Quick Hits Around the CHL for 2019 Draft Hopefuls (Rankings as of the last update – December 2018)
- Bowen Byram (7th overall) is on a nice little streak. He has five points in his last four games and 33 in 38 on the season. The 17-year-old is the top defensive prospect for the 2019 crop and has been an exciting player for the Giants this season. His 0.87 points-per-game represent the eighth highest output by a U18 defender in the WHL in the last 20 years.
- The top three draft-eligible forwards in the Dub are all sitting within the top 20 in league scoring. Dylan Cozens (3rd overall) leads the pack sitting seventh overall with 56 points in 40 games. The star centre has racked up an impressive 32 points in his last 18 contests.
- Up next is Peyton Krebs (10th overall) who has 47 points in 39 games. The dynamic two-way forward was recently named Captain of the Kootenay Ice and everything runs through him. His impact on a weak team has been masterful. Ignore the -35 rating and look to future when he’s surrounded by quality players. The 2016 first overall selection in the Bantam draft has been sliding down some public draft boards lately. He’s going to make teams regret it if he falls on draft day.
- Finally, Kirby Dach (5th overall) rounds out the group with 46 points in 39 games. However, the 6’4 pivot has been struggling of late. He went through a stretch of just a single point in 10 games to close out 2018. He’s been out of the lineup the past week with an injury. Perhaps it was something that was hampering him for some time.
- Another 17-year-old on the rise is London Knights’ centre, Connor McMichael (29th overall). The shoot-first pivot has been deadly from the hash marks in as he’s converted 25 goals and 46 points in 37 OHL games this season – the second most for draft-eligible OHLers. He has 19 points in his last 11 games. Despite being just 6’ and 170lbs, he is not shy about fighting his way into the high-danger areas. He’s looking more and more like a first rounder with each passing game.
- Phillip Tomasino (42nd overall) has been eating his Wheaties. The Niagara centre has climbed above the point-per-game mark with his run of 14 points in the last seven games. Tomasino is known for his sound two-way game and intelligent style. He’s displaying the high-end offense that saw him selected fifth overall in the 2017 Priority Selection.
- 6’3, left-shot defender, Thomas Harley (33rd overall) has been making a name for himself in Mississauga and beyond with his stellar play this season. He’s is far and away the top producing U18 OHL blueliner. With his combination of size, skating, play-creation and developing defensive play, Harley is another player to watch rise on boards in the back half of the season.
- Jakob Pelletier may stand just 5’9 tall, but he packs a whole lot of skill into that frame. The Moncton forward has been dynamite this season producing 21 goals and 55 points in 39 games. He owns high-end speed, vision and puck skills. As the size stigma continues to wear off, players of his ilk have an easier time cracking the NHL. Pelletier is setting himself up to be a top-20 selection with his play.
- Nathan Légaré has surprised many with his large counting stats this season. Pegged as a two-way player likely destined for an energy role, the former sixth overall selection in the QMJHL draft has potted 28 goals and 57 points in 40 games for Baie-Comeau. A likely second-round selection with upside.
Two of my favourite prospects in the upcoming draft are Bobby Brink and Trevor Zegras. They both happen to lead the USHL in points-per-game as well.
Brink has high-end speed and puck skills. He’s a big game player who loves to put his team on his back. Originally projected as a B-rated prospect, Brink has been playing himself into the conversation to go in the top half of round one this June.
Meanwhile, Zegras has been instrumental in the USNTDP continued excellence. He’s played in a second line role for much of the year but has been a mainstay on the top power-play unit. Zegras is another player with great speed and puck skills. However, his main weapon is his vision and ability to read the play. Zegras has been playing left-wing next to Jack Hughes and Cole Caufield in 2019 and it has been a formidable trio.
A creative, elusive and intelligent centre with a very high offensive ceiling. I like Zegras to land in the top 10.
The Program welcomed back Alex Turcotte (8th overall) recently. The two-way pivot is a monster at both ends of the rink. His time missed this season will mute his counting stats, but those who have watched him the last couple of years know he has a very high ceiling. Turcotte models his game after Patrice Bergeron and does a damn good job of it.
Turcotte filled in admirably as the top line centre while Jack Hughes was away with the World Junior squad, and has now moved down to anchoring line two.
Oh, and if you were wondering, it’s still Jack Hughes number one. Don’t let the hype stemming from Kaapo Kakko’s Golden Goal fool you.
That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson