2019 NHL Draft Rankings –
We’re well into the scouting season and players are doing their usual shuffle up and down the draft boards. However, there remains a fine line in not placing too much stock in early results while still giving credit to developmental arcs.
Many hesitate to anoint a player for their early success if they hadn’t shown such promise six months earlier. The opposite can be said for players who were expected to produce at a high-level but haven’t yet for whatever reason. It’s easier to knock those players down and call it a lack of progress.
Credit must be given to the sharp changes in development that can occur at this age.
A big offseason of training coupled with physical and emotional maturity can produce a starkly different looking player over the course of a few months. As I said, it’s a tricky line to walk.
I’ve bumped the rankings up to the top 85 for this edition. This is how I like to work. As the year goes on I get opportunities to see more players more often. When I have a nice sample size to draw on, I can add (or subtract) them from the list.
As always, my assessments are limited. I am but one man who also has a three-year-old son, a teaching career, and many 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 grasp on a player yet (which can 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, puck skills and processing speed. 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 behind 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. Kaapo Kakko remains in the bride’s maid position. His terrific start in the Finnish Liiga has inched him closer to first overall than third, but he still sits behind Hughes for my money.
Tier three is home to picks 3-8. Tier four has players 9-14, while tier five is comprised of picks 15-26. Call tier six 27-44, tier seven 45-85 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, but perhaps on the wing rather than at centre.
- Kaapo Kakko / RW / 02-13-01 / 6’2 185lbs / 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. He’s been clicking at an elite pace in the Liiga thus far and showing no signs of slowing down. He’s had a taste down the middle and if he can prove capable of being a pivot long term, that will greatly help in his quest for the pole position.
- 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. As expected, he’s putting up big numbers with Lethbridge. A smart player who can be leaned on.
- Kirby Dach, C / 01-21-01 / 6’4 185lbs / WHL
A pass-first forward who owns a long and fluid stride. 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. Can be prone to the taking the night off effort wise. A big centre with a huge ceiling. He won’t be waiting long come draft day.
- Vasili Podkolzin (POD-Kol-Zin) RW / 06-24-01 / 5’11 165lbs / VHL
Showed the world what type of talent he owns at the Hlinka in August and has followed that up in Russia this season. A shifty, creative and dangerous winger who loves to use quick cuts. He can split the defense and finish it himself or draw coverage and deftly distribute to a cutting teammate. A potential high-end point producer at the NHL-level.
- 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
Across-the-board talent with a smart and efficient style. Great offensive instincts, quick acceleration and is already a deft two-way player. A constant battler. Another player with first-line upside. Missed the first month of the season, but I’ve seen enough from him in the past to keep him locked into the top 10.
- 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. Everything runs through him in Kootenay.
- Trevor Zegras, C / 03-20-01 / 5’11 159lbs / USNTDP
A creative player with exciting puck skills. Zegras blends good speed with unique lines to cause separation through the neutral zone and distribute effectively to his mates. He’s been dynamite as the 2C with The Program. His time on the top power-play unit helps showcase his high-end vision. People are sleeping on him now; that won’t last long.
- Ryan Suzuki, C / 05-28-01 / 6’ 172lbs / OHL
Another tremendous playmaker, the former first overall pick in the OHL Minor Midget draft, Suzuki can saucer cross-ice backhanders better than most on their forehand. After a strong first year with Barrie in 2017-18, he’s making a significant impact this year as the main weapon on the Colts. More speed than brother, Nick. This kid collects apples like Tom Wilson collects suspensions.
- 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 is playing a major role at The Program this season and putting up big numbers. 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. An all-around player.
- 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. Already making a big impact with the U18s. Needs to clean up his stride to generate greater acceleration. More strength will help that. Boston College commit for 2019-20.
- 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. A slow start in the BCHL has made way to a hot streak. He leads the tier two Canadian junior circuit in scoring after the first month. He’s off to Boston College in the fall.
- 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 offensively at it at this stage though. Can be accused of trying to do too much and cause turnovers. A raw prospect with big 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.
- Albin Grewe (Gree-veh), C/RW / 03-22-01 / 6’ 176lbs / SHL
A high-energy player with speed, physicality and offensive instincts. Was destroying the J20 circuit and has been effective in a checking role in the SHL upon promotion. An athlete who can handle himself well in all situations. A fan-favourite type of guy.
- Arthur Kaliev, RW / 06-26-01 / 6’2 185lbs / OHL
A shoot-first winger who knows how to find the back of the net. Somewhat one-dimensional but that dimension has produced nearly a goal-per-game in the OHL early on this season. Drives into the hard areas and protects the puck well. Changes the release point and angle to exploit netminders. The best pure shooter in the draft.
- 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. He’s been superb in the Liiga early on this season. A deft two-way player who likely projects as a complementary offensive piece at the next level.
- Raphaël Lavoie, C / 09-25-00 / 6’4 192lbs / QMJHL
Powerful forward boasts a deadly release that’s as heavy as it is accurate. 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. Just 10 days shy of being eligible for the 2018 crop. His skating needs to improve in both acceleration and pace. I see him as a winger in the NHL.
- Mortiz Seider, RHD / 6’4 183lbs / 04-06-01 / DEL
Mobile right-shot defender with good instincts and a projectable frame. Has seen limited minutes in Germany’s top league. That’s likely contributed to his safety-first mentality as he continues to look for the coaching staff’s trust. He’s the type of player you can project forward and see a potential steal at this spot. Big upside in a position that’s hard to fill.
- 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 is doing 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.
- Matthew Robertson, LHD / 6’3 196lbs / WHL
A smart defender who blends size and mobility. He’s been an impact player for the Oil Kings, chewing up minutes in all-situations. Won’t blow you away with his offensive creativity, but makes intelligent plays and has a heavy shot from the point.
- 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.
- Spencer Knight, G / 6’3 194lbs / USNTDP
Talented netminder who blends quickness and strong positioning. Size, athleticism and a strong pedigree. Has been posting exceptional numbers with the U18s this season. Bounces back from bad goals or bad outings quickly – a great sign for the mental side of the position. Another Boston College commit.
- 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’ll be assessed with a higher bar. Started quickly in the Liiga and has iced off considerably.
- 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. Has stepped up early with Moncton. He’s played both the middle and wing and is scoring over 1.5 points-per-game. Size is an issue, but he’s a gamer.
- Nils Höglander, LW / 5’9 185lbs / SHL
A skilled winger with good acceleration and a good release. Plays bigger than his size and has looked capable in the SHL this season. Quick cuts and quicker hands allow him to dart in and out of traffic. Has battled inconsistency in the past.
- 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. Projects as an energy player but I like his instincts. There’s more offense than meets the eye.
- 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.
- 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. Went first overall in the CHL Import Draft but has had a slow start with Saint John.
- Philip Tomasino, C / 07-28-01 / 6’ 181lbs / OHL
A strong puck handler who loves to wheel. Offers average size and defensive positioning but brings strong ability in the fun end of the rink. Has a very high offensive ceiling but suffers from lapses in focus and effort.
- John Beecher, C / 05-04-01 / 6’2 201 / USNTDP
- Blake Murray, C / 07-05-01 / 6’1 179lbs / OHL
- Bobby Brink, C / 07-08-01 / 5’10 165lbs / USHL
- Tobias Bjornfot, LHD / 04-06-01 / 6’ 187lbs / SuperElit
- Billy Constantinou, RHD / 03-25-01 / 6’ 185lbs / OHL
- Yaroslav Likhachyov, RW/ 09-02-01 / 5’11 168lbs /QMJHL
- Connor McMichael, C / 01-15-01 / 6’ 170lbs / OHL
- Pavel Dorofeyev, W / 10-26-00 / 6’ 163lbs / KHL
- Artemi Knyazev, LHD / 01-04-01 / 5’11 176lbs / QMJHL
- Ben Brinkman, LHD / 10-04-00 / 6’ 200lbs / NCAA
- Valentin Nussbaumer, C / 09-25-00 / 5’11 165lbs / QMJHL
- Ryan Johnson, LHD /07-24-01 / 5’11 169lbs / USHL
- Nolan Foote, LW / 11-29-00 / 6’3 187lbs / WHL
- Thomas Harley, LHD / 08-19-01 / 6’3 183lbs /OHL
- Matvei Guskov, C / 01-30-01 / 6’1 172lbs / OHL
- Lassi Thomson, RHD / 09-24-00 / 6’ 187lbs / WHL
- Henry Thrun, LHD / 03-12-01 / 6’1 183lbs / USNTDP
- Ryder Donovan, C / 01-04-00 / 6’4 185lbs / UMHSEHL
- Dustin Wolf, G / 04-16-01 /6’ 150lbs / WHL
- Kaedan Korczak, RHD / 01-29-01 / 6’3 192lbs / WHL
- Alex Vlasic, LHD / 07-25-01 / 6’5 190lbs / USNTDP
- Josh Williams, RW / 03-08-01 / 6’1 185lbs / WHL
- Harrison Blaisdell, LW / 04-18-01 / 5’10 176lbs / BCHL
- Luke Toporowski, LW / 04-12-01 / 5’10 170lbs / WHL
- Nikola Pasic, C / 10-16-00 / 5’10 181lbs / SHL
- Nick Robertson, LW / 09-11-01 / 5’9 168lbs / OHL
- Cole MacKay, RW / 07-13-01 / 5’11 185lbs / OHL
- Yegor Afanasyev, C/W, 01-23-01 / 6’2 190lbs / USHL
- Marshall Warren, LHD / 5’11 170lbs / USNTDP
- Samuel Poulin, LW / 02-25-01 / 6’1 208lbs / QMJHL
- Nathan Légaré, RW / 01-11-01 / 6’ 196lbs / QMJHL
- Ville Heinola, LHD /03-02-01 / 5’11 174lbs / Liiga
- Vojtech Strondala, C / 12-17-00 / 5’7 154lbs / Czech
- Leevi Aaltonen, LW / 01-24-01 / 5’9 154lbs / Jr.A SM-Liiga
- Drew Helleson. RHD /04-26-01 / 6’2 168lbs / USNTDP
- Xavier Simoneau, C / 05-19-01 / 5’7 172lbs / QMJHL
- Michael Vukojevic, LHD / 06-08-01 / 6’2 201lbs / OHL
- Jamieson Rees, C / 02-26-01 / 5’10 161lbs / OHL
- Martin Lang, LW / 09-15-01 / 5’10 165lbs / Czech U18
- Henri Nikkanen, C / 04-28-01 / 6’2 185lbs / Jr. SM-Liiga
- John Farinacci, C / 02-14-01 / 6’ 181lbs / USNTDP
- Graeme Clark, RW / 04-24-01 / 5’11 175lbs / OHL
- Antti Saarela, C / 06-27-01 / 5’11 176lbs/ Jr. SM-Liiga
- Nicholas Porco, LW / 03-12-01 / 6’ 176lbs / OHL
- Dillon Hamaliuk, LW / 10-30-00 / 6’3 201lbs / WHL
- Nikita Alexandrov. C / 09-16-00 / 5’11 183lbs / QMJHL
- Oleg Zaitsev, C / 01-07-01 / 6’1 185lbs / WHL
- Brooklyn Kalmikov, LW / 04-21-01 / 6’ 170lbs / QMJHL
- Nolan Maier, G / 01-10-01 / 6’ 170lbs / WHL
- Ilya Mironov, LHD / 05-15-01 / 6’3 198lbs / MHL
- Michal Teply, LW / 05-27-01 / 6’2 163lbs / Czech
- Tag Bertuzzi, C / 02-18-01 / 6’1 198lbs / OHL
- Case McCarthy, RHD / 01-09-01 /6’1 194lbs / USNTDP
- Xavier Parent, LW / 03-23-01 / 5’7 165lbs / QMJHL
You can check out some of my previous Rankings below
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