With junior hockey seasons over, we’ve completed our first campaign since the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. There were many storylines to follow from this draft class and many questions surrounding certain picks. With an additional season under the belt’s of these prospects, let’s take a look at some of the biggest risers and fallers from the 2019 draft class.
Before we dive in – I’ll note that New Jersey Devils first-overall pick Jack Hughes and New York Rangers second-overall pick Kaapo Kakko are not in my fallers list. While many thought that they would step into the NHL and have great seasons, I believe they are victims of high expectations. These two players made the jump to the best league in the world and spent the season there. That doesn’t count as being a “faller” in my book.
With that out of the way, let’s dive into the risers and fallers of the 2019 NHL Draft.
Note: they’re listed alphabetically, based on their last name.
2019 NHL Draft: 5 Biggest Risers
Adam Beckman, Minnesota Wild
There’s an argument to make that Minnesota Wild prospect Adam Beckman is the biggest riser from the 2019 NHL Draft. A very valid argument. Drafted in the third round, 75th overall Beckman went lower than nearly everyone had him ranked heading into the draft. Now? It looks like he should have been selected higher than he was ranked.
The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native was seen as a low-second to high-third round pick. He was coming off of a 32-goal, 30-assist, 62-point season in 68 games with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs. He added another 12 points in 15 playoff games. It was a very respectable season but didn’t even put him in the top-50 scorers in the league.
In 2019-20, he took over the league, collecting a league-leading 48 goals and 107 points to go along with his 59 assists (third in the league). Beckman didn’t just take a step forward, but he exploded to another level. The intelligent left-winger is likely to spend another year in the WHL, where you can expect to see him take another step forward.
At this point, Beckman looks very much like a future top-six forward. Drafted in the third round? He also looks like an absolute steal.
Connor McMichael, Washington Capitals
Connor McMichael always looked like a first-round pick, albeit a low first-round pick. He was taken there too, by the Washington Capitals 25th overall. Now? He very well should have been in the conversation for the top-15 – at least.
The 2018-19 season saw McMichael take a huge step forward. In 2017-18, his rookie year with the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs and London Knights, he collected 16 points in 60 games. The next season, he jumped to 72 points in 67 games. This past season he had 102 points in 52 games. He also suited up for Team Canada at the World Juniors, going a point-per-game through the seven games it took to win the gold medal.
McMichael stands out in the statistical categories, but he’s taken a big step forward in his gameplay, becoming a more well-rounded player. He has improved in nearly every aspect of his game, and just like Beckman, he looks like a future top-six forward at the NHL level.
The Capitals haven’t had a high pick in a number of years, but they may as well have with the McMichael selection. They are going to be benefiting from the fact that fell into their lap fo years to come.
Alex Newhook, Colorado Avalanche
It seems strange to put someone who was drafted 16th overall as a riser, but I thought it last season and I think it even more now – Alex Newhook is a top-10 player from the 2019 NHL Draft.
Newhook spent the 2018-19 season as the captain of the BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies, putting up 102 points in 53 games. While impressive, I believe that NHL teams valued him less, playing in the BCHL compared to the WHL. So, he slipped down to 16th and the Avalanche wasted no time scooping him up.
This season, Newhook spent his first season in the NCAA for Boston College. He put up 42 points in 34 games, earning NCAA Rookie of the Year on top of numerous other accolades. Newhook should have been a lock for the 2020 World Juniors but was cut from the team. They won’t make that mistake next season.
Newhook might end up being one of the best players in this draft class. The Avalanche are going to be one of the biggest winners of this draft, having selected the top-defenseman in Bowen Byram and the elite Newhook. There are going to be a number of teams regretting not taking the speedy centreman – if they aren’t already.
Jamieson Rees, Carolina Hurricanes
Jamieson Rees may be one of my personal favourite players to come out of the 2019 NHL Draft. He’s just fun to watch play. The OHL’s Sarnia Sting alternate captain was selected 44th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes, who probably had my favourite draft of any team.
Rees had a kidney injury in 2019-20 which held him to just 37 games. He put up 32 points in those games, and while nothing to write home about, it’s good considering he missed nearly two months of the season. His season also earned him a spot on the Canadian Under-18 team where he collected eight points in seven games.
This season, Rees suffered an ankle injury and had some discipline (suspension) issues, holding him to just 39 games. But this time, he put up an impressive 61 points, nearly doubling his point total in the same amount of games. Rees’ injury troubles might be a little concerning, and his suspension history is definitely something the Hurricanes will hope he gets a handle on, but he’s on the right development path and has risen his stock in the process.
He plays an aggressive game but he brings an offensive skill to his play as well. I don’t think a comparison to the Tkachuk brothers would be that far out of the question. And selecting that level at 44th? Yes, please.
Nick Roberston, Toronto Maple Leafs
You knew it was coming. It just so happened that “Robertson” came last alphabetically. But yes, I enjoyed adding to the anticipation. I wrote earlier this season that Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospect Nick Robertson may just be the steal of the 2019 draft. With the full season under his belt, that’s practically set in stone now.
Robertson exploded this season, putting up an OHL-leading 55 goals in just 46 games. He added 31 assists for 86 points. Again, in just 46 games. This came after his 2018-19 season where he put up 27 goals and 55 points in 54 games. Yeah, he took a step forward.
In the annual OHL coaches poll, Robertson was named the Eastern Conference’s Most Dangerous Player in the Goal Area and had the Best Shot. He was in the top three for the Hardest Shot, Hardest Worker, Best Stickhandler, and Best Shootout Shooter.
Robertson was taken 53rd overall by the Maple Leafs. With one season post-Draft under his belt, there looks to be no question that while the Maple Leafs didn’t have a pick in the first round of the draft, they got a first-round talent.
2019 NHL Draft: 5 Biggest Fallers
Philip Broberg, Edmonton Oilers
It’s tough to put Broberg as a faller since he didn’t really take a step back this season. He made the jump full time to the SHL, putting up eight points in 45 games. In 2018-19, he played eight games in the SuperElit, collecting eight points and played 41 games in the Allsvenskan, collecting another nine points in 41 games.
His production is down a bit from where it was a season ago, but the real reason that Broberg is a faller has nothing to do with the young Swedish defender. It has everything to do with his selection: eighth overall. The Edmonton Oilers made Broberg the third defender taken off the board, behind Bowen Byram and Moritz Seider (definitely the top-two defenders of the class).
Broberg doesn’t look like he’s the third-best defender though. Arizona Coyotes prospect Victor Söderström, drafted 11th overall as the fourth defender, just finished his second season in the SHL, putting up 16 points in 35 games. I’d argue that Ville Heinola, Thomas Harley, and possibly even Tobias Björnfot – all defenders taken in the first round – are looking like they have higher ceilings right now.
I think Broberg is a good player, but the eighth-overall selection is a bit of a reach. He could bounce back next season – where he’ll remain in Sweden – and take a big step forward, but at this point, I think the Oilers are going to regret this pick.
Dillon Hamaliuk, San Jose Sharks
Frankly, the San Jose Sharks selection Dillon Hamaliuk at 55th overall in 2019 was surprising, especially since they moved up to get him. He was heavily ranked to go in the third or fourth round and was coming off an injury-riddled campaign that saw him play just 31 games, collecting 26 points.
A season later? The pick doesn’t look any better. Hamaliuk played 56 games this season for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets but put up just 31 points. He didn’t exactly take a step forward this season, granted he did start the season with mono. While his point totals remained pretty close to his prior season, his penalty minutes doubled to 65. The Sharks are likely worrying about this pick.
With three full WHL seasons under his belt, it’s looking more and more likely that Hamaliuk won’t be an NHLer. I’d give him one more season to see if he can take that next step, but as of right now it’s not looking good for the left winger.
Simon Holmström, New York Islanders
I really like Simon Holmström. I liked him heading into the Draft, despite his injury-riddled season, and I still like him. This placement on this list isn’t really about him, but how his development has been handled after one season.
Taken by the New York Islanders 23rd overall, Holmström made the jump overseas immediately after playing mainly in the SuperElit, with one SHL game under his belt. He reported to the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers and put up just 15 points in 46 games.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: patience is key. Prospects need time to develop and for Holmström, he had a rough draft year with injuries. I would have liked to see him spend another season or two in Sweden, getting some time to play in the SHL and getting back up to full speed before he made the jump.
Hopefully, Holmström’s development and confidence haven’t been hurt too much after this season. I think he has the potential to be a middle-six forward, but he’s going to need to bounce back from this season in a big way.
Ryan Johnson, Buffalo Sabres
Ryan Johnson isn’t what you’d call an offensive defenseman, but I thought he’d be a bit better than he was this season. Taken 31st overall by the Buffalo Sabres, Johnson was coming off a solid season with 25 points in 54 games for the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede.
It’s important to note that this was his rookie year. He was named to the All-Rookie Team, was a Clark Cup Champion, and was a member for Team USA in the World Junior A Challenge, helping them to a gold medal. Things were looking up.
Related: Sabres’ 2019 Draft Class Catch-Up
This past campaign, Johnson was a rookie again for the NCAA’s University of Minnesota. The end result was Johnson collecting just eight assists in 37 games. Granted, Minnesota finished 33rd in the league in goals per game, but Johnson was largely invisible most games and was outplayed by another 2019 NHL Draft prospect in Jason LaCombe (Anaheim Ducks).
Johnson isn’t a flashy player and doesn’t exactly stand out regularly as it is. But he’s been known as a smart player, which could help him as he develops. He should move up the lineup next season and for his sake and the sake of the Buffalo Sabres, they hope he adjusts well in a heightened role.
Mads Søgaard, Ottawa Senators
Mads Søgaard was the third goaltender taken in the 2019 NHL Draft after Spencer Knight and right after Pyotr Kochetkov. He’s a massive (6-foot-7) netminder who is surprisingly agile for his size. He was picked by the Ottawa Senators 37th overall.
He had a good year in 2018-19, compiling a .921 save percentage through 37 games for the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers as a rookie. Even in the playoffs, he had a .919 save percentage. He didn’t have a good World Juniors showing though, with a .808 save percentage as Denmark found themselves relegated.
In the WHL that season, Søgaard took over the starting job from a 2017 Senators’ draft pick Jordan Hollett. This season, Søgaard was expected to take the reins as the full-time starter, but that wasn’t the case. He played the same number of games, seeing his save percentage drop to .908. He spilt duties with 2020 NHL Draft prospect, Garin Bjorklund, who played 28 games. Seeing the success of Dustin Wolf this season has to especially hurt Senators fans after he was selected 214th overall by the Calgary Flames.
So the big question now is: do the Senators draft Bjorklund? I’m joking of course, but the plateau performance from Søgaard is slightly alarming. Granted, he performed well at the World Juniors for Denmark in the D1A division, being named the top player on his team. The Senators will hope that his development trends up in 2020-21.
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Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.