Like EVERYONE ELSE in the Hockey world, I’ve done a draft board. I’ve opted to do the first 2 rounds and I’ve opted to explain my reasoning (sometimes briefly, sometimes wordy) why I think each team picks the player that I think they pick. Enjoy:
1. New Jersey Devils select: Jack Hughes
Devils have been all about Jack Hughes since they found out they had the pick. There’s a relationship between the GM and the Hughes family already. The coach got to coach the kid a bit at the IIHF WC. It’s a perfect fit from the Devils perspective and it gives them the 1-2 punch of Hischier and Hughes down the middle that is likely to frustrate teams for years to come.
2. New York Rangers select: Kaapo Kakko
Rangers get to add another talented European prospect to what is becoming a mighty stable. If the Rangers are weak anywhere up front, it is the right side. Kakko not only fills a need for them, but does so as a consensus top 2 pick.
3. Chicago Blackhawks select: Trevor Zegras
In all the tournaments and international hockey I watched Trevor Zegras was consistently one of the best players on the ice. He always looks poised and mature. Chicago is good down the middle for the short term, but currently their prospect pool doesn’t have anyone that screams top end center. That needs to change as both Anisimov and Toews will be turning 32 during the 2019-2020 season. Chicago needs to make the most of the 3rd overall gift they’ve been given and should take the guy I believe is the 2nd best overall center in the draft.
4. Colorado Avalanche select: Bowen Byram
Colorado hit the jackpot with Cale Makar in 2017 and it seems likely they would want to draft an extremely talented left-handed counterpart. Taking Bowen Byram at 4 gives Colorado real reason to believe that they have the makings of a future dynamic duo at defense.
5. Los Angeles Kings select: Matthew Boldy
I think Boldy is really under rated. Every time he was on the ice for the USNTDP team he was dominant. He’s got the size, the shot, the drive and everything you want to see from a wing at the NHL level. There’s a knee jerk reaction to go for a center here, but LA has drafted Kupari and Vilardi in recent years down the middle. Getting a dedicated wing with a left-handed shot that can play either side is something the Kings need to do.
6. Detroit Red Wings select: Alex Turcotte
Turcotte plays an excellent 200 foot game at center or wing but is still a bit raw at times. I’ve seen him make some plays where I’ve out loud asked, “what the hell was he thinking?” He’s NCAA committed to Wisconsin and the Wings are known for giving their kids time to develop. Turcotte to Detroit helps them bulk up their forward prospect list further with a blue chip prospect. Adding him to the stable that includes: Valeno, Zadina, and Rasmussen, gives the Wings a lot to look forward to in the coming years.
7. Buffalo Sabres select: Cole Caufield
The Buffalo Sabres will not be able to resist the highlight footage of Caufield scoring goals. They won’t care about his size and they won’t care about any of the other knocks on his game. The Sabres are going to see footage of a guy putting pucks in the net, and they’re going to look up and down their roster as all the guys they have that could theoretically get him the puck. I don’t know if he can thrive in the Sabres system, but he has as good a chance as anybody.
8. Edmonton Oilers select: Dylan Cozens
I honestly believe the Oilers should go defense here, but I know they won’t do that. The big WHL forward is too tantalizing for them. What Cozens will bring to Edmonton is his contagious work ethic along with size and puck skill for days. The Oilers have not seen the production they have hoped for from some of the forwards they have taken, but Cozens is the kind of player who helps your team win even when he’s not putting up gaudy point numbers. The Oilers could use more guys like that.
9. Anaheim Ducks select: Vasily Podkolzin
Anaheim is a team in transition. Their veterans are getting old and their crop of young players is not quite ready to fill in. With that said, it might be a few years before they’re really ready to say words like “rebuild.” Therefore, the Ducks can afford to sit back and wait a couple years while Podkolzin develops over in the KHL, and they resolve their salary cap situation. It’s arguably an ideal situation for the Ducks to know they’ll have the young Russian forechecking machine ready for them in a couple years, without having to lock him up to an entry level deal right away.
10. Vancouver Canucks select: Alex Newhook
I’ve heard some chatter about this being the pick for Vancouver and I completely agree. I think Newhook in criminally underrated by a lot of people. I have, however, seen some comparisons that basically call him a “poor man’s Jack Hughes.” That might not be a terrible way to describe him. The kid oozes talent and honestly the biggest knock on him, might be that he played in the BCHL. But even in international competition, Newhook out shined his Canadian peers who played for CHL clubs. Had Newhook been as dominant in the OHL as he was in the BCHL there’s no doubt in my mind he’d be a top 5 pick. Vancouver would absolutely luck out grabbing him here.
11. Philadelphia Flyers select: Kirby Dach
Dach is a big kid. The Flyers has still shown a desire to draft size and skill up front. Dach has these things in spades. Dach has proven himself to be a clever player who uses his size to his advantage in anyway he can while also possessing excellent stick handling capabilities.
12. Minnesota Wild select: Peyton Krebs
Krebs’ injury shouldn’t dissuade the Wild here. They’re going to be hunting for their next top 6 center with this pick and in some ways Krebs’ injury will be a gift to them because it almost ensures he will still be there at 12. I don’t know if he’s top-line center material, but he’s certainly at minimum a 2C of the future. Something the Wild cannot afford to miss.
13. Florida Panthers select: Brett Leason
Florida has shown a willingness to reach for players up for their second time around in the first round. They did it with Borgstrom in 2016. Of the players likely to be available at #13, Leason might be NHL ready the soonest. With Florida set to spend a lot of money in free agency, they’re going to need to round out their roster with some players on entry-level deals that can play immediately. Leason has size and a shot and he can probably work himself into a job in Florida’s bottom 6 to start the season. Its definitely a reach, but if he plays immediately and is effective in the role that Florida puts him in, who’s to complain.
14. Arizona Coyotes select: Arthur Kaliyev
Arizona is going to be looking for goal scoring. Nobody has done that in the CHL this season, better than Arthur Kaliyev. I’m not even going to get into some of the knocks against Kaliyev. They’re well documented. The fact is this. Kaliyev puts the puck in the back of the net better than anyone else in this draft class. Arizona needs that, so they’re gonna take him.
15. Montreal Canadiens select: Raphael Lavoie
Lavoie gives Canadiens fans a francophone goal scorer with the size and toughness that Quebec hockey fans love. In the conversation for being the best pure shooter in the draft. Montreal has their center of the future, now they need to add the goal scorer of the future.
16. Colorado Avalanche select: Ryan Suzuki
Ryan Suzuki was brilliant this year. He thinks the game at an extremely high level. Colorado needs to take some steps away from being thought of as a “1-line team.” Suzuki could be a big part of changing that dynamic. He’s a natural center, and he’s cerebral about how he plays. He’s definitely a guy that projects down the line as being usable in all game situations and somebody who’s teammates really feel comfortable relying on him in big moments.
17. Vegas Golden Knights select: Philip Broberg
The Knights had to let top defensive prospect, Erik Brannstrom, go in a trade with Ottawa. Nic Hague is good, but the Knights would probably like another elite puck mover in their defensive prospect stable. Broberg is definitely that kind of prospect. There are some questions about how his game rounds out as far as actually playing defense, but his nose for the offensive zone is near the top of the class in this draft.
18. Dallas Stars select: Victor Soderstrom
Dallas has had really the best luck with drafting defensemen over the years. Soderstrom projects to be NHL ready, extremely quickly and could be a very natural partner for Miro Heiskanen in very short order. Soderstrom spend his draft year playing in the SHL against men, being given veteran minutes and assignments. It wouldn’t be all the shocking to see Soderstrom make the Stars’ roster out of camp.
19. Ottawa Senators select: Spencer Knight
The Senators have Arizona State ace Joey Daccord in their system, but I can’t see them putting all their eggs in that basket. Ottawa is the first team that comes up that really has a problematic goal tending prospect pool. I’m usually against taking a goaltender in the first round, but this is really a no-lose situation for Ottawa to take him. By the time he’s likely ready to step into the NHL, some of Ottawa prospects taken in previous years will be the next generation, trying to drive the team forward. It’s a good group and Knight would be good icing on the cake for them.
20. Winnipeg Jets select: Moritz Seider
Having just traded Jacob Trouba, the Jets are going to want to add a right-handed defender into their prospect pool. Moritz Seider looks to be NHL ready sooner rather than later and is a safe bet to be an NHL defender. The 6’4 German defender has shown capability and skill at every level he has played. He probably should go higher, but I have him sliding a bit because of teams wanting to get offensive fire power.
21. Pittsburgh Penguins select: Cam York
The Penguins probably get a steal here no matter who they take, but I’m going with Cam York. Cam York is a can’t miss pick at defense. He’s going to be a defender in the NHL. I don’t know if he will definitely be a top pair guy someday but he will certainly be a middle pairing guy at minimum. Safe pick, but still a good one.
22. Los Angeles Kings select: Thomas Harley
Kings probably would have liked to take Byram at 5 if Colorado doesn’t grab him at 4. If they miss out on Byram like I expect them to, they’ll go best defender available at 22. Thomas Harley is a safe bet for being that guy. He was an offensive dynamo for Mississauga of the OHL this year. His defensive game shows lapses on occasion, but I would expect that to be worked out in time. He’s arguably the best puck moving defender in the draft though, so LA would be happy to get him here.
23. New York Islanders select: Connor McMichael
Very Strong offensive instincts from McMichael are likely to tantalize the Islanders scouting crew. How much of a 2-way player he can be remains to be seen, but the Islanders need to see some more skilled forwards breaking out of their prospect pool. Part of the reason the Islanders had to bring in so many older mercenaries in 2019, had to do with the sense throughout the organization that they do not have the young prospects to fill in depth roles and potentially work their way into top 6 roles. Keiffer Bellows, Michael Dal Colle and Joshua Ho-Sang have yet to show they can be consistent contributors for the Isles in the coming years. McMichael gives the Isles a young prospect who projects to be able to either center a 2nd line, or ride shotgun with Barzal.
24. Nashville Predators select: Ville Heinola
Heinola looked really strong playing in 34 games in Liiga this year. Salary attrition is going to catch up the Nashville sooner rather than later. With Roman Josi needing a new deal after the 2020 season, the Predators are going to need to have Defensive talent in system to allow them to trade any players they might need to move. Heinola looks ready sooner rather than later, and the Predators could find themselves with the “next man up” combo of Ville Heinola and Dante Fabbro.
25. Washington Capitals select: Nils Hoglander
The Capitals have not selected an offensive player with their first pick of the draft since they took Jakub Vrana in 2014. Nils Hoglander does not project as a big time scorer in the NHL but his relentlessness on the forecheck and his willingness to take on defenders and create 1on1 situations for him to embarrass the opposition project well for the young Swede. Hoglander played in the SHL against many NHL washouts. The SHL tends to use their kids in more depth roles, and often times Hoglander would make dynamic plays and have no one to pass the puck to once he was done. It’s a bit of a safe pick for the Caps here, because they know, at worst, they’re getting an energy third liner who can drive play and create mismatches. At best, Hoglander’s unique gifts turn him into a point accumulator and Brian MacLellan looks like a genius.
26. Calgary Flames select: Samuel Poulin
The Calgary Flames have started to develop an identity as a speed team that can also wear you down physically. Samuel Poulin fits this mold perfectly. The QMJHL speedster has great size and strength. Poulin thinks the game at high speed, but also bring a snarl and plays a bit of a power forward role. He’s another one that might not ever be on your top line, but he will at least end up in the middle of your forward lineup. His versatility being able to play both wings also gives him positive marks. He’s really a perfect fit for the Flames.
27. Tampa Bay Lightning select: Bobby Brink
When I watch Bobby Brink, I think of Kyle Palmieri of the New Jersey Devils. He’s a shooting winger with drive and determination, and plays bigger than his size. Tampa has had really good luck with these kinds of players in the past and there’s no reason to think they don’t try to continue that trend with this pick.
28. Carolina Hurricanes select: Philip Tomasino
Tomasino’s forechecking and skills at gaining the puck when he does not have it are things the Carolina Hurricanes could use more of. The Hurricanes have a strong stable of young forwards but none of them really bring the kind of energy that Tomasino brings to the forecheck and the backcheck. He’s also an expert at exploiting dangerous areas and scoring opportunistic goals.
29. Anaheim Ducks select: Jakob Pelletier
At 5’9 Jakob Pelletier may seem undersized. However the Ducks are not a team that has avoided smaller players if they bring to the table what the team is looking for. The QMJHL winger has everything but the size that a scout is looking for in a future NHL wing. He’s got vision, he’s comfortable with the puck on his stick, he can pass create for his teammates, or he can finish it himself. He’s just the kind of player a rebuilding or retooling Anaheim is going to want.
30. Boston Bruins select: John Beecher
When I watch John Beecher play, I say, “That guy is going to be a Boston Bruin.” His game just suits the style they want to play, he’s a natural fit. If he’s available here like I think he will be, I can’t see Boston passing him up.
31. Buffalo Sabres select: Anttoni Honka
The Buffalo Sabres do not have anyone in system to pair with Rasmus Dahlin down the road. They have a couple youngish right-handed defenders in Ristolainen and Montour, but they don’t have any young right-handers down in Rochester that jump out at you and say, “This guy is a future top 4 NHL Defender” Honka projects to be a puck mover with offensive instincts that could develop into the perfect partner for Dahlin.
32. Ottawa Senators select: Alex Vlasic
Ottawa looks at a giant, Man-child, American defender and asks, “Why is that still on the shelf?” Senators have a decent pile of young defenders but the brewing time for a couple is going to be sped up and they’ll be pushed into service before the team likely wanted to. Having Vlasic waiting in the wings to step up in a year or two would give management some peace of mind
33. Los Angeles Kings select: Leevi Aaltonen
Every piece of footage I saw on Leevi Aaltonen made me think he was edge of the first round material. He’s not ranked that highly by anyone outside of TheDraftAnalyst.com. Clearly he and I saw the same things. I think the Kings reach here because Aaltonen has parts of his game that, going forward, will make him a smart choice. His speed and willingness to play a 200 foot game are things will make him an NHL forward. What will make him a draft STEAL is his shot on the move. This kid fires it like Phil Kessel. He gets a burst of speed, and just lets rip a absolute bomb of a wrister that he can put anywhere he wants.
34. New Jersey Devils select: Ryan Johnson
Ryan Johnson is the prototypical defensive defenseman for a modern NHL. He’s on the smaller side at 6’0, 170, but his ability to read plays and disrupt zone entries is going to be a thing that carries him to the next level. The Devils have Ty Smith but they would probably like another true blue-chip defender to have in system as Smith likely graduates to the NHL this year.
35. Detroit Red Wings select: Pavel Dorofeyev
Dorofeyev is a far better player than 35th, but teams sometimes give Russian skaters a wide berth. I’ve even seen him talked about as being a top 10 talent. He may need some time to adjust to the NHL game, but the Red Wings are known for giving guys time to develop. They’ve also had great luck with Russian skaters over the years.
36. Carolina Hurricanes select: Michal Teply
Teply is a big, rangey Czech wing with the size, feet, and smarts to perform at the next level. I feel like he’s being really overlooked because he came up the Czech junior route, but most of his show was put on at the international level. In those games, he shined like a diamond in the rough. With having 3 picks from 28-37, Carolina can afford to swing for the fences on one.
37. Carolina Hurricanes select: Yegor Spirodonov
Spiridonov was THE shut-down center of the U18 tournament this year. He’s got offensive chops too along with a really long reach. That reach combined with his excellent stick skills makes him nothing shy of annoying to play against. Might never be more than a 2C but absolutely a player you want on your team and in your system. Carolina can never have enough center depth.
38. Edmonton Oilers select: Mathew Robertson
The Oilers need to keep a steady flow of defensive prospects. The entire mess that is Edmonton, can be traced back to their lack of organizational defensive depth. Robertson can play comfortably in all zones and has excellent size and work ethic. These are all things Edmonton NEEDS to add.
39. Anaheim Ducks select: Tobias Bjornfot
Definitely one of the more polarizing prospects. Many people will scream I have him too low. I don’t know. He’s definitely got an offensive skillset, but I feel like his play in his own zone means that he will always need somebody who covers for his lapses. Anaheim has a tradition of excellent defenders and Bjornfot could be the next one up for them.
40. Vancouver Canucks select: Nick Robertson
Vancouver is still really lacking a steady stream of young, talented wingers in their system. They have a few playing for them, but that means that there aren’t as many in development, working towards stepping in. Robertson is best winger still available at this point. He’s often described as “electrifying” and has energy for days. He’s got great puck skills, good agility and all the tools to realistically be taken 20 picks higher. But that same thing can be said for pretty much all the players from 20-40. Vancouver will be happy he slides.
41. Philadelphia Flyers select: Nolan Foote
Big forward with a big shot and a power game, but plays it with an uncommon degree of intelligence. Plays the positioning game very well and opts to read the ice rather than try to bull rush through everything. Flyers like their big boys, they’re gonna pick this one.
42. Minnesota Wild select: Patrick Puistola
It’s all about the stick work with this kid. Minnesota needs to continue to add offensive threats that are able to play within the offensive zone with and without the puck. With the puck, Puistola has a myriad of tools at his disposal to make defenders look bad. Without the puck he creeps to open space and gets loose to make chances happen.
43. Chicago Blackhawks select: John Farinacci
If any team is going to take a high school kid this early and have him turn out to be everything they’ve hoped for, it’s Chicago. The Red Bank, New Jersey native went the prep school route, playing for Dexter and is bound for Harvard. He’s a few years away from the NHL, but the kid has ice in his veins and his time table for joining the Blackhawks could coincide with their existing centers getting older and starting to deteriorate. He’s very much the type of center that you just put him on the ice and let him play the game because you know he’s going to do everything right and give you the best he’s got.
44. Ottawa Senators select: Albin Grewe
I saw one scout compare this kid to Brad Marchand. Small stature, gritty, speedy, skilled player who plays on the edge of the rules. The Senators have a Tkachuk on their roster, it couldn’t hurt them to add another skilled piece of sandpaper.
45. Arizona Coyotes select: Egor Afanasyev
I had the Coyotes take Kaliyev because they need shooters. I have them taking Afanasyev because they need shooters. The kid finds the back of the net in all different ways while being responsible enough in all other areas to justify his 2nd round billing. He started much lower in the rankings, but some of that is USHL-bias. Kids in that league sometimes don’t get the credit they deserve.
46. Montreal Canadiens select: Alex Beaucage
French-Canadian goal scoring machine. He doesn’t have the footspeed or edge work that teams want to see from a modern forward, but he makes up for it with a high level of competitive spirit and an absolute cannon of a shot. He can set teammates up too, but his bread and butter is firing the puck.
47. Colorado Avalanche select: Shane Pinto
The only hole in Shane Pinto’s game is that he did the things he did in the USHL. He’s North Dakota bound. That scouting department simply does not make mistakes. He can skate, he can score, he can literally do everything you want to see from a top line center. He might take longer to get there, but this kid soared up the draft rankings as more people watched him. Colorado needs to continue adding a steady stream of forward/center depth and this kid fits the bill.
48. Montreal Canadiens select: Nathan Legare
French-Canadian goal scoring forward (stop me if you’re heard this before) that has a big pile of nasty to his game. Legare is not afraid to dump a puck, and then reaquire his own dump in while punishing the defender that tries to beat him to the puck. Fits in the mold of the modern power forward but also has an impressive shot from the slot or outside the circles. Legare is from Montreal and the local faithful would love to watch this native son bang around and score goals. Can’t miss pick for the Habs.
49. New York Rangers select: Ilya Nikolayev
Few teams have had better success with Russian prospects, in recent years, than the New York Rangers. The kid is a bull in a China shop when he doesn’t have the puck, and when he has it, he morphs into this cerebral ice-general, that will still bowl you over. He’d probably go a lot higher if not for the whole Russian thing, but the Rangers will be thankful that another talented player falls into their laps.
50. Vegas Golden Knights select: Robert Mastrosimone
George McPhee has a history of finding these kids and running with them. Mastrosimone is a boom or bust pick that has rocketed up everyone’s rankings since the USHL playoffs. He’s got a big shot and likes to get open for it. If you asked scouts he’s probably either slightly above, or below Afanasyev as far as pure shooting forward.
51. Winnipeg Jets select: Adam Beckman
Beckman was a solid goal scorer for Spokane and also did time on the power play. He’s shown a willingness to compete for contested pucks and finds his way to the net. These are skills that are needed at the NHL level and the Jets will be happy to draft it.
52. Florida Panthers select: Brayden Tracey
Brayden Tracey scores a lot of goals and is very good at showing up supposedly more skilled players in key situations. He’s a hard worker with an endless motor and a very good shot. He’s great at scoring big goals in key moments. He fits very well with the types of forwards Florida has in system even if he might take a bit to get there.
53. Toronto Maple Leafs select: Ethan Keppen
Kyle Dubas has shown that he’s not afraid to reach when the player he wants is there. Based on what I’ve seen of his drafting, Kyle Dubas is going to want Ethan Keppen. Power forward was incredibly effective with very little help on one of the OHL’s worst teams. At no point during Flint’s hopeless season did this kid ever give up. He’s got size, speed, strength to backup his iron will. Keppen is comfortable stepping onto any ice and trying to be the best player on it. He’s exactly the kind of guy the Leafs want.
54. Detroit Red Wings select: Jamieson Rees
Jamieson Rees might be the single most obnoxious Canadian player to play against in the entire draft. He’s absolutely relentless and he never quits. He’s in everybody’s face and in everybody’s business the entire time he’s on the ice. You’d swear watching him that he was 6’3 and 220 pounds but the truth is he’s 5’11 and 172. He’s just an absolute bulldog on the ice while also being capable of scoring. Could have a longer development time table which makes him perfect for Detroit.
55. New Jersey Devils select: Simon Holmstrom
Swedish Lightning. Devils european scouts have found several Swedish gems during the Ray Shero era and there’s no reason to believe they won’t key in on this one. His straight line speed and opportunistic goal scoring are definitely things the Devils have looked for in other forwards they’ve taken in recent years. There’s some questions around his work ethic, but the right system can work those out.
56. Washington Capitals select: Drew Helleson
Safe pick. Drew has been ranked in the top 2 rounds for 2019 since before the 2018 draft even wrapped up. He’s almost boring but he’s incredibly effective. He just plays the defensive game the right way. Shows willingness to battle and doesn’t quit while on the ice.
57. New York Islanders select: Maxim Cajkovic
Right handed shot Slovakian winger is a good fit for the Islanders who lack a large quantity of offensive talent in system. Ultimately Cajkovic is a smart kid with a good work ethic.
58. New York Rangers select: Antti Saarela
4 years ago the Rangers Antti’s brother Aleksi. He was traded in the Eric Staal trade. The Rangers take Antti Saarela here because he’s a 2 way center who does little things to make you notice him every shift. He can be used in all situations including the penalty kill. Rangers aren’t exactly drowning in center depth, they’ll want to grab this kind of player.
59. Carolina Hurricanes select: Oleg Zaitsev
Zaitsev showed that he could succeed in either a top 6 role or a bottom 6 role down the middle. That kind of versatility gets you drafted because it means the team that takes you, knows that they’re going to be able to get usage out of you. The Hurricanes are perpetually on the hunt for good depth at center. Zaitsev fits this bill
60. Detroit Red Wings select: Kaedan Korczak
Saskatchewan kid from the Kelowna defender factory. Good skater. Good shot. Good size. Responsible. Arguably the best defender in the draft class in one on one situations. Rarely out of position. He’s just all around good, and often for Team Canada at the U18s he was their best defender. There’s nothing truly outstanding about him, he’s just “good” at pretty much everything.
61. New Jersey Devils select: Patrick Moynihan
Some of Jack Hughes’ best work came with Patrick Moynihan riding shotgun with him. The Devils will not be able to get Hughes’ other linemates throughout his time, but Moynihan projects to be available in the later 2nd round. He’s got the speed and physicality that coaches love and an almost complete disregard for his own safety when crashing the net, or racing a defender to a puck. He’s the kind of guy who gets a pat on the shoulder from the coach when he gets back to the bench and his actions inspire the team around him to greater heights.
62. St Louis Blues select: Ryder Donovan
Ryder Donovan is a prototypical power forward type of player. He has the size and physicality to step into the role, but he’s also got quickness and intensity. Tom Wilson is not an inapt comparison. St Louis just won a cup going big and playing heavy. I would expect them to take that mentality right up onto the stage on draft day.