2019 NHL Mock Draft 2.0: Turcotte rising up the board
The NHL scouting combine is in the books, and all 31 NHL organizations now have their interviews done, their measurements taken and their opinions firmed up about the 2019 draft class. One of the guys that really helped himself last weekend, according to people around the combine, was center Alex Turcotte, who clearly has top of the draft talent while being limited by injuries in his two seasons at the US National Development Team Program.
He’s the son of former NHLer Alfie, a first-round pick himself back in 1983, and is polished in many of the ways that only a second-generation NHL-type can be. The one question is whether or not Turcotte is going to be able to stay healthy enough to eventually excel at the NHL level, but it feels like he’s rising on some draft boards because NHL scouting teams are sold on everything else about him.
Without further ado, here is NBCSportsBoston.com’s NHL Mock Draft 2.0 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 this past 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. Of the players in this year’s draft class, Hughes is the one that has the “generational talent” moniker thrown around even if that is used a little too often. Given that they already have Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier this is the kind of franchise-type center that 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 that brings size, strength and skill into an 18-year-old package that scored impressively 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. Kakko continued to solidify his draft position with his performance at the IIHF World championships where he led a strong Finland crew and scored a dominant six goals in the first seven preliminary games. Kakko should jump into the NHL and make a splash for the Rangers right away.
3. Chicago Blackhawks
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 Jonathan Toews as he learns at the feet of one of the best two-way centers in the game? Turcotte is a solid two-way center with offensive upside, and that’s the kind of player that Blackhawks are always on the lookout for, particularly with Toews getting a little older these days. The clincher is that he grew up in Chicago idolizing Toews and fan-boying on the Blackhawks. So this is going to be a no-brainer for them.
4. Colorado Avalanche
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 the Avalanche having been looking for a big, strong No. 1 defenseman to head their back end, Byram and 2018 first round pick Cale Makar could be the top pairing defensive partners in the Mile High 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.
5. Los Angeles Kings
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 class, 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 Kings exactly the kind of dynamic scoring punch that they’ve been missing over the last couple of seasons. LA could use him right now, but he may not be able to make the jump immediately given his size and strength considerations.
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 played 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 hard-nosed, hard-working type that 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. He also draws comparisons to players like Ryan Getzlaf and Jumbo Joe Thornton with his ability to pass the puck and make plays, and that’s the type of player that any team could use. 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
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. Cozens utilizes his big body for puck possession and to play the physical game, and that would give the Oilers the kind of skill/grit combination that they could use among their bottom-6 group to start. 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 third line center to start behind Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
9. Anaheim Ducks
Matthew Boldy (left wing, USA NTDP)
The 6-foot-2, 187-pound left winger can score goals 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. The Millis, Massachusetts born Boldy has also played all over the map for the US team from first to third line and has played in all situations, so he’s going to be a valuable performer for whatever team nabs him whether it’s the Ducks or somebody else.
10. Vancouver Canucks
Phillip Broberg (defenseman, AIK Sweden)
The Swedish D-man prospect has ideal size and 6-foot-3, 199-pounds and had two goals and nine points in 41 games with the Swedish Elite League last season. He’s also said to be among the best skaters in the entire draft class with the ability to play at a high level at both ends of the ice. 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 defensemen pool this time around to create a more well-rounded Canucks group in the near future.
11. Philadelphia Flyers
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 Flyers could certainly just use more players like Newhook that can put the points in bunches. The knock on him is that he’s not much of a defensive player, but that’s never really scared the Flyers away. The BCHL’s leading scorer is headed to Boston College next season.
12. Minnesota Wild
Trevor Zegras (center/wing, USA NTDP)
The 6-foot, 166-pound Zegras is a physical player and aggressive two-way center that 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
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, lethal shot. Krebs had 19 goals and 68 points in 64 games last season, but was also an astounding minus-50 while very clearly struggling defensively on a poor team. 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 Florida, and he’s got a lot of intangibles like maturity and hockey smarts working in his favor as well.
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 that would make a nice center tandem with Clayton Keller. The one knock on Kaliyev is that the on-ice effort isn’t always up to full speed and the motor doesn’t seem to always be going, but the shot, release and natural scoring ability will make him a surefire first round pick.
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 as does the 6-foot-4 frame that would give the Habs a Francophone power forward with goal-scoring ability in tight around the net. This seems like a natural match.
16. Colorado Avalance
Egor Afanasyev (left wing, Muskegon Lumberjacks)
The 6-foot-3, 203-pound Afanasyev had 27 goals and 62 points in 58 games in the USHL last season and combines ideal left wing power forward size with an offense-first mentality. Certainly he could add more forward depth to a Colorado Avalanche group that’s looking for more talented forwards to go behind their top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon.
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)
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 that’s got the skating and smarts always expected out of Swedish defensemen. Soderstrom would be a great get for a Senators team that is already building back up their defensemen depth with Thomas Chabot. Perhaps Soderstrom can also begin to erase the sting of the Sens losing Erik Karlsson prior to last season as well?
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. He also plays extremely hard and gets the most out of the size that he does have with a high hockey IQ, which has pushed him into the middle of the first round despite perhaps second round size and strength.
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 that 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 big-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
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 for an Islanders team still looking to add depth, talent and skill down the middle of their roster. The Isles obviously lost John Tavares prior to the start of this season, and 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.
24. Nashville Predators
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 Predators would take a flier on in the latter portion of the first round with a desire to beef up the offensive skill up front.
25. Washington Capitals
Brett Leason (right wing, Prince Albert Raiders)
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Leason is right up the alley of the big, strong and bruising Capitals and he’s got the offensive goods with 36 goals and 89 points in the WHL last season. There are questions about his skating and his speed, but with that size and his heavy, goal-scoring shot there will be somebody willing to take a flier on him despite his status as an over-age player at 19 years old. It should be noted, though, that the scouting community is a bit mixed after he really blossomed in the WHL at a later stage in his junior hockey career.
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
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. Ironically the 5-foot-9, 161-pounder has a game that reminds scouts of Steve Yzerman, who just exited the Lightning organization to take things over with the Detroit Red Wings.
28. Carolina Hurricanes
Nils Hoglander (left wing, Rogle BK)
The 5-foot-9 Hoglander is a feisty, skilled winger that 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 that don’t shy away from the 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 their forward group after a surprising run to the conference final.
29. Anaheim Ducks (via Sabres and Sharks)
John 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 with the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder and replenishing some of the aging portions of their forward group with a couple first round picks. That being said, it might be a few years down the road with Beecher expected to attend the University of Michigan in the near term.
30. Buffalo Sabres (via St. Louis)
Brayden Tracey (left wing, Moose Jaw Warriors)
The 6-foot, 177-pound Tracey is a finisher around the net and a potential impact winger that 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 Buffalo always looking for more offense up front.
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 as well 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.