Colorado Avalanche

Colorado Avalanche Draft Recap and Analysis

The Colorado Avalanche were able to come away from the draft weekend as the big winners. Thanks to a complete lack of self realization and foresight by Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion, the Avalanche were armed with the fourth overall pick as well as their own pick at 16.

The Picks

Bowen Byram, LHD, Vancouver Giants (WHL), Round 1, 4th Overall

The Colorado Avalanche were able to land themselves the consensus top-ranked defender in the 2019 NHL Draft. A silky, smooth skater who led the WHL playoffs in scoring from the back end, Byram was an offensive catalyst. The Vancouver Giants blue liner was able to affect that game in every facet.

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The young Canadian showed outstanding potential offensively. Byram proved able to make any pass he’s asked whether it be transitioning out of the defensive zone with a long pass through the neutral zone or a short pass to alleviate pressure along the boards. In the offensive zone he is a facilitator from the point. He threads passes through the zone finding open lanes through the slot to create high danger scoring chances. He also skates extremely well with the puck on his stick, understanding when the opportunity arises to make a move and get himself into scoring position.

Defensively, Byram was consistently improving throughout the year. His gal control was excellent due to his outstanding skating and edge work. He was able to pivot and keep oncoming attackers to the outside preventing dangerous chances. His board play was impressive as he was able to win battles in the corners and along the side walls with consistency. The future Avs defender was a presence in the net front, clearing the crease with proficiency. Overall, the top defender I the draft will be a luxury for a team who’s defensive pipeline already includes Connor Timmins, Sam Girard and Cale Makar which could lead to the Colorado Avalanche having once of the best blue lines in hockey within a few short seasons.

Alex Newhook, C, Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL), Round 1, 16th Overall

Despite playing a level below major junior, the BCHL star proved that he was a first round talent. Alex Newhook battled through a slow start and not making the Canadian Hlinka-Gretzky squad. Often times players are unable to perform at their top speed but the young Grizzlies star has speed to burn and can play the game at full speed. His skating is elite among NHL talent already and his hockey IQ is top level. Often ranked among the top-10 prior to the draft, Colorado’s ability to land a top flight center to pair with the best defender in the draft class helps solidify the Avalanche as the big winners of the draft.

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Using his high-level burst and edge work, he does an excellent job of tracking opposing players into the defensive zone. He uses a quick, high-skill stick work to separate player from puck. Once the puck is turned over, Newhook is able to take a couple of strides pulling away from his adversaries with ease. The east coast native is a neutral zone wizard when it comes to the translation game. Whether it be using his crisp, accurate passing or his high-octane speed, Newhook gets through the zone efficiently and at a high rate of speed.

Once into the offensive zone, he creates space with his ability to drive defenders back with his speed before stopping on a dime. His edge work and quick first step allow him to create separation in tight spaces and get into tight areas with the puck. Newhook has a solid frame, able to handle being leaned on in the corners and still coming out with the puck more often than not. His vision and hockey sense are constantly on display as he finds and sets up his teammates. His shot is NHL ready, especially off the rush or on a one time opportunity. He is able to change the angle on his shot with excellent stick handling off the rush, which becomes nearly unstoppable at times when you combine it with his exceptional speed.

Drew Helleson, RHD, USNTDP (USHL), Round 2, 47th Overall

Helleson is a solid defensive blue liner who is a very fluid skater. He makes efficient plays with the puck on his stick and he is able to skate confidently with the puck when needed. Offensively he has a decent shot from the point that relies on accuracy to get it through more than power. He makes simple passes to the forwards, allowing the high skilled players to make plays and facilitating when needed.

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He is patient and poised with the puck in his own zone, rarely making a mistake. He moves well forwards and backwards, able to gain speed and keep pace with attacking forwards. He could stand to improve his lateral quickness as he can be turned around at times when being driven back with high-level speed. He provides a physical presence but doesn’t rely on the bone crushing hit that can often take a player out of the play. He uses his large frame with a purpose and engages at the appropriate time. He is with attend Boston College in the fall, along with fellow Avs draft choice Alex Newhook, where he is likely to continue his development for at least two seasons before making the jump to the professional ranks.

Matthew Stienburg, C/RW, St. Andrews College (CAHS), Round 3, 63rd Overall

This was the first pick that Joe Sakic and the Avalanche management team may have reached on. Due to being diagnosed with Osteomyelitis, an infection in the shoulder that was eating away at the muscle tissue and bone, the CHL route was taken away because he only played in 15 games in his CHL draft eligible year. Electing to go through multiple surgeries in an attempt to return his a to fill mobility, he dealt with adversity at a young age. He opened up to the prep school-NCAA route and is committed to Cornell next year.

While Stienburg showed skills, his physical presence is his calling card. Often compared to Tom Wilson, the young Canadian is a bit of a throwback type player. He fought in a call up to Sioux City of the USHL, racking up 15 PIM. He possesses pro-ready size at 6’1″, 185lbs. His offensive game is well rounded as he was able to produce 33 goals and 42 assists in just 56 games proving that he isn’t just a goon despite in 98 PIMs on the season. Certainly a project, Stienburg will attend Cornell for at least a couple of years and continue to develop and hone his raw skill set. With his plus hockey IQ, he may be able to turn himself into a solid middle-six forward at the professional level.

Alex Beaucage, RW/LW, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL), Round 3, 78th Overall

The 2019 Memorial Cup champion was the Avalanche’s second pick in the third round. Alex Beaucage is one of the youngest players in the draft and he put up impressive offensive numbers as the fifth highest scoring first year draft eligible players in the QMJHL. Beaucage was an offensive producer with 79 points in just 68 games, he played with older, more experienced players and was often the beneficiary of their solid play.

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He wasn’t strictly as passenger as he possesses solid traits such as a good shot and vision. He is able to get the puck off his stick quickly and efficiently whether it be a shot or a pass. Next season will provide a lot of answers for Beaucage as he will likely be asked to lead a line of his own rather than ride shotgun with some veteran players. It was a puck worth taking the risk on as he could grow into a lead-dog role with the Huskies next season.

Lottery Tickets: Round 4 and Beyond

Sasha Mutala, RW, Tri-City Americans (WHL), Round 5, 140th Overall

Mutala is a good skater with quick acceleration. He is a high-motor player who is an active forechecker creating chances from the dirty areas of the ice. Mutala has a heavy shot and decent vision. Projects as a third-line winger.

Luka Burzan, C, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL), Round 6, 171st Overall

Originally eligible for the draft last year, Burzan thrust himself in the scene with a 40 goal, 78 point campaign following a year where he had 9 goals and 21 points. Burzan is a project player who could continue to grow offensively.

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Trent Minor, G, Vancouver Giants (WHL), Round 7, 202nd Overall

Trent Minor led the Vancouver Giants to the WHL final where they fell to the Prince Albert Raiders in seven games. A sub-2.00 goals against average and a .924 save percentage which were aided by playing on an outstanding team. A teammate of Byram, the Avalanche 4th overall pick, Miner is slightly undersized but shows promise in net.

Draft Recap

The Colorado Avalanche were able to take advantage of the poor situation that Matt Duchene our them in by getting the Ottawa Senators first round pick. That gave Colorado the opportunity to use the 2019 NHL Entry Draft to bolster their depth all over the ice despite experiencing some on-ice success. Having the 4th and 16th pick in the first round was an advantageous spot to be put in. After selecting Byram with the fourth pick they were fortunate to have Alex Newhook, a player often ranked in the top-10, with the 16th pick. Those two players will bolster this team in areas of need and they were also the best players available. Byram adds to the defensive prospect pipeline making it the best blue line group of prospects in the NHL. Newhook will likely solidify the second line center spot behind Nathan MacKinnon where he will be able to follow MacKinnon’s speed with a second wave of breath taking speed.

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After the first round Colorado continued to make good decisions, going with a mix of safe picks such as Helleson and riskier picks like Stienburg. Adding a defensive defender who can skate and make a solid first pass the way Helleson does in the second round was a smart choice and then they took risks as the puck certainty decreased. Balancing the risk of drafting Stienburg with a bit of a safer pick in the offensively gifted Beaucage was a strategy that could pay off in time. Mutala and Burzan are good upside picks where Colorado took a bit of a risk later in the draft as they should. Trent Miner is a goalie who has some winning pedigree and good statistics. He has some good tools and grabbing him in the 7th round may end up being a steal.

Overall, the Colorado Avalanche May be the team that won the draft as early on as day one. Acquiring two top-10 talents, one of which being the clear-cut best defender in the draft, means that they more than took advantage of the opportunity that they were presented with. Colorado had success on the ice this year, making it to the second round and pushing San Jose to a controversial game seven. Now, after pulling in the draft class that they did, they are starting the offseason with some success off the ice.

For more the draft, prospects and the NHL in general you can follow me here at @TheTonyFerrari

All statistics and information courtesy of Hockey Reference, the NHL, Elite Prospects and Prospect Stats.

Nashville Predators: Draft Analysis

In the past few drafts, the Nashville Predators have selected with defence in mind. This year they had a very good draft where they took some much needed forward prospects.

Picks

Philip Tomasino, 24th overall, Round 1

Egor Afanasyev, 45th overall, Round 2

Alexander Campbell, 65th overall, Round 3

Marc Del Gaizo, 109th overall, Round 4

Semyon Chystyakov, 117th overall, Round 4

Ethan Haider, 148th overall, Round 5

Isak Walther, 179th overall, Round 6

Juuso Parssinen, 210th overall, Round 7

Analyzing the draft

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Philip Tomasino, C, Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL)

Tomasino excites me as a Predators fan as he is a fast, skillful skater who can both shoot and pass the puck exceptionally well. Tomasino is very similar to Kyle Turris with his pucks skill and shot but can skate and defend much better than Turris. He finished the year with 34 goals and 38 assists for a total of 72 points. He also tripled his point total this year compared to last year. Learn more about Tomasino with Spencer Loane’s article about him: puck77.com. This was a great pick by the Predators.

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Egor Afanasyev, LW, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)

Afanasyev was a bit of a surprise for me as I haven’t heard much about him, but after looking him up and seeing his stats I believe he can end up being a great second or third liner. He broke out on to the scene this year with 27 goals and 37 assists for a total of 72 points. He said in an interview on NHL.com that he compares himself to Blake Wheeler and plays a 200-ft game. The Predators, I believe, reached a little here but I do believe he will be a good player nonetheless.

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Alexander Campbell, C, Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)

Campbell played with Los Angeles Kings prospect Alex Newhook, who went number five overall in the draft, and they both played very well this past year. Campbell had 21 goals and 46 assists for a total of 67 points. He is a great skater with even better hands who can slip through the smallest of holes given to him by defensemen and when he has the opportunity to shoot he doesn’t back down and takes his chances. This was one of the best picks made by Nashville and could even end up being one of the best steals in the draft, as I believe Campbell’s ceiling is very high.

Overview of the Draft.

This was a great draft compared to last year’s draft where we didn’t have many picks at all. Poile made some great picks and trades that are going to help in the future. The team was definitely looking into the future with these picks, as some won’t be ready until 2-4 years from now. But the few who will be ready soon are some great players who fit the Predators’ needs perfectly.

 

Stats from eliteprospects.com and prospect-stats.com

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Puck77 Interview: Steve Kournianos of TheDraftAnalyst.com

Yesterday, I had the privilege to interview Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst). Kournianos is an NHL Draft Analyst for TheDraftAnalyst.com and he contributes for Sporting News NHL.

Kournianos has posted a ton of draft related content on his site including Rankings, Prospect Profiles and Mock Drafts. You should check out his content as you prepare to sit down to watch the draft this weekend.

In my interview with Kournianos, we touched on several different draft prospects who are eligible in the NHL Draft and some prospects who are eligible for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. So, let’s take a look at what he had to say. 

Interview

Josh: The USNTDP has many top prospects including Cole Caufield, Alex Turcotte and Jack Hughes. But, who are some draft prospects from the USNTDP who could be steals in the later rounds?  

Steve: I really like Patrick Moynihan, Owen Lindmark and Judd Caulfield. All did really well when given a chance in the top six. Moynihan can fly and wire it off the rush; Lindmark has a nonstop motor and is great off the cycle; Caulfield is a big-bodied two-way type with soft hands and underrated creativity. I also see defensemen Domenick Fensore and Marshall Warren being able to translate their speed, hands and playmaking into top-pairing roles when after two or three years in college.

Josh: While Jack Hughes is looking like the number one selection, the race between Kaapo Kakko and Hughes has gotten much tighter. What are some of the concerns that analysts have with Hughes?

Steve: I don’t know any notable analysts who have concerns. Only fans. I for one have zero concerns about Hughes.

Josh: Alex Newhook is sky-rocketing up draft rankings. Is there a chance that we could see Newhook be drafted before Trevor Zegras and Dylan Cozens?

Steve: Slim. It’s recency bias from the U18 words. Zegras or Cozens would have put up 150-point seasons in the BCHL.

Josh: In addition, do you believe that with Newhook playing in the BCHL, that it had a negative impact on his rankings earlier on this year?

Steve: My issue with Newhook had more to do with his frustration on the bench and his inconsistency fighting through tougher matchups. I don’t think league quality had anything to do with his slipping. Cale Makar and Tyson Jost were high picks from Canadian Jr. “A” because they were consistently dominant without any real concerns.

Josh: What do you think of Moritz Seider and what should NHL fans expect down the road with Seider? 

Steve: Seider is a hot topic and deservedly so. He is too good for his age group and held his own against adults. His hockey smarts and positioning impress me more than his size and mobility, which is what many are focusing in. I see a future No. 2 or No. 3 who eats up minutes and plays in all situations.

Josh: Last year, fans saw Joe Veleno fall and fall. Who do you believe might fall this year and why?

Steve: I think one of the WHL centers will drop. Dach, Cozens or Krebs. My money is on Krebs because of the Achilles tear coupled with the rise of Caufield, Seider, Knight and several others.

Josh: Alexis LaFrenière is projected to be the number one overall selection in the 2020 NHL Draft. If you had to choose an NHLer (current or former) as a comparable, who would you select and why?

Steve: Lafrenière is a mix between John Tavares and Patrick Kane — a well-balanced, strong and brilliant decision maker like Tavares and finesse, elite puck control and hands like Kane. He’ll be among the NHL scoring leaders every year.

Josh: Aside from LaFrenière, who do you believe that fans should pay special attention to next season as they could be taken early on in the draft?

Steve: So many to list by I’m already partial to Russian winger Vasili Ponomaryov, the Czech kids — Jan Mysak, Adam Raska and Jaromir Pytlik. Also Anton Lundell from Finland, Dylan Holloway from Canada and a quintet of Minnesota high schoolers in Blake Biondi, Jake Boltmann, Carsen Richels, Cole Hansen and Jack Smith.

Thank You

Thank you Steve for taking the time to answer my questions. I look forward to interviewing you again in the future.

player profiles from hockey-reference.com

Puck77

NHL Mock Draft Part Four: Picks 16-20

Part Four of my mock National Hockey League entry draft will look at picks 16-20. For a quick refresher, click here for part 1, here for part 2, and here for part 3.

16th Overall Pick: Colorado Avalanche select Alex Newhook, Center, Victoria Grizzlies, BCHL

The 5’11, 190 lbs. center from St. John’s, Newfoundland, has been ranked inside the top 20 by every trustworthy source, and then some. His average rank is 15.2, meaning he is likely to go inside the first 15 picks on draft day.

He is one of the best skaters in this draft, easily in the top five in that respect, with blazing speed, an explosive first step, and fine edgework. He also has good balance. He has the puck handling abilities to make a move past a defender at top speed as well. He also holds his ground in board battles, and in front of the net. He pairs his great vision and passing skills to hit an open teammate with a pass for a scoring chance.

But, he isn’t just a playmaker. He has a great shot, and a one timer that will beat any goalie. He’s also good on the defensive end, reading plays quickly enough to break them up, and transition down the ice. He can kill penalties, at his current level, which shows you his capabilities on the defensive end of the ice.

However, he is playing in the British Columbia Hockey League. If you put any of the prior selections in the BCHL, they too could dominate the way Newhook did (38 goals, 64 assists for 102 points in 53 games). The best way to evaluate him is his play at the international level, when he played for Team Canada at the U18 World Junior Championships, where he scored five goals and five assists (10 points) in seven games. Those are solid numbers, and certainly promising, but the BCHL aspect still makes his accomplishments in league play inflated.

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That being said, next year he is moving up to the NCAA, where he has committed to Boston College. The NCAA is a lot tougher than the BCHL, and will truly test how good Newhook really is, and if he deserved to go higher… or not.

Future Role: If he shines in the NCAA, he has the potential to be a 2nd line center behind Alex Turcotte (if the Avs select him at four, like I had them doing) or Nathan MacKinnon (depends if he gets traded/moves to wing for Turcotte to play centre).

17th Overall Pick: Vegas Golden Knights select Bobby Brink, Right Wing, Sioux City Musketeers, USHL

Brink is an undersized winger (5’10, 163 lbs.), but that doesn’t matter much anymore in today’s game. He’s also one of the most intriguing, and unpredictable selections. Some experts have him as the 15th ranked player, while others have him as late as 37, with his average being 25.8.

Brink has good balance, to go with good agility and great acceleration. However, he does not have a very good top speed, which sets his skating back a bit. He doesn’t fare very well in board battles or net-front battles, and the culprit is his small stature. But, like Newhook is a top five skater in the draft, Brink is a top five shooter. His wrist shot is deadly. While his shooting is superb, it’s usually how he gets to those areas to release his shot that stands out.

He has good stickhandling ability to dangle his way past defenders, and vision to spot open areas to exploit. The vision he uses to exploit open areas in the offensive zone that I touched on earlier, he also uses when setting up teammates for scoring chances. He plays strong defensively as well. He sinks low in the zone to help the centers and defensemen. He has strong positioning, intercepting passes to his man at the point. Once he gets those turnovers, he is quick to turn up ice and attack offensively.

But, again like Newhook, he played against lesser competition. He only played five games with the USNTDP team (with Jack Hughes and co.), putting up three goals and three assists (six points). That isn’t bad at all, but he only played five games, remember? Instead of playing up with the rest of the top US prospects, he played in the United States Hockey League, ultimately one step below the USNTDP. There, he played 43 games, with 35 goals and 33 assists (68 points). He will look to really add to his name when he plays NCAA hockey with the University of Denver, where he is committed to play next season. That will be a true test for Brink, and one that a lot of people will keep their eyes on.

Future Role: Safer pick than Newhook, but Newhook arguably has a higher floor, meaning he will take a bit longer to develop. But predictions for his future reside on next seasons performance. If all goes right, he could pan out as a solid top six winger, playing in all situations.

18th Overall Pick: Dallas Stars select Ville Heinola, Left-Handed Defenseman, Lukko, Liiga

Heinola is currently 18 years old, but he spent his age 17 season playing against grown men in Liiga. The Honkajoki, Finland native has a below average frame at 5’11, 181 lbs.

Heinola isn’t a fast skater, with good acceleration, but what sets him apart is his edgework, that allows him to change direction quickly and effectively. His balance isn’t where it needs to be, as he is easily pushed around in front of the net and in corners, but over time, as he bulks up, he will get better there.

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Offensively, he possesses a high hockey IQ. He has great vision, which allows him to control and filter the pace of play, either at 5 on 5 or on the powerplay. He does get creative with some plays, but he does often find himself getting too creative, and forcing passes into traffic. But with his creativity, he holds solid stickhandling abilities, and can beat attacking wingers with a quick move at the point.

His great ability of pivoting and edgework allow him to walk across the blue line, and his vision and patience allows the play to unfold as he walks the line. Both his wrist shot and slapshot are solid, and low to the ice, allowing for deflections or rebounds. He has a tendency to sneak down from the point if he has space, or to just get to an open area for a pass, and get shots in tight to the goalie.

On defense, his high IQ stays with him, and again he reads the play well. He does a good job breaking up passes, and is a very effective pokechecker. He also tends to shy away from the physicality of the game, trying to stick with his pokechecking rather than lay a hit on someone, but as he bulks up, that could change.

Heinola was able to post two goals and 12 assists (14 points) in 34 games against men in Finland, which is very impressive at his age. He played in a few international tournaments as well for Finland, which included the U18 World Junior Championship, the U20 World Junior Championship and the Hlinka Gretzky Cup (U18). In the U18 WJC, he played five games with one goal and three assists (four points). In the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, he put up two assists in four games. Then, finally, in the U20 WJC, he recorded a goal and an assist in five games.

While he looked sharp in Liiga, his offensive production on international stages left something to be desired. He has even been claimed as a boom or bust pick, with his sometimes risky offensive zone play, and inconsistent international play. However, I don’t see him as a boom or bust pick. His skill-set offensively is better than some defensemen picked higher, and his defensive game is solid. His IQ is incredibly advanced for his age, and while he may not be a burner of a skater, his pivots allow him to go from defense to offense, and vice versa, quickly, and allows him to keep up to speed with the game.

Future Role: Top four defenseman, with top powerplay minutes. If his physical game ever develops, and he bulks up, he could see some penalty killing minutes as well.

19th Overall Pick: Ottawa Senators select Spencer Knight, Goaltender, USNTDP

The 6’3, 198 lbs. native of Darien, Connecticut has built up a good enough profile to be the top ranked netminder in the draft, ahead of Russian phenom, Pyotr Kochetkov. He has been ranked as early as 19th and as late as 32nd, while his average ranking sits at 27.7.

He already has the size that NHL teams look for in a goaltender, with room still to grow. He is aggressive, taking away angles, and coming out to the top of his crease. One thing that many young goalies face when heading into the draft the most is their rebound control, but that isn’t the case for Knight. That is the biggest facet of his game that separates him from every other goalie in this class.

It’s difficult to score on him low, as he moves very well laterally, and with power. He has great vision, rarely losing sight of where the puck is, and reads where it could go next rather well. His glove hand is quick, and spectacular, while the smaller details of his game are extremely well developed at a technical scale. He does the little things right, essentially, all the time. He is good with the puck too, with the ability to start the breakout, similar to Jordan Binnington in this past NHL postseason.

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He seemingly bounces back after every goal against, very rarely letting it affect him. One negative to his game, as pointed out by Ben Kerr at LastWordOnHockey, is he tends to lose focus when he isn’t being pressured with shots, and that could lead to problems down the road if not fixed.

He is committed to play for Boston College of the NCAA, after putting up a 2.36 Goals against average and a .913 save percentage with the USNTDP, in 33 games. In the U18 WJC, he put up a 1.51 GAA and .936 SV% in six games.

Future Role: Goalies take the longest to pan out and are nearly impossible to project. However, I will leave you with this: he has been compared stylistically to Carey Price, and is well ahead of all the other netminders in this class. It is nearly safe to say he will be an NHL goalie. His ceiling is limitless, however, so he will be fun to watch in his college years.

20th Overall Pick: New York Rangers select Ryan Suzuki, Center, Barrie Colts, OHL

The 6’0, 172 lbs. Canadian born center Suzuki is the brother to Montreal Canadiens prospect Nick Suzuki. Coming out of London, Ontario, Ryan has been ranked as early as 12th and as late as 26th, with his average ranking at 20.2.

He is a speedy skater, with great acceleration, allowing him to beat defenders with just his feet. He is able to speed up and slow down smoothly, which allows him to play with defenders heads, and beat them in a multitude of ways. However, he is easily knocked off the puck, and needs to get stronger to be better equipped for the NHL level.

He is an excellent passer, able to get pucks through traffic, and has the IQ to know when, and where, to send the puck to a teammate for a scoring chance. He is lethal on the powerplay with that skill alone. Add to it his stickhandling, and he creates room for himself to open up his options and rip up a defense. He has an accurate shot, but needs to gain more strength for better power behind those shots. He is great on the forecheck, and he could get even better with, you guessed it, more strength.

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He reads the play well defensively, but struggles in that area nonetheless. He’s good at breaking up passes, and he is almost always in the right position. He is quick to start the transition towards offense, and successful at it too. With all that said, he was able to produce 25 goals and 50 assists (75 points) in 65 games in the OHL. Internationally, he played for team Canada at the U18 WJC (one assist in five games) and at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup (one goal, seven assists in five games). His lackluster U18 WJC  performance is concerning, but isn’t a major red flag.

Future Role: Top six center, playing in all situations, so long as he gets considerably stronger. With strength, his defensive capabilities are magnified, and he can win more battles on the forecheck, and makes him more of a 1st liner than a 2nd liner.

All stats via Eliteprospects

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

New York Rangers

New York Rangers: Who Should They Select At Pick #20?

The New York Rangers have two first-round picks in the 2019 National Hockey League Entry Draft, the second overall pick and pick #20.

 

The second overall selection will be obvious, as everybody knows. They will take whomever the Devils don’t between Jack Hughes and Kappo Kakko. As for Pick #20, they could go in a multitude of different directions, obviously based on who falls to them.

My personal preference is for them to target defense or center help, because their defense is still an issue and their center depth could be better, with Vladislav Namestikov and Ryan Strome not being long-term options. In terms of wingers, I think they have enough young wingers, especially with them likely getting Kakko at #2, so I wouldn’t pursue a winger unless somebody who was supposed to go top-10 falls. Here are some options at those two positions that I think could be realistic to fall to #20.

Moritz Seider, Defenseman, Mannheim Adler Mannheim

With the Rangers needing defense and needing some size on this team in general, I think a perfect guy to fit that mold is German defenseman Moritz Seider. At 6’3″ and 208 pounds, he has the size and physicality that is needed on this team and in the league, even with it shifting to a speed and skill game. Seider has the strength, physicality, and instincts to be a good defensive defenseman.

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His offensive game won’t wow anybody at this level, but he did have 11 assists in 12 games at the most recent international junior competition, showing some potential there. His goal-scoring ability will likely be small, as his highest goal total at any level was six in 2017-18 in the Deutsche Nachwuchs Liga. However, I think an improvement in his offensive game would come if being drafted and developed by the Rangers, who have always done well with making guys that weren’t previously offensively-minded or two-way defensemen more productive offensively.

However, if he is drafted by the Rangers, I still would want Seider to prioritize being a stay-at-home defenseman first, because I think the Rangers do lack that right now, especially one that is physical and one with defense-first instincts.

Raphael Lavoie, Center, Halifax Mooseheads

If the Rangers target any more offense in this draft, I think it should be at the center position. One guy that could realistically be there is the Quebec Junior League’s Raphael Lavoie. Lavoie is a guy that could have risen into the Top 10 if he took a major leap, but is still a dominant offensive player.

He scored 32 goals and 41 assists during the regular season for Halifax, and added 20 goals and 32 assists in their playoff run leading the Mooseheads to the Memorial Cup finals.

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Skill wise, he is a very good, straight forward skater that is tough to get off the puck and is good in terms of creating chances for teammates. Today’s game has evolved into young centers having this high end speed, and while I don’t think Lavoie has that, he still has good speed for his size (6’4″ and 200 pounds). His side-to-side speed and agility are one of his major issues he has to work on, especially in the defensive end of the ice. However, that is something that can be developed with good coaching.

His stick skills, vision, and speed for his size make him a good mold to be an NHL center, if he can improve the other aspects of his game. If the Rangers were to draft him, I think he would stay in Hartford for two or three years. But down the road, when guys like Namestikov and Strome probably will be gone, a player like Lavoie could be a decent second or third line center if developed properly, and with his size and skill I wouldn’t mind them taking a chance on him at 20 if he’s there.

Cam York, Defenseman, USNTDP Juniors

From a big-bodied defenseman in Seider to a smaller but quicker defenseman in Cam York, the Rangers could also take a chance on a guy who is more of the modern mold of the NHL, defensemen that can skate and join the rush on offense. At 5’11” and 172 pounds, I would imagine he’d have to bulk up a little bit to compete at the NHL level, but at 18 years old, he still has time to grow into his body more.

However, for that type of defenseman, he can be very good. Offensively his numbers have proven that, with 14 goals and 51 assists on the U.S. National U18 team. In 2015-16, he also had a season with 18 goals and 51 assists for Shattuck St. Mary’s Bantam.

Defensively, he skates well both straight forward and side to side, which is important against more athletic forwards in today’s NHL. He will need to work on his stick skills as a defender as well as his physicality due to not having a lot of size, but those are instincts that can be developed in the American Hockey League and in college hockey.

Whoever drafts York will have him as more of a project anyway. Like I said, he still has to grow into his body, plus he has already committed to the University of Michigan for this season. So between that, growing into his body ,and proving himself in the AHL, he will have a long way to go. However, his speed and offensive ability certainly make him similar to a lot of the new mold of NHL defensemen, and I would not mind if the Rangers decided to put a Cam York in New York.

Alex Newhook, Center, Victoria Grizzlies

One of the faster centers in this draft, Alex Newhook makes the final spot on this list. The Rangers have always loved faster centers, so Newhook could be a perfect fit. He has very good straight forward speed but even better side-to-side speed that would help out wingers that like to spread the ice and switch a lot in head coach David Quinn’s system.

Skill wise, his stick handling and moves are good in front and around the net too, and help for both passing and shooting. Statistically, Newhook had a great year in the British Columbia Hockey League with Victoria, totaling 38 goals and 64 assists in 53 games, proving those skills.

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The question surrounding Newhook is whether he can do it at tougher levels, as the BCHL isn’t thought of to be as strong of competition as other development leagues, so he would likely need more time to develop. He is committed to Boston College next year, where I would imagine he would stay for more than one year unless he makes a huge leap, and then I think he would transition to the AHL level.

Not to mention, at 5’10” and 190 pounds, he may need time to grow into his body too. Therefore, I think between that and him needing to improve his defense and his decision-making both with and without the puck, he will need time.

However, his speed and skill level show that he could fit as a sophisticated offensive center if he proves he can do it against tougher competition throughout college and the AHL. This pick would be a gamble if the Rangers make it, but he can be an ultimate boom if he can handle that higher competition with that kind of speed both straight forward and side-to-side.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals