The rankings I’ve done in the past for the defunct Whyhockey site tended to skew away from the consensus. But this year, this year is more divergent than most.
That is a little bit by accident — a bias towards European players in a mainly North American focused scouting community usually puts you behind the popular opinion.
A little bit by choice — a conscious eye for unique and under-scouted-or-hyped prospects. The benefit to you is, this is just another new opinion to consider. My bias thoughts and rankings for the draft you can find educational or sensational or even wasteful.
2019 is an average depth, average talent draft class — not that there is anything wrong with that. You have a clear-cut franchise type player at #1, Kaapo Kakko, with a solid challenger in Jack Hughes.
The last handful of draft classes showed the generational shift in skating technique and speed. That trend continues this year with an emphasis on edge work and transition rather than just blazing speed.
This year I noticed a lot of players whose main skill is IQ — players with quick game processing ability, almost supernatural awareness and vision, and using their skillset in the best way to hide any limitations, or be effective when not on the scoresheet.
It’s perfectly reasonable to bump players up a tier based on some form or display of smarts. It’s a rough year for picking centers and NHL-ready-ish players, so teams should jump early if that position is a priority.
The unfortunate shortage of centers is buoyed by the proportional abundance in wingers.
Prospects with professional league experience, expected professional league play next season (AHL, Europe), or a mature and NHL-ready style of game will get preference.
In an average draft, the fewer issues transitioning to the NHL and the potential for more NHL games played, the more likely I am to ‘hit’ on a pick.
Minor junior league players may get dragged down my rankings list by this but that is an acceptable compromise. Every team and scout is rushing to pick USHL players this year, so don’t fret about sitting that out. Value will be had where the attention is not.
The US Development Program is an onion with layers of context to peel back and consider. This year’s layers are: 1). their best players sticking around the program when in past years they would have transitioned to college or CHL in their draft year; 2). an insane amount of talent disparity between USDP and their competition in minor junior; and 3). playing a heavy exhibition game schedule. How much is air being pumped into their proverbial tires?
When in a pinch pass on American (and even Canadian) players and go Russian. Russians have the clear-cut strongest horde of prospects through the rounds and the positions.
And with the focus on USDP and usual forgetting or ignoring of Russians, you will have a better talent pool to pull from at any spot in any context going Russian. There are also enough Russians in the CHL and USHL, that you can find one outside KHL control if that’s your issue.
There are 22 forwards I consider skilled enough for first-round consideration. Meaning, they have the ability to drive a top-six line at their position.
That number of first round forwards isn’t outside my average year range. Where the forwards dip below average is in centers.
The first two picks, in my opinion, may not be centers, and there is a string of wingers I prefer in the forward rankings. I don’t see the amount of top-nine NHL centers that a lot of other scouting outlets see. It’s common for forwards to be drafted as a center and barely play a game there in the NHL (Simon Gagne). It’s hard to gauge position at that age.
Rankings inside the position tiers are pretty interchangeable. A simple preference to playing style, fit, or team need could easily change the order. However, I went with my gut: who I would pick first; and ranked them inside their tiers. The order of Gutik, Wahlgren, Sheshin, Poulin are momentary biases that I can easily forecast changing in a year’s time.
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There won’t be many second-year eligibles or over-agers on this list. Samuel Fagemo is a highly rated prospect and definitely meets my general player profile — but every year I try to stick to first-year eligibles to help me cover more ground and at the end of the year, I see more prospects.
It also makes it more likely people who read my stuff and come away with one more new prospect or perspective. Any that survived were left because they are a goalie, or of an overly fond attachment I couldn’t break, even for my own rules.
Alex Newhook won’t be on this list either. The hype and scout’s projections around him never really made sense to me through my viewings. With talk of him going in the top 10, there really seemed to be no point to rank him 43rd best forward in the draft.
I’d really have no intentions of drafting the player, unlike say Bobby Brink who while I have ranked much lower than where he will realistically go, I would be willing to select the player, so he stays on the list.
Rank #. First Last / Position / Hand / Birth Month Year / Team / League
For the purposes of this piece, I will be ranking *only* forwards in a tier-class list. Let’s begin!