With the NHL season now in full swing, fans are starting to get an early glimpse of what their respective teams are made of. While some have excelled and others have faltered, every franchise has started their prospect scouting for the 2019 NHL Draft.
Following the mania that was the Rasmus Dahlin sweepstakes in 2018, there will be another race for the first pick with potential franchise-altering centreman Jack Hughes atop the draft board.
Throughout the season, we will highlight the various prospects that could go in the top 10 picks. Here are the initial rankings, with some honourable mentions after the first month of the season.Embed from Getty Images
1) Jack Hughes, Centre, USNTDP
17 GP / 4 Goals / 24 Assists / 28 Points / 12 PIM
For the second consecutive year, there will be no drama when it comes to the first overall selection in the draft.
Hughes has been destined for the No. 1 spot ever since he posted 159 points in 80 games with the Toronto Marlboros Minor Midget Triple-A team back in 2016-17.
He’s been said to have “Connor McDavid-like qualities,” and has already received high praise from the Edmonton captain, who skated with the budding star over the summer.
“You look at all the kids who have come in and done their thing — there’s so many different examples he can relate to — it’s not going to be an issue. He’s so good that he’s probably just waiting to get to the draft,” says McDavid. “Such a good skater. He’s very agile. He just looks smooth with the puck. He’s obviously going to be a very good player.” – Luke Fox, Sportsnet
Hughes is an electrifying talent who is a threat anywhere on the ice. He’s got the hockey IQ on offensive instincts to go with the talent as well. At just 5-foot-10, 168 lbs, there will be questions about his size, but he’s already fearless when it comes to being physical.
Hughes has the chance to be a star immediately for whichever team has the chance to select him first overall come June.Embed from Getty Images
2) Dylan Cozens, Centre, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
15 GP / 8 Goals / 13 Assists / 21 Points / 6 PIM
Only two men hailing from the Yukon Territories have played in the NHL before. Bryon Baltimore and Peter Sturgeon played a combined six pro games in the 1950’s. With his play leading up to his draft year, Cozens projects to have a much longer stay in the NHL.
The 6-foot-3 centre is exactly what NHL teams are looking for. His blend of size and speed will guarantee that he’s a high pick in 2019. Where he falls in the draft will depend on his play going forward. There will be a lot of movement within the top 10 throughout the year.
A long, powerful stride drives his elite speed. He’s a complete player with skill to burn in a sizable frame. He owns an accurate release and uses that threat to look-off defenders and slide crisp passes into his mate’s wheelhouses. Loves to win one-on-one battles. Smart. A potential 1C. – Cam Robinson, Dobber Prospects
The Lethbridge pivot has already posted 21 points in 15 games to start the season, and with his team projected to have a good shot at the Ed Chynoweth Cup this year, Cozens could get some valuable experience as the top gun on a playoff team.Embed from Getty Images
3) Vasili Podkolzin, Right Wing, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)
10 GP / 5 Goals / 2 Assists / 7 Points / 2 PIM
The early riser in the draft is Podkolzin. The Russian dynamo has impressed mightily to open the season. His stock began to rise at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup tournament this summer and the hype train hasn’t stopped since.
If first impressions mean anything, then we’re looking at a budding star. Has produced in all the major international events to date, and was particularly noticeable at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup where he put up 11 points, including a hat trick in the bronze medal game. – Sam Cosentino, Sportsnet
Podkolzin has already posted five goals and seven points in 10 games with SKA-1946 – the junior affiliate of SKA Saint Petersburg of the KHL. He’s also played two games for SKA-Neva, the farm team of SKA, where he’s tallied an assist.
The Russian factor could play a role in where the 17-year-old is selected. It’s likely that he’ll spend time playing in the KHL before making the jump to North America. Regardless, he’s already drawing comparisons to Nikita Kucherov, which should be reason enough for a team to take him at the top of the draft.Embed from Getty Images
4) Kaapo Kakko, Right Wing, TPS (Liiga)
14 GP / 3 Goals / 7 Assists / 10 Points
Finland has experienced a fantastic run of top-10 prospects since 2015, and they look to have another star in the making with Kakko.
A puck-controlling fiend with exception hands, agility and vision, Kakko is a power winger who is impossible to knock off the puck. His close-quarter quickness and straight-line speed seem to always catch opponents off guard – Steve Kournianos, Sporting News
The 17-year-old has nine points in his first 12 games in Finland’s top flight. He plays bigger than his listed height of 6-foot-1 and has drawn some comparisons to Patrik Laine. Teemu Pulkkinen scored the most points by an 18-year-old in Liiga with 54 during the 2010-11 season. Kakko likely won’t match that mark, but with 10 points nearly a quarter of the way through the season, he’s on pace to have one of the best all-time seasons points-wise by a teenager.
A full season producing at nearly a point-per-game would solidify Kakko as a top-five prospect and could even propel him into the top three.
5) Kirby Dach, Centre, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
16 GP / 10 Goals / 17 Assists / 27 Points / 10 PIM
A strong Hlinka Gretzky tournament really aided Dach’s draft status ahead of the 2018-19 season. He’s followed up that performance by posting 27 points in 16 games for Saskatoon to open the WHL campaign.
The big-bodied centre currently sits fourth in WHL scoring and first among draft-eligible players. This isn’t an unexpected output from Dach. The Blades selected the St. Albert, AB., native second overall in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft.
Dach has very good vision and passing skills. He finds open teammates and sets them up for scoring chances in tight. His puck protection skills allow him to extend plays down low and wait for a teammate to get open. Dach also has a strong wrist shot and a quick release. – Benn Kerr, Last Word on Hockey
The sky is the limit for this youngster. He’s a future top-six centre and with his size and ability, teams will covet him early in the draft.Embed from Getty Images
6) Bowen Byram, Defence, Vancouver Giants (WHL)
16 GP / 5 Goals / 8 Assists / 13 Points / 26 PIM
Byram was the first defender off the board in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft. He’s quickly been moulded into one of the most important defenders on the Vancouver Giants.
Firing at just under a point-per-game pace, the rearguard has become the top defender on the board early in his draft year.
Excellent skater with an economy to his game because of his feel and sense.Effective in every zone and can play the big minutes along with the important minutes. – Craig Button, TSN
Everything looks to be falling in place for Byram to become a top-pairing defender in the NHL. If he keeps firing at the pace he is, there will be no question as to who the first defender off the board will be.
7) Philip Broberg, Defence, AIK (Allsvenskan)
14 GP / 0 Goals / 3 Assists / 3 Points / 4 PIM
After the top-five picks, the rush for defenders will likely come. With Byram assumedly off the board, Broberg is the best player available.
Another player who had a strong Hlinka Gretzky performance, Broberg was vaulted to the top three in some preseason rankings. That’s how solid he was on the back end for Sweden in the tournament.
Outstanding skater who does it defensively, offensively and in transition with the ability to impact the game in all aspects. – Craig Button, TSN
Men’s pro hockey in Sweden is difficult for draft-eligible players, and while he is playing in the Allsvenskan – the second-tier in Sweden – the competition is still fierce. The offensive production hasn’t been there, but this is Broberg’s first taste of non-junior hockey in his home country.
Give him time to adjust and the offensive production will follow. He’s too good to be held off the scoresheet all season.Embed from Getty Images
8) Peyton Krebs, Left Wing, Kootenay Ice (WHL)
15 GP / 5 Goals / 14 Assists / 19 Points / 14 PIM
Krebs is Kootenay’s biggest offensive weapon, but they have had a rough start to the 2018-19 season, going under .500.
The first overall pick in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft, he posted 54 points in 67 games last season before putting up a point per game for Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup this summer.
Dynamic center with leadership traits, game-changing speed and creativity. Krebs can be a stopper in the defensive zone and a scoring threat in the opposing end. He is the kid you summon to take all the big draws or deliver a game-changing play. – Steve Kournianos, Sporting News
Krebs can play all over the ice. He will be leaned on heavily to help push the Ice offensively, and he will also be a key defensive cog. He has to continue playing to his capabilities in order to stay in the top 10.Embed from Getty Images
9) Ryan Suzuki, Centre, Barrie Colts (OHL)
Barrie has experienced a good run of picks that have turned into legitimate NHL talent. Mark Schiefele, Aaron Ekblad, and most recently Andrei Svechnikov have all been top picks in the NHL Draft.
While Svechnikov garnered most of the attention last season, Suzuki can’t be forgotten. The younger brother of former first-rounder Nick, Ryan was the first overall selection in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection.
Excellent sense and feel for situations and is able to make the plays that create opportunities. Very good skills and plays with a real confidence. – Craig Button, TSN
He will be pushing to be drafted higher than his older brother, and he’s well on his way with 19 points in 13 games.
10) Alex Newhook, Centre, Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
20 GP / 11 Goals / 19 Assists / 30 Points / 6 PIM
Junior A. hockey has struck again in the lottery of a draft. This time, its Newhook, who has torn up the BCHL during his junior career.
Last season, the St. Johns, NL., native made the move to the Victoria Grizzlies, where he posted 66 points in 45 games.
This year, Newhook has started the season off on fire. In 20 games, he already has 11 goals and 30 points.
Had a monster rookie season in the BCHL, regularly exhibiting highlight-reel abilities. His playmaking ability is elite, but he can shoot it too, and becoming a more complete goal-scorer will be the plan this season. Effort doesn’t deviate on the defensive side. – Sam Cosentino, Sportsnet
The blend of speed and skill is unbelievable when watching Newhook’s highlights. He is able to do things at top speeds that not many individuals can pull off.
Newhook has committed to play for Boston College next season. It’ll be there that he proves how good he can become.
Alex Turcotte, Centre, USNTDP
Turcotte has been compared skill-wise to Hughes. However, a rough start to his draft year has pushed him further down the list. As soon as Turcotte begins to produce at a regular rate, he’ll have a cemented spot in the top 10.
Raphael Lavoie, Right Wing, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
With Filip Zadina sticking in the AHL, Lavoie has been able to get a better look on the Mooseheads. He stands 6-foot-4 and has a bullet of a shot.
Anttoni Honka, Defence, JYP (Liiga)
The younger brother of Dallas Stars 2014 first-rounder Julius, Anttoni looks to also be a top pick on defence. His smaller stature (5-foot-10, 170 lbs) could turn some teams away, but he’s got great playmaking ability and vision. He’s also a right-handed shot, something that is coveted in today’s game.