The 2019 National Hockey League Entry Draft — set to be held in Vancouver, British Columbia on Jun. 21-22nd, 2019 — will boast one of the deepest and heavily skilled classes of prospects in recent history.
Unlike in years passed, the 2019 NHL Draft will ascend a bevy of elite players to the NHL-level rather than just one. Leading the way prior to the 2018-19 hockey season is none other than Jack Hughes — a playmaking centre currently skating for the U.S. National U18 Team who has already drawn comparisons to Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Although Hughes is the early favourite to be selected first overall, a highly talented group of other prospects stand poised to challenge the young American for the distinction.
Hughes’ strongest contender is likely Kaapo Kakko — an immensely talented ‘Finn whose two-way game and innate offensive skill-set will pave the way to a long and fruitful NHL career. Further, there are the likes of Dylan Cozens, Alex Newhook, and Peyton Krebs — a trio of Canadian forwards bursting with high-end talent.
So, with the 2018-19 season set to begin in a little less than a month, it’s time to meet, profile, and determine the 2019 NHL Draft’s top-10 prospects.
The Top-10 Prospects
10. Raphael Lavoie
Height/Weight: 6-foot-4, 195-pounds
2017-18 Team: Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL
Raphael Lavoie has all the makings of a prototypical power-forward.
Related: Prospect Profile – Raphael Lavoie
Already standing 6-foot-4 tall and tipping the scale at 195-pounds, Lavoie is an intimidating presence on the ice who demands the respect of his opponents. Although he would do well to use his size to his advantage more frequently, Lavoie can protect the puck with ease and is a dominant force below the goal line.
However, Lavoie is much more than a big body, as the native of Montreal, Quebec owns soft mitts and a nose for the net. In his second and most recent season of play with the Halifax Mooseheads, Lavoie potted 30 goals and 63 points across 68 regular season games played. If Lavoie can continue to improve his skating this coming season, the youngster should be a lock for the top-10.
Comparable: Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
9. Bowen Byram
Height/Weight: 6-foot, 180-pounds
2017-18 Team: Vancouver Giants, WHL
If you’re looking for an excellent puck-moving defender with offensive upside, then Bowen Byram is your prospect.
Related: Prospect Profile – Bowen Byram
Founded upon stellar skating abilities, Byram plays a comprehensive two-way game which begins in his defensive zone and ends in his opponent’s. Capable of breaking out of his own zone with ease owing to solid vision and playmaking abilities, Byram transitions the puck to his teammates quickly and is not afraid to join the rush.
Once in the midst of a rush, Byram can dish the puck or pound it on goal — an ability which generates a ton of rebounds for his teammates. What’s more is the fact that Byram can run his team’s power-play without issue, as the youngster’s composure and poise with the puck allows him to devise and implement high-percentage scoring plays.
Comparable: Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs
8. Phillip Broberg
Height/Weight: 6-foot-3, 200-pounds
2017-18 Team: AIK J20, SuperElit
Phillip Broberg exploded at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, scoring three goals and four points across five games played while cementing himself as an elite prospect in the process.
Well-known to scouts prior to the tournament, Broberg’s confident and consistent play has ushered the young ‘Swede into the top-10 overall for the time being. Like Byram, Broberg skates like the wind and refuses to waver in the face of overwhelming competition. Willing to skate the puck through traffic in order to generate offence for his team, Broberg is an exceptional two-way talent who munches major minutes.
Further, Broberg already boasts significant size and is remarkably strong on the puck — a reality which allows him to maintain possession with ease while devising calculated plays. This coming season, however, Broberg must work to improve his lateral mobility — his size can make it difficult to smother opposing forwards defensively.
Comparable: John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
7. Kirby Dach
Height/Weight: 6-foot-4, 198-pounds
2017-18 Team: Saskatoon Blades
Size, skill, and speed have come to define Kirby Dach’s growing game.
Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing in at 198-pounds, Dach was a man amongst boys in the WHL this past season despite his age of just 17-years. Fortunately for Dach, he made the most of his unique skill set — scoring seven goals and 46 points in 52 regular season contests for the Saskatoon Blades.
Related: Prospect Profile – Kirby Dach
Although his skating will need to improve if he wishes to enjoy a successful transition to higher levels of hockey, Dach’s raw skill-set will allow him to generate massive offensive totals once refined. Boasting soft hands and excellent awareness within the goal-mouth, Dach loves to pass the puck to his teammates and will battle desperately for any loose puck which presents itself.
In 2018-19, look for Dach to significantly increase his goal-output.
Comparable: Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
6. Vasili Podkolzin
Height/Weight: 5-foot-11, 165-pounds
2017-18 Team: Vityaz Podolsk U17
The Hlinka Gretzky Cup was an excellent opportunity for NHL Draft-eligible players to prove their worth to NHL franchises — and that is exactly what Vasili Podkolzin achieved.
Although an already well-known prospect prior to the tournament, Podkolzin cemented his status as an elite 2019 talent through his play with Team Russia. In his nation’s five games played, Podkolzin blasted home a jaw-dropping eight goals while adding three assists for a total of 11 points. What’s more is the fact that a number of Podkolzin’s goals were timely and of the highlight-reel variety — a reality which drew the attention of hockey fans worldwide.
Strong on his skates and a persistent competitor, Podkolzin is an offensive force who is confident and creative with the puck on his stick. Capable of dangling opposing defenders with regularity, Podkolzin’s raw skill-set should translate well to the NHL-level given the youngster’s desire to not only score goals but win important games.
While defence remains an area of weakness for Podkolzin, it is an art which he will learn well this coming campaign with SKA-1946 St. Petersburg of the KHL.
Comparable: Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
5. Peyton Krebs
Height/Weight: 5-foot-11, 180-pounds
2017-18 Team: Kootenay Ice, WHL
There’s a reason why Peyton Krebs was selected by the Kootenay Ice with the first overall choice in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft.
Well, a few reasons, actually.
Related: Prospect Profile – Peyton Krebs
An incredibly passionate and driven player, Krebs is an offensive dynamo who prides himself upon sound two-way play and team success. With speed to burn and ample agility, Krebs can dissect opposing defences with ease and has very little trouble filling the back of the net. Although he is a pass-first player, Krebs’ emerging wrist-shot allows him to keep goaltenders guessing.
In fact, in addition to the 37 assists he recorded for the Ice last season, Krebs also potted 17 goals — a number of which coming as the direct result of his accurate shot. While Krebs’ defensive game clearly needs work based on his -22 plus/minus rating last season, the native Okotoks, Alberta will only continue to grow his all-around game as he gains greater experience against challenging competition.
Comparable: Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning
4. Alex Newhook
Height/Weight: 5-foot-11, 185-pounds
2017-18 Team: Victoria Grizzlies, BCHL
Despite playing his minor midget year with the York Simcoe Express of the GTHL in 2016-17, Alex Newhook made the transition to the BCHL last season and did not disappoint.
In his 45 regular season games played for the Victoria Grizzlies, Newhook netted an impressive 22 goals and 66 points — a total which afforded him with his team’s second-greatest offensive output. Further, Newhook collected nine points in 12 playoff games — a level of consistent production which saw the youngster awarded with the Bruce Allison Memorial Trophy as the BCHL’s Rookie of the Year.
Related: Prospect Profile – Alex Newhook
The traits which separate Newhook apart from his peers are both abundant and evident every time the native of St. John’s, Newfoundland takes to the ice. In addition to his explosive speed and later mobility, Newhook sees the ice extremely well and has the ability to navigate within it with ease. Capable of threading a pass through an opponent’s feet or sliding the puck to the back door, Newhook’s deceptive style of play keeps opposing defenders guessing.
What’s more is that Newhook boasts a solid shot defined by its quick release — a weapon which the youngster fires with regularity.
Comparable: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
3. Dylan Cozens
Height/Weight: 6-foot-3, 175-pounds
2017-18 Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes, WHL
Dylan Cozens burst onto the scene at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup — routinely driving Team Canada’s offence owing to his raw speed, skill, and determination.
However, Cozens had established himself as an elite NHL prospect long before achieving stardom on the international stage.
Related: Prospect Profile – Dylan Cozens
Selected by the Lethbridge Hurricanes with the 19th overall pick in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft, Cozens has seemingly set out to spite the 18 league organizations which neglected to secure his talents when they held the opportunity. In his first season of WHL play with the Hurricanes in 2017-18, Cozens tallied 22 goals and 53 points in a mere 57 games played — an incredible output which landed him the Jim Piggott Trophy as the WHL’s Rookie of the Year.
Founded upon blazing speed as well as significant size, Cozens owns a unique skill-set which allows him to drive to the goal, pass the puck to a teammate, or shoot the puck on net himself. It is Cozens’ versatile attacking game which makes him such a difficult player to defend — a defining trait which he will surely carry on to the NHL-level.
Comparable: Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers
2. Kaapo Kakko
Height/Weight: 6-foot-1, 180-pounds
2017-18 Team: TPS U20, Jr. A Sm-liiga
Although Jack Hughes is a virtual lock to be selected first overall in the 2019 NHL Draft, Finnish sensation Kaapo Kakko could very well challenge the young American for the distinction.
Founded upon smooth skating and a lethal skill-set, Kakko is a polished player who brings both confidence and poise to the ice. Never pressured into making mistakes and calm while in possession of the puck, Kakko can devise high-quality scoring chances with both ease and frequency. What’s more is that Kakko owns an improving shot — one which is both accurate and volatile.
Related: Prospect Profile – Kaapo Kakko
In his most recent season of play for TPS U20 in the Jr. A SM-liiga, Kakko potted 25 goals and 55 points in just 38 games played — an offensive output which led his team by a wide margin. One major factor which drove Kakko’s production last season was his ability to navigate within tight spaces as well as in close to the goal. Much like Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kakko regularly pounced on rebounds and roofed the puck despite his lack of a significant shooting angle, time, or space.
In all, there’s a heck of a lot to like when it comes to Kakko and his growing game. As a capable two-way player who can make an impact at both ends of the ice as well as drive his team’s transition game, the native Turku, Finland is well on his way to a landing spot within the top-3 of the 2019 NHL Draft.
Comparable: Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes
1. Jack Hughes
Height/Weight: 5-foot-10, 160-pounds
2017-18 Team: USA National Team U18
Silky smooth, incredibly intelligent, and remarkably consistent, Jack Hughes is a well-rounded prospect who boasts the skill-set of a future franchise player at the NHL-level.
Although Hughes plays a game similar to many within the NHL today, no comparison is more accurate or flattering than his similarity to Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks. Yes, Hughes is a centre while Kane is a winger, however, both boast a similar physical frame and innate offensive instincts.
Standing 5-foot-10 and 160-pounds, Hughes is by no means an intimidating force on the ice. However, neither is Kane, who also stands 5-foot-10 and tips the scale at 175-pounds. Yet, despite this perceived deficiency on the part of both players, Hughes and Kane have continued to defy the odds while obliterating the scoresheet in the process.
Related: Prospect Profile – Jack Hughes
In order to attain meaningful and consistent success as undersized players, intelligence, creativity, and confidence are key. Fortunately, these traits are qualities which both Hughes and Kane possess with abundance. When it comes to Hughes, he is more often than not the smartest player on the ice — analyzing the tendencies of his opponents before exposing the weaknesses he discerns within their approach.
In addition to this intelligence, Hughes — like Kane — is remarkably creative and confident. Willing to attack the centre of the ice and more than capable of maneuvering within it, Hughes can sense the pressure placed upon him by defenders and use the information to determine the most beneficial course of action. Boasting incredible hands, Hughes’ most common tactic is to pass the puck to teammates situated in excellent scoring positions.
Although his shot needs to improve alongside both his skating speed and lower-body strength, Hughes has the potential to one day lead the NHL in scoring — the defining reasoning behind his standing as Prospect Pipeline’s top pre-season prospect.
Comparable: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks