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Now that we’ve had a chance to digest the results of the 2019 NHL Draft, its time to start diving in to exactly what went down and how teams fared with their selections. Sam Stern takes on the Pacific division below, broken into two parts because of the sheer magnitude of information.
Round 1, pick 9: Trevor Zegras, C
Round 1, pick 29: Brayden Tracey, LW
Round 2, pick 39: Jackson LaCombe, D
Round 4, pick 101: Henry Thrun, D
Round 5, pick 132: Trevor Janicke, C
Round 6, pick 163: William Francis, D
Round 6, pick 186: Matthew Hill, D
Day 1 Grade: A-
Day 2 Grade: B-
One of the elite playmakers in the class, Zegras processes the game better than anyone in the class not named Hughes or Kakko. His game is predicated on elite skating, vision and hands that allow him to make jaw-dropping passes seem almost routine. In transition, Zegras is a deadly dual-threat; his release is dangerous and must be respected, but he’s an elite passer who can make a move to change the angle of a play at the drop of a hat. His hands and feet are synched perfectly, which allows him to make plays at top speed. His one-on-one skills helps him turn defenders around, opening space for himself to make a dangerous play. He drives the play no matter who he’s put on a line with, as the play usually tends to filter through Zegras once possession is established. He loves to pass from behind the goal line or at the mouth of the net. He possesses an uncanny ability to take something off a pass in order to fit it through a tight space or have it land flat just before his teammate’s stick. He isn’t intimidated by bigger players and constantly battles for pucks in front of the net or along the boards. Zegras is guilty of trying to do too much at times and sometimes gets unnecessarily fancy. These immaturities in his game aren’t likely to impede him at higher levels as he is far too smart of a player not to adjust once it’s coached out of him.
This was a fine pick at 29 as Tracey has solid offensive upside. He uses his above average footspeed and incredibly slick hands to open up space for himself and create lanes. Tracey is a good passer, but doesn’t do anything that blows your mind. This isn’t a bad thing, though, for the most part he makes good decisions when passing the puck. He’s an accomplished finisher having recorded 36 goals in 66 regular season games with Moose Jaw. The issue with Tracey is that, because he’s so skilled with the puck he tends to over handle and eventually run out of room. It’s a coachable problem that shouldn’t impede his growth as he progresses, but it was a lingering issue this past season.
Day 2 Highlights:
Janicke came into his own as a player this season. The now defunct Central Illinois Flying Aces were not a good team, but Janicke was a bright spot. As the team’s leading scorer he carried the play all season. Janicke is very strong and uses his frame effectively to push into dangerous scoring areas around the net. He is also a talented shooter who does a fine job of deceiving goalies and picking his spots. Janicke is off to Notre Dame next season where he’ll once again be counted on to carry some of the offensive load.
What I Would Change:
This is somewhat nitpicky. There was still first round talent available at pick 39 when the Ducks selected Jackson Lacombe. That’s not to say that this was a bad pick, in fact, under normal circumstances Lacombe would a very good pick here. But, With Nils Hoglander, Nick Robertson and Yegor Afanasyev still available I feel that they could have done better for themselves.
Round 1, pick 11: Victor Söderström, D
Round 3, pick 76: John Farinacci, C
Round 4, pick 98: Matias Maccelli, LW
Round 4, pick 107: Alexander Daryin, LW
Round 5, pick 151: Aku Räty, RW
Round 6, pick 174: Danil Savunov, LW
Round 6, pick 176: Anthony Romano, RW
Round 7, pick 200: Axel Bergkvist, D
Round 7, pick 207: Valentin Nussbaumer, C
Day 1 Grade: B
Day 2 Grade: C+
Soderstrom, a fine prospect, projects as a good second pairing defenseman. He’s a fine defender who maintains good gap control and uses his stick well to work opposing forwards off the puck, but he doesn’t bring a ton of offensive upside. His tools aren’t bad, but his game isn’t geared towards putting up any sort of big numbers. He’s going to defend well, get the puck out of the zone well and chip in offensively every once in a while, especially if he gets some power play time.
Day Two Highlights:
Maccelli is one of the most purely talented forwards in this class. He’s a very fast skater, with quick hands and endless one on one moves. He times his rushes perfectly and often gets lost in coverage. His hallmark, though, is his unbelievable shot. With even just a little bit of time he is able to beat goalies cleanly from above the dots. His shot is heavy, quick and accurate. He finished third in scoring in the entire USHL with 72 points and his 31 goals this season were tied for fourth in the league. He’s not an overly creative passer, but his skill allows him to make some difficult passes. There’s a ton of upside with this selection.
What I Would Change:
The Coyotes traded up from 11th to 14th to select a defenseman that they likely could have drafted at their original position. Even if they didn’t get him at 14 I don’t feel like they would have missed out on much. There were plenty of higher upside players that were still on the board at 14, that it feels like they Coyotes didn’t need to give anything away to get a good player. Selecting Alexander Darian with their second pick in the third round seems questionable considering the other players that were still available in that position. All of Yegor Spiridonov, Ryder Donovan, Henri Nikkanen, Lucas Feuk, Semyon Chistyakov, Tuukka Tieksola and Ethan Keppen were available and would have been better selections at 107.
Round 1, pick 26: Jakob Pelletier, LW
Round 3, pick 88: Ilya Nikolaev, C
Round 4, pick 116: Lucas Feuk, LW
Round 5, pick 150: Joshua Nodler, C
Round 7, pick 214: Dustin Wolf, G
Day 1 Grade: B+
Day 2 Grade: B
A forward that brings the best elements of old-time hockey and today’s game. He’s not overly big at 5’9 161 lbs, but he’s wiry and tenacious. He has one of the best motors in the class. There isn’t a draft eligible player that wants to beat you more than Pelletier. He is one of the best shot generators in the QMJHL. More importantly, the chances he creates for himself and his linemates are dangerous. Everything is filtered towards the middle of the ice when Pelletier is on the attack. Pelletier is a smooth puck-handler with the ability to move in an out of traffic. He’s strong enough to shrug off wayward as he moves through traffic. He processes the game very well; He knows where all of his teammates are on the ice and has the ability to hit them on the tape from anywhere. Furthermore, Pelletier’s creativity is apparent every time he touches the puck, he recognizes opportunities to open a lane and strikes with authority. The knock on Pelletier is his skating. His stride is somewhat choppy and it takes him a little too long to reach top speed. Regardless, he plays with pace, his ability to process and make quick decisions make up for his lack of elite footspeed. Once he does reach top speed he moves well. He is going to need to work on his explosiveness.
Day 2 Highlights:
Feuk was a potential steal at 116. He’s a very dangerous shooter who carried a bad team in Sodertalje U20. What makes Feuk such an attractive pick here is his shooting ability. Not only does he possess a dangerous release, he absolutely loves to shoot the puck. He’s also a dangerous puck-handler who has a respectably deep bag of moves. Once he’s created space he’s a threat to either pass or shoot. He’s not an overly creative passer, but he’s skilled enough to make the difficult pass when he needs to.
Nodler was one of the most intriguing draft-eligible forwards out the USHL this season. The centerman loves to cycle and keep possession of the puck; at 6’0 196lbs Nodler was, at times, one of the most dominant players in the USHL below the dots and along the boards. His 17 goals, 25 assists and 42 points in 54 games ranked third on the Fargo Force.
I spent a large part of the season preaching that I don’t like drafting a goalie in the first two or three rounds and this is exactly why. The Flames landed one of the best goaltenders in the entire class with the 214th pick. Wolf was, by far, the best goaltender in the entire WHL. Among goaltenders that played more than 20 games he led the league in both save percentage (.936) and goals against average (1.69). Wolf was a home run pick in the seventh round, especially for a franchise that has been hurting for a true number one netminder since Miikka Kiprusoff retired after the 2013 season.
What I Would Change:
I’m not a big fan of the Ilya Nikolaev selection. While he projects as a good defensive center, he lacks any sort of real offensive upside. Nothing about his game excites me. I certainly would have targeted a player with big-time skill, like Domenick Fensore or even Matias Maccelli in this spot.
Round 1, pick 8: Philip Broberg, D
Round 2, pick 38: Raphaël Lavoie, C/RW
Round 3, pick 85: Ilya Konovalov, G
Round 4, pick 100: Matej Blümel, RW
Round 6, pick 162: Tomas Mazura, C
Round 7, pick 193: Maxim Denezhkin, C
Day 1 Grade: C+
Day 2 Grade: B+
This pick felt like a reach to me. Broberg has one elite quality and that’s his ability to skate in a straight line really fast. Given time and space Broberg is capable of producing highlight reel plays. The problem is that he’s not going to have that time and space at higher levels of play. Once it’s taken away Broberg has a difficult time processing what is happening on the ice around him. His decision making becomes shaky, at best. He’s not an overly creative passer once possession is established in the zone, but his shot it at least dangerous form the point. All in all some really nice international tournaments and glittery, but deceiving plays landed him higher than he likely should’ve gone.
Day 2 Highlights:
Lavoie’s raw talent is incredibly appealing. He’s a hulking forward with tremendous skating ability and an even better shot. He’s so strong and fast that junior level defenders have trouble containing him. His 20 goals, 12 assists and 32 points in 23 QMJHLplayoff games captured the attention and hearts of viewers all over North America. Still, Lavoie has some downsides to his game as well. He doesn’t process the game nearly as well as he needs to in his own end and in the neutral zone. He isn’t a very good passer and generally relies on receiving a pass or taking the puck up the ice himself to create offense– which is fine. Plenty of players have made long and lucrative careers out of doing just that. He’s raw, but most likely should’ve gone in the first round so landing him at 38 was good value. He’s the exact type of player that Connor McDavid turns into a 40+ goal scorer.
Konovalov was my top ranked goaltender in this class for a couple of reasons. Firstly, he isn’t in his first draft eligible year and since we all know that goalies are voodoo, his continued success leaves me a little more confident in his abilities. Secondly he posted a .930 save percentage as the only full-time U21 goaltender in the KHL. Landing him at 85th was the perfect spot to swing on a potential franchise goaltender.
What I Would Change:
I would have traded back in the first round. Broberg going off the board at 8 knocked a few of the consensus guys down. Edmonton may have been able to gain another asset and still taken their guy had they moved down a spot or two.
Check back in Wednesday for Part 2 of Sam’s Pacific Division Draft Day breakdown
You can check out Sam Stern’s work on Twitter @aqualunggg