Both the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils will have the first two chances to snag from the top 10 skaters in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
It’s that time of year again. The NHL Entry Draft is only about a month away.
With two of the three local hockey squads ready to snag one and two, sorting out the skaters is a required task. For reference, my rankings from last year have actually held up pretty well thus far (check them out here).
Now, it’s time for the 2019 edition.
Here are my top-10 ranked skaters of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft:
1. Kaapo Kakko, RW, TPS, 6-foot-2, 194 pounds:
Yes, you read that correctly. Kaapo Kakko, not Jack Hughes, is at the top of my draft board. These two are both great options, but at this point, I’d feel more comfortable taking Kakko with the first pick than Hughes.
I’ve always believed that the Finnish goal-scorer would be a slightly safer selection at first overall; however, the crazy upside of the American prodigy previously elevated him to the top of my list. That has changed. Kakko continues to look increasingly better every time I see him, and he has proven that his ceiling is just as high as that of Hughes. While Kakko’s impressive performance at the World Championships isn’t the be-all end-all, it certainly hasn’t hurt his draft stock.
2. Jack Hughes, C, USNTDP, 5-foot-10, 170 pounds:
Dropping Hughes to second in my rankings is not a knock on him. I still wholeheartedly believe that he will be a superstar, and have not lost any faith in him. His skill alone will propel him to stardom. I just think it could take him a little longer than expected to adjust to the NHL.
I’ve talked plenty about Hughes. His quickness and puck-skills are off the charts. Don’t fret over his mediocre performance at the World Championships. He’ll be just fine. New York Rangers fans shouldn’t be complaining if Hughes falls into their laps.
3. Bowen Byram, D, Vancouver Giants, 6-foot, 193 pounds:
I’m not saying he’ll be this good, but Bowen Byram reminds me a lot of Erik Karlsson. They’re the same size, they’re both terrific skaters that can take over a game, and both are supremely talented with the puck.
Byram is coming off a terrific campaign in the WHL, and he has only improved throughout the season. He is in the midst of a historic playoff run, on which he has tallied 26 points in 22 games, and he currently leads the league in playoff scoring. He also notched 71 points in 67 regular season contests. These are gaudy numbers for a blue-liner.
Byram is the only member of this draft class that has the potential to be a true number-one defenseman. I believe that he’ll live up to his potential.
4. Trevor Zegras, C, USNTDP, 6-foot, 169 pounds:
Vision. That’s how I’d describe Trevor Zegras’ game. The Bedford, New York native is an absolute wizard with the puck. His vision is absolutely insane, and it is better than that of Jack Hughes in my opinion. Not only is Zegras able to find unseen passing lanes, but he is also able to execute these seemingly impossible passes. There are few that I’ve ever seen enter the league with the same puck-moving ability as Zegras. His ability to make something out of nothing is astonishing. I swear, he has eyes on the back of his head.
At times, though, Zegras’ passing can be a problem. He tends to occasionally try and make one too many passes, or he’ll try to make a far more difficult pass than necessary. In fact, I’d consider Zegras’ shot to be a little bit underrated. If he starts shooting the puck more, he will become a dynamic offensive player and a guy that frequently causes problems for the opposing defense.
Lastly, Zegras’ ability in his own zone cannot be overlooked. He gets it done at both ends of the ice.
There’s some risk involved with Zegras, but he’s a guy I’d take a flier on any day of the week.
5. Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon Blades, 6-foot-4, 197 pounds:
There is a lot to like about Kirby Dach. Who doesn’t love a guy who has a high floor and a high ceiling? That’s Dach in my opinion. And that’s why I think he’ll be a very high pick.
One of Dach’s greatest assets is his monstrous size. He uses his body so well, it enables him to take over any shift. He also skates well, has silky-smooth hands, an adequate shot, and passes the puck very well.
If Dach is able to put it all together, then he could be an absolute force. If not, he’ll still be a solid, productive player. That’s why I have him at number five.
6. Cole Caufield, RW, USNTDP, 5-foot-7, 162 pounds:
It’s been proven time and time again that small-size is far from detrimental. Despite the fact that guys like Johnny Gaudreau, Alex Debrincat, Patrick Kane, Brad Marchand and Cam Atkinson have debunked the longstanding myth that size is necessary for NHL success, Cole Caufield is likely to fall on draft night as a result of his height. There’s no denying that Caufield is undersized, but he definitely packs a punch.
Caufield’s record-breaking season was no fluke. He’s just one of those guys that has a nose for the net. He’s got a lightning quick release, and he shoots the puck with tremendous accuracy. Additionally, his ability to score in a variety of ways makes him even more dangerous. People also often underestimate his passing ability, which is part of the reason he is such a threat whenever he is on the ice.
Concerns about how Caufield’s game will translate to the big leagues are understandable. At the same time, I’ve got faith in the American sniper.
7. Matthew Boldy, LW, USNTDP, 6-foot-2, 192 pounds:
Unlike Caufield, Matthew Boldy’s physical tools are one of the main reasons I find him to be an attractive prospect. Boldy is some sort of prototype hybrid power-forward. He possesses desirable size, great strength, a heavy shot, and is a fine skater.
Boldy is going to be a guy who primarily scores off the rush and in front of the net. He has shades of New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider in his game. To me, Boldy is a more skilled but not as fast version of Kreider. Hopefully Boldy can become a more consistent player than New York’s enigmatic forward.
I think Boldy has the potential to be a 30-goal scorer, yet he also has a high floor similar to Dach. Boldy will definitely be an NHLer, but the question is more about just how good he will be. I believe he will exceed expectations.
8. Alex Newhook, C, Victoria Grizzlies, 5-foot-10, 195 pounds:
I’m a big fan of Alex Newhook. I’m definitely higher on him than most. I was tempted to raise him up even further in my rankings. The reason for that is his potential. If things click for Newhook, he’ll be a star. As with most, there’s also a legitimate chance that he never proves to be the player that he’s capable of becoming.
Newhook has the ideal mix of speed and skill. He’s super quick, but his hands are able to keep up with his skates. Newhook was a stud for the Victoria Grizzlies this season. The problem? He was playing in the BCHL, taking on inferior competition to many of his fellow future draftees. However, his play in international tournaments instilled confidence in me. And while the competition isn’t great, let’s not ignore the fact that Newhook had 102 points in 53 BCHL contests.
I think his creativity and skill will translate just fine to the higher levels of hockey. Alex Newhook is a name to remember.
9. Alex Turcotte, C, USNTDP, 5-foot-11, 185 pounds:
Alex Turcotte is a guy you love to have on your team. He doesn’t excel at any one thing in particular, but he is a really well-rounded player who is sure to have a successful NHL career as long as he can stay healthy.
Turcotte was very productive for the USNTDP this season. Not only was able to set-up his teammates and beat opposing goaltenders frequently, but he also got the job done in his own end. Turcotte is a true 200-foot player. He’s got a great motor, and he just never stops battling.
The reason that I have Turcotte lower than most is because I’m not sure how his offensive game will hold up in the NHL. His versatility is a blessing and a disguise. It could cause him to become some sort of jack-of-all-trades first-line forward, but I could also see him falling into the position of more second or third line grinder. I think that the amount of skill that Turcotte was surrounded with helped him put up numbers that may be unsustainable. I’m not sure that Turcotte can drive an offense by himself.
Finally, Turcotte has struggled to stay healthy, which is a bit concerning to me.
10. Arthur Kaliyev, RW, Hamilton Bulldogs, 6-foot-2, 190 pounds:
Some things can’t be taught. Arthur Kaliyev’s scoring ability is one of those things. There are plenty of issues with his game, but Kaliyev’s uncanny ability to find the back of the net is undeniable. 51 goals in 61 OHL games is no fluke. There are few others that have recorded more than 50 goals in their pre-draft year season. Some recent members of the club include Alex Debrincat and Jeff Skinner.
Kaliyev’s shot is lethal. He’s got an elite one-timer and wrist-shot. The questions about Kaliyev revolve around his work-ethic and lack of effort at times. He is a horse in the offensive zone, but he doesn’t have the same intensity when defending in his own end and battling. This can result in maddening inconsistency from Kaliyev.
Despite his flaws, Kaliyev can also be electric at times. When Kaliyev is on, there’s no stopping him. If he becomes dialed in on a nightly basis when he reaches the NHL, then whoever takes the risk and selects him will be in for a treat.