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David St-Louis’s 2019 NHL Draft Rankings

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A list of the top 62 skaters for this year’s draft, according to our prospect analyst.

Terry Wilson / OHL Images

Let’s just get right into it. The following is my board for the 2019 NHL Draft (skaters only). Click the links to read the in-depth profiles:

  1. Jack Hughes, C, USNTDP (USHL)
  2. Kaapo Kakko, W, TPS (Liiga)
  3. Alex Turcotte, C, USNTDP (USHL)
  4. Bowen Byram, D, Vancouver Giants (WHL)
  5. Cole Caufield, W, USNTDP (USHL)
  6. Vasili Podkolzin, W, SKA (VHL)
  7. Peyton Krebs, C/W, Kootenay ICE (WHL)
  8. Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
  9. Dylan Cozens, C, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
  10. Trevor Zegras, C/W, USNTDP (USHL)
  11. Philip Tomasino, C/W, Niagara Icedogs (OHL)
  12. Matthew Boldy, W, USNTDP (USHL)
  13. Philip Broberg, D, AIK (Allsvenskan)
  14. Alex Newhook, C, Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
  15. Thomas Harley, D, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
  16. Arthur Kaliyev, W, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
  17. Victor Söderström, D, Brynäs IF (SHL)
  18. Nils Höglander, W, Rögle BK (SHL)
  19. Moritz Seider, D, Adler Mannheim (DEL)
  20. Nicholas Robertson, W, Peterborough Petes (OHL)
  21. Tobias Björnfot, D, Djurgårdens IF (SuperElit J20)
  22. Cam York, D, USNTDP (USHL)
  23. Bobby Brink, W, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
  24. Ryan Suzuki, C, Barrie Colts (OHL)
  25. Samuel Poulin, W, Sherbrooke Pheonix (QMJHL)
  26. Raphaël Lavoie, W, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
  27. Ville Heinola, D, Lukko (Liiga)
  28. Jamieson Rees, C/W, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
  29. Lassi Thomson, D, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
  30. Vladislav Kolyachonok, D, Flint Firebirds
  31. Matthew Robertson, D, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
  32. Connor McMichael, C, London Knights (OHL)
  33. Brayden Tracey, W, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
  34. Daniil Misyul, D, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
  35. Robert Mastrosimone, W, Chicago Steel (USHL)
  36. Jakob Pelletier, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
  37. Simon Hölmstrom, W, HV71 (SuperElit J20)
  38. John Beecher, C, USNTDP (USHL)
  39. Zachary Jones, D, Tri-City Storm (USHL)
  40. Albin Grewe, W, Djurgårdens IF (SuperElit J20)
  41. Brett Leason, W, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
  42. Albert Johansson, Färjestad BK (SuperElite J20)
  43. Jackson LaCombe, LD, Shattuck St. Mary’s (USHS-prep)
  44. Patrik Puistola, W, LeKi (Mestis)
  45. Egor Afanasyev, W, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
  46. Pavel Dorofeyev, W, Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk (MHL)
  47. Ryan Johnson, D, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
  48. Samuel Fagemo, W, Frölunda HC (SHL)
  49. Nikita Alexandrov, C, Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)
  50. Artemi Knyazev, D, Chicoutimi Saguenéens (QMJHL)
  51. Tuukka Tieksola, W, Kärpat U20
  52. Adam Beckman, W, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
  53. Jayden Struble, D, St. Sebastien’s School (USHS-prep)
  54. Semyon Chistyakov, D, Tolpar Ufa (MHL)
  55. Anttoni Honka, D, JYP (Liiga)
  56. Alex Vlasic, D, USTNDP (USHL)
  57. Kaedan Korczak, D, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
  58. Nathan Légaré, W, Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
  59. Maxim Cajkovic, W, St-John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
  60. Arseni Gritsyuk, W, Omski Yastreby (MHL)
  61. Nolan Foote, W, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
  62. Layton Ahac, D, Prince Goerge Spruce Kings (BCHL)

Honorable mentions: Shane Pinto, Alex Beaucage, John Farinacci, Nikita Okhotyuk, Domenick Fensore, Patrick Moynihan, Drew Helleson, Ethan Keppen.

Thoughts on certain rankings

  • Cole Caufield (5th): His biggest strength isn’t necessarily his shot, even though it’s likely top of the draft, it’s his ability to find space to use it; the way he is ahead of the play, anticipates turnovers, waits out the defence then sneaks in a seam to receive a pass to one-time the puck. For this reason, and because Caufield’s skating should end up being above average for the NHL and the forward hinted to more play-making abilities than what he showed, I have faith that his offensive game will adapt to the highest level.
  • Vasili Podkolzin (6th): He dropped slightly on my board at the end of the year, but it’s due more to the performance of the prospects ahead of him. If Podkolzin can get slightly faster, he will turn into an NHL wrecking ball. He has the necessary intensity, some of the best puck-protection ability in the draft, added to the awareness and hands to make passes to dangerous areas or find lanes to the net while under pressure.
  • Peyton Krebs (7th): Krebs has the high processing speed to make plays and adjust his handling/course on the fly against the defence, and on top of that, is one of the better skaters in the draft. He changes speed to great effect off the rush and in zone to beat the defence, and a second of being unchecked is often enough for Krebs to find an open teammate for a scoring chance.
  • Philip Tomasino (11th): I value in Tomasino some of the same elements I see in Krebs. The ability to both play at high speed and make decisions quickly. Tomasino loves to challenge defenders, testing them in ways to open passing or shooting lanes, and should only grow more effective at it. He has the skill foundation (speed, quickness, and handling capabilities) to fill his highlight reel as he transitions to be a pillar of Niagara’s offence next season from the middle-six role he occupied this year.
  • Philip Broberg (13th): He is sometimes mistaken for a risky, offensive defenceman with poor decision-making, but to me he projects to be much more of a shutdown presence at the highest level — and a potentially great one. His play was up and down in Allsvenskan. But as soon as he played against his age group everything seemed to fall into place: his stick consistently in position to break and limit opposing plays, his mobility to follow even the fastest opposing forwards and carry the puck out, and even a poised short passing game in his zone. With time, he should bring all of that against men.
  • Alex Newhook (14th): Newhook has speed, but it’s used in a linear and constant form most of the time, which contrasts with Krebs and Tomasino. This season, he rushed wide, beat the defence with his superior skating, opened himself up to face the play or delayed to find his trailing teammates as they arrived in the slot. He will need to become more diverse in his rush patterns as he rises in levels. Still, Newhook’s skating, superior handling and shot can’t have him fall any lower on the board.
  • Thomas Harley (15th): I see the defensive mistakes — sometimes it’s too much passivity, other-times it’s over-aggressiveness — but Harley can make equally strong plays in his end, which makes it more of an issue of consistency. His skating ability, smooth handling and the puck-moving game he shows under pressure make him too much of a high-upside pick to pass on at this point. He is one of the better offensive defenceman in this draft, but I think his game rounds out as he reaches the NHL level; not such a penchant for the attack, but with a more solid defensive game to compensate.
  • Arthur Kaliyev (16th): Kaliyev moved up and down my ranking this season, but in the end, I do like him. I really don’t think the winger lacks work ethic. He is very much engaged, but in his own style. It is based on always being where the quiet ice is. He controls his skating, trying to join the attack deceptively and remain unchecked at just the right time to score. Will that exact game translate to the NHL level? No. But a version of it will. Not all players see the on-ice opportunities to the level Kaliyev does. And there is his shot. Those are very attractive elements. Plus, his skating ability, when he displays it fully, projects as NHL average.
  • Nils Hoglander (18th): Hoglander can separate with his acceleration and agility, and you guessed it: he also plays the game very quickly. He has lightning fast hands and the awareness to find outlets under-pressure, even making some plays worthy of some of the best playmakers in the draft. There are a few undersized forwards that follow each other on my board around that spot, but I’m most confident in Höglander’s ability to play his game in the NHL, especially considering he brings some solid play away from the puck on top of his offensive package, and he already has had relative success in a pro-league.
  • Nicholas Robertson (20th): Production wasn’t really there for Robertson this season, but he was still the best driver of offence on his team. He is a fierce competitor and very creative with the puck on his stick. He can manipulate, out-wait, and bypass the defence with speed of execution and a superior handling ability that allows him to consistently create passing lanes. His ability to pick corners with a very hard shot also makes him a great candidate to run a power play due to his dual-threat (playmaker and scorer) identity. Robertson’s skating needs work, but I have confidence his technique could get him to an NHL-average grade, and once he gets to the league, the rest of his skill set and his immense drive should make his success.
  • Tobias Björnfot (21st): Solid defensively and one of the best puck-movers under pressure in the draft. He shows elusive skating ability, size, and simple but efficient handling of the puck, and he combines his tools with poise and awareness. Those elements allow him to both shake forecheckers with timely moves and hit teammates as they rush up the ice. They also suggest that Björnfot is capable of contributing more to the attack. He had some great offensive flashes this season, but even his transition capabilities and play away from the puck already make him one of the top defencemen in this draft.
  • Cam York (22nd): For York, it’s also about projecting on his foundation of skill. His stickhandling is precise, and he quickly blends his passes and shots inside his puck-shuffling. His speed is about average, but his agility and quickness projects higher than that. He can also play well inside a defensive and offensive system, flashing the odd creative play. York would be higher on my board if he were a better puck-mover this season — especially under pressure. It’s often touted as one of his strengths, but I found he used the boards and relied on chips to his superior forwards a lot this season. Those tendencies are also reflected in his advanced stats. That said, his tools should lead him to become a much better transition player as he develops.
  • Jamieson Rees (28th): His speed should end up being about average and his ability to twist and turn in traffic, bouncing off checks as he protects the puck, is very interesting in his NHL projection, especially as he has shown he can manipulate defenders and thread pucks through their sticks and skates. Rees didn’t have the best season in the OHL, but his ability to hunt opponents and get possession back for his team at the World Junior Championship made him very effective. His intensity and desire to challenge defenders, coupled with his elusiveness, should lead him to extend offensive zone time for his team at higher levels and create offensively. Adding a bit more speed would help him remain effective off the rush as he rises in levels.
  • Lassi Thomson (29th) /Vladislav Kolyachonok (30th): I like the tools of both of those defencemen a lot. They are great skaters in all facets and they can play a solid defensive game with a physical edge. Both are also inconsistent. Thomson edges Kolyachonok due to his shot and his higher elusiveness against the forecheck and at the offensive blue line.
  • Daniil Misyul (34th): His stint in the KHL was impressive in almost every facet of the game. Misyul is big (6’3’’) and mobile. He looks to advance the play in controlled ways, choosing more often than not to carry it out himself. While not being a creative threat offensively, he has poise at the blue line and can move deceptively quick around defenders with his agile hands as he jumps up from his position to the half-wall to look for passing options or a closer shot. His in-zone defence needs work due to frequent lapses in awareness, but he compensates by easily matching and breaking incoming rushes with his speed, smooth pivots and long stick. He could still be a good prize for a team that loses on Broberg in the first round.
  • Robert Mastrosimone (35th): Mastrosimone is a dual-threat offensive player. He can both score with a precise release and orchestrate scoring chances depending on the situation. He also anticipates opposing breakouts really well, cuts passing lanes and steals pucks. He has a great combination of good habits away from the puck (that seem to only be improving), and offensive instinct.
  • Zachary Jones (39th): The defencemen seems to have consistently improved over the season and was named rookie of the year in the USHL. He drives offence with a handling ability that few defencemen in this draft rival, finds teammates through traffic to get the puck on net, and occasionally jumps up from his position to attack the slot. Jones isn’t the best skating defenceman, but is agile and can still fly with crossovers along the blue line and on puck retrievals. He looks to make controlled breakouts, and contrary to many offensive defenceman, is attentive and quite effective in his defensive game, also choosing the right times to jump up on the offence.
  • Jackson LaCombe (43rd): Whoever drafts LaCombe will have to help build his defensive game from the ground up. The defenceman only switched to the back end in the last couple of years, previously being a forward. That being said, his offensive creativity isn’t matched by many prospects in this draft, let alone defencemen. It is fueled by superior handling abilities, vision, and quick and agile feet. This season, LaCombe could easily manipulate the high-school defence he faced to set up his teammates. He also loves to rush the puck.
  • Pavel Dorofeyev (47th): I have seen a lot of praise for Dorofeyev, but honestly I’m not one of those who really get it. His shot is one of the best in the draft, but I think they are better scorers than him in the class. Dorofeyev thrived in the MHL, but didn’t distinguish himself with a superior ability to get open or setup his shots — as he was very frequently already free from coverage in or around the slot. The skill (like his ability to dangle from the wall to get to scoring areas) is interesting, but skating and overall pace will need to improve in his road to the NHL.
  • Ryan Johnson (49th): He could have done more with his tools this year. His agility, acceleration and general cutback ability, combined with a smooth puck-handling makes him a very attractive puck-moving defenceman. But this season, Johnson often didn’t plan his escape from pressure on retrievals and committed more than his share of turnovers from not being able to find an outlet. He also had limited offensive contribution when his mobility should have allowed him to dominate a lot more. His defensive game is quite solid with his ability to close on and follow attackers.
  • Tuukka Tieksola (51st): This might be the year of the undersized forward — or maybe I just have a type. Tieksola stood out to me in Finland’s junior formation this season. He has superior speed, quickness and agility which helps compensate for his size. And yes, he plays the game quick. He shows his vision in the passes he threads through traffic while flying down the wing, or at an angle through the neutral zone. Tieksola can be the connecting piece in a team’s transition game; and once in the offensive zone, the play-maker that evades the defence to find a teammate in scoring areas.
  • Adam Beckman (52nd): The forward has a laser beam for a wrist-shot. When he is not scoring from mid-range, he isn’t dominating shift offensively yet, but Beckman can setup his teammates well enough and has the foundation to become a better skater and puck protector, which should help round out his offensive game. He currently has a very slight frame and is one of the younger prospects in the draft, and is probably one of the prospect with the most growth potential.
  • Semyon Chistyakov (54th): He was the best Russian defenceman at the World Junior Under-18 and I consistently had good viewings of him in the MHL. He isn’t very tall, but embraces the physical game and his skating will be a great asset for him as he transition to higher levels. His defensive play is his main strength. He recognizes his assignments immediately, takes good angles and even baits the opposition into certain plays, only to break them with a rapid repositionning stick. Chistyakov’s can also evade defenders and get pucks through to teammates or on net on the offence.
  • Arseni Gritsyuk (60th): Arguably the best name in the draft and, even better, it accurately represents the player. He has intensity to his game both with and without the puck and flashes a high-skill level. Gritsyuk could be faster, but he effectively rushes the puck with a combination of movement fakes and change of speeds and hit teammates in the same deceptive manner as he attacks the slot. He also has a knack for getting open to make use of his shot.
  • Nathan Légaré (57th)/ Nolan Foote(61st): Those two have somewhat similar strengths and weaknesses. Their respective shot are one of the best in the draft and makes them a very attractive draft target and keeps them at the end of the board, but the lack of mobility might not allow their two-way game to be as effective at the next level. I also like players who are multi-dimensional offensive threats, which they haven’t shown themselves to be quite yet.
  • Layton Ahac (62nd): Another defenceman with a strong defensive game. Ahac has the awareness to position himself consistently in passing lane and uses his stick efficiently to break opposing attempts. His frame makes it hard for opposing forwards to get around him, especially as he has the necessary ability to follow their movements. Ahac plays well inside a team’s offensive strategy, but won’t be the guy pulling off creative plays. Similarly, I would have liked to see more on the puck-moving side from him, but the tools and poise are there to allow him to improve in that area.