Pretty much everyone in the hockey scouting world is in agreement that Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko are the top two prospects available in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, held this year in Vancouver on June 21 and 22.
Immediately after that, however? All bets are off.
The biggest story of this year’s draft will likely be what happens starting from pick No. 3 and beyond, as there are roughly 10 different players who could all go as high as third overall. Despite countless accumulated hours of research and deliberation, there is little consensus among independent scouting services about who should be at the top of this group. NHL teams likely differ just as much with their still-private opinions, if not more.
That same story will likely play itself out in other parts of the draft, as there are variously sized groups of prospects ranked in similar ranges who are all very close in terms of “draftability.” For example, one player might be ranked 25th on one NHL team’s list and 41st on another, while another player might be 41st on the former list and 25th on the latter.
To get in on the fun, for the second year in a row I have compiled my own public list, ranking the top 101 prospects for the 2019 NHL draft, completing the process of scouting and research for this year’s class.
This list has been compiled and refined through a dedicated collection of in-person scouting (I live in Calgary, Alberta and am credentialed with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen), watching live games and highlight packages online, statistical analysis, reading scouting reports, discussions with others scouts, and other methods.
I have attempted to order the prospects by “draftability,” which I weigh by a combination of hockey-specific skills, natural athleticism, mental composition, development opportunities and numerous other factors. In terms of their long-term potential, some players on this list I consider to be high-ceiling and low-floor, while others are low-ceiling and high-floor — I believe there is draftability in both.
To help illustrate the aforementioned proximity of prospects with regards to their NHL draftability, I have separated my list into various “tiers.” I consider players in the same tier to be better draft options than those in the tier below, although all the members of the same tier are very, very close in terms of their draftability. I won’t be surprised if the prospect I have at the bottom of a tier turns out to be a better draft choice in the long-run than the prospect I have at the top of the same tier.
Without further ado, let’s dig in.
1) Jack Hughes — Center — USNTDP (USHL)
Abundantly skilled, smart and determined to win, Hughes is a very special hockey player —imagine a center version of Patrick Kane. His small stature won’t hold back his huge potential.
2) Kaapo Kakko — Right Wing — TPS (Liiga)
In other drafts years Kakko would be an easy choice to go first overall. One of the best prospects to ever come out of Finland, he can beat you offensively in every way possible.
3) Bowen Byram — Defense — Vancouver Giants (WHL)
Byram already thinks the game and carries himself like a pro, so don’t be surprised if he forces his way onto an NHL roster next season. Future captain and No. 1 defenseman material.
4) Dylan Cozens — Center — Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
An explosive player who is just scratching the surface of what he is capable of. His toolbox is overflowing, but he still needs a bit of time to figure out how to put all the pieces together.
5) Kirby Dach — Center — Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
Dach’s offensive vision and touch on the puck are both extremely rare, and when you add in his big frame it makes him even more appealing. If he wants it bad enough the sky is the limit.
6) Alex Turcotte — Center — USNTDP (USHL)
With his advanced maturity, hockey IQ and two-way game, it’s easy to see that Turcotte has been developed ideally at every level coming up. He’s going to get better year over year.
7) Trevor Zegras — Center/Wing — USNTDP (USHL)
One of the most creative players in the draft, Zegras is a one-man highlight reel. His puck skills, playmaking and elusive skating ability will make him a big point producer in the NHL.
8) Vasili Podkolzin — Right Wing — SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (VHL)
A disappointing performance at the IIHF U18s doesn’t erase all the other success he made in a globetrotting 2018-19 season. Few players are as dangerous or electrifying off the rush.
9) Matthew Boldy — Left Wing — USNTDP (USHL)
Boldy more than carried his weight on a stacked USNTDP team. Protects the puck expertly and is equally talented as a distributor or a finisher. For a power forward, he could be more physical.
10) Philip Broberg — Defense — AIK (Allsvenskan)
An impressive showing at the U18s proved that his stellar performance at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup wasn’t a fluke. With his physical tools, many teams are salivating at the chance to develop him.
11) Peyton Krebs — Center — Kootenay Ice (WHL)
Krebs survived a nightmarish season with Kootenay and used the CHL Top Prospects Game and U18s to prove what he is capable of. Combines a skill game with an unparalleled work ethic.
12) Cole Caufield — Right Wing — USNTDP (USHL)
From the start of the year right to the end, Caufield showcased his elite goal-scoring ability. There’s no doubt remaining that he can be a successful sniper at the professional levels.
13) Moritz Seider — Defense — Adler Mannheim (DEL)
Seider surged up draft boards late, and deservedly so, after starring against NHL players at the World Championships. Big, mobile, right-shot defenders are hard to find, so he’ll get picked high.
14) Thomas Harley — Defense — Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Harley logged enormous minutes on a bad Steelheads team this past season, but grew a lot from the opportunity. Despite his tall frame, he projects better offensively than defensively.
15) Spencer Knight — Goaltender — USNTDP (USHL)
The best goaltending prospect to come along since Andrei Vasilevskiy, Knight is one of the rare netminders worth drafting in the first round. Athleticism, technique, composure — he has it all.
16) Cam York — Defense — USNTDP (USHL)
York isn’t the type of player to take control of the play by himself, but with his skating, hockey sense and passing he proved this season to be a perfect complement to skilled forwards.
17) Alex Newhook — Center — Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
A solid showing at the U18s helped alleviate some of the concerns about past performances on big stages. Torched the BCHL and was named league MVP in an easy decision for voters.
18) Matthew Robertson — Defense — Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
A guy who you have to watch closely to truly appreciate, Robertson is a well-rounded, minute-munching defender. Will be a coach’s dream because of his ability to play in any role.
19) Victor Soderstrom — Defense — Brynas IF (SHL)
The next in a long line of Swedish puck-moving defenders, Soderstrom has plenty of options to watch and learn from. Few 17-year-old blueliners ever played as much in the SHL as he did.
20) Ryan Suzuki — Center — Barrie Colts (OHL)
Suzuki’s stock has dropped a lot this season, but his abundance of offensive awareness, puck skill and playmaking cannot be denied. If he develops well he’ll be a very special player.
21) Raphael Lavoie — Center/Wing — Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Up and down all season, Lavoie finished “up” after an incredible run in the QMJHL playoffs. There’s so much raw talent to work with, but his lack of consistency remains a serious issue.
22) Ville Heinola — Defense — Lukko (Liiga)
Few prospects boosted their draft stock over the year as much as Heinola did. His hockey IQ is through the roof, which helped him to succeed while punching up weight classes.
23) Arthur Kaliyev — Left Wing — Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
Despite the weaknesses with his skating, Kaliyev will probably continue finding ways to score goals as he develops. He’s a one-dimensional player, but teams need that dimension.
24) Philip Tomasino — Center/Wing — Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
One of the most unheralded prospects in the draft, Tomasino is a gorgeous skater who also does a bunch of other things really well. His skillset should translate very nicely to the pros.
25) Tobias Bjornfot — Defense — Djurgardens IF J20 (SuperElit)
Bjornfot didn’t play much pro this year because his organization was deep on defense, but he used international tournaments to strut his stuff. A responsible, mature, puck-rushing defender.
26) Bobby Brink — Right Wing — Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
Everywhere Brink has gone, the points have followed. But just how much success can small forwards find in the NHL if they aren’t elite skaters? Brink will be a fascinating case study.
27) Egor Afanasyev — Left Wing — Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
Arguably the biggest dark-horse prospect in the draft, Afanasyev is a towering, powerful winger who also possesses sharp hockey sense, strong puck protection, and an elite shot.
28) Nils Hoglander — Left Wing — Rogle BK (SHL)
A buzzsaw forward who is equally reliable and adept in all three zones. An older prospect who already has plenty of pro experience, Hoglander is closer to NHL duty that most others.
29) John Beecher — Center — USNTDP (USHL)
Just how much did playing on a deep USNTDP roster hide Beecher’s talent? With his size and unstoppable skating power, his offensive game should grow if given the opportunity.
Team USA makes it a 5-0 game on a goal from John Beecher. It's vintage Beecher, who displays his speed barreling down the wing like a freight train, before finishing. #U18Worlds #NTDP pic.twitter.com/P4nc8Hxd5M— Stars n’ Stripes Hockey (@StarsStripesHKY) April 23, 2019
30) Brett Leason — Right Wing — Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
The third time will be the charm for Leason at the draft. His production slowed down a bit as the season went along, but there are too many tools at his disposal to let him slide too far.
31) Pavel Dorofeyev — Right Wing — Metallurg Magnitogorsk (KHL)
Dorofeyev is a ton of fun to watch on offense because of his slippery, cerebral, slick style of play, but his game will need major tweaks to succeed in the NHL. How much will that scare teams?
32) Jamieson Rees — Center — Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Rees plays the game like someone six inches taller — for better and for worse. He’s fast, aggressively and highly competitive, but you have to wonder a bit about his durability.
33) Jakob Pelletier — Left Wing — Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
As far as undersized offensive forwards go, Pelletier is about as safe of a pick as you can get. Shows a very advanced understanding of what he needs to do to succeed as a pro.
34) Ryan Johnson — Defense — Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
One of the best skaters in the entire draft, Johnson leans more on the defensive side of the game while still dominating puck possession. If the offense comes later he could be dominant.
35) Nick Robertson — Left Wing — Peterborough Petes (OHL)
Robertson is much shorter than his big brother Jason, but he’s also a much better sniper. Has a laser beam of a wrist shot. Plays with a lot of jump, but his top gear needs some work.
36) Nathan Legare — Right Wing — Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
Few forwards in this draft are as dangerous anywhere in the offensive zone as Legare is. Lethal both from the wall with his one-timer and in front of the net. Skating will never be a strength.
37) Samuel Poulin — Left Wing — Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
A smart, strong winger with NHL bloodlines who can do a little bit of everything. Has no serious weaknesses to his game, but doesn’t really excel at anything either. Leadership is a bonus.
38) Anttoni Honka — Defense — KeuPa HT (Mestis)
Arguably the most high-risk, high-reward prospect in the draft. Honka is an exceptionally gifted skater, but he lacks defensive awareness and can be a turnover machine with the puck.
39) Connor McMichael — Center/Wing — London Knights (OHL)
The newest product of the London development factory, there is wide consensus that McMichael is a good player, but little agreement on just how good. A true jack-of-all-trades.
#OHL: C Connor McMichael (Ranked No. 22) wastes no time bringing his accurate shot to bear, as the Knights take a 2-1 lead over Guelph. He's a playmaker, but his shot keeps goalies honest. McMichael's been quiet in the series but here he gets a huge goal. pic.twitter.com/rgAlX97ntX— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) April 17, 2019
40) Maxim Cajkovic — Right Wing — Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Stuck on one of the worst teams in the entire CHL, Cajkovic flew under the radar, but his play at international events was superb. Could be a big-time scorer in the right environment.
41) Robert Mastrosimone — Left Wing — Chicago Steel (USHL)
Many USHL scouts know just how good Mastrosimone is, but not everyone else has caught up yet. His hockey sense, shooting ability, work ethic and competitiveness are all high-end.
42) Vladislav Kolyachonok — Defense — Flint Firebirds (OHL)
43) Alex Vlasic — Defense — USNTDP (USHL)
44) Pyotr Kochetkov — Goaltender — HK Ryazan (VHL)
45) Billy Constantinou — Defense — Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
46) Albin Grewe — Left Wing — Djurgardens IF J20 (SuperElit)
47) Hugo Alnefelt — Goaltender — HV71 J20 (SuperElit)
48) Antti Tuomisto — Defense — Assat U20 (Jr. A SM-liiga)
49) Mads Sogaard — Goaltender — Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
50) Ilya Nikolayev — Center — Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
51) Samuel Fagemo — Right Wing — Frolunda (SHL)
52) Henry Thrun — Defense — USNTDP (USHL)
53) Marshall Warren — Defense — USNTDP (USHL)
54) Lassi Thomson — Defense — Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
55) Drew Helleson — Defense — USNTDP (USHL)
56) Shane Pinto — Center — Tri-City Storm (USHL)
57) Simon Holmstrom — Right Wing — HV71 J20 (SuperElit)
58) Artemi Knyazev — Defense — Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)
59) Kaedan Korczak — Defense — Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
60) Ronnie Attard — Defense — Tri-City Storm (USHL)
61) Graeme Clarke — Right Wing — Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
62) Zachary Jones — Defense — Tri-City Storm (USHL)
63) Ethan Keppen — Left Wing — Flint Firebirds (OHL)
64) Alex Beaucage — Left Wing — Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)
65) Brayden Tracey — Left Wing — Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
66) Yegor Spirodonov — Center — Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk (MHL)
67) Blake Murray — Center/Wing — Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
68) Mikko Kokkonen — Defense — Jukurit (Liiga)
69) Adam Beckman — Left Wing — Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
70) Karl Henriksson — Center — Frolunda HC J20 (SuperElit)
71) Patrik Puistola — Left Wing — Leki (Mestis)
72) Antti Saarela — Center/Wing — Lukko (Liiga)
73) Layton Ahac — Defense — Prince George Spruce Kings (BCHL)
74) Trent Miner — Goaltender — Vancouver Giants (WHL)
75) Cole Moberg— Defense — Prince George Cougars (WHL)
76) Isaiah Saville — Goaltender — Tri-City Storm (USHL)
77) John Farinacci — Center — Dexter School (USHS)
78) Nolan Foote — Left Wing — Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
79) Jordan Spence — Defense — Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
80) Leevi Aaltonen — Left Wing — Kalpa U20 (Jr. A SM-liiga)
81) Keean Washkurak — Center — Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
82) Martin “Hugo” Has — Defense — Tappara U20 (Jr. A SM-liiga)
83) Judd Caulfield — Right Wing — USNTDP (USHL)
84) Alexander Campbell — Left Wing — Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
85) Domenick Fensore — Defense — USNTDP (USHL)
86) Samuel Bolduc — Defense — Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL)
87) Mikhail Abramov — Center — Victoriaville Tigers (QMJHL)
88) Nicholas Porco — Left Wing — Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
89) Patrick Moynihan — Center/Wing — USNTDP (USHL)
90) Daniil Misyul — Defense — Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
91) Ethan Phillips — Left Wing — Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
92) Vladislav Firstov — Left Wing — Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
93) Ryan Siedem — Defense — Central Illinois Flying Aces (USHL)
94) Sasha Mutala — Right Wing — Tri-City Americans (WHL)
95) Jayden Struble — Defense — St. Sebastian’s School (USHS)
96) Cole Schwindt — Center — Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
97) Michael Vukojevic — Defense — Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
98) Cade Webber — Defense — The Rivers School (USHS)
99) Jake Lee — Defense — Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
100) Alexei Protas — Center — Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
101) Luke Toporowski — Left Wing — Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
Honorable mentions: Justin Bergeron, Luka Burzan, Arseni Gritsyuk, Daniil Gutik, Trevor Janicke, Albert Johansson, Marcus Kallionkieli, Ilya Mironov, Henri Nikkanen, Mattias Norlinder, Rhett Pitlick, Michal Teply