Fisher’s 8th Annual NHL Mock Draft: 2019, Round 1

Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko? Who goes first overall? And, perhaps the bigger talking point, who goes third overall? Then, what happens from there?

Those questions will all be answered in Vancouver on June 21 — and I’ll be in attendance to witness those walks to the stage at Rogers Arena, credentialed to cover the 2019 NHL Entry Draft for The Hockey Writers — but it’s a guessing game between now and then.

Jack Hughes Kaapo Kakko

For any aspiring scout or wannabe general manager, the rest of June feels like Christmas Eve and mock drafts are the gifts that keep on giving.

My mocks, which date back to 2012, have become my favourite project of the year and an obsession of sorts — certainly a labour of love.

With more time on my hands than usual this spring, I really hunkered down in May — spending much of that month putting the finishing touches on this year’s mock, the culmination of hundreds or quite possibly thousands of hours dedicated to the 2019 draft class.

The older I get, now 34, the more I’m enjoying the scouting side of hockey — to the point of considering a career shift from the media side.

I still get a thrill out of telling the stories, getting the scoops and covering the games as a reporter, but I put the vast majority of my energy into scouting this particular draft class and found it to be a very enlightening experience. The whole process has been fulfilling — finding prospects from around the globe, evaluating their talent and attempting to rank them on a monthly basis from August to June.

I like to think I’ve got a good eye for talent — I’ve always been more of an eye-test guy, having watched the WHL closely for over a decade now since 2008 — but the most appealing role, to me, might be director of scouting. Of course, I’d be open to any and all offers when it comes to full-time hockey gigs.

Now, for the fun part — the mocking. This is where I get to play general manager for all 31 teams. This is where I get to provide my answers to those aforementioned questions.

As was the case in 2018 and 2016, I plan on publishing a second mock closer to the draft — dubbed a consensus last minute mock. That mock will be predicting the prospects that I’m led to believe the teams will take — based on feedback and new information from fellow scouts, media and fans — whereas this mock, which has already been in the works for months, is more so who I would take for each team as of today.

For those interested in reviewing my past mocks, there are a total of 39 links posted below my first round to recap my seven-year mocking history. But without further ado, let’s get to answering those burning questions from above.

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First Round

1) New Jersey Devils — Jack Hughes (LC, USA, NTDP U18)

Height/Weight: 5-foot-10, 170 pounds (did not test at combine)

Playoff Stats: 7 GP-9 G-11 A-20 PTS (WCJ-18), 4 GP-0 G-4 A-4 PTS (WJC-20)

Regular Season Stats: 50 GP-34 G-78 A-112 PTS (NTDP), 24 GP-12 G-36 A-48 PTS (USHL)

Central Scouting: 1 North American Skaters (NAS, April 15)

THW Larry Fisher: 1 (June 3)

THW Ryan Pike: 1 (May 7)

THW Andrew Forbes: 1 (March 7)

ANALYSIS: The Devils have one of the draft’s most difficult decisions at No. 1, with Kakko every bit as worthy of going first overall, but Ray Shero’s history with the Hughes family and Jack’s father Jim is a factor here. Hughes is also very marketable as an American kid. And, perhaps most important, Hughes is a natural centre whereas Kakko has primarily been a winger. For some teams, this would be a coin flip, and I do feel at least 10 of the 31 teams would take Kakko over Hughes, but not New Jersey.

Hughes has been the projected top pick from wire to wire, his speed should work well with Taylor Hall if he’s re-signing there, and the 1-2 punch of Hughes with Nico Hischier down the middle has the Devils set for the next decade.

2) New York Rangers — Kaapo Kakko (RW/LC, Finland, TPS Liiga)

Height/Weight: 6-foot-2, 190 pounds (did not attend combine)

Playoff Stats: 5 GP-4 G-1 A-5 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 45 GP-22 G-16 A-38 PTS

Central Scouting: 1 European Skaters (EUS, April 15)

THW Larry Fisher: 2

THW Ryan Pike: 2

THW Andrew Forbes: 2

ANALYSIS: Jeff Gorton can sprint to the podium for this selection. As awesome as Bowen Byram is — as the top defenceman in this draft class — the Rangers won’t have to think twice about taking the leftover talent between Hughes and Kakko. They are getting one of them, most likely Kakko.

The Finnish Matthews — Kakko has patented his game after Auston Matthews — has franchise player written all over him and should make an immediate impact in Manhattan. He’ll likely start his NHL career on the wing and may stay there despite some scouts believing he could transition into a No. 1 centre to mirror Matthews. Regardless of his position, Kakko is a lock to go No. 2 if New Jersey takes Hughes.

3) Chicago Blackhawks — Alex Turcotte (LC, USA, NTDP U18)

Height/Weight: 5-foot-11.25, 186 pounds (Combine Official, courtesy Mark Scheig, June 1)

Playoff Stats: 7 GP-4 G-5 A-9 PTS (WJC-18)

Regular Season Stats: 37 GP-27 G-35 A-62 PTS (NTDP), 16 GP-12 G-22 A-34 PTS (USHL)

Central Scouting: 4 NAS

THW Larry Fisher: 6

THW Ryan Pike: 10

THW Andrew Forbes: 10

ANALYSIS: This is where the 2019 draft gets really interesting and we might even see a trade here — a shuffling within the top five where Chicago moves down but still gets the guy they want. Byram has established himself as the consensus third-best prospect, but the Blackhawks have drafted defencemen with five of their top six picks over the last three years, including the last four in a row. Those being Adam Boqvist and Nic Beaudin as 2018 first-rounders, Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell as first- and second-rounders in 2017, and Chad Krys in the second round in 2016. The lone forward was Alex DeBrincat, also a second-rounder in 2016, so Chicago might want to bolster their frontlines with this pick.

Enter Turcotte, who hails from the Chicago area, and could be a successor to Jonathan Toews as the team’s top-line centre. Yes, Turcotte’s upside could be higher than Dylan Strome since he’s a much better skater and more of a two-way presence like Toews. Turcotte is the type of 200-foot player teams are trying to build around in the present. Byram was looking more and more like a No. 1 blueliner throughout the draft year and he’d be tough to pass on, but Turcotte might be the better fit for the Blackhawks.

4) Colorado Avalanche (from Ottawa) — Trevor Zegras (LC, USA, NTDP U18)

Height/Weight: 6-foot-0.25, 173 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 5 GP-0 G-9 A-9 PTS (WJC-18)

Regular Season Stats: 60 GP-26 G-61 A-87 PTS (NTDP), 27 GP-14 G-26 A-40 PTS (USHL)

Central Scouting: 6 NAS

THW Larry Fisher: 8

THW Ryan Pike: 8

THW Andrew Forbes: 7

ANALYSIS: This would be a controversial pick, even more so than Chicago taking Turcotte over Byram. Again, I’m sensing we could see some sort of shuffling in the order from Nos. 3-5, because Colorado is also in great shape on defence for the foreseeable future and might be planning to take a forward here. The Avs will be prepared for the possibility of Byram being available, but their preference is probably to take one of the high-skill American centres — be it Turcotte or Zegras.

Zegras is an offensive catalyst, a playmaking extraordinaire. His creativity is off the charts. There is some risk in his game, but that was likely a byproduct of his environment and knowing he could take those chances because his team was fully capable of getting a goal back if something went awry. I’m confident he’s a cerebral player and can adapt his skill-set to the more structured NHL systems, slotting in as a dynamic force behind Nate MacKinnon. Don’t get me wrong, Byram would be an absolute stud on the same blue line as Cale Makar and Sam Girard, but Colorado got this pick as part of the package for Matt Duchene and Zegras would fill that void with flair going forward.

5) Los Angeles Kings — Bowen Byram (LD, Canada, Vancouver WHL)

Height/Weight: 6-foot-0.75, 195 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 22 GP-8 G-18 A-26 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 67 GP-26 G-45 A-71 PTS

Central Scouting: 2 NAS

THW Larry Fisher: 4

THW Ryan Pike: 3

THW Andrew Forbes: 5

ANALYSIS: This would be a no-brainer for Rob Blake if Byram falls into L.A.’s lap. As much as the Kings could use an electrifying forward like Zegras to spark their future offence, Byram would be Blake’s first choice among the next three — ahead of Turcotte and Zegras. So it wouldn’t be surprising to me if the Kings traded up to take Byram. I could see that scenario playing out.

Byram is drawing favourable comparisons to Drew Doughty and being touted as the best defence prospect from the WHL since Scott Niedermayer. That is high praise, but I can assure you it’s warranted, having watched Byram’s development through several live viewings. He’s definitely the most explosive defender to come out of the Dub since Ivan Provorov. Byram is the real deal and he’d thrive under Doughty’s tutelage.

6) Detroit Red Wings — Vasili Podkolzin (RW, Russia, SKA St. Petersburg MHL)

Height/Weight: 6-foot-0.75, 196 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 8 GP-2 G-1 A-3 PTS (VHL), 3 GP-2 G-1 A-3 PTS (MHL)

Regular Season Stats: 14 GP-2 G-3 A-5 PTS (VHL), 12 GP-6 G-2 A-8 PTS (MHL)

Central Scouting: 2 EUS

THW Larry Fisher: 3

THW Ryan Pike: 9

THW Andrew Forbes: 3

ANALYSIS: Podkolzin has become one of this draft’s most polarizing prospects and it’s no secret that he’s still under contract in Russia for two more seasons. That will scare off some teams in the top five, in the top 10, but I don’t think he’s falling past Detroit. Podkolzin will be worth the wait and Steve Yzerman has time on his side in taking the GM reins there with a rebuild in mind.

Yzerman has had a ton of success with Russians throughout his career — winning Stanley Cups as a player in Detroit with Sergei Fedorov, Igor Larionov, Slava Kozlov, Slava Fetisov and Vladimir Konstantinov, and coming close as a manager in Tampa Bay with Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Mikhail Sergachev. So, rest assured, Yzerman won’t be scared off by the ‘Russian factor’ when it comes to Podkolzin, who dominated his draft peers at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and was every bit as impressive at the World Juniors as Hughes and Kakko. Podkolzin’s stock took a hit at the under-18 tournament, but he was playing hurt there, and his overall body of work on the international stage suggests he’s the third-best forward available in 2019.

7) Buffalo Sabres — Philip Broberg (LD, Sweden, AIK Allsvenskan)

Height/Weight: 6-foot-3.25, 200 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 3 GP-0 G-0 A-0 PTS (Allsvenskan), 3 GP-0 G-1 A-1 PTS (SuperElit-J20)

Regular Season Stats: 41 GP-2 G-7 A-9 PTS (Allsvenskan), 8 GP-2 G-6 A-8 PTS (SuperElit-J20)

Central Scouting: 5 EUS

THW Larry Fisher: 5

THW Ryan Pike: 16

THW Andrew Forbes: 11

ANALYSIS: The Sabres know their Swedes and love their Swedes. It’s my belief that Buffalo’s scouts will have taken a liking to Broberg and will highly recommend him here. Jason Botterill will have other quality options, regardless of how the top-six picks play out, but how can he not trust his Swedish intelligence when you take a look at Buffalo’s prospect pool? If not Broberg, this might be where Cole Caufield goes — the undersized American sniper was the debate for me when it came to Buffalo’s pick.

Broberg was the best defenceman at the under-18 tournament and also at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, bookending his draft year with performances worthy of a top-10 pick. Yes, Broberg was even better than Byram at the Hlinka, and Broberg has the raw tools to challenge Byram for the title of best defenceman from this draft class a decade from now. I’ve been comparing Broberg to John Klingberg — watch a Dallas playoff game from this spring immediately followed by the Sweden-Canada semifinal from the U18 tournament and you’ll see the similarities — but Broberg isn’t as polished as Byram in the present. Broberg’s ceiling could be Victor Hedman. Regardless, the Sabres would be set with Broberg joining fellow Swede Rasmus Dahlin on their blue line.

8) Edmonton Oilers — Kirby Dach (RC/RW, Canada, Saskatoon WHL)

Height/Weight: 6-foot-4, 198 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 10 GP-5 G-3 A-8 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 62 GP-25 G-48 A-73 PTS

Central Scouting: 3 NAS

THW Larry Fisher: 7

THW Ryan Pike: 4

THW Andrew Forbes: 6

ANALYSIS: Ken Holland wouldn’t have to overthink his first selection as Edmonton’s GM if the hometown kid, Dach, is still available. The majority of mocks have Dach gone by here — many with Podkolzin and Broberg remaining on the board and some with Zegras as an option too — so this wouldn’t be a homer pick by any means. Dach would be the best player available here for Edmonton and the Oilers wouldn’t want to pass on him like they did Shane Doan back in 1995.

Dach is a big centre with strong skating for his size and a tantalizing skill-set that is still quite raw. Fortunately for Edmonton, Holland isn’t one to rush his top prospects to the NHL. Dach may be a few years away from making an impact for the Oilers — at least a couple years away — but his upside is right up there with the top-end talents in this draft class. That’s why many mocks have Dach going in their top five.

9) Anaheim Ducks — Dylan Cozens (RC/RW, Canada, Lethbridge WHL)

Height/Weight: 6-foot-3.25, 183 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 7 GP-4 G-4 A-8 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 68 GP-34 G-50 A-84 PTS

Central Scouting: 5 NAS

THW Larry Fisher: 9

THW Ryan Pike: 5

THW Andrew Forbes: 4

ANALYSIS: Cozens would be a great fit for Anaheim. With Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry nearing the end of their careers, Cozens could take the torch with a combination of their skill-sets. He’s got Getzlaf’s size and Perry’s scoring ability. Cozens also has another element to his game that those two stars are lacking — speed. He can fly for a big guy and he’s got a wicked shot.

Cozens just makes too much sense here, if the top eight go as I’ve predicted. If Broberg is still available, that makes Anaheim’s decision more difficult. I could totally see the Ducks taking Broberg — even over Cozens — if Buffalo were to take Caufield instead. Another prospect that I could see being associated with Anaheim is Raphaël Lavoie. If anybody is reaching for the QMJHL power forward, my money would be on the Ducks.

10) Vancouver Canucks — Alex Newhook (LC/LW, Canada, Victoria BCHL)

Height/Weight: 5-foot-10.5, 192 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 15 GP-11 G-13 A-24 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 53 GP-38 G-64 A-102 PTS

Central Scouting: 13 NAS

THW Larry Fisher: 13

THW Ryan Pike: 15

THW Andrew Forbes: 17

ANALYSIS: This isn’t getting any easier — it never does as the draft progresses — but Vancouver decides to go with Newhook after debating four different forwards, including Caufield, his NTDP teammate Matthew Boldy, and Peyton Krebs from the WHL. The Canucks may be surprised to see both Caufield and Boldy as options here, with Podkolzin and Broberg staying in the top 10 despite speculation that they could become fallers.

Newhook is lightning fast, perhaps the fastest skater in this draft — even if Hughes gets the edge as the best overall skater. Newhook’s speed would be a nice complement to Vancouver’s forward group since the likes of Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat aren’t exactly burners. Adding that element would make the Canucks’ attack that much more dangerous and difficult to defend. Adding Newhook, who may take a few more seasons to develop into an impactful NHLer, would also make Vancouver incredibly fun to watch in the years to come.

Alex Newhook of the Victoria Grizzlies
Alex Newhook of the Victoria Grizzlies (Garrett James Photography)

11) Philadelphia Flyers — Peyton Krebs (LC/LW, Canada, Kootenay WHL)

Height/Weight: 5-foot-11.5, 183 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: N/A, 7 GP-6 G-4 A-10 PTS (WJC-18)

Regular Season Stats: 64 GP-19 G-49 A-68 PTS

Central Scouting: 10 NAS

THW Larry Fisher: 10

THW Ryan Pike: 7

THW Andrew Forbes: 9

ANALYSIS: Philly also strongly considers Caufield and Boldy — again, shocked that both are still on the board — but the Flyers stick with their pre-draft plan to pick Krebs, who has a little bit of Matt Barzal in his game and also a little bit of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Krebs is a big-time talent, the first overall pick from his WHL bantam draft year ahead of Dach and Byram. Krebs played for a very poor junior team and his numbers reflect that to a degree, but he’s such a smart player that he’ll rack up the points as a pro with a better supporting cast.

The Flyers would be getting a mature, motivated kid known for his work ethic as much as his skill. Krebs has the drive to develop into a star. Because he’s been developing on such a bad junior team, Krebs has been forced to play in all situations and become more well-rounded beyond his offensive contributions, which could also mean he’s closer to being NHL-ready than most would expect. Krebs is a pretty polished player, yet has a ton of upside.

12) Minnesota Wild — Matthew Boldy (LW, USA, NTDP U18)

Height/Weight: 6-foot-2, 196 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 7 GP-3 G-9 A-12 PTS (WJC-18)

Regular Season Stats: 64 GP-33 G-48 A-81 PTS (NTDP), 28 GP-17 G-26 A-43 PTS (USHL)

Central Scouting: 9 NAS

THW Larry Fisher: 12

THW Ryan Pike: 11

THW Andrew Forbes: 8

ANALYSIS: The Wild feel fortunate to be choosing between the two American forwards, Caufield and Boldy. At this point, Caufield is already falling despite his MVP performance at the under-18 worlds, but Boldy could be seen as the safer pick — the more projectable pro.

Boldy is much bigger and projects as a T.J. Oshie type, with a higher offensive ceiling but perhaps less physicality. Caufield is the better goal-scorer — he’s arguably the best goal-scorer in this entire draft class — but he’s small and sliding in my mock much like his closest NHL comparable, DeBrincat, did in 2016. Caufield ain’t slipping to the second round, but he’s available into the teens for me after Minnesota opts for more of a sure thing in Boldy.

13) Florida Panthers — Ville Heinola (LD, Finland, Lukko Liiga)

Height/Weight: 5-foot-11.75, 178 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 7 GP-1 G-3 A-4 PTS (Liiga)

Regular Season Stats: 34 GP-2 G-12 A-14 PTS (Liiga), 9 GP-1 G-8 A-9 PTS (U20-Liiga)

Central Scouting: 4 EUS

THW Larry Fisher: 14

THW Ryan Pike: 27

THW Andrew Forbes: 36

ANALYSIS: Florida has a good thing going with their Finns. Captained by Aleksander Barkov, they have Henrik Borgstrom and Aleksi Heponiemi on the verge of becoming impact forwards. All signs point to the Panthers signing Artemi Panarin as a Russian sniper to mentor 2018 first-rounder Grigori Denisenko, and 2017 first-rounder Owen Tippett will also be joining the fold as a shoot-first Canadian winger. That’s not to say Florida isn’t a good fit for Caufield because he is the best player available at this spot and that’s never a bad approach.

However, I really like Heinola for the Panthers. He looked great for Finland at the World Juniors before getting hurt. Florida has a solid defence as of today, but the future is a bit bleak on the back end in terms of high-end prospects. Joel Quenneville coached Jokiharju as a rookie in Chicago, trusting him on the top pairing with Duncan Keith, and Heinola could be Florida’s version of Jokiharju. I doubt Heinola would crack the Panthers’ lineup for next season, but give him another year in the Liiga and he could be debuting as a teen too.

14) Arizona Coyotes — Cole Caufield (RW, USA, NTDP U18)

Height/Weight: 5-foot-7.25, 163 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 7 GP-14 G-4 A-18 PTS (WJC-18)

Regular Season Stats: 64 GP-72 G-28 A-100 PTS (NTDP), 28 GP-29 G-12 A-41 PTS (USHL)

Central Scouting: 8 NAS

THW Larry Fisher: 11

THW Ryan Pike: 6

THW Andrew Forbes: 16

ANALYSIS: Caufield’s fall is halted here. Arizona may have been eyeing another American sniper for this spot, Arthur Kaliyev from the OHL, but John Chayka and the Coyotes would be thrilled to land Caufield this late. Absolutely elated, really. And the Coyotes haven’t been afraid to take the fallers in recent years, snagging Jakob Chychrun in 2016 and grabbing Nick Merkley in 2015.

Caufield filled the net throughout his record-breaking draft year, lighting the lamp a total of 72 times as the ying to Hughes’ yang. They were a dynamic duo and fed off each other, though a lot of the credit will be heaped on Hughes for inflating Caufield’s production. That may be true, but Caufield proved capable of scoring in a variety of ways with a lot of similarities to DeBrincat. If he falls this far, Caufield will want to make teams pay for passing on him and the best way to do that is to keep doing what he’s been doing — to score 40, maybe even 50 goals in the NHL someday.

15) Montreal Canadiens — Raphaël Lavoie (RW/RC, Canada, Halifax QMJHL)

Height/Weight: 6-foot-4, 199 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 23 GP-20 G-12 A-32 PTS, 4 GP-2 G-1 A-3 PTS (Memorial Cup)

Regular Season Stats: 62 GP-32 G-41 A-73 PTS

Central Scouting: 20 NAS

THW Larry Fisher: 25

THW Ryan Pike: 14

THW Andrew Forbes: 12

ANALYSIS: Marc Bergevin, Trevor Timmins and the Canadiens will have plenty of options here — even if those top 14 are all taken. Lavoie might not be a typical Timmins pick, he may prefer the potential of Phillip Tomasino or Ryan Suzuki — the younger brother of Habs’ prospect Nick Suzuki — but the fact Lavoie is a Francophone from Montreal with a skill-set quite similar to the traded Max Pacioretty makes him the perfect choice.

Strangely, the Habs’ fans who are wannabe scouts on Twitter seem to want anybody but Lavoie with this pick. So my selection may not be well received by the online community. But after watching Lavoie’s 20-goal performance in the QMJHL playoffs and realizing his marketability, Bergevin should be proud to welcome Lavoie to Le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge. He could be Montreal’s Anthony Mantha.

16) Colorado Avalanche — Spencer Knight (G, USA, NTDP U18)

Height/Weight: 6-foot-3.5, 193 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 6 GP-1.51 GAA-.936 SaveP (WJC-18)

Regular Season Stats: 33 GP-2.36 GAA-.913 SaveP (NTDP), 16 GP-2.21 GAA-.903 SaveP (USHL)

Central Scouting: 1 North American Goalies (NAG, April 15)

THW Larry Fisher: 20

THW Ryan Pike: 32

THW Andrew Forbes: 23

ANALYSIS: With their second pick of the first round, Colorado is set up well to select their goaltender of the future and a present teammate of their top pick, Zegras. Knight is the best goaltending prospect for 2019 by a significant margin and the Avs need a netminder to carry them forward. 

Not all goalies pan out — see Jack Campbell as a recent example — so teams tend to avoid them in the first round, but Colorado can address an organizational need here with a bonus dart of sorts. Knight handles the puck as well as he stops it. He has a real presence in the crease, a swagger to his game — not unlike Patrick Roy in that sense. Sakic knows all about that swagger and what Roy’s confidence meant to Colorado’s success during their playing careers.

Spencer Knight of the U.S. National Development Program
Spencer Knight of the U.S. National Development Program (Hickling Images)

17) Vegas Golden Knights — Victor Söderström (RD, Sweden, Brynäs SHL)

Height/Weight: 6-foot-0, 182 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 2 GP-0 G-1 A-1 PTS (SuperElit-J20)

Regular Season Stats: 44 GP-4 G-3 A-7 PTS (SHL), 14 GP-1 G-7 A-8 PTS (SuperElit-J20)

Central Scouting: 3 EUS

THW Larry Fisher: 19

THW Ryan Pike: 13

THW Andrew Forbes: 14

ANALYSIS: Vegas has been light-years ahead of the curve for expansion teams, but that early success has forced the Golden Knights to trade some of their top prospects — including stud blueliner Erik Brannstrom, the 15th overall pick from 2017. Not to compare the two directly because I believe Brannstrom is a superior talent, especially offensively, but selecting Söderström here helps to lessen that loss.

Söderström plays a very complete game at a young age. He skates well, he moves the puck well, he sees the ice well. He’s capable of quarterbacking a power play and also of killing penalties. Söderström might not possess the game-breaking abilities of Brannstrom, who is often compared to Erik Karlsson, but Söderström is a quality prospect that has a very good chance of becoming a quality NHLer. I don’t see elite tools in Söderström, but I see a dependable top-four blueliner for a decade. A better version of Tobias Enstrom from his prime, perhaps? Nothing wrong with that.

18) Dallas Stars — Pavel Dorofeyev (LW/RW, Russia, Metallurg Magnitogorsk KHL)

Height/Weight: 6-foot-0.75, 176 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 4 GP-0 G-0 A-0 PTS (KHL), 3 GP-0 G-2 A-2 PTS (MHL)

Regular Season Stats: 23 GP-1 G-1 A-2 PTS (KHL), 19 GP-17 G-14 A-31 PTS (MHL)

Central Scouting: 12 EUS

THW Larry Fisher: 21

THW Ryan Pike: 33

THW Andrew Forbes: 37

ANALYSIS: The Stars have a history of selecting Russian forwards in the first round, albeit with mediocre results — Valeri Nichushkin and Denis Gurianov. Dallas GM Jim Nill won’t be scared off, coming from the same Detroit background as Yzerman where they reaped a lot of rewards thanks to their Russians.

Dorofeyev hasn’t got a whole lot of hype, not compared to compatriot Podkolzin, simply because he hasn’t had as much exposure on the international stage. Those who have got the chance to watch Dorofeyev live — and you can bet that includes several Dallas scouts — have come away extremely impressed. Some of those scouts think Dorofeyev should be in the top-10 conversation and that he’d be a steal here. Even evaluating from the online highlight reels, Dorofeyev’s talent is very evident. There seems to be similarities to Rangers prospect Vitali Kravtsov, who rose into the top 10 last year and continues to look like a legit star in the making.

19) Ottawa Senators (from Columbus) — Phillip Tomasino (RW/RC, Canada, Niagara OHL)

Height/Weight: 5-foot-11.75, 183 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 11 GP-4 G-3 A-7 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 67 GP-34 G-38 A-72 PTS

Central Scouting: 14 NAS

THW Larry Fisher: 16

THW Ryan Pike: 23

THW Andrew Forbes: 43

ANALYSIS: Tomasino has a high ceiling and Ottawa is in no hurry to win now, so the Senators can take their time in properly developing him alongside their future core of forwards. Tomasino could be a real breakout player in his draft-plus-one campaign, similar to Morgan Frost. Whoever takes Tomasino — and he could go higher than this, potentially even in the top 10 — will be projecting that potential. Assuming that comes to fruition, Tomasino would be looking like a steal at this time next year if he’s taken outside the top 15. Ottawa could definitely be the team to take that chance if Tomasino is still available here.

20) New York Rangers (from Winnipeg) — Anttoni Honka (RD, Finland, KeuPa HT Mestis)

Height/Weight: 5-foot-10.5, 178 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 17 GP-3 G-8 A-11 PTS (Mestis)

Regular Season Stats: 27 GP-3 G-5 A-8 PTS (Liiga), 11 GP-2 G-5 A-7 PTS (Mestis), 6 GP-2 G-7 A-9 PTS (U20-Liiga)

Central Scouting: 22 EUS

THW Larry Fisher: 28

THW Ryan Pike: 34

THW Andrew Forbes: 26

ANALYSIS: Some will say this is a reach by the Rangers — with Cam York, Thomas Harley and Moritz Seider among the other defencemen still available in my mock — but Honka gives Kakko a fellow Finn for the future and many had Honka ranked in their top 10 earlier in the draft year, myself included.

Honka is a high-risk, high-reward prospect who plays an erratic style that will require a team to take the good with the bad as he develops. He plays high-event hockey, reminiscent of current Ranger Anthony DeAngelo minus the physicality, but Honka can be a difference-maker, a game-breaker when he’s at his best. If he could bottle that up on a consistent basis, Honka would still be a top-10 prospect for 2019. The Rangers swing for the fences with this boom-or-bust pick.

21) Pittsburgh Penguins — Cam York (LD, USA, NTDP U18)

Height/Weight: 5-foot-11.25, 172 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 7 GP-4 G-7 A-11 PTS (WJC-18)

Regular Season Stats: 63 GP-14 G-51 A-65 PTS (NTDP), 28 GP-7 G-26 A-33 PTS (USHL)

Central Scouting: 12 NAS

THW Larry Fisher: 17

THW Ryan Pike: 12

THW Andrew Forbes: 15

ANALYSIS: The Penguins send Gorton and the division-rival Rangers a thank-you card for passing on York, who put up a record number of points by a defenceman at the under-18 worlds and should have improved his stock towards becoming a top-15 pick. Even prior to that tournament, some scouts had York pegged as the second-best defender in this draft class, so Pittsburgh would be pumped to pick him here.

The Penguins are eventually going to move on from Kris Letang as their offensive blueliner and York could certainly be his successor. They have Calen Addison in the system too as a right-handed option, but York is a cut above Addison.

22) Los Angeles Kings (from Toronto) — Arthur Kaliyev (LW, USA, Hamilton OHL)

Height/Weight: 6-foot-2, 194 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 4 GP-1 G-1 A-2 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 67 GP-51 G-51 A-102 PTS

Central Scouting: 7 NAS

THW Larry Fisher: 24

THW Ryan Pike: 17

THW Andrew Forbes: 19

ANALYSIS: Getting Byram and Kaliyev with their two first-round picks would be a dream come true for Blake and all the Kings’ fans. There is a good chance neither of those prospects will be available when L.A. approaches the podium, but stranger things have happened at drafts past.

Kaliyev is one of this year’s elite scorers — a 50-goal man in the OHL — but he’s not without his flaws, which makes his fall into the twenties more believable than Byram being available at No. 5. Kaliyev isn’t a complete player as of today, he’s got some glaringly bad junior habits, but he can score with the best of them — ranking right up there with Caufield and Kakko in that regard. Kaliyev is a triggerman and needs to be paired with a playmaker, so the Kings would be hoping for chemistry with 2018 first-rounder Rasmus Kupari in the future.

Arthur Kaliyev Hamilton Bulldogs
Arthur Kaliyev of the Hamilton Bulldogs. (Photo by Aaron BellOHL Images)

23) New York Islanders — Thomas Harley (LD, Canada/USA, Mississauga OHL)

Height/Weight: 6-foot-3, 193 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 4 GP-0 G-4 A-4 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 68 GP-11 G-47 A-58 PTS

Central Scouting: 11 NAS

THW Larry Fisher: 26

THW Ryan Pike: 21

THW Andrew Forbes: 32

ANALYSIS: The Islanders already have a plethora of promising offensive defencemen in their system — highlighted by 2018 first-rounder Noah Dobson — but you can never have too much of a good thing and point-producing defenders will always have value. Adding Harley would give the Islanders an embarrassment of riches, with Devon Toews coming off a breakout season as an older rookie in ascending to the Isles’ top power-play unit during the playoffs, while Sebastian Aho, Mitch Vande Sompel and Parker Wotherspoon are all trending well in the AHL. Bode Wilde emerged as a force in the OHL too and surely would be a first-rounder in a re-draft for 2018.

Harley wasn’t far behind Wilde among defence scoring leaders in that junior league — both ranking in the top 10 (third and eighth, respectively). Many mocks have Harley cracking the top 20, even the top 15 in this year’s draft, so a case could be made for him being the best player available at this spot. If the Islanders would rather go with a forward here, they could take their pick of Ryan Suzuki, Connor McMichael, Nick Robertson, Bobby Brink, John Beecher or Robert Mastrosimone. All enticing options, but Harley would still be hard to pass up.

24) Nashville Predators — Lassi Thomson (RD, Finland, Kelowna WHL)

Height/Weight: 6-foot-0, 186 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: N/A

Regular Season Stats: 63 GP-17 G-24 A-41 PTS

Central Scouting: 15 NAS

THW Larry Fisher: 27

THW Ryan Pike: 36

THW Andrew Forbes: 38

ANALYSIS: The Predators have a history of drafting players from the Kelowna Rockets, including Shea Weber, Colton Sissons and Justin Kirkland. Nashville obviously scouts this team closely and believes in the development model there. The Rockets, who will be hosting the Memorial Cup in 2020, have two defenders of potential interest to the Predators in Thomson and Kaedan Korczak. I could see either of them going here.

Thomson, who might end up playing pro back home in Finland next season rather than returning to Kelowna for the Memorial Cup campaign, is more offensive than Korczak. Thomson likes to rush the puck and can really hammer it from the point. He’s a weapon on the power play and has a surprisingly physical side to his game too. Thomson made an immediate impact in making the move across the pond for his draft year en route to becoming runner-up for the WHL’s rookie of the year award, so he’s likely ahead of Korczak on most teams’ lists. Nashville might be the exception, though, with Korczak possessing untapped offensive potential despite being cast in a shutdown role for Kelowna.

25) Washington Capitals — Moritz Seider (RD, Germany, Adler Mannheim DEL)

Height/Weight: 6-foot-3, 208 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 14 GP-0 G-5 A-5 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 29 GP-2 G-4 A-6 PTS

Central Scouting: 6 EUS

THW Larry Fisher: 15

THW Ryan Pike: 29

THW Andrew Forbes: 20

ANALYSIS: Washington may be more inclined to take a forward here — perhaps Egor Afanasyev or Nils Hoglander, having drafted defence-heavy in recent years — but Seider strikes me as a prospect that would really appeal to the Capitals. They have taken two Swiss defenders in Jonas Siegenthaler and Tobias Geisser, so you know Washington scouts some of the non-traditional hockey countries more so than most. Could a German be next on their list at this spot? It’s entirely possible, especially after Seider’s performance at the men’s worlds to cap off his already impressive draft year. It is also entirely possible that Seider could crack the top 20, perhaps even the top 15 as one of this year’s late risers.

26) Calgary Flames — Bobby Brink (RW, USA, Sioux City USHL) 

Height/Weight: 5-foot-8.25, 165 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 2 GP-0 G-2 A-2 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 43 GP-35 G-33 A-68 PTS

Central Scouting: 19 NAS

THW Larry Fisher: 22

THW Ryan Pike: 24

THW Andrew Forbes: 28

ANALYSIS: That run of defencemen, with five of the last six picks, has left Calgary a lot of forwards to choose from — the aforementioned Suzuki, McMichael, Nick Robertson, Beecher and Mastrosimone, plus a couple QMJHLers in Jakob Pelletier and Samuel Poulin being among the many options here. All potential first-rounders, but Brink stands out from that pack for the Flames given their recent success with drafting from the USHL. Brink was elite at that level in his draft year and also enjoyed strong showings in international competition.

Calgary could be thinking defence in the first round, with the remaining options including Korczak as a righty or any of these four lefties in Tobias Björnfot, Mikko Kokkonen, Vladislav Kolyachonok or Matthew Robertson. But Brink’s upside as a top-six forward seems like a good fit for the Flames — even if he’s not much bigger than Johnny Gaudreau.

27) Tampa Bay Lightning — Nick Robertson (LW/LC, USA, Peterborough OHL)

Height/Weight: 5-foot-8.75, 162 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 5 GP-1 G-1 A-2 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 54 GP-27 G-28 A-55 PTS

Central Scouting: 17 NAS

THW Larry Fisher: 23

THW Ryan Pike: 37

THW Andrew Forbes: 40

ANALYSIS: Tampa considers all the same forwards as Calgary and decides to go with Nick Robertson, one of the youngest prospects in this draft class who outshone most of those peers at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and again at the CHL Top Prospects Game. Robertson has a lot of room for growth next season and could be in the top-10 conversation a year from now — in hindsight, that is.

Julien BriseBois may prefer Pelletier or Poulin from the QMJHL with his first draft choice as Lightning GM, but his chief scout Al Murray has had nothing but success with selecting talent from the OHL. Robertson has some elite skill, more so than Pelletier and Poulin, and his ceiling appears higher as a result.

The other two forwards that I strongly considered for Tampa Bay were Nolan Foote and Brayden Tracey, both from the WHL. The Lightning already drafted Foote’s older brother, Cal, in the first round (14th overall in 2017, as a defenceman), while Tracey is a perceived riser from the same junior program as Brayden Point with some similarities in their skill-sets. You can bet that both Foote and Tracey will be on Tampa’s radar, but Robertson still won out for me.

28) Carolina Hurricanes — Patrik Puistola (LW, Finland, LeKi Mestis)

Height/Weight: 6-foot-0.5, 175 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 8 GP-3 G-4 A-7 PTS (Mestis)

Regular Season Stats: 16 GP-0 G-1 A-1 PTS (Liiga), 22 GP-15 G-11 A-26 PTS (Mestis), 25 GP-11 G-11 A-22 PTS (U20-Liiga)

Central Scouting: 28 EUS

THW Larry Fisher: 36

THW Ryan Pike: 41

THW Andrew Forbes: 62

ANALYSIS: Carolina reaches a little bit for this ultra-talented Finn, passing over some higher-ranked North American forwards. The Hurricanes already have several Finnish forwards in their system — highlighted by Sebastian Aho — and Puistola could be another gem in the years to come. He’s pretty raw right now, but so was Aho in his draft year when he slipped into the second round (35th overall). Puistola has a somewhat similar skill-set with a whole lot of upside, so the Hurricanes won’t risk waiting for him with their consecutive picks in the second round at 36th and 37th overall.

29) Anaheim Ducks (from San Jose via Buffalo) — Tobias Björnfot (LD, Sweden, Djurgardens J20)

Height/Weight: 6-foot-0.25, 193 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 4 GP-0 G-0 A-0 PTS (SHL), 7 GP-1 G-2 A-3 PTS (SuperElit-J20), 2 GP-1 G-1 A-2 PTS (Allsvenskan-J18)

Regular Season Stats: 7 GP-0 G-0 A-0 PTS (SHL), 39 GP-11 G-11 A-22 PTS (SuperElit-J20)

Central Scouting: 7 EUS

THW Larry Fisher: 18

THW Ryan Pike: 46

THW Andrew Forbes: 27

ANALYSIS: The Ducks could be eyeing Pelletier or Poulin here, but they took a forward with their first pick in Cozens, so I have Anaheim shifting its focus to defence for its second trip to the podium. In Björnfot, the Ducks would be getting a very steady all-around defender who captained Sweden at several events during the draft year. Björnfot could develop along the lines of Hampus Lindholm, who blossomed into an anchor for Anaheim’s blue line.

30) Boston Bruins — John Beecher (LC, USA, NTDP U18)

Height/Weight: 6-foot-3.25, 212 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 7 GP-3 G-1 A-4 PTS (WJC-18)

Regular Season Stats: 63 GP-15 G-28 A-43 PTS (NTDP), 27 GP-6 G-14 A-20 PTS (USHL)

Central Scouting: 49 NAS

THW Larry Fisher: 30

THW Ryan Pike: 43

THW Andrew Forbes: 34

ANALYSIS: Big and fast, Beecher has Boston written all over him. He’s a two-way centre who could learn the pro game from Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins do have Trent Frederic and Jack Studnicka working their way up the ranks, but Beecher has the potential to be the best of those three. He has the potential to be a prime Ryan Kesler, better than a prime David Backes.

Beecher might not be the consensus best player available — not with Suzuki shockingly still on the board — but Beecher is very much the type of pick we’ve come to expect from Boston. And more often than not, those picks have been panning out for the Bruins.

31) Buffalo Sabres (from St. Louis) — Nils Hoglander (LW, Sweden, Rogle SHL)

Height/Weight: 5-foot-9.5, 188 pounds (CO)

Playoff Stats: 2 GP-0 G-0 A-0 PTS (SHL), 1 GP-1 G-0 A-1 PTS (SuperElit-J20)

Regular Season Stats: 50 GP-7 G-7 A-14 PTS (SHL)

Central Scouting: 11 EUS

THW Larry Fisher: 29

THW Ryan Pike: 25

THW Andrew Forbes: 29

ANALYSIS: Like the Hurricanes with their Finns, the Sabres go with what they know here in taking another Swede. Hoglander has high-level skill and he’s a hard-worker too. Ralph Krueger would take an immediate liking to this kid. Hoglander isn’t big, but he’s sturdy and strong on the puck. He’d fit right in with Buffalo’s prospect pool that also includes Alex Nylander, Victor Olofsson, Rasmus Asplund and Marcus Davidsson among Swedish forwards. That is going to be a good group going forward.

The Sabres might go forward-heavy in this year’s draft after using five of six picks on defencemen in 2018, but to come out of the first round with Broberg and Hoglander would be quite the boon for Buffalo.

Recapping First Round

1) New Jersey Devils — Jack Hughes (LC, USA, NTDP U18)

2) New York Rangers — Kaapo Kakko (RW/LC, Finland, TPS Liiga)

3) Chicago Blackhawks — Alex Turcotte (LC, USA, NTDP U18)

4) Colorado Avalanche (from Ottawa) — Trevor Zegras (LC, USA, NTDP U18)

5) Los Angeles Kings — Bowen Byram (LD, Canada, Vancouver WHL)

6) Detroit Red Wings — Vasili Podkolzin (RW, Russia, SKA St. Petersburg MHL)

7) Buffalo Sabres — Philip Broberg (LD, Sweden, AIK Allsvenskan)

8) Edmonton Oilers — Kirby Dach (RC/RW, Canada, Saskatoon WHL)

9) Anaheim Ducks — Dylan Cozens (RC/RW, Canada, Lethbridge WHL)

10) Vancouver Canucks — Alex Newhook (LC/LW, Canada, Victoria BCHL)

11) Philadelphia Flyers — Peyton Krebs (LC/LW, Canada, Kootenay WHL)

12) Minnesota Wild — Matthew Boldy (LW, USA, NTDP U18)

13) Florida Panthers — Ville Heinola (LD, Finland, Lukko Liiga)

14) Arizona Coyotes — Cole Caufield (RW, USA, NTDP U18)

15) Montreal Canadiens — Raphaël Lavoie (RW/RC, Canada, Halifax QMJHL)

16) Colorado Avalanche — Spencer Knight (G, USA, NTDP U18)

17) Vegas Golden Knights — Victor Söderström (RD, Sweden, Brynäs SHL)

18) Dallas Stars — Pavel Dorofeyev (LW/RW, Russia, Metallurg Magnitogorsk KHL)

19) Ottawa Senators (from Columbus) — Phillip Tomasino (RW/RC, Canada, Niagara OHL)

20) New York Rangers (from Winnipeg) — Anttoni Honka (RD, Finland, KeuPa HT Mestis)

21) Pittsburgh Penguins — Cam York (LD, USA, NTDP U18)

22) Los Angeles Kings (from Toronto) — Arthur Kaliyev (LW, USA, Hamilton OHL)

23) New York Islanders — Thomas Harley (LD, Canada/USA, Mississauga OHL)

24) Nashville Predators — Lassi Thomson (RD, Finland, Kelowna WHL)

25) Washington Capitals — Moritz Seider (RD, Germany, Adler Mannheim DEL)

26) Calgary Flames — Bobby Brink (RW, USA, Sioux City USHL) 

27) Tampa Bay Lightning — Nick Robertson (LW/LC, USA, Peterborough OHL)

28) Carolina Hurricanes — Patrik Puistola (LW, Finland, LeKi Mestis)

29) Anaheim Ducks (from San Jose via Buffalo) — Tobias Björnfot (LD, Sweden, Djurgardens J20)

30) Boston Bruins — John Beecher (LC, USA, NTDP U18)

31) Buffalo Sabres (from St. Louis) — Nils Hoglander (LW, Sweden, Rogle SHL)

Fisher’s Mocking History