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Photo Credit: Rena Laverty

2019 NHL Draft: Consolidated Industry Rankings for December 2018

The World Juniors have arrived, and always renews interest in NHL prospects. While most of the players to watch at the under-20 championships are already affiliated with NHL teams, there are a handful of draft eligible players looking to make their mark as well.

It’s been nearly two months since I last published a consolidated list of the industry draft rankings, and with the calendar year coming to a close, it seems like a good time to check in on the prospective first round picks of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

As always, I like to start with a table of the included lists. Five list-makers have released new rankings since the October edition of this series, while two (McKeen’s and The Athletic) published their first rankings of the draft cycle.

Service Sportsnet ISS Hockey Hockey Prospect McKeen’s Hockey The Athletic Dobber Prospects Future Considerations TSN Craig’s List The Hockey News The Score TSN Industry Poll
Author Sam Cosentino Staff Staff Ryan Wagman Scott Wheeler Cam Robinson Staff Craig Button Ryan Kennedy Hannah Stuart Bob McKenzie
Date December 12 December 5 November 22 November 15 November 6 November 5 November 1 October 22 October 18 September 17 September 17

You can click on the service/publication to check out their individual lists yourself; many have blurbs on players in addition to ordered lists, which may be of interest to you. For now, only The Athletic’s list is behind a paywall. That will change as we get closer to draft day. Typically McKeen’s, HockeyProspect.com and ISS will release their first round only, with the rest of their rankings being available for purchase. If ESPN gets around to publishing a ranking, it will likely be behind a paywall, requiring an Insider account.

Let’s just right into the main reason that you all came here: the consolidated list for December 2018.

Cream of the Crop

The top three remain unchanged. Jack Hughes is pretty much untouchable at this point, despite a first half that hasn’t appeared to significantly build on last year’s campaign. Part of Jack’s perceived issues are his numbers against USHL competition: namely, that one goal in 10 games. A shooting percentage of 2.4% in those games is a pretty obvious culprit, while the dynamic American is averaging over 4.0 shots per game against USHL squads. In Hughes’ other 15 games, he’s picked up nine goals, tallying ten in total on 114 shots.

His 48 points in 25 games is only marginally better than the 68 points he put up in 38 games with the Under-18 team, but his 1.93 points per game continues to be second only to Auston Matthews (1.95) in the history of the USNTDP Under-18 team, far ahead of Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel, Jack Eichel, Clayton Keller, and Matthew Tkachuk. The fact is that Hughes may have a limited ceiling in the US program in terms of how many points he can realistically score on a per game basis given the abilities of teammates, deployment, and so on. It’s unlikely that he’ll have the logistical capability of catching and surpassing a player like Kaapo Kakko, who’s putting in decent points in a professional league, in terms of a league-adjusted stat like NHLe or SEAL adjusted scoring (for reference, Kakko is currently on top of my SEAL list, with Hughes sitting in eighth).

Even with that artificial ceiling on Hughes’ numbers, Kakko (a fantastic prospect in his own right) just isn’t elite enough to challenge Hughes for the number one spot, and that isn’t going to change between now and the draft. Just as Laine did in 2016, Kakko may make a late push and maybe join Finland’s world championship squad in May, but it won’t do anything besides generate some interesting storylines. This is the Jack Hughes draft, just as 2016 belonged to Auston Matthews from wire to wire.

Riddle in the Middle Redux

In a previous installment of the consolidated rankings, I had noted that this year was particularly strong on centres, and while that is still mostly true, a lot of those high-ranked pivots are beginning to lost ground (including Alex Turcotte, Raphael Lavoie, Alex Newhook, Matvei Guskov, and Valentin Nussbaumer) in favour of some high scoring wingers and puck moving defencemen.

Two centres that aren’t losing any ground: Lethbridge’s Dylan Cozens and Saskatoon’s Kirby Dach. Nestled firmly at 3 and 4 on the list above, Cozens and Dach are both tall, highly skilled, and strong skaters, and have the making of first line NHL centres.

It’s likely that some of the other centres floating around in the 5-20 region will reach those heights in the NHL as well, but each becomes a progressively greater gamble to pull that off as one proceeds down the list.

Speaking of proceeding down the list, let’s do that thing where we look at who’s been moving up and moving down in a big way since the last consolidated list.

Risers

Working his way into the top ten for the first time this season is one of those aforementioned high scoring wingers: Matthew Boldy has moved from 12th in October to seventh in December. Boldy tore up the Under-17 circuit last year, but didn’t get much of a sniff with the Under-18 squad. The Boston College committee is fourth on the U18 team in points and second in goals, Boldy has a powerful, but excels in in vision and hockey IQ as well. One key thing to watch out for: he’s been spending quite a bit of time lately on Jack Hughes’ wing, and I don’t think I need to tell who’s the straw that stirs the drink on that line. That doesn’t mean Boldy’s numbers are a complete apparition; it just means a grain of salt is called for.

Kelowna Rockets winger Nolan Foote has come on strong of late, jumping up six places since we last checked in. The son on Adam Foote (and younger brother of Tampa Bay defensive prospect Cal Foote) has been a top 2019 prospect for years already, so he’s not exactly coming out of nowhere here. If anything, he’s regaining some of the ground that he’s lost in recent times. Foote is hovering near a point per game, meaning that he hasn’t shown the dynamic scoring ability some others in the WHL have, but he’s smart, a strong skater, and excellent at protecting the puck. His bloodline will guarantee him an opportunity at the next level, even if he projects to be more of a low ceiling, high floor type of player.

Popping into the first round for the first time is German-born Moritz Seider. While many German prospects head to more prominent hockey countries to get noticed at this age (see Dominik Bokk, 2018, SHL; Justin Schutz, 2018, Czech U18; Leon Gawanke, 2017, QMJHL; Manuel Wiederer, 2016, QMJHL; Frederik Tiffels, 2015, USHL/NCAA; Leon Draisaitl, 2014, WHL; Tobias Rieder, 2011, OHL), Seider is looking to become the first German-born player since Tom Kuhnhackl in 2010 to be drafted after spending in draft season playing in his home country (even then, Kuhnhackl joined the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires the following season). He also has the opportunity to be just the seventh German-born player to be taken in the first round of the draft, and the first ever German defenceman to achieve such a feat.

Fallers

One cannot rise without another falling, so the above players have some people to thank. One of those is Alex Turcotte, another USNTDP centreman who’s biggest crime so far this season in being injured. Turcotte recently rejoined the Under-18 team (putting up four points in four games since his return) and will look to repair his draft stock going forward. For him, there’s no time like the present – Turcotte will get plenty of opportunity with Jack Hughes in Vancouver for the World Juniors.

Barely clinging to a spot in our imaginary first round is Czech-born speedster Maxim Cajkovic, who is appearing in the Fallers section for the second straight time. This young winger’s two calling cards are his explosive acceleration and a hammer of a slap shot, but neither has led to particularly notable production in his first season in the QMJHL after being selected first overall in the 2018 CHL Import Draft. It doesn’t help that the Quebec League team that drafted him (Saint John Sea Dogs) is terrible, wallowing with a 6-26 record and a league-worst minus-110 goal differential. Cajkovic is tied for first in points on this sad sack team, which may indicate that improvement is in the cards if he gets an opportunity to play for a better team.

One player that wasn’t able to hold on to his first round spot is Swiss forward Valentin Nussbaumer. Like Cajkovic, Nussbaumber came over to the QMJHL in the CHL import draft, and like Cajkovic, he’s struggled to produce at an impressive level. With 18 points in 30 games with Shawinigan, Nussbauber lags far behind other Quebec League draft eligibles like Raphael Lavoie, Jakob Pelletier, Samuel Poulin, and Nathan Legare, who are all above a point per game. Heck, Pelletier has already cleared 50 points. Nussbaumer is currently suiting up for the Swiss squad at the World Juniors, and that may be the best way to rebuild his draft reputation. The way things are going right now, he may be headed down the same road as Swiss teammate Nando Eggenberger, who spent 2017-18 tumbling down draft rankings before being ignored altogether on draft day.

Tiers

As I often do, I’d like to finish this consolidated rankings article off with a chart plotting the pseudo first round’s tiers.

A lot of what we talked about earlier is evident here: Jack Hughes is in a tier of his own, and Kakko is pretty secure in the second spot (for the time being), while Cozens and Dach are alone now in a third tier. The next tier involves Matthew Boldy, Bowen Byram, and Vasili Podkolzin, but it doesn’t present much of an advantage over the next group, which includes Peyton Krebs, Ryan Suzuki, Alex Turcotte and Raphael Lavoie.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the final consolidated rankings of 2018, and that you’ve learned something here. We’ll revisit these lists again once new rankings pour in after the World Juniors and CHL Top Prospects game.

  • If the Canucks maintain their current position and draft in the 10-20 range, it might be a good idea to draft Soderstrom or Honka, who are both RHD. Draft rankings are usually kind of a crap shoot in that range anyway, and they address the biggest weakness in the team’s draft pool.

    • No more small defensemen. We already have Hughes and Stecher. Great in the regular season, but when the playoffs come around and the whistles get put away, those type of players become less effective. Look who won the Cup last year, the biggest team in the league. Not saying its right, just the facts.

      • No more small Dmen, I agree. That doesn’t mean they need more Gudbransons but when heavy teams are knocking you off the puck showing them your regular season 5v5 corsi doesn’t really help.

        Hughes is going to need a better D partner than Gudbranson. Maybe it’s Tanev for awhile but a top end RHD prospect remains a significant gap.

    • It’s not an either/or thing. It never has been.

      It might be that when it’s the Canucks’ turn to draft, there will be one player that Benning thinks is clearly better than the rest. If so, Benning should draft him.

      But it’s likely there will be a couple of players who seem to have roughly equal potential. Rating players is not, after all, an exact science. If that happens, draft the one that best fits the club’s needs.

      • That is certainly true especially after the 1st round or two. The insight we got last summer from the Canucks draft preparation process was great. They prepared a list of 45 players in order of draft preference. They then build a ranked list for each position for players beyond the top 45. If memory serves each list is 15 players long.

        The work Benning has done to instil a process for player ratings, list building and capitalizing on Brackett’s expertise is really paying off. It took Gillis and Gilmann 4 years to figure out they where undervaluing WHL players and that their draft process didn’t work. Arrogance is a dangerous thing. It’s fixed now but I hope the Canucks don’t take any more flyers on unheard of Europeans.

        • I’m okay with flyers in the 5th round or later, where the odds of a draftee having a significant NHL career are worse than one in ten. I have no problem with selecting Lucas Jasek, for example, who has the best plus/minus of all Utica forwards. He might get a call up late in the season.

          • Jasek was a good pick up but he wasn’t really an unknown. Central scouting had him ranked 23rd among European skaters and he was projected as a 3rd or 4th rd pick.

            I was thinking about that russian kid they took last year whose the size of Michael J Fox

          • Manukyan’s going to join the Canucks in 2020, win the Calder and Hart Memorial, lead the Canucks to the Stanley Cup, and then you’ll be sorry you said that.

            Probably.

        • Really? The mistake Gillis made was not firing the old boys fast enough. How is that arrogance? We could have been the sOilers all over again if he hadn’t changed things up — he just didn’t do it fast enough.

          Arrogance is Benning coming in and saying he could turn things around quickly and then give us three years of additional suffering putting bandaids on bunch of stale zombies.

          And before you bring up all the NTC’s that J.B. had to deal with, explain Loui’s contract, Gagner, Gudbranson, MDZ, Schaller, Beagle — all contracts pretty much impossible to move even without NTC’s. Complain all you want about what Gillis did but that team was feared, hated and competing in the playoffs every year until the end when it should have started rebuilding… instead we got “turn-around” Benning. Still waiting.

          • You can rant all you like about how great Gillis was or all the poor signings Benning has made but it doesn’t change things.

            Gillis is arrogant. Gillis couldn’t draft. Gillis left this franchise in a disaster. Benning isn’t arrogant. He is actually quite humble. Benning has set up an effective drafting process.

            That doesn’t mean Benning is a good GM or that Gillis didn’t have his strengths.