The scouting season never really ends. It takes a little pause at the NHL Draft in late June every year. That extends until the World Junior Summer Showcase and Ivan Hlinka tournament kick off in early August. The five-week reprieve is just enough time to sift through the countless video clips, notes and reports that have been compiled on draft-minus one players from the previous year to begin to get a semblance of a ranking in order.
It seems like I’ve been keeping a closer eye on the 2019 crop than normal years. That may have to do with how much of The Program I’ve viewed as well as the talent that the Western Hockey League is fortunate enough to have in this class. Needless to say, I’m quite high on this group of players. It’s a strong draft.
For the Preliminary Rankings, I normally stick to the first round and throw a handful of Honourable Mentions in. This year I’ve extended that to a top 62 with a fistful of Honourable Mentions.
As always, my assessments are limited. I am but one man who also has a three-year-old son, a teaching career, and writing commitments. However, I’m fortunate enough to have a patient wife and some more experienced scouts to bounce things off of. I’ve had eyes on each of the players listed. If I haven’t been able to get a firm grip on a player yet (which can frequently be the case at this point of the process), that player may sit further down then they eventually will after some more viewings.
This is not intended to mock up what the selections will end up as next June. This is how I perceive the player today in conjunction with how I believe they’ll progress and develop. Once again, I’m limited to on-ice products as well. Knowing these young men as individuals would be telling towards their drive and determination. Something that cannot be understated.
Regarding my method, I place immense value on skating ability and processing skills. Physical attributes are great, but if you can’t see the play develop or recognize your options quickly, both offensively and defensively, you’ll be destined for an uphill battle. It’s hard not to love a creative player with slick puck skills. But those attributes come after the speed and smarts.
Regarding tiers, like 2018, this class has a clear-cut number one. Jack Hughes stands alone. Just like 2018, this class has a clear number two heading into the season. Kaapo Kakko has done enough to separate himself from his peers and hold the bride’s maid position.
Tier three is home to picks 3-8. Tier four has players 9-17, while tier five is comprised of picks 18-34. I could argue there’s separation in the middle of that grouping but its August and we’ll let time clear things up for us on that front.
Call tier six 35-62 and let’s call it a day.
- Jack Hughes / C / 05-14-01 / 5’10 161lbs / USNTDP
The highest producing U17 player in USNTDP history, Hughes is electrifying. His skating, puck skills, and creativity are dynamic and dangerous for opposing defenders. He brings the intelligence and talent combination that can change the landscape of a game in a flash. Despite not being a large player, he refuses to stay to the perimeter. With added strength, he’ll be able to handle that style even better. A franchise-altering player.
- Kaapo Kakko / RW / 02-13-01 / 6’1 187lbs / Liiga
The Patrik Laine to Hughes’ Matthews. If this was a different yea