Month: February 2019

2019 Mid Season Draft Board (Round 1)

I always omit the tip top picks from my draft board for the first round because EVERYBODY is going to be talking about those kids.  Hughes, Kaako and Podkolzin are the top 3 and then there’s everybody else.  If you have a top 3 pick, you’re taking one of those kids, that’s it.  So for the sake of discussion we are going to ASSUME that the pick I am picking for is outside the top 3.  The First round is where you have to hit and you have to knock it out of the park.  First round misses are the deathknell to franchises and a string of them can doom a team to mediocrity for years.  As a GM, you have to get this one right, and if you’re not confident in your scouting department, you should trade your first round pick for a known return commodity.  Wasting them on busts and missed opportunities is just not an option.  You better get it right and 4 out of 5 of these kids are surefire ways to do that as far as I’m concerned.

Victor Soderstrom – Defender (Right-Handed)
2/26/01: Skutskar, Sweden
Current Team: Brynas IF (SHL)
Victor Soderstrom is the best right handed defender in this draft and everybody else has him ranked too low.  The kid is playing top minutes for Brynas in the SHL and is seeing some usage in all situations.  It’s hard to watch him and not be wowed by his poise and maturity.  It’s easy to forget that you’re watching a draft eligible player.  He’s already such a complete talent and he’s only going to get better.  There are some who even say that he’s better now, than Adam Boqvist was at this point last season.  That guy went 8th.  The inflated value of Right-Handed defenders and the history of truly solid first round Swedish defenders, coupled with watching his game footage tells me that this kid is a slam dunk, and I would honestly feel no anxiety about reaching for him as early as 4th overall.

Alex Newhook – Center/Wing (Left-Handed)
1/29/01: St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada
Current Team: Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
Alex Newhook is an explosive scoring forward that has been wowing fans for 2 years in Victoria.  He currently has 159 points in 97 BCHL games.  He’s committed to Boston College next season so he won’t be in the NHL immediately upon being drafted, but he probably could be.  He does everything well.  There’s no holes in his game.  The only strike against him is that he’s a kid from Newfoundland playing in the BCHL.  All you have to do is watch him.  The kid is a top 5 talent, and he’s getting dogged because he’s in an “inferior league.”  I would honestly put him in the conversation to go top 3 with Kaako and Podkolzin, but I’d get scoffed at for it.  I’m all in on Alex Newhook I absolutely love his game.  If I had the 4th pick in the draft and the other 3 are gone, he would be my go-to pick.

Arthur Kaliyev – Left Wing (Left-Handed)
6/26/01: Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Current Team: Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
Kaliyev grew up in Staten Island, but has played 2 years of junior hockey for the Hamilton Bulldogs.  In that time he has developed a reputation as the most dangerous shot in the OHL.  It’s a well earned reputation.  Through 124 OHL games, Kaliyev has 76 goals.  He’s a possession shooter.  He finds the open space, where he can get a shot off, gets the puck on his stick and fires it.  You’ll hear people say he’s not a great skater and you’ll hear people say his shooting motion is awkward.  It really doesn’t matter.  Is the best shot in the draft.  If you’re an NHL team that needs a sniper, this is your kid.  He’s a project.  You’re going to have to teach him to defend and he’s going to have to work with a skills coach on his skating a bit, but the shot…  The shot is money.

Dylan Cozens – Center/Right Wing (Right-Handed)
2/9/01: Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada
Current Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
The kid from the Yukon is almost universally assumed to be a top 5 pick.  He’s often considered the top CHL forward available and is thought of very highly by everyone who gets paid to talk about prospects.  My beef with Cozens, is that I’m afraid he’s got some of the Pavel Zacha syndrome where he’s so good at this level because of his size, and that might not translate so well, or quickly to the next level.  He’s got all the pieces in place that you look for in a top prospect.  He’ll go high.  I just have some reservations about it.  Hopefully I’m wrong.

Nils Hoglander – Left Wing (Left-Handed)
12/20/00: Bocktrask, Sweden
Current Team: Rogle BK (SHL)
Hoglander is another Swedish kid playing among men.  He’s got 14 points in 40 games for Rogle in his rookie SHL season.  He’s not big by any stretch of the imagination.  He’s only 5’9, but you can’t tell him that.  The kid has a motor that just doesn’t quit.  He bounces off hard body checks as if they were rubber walls and keeps going.  His speed and compete level are off the charts.  He’s a tenacious forechecker and a real pest to play against.  He’s an excellent passer and a good decision maker.  For my money, Hoglander might be one of the most underrated prospects in the top 30.  I don’t know if I’d take him top 5, but I would definitely consider him top 10 potential.  I’m just, in love with his desire to forecheck, battle and create on the ice.  That type of effort can carry a player a long way to a productive career in the NHL.

2019 Mid Season Draft Board (Round 2)

This is it.  We’re getting there.  In the reverse order that they are drafted, but whatever.  This is where it really counts.  Missing on a few second round picks in a row, can doom your franchise to being starved of talent.  These guys have to pan out for you.  At worst they need to be depth players in your system and preferably they are guys who will be key parts of your franchise in the future.

Brett Leason – Center/Wing (Right-Handed)
4/30/99 – Calgary, Albera, Canada
Current Team: Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
Much has been written about Brett Leason, so I’m going to be brief.  He is the most highly regarded, overaged, undrafted player in probably a generation.  There has been genuine talk of him being first round potential and the hype is not just hype.  He’s a 6’5 right handed shot forward, who scores all kinds of goals and makes it look effortless.  He can set people up too.  Did I mention he’s 6’5.  He’s a no brainer pick and somebody will take him before the second round is over.

Bobby Brink – Right Wing (Right-Handed)
8/8/01 – Excelsior, MN, USA
Current Team: Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
I am comfortable saying that Bobby Brink reminds me of Kyle Palmieri, maybe with a little less snarl.  The shot is there and the willingness to fire it from anywhere is there.  He’s a little diminutive for a 5’10 forward, only checking in at 165 pounds, but he’ll have plenty of time to bulk up before reaching the NHL.  He’s currently committed to the University of Denver for the 2020-2021 season.  It’s a top school in a top conference, and it will make him a more complete player.  He has the basic tools needed to be a scorer in the NHL, but he’s a bit raw and will need the time.

Graeme Clarke – Right Wing (Right Handed)
4/24/01 – Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Current Team: Ottawa 67s (OHL)
Graeme Clarke is one of my favorite players in this draft.  I think he’s tremendously under rated because he’s buried on a very deep Ottawa OHL squad.  He only has 25 points in 44 games, but he has showed time and again that he can score true highlight reel quality goals.  He was awarded player of the game honors in the CHL/NHL top prospects game for good reason.  He was everywhere.  His offensive talents are there, but his backend play is quite good also.  He’s not afraid to get to the dirty areas and battle for loose pucks.  Everything I see from him tells me that his stats are not the story.  Whomever picks him is going to love what they get.  I’ve seen him projected to go in the third round and I find it absurd.  The talent and work ethic are there, who cares about the stats?

Yegor Afanasyev – Left Wing (Left-Handed)
1/23/01 – Tver, Russia
Current Team: Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
Yegor Afanasyev is a mover and shaker on draft boards this season.  He has rocketed up the rankings as this season has gone on, mainly because of his ability to fire pucks into the back of the net.  He’s got great size, at 6’3, 203 pounds and a shot similar to first round projected forward, Arthur Kaliyev.  His threat as a shooter allows him to make quick passes to set others up.  He’s got a good accurate slap shot and wrist shot, but he’s also not afraid to play big in front of the net for the tip-in.  He gets it done in all the ways you want to see a scoring forward do it.  Not always the best in his own end, but he’ll get time to work on that at Michigan State, where he’s committed to play NCAA hockey.  Another one of my favorite prospects in this draft.  He shoots, he scores, he’s a guy you want your team to have.

Judd Caulfield – Right Wing (Right-Handed)
3/19/01 – Grand Forks, ND, USA
Current Team: US national Team Development Program
Judd Caulfield is also 6’3 and 200+ pounds, but he seems to have a grasp on how to use his size better than many kids his age.  He’s absolutely tenacious in contested puck battles and is an absolute Ox to play against.  He’s got good offensive instincts and knows where his size is most effective.  What Caulfield is then, is a new-age power forward.  He has the size and style to be physical and powerful, but also has the speed, skating and edgework to be effective in the modern NHL.  Those talents will be on display as he plays for the University of North Dakota next season.  That’s really a perfect place for a power forward of the future to hone his game for the NHL.

2019 Mid Season Draft Board (Round 3)

Round 3 is where good teams find players with reasonable consistency.  If you’re an NHL squad that wants consistent sustained success, you have to find guys in this round that can be middle of your roster players with the occasional top end guy mixed in.  You’re counting on your scouting department to find guys here that other teams missed in the first and second rounds.  This is where scouts make their money and GMs keep their jobs.

Nathan Legare – Right Wing (Right-Handed)
1/11/01 – St-Eustache, Quebec, Canada
Current Team: Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
It depends on whom you talk to whether or not Legare is a 2nd round talent or 3rd round talent.  I’ve seen more than a few of these solid shooting wings in the QMJHL hang around longer than they should because of who they played for.  I expect Legare to not be an exception.  Baie-Comeau has been one of the “weaker sisters” of the QMJHL in recent years.  This year though, they got it together, and Nathan Legare is a big part of that.  He’s near the top of the QMJHL in goals currently, with 39 in 56 games.  Where Legare excels, is that he plays all aspects of the game.  He’s been used in all situations in his time with the Drakkar, but he has also shown a willingness to engage in the greasier aspects of the game.  There’s video footage of him throwing some big hits for a 6’0, 197 pound wing, and then answering the bell when challenged.  Legare is the real deal and will be an NHL player eventually, any team who gets him will be very happy with him.

Harrison Blaisdell – Center (Left-Handed)
3/18/01 – Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Current Team: Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL)
Harrison Blaisdell would be at WORST a top 40 pick if he were on a CHL(WHL, OHL, QMJHL) squad.  He’s not.  He plays for the Chilliwack Chiefs in the oft overlooked BCHL.  Blaisdell scores goals, creates offense and leads his team on the ice.  He’s 5’11, 180 pounds with good speed and nice edgework.  He can score from anywhere in the offensive zone and that threat allows him to make room for his teammates.  He’s capable of taking it himself or setting up someone else.  He’ll go to the dirty areas and win the puck battles.  He’s got 33 goals in 31 games and averages over a point per game played this season.  He’s also committed to North Dakota for the 2020-2021 season.  A team that draft Blaisdell will have his rights for a while if he does indeed attend college and they’ll get to watch him mature in one of the best collegiate hockey programs in the world.  You might not see him for 3-4 years after you draft him, but when he comes out of the NCAA, you’ll be glad you took him.

Nikita Alexandrov – Center (Left-handed)
9/16/00 – Burgwedel, Germany
Current Team: Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)
Charlottetown is still in the hunt this year and a lot of that is owed to The Russian/German center, Nikita Alexandrov.  He’s the basic 6’0, 180 pound center that does everything you expect from an NHL prospect.  Good wheels, good vision, good shot, across the board he has everything you want to see and would just be a good name to have in somebody’s prospect cabinet.  TSN’s Bob McKenzie has him ranked at #75 and honestly that sounds about right.

Jeremi Gerber – Right Wing (Left-Handed)
3/1/00 – Langnau im Emmental, Switzerland
Current Team: SC Bern (NLA)
I said, last year, that Jeremi Gerber might be the best Swiss prospect available in the 2018 draft.  The few people I talked to dismissed that in favor of Nando Eggenberger (who also ended up undrafted).  I’m not 100% sure why I’m bringing that up, but I suppose my point here is: Jeremi Gerber was good enough to get drafted last year, he didn’t, and I personally don’t know why.  He’s a speedy Right Wing, who’s defensively accountable and plays well in all situations.  He’s been a points machine in Swiss juniors.  He didn’t notch any points at World Juniors this year, but he played very well.  3rd round is about the earliest you want to be looking at overaged kids, but I think Gerber is one of the best available.

Nikita Okhotyuk – Defender (Left-handed)
12/4/00 – Chelyabinsk, Russia
Current Team: Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
Okhotyuk chose the right time to make a name for himself.  The CHL/NHL Top Prospect game is the right time to have the game of your life.  He started that game off delivering punishing body checks and scored a really nice goal for himself off of a solid zone-keep-in play.  He has spent the rest of the season as a mainstay in the backend of one of the top teams in the OHL.  He plays every game surrounded by NHL draft picks, current and future.  He’s got good size at 6’1, 194 pounds and he’s very mobile on his skates.  When you watch him shoot, you get the feeling that there’s untapped offensive potential waiting to be unearthed in him, but on the surface he’s a smart, reliable, 2 way defender who can be counted on to make the smart play.

2019 Mid Season Draft Board (Round 4)

Round 4 and Round 3 are what I consider the money rounds.  These are the rounds that sustain successful franchises.  Franchises that hit in the 3rd and 4th rounds with any degree of regularity are franchises that maintain long periods of success.  Nashville is the exampled I will use here.  Viktor Arvidsson, Mattias Ekholm, Jusse Saros and Craig Smith were all 4th round picks for the Predators.  You’re still happy to wait three to four years on a kid you pick in the 3rd or 4th, but you want to make sure you’re getting an NHL caliber prospect.  This is not the place to be taking big gambles.  4th round is also the place where teams tend to start really looking at overage prospects that are outside the top 10 or 15 rated overaged players.

Nathan Dunkley – Center (Left-Handed)
5/3/00 – Campbellford, Ontario, Canada
Current Team: London Knights (OHL)
I like Nathan Dunkley as a hockey player more than anyone I talk to.  That’s because he was nothing shy of a dominant offensive force as part of the top line for Kingston in the early going of last year’s OHL season.  Then Kingston decided to make moves to gear up for a playoff run.  They brought in Gabe Vilardi, making Dunkley expendable and then shipped him out to London in a deal that brought back Cliff Pu.  Dunkley didn’t do poorly in London, but he didn’t exactly light it up either.  This tanked his draft stock and the player once projected to go in the 3rd round, was passed over entirely.  Frankly, it’s unfair.  Nathan Dunkley is what some of us like to call a “glue guy.”  He’s the guy on a line who holds it together and makes the other pieces work better.  Nathan is not a player built around being the best player on his line, but he is a guy who will make whomever he is playing with look better.  He probably doesn’t project much above a middle-6 center in the NHL, but he’s the kind of guy that you need to have on a team.  As a stand alone player he’s got a good hockey IQ and more often than not makes the correct decisions with the puck.  He’s a decent skater and has a good enough shot to get it done.  I feel like his playmaking ability is VASTLY underrated.  I don’t find it to be a coincidence that Dunkley’s former linemate Jason Robertson was drafted reasonably high, and BOTH Matvei Guskov and Billy Moskal (his current linemates) are ranked well by NHL Central Scouting.  There’s a common denominator here.

Yannick Bruschweiler – Left Wing (Left-Handed)
8/28/99 – Switzerland
Current Team: ZSC Lions (NLA)
Swiss hockey is making slowly making a push.  There’s a growing number of young Swiss talents in the NHL.  Yannick Bruschweiler caught everyone’s attention at the 2019 World Junior Championship.  The Swiss squad turned heads as they eliminated a heavily favored Swedish team.  Yannick Bruschweiler scored the goal that would ultimately be the game winner in that game on an end to end rush.  Throughout the tournament the Swiss forward showed speed, tenacity and finish, scoring 3 goals on only 11 shots.  He was also excellent defensively and was one of only two Swiss forwards to finish the tournament with a positive plus minus.  He made you take notice of him with his play on the ice.  His production in Swiss juniors was solid, with 41 points in 32 games during the 2017-2018 season.  He moved up to the NLB, which is best described as Switzerland’s AHL.  He has 18 points in 28 games there this season and has recently moved up to the NLA to play with Zurich’s squad.  He made enough of an impression at the WJC that it’s hard to imagine him not getting drafted this year.

Ryan Siedem – Defender (Right-Handed)
2/25/01 – Madison, NJ, USA
Current Team: Central Illinois Flying Aces (USHL)
Ryan Siedem is another kid I get super excited about when I talk about him.  He went the prep school route, then he was in the US National Team Development Program and now he’s with Central Illinois.  He has 23 points (20 assists) in 36 games this season.  The numbers do not tell his whole story though.  Siedem is a good smooth skater with the ability to move, with the puck in the offensive zone, to find the open space to get a shot off or make the pass.  He’s also responsible enough to not over commit or get caught on pinch.  Siedem is very defensively responsible and excellent at getting the puck out of his own zone.  He can also carry out and initiate the breakout.  He has all the tools you want to see from a future NHL defender, packed into a 6’2, 192 pound frame.  Siedem is committed to Harvard, current home of NHL defensive prospects: Adam Fox and Reilly Walsh.  Siedem has the look of a very similar player to the two of them.  It honestly wouldn’t shock me to see him guy higher, but I think he goes at latest in the 4th round.

Adam Edstrom – Center (Left-Handed)
10/12/00 – Sweden
Current Team: Mora IK (SHL)
In my time watching the SHL I didn’t get a real good look at Edstrom like I wanted to.  Last season in the under-18 league he was a scoring machine in his 19 games, but he didn’t fair as well in the under-20.  This season he was good enough in the under-20 league to get him a call-up to Mora’s top squad, where he didn’t get on the score sheet in 10 games.  You cannot teach size and Edstrom has it.  He’s 6’6 and 207 pounds as an 18 year old.  I simply don’t have the film on this guy to make anything more than generalized assumptions, but it’s reasonable to suggest his scoring prowess at under 18 could have been size related.  The Swedes do not tend to elevate bad skaters up to the SHL though.  So if you have a 6’6 centerman that can skate with the pros, he is likely worth a mid range pick.

Alex Beaucage – Right Wing (Right-Handed)
7/25/01 – Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Canada
Current Team: Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)
The Huskies are a well oiled winning machine this season, thanks in no small part to the contributions of Alex Beaucage.  Beaucage is the team leader in goals (as of publication) with 34 and has 34 helpers also, in his 57 games this season.  He’s got the size you want to see in an NHL prospect, and he has a very accurate shot.  He’s able to find the space to shoot his shot also.  I talk a lot about “possession shooters” and Alex Beaucage is a possession shooter.  He can work down low, or in the cycle to get himself into a position with an open shooting lane, and then accurately place it on net.  He’s also capable of taking advantage of broken plays, and creating a rush.  It wouldn’t shock me to see Beaucage climb up into the top 75 picks in this draft, but I could see teams leaving him there until the 4th round.  His speed, skating and edge work are not what teams are currently looking for, but it’s very hard to argue with his shot.