NHL Draft Profile Jack Hughes

The likely top overall pick in this years NHL draft doesn’t have as tight a grip on the top selection as he did at the start of the season. While Kappo Kakko has closed on Hughes position, the American center has solidified his spot as the next great player to come out of the US National Team Development Program. 

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Name: Jack Hughes

Date of Birth: May 14th, 2001

Nationality (Place of Birth): American (Orlando, FL, USA)

Hieght: 5’10”

Weight: 170lbs

Shoots: Left

Position: Center

Rankings

Ranked #1 by TSN/McKenzie

Scouting Report

The above spider graph, courtesy of Kyle Pereira of Puck77, displays the available data from Will Scouch. As shown, Jack Hughes was a dominant force in many ways. He was exceptional at driving play at 5-on-5 and he is a powerplay wizard. Finishing no worse than third among the 11 prospects on the graph, Hughes clearly stands out. As a player who is able to attack the game in a variety of ways, Hughes will immediately step into and NHL locker room and be a contributor right away. 

At just 5’10” you would prefer Hughes to have more size but the way he plays the game, it’s not an issue. The diminutive center isn’t a perimeter player as many would assume due to his size, rather he lives in the middle of the ice. Hughes ability to get to the middle of the ice unabated is impressive. In the video below, Hughes begins the play by picking the puck up behind the net and then picks up some speed with the puck. At that point he makes an excellent breakout pass and then uses his speed to accelerate through the neutral zone before receiving a return pass. Hughes makes a few cuts and changes direction, cutting to the net. A pass back against the flow of direction which results in a goal. 

Tweet courtesy of @StarsStripesHKY

Hughes skating ability is otherworldly. His skating will be elite in the NHL already and he doesn’t have just straight line speed. His edge work is phenomenal as he is able to cut in either direction on a dime. He skates like a speedy NFL running back in the sense that he can make a move in any direction without notice. This skill is key in making Hughes transition game elite entering the NHL. His ability to create space with subtle changes in his skating whether it be changing direction or changing speeds is unmatched in this draft class.

With an electric offence game, Hughes has taken over games in a scorer and a playmaker role. His calling card is the ability to make the ice feel spacious for his teammates while controlling the puck and pushing the ice of play. His tape-to-rape passing ability is a thing of beauty. Whether backhand or forehand, the American is an extremely high-end passer who can break a game open by drawing defenders to him before threading a pass through traffic onto the stick of his teammates. Below you can see that Hughes displays excellent vision. After entering the offensive zone he drops a pass to the oncoming Cam York and then continues to the slot. Receiving the return pass from York, Hughes makes no mistake by putting the puck in the back of the net.

Tweet courtesy of @TSN_Sports

Defensively Hughes has all the tools to compete and excel in his own end. He may not be overly physical and won’t muscle an opponent off of the puck but he didn’t refrain from battling in the corners. More adept at using his good stick to pull the puck out of a scrum. His positioning in the defensive zone is good and he is skilled at recognizing a play and getting in the passing lanes braking up plays before they become dangerous.

Preseason Outlook

Coming into the 2018-19 season, Jack Hughes was touted as the clear number one prospect for this draft. His star had been on the rise for years. His play for the USNTDP team as well as both the U17 squads and U18 squads were absolutely outstanding. He was a force to be reckoned with regardless if he was playing with his age group or a year ahead.

Coming off of a season in which he was the highest scoring U17 player in USNDTP history, expectations started extremely high for the speedy center. Last season Hughes split time between the Under-17 and Under 18-teams. Excelling at both levels, Hughes put up 68 points in 37 games with Under 18s and 48 points in 24 games with the Under 17s. Capturing a gold medal at the U17 World Hockey Challenge and a silver medal at the IIHF Under-18 World Championship. To say he had a dominant year would be an understatement.

Draft Year with USNTDP

Jack Hughes has dominated this year. He draft season almost couldn’t have gone better. His proficiency has been displayed at every level and every event he’s played in this year. A dominant performance with the USNTDP where he put up 112 points (34 G/74 A) in just 50 games was the prime destination to see him play. The skilled center was a force in every game he played. His skill was evident at all times, with and without the puck.

Video courtesy of Hockey Prospect Center Youtube channel

With 74 assists, he proved that his playmaking ability is exceptional beyond belief. He was a constant threat to put the puck on the tape of a player in position to score. Passing from behind the net, across the ice or into the slot from the half wall, Hughes can make any pass. He was unwavering in his ability to make the smart and efficient pass from the defensive zone and then opening himself up for a return pass. An underrated part in Hughes game, much like many superstars, is the small passes that he makes to alleviate pressure from opposing players. This skill is both underrated and integral to a players capacity to play in all three zones.

His game is consistently rose to an even higher level at international tournaments. Whether it was his record setting performance in the U18 World Championships in April or the point-per-game pace he established at the World Juniors (U20) Championships just after Christmas, Hughes has proven to be a difference maker on every occasion.

Video courtesy of Puck Prodigy Youtube channel

U18’s and IIHF World Championships

The captain of an absolutely stacked American U18 team, Hughes shone like the star he is. The team ran into a hot goalie in Russia’s Yaroslav Askarov, a 2020 draft eligible goalie, in the semi-finals led to a disappointing bronze medal finish. Although the teams goals and expectation of a gold medal were not met, Hughes had an outstanding tournament. Hughes dominated in every facet of the game. His skating was on full display and his offensive precision was mouth-watering. Able to set players around him up or take control and score a goal at will, Hughes U18 tournament was absolutely dominate. 

The chemistry with Cole Caufield that was established throughout the season with the USNTDP was a major factor for both players record setting tournaments. While much was made of Caufield tying Alexander Ovechkin’s tournament record for goals (14 goals in seven games), Hughes was setting records of his own. After collecting 12 points at last year’s tournament, the 20 points he scored this year were good enough to eclipse Ovechkin’s all-time tournament record of 31 points with 32. Hughes’ nearly unprecedented run at the World U18 tournament helped earn him a spot on the Men’s IIHF World Hockey Championship.

Video courtesy of Hockey Prospect Center Youtube channel

Despite making the World Championship roster, Hughes was not able to make a difference for the American team. He wasn’t afforded the same opportunity as Kakko at the men’s tournament but it was a good eye-opening experience. Hughes had played a lot of hockey to this point and seemed a little bit gassed. In comparison, Kakko skipped the U18s in order to prepare for this tournament and ended up closing the gap on Hughes and even passed him in some evaluator’s eyes. Hughes struggled at times with the strength of the players from various men’s leagues around the world including the NHL. His best game may have come in his last game in which he had two assists. He finished with just three assists n the tournament. The young American played good for stretches but also clearly had his struggles when it came to competing physically. 

What the Detractors Say

There is no perfect player. Even some of the best in the world have their weaknesses. Many of Hughes is skills are impressive to say the least and will likely translate well to the NHL. The biggest knock on Hughes is the fact that he is a diminutive forward who isn’t a physical force on the ice. Hughes is also looked at as someone who can be seen floating in the defensive zone. This is often because he is almost always in position in his own end and floats in and out of passing lanes. Overall his biggest weakness is his size which is something that can’t be changed which means that it’s something a team will have to live with but the immense skill more than makes up for it.

Jack Hughes will be taken…

First overall most likely. Barring any major change or a catastrophic injury of some sort in training, there is little doubt that Hughes will be a New Jersey Devil come June’s NHL Entry Draft. While Kappo Kakko has closed the gap on the American, Hughes is still the top dog in this draft. While Kakko would likely be the top overall pick in many years, Hughes potential to be a franchise changing player has the Finn playing second fiddle.

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This year’s top-ranked prospect is going to be an NHL star in all likelihood. His speed, skill and playmaking ability will almost assuredly be flying up the ice in the black and red (and sometimes green) of the New Jersey Devils. With a one-two punch down the middle of Hughes and 2017 first overall pick Nico Hischier, the New Jersey Devils could be turning a page on the past and fully embrace the speed and skill, up-tempo offensive game of the modern NHL. Combining that with the possible re-signing of 2018 Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall, the Devils may return to legitimacy in less time than most pundits anticipate. Jack Hughes will be the catalyst for that.

For more on the NHL, prospects and the NHL Draft, follow me here at @TheTonyFerrari on twitter!

All stats and information provided by Hockey Reference, Elite ProspectsDobber Prospects and NHL.com

NHL Draft Profile: Kaapo Kakko

Maybe the most dominate player in the draft when going at his best, Kaapo Kakko is the only player to truly push Jack Hughes for the top spot in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Combining speed, power and elite stick-skills, he has played against men all season long, Kakko proved that he was the most NHL ready draft prospect.

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Name: Kaapo Kakko

Date of Birth: February 13, 2001

Nationality (Place of Birth): Finnish (Turku, Finland)

Hieght: 6’2″

Weight: 190lbs

Shoots: Left

Position: RW

Rankings

Ranked #2 by TSN/McKenzie

Scouting Report

The above spider graph, courtesy of Kyle Pereira of Puck77, displays the available data from Will Scouch. As shown, Kakko doesn’t excel in any of the categories above but he does grade out well in his NHL eScore. The reason for the middling statistical numbers above and the high NHL eScore is that Kakko played the entire season in the Liiga. This led to slightly muted production but despite that, Kakko isn’t at the bottom of any of the areas. His produtcion for his age group was elite. He broke records and he showed that not only can he play against men, he can produce at a high level as well.  

The young Fin is an exceptional skater. He has a powerful stride that aids in accelerating to his top-speed. He uses his edge work to change direction and has the ability to stop-and-start is exceptional. He is one of the best players in this class at protecting the puck while skating through the neutral zones and offensive zone. Kakko’s balance on his skates allows him to work along the boards and in the corners with efficiency even while playing against men in the Liiga, Finland’s top level league. Kakko plays with power and physicality in all aspects of his game. In the video below, you can see Kaapo Kakko as the primary puck carrier on the powerplay utilizing his teammates to open space for himself and the zone entry. Once in the zone, he doesn’t shoot the puck around the boards, rather he turns back looking for a pass. 

Tweet courtesy of @DraftLook

One of the biggest misnomers in the evaluations of Kakko is that he is an excellent sniper. This isn’t the case however. Kaapo Kakko is a very complete player. Defensively, Kakko tracks back into the zone like a center and does a good job of staying involved in the play in his own end. Kakko’s high hockey IQ allows him to follow plays and read the play as it develops. His positioning is sound and he regularly disrupts offensive plays for the other team. When the puck goes to the boards he is able to successfully battle for the puck, recovering and transitioning to offence with ease. Using his powerful stride and excellent agility to weave his way into the offensive zone.

Once into the offensive zone, the outstanding tools that Kakko possesses are able to show their true value. When Kakko is going full bore, he can’t be stopped. His ability to protect the puck, drive to the net with power and finish with soft hands in tight. In tight on the net, Kakko is able to gain position in front of the net or in the slot and make small adjustments to change the shooting angle. Kakko’s tool set includes the ability to score from anywhere on the ice. Kakko’s shot is hard and heavy, it comes off his stick lightning quick which causes goalies to be often unprepared for the shot. He locates his shot quite well from anywhere in the offensive zone. Below is an example of his outstanding shot. This shot from the point comes as he rotates to cover the pinching defender on the blue line and the retrieves an excellent pass for a one-timer. 

Tweet courtesy of @IIHFHockey

While not necessarily known for his playmaking ability, Kakko has excellent vision and delivers passes with precision and crisp pace. He has the hockey IQ to read and recognize where and when his teammates will be in prime scoring areas. The young Finn is able to drive the net and create space and drawing extra attention. The second that Kakko realizes where his teammates are in open space, he fires a pass on their tape. Kakko does an excellent job finding space for himself or others and then making passes that many players can’t because he reads the play better than most.

Preseason Outlook

Coming into the season Kakko was ranked second or third on almost all public draft boards. The dazzling Finn knew he’d be spending his season with TPS of the Liiga, the top men’s league in Finland. Kakko opted to attend the World Junior Showcase rather than the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament. A similar decision was made by other top prospects Jack Hughes and Dylan Cozens. Kakko didn’t blow anyone away at the showcase but he played a lessor role on a U20 squad as a 17-year-old. With the beginning of the Liiga season around the corner, the Showcase was merely a warm-up for what was still to come.

Deferring to teammates, Growing in the Liiga

At just 17 years of age, Kakko was set to spend the season in the Liiga. The top men’s league in his home nation of Finland was the perfect place for a physically mature player who dominated the junior level. Playing on TPS, a team expected to have a good season, Kakko started a bit timid. While he was putting up points at a good rate, he played to role of playmaker and relied on his high IQ and vision to make plays for his teammates to mediocre results. Deferring on good shot chances to set his teammates for marginally better chances despite a stark contrast in skill level in favour of Kakko often led to empty chances.

The first couple months of the season past and the production for Kakko was solid as he had nine goals and 20 points in 29 games, he was scoring at a pace that would come close to setting some age-17 season records in the Liiga. Kakko secured a spot on the Finnish World Junior U20 squad and despite being a young player, he was expected to play a large role on offence. After a successful tournament, shining on the world stage and coming home with the gold medal, Kakko’s confidence seemed to have grown.

Video courtesy of Hockey Prospect Center Youtube channel

Upon his return to TPS, Kakko began to exhibit his full skill set. The timidness and deferring that seemed to be evident in his game early in the season was gone. Replaced by a man possessed, Kakko began his true ascension to challenging for the top spot on the draft. The young Finn unleashed the power side of his game on his Liiga opponents, showing that although he was yet to grow into a man himself, he could play like a man amongst boys in a men’s league.

The second half tear for Kakko ended up driving him to a record breaking season. Battling against men, he showed his physical maturity compared to most 17/18-year-old players. His powerful skating and protection of the puck was key in being able to play his game in a league that rarely has effective players at Kakko’s stage of development play major roles. Kakko finished the season averaging north of 18 minutes a night, at times playing in all situations. His 22-goal campaign broke the record previously held by Alexander Barkov for draft eligible players in Liiga play. Kakko’s penchant for scoring was paying dividends during the second half of the season, which helped earn him a spot on the men’s IIHF World Championships team for his home country of Finland. Kakko continued to prove that he was not only worthy of being considered for the first overall pick, he should be taken in the if top spot.

Finland’s Finest

Video courtesy of Puck Prodigy Youtube channel

The international stage has been Kakko’s biggest stage all year. Initially he showed up huge for the Finnish World Junior U20 team as a 17-year-old. Then after his 18th birthday he was able to show his true potential and skill against men in the men’s IIHF World Championships. Showing up as a big-time player on the big stage has been the primary driving force for Kakko’s ascension to truly challenging Hughes for the top spot. 

In the World Junior Championships, Kakko played a huge role for the Finns. Despite being just 17 years of age, Kakko was able to manhandle players two years his senior. Scoring 5 points in seven games was impressive enough for a player at his age in a tournament traditionally dominated by 19-year-olds. The moment that Kakko will likely be remembered best for during his draft year may have come during this tournament. Going into the gold medal game against Jack Hughes and the United States, Kakko was the hero for his national team. The video below shows the biggest goal of Kakko’s young career. Kakko battled in front of the net, finding the loose puck after a shot from the point was lost in traffic. Kakko was able to put the Finnish team ahead with just over a minute remaining. 

Tweet courtesy of @DraftAnalyst

His follow-up international performance helped produce the same result, only this time at the men’s level. Following the elimination of his club team, TPS, from the Liiga playoffs, Kakko joined Finland’s entry into the IIHF World Hockey Championships. This was a chance to prove that the young Finn was ready for top competition. Having shown that he was able to play against men in the Liiga, this was a chance to prove that he could keep up with and compete with NHL caliber talent. To say he past this test would be an understatement. Kakko produced six goals and seven points in ten games, helping Finland to another gold medal. Despite having 0 NHL goals on the Finnish team and only two players to have played a game in the NHL this past season, Finland was not expected to be a factor at this tournament. Play began and the Liiga-player-led Finns were impressive to say the least, Kakko maybe among the most impressive. In the video below, Kakko does an excellent job finding space in the middle of the ice as he crosses the blue line to recieve the pass but then the magic happens. Kakko is tripped up by a diving Canadian defender, at which point the Finnish sensation performs a balancing act, going up on one leg and outlasting the Canadian netminder before tucking in a beautiful, highlight reel goal to open the tournament for the Finns. 

Tweet courtesy of @VinnieParise

What the Detractors Say

This may be the easiest prospect to pick out a weakness. There isn’t one really. His defensive game could improve a bit but he is already quite good in his own area. One of his weaknesses during the first half of the season was the fact that he was deferring too much to other more experienced players on TPS in Liiga. As the season wore on this became less of an issue as he was able to become more aggressive. The one thing that Kakko can do to continue to improve is to build muscle as he matures physically. Continuing to stay competitive and engaged once he arrives in the NHL will be key to any players progression and Kakko is no different. Kakko is a very complete player.

Kaapo Kakko will be taken…

Second overall, possibly first. Kaapo Kakko is clearly one of the top two prospects available for this draft. The gap between Kakko and Hughes had become smaller and smaller through the the season. Many around the scouting and prospect world feel that the talents levels of the two became razor thin, one way or the other, after the IIHF World Championships. Kakko played outstanding throughout the year, improving steadily all year long.

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The record setting year for the next great Finn was absolutely phenomenal. He deserves to be the first overall pick, and any other year he would probably be the clear cut number one. This year he headlines a draft that has two franchise talents, Hughes and himself, along with an extremely strong top half of the draft. Kakko’s complete game, offensive domination at times and his penchant for winning have all made him a can’t miss prospect that either the New Jersey Devils or New York Rangers will be able to build around for years to come.

For more on the NHL, prospects and the NHL Draft, follow me here at @TheTonyFerrari on twitter!

All stats and information provided by Hockey Reference, Elite ProspectsDobber Prospects and NHL.com

 

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NHL Draft Profile Trevor Zegras

Possibly the best play-maker in the draft, even with full knowledge that Jack Hughes exists. The slick passing forward has played both at center and on the wing with the USNTDP but likely goes into the NHL as a left winger who drives play. Shifty, water bug who sometimes gets overly creative.

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Name: Trevor Zegras

Date of Birth: March 20, 2001

Nationality (Place of Birth): American (Bedford, NY, USA)

Hieght: 6’0″

Weight: 178lbs

Shoots: Left

Position: LW/C

Rankings

Ranked #10 by TSN/McKenzie

Scouting Report

The above spider graph, courtesy of Kyle Pereira of Puck77, displays the available data from Will Scouch. As shown, Zegras is very good at driving the play and his production at 5-on-5 is very good. He could stand to shoot more but as an pure elite playmaker its expected that his goal and shot totals are lower. Overall Zegras isn’t the best at anything but still drives play very well and has an excellent on-ice Goals For%.

An excellent skater, Trevor Zegras has as elite edge work and agility. His shiftiness is aided by good speed on his skates. He can create separation in one-on-one scenarios in a number of ways. Zegras uses his agility and quick change of direction to break away and once he gets a step he has the skill and speed to make defenders pay. His skating is on display when he is shifted to the wing as he has excellent offensive awareness. He often leaves the defensive zone at the perfect time to put pressure in the opposition by attacking the blue-line. A tendency to overly trust his skill and skating has gotten the American water-bug into trouble at times.

Video courtesy of Draft Dynasty Youtube Channel

With his elite skating ability as one of his primary tools, he uses it to his advantage in all three zones. Transitional play is a strength of Zegras’ because of his tendency to take unique skating paths out of the defensive zone, patiently waiting for the smart and efficient play. This same ability is used to enter the offensive zone often times skating east-west looking for the opening to carry the puck into the zone. The the video below, Zegras does an excellent job of getting behind the defence and the using a burst of speed to beat the opponents to the outside and then unleashes a good, well placed shot on net for the goal.

Tweet courtesy of @DraftAnalyst

A hard worker defensively, his coverage low in the zone when playing in the middle is good. He supports his own blue-liners well and rarely over-commits to a player in the corner. The defensively underrated forward has good positioning and couples that with an active stick that’s constantly getting into passing lanes. Despite his lack of size and pure strength, the American forward is excellent at getting under the opponent skin. He seeks to engage physically and plays with an edge. His ability to create contact and still focus on the play at hand is a talent that infuriates his opponents.

Zegras can play center from a defensive perspective, although he will likely need to add some strength of he truly wants to play down the middle at the next level. On the wing, Zegras does an excellent job at supporting down the boards and closing the gap on defencemen with puck possession at the point.

Tweet courstesy of @StarsStripesHKY

The “wow factor” in Zegras game comes offensively with his play-making. His ability to identify a play before it happens is a testament to his outstanding hockey IQ and offensive awareness. His passing ability is the best in the entire draft class, with Jack Hughes being a close second. Zegras has the ability to make any pass and do it with consistency. In the video above, Zegras does an excellent job of rolling off the half wall to recive the pass before identifying a soft spot in the defensive coverage and completing a creative drop pass to an area allowing defenceman Cam York to step into the shot. His shot is decent but he relies on an accurate, quick release. He has soft hands and good puck handling ability that doesn’t disappear when Zegras is moving at top speed. Zegras has high upside offensively. If paired with a goal scorer, Zegras could have legitimate 80-plus point potential.

Preseason Outlook

Zegras finished last year as the top center on the USNTDP U17 team after both Hughes and Alex Turcotte were called up to the U18 squad. He took advantage of the extra playing time, showing off all of the offensive skills that are making him one of the top prospects in the 2019 NHL Draft. His playmaking and vision were key in filling in down the middle.

This season was set to begin with Zegras playing on the wing in the top-six but the injury to Alex Turcotte prevented that from happening. Zegras again filled in at center for Turcotte, slotted in behind Hughes. This would help raise his draft stock yet again as he displayed an ability to play center, at least on a part-time basis.

Started in the Middle, Moved to the Wing

The season for Trevor Zegras started in flux as he was moved from the wing to center before the season started to fill in for the Turcotte injury. Due to the circumstances, Zegras was fortunate to be able to display his full arsenal of skills. His underrated defensive game was on display early in the year. His early season on the second line of the USNTDP was productive. He was able to show off all of his offensive skills, both positively and negatively.

He showed his ability to make passes that no other players in this draft can make because his vision and willingness to take chances to make a play are at another level. Due to his inept passing ability, the passes often work out for Zegras. Where the negative began to show was when he would hold onto the puck too long. His desire to look for the perfect play often times comes at the cost of not taking scoring chances of his own. He has often passed up a good shot looking for a great pass even though it never presented itself. As a tendency that can be coached out of his game, this is a weakness that he dealt with all year and improved slightly as the year went on.

Tweet courtesy of @DraftAnalyst

After moving back to the wing upon Turcotte’s return to the lineup, Zegras moves back to the left wing. It was at this point that his offensive game took its biggest step as he was able to stay on the outside, complete royal road (through the slot) passes as he was able to open up to give himself roughly three quarters of the offensive zone. It’s at the point that Zegras gives himself the option to make the pass or drive to the net a draw defenders towards him. In all this year Was quite successful for Zegras. He put up impressive numbers with the USNTDP with 87 points in just 60 games.

World U18 Disappointment

Zegras performed in the shadow of the dynamic duo of Hughes and Coke Caufield as the third wheel on the line that dominated the tournament. Despite being the tertiary offensive force on the line, Zegras racked up nine assists in just five games. He continued to show off his dynamic skillset but the USA fell to Russia when their 16-year-old goaltender, Yaroslav Askarov, stepped up and stole the game from the Americans. Defeating their rival Canadians in the bronze medal game wasn’t enough to heal the wounds of missing out on a prime chance to win the U18 title with one of the best American teams ever to enter the tournament.

Video courtesy of Puck Prodigy Youtube channel

What the Detractors Say

There are two main complaints that scouts have had with Zegras. Neither is a major issue and both can be easily repaired in his game. The first of which being the lack of total strength. He has the strength to fight through defenders amongst his junior aged level peers, but he may need to put some weight and strength on his 6′ frame, creating a better balance structure. The second fault in Zegras’ game is a fault of many young players. Overconfidence in his ability. The young dynamo can sometimes attempt to be too perfect and he has held the puck for longer than he should have and passed up decent-to-good shots in pursuit of the perfect play/shot even though it won’t always be there. If a coach can get the playmaking wizard to be willing to settle for good chances over forcing great chances and he has a good summer or two post draft, he could easily be on an NHL roster in a couple of years.

Trevor Zegras will be taken…

In most rankings, Zegras is placed somewhere between four and ten. The forward is among a group of players that have settled into what’s been known as the “second tier”. Zegras is firmly in that group. Much of the decision making process in this range will likely be a stylistic preference for whichever team is on the clock.

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A couple of fits within that range are the Detroit Red Wings (6th overall) and the Edmonton Oilers (8th overall). In Detroit he would be able to slot in as a center or winger but the important position that he would fill would be that of the primary playmaker. For as good of a playmaker that Dylan Larkin has become, it’s more of a testament to Larkin’s hard work and ability to adapt to what’s needed. Inserting a playmaker such as Zegras next to emerging offensive powers Andreas Athanasiou or Anthony Mantha, serious offensive magic could ensue.

As for Edmonton, Zegras could easily fill their need along the wing, paired with any combination Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. His ability to thread the needle and the Oilers center depth would be a welcome sign for a team with two elite finishers down the middle. While he is likely to be taken as a center, don’t be the shocked if he comes into camp at 6′ still 178lbs. The dynamic play maker had extensive time on the wing so he could start his NHL career there after a year in the NCAA with Boston University. 

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NHL Mock Draft Part Two: Selections 6-10

Part one is done, which looked at my prediction of the top-five National Hockey League entry draft selections, which means we are going through picks 6-10 for part two!

 

In this part I predict a trade, but other than that it is a straightforward prediction. For a quick refresher, Kappo Kakko went first, Jack Hughes went second, Cole Caufield at third, Alex Turcotte went fourth and Bowen Byram went fifth. 

 

Sixth Overall Pick: Detroit Red Wings trade back!

A trade kicks off part two, and it is a small one, but with a big impact. The Red Wings, I believe, are eyeing a prospect that should be available at 10th overall, owned by the Vancouver Canucks, and so they swap places, with Vancouver also eating Danny DeKeyser’s contract. Canucks fans have always complained about getting screwed over by the draft lottery, and so the team decides it’s time to move up, at the cost of DeKeyser’s hefty contract. Trade is Detroit’s 2019 sixth overall pick to Vancouver in exchange for the 10th overall pick, and Danny DeKeyser. So, here’s the pick:

 

Sixth Overall Pick: Vancouver Canucks select Trevor Zegras, Center/Both Wings, USNTDP

Zegras is like Alex Turcotte and Bowen Byram (who were selected in part one) in which he could arguably be the third overall pick. But with the Caufield selection at three, and Turcotte and Byram ultimately falling, Zegras is left available for the taking. (Why Detroit wouldn’t take him here will be explained when pick 10 rolls around).

For Vancouver, they have been dying to select a versatile, sure-fire future elite forward on draft day for a while. I know what you’re thinking, what about Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat? Pettersson was selected back in 2016, and needed a season before making the jump and, ultimately, becoming their best player. Boeser was everything but a sure-fire deal, being taken at 23rd overall in 2015. Horvat was drafted in 2013, at the tail end of the top 10 (ninth overall) and also wasn’t exactly a sure thing.

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So, it’s been a few years and the Canucks want more, and Zegras is probably the best forward (aside from Pettersson) that they have selected in the draft, and whether he ends up more vital to the team than Horvat and Boeser will be found out within a few years.

Zegras piled up 14 goals and 26 assists (40 points) in 27 games with the USNTDP juniors. The fact that he didn’t play up with Turcotte and Jack Hughes tells me he has about 1-2 years before making the jump to the NHL, but his playmaking ability is outstanding. He proved that when he played for the US National U-18 team for 60 games, where he put up 26 goals and 61 assists (87 points).

Next season, like with Caufield and Turcotte, he is committed to joining an NCAA club, and for him it’s Boston University. BU is well known in the hockey community thanks to Jack Eichel, Charlie McAvoy and Charlie Coyle, just to name a few, so I feel that this is a big step in the right direction for Zegras.

Next Year’s Role: NCAA minutes, likely won’t join the NHL club at any point next season, unless he dominates with BU.

 

Seventh Overall Pick: Buffalo Sabres select Dylan Cozens, Center/Right Wing, Lethbridge Hurricanes, WHL

This is an excellent selection for the Sabres. But then again, if any of the aforementioned players were available here, and the Sabres picked them, it would be excellent. That’s just how strong the top-10 prospects are in this class.

Playing in the WHL last season with Lethbridge, Cozens put up 34 goals and 50 assists (84 points) in 68 games, along with four goals and four assists (eight points) in seven playoff games. Cozens is leading the next wave of power forwards, that is currently led by Mark Stone of the Vegas Golden Knights.

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Cozens is well balanced, with a good shot and good vision. But his defensive abilities, paired with his well-balanced scoring touch, prompted LastWordOnHockey’s Ben Kerr to believe he could be a first line center with a chance at winning the Selke Trophy. That’s big praise from a guy who does several scouting reports on all different players every year. Cozens could make the jump to the NHL off of a strong camp, but the chances are he needs another year or so to advance to the next level. 

Next Year’s Role: WHL time with Lethbridge, likely won’t join the club late in the season, but it is possible.

 

Eighth Overall Pick: Edmonton Oilers select Matthew Boldy, Left Wing, USNTDP


Why Matthew Boldy here? I know it’s a little off the board, and he is not the best player available. But that by no means says that he is not a good player. Boldy has good size (6’2”, 192 pounds), and he had a very good season with the USNTDP Juniors club. He racked up 17 goals and 26 assists (43 points) in 28 games, adding another 33 goals and 48 assists (81 points) in 64 games with the US National U-18 team. He might not be the best skater in the draft by any means, but as fellow Puck77 contributor Tony Ferrari points out, with some adjustment in his stride as well as a better first step and in general acceleration, he could wind up being one of the best players in the draft.

Now, when we head on over to Edmonton’s roster, we see they have a strong center core, both young and experienced (Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jujhar Khaira in the NHL, Ryan McLeod, Cooper Marody in their pool) as well as a solid bunch of right wingers with promise (Leon Draisaitl, Jesse Puljujarvi in NHL, Kailer Yamamoto, Kirill Maksimov, Ostap Mafin in pool), as well as defenseman (Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse in NHL, Evan Bouchard, Dmitri Samorukov, Ethan Bear in pool).

As for left wings, they have Milan Lucic and Tobias Rieder on the NHL club, and Tyler Benson in their pool. That is a very weak core, relative to their other positions (outside of goaltending), and while some players may go and new players will come in within the time that Boldy will be in the juniors/minors developing, they should still get a headstart in building up that very weak left wing.

Boldy is a safer pick than some guys who may have higher upside, but regardless, he fills a pretty large need the Oilers have. This is not that much of a reach either, it’s just that he was in the shadows of the earlier USNTDP picks and is, in my opinion, overlooked by the general fan. I believe this would be a great selection for Edmonton. He has committed to Boston College (NCAA) next season, where he will not be in anyone’s shadow.

Next Year’s Role: NCAA minutes, no chance he joins the Oilers late in season barring major injuries and/or he dominates in Boston College.

 

9th Overall Pick: Anaheim selects Kirby Dach, Center, Saskatoon Blades, WHL

Dach going to the Ducks is a match made in heaven. We all know the frustrating in-your-face, kind of dirty style of play that the Ducks utilize. While Dach isn’t necessarily dirty, he is a big guy, standing at 6’4, 198 pounds, and can very easily use that frame to fit the bill of a Duck.

The Ducks core is aging, and their prospect pool is very weak. They go best player available at this selection, and it really couldn’t be better for Anaheim. His size isn’t the only thing that is enticing.

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Dach had 25 goals and 48 assists (73 points) in 62 games played with Saskatoon, as well as five goals and three assists (eight points) in 10 postseason games played. He did not play any international games this past season with Canada, which is why he “dropped” to ninth (he ranges anywhere from third to 13th in this class) but he is still an intriguing prospect.

The knock on Dach is three things: 1) His acceleration is not good enough to translate to the NHL at this moment and he needs to really improve in that area to be a successful player at the next level. 2) He tends to keep his head down when skating with the puck, and despite his size, has gotten destroyed by hits on several occasions. 3) Finally, a lot of experts and fellow contributors on the site say that he does not have a very high ceiling (potential), but does have a very good skill set, or in other words, a high floor.

Next Year’s Role: Sticks with Saskatoon in the WHL all season, does not join NHL club at the end of Juniors.

 

10th Overall Pick: Detroit Red Wings (via Vancouver) selects Victor Soderstrom, Right-Handed Defenseman, Brynas IF, SHL

First off, right handed defenseman are a rare breed, and whenever you have a chance to grab one through the draft in the first round (especially at tenth overall), you take that guy.

In Detroit’s case, they had the sixth overall pick, but I would consider it a reach if they took Soderstrom there, because of all the talented forwards. You’re probably thinking, why would Detroit, a rebuilding team, trade back when they had talented forwards to choose from? Because they have young NHL centers in Dylan Larkin and Michael Rasmussen, as well as young NHL wingers in Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, and Tyler Bertuzzi. Not to mention, forward prospects in Taro Hirose, Filip Zadina, and Joseph Veleno.

How about young NHL defenseman, that are right handed? Madison Bowey in the NHL, and Filip Hronek as a prospect. Most of their defensive prospects are left handed, including their top D prospects in Jared McIsaac and Dennis Cholowski. So Detroit does not necessarily need forwards, and they do need a right handed defenseman, who happens to be (arguably) the second best D-man in the draft class, while also off-loading a bad contract.

Soderstrom started the season with Brynas IF’s junior team in the U-20 division, where he played 14 games, with one goal and seven assists (eight points). When he made the jump to the SHL, which is Sweden’s version of the NHL, he produced just four goals and three assists (seven points) in 44 games, with a not-so-good -11 +/-. But, the fact that he was constantly relied on and kept at the highest level as an 18-year-old against men says something.

Playing for Sweden at the World Junior Championships, he recorded one assist in four games, which was also underwhelming production. But what makes him arguably the best defenseman available after Byram is taken, is his well-rounded skill set. He is a very good skater, and has an ability to get shots on net through traffic consistently. He is good transitionally, with the IQ to know when to join the rush and attack, and when to stick back.

Despite being 5’11, 182 pounds, he does a good job using his body to win battles in front of the net or in the corners. His floor, offensively, is really low at the moment, but he is playing against men and not kids in his age group, so that sets him back a step. But he has the skating and shooting ability to give him a base in which NHL coaches can build upon once he makes the jump.

As he bulks up, and gets stronger, the more battles he will win along the boards and in front of the net defensively, and playing against men actually boosts his ceiling for his defensive game. If he’s finding success this early with his size in the SHL (and he bulks up), he could be a very reliable defenseman in his own end.

Next Year’s Role: Likely stays in Sweden. I don’t see him coming to North America to play AHL hockey, or CHL hockey. It’s best he stays in Europe one more year against tough competition to build up on his defensive game.

 

All stats via Elite Prospects

Rankings inspired by other contributors on Puck77

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

NHL Draft Profile: Peyton Krebs

Krebs is a hard-nosed competitor who has a nose for points. The shifty forward mixes a high top-speed with the ability to stop-and-start like an NFL wide receiver. Krebs ability to get to top speed is a tool that helps him blow by defenders with ease and then change direction to open up space for him to make a play to his teammates. He produced at a high rate for a weak, underpowered Kootenay Ice team.

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Name: Peyton Krebs

Date of Birth: January 26, 2001

Nationality (Place of Birth): Canadian (Okotoks, AB, Canada)

Hieght: 5’11”

Weight: 181lbs

Shoots: Left

Position: C/LW

Ranking

Ranked #9 by TSN/McKenzie

Scouting Report

The above spider graph, courtesy of Kyle Pereira of Puck77, displays the available data from Will Scouch. As shown, Krebs’ INV% (involvement percentage gauges how involved a player is on goals by a team) is among the best in his peer group. The one galring weakness in the graoh above is Krebs goals for percentage (GF%). As a playmaker primarily, Krebs isn’t a huge goal scorer despite showing the tools to add it to his game. The interesting thing is that his GF% Relative to his teammates is actually the best of the group. This would imply that although Krebs doesn’t score a large quantity of goals, he is still a driving force on his team in that department which is a primary factor is Krebs having to carry the Ice throughout the season. 

Peyton Krebs is an outstanding skater. The play-making pivot is great at taking creative paths through the neutral and offensive zones, finding space between defenders. Krebs, one of the highest-motor players in the draft, is like a dog on a bone when the puck isn’t on his stick. His ability to shift his weight and change direction at a moments notice makes him incredibly difficult to defend one-on-one. His edge work in all three areas of the ice is excellent. His ability to change the pace of play, whether slowing it down or speeding it up, makes him difficult to read in translation. In the video below, the Canadian captain does a good job establishing position in front of the net. Once there, Krebs hold his ground and does a good job of getting his stick on the shot a tipping the go ahead goal.  

Tweet coutesy of @TSN_Sports

In the defensive end, he is a hard worker and a player who makes an effort to be in position to break up passes. Krebs isn’t bad in his own end of the ice, but his positioning can lose some lustre when hemmed into the defensive zone. He seems to get over-eager to get the puck back and, at times, gets running around a bit. His active stick does a good job at interrupting passing plays. He uses his advanced hockey-IQ to read a play, react and make the smart play most of the time. He is excellent at picking up a loose puck, turning up the ice and start a break out. His strong skating, rapid acceleration due to a great first stride and his ability to shift from left to right and stay balanced with the puck allows him to break the puck out with ease and efficiency.

When entering the offensive zone, he rarely does the expected, often taking a unique path to wherever he wants to go on the ice. His vision allows him to pass the puck at any moment, often making passes to dangerous areas from positions where he doesn’t have a scoring chance. He works extremely well from the half-wall and behind the net. These positions allow Krebs to see the ice and make the appropriate play. An adept passer, the slightly undersized pivot is excellent and putting saucer passes on the tape of teammates.

Krebs is a playmaker at heart but he does possess a quick release on his wrist shot. He often backs defenders off with his speed and then uses them as a screen. His wrist shot is hard and accurate but his slap shot and one-timer could use some work. The expectation is that they will both improve with physical maturity. In the video below, Krebs recovers the puck in the defensive zone behind his own net. He builds speed through the defensive zone and passes the puck off the the wall in the neutral zone. Receiving a return pass, Krebs burst of speed backs the defender off until Krebs passes right by him getting an excellent chance on net. 

Tweet courtesy of @AthaniouLater

Preseason Outlook

Heading into the season as the top scoring WHL rookie from the year prior, Krebs was making the transition from the left wing to center. His 54 points in 67 games were impressive and he displayed his playmaking ability with 37 assists in his freshman season. As the top pick in the 2016 WHL draft, Krebs is the centrepiece of the Kootenay Ice (Winnipeg Ice starting next season). Although the team has struggled, Krebs was able to produce at a good rate without much help around him.

Prior to this season, Krebs competed for Canada at the Hlinka-Gretzky U18 tournament. There he displayed good quickness and excellent vision. He finished the tournament with five points in five games. Krebs could have easily had many more points as he was a set-up machine throughout the tournament and the recipients often missed open nets or fired the puck into the goalies chest. The excellent video below from Hockey Prospect Center shows many of the chances that Krebs generated throughout the tournament.

https://youtu.be/3HYz8jtiXA4

Carrying Kootenay, Receiving the “C”

Understanding that the season in Kootenay would be a trying one, Peyton Krebs did a good job at staying engaged in the season. His play this year never lacked effort or passion. Krebs pushed himself to continue to improve in all areas of the ice. Defensively he began to compete harder and was relentless at fighting for the puck. The ultra-competitive Krebs began the season producing at a point-per-game clip. This production, along with his constant drive to develop in all areas of the game, led the Ice to name the Okotoks, Alberta native the captain of the team. The leadership role was embraced by Krebs. The clear best player on a team that was struggling was also the hardest worker. Krebs was always the player for the Ice that pushed that extra gear to keep the team competitive in games throughout the year.

In the video below, Krebs does an excellent job driving to the net in control. Once in front, he does an excellent job establishing position by battling with a bigger defender. Winning the net front shoving match, Krebs was able to find the puck and get it to the back of the net. This showed off the fiery and competitive nature of the young Canadian center who proved throughout the season that he can play bigger than his physical make-up would suggest.

Tweet courtesy of @DraftAnalyst

Heading into the new year, Krebs had 43 points in 39 games. Krebs continued to produce on the struggling team. Without much help around him, Krebs continued to carry the Ice to the little success the team had. The team was often blown out and the losses piled up, picking up their 10th win of the season on January 16th. Finishing near the bottom of the WHL, Kootenay found their new captain but the dismal performance would lead to bigger picture changes for the Ice.

Kootenay Chapter Ends, Captain Canada Begins

The Ice were on the move to Winnipeg. A late January announcement confirmed the rumours and the final stages of the season were trying after the announcement. Winning only three of the final 18 games, the Ice closed out their final season in Kootenay in disappointing fashion. Despite the competitive drive and offensive production from Krebs, Kootenay‘s team was on its way to the Manitoba capital.

After Krebs season, knowing the next one would be spent in a different city, he turned his attention to national glory. Making the Canadian U18 team Krebs impressed in pre-tournament play, being named captain of a team for the second time in five months. Finishing as the tied for top Canadian scorer and fifth in the tournament with teammate Alex Newhook, with 10 points in just seven games.

Video courtesy of Puck Progidy Youtube channel

The Canadian team had a strong roster on paper but failed to gel. The chemistry never materialized and the skill carried them to the bronze medal game against the rival Americans. The stacked US team surprisingly lost to Russia in the semi-finals and took out their frustrations on Canada. Despite the game finishing 5-2, the game never get close for the Canadian squad. Krebs led the Canadians to a fourth place finish, losing the bronze medal game to another underachiever in the Americans.

What the Detractors Say

As with any prospect, there are weak spots in Krebs game and like many, one of them is size. At 5’11” and 181lbs, the Winnipeg Ice forward is stalky but could help himself with a good summer or two in the weight room. Bulking up a little bit by putting on good muscle mass will allow him to continue to play his game at the next level. His tenacious attitude and relentless style of play demands a lot of him physically, doing so against men will be even more difficult. Adding some size will aid him in that endeavor.

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The most glaring weakness in the young prospects arsenal is his lack of dynamic scoring ability. He has yet to hit 20 goals in the WHL, despite putting up 68 points this season. He has all the tools to get himself into position to score, his finishing ability isn’t terrible and he has an accurate shot. Krebs issue is that he often looks off shots and passes the puck. He could look to be more selfish in the future, allowing himself to score more goals to supplement his playmaking ability. Krebs biggest asset is his vision and ability to play off the rush using his speed, he will need to rely on both to create chances for himself by being more self reliant.

Peyton Krebs will be taken…

In the 8-12 range. Krebs is one of the players that sit near the back end of the second tier. He has tools that entice, but players ahead of him have a more complete set of tools. Krebs is really hurt in his lack of goal scoring. He was a play driver for Kootenay and created a lot more chances than they could have expected with the limited cast around him however his tendency to pass up on scoring opportunities to create for his teammates and a tendency to hold onto the puck for a bit too long can get him into trouble. Despite his flaws, Krebs will have a good shot at sticking in the middle come his NHL time because

For more on the NHL, prospects and the NHL Draft, follow me here at @TheTonyFerrari on twitter!

All stats and information provided by Elite ProspectsDobber Prospects and NHL.com