The 2019 NHL draft is here. Well, almost. It starts with the first round tonight at 8 pm on the east coast. For those of us in the states, you can catch it on NBCSN. Rounds 2-7 will follow on Saturday starting at 1 pm.
The first two picks seem to be pretty much a foregone conclusion. The New Jersey Devils are expected to take center Jack Hughes from the US National Team Development Program (USNTDP) and the New York Rangers will likely follow with Finnish winger Kaapo Kakko. The Devils could shake things up by going with Kakko first but that seems unlikely.
After the first two picks, things get much less certain. Defender Bowen Byram out of the Western Hockey League and center Alex Turcotte from the USNTDP are the consensus third and fourth ranked prospects but that consensus isn’t as well formed as the first two picks.
And after that? Anything goes. The top of the draft is stacked with forward talent but light on blue liners so it will be interesting to see if one of the teams in the top ten reaches for a defender. And if so, does that start a run on defense earlier than is perhaps justified?
The following chart shows the consolidated rankings as well as eleven public scouting lists. The consolidated rank includes eight paywalled sources in addition to the displayed public rankings. Several of the rankings don’t include goalies and the method here includes an adjustment for that. One list doesn’t include overagers and a similar adjustment is applied.
One interesting thing to look for is where Bob McKenzie’s list differs from the public. Because his list is based on input from NHL scouts, it can highlight where teams are thinking differently from the public. The most obvious example is Pavel Dorofeyev who is in the 80s on McKenzie’s list despite being in the 20s on most public lists. He’ll be an interesting test case tonight.
The following chart shows the spread in the rankings for each player. Players who are tightly grouped show strong consensus among scout’s opinions. Players with a wide range are more divisive.
For Lightning fans, the Bolts pick late in the first round at 27th. On day two, they’re scheduled to have four picks: one in the third round, one in the fourth round, one in the sixth round, and two in the seventh round. But don’t be surprised if that changes. This front office has a history of moving back in the draft when they have a late first round pick and they’ll likely explore that option again if no one high on their list slides to 27.
The last time the Lightning picked 27th, which was 2016, they selected Brett Howden whom they eventually traded to the New York Rangers as part of the Ryan McDonagh deal. Howden was looking like a promising prospect before the trade but struggled mightily in his first NHL minutes last season. In 2011, they selected Vladislav Namestnikov who was part of the same trade.
Other recent 27th picks include Nicolas Beaudin, Morgan Frost, Jacob Larsson, and Nikolay Goldobin. The most recent home run selection in that spot was John Carlson in 2008. Based on the names in this list, you can see why Julien BriseBois might consider moving back to acquire more picks if a team is willing to make a deal. At this point in the draft, the chances of getting an impact player have already started to decrease so increasing the volume of picks becomes the best way to improve your chances of a successful draft.
This year’s draft doesn’t have the top talent of some other years. Especially after the first two picks. But it does have depth and the Lightning will likely have some interesting players to choose from at 27. Whether they stay in that spot and make the pick will depend on whether one of the players they gave a first round grade slides to them. If not, that’s probably when the trade discussions will start.
For me, the draft is one of the most fun events of the year. It’s unique in that it represents unbridled hope. You can talk yourself into every prospect becoming a future impact player. Not many will but during the draft, we get to focus on upside and potential. So get excited about the 5’10” 170 lb scoring winger your team selects in the third round. He’s definitely gonna be the steal of the draft.