While NHL scouts can and will weigh and measure the merits of Jack Hughes vs. Kaapo Kakko, there’s no debating this - a Canadian will not be the No. 1 overall pick in the NHL draft for an unprecedented fourth consecutive year.
With Hughes, the American centre, and Kakko, the Finnish winger, certain to be the first two players chosen by New Jersey and the New York Rangers, the best Canada can hope for at Friday’s draft in Vancouver is to nail down the No. 3 spot.
And not even that is absolutely guaranteed in what can be described as the (draft) Year of the American.
Auston Matthews was the last American to go No. 1, in 2016, followed by Switzerland’s Nico Hischier in 2017 and Sweden’s Rasmus Dahlin in 2018. Hughes will almost certainly be the man in 2019, leaving Connor McDavid as the last Canadian to go No. 1 (in 2015).
Hughes is ranked No, 1 on TSN’s 2019 NHL Draft Final Ranking, followed by Kakko at No. 2.
The top-ranked Canadian on TSN’s final 2019 list is Vancouver Giant offensive defenceman Bowen Byram at No. 3.
That doesn’t ensure the Chicago Blackhawks will take him third overall. TSN’s No. 4-ranked American centre Alex Turcotte, the son of former NHLer Alfie Turcotte, is also believed to be a serious consideration for the Blackhawks, Byram is not only the top-ranked Canadian, he’s the only defenceman ranked in TSN’s Top 10.
If just one defenceman is actually selected in this year’s Top 10, it would only be fourth time in the 51-year history of the draft that nine of the top 10 picks were forwards.
Before highlighting various aspects and storylines of TSN’s Top 31 final rankings, a quick word on how they were arrived at and what they mean.
This is not a mock draft. There’s no effort made here to match up prospects with specific NHL clubs based on the order of draft selection. TSN’s ranking has no connection to any individual club or the order of selection.
It is determined by surveying a panel of 10 NHL scouts on how each would numerically rank the available prospects. Those 10 individual sets of rankings are amalgamated to create a consensus ranking that forecasts a number or range where each prospect can reasonably be expected to be chosen.
While a Canadian hasn’t gone No. 1 since 2015, three of the top six consensus prospects on TSN’s final list are Canadian, and all of them come from the Western Hockey League.
Byram and Turcotte Turcotte are followed by two big Canadian centres: 6-foot-4 Kirby Dach of the Saskatoon Blades is No. 5 and 6-foot-3 Dylan Cozens of the Lethbridge Hurricanes sits No. 6.
Cozens will become the first player from Whitehorse, Yukon, to be drafted in the first round. Only two others from Yukon – Peter Sturgeon and Bryon Baltimore - have played in the NHL for a combined 8 games.
It’s a big bounce back year for the Dub, which only had two first-rounders in total last year. This year — between Byram, Dach, Cozens and Peyton Krebs, the Winnipeg (formerly Kootenay) Ice centre who checks in at No. 10 on the TSN list — there’s a chance the WHL could produce four of the first 10 players chosen.
Rounding out TSN’s Top 10 — between No. 5 Dach No. 6 Cozens and No. 10 Krebs— are slick U.S. U-18 playmaking and goal-scoring centre Trevor Zegras (No. 7), hard-driving Russian winger Vasily Podkolzin (No. 8) and U.S. U-18 goal-scoring savant winger Cole Caufield ( No 9).
The American influence in this draft is pervasive, with both the No. 11 and No. 12 slots being filled by two more members of the vaunted U.S. U-18 National Team Development Program — big winger Matthew Boldy and potential franchise goalie Spencer Knight, a 6-foot-4 stopper who is one of the premier athletes in the draft.
Ten of TSN’s top 31 are American: U.S. U-18 offensive defenceman Cam York at No. 18; Hamilton Bulldog scoring winger Arthur Kaliyev at No. 21; Sioux City scoring winger Bobby Orr Brink (we kid you not, more on that later) at No. 26 and U.S. U-18 defenceman Alex Vlasic at No. 29.
Eight of them are members of the U.S. U-18 team: if all were to be taken from the top 31, it would more than double the current record – three – for most U.S. U-18 players picked in the first round.
Some other notable storylines:
- While there is only one defenceman (Byram) ranked in the top 10, there is a run of five straight blueliners between Nos. 14 and 18. That includes Sweden’s Victor Soderstrom (No. 14) and Philip Broberg (No. 15) ; Germany's Moritz Seider (No. 16); Mississauga Steelhead Thomas Harley (No. 17), a dual Canadian-American citizen who represents Canada internationally; and Cam York of the U.S. U-18 team (No. 18).
- Only one goaltender - the American, Knight, at No. 12 - is ranked in the top 31, but he’s projected to be a star. Many believe Knight has the tools to become the best ever American goalie and it will be fascinating to see how early, or late, a team is prepared to forgo a skater for him. Knight’s consensus ranking is No. 12 but some teams rank him as a top five or 10 prospect.
- The biggest draft wild card is Kaliyev, the 6-foot-2 winger who scored 51 goals this season. Next to 72-goal scorer Cole Caufield, Kaliyev is quite likely best goal scorer in the draft. He has underrated playmaking ability, too, not to mention size and strength — but inconsistency of effort has created a polarizing effect among scouts. In the TSN survey of 10 scouts, one had the Kaliyev in the top 10 and another had him outside the top 40. The others had him spread out in between, totaling six votes in the first round and four in the second. No other prospect ranked in the first round has such a wide variance.
- Kaliyev is one of five OHL players ranked in TSN’s first round, an unusually low number, especially since the top ranked OHLer is Mississauga defenceman Harley at No. 17. Rounding out OHL representation is Barrie Colt centre Ryan Suzuki (No. 20), the younger brother of Montreal prospect Nick Suzuki, Kaliyev (No. 21), Niagara Ice Dog speedster centre Philip Tomasino (No. 22) and London Knight offensive centre Connor McMichael (No. 28).
- The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has only three prospects in the top 31: Halifax Moosehead forward Raphael Lavoie (No. 19); Sherbrooke Phoenix Samuel Poulin (No. 24), the son of former NHLer and Hartford Whaler first-round pick Patrick Poulin; and Moncton Wildcat winger Jakob Pelletier (No. 31). It’s noteworthy that all three are homegrown Quebecois talent. That’s an impressive year for the province of Quebec.
- The most Canadian prospect in the first round has to be Newfoundland born-and-bred centre Alex Newhook, who is ranked No. 13. Newhook moved to the Greater Toronto Area as a teenager to attend St. Andrew’s College in Aurora, Ont., where he played for the York Simcoe Express, the same minor hockey program where Connor McDavid started. He was drafted by Halifax in the QMJHL, but opted to maintain his U.S. college eligibility - he’s currently committed to Boston College for next season - and has played the last two seasons with the Victoria Grizzlies in the British Columbia Hockey League. Newhook has literally spanned the country — St. John’s in the east, Victoria in the west — in pursuit of of his hockey career. Newhook is a gifted offensive player who solidified his high ranking with a strong effort at the U-18 World Championship in April.
- If Brink — the gritty USHL scoring winger — isn’t one of the best stories of this whole draft class, it’s hard to imagine who tops him. Brink’s Dad Andy, owing to his great passion for the history of hockey, bestowed on his eldest son the name Bobby Orr Brink. He pondered whether to name him Bobby Orr Brink or Bobby Clarke Brink. If you think that’s a cool story, it gets even better. Bobby’s 16-year-old brother’s full name is Joseph Henry Brink and goes by Joe. Their 14-year-old brother’s full name is Henri Richard Brink. If you’re familiar with Montreal Canadian history — and Andy Brink is — you would know that Maurice (Rocket) Richard’s full name is Joseph Henri Maurice Richard. So Andy Brink went with Joseph and the English version of Henri for his middle son as a tribute to the Rocket and then went full Pocket Rocket Henri Richard Brink for the youngest boy, although Henri is pronounced Henry.
And there’s more.
After Bobby Brink scored the game-winning goal for Team USA in the World Junior A Challenge gold medal game last December — on what was later diagnosed as a broken ankle that caused him to miss six weeks of action — Andy wondered if he should have named his boy Bobby Baun Brink. Of course, Baun was the Toronto Maple Leaf defenceman who famously scored the overtime goal in Game 6 of the 1964 Stanley Cup final on a broken ankle.
Andy Brink is nothing if not a hockey historian.
- One final note on the rankings: Prospects from Nos. 25 through 50 are, more or less interchangeable. Which is to say every player ranked in the top 50 got at least one vote as a first-rounder. Swedish defenceman Simon Lundmark (No. 61), U.S. high school defenceman Jayden Struble (No. 63), Swedish defenceman Albert Johansson (No. 72) and even Swedish centre Karl Henriksson (No. 83) had noteworthy, albeit isolated, first-round support.
The Top 93
|1||Jack Hughes||USA U18 (USHL)||C||5'10 ½||171||50||34||112|
|2||Kaapo Kakko||Turku (SM Liiga)||RW||6'2 ¼||194||45||22||38|
|3||Bowen Byram||Vancouver (WHL)||D||6'0 ¾||195||67||26||71|
|4||Alex Turcotte||USA U18 (USHL)||C||5'11 ¼||186||37||27||62|
|5||Kirby Dach||Saskatoon (WHL)||C/RW||6'4||198||62||25||73|
|6||Dylan Cozens||Lethbridge (WHL)||C||6'3 ¼||183||68||34||84|
|7||Trevor Zegras||USA U18 (USHL)||C||6'0 ¼||173||60||26||87|
|8||Vasily Podkolzin||St. Petersburg (MHL)||RW||6'0 ¾||196||12||6||8|
|9||Cole Caufield||USA U18 (USHL)||RW||5'7 ¼||163||64||72||100|
|10||Peyton Krebs||Winnipeg (WHL)||C||5'11 ½||183||64||19||68|
|11||Matthew Boldy||USA U18 (USHL)||LW||6'2||196||64||33||81|
|12||Spencer Knight||USA U18 (USHL)||G||6'3 ½||193||39||2.36||.913|
|13||Alex Newhook||Victoria (BCHL)||C||5'10 ½||192||53||38||102|
|14||Victor Soderstrom||Brynas (SHL)||D||6'0||182||44||4||7|
|15||Philip Broberg||AIK (SWE-Als)||D||6'3 ¼||200||41||2||9|
|16||Moritz Seider||Mannheim (DEL)||D||6'3||208||29||2||6|
|17||Thomas Harley||Mississauga (OHL)||D||6'3||193||68||11||58|
|18||Cam York||USA U18 (USHL)||D||5'11 ¼||172||63||14||65|
|19||Raphael Lavoie||Halifax (QMJHL)||LW/RW||6'4||199||62||32||73|
|20||Ryan Suzuki||Barrie (OHL)||C||6'0 ¾||180||65||25||75|
|21||Arthur Kaliyev||Hamilton (OHL)||RW||6'2||194||67||51||102|
|22||Phillip Tomasino||Niagara (OHL)||C||5'11 ¾||183||67||34||72|
|23||Ville Heinola||Lukko (SM Liiga)||D||5'11 ¾||178||34||2||14|
|24||Samuel Poulin||Sherbrooke (QMJHL)||C/LW||6'1||212||67||29||76|
|25||Matthew Robertson||Edmonton (WHL)||D||6'3 ¼||200||52||7||33|
|26||Bobby Brink||Sioux City (USHL)||C/RW||5'8 ¼||165||43||35||68|
|27||Tobias Bjornfot||Djurgardens (SWE J20)||D||6'0 ¼||193||39||11||22|
|28||Connor McMichael||London (OHL)||C/LW||5'11 ¾||182||67||36||72|
|29||Alex Vlasic||USA U18 (USHL)||D||6'5 ¾||198||61||4||27|
|30||Lassi Thomson||Kelowna (WHL)||D||6'0||186||63||17||41|
|31||Jakob Pelletier||Moncton (QMJHL)||C/LW||5'9 ¼||165||65||39||89|
|32||Jamieson Rees||Sarnia (OHL)||C||5'10 ¼||182||37||10||32|
|33||Ryan Johnson||Sious Falls (USHL)||D||6'0||170||54||6||25|
|34||Brett Leason||Prince Albert (WHL)||RW||6'4||210||55||36||89|
|35||Nils Hoglander||Rögle (SHL)||LW||5'9 ½||188||50||7||14|
|36||Brayden Tracey||Moose Jaw (WHL)||LW||6'0 ½||170||66||36||81|
|37||Egor Afanasyev||Muskegon (USHL)||LW||6'3 ¼||204||58||27||62|
|38||Nolan Foote||Kelowna (WHL)||LW||6'3½||195||66||36||63|
|39||Vladislav Kolyachonok||Flint (OHL)||D||6'1||189||54||4||30|
|40||Kaedan Korczak||Kelowna (WHL)||D||6'3||194||68||4||33|
|41||John Beecher||USA U18 (USHL)||C/LW||6'3 ¾||212||63||15||43|
|42||Nicholas Robertson||Peterborough (OHL)||LW||5'8 ¾||162||54||27||55|
|43||Simon Holmstrom||HV71 (SWE J20)||RW||6'0 ¾||193||31||7||20|
|44||Jackson LaCombe||S. St. Mary's (USHS)||D||6'1 ¾||187||46||19||67|
|45||Shane Pinto||Lincoln (USHL)||C/RW||6'2||195||56||28||59|
|46||Vladislav Firstov||Waterloo (USHL)||LW||6'0||180||62||26||58|
|47||Drew Helleson||USA U18 (USHL)||D||6'3||194||64||5||23|
|48||Albin Grewe||Djurgardens (SWE J20)||RW||5'11 ¼||190||25||13||34|
|49||Ilya Nikolaev||Yaroslavl (MHL)||C||5'11 ¾||190||41||10||25|
|50||Daniil Misyul||Yaroslavl (MHL)||D||6'3||176||46||4||10|
|51||Robert Mastrosimone||Chicago (USHL)||LW||5'10||159||54||31||60|
|52||John Farinacci||Dexter (USHS)||C||5'11||190||16||12||33|
|53||Antti Tuomisto||Assat (SM Liiga Jr)||D||6'4 ½||193||45||9||35|
|54||Artemi Kniazev||Chicoutimi (QMJHL)||D||5'10 ½||182||55||13||34|
|55||Mattias Norlinder||Frolunda (SHL)||D||6'0 ¼||187||30||5||21|
|56||Samuel Fagemo||Frolunda (SHL)||LW||6'0||190||42||14||25|
|57||Hunter Jones||Peterborough (OHL)||G||6'4½||202||57||3.31||.902|
|58||Nikita Okhotyuk||Ottawa (OHL)||D||6'1 ¼||198||56||2||17|
|59||Nathan Legare||B. Comeau (QMJHL)||RW||6'0 ¼||206||68||45||87|
|60||Alex Campbell||Victoria (BCHL)||LW||5'10 ¼||154||53||21||67|
|61||Simon Lundmark||Linkoping (SWE J20)||D||6'1 ¾||197||25||2||17|
|62||Henry Thrun||USA U18 (USHL)||D||6'2||188||55||8||36|
|63||Jayden Struble||St. Sebastians (USHS)||D||6'0 ¼||205||28||10||40|
|64||Adam Beckman||Spokane (WHL)||LW||6'1||168||68||32||62|
|65||Anttoni Honka||Jukurit (SM Liiga)||D||5'10||178||11||2||4|
|66||Pyotr Kochetkov||Ryanzan (MHL)||G||6'3½||180||18||2.13||.930|
|67||Mikko Kokkonen||Jukurit (SM Liiga)||D||5'11||198||56||3||19|
|68||Samuel Bolduc||B-Boisbriand (QMJHL)||D||6'4 ¼||209||65||9||37|
|69||Nikita Alexandrov||Charlottetown (QMJHL)||C||6'0 ½||190||64||27||61|
|70||Layton Ahac||Prince George (BCHL)||D||6'2 ½||190||25||2||11|
|71||Patrik Puistola||Tappara (SM Liiga Jr)||RW||6'0 ½||175||25||11||22|
|72||Albert Johansson||Farjestad (SWE J20)||D||6'0||165||40||5||29|
|73||Michael Teply||B.n Jizerou (CZE WSM2)||LW||6'3||187||23||4||10|
|74||Jordan Spence||Moncton (QMJHL)||D||5'10||177||68||6||49|
|75||Alex Beaucage||R-Noranda (QMJHL)||RW||6'1 ¾||192||68||39||79|
|76||Michael Vukojevic||Kitchener (OHL)||D||6'3 ¼||212||68||3||29|
|77||Graeme Clarke||Ottawa (OHL)||RW||6'0||175||55||23||34|
|78||Ryder Donovan||Duluth East (USHS)||C/RW||6'3 ¼||184||29||17||47|
|79||Ethan Phillips||Sioux Falls (USHL)||C||5'9||150||50||16||43|
|80||Mads Sogaard||Medicine Hat (WHL)||G||6'8||199||37||2.64||.921|
|81||Semyon Chystyakov||Ufa (MHL)||D||5'10||167||32||1||11|
|82||Pavel Dorofeyev||Magnitigorsk (MHL)||C||6'0 ¾||176||19||17||31|
|83||Karl Henriksson||Frolunda (SWE J20)||C||5'9 ¼||176||45||13||49|
|84||Yegor Spiridonov||Magnitigorsk (MHL)||C/LW||6'2||190||43||15||41|
|85||Judd Caulfield||USA NTDP (USHL)||RW||6'3||204||26||6||25|
|86||Dillon Hamaliuk||Seattle (WHL)||LW||6'3||194||72||15||39|
|87||Ron Attard||Tri-City (USHL)||D||6'3 ¾||205||43||26||55|
|88||Zachary Jones||Tri-City (USHL)||D||5'10||172||56||7||52|
|89||Matvey Guskov||London (OHL)||C||6'2||182||59||12||30|
|90||Maxim Cajkovic||Saint John (QMJHL)||RW||5'11||185||60||22||46|
|91||Aaron Huglen||Roseau (USHS)||RW||5'11||166||26||17||54|
|92||Marshall Warren||USA U18 (USHL)||D||5'11||170||58||8||34|
|93||Arseny Gritsyuk||Omsk 2 (RUS Jr)||RW||5'10||169||30||12||21|