- Jack Hughes, C, 5’10” 168 lbs (USNTDP)
No surprise here but yes, Jack Hughes is the consensus number one overall pick for the 2019 NHL draft. Kaapo Kakko is getting a lot of love because of his performance at the world juniors and his play against men in Finland but Hughes is still on another level in my opinion. He’s not a big player but he makes up for it with his speed and skill. Is Jack Hughes a franchise type player? People might call me crazy for saying this but I think he’s a franchise player, on the same level as Jack Eichel and Auston Matthews. He’ll be in the NHL next year and will make an immediate impact wherever he ends up. Don’t push the “he’s too small” narrative, he’s a phenomenal hockey player and going to have a great career.
2. Kaapo Kakko, RW, 6’2″ 190 lbs (TPS, Liiga)
If Kakko’s name isn’t called second in June I’ll be shocked. Kakko is having a great season for TPS this year as a 17-year-old playing in a men’s league in Finland putting up 22 points in 28 games thus far. He also represented Finland at the WJC where he scored the tournament winning goal late in the third period against Jack Hughes and team USA. Now just because he outplayed Hughes at the tournament doesn’t mean he’s better than him at all. There’s a dropoff from Hughes to Kakko but I also believe that there’s a decent dropoff from Kakko down to the next tier of players. I think Kakko can play in the NHL next year and probably even in a top six role. He’s a great skater and has an elite shot and he can also hold his own defensively. Kakko is the real deal.
3. Vasili Podkolzin, RW, 6’1″ 190 lbs (SKA, MHL)
Podkolzin really has had a great draft year so far. After watching him at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in the summer I was absolutely blown away watching him play for team Russia. He’s just such a dynamic player and can absolutely fly. It was shocking to see that he was added to the Russian WJC roster because typically the Russians don’t being draft eligible players but Podkolzin had a very nice showing on a solid Russian squad. He has bounced around a bit from team to team but I wouldn’t be surprised if he is playing in the KHL by season’s end.
4. Dylan Cozens, C, 6’3″ 185 lbs (Lethbridge, WHL)
It was a really tough decision between Cozens and Podkolzin for the third spot in this month’s ranking. Cozens is a big power forward and he is an excellent skater, He won WHL rookie of the year last season and is having a great season putting up impressive numbers for the Hurricanes. Like Podkolzin, he also had a great showing at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and has been in discussions to be a top five pick since. Another important thing to note with Cozens is that he can play both center and wing. I thought that he should’ve gotten a look for team Canada at the WJC but with a lineup as deep as theirs, it’s hard for draft eligibles to make the team. But he should be a lock to be on the team next year if he’s not making an impact in the NHL.
5. Kirby Dach, C, 6’4″ 198 lbs (Saskatoon, WHL)
Dach is such a fun player to watch. For his size, he is an outstanding skater and is one of the best playmakers in the draft. Every time I watch him play he is a dominant force on the ice. He has a good shot but I’d like to see him use it more and I’ve also noticed from time to time he tries too much with the puck and will turn it over but there aren’t really major issues and can easily be corrected. His upside is tremendous and if he is properly developed, you’re looking at a potential star player.
6. Bowen Byram, D, 6’1″ 192 lbs (Vancouver, WHL)
Byram is the best defenseman in this draft and I don’t think that any other defenseman will be surpassing him. He plays a 200-foot game and is just as good offensively as he is defensive. As a draft eligible defenseman, he is putting up solid numbers in the WHL as he is just under a point per game as of January 16th. Now it might be a long shot but I really wouldn’t be surprised if he gets an opportunity to start in the NHL next season. As far as defensemen go, he is the most NHL ready of them all.
7. Alex Turcotte, C, 5’11” 194 lbs (USNTDP)
Turcotte has been the victim of the injury bug so far this season but he has recently returned for the U.S. development team and has been fantastic. While Jack Hughes was in Vancouver for the WJC, Turcotte centered the top line for the NTDP and was probably their best player in Hughes’ absence. Turcotte is one of my favorites in this draft and in my opinion, would be an excellent pick for the Sabres if they continue to freefall in the standings. He’s such a dynamic skilled player that can play in both ends of the ice. As the season goes on, he could be a riser.
8. Matthew Boldy, LW, 6’2″ 187 lbs (USNTDP)
All I can say about Matt Boldy is that this guy is just the total package that all 31 teams would be looking for in a player. Dynamic skill, speed, size, 200-foot game, vision, hockey sense, etc. He’s a game breaking player for the NTDP. Now there’s gonna be some nuts out there that are gonna attribute his success to playing with a player like Jack Hughes but I’ll say this. It takes great players to play with players like Jack Hughes and Matt Boldy is just that, a great player.
9. Peyton Krebs, C, 5’11” 181 lbs (Kootenay, WHL)
Well, it hasn’t been great for the Kootenay Ice since Sam Reinhart left back in 2015 and this year is no different. Another year in the basement of the WHL standings for the Ice but one of the only bright sides for the team is their captain and former number one pick, Peyton Krebs. Krebs reminds me of Reinhart from when he used to play in Kootenay but I think that Krebs has more speed to his game. But he also has good playmaking ability, vision, and hockey sense like Sam Reinhart. He played a lot on the wing last year but has transitioned to center this season.
10. Philip Broberg, D, 6’3″ 203 lbs (AIK, Allsvenskan)
Broberg is a really raw talented defenseman. I really like his skating and his offensive minded style of play. A decent comparable for him might be Chicago prospect Adam Boqvist from the 2018 draft. Broberg was added to the Swedish world junior team in the wake of the sudden injury to Tim Liljegren. Broberg didn’t get much ice time for Sweden but it’s good for his development that he was able to experience the tournament in his draft year. He should have a much greater role at the WJC next year.
11. Arthur Kaliyev, LW, 6’2″ 190 lbs (Hamilton, OHL)
I’m a huge Kaliyev fan and he is one of the players that I really want the Sabres to select this summer. Kaliyev is a pure goal scorer and he has already surpassed his goal total from last year and it’s only January. He already has 33 goals and I don’t think 50 goals is out of the question for him.
12. Raphael Lavoie, RW, 6’4″ 198 lbs (Halifax, QMJHL)
The Halifax Mooseheads just continue to be a factory for high end NHL prospects and Lavoie is next in line. He’s one of the older players in the draft as he was very close to being eligible for the 2018 draft. Lavoie is an offensive weapon and possesses great shooting and passing ability. His offensive tools coupled with his size and strength will make him very attractive for NHL teams come draft time.
13. Ryan Suzuki, C, 6’0″ 172 lbs (Barrie, OHL)
At the same age, I believe that Ryan is probably better than his older brother Nick who is a prospect for the Montreal Canadiens who was drafted by Vegas in the first round of the 2017 draft. Suzuki is a former number one pick by the Barrie Colts a couple years back and has been a solid contributor for them through two seasons in the OHL. Suzuki is a great skater that will produce at the next level.
14. Trevor Zegras, C, 6’0″ 168 lbs (USNTDP)
Imagine having Jack Hughes, Alex Turcotte and Trevor Zegras as your top three centers. Zegras is a hell of a prospect and would probably be a top player on any other junior team whether it’s in the USHL, OHL, WHL, or QMJHL. He’s just behind two superior centers but even in a smaller role, he still produces like you’d expect a high end draft prospect to produce. He’s a quick playmaking center that plays with a little snarl in his game.
15. Cole Caufield, RW, 5’7″ 157 lbs (USNTDP)
Caufield is a really talented goal scoring winger. But his size is going to really hurt his draft stock because NHL GM’s still have yet to learn that smaller players can make an impact. Look no further than Johnny Gaudreau and the player that he’s drawing comparisons to in Alex DeBrincat. I can see him sliding into the 20s but skill wise, he’s right up there with the other elite prospects. I pray that Jason Botterill and the Sabres scouting staff are fans of him because he would be a great fit alongside Eichel or Mittelstadt.
16. Alex Newhook, C, 5’11” 183 lbs (Victoria, BCHL)
Newhook is a really, really talented player and probably has one of the best skill sets in the draft. I really have no doubt that the question that will be brought up with Newhook will be the fact that he’s playing in an inferior league to most of the other prospects that are first round calibre. But don’t be fooled, this kid is a really talented player and deserves to be considered as a first round pick.
17. Cam York, D, 5’11” 172 lbs (USNTDP)
York is a quick puck moving defenseman who can put up points. He has been the development team’s best defenseman this season and could potentially be a big riser in rankings this year. He’s committed to the University of Michigan next season and should definitely be one to watch for Sabres fans as he’d fit in well on this defense going forward.
18. Victor Soderstrom, D, 5’11” 176 lbs (Brynas, SHL)
Soderstrom is a fun player to watch and you would never know that he’s only 17 years old when you see him up against men in the Swedish elite league. He’s the prototypical modern day defenseman that every team is looking for now. Fast, smart, great skater, and a great passer. He’s another guy that the Sabres should be zeroing in on come draft time.
19. Connor McMichael, C, 6’0″ 170 lbs (London, OHL)
Right now McMichael is my favorite player in the draft. I am just wowed by him every time I watch the Knights play. He has been kind of under the radar for some reason and hasn’t been getting the attention that he deserves but I just love this player. He’s a fast crafty player who has produced a lot as a draft eligible. He is a first round caliber player and will be a player that will rise in rankings this year. Think of his teammate Liam Foudy who was drafted by Columbus in the first round last year.
20. Moritz Seider, D, 6’4″ 198 lbs (Mannheim, DEL)
I recently watched Seider for the first time and I was absolutely blown away. As a 17 year old playing in the DEL, he was fantastic. He played a lot of minutes and was even giving some power play and penalty kill time as well. He looks like a big risk taker from the back end that really likes to get up the ice and create offense. And he’s a great skater too, coupled with the fact that he’s a right handed shot, he’s got some serious potential to be a very good NHL defenseman a few years down the road. Again, Buffalo needs to be zeroing in on Seider.
21. Thomas Harley, D, 6’3″ 183 lbs (Mississauga, OHL)
Harley has kind of come out of nowhere this season, similarly to Noah Dobson from last year. He’s a great skater and passer who can be a nice puck moving defenseman at the next level. With the Steelheads moving on from many of their core players like Owen Tippett, Harley will be taking on more of an important role and he is most certainly ready for that.
22. Jakob Pelletier, LW, 5’9″ 161 lbs (Moncton, QMJHL)
Pelletier is yet another undersized guy who has tons of skill that can really skate that will inevitably slide in the draft just because he’s small. But don’t be mistaken, this player has first round talent.
23. Matthew Robertson, D, 6’4″ 201 lbs (Edmonton, WHL)
Robertson is a big smart defenseman that has logged a lot of minutes for the Edmonton Oil Kings. He’s not exactly a flashy defenseman like most other first round level prospects the past few years but he is very solid defensively. He’s a two way guy that won’t really blow you away. His skating is average.
24. Brett Leason, C, 6’5″ 198 lbs (Prince Albert, WHL)
Leason is a pure goal scorer that for whatever reason has been passed on in back to back drafts. He represented Team Canada at the WJC in Vancouver this year and was really good and put points up for them. The question here is will a team want to invest a first round pick on a 20-year-old come draft time?
25. Anttoni Honka, D, 5’10” 176 lbs (JYP, Liiga)
He is the younger brother of former Dallas first round pick, Julius Honka. Anttoni plays a very similar game to his brother n the sense that both are smooth skating, puck moving defenseman that are really creative with the puck. He’s a bit undersized but is definitely a candidate to be a first round pick.
26. Alex Vlasic, D, 6’6″ 192 lbs (USNTDP)
Oh hey, another player from the NTDP, I’m starting to notice a trend. Vlasic skates extremely well for a 6’6″ defenseman. He’s also very sound defensively but won’t exactly put a lot of points on the board. He’s committed to Boston University.
27. Albin Grewe, RW, 6’0″ 176 lbs (Djurgardens IF, SuperElit)
Grewe is an energy type of player. He’s really quick and plays physical. He was a standout for me when I saw him play for team Sweden at the U18s. His production has been great in the SuperElit league and I would be surprised if he isn’t playing in the SHL by season’s end.
28. Spencer Knight, G, 6’3″ 198 lbs (USNTDP)
I hate the thought of selecting goalies in the first round of the draft but I might make an exception for Spencer Knight. He’s got size, is athletic, and is really technically sound. Only concern I have with him is that he’s on a loaded team and I’m kind of getting shades of Zach Fucale who backstopped that loaded Halifax teams from years ago. But there’s no doubt that he’s a good goalie that is worth a crack at in the first or second round. But just keep that in the back of your mind, he’s on a LOADED team.
29. Nick Robertson, LW, 5’9″ 158 lbs (Peterborough, OHL)
*See description for Jakob Pelletier*
30. Nolan Foote, LW, 6’3″ 190 lbs (Kelowna, WHL)
If you’re one that cares about bloodlines, Nolan is the son of Adam Foote and the brother of Tampa’s 2017 first rounder, Cal Foote. Unlike Adam and Cal, Nolan isn’t a defenseman but he is still a big player like his father and brother. He needs to work on skating but he’s a smart player that has a good shot.
31. Samuel Poulin, LW, 6’1″ 207 lbs (Sherbrooke, QMHL)
Poulin’s production has been great for Sherbrooke this season. He is above a point per game and for a draft eligible payer in any league, that’s really good. He has size and a good shot, he should be a high second round pick at the very least.
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