5 Underrated 2019 NHL Draft Prospects

While the annual NHL Draft showcases a great deal of elite talent, it often overshadows a number of its hidden gems in the process. Here are five of Prospect Pipeline’s most underrated NHL prospects eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft.

The annual NHL Entry Draft is an event which draws the interest and imagination of the hockey world.

With an arsenal of incredible young talent eager to make an impact at the NHL-level, one single selection can hold the power to influence both the immediate and long-term futures of a given franchise.

However, it is often the prospects chosen by an organization outside of the first-round who are the most important. Although viewed as long-term projects, these late-round gems are often far more determined to reach the NHL-level having been passed over time and time again in the Draft. Whether they were physically immature at the time or fresh off of a substantial injury, it is these young yet overlooked stars who regularly come to dominate their peers.

Now, with the 2019 NHL Draft just around the corner, Prospect Pipeline has set out to profile and analyze five of this year’s most underrated young prospects.

While you will likely have heard the names of the players listed below before, the time has come to learn why each of these prospects stand poised for immense success in their respective leagues in 2018-19.

5 Underrated Prospects to Watch

Cole Caufield

Position: Centre/Right-Wing

Height/Weight: 5-foot-6, 160-pounds

2017-18 Team: U.S. National U18 Team, NTDP

Cole Caufield scored 54 goals in 59 games played for USA Hockey’s NTDP in 2017-18 — a goal total which now stands as the storied program’s second-greatest ever, and just one tally behind Auston Matthews’ record of 55 established in 2014-15.

A lethal scorer who can pot the puck in a variety of ways, Caufield is a dangerous player every time he takes to the ice. Boasting a strong shot, Caufield can hammer the puck past opposing goaltenders from a distance or bury a loose puck laying in the goal-mouth in the blink of an eye. Always close to the puck and extremely potent with it on his stick, Caufield is a natural offensive player who always seems to be in the right place at the right time.

Cole Caufield
Despite his size, Caufield has consistently dominated his opponents. (Photo Credit: Rena Laverty and USA Hockey’s NTDP)

However, despite his goal-scoring exploits, many scouts and analysts remain unable to see past Caufield’s size. Standing 5-foot-6 and 160-pounds, Caufield is regularly one of the smallest players on the ice — a fact which has undoubtedly impacted his perceived value as a prospect over the years.

Yet, in spite of his size, Caufield has continued to produce with remarkable consistency — a fact which should shatter common misconceptions and establish the native of Mosinee, Wisconsin as a prospect of first-round calibre in the 2019 NHL Draft.

Anttoni Honka

Position: Defence

Height/Weight: 5-foot-10, 170-pounds

2017-18 Team: JYP U20, Jr. A SM-liiga

Speed, skill, and confidence have come to define Anttoni Honka’s game, and are a major reason why the nimble Finnish defenceman will be a first-round choice in the 2019 NHL Draft.

However, Honka should — realistically — be able to crack the top-15 in the coming Draft, as the younger brother of Dallas Stars prospect Julius Honka is a dynamic offensive-defenceman who can also play a sturdy defensive game.

In 2017-18, Honka skated primarily for JYP U20 of the Jr. A SM-liiga where he recorded an impressive 17 points in 28 games played. What’s more is that Honka played well enough to appear in 20 games for JYP at the Liiga-level, where the native of Jyväskylä, Finland potted two goals and nine points while competing against a much tougher and developed form of competition.

Honka is a smart player who compensates for his lack of size with his skating and offensive instincts; he has an excellent understanding of the game. – Goran Stubb, NHL Director of European Scouting

Known for his offensive flair, Honka is a shifty and mobile skater who uses his mobility to his advantage. Capable of burning opposing players as he darts up the ice, Honka can lead the rush or join it in progress in order to provide a secondary outlet during odd-man rushes — he loves to unleash his wicked one-timer whenever possible.

Ultimately, Honka boasts the ability and poise of a terrific two-way defender. If able to add greater strength to his frame, Honka could work his way into the top-10 in the 2019 NHL Draft rather than simply the first-round.

Blake Murray

Position: Centre

Height/Weight: 6-foot-2, 180-pounds

2017-18 Team: Sudbury Wolves, OHL

Despite yet another dreadful season for the Sudbury Wolves in 2017-18, the franchise’s first-round choice from the 2017 OHL Priority Selection presented the organization with a glimmer of hope for their future.

In his rookie campaign with the Wolves, Blake Murray established himself as a dynamic offensive player and prospect of immense value ahead of the 2019 NHL Draft. Although his skating will need to improve in order to attain success at the next level, Murray’s hockey I.Q. and ability to process the game at a high-pace allowed the native of Uxbridge, Ontario to pot 21 goals and 44 points in his inaugural OHL campaign.

Blake Murray of the Sudbury Wolves. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images
Murray is one of the most intelligent and calculative players in the OHL today. (Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

Now, with greater offensive help on the way to begin the team’s 2018-19 season in the form of Quinton Byfield — the first overall selection in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection — Murray will have a much stronger supporting cast to skate alongside this coming campaign. Given his impressive size, understanding of the game, and a strong shot defined by its unique release, Murray owns all of the tool necessary to inflate his draft stock this coming season.

If able to earn his place amongst the OHL’s scoring leaders this season, Murray could come to be viewed as a potential top-15 selection in the 2019 NHL Draft.

Jamieson Rees

Position: Centre

Height/Weight: 5-foot-10, 175-pounds

2017-18 Team: Sarnia Sting, OHL

If you’re searching for a driven competitor with a workhorse mentality, look no further than Jamieson Rees of the Sarnia Sting.

Nabbed by the Sting with the ninth-overall choice in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, Rees collected five goals and 20 points in 46 regular season games played with Sarnia in his rookie campaign. Unfortunately, Rees fell victim to a pair of ankle injuries during the 2017-18 season which not only limited his on-ice effectiveness but also impaired his confidence as he transitioned to the OHL-level.

Jamieson Rees, Sarnia Sting
Although slowed by injuries as a rookie, Rees is an energetic competitor with plenty to prove in Sarnia. (Photo Credit: Metcalfe Photography)

Now, with injuries behind him and a Gold Medal in-hand from his recent play with Team Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, Rees enters the 2018-19 OHL season as a reinvigorated player with plenty to prove. As a terrific skater who is relentless in his pursuit of the puck, Rees should develop into a dependable offensive force for the Sting this coming campaign and one capable of producing on a nightly basis.

Although he stands as a potential second-round selection in the 2019 NHL Draft as the 2018-19 season approaches, Rees could ascend high into the first-round if able to piece together a healthy and strong offensive season for Sarnia.

Nathan Staios

Position: Defence

Height/Weight: 5-foot-9, 170-pounds

2017-18 Team: Windsor Spitfires, OHL

It’s hard to believe that the Windsor Spitfires were able to select Nathan Staios with the 17th overall choice in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection.

In captaining the GTHL’s Vaughan Kings in his minor midget season, Staios had proven himself to be a dynamic two-way defender capable of making an impact at both ends of the ice. As a strong and agile skater, Staios’ ability to move the puck to his teammates before joining the rush allowed him to secure his own zone before providing an added dimension to his team’s attacking game.

He (Staios) is a real good kid. He moves the puck, he keeps his head up, and he has a hard shot. – Warren Rychel, Windsor Spitfires General Manager

In his rookie season with the Spitfires, Staios netted three goals and 12 points in 54 games played — a relatively meagre total which was not accurately reflective of his lethal abilities on the ice. Heading into the 2018-19 OHL season and his first year of NHL Draft eligibility, expect Staios to significantly increase his offensive totals from one campaign ago.

Boasting great wheels, excellent vision, and a booming shot, Staios’ skill set is simply too powerful to be contained. Long a quality defensive player, if Staios can improve his attacking game, the native of Oakville, Ontario will surely creep into the middle of the first round come the 2019 NHL Draft.

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NHL Prospect Profile: Maxim Cajkovic

Maim Cajkovic is a magician with the puck who can bury pucks with ease and makes defencemen and goaltenders alike look silly on a regular basis with his eye-catching moves. Cajkovic is a likely first round pick for the 2019 NHL Draft.

– Maxim Cajkovic –

Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL) | Right Wing | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Bratislava, Slovakia | January 3, 2001 | 5-foot-11, 187-pounds

Maxim Cajkovic is a magician with the puck who can score goals in a multitude of ways. He really made a name for himself at the 2018 IIHF U18 Championships, where he led the tournament in points-per-game with 11 in just five games. In Sweden, Cajkovic added 14 goals in just 10 games with the Malmö Redhawks at the J18 Elit level, as well as 10 goals and 21 points in 28 SuperElit games, Sweden’s top U20 league.

As a result of his impressive totals during ’17-18, Cajkovic was selected 1st overall by the Saint John Sea Dogs at the 2018 CHL Import Draft. Cajkovic will be able to earn plenty of exposure by playing in the QMJHL during his draft eligible season, much like Andrei Svechnikov and Filip Zadina did by coming to the CHL via the Import Draft last year.

Strengths:

  • Shot
  • Puck Skills
  • Hockey Sense

Maxim Cajkovic is an enticing winger with supreme skills. He has the ability to put the game in his hands through dynamic offensive abilities. Cajkovic plays with a shoot-first mentality and possesses a tremendous release with precision accuracy. He often changes shooting angles on the goaltender right before firing a strong wrist shot which can beat the keeper clean.

Cajkovic also boasts a pair of mesmerizing hands which can make defencemen look foolish on a regular basis. He is a very creative player who utilizes his hockey sense and vision of developing plays to sift through traffic with ease. His speed also remains above average, but not yet at a game-breaking level.

Weaknesses:

  • Defensive Awareness

On the other end of the ice, Cajkovic could use some small improvements. He doesn’t necessarily put his team at risk, but he is rather average in the defensive zone. If his compete level away from the puck was as strong as it was with the puck, he would likely earn praise as a 200-foot player.

As he heads to Saint John for the ’18-19 campaign, there is no doubt that head coach, Josh Dixon, and his bench staff will be hard at work with their prized import to ensure that he will never be a liability to the Sea Dogs in their own end.

Future Potential:

Maxim Cajkovic projects to be a top-six winger at the NHL level. He is a natural goal-scorer with dynamic hands in tight, as well as promising playmaking abilities. Cajkovic has the potential to be an effective, offence generating player who should earn time on the power play as well. Heading into the ’18-19 season, Cajkovic looks like a first round pick for the 2019 NHL Draft, likely in the 20-30th overall range for the time being.

NHL Prospect Profile: Cole Caufield

Cole Caufield is the little engine who could, and that engine never wears down. Caufield potted 54 goals in 59 goals for the NTDP in ’17-18, and should be a unanimous top-20 pick at the 2019 NHL Draft.

– Cole Caufield –

USA Hockey’s NTDP | Right Wing/Center | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Mosinee, Wisconsin, USA | January 2, 2001 | 5-foot-6, 154-pounds

Yes, Cole Caufield stands at just 5-foot-6, but he plays the game without any fear and rarely ever lets his size be a disadvantage to his exemplary talents. The Wisconsin native played a large portion of the 2017-18 season alongside Jack Hughes and Matthew Boldy, en route to scoring 54 goals in just 59 games between the U17 and U18 teams. That mark sits just one goal shy of the record set by Auston Matthews in 2014-15.

Caufield sports a natural goal-scoring instinct, incapsulating a wicked release, creative hands, and the knack to be in the right place at the right time. He doesn’t shy away from the physical game despite his size, even throwing a couple of notable hits himself. Caufield plays each shift with a determination to help his team win, and often does so by filling the back of the net.

Strengths:

  • Shot
  • Competitiveness
  • Puck Skills

Cole Caufield greatest strength is undoubtedly his ability to pinch the twine. He boasts an electric release and pin-point accuracy, allowing him to beat goaltenders one-on-one with general ease. He also has the vision to read where the soft spots on the ice are going to be and the ability to quietly slip in behind defencemen to find himself time and space.

Cole Caufield has adapted some elite level celebrations as well, a result of finding the back of the net 54 times last season. Photo Credit – Rena Laverty and USA Hockey’s NTDP.

Caufield plays each shift like it’s his last, showcasing a passion and effort level that is second-to-none, often broadcasted through his exuberant celebrations. He has very quick and creative hands which allow him to make defenders and goalies alike look silly. Caufield is simply an elite goal-scorer who can turn a game on its head with a flick of his wrists.

Weaknesses:

  • Defensive Awareness

Away from the flashy offensive abilities, Caufield has room to improve in the defensive zone. He sometimes gets lost or chases the puck a little too far in his own zone, and can be caught visibly thinking about transitioning to offence before his team has secured possession of the puck.

Spending the majority of his time as a winger, this aspect has less of an impact than it would if he played center. With that said, it remains an area in which Caufield could improve his all-around, 200-foot game in order to convince NHL scouts to have full confidence in his talents at both ends of the rink.

Future Potential:

Cole Caufield projects to be a top-six winger at the NHL level. He is an elite goal-scorer who has the potential to put up 40 goals in his prime. Caufield has an engine that never stops and a passion for the game that shines bright every shift. Caufield plays a very comparable game to Alex DeBrincat of the Chicago Blackhawks. Heading into the ’18-19 season, Caufield should be a Top-20 pick for the 2019 NHL Draft, so long as GMs don’t make the mistake of passing him over for his size.

NHL Prospect Profile: Jakob Pelletier

Jakob Pelletier led all 2019 NHL Draft eligible prospects from the QMJHL in goals and points in ’17-18, with 23 and 61, respectively. A smart, natural playmaker, Pelletier looks like a lock as a first round pick.

– Jakob Pelletier –

Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL) | Center | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Québec, Canada | March 7, 2001 | 5-foot-9, 161-pounds

Jakob Pelletier, a third overall pick of the 2017 QMJHL Draft by Moncton, quietly had a superb rookie campaign in 2017-18. Overshadowed by the hype surrounding Alexis Lafrenière,  Pelletier racked up 23 goals and 61 points over 60 games, ranking third on the Wildcats in both categories. Pelletier also led all QMJHL 2019 NHL Draft prospects in those areas by a fairly wide margin.

Pelletier is a pass-first, two-way center with an elite hockey IQ and understanding of the game around him. He has above average speed and admirable agility with the puck. Pelletier’s rookie performance and overall improvements were rewarded with an invitation to the Hlinka Gretzky Cup with Team Canada, where he captured a gold medal.

Strengths:

  • Hockey Sense
  • Skating
  • Two-Way Play

Jakob Pelletier can often outthink his opponents, through his tremendous vision of the ice to his ability to read and react to developing situations. He understands the significance of a strong two-way game and showcases natural leadership trait on and off the ice. Pelletier is the kind of player that coaches trust to put out in any situation.

He is an excellent skater with impressive speed and good lower-body strength to protect the puck. Pelletier is agile with possession of the puck, allowing him to weave and dangle through defencemen. A playmaker by nature, Pelletier also has promising goal-scoring abilities, with a quick release and good hands in tight.

Weaknesses:

  • Size and Strength

Standing at a humbling 5-foot-9, 161-pounds, Pelletier is by no means a large center. While this fact doesn’t hold him back by any means within his own age group, older and larger opponents can sometimes outmuscle and knock Pelletier off the puck. Although he is a strong skater with a good lower-body, he would benefit from adding some size in order to maximize his defensive prowess.

Jakob Pelletier led all U17 QMJHL players in both goals and points. He will quickly be leaned upon as a top producer for Moncton in 2018-19. Photo Credit – Daniel St. Louis

While Pelletier will never be a power forward, some added strength would go a long way to improving his overall game. Aside from the physical side of the game, it would also make his shot more powerful and electric, which would also aid Pelletier to prosper at the next level.

Future Potential:

Jakob Pelletier projects to be a top-six center at the NHL level. He is a smart player with strong skating abilities and a responsible two-way game that his coaches have trust in at all levels. Pelletier plays a comparable style to that of Travis Konecny of the Philadelphia Flyers. Heading into the ’18-19 season, Pelletier forecasts as a first round pick for the 2019 NHL Draft, likely in the 20-30th overall range.

NHL Prospect Profile: Matthew Boldy

Matthew Boldy quietly led the NTDP U17 team in scoring in ’17-18 with an intriguing combination of scoring prowess, playmaking abilities, and reliable two-way play. He currently projects as a 1st round pick for the 2019 NHL Draft.

– Matthew Boldy –

USA Hockey’s NTDP | Left Wing | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Millis, Massachusetts , USA | April 5, 2001 | 6-foot, 174-pounds

Matthew Boldy quietly had a very impressive season for the NTDP in 2016-17, playing to a point-per-game clip in the USHL as well as adding 29 goals and 76 points in 61 games with the U17 team. He spent plenty of time playing alongside Jack Hughes and Cole Caufield, an indicator of his high-end offensive abilities.

Aside from the offensive totals, Boldy is also a very responsible two-way winger. He makes an noticeable effort to back-check in order to reduce odd-man rushes against and battles hard in his own end to regain puck possession. Boldy has a solid sense of the game and can make strong passes to set up teammates for scoring chances. He had a strong showing at the IIHF U17 Championships as well, registering three goals and nine points in six games.

Strengths:

  • Scoring Ability
  • Skating
  • Two-Way Game

Matthew Boldy is an intriguing prospect whose 2018-19 season will strongly dictate his draft rankings. As a result of lining up beside Hughes and Caufield, some are doubtful of his numbers and individual abilities. However, Boldy earned his spot of NTDP’s top line with a combination of imperative traits. He is a terrific skater who is agile with the puck and has above-average top speed.

Boldy has strong vision of the ice and can read plays to open himself up in quiet areas. He’s also a highly competitive player who isn’t afraid to go to the dirty areas to generate offence. Boldy showcased a strong release with good accuracy and has some untapped goal-scoring upside. He is also a reliable, 200-foot winger who treats offence and defence equally. A good competitor with strong hockey sense, Boldy could be an underrated prospect for 2019.

Weaknesses:

  • Puck Skills

If Boldy is hoping to become a more dynamic and electrifying forward in ’18-19, he should focus on improving his puck skills. Boldy has good hands, but it is a trait that he fails to set himself apart with. He could certainly benefit from some extra creativity and abilities to maneuver through opponents in tight spaces.

A Boston College commit for 2019-20, Boldy must improve upon both the power of his shot and his capabilities to undress defencemen if he wants to prove that he has first-line potential at the NHL level.

Future Potential:

Matthew Boldy currently projects as a top-six winger at the NHL level. He plays an effective two-way style and has great offensive instincts. He is a smooth skater who goes to the right spots on the ice and has promising playmaking potential we well. Heading into the ’18-19 season, Boldy looks like a first round pick for the 2019 NHL Draft, perhaps in the 20-25th overall range.

NHL Prospect Profile: Victor Söderström

Victor Söderström is a mobile, two-way defenceman with high hockey IQ and impressive skating abilities. He makes smart decisions with the puck in his own end and can be dynamic in the offensive end as well. Overall, Söderström projects to be a top-20 pick at the 2019 NHL Draft.

– Victor Söderström –

Brynäs IF (SuperElit) | Right Defence | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Skutskär, Sweden | February 26, 2001 | 5-foot-11, 176-pounds

Victor Söderström is a dynamic, mobile, two-way defenceman who can be a game-breaker at either end of the ice. As a 16-year-old in 2017-18, he split time between Sweden’s top two U18 leagues as well as it’s top U20 league, SuperElit. In those total games, Söderström tallied 10 goals and 37 points over 48 games. Unfortunately, he was injured at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup after two games, limiting his ability to show North American scouts his full potential.

Söderström is an extremely smart player who makes excellent decisions with the puck. He also uses these instincts while defending in order to break up offensive rushes. A gifted two-way defender, Söderström has exciting offensive upside through his combination of skating ability and vision of the ice.

Strengths:

  • Hockey Sense
  • Two-Way Play
  • Skating

Victor Söderström has the potential to be a potent, two-way force. His offensive game is fuelled by his hockey sense and skating ability. Söderström reads the ice very well and can make a smart decision as to when to join the rush to create an odd-man rush or to carry the puck through the neutral zone and put his team on the attack.

Söderström has a great first three steps, accelerating to impressive top speeds very quickly. He’s also agile which helps him to buy time and space with the puck in his own zone before successfully breaking the puck out. He is dynamic on the powerplay as well, moving the puck north-south and east-west from the point to open up passing and shooting lanes.

Weaknesses:

  • Strength

On the other hand, Söderström remains a relatively average-sized defenceman. Although he is never afraid to use his body to engage in the physical side of the game, it can be a disadvantage when boxing out opponents in front of his net. As well, he can be overwhelmed against larger opponents in board battles.

If Söderström is able to add some muscle before June 2019, he may be able to boost the confidence of NHL general managers in selecting him. As a 17-year-old, he still has lots of time to grow and mature with time put into the gym. As such, this likely won’t be a worry when projecting Söderström’s NHL potential.

Future Potential:

Victor Söderström has the potential to become a top-pairing defenceman in the NHL, as well as a powerplay specialist. While he would be considered to be a small defender by today’s standards, he fits all the characteristics of the new era of the league; hockey IQ, skating, and skill. Söderström plays a style comparable to Jared Spurgeon of the Minnesota Wild. Heading into the ’18-19 season, Söderström appears to be a lock as a Top-20 pick for the 2019 NHL Draft.

Can Ryan Suzuki Best His Brother?

Ryan Suzuki of the Barrie Colts is a sensational playmaker who plays a strong and calculated game. Long motivated by his older brother, Nick, could Ryan surpass his sibling as an NHL prospect?

As the first-overall choice in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, attention tends to follow Ryan Suzuki regardless of where he plays.

A former standout with the London Jr. Knights, Suzuki enjoyed a solid rookie season with the Barrie Colts in 2017-18 — scoring 14 goals and adding 30 assists for a total of 44 points. Although he didn’t claim any notable individual awards, Suzuki’s campaign proved to be a promising one considering the depth of the Colts’ roster and his incredible composure with the puck.

Ryan Suzuki
Precise skating and calculated decision making proved crucial to Suzuki’s rookie OHL campaign. (Photo Credit: Miranda Zilkowsky Photography)

Extremely calculative while in possession and rarely pressured into making mistakes, Suzuki’s seemingly veteran style of play mixed with his lethal offensive upside immediately garnered comparisons to another current OHL-star — the youngster’s brother and Owen Sound Attack sniper Nick Suzuki.

Although they do boast their differences, both Suzuki and his older brother are remarkably similar players. Of average height and weight, the brothers are endlessly intelligent and creative on the ice — an ability which drives both players’ offensive games.

However, given their similarities, this begs one ultimate question: can the younger Suzuki become a more talented and promising player than his older brother?

The Surging Suzuki Sibling Rivalry

Although they are family, there is no question that the Suzuki brothers are incredibly competitive and strive to out-duel one another.

On one hand, there is the oldest Suzuki.

As a first-round choice of the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Draft, Nick seemingly holds the distinct advantage in the sibling rivalry. Although Ryan is slated to be selected in the coming 2019 NHL Draft, Nick boasts the bragging rights — and will continue to do so if Ryan fails to hear his name called earlier than Nick did at 13th overall.

What’s more is that the elder Suzuki has two dynamite OHL seasons in-hand. In 2016-17, Suzuki potted a whopping 45 goals and 96 points for the Attack before adding another 42 goals and 100 points for Owen Sound last season. Further, Suzuki owns two William Hanley Trophies as the OHL’s Most Sportsmanlike Player — he’s collected just 32 penalty minutes thus far in his 192-game career.

Then, on the other hand, we have the younger of the two brothers.

Although he only has one OHL season under his belt, Ryan’s inaugural campaign was incredibly impressive and one which cemented the native of London, Ontario as a potential top-10 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

Despite drawing less ice time than he arguably would have garnered with different franchises throughout the OHL, the younger Suzuki made the most of his playing time as a rookie and was able to leave a lasting impression. As an immensely intelligent player, Suzuki’s playmaking abilities were regularly on full display — his willingness to saucer passes through traffic with success was a treat to watch.

Further, Suzuki established himself as a prospect who refuses to buckle under pressure. Routinely utilized on Barrie’s power-play and in high-pressure situations, Suzuki’s patience and willingness to wait for high-percentage scoring chances to develop helped to drive the Colts’ man-advantage — Barrie concluded the 2017-18 regular season with the OHL’s sixth-best power-play.

So, although he doesn’t hold any hardware, Suzuki is evidently well on his way to becoming as good as — if not better than — his older brother. Sure, he needs to strengthen his frame and improve his shot — two weaknesses which will improve with physical maturity — however, the fact remains that Suzuki is staring down a lucrative career at the NHL-level.

And, although he and his brother play in opposite OHL Conferences, the personal drive to improve shared by the two on a nightly basis is endlessly inspiring

NHL Prospect Profile: Blake Murray

Blake Murray is an exciting center who is trusted to play in all situations. He can put up noteworthy offensive numbers, win his majority of faceoffs, and play a shutdown role on the penalty kill. An all-around player, Murray should be a top-20 pick at the 2019 NHL Draft.

– Blake Murray –

Sudbury Wolves (OHL) | Center | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Uxbridge, Ontario, Canada | July 5, 2001 | 6-foot-2, 179-pounds

Blake Murray provided a reason to watch the last place Sudbury Wolves in 2017-18, who won just 17 games all year. Murray, the 7th overall pick at the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, quickly rose up the Wolves’ depth chart, earning top-six minutes as well as significant power play and penalty kill time. He finished the year with 21 goals and 44 points in 57 games, leading all U17 OHL players in points-per-game.

Murray is a big center who excels is virtually every aspect of the game, from faceoffs to playmaking, and sniping goals to penalty killing. He showcases excellent hockey sense and vision of the ice, allowing himself to be a skillful passer. Murray has a strong shot with a very deceptive release and has the creativity to dangle goaltenders in tight.

Strengths:

  • Hockey Sense
  • Shot and Puck Skills
  • Two-Way Play

Blake Murray is a coach’s dream player. He can be trusted to be put on the ice under any circumstances and give his team a better chance of winning. He makes the players around him better, and impressed so quickly with the Wolves that he was moved up to their top-six almost immediately. He ultimately wound up leading the team in both goals and points as a 16-year-old.

Blake Murray led the Wolves in goals and points in ’17-18 and is expected to be a leader for the team as a 17-year-old. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Murray understands the game extremely well and can read and react to a developing play instantaneously. His wrist shot is unique, with a curl-and-drag release that proved to be deceptive for OHL goaltenders. He is also tremendous with the puck, scoring a number of highlight reel worthy goals in ’17-18. Further, he was trusted to center the team’s penalty kill with great success all year long, a testament to his all-around abilities.

Weaknesses:

  • Agility

It’s a tough task to find a weakness, or even an area of improvement, in Murray’s game. He does everything exceptionally, but if there’s one aspect of his game that could help boost his draft stock, it would be his skating ability. Don’t take this the wrong way, Murray is already a marvelous skater with above average speed, but his agility with the puck could use some improvement.

Although Murray possesses a silky pair of mitts, his legs can become stiff when he reaches his top speed. That is, his east-west movement with the puck decreases when he gets going. If Murray can advance his ability to weave and dangle while at top speeds, he could truly be considered a flawless prospect. Keep an eye on his point totals this year if he lines up alongside David Levin or Quinton Byfield.

Future Potential:

Blake Murray forecasts as a potential first-line center at the NHL level who can be relied upon to produce oodles of offence as well as to take the defensive zone draws in crucial times. He can excel in all situations and is the definition of an all-around center. His style is comparable to Ryan O’Reilly of the St. Louis Blues. Heading into the ’18-19 season, Murray projects to be a Top-20 pick at the 2019 NHL Draft.

NHL Prospect Profile: Nolan Foote

Nolan Foote is heading into his third WHL season in ’18-19. A powerful, goal-scoring winger, Foote has totalled 32 goals and 75 points in 102 games with the Rockets. Foote appears to be a lock for the 1st round of the 2019 NHL Draft.

– Nolan Foote –

Kelowna Rockets (WHL) | Left Wing | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Denver, Colorado, USA | November 29, 2000 | 6-foot-3, 187-pounds

Heading into the 2017-18 season, Nolan Foote was regarded has a sure top-3 pick for the 2019 NHL Draft. As a late 2000-born prospect, Foote had already played his rookie season as one of the youngest players in the WHL, racking up 19 goals and 35 points in 52 games. His electric shot and understanding of the game were extremely impressive as a 16-year-old.

However, after putting up 13 goals and 40 points in his sophomore season, the hype surrounding Foote has substantially quieted. As a result of Foote’s failure to make major increases in his numbers in ’17-18, the projections of his NHL future vary greatly. Of course, this coming season will serve as a major measuring stick for his draft stock.

Strengths:

  • Hockey Sense
  • Shot
  • Competitiveness

Nolan Foote has tremendous size and strength, which played a huge role in allowing him to seamlessly adapt to the WHL in his rookie season. Foote has an excellent sense of the game, reading developing plays and reacting appropriately. His greatest strength comes from his shot, which is quick, powerful, and accurate. Foote came into the league as a shoot-first player, but seemed to shy away from that in ’17-18.

In his sophomore year, Foote’s shooting percentage sat at 10%, a fairly average number which exhibits that he could still be shooting more often. Foote is also a highly competitive player with a motor that rarely slows down. He battles hard for loose pucks and isn’t afraid to use his body in board battles. Further, Foote has above average hands and can make one-on-one moves in tight with the puck.

Weaknesses:

  • Skating

Of all the traits which could potentially hamper Foote’s progression towards the NHL, it would be his average skating abilities. It isn’t necessarily a weakness, but Foote could certainly add some more speed and agility to his game. This would allow him to rush the puck with more success and be able to handle the puck better at top speeds.

For now, Foote generally finds his success as the trigger-man off of the half wall. A more effective stride would enable Foote to add another element to his game, as well as to improve his 200-foot game. This will be an aware that scouts will key in on during the 2018-19 season as they predict his potential at the NHL level.

Future Potential:

Nolan Foote projects to be a top-six winger at the NHL level. While his goal-scoring ability and overall offensive potential remain intriguing, his skating definitely needs improvement in order to become an effective professional player. Foote plays a comparable game to Jake DeBrusk of the Boston Bruins. Heading into the ’18-19 season, Foote looks like a Top-20 pick for the 2019 NHL Draft.

NHL Prospect Profile: Matthew Robertson

Matthew Robertson is the definition of an all-around defenceman. He is a menace in his own end as well as an offensive threat on the rush and from the blueline. Robertson is expected to be a top-20 pick at the 2019 NHL Draft.

– Matthew Robertson –

Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) | Left Defence | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada | March 9, 2001 | 6-foot-3, 201-pounds

Matthew Robertson is an uber-talented, two-way defenceman who has no true flaws to his game. He’s shown elite abilities to play a responsible, yet dynamic game at both ends of the rink, as well as on the penalty kill and power play. Robertson racked up seven goals and 24 points in 67 games with the Oil Kings in ’17-18. Those marks ranked first and second respectively among U17 defenders in the WHL.

Robertson has wowed scouts with his combination of smooth skating and puck-moving abilities. His play has earned him plenty of international experience with Canada, including both the U17 and U18 tournaments in 2017-18, as well as the Hlinka Gretzky Cup this past August, where he was one of the team’s most relied upon defencemen.

Strengths:

  • Skating
  • Two-Way Play
  • Sense and Vision

Matthew Robertson is a smooth skater with great lower-body strength. He is tough to knock off the puck and can reach impressive top speeds for a defender of his size. He utilizes his skating ability as as yet another option in breaking the puck out of his end. Robertson can safely make a long pass, chip, or rush the puck through the neutral zone himself.

In fact, his two-way play is one of the greatest upsides to his game. Robertson has excellent offensive instincts and a solid shot from the point. He makes smart decisions as to when to throw a puck on net for a deflection or rebound, and when to unleash a booming shot through traffic. Expect Robertson to be push a point-per-game rate with the Oil Kings this year.

Weaknesses:

  • Defensive Positioning

There aren’t any true flaws to Robertson’s game. He’s an all-around defenceman who can play any situation with success. With that said, if there’s an area that could use some maturation on his path towards the NHL, it would be defensive positioning. Robertson is very reliable in his own end and makes smart decisions to break the puck out.

However, there are a few times where Robertson loses his man in front of or beside the net. He is always on the hunt for the puck and has a desire to limit the opponent’s puck possession. As such, he sometimes leaves his post and chases the puck out of his territory. This can leave a man wide-open in front of the net. If Robertson can solidify this aspect of his defensive game, he would be considered a flawless prospect.

Future Potential:

Matthew Robertson projects as a probable top-four defenceman, with top-pairing and powerplay potential at the NHL level. He is a player who can be relied upon in any situation, both as a shut-down or an offensive defenceman. Heading into his draft year campaign, Robertson forecasts as a Top-20 pick at the 2019 NHL Draft.