The entry draft will bring the future stars of the NHL to Vancouver this weekend and there are so many different ways this draft can go. The wide variety of forwards that sit in the 5-12 spots make it fun to see who will fall, who will reach and who will be available for the Vancouver Canucks to pick at tenth.
This is not a ranking, this is projecting who a team likes or what I believe a team likes and/or needs.
Let’s mock it out.
- New Jersey Devils: Jack Hughes
Hughes has done more than enough to fully establish that he should be the first overall pick in this draft, he glides around the ice with an amazing stride and made USHL opponents look silly when he would give a quick shoulder shimmy and have defenders frozen in their skates as he flew around them. He’s the best playmaker in the draft due to the combination of his passing skill and the ability to create extra passing lanes with his steallar skating. The shot is developing and with some added muscle he will be one of the future stars of this league. The Devils will happily add Jack Hughes and hope to see a great rookie season for the kid.
- New York Rangers: Kaapo Kakko
Kaapo Kakko made a real push for the number one spot but unfortunately for him, Jack Hughes is just too dynamic with his skating and that is totally fine for the New York Rangers as they will happily select Kakko and he will instantly become one of the frontrunners for rookie of the year in 2019-20. Kakko has the shot that scouts dream about, he is a big bodied winger who can score from anywhere on the ice. This past season he scored 22 goals in 45 games in the Finnish Liiga. The World Championship explosion of six goals in 10 games got some people talking about him being the first overall pick but the Rangers will be happy to add him to their rebuild as it seems the Rangers have turned their team around pretty quickly and Henrik Lundqvist will love to see the young kid grow into an elite scorer in front of his eyes at the NHL level.
- Chicago Blackhawks: Alex Turcotte
Alex Turcotte is local kid who the Blackhawks will be happy to add to their centre group, he was born in Island Lake, Illinois which is less than an hour drive away from Chicago. Turcotte is the best two way centre in the draft and he claims that he tries to play hockey with a similar style as Sidney Crosby. Turcotte missed about half the season with the USNTDP due to injury but still was able to put up 27 goals and 62 points in 37 games with the ultra talented squad. Chicago will likely have to wait for Turcotte to play one year of NCAA hockey with the University of Wisconsin but after that season they would hope to have found their next Jonathan Toews.
- Colorado Avalanche: Bowen Byram
Every good team has a couple defencemen that can log 25+ minutes a game when they get to playoff time and the Avs can add one of those players when they select Bowen Byram with the fourth overall pick. They didn’t quite land the number one pick and win the lottery that they were hoping for but with a future top pairing defenceman falling to them at four they will happily select the Vancouver Giants’ stud defenceman. Give him another year in the WHL to develop and then they should have him playing in the NHL at some point in 2020-21.
- Los Angeles Kings: Cole Caufield
Some think that Cole Caufield could be the player who slides in this years draft and the Kings haven’t exactly gone the route of drafting small skilled wingers over the last few seasons but adding the scoring sensation Cole Caufield will add to a great prospect group of forwards that includes guys like Gabriel Vilardi, Rasmus Kupari and Akil Thomas. Caufield is dynamic in the offensive zone and finds holes in the defence where he can fire his quick shot that takes milliseconds to get off. The LA Kings are interested in Caufield as they have had an almost hour long phone conversation interview with him back in mid May and had an in-person chat at the NHL combine.
- Detroit Red Wings: Trevor Zegras
Trevor Zegras is an offensive force, he is probably the best passer in the draft and the Red Wings could see Zegras as a centre in the future even though some scouts say he fits better on the wing. With Filip Zadina and Trevor Zegras leading their prospect pool Wings fans should be excited to see the skill that these two could potentially bring to their future top six. Detroit should look to draft a defenceman as they are a bit weak in their prospect pool but if they could have looked into the future and seen that Trevor Zegras would be here for them in the 2019 draft I’m sure they would have passed on Zadina and grabbed Quinn Hughes at the 2018 entry draft. Drafting Philip Broberg or Victor Söderström as high as six is likely a little too high to look for a defenceman of that quality, the Red Wings and Steve Yzerman could be shopping this pick if Byram is off the board.
- Buffalo Sabres: Peyton Krebs
Someone is going to take the Kootenay glasses off and find one heck of a good player when they draft Peyton Krebs. With the Sabres wanting to sure up their left wing, they will explore bigger bodied wingers like Vasili Podkolzin and Matt Boldy but I think they will make a decision to go with the playmaking winger in Krebs. Krebs excelled at the U18s, he had the most points from a non-American and was also named team captain of the U18 squad, he was also named captain of the Kootenay Ice mid season on December 6th at the very green age of 17. It’s also one of the more rare situations where a player with a plus minus of -50 would be taken in the top 10 of the entry draft.
- Edmonton Oilers: Philip Broberg
The Oilers need defencemen and the Oilers suck at drafting, and with the 8th overall pick they will look to the big Swedish defenceman with plenty of boom or bust qualities. Broberg has great skating and plays very well against players his age. He struggles with his stick work and decision making and his breakout passes are kind of like playing Russian Roulette if you half the chambers resulting in turnovers and the other half resulting in good breakouts. The Oilers are going to Oiler and Ken Holland may see something in Broberg’s skating that makes him pull the trigger on a player he thinks will be a number one defenceman in the NHL.
EliteProspects has Broberg ranked at number 29 on their latest rankings, just saying…
- Anaheim Ducks: Kirby Dach
Kirby Dach fits what the Anaheim Ducks like, a big, strong skating centre who had times on the wing but with another year of junior will jump right into the AHL and work his way to the NHL quickly due to his size and speed. There were some great highlights from his past season with the Saskatoon Blades but his pure size and strength gave him the opportunity to lean on smaller players and bully his way to the net, it takes a special type of player to bully their way to the net in the NHL but Dach could be that special type of player. The good thing about Dach is his ability to score goals in tight areas and as a bigger bodies prospect he does show a lot of potential to be an Eric Staal type player who consistently buries goals when in close and can also score from a wrist shot on an odd man rush.
- Vancouver Canucks: Dylan Cozens
Cozens lands at 10 and there’s a ton to like about this kid, he’s 6’3″ with a good first three strides and loves to shoot the puck. The Canucks have shown interest in him already and he’s got one of the most interesting stories of how he got to this point in his young hockey career. Cozens’ hands match his foot speed and he is almost a 50/50 hybrid between being a playmaker and being a shooter. He is very capable of finding a teammate on the backdoor for an easy tap in but still likes to take two steps in the middle of the ice and rip a quick wrist shot on the powerplay. The Canucks could have their next top six forward if they do select Dylan Cozens but they are potentially missing out on some players who do show potential to be a top line wingers like Boldy, Podkolzin or even Newhook.
Remaining top 5 prospects
Matt Boldy: Matt is one of the best all around skilled players in this draft, he brings size and skill together to create one hell of a prospect. He has worked on his skating over the year and says he has taken, pardon the pun, big strides to being a better skater, Boldy was always a goal scorer growing up but had to develop more of a power game when he got a late growth spurt. He has silky hands and is able to pull his dekes off in very small areas, has a great one-timer from the right side on the powerplay and was able to control the bumper position as well. Boldy has a strong stride but still is working on getting quicker feet, he likely has one of the highest floors out of the wingers in the draft and still possesses a ceiling of being a top line left winger.
Vasili Podkolzin: The sturdy Russian plays a skilled game and is dynamite when the puck is on his stick in the high danger scoring chance areas. The KHL factor is always in the back of general managers mind’s with a player in his situation and though he will be in Russia for a couple years he will be a great boost to an NHL team when he comes to North America, the problem is when.
Alex Newhook: Alex is a tremendous skater, he’s a bit below the level of Jack Hughes but his flat out burner speed is head and shoulders above everyone else in this draft class. He proved that he fits in with the top players in this draft with the points parade that he had in the BCHL this season he then doubled down with his performance at the U18s and made scouts start to have him climb up their rankings. I’m curious if he projects more as a top six winger instead of centre, he’s got the speed to fly down a wing and we could see a move to the wing by the time he’s at the NHL level. Newhook is off to Boston College next season alongside Matt Boldy, Spencer Knight and Cam York. This kid will be a lot of fun to follow next season in the NCAA due to the change of competition he will be faced with and the Canucks have apparently shown a lot of interest in the local Newfoundlander.
Victor Söderström: I’ve said enough about this guy this season, he’s going to make a difference on an NHL team quickly, he was playing in the SHL at the age of 17 and by the time he turned 18 he was playing nearly 19 minutes a night and being counted on by Brynäs on the powerplay and penalty kill unit. He will return to Sweden next year and keep on a developmental path that could have him in the NHL as soon as 2020-21. He’s one of the smartest players in the draft and understands how to use offensive positional rotation to open up extra passing lanes and create easy scoring chances with the “one extra pass” mentality.
Cam York: Cam played this season with the USNTDP and was the powerplay quarterback on the elite group that was something that we have never seen in the history of the program. His teammates talk about his defensive positioning and ability to block shots as being underrated as most people were just focusing on the offensive parts of his game. When you look at the offensive part of his game he does have a good quick pass out of the defensive zone but the problem is that this USNTDP played in a lot less physical games when you compare it to the CHL leagues and it almost seems as though he had an extra second to make what will be split second decisions at the NHL level.
All in all it’s going to be a fun day at the NHL draft on Friday, there will be trades, reaches, fallers and shockers. I can’t wait to see it go down here in our hometown arena, and let’s hope we can have another stud prospect fall into our lap like last years draft.