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 year, the Finnish winger would be sitting pretty in the pole position. Kaapo blends size, speed, finishing ability and terrific vision. Soft touch for a big man. Massive upside as a complete point-producing winger. He’ll be a front-line scoring threat for years to come.
- Bowen Byram LHD / 07-13-01 / 6’ 179lbs / WHL
An explosive skater who can act as a one-man breakout. He blends his terrific acceleration and north-south speed with lateral edge work and play creation through the neutral zone. Owns a heavy shot that is effective in all situations. Continues to improve his gap control and defensive awareness. Can get caught at times, but you take the good with the bad. An efficient power play quarterback in the making.
- Alex Turcotte / C / 02-26-01 / 5’11 195lbs / USNTDP
Overshadowed by Hughes at The Program, Turcotte has across-the-board talent. Great offensive instincts, quick acceleration and is already a deft two-way player. A constant battler. Another player with first-line upside. He’ll be a great consolation prize for a lottery loser.
- Dylan Cozens, C / 02-09-01 / 6’3 176lbs / WHL
A long, powerful stride drives his elite speed. He’s a complete player with skill to burn in a sizable frame. He owns an accurate release and uses that threat to look-off defenders and slide crisp passes into his mate’s wheelhouses. Loves to win one-on-one battles. Smart. A potential 1C.
- Vasili Podkolzin, RW / 06-24-01 / 5’11 165lbs / MHL
Showed the world what type of talent he owns at the Hlinka in August. Podkolzin is shifty, creative and dangerous. He can split the defense and finish it himself or draw coverage and deftly distribute to a cutting teammate. He’ll produce a ton of points in the MHL this season. How teams view his KHL wait time will play a sizable role in where he’s selected next June. A potential high-end point producer at the NHL-level. I don’t love comparisions, but I see enough Nikita Kucherov in him to say it out loud.
- Peyton Krebs, C/LW / 01-26-01 / 5’11 172lbs / WHL
The supremely skilled forward is elusive and shifty with the puck. Takes creative lines to dangerous areas of the ice. The type of player that sees plays develop before those around him and uses that to exploit the opposition. Owns terrific puck skills. He’s a playmaker who can impact the game on any shift.
- Alex Newhook, C / 01-28-01 / 5’11 183lbs / BCHL
Speed for days and the disregard for safety to use it anywhere. Dangerous hands, good hockey sense and is equally deadly with the pass or the shot. Already a strong defensive player. He’ll return to the BCHL this season to maintain his NCAA status and a trip to Boston College. Being a surprise omission from the Canadian Hlinka roster will only act as further fuel for his fire. May be a winger at the NHL-level.
- Kirby Dach, C / 01-21-01 / 6’4 185lbs / WHL
A pass-first forward who owns a long and fluid stride. His style of play is conducive to a centre but looks strong on the wing too. A matchup nightmare at the junior level, as he loves to get in on the forecheck and cause havoc. A cerebral player with good drive. Should be an offensive driver at the NHL-level.
- Ryan Suzuki, C / 05-28-01 / 6’ 172lbs / OHL
Another tremendous playmaker, the former first overall pick in the OHL Bantam Draft, Suzuki can saucer cross-ice backhanders better than most on their forehand. After a strong first year with Barrie in 2017-18, he’ll make a significant impact this year as the main weapon on the Colts. More speed than brother, Nick.
- Anttoni Honka, RHD / 10-05-00 / 5’10 170lbs / Liiga
The younger brother of Dallas Stars’ blueliner, Julius, Antonni plays a similar style game. Loves to jump up into the play and create offense. Owns exciting lateral movement and the creativity to thrive on a power play. Won’t ever be strong enough to out-muscle oncoming forwards so he’ll need to use his stick and his positioning at a higher level. An older player for this class, he’s already gotten his feet wet at the Liiga level and will look to produce sizable results in 2018-19. Should play a large role for the Fins at the WJC.
- Matthew Boldy, RW / 04-05-01 / 6’ 174 / USNTDP
Another prolific U17 scorer in The Program’s history. Boldy loves to use his teammates and takes pride in his soft touch and exceptional vision. He’ll step up to the U18 team this fall and look to have a big impact. Needs to clean up his stride to generate greater acceleration. More strength will help that. Another Boston College commit for 2019-20.
- Cam York, LHD / 01-05-01 / 5’11 165lbs / USNTDP
A mobile and calm defender with tremendous skating ability. He was a standout performer at last spring’s U18 tournament and will play a major role at The Program this season. Great on the power play and owns the mobility needed to clean up any mistakes he makes. Defensively, his positioning and use of stick continue to improve. Lots to like about his upside.
- Victor Söderström, RHD / 02-26-01 / 5’11 176lbs / SuperElit
A puck-moving and fast-paced blueliner who loves to create offense. Enjoys controlling the pace of play. Quick outlets, sharp edges and doesn’t shy away from physical play. Needs to continue to work on his defensive decision-making and positional play. Dangerous on the PP.
- Raphaël Lavoie, C / 09-25-00 / 6’4 192lbs / QMJHL
Powerful forward boasts a deadly release that’s as heavy as it is accurate. Was able to man-handle the QMJHL competition as a 17-year-old last season. Had a very strong showing at last year’s U18s and was an injury replacement for Canada at the World Junior Summer Showcase. Protects the puck well and forces his way into dangerous areas. His skating needs to improve in both acceleration and pace if he plans on playing in the middle of the ice at the next level.
- Trevor Zegras, C / 03-20-01 / 5’11 159lbs / USNTDP
A creative player who has exciting puck skills. Zegras blends good speed with unique lines to cause separation through the neutral zone and distribute effectively to his mates. Needs to add strength and more zip on his shot. Will play behind Hughes and Turcotte which may hurt his exposure. Lucky for whichever team nabs him.
- Valentin Nussbaumer, C / 09-25-00 / 5’11 165lbs / NLA
Smart pivot uses the whole ice. Owns great instincts, a deft touch and wide sense of vision. Commands the play in all situations and is especially deadly while distributing off the half wall. Saw time in the top Swiss league last season and produced a few points. Slight but wiry strong. Slick.
- Maxim Cajkovic, RW / 01-03-01 / 5’10 187lbs / SuperElit
Monster U18s last spring put him on the map. Wasn’t as effective at the Hlinka but still showcased his terrific talent. Explosive acceleration and high-end hockey sense highlight his skill set. Owns a big shot – especially the one-timer on the power play. Quick hands.
- Cole Caufield, RW / 01-02-01 / 5’6 154lbs / USNTDP
Hyper-skilled but grossly undersized winger brings all the offensive tools you can handle. Has played at a terrific pace with the U17 squad and will do so once again with the U18s. Destined to be an elite college player but his ability to handle larger opponents will determine his level of success at the NHL-level. Has a great release, excellent edges, and a non-stop motor. A fun player to root for. Let’s all root for him to tack on two or three inches this year.
- Daniil Gutik, LW / 08-31-01 /6’3 179lbs / MHL
Lanky winger prefers to distribute the puck rather than shoot it. He owns strong vision, creativity and offensive instincts. His skating stride is a work in progress but should be bolstered as he develops strength in his lower half. Protects the puck well.
- Simon Holmstrom, W / 05-24-01 / 5’11 172lbs / SuperElit
Had a very successful season in the J20 circuit while producing over a point-per-game. Brings energy, speed and creativity to the rink. Plays in all situations and can be relied upon to hold a lead or create offense in the dying seconds of a game. He’ll have a good shot at playing in the SHL full-time this year.
- Mikko Kokkonen, LHD / 5’11 190 / Liiga
Logs heavy minutes in all situations and produces a calm and measured approach. That mature game earned him the distinction of being the youngest player to ever suit up in a Liiga game as a 15-year-old. Strong outlets, good compete-level and defensive positioning. Likely not a serious NHL point producer but can chip in when needed.
- Philip Broberg, LHD / 06-25-01 / 6’3 198lbs / SuperElit
One of the more powerful skating strides in this class. At his size, his ability to wheel out of the zone is remarkable. Lacks the puck-handling skills necessary to be proficient at it at this stage though. Can be accused of trying to do too much and cause turnovers. A raw prospect with big upside.
- Jakob Pelletier, LW/C / 5’9 158lbs / QMJHL
The former third overall pick in the 2017 QMJHL draft had a terrific rookie season. He produced 61 points in 60 games while displaying his tremendous vision and energetic style of play. Played on the wing as a rookie but should move back to the middle of the ice in 2018-19. Size is a concern, but he’s a gamer.
- Sasha Mutala, RW / 6’ 190lbs / WHL
The Vancouver-native brings a hard-working approach to the rink each night. Has quick acceleration and excellent top-end speed. This helps him cause havoc on the forecheck and create turnovers. Has a heavy and quick release. Was a tad snake bitten at the Hlinka but showed his leadership and compete-level.
- Albin Grewe, C / 03-22-01 / 6’ 176lbs / SuperElit
Strong Hlinka showing was getting people’s attention before an injury derailed his tournament. A high-energy player who employs a shoot-first mentality. An athlete. Can handle himself well in all situations.
- Tobias Bjornfot, LHD / 6’ 187lbs / SuperElit
Strong, puck-moving defender blends good speed with quick outlets and clean defensive reads. Had a sneaky good Hlinka tournament. A two-way player who won’t wow you with his offensive skillset but makes the smart plays needed to succeed at the next level.
- Ben Brinkman, D / 10-04-00 / 6’ 174lbs / NCAA
Terrific skating and two-way play highlight the high-school defender. Needs to add strength and a more dangerous shot to open up avenues for distributing the puck. Headed to the University of Minnesota this year. He’ll need time to adjust to the increased level of competition but has nice upside.
- Jon Beecher, C / 05-04-01 / 6’2 201 / USNTDP
A complete centre who prides himself on his 200-foot game. Strong skating and puck protection highlight his game. Doesn’t display a high-end offensive ceiling, but his projectable frame and responsible game will be useful at the next level.
- Yaroslav Likhachyov, RW/ 09-02-01 / 5’11 168lbs /QMJHL
One of the youngest prospects in this class, he also possesses some of the best pure puck skills. Had a terrific Hlinka tournament and looked as if his quickness has improved. He’ll need to add that speed to thrive at his size and with his style of play. A strong playmaker.
- Blake Murray, C / 07-05-01 / 6’1 179lbs / OHL
Plays the role of a power forward in junior but will need to add strength to continue to do so at the next-level. Uses his body to protect the puck well and distributes well. Good top speed but lacks dynamic acceleration.
- Spencer Knight, G / 6’3 194lbs / USNTDP
- Matthew Robertson, LHD / 6’3 196lbs / WHL
- Nils Hoglander, LW / 5’9 185lbs / Allsvenskan
- Michael Vukojevic, LHD / 6’2 201lbs / OHL
- Arthur Kaliev, RW / 6’2 185lbs / OHL
- Samuel Poulin, LW / 6’1 208lbs / QMJHL
- Marshall Warren, LHD / 5’11 170lbs / USNTDP
- Artemi Knyazev, LHD / 5’11 176lbs / MHL
- Henry Thrun, LHD / 6’1 183lbs / USNTDP
- Nikita Alexandrov. C / 5’11 183lbs / QMJHL
- Alex Vlasic, LHD / 6’5 190lbs / USNTDP
- Lassi Thomson, RHD / 6’ 187lbs / Liiga
- Dustin Wolf, G / 6’ 150lbs / WHL
- Tag Bertuzzi, C / 6’ 192lbs / OHL
- Lev Starikov, D / 6’6 187lbs / OHL
- Xavier Parent, LW / 5’7 165lbs / QMJHL
- Drew Helleson. RHD / 6’2 168lbs / USNTDP
- Ilya Mironov, LHD / 6’3 198lbs / MHL
- Luke Toporowski, LW / 5’10 170lbs / WHL
- Nolan Foote, LW / 6’3 187lbs / WHL
- Leevi Aaltonen, LW / 5’9 154lbs / Jr.A SM-Liiga
- Ryder Donovan, C / 6’4 185lbs / USHL
- Josh Williams, RW / 6’1 185lbs / WHL
- Ville Heinola, LHD / 5’11 174lbs / Jr. A SM-Liiga
- Vojtech Strondala, C / 5’7 154lbs / Czech
- Harrison Blaisdell, LW / 5’10 176lbs / BCHL
- Brooklyn Kalmikov, LW / 6’ 152lbs / QMJHL
- Martin Lang, LW / 5’10 165lbs / Czech U18
- Nolan Maier, G / 6’ 170lbs / WHL
- Henri Nikkanen, C / 6’2 185lbs / Jr. SM-Liiga
- Dmitri Sheshin, RW / 5’7 143lbs / 05-31-01 / MHL
Honourable Mentions (in no particular order)
Oleg Zaitsev, C / 6’1 185lbs / WHL
Bailey Peach, RW / 5’10 168lbs / QMJHL
Nicholas Porco, LW / 6’ 168lbs / OHL
Antti Saarela, C/LW / 5’10 176lbs/ Jr. SM-Liiga
Xavier Simoneau, C / 5’7 172lbs / QMJHL
Elmer Soderblom, LW / 6’6 212lbs / J18 Allsvenskan
Graeme Clark, RW / 5’11 175lbs / OHL
Jamieson Rees, L / 5’10 161lbs / OHL
Nikita Okhotyuk, LHD / 6’ 181lbs / 11/04-00 / OHL
Case McCarthy, RHD / 6’1 194lbs / 01-09-01 / USNTDP
Petr Cajka, C / 12-11-00 / 6’ 163lbs / Elite Jr.A
You can check out my previous Rankings below
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