2019 NHL Draft
Post-Lottery Mock Draft
Steve Kournianos | 10/01/2018 | Nashville |
NASHVILLE (The Draft Analyst) — For the second time in three years, the New Jersey Devils won the NHL’s golden ticket in last night’s draft lottery drawing, edging out the rival New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks, who finished second and third, respectively. By doing so, the Devils have the rights to choose between two of the world’s premier draft prospects – center Jack Hughes and Finnish sniper Kaapo Kakko.
Although the NHL swears its lottery system is designed to limit the tendency of a losing team looking to lose more, simply for the sake of gaining a higher pick, all three of Tuesday’s winners leapfrogged teams that finished worse in the standings. The Blackhawks, which had the 12th-best odds to land in the top three, became the newest example of the fringe playoff team that jumped a bottom dweller via the luck of the draw. Chicago owned a 13-point advantage over the Los Angeles Kings in the regular season, but come June, it will be the Hawks in possession of the higher pick.
Last year, the Carolina Hurricanes, ranked 11thin the drawing order, finished 16 points ahead of the Ottawa Senators but took home the second overall pick. In 2017, the teams with the highest probability of winning a top-three pick — Colorado, Vancouver and then-expansion Vegas – all were bumped out by lower-ranked teams, including the Devils, who went from fifth all the way to drafting Nico Hischier first overall.
To be fair, no club involved in last night’s draft lottery should be considered a candidate on the brink of one day achieving postseason success of any significance. All 15 teams, including the 96-point Montreal Canadiens, have varying levels of housekeeping to conduct before they can even think about becoming Stanley Cup contenders.
And although the paths by which each of the teams involved arrived at the drawing certainly differ in scope and scale, the vibrant enthusiasm surrounding the event gave each fanbase something to hope for, even if that one thing – a high first-round pick in the June draft – wasn’t going to be revealed by the broadcasting networks until after a dreadfully misplaced playoff preview.
The depth of the top half of this year’s draft crop is noticeably strong, specifically in the form of a half-dozen centers, all with franchise-changing potential. Whether it’s Hughes or Kakko to go first overall, the resumes of the NHL’s two premier draft prospects for 2019 were not only thrust before a national audience, but also increased the intensity of the Hughes-vs-Kakko debate from a low-flame simmer to a rolling boil. Additionally, NHL scouting departments must continue with their evaluation processes to try and determine which players outside of Hughes or Kakko will be the best fit for their respective organizations.
With that said, let’s take a stab at figuring out how the top half of the upcoming draft will unfold:
- New Jersey Devils: Jack Hughes, Center, U.S. U18 (NTDP): With all due respect to the likes of Kirk Muller and even Nico Hischier, the Devils have never had a center whose skill alone was enough to fill the seats. Hughes is an exceptional playmaker with ridiculous speed who has the potential to become the franchise’s first marketable superstar
- New York Rangers: Kaapo Kakko, Right Wing, TPS Turku (SM-Liiga): Kakko is exactly what the Rangers want and need – a powerful goal scorer with quickness and strength who can wear down any defender. He’ll be the highest draft pick in Blueshirts history since Hall of Fame defenseman Brad Park went second overall in 1966.
- Chicago Blackhawks: Alex Turcotte, Center, U.S. U18 (NTDP): Jonathan Toews may have had a career year statistically, but he turns 31 later this month. Turcotte, who grew up just north of Chicago, is fast and an assassin with the puck, but also plays a tough, 200-foot game. He’ll play for the University of Wisconsin next fall.
- Colorado Avalanche: Trevor Zegras, Center, U.S. U18 (NTDP): If you swap jersey numbers between Hughes and this dynamic playmaker, you might have a tough time determining who is who. Zegras, a Boston University recruit, has world-class vision, silky-smooth moves and can enter the offensive zone cleaner than anyone outside of his aforementioned teammate.
- Los Angeles Kings: Bowen Byram, Defenseman, Vancouver (WHL): Kings’ GM Rob Blake was a physical puck mover himself during his Hall-of-Fame career, so you have to think he’s impressed with this rugged point-producing machine who would be the perfect option to identify as Drew Doughty’s eventual replacement.
- Detroit Red Wings: Dylan Cozens, Center, Lethbridge (WHL):Cozens offers the rebuilding Wings everything they would want in a prospect – skill, speed, power and effort. His shift-to-shift consistency and play without the puck is just part of a multi-tool package that should turn him into a productive top-line player in Detroit.
- Buffalo Sabres: Kirby Dach, Center, Saskatoon (WHL):A big-bodied playmaker with exceptional puck skills, Dach can turn just about any linemate into a scoring threat. Few players taller than 6-foot-4 can find a way to be elusive within the tightness of the offensive zone, but Dach consistently spins and pivots away from pressure before threading the needle with an impressive set-up.
- Edmonton Oilers: Peyton Krebs, Center, Kootenay (WHL): As the search for support for Connor McDavid intensifies, the Oilers would be smart in nabbing this toolsy pivot as a legitimate option. Krebs was just as productive as Dach, albeit on a much thinner team. He can win big draws, swiftly move through the zone with his head up and create and finish plays with a high degree of difficulty. A real on-ice leader who plays with an edge.
- Anaheim Ducks: Matthew Boldy, Left Wing, U.S. U18 (NTDP): One of the draft’s smartest players also is one of its most versatile, as Boldy has worn numerous hats on a stacked NTDP squad that always thinks offense. He is extremely clean with the puck and owns a cannon for a shot, but his powerful stride and anticipation makes him an asset on the backcheck and in coverage.
- Vancouver Canucks: Vasily Podkolzin, Right Wing, SKA Neva (VHL): The draft’s toughest competitor also has game-breaking skill and the ability to deliver daggers in the clutch. Podkolzin is one of Russia’s most heralded prospects in the last decade or so, and the intensity he plays with cannot be matched by any of his draft peers. He hates to lose and has a long memory, which translates to bad news for his opponents.
- Philadelphia Flyers: Cole Caufield, Right Wing, U.S. U18 (NTDP): The draft’s purest goal scorer might also possess the best disposition on or off the ice. Caufield is listed at 5-foot-6, but he plays a lot bigger than his measurements. He recently beat Phil Kessel’s NTDP career goal-scoring mark, posting consecutive seasons of 54 goals.
- Minnesota Wild: Pavel Dorofeyev, Left Wing, Stalnye Lisy (MHL): Why this cerebral dual threat isn’t universally mentioned as a possible top-10 pick, let alone a first rounder, is very surprising. Dorofeyev’s ability to execute odd-man rushes and maximize his time in the offensive zone is advanced for a teenager. It’s not common for a neophyte to earn a regular shift in the KHL, but Dorofeyev certainly earned his ice time.
- Florida Panthers: Spencer Knight, Goalie, U.S. 18 (NTDP): The Panthers definitely are averse to drafting goalies – only five have been drafted by the organization in the last nine years. Maybe time for a new strategy, no? Knight has drawn comparison’s to a young Carey Price, and even a draft deep in netminders should not stop the Cats from adding a much-needed piece to their stacked prospect pool.
- Arizona Coyotes: Raphael Lavoie, Right Wing, Halifax (QMJHL): A versatile forward with size who is as lethal shooting the puck as he is passing it. Lavoie plays a similar style to Kakko in that he’s a powerful skater who creates time and space with his stickhandling. It also doesn’t hurt having an accurate shot and quick release.
- Montreal Canadiens: Ville Heinola, Defenseman, Lukko (SM-Liiga): Teams rarely draft to fill immediate needs at the NHL level, but Montreal’s abysmal power play could trigger a decision to draft this brilliant puck mover, who played a composed, mature game as a pre-draft teenager in the Finland’s top circuit. Heinola is an elusive, one-man breakout who passes the puck with flair and accuracy.