The 2018 NHL Draft this past June was defined by elite skill as well as remarkable depth. In fact, impactful players could be found deep into the first round, as prospects of varying position and potential waited impatiently to hear their names called by an NHL franchise.
However, the 2019 NHL Draft — scheduled to be held on Jun. 21-22, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia — could very well put its predecessor to shame.
Like the 2018 event, the 2019 Draft will boast an elite top prospect in Jack Hughes — a player many have likened to Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks. Yet, unlike the draft of 2018, the 2019 event will own a secondary class of young prospects who could legitimately challenge the aforementioned Hughes for first overall.
Realistically, there are five players who could be chosen with the upcoming first overall selection. Adding further intrigue to the draft class of 2019 is the overwhelming presence of players from the Western Hockey League and western-Canada — a returning source of talent which had dwindled dramatically in recent years.
Now, with all of this being said, it’s time to introduce you to the top-ten prospects eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft. Although the players below are listed alphabetically and not in order of their personal skill and potential, seemingly any of which could be selected first overall in next June’s draft.
Height/Weight: 6-foot, 180-pounds
2017-18 Statistics: 60 GP: 6G, 27 Pts (Vancouver Giants, WHL)
Comparable: Morgan Rielly – Toronto Maple Leafs
In his first year of play with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL, Bowen Byram collected six goals and 21 assists — an offensive output good for 27 totals points.
However, it was the confidence and creativity which Byram brought to the ice on a nightly basis which has garnered the attention of the hockey world. Although just 17-years-old, Byram skated with poise and composure in his rookie WHL campaign — rarely committing turnovers while regularly completing safe yet productive plays in the process.
He (Byram) is a special player. He’s shown that throughout the year and he’s only getting better and better. The bigger the game, the better he plays. – Jason McKee, Vancouver Giants
Already boasting solid size at 6-feet, 180-pounds, Byram’s game is founded upon excellent skating and his ability to see the ice with relative ease. Capable of darting up the ice before dishing the puck to a nearby teammate, Byram is an improving playmaker whose strong shot combines to make the Cranbrook, British Columbia native a legitimate threat at both ends of the ice.
As a former third-overall selection in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft, Byram’s immense talent has long been known. If the youngster can continue to strengthen his frame while improving his capabilities as a complete two-way defender, we could be staring down a top-five choice in the 2019 NHL Draft.
Height/Weight: 5-foot-6, 155-pounds
2017-18 Statistics: 59 GP: 54 G, 80 Pts (U.S. National Team, USDP)
Comparable: Alex DeBrincat – Chicago Blackhawks
Cole Caufield could be the most natural goal scorer available in the 2019 NHL Draft.
Unfortunately, many will not be able to come to terms with the youngster’s lack of size, as the native of Mosinee, Wisconsin stands a mere 5-foot-6 and 155-pounds. However, if the likes of Tyler Johnson, Johnny Gaudreau, and Alex DeBrincat have proven anything through their play in recent seasons, it is the fact that players of lesser stature are more than capable of legitimately competing in today’s NHL.
Cole Caufield scored again.
Must be a day that ends in Y. pic.twitter.com/Q6LAZH46P0
— USHL (@USHL) February 24, 2018
With this being said, Caufield could rather easily be made a top-ten pick in next year’s draft. Boasting silky hands, ample creativity, and a blistering shot, Caufield can pot the puck in a variety of ways and is incredibly consistent in doing so. Whether he is shooting the puck from distance, deflecting the puck en route to the goal, or cashing in on a loose rebound, Caufield can be counted on to lead his team’s offence with startling regularity.
Incredibly similar to Debrincat of the Chicago Blackhawks, Caufield could be one of the most under-appreciated players available in the 2019 NHL Draft, and one who could slip late into the first round given the NHL’s common and incredibly unrealistic perception of size.
Height/Weight: 6-foot-3, 175-pounds
2017-18 Statistics: 57 GP, 22 G, 53 Pts (Lethbridge Hurricanes, WHL)
Comparable: Leon Draisaitl – Edmonton Oilers
Dylan Cozens has put himself on the 2019 prospect map owing to an impressive rookie campaign with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. In fact, Cozens’s initial season was so impressive that he captured the Jim Piggott Trophy as the WHL’s Rookie of the Year.
During the 2017-18 season, Cozens potted 22 goals and 53 points for the Hurricanes — a point total which stood as the second-greatest amongst WHL rookies. However, once you factor in Cozens’ impressive point per game rate of 0.97 — the best of any WHL rookie last season — the native of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory can be rather easily perceived as a far more promising talent than originally thought.
He (Cozens) is always focused on getting better. Just a kid who loves to play and loves to get better and wants to be the best. – Brent Kisio, Lethbridge Hurricanes
When it comes to Cozens, his game is founded upon speed, skill, and an unwavering work ethic. Regardless of the score or state of the game, Cozens works and skates hard from whistle-to-whistle and is endlessly determined in his quest for the puck. Once in possession, Cozens can pass or shoot the puck, although he tends to wire it on goal more often than not.
Already standing 6-foot-3, Cozens boasts solid size alongside an innate skill-set and uses his physicality well to shield the puck as well as drive it towards the goal. Although he — like most analyzed within this article — would do well to add greater strength to his frame, Cozens’ natural abilities on the ice have and will continue to serve as a glaring indication of his future once he ascends to the professional-level.
Height/Weight: 6-foot-4, 185-pounds
2017-18 Statistics: 52 GP: 7 G, 46 Pts (Saskatoon Blades, WHL)
Comparable: Adam Henrique – Anaheim Ducks
Once Kirby Dach grows into his towering 6-foot-4 frame, the native of Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta will become an unstoppable force.
Known for his calculative nature and strong understanding of the game, Dach’s ability to read and adapt to the play at high speed stands as the trademark of his game. Always well-positioned and aware of his responsibilities in all three zones, Dach’s stellar two-way game allows him to control the pace of any given game while directly impacting its outcome.
He’s motivated. He knows where he wants to get to, and he knows that we’re a tool that can get him there. – Bob Woods, Saskatoon Blades
Selected by the Blades second overall in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft, expectations surrounding Dach are extremely high. Fortunately, the youngster did not disappoint in his first full season of play in Saskatoon, as Dach netted seven goals and 46 points in just 57 regular season games played. Although a somewhat awkward skater given his towering size, Dach should develop into a dominating power-forward once he adds greater strength to his frame.
Height/Weight: 5-foot-10, 160-pounds
2017-18 Statistics: 87 GP: 61 G, 170 Pts (USNTDP Juniors/U.S. National Team, USDP)
Comparable: Patrick Kane – Chicago Blackhawks
Jack Hughes will — in all liklihood — be made the first overall selection in the 2019 NHL Draft.
When it comes to Hughes, the native of Orlando, Florida can do it all. Founded upon sensational skating skills and the ability to maneuver through his opposition with absolute ease, Hughes boasts electrifying speed and agility and the capability to control the puck in flight. With soft hands and seemingly endless creativity, Hughes can dish to puck to his teammates or barrel his way to the goal before whipping the puck on net.
However, perhaps the most notable aspect of Hughes’ game is his patience and composure with the puck. Much like Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks, Hughes is rarely forced into turnovers and can protect the puck with ease before devising a high-quality scoring chance in the blink of an eye. Further, owing to his terrific skating, Hughes can read the pressure applied by his opponents and use their momentum to find gaps in opposing defences.
Much like the 2018 NHL Draft will be remembered as the year of Rasmus Dahlin, the 2019 NHL Draft could come to be recalled as the season of Hughes. With his older brother Quinn also set to enter the NHL in the near future, we could be witnessing the arrival of the NHL’s next superstar hockey family.
Height/Weight: 6-foot-1, 180-pounds
2017-18 Statistics: 38 GP: 25G, 55 Pts (TPS U20, Jr. A SM-liiga)
Comparable: Sebastian Aho – Carolina Hurricanes
Although he is the only European player on this list, Kappo Kakko could prove to be one of the most electrifying players available in the 2019 NHL Draft.
For Kakko, his game is based largely upon a sensational skill-set with the puck and the ability to remain composed and lethal under pressure. With smooth hands from a distance as well as in close to the goal, Kakko can execute jaw-dropping jukes with ease before meandering towards the net with both time and space. Boasting a crisp and accurate shot, Kakko can then blast the puck past opposing netminders or gobble up and deposit rebounds generated by his teammates.
He’s a very good talent; one of the best players at his age. Sometimes I watch him and say ‘Wow, how did he do that?’ – Rasmus Kupari, Los Angeles Kings
What’s more is that Kakko is also a tremendous playmaker — a reality which makes the native of Turku, Finland a versatile and consistent threat offensively.
As he continues to develop and progress as a player, expect Kakko to become eerily similar to fellow countryman Sebastian Aho of the Carolina Hurricanes. Although Kakko will likely own greater size than Aho in the long-term, the youngster’s ability to process the game at a rapid pace while fuelling his team’s offence will surely draw endless comparisons.
Plus, once he reaches the NHL, Kakko will own one of the best names in hockey.
Height/Weight: 5-foot-11, 175-pounds
2017-18 Statistics: 67 GP: 17 G, 54 Pts (Kootenay Ice, WHL)
Comparable: Brayden Point – Tampa Bay Lightning
Peyton Krebs was chosen by the Kootenay Ice with the first-overall selection in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft, and for good reason.
In his rookie WHL campaign with the Ice in 2017-18, Krebs quickly displayed the lethal and remarkably well-rounded skill-set which has long made him a prospect of immense potential. Across his 67 regular season games played, Krebs blasted home 17 goals while also recording 37 assists for Kootenay — a 54 point total which stood as the greatest of any WHL rookie.
The two particular aspects of Krebs’ game which allowed him to enjoy substantial success as a first-year player was his hard, accurate shot and ability to read the ice as plays developed within it. Yes, he only netted 17 tallies last season, however, the goals Krebs did notch often came as the result of well-placed shots of ample velocity. Further, on the playmaking side of the puck, Krebs’ overall vision and unique ability to see plays before they developed allowed the native of Okotoks, Alberta to improve the play of those around him.
Powered by an unwavering engine while endlessly dynamic at both ends of the ice, Krebs could become one of the NHL’s best and most consistent two-way centres in the near future. Very similar in playing style to Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Krebs will have a long future in professional hockey ahead of himself provided he can once again dominate the WHL in 2018-19.
Height/Weight: 6-foot-4, 195-pounds
2017-18 Statistics: 68 GP: 30G, 63 Pts (Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL)
Comparable: Blake Wheeler – Winnipeg Jets
Raphaël Lavoie has all the makings of a prototypical power-forward — he owns soft hands, immense size, and a rugged frame capable of overpowering opposing players.
However, what sets Lavoie apart from conventional power-forwards is his ability to think the game, see the ice, and operate within it addition to his towering 6-foot-4 frame. Yes, Lavoie knows exactly how to use his size to his advantage, yet it is his unique ability to combine his size and ample skill into a sound all-around game which separates him from his competition.
Raphael wants to score and be a difference maker. He has shown that he is a game breaker. When he gets a step on a guy and uses his big frame, he is very tough to defend. – Jim Midgley, Halifax Mooseheads
Capable of eluding opposing defenders owing to strong edge-work and his raw creativity, Lavoie can devise and implement a highlight-reel dangle before trudging his way towards the goal. Once close to the net, Lavoie’s quick and purposeful hands allow him to pick corners from tight angles with ease, while his vision with the puck allows the native of Montreal, Quebec to set up fellow teammates for excellent scoring chances.
Fresh off of an impressive sophomore season in the QMJHL in 2017-18, during which time he netted 30 goals and 63 points, Lavoie has established himself as a promising young prospect ahead of the 2019 NHL Draft. Although he will be one of the oldest first-year eligible players available in 2019, Lavoie’s electrifying skill-set will surely cement his status as an early first-round selection.
Height/Weight: 5-foot-11, 185-pounds
2017-18 Statistics: 45 GP, 22 G, 66 Pts (Victoria Grizzlies, BCHL)
Comparable: Nathan MacKinnon – Colorado Avalanche
Blazing speed, sensational skill, and an overwhelming compete-level have come to define Alex Newhook of the Victoria Grizzlies — a youngster who is a sure-fire top-five selection in the 2019 NHL Draft.
Although comparing 17-year-olds to current NHL players is no simple task, the similarities between Newhook and Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche are all too evident. Much like MacKinnon, Newhook owns a tireless engine and one which propels him around the ice with both flair and poise. Capable of darting from one of the ice to the other, Newhook — like MacKinnon — has the ability to lead his team’s offence and is no stranger to highlight-reel plays and goals.
Newhook plays the game at a very high pace, like Robby Fabbri with a slightly bigger frame. He’s a Boston College commit with a ton of offensive upside. – Ryan Kennedy, The Hockey News
When it comes to his offensive game Newhook can do it all, although he is a pass-first style of player. Perpetually aware of the location of his teammates on the ice and not afraid to thread passes through traffic, Newhook’s confidence with the puck allows him to generate high-quality scoring chances seemingly from thin air. However, if no opportunities to pass the puck present themselves, Newhook can opt to fire the puck on net — his shot is both crisp and accurate despite its tendency to be under-appreciated by opposing defenders.
In short, Newhook will enter the 2018-19 BCHL season as a can’t-miss prospect and one legitimately capable of challenging Hughes for first-overall at the 2019 NHL Draft.
Height/Weight: 6-foot, 175-pounds
2017-18 Statistics: 64 GP, 14 G, 44 Pts (Barrie Colts, OHL)
Comparable: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Edmonton Oilers
Although he isn’t the flashiest player on the ice, Ryan Suzuki is regularly one of its most effective.
Agile and calculated with the puck, Suzuki is an incredibly intelligent player who understands how to maximize the abilities of his linemates. As a tremendous passer, Suzuki can feed the puck to his teammates with ease, while his ability to see the ice allows him to stand as a fixture on the power play. Further, Suzuki is an immensely capable two-way forward, as his commitment to defence allows the native of London, Ontario to be utilized in a variety of situations.
Set to skate in his second OHL season with the Barrie Colts in 2018-19, Suzuki will look to increase his offensive output while also strengthening his slender frame. Although of decent size, Suzuki would benefit from adding greater strength to his body, as doing so would allow the youngster to become a more impactful fore at both ends of the ice.
Ultimately, expectations will be high for Suzuki in his first year of draft eligibility. As a former first overall choice in the OHL Draft, Suzuki will have the upcoming season to prove himself as a more promising prospect than his older brother Nick Suzuki — a first-round choice of the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Draft.
Brett Slawson is a four-year veteran of The Hockey Writers who covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL prospects, and the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads.
Contact Brett on Twitter @brettslawson92, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.