Well, the NHL awards are now a thing of the past and it’s officially time to turn our focus to the draft. The New Jersey Devils have been on the clock and it’s pretty much a given that they will select the American phenom Jack Hughes. However, this is considered one of the deepest drafts in years, perhaps in over a decade. So what will transpire on Friday evening? Here’s how I see the 1st round of the draft going down.
- New Jersey Devils: Jack Hughes-USDP-C
After winning the lottery for the second time in three years, the New Jersey Devils have won the Jack Hughes sweepstakes. The 2019 NHL draft has been the “Jack Hughes draft” since 2015 and they won’t have to think twice about this pick. He’s a tad small (5’10), but the U.S.-born center is an elite playmaker with blazing speed. He has skating ability comparable to Connor McDavid and the playmaking ability of Patrick Kane. Hughes will make an immediate impact in the NHL next season and will be a favorite to win rookie of the year. Hall (if he stays), Hischier, and Hughes are going to be fun to watch for years to come.
2. New York Rangers: Kaapo Kakko-Liiga-RW
The Finnish winger is a grown man already scaling in at 6’2 and 190 pounds while still only 18 years old. Kakko had a great season in Liiga finishing with 38 points in 45 games and topped it off with a head-turning performance at the World Championships this past May. His standout season in the Liiga resulted in comparisons to fellow Finnish stars Aleksander Barkov and Mikko Rantanen. After putting up 6 goals in 10 games for Finland and winning the gold medal, many thought he’d closed the gap with Hughes. He’s so strong on the puck and has a hard, NHL-ready shot. The Rangers add to their young core and speed up what’s been a slow rebuild. They are going to be happy “settling” for Kaapo for many years.
3. Chicago Blackhawks: Alex Turcotte-USDP-C
Here, I can see the Blackhawks taking the hometown kid Alex Turcotte. Born just 50 miles outside of Chicago, Turcotte would fit the direction the Blackhawks are trying to go. The speedy, skilled center posted 62 points in 37 games for the US National team this past season. Being hidden in the shadow of Hughes has not hurt Alex, however, as many see him as the clear-cut second best center. Turcotte centering a line with either Kane or DeBrincat on his right side would be dangerous.
4. Colorado Avalanche: Bowen Byram-WHL-D
The Avalanche add the clear-cut best defenseman in the draft. TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button has said Byram is a number one defenseman, and he doesn’t throw that praise around. He finished third in points among defenseman in the WHL and led all players in playoff points with 26 in 22 games. He’s an offensive force, and after taking Makar last year and seeing his impact in the playoffs, the Avs could be building one of the best young dynasties in the league. Mackinnon, Makar, Rantanen, Byram…..sheesh
5. Los Angeles Kings: Vasili Podkolzin-MHL-RW
While there are some worries Podkolzin might stay in Russia for a few more years, I can see the Kings taking a chance on him. The Kings are one of the oldest and slowest rosters I’ve seen in a long time, but they add a nice piece to rebuild around in the Russian right winger. The #2 ranked European skater by NHL Central Scouting is speedy, big, and strong. Podkolzin is a great add to a depleted Kings team, plus he already has some pro experience playing in both the KHL and MHL.
6. Detroit Red Wings: Matthew Boldy-USDP-LW
The Red Wings go slightly off the board here and take the big left winger from the US program. I believe it’s a good fit for the Wings too. They seem to be pretty content with their organizational depth at center and keep adding to their forward crop here. While I think the Wings are probably (likely) to trade down from this spot, Boldy would be a nice pick up after a 81 point season in 64 games. Another American goes in the top 10….
7. Buffalo Sabres: Cole Caufield-USDP-RW
Listen to this profile: Winger, small, fast, quick release, great shot, goal scorer, did I say small? Sound familiar? No, I’m not talking about that guy they just gave $9 million a year to (Jeff Skinner, incase you’ve been living under a rock). I’m talking about Jack Hughes’ linemate Cole Caufield. The kid scored 72 (!!!!) goals for the US program this year in 64 games. On top of that record-breaking season, he also tied Ovechkin’s record by scoring 14 goals in 7 U18 World Junior games. I love thinking of the future lines when these teams make their picks. Get used to hearing “Eichel to Caufield and he scores!!!!”
8. Edmonton Oilers: Trevor Zegras-USDP-C
The Oilers don’t even have to win the draft lottery to hit the jackpot in this draft. Snagging Zegras at 8 would be an A++ pick for the Oilers. Zegras has been hidden in Hughes’ shadow, but his skill, speed, production make him an elite talent in this draft. At 6’0” 170lbs he still has some growing room, and he also can play up the middle or on the right side. The Boston University commit put up 26 goals and 87 points in 60 games with the US Development team and 9 assists in 5 games at the U18 World Juniors tournament. This also means Leon and Connor can stay together as Zegras bolsters their second line.
9. Anaheim Ducks: Kirby Dach-WHL-C
The Ducks ranked last in the entire league last year in Goals For per Game (2.39). You have to think they’re going to take the best forward available here, who in my opinion is Kirby Dach. Dach (6’4 198lbs) is a big, smart centerman who has even been compared to the Ducks own Ryan Getzlaf. He had 73 points in 62 games for the Saskatoon Blades in the WHL. He’s a big, skilled playmaker and uses his high-end hockey sense to deter pressure. He could slide in as a top 6 forward within 2-3 years.
10. Vancouver Canucks: Victor Söderström-SHL-D
No one ever really knows what the Canucks are going to do in drafts, but I think they take a defenseman with this pick. The Swedish righty got called up to the SHL midway through last season and netted 7 points in 44 games. While those aren’t staggering numbers, the potential is certainly untapped as he’s got a small frame he will grow into. He’s comparable to a Quinn Hughes type player so the fact they could end up playing together could be fun to watch.
11. Philadelphia Flyers: Dylan Cozens-WHL-C/RW
Man, the Flyers hit the jackpot here. Cozens slipping down to 11 is an answered prayer for Chuck Fletcher who will be conducting his first draft as the Flyers GM. Yes, the Flyers could look to bolster their defensive prospects after graduating the likes of Travis Sanheim and Phillip Myers to the NHL. To pass on Cozens would haunt Philly forever, though. The 6’3 forward, who can play up the middle or on the right side, had 34 goals and 84 points in 68 games in the WHL. Dylan has pure speed and can get around any defenseman his age with ease. Nolan Patrick gets his career winger here.
12. Minnesota Wild: Bobby Brink-USHL-RW
The Wild go off the board here but the pick makes a lot of sense. First of all, the Wild love drafting American players. They have one of the most American rosters in the league and this trend continues by taking the Minnesota born winger. He’s small (5’8) but is a prototypical small winger: speed, hands, scoring touch. He finished 2nd in the USHL in goals with 35 despite playing 19 games less than the leader. In the same time span, he finished 4th in the league in points (68 in 48 games). He’s a couple years away from making a real impact, but should he pan out, we could be looking at a Clayton Keller-lite.
13. Florida Panthers: Spencer Knight-USDP-G
Low and behold, Roberto Luongo’s successor is here. Spencer Knight is by far the best goalie in this draft. The Panther need help desperately in their own zone. The offense is *low key* really good. They averaged 3.22 Goals for per game, good for 9th in the league, and have a deep forward prospect pool made up of Denisenko, Tippett, Borgstrom, Noel, and Heponiemi (you’ll know this name sooner rather than later). Contrarily, they’re also top 5 in the league in goals against. For that reason, I see them taking the big (6’3) US goaltender and being worry-free in net for the next 15 years. He’s a Carey Price clone. You can quote me on that.
14. Arizona Coyotes: Peyton Krebs-WHL-C/LW
Krebs is going to slip in this draft because of injury concerns. He recently suffered a partial tear in his Achilles, and teams aren’t going to like that. Before he got hurt, however, he was a top 10 prospect. He recorded 68 points in 64 games in the WHL and had a dominant World Juniors showing netting 6 goals and 10 points for Team Canada. When healthy, he has the burst and vision of Mat Barzal. Though unlikely, if he can get back to 100% by September, he could crack this roster and play on a depleted Coyotes offense.
15. Montreal Canadiens: Thomas Harley-OHL-D
The Canadiens have drafted a multitude of forwards the past couple of years so taking a big, dominant defenseman here makes sense. Harley played big minutes for Team Canada in the World Juniors despite not picking up many points. He has a long stick, makes break outs look easy, and has a rocket from the blue line. He tallied 11 goals and 58 points in 68 games in the OHL, good for 9th in the league.
16. Colorado Avalanche: Alex Newhook-BCHL-C
The BCHL star had 102 points in 53 games, serving as the captain for the Victoria Grizzlies. He still has room to grow, and he’s a couple of years away, but he has potential to serve as a top-6 forward in the future. He’ll continue his play at Boston College next year.
17. Vegas Golden Knights: Cam York-USDP-D
Another raw prospect, York was a standout on the deep and talented US National U18 team. He had 65 points in 63 games with 51 of them being helpers. The University of Michigan commit is ranked the 12th North American skater by NHL Central Scouting. He adds a much needed defensive presence to the Knights prospect pool after dealing Erik Brannstrom to the Senators.
18. Dallas Stars: Arther Kaliyev-OHL-LW
Kaliyev finished 4th in goal scoring in the OHL last year with 51 goals in 67 games. He topped that off with 51 assists, totaling 102 points, which ranked him 6th in the league. The 6’2 winger is a pure sniper and would fit in well with the Stars forward core, who finished 29th in Goals For per game.
19. Ottawa Senators: Philip Broberg-AIK-D
The size and skill package that comes with Broberg is tough to pass over. The Senators need all the help in the world and the 6’3 Swedish defenseman should bring just that soon rather than later. He’s an elite skater and a solid defender who could quarterback a powerplay. Broberg and aforementioned Brannstrom will be a force to deal with.
20. New York Rangers: Moritz Seider-DEL-D
Seider, 6’4, has professional experience in the German DEL league. The Rangers get a smart defenseman, but he’s a couple years away. He’s ranked the 6th European skater by Central Scouting.
21. Pittsburgh Penguins: Raphael Lavoie-QMJHL-C/RW
Lavoie is personally one of my favorite prospects in the draft. He big (6’4), fast, skilled, and smart. He’s got 136 points in 130 games in the QMJHL over the past 2 seasons. He’s recently moved into the spotlight due to his size and skill, and the Penguins capitalize on him being passed on in a deep draft.
22. Los Angeles Kings: Philip Tomasino-OHL-C
He had 5 points in 6 games at the World Juniors for Canada this past tournament; that was after he put up 72 in 67 games for the Niagra IceDogs in the OHL. Scouts are undecided on his talents as he ranks anywhere from 17th to 30th depending on the outlet. The Kings pick up 2 forwards in the first round, regardless.
23. New York Islanders: Ryan Suzuki-OHL-C
Nick Suzuki was drafted last year by the Golden Knights but was later traded as a part of the package for Max Pacioretty. Ryan, however, may be a better prospect than his older brother. He was the 1st overall pick in the OHL draft in 2017 and has lived up to his expectations in that league. He finished last season with 75 points in 65 games for the Barrie Colts.
24. Nashville Predators: Ville Heinola-Liiga-D
Another foreign defenseman with professional experience. Heinola played 32 games in the Finnish Liiga for Lukko and finished with 14 points and a +7 rating. NashVILLE (see what I did there?) has a history of drafting and developing defenseman into studs (Ellis, Josi, Ekholm) so this seems like an ideal spot.
25. Washington Capitals: Brett Leason-WHL-RW
Leason absolutely lit up the WHL with the Prince Albert Raiders. Despite missing more than 10 games, he finished 8th in the league with 89 points in 55 games. He’s also large and heavy, standing 6’4 200lbs. The Capitals like to play a hard, physical forecheck and the power forward type style Leason plays will compliment their system. Not to mention, his skill is really slept on.
26. Calgary Flames: Nicholas Robertson-OHL-C/LW
A lite-version of Cole Caufield, 5’9 goal scorer with no fear. Tallied a point per game in the OHL last season. He might slip because of his size but with an evaluation from Elite Prospects that reads, “…relentless in puck pursuit and a big time trash talker,” I wouldn’t let him get to far down the board.
27. Tampa Bay Lightning: Brayden Tracey-WHL-LW
The Lightning go a little off the board here as Brayden is ranked in the mid-to-late 30’s by most scouting outlets. However, Tracey accumulated 81 points in 66 games and was a +33. He added 7 points in 7 games in the World Juniors tournament. Plus the Lightning always draft well so they’ll probably comes up with some magic here one way or another.
28. Carolina Hurricanes: Yegor Afanasyev-USHL-LW
The 6’4 Russian power forward played for the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the USHL last season. He’s headed to the OHL next year to play for the Windsor Spitfires. Scouting sites have him ranked anywhere from 24th to 59th.
29. Anaheim Ducks: Jakob Pelletier-QMJHL-LW
Pelletier has collected a modest 147 points in 125 QMJHL games over the past 2 seasons. He’s a highly skilled offensive player but could develop a better defensive game. The Ducks will literally do anything to add some speed and goal scoring. The winger could have a top-6 ceiling in his prime.
30. Boston Bruins: Samuel Poulin-QMJHL-LW
Poulin’s averaged .99 points per game in 2 years in the QMJHL. He’s ranked 24th by TSN but he slips down to 30 for the Bruins to snag him. He has ideal NHL size already measuring 6’2 207lbs.
31. St. Louis Blues: Matthew Robertson-WHL-D
The 6’4 defenseman is solid in his own zone and is a quality offensive presence. With the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL, he amassed 33 points in 52 games. TSN has him ranked as the 25th prospect but I see him slipping a bit.