When the Devils won the top pick two years ago, my initial impression was that they should take Nolan Patrick at 1. As the 2017 NHL Combine unfolded they gave Nico Hischier a lot more positive body language cues during the interview process at the 2017 NHL Combine. At that split second, I knew the Devils were taking Nico Hischier at 1. New Jersey got another steal in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft when they took top 10 prospect Ty Smith seventeenth overall to boost their blue line.
This year New Jersey has to choose between Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko with the first overall pick after winning the 2019 NHL Draft Lottery with the leagues third worst record with only the Ottawa Senators and Los Angeles Kings doing worse this past season. Hughes is the best prospect from USA since Auston Matthews while Kakko is the best prospect from Finland since Patrik Laine. This draft reminds me a lot of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft with those guys at the top of every teams board.
I believe New Jersey takes the 5-10 170 lb Jack Hughes, the younger brother of Quinn Hughes first overall. New Jersey will not shut up about how Hughes has better skill and speed on the ice as a skater then any prospect this decade. I also heard the only center New Jersey had graded higher then Jack Hughes from a speed standpoint heading into the NHL dating back to 1995 was center Joe Thornton who was selected first overall in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft.
Jack Hughes had 21 goals, 33 assists, and 54 points in the USHL in 2017-2018. Hughes only had 12 goals, 36 assists, and 48 points in the USHL in 2018-2019. Hughes did well enough to be team captain of the US-Under 17 and US-Under 18 despite declining in the USHL in terms of production.
Jack Hughes has the skating, speed, agility, playmaking, vision, stick handling, puck control, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and the hockey IQ that you look for in a top pick. He grades higher in these categories then arguably any of the top NHL Draft picks this decade.
The lack of size on his frame along with his shot selection are the only two areas Hughes needs to improve in. As far as wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, and slap shot accuracy are the only areas Hughes needs to improve in outside of filling out his frame so he adds 10 to 15 lbs of muscle while maintaining the foot speed he skates with.
Jack Hughes has a much higher ceiling than 2017 first overall pick Nico Hischier or Travis Zajac due to the fact that he's someone who projects as a player that will obtain 100+ points down the road once he finishes developing his shot. Hughes is capable of moving Hischier down to a line 2 center role while Zajac ends up on a third line down the road. New Jersey could also put Hughes on the third line during his rookie season and ease him into things before moving him up to the first line once he reaches his massive ceiling. This causes Pavel Zacha, their 2015 first round pick, and the third line center to move down to the fourth line where he belongs giving New Jersey four good centers.
New Jersey will also have Taylor Hall back on the first line as a line 1 left winger next to either Zajac, Hischier, or Hughes at full health next season with Kyle Palmieri as the line 1 right winger. Ty Smith will also likely push for a roster spot on either the second or third line of the New Jersey Devils defense.
New Jersey will be much better next season. Mackenzie Blackwood finally made the NHL as a backup goalie to Corey Schneider. New Jersey should be ready to push for a playoff spot in 2019-2020 and if they miss the playoffs, then the Devils should be picking in the 11-15 range after getting the top pick for the second time in three seasons.
New York had the NHL's sixth worst record and still ended up moving four spots to pick second overall. They also had one of the worst NHL Drafts in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft despite having three first round picks.
The New York Rangers atone for that by taking the 6-2 190 lb Kaapo Kakko second overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. In 45 SM Liiga games, Kakko had 22 goals, 16 assists, and 38 points.
Kaapo Kakko has the speed, size, skating, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and the hockey IQ, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, and slap shot accuracy. I think Kakko is the better shooter at this point, but Hughes is the better passer and long-term player. Both prospects are top 2 talents that can play on the first line down the road and both players are capable of cracking the first line as rookies.
New York would play Kappo Kakko on the first line right away next season. Kappo Kakko seems like someone who could push Jack Hughes for years to come as far as someone from this draft who will dominate the next decade of hockey in the NHL.
The 6-4 198 lb Kirby Dach is one of the more complete players in this draft. Dach had 25 goals, 48 assists, and 73 points in 2018-2019.
I had Kirby Dach at 7 on my board. He could end up playing right away behind Jonathan Toews and Dylan Strome on the third line right away unlike Alex Turcotte. He doesn't have as high of a ceiling in my mind, but he can help Chicago now.
Coloraod gets this pick with Ottawa's selection. Colorado has my best available player at 3 as their third best available player too. The 6-0 184 lb Bowen Byram completes Colorado's blue line and gives the Avalanche that missing piece that will allow the Avalanche to push the remaining teams in the Western Conference for the Stanley Cup in 2020.
Bowen Byram had 6 goals, 21 assists, and 27 points in 60 games in 2017-2018. Byram also had 4 goals, 3 assists, and 7 points in 7 WHL Playoff games during his first WHL Season. Byram had 26 goals, 45 assists, 71 points, and a +33 +/- ratio in 67 WHL games in 2018-2019. Byram had 8 goals, 18 assists, and 26 points in 22 WHL Playoff games getting the Vancouver Giants to game 7 of the 2019 WHL Finals where the Prince Albert Raiders defeated the Vancouver Giants in overtime.
Colorado has Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Ian Cole, Mark Barbiero, Cale Makar, and Samuel Girard on their blue line. Colorado can cut Barbiero to save money, and put either Cale Makar, Bowen Byram, or Samuel Girard on their second line giving Colorado three lethal blue lines. Barbiero only played in 12 regular season games and had a minimal impact in 9 postseason games so with this blue line Colorado finally has the defensive pairings to contend with anyone in the Western Conference.
Turcotte improved on his 8 goals, 24 assists, and 32 points in 2017-2018 in 31 USHL games to having 12 goals, 22 assists, and 34 points in 2018-2019 in 16 USHL games. Turcotte showed the ability to be a line 1 center when Jack Hughes was not on the USHL Under 18 Team.
Turcotte has the upside to be a line 1 player down the road. Los Angeles gets a future line 1 center that will be up in a year after playing at Wisconsin.
The Detroit Red Wings get a defender here. The 6-4 207 lb Mortiz Seider has the vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to defend effectively.
Moritz Seider did well at the 2019 NHL Combine. He also interviewed well and had a great personality. I had him as high as twelve behind Bowen Byram and Matthew Robertson prior to the 2019 NHL Combine and prior to team rumors.
Most will say this is a reach. Yzerman knows what he's doing so while this is a reach, Seider was a guy I really liked.
Buffalo got Victor Olofsson as their line 1 left winger, Jack Eichel as their line 1 center, and Sam Reinhart as their line 1 right winger. Jeff Skinner and Kyle Okposo are great line 2 wingers, but they need a center with the skill set that Dylan Cozens possesses which allows Evan Rodrigues to move down to the third line and Casey Middlestadt to move down to the fourth line giving Buffalo more stability at center while the Sabres finally appear to have the pieces to push for a playoff spot with Rasmus Dahlin heading into his second season.
At this point I believe that's Lethbridge Hurricanes center Dylan Cozens. He's versatile enough to play left wing, center, or right wing in the NHL at 6-3 182 lbs.
Dylan Cozens had 22 goals, 31 assists, and 53 points in 2017-2018. Cozens also had 7 goals, 6 assists, and 13 points in a WHL run. Cozens had 34 goals, 50 assists, and 84 points in 68 regular season games in 2018-2019.
Cozens is versatile enough to play anywhere at forward. He can line up at left wing, center, or right wing with his versatility. He makes a fantastic value pick for the Buffalo Sabres as the best player on the board.
Edmonton gets the best defender on my board at 8 here. The 6-3 181 lb Philip Broberg is the best defender not named Bowen Byram in this draft class.
Edmonton drafted Evan Bouchard at tenth overall last year and he will probably play on the third line since Oskar Klefbom and Adam Larsson occupy the first line for Edmonton. Kris Russell and Darnell Nurse are on the second line. Now you get Broberg for insurance as someone you can put on the third line or he may go play in Sweden's Elitserien league for another year until he develops into a solid second line defenseman since he's someone who can make an immediate impact like Adam Larsson, but he's also someone with the ceiling of a top 4 defenseman rather then a guy with the ceiling of a line 1 defenseman like Adam Larsson.
Anaheim gets depth behind Ryan Getzlaf. The 6-0 174 lb forward has the versatility to play left wing, center, or right wing with his versatility.
Zegras has elite offensive ability. His 14 goals, 26 assists, and 40 points in the USHL this past season in 2018-2019 was outstanding. Zegras also committed to Boston University so he can develop for a year before making the jump to the NHL in 2020.
Vancouver takes the best player on the board. The 6-1 196 lb Vasili Podkolzin was my third best overall player in this draft before his injury status and durability concerns popped up.
Podkolzin checks out all the boxes on tape in terms of shooting with wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, and slap shot accuracy. He's a great passer with an innate ability to drive to the net. The offensive awareness is there along with the stick handling. He's not as quick as you'd like him to be and while he needs to improve as a defensive defender, he's a pretty complete skater when you watch his tape. Vancouver may have to wait two years for Podkolzin, but he's a guy with line 1 right winger ability.
The 6-0 183 lb Victor Soderstrom played with Adam Boqvist on Brynas IF in 2018-2019 only posting 4 goals, 3 assists, and 7 points on Brynas IF in the Elitserien league.
Despite what his stats say, the two-way defenseman checks all the boxes on tape. He has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL.
His competitive instincts make him a game changer. Arizona gave up 14 and 45 for a guy I had as my ninteenth best player which is why this is a D grade.
The 6-2 192 lb Matthew Boldy has the potential to be a line 1 left winger down the road. He's going to Boston College and will not be NHL ready right away. Minnesota drafts him at 12 here.
Matthew Boldy has the size, hands, stick handling, passing, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defesnive awareness, and hockey IQ. You'd like to see him get faster and showcase more explosion, but he's a great skater who checks off most of if not all of the boxes on tape.
Matthew Boldy had 12 goals, 23 assists, and 35 points in 2017-2018 in the USHl. Boldy had 17 goals, 26 assists, and 43 points in 2018-2019 in the USHL. Boldy was also an alternate captain behind Jack Hughes on the USHL Under 18 Team.
Some experts have a top 10 grade on Matthew Boldy. I had him at eighteen on my board so I gave Minnesota a solid A grade because of his upside.
The 6-3 198 lb Spencer Knight is the top goalie in this draft. He's also the most touted goalie to enter the NHL Draft since Jack Campbell. Some think he has a higher ceiling then Jake Oettinger who Dallas drafted out of Boston University in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. I've seen Knight mocked as high as thirteenth overall to the Florida Panthers.
One team that really likes Spencer Knight is the Florida Panthers. It would make complete sense for the Kings to draft Knight as the successor to Roberto Luongo.
Knight had a .902 save percentage in 18 games, but also had a 3.18 goals against average in the USHL in 2017-2018. Knight had a 2.21 GAA, and a .903 save percentage in 16 USHL games in 2018-2019. Knight is also going to Boston College to develop more as a goalie.
The Florida Panthers can groom Knight to be their goalie of the future. Knight is someone who could take over as the starting goalie as early as 2020 which is why this pick got an A- grade.
Montreal grabs the best winger on the board. The 5-7 163 lb Cole Caufield had 23 goals, 10 assists, and 33 points in 2017-2018 in the USHL. Caufield had 29 goals, 12 assists, and 41 points in 2018-2019.
Cole Caufield may lack size. The slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, wrist shot power, and wrist shot accuracy is all there on tape. Cole Caufield is going to Wisconsin with USHL teammate Alex Turcotte who went to the Los Angeles Kings at 5.