The trade deadline has passed. Barring a significant trade somewhere between the end of the season and the draft, the owners of the picks are set. Ultimately, the draft lottery, conducted in April, will decide the early draft order, while playoff results will decide the latter part of the first round. For now, the draft order is anybody’s guess, but we can have our first go at projecting the first round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft using the NHL standings.
Jack Hughes is still the consensus top prospect for the draft, and would go first overall if the draft today. Kaapo Kakko, a dominant Finnish forward, mixes the physical prowess of a power forward with the deft puck skills of a smaller player. Looking beyond those two, the 3rd overall pick is in serious question. Dylan Cozens and Kirby Dach, a pair of right-shot centres, are both in contention for the spot, as is Bowen Byram, the top defender in the draft. And if the Russian factor doesn’t scare teams off, Vasili Podkolzin could potentially sneak into the top 3 as well.
- Colorado Avalanche (from OTT): Jack Hughes (LHC, USNTDP)
It’s looking hilariously possible that the Avalanche, who received Ottawa’s 2019 1st rounder in the original Matt Duchene trade, will end up with the 1st overall pick. If that happens, it’s likely they’ll use the pick on consensus #1 prospect Jack Hughes, a dynamic centre out of the USNTDP. A one-two punch of Nathan MacKinnon and Jack Hughes at centre would surely be one of the best in the league for years to come.
- Detroit Red Wings: Kaapo Kakko (RW, Liiga)
Kakko has closed the gap between Jack Hughes and himself over the course of the season, but I still believe it’s unlikely that NHL teams value the European winger over the long-time top prospect Jack Hughes at this point in the season. As we close out the season, that could change, especially if Kakko shows well during April’s U18 tournament.
Kakko is a big, intelligent power winger with an exceptional all-around offensive profile. He has above-average top speed to go along with unparalleled edgework, outstanding hands, and a threatening shot. He’s dominant below the goal line and in the cycle, and can be similarly effective off the rush.
- Los Angeles Kings: Dylan Cozens (RHC, WHL)
The Kings won two cups over a remarkable string of success from 2011-2014 while playing a powerful, hard-hitting style. As the sport has evolved to a faster paced, more skilled style of game, the Kings were left behind, and now find themselves in a rebuild. A focus for the Kings moving forward will be adding speed, and they’re able to do that with Cozens, a power centre that skates very well.
- New Jersey Devils: Bowen Byram (LHD, WHL)
At this point, Byram is indisputably the top defencemen in the draft. As such, he’s almost a sure bet to go somewhere within the top 5; we haven’t seen the top 5 of a draft go without a blueliner since 2003— the year Marc-André Fleury went 1st overall to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Devils already have top prospect Ty Smith, but the opportunity to add another outstanding prospect on the blueline is just too much to pass up. Just imagine a defensive corps with Byram, Smith, and Will Butcher moving forward.
- Anaheim Ducks: Kirby Dach (RHC, WHL)
The Ducks had a good run, but their window has closed and they’ve shifted their focus towards the future. Ryan Getzlaf is 33, and in the midst of a noticeable decline; Corey Perry, also 33 years old, has just 4 points over 17 games this season. The Ducks’ franchise players are steadily losing effectiveness, and it’s time to begin searching for replacements.
I’m not sure there’s a better player to take Getzlaf’s spot at 1C in the future than Kirby Dach, a 6’4” playmaker that has drawn comparisons to Getzlaf himself.
- Vancouver Canucks: Matt Boldy (LW, USNTDP)
The Canucks have good depth down the middle long-term in Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat, as well as a pair of promising prospects on the blueline in Quinn Hughes and Olli Juolevi. They could use some help on the wing, and history shows that the Canucks tend to approve of creative offensive players with strong puck skills. Matthew Boldy embodies that mould perfectly, and offers nice two-way ability to accompany his offensive portfolio.
- Chicago Blackhawks: Alex Turcotte (LHC, USNTDP)
Dylan Strome is looking very promising, but the Blackhawks continue to be thin at the centre position, especially when we look several years down the road. Alex Turcotte is a well-rounded two-way pivot, the type of player that can match up against top competition but still provide 70+ points a season. Could be the perfect player to free up Dylan Strome to feast on lesser competition.
- New York Rangers: Trevor Zegras (LHC, USNTDP)
The Rangers have several promising prospects across a variety of positions — Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson, and Vitali Kravstov up front with K’Andre Miller and Nils Lundkvist on the blueline — but they still need additional high-end talent on offence and defence. Trevor Zegras, a creative forward with otherworldly vision, is the type of elite offensive player that could be a defining offensive force for the Rangers as they transition towards annual contention.
- Edmonton Oilers: Peyton Krebs (LW, WHL)
If we aren’t counting Leon Draisaitl or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who split time between centre and wing but are both natural centres, the Oilers don’t have a single winger that is deserving of top 6 wingers. It’s a desperate need, and I would be absolutely stunned if they don’t try to address it with their 2019 1st round pick.
Krebs plays in the WHL, a region the Oilers are quite familiar with. He isn’t the dominant scorer that the Oilers would love to have alongside McDavid, but he’s an intelligent playmaker with good scoring touch.
- Florida Panthers: Vasili Podkolzin (RW, VHL)
Podkolzin has stated that he is in no rush to come over to North American, which will hurt his stock on draft day, but the Russian winger is too talented to fall out of the top 10. Podkolzin is a big power winger with an exceptionally well-rounded offensive profile. His weaknesses are few, and although he hasn’t been quite as good in Russian league play, his potential dominance has been on display at international tournaments.
- Buffalo Sabres: Victor Soderstrom (RHD, SHL)
Even with the addition of Rasmus Dahlin at last year’s draft and the recent Brandon Montour acquisition, Buffalo’s blueline continues to be absolutely dismal. They badly need another steady defenceman capable of top 4 minutes, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they drafted another defender with their 1st round pick in 2019. In this range, Swedish defenceman Victor Soderstrom is the most likely choice. Soderstrom won’t pile up points, but he’s a dependable two-way player that is effective in transition.
- Colorado Avalanche: Ryan Suzuki (LHC, OHL)
Currently projected to grab Jack Hughes first overall, you might expect Colorado to go for a defenceman here, but the quality of available blueliners drops off once Soderstrom comes off the board. Instead, they’ll go for another hyper-intelligent centre with Ryan Suzuki, a deft playmaker with some of the best vision in the draft.
- Arizona Coyotes: Alex Newhook (LHC, BCHL)
Newhook is very difficult to get a good read on; I could see a situation where a team takes him in the top 5, but I could also see a scenario where he falls into the latter part of the first round, not unlike Joe Veleno last year. Newhook plays for the Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL, and even with his dominance at that level, quality of competition is a legitimate concern. However, the skill is evident, and I think the Coyotes are willing to take the risk.
- Philadelphia Flyers: Raphael Lavoie (RW, QMJHL)
Is there a better fit for the Flyers than Raphael Lavoie, a 6’4” power forward with great wheels? In this range, I don’t think there is. The Flyers took a big swing on Jay O’Brien with their 1st rounder last year; I think they’ll try to settle down a bit in 2019 with what they view as more of a safer pick with Lavoie, who has an excellent track record as a prospect in the QMJHL.
- Ottawa Senators (from CBJ): Arthur Kaliyev (RW, OHL)
The Senators will try to make up for their lost lottery pick by swinging big, and I don’t think there’s any better prospect to take a risk on than Arthur Kaliyev. The winger is arguably the best pure scorer in the entire draft class, and I think his weaknesses, primarily his play away from the puck, tend to be somewhat exaggerated. He’s an absolutely dominant OHL player, but there are concerns about how well it’ll translate to the NHL. I’d bet on it working out just fine. A tremendous value pick.
- Minnesota Wild: Cole Caufield (RW, USNTDP)
The Wild haven’t been quite as good at scoring goals this season as they would have hoped (even though their underlying metrics would suggest that’s due to luck more than anything else), and they aren’t doing fantastic in the standings as a result. I think there’s appetite within the organization to add an impact goal-scorer, and with Kaliyev off the board, the undersized Caufield should be next on the list. Alongside a good playmaker, Caufield has 30+ goal potential, and looks sets to be yet another piece of evidence that size doesn’t matter.
- Dallas Stars: Phillip Broberg (LHD, Allsvenskan)
With the graduation of Miro Heiskanen, the Stars find themselves with a weak pipeline of blueline talent to supplement an NHL blueline that could already use some help. Phillip Broberg impressed at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup in August, and my sense is that the Stars, as well as most NHL teams, view Broberg as only one year out of the NHL, so he could potentially offer defensive help fairly soon.
- Buffalo Sabres (from STL): Bobby Brink (RW, USHL)
After drafting a defenceman with their first pick, the Sabres need to go for a high-skill forward with their second choice. The Ryan O’Rielly trade looks pretty bad from their standpoint right now, but there’s potential to salvage the deal by betting on Bobby Brink, a skilled winger with unlimited upside.
- Vegas Golden Knights: Cam York (LHD, USNTDP)
After trading coveted defensive prospect Erik Brannstrom to Ottawa in the Mark Stone deal, I think the Golden Knights will do their best to try to replace him at this year’s draft. With Cam York, Vegas isn’t getting a defenceman as skilled or impactful as Brannstrom, but he’s a poised, intelligent defender that can deliver impressive offensive results in unsheltered minutes.
- Montreal Canadiens: Ville Heinola (LHD, Liiga)
It’s no secret that the Canadiens would like to add a dependable left handed defenceman. Their top two defencemen, Jeff Petry and Shea Weber, both shoot right, and the Habs blueline is very thin beyond those two. Heinola won’t offer the immediate help the Canadiens would like (nobody in this draft will), but he’s a steady, intelligent two-way player who has put up points in very respectable minutes in the Liiga.
- Pittsburgh Penguins: Matthew Robertson (LHD, WHL)
It’s rare to see the Penguins go into the draft with their 1st round pick in hand, but the Pens opted to hold onto the selection at the deadline, and, barring an offseason trade, will pick within the top 31 this year. I don’t think the Penguins will take much of a risk with this pick — in their situation, I think they’d prefer a player they can count on to be an NHL player. Matthew Robertson is a dependable, intelligent defender that can log big minutes while chipping in offensively. The upside here is somewhat limited, but Robertson could be a stabilizing presence on Pittsburgh’s back-end sometime in the future.
- Carolina Hurricanes: Connor McMichael (LHC, OHL)
The Hurricanes finally seem to have figured things out, but they could always stand to add another dangerous goal-scorer to their forward group. Connor McMichael has 36 goals through 62 OHL games so far this season, and probably finds himself as the best scorer available at this point in the draft. He’s versatile, intelligent, and might be closer to the NHL than most people think.
- Nashville Predators: Philip Tomasino (RHC, OHL)
Tomasino has risen steadily throughout the entire year and could potentially enter the top 15 conversation by season’s end. He’s a creative, dynamic offensive talent that has acted as an important offensive driver on a deep Niagara IceDogs team. Nashville will be a good fit for him— they have more than enough depth to let him take his time as he transitions into an impact NHL player, and will join a winning environment when he’s ready for big league duty.
- New York Islanders: Jakob Pelletier (LW/RW, QMJHL)
Pelletier, a talented all-round offensive player that thrives alongside high-end players, will be a welcome addition to an Islanders club that needs skilled wingers. A speedy attacker with quick hands and masterful vision, he’s the type of player that could click very well with Mathew Barzal.
- Los Angeles Kings (from TOR): Moritz Seider (RHD, DEL)
The Kings need to add prospect depth at every position, so it makes sense to spread out the wealth with multiple first round picks at the draft. After picking up Dylan Cozens, a forward, with their earlier pick, I expect they’ll look to the blueline with Toronto’s selection. Moritz Seider is an intelligent 6’4” defender that has impressed in Germany’s top professional league. He hasn’t been very production offensively, but as a 17 year old in a pro league, the general sense seems to be that there’s untapped offensive potential present.
- Anaheim Ducks (from SJS): Thomas Harley (LHD, OHL)
The Ducks find themselves in a very similar situation to the Kings, with picks in the top 5 and the late first. Just like the Kings, I think they’ll pick up a defender with the late pick after grabbing a forward with the lottery selection. While the Kings went overseas with Seider, the Ducks will stay in North America and draft offensive defenceman Thomas Harley out of the Ontario Hockey League. Harley is a big offensive blueliner with potential as a powerplay QB at the NHL level.
- Boston Bruins: Nils Hoglander (LW/RW, SHL)
Nobody comes close to Brad Marchand’s incredible mix of elite skill and the ability to drive opposing players crazy, but Nils Hoglander shares plenty of similarities with Marchand, albeit at a toned-down level. Hoglander is an excellent skater with quick hands and legitimate offensive potential at the NHL level, but he also involves himself in the physical side of the game and has been known to prove difficult to play against.
- New York Rangers (from WPG): Pavel Dorofeyev (LW/RW, KHL)
The Rangers will be one of the most intriguing teams to monitor at the draft. They could potentially go into the draft with three first round picks, and have shown a history of targeting high-skill players with their picks. Last year, the Rangers gambled on Vitali Kravtsov, a Russian winger with KHL experience. At the 2019 draft, they could do the same with Pavel Dorofeyev, a talented winger with excellent puck skills and 23 games of professional experience in the KHL.
- Washington Capitals: Brett Leason (RHC, WHL)
Washington’s window of contention is closing, but they still have a few years left. A double overager, Leason is almost 20 years old, and standing at 6’5”, 198 lbs, he’s physically ready for professional hockey. My sense is that Washington values their current window more than the future, so NHL-readiness will be important to them. Leason will need a year of AHL time, but could be ready to jump into an NHL role the year after.
- Calgary Flames: Spencer Knight (G, USNTDP)
David Rittich has played well, but the Flames still need stability in goal. Spencer Knight is arguably the best goalie prospect since John Gibson, and projects to be an above-average starting goaltender that can anchor a team’s net for years.
- New York Rangers (from TBL): Anttoni Honka (RHD, Liiga)
We’re going to stick with the theme of the Rangers selected high-skill European prospects at the end of the first round with Anttoni Honka, a Finnish defenceman with outstanding offensive skills. Honka is an automatic zone exit, a threat in the offensive zone, and can quarterback a powerplay. He oozes high-end upside, but his defensive play needs plenty of work.