The 2019 NHL Entry Draft is still months away, but if you haven’t yet started getting familiar with this year’s class then now is a good time to start.
Why is that? Because this year is shaping up to be quite a good one.
Sure, there won’t be a Connor McDavid or an Auston Matthews up for grabs, but while this draft might lack franchise-changing generational talent, it certainly makes up for it in depth.
Beyond a consensus about who the top two picks are, the race for third is razor-thin between six or seven names. There is also some serious jostling from picks 10 to 25 and there are about 40 or so players in total who could be considered first-round talents. Look through lists from various independent online sources and you’re guaranteed to see a lot of discrepancy.
After months of research, dedicated thought and some last-minute fine-tuning, I have compiled my own list, ranking the top 101 prospects. This is still an early, mid-season version of the rankings, with the final list coming in June.
This list has been compiled and refined through a laborious collection of in-person scouting (I live in Calgary and am credentialed with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen), statistical analysis, watching live games and highlight packages online, reading scouting reports, discussions with scouts and other methods.
Let’s dig in.
1) Jack Hughes — Center — USNTDP (USHL)
Despite the race for the draft’s top spot narrowing lately, Hughes is still the cream of this crop. His dynamic offensive abilities can’t be matched, so his small size won’t be a problem.
2) Kaapo Kakko — Right Wing — TPS (Liiga)
An incredibly well-rounded and smart player, Kakko has a full toolbox at his disposal. He’s at his most dangerous when he gets the puck on his stick in tight near an opposing goalie.
3) Kirby Dach — Center — Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
He’s struggled a bit lately, but Dach nevertheless still has a ceiling that’s sky-high. A huge, smooth puck wizard, he sees the ice in a way that most other prospects can only dream of.
4) Vasili Podkolzin — Right Wing — SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (VHL)
The bigger the stage, the better the performance from Podkolzin. An explosive winger who can pull fans out of their seats with his puck rushes, he also has a relentless work ethic.
5) Bowen Byram — Defense — Vancouver Giants (WHL)
The clear-cut top defenseman in this year’s draft, Byram is an impeccable game manager, controlling the flow of play with ease once the puck is on his stick. Gorgeous skater.
6) Dylan Cozens — Center — Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
With a big frame, quick hands and the most powerful skating stride in this year’s class, Cozens is nearly unstoppable on the rush. His wrist shot makes him a huge power play threat.
7) Alex Turcotte — Center — USNTDP (USHL)
A cerebral pivot who can contribute offensively in a number of different ways and is impactful in all three zones. Short but stocky, he plays the game a lot like Sidney Crosby does.
8) Trevor Zegras — Center/Wing — USNTDP (USHL)
One lucky team who misses out on Hughes is going to get the next closest thing in Zegras. Elusive on his skates and makes great passes thanks to his incredible vision and creativity.
9) Peyton Krebs — Center — Kootenay Ice (WHL)
With the talent of a first-liner and the work ethic of a fourth-liner, Krebs will be an instant fan favorite anywhere he goes. How much of his potential is being hidden by his awful team?
10) Matthew Boldy — Left Wing — USNTDP (USHL)
What he lacks in pure speed, Boldy more than makes up for in puck control and composure. Few players in this class are as dangerous when slowing the play down and working the cycle.
11) Ryan Suzuki — Center — Barrie Colts (OHL)
The first overall pick in the 2017 OHL draft, Ryan is a better skater than his big brother Nick, but not as good of a shooter. Does his best work while quarterbacking a man-advantage.
12) Cam York — Defense — USNTDP (USHL)
Like Byram, York is a superb skater, puck mover, and game manager. Mature and composed beyond his years. No real weaknesses, but could stand to take charge a little more offensively.
13) Matthew Robertson — Defense — Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
A minute-munching, all-situations blueliner, Robertson is the type of guy you can build an entire defense group around. Protects his own zone first, but can make some flashy plays too.
14) Philip Broberg — Defense — AIK (Allsvenskan)
The big, athletic defender has built a strong reputation for himself thanks mainly to his end-to-end puck rushes. Some concerns exist about his decision-making and defensive awareness.
15) Spencer Knight — Goaltender — USNTDP (USHL)
Possibly the best goaltending prospect since Andrei Vasilevskiy, Knight has all the physical tools that you want a netminder to have and the mental strength needed to handle big moments.
16) Thomas Harley — Defense — Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
A huge draft riser as this season has progressed, Harley has a big frame, is an effortless skater, and owns smooth hands. Effort level and intensity both need work going forward.
17) Arthur Kaliyev — Left Wing — Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
Kaliyev is on track to crack the 50-goal and 100-point plateaus this year, which is quite remarkable for a 17-year-old OHLer, but his heavy feet could be a real problem in the NHL.
18) Alex Newhook — Center — Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
Newhook has an abundance of skill and is absolutely torching the BCHL this season, but his hockey IQ is a bit of a question mark. Has a habit of disappointing play when the pressure is on.
19) Brett Leason — Right Wing — Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
All 31 NHL teams are kicking themselves that they passed over Leason in two straight drafts now that he is destroying the WHL. With his size and skill he should have a productive career.
20) Philip Tomasino — Center/Wing — Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Tomasino is a real treat to watch because of his blazing speed and confidence with the puck. He’s still playing a big role on the IceDogs even after they added veterans for the playoffs.
21) Ilya Nikolayev — Center — Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
Nikolayev was fantastic at the World Junior A Challenge, looking almost as good as linemate Podkolzin. Does a great job of dangling the puck through traffic and has a keen nose for the net.
22) Moritz Seider — Defense — Adler Mannheim (DEL)
A hulking right-shot defenseman, Seider is a difference-maker in his native Germany’s top pro league. Was one of the best players at the Division 1A World Junior Championship at just 17.
23) Rafael Lavoie — Center/Wing — Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
His scoring totals don’t jump off the page, especially for a birthday in the year 2000, but Lavoie is a highly talented, well-rounded forward. Enormous potential if he can maximize all of his tools.
24) Bobby Brink — Right Wing — Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
The diminutive Brink has been racking up points at a ridiculous pace this season. An incredibly crafty and assertive player, he carves up the offensive zone with his puck skills.
25) Victor Soderstrom — Defense — Brynas IF (SHL)
Soderstrom has spent most of this year in the SHL because of his elite puck-carrying abilities. Needs to add more zip to his passes and shots to become more dangerous offensively.
26) Jakob Pelletier — Left Wing — Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
Pelletier plays much bigger than his size and is always looking to make an impact. Has an advanced understanding of where he needs to be and what he needs to do in all situations.
#CHLTPG: LW Jakob Pelletier takes a feed from Kirby Dach and explodes into a clean break before beating Taylor Gauthier with a backhander. More matador defense but a quick burst by Pelletier. pic.twitter.com/gGsf6pCHoa— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) January 24, 2019
27) Cole Caulfield — Right Wing — USNTDP (USHL)
A tiny winger who also happens to possess one of the best shots in the entire class, Caulfield will be something of a wild card in this draft. Could he be the next Alex DeBrincat?
28) Connor McMichael — Center/Wing — London Knights (OHL)
No other junior team develops prospects like the London Knights do, and McMichael is their top product this draft. A jack-of-all-trades forward who should be a pretty safe pick.
29) Nick Robertson — Left Wing — Peterborough Petes (OHL)
The younger brother of Jason, Nick has learned a lot about scoring goals from his older sibling. He is producing at a point-per-game pace despite a lack of offensive support around him.
30) Jamieson Rees — Center — Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Injuries have hampered his draft season, but Rees has played well enough when healthy to show what he is capable of. A quick, skilled center who is a heat-seeking missile for loose pucks.
31) Nathan Legare — Right Wing — Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
Legare is a brawny winger who can score goals from anywhere in the offensive zone, but is especially lethal with his one-timer. Hard to knock off the puck in transition and along the boards.