Pike’s Picks: 2019 NHL Draft Rankings – January Edition

For scouts and prospect prognosticators, the month of January is when a draft class begins to stabilize and it becomes easier to project players. Not only does January represent the midway point of the hockey season, but it also sees the completion of the annual World Junior Championship tournament. Given the amount of hockey that’s come to pass, and the upcoming Canadian Hockey League Top Prospects Game looming on the horizon, we present the latest edition of my 2019 NHL Draft rankings.

Team USA's Jack Hughes
Jack Hughes remains the top-ranked player in the 2019 NHL Draft class. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Carlos Osorio)

This is the third edition of my annual NHL Draft rankings here at The Hockey Writers. Roughly every other month, I will attempt to rank the top players in this year’s draft class as if I were drafting a team from scratch, based upon their accumulated body of work. My main proviso? I want to draft players that will help my team win consistently – when in doubt, I tend to err on the side of players who have a larger sample size of excellence.

The usual disclaimers apply: I live in Western Canada so I see Western Hockey League players the most often, followed by the remainder of Canada’s prospects – especially those affiliated with Hockey Canada. I have to rely on video for players in the United States and Europe for the most part. I’m also hesitant to draft goalies early due to the sheer number of weird things that can go wrong and derail their development.

For another point of video, check out rankings from colleague Larry Fisher (from January).

As always, your mileage may vary.

The January Top 75

No. Player Pos. 2018-19 Team
1 Jack Hughes C U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
2 Kaapo Kakko RW TPS Turku (SM-Liiga)
3 Dylan Cozens C Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
4 Kirby Dach C Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
5 Vasili Podkolzin RW SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)
6 Philip Broberg D AIK (HockeyAllsvenskan)
7 Alex Turcotte C U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
8 Bowen Byram D Vancouver Giants (WHL)
9 Trevor Zegras C U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
10 Ryan Suzuki C Barrie Colts (OHL)
11 Raphael Lavoie C Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
12 Matthew Boldy C U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
13 Matthew Robertson D Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
14 Victor Soderstrom D Brynas IF (SHL)
15 Alex Newhook C Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
16 Peyton Krebs LW Kootenay ICE (WHL)
17 Cam York D U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
18 Anttoni Honka D JYP (SM-Liiga)
19 Cole Caufield C U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
20 Philip Tomasino C Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
21 Arthur Kaliyev LW Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
22 Jakob Pelletier C Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
23 John Beecher C U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
24 Tobias Bjornfot D Djurgardens IF U20 (SuperElit)
25 Nolan Foote LW Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
26 Samuel Poulin LW Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
27 Alex Vlasic D U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
28 Mikko Kokkonen D Jukurit (SM-Liiga)
29 Moritz Seider D Adler Mannheim (DEL)
30 Spencer Knight G U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
31 Thomas Harley D Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
32 Vladislav Kolyachonok D Flint Firebirds (OHL)
33 Ville Heinola D Lukko (SM-Liiga)
34 Maxim Cajkovic RW Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
35 Connor McMichael C London Knights (OHL)
36 Brett Leason C Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
37 Nils Hoglander LW Rogle BK (SHL)
38 Pavel Dorofeyev LW Stalyne Lisy Magnitigorsk (MHL)
39 Lassi Thomson D Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
40 Nicholas Robertson C Peterborough Petes (OHL)
41 Simon Holmstrom RW HV71 U20 (SuperElit)
42 Matvei Guskov C London Knights (OHL)
43 Kaedan Korczak D Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
44 Bobby Brink RW Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
45 Billy Constantinou D Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
46 Blake Murray C Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
47 Dillon Hamaliuk LW Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
48 Ryan Johnson D Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
49 Luke Toporowski LW Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
50 Albin Grewe C Djurgardens IF U20 (SuperElit)
51 Henri Nikkanen C Jukurit U20 (Jr. A SM-Liiga)
52 Graeme Clarke RW Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
53 Valentin Nussbaumer C Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
54 Tag Bertuzzi C Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
55 Hunter Jones G Peterborough Petes (OHL)
56 Ben Brinkman D University of Minnesota (NCAA)
57 Yegor Afanasyev C Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
58 Matias Macceli LW Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
59 Marshall Warren D U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
60 Ilya Nikolayev C Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
61 Massimo Rizzo C Penticton Vees (BCHL)
62 Jamieson Rees C Sarnia Sting (OHL)
63 Sasha Mutala RW Tri-City Americans (WHL)
64 Alex Campbell C Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
65 Jake Lee D Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
66 Jordan Spence D Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
67 Ryder Donovan C Duluth East (USHS)
68 Dustin Wolf G Everett Silvertips (WHL)
69 Michael Vukojevic D Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
70 Case McCarthy D U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
71 Harrison Blaisdell C Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL)
72 Martin Hugo Has D Tappara U20 (Jr. A SM-Liiga)
73 Marcus Kalliokieli C Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
74 Daniil Gutik LW Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
75 Robert Mastrosimone C Chicago Steel (USHL)

As with the previous edition of this ranking, it’s become very clear that this class has a very well-defined top six group. Functionally, there are Hughes and Kakko clustered together after strong performances at the World Juniors, then the remaining four from the top six. Beyond them there’s a drop-off after the 16th-ranked player. There’s decent depth within the late first round, though; it’s probable that anyone from 36th on this list and up could go in the first round, as well as perhaps a handful of players dipping down to 45th depending on organizational need.

Positionally, forwards dominate the top 75 but the first round is fairly packed with defensemen. The projected first round features 19 forwards, 11 defensemen and one goaltender. The projected top 75 has 48 forwards, 24 defensemen and three goaltenders.

League-by-league, the first round and top 75 are both packed full of American talent. The United States Hockey League leads with 17 players (9 in the first round), followed by the Ontario Hockey League’s 15 (four first rounders), Western Hockey League’s 14 (six first rounders), the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s six (four first rounders), Finland’s SM-Liiga with four (three first rounders), the junior-A British Columbia Hockey League with four (one first rounder), and Russia’s junior Major Hockey League with four (one first rounder).

Compared to 2018’s class, it’s a stronger year for the WHL and the U.S. National Development team. It’s a weaker year for the OHL, the remainder of the USHL, and European prospects playing in pro leagues. There’s talent in this class, but it’s rawer and less high-end than 2018’s group – you could say there’s a first round, then three third rounds that follow it.

The Next Dozen: Honourable Mentions

These next 12 players could creep into the top 75 in the next update if they continue to perform at a high level.

  • RW Mikhail Abramov – Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)
  • C Logan Barlage – Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
  • RW Alex Beaucage – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)
  • D Roman Bychkov – Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
  • C Samuel Fagemo – Frolunda HC (SHL)
  • C Vladislav Firstov – Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
  • LW Ethan Keppen – Flint Firebirds (OHL)
  • RW Nolan Legare – Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
  • RW Cole MacKay – Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
  • C Reece Newkirk – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
  • C Shane Pinto – Lincoln Stars (USHL)
  • G Mads Soegaard – Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)