The NHL Draft is always a fun time of year, and it is upon us once again with the first round set to take place Friday night in Vancouver. As usual, the draft is going to be full of surprises, but there could be more in store this year. Many players that were highly-regarded over the course of the year may get drafted later than expected, while other high selections may come as a surprise to the hockey world.
It is pretty much impossible to predict even just the first round accurately, but that certainly won’t stop me and all of the other draft aficionados from trying. Here are our top rankings for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
1. Jack Hughes (C) - U.S. National U18 Team - USDP
Needless to say, Hughes will be selected first overall. Hughes can manage the pace of the game and is a tremendous skater. He can control the puck with ease and is a skilled playmaker. He makes all those around him better, and his hockey IQ and vision make it seem like he has eyes in the back of his head.
2. Kaapo Kakko (RW) - TPS - Liiga
Playing against men in Liiga, Finland’s top professional league, Kakko excelled. His play in the IIHF World Championship was so impressive that it raised the question of whether he might be worthy of the first overall selection over Hughes. Kakko has had stints during which he’s played center, so he offers some roster flexibility as well. His 22 goals beat the Liiga rookie record set by Aleksander Barkov.
3. Bowen Byram (D) - Vancouver Giants - WHL
Byram is by far the best defender in the draft. He has the ability to take over a game himself. His nine game-winning goals were the most by a defenseman in the WHL, and he led all CHL-draft eligible defensemen in points. Byram has drawn comparisons to Morgan Rielly.
4. Dylan Cozens (C/W) - Lethbridge Hurricanes - WHL
The Yukon native had an exceptional season in the WHL this year. His 84 points led all draft-eligible WHL players (not including overagers). Cozens’ game combines skill and size. He possesses a lethal shot with a quick release that allows him to score in all sorts of different situations.
5. Alex Turcotte (C) - U.S. National U18 Team - USDP
Turcotte is one of the best centers in the draft not named Jack Hughes. He plays a strong two-way game but excels offensively. His hockey IQ is one of his best attributes, and his transition game is solid as well. Turcotte makes the best play possible in the given situation and can play the game at such high speeds. He is the type of player coaches dream of having on their roster.
6. Trevor Zegras (C) - U.S. National U18 Team - USDP
Zegras is one of the most creative playmakers in the draft. He has become known for his no-look behind-the-back passes that have resulted in highlight-reel plays. His ability to generate scoring chances is impressive.
7. Kirby Dach (C) - Saskatoon Blades - WHL
Standing at 6-foot-4, Dach is a big-bodied center who knows how to utilize his size. Size, however, is not the only part of his game. He uses his speed, puck-handling abilities and size to take the puck from the opposition and create dangerous scoring chances for his team. His accurate shot with a quick release has been known to get past goaltenders at awkward angles.
8. Cole Caufield (C) - U.S. National U18 Team - USDP
Caufield has proven himself to be the best goal-scorer in the draft. Despite his 5-foot-7, 163-pound frame, he can score in all situations. He has drawn comparisons to Alex DeBrincat, who fell in his draft year due to his size despite putting up exceptional numbers in the OHL.
9. Arthur Kaliyev (LW) - Hamilton Bulldogs - OHL
Kaliyev is a player who has been placed pretty much all over in first-round draft rankings. Kaliyev finished the season with 102 points in the OHL, which is not talked about enough. He is one of the draft’s top goal-scorers and is a wizard on the power play. Although he likely will fall later than the ninth overall pick in the draft, he could prove to be a steal.
10. Peyton Krebs (C/LW) - Kootenay/Winnipeg Ice - WHL
In a disappointing season for the Kootenay Ice, Krebs was the lone bright spot. Krebs, who served as captain, was the only player on the team to maintain higher than a point-per-game average. He works hard at both ends of the ice and is a highly-skilled playmaker above anything else. His ability to find open space and spot open lanes helps create dangerous scoring chances for his team.
11. Matthew Boldy (LW) - U.S. National U18 Team - USDP
Boldy excels at finding and creating open ice for himself. He also has an accurate and heavy shot in his tool belt, which helps him put pucks in the back of the net. Boldy is committed to Boston College next season alongside fellow USDP teammates Marshall Warren and Spencer Knight, as well as prospect Alex Newhook.
12. Vasili Podkolzin (RW) - SKA-Neva St. Petersburg - VHL
Podkolzin has had trouble producing this season, particularly for a player of his caliber. His skill, however, saw him get a taste of hockey in the KHL during the season. He possesses tremendous hands and is highly skilled with the puck on his stick. There is risk associated with his game, but his ceiling is as high as they come.
13. Ville Heinola (D) - Lukko - Liiga
Heinola was fantastic in his rookie season in Liiga. He finished the season as a top-three finalist for rookie of the year but ultimately fell short to Kakko. As a defender in Liiga, Heinola recorded 14 points in 34 games, which is no easy feat for such a young player. He showed his ability to compete at a high level and did not look out of place while playing against men.
14. Raphael Lavoie (C/RW) - Halifax Mooseheads - QMJHL
If there were any doubts about Lavoie’s skill level, his tremendous playoff campaign eliminated them. Lavoie put up 32 points in just 23 playoff games for the Halifax Mooseheads. Twenty of those 32 points were goals. Lavoie also added three points in four Memorial Cup games. Lavoie is a goal-scorer with a quick release and an accurate shot. His acceleration is one of his many notable skills, and it has been one of his biggest assets in his offensive abilities.
15. Moritz Seider (D) - Adler Mannheim - DEL
Seider is the next player in a growing pool of young German hockey talent looking to make their way to the NHL. Seider was named the DEL rookie of the year after a great season in Germany’s top-flight hockey league. Seider is a great two-way defender who did not look out of place against men in the DEL and at the IIHF World Championships.
16. Cam York (D) - U.S. National U18 Team - USDP
York is a mobile, puck-moving defenseman who plays a solid two-way game. The 5-foot-11 USDP star led all defenders on his team in scoring with 65 points in 63 games. In addition, he finished in second place among USHL defenders in points per game (1.18) having recorded seven goals and 33 points in just 28 games.
17. Alex Newhook (C) - Victoria Grizzlies - BCHL
Newhook dominated the BCHL this season. His 102 points in 53 games ranked first in the league and earned him MVP honors. His 102-point campaign is the seventh-best on the all-time list for a U18 player in the BCHL.
18. Jakob Pelletier (LW) - Moncton Wildcats - QMJHL
In his draft-eligible season, Pelletier finished seventh overall in QMJHL scoring with 89 points in 65 games. His 39 goals ranked 11th in the league, and his play has been underrated throughout the league. He has a knack for driving to the net and creating offense. Pelletier knows exactly where to be to create the best scoring opportunity. Even when he is not having his best game, he is relentless.
19. Thomas Harley (D) - Mississauga Steelheads - OHL
Harley has a great offensive skill set. He is a quarterback on the power play and was relied on heavily by the Steelheads this season. His defensive game needs some work, but if he can work out the kinks in that aspect of his play, there is no doubt that he can be a top-four defenseman in the NHL.
20. Pavel Dorofeyev (W) - Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk - MHL
All of the hype this season in Russia has been been centered around Podkolzin, so Dorofeyev has slipped under the radar for some. However, after his stellar performance in the MHL in which he recorded 31 points in just 19 games, Dorofeyev got significant playing time in the KHL this season. In fact, he played 23 regular-season and four playoff games in the KHL, which is not very common for an 18-year-old player.
21. Nils Hoglander (LW) - Rögle BK - SHL
The SHL goal-of-the-year winner will be an intriguing prospect to watch come draft day. He has a high ceiling and showed glimpses of his potential in Sweden’s top league this past season. If he can take his game to the next level next season, he could end up looking like a major steal in the draft.
22. Philip Broberg (D) - AIK - Allsvenskan
Broberg is one of the more intriguing prospects in the draft, and he’s not a player that has gotten a lot of traction as a first-round option. However, Broberg is a great athlete and has a great work ethic. There are some areas of his game that could use some improvement, but he has the skills to be a top-four NHL defenseman. Broberg is a great skater and uses a combination of his skating and hockey sense to be in the right position to contribute both offensively and defensively.
23. Nathan Legare (W) - Baie-Comeau Drakkar - QMJHL
Legare emerged as one of the top goal-scorers in the QMJHL this season. His 45 goals ranked tied for second in th league and was the highest total by any draft-eligible player (not including overagers). Legare is great with the puck on his stick and can hold his own physically against defenders. His fast hands help him in his pursuit of getting to the net, getting around opposing defenders and getting pucks on net.
24. Ryan Suzuki (C) - Barrie Colts - OHL
It appears as though the first overall pick in the 2017 OHL draft will get selected in the first round yet again. Suzuki plays beyond his years. He makes smart decisions with the puck and makes complex dekes to get around defenders with ease. He can make space for himself and is not afraid to try things on the ice to score, doing so with confidence.
25. Victor Soderstrom (D) - Brynäs IF - SHL
Playing in the SHL as a 17- and 18-year old, Soderstrom showed his ability to play the game at a high level against men. He showed confidence and displayed a solid two-way game. He only put up seven points in 44 games, but that was the highest total by a U18 Junior in the SHL. Soderstrom is a smart player, and at such a young age is already a very complete player. He also boasts a strong slap shot, which helps him put pucks on net and contribute offensively for his team.
26. Spencer Knight (G) - U.S. National U18 Team - USDP
Many scouts consider Knight to be the best American goaltender since Jonathan Quick. His athleticism and speed are attributes NHL teams are looking for in a netminder. Knight certainly has the potential to be a starting goaltender in the NHL.
27. Bobby Brink (RW) - Sioux City Musketeers - USHL
Brink was one of the top producers in the USHL. He scored 35 goals on just 125 shots resulting in a shooting percentage of 28 percent, which was the highest in the USHL by anyone who played over 25 games. He finished fourth overall in USHL league scoring despite playing 21 fewer games than all three players who finished ahead of him.
28. Patrik Puistola (LW) - LeKi (loan) - Mestis
Puistola dominated the Mestis this season as one of the youngest players in the league. His 26 points in 22 games helped him rank 10th overall in points per game with 1.18. Puistola is a goal-scorer who is strong with the puck on his stick. He is hard to knock off the puck and has great stick-handling abilities that help him maneuver around opposing defenders and put pucks on net.
29. Mikko Kokkonen (D) - Jukurit - Liiga
Kokkonen had 19 points in 56 games as a defender in a men’s league; at his age, that’s very impressive. He can handle long shifts and can play in all situations.
30. Dustin Wolf (G) - Everett Silvertips - WHL
Wolf was the best goaltender in the WHL not named Ian Scott, who was drafted in 2017. Wolf posted an astonishing .936 save percentage and 1.69 goals-against average in 61 games. His stats in his draft season are even better than those of Carter Hart.
31. Philip Tomasino (C) - Niagara IceDogs - OHL
Tomasino has the potential to be one of the biggest steals of the draft. He has all of the tools to play at the NHL level. He biggest assets are his ability to play at a high pace and his puck-handling abilities, which he uses to get behind opposing defenders and create dangerous scoring chances for himself.
The rest of the bunch
32. Connor McMichael (C) - London Knights - OHL
33. Samuel Poulin (LW) - Sherbrooke Phoenix - QMJHL
34. Albin Grewe (C/RW) - Djurgårdens IF J20 - SuperElit
35. Dominic Fenshore (D) - U.S. National U18 Team - USDP
36. Dmitri Sheshin (LW) - Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk - MHL
37. Matthew Robertson (D) - Edmonton Oil Kings - WHL
38. Brayden Tracey (LW) - Moose Jaw Warriors - WHL
39. Blake Murray (C) - Sudbury Wolves - OHL
40. Anttoni Honka (D) - JYP - Liiga
41. Samuel Fagemo (LW/RW) - Frölunda HC - SHL
42. Brett Leason (RW) - Prince Albert Raiders - WHL
43. Alex Beaucage (RW/LW) - Rouyn-Noranda Huskies - QMJHL
44. Yegor Afanasyev (LW) - Muskegon Lumberjacks - USHL
45. Nicholas Robertson (C/LW) - Peterborough Petes - OHL
46. Lassi Thomson (D) - Kelowna Rockets - WHL
47. Justin Bergeron (D) - Rouyn-Noranda Huskies - QMJHL
48. John Beecher (C) - U.S. National U18 Team - USDP
49. Nolan Foote (LW) - WHL - Kelowna Rockets
50. Robert Mastrosimone (C/LW) - Chicago Steel - USHL
51. Jamison Rees (C) - Sarnia Sting - OHL
52. Keean Washkurak (C) - Mississauga Steelheads - OHL
53. Vladislav Kolyachonok (D) - Flint Firebirds - OHL
54. Maxim Cajkovic (RW/LW) - Saint John Sea Dogs - QMJHL
55. Tobias Bjornfut (D) - Djurgårdens IF J20 - SuperElit
56. Ben Brinkman (D) - Univ. of Minnesota - NCAA
57. Andrei Pribylsky (D) - Dynamo Moskva - KHL
58. Alex Vlasic (D) - U.S. National U18 Team - USDP
59. Cole Schwindt (RW) - Mississauga Steelheads - OHL
60. Leevi Aaltonen (LW) - KalPa U20 - Jr. A SM-liiga
61. Jonathan Brinkmann (LW) - Aalborg Pirates - Denmark
62. Marshal Warren (D) - U.S. National U18 Team - USDP
- Pyotr Kochetkov (G) - HK Ryazan - VHL
- Ilya Konovalov (G) - Lokomotiv Yaroslavl - KHL
- Jackson LaCombe (D) - Shattuck St. Mary’s Midget Prep - USHS-Prep
- Artemi Knyazev (D) - Chicoutimi Saguenéens - QMJHL
- Mads Søgaard (G) - Medicine Hat Tigers - WHL
- Henri Nikkanen (C) Jukurit - Liiga
- Kaedan Korczak (D) - Kelowna Rockets - WHL
- Ryan Johnson (D) - Sioux Falls Stampede - USHL
- Simon Holmström (RW) - HV71 J20 - SuperElit