Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2019 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we feature our NHL Draft Grades.
The big day has come and gone, and now we look back to see how each team did in the NHL Draft. Look, we know that it is way too soon to evaluate a draft and that the true evaluation will be seen four or five years from now. However, we don’t want to wait, instead, we follow our yearly tradition and do our NHL Draft Grades now.
To be clear, our NHL Draft Grades are based on the quality and quantity of total talent added in the draft. It is not based on getting value for where you pick. For example, due to a lack of total picks the Columbus Blue Jackets are likely to be given a very poor grade for this year’s draft regardless of how they use them.
LWOH 2019 NHL Draft Grades
Note: VALUE PICK does NOT mean the best player drafted. It means the best value. For example, Jack Hughes was the first player taken in this draft. However, he is not our best value pick for the Devils. Why? Because anyone can take the best player with the first overall pick, we are looking for value here, what steal did the team get in the draft that went later than we thought he would? If it was merely an exercise in naming the best player drafted, might as well just name the team’s first pick, as that is who their own scouts felt was their best player.
A second note: The links lead back to our scouting reports.
Picks: Cole Caufield, Jayden Struble, Mattias Norlinder, Gianni Fairbrother, Jacob Leguerrier, Rhett Pitlick, Frederik Nissen Dichow, Arsen Khisamutdinov, Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Kieran Ruscheinski
Undersized forward Caufield has an excellent arsenal of shots. His wrist shot and snapshot are deadly accurate and powerful. They also have very quick releases which fool goaltenders. Struble played at St. Sebastian’s high school. He is said to be a smooth-skating defender but needs to develop against stronger competition. Norlinder is another elite skating defenceman. Passed over in last year’s draft the Swedish defender moves the puck well through the neutral zone, generating clean zone entries and setting things up in the zone. He also has very good vision and passing skills.
Fairbrother has good size and plays physical in his own end. He also has strong skating skills and a good wrist shot. Leguerrier plays a solid defensive game with good gap control but has no offence to speak of. Pitlick is another undersized winger. He has outstanding speed and has a non-stop motor. Nissen Dichow has excellent size (6’5″) for a young goalie. Khisamutdinov has been passed over in two drafts but took big steps forward as a playmaker in the MHL and KHL this year. Harvey-Pinard is another 20-year-old prospect. He is also undersized but high-energy. Ruscheinski is a big, defensive defenceman playing Junior A in Alberta.
Tomasino is a dynamic skater who marries this with great stickhandling and playmaking skills to create offence. Afanasyev plays a power game. He gets to the front of the net, creating havoc, pouncing on rebounds, getting tip-ins, and making himself available to take a pass and fire a quick shot on the net. Campbell makes up for his lack of size with outstanding skating. His top-end speed allows him to get behind the defence and look for a long breakaway pass. Del Gaizo was passed over in last years draft. He showed offensive ability and an active stick in the defensive end with UMass. Chistyakov is willing to play a physical game in his own end. He also has a very good slap shot and one-timer.
New Jersey Devils: A+
Winning the draft lottery was a great start for the Devils draft but Ray Shero added to his luck and pulled off a fantastic weekend. The Devils get top marks in our Draft Grades. Hughes has a complete offensive game and it starts with his elite skating ability. He marries his elite skating with the soft and quick hands to handle the puck while skating at that top speed. Okhotyuk is an excellent defender. He uses his edgework and agility to keep his man in front of him and maintain good gap control. Misyul has the skating and size to develop into a top-four defender and has shown great improvement despite injury issues. However, there is still room to grow. Clarke maintains puck possession with strong work along the boards and in the cycle game.
Vukojevic is best known for his defensive game. He is solid in his own zone, with the size to play a physical game and clear the front of the net. McCarthy has the potential to develop into a two-way NHL defenceman. He may never drive the offence but can chip in on a second power-play unit. Moynihan plays a simple but effective game. He has a very good wrist shot and a quick release. He gets himself into good positions to take a pass.
Holmstrom has excellent hands. He can control the puck while moving at top speed. He combines his hands with his excellent agility to create space to set up teammates. Holmstrom changes angles and creates openings to get the puck to a teammate. Bolduc is a two-way defender. His skating and edgework are good and allow him to transition from defence to offence quickly. He makes a good first pass and starts the transition game. Newkirk could improve his skating but is a hard-worker who plays gritty in all three zones. Undrafted in two previous drafts, Bibeau is another north-south style forward with a good motor. Coskey is another 20-year-old who improved his goal scoring this past season.
New York Rangers: B+
In Kakko, the Rangers get the most NHL ready prospect in this year’s draft. Kakko is a highly skilled winger who can create in a variety of ways. His stickhandling, playmaking, power game, and shot are all first-line quality. While he might never be an elite offensive defensive, Robertson has the potential to play big minutes and contribute in all situations for his team. Henriksson is a very smart player. He sees the ice extremely well and anticipates the movements of both teammates and opponents. He has the ability to slow down the play or to speed it up to create openings. Jones is an offensive-minded defender who loves to join the rush and quarterback the powerplay. Skinner is a physical defensive defender.
Ottawa Senators: B-
Thomson has an excellent array of shots. He uses his edgework and agility to walk the line and open up shooting lanes. He also understands how to keep his shot low and get it on the net, in order to create opportunities. Pinto is a powerful skater. He generates good speed, but more importantly, it is tough to knock him off his stride. He loves to shoot. At 6-foot-7 Sogaard is a huge goaltender. His size allows him to take up large portions of the net and gives shooters little to look at. He uses an effective butterfly technique. Undrafted over the last two drafts, Lodin has good vision and passing skill. Kastelic is another third time eligible. He uses his size to get to the front of the net and score in close.
York’s biggest asset is his hockey sense. He usually makes smart decisions both with and without the puck. York joins the rush and pinches at the right times. This allows him to create offence while still maintaining his defensive responsibilities. Brink is a sniper. He has a fantastic wrist shot and a lightning quick release. It is amongst the best shots in this draft class. It is also deadly accurate. Brink has the soft hands to score in tight to the goal as well. Attard has been passed over in two previous drafts, but a defenceman who puts up 30 goals will get noticed. He also has an absolute cannon of a slap shot, along with a good wrist shot and a quick release.
Millman has decent passing skills and a strong defensive game. A pure sniper, Serdyuk has a very good arsenal of shots. He has a strong one-timer, along with a good wrist shot and snapshot. His release is quick, and his shots are accurate. Brodzinski was Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey this past season, putting up a big year in high school.
Poulin’s size and skill make him an intriguing power forward option, something that is harder and harder to find in the NHL today. Legare is a natural sniper. He has an outstanding array of shots. His wrist shot is close to NHL ready. It is strong as well as accurate. Caulfield is a solid all-around forward who seems to do everything well, but has no one skill that is really outstanding. He has good size and can play a physical game. Puustinen is a two-time draft re-entry. He has offensive skill but is just 5’9″. The Pens take a defenceman in Airola. He is an effective passer with good vision and the ability to put the puck through tight passing lanes.
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