2019 Mock NHL Draft Part One: Picks 15-1, Kakko or Hughes?

The NHL Draft in Vancouver is this Friday. So without further ado, here is our 2019 Forever Blueshirts Mock Draft!

#15: Montreal Canadiens select Thomas Harley  – Mississauga Steelheads – OHL – Defenseman – 6’3” – 192 pounds

2018-19 Stats: 11 G, 47 A – 58 points in 68 games

Harley shot up draft boards over the past few months and this would be another match made in heaven. The Canadiens need defense prospects and a power-play quarterback to take over as Shea Weber continues to get older. Harley has been compared to Ottawa Senators’ defenseman Thomas Chabot and if Harley can be that type of player for the Canadiens they will be in much better shape moving forward here.

Nick Suzuki and Ryan Phoeling look like they are going to be nice pieces to help lead the offense into the future and Harley, along with Victor Mete and Noah Juulson would be a good start to revamping the Canadiens aging defense corps. Harley is a great skater, knows how to close the gap on encroaching players and isn’t afraid to battle in front of the net or in the corners. Harley is a good bet to be gone by the mid point of the first rounder of the draft. His ceiling? A Minute-munching offensively talented NHL defenseman with power-play quarterback potential.

#14: Arizona Coyotes select Vasili Podkolzin – SKA 1946 St. Petersburg – MHL – 6’1’ – 190 pounds

2018-19 Stats: 6 G, 2 A – 8 points in 12 games

Vasili Podkolzin (KHL)

The most polarizing prospect in the 2019 draft. He is ranked as high as third overall in some mocks. The talent is there and Podkolzin has shown signs of being an extremely dominant player but scouts began to question his play as the year went on. Is he the dominant kid who was decimating the competition at Hlinka-Gretzky tournament earlier in the season or is he a guy that might not be able to put it all together against older competition.

The questions will follow Podkolzin until he ultimately makes his way to the NHL and shows what kind of player he is. But when will that be? He says his dream is to play in the NHL one day but many teams may not want to risk him not coming over or want to wait that long. The Coyotes are a team that can afford to wait and they badly need an injection of top end skill. After the still controversial choice of Barrett Hayton last year at fifth overall, the Coyotes shoot for the moon here and hope they get the kid with 3rd overall potential… whenever he decides to come on over.

#13: Florida Panthers select Philip Broberg – AIK – Allsvenskan – Defenseman – 6’3” – 201 pounds

2018-19 Stats: 2 G, 7 A – 9 points in 41 games

There are some who believe Broberg could ultimately end up becoming the complete defenseman in this draft. According to Craig Button of TSN “He has exceptional skating ability and exceptional command of the game in every single regard.” His skill level is through the roof and you can’t teach size which Broberg has and he will continue to grow and fill out his 6’3” frame.

Broberg would become the Panthers best defense prospect and has potential number one defenseman written all over him. Combine this guy with Aaron Ekblad, Mike Matheson and Keith Yandle and the Panthers have a great top-four “D” for the foreseeable future. It’s possible Broberg could challenge for a roster spot next year but chances are he spends another season overseas. Spencer Knight was heavily considered here in this spot but the rumors of Bobrovsky becoming a Panther are too strong to ignore.

#12: Minnesota Wild select Alex Newhook – Victoria Grizzlies – BCHL – Center – 5’11” – 190 pounds

2018-19 Stats: 38 G, 64 A – 102 points in 53 games

As far as perfect matches can go in an NHL draft, this one is pretty close. The Wild’s top two centers in Eric Staal and Mikko Koivu are 34 and 35 respectively. Pretty soon the Wild are going to need a top line center to lead them into the future. At 12th overall, Alex Newhook gives the Wild their hopeful number one center of the future.

Newhook lit the BCHL on fire this year; leading the entire league in scoring. The closest player was 18 points behind him. The knock on Newhook is that some don’t believe the BCHL is the strongest league and to that point his naysayers may have a point but you can’t deny the latent talent this kid possesses. He is an extremely powerful skater and can make plays out of nothing with his speed. Pass a little to far? Pass deflected off something or someone? No worries. Newhook will get to that puck. He has excellent puck skills and can beat defenders 1-on-1 with a variety of moves. The BCHL’s 2018-19 MVP will be a great top line player for the Wild down the line.

#11: Philadelphia Flyers select Victor Soderstrom – Brynas IF – SHL – Defenseman – 5’11” – 179 pounds

2018-19 Stats: 4 G, 3 A – 7 points in 44 games

After picking some high end forwards the past few drafts in Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee and Jay O’Brien, the Flyers opt for a workhorse of a defenseman here at 11th overall. The Flyers defense corps has been rounding out nicely the past few years with guys like Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Sanheim and Robert Hagg all joining the Broad Street Bullies and Soderstrom will be the next great addition to the Flyers blueline. Soderstrom, who is one of the absolute best skaters in this draft and has the ability to really control the flow of play. Soderstrom has a fantastic shot and he never takes a shift off. As Curtis Joe of eliteprospects.com says “he’s a game changer.”

#10: Vancouver Canucks select Matthew Boldy – USNTDP – Winger – 6’2” – 192 pounds

2018-19 Stats: 33 G, 48 A – 81 points in 64 games

The Canucks get an absolutely amazing prospect here at tenth overall. You can make the argument that Boldy could go even higher but if he drops here the Canucks would be extremely thankful. Boldy was yet another member of the dynamic USNTDP offense that lit the world on fire this year. While Boldy isn’t the fastest skater, he has an extremely powerful stride and he is very strong on his skates. If you’re on the ice and you need to defend against this guy, good luck knocking him off his skates. His shot is excellent and Boldy has the hands to beat goalies in tight.

While he isn’t the goal scorer Caufield is, Boldy will still be able to score at the NHL level since he posses a great wrister, slapper and one-timer. Boldy is good at using his size to create turnovers and his on-ice vision is something to behold when he makes these great threaded passes to teammates. Boldy lining up next to Elias Pettersson or Bo Horvat in the coming years will make Canucks fans extremely happy. With Boldy’s selection at tenth overall, four members of the vaunted USNTDP U18 squad will have been selected in the top ten spots. Boldy is a Boston College commit so Canucks fans will likely have to wait at least a year for him.

#9: Anaheim Ducks select Kirby Dach – Saskatoon Blades – WHL – Center – 6’4” – 198 pounds

2018-19 Stats: 25 G, 48 A – 73 points in 62 games

Kirby Dach (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

With Ryan Getzlaf getting up there in age Sam Steel still growing and Adam Henrique not really being a true number one guy, the Ducks will look to add another big, heavy center with a high ceiling to their prospect pool. Dach fits all the things the Ducks need.

While it’s true his stock has dropped since the beginning of the season, Dach still had a great season with Saskatoon and his offensive prowess is very high. His size is one of the things that primarily sticks out for him over a lot of the other prospects. While guys like Cole Caufield rely on their quickness and shiftiness to get around the defense, Dach is bull with great hands who runs right through them and makes them pay. His 1.18 points per game is damn good and while Dach did have a big slump in middle of the season he ended strong with 11 goals and 20 assists for 31 points in the final 25 games. He has all the tools to be a number one center in the NHL but it’s a matter of if Dach will be able to put it together at the big league level. Dach is a perplexing prospect but if he puts it all together, the Ducks have their new Ryan Getzlaf for the foreseeable future.

#8: Edmonton Oilers select Peyton Krebs – Kootenay Ice – WHL – Center/Winger – 5’11” – 181 pounds

2018-19 Stats: 19 G, 49 A – 68 points in 64 games

The Oilers just miss out on Cole Caufield here but Krebs is certainly an amazing player to take at this spot. It was a tough choice deciding between Krebs and fellow winger Matthew Boldy, but Krebs’ sky high ceiling and leadership ability puts him over the top for the Oilers here. It’s no secret that the Oilers need depth everywhere except maybe the center ice position where they have one of the best 1-2 punches in the league in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

With Krebs in tow it would give the Oilers another great offensive talent to add to their team. Below the opposing teams’ blueline you would be hard pressed to find a more tenacious player on the puck in this draft. Krebs also is not afraid to get to the dirty areas of the ice and get the puck. His skating and his offensive IQ is nothing to laugh at. He is everything the Oilers need right now and if Cole Caufield does indeed go before him, Krebs makes the most sense for the Oilers at the eighth overall position.

#7: Buffalo Sabres select Cole Caufield – USNTDP – Winger – 5’7” – 163 pounds

2018-19 Stats: 72  G, 28 A – 100 points in 64 games

No that’s not a typo. Yes, go check the stats on eliteprospects.com and come back to this after you check. Insane right? He set the single season USNTDP record with 72 goals. He is a dynamic goal scoring machine with an absolutely lethal shot. Caufield stands at just 5’7” but if an NHL team passes on him just based off that they are going to regret it for years to come and if he’s there at seventh overall, I highly doubt the Sabres pass on him.

The Sabres offer a great fit for the diminutive Caufield as he can slot in wherever they need him on the wings. With the Sabres boasting a 1-2 center punch of Jack Eichel and Casey Mittelstadt, it’s natural for them to pick the best winger available here and you can’t go wrong if you get a guy that scored over a hundred between two leagues this year. Caufield on Eichel or Mittelstadt’s wing should have Sabres fans salivating for the next season to start. NHL comparison? Think of a super powered Alex DeBrincat.

#6: Detroit Red Wings select Trevor Zegras – USNTDP – Center/Winger – 6’0” – 168 pounds

2018-19 Stats:  26 G, 61 A – 87 points in 60 games

The Detroit Red Wings and their fans should be thrilled if this offensive wunderkind falls to the sixth spot in the draft. Zegras, along with Jack Hughes and Alex Turcotte, was part of one of the most explosive USNTDP attacks in history and could very well be the third USNTDP player to go within the top ten picks in this draft.

While Zegras could be the third one of those guys off the board, make no mistake: he is going to be a dynamic offensive talent at the NHL level. His stats are of course eye-popping but they don’t tell the full story here. Zegras, like his counterpart in Turcotte, has another element to his game that scouts and NHL teams love and that’s the fact that he knows how to drive his opponents nuts.

Curtis Joe of eliteprospects.com had this to say: “He knows how to get under the skin of opponents and will actively seek out opportunities to lay the body and create separation, all the while staying attentive to the unfolding play. This unique aspect of his game makes him difficult and frustrating to play against. His ability to finish and create plays is undoubtedly the hallmark of his game, as he is one of the major dynamos of his draft class.” The Red Wings need help all over and adding an “offensive dynamo” in Zegras will be a welcome addition to their prospect pool. Larkin, Zegras, Rasmussen, Zadina, Veleno… the Red Wings have a bright future ahead.

#5: Los Angeles Kings select Dylan Cozens – Lethbridge Hurricanes – WHL – Center – 6’3” – 181 pounds

2018-19 Stats: 34 G, 50 A – 84 points in 68 games

The Los Angeles Kings need help everywhere and in their “retooling” process they are going to go best available. Dylan Cozens is powerful young center from the WHL and had a true breakout year for the Hurricanes this season. Cozens is an excellent skater and has the skill level to match. His shot is fantastic and he boasts a wicked release.

Like Turcotte before him, Cozens plays an excellent 200-foot game and has already drawn some lofty NHL comparisons to Chicago Blackhawks star Jonathan Toews. To top it all off, he scored at a clip of 1.24 points per game in the WHL which was the most of all U18 skaters. He has star potential and the Kings are getting an amazing prospect with the fifth pick in the draft.

#4: Colorado Avalanche (via Ottawa Senators) select Alex Turcotte – USNTDP – Center – 5’11” – 185 Pounds

2018-19 Stats: 27 G, 35 A – 62 points in 37 games

Turcotte gives the Avalanche the perfect second line center behind Nathan MacKinnon. Turcotte was deprived of some of the spotlight this year because of an injury he sustained that kept him out for a while and because of the bright star in Jack Hughes. But make no mistake, Turcotte is a fantastic forward in his own right and plays amazing 200-foot hockey. He is an absolutely electric offensive prospect.

Turcotte was the USNTDP’s first line center when Hughes was out with an injury and performed fantastically in that role. If Turcotte does hit his extremely high ceiling, the Avalanche will have a 1-2 center punch that most teams in the league would envy. If I was an Avalanche fan, I’d be counting my lucky stars that the Senators traded this pick in the Matt Duchene trade. This team nearly made the Western Conference Final and now they get to add Turcotte? The Avalanche’s future is extremely bright.

#3: Chicago Blackhawks select Bowen Byram – Vancouver Giants – WHL – Defenseman – 6’0” – 194 pounds

2018-19 Stats: 26 G, 45 A – 71 points in 67 games

Adam Boqvist. Nicolas Beaudin. Henri Jokiharju. Bowen Byram. These four will form the basis of the Chicago Blackhawks new defense corps. The Hawks hit the jackpot when they moved up into the third overall spot in the draft. Byram immediately becomes the Hawks best defense prospect, ahead of even the prolific Boqvist. He is a workhorse on the blueline and at points was playing 40 minutes in the playoffs. This kid can flat out play and his points totals from last season were super impressive.

For a 17 year old defenseman in the WHL to score 71 points is superb. The Blackhawks are going to have a downright scary defense corps in a few years. It’s time for Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook to pass their knowledge on a new generation of Blackhawk defenders. And oh yeah, Byram is the only defenseman in WHL history to lead the playoffs in scoring.

#2: New York Rangers select Kaapo Kakko – TPS – Liiga – Winger – 6’2” – 192 pounds

2018-19 Stats: 22 G, 16 A – 38 points in 45 games

Kaapo Kakko (Getty Images)

This will be John Davidson’s easiest job as the newest President of the New York Rangers. Kakko made a huge push to be taken first overall at the World Championships when he finished with six goals and one assist for seven points. He set the Liiga record for goals by a U18 player with 22.

He already has the size to play in the NHL and make an impact next season. He consistently beats guys to the puck and you can’t get him off the puck once he’s decided it’s his. He has a fantastic shot, sky-high hockey IQ and will immediately give the Rangers a superstar talent to build around. Getting the second overall pick shot the Rangers rebuild into overdrive. Kaako, Kravtsov, Miller, Chytil, Andersson, Lundkvist… they are going to be quite the scary team in just a few seasons. The Rangers have not had a player that strikes fear into their opponents in a long time and Kakko will be that guy in New York.

#1: New Jersey Devils select Jack Hughes – USNTDP – Center – 5’10” – 170 pounds

2018-19 Stats: 34 G, 78 A – 112 points in 50 games

Hughes (photo:Rena Laverty)

Hughes or Kakko? It’s the question that will be asked from now until the draft but rest assured, the New Jersey Devils will be selecting the dynamic American center with the first pick. Hughes has been on scouts radars for years, dominating at every single level of play. He is far and away the best skater in this draft and his puck control at high speeds is reminiscent of Connor McDavid. Is he McDavid? No, no one is. But Hughes will be a transcendent player for the franchise across the river in Newark.

They’ve never had a player like this on their team and with a 1-2 center punch of Hischier and Hughes for the next decade plus, New Jersey is setting themselves up for years of success. Hughes had a legendary season and is the USNTDP’s all-time leading scorer beating out the likes of Patrick Kane, Auston Matthews, Phil Kessel and Clayton Keller. Hughes is a superstar in the making.

PART 2 WILL BE RELEASED TOMORROW