2019 NHL Mock Draft 1.0: Hughes leads the way for USA Hockey
The NHL Draft is a month away and there’s little suspense about the name at the top of the list. Jack Hughes is from a hockey family with a dad who works for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and a number of brothers who are on their own hockey journeys as well. But there is something undeniably special about the center that has him in the “generational player” conversation, and has the New Jersey Devils ready to add to their growing, impressive list of young assets.
Hughes will be part of a massive influx of US National Team Development Program prospects who will be drafted in the first round at the NHL Draft in Vancouver, a phenomenon that has become more commonplace with each passing year of successful development for USA Hockey. Just in this mock draft alone, we have nine USA Hockey NTDP players getting selected among the top 31 players, and there could even be more than that when it actually comes to the real picks a month from now.
Without further ado, here is NBCSportsBoston.com’s NHL Mock Draft 1.0 with a few more to come over the next month:
1. New Jersey Devils
Jack Hughes (center, Team USA National Team Development Program)
The 5-foot-10, 168-pound Hughes is the leading scorer in the history of the USNTDP and went for 112 points in 50 games for Team USA last season. He can skate, he can score and he can make plays, and he comes from a hockey family that’s loaded with talented players ready to make their mark on the NHL. Given that they already have Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier, this is the kind of franchise-type center who could make the Devils really good, really quickly.
2. New York Rangers
Kaapo Kakko (right wing, TPS Turku)
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Kakko is a goal-scoring power forward in the making who brings size, strength and skill into an 18-year-old package who scored an impressive 22 goals in the Finnish Elite League. Kakko joins Brad Park as the highest draft picks (No. 2 overall) in Blueshirts franchise history, and he should be a pretty good one for a Rangers club that keeps accumulating young assets.
3. Chicago Blackhawks
Bowen Byram (defenseman, Vancouver Giants)
The WHL defenseman is big, strong and physical along with possessing the ability to move the puck, and he projects to be a No. 1 defenseman-in-the-making. With Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook getting older out in Chicago, Byram and 2018 first-round pick Adam Bovquist could be the top pairing defensive partners in the Windy City for the decade to come. The 26 goals in 67 games really stands out for the 6-foot-1, 194-pound Byram, who will be the top defenseman selected in this summer’s draft class.
4. Colorado Avalanche
Cole Caufield (right wing, US National U18 Development Program)
Caufield is the most explosive goal-scorer in the draft and plays bigger than you’d expect from a guy listed at 5-foot-7, 162-pounds. He’s definitely the Johnny Gaudreau/Alex DeBrincat type of this draft, and those guys tend to go higher now than they used to. The undersized forward had an amazing 72 goals and 100 points last season for the US National program, and would give the Avalanche a little more scoring punch behind that terrific top line that they’re boasting right now.
5. Los Angeles Kings
Dylan Cozens (center, Lethbridge Hurricanes)
The 6-foot-3, 181-pound center has the size and versatility to be very effective at the NHL level, and has played both center and on the wing during his junior hockey career. The 34 goals and 84 points in 68 WHL games show the offensive upside as well, and Cozens' two-way ability could turn him into a really good 1-2 punch with Anze Kopitar in Los Angeles.
6. Detroit Red Wings
Vasili Podkolzin (right wing, SKA St Petersburg)
The 6-foot-1, 183-pounder won’t even be 18 years old at the draft, but is expected to be the first Russian player selected despite some disagreement about his game. Some see him as a future dominant right wing just coming into his own, and others see him as more of a hard-nosed, hard-working type who doesn’t have some of the natural offensive gifts of the other forwards taken at the top of the first round. Certainly the Red Wings aren’t afraid of taking a Russian player, and they could be big beneficiaries of that approach if Podkolzin pans out.
7. Buffalo Sabres
Kirby Dach (center, Saskatoon Blades)
The 6-foot-4 center posted 25 goals and 73 points in 64 games for the Blades this past season, and has both size and high-end offensive skill to go with good skating for a big man. Certainly a player with Dach’s ability could make a nice addition to a Sabres team that started to show signs of life this past season, and just needs more depth and talent added everywhere along the roster.
8. Edmonton Oilers
Alex Turcotte (center, USA NTDP)
The 5-foot-11, 189-pound Turcotte had 26 goals and 61 points in 34 games for Team USA and played second fiddle to Jack Hughes this past season as the No. 2 center. What better way to train a player like Turcotte to be the No. 2 guy behind Connor McDavid, provided the Oilers continue to utilize Leon Draisaitl as a winger? Turcotte is a solid two-way center with offensive upside, and that’s the kind of player that the Oilers are always on the lookout for.
9. Anaheim Ducks
Matthew Boldy (left wing, USA NTDP)
The 6-foot-2, 187-pound left winger can score as attested by his 33 goals scored, and can make plays from the wing as evidenced by the 81 points he racked up in 64 games. It’s exactly the kind of thing that the Anaheim Ducks could use as they didn’t have nearly enough offense last season and are getting awfully long in the tooth up front among their forward group.
10. Vancouver Canucks
Philip Broberg (defenseman, AIK Sweden)
The Swedish D-man prospect has ideal size at 6-foot-3, 199-pounds and had two goals and nine points in 41 games with the Swedish Elite League last season. With the Canucks already stockpiling elite talent up front with their forwards, it’s not going to be a surprise if Jim Benning dips into the pool of defensemen this time around to create a more well-rounded Canucks group in the near future.
11. Philadelphia Flyers
Peyton Krebs (center/left wing, Kootenay Ice)
The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder isn’t the biggest prospect in the world, but he makes up for it with his skating ability and a dangerous shot. Krebs had 19 goals and 68 points in 64 games last season, but was also an astounding minus-50. It will be interesting to see if a so-so draft season ends up hurting him at all, but Krebs could be another interesting piece added to a talented young cast in Philadelphia, and he’s got a lot of intangibles like maturity and hockey smarts working in his favor as well.
12. Minnesota Wild
Trevor Zegras (center/wing, USA NTDP)
The 6-foot, 166-pound Zegras is a physical player and aggressive two-way center who could certainly fit into Minnesota’s plans as an eventual replacement for Charlie Coyle down the line. Zegras had 26 goals and 87 points for Team USA last season as a strong two-way player down the middle and fits the profile for a Wild team that values strong play at both ends of the ice.
13. Florida Panthers
Alex Newhook (center, Victoria Grizzlies)
Newhook had over 100 points in 53 games for Victoria last season during a brilliant junior hockey season, and it’s hard to imagine him lasting much beyond the top-10 after tearing up the BCHL. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder isn’t the biggest guy in the world, but the Panthers could certainly use more players like Newhook who can put up points in bunches. The BCHL’s leading scorer is headed to Boston College next.
14. Arizona Coyotes
Arthur Kaliyev (center, Hamilton Bulldogs)
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Kaliyev rang up the OHL for 50-plus goals and 100-plus points last season, and is the kind of dynamic offensive player that the Coyotes could use more of after nearly sneaking into the playoffs this spring. The size and the offensive production bode well for a young player who would make a nice center tandem with Clayton Keller.
15. Montreal Canadiens
Raphael Lavoie (center/right wing, Halifax Mooseheads)
Is there any doubt that the Montreal Canadiens aren’t going to let a guy named Raphael Lavoie get past them in the first round? Lavoie has 136 points over the last two seasons for the Mooseheads and is exactly the kind of offensive player that Montreal needs more of moving forward. The French-Canadian name certainly doesn’t hurt either.
16. Colorado Avalanche
Victor Soderstrom (defenseman, Brynas IF, Sweden)
The four goals and seven points in 44 games don’t really tell the tale for the 5-foot-11, 179-pound D-man who’s got the skating and smarts always expected out of Swedish defensemen. Soderstrom would be a great get for an Avs team that was talented enough to get into the playoffs last season and continues to build up its back end.
17. Vegas Golden Knights
Thomas Harley (defenseman, Mississauga Steelheads)
The 6-foot-3, 188-pound Harley finished with 11 goals and 58 points in 68 games last season, and brings some real offensive knowhow to the table. He’s got size, projectable offensive ability and could be amongst a run of D-men taken in the middle of the first round. While the Golden Knights have some good, young D-men, they should be adding to look to that group during the draft.
18. Dallas Stars
Bobby Brink (right wing, Sioux City Musketeers)
The prolific Brink finished with 35 goals in 43 games played last season, so he’s got the goods offensively to hang with a talented group like Dallas. The only question is whether the 5-foot-10, 163-pound has enough size and strength to hack it at the NHL level, but the good news is that Brink will have a few seasons to get up to NHL readiness. Certainly a lack of size isn’t all that big of a deal at the NHL level as it used to be in the old days.
19. Ottawa Senators (via Columbus)
Ryan Suzuki (center, Barrie Colts)
Suzuki had 25 goals and 75 points in 65 games last season, and the 6-foot, 178-pounder would be an interesting pick with a draft choice earned in trades with the Blue Jackets. The Sens traded away a guy like Matt Duchene, but they could begin developing his replacement with the multi-talented Suzuki. Suzuki’s older brother Nick was drafted by Vegas in the first round and traded to the Montreal Canadiens last season.
20. New York Rangers
Connor McMichael (center/left wing, London Knights)
The offensively gifted McMichael had 36 goals and 72 points in 67 games last season at the OHL level, and brings the ability to play wing or center. The 5-foot-11, 172-pound McMichael isn’t the biggest guy in the draft class, but he still manages to create his offense and would make a fine addition to the growing Rangers treasure chest of prospects.
21. Pittsburgh Penguins
Cam York (defenseman, USA NTDP)
The 6-foot, 175-pound York had a blistering 14 goals and 65 points in 63 games with a ridiculous plus-56, and will join a Penguins organization that could certainly use some more young blood on the back end. York is part of an impressive draft class for the USA National Team Development Program that continues to churn out blue chip prospects. A workhorse-type D-man who really utilizes his skating ability, York is headed to the college hockey ranks next.
22. Los Angeles Kings (via Toronto)
Moritz Seider (defenseman, Mannheim)
The 6-foot-4, 183-pound defenseman had two goals and six points in 29 games with the German Men’s League team, and would be the natural bib-bodied back end choice for the Kings after trading away Jake Muzzin to the Maple Leafs last season. It will be interesting to see if the two first-round picks can help jump start the rebuilding process for a Kings team that needs a youth injection to their roster.
23. New York Islanders
Matthew Robertson (defenseman, Edmonton Oil Kings)
The 6-foot-3, 201-pound Robertson has the size and the tenacity to be a nice addition to the Islanders on their back end with players like Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy not getting any younger. The seven goals and 33 points for the Oil Kings last season also show that he’s got some ability on the offensive end for a bigger, physical D-man.
24. Nashville Predators
Brayden Tracey (left wing, Moose Jaw Warriors)
The 6-foot, 177-pound Tracey is a finisher around the net and a potential impact winger who posted 36 goals and 81 points last season in 66 WHL games. He’s not the prototypical power forward left wing given his size, but he’s undoubtedly got the shot and the scoring knack to help a team like Nashville, which is always looking for more offense.
25. Washington Capitals
Phillip Tomasino (center, Niagara Ice Dogs)
The 6-foot, 178-pound Tomasino had 34 goals and 72 points in 67 games for the Ice Dogs last season, and brings to the table goal-scoring ability, work ethic and a willingness to play both ways. The numbers, the intangibles and the potential are all high with this player. That’s certainly the kind of player that the Capitals would take a flier on in the latter portion of the first round.
26. Calgary Flames
Spencer Knight (goaltender, Team USA NTDP)
The first and likely only goaltender taken in the first round, the 6-foot-3, 193-pound Knight is a blue-chip prospect between the pipes with the size and athleticism to be a future No. 1 netminder in the league. Given Calgary’s goaltending situation with Mike Smith and company right now, a stud, franchise goaltender for the future is something they could definitely use within their organization.
27. Tampa Bay Lightning
Jakob Pelletier (left wing, Moncton Wildcats)
The Lightning seemingly have an unending supply of talented young offensive forwards, and that tradition continues with Pelletier after he lit up the QMJHL with 39 goals and 89 points last season. Pelletier’s game is based on skating and playmaking, and those are two things that are at a premium with an organization like the Lightning.
28. Carolina Hurricanes
Nils Hoglander (left wing, Rogle BK)
The 5-foot-9 Hoglander is a feisty, skilled winger who plays with pace and tenacity. While the size isn’t ideal for a left wing-type player, there is a growing number of these fast, skilled wingers who don’t shy away from contact despite the lack of prototypical size. Hoglander makes a lot of sense for a Hurricanes team that can still use more high-end skill, speed and tenacity among its forward group after a surprising run to the conference final.
29. Anaheim Ducks (via Buffalo & San Jose)
Jon Beecher (center, Team USA NTDP)
Beecher had 15 goals and 43 points for the US NTDP last season while playing in the shadow of guys like Jack Hughes and Alex Turcotte. That won’t discourage the Ducks from continuing to beef up their depth in the middle and replenishing some of the aging portions of their forward group with a couple first-round picks.
30. Buffalo Sabres (via St. Louis)
Samuel Poulin (left wing, Sherbrooke Phoenix)
Poulin lit up the QMJHL for 29 goals and 76 points last season, and will continue to be part of the Sabres stockpiling some pieces up front to go along with their growing stable of D-men.
31. Boston Bruins
Alex Vlasic (defenseman, USA NTDP)
The cousin to NHL defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic is expected to be a first-round pick and brings many of the same skills, strengths and weaknesses to the table on the back end. But he also brings his 6-foot-6 size to the table and would give the Bruins another big-bodied battle-winner just like Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo on the back end, and that is where teams build a strong, winning nucleus these days.