Florida Panthers: 2019 NHL Draft Prospect Rankings

VANCOUVER, BC - JANUARY 5: Kaapo Kakko #24 of Finland celebrates after scoring what proved to be the game winning goal against the United States in Gold Medal hockey action of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship on January, 5, 2019 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Ryan Poehling #11, goalie Cayden Primeau #30 and Mikey Anderson #26 of the United States are pictured in the background. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - JANUARY 5: Kaapo Kakko #24 of Finland celebrates after scoring what proved to be the game winning goal against the United States in Gold Medal hockey action of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship on January, 5, 2019 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Ryan Poehling #11, goalie Cayden Primeau #30 and Mikey Anderson #26 of the United States are pictured in the background. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /

Leave your defensive turnovers and incompetent coaches at the door. I cannot tell you anything you don’t already know or feel about this year.

This Florida Panthers article will focus firmly on the hypothetical future. Who should Florida faithful study up on prior to the summer? That, I can tell you.

The World Junior (if you want to impress a Canadian, drop the “s” in juniors) Championship is over, Finland is rightfully Golden.

The tournament saw Medal Round favorites Canada and Sweden fail to make headway. Though we don’t know what hockey we lost with them out, we do know the Semi-Finals and Final held it down with some exciting hockey nonetheless.

For Florida fans, Grigori Denisenko was the best forward in the tournament and Aleksi Heponiemi also shown well in the playoff round.

Owen Tippett struggled in Canada’s playoff game but showed improvement by making the team this year, and looking like one of the better wingers in the three zones in Round Robin play.

Moreover, the WJC is a big stage for the draft year. The top 3 prospects from our Whyhockey Prospect Rankings below received tons of ice time, held large shot metric advantages while on the ice, and had their coaches trust as double underagers (this is a 19-year-olds tournament after all). Whyhockey’s season-long #1 prospect even had the golden goal!

Yes, that’s right. Jack Hughes is not #1, and it’s not a product of his WJC injury (whatever it was or wasn’t) nor Kaapo Kakko’s golden goal.

Hughes, an average height skinny pivot plays on one of the highest talent National Development programs since they entered the USHL junior league out in the Midwest US.

If you look at many drafting sites, the entire top-six forwards and top-four defensemen from that squad are all represented somewhere in most people’s top 45.

Good luck finding other prospects who consistently play with such talent and against such inferior talent.

This team plays against a junior league where the top 25% *may* become every day Division 1 NCAA hockey players, and are 19 or 20-years-old in the USHL. It’s a season worth of USHL All-Stars vs. some USHL team.

Prior to this year, Hughes broke the majority of records US Hockey Dev team had to break. Passing names like Patrick Kane, Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel.

But unlike his brother Quinn, or Kane, Matthews, Eichel, Jack stayed at the Dev Team for his draft year. Being a later birthday than those others may play a role, however, it’s not a satisfactory reason to risk stagnation in a big development year.

Should that knock Jack down too many spots? No, not at all. But it’s hard to be the best in a draft class if you aren’t playing at a high level.

Also, it’s not just about Hughes. Kakko is as first-rate a player and his ability to keep an upward trajectory in a professional league can’t be ignored because the Hughes family is well hyped, well known, and well-connected to NHL scouting circles.

There is a real dilemma for scouts when judging what Kaapo Kakko can do as a top center in a pro league verse men and what Jack Hughes can do playing in the fourth best junior league in North America with no challenges.

Had Jack gone to CHL or NCAA (professional overseas not an option given his age), scouts would be able to see exactly what he could do against a new competition level, and while juggling a new environment.

For now, the only challenge Jack Hughes had was WJC and while healthy he looked good but no more so than most draft-eligible first rounders do in WJC yearly.

Simply put, the Jack Hughes clear-cut #1 is media hype. On a hockey basis, it’s at best (for Jack) a 1a-1b. But there is real evidence and argument for a clear 1 and 2, with the 2 being Hughes.

Before I keep yapping, here is the full list. Top 31+3 HM + 9 Goalies!


  1. Kaapo Kakko, C, TPS, Liiga.
  2. Jack Hughes, C, US, USHL.
  3. Vasili Podkolzin, RW, SKA, MHL.
  4. Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon, WHL.
  5. Dylan Cozens, C/RW, Lethbridge, WHL.
  6. Bowen Byram, D, Vancouver, WHL.
  7. Arthur Kaliyev, LW, Hamilton, OHL.
  8. Mikko Kokkonen, D, Jukurit, Liiga.
  9. Philip Broberg, D, AIK, Allsvenskan.
  10. Ryan Suzuki, C, Barrie, OHL.
  11. Raphael Lavoie, C/RW, Halifax, QMJHL.
  12. Matthew Boldy, LW, US, USHL.
  13. Tobias Bjornfot, D, Djurgardens, SuperElit.
  14. Lassi Thomson, D, Kelowna, WHL.
  15. Trevor Zegras, C, US, USHL.
  16. Ville Heinola, D, Lukko, Liiga.
  17. Anttoni Honka, D, JYP/KeuPA, Liiga/Mestis.
  18. Kaedan Korczak, D, Kelowna, WHL.
  19. Jakob Pelletier, LW, Moncton, QMJHL.
  20. Nolan Foote, LW, Kelowna, WHL.
  21. Peyton Krebs, LW, Kootenay, WHL.
  22. Victor Soderstrom, D, Brynas, SHL.
  23. Patrik Puistola, LW, Leki, Mestis.
  24. Albin Grewe, C/RW, Djugardens, SuperElit.
  25. Alex Turcotte, C, US, USHL.
  26. Matvei Guskov, C, London, OHL.
  27. Max Wahlgren, F, Modo, SuperElit.
  28. Yegor Spiridonov, LW, Metallurg, MHL.
  29. Yegor Serdyuk, RW, Victoriaville, QMJHL.
  30. Matthew Robertson, D, Edmonton, WHL.
  31. Alex Vlasic, D, US, USHL.
  32. Oleg Zaitsev, C, Red Deer, WHL.
  33. Marcus Kallionkieli, F, Sioux City, USHL.
  34. Cole Caufield, C/RW, US, USHL.


  1. Spencer Knight, US, USHL.
  2. Dustin Wolf, Everett, WHL.
  3. Mads Sogaard, Medicine Hat, WHL.
  4. Kari Piiroinen, Windsor, OHL.
  5. Hunter Jones, Peterborough, OHL.
  6. Nolan Maier, Saskatoon, WHL.
  7. Lucas Rheyneuclaudes, Djugardens, SuperElit.
  8. Isaiah Saville, Tri City, USHL.
  9. Hugo Alnefelt, HV71, SuperElit.

Looking at the list, the top 3 are on their own, and really there is a bit of a gap, in my mind, after Kakko. Outside lucking into a lotto pick, Florida shouldn’t get too accustomed to those three forwards. They aren’t likely on the menu.

Florida must also try to avoid the late Spring winning that would cement them in the teens. While Tippett is coming around, and Denisenko looks good at the moment, most drafts start to drop more dramatically after picks 8 or 9.

That seems to be the case with this draft class as well. Broberg and Suzuki are the last forward and defender prospects I’d consider a large enough reward for such a pathetic season in a Must Make Playoffs Year.

Picks 1 through 3 are pretty likely to be first liners. Picks 4-10 have a good shot at becoming first liners.

Picks 11-end of the first are different degrees of confidence that could be in the top half of the lineup. A ‘good’ draft in my opinion but still much time to change that outlook up or down.

Kirby Dach is Whyhockey’s pick for best of the rest and sits at #4 on our list. Despite a recent slump in WHL, Dach is a towering right-handed center who owns high IQ and has an adept touch of the puck.

Fellow WHLer and righty Dylan Cozens has turned up his production and could jump Dach. Cozens is less cerebral and headsy but just as toolsy and a scorer rather than Dach’s puck distributor style.

Florida could easily use a right-handed center. McCann has shown that as a center, that he doesn’t have the offense and IQ to drive a line.

Trocheck, a heck of a player and a righty center, has shown over the past two years some struggles to find a working line.

Trocheck to wing is a move that makes a lot of sense down the road, and with Borgstrom and Dach or Cozens, it’s a move that doesn’t need to be forced or rushed in the first few seasons.

Arthur Kaliyev is not as well rounded, isn’t a center and that will (even in 2019) move him down the charts a few spots.

But Kaliyev produces at a pace that is hard not to bet on and the necessary IQ is there for him to find a way to transition to NHL gameplay. Outside the Top 5, Kaliyev is the risk/reward skill guy to bet on.

Florida is likely to pick 7th or 8th (if they don’t try to win the last few games of the year). That would be a prime spot for taking a defender.

More from The Rat Trick

Florida’s current defensive need is at the NHL level, and it’s unlikely any defender drafted in this draft is in the NHL next year, or helpful at the NHL level next year.

But like Ty Smith last year, Bowen Byram, Mikko Kokkonen, and Philip Broberg are prospects that fulfill actual defensive duties and play possession style.

But if we are being honest, Max Gildon hasn’t had the same year this year. Riley Stillman was playing forward in the AHL this year and they apparently don’t like Thomas Schemitsch as much as they should.

The team clearly needs to abandon whatever definition of a defenseman Eric Joyce came up with. The defense is BARREN.

They have their riverboat gambler in Yandle, maybe a top-four defenseman in Ekblad if they can get him thinking again, and then… ooooofta. Very little and very little being developed right.

Hate to draft for need but they might need to, especially if Kaiyev is off the board by the time they’re on the clock.

Florida would do wonders to acquire a second rounder, as they lost theirs in the Hoffman trade over the summer. Why? That would be the best place to select a goalie (or even another defender).

Most teams are done with first-round goalies, though the talk around Spencer Knight could easily result in a late 20s pick.

In most years, I would even hesitate around a second-round pick for a goalie unless you are grabbing one of the few at the top of the class.

Along with Knight, Dustin Wolf, Mads Sogaard, Kari Piiroinen, and Hunter Jones are goalies who at the moment could necessitate an early or late second-round pick given how hard up Florida is for future goalies.

Stay tuned for the Whyhockey Prospect Podcast with a guest who knows the WHL and European prospects well. In a draft dominated by WHL and Europe, that is clutch.

Next. Florida Dry Out Against Mediocre Canucks. dark

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