Welcome to a new series I’m starting here on Puck77. Hidden gems in the NHL Draft.
If you couldn’t tell already, I’m an absolute draft nut. And I was starting to get antsy with me not having done a prospect series of some sort in a while. One of my favourite weekends of the year just wrapped up, and as a result, all 31 NHL teams have a new crop of young talent in the pipelines. Some of them could be hall of famers, some of them could be NHL mainstays, some of them might not even see a game of professional hockey. But that’s the beauty of the draft. And to give you all a little more information on who to look out for, I’m going to start a series going over one potential hidden gem from each team’s 2019 draft class. Without further ado, let’s kick things off with the Atlantic Division.
Boston Bruins – Matias Mantykivi (D, 6th Round, 185th Overall)
The Bruins went slightly off the board with their first round pick and drafted forward John Beecher, a dynamic centre who has good size and great offensive tendencies to make it a good selection overall. Because they didn’t have a second or a fourth round pick, they ended up picking four more players on day two, with one of them being Matias Mantykivi.
Mantykivi is a small Finnish defenseman who spent the majority of this season palying for SaiPa U20 of the Jr. A SM-Liiga, which is essentially Finland’s junior league. He was very good offensively this season, putting up 36 points over 34 games for the team while also seeing some ice time with Kettera of the Mestis league (Finland’s version of the AHL) and Saipa of the SM-Liiga, their top league. It’s unknown where he will be playing next season, but the most likely scenario is that he remains in Finland to further develop his game until the Bruins believe he’s ready to come to North America.
Buffalo Sabres – Filip Cederqvist (LW, 5th Round, 143rd Overall)
Without a doubt, the Sabres’ most hyped up pick was forward Dylan Cozens, taken at seventh overall. The big centre from the WHL could look to provide a really solid one-two punch with Jack Eichel
eventually. They also selected a solid two way defenseman at 31st overall in Ryan Johnson
. After these two were selected, the Sabres went on to make four more picks, three of them being forwards and one of them being a goaltender. If I have to pick one of these guys to be a potential hidden gem, I’m going with Filip Cederqvist.
After getting passed over last year in his first year of eligibility, the Sabres took a flier on Cederqvist in the fifth round and it looks like a pick that could pay off for them. The Skara, Sweden native is a 6’1 winger who spent most of this season playing for the Vaxjo Lakers of the SHL and had a pretty solid campaign, putting up eight points in 33 games. He also spent time with the Lakers’ J20 team where he put up 32 points in 26 games. As of now, it seems like Cederqvist will spend most of his development in Sweden, but he could turn out to be something for the Sabres.
Detroit Red Wings – Albin Grewe (LW, 3rd Round, 66th Overall)
The Red Wings had one of the busiest days at the draft of any team, leaving Rogers Arena with 11 new prospects under their belts. Their first pick was off the board, but not surprising to me at all, taking German defenseman Moritz Seider at sixth overall. I firmly believe Seider could turn out to be a gem for the Wings, seeing that he wasn’t getting much coverage playing in Germany. But that’s a post for another time.
Instead, I’m going with Albin Grewe as the Wings’ hidden gem (his last name is pronounced Gree-vay. Don’t make the same mistake I did). He’s said to be a gritty winger who can also put the puck in the back of the net. Through 25 games with Djurgardens IF J20 of the SHL’s junior league, he put up 34 points. He’s under contract with Djurgardens IF of the SHL, and will more than likely start next season on the main squad rather than in the minors. I personally had Grewe going mid-second round, so the fact that they took him in the third round strikes me as a potential steal for the Red Wings.
Florida Panthers – Cole Schwindt (C, 3rd Round, 81st Overall)
With Roberto Luongo
on the brink of retirement and James Reimer
entertaining the possibility of getting bought out, it’s not at all surprising that the Panthers went with the top goaltending prospect in Spencer Knight as their first round pick. They had a busy day on day two, leaving with eight more draft picks. Out of all of the Panthers’ mid-to-late rounders, Cole Schwindt was the one that stood out to me.
The 6’2 Kitchener native spent this season with the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL, and finished a solid campaign with 49 points in 68 games. He has good size and he’s only 18 years old, so another year or two in the OHL could do wonders for him until the Panthers are ready to bring him to the pros. There’s a great chance we could see Schwindt turn into something.
Montreal Canadiens – Arsen Khisamutdinov (LW, 6th Round, 170th Overall)
The Habs got one of the first presumed steals of the draft in the first round, selecting forward Cole Caufield at 15th overall when he was projected to go as high as seventh overall. Like the Red Wings, the Canadiens had a busy day at the draft and left with ten new prospects. One of these ones was Arsen Khisamutdinov.
Khisamutdinov (I feel bad for the announcer who has to say that name) is an overage forward who was born in 1998 and spent this season playing back home in Russia. The 6’3 winger spent the majority of this season playing for Reaktor Nizhnekamsk of the MHL (Russia’s version of the CHL) and also impressed in a small sample size with Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk of the KHL, putting up five points over nine games. There always seems to be a number of overage Russians that go in the mid rounds of drafts, and Khisamutdinov looks like he could become a solid pickup for the Habs.
Ottawa Senators – Mads Sogaard (G, 2nd Round, 37th Overall)
The Senators could have had the fourth overall pick in this draft but sacrificed it in the deal that brought them Matt Duchene
(who isn’t with the team anymore). Regardless, they ended up getting a first round pick back from the Columbus Blue Jackets in an ironic deal that sent Duchene to the Jackets. Either way, one first round pick is better than none, and they used theirs to select Lassi Thomson, a solid Finnish defenseman from the WHL. While they only selected six players this past weekend, they might have found a gem in Mads Sogaard.
It might be hard to call Sogaard a gem considering he’s a second round pick who was picked right around where he was projected to be, but he has potential to become a really good starting goalie in the league. The 6’7 Danish goalie spent this season with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL and finished with a record of 19-8-2 with a GAA of 2.64 and a save percentage of .921 to go with it. He will likely head back to the WHL for at least one more season, but he could turn out to be something special for the Sens.
Tampa Bay Lightning – Max Crozier (D, 4th Round, 120th Overall)
After drafting defenseman Cal Foote in the first round a couple of years back, the Lightning went with his younger brother in 2019, drafting forward Nolan Foote. The Bolts drafted a total of seven players in 2019, and one player in particular that sticks out as a potential gem is Max Crozier.
Crozier spent this season playing for the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL, putting up 43 points in 60 games from the back end. Being 6’1 and right-handed, he already has an edge in terms of value over some other players. He’s committed to play for Providence College of the NCAA next year, and it will be interesting to see how he develops over a couple years of college hockey.
Toronto Maple Leafs – Mikko Kokkonen (D, 3rd Round, 84th Overall)
The Maple Leafs didn’t have a first round pick in 2019, but kicked things off in the second round by selecting skilled forward Nick Robertson at 53rd overall. They only made six picks this year, but their potential gem might have come in the third round in the form of Mikko Kokkonen.
After reading some scouting reports on his game, he was described as the type of defenseman who won’t blow you away with any one aspect of his game, but plays a steady all around game. He put up 16 points in 59 games for Jukurit of the SM-Liiga and is known to be good defensively as well. If his development goes according to plan, it’s possible he could cap out as a good top four defenseman at the NHL level.
Thanks for reading. Tune in next time when we’ll be going over a potential gem from each Central Division team.