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