie in the making that could make the accomplishments of Jonathan Quick or Ben Bishop a very distant memory. As of right now, Knight is probably a little bit more hype than Messiah, but he is 100% the best goalie available in this draft.
Standing at 6’3 and 197 lbs, Knight is already the ideal size and weight of an NHL goaltender. He plays a very smart game in net, using his lateral movements to push off from side-to-side and make the highlight reel glove save. He often uses his long legs to cover the bottom half of the net, while relying on his cat-like instincts to make a quick glove or blocker save.
His mental toughness is rather good for a player of his age. He is very good at controlling rebounds and his percentage game is rather strong for an amateur-level goaltender ( .913 save %).
Knight is also an excellent stickhandler. He can not only play the puck from behind the net, but has also been seen making toe-drags to evade incoming forecheckers in order to then make a breakout pass. He reminds us of a young Carey Price while he played for the Tri-City Americans, as Knight is cool as a cucumber and possesses elite athleticism.
23. New York Islanders: C/RW – Raphaël Lavoie 6’4/196 lbs
Raphael Lavoie is a big winger from just outside Montreal who is known for putting pucks in the net. Lavoie established himself as a first round pick last year this time when he put up 30 goals and 63 points in 68 games. He followed up that incredible progression with a good, albeit underwhelming performance of 32 goals and 73 points in 62 games this season. Once projected as a surefire top-10 pick, Lavoie has seen his stock fall due to concerns that the oldest player in the draft, having missed the cutoff for the 2018 NHL Draft by just 2 weeks, had possibly begun to slow down in his progression curve. This is not uncommon for big men in junior, as we have seen this happen in the past with guys like Julien Gauthier of the Carolina Hurricanes (who outproduced Lavoie at the same age).
However, Lavoie then exploded during this year’s QMJHL playoffs and leads the league in playoff scoring with a staggering 19 goals and 29 points in 19 games. Nobody can say that Lavoie doesn’t have an elite shot capable of scoring from just about everywhere, as he can be one of the most dangerous forwards in the draft. He is also deceptively fast for his size, being able to hit his top speed in just two or three powerful strides. His vision is quite good, as he is able to find his teammates with solid passes from practically any angle, especially in tight.
However, Lavoie’s compete level and willingness to get physical, or lack thereof, make him a serious question mark for scouts. Is he another Anthony Mantha type player or will be he a Julien Gauthier style flop? Many scouts believe he is closer to Mantha and will thus look at him as a very valuable prospect moving forward. Despite some question marks, he is most certainly a player the NHL must study long and hard before making a choice in June.
24. Nashville Predators : LD – Ville Heinola 5’11/ 176 lbs
Ville Heinola had one helluva season in the Finnish Liiga this year for the Lukko Rauma, putting up 2 goals and 14 assists for 14 points in 34 games. Standing at 5’11 and 176 lbs, Heinola is not the strongest or the biggest of the bunch, but he is certainly one of the smartest. He often uses his positioning to get himself open for a scoring chance or a zone exit and can be categorised as being in the right place at the right time on a consistent basis, due to his anticipation and high hockey IQ.
Heinola was easily the best defenseman for Finland at the U-18 World Championships this April, but was made to look rather silly when put in pressure situations. He needs to shore up his defensive gap control and pass-lane cutting if he wishes to excel at the next level.
Nonetheless, Heinola possesses a quality wrist shot, great vision and a passing game that is reminiscent of Andrei Markov. A true PP QB in the making, Heinola plays a very similar game to Henri Jokiharju of the Chicago Blackhawks and would be a solid bet to become a possible top-4 D down the line.
25. Washington Capitals: RW – Bobby Brink 5’10/168 lbs
Bobby Brink has to be the most underrated US-born player in the 1st round of this draft. Why? Because he didn’t play for the US National Development team, as he preferred to play in the United States Hockey League for the Sioux City Musketeers. Even without an elite cast of teammates, Brink dominated the USHL, putting up 35 goals and 33 assists for 68 points in 45 games.
Brink has some solid offensive tools, most of which would be his exceptional vision. Brink’s ability to find his teammates at full speed, especially during a counter-attack, will be seen as extremely valuable on the powerplay in the modern NHL.
Brink also has a very strong shot that he can release quickly and with significant velocity. His shot is very accurate, but Brink is also a very scrappy forward who will go to the net to score the garbage goal if needed. He possesses many similar characteristics to Brendan Gallagher or TJ Oshie in the sense that he is a smaller player ( 5’10, 168 lbs) that plays like he’s 6’2 with a relentless effort and constant jam to his game.
Brink needs to work on his skating speed and his speed of execution if he wishes to overcome his size disadvantage at the next level. The Denver University commit will have lots of time to hit the gym and work on his skating, making this pick a rather high-value one at this point in the 1st round.
26. Calgary Flames: LW – Jakob Pelletier 5’9/160 lbs
Pelletier has gone most of the season under the radar, but the Quebec City native ended his season with a bang, as he collected 39 goals and 50 assists for 89 points in 65 games this year for the Moncton Wildcats. The diminutive winger has incredible top-end speed that leave many onlookers hooked on him. He is able to use his speed at skill at very high levels simultaneously, making quick moves and dekes to create space for himself and his teammates.
Pelletier is more of a playmaker than a goalscorer, but he possesses that raw skill that is needed to perform at the next level. He is also a very tenacious and relentless competitor. His positional awareness and hockey IQ are very high, as he is often able to sneak into passing lanes and defensive coverage lapses to receive a pass or to intercept a pass from the opposition.
Although his size could prevent him from being a top-line player in the NHL, there is reason to believe that he could be a dynamite player if all goes well in his development, as he has received comparisons to a young Brad Marchand from many scouts in the QMJHL. Although Pelletier does have the potential to be a top-6 winger down the road, he must work on increasing his muscle mass and focusing on the defensive aspects of his game to ensure the transition to the NHL.
27. Tampa Bay Lightning: LD – Matthew Robertson 6’4/201 lbs
Matthew Robertson is your proto-typical Western Hockey League defenseman; a solid, bruising defender that is able to score and shut down in a very impressive way. Standing at 6’4 and 201lbs, Robertson already has NHL size and can lay hits like a professional hockey player already.
His game reminds many of a Vlasic/Ekholm style, where he can limit oppositional zone entries along the wings, while also taking part in a successful zone exit (solid passing and deceptively good skating for his size). His passing game is very good, as Robertson often uses his size and excellent vision to make space for himself and dish out great passes from the point/ defensive zone.
His shot is not the strongest, but it is very accurate, especially when he sneaks in down low for a backdoor shot. He will need to improve the power of his wrist shot if he wishes to beat NHL level goaltenders, or else he will be limited to more of a puck distribution role.
Robertson is also a great puck-blocker and is often seen taking a hit to make solid plays along the boards. This warrior type defender will likely take 2-3 years to develop in our estimation, but he certainly has top-4 defenseman potential. We fully expect a full-on offensive explosion as of next season, as his 7 goals and 26 assists for 33 points in 52 games left many scouts wanting more. However, Robertson is at his best in high pressure situations. He was money for Canada at the Ivan Hlinka in August 2018 and the most recent U-18s, always coming out as a positive possession player and raking up the assists.
28.Anaheim Ducks (San Jose): LW – Brayden Tracey 6’/177 lbs
Brayden Tracey has flown a little under the radar while playing for the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors, but we always had him pegged around this rank due to his incredible speed, skill and work ethic. Tracey put up an impressive 36 goals and 45 assists for 81 points in 65 games and was a key contributor in all situations.
His speed is something to behold, as he is able to hit top speed after just two or three strides. His puck possession skills are rather good, and he does not shy away from physical play. He is able to use his strong wrist shot and excellent vision to keep goaltenders guessing at all times, and he becomes even more unpredictable for the opposition on the powerplay, where he uses his speed and stickhandling abilities to create space for his teammates.
Many will question Tracey’s offensive abilities without linemates Tristan Langan and Justin Almeida, but Tracey quickly shot down his critics with a great performance for Canada at the U-18 World Championships this past April. Putting up 7 points in 7 games, Tracey was one of Canada’s most notable forwards, often causing havoc in the offensive zone with his speed and relentless effort along the boards. His vision and passing play made his teammates around him better, and his ability to adapt to his competition makes him a surefire 1st round pick in our eyes. Look for Tracey to possibly go higher in this draft if a team believes he has even more offensive potential and growth. Tracey projects as a scoring winger in the NHL capable of playing a responsible two-way game.
29. Boston Bruins: C – Connor McMichael 5’11/174 lbs
Connor McMichael is an odd case of good player playing on a stacked team. McMichael was a stabilizing force at centre for the powerhouse London Knights this season. The 5’11 pivot put up 36 points and 36 assists for 72 points in 67 games. His progression this year has been extremely noteworthy, even while playing second fiddle to some elite talent up front. Many have asked if McMichael would have had an even bigger offensive impact had he played more prime offensive minutes, but that also speaks to his efficiency with the ice time given, in a similar way to that of Philip Tomasino.
McMichael is also seen as an extremely strong, two-way pivot that can shut down an opposition’s top-line by great 200-ft defense. McMichael plays a game that is eerily similar to that of Patrice Bergeron, in the sense that he can control the centre of the ice and distribute pucks for a quick counter-attack.
Due to his lack of explosive skating however, McMichael’s potential projection is not as high as some other top-Cs in this draft because many believe he will wind up in a similar position as a Charlie Coyle, who is excellent but often outpaced by faster opponents.
Nonetheless, McMichael has the smarts and the positional awareness to become, at worst, an elite #3 centre in the NHL, but we believe he has untapped offensive potential and see him greatly improving his skating as he continues to mature.
30. Carolina Hurricanes: LW – Nick Robertson 5’9/160 lbs
Speaking of Brendan Gallagher comparables, here is his clone, with rocket jets attached to his feet. Yes, Robertson is an absolute pest and a very skilled player all in one that is able to cover a lot of ice in very little time. Putting up 27 goals and 28 assists for 55 points in 55 games, Robertson did it all for the Peterborough Petes this season.
He was very implicated physically, despite being 5’9 and 160lbs and was often found taking the puck to the net when he happened to get a pass in the offensive zone. Robertson is also an excellent stickhandler, often using his active stick to make small plays along the boards to separate himself from the opposition and emerge with the puck.
His skating is absolutely beautiful to watch, as he is able to really push his stride to the edge in order to gain position on his opposition and crash toward the net. He is able to hit full stride rather quickly and is always a threat to blow by you for a breakaway.
His defensive coverage and overall positional awareness need work at the professional level, where he won’t be the fastest player on the ice at all times, but this is normal for a player of his age. Robertson projects as a potential top-6 player, but could easily slot into a Cup contending top-9 in the future as well. He is a warrior type player and one that many teams will covet at this stage in the draft.
31. Buffalo Sabres (St-Louis): LD – Tobias Bjornfot 6’/180 lbs
Tobias Bjornfot is a mobile, left-handed defenseman known for his two-way game and his excellent vision. His mobility and his size (6ft 205 lbs) make him a very attractive package for NHL scouts. He possesses excellent puck possession skills in the sense that he can control much of the flow of the game and slow things down when the intensity of a game rises too quickly.
He uses his speed and size to separate himself from the opposition and make a solid exit pass to create scoring chances. He is also very willing to join the rush as the rover/4th man during offensive situations, but many would like to see him capitalize more on these offensive opportunities by shooting more often.
Bjornfot does possess a very good wrist shot from the point which has hard and accurate, but he can also send of softer, more precise shots for deflections. He will need to work on the power of his shot at the next level, but this could be rectified with practice and upper body strength conditioning.
Bjornfot has very high hockey IQ, especially in the defensive zone, which really makes him a solid two-way D. He is able to cut passing lanes and use his stick strategically in order to limit the opposition from getting into the danger areas. He is also great at anticipating passes and cutting them off; quickly gaining possession and beginning the counter-attack in a pinch (be it by skating it out of the zone instantly or making a great first pass).
Bjornfot plays the game similarly to other Swedish defensemen like Jonas Brodin or Mattias Ekholm and projects as a solid top-4 D in the future; probably being about 3 years away from being a regular NHL player.
Changes to come?
Well, that’s it for the 1st round. We’ll be back in mid-June with our final mock draft, but we thank you all for taking the time to read this! Be sure to give us a follow on Twitter and we hope that this was informative enough to give you a taste of this very exciting draft!