NHL Prospect Profile: Arthur Kaliyev

Arthur Kaliyev led all U17 OHL players with 31 goals and 48 points in ’17-18. As a result, he projects to be a top-15 selection at the 2019 NHL Draft, thanks to his pin-point accurate snap shot and creative puck skills.

– Arthur Kaliyev –

Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL) | Left Wing | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Staten Island, New York, USA | June 26, 2001 | 6-foot-2, 190-pounds

Arthur Kailyev is a potent goal-scorer with a quick and powerful snap shot. He fit seamlessly into the OHL during his rookie campaign, playing like a four-year vet. His 31 goals and 48 points both led all U17 players in the OHL last year, as Kaliyev became the first 16-year-old to break the 30-goal plateau since Alex Galchenyuk did it in 2010-11 with te Sarnia Sting.

Kaliyev’s game is fine-tuned to the offensive aspects. Aside from his gifted shooting abilities, he boasts quick and creative hands, with the instincts to beat defenders one-on-one. Further, he utilizes his large frame to become a net-front nuisance who is difficult to box out. If Kaliyev can add some more muscle, he could become t\he next gifted power forward.

Strengths:

  • Shot
  • Puck Skills
  • Strength

Arthur Kaliyev is an offence-first winger, and with good reason. His shot is years above his age, with a brisk and authoritative release, Kaliyev can get a high-danger shot off in tight quarters. His snap shot is accurate and deceptive enough to beat goaltenders straight up. Kaliyev is also endowed with soft hands, which allow him to corral the puck through traffic with ease.

Arthur Kaliyev quickly became accustomed to celebrating goals in the OHL en route to a 31-goal rookie campaign, a number which led all U17 player. Photo Credit – Brandon Taylor.

Further to his offensive capabilities, Kaliyev has the size and strength to be a menace in front of the net. He has surprising lower-body strength, which he utilizes in board battles, cycles, and to protect the puck. As Kaliyev continues to grow and mature, this may become more of a benefit over his opponents as he develops towards a potential scoring power forward role.

Weaknesses:

  • Skating

On the other hand, Kaliyev remains an average skater without game-breaking speed. He accelerates well, but certainly has room to grow as far as agility and top speeds go. While these attributes obviously didn’t hold back his ability to find the twine, an improvement would do wonders for his all-around game.

As we know, an upside skating ability has become an imperative facet of today’s NHL. As such this aspect of Kaliyev’s game must be a focus of his training in order to have a productive future at the professional ranks. Time and time again, we’ve seen potential superstars fall short because of lacklustre skating. Here’s hoping that won’t be the case for Kaliyev.

Future Potential:

Arthur Kaliyev looks to be a future top-six winger at the NHL level. While his defensive game and skating could still use some work, Kaliyev possesses a natural scoring ability and has the potential to be a dangerous power forward if he fills out his frame. Heading into the ’18-19 season, Kaliyev projects to be a Top-15 pick at the 2019 NHL Draft.

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Cole Caufield: The American Sniper

Cole Caufield of the U.S. National Team Development Program is a lethal sniper who scored 54 goals last season. Although diminutive, the 2019 NHL Draft prospect packs quite the punch.

Cole Caufield is a goal-scoring machine, and arguably the most lethal sniper eligible for selection in the 2019 NHL Draft.

As a star member of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program in 2017-18, Caufield netted a jaw-dropping 54 goals in 59 games played — a total which stood high above that of 2019 top prospect Jack Hughes’. In fact, Caufield’s 54-goal total was the highest mark achieved by a NTDP player since Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews set the current record of 55 in 2014-15.

The major difference between Caufield and Matthews, however?

Size.

Smashing Stereotypes

When Matthews blasted home 55 goals as a member of the NTDP, the native of San Ramon, California and eventual first overall selection in the 2016 NHL Draft already stood well above 6-feet and weighed in close to 200-pounds.

This distinct physical advantage allowed Matthews to dominate his competition in North America at a young age as well as play a year of professional hockey in Switzerland before ascending to the NHL-level. Described as boasting the perfect combination of size, speed, and skill, the Leafs’ selection of Matthews first overall truly came as little surprise.

However, in the case of Caufield, the native of Mosinee, Winsconsin’s value ahead of the 2019 NHL Draft is anything but certain. In fact, the young sniper’s stock has been impeded dramatically by a factor completely out of his control: size.

Cole Caufield
Caufield is an elite sniper, as evidenced by his 54-goal season as a member of the NTDP in 2017-18. (Photo Credit: Rena Laverty and USA Hockey’s NTDP)

Standing 5-foot-6 and tipping the scales at 160-pounds, Caufield is a diminutive player who is regularly the smallest player on the ice. As a result, Caufield has long been forced to analyze, adapt, and overcome the unique challenges placed upon him by his opponents of considerably greater size and strength.

Fortunately, Caufield has been able to accomplish exactly such with startling regularity, as the youngster has come to dominate his opposition on a nightly basis owing to his soft hands, excellent shot, innate hockey sense, and tireless determination to overcome any obstacle in his path to the NHL.

Caufield’s Road to the Show

Although Caufield’s road to the show will undoubtedly be a long and winding one, it is a path which will surely prove prosperous.

Heading into the 2018-19 season, a number of early 2019 NHL Draft Rankings have already failed to afford Caufield the respect which his on-ice exploits have come to deserve. Projected to be selected late in the first round, Caufield’s inaccurate outlook is as inaccurate as it is prejudiced.

Yes, he is of a smaller stature, but so too was former Erie Otters star and current Chicago Blackhawks sniper Alex DeBrincat. Also projected to be selected late in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft, DeBrincat wound up falling to 39th overall despite recording 51 goals and 101 points as a rookie in the campaign preceding his selection.

The common trait which both Caufield and DeBrincat share? A lack of size — DeBrincat stands just 5-foot-7 and 170-pounds, yet still scored 28 goals for the Blackhawks in his rookie season.

So, if there is one reality which NHL franchises and their respective General Managers must learn from cases such as DeBrincat — as well as Brayden Point and Johnny Gaudreau — it is that highly skilled players of smaller stature are becoming increasingly effective in the NHL due to their ability to adapt to more sizeable competition.

And, such must exactly be the case when Caufield heads to Vancouver for the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver, British Columbia next June. If passed over and not selected until late in the first-round or early into the second, the NHL franchise which selects Caufield will have stolen a premier goal-scorer and one capable supplementing his team’s offence at the NHL-level.

In hindsight, should the likes of DeBrincat, Point, and Gaudreau have been selected in the first-round of their respective NHL Draft’s?

Absolutely.

In 2019, let’s hope that NHL franchises finally cast aside their misconceptions surrounding size. Caufield is a legitimate first-round talent and elite sniper, and deserves to be recognized as such.

NHL Prospect Profile: Anttoni Honka

Anttoni Honka is a potentially potent two-way defenceman who loves to join the rush with regularity. If he can get his defensive game under wraps this year, he has the ability to be one of the top defencemen available in the 2019 NHL Draft.

– Anttoni Honka –

JYP (Liiga) | Right Defence | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Jyväskylä, Finland | October 5, 2000 | 5-foot-10, 170-pounds

Anttoni Honka is a smooth skating, offensive defenceman who lives on the transition game, using a multitude of methods to turn the play from defence to offence. He’s a relatively small defender still, and has lots of room to grow as a result, but the late 2000-born prospect will need to round out his all-around game if he hopes to challenge the top defencemen for the 2019 NHL Draft.

Honka catches the eyes of scouts with an effortless stride and an ability to weave and fly up the ice with the puck. He creates plenty of controlled zone entries each game and prefers to be in the offensive zone. His two goals and nine points in 20 games were the most of any 2019 draft eligible player in Liiga, Finland’s top professional league.

Strengths:

  • Skating
  • Offensive Instincts
  • Transition Game

Considered as an offensive defenceman, Honka has excellent instincts on the attack. He is an effortless skater who has decent top speed and above average agility. He controls the puck very well on the rush and is a strong passer, finding lanes through all kinds of traffic. From the point, Honka can float a wrister on net to produce rebounds and deflections, but he doesn’t own a booming slapshot by any means.

Honka has great potential within his transition game, as he is able to make impressive passes or rush the puck end-to-end. He just needs to improve his sense of when to make which play, but Honka certainly has the capability to be a point-producing, two-way defenceman at the professional level.

Weaknesses:

  • Defensive Reliability

Despite his tremendous offensive potential, Honka still needs to fine-tune his defensive tendencies if he wants to go up against the top defencemen in the 2019 NHL Draft. He can often be found making risky decisions when jumping into the rush, ultimately resulting in odd-man rushes against.

Honka remains a relatively small defender by NHL standards, leaving him outmatched in board battles and rushes against larger opponents. He also struggles to box out forwards in front of his own net. Most worryingly, Honka’s decision-making with the puck in his own end is dicey at times, making a complicated play when a more simple and safe one is available.

Future Potential:

Anttoni Honka forecasts as a potential top-four defenceman at the NHL level. While his skating and offensive talents are tantalizing, he still has a lot of development to incur. Honka needs to play a stronger defensive game with better decision-making. Heading into the ’18-19 season, Honka projects to be a Top-20 pick at the 2019 NHL Draft. If he can round out his defensive game while building on his point totals in Liiga, he may be able to push for Top-10.

NHL Prospect Profile: Vasili Podkolzin

Vasili Podkolzin used the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup to significantly boost his 2019 NHL Draft stock through an eight-goal performance, catching the eyes of all scouts in the rink.

– Vasili Podkolzin –

SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL) | Right Wing | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Russia | June 24, 2001 | 5-foot-11, 165-pounds

Vasili Podkolzin doesn’t let the numbers describing his size do the talking, instead he lets his goal totals express who he is. He possesses an elite level shot and can blow by defenders with ease. Quite simply, Podkolzin is an electric winger who can do anything his coaches ask of him.

A relative unknown to many North America scouts, Podkolzin used his platform at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup to give himself an introduction. Potting eight goals and 11 points in just five games, he rocketed up the draft rankings and placed himself in a class of his own as far as goal-scorers for the 2019 NHL Draft. If Podkolzin can follow that performance up with a strong season in the MHL, we could hear his name go in the top-10.

Strengths:

  • Shot
  • Skating
  • Work Ethic

Podkolzin has been a dynamic goal-scorer at every level of his career thus far, boasting several methods to find the back of the net regularly. First and foremost, his shot is lightning-quick and very accurate, allowing him to beat goaltenders with clean shots. Further, he has smooth hands and can embarrass goalies with highlight-reel breakaway moves.

His skating ability allows him to produce plenty of odd-man rushes and breakaways, as he has separation speed. He has a quick first three steps and can reach top speeds while handling the puck. What scouts will also love is that he plays every shift like it’s his last, hounding the puck and battling for possession against bigger opponents.

Weaknesses:

  • Hockey Sense

While Podkolzin has certainly demonstrated the skill-set to be an early pick at this year’s NHL Draft, an improvement in his one-ice hockey sense would go a long way to pushing him into the top-10. There’s no denying the offensive abilities, but Podkolzin often looks out of place away from the puck, in both his positioning and his awareness.

He needs to become a better playmaker, which will come with better vision of the ice, and gain some muscle in order to stand up to the tough cycle game that the NHL offers. Defensively, Podkolzin could have a better understanding of stick placement and covering his point, but as a winger, that likely won’t hinder his draft stock.

Future Potential:

Vasili Podkolzin’s draft stock got a massive boost from the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, so it will certainly be interestig to follow along his play in the upcoming season. With that said, he has demonstrated an elite scoring ability and a knack for rushing the puck with success. Comparables include Nikita Kucherov and Vladimir Tarasenko. For now, Podkolzin projects to be a top-15 selection at the 2019 NHL Draft.

NHL Prospect Profile: Philip Broberg

Philip Broberg is a big, mobile, two-way defenceman who loves to carry the puck with speed through the neutral zone. He is a menace to play against in both ends of the rink and has shown considerable offensive upside.

– Philip Broberg –

AIK J20 (SuperElit) | Left Defence | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Örebro, Sweden | June 25, 2001 | 6-foot-3, 198-pounds

Philip Broberg is a menacing two-way defenceman who is next to impossible to play against in all three zones of the ice. He has tremendous size and strength, and yet he skates like the wind, blowing past his opponents in a rush with the puck. Broberg added six goals and 13 points in 23 games as a 16-year-old in the U20 SuperElit league last year.

He raised his draft stock immensely at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, wowing the crowd and scouts alike with impressive play at both ends of the ice, including three goals in five games. Broberg rocketed up the rankings and is now considered one of the top defencemen for the 2019 NHL Draft. The Hamilton Bulldogs own his CHL rights after selecting him 54th overall at the 2018 CHL Import Draft.

Strengths:

  • Skating
  • Offensive Mindset
  • Size and Strength

Philip Broberg is a towering defender, standing at 6-foot-3 already, he imposes his will on opponents all over the ice. He skates exceptionally well for a 17-year-old of his size, showcasing an ability to rush the puck from goal-line to goal-line. He has a tremendous shot and the knowledge of when to utilize a simple wrist shot from the point through traffic to create scoring chances, or when to unleash a booming slap shot.

In the defensive zone, Broberg has a strong lower-body which he imposes onto opponents to separate the puck. He also has a long reach with his stick and can use it for effective poke checks or to eliminate passing lanes. Physically, he will eliminate opponents along the wall with strong checks and rub outs.

Weaknesses:

  • Hockey Sense

In order to truly establish himself as an elite defensive prospect and separate himself from the pack, Broberg will need to improve upon his hockey sense. At this time, his sense is strong offensively, showing an understanding of when to move the puck up ice with a pass and when it is safe to rush the puck himself.

However, defensively, Broberg can be found chasing the puck and leaving himself out of position at times. If he can evolve to play a calm and composed defensive game along with his aggressive offensive style, Broberg should be one of the top defencemen at next year’s draft.

Future Potential:

At this time, Broberg projects to be a top-pairing defencemen at the NHL level. He has showcased an elite ability to chip in offensively along with an effective skating ability. Comparables include John Klingberg and Ivan Provorov. Heading into the 2018-19 season, Broberg forecasts to be a Top-10 pick at the 2019 NHL Draft, and one of the first defencemen chosen.

2019 NHL Draft Ranking: Pre-Season Top-10

It’s Prospect Pipeline’s first 2019 NHL Draft Ranking of the season! In this edition, we have listed, profiled, and analyzed the top-10 players available for selection.

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.

2019 NHL Draft Logo
The 2019 NHL Draft will welcome a wealth of talent to the NHL-level.

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

Position: Centre

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.

Raphael Lavoie
Lavoie blends size and skill into a lethal all-around game. (Photo: David Chan)

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

Position: Defence

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.

Bowen Byram
A strong two-way game and excellent on-ice awareness fuels Byram’s play. (Photo: Chris Relke)

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

Position: Defence

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

Position: Centre

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

Position: Right-Wing

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

Position: Left-Wing

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.

Peyton Krebs
Lightning-quick skating and hands highlight Krebs’ abilities on the ice.

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

Position: Centre

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

Position: Centre

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.

Dylan Cozens
Cozens is a dominating force — his size, speed, and natural puck handling abilities are a lethal combination. (Photo: Erica Perreaux)

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

Position: Right-Wing

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

Position: Centre

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.

Jack Hughes
Like Kane, Hughes has risen to stardom as a member of USA Hockey’s NTDP. (Photo Credit: Rena Laverty and USA Hockey’s NTDP)

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.

Jack Hughes
Although he played his youth hockey in Ontario, Canada, Hughes is the future face of American hockey. (Photo Credit: Rena Laverty and USA Hockey’s NTDP)

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

NHL Prospect Profile: Raphaël Lavoie

Raphaël Lavoie is a fan-favourite power forward who gives his all each shift. He’s got a knack for scoring goals, both dirty and highlight-reel worthy. Add in a massive frame and you get a projected 1st round pick.

– Raphaël Lavoie –

Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) | Center/Right Wing | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Montréal, Québec, Canada | September 25, 2000 | 6-foot-4, 192-pounds

Raphaël Lavoie is a gifted power forward in the making with an elite level goal-scoring ability. Not only does he have sniper’s instincts, but he is also tough to stop in front of the net with the ability to deflect pucks and hunt for rebounds. As a late 2000-born prospect, Lavoie racked up 30 goals and 63 points for the Mooseheads in ’17-18, leading all 2019 NHL Draft eligible players in those categories in the QMJHL.

Lavoie is also an impressive skater for a player of his size, featuring strong edgework and a quick first three steps, he has the ability to blow by defenders on the rush. He left a lasting impression at the 2018 IIHF U18 Championships, chipping in five goals in five games for Team Canada.

Strengths:

  • Shot
  • Net-Front Skill
  • Size and Strength

Lavoie possesses all the major skills to be a menacing power forward at the NHL level. His shot is powerful and accurate, with a lightning quick release that he can get off in tight spaces. He can also score the dirty goals as well, often positioning himself in front of the net for screens, deflections, and rebounds.

Raphaël Lavoie is a force to be reckoned with, and should find increased success with the 2019 Memorial Cup host, Halifax Mooseheads in 2018-19. Photo credit – David Chan

With his size and strength, Lavoie is extremely tough for defenders to move from the net-front, and even tougher to face when he is flying down on the rush. He uses his frame well to protect the puck and brush off checks, often bullying his way into dangerous scoring areas.

Weaknesses:

  • Defensive Awareness

Lavoie is an offence-first player, no doubt about it. As such, his defensive awareness is often criticized for being below average. As a winger, he can often get away with protecting his point, but when lining up as a center, he often neglects his defensive duties to protect the front of his net.

Lavoie’s scoring abilities are hard to pass up, but if he is able to include reliable defensive positioning and backchecks, he would make himself an impossible to miss prospect. Until then, it’s likely that NHL scouts will see Lavoie as a future winger in the league instead.

Future Potential:

Raphaël Lavoie looks to be a future top-six winger at the NHL level. While his offensive abilities are tantalizing, he has yet to show a maturity to play the defensive role that comes with playing center. Comparables include Blake Wheeler and Logan Couture. Heading into his NHL Draft eligible season, Lavoie projects to be a Top-15 pick at the 2019 NHL Draft.

NHL Prospect Profile: Alex Turcotte

Alex Turcotte has often fallen into the shadows of Jack Hughes, but make no mistake, Turcotte is a smart, playmaking center who can be trusted in the defensive zone as well. There aren’t many flaws to this prospect’s game.

– Alex Turcotte –

USA Hockey’s NTDP | Center | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Walled Lake, Michigan, USA | February 26, 2001 | 5-foot-11, 194-pounds

Alex Turcotte has been able to fly under the radar of the 2019 NHL Draft as a result of being slotted behind Jack Hughes as the team’s second center. However, scouts took notice of Turcotte during the 2017-18 season, where he tallied eight goals and 32 points in 31 games with the U17 squad in USHL action.

Turcotte is a phenomenal skater who can burn opponents at both ends of the ice. He is a responsible center who is trusted by his coaches in all situations. A pass-first player, Turcotte is an elite playmaker who can create time and space for his teammates or set the up for tap-in goals.

Strengths:

  • Hockey Sense
  • Skating
  • Playmaking

Alex Turcotte is the ideal player to fit the new era of NHL style; skating, smarts, and vision. He sees the ice as well as anyone and can hold on or cycle the puck with ease to create time for his teammates. Turcotte can dictate the pace of the game through his ability to read developing plays and the acceleration and agility to turn on the jets instantaneously.

Alex Turcotte is regarded as a two-way center, but his dynamic playmaking abilities can often go underrated. Photo Credit – Rena Laverty and USA Hockey’s NTDP

The aforementioned skills allow Turcotte to be an excellent playmaker. He can find passing lanes through traffic with ease or skate his way into an area that creates passing options for himself. Not to mention, his defensive awareness is spectacular. Turcotte’s smarts extend into his own end to break up passes and force turnovers regularly.

Weaknesses:

  • Shot

Alex Turcotte is a playmaker by heart for a reason. His shot won’t blow goaltenders away with its power, nor catch them off-guard with a quick release. It’s likely as a result of this fact that Turcotte has had to prioritize his role as an exemplary passer.

In fact, Turcotte’s shot may be the only aspect of his game that precludes him from being a top-five or even top-three pick at the 2019 NHL Draft. There are so many gifted goal scorers in the upcoming draft class that teams may opt for scoring touch over playmaking talent. With that said, if Turcotte can improve upon his goal totals in 2018-19, we could see his draft stock skyrocket quickly.

Future Potential:

Alex Turcotte forecasts as a top-six center at the NHL level. His offensive abilities can often go underrated as a result of his impressive two-way play, but Turcotte has all the skills to be a point-producer at the next level. Comparables include Ryan Johansen and Paul Stastny. Turcotte projects to be a Top-10 pick at the 2019 NHL Draft entering his U18 campaign.

NHL Prospect Profile: Peyton Krebs

Peyton Krebs possesses all the tools that coaches dream of, strong skating, excellent playmaking, and responsible two-way play. He is trusted in all situations, and won’t last long at the 2019 NHL Draft for those reasons.

– Peyton Krebs –

Kootenay Ice (WHL) | Left Wing/Center | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Okotoks, Alberta, Canada | January 26, 2001 | 5-foot-11, 181-pounds

Peyton Krebs was the 1st overall pick in a stacked 2016 WHL Bantam Draft, and remains the top player of the 2001-born group from the ‘Dub’ two years later. Piling up 17 goals and 54 points over 67 games for the Ice last year, Krebs was often the most dangerous forward on an improving Kootenay team. His point totals led all U17 players in the WHL in ’17-18.

Krebs is a primarily a playmaker in the offensive zone, but also boasts a very responsible two-way game. In August, Krebs qiuckly became a leader for Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Cup, both on and off the ice, in pursuit of a gold medal.

Strengths:

  • Skating
  • Playmaking
  • Two-Way Play

Peyton Krebs is a five-tool player who can burn opponents in all assets of the game. Offensively, he is a gifted playmaker who can stick handle in a phone booth and dish passes through all kinds of traffic. He reaches impressive top speeds and utilizes great edgework to remain agile at all times.

Peyton Krebs is a reliable two-way player as well as a leader on and off the ice in Kootenay.

Krebs can also reliably play down the middle, back-checking hard to support his defencemen and using a smart stick to take away passing lanes and break up plays. He showcases tremendous awareness at both ends of the ice through his ability to find teammates as well as to position himself in the most effective area.

Weaknesses:

  • Dynamic Scoring Ability

While Peyton Krebs’ 17 goals are nothing to turn your head at, he certainly has room to improve in his innate goal-scoring ability. As earlier mentioned, Krebs is a pass-first type of player, due to his excellent vision which allows his to see passing lanes that others cannot.

With that said, Krebs’ shot is not yet powerful enough to be regarded as elite. Perhaps with the added strength that will come with continued training, his shot will get there, but at this time, it remains an area for improvement. In any case, as Kootenay continues to build a stronger roster for 2018-19, it would be a safe bet to assume his goal totals will increase significantly this year.

Future Potential:

Peyton Krebs forecasts as a potential top-line winger at the NHL level. While his defensive game is strong enough to play center, he’s likely better suited to stick on the wing to maximize his offensive potential. Comparables include Brayden Point and Josh Bailey. Heading into the ’18-19 season, Krebs projects to be a Top-5 pick at the 2019 NHL Draft.

NHL Prospect Profile: Ryan Suzuki

Ryan Suzuki is one of the smartest players available for the 2019 NHL Draft, combining tremendous skating and playmaking abilities to rack up points and likely become a top-15 pick at next year’s draft.

– Ryan Suzuki –

Barrie Colts (OHL) | Center | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

London, Ontario, Canada | May 28, 2001 | 6-foot, 172-pounds

Ryan Suzuki, brother of Golden Knights’ prospect, Nick, was the 1st overall selection at the 2017 OHL Priority Selection. A natural playmaker, Ryan has incredible hockey sense, dubbed one of the smartest OHL prospects in recent years by Elite Prospects. He racked up 14 goals and 44 points in 64 games with the Colts last year.

Suzuki skates effortlessly and can beat defenders to the outside with impressive top speeds. He has performed admirably in international competition for Team Canada, including the IIHF U17 Championships and the recent Hlinka Gretzky Cup, quickly rising to be an on-ice leader for both teams.

Strengths:

  • Hockey Sense
  • Skating
  • Playmaking

Suzuki is an incredibly smart individual, on and off the ice. He seems to see the game one step ahead of everyone else, utilizing his innate instincts to find open space. Suzuki uses this ability when in possession of the puck as well, slowing the game down to find minuscule passing lanes which create scoring chances for his teammates.

Ryan Suzuki effectively utilized his hockey sense and innate vision to quickly become  one of the Colts’ top playmakers during his rookie year. Expect a breakout year in ’18-19 as he gets first-line minutes. Photo Credit – Miranda Zilkowsky Photography

A smooth skater, Suzuki accelerates quickly and maintains incredible agility at top speeds while controlling the puck with ease. He has surprising lower-body strength and can employ it to protect the puck against larger opponents. Suzuki also has astonishingly silky hands and the creativity to turn defenders inside out regularly.

Weaknesses:

  • Consistent Scoring Ability

While Suzuki has shown flashes of dynamic scoring abilities, he has yet to consistently use his underrated shot at the OHL level. On a strong Barrie team last year, Suzuki tended to resort to feeding his teammates more often than using his own shot. If he wants to rise up the draft rankings in 2019, Suzuki will need to find ways to use his shot more consistently.

With many of the Colts’ top centermen moving on from last year, Suzuki is sure to see top-line minutes each night in 2018-19. As such, he must use his strong wrist shot to earn the respect of his opponents. If he can prove to be both a dangerous sniper and playmaker, then watch for his goal and point totals to increase exponentially this season.

Future Potential:

Ryan Suzuki projects to be a top-six center at the NHL level. He plays a complete 200-foot game and has the hockey sense and skating abilities to thrive in today’s league as an elite playmaker.  Comparables include Claude Giroux and Mathew Barzal. Heading into the ’18-19 season, Suzuki projects to be a Top-15 pick at the 2019 NHL Draft.