With the 2019 NHL Entry Draft less than a month away, we decided to compile a draft ranking of the best 35 eligible draft prospects available to teams in June (along with some honorable mentions). Originally, it was going to be a top 31 ranking, but I decided that in the event that the Tampa Bay Lightning should trade down from 27th overall, early second-round options should be explored as well.
The rankings were compiled solely based on player skill and scouting reports over the course of this past season. Where a prospect is ranked does not have any correlation to where an NHL team will be drafting in June. Further, the NHL player comparisons in this ranking are based solely on the prospect’s playing style, and not on the prospect’s projected success in the NHL.
The top 35 consists of 24 forwards, 10 defensemen, and one goalie. As this is a particularly strong draft year for forwards, they dominate the rankings, though that does not mean there aren’t extremely talented and valuable defensemen and goalies available.
Please feel free to discuss in the comments!
#1 Jack Hughes, USNTDP
C - 5’10”, 170lbs
Let’s see: elite skating, sublime puck and gap control, superior hockey IQ, and has been shattering US National Team records all season? Hughes is the complete package.
NHL Comparable: Patrick Kane
#2 Kaapo Kakko, TPS (Liiga)
RW - 6’2”, 190lbs
Hands-down the most NHL-ready player of the draft, the power forward dominated against men this season. Kakko won gold at the World Juniors and the Worlds, set a record for scoring by a Finnish U-18 player in Liiga, and will bring his strong defensive game, offensive creativity, and finish to the NHL.
NHL Comparable: Mikko Rantanen
#3 Alex Turcotte, USNTDP
C - 5’11”, 185lbs
Injuries were an issue this season, but Turcotte was a force when healthy. His skating, hockey sense, and offensive instincts will allow the best two-way player of the draft to transition well to the NHL.
NHL Comparable: Patrice Bergeron
#4 Bowen Byram, Vancouver (WHL)
LD - 6’0”, 194lbs
Byram’s explosive skating and acceleration, smooth edge-work, heavy and accurate shot, and exceptional vision is a large part of why he is the best defenseman available in the draft. He was the WHL’s leading scorer among defenseman and led the league playoffs in points too.
NHL Comparable: Morgan Rielly
#5 Kirby Dach, Saskatoon (WHL)
C - 6’4”, 198lbs
High intelligence and awareness make up for Dach’s lack of an explosive skating stride. However, he’s a gifted playmaker with his ability to find his teammates from anywhere on the ice, and has great edges for a player his size.
NHL Comparable: Mark Scheifele
#6 Trevor Zegras, USNTDP
C - 6’0”, 168lbs
Think ‘poor man’s Jack Hughes’, because Zegras’ offensive talents are nearly equal. Exceptional vision, patience, and soft hands make him one of the best passers in the draft. An intelligent center, Zegras also uses his hockey sense to shut down opponents in his own end.
NHL Comparable: Mitch Marner
#7 Dylan Cozens, Lethbridge (WHL)
C - 6’3”, 181lbs
For a player his size, it’s impressive how fast Cozens can be. He follows up his explosive speed with all the necessary offensive tools: stellar vision, a heavy release, accurate passing. Plus, he never takes a shift (or a night) off thanks to his tremendously unyielding work ethic. That makes him a very difficult player for defenders to contain.
NHL Comparable: Pierre-Luc Dubois
#8 Matthew Boldy, USNTDP
LW - 6’2”, 192lbs
Boldy has it all: size, skill, and speed. His exceptional vision allows him to be a deceptively creative player. He can create offense with a deadly release or soft hands, and always makes an impact defensively. Consistency has been an issue this season and his skating could use some improvement, but his skill set and potential can’t be ignored.
NHL Comparable: Jamie Benn
#9 Peyton Krebs, Kootenay (WHL)
C/RW - 5’11”, 181lbs
Kootenay was a really, really bad team this season, yet Krebs still put up nearly 70 points as a draft-eligible forward. He drives play by looking for opportunities his teammates and opponents don’t often see coming and capitalizing on them. His skating could use some improvement, but he has great hands and a quick release. Kootenay may have only won 13 games this season, but Krebs never took a night off.
NHL Comparable: Dylan Larkin
#10 Cole Caufield, USNTDP
RW - 5’7”, 163lbs
Honestly, size shouldn’t even matter here. By the time the 2018-19 season was all said and done, Caufield had scored 99 goals (U-18s included). His ability to find the right spots on the ice, shooting accuracy, and elite offensive instincts have elevated him up rankings this season, and for good reason.
NHL Comparable: Alex DeBrincat
#11 Cam York, USNTDP
LD - 5’11”, 176lbs
Smooth skating, excellent puck handling ability, and unafraid to join the rush, York is the modern-day NHL defenseman. He quarterbacks the powerplay, and defensive improvements have seen him blossom into a two-way defender. High IQ allows him to make the right decisions under pressure, and his mobility allows him to fix his mistakes.
NHL Comparable: Mark Giordano
#12 Arthur Kaliyev, Hamilton (OHL)
RW - 6’2”, 190lbs
Kaliyev is a pure goal scorer with high-end offensive talent. He has a deceptive shot he can change the angle and release on to fool goalies. He’ll need to work on his defensive coverage and improve on his skating acceleration, but his ability to find the back of the net is undeniable.
NHL Comparable: Thomas Vanek
#13 Alex Newhook, Victoria (BCHL)
C - 5’11”, 190lbs
Extremely skilled and smooth, Newhook can cut around defenders with his sublime edges and breakaway speed. He has great vision, offensive instincts, and is a dangerous puckhandler, but is also a strong penalty killer and excellent in his own end. He dominated junior-A and excelled at the U-18s, but will face tougher competition in college next season.
NHL Comparable: Brayden Point
#14 Vasili Podkolzin, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
RW - 6’1”, 190lbs
Podkolzin has all the tools to be a successful NHL player, but the consistency just wasn’t there this season. He excelled at international tournaments, but was fairly quiet for his club team - and was missing in action at the U-18s until the final two games of the tournament. However, Podkolzin has good acceleration, high hockey IQ, a great wrist shot, and tremendous work ethic. He has exceptional hands and offensive instincts, and can play a physical, aggravating game.
NHL Comparable: Vladimir Tarasenko
#15 Victor Soderstrom, Brynas (SHL)
RD - 5’11”, 179lbs
Another puck-moving defenseman who uses his skating, quick passes, and edges to contribute offensively, Soderstrom likes to control play and can transition from defense to offense naturally. He played top minutes in the SHL this season. He needs to work on strengthening his shot, but his vision and puckhandling will translate well to the NHL.
NHL Comparable: Jared Spurgeon
#16 Thomas Harley, Mississauga (OHL)
LD - 6’3”, 187lbs
Harley is a strong, mobile skater, and an effective play-driving defenseman. He excelled in a larger role with Mississauga this season and plays a solid two-way game. His creative vision allows him to see offensive opportunities and join or lead the rush, and has a strong, accurate slapshot. Harley also has good gap control, but he has to work on limiting the amount of turnovers in his game and improve his defensive positioning.
NHL Comparable: Jake Gardiner
#17 Raphael Lavoie, Halifax (QMJHL)
RW - 6’4”, 198lbs
The power forward has an accurate and heavy release, but is also an effective playmaker. Lavoie uses his size to protect the puck and drive his way into difficult battles and through defenses. He became a lights out goal scorer in the Q playoffs after an up-and-down regular season. Already the size of an NHL player, Lavoie is agile and fast for his height and just needs to get stronger and more consistent to be successful at the next level.
NHL Comparable: James van Riemsdyk
#18 Philip Broberg, AIK (Allsvenskan)
LD - 6’3”, 203lbs
Broberg is a powerful and smooth skater with the ability to lead rushes up the ice. He has excellent positioning and great hockey sense that allows him to get to the right areas of the ice. Broberg needs to work on refining his puckhandling skills in order to drive play and become a catalyst for offense, but his vision gives him the ability to be an effective playmaker at the next level.
NHL Comparable: Rasmus Ristolainen
#19 Philip Tomasino, Niagara (OHL)
C/RW - 6’0”, 181lbs
Extremely intelligent, great puckhandler, and a heavy release that he uses to score big goals, Tomasino is a smooth skater whose exceptional playmaking skills often go unnoticed. He has excellent hockey sense, breakaway speed and edgework, but also an underrated defensive awareness. He’ll need to add muscle in order to make the jump, but he has the foundation to become a successful NHL player.
NHL Comparable: Ondrej Palat
#20 Matthew Robertson, Edmonton (WHL)
LD - 6’4”, 201lbs
Robertson is an intelligent, highly mobile and smooth defender. His skating is agile and fluid, and his long reach and size make him difficult to force off of pucks. His high IQ allows him to be effective at both ends of the ice, and he can also drive play. He has an extremely strong and heavy shot from the point that he could use more often in order to make more of an offensive impact.
NHL Comparable: Jake Muzzin
#21 Ryan Suzuki, Barrie (OHL)
C - 6’0”, 176
Creative vision, patience, and soft hands make Suzuki a dangerous playmaker. Also unafraid to get in on the forecheck and force turnovers, he is extremely intelligent and highly skilled. Suzuki will often default for a pass instead of taking a shot, and his compete level has been in question this season, but there’s no denying his offensive talents.
NHL Comparison: Mathew Barzal
#22 Nils Hoglander, Rogle BK (SHL)
LW - 5’9”, 185lbs
The late-2000 born winger is undersized but speedy and highly skilled. Hoglander uses his nifty edgework and quick hands to cut in and around defenders and has an excellent release that he uses to contribute offensively. For a player his size, he is difficult to play against, and projects as a secondary offensive catalyst.
NHL Comparable: Mats Zuccarello
#23 Moritz Seider, Mannheim (DEL)
RD - 6’4”, 198lbs
Big, smooth skating, right-shot defensemen are at a premium in the NHL these days, and Seider has all the tools that impress NHL scouts. He has great vision, and is a solid two-way defender who can move the puck up and down the ice. He didn’t get much of an opportunity to showcase his talents this season as an underaged player in Germany, but he was a dominant force for the gold-medal winning Germans as an underager at the D-1 World Juniors.
NHL Comparable: Alex Pietrangelo
#24 Ville Heinola, Lukko (Liiga)
LD - 5’11”, 181lbs
Heinola has been referred to by scouts as a poor man’s Miro Heiskanen, as both players share extremely high hockey IQ, are talented offensively, and are fluid skaters with great edgework. Heinola could improve on his first-step speed, but he showcased his vision and ability to create offense for his teammates in professional hockey this season. He’ll need to get stronger as he looks towards the NHL, but he already looks extremely confident playing against men.
NHL Comparable: Miro Heiskanen
#25 Jakob Pelletier, Moncton (QMJHL)
LW - 5’9”, 161lbs
Undersized and often overlooked, Pelletier proved this season that he’s able to put up points at every level of hockey he’s played. He has quick hands, great edges and acceleration, and an extremely high hockey IQ. He has a deceptive shot that he can get off very quickly at difficult angles and is a great possession player. Pelletier can also play center when asked. Injuries have led some to question his durability, but he has unrelenting compete level, is reliable in his own end, and is evolving into a dangerous two-way player.
NHL Comparable: Tyler Johnson
#26 Bobby Brink, Sioux City (USHL)
RW - 5’10”, 163lbs
Smaller player with elite offensive instincts and vision, Brink has become known for his hands, awareness in the offensive zone, and finish. He has the innate ability to make things happen whenever he’s on the ice. He’s proven to be a valuable defensive player, and his high intelligence allows him to anticipate his opponents and position himself accordingly. His skating is the one improvement he needs to make, as it’s a little rough around the edges.
NHL Comparable: Jake Guentzel
#27 Samuel Poulin, Sherbrooke (QMJHL)
LW - 6’2”, 207lbs
The son of a former NHLer, Poulin is a power forward with a deadly shot, strong puck-protection skills, and unwavering work ethic. Although his skating has improved noticeably this season, he could still benefit from improving his agility and explosiveness. He won’t ‘wow’ offensively, but will create offense by getting deep into the corners and driving towards the net.
NHL Comparable: Brandon Saad
#28 Brett Leason, Prince Albert (WHL)
C - 6’4”, 201lbs
Third time’s hopefully the charm for Leason, who was passed over in the draft in the last two years. However, he was a completely new player this season, exploding for career-highs in all point categories and showing off his powerful stride and quick release. He’s also an efficient playmaker, uses his size effectively, and his skating has improved tenfold since his first draft-eligible season. With his size, intelligence, mobility, and proven offensive prowess, Leason has the potential to make 30 NHL teams regret passing over him twice.
NHL Comparable: Alex Tuch
#29 Nick Robertson, Peterborough (OHL)
LW - 5’9”, 161lbs
Another undersized yet highly-skilled winger, Robertson is an excellent skater with fluid edges and great acceleration. He has excellent offensive instincts, puck skills, and vision. Size is the one challenge he’ll have to overcome, and his consistency can be an issue. He’s four days removed from being 2020-draft eligible, but the younger brother of Stars prospect Jason has the ability to be both a playmaker and a finisher.
NHL Comparable: Rocco Grimaldi
#30 Spencer Knight, USNTDP
G - 6’3”, 198lbs
Drafting goalies in the first round is a rarity, but there’s a good chance Knight will be one of the first 31 picks in June. The talented goalie blends size, agility, excellent positioning, and mental acuity. He’s also an excellent puckhandler, and can act as a team’s third defenseman. As a confident, calm and poised netminder, Knight doesn’t overreact and reacts well to developing plays. He isn’t phased by goals and rebounds from bad games very well.
NHL Comparable: Carey Price
#31 Connor McMichael, London (OHL)
C - 5’11”, 174lbs
Quietly effective, McMichael surprised this season with his production (63 primary points) and ability to drive offense. He has quick and smooth skating that makes him a great rusher who can adapt to transitions in the neutral zone. McMichael uses his hockey IQ to find the open areas of the ice to become available for chances, and he’s a great finisher. He does need to add more muscle to get stronger along the boards, but his offensive instincts are next level.
NHL Comparable: William Karlsson
#32 Nathan Legare, Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)
RW - 6’0”, 201lbs
Discipline and skating are facets of Legare’s game that need improvement. His positioning is often what leads to him taking unnecessary penalties, and his top-end speed and acceleration are pretty average. However, Legare is a strong puck protector and carrier, and a natural goal scorer. He’s able to score from anywhere on the ice; whether it’s with his wrist shot or snapshot. Both feature strong, accurate, and quick releases. He’s also unafraid to play physically, drive to the net, and use his hands to finish in tight.
NHL Comparable: Anders Lee
#33 Anttoni Honka, JYP (Liiga)
RD - 5’10”, 176lbs
The younger brother of Julius has exceptional skating and puck-moving abilities. Honka is also a very intelligent player whose creativity and vision could make him a successful powerplay quarterback. He loves to jump up into the rush and drive offense. His size makes him more vulnerable to opposing rushes, so he’ll have to get stronger if he wants to keep up with bigger and older opponents, and work on his positioning in his own end.
NHL Comparable: Tyson Barrie
#34 Jamieson Rees, Sarnia (OHL)
C - 5’10”, 172lbs
Rees might be smaller, but he certainly doesn’t play like it. He’s rarely outworked for pucks and plays with a tenacious edge that can aggravate opponents. He is a fast skater with excellent edgework, with the ability to change directions instantly and back defenders off of him. He’ll have to work on being more of an offensive presence, and he has the vision, creativity, and puckhandling skills to do that. There’s no questioning his work ethic and competitive spirit.
NHL Comparable: Brendan Gallagher
#35 Lassi Thomson, Kelowna (WHL)
RD - 6’0”, 190lbs
In his first year of North American hockey, Thomson separated himself from the pack by demonstrating his amazing skating, and heavy, accurate shot. Like every offensive defenseman, his defensive game needs some improvement, but his skating allows him to get back in time to cover up for any defensive gaffes. His playmaking ability could improve as well, but it’s coming along nicely and Thomson will only get better on a Kelowna team known for churning out top-end defensemen.
NHL Comparable: Ryan Pulock
Honorable Mentions: Alex Vlasic (LD), Patrik Puistola (LW), Tobias Bjornfot (LD), Vladislav Kolyachonok (LD), Nikita Alexandrov (C)