The 2019 NHL Entry Draft will be held in Vancouver this coming Friday and Saturday. As is our annual tradition, here is HabsWorld’s official mock draft. In our mock, we project the entire first round plus all of Montreal’s picks inside the top-100.
Joining me to pick the draft this past Thursday (the 13th) was HW Editor Norm Szcyrek. Picks were made on an alternating basis as follows:
1, 3, 5, etc – Brian
2, 4, 6, etc – Norm
Each writer offers up their rationale for their selections below.
#1 – New Jersey – Jack Hughes, C, US NTDP (USHL)
He has basically been the consensus number one for the better part of three years now. Hughes has the potential to be a front-line centre down the road and he’d form a nice one-two punch with Nico Hischier. Hughes won’t come in and have quite as much of an impact as the next player in our draft will but over time, he’ll be the best player from this draft class.
#2 – New York Rangers – Kaapo Kakko, RW, TPS (SM-liiga)
The next best option after Hughes. Kakko finished the year very strong, with an outstanding World Championships with six goals and an assist in ten games. Kaapo has pro size now and had a steady climb of improvement this season. As a 17-year-old he played regularly in the top Finnish league and was a solid contributor. In tournament situations, he helped Finland take home gold in the World Juniors in the winter and the World Championships in the spring. He’s expected to make the Rangers lineup and is an early favourite for rookie of the year.
#3 – Chicago – Bowen Byram, D, Vancouver (WHL)
Chicago has drafted a lot of defenders early in recent years (and just added Olli Maatta days after we did this draft) but none of them have the top pairing upside that Byram does. Those guys are hard to find and are getting more and more expensive in a hurry. Duncan Keith won’t play forever and Byram is the type of player that can step into his shoes a few years down the road.
#4 – Colorado – Alex Turcotte, C, US NTDP (USHL)
Loads of speed, tenacity, and offensive talent, and Turcotte has not yet fully developed all that skill yet. The Avalanche as a team made great strides this season but a lack of secondary scoring is what hurt them in the playoffs. Turcotte will help improve that, and should only take one or two seasons before he debuts in the NHL.
#5 – Los Angeles – Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon (WHL)
This is a pick where BPA and team needs match up well. Beyond Anze Kopitar, the Kings don’t have a lot down the middle – Adrian Kempe is more of a number three option while Jaret Anderson-Dolan has some upside but not top-line potential. (And who knows what will happen with Gabriel Vilardi who basically missed the entire season.) Dach could be a number one pivot and should be ready around the time that Kopitar starts to slow down.
#6 – Detroit – Trevor Zegras, C, US NTDP (USHL)
The best or second best pure playmaker in the draft (behind Hughes), with elite level passing skills and skating speed. Trevor is also an underrated shooter, with a high shooting percentage to augment his high hockey IQ. I believe Wings new GM Steve Yzerman will recognize that talent developed in nearby Plymouth Michigan and how that’s been lacking in Detroit since the days of Datsyuk and Fedorov.
#7 – Buffalo – Matthew Boldy, LW, US NTDP (USHL)
I’ll avoid the pun by calling this a bold pick (oh, whoops…). He could make for an interesting complement to Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner in a few years from now; not only can Boldy hold his own offensively, but he can also serve as the two-way option on that line. He’s heading to college but he’s someone that could make the jump after a year or two like Casey Mittelstadt did not too long ago.
#8 – Edmonton – Peyton Krebs, C, Kootenay (WHL)
Another speedy playmaker with great hockey sense who can augment the Oilers offence by providing an upgrade on their overall forward speed (outside of McDavid). Peyton has good acceleration and great edge work with his skates. He sometimes tries to do too much, but that may be an artifact of playing on a poor junior team. While participating in the Hlinka/Gretzky tournament, the CHL Top Prospects Game, and the Under-18 tournament, Krebs rose to the occasion. He is also excellent in both halves of the ice. Like most junior players, he is a little undersized and will benefit from some time to develop physically before reaching the pros.
#9 – Anaheim – Vasili Podkolzin, RW, St. Petersburg (MHL)
He’s a popular pick to fall considering he’s under contract for two more years in Russian but Podkolzin has top-line upside if he can put it all together. Anaheim is certainly in need of one of those with Corey Perry on the way out. Personally, I don’t think the contract thing is all that bad as he needs to fill out his frame and go through the adjustments required to play at a higher level. That can be done while staying at home.
#10 – Vancouver – Dylan Cozens, C, Lethbridge (WHL)
Cozens is a big centre with great hockey IQ, quick skates and speed, combined with nice offensive tools. He offers a well developed defensive game along with exceptional acceleration and should be a safe pick for the Canucks at this spot. If he does not adjust at centre after graduating from juniors, some scouts feel he will develop into a winger at the pro level. Dylan has very good size and can use it physically when it’s needed.
#11 – Philadelphia – Cole Caufield, RW, US NTDP (USHL)
While a small, skilled winger doesn’t feel like a typical Flyers pick, they don’t have a lot of skill in the system on the wing after looking at centres in recent years. Caufield’s showing at the World U-18’s was one for the ages and will have scouts drooling. Yes, he’s tiny but players like that are having success in the NHL now and he won’t slip anywhere near as far as someone like Alex DeBrincat did a few years back.
#12 – Minnesota – Cam York, C, US NTDP (USHL)
There’s been a lot of talk about Minnesota being “wild” about York. He’s a very cerebral defender with great hockey sense to work on the offensive and defensive side of the game. York practically never panics with the puck, making the right play or safe play every time. Similarly, he never makes the wrong decision when it comes to rushing the puck or deciding to head-man the puck. He has a high likelihood of becoming a team’s #1 defenceman in the pros. The Habs were also rumoured to be interested in York, but I don’t expect he will last that long.
#13 Florida – Victor Soderstrom, D, Brynas (SHL)
While it appears as if Florida could be making a big splash up front and/or between the pipes this summer, their back end is also a weakness. Soderstrom won’t change that right away but he’s one of the smarter blueliners in this draft class and has the skating ability to play in what’s likely to be an up-tempo system under Joel Quenneville.
#14 – Arizona – Ryan Suzuki, C, Barrie (OHL)
The Coyotes need more depth at centre, and Suzuki has the potential to be a top two option in the pros. Arizona reached higher than expected at #5 in last year’s draft to select a centre so I could see them swinging for another one given their organizational needs. Ryan, much like his brother (Habs prospect Nick Suzuki), is an excellent playmaker, behind only Hughes and Zegras in this draft. His passing is at a big league level, and his shot is good since he is very deceptive on when he shoots, keeping defenders unsure if he’s passing or shooting.
#15 – Montreal – Ville Heinola, D, Lukko (SM-liiga)
The Habs are fortunate in that there are several left-shot defenders that could slot in at this pick. Heinola would give them another strong skater on the left side and he possesses some offensive upside as well after not looking out of place playing against men. He’s not as close to being NHL ready as some others that could be picked here but he has the potential to be a top-four left-shot defenceman and that’s something Montreal needs badly.
#16 – Colorado – Spencer Knight, G, US NTDP (USHL)
After Colorado’s earlier pick at forward, selecting a goaltender is the way to go to shore up an extremely weak depth position for the organization. Knight is the best goaltending prospect in this draft. It’s a tough decision for an NHL team to select a goalie in the first round but given their two picks this round, and their obvious need at this position, choosing Knight is not that much of a gamble. He has so many great abilities for a netminder in physical terms such as size, lateral movement, and glove hand. Spencer also excels with skills such as positioning, puckhandling, and rebound control. His mental game is sharp, although he has had a few unusual gaffes at inopportune times. Knight is the most likely goalie to come out of this draft and rise to a #1 status on the team that selects him.
#17 – Vegas – Alex Newhook, C, Victoria (BCHL)
There are some questions about Newhook since he played at a lower level but he projects as a decent second-line centre down the road. They have a veteran group down the middle (aside from William Karlsson whose future with the team is murky with their cap situation) and their centre pool was thinned out when Nick Suzuki was dealt to Montreal. This is a bit of a needs-based pick but Newhook is one of the better players still on the board.
#18 – Dallas – Philip Tomasino, F, Niagara (OHL)
Some secondary offensive help is an area the Stars need to improve in which will make Tomasino a good choice for their first selection. Philip is a good competitor with an excellent first step and a balanced set of offensive tools. Tomasino loves to play the game at a high tempo to take advantage of his speed and quickness. On defence, he is an excellent forechecker due to his skating and often causes turnovers leading to sudden scoring opportunities. Philip also has great edge work with his skating, along with soft hands and good hockey sense, to make a play or take the shot. Tomasino could develop into a winger or centre given his many offensive tools. His defensive game needs some work, and he will benefit from another year or two in the OHL to improve that and develop physically.
#19 – Ottawa – Raphael Lavoie, RW, Halifax (QMJHL)
Lavoie’s strong showings in the playoffs and the Memorial Cup have certainly boosted his stock. He’s not likely to be a top-liner in the NHL but he should be a capable middle-six winger with some physicality. I’d like to go with more of a pure centre here but there isn’t really anyone left in that range that wouldn’t be a reach. Lavoie’s a safe pick but he and Brady Tkachuk could make for an intriguing pair of big wingers in the Atlantic Division.
#20 – New York Rangers – Tobias Bjornfot, D, Djurgardens (SWE Jr.)
The Rangers have been slanting mostly towards Swedish prospects in the top few rounds for the last two drafts with some success. A player like Bjornfot represents a safe pick on defence. He has some offensive skills, given he was the third highest scoring defenceman among the Swedish elite junior league this season. Bjornfot is a strong skater, capable of moving the puck out of the zone or making the correct outlet pass. He’s not a true top end quarterback but is more of a supporting defender capable of chipping in occasionally on offence, while being a rock on defence. Bjornfot is ready for the next step which will be a move up to the Swedish men’s league, where he may need two to three seasons to continue his development before graduating to play for an NHL team or their farm team.
Editor’s Note: The Jets now have this pick but at the time we did the mock draft, this was New York’s selection.
#21 – Pittsburgh – Moritz Seider, D, Mannheim (DEL)
There are times when you’re doing a mock draft when you simply feel the need to get a guy off the board because he’s fallen too far already. This is one of those picks. If Seider happens to still be on the board here, the Penguins would be thrilled as there are some question marks on the right side of their back end due to injuries (Letang), looming free agency (Schultz), and general ineffectiveness (Gudbranson). They don’t have much defence in the system and this pick would go a long way towards helping that.
#22 – Los Angeles – Thomas Harley, D, Mississauga (OHL)
The Kings need a fair amount of depth at all positions, and Harley represents a tempting player for them to choose. Tomas offers good offensive ability in terms of his excellent skating, passing, point production, and size. He enjoys jumping into the rush and doing it often. However, his decision making about when to do it is poor. The defensive side of the game is totally lacking as if he doesn’t care about playing defence at all. As such, Harley is a huge project for any NHL team to draft, since he could either become a boom or bust.
#23 – NY Islanders – Phillp Broberg, D, AIK (Allsvenskan)
This is another ‘get him off the board’ selection. Broberg seems to be one of the more polarizing blueliners in this draft class – he has impressive offensive upside and can skate quite well but his play in his own end is questionable at times. New York has an impressive back end but not a lot of firepower in that group. Broberg would change that (along with Noah Dobson) and really give them a new dynamic.
#24 – Nashville – Samuel Poulin, F, Sherbrooke (QMJHL)
Poulin is an excellent two-way winger, with great character and a power forward potential. He has pro size already with an excellent shot and work ethic with good hockey sense. His skating is average though and will need to improve it to transition to the pro level. Samuel is a good puck handler and has decent passing ability. It’s difficult to predict if he has top six or bottom six potential at the NHL level. He will fit in nicely into the Predators, who are patient with their prospects to give them sufficient time to fit into their system.
#25 – Washington – Pavel Dorofeyev, LW, Magnitogorsk (MHL)
The Capitals haven’t shied away from drafting Russians in the past and Dorofeyev possesses top-six skill despite being a bit more of a risk. They’ve leaned towards the back end lately in the draft but they’re starting to feel the pinch up front in terms of having to let capable veterans go to afford their higher-priced deals. They’re going to need their draft picks to fill that void and Dorofeyev should be a couple of years away from being ready to take a spot in Washington’s lineup.
#26 – Calgary – Connor McMichael, F, London (OHL)
The Flames are not afraid to take a chance on a smallish forward blessed with great hockey sense. McMichael was inconsistent in his scoring this season, but he was also part of a stacked junior team in London so his ice time and responsibilities varied from game to game. He has great speed, edge work and hockey sense. His defensive game is excellent since he reads the play well enough to anticipate and react to break up plays.
#27 – Tampa Bay – Arthur Kaliyev, LW, Hamilton (OHL)
Yes, there are some serious question marks about his overall makeup and general indifference to playing defence. But skill-wise, he’s one of the top scoring threats in the draft. Tampa Bay is a highly-skilled team and that’s a great environment for someone like Kaliyev to eventually thrive in…much to the chagrin of everyone else in the division that’s eagerly awaiting the day that they aren’t loaded with firepower up front.
#28 – Carolina – Simon Holmstrom, F, HV71 (Swe Jr.)
Holmstrom is a great two way player with excellent skating ability. He had hip surgery before the season started and it impacted his skating somewhat. Some teams may be scared off of his surgery but I feel the Hurricanes will take the risk. His playmaking and passing are very good. He is a very physical along the boards, relishing on delivering hits. Simon has first line potential but there are concerns he has not yet fully recovered from the surgery.
#29 – Anaheim – Lassi Thomson, D, Kelowna (WHL)
The Ducks have very quietly burned through a good chunk of their defensive depth in recent years and their prospect pool is filled with complementary players on the back end. Thomson has the potential to be more of an impact piece with his all-around offensive game that could make him at the very least a threat on the power play. He’s a safe pick at this juncture with a fair amount of upside
#30 – Boston – Jamieson Rees, F, Sarnia (OHL)
A smaller centre who could also end up on the wing. His compete level is through the roof; truly a forward that plays bigger than his actual size. He is fearless and does not hesitate to throw an open ice hit when the opportunity comes up. When you couple that with really nice offensive ability, you have a very good prospect. A kidney injury kept him out of 30 plus games but he rebounded nicely when he was back.
#31 – Buffalo – Matt Robertson, D, Edmonton (WHL)
There’s nothing flashy with this pick. Robertson is a steady rearguard and let’s face it, that’s something that they need, especially with players like Rasmus Dahlin and Rasmus Ristolainen on the team, players that like to jump into the play.
#46 – Montreal – Ivan Nikolayev, C, Yaroslavl (MHL)
Last draft, the Habs turned to a two-way centre in the second round when they picked up Jacob Olofsson and this is another selection like that. His defensive game is better than his offensive one at this stage which could limit his ceiling to a bottom-six role. However, if he works on his skating and improves in that regard, he could wind up being a pretty safe bet to see some time in the NHL.
#50 – Montreal – Samuel Fagemo, LW, Frolunda (SHL)
Right-shot wingers are an area of need for this organization. Players with a scoring touch are an area of need. Fagemo isn’t without his flaws (his skating isn’t great nor is his all-around game) but he’d fill both those needs. The Habs haven’t hesitated to look to Sweden in recent years and they’ve shown an increased willingness to look for international players in the second round so this could be a good slot for Fagemo.
#77 – Montreal – Drew Helleson, D, US NTDP
Helleson’s rankings are all over the board. It wouldn’t be surprising if he went in the second round, nor would it be too shocking to see him slip past here. He had a nice season with the NTDP squad but he’s more of a project pick than some of the other blueliners on that squad. There are questions about how much offensive upside he has but he’s already strong in his own end which will give him a chance to make it in the NHL as a stay-at-home player down the road.