Jack Hughes and Cole Caufield
I’ve bumped the rankings up to the top 100 for this edition. This is how I like to work. As the year goes on I have 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 still 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 this 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 season the Finnish Liiga couples with a top-notch WJC has inched him closer to first overall than third, but he still sits behind Hughes for my money.
Tier three is home to picks 3-10. Tier four is starting to thicken up. It consists of players in the 11-18, while tier five is comprised of picks 19-35. Call tier six 36-50, tier seven 50-75, tier eight is 76-100 and let’s call it a day.
- Jack Hughes, C / 05-14-01 / 5’10 168lbs / USNTDP
We’re running out of superlatives for the electrifying 17-year-old. Hughes brings dynamic acceleration, top-end speed, edgework, puck skills… I can keep going but you get the idea. He’s been at his best when his USNTDP team has played high-end NCAA squads. Despite an injury slowing him down at the WJC, he still displayed his impressive skills against players two years his senior.
- Kaapo Kakko, RW / 02-13-01 / 6’2 194lbs / Liiga
The Patrik Laine to Hughes’ Matthews. If this was a different year, the Finnish winger would be sitting pretty in the pole position. Kakko blends size, speed, finishing ability and terrific vision. He doesn’t blow you away with any one skill, but his arsenal of weapons come together to be extremely productive. He’s looking more and more comfortable in the middle of the ice as a 17-year-old in the Liiga. Scoring the golden goal in the WJC as a draft-eligible player certainly won’t hurt matters.
- Dylan Cozens, C / 02-09-01 / 6’3 181lbs / WHL
A long, powerful stride drives his elite speed. He’s a complete player with skill to burn in a sizable frame. Cozens owns an accurate and heavy 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. Top line upside.
- Vasili Podkolzin, RW / 06-24-01 / 6’1 190lbs / VHL
An absolute pit bull. Podkolzin offers high-end offensive awareness, lightning quick hands and a confrontational style. Despite some muted point totals coming from his club team, he’s made a habit of showing up in a big way on the international stage. A potential high-end producer in the NHL.
- Alex Turcotte, C / 02-26-01 / 5’11 189lbs / USNTDP
Across-the-board talent with a smart and efficient style. Great offensive instincts, quick acceleration and already the most complete two-way player in the crop. A constant battler. Injuries stole the first portion of his season, but he’s back healthy and dominating. A coach’s dream.
- Bowen Byram, LHD / 07-13-01 / 6’ 194lbs / 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. Quick hands that embarrass oncoming forwards at the offensive blueline. Can get caught at times, but you take the good with the bad. An efficient power play quarterback in the making. Has been red-hot the last month or so.
- Trevor Zegras, C / 03-20-01 / 6’ 166lbs / 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 waking up on him.
- Peyton Krebs, C / 01-26-01 / 5’11 180lbs / 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.
- Matthew Boldy, RW / 04-05-01 / 6’1 187 / USNTDP
Silky, silky, silky. Boldy loves to use his teammates and takes pride in his soft touch and exceptional vision. He’s been making a big impact with the U18s while adding some additional speed and strength. His stride can still be cleaned up to generate even greater acceleration. A Boston College commit for 2019-20.
- Kirby Dach, C / 01-21-01 / 6’4 199lbs / WHL
A pass-first centre who owns great awareness and deft puck skills. Uses his body well to protect the puck and exploit seams. He lacks explosiveness with his skating and can stand to play with more pace at times. But this is a player with a huge upside. Can pile up points in bunches.
- Victor Söderström, RHD / 02-26-01 / 5’11 176lbs / SHL
A puck-moving and fast-paced blueliner who loves to create offence. 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.
- 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 had played a major role at The Program this season and putting up strong numbers. Effective 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.
- Philip Broberg, LHD / 06-25-01 / 6’3 199lbs /
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. Oozes potential. A raw prospect with big upside.
- Cole Caufield, RW / 01-02-01 / 5’6 154lbs / USNTDP
Hyper-skilled but undersized winger brings all the offensive tools you can handle. Has been clicking at nearly a goal-per-game with The Program with his deadly release. Owns excellent edges, and a non-stop motor but could use that extra gear at his stature. The purest goal-scorer in the class.
- Bobby Brink, C / 07-08-01 / 5’10 165lbs / USHL
A deadly offensive player with quick hands, quick feet, and a nose for finishing plays. He’s been tearing the USHL apart at nearly a goal-per-game rate while adding a standout performance at the World Junior A Championships. The Denver commit is a player to watch rise up the ranks. A broken ankle has derailed his hot play.
- 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.
- Moritz Seider, RHD / 6’4 183lbs / 04-06-01 / DEL
Mobile right-shot defender with good instincts and a projectable frame. Has been seeing more minutes in Germany’s top league after being sheltered early. Now that he’s comfortable, we’re seeing his full array of skills. 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.
- 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 an extended 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.
- Phillip Tomasino, C / 07-28-01 / 6’ 181lbs / OHL
A highly intelligent, two-way centre with good puck skills and a penchant for scoring big goals. He’s averaging over three shots per game and has been very effective since being elevated up the lineup to centre Jason Robertson and Akil Thomas on the top line. The addition of Jack Studnicka likely pushes him to the right-wing. A riser to watch.
- Ville Heinola, LHD / 03-02-01 / 5’11 178lbs / Liiga
A talented and effective offensive defenseman who boasts quick acceleration and expert edgework. Makes smart decisions with the puck and already looks confident in the top men’s league. He’ll need to continue to improve his positioning as his stature doesn’t allow him to outmuscle. Had a very nice WJC on the top pair for Finland. He’s one to watch.
- Jakob Pelletier, LW/C / 5’9 158lbs / QMJHL
Lightning quick hands, jet-propelled acceleration and a flair for the dramatic. Despite his size, he’s not afraid to cut into the dirty area of the rink. Already a deft two-way threat and can play all three forward positions. Has been excellent since the day he stepped into the Q. A fun player to root for.
- Ryan Suzuki, C / 05-28-01 / 6’ 172lbs / OHL
Suzuki is a creative and silky distributor. He boasts a level of vision and soft touch that few possess in this class. Very poised and patient with the puck. More speed than brother, Nick. Has work to do away from the puck but you can see the effort is there.
- Thomas Harley, LHD / 08-19-01 / 6’3 183lbs /OHL
An efficient and play-driving defender with good size and speed. Harley has not only accepted a larger role with Mississauga this year, but he’s also thrived. Improved lateral quickness and overall speed from last season make him more of a threat off the rush. Just a few weeks shy of being eligible for the 2020 class. This is a player with a ton of upside.
- Nils Höglander, LW / 12-20-00 / 5’9 185lbs / SHL
A skilled winger with good acceleration and a better 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. Owns a nice upside.
- Arthur Kaliyev, RW / 06-26-01 / 6’2 190lbs / OHL
A shoot-first winger who knows how to find the back of the net. Somewhat one-dimensional but that dimension has produced 35 goals in 48 games this season. Changes the release point and angle to exploit netminders. Protects the puck well but lacks engagement and pace far too often. More speed is definitely needed for him to find the time and space at the next level.
- Matthew Robertson, LHD / 03-09-01 / 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. A safe player.
- Connor McMichael, C / 01-15-01 / 6’ 170lbs / OHL
All-around pivot has proven very well in an expanded role with the Knights. He’s not the biggest or fastest player, but he’s effective at finding seams and distributing the puck. He owns a quick and accurate release and can finish at a high rate. Not afraid to work into the high-traffic areas. He’s a play-driver with top-six upside.
- Albin Grewe (Gree-veh), RW / 03-22-01 / 6’ 187lbs / 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.
- 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.
- Mikko Kokkonen, LHD / 01-18-01 / 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.
- Lassi Thomson, RHD / 09-24-00 / 6’ 187lbs / WHL
Mobile, right-shot defender brings a smooth and confident approach to the game. He’s not the biggest player but he loves to engage, has a high compete level and a non-stop motor. The type of player the coach and fans adore. What’s most impressive about Thomson is how much he’s improved over the last 18-24 months. He’s turned weaknesses into strengths. That’s a great sign. Another riser to watch.
- Nicholas Robertson, LW / 09-11-01 / 5’9 168lbs / OHL
- Daniil Gutik, LW / 08-31-01 /6’3 179lbs / MHL
- Ilya Nikolayev, C / 06-26-01 / 6’ 190lbs / MHL
- John Beecher, C / 05-04-01 / 6’2 201 / USNTDP
- Brett Leason, C / 04-30-99 / 6’4 205lbs / WHL **
- Anttoni Honka, RHD / 10-05-00 / 5’10 170lbs / Liiga
- Ryan Johnson, LHD / 07-24-01 / 5’11 169lbs / USHL
- Billy Constantinou, RHD / 03-25-01 / 6’ 185lbs / OHL
- Pavel Dorofeyev, W / 10-26-00 / 6’ 163lbs / MHL
- Jamieson Rees, C / 02-26-01 / 5’10 161lbs / OHL
- Samuel Poulin, LW / 02-25-01 / 6’1 208lbs / QMJHL
- Maxim Cajkovic, RW / 01-03-01 / 5’10 187lbs / QMJHL
- Nathan Légaré, RW / 01-11-01 / 6’ 196lbs / QMJHL
- Robert Mastrosimone, C / 01-24-01 / 5’10 170lbs / USHL
- Hunter Jones, G / 09-21-00 / 6’4 194lbs / OHL
- Kaedan Korczak, RHD / 01-29-01 / 6’3 192lbs / WHL
- Sasha Mutala, RW / 05-06-01 / 6’ 190lbs / WHL
- Tobias Bjornfot, LHD / 04-06-01 / 6’ 187lbs / SuperElit
- Alex Vlasic, LHD / 07-25-01 / 6’5 190lbs / USNTDP
- Vladislav Kolyachonok, LHD / 05-26-01 / 6’2 181lbs / OHL
- Blake Murray, C / 07-05-01 / 6’1 179lbs / OHL
- Marshall Warren, LHD / 04-20-01 / 5’11 170lbs / USNTDP
- Simon Holmstrom, W / 05-24-01 / 5’11 172lbs / SuperElit
- Nolan Foote, LW / 11-29-00 / 6’3 187lbs / WHL
- Mads Søgaard, G / 12-13-00 / 6’7 190lbs / WHL
- Yegor Afanasyev, LW / 01-23-01 / 6’2 190lbs / USHL
- Antti Tuomisto, RHD / 01-20-01 / 6’3 191 / Jr. A SM-liiga
- Yaroslav Likhachyov, RW/ 09-02-01 / 5’11 168lbs /QMJHL
- Michal Teply, LW / 05-27-01 / 6’2 163lbs / Czech
- Samuel Fagemo, W / 03-14-00 / 5’11 190lbs / SHL **
- Henry Thrun, LHD / 03-12-01 / 6’1 183lbs / USNTDP
- Matvei Guskov, C / 01-30-01 / 6’1 172lbs / OHL
- Ben Brinkman, LHD / 10-04-00 / 6’ 200lbs / NCAA
- Artemi Knyazev, LHD / 01-04-01 / 5’11 176lbs / QMJHL
- Martin Hugo Has, RHD / 02-02-01 / 6’4 187lbs / Jr. A SM-liiga
- Valentin Nussbaumer, C / 09-25-00 / 5’11 165lbs / QMJHL
- Pyotr Kochetkov, G / 07-25-99 / 6’3 205lbs / KHL **
- Luke Toporowski, LW / 04-12-01 / 5’10 170lbs / WHL
- Harrison Blaisdell, LW / 04-18-01 / 5’10 176lbs / BCHL
- Dustin Wolf, G / 04-16-01 / 6’ 150lbs / WHL
- Patrik Puistola, LW / 01-11-01 / 6’ 175lbs / Mestis
- Alex Beaucage, W / 07-25-01 / 6’2 192lbs / QMJHL
- Jake Lee, LHD / 07-13-01 / 6’2 216lbs / WHL
- Josh Williams, RW / 03-08-01 / 6’1 185lbs / WHL
- Ryder Donovan, C / 01-04-00 / 6’4 185lbs / UMHSEHL
- Alex Campbell, C / 02-27-01 / 5’10 148lbs / BCHL
- Oleg Zaitsev, C / 01-07-01 / 6’1 185lbs / WHL
- Taylor Gauthier, G / 02-15-01 / 6’2 190lbs / WHL
- Nicholas Porco, LW / 03-12-01 / 6’ 176lbs / OHL
- Nikola Pasic, C / 10-16-00 / 5’10 181lbs / SHL
- Isaiah Saville, G / 09-21-00 / 6’1 181lbs / USHL
- Cole MacKay, RW / 07-13-01 / 5’11 185lbs / OHL
- Leevi Aaltonen, LW / 01-24-01 / 5’9 154lbs / Jr.A SM-Liiga
- Drew Helleson. RHD / 04-26-01 / 6’2 168lbs / USNTDP
- Judd Caulfield, RW / 03-19-01 / 6’3 203lbs / USNTDP
- Shane Pinto, C / 11-12-00 / 6’2 185lbs / USHL
- Trent Miner, G / 02-05-01 / 6’1 181lbs / WHL
- Xavier Simoneau, C / 05-19-01 / 5’7 172lbs / QMJHL
- Michael Vukojevic, LHD / 06-08-01 / 6’2 201lbs / OHL
- Colten Ellis, G / 10-05-00 / 6’1 185lbs / QMJHL
- John Farinacci, C / 02-14-01 / 6’ 181lbs / USNTDP
- Matias Maccelli, LW / 10-14-00 / 5’11 170lbs / USHL
- Martin Lang, LW / 09-15-01 / 5’10 165lbs / Czech U18
- Kirill Slepets, RW / 04-06-99 / 5’10 146lbs / KHL **
- Graeme Clarke, RW / 04-24-01 / 5’11 175lbs / OHL
- Vojtech Strondala, C / 12-17-00 / 5’7 154lbs / Czech
- Antti Saarela, C / 06-27-01 / 5’11 176lbs/ Jr. SM-Liiga
- Henri Nikkanen, C / 04-28-01 / 6’2 185lbs / Jr. SM-Liiga
- Dillon Hamaliuk, LW / 10-30-00 / 6’3 201lbs / WHL
** = Overage Player
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