5 NHL Prospects Set to Explode

Long overlooked due to their size, play, or exposure, be sure to keep an eye trained on these five 2019 NHL Draft prospects — they’re ready to explode in 2018-19.

The 2019 NHL Draft will be loaded with young players of elite talent and immense potential, yet the class of 2019 will also boast a number of prospects who have been wrongly overlooked for far too long.

Whether it be a lack of size, exposure, or proven play, the coming Draft will hold a number of hidden gems waiting to be unearthed.

[RELATED: Five Underrated 2019 NHL Draft Prospects to Watch]

After all, it is these overlooked prospects who typically become crucial players within Stanley Cup winning organizations. Sure, each and every NHL team needs its fair share of stars, but critical depth players who can provide a secondary scoring touch or eat major minutes are also critical components of any winning franchise.

Case in point?

Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals who, despite being selected 93rd overall in the 2008 NHL Draft, was essential to the Capitals’ Stanley Cup championship in 2017-18.

With this being said, here are five largely overlooked prospects set to explode during the upcoming 2018-19 campaign — in alphabetical order:

1. Cole Caufield

Position: Centre/ Right-Wing

2018-19 Team: USA NTDP U18

Cole Caufield is one of the 2019 NHL Draft’s most lethal snipers — he potted 54 goals in just 59 games played for USA Hockey’s NTDP last season, one off of Auston Matthews’ program record of 55 set in 2014-15.

Yet, in addition to his goal-scoring prowess, Caufield is one of the smallest players eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft — a reality which has come to unfairly affect the native of Mosinee, Wisconsin’s stock as an NHL prospect. Standing 5-foot-6 and 160-pounds, Caufield’s lack of size has long been viewed as a deficiency, however, it has never had a glaring impact on his abilities on the ice.

Throughout his young career to date, Caufield has been a remarkably lethal and consistent goal-scorer regardless of where he has played. Fuelled by an accurate shot and a willingness to drive hard to the net, Caufield has learned to score in a multitude of manners and stands as a versatile presence as a result.

2. Nolan Foote

Position: Left-Wing

2018-19 Team: Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

The sport of hockey runs rampant in Nolan Foote’s veins — his father Adam played in 1154 career NHL games, while his older brother Cal was chosen by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft.

However, unlike those who share his bloodline, the youngest Foote is a forward rather than a defenceman — and an incredibly skilful one at that.

Entering into his third WHL season with the Kelowna Rockets in 2018-19, Foote stands as one of this year’s most promising and dynamic power-forwards. Tipping the scale at 190-pounds and standing 6-foot-3, Foote boasts the size of his siblings and the skill to match.

For Foote, his game is founded upon his excellent and heavy shot. Able to release the puck in a split-second and capable of pounding it on goal with remarkable accuracy, Foote’s booming shot has the ability to beat opposing goaltenders clean. Although he has missed time due to injury over the past few seasons, expect Foote to lead the perennial powerhouse Kelowna Rockets in scoring this season.

3. Anttoni Honka

Position: Defence

2018-19 Team: JYP (Liiga)

Much like his fellow countryman Miro Heiskanen did leading up to the 2016 NHL Draft, expect Anttoni Honka’s draft stock to soar as the 2018-19 season progresses.

As a fleet-footed defenceman who plays a strong two-way game, Honka is mature beyond his years both on and off of the ice. Known for his ability to play a professional-style of game while remaining poised and composed, Honka will suit up for JYP at the Liiga-level this year despite his young age of just 18 years.

What makes Honka unique, however, is the innate offensive abilities which he brings to the ice on a nightly basis. Extremely creative and confident in his puck-handling abilities, Honka will attempt highlight-reel plays without hesitation and execute them with remarkable consistency.

Although slightly undersized for a defenceman given his 5-foot-10 and 170-pound frame, Honka’s intelligence and ability to navigate throughout the ice allows him to elude his competition’s at-times physical approach.

4. Alex Newhook

Position: Centre

2018-19 Team: Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)

Alex Newhook is one of the 2019 NHL Draft’s most polarizing prospects.

While many view Newhook’s game as elite based on his stellar skating and natural offensive instincts, others hold differing opinions. For the most part, these alternate views derive from the fact that Newhook plays in the BCHL as opposed to the WHL, for example.

After all, he is committed to Boston College for the 2019-20 campaign.

However, this choice should not deter NHL franchises from selecting Newhook in the 2019 NHL Draft, as the native of St. John’s, Newfoundland has long been viewed as one of this year’s top young talents.

In fact, with Victoria last season as a 16-year-old, Newhook blasted home 22 goals and 66 points in just 45 games played — an output which earned Newhook the Bruce Allison Memorial Trophy as the BCHL’s Rookie of the Year.

5. Josh Williams

 Position: Right-Wing

2018-19 Team: Medicine Hat Tigers

As the fifth-overall selection from the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft, it goes without saying that Josh Williams is an incredibly talented player of immense potential.

However, a somewhat satisfactory rookie campaign with the Medicine Hat Tigers last season seems to have quieted the excitement surrounding Williams. In his 47 games played with the Tigers in 2017-18, Williams netted 11 goals and 20 points — a total which stood as the 25th-best output by a WHL rookie.

So, as if determined to prove himself as an elite prospect, Williams burst onto the scene for Team Canada at the recent Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Despite facing overwhelming competition in order to crack his country’s roster, Williams not only made the team but played a significant role in its success. In fact, in his five games played in the tournament, Williams collected five goals and six points — including a timely marker against Team Sweden which helped cement Team Canada’s Gold Medal.

So, although his skating could stand to improve and he would do well to achieve greater consistency, it remains abundantly clear that Williams is a prospect to watch this season. With a somewhat quiet WHL campaign in-hand alongside a Hlinka Gretzky Championship, expect Williams’ international success to fuel his WHL breakout.

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NHL Prospect Profile: Alex Newhook

Alex Newhook of the Victoria Grizzlies stands as one of the 2019 NHL Draft’s most promising prospects.

– Alex Newhook –

Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL) | Center | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

St. John’s, Newfoundland | January 28, 2001 | 5-foot-11, 183-pounds

Alex Newhook has gone on quite the adventure in his hockey career for just a 17-year-old. Born in Newfoundland, he would travel to Ontario to play for the York-Simcoe Express for his bantam and minor midget seasons, where he led the league in scoring with 43 goals and 74 points in just 33 games. With a commitment to Boston College, Newhook had a choice to either pursue NCAA hockey, or to play in the QMJHL where the Halifax Mooseheads hold his rights.

He would ultimately opt for the NCAA route, which led him to an opportunity to play for the Victoria Grizzles in British Columbia, completing his cross-country trek. In his rookie campaign, Newhook would lead the league in points-per-game, with 1.47, backed by 22 goals and 66 points in 45 games. Newhook will return as the Grizzlies’ captain for 2018-19.

Strengths:

  • Hockey Sense
  • Skating
  • Puck Handling
  • Playmaking

Alex Newhook is another on a long list of incredible forwards for the 2019 NHL Draft. Simply put, Newhook can do it all offensively. As with all top prospects in today’s era of hockey, Newhook’s success is driven by exemplary hockey sense and skating abilities. He can reach top speeds in an electric first three steps and has the agility to weave through his opponents like butter.

Combine the skating with some tremendous hands and you get a dynamic center who can be expected to produce a highlight reel goal each night. Asides from turning defenders inside out, Newhook understands how to utilize other players on the ice to generate scoring chances. He has excellent vision of the ice and can dangle through opponents with ease before setting up teammates for an open-net goal.

Weaknesses:

  • Shot

It’s not easy to list Newhook’s shot as a weakness given his insane gaol totals over the years, but if there’s an area of improvement that could turn him into a superstar at the next level, it would be his shot strength. A strong portion of Newhook’s goals come from one-timers into an open cage or off of a finish to a breakaway move.

If Newhook can add some muscle and put a few more miles per hour into his shot, he would add an extra element to his bag of tricks. Giving opponents reason to respect both your shot and playmaking potential will drive teams wild and only increase Newhook’s potential as a point-producing stud in the NCAA, and even the professional ranks.

Future Potential:

Alex Newhook’s NHL outlook appears to be as a first-line center who can drive offence in multiple ways and be relied upon as a power-play weapon. He is a point-producing machine and a game-changer each night. Comparables include Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene. Newhook projects to be a top-5 selection at the 2019 NHL Draft heading into the ’18-19 campaign.