If you’re living on the Canadian west coast, you have no shortage of reasons to be enthralled by the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. For one, the local team has been decidedly bad the past few years, and in spite of a bevy of talent percolating in the pipeline, the Canucks seem poised to finish the 2018-19 as a lottery contender once again.
Even more intriguing, however, is the fact that the 2019 Draft will be held right in our own backyard, taking place in Rogers Arena for the first time since 2006 (when the building was of course known as General Motors Place).
I also don’t think I’d be too out of line suggesting that the mere existence of CanucksArmy, and the writers that it has provided to other outlets in Vancouver, has increased not only the fanbases competency for draft-related material, but its interest in it as well. Availability of good information can indeed lead to greater interest in the source matter.
For those of you who aren’t swayed by numbers and the opinions of others alone (and that should apply to everyone who wants to form an opinion on a hockey prospect), but you don’t have the time or resources to go jet-setting around the world scouting the planet’s best 17-year old hockey players, then what you need is for the top prospects to come to you.
This is the perfect year for that attitude: while the draft classes in recent years have been a bit light on WHL talent (outside of Nolan Patrick, who spent much of his draft year injured and missed the only game his team was scheduled to play in Vancouver), the upcoming draft class is chock full of WHL talent.
But it gets even better: Vancouver, along with Victoria, will also be hosting the 2019 World Junior Championship, giving you a chance to see a few more top prospects that aren’t playing in local leagues.
This season, if you play your cards right (and get a little lucky), you might be able to see as many as seven top-ten 2019 draft picks (and a handful more first rounders) without ever getting on a plane, and several of those without even leaving the BC lower mainland. What follows is a guide to watching the top 2019 NHL draft prospects with your very own eyeballs, without straying too far from home (assuming your home is somewhere around Vancouver).
The World Juniors
It’s generally quite rare for a draft-eligible prospect to appear in the top division of the World Junior Tournament, an under-20 competition typically dominated by draft-plus-one and draft-plus-two players – only the very best undrafted prospects available even get a sniff.
This year, just like in 2016 with Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, the projected top two picks are American and Finnish, and both will likely have an opportunity to show their talents on junior hockey’s biggest stage.
The presumptive first overall selection, Jack Hughes, is likely to not only make the US squad, but be the best player on it. He has been absolutely dominant with the US National Development Team, leading the squad in points per game. He finished with the most points against USHL competition, clearing teammate Oliver Wahlstrom by nearly 10 points. Wahlstrom of course is a year older and was just drafted 11th overall this past June.
The aforementioned Finn is Kaapo Kakko. As I mentioned in the season-opening consolidated draft rankings on Tuesday, Kakko is off to a hot start in the Finnish Liiga, having grabbed six points in his first five games. He hasn’t slowed down yet, grabbing another goal in his most recent game.
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) September 25, 2018
Kakko might not be the only draft eligible player representing his country however, as Anttoni Honka, a top defensive prospect, was invited to the Summer Showcase back in July and August. Additionally, there were a pair of players on the summer rosters that weren’t selected in the drafts for which they were originally eligible: Canada’s Joel Teasdale and Finland’s Linus Nyman.
Here’s the rub: both the USA and Finland will be playing their round robin games at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria (tickets here). Two quarter-finals will be played at each Victoria and Vancouver, while the relegation matches (in which neither the USA or Finland is likely to take part in), semi-finals and finals will be at Rogers Arena.
The quarter-finals involve group crossover and the exact schedule is dependent on where Canada places (if they make the quarters, they are guaranteed the 3:30 pm game in Vancouver), so it is still conceivable the both the Americans and the Finns play their quarters in Vancouver, and it’s possible that they both make the semis and even the finals – these two nations faced off in gold medal games at the U18 World Championships in both 2017 and 2018.
Still, even if the USA and Finland don’t play many (or any) games in Vancouver, you can still visit Victoria by ferry, so my no-planes promise holds true.
(Note: all distances below are calculated from Rogers Arena, an arbitrary starting point within Vancouver.)
|Jack Hughes||Team USA||December 26, 2018||Victoria||Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre||114 km|
|Kappo Kakko/Anttoni Honka||Team Finland||December 26, 2018||Victoria||Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre||114 km|
|Kappo Kakko/Anttoni Honka||Team Finland||December 27, 2018||Victoria||Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre||114 km|
|Jack Hughes||Team USA||December 28, 2018||Victoria||Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre||114 km|
|Kappo Kakko/Anttoni Honka||Team Finland||December 29, 2018||Victoria||Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre||114 km|
|Jack Hughes||Team USA||December 29, 2018||Victoria||Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre||114 km|
Kaapo Kakko/Anttoni Honka
|Team USA vs
|December 31, 2018||Victoria||Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre||114 km|
If you’re looking to scout the 2019 draft without leaving metro Vancouver, then there’s no player that you’ll get more views on than Bowen Byram. The crafty blueliner is entering his second full season as a member of the Vancouver Giants, meaning that you’ll be able to catch him for 34 home games (health permitting), before playoffs factor in. Here’s a link to the Giants’ home game schedule this season so that you can plan accordingly.
Because of the conference situation, not all of the WHL prospects will be visiting the Langley Events Centre this year. Saskatoon’s Kirby Dach will though, as the Blades are scheduled to visit Vancouver on November 27th.
|Kirby Dach||Saskatoon Blades||November 27, 2018||Langley||Langley Events Centre||44 km|
For some of the other top prospects, you’ll have to get a little more creative. You’ll be able to catch both Peyton Krebs and Dylan Cozens without paying for airfare, as they’ll both pay a visit to Seattle this season, on November 30th and January 25th respectively. Krebs and the Kootenay Ice will also play in Everett on December 1st.
|Peyton Krebs||Kootenay Ice||November 30, 2018||Seattle, WA||Accesso ShoWare Center||265 km|
|Peyton Krebs||Kootenay Ice||December 1, 2018||Everett, WA||Angel of the Winds Arena||185 km|
|Dylan Cozens||Lethbridge Hurricanes||January 25, 2019||Seattle, WA||Accesso ShoWare Center||265 km|
The Edmonton Oil Kings’ Matthew Robertson, a potential mid-first round pick, will also hit both Everett and Seattle, on November 12th and 13th respectively. Robertson is a big defender with good straight ahead and a knack for thinking quickly and making smart, instinctive plays up ice.
|Matthew Robertson||Edmonton Oil Kings||November 12, 2018||Everett, WA||Angel of the Winds Arena||185 km|
|Matthew Robertson||Edmonton Oil Kings||November 13, 2018||Seattle, WA||Accesso ShoWare Center||265 km|
There are plenty of other players to scout as we move on through the early rounds. Nolan Foote, younger brother of Tampa Bay 2017 first round selection Cal Foote, and son of Adam Foote, will visit the LEC four times this year, on October 21st, January 27th, and March 1st and 15th.
|Nolan Foote||Kelowna Rockets||October 1st, 2018||Langley||Langley Events Centre||44 km|
|Nolan Foote||Kelowna Rockets||January 27, 2019||Langley||Langley Events Centre||44 km|
|Nolan Foote||Kelowna Rockets||March 1, 2019||Langley||Langley Events Centre||44 km|
|Nolan Foote||Kelowna Rockets||March 15, 2019||Langley||Langley Events Centre||44 km|
Sasha Mutala of the Tri-City Americans will visit the Giants on back-to-back nights to kick off December, playing at the Pacific Coliseum on December 1st and the LEC on December 2nd. Seattle’s Dillon Hamaliuk will be in town on September 28th and October 27th. Luke Toporowski and the Spokane Chiefs will play at the LEC on September 30th and February 15th.
|Dillon Hamaliuk||Seattle Thunderbirds||September 28, 2018||Langley||Langley Events Centre||44 km|
|Luke Toporowski||Spokane Chiefs||September 30, 2018||Langley||Langley Events Centre||44 km|
|Dillon Hamaliuk||Seattle Thunderbirds||October 27, 2018||Langley||Langley Events Centre||44 km|
|Sasha Mutala||Tri-City Americans||December 1, 2018||Vancouver||Pacific Coliseum||7 km|
|Sasha Mutala||Tri-City Americans||December 2, 2018||Langley||Langley Events Centre||44 km|
|Luke Toporowski||Spokane Chiefs||February 15, 2019||Langley||Langley Events Centre||44 km|
High end prospects in British Columbia aren’t limited to major junior. Every year, a handful of players are drafted out of the BCHL, easily the strongest of Canada’s junior A leagues. The BCHL has seen a few first round picks in the NHL draft in recent years as well (including Tyson Jost, Dante Fabbro, and Dennis Cholowski), and it’ll produce another first round talent this year in Alex Newhook. With BCHL franchises scattered around the lower mainland, you’ll get plenty of opportunities to see Newhook cruise through town with his Victoria Grizzlies. He’ll play in Surrey on October 28th, Coquitlam on November 16th, and Langley on January 11th.
|Alex Newhook||Victoria Grizzlies||October 28, 2018||Surrey||South Surrey Arena||45 km|
|Alex Newhook||Victoria Grizzlies||November 16, 2018||Coquitlam||Poirier Sport & Leisure Complex||27 km|
|Alex Newhook||Victoria Grizzlies||January 11, 2019||Langley||George Preston Arena||51 km|
Beyond that, if you’re willing to travel to Victoria, or you’re already from there, here’s a link to the Grizzlies’ home games this season as well so you can become a full fledged Alex Newhook expert.
I’ve gone ahead and thrown the locations of these various arenas into a Google Map as well (hopefully it works), so you can get a feel for the potential travel involved in your future scouting endeavors.