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Draft Preview: The Hockey News' top draft prospects – 32-62

Who should your favorite NHL team draft this summer? Here's Part 2 of our top prospects series, as seen in our Draft Preview issue.
Philip Tomasino

Terry Wilson / OHL Images

For our entire top-100 prospect list, click here.
For scouting reports on prospects No. 1-31, click here.
For scouting reports on prospects No. 63-100, click here.

32. Tobias Bjornfot, D, Djurgarden Jr. (SWE.), 6-0, 196, Upplands Vasby, Swe.

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In terms of findinga safe player who can be a consummate pro for years, Bjornfot looks to be that guy in this draft class. “He played well in the SHL,” said one scout. “He’s a strong, solid puckmover – handled himself well physically, very impressive with the pro team.” At the junior level, Bjornfot has been a staple on international squads and has often taken on a leadership role. “He’s just a solid defenseman,” said another scout. “He was captain of the (Hlinka-Gretzky tournament) under-18 team, strong character, does everything well. He puts the team first, puts the forwards in good positions and consistently makes the right decisions with or without the puck. His skating has improved, but how much upside is there?” In that sense, “safe” isn’t always a positive. For that reason, Bjornfot likely goes in the second round instead of the first, where teams are more willing to go for a home-run pick than a kid who may be a solid double, to mix sporting metaphors. Nonetheless, he is a trusted player and saw playoff time in the SHL after the junior squad was knocked out in the semifinal.

33. Alex Vlasic, D, U.S. NTDP (USHL), 6-6, 192, Wilmette, Ill.
The good news is what you see from Vlasic is what you’re going to see from him in the NHL 10 years from now. The bad news is what you see from Vlasic is what you’re going to see from him in the NHL 10 years from now. The 6-foot-6 behemoth may never be more than an elite defensive defenseman, but you could do a lot worse than have the next Hal Gill on your hands. “This kid is going to play and he’s going to play a long time,” said a scout. “There’s no scenario where he doesn’t play and he doesn’t eat up minutes. He’s a guaranteed ‘D-4,’ and he’s going to play on your penalty kill. It’s just he may never give you more than a defensive game.” If the cousin of San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic can develop a modicum of offense in his game, which he’ll have ample time to do at Boston University, he’ll become that much more valuable. As it is, Vlasic has good mobility for a player his size, and he does have the ability to make a solid first pass out of the defensive zone. That he has a boomer of a shot and skates well suggest his outlook is higher than third-pair defenseman.

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34. Egor Afanasyev, RW, Muskegon (USHL), 6-3, 203, Tver, Rus.
Afanasyev would have played center this year on most other USHL teams. The Lumberjacks happened to be deep down the middle, so they utilized the Russian on the wing, with good results. “He’s a strong kid, excellent stick, and his top speed is good,” said one scout. “He goes to the scoring areas and is still raw.” Originally committed to Michigan State, Afanasyev walked that back during the season, and there is OHL intrigue surrounding him. His rights were dealt from Ottawa to Windsor in the trade that sent Vancouver Canucks goalie prospect Michael DiPietro to the 67’s, and the belief is Afanasyev will decide his future with input from whichever NHL team drafts him. The franchise that takes him will get some charisma along with the skill. “He’s a big-time personality, just infectious,” said another scout. “He’s a big, strong power forward who can score, and he’s great 1-on-1. He has hands, reach and compete level. His skating is average. Can he play with enough pace? The game is only getting faster.” That’s the question surrounding Afanasyev. Because he can certainly put points on the board.

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35. Johnny Beecher, C, U.S. NTDP (USHL), 6-3, 203, Elmira, N.Y.
There aren’t many players who are bigger than Beecher in this draft, nor are there many who skate better. That can be a lethal combination. So why isn’t Beecher rated higher? Well, scouts who have watched him play with the U.S. development team would like to see more consistency of effort. “There are some nights you want him in the first round,” said one scout, “and other nights you want him in the fifth round.” Beecher’s first-round upside is enhanced by the fact he’s an effortless skater who moves as well as any big man in this draft. But one of the knocks on Beecher is that, for all the physical tools he possesses, he sometimes has trouble reading the game. “I don’t think he’s going to make anyone around him better, but in those roles he doesn’t have to,” said another scout. “There’s a lot of space behind him as he goes into an area, so a good player and a smart player, even if he’s not making a play to get you the puck, he’s creating space behind him where you can get the puck.” Beecher is set to join NCAA Michigan in the fall.

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36. Lassi Thomson, D, Kelowna (WHL), 6-0, 187, Tempere, Fin.
After coming up through the Ilves program in his native Finland, Thomson took his first strides in a North American circuit when he signed to play with WHL Kelowna this season. By all accounts, it was a successful venture for the import. “He had a good year,” said one scout. “He maybe was a little inconsistent, but he has an NHL pass and shot. He’s got a bomb from the point. He needs to tighten up defensively, but he moves the puck efficiently. He’s still adapting to the North American game, he’ll make a pass and get hit. He just needs to learn that guys finish their checks over here.” Perhaps the most important checkmark for Thomson is he showed improvement from the beginning of the year to the end. “He really came on in the second half and created some separation between himself and a couple other defensemen who were log-jammed together in the rankings,” said another scout. “He plays today’s kind of game, he transitions well, makes the first pass, and he can skate the puck out of trouble. He also established his defensive presence, so his stock is rising.”

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37. Pavel Dorofeyev, LW, Magnitogorsk (KHL), 6-0, 163, Nizhny Tagil, Rus.
A lot of scouts don't know what to make of Dorofeyev. There are no doubts about his skill level, but there are some about his compete level. “Sometimes you watch him play and it just looks easy,” said a scout. “I’d like him to compete harder. I don’t find him to be a dog, but a lot of times it’s just average, it’s ordinary. And it gets magnified because when someone makes something look easy, it doesn’t look like you have to work to do it. It looks like he’s competing less because his skill is so good.” There is indeed a lot to like about Dorofeyev from a skill standpoint. He’s a smooth, fluid skater who has the potential to become more explosive once he gets stronger. Dorofeyev will undoubtedly be a long-term project for any team that takes him, which would allow him to develop in the KHL for several seasons before bringing him over to North America. “He’s a highly skilled Russian kid,” said another scout. “Very skilled, good on the power play, not a lot of interest in him 5-on-5. Not a lot of compete, but the skill level is high. He can go missing 5-on-5 sometimes.”

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38. Jamieson Rees, C, Sarnia (OHL), 5-10, 172, Hamilton, Ont.
Another undersized forward in a draft that is chock full of them, Rees brings a physical element to the game that many of the other more-skilled smaller players do not. To be blunt, he can sometimes be a one-man wrecking crew. Rees was suspended eight games earlier this season in the OHL for a blindside hit that may not have even been penalized in the NHL. And while he didn’t produce a ton of offense for the Sarnia Sting – 10 goals in 37 games – he did show a deft touch for Canada at the world under-18s in April. “He plays reckless, and it’s both good and bad,” said one scout. “He impacts the other team. The other team knows when he’s on the ice. He’s hurt players, and he creates anxiety for the other team on the forecheck.” There is a lot of room to grow for Rees. As he develops, he will learn to pick his spots better. That will result in fewer suspensions and fewer possibilities for him to get injured. “He’s a little undersized, but the compete and work ethic is second to none,” said another scout. “He’s going to get bigger and stronger. It’s going to happen eventually for him.”

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39. Shane Pinto, C, Tri-City (USHL), 6-2, 185, Franklin Square, N.Y.
Pinto saw both ends of the standings this season, as a mid-year trade sent him from the basement-dwelling Lincoln Stars to the best team in the USHL, the Tri-City Storm.That move gave evaluators a chance to see how he fared in two disparate environments. “In Lincoln, he scored a bunch because they were a bad team and they overplayed him a bit,” said one scout. “Once he got to (Tri-City), he had more structure, and it helped him. He’s a two-way, heady player with great hockey sense. He has a great stick for a big guy.” Committed to NCAA North Dakota next season, Pinto won a gold medal with Team USA at the World Jr. A Challenge and was a top-15 scorer in the USHL. But how is he best deployed at the next level? “The knock is that he doesn’t make plays off the rush,” said another scout. “He thinks he’s a center, and he is good on faceoffs and defensively, but I see him more as a winger. “He definitely has an NHL body. He’s got hands, skating ability and a good shot. He’s effective when he’s playing a power game, and he can make plays down low.”

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40. Brayden Tracey, LW, Moose Jaw (WHL), 6-0, 168, Calgary, Alta.
He needed an extra year of midget hockey before he was able to play in the WHL, but Tracey has been worth the wait for Moose Jaw after leading the league’s rookies in goals, assists and points. Perhaps it’s because he’s only done it for one year in major junior and he played on a line with two 100-point players, but there are scouts not sold on Tracey as a long-term prospect. “We don’t have him as high as a lot of the lists I’ve seen him on,” said one scout. “That being said, if you go by his tools, he warrants being this high. He’s able to put up numbers, and his skill is really good. Really good. I find he needs other players to do the work for him. If you’re going to be that kind of player, you’d better put numbers on the board, and he does.” Tracey was called up to the Warriors for the playoff run last season but didn’t play a single game after the first round. To go from there to playing on the top line and producing big stats is a testament to how much he has developed in the past year. Next season will be a big test as linemates Tristan Langan and Justin Almeida age out of the WHL.

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41. Philip Tomasino, C, Niagara (OHL), 6-0, 181, Mississauga, Ont.
He started slowly, and got pushed down the lineup with OHL Niagara when they went all-in at the trade deadline, but there’s little doubt Tomasino earned the trust of his coaches. He did that by being dogged on the puck and thinking the game at a high level. He is still very slight and needs to add muscle to his frame, but he has a couple of years to work on that. “If you get your body on him, he’s easy to contain,” said one scout. “But get your body on him. He’s elusive. Those first three steps make it hard for defenders to close on him.” The foundations of an all-around solid game are already firmly in place for Tomasino. He does almost everything well but nothing at a dynamic level. “This kid is a heck of a hockey player,” said another scout. “He kind of bounced around after they made trades, and that kind of pushed him down the lineup, and he didn’t get the quality ice time that you want, but he’s a smart player. He’s got good speed, good hockey sense, good stick.” One of the youngest players up for the 2019 draft, Tomasino is also an outstanding playmaker.

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42. Nick Robertson, LW, Peterborough (OHL), 5-9, 168, Arcadia, Calif.
Playing for a Petes team that was just OK, Robertson used spotlight events such as the CHL Top Prospects Game and last year’s Hlinka-Gretzky under-18 tourney (where he was a point-per-gamer for a surprisingly good Team USA) to strut his stuff. “He’s a very skilled player as both a playmaker and a shooter,” said one scout. “The knock is size. He could go in the first or second (round), depending on what you value.” The brother of Dallas Stars prospect Jason Robertson, who improved quite a bit after he was drafted (especially his skating), Nick isn’t a complete player yet, but he did lead Peterborough in scoring in just his second year with the team. “He’s a funny guy,” said another scout. “He’s not the biggest kid, he’s not the greatest skater, and sometimes consistency can be an issue like his brother. Some games he’s quiet. But he had a pretty good playoff series, even though Peterborough lost. You wish he was a little more dynamic, but the production is there.” With no space for him on the U.S. world under-18 team, Robertson’s season ended with that five-game series loss to Oshawa.

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43. Albin Grewe, C, Djurgarden Jr. (SWE.), 6-0, 176, Marsta, Swe.
Grewe is one of the draft’s most intriguing prospects. He presents a tough decision for teams on Day 2. “I don’t know,” said one scout. “He works hard, and he plays hard, but he has a (carefree) attitude that doesn’t match the reality of what kind of player he can become. But coaches like him, he plays his role, and he’s good when he has come up and played with older guys. There will be a lot of different opinions on him.” At the least, Grewe has potential and versatility, plus one of the best nicknames in the class. “He’s a difficult case to read,” said another scout. “When he plays for the pro team, he’s a grinder. He chases guys around, and his coach calls him ‘T-Rex’ because he eats guys up. In junior, he’s still nasty, but he’s also a skill guy who can make plays. So which player does he want to be?” On the nasty end of things, Grewe was one of the most penalized players in Sweden’s top junior circuit while also putting up points. Needless to say, the world under-18s were an important stage for the youngster. He was held off the scoresheet in his first three games.

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44. Nolan Foote, LW, Kelowna (WHL), 6-3, 187, Denver, Colo.
As a player who burst onto the scene as a 15-year-old WHL rookie in 2016 and one with a famous hockey surname, it seems like Foote has been around forever. But Foote had to pull his game together in his draft season. “I expected more,” said one scout. “This is his third year in the league. He’s a big kid, and when he’s engaged, he plays like a big man. The question is when? He’s not a center for me because he doesn’t skate well enough, but he does have a great one-timer. The idea on the power play is to get it to him because it’s coming hard and fast.” The son of ex-NHLer Adam Foote and brother of Tampa Bay prospect Cal Foote, Nolan strayed from the family blueline genes yet has the potential to be an effective pro. “There has been improvement in his skating, now it’s adequate for the NHL level,” said another scout. “He works hard and has a big shot. Once he gets more consistent, he’ll be a good power forward.” It was an uncharacteristic down year for Kelowna, with the Rockets missing the playoffs. Since Foote is a late birthday, he was ineligible for the world under-18s.

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45. Judd Caulfield, C, U.S. NTDP (USHL), 6-3, 203, Grand Forks, N.D.

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When you’re on a team as star-studded as USA Hockey’s development squad this season, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle sometimes. And there hasn’t been a player who is more a victim of the U.S. team’s success than Caulfield. But that doesn’t mean the scouts haven’t noticed what he brings. “He’s grown on me,” said one scout. “He just kept finding me in games. I kept going to watch him saying, ‘You don’t want to draft a fourth-line guy.’ After you say that for the 10th or 11th time, you realize that maybe he’s not a fourth-line guy, and if he is, he’s still finding me.” At worst, the North Dakota-bound Caulfield projects as a fourth-liner at the NHL level, but he has the potential to move up to become a solid third-line player. His compete level motivates him to go to the net and do the dirty work required to make room for himself and his linemates. “He makes things happen in those traffic areas in front of the net,” said another scout. “With the number of pucks that are not getting to the net and dying in that low-slot area, a guy who can get those pucks is an important guy.”

46. Kaedan Korczak, D, Kelowna (WHL), 6-3, 192, Yorkton, Sask.
Scouts were a little disappointed with Korczak at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament last August and early in the 2018-19 season with Kelowna, but it seemed he was trying to be all things to all people. When Korczak focused on his strength as a defensive defenseman, he made more positive impressions. You don’t want him running the power play, but if you’re looking for a D-man for the penalty kill and someone to put out in the last minute with a one-goal lead, Korczak is your man. “Maybe he doesn’t have the highest level of ceiling in terms of potential, but he’s an elite skater with size and defensive ability,” said one scout. “This guy is going to eat minutes.” A number of scouts see Korczak as a second-pair defenseman with good mobility and a good first pass out of his own zone. Essentially, he’s a safe pick who projects as a long-term, albeit unheralded, contributor. “He can skate so well and he’s so strong on the puck that, when he’s under pressure, he doesn’t panic,” said another scout. “He’s not turning the puck over. He’s not running up the ice. He’s not out of position.”

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47. Ilya Nikolayev, C, Yaroslavl JR. (RUS.), 6-0, 190, Yaroslavl, Rus.
At the World Jr. A Challenge, Nikolayev drew the attention of scouts when he meshed so well on the Russian team with surefire top-10 pick Vasili Podkolzin. Most scouts had him pegged as a third-line center at the NHL level, but his play with Podkolzin gave them reason to reassess his potential. Nikolayev also put up good numbers for Russia at the 2018 Hlinka-Gretzky tournament. “He’s a guy who looks like a lock as a (No. 3 center), and you’re hoping his offensive game becomes more of what it became when he played with Podkolzin,” said one scout. “He plays such a sound, responsible game that sometimes his offense does suffer. He’s such a good skater, and he does so many things well and nothing dynamic.” With a birthday in late June, Nikolayev is one of the younger players in the draft. His game is more suited to a depth role, largely because of his two-way play, but some observers think he could be pressed into second-line responsibility. “I don’t know I would want him there full-time,” said another scout, “but he has the attributes to do it more than just a flash.”

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48. Maxim Cajkovic, RW, Saint John (QMJHL), 5-11, 187, Bratislava, Svk.
There's a reason scouts log multiple viewings of prospects, both before and after the Christmas break. Cajkovic came into the season with a lot of fanfare, riding a hot performance at the previous spring’s world under-18s as an underager for Slovakia to become the first overall pick in the CHL’s import draft. But the transition to North America was not easy. “Early on, I didn’t like him at all,” said one scout. “His body language, the way he interacted with teammates and his work ethic were not good. “But in the second half, he looked like a completely different player. He was working hard and finding chemistry with his linemates. He’s got a big shot and a quick release. We were writing him off, but he got back on.” Cajkovic was a surprise cut by Slovakia’s world-junior team, but talent evaluators see that he was on a bit of an island with the rebuilding Sea Dogs. “He wasn’t in a great situation this season, he wasn’t complemented well on that team,” said another scout. “He needs to work on his pace, but he could be a sleeper in this draft.”

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49. Michael Vukojevic, D, Kitchener (OHL), 6-2, 203, Oakville, Ont.
Vukojevic played 12 games with the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers as a 16-year-old while he was committed to NCAA Michigan, but he signed with OHL Kitchener once he realized he’d get solid minutes with a team that boasted talent such as Winnipeg prospect Logan Stanley, his eventual ‘D’ partner. That was good news for Kitchener, as it got a solid blueliner. “He’s a steady, competitive defenseman who plays a lot of minutes for two NHL defensemen in coaches Jay McKee and Dennis Wideman,” said one scout. “He’s a shot-blocker and a defensive player first. There’s not a ton of players like that in the draft.” That would be the one concern about Vukojevic: there isn’t much offense to his game. But the positives outweigh the negatives, and evaluators like his demeanor. “He put a lot of pressure on himself at the start of the season and struggled, but then he found himself,” said another scout. “He’s a big, physical defenseman that keeps things simple. You could say, ‘Was he born 20 years too late?’ But I still think there are tools there for him to be a successful pro.”

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50. Jayden Struble, D, St. Sebastian’s (USHS), 6-0, 194, Cumberland, R.I.
Be forewarned if you get on the ice against Struble: there may be some pain in your future. “He’s a man-child,” said one scout. “He’s so strong and he can skate – he overpowered guys at the prep level. He moves the puck well and has a lot of tools.” The key for Struble moving forward will be to pick his spots, as the youngster’s tenacity and physicality can sometimes also be his kryptonite. “He’ll take himself out of the play sometimes when he tries to smoke a guy,” said another scout. “I question his hockey sense and decision making. Lean and physical, he’s best when he keeps it simple. He’s a really good skater and hard to knock off the puck.” Committed to Northeastern, Struble suited up for the Boston Jr. Eagles at the USA Hockey under-18 nationals once his high school season with the Arrows was completed. The Eagles ended up losing in the quarterfinal but beat the eventual champion Central Connecticut Selects earlier on in the tourney. True to form, Struble put up six points in four games for the Eagles while also finishing second in the tournament field with 29 penalty minutes.

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51. Vladislav Firstov, LW, Waterloo (USHL), 6-0, 181, Yaroslavl, Rus.

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On one of the better teams in the USHL, Firstov was one of the top rookie scorers in the league. Not bad for a kid who just arrived in the American Heartland this season. “He has improved since Day 1,” said one scout. “He excels with the puck, and that team goes as he goes, which is pretty impressive for a young player. He’s strong, has good pace with the puck and a good shot. He just hasn’t acclimated to North America yet. Sometimes he’s not there the whole game.” That inconsistency was picked up on by another talent hawk, who nonetheless sees impressive upside in the winger. “The first third of his season was really good, and ever since, he’s been a bit hit-and-miss,” said another scout. “He’s super talented but a bit of a weak skater. I don’t want to compare him to Vladimir Tarasenko, but he can score, and the puck follows him around.” Like a number of Europeans (including a number of fellow Russians), Firstov is committed to play at NCAA Connecticut, and the Huskies have become adept at developing international student-athletes the past few years.

52. John Farinacci, C, Dexter (USHS), 6-0, 185, Red Bank, N.J.

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Readings on Farinacci are varied, but one thing is for sure: the kid gets around. He went from vaunted New Jersey high school Delbarton to Minnesota prep powerhouse Shattuck-St. Mary’s, then to Dexter (Ryan Donato’s alma mater). While at Dexter, Farinacci made cameos with the U.S. NTDP and USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks. “He had a strong year, about two points per game,” said one scout. “The level of hockey was obviously easy for him, but I saw him out in Muskegon, and he looked good there, too. He’s got hockey sense, he can skate and shoot, a well-rounded game. There’s lots to like.” That’s the good-cop evaluation of his game. Here’s the bad-cop take: “He shows no separation speed, which is a concern,” said another scout. “He needs to show more desire in pursuing pucks. He has dropped in my mind. But he has a good hockey mind and can make plays.” Not only did Farinacci captain the Dexter squad, but he also wore the ‘C’ for Team USA’s entry at the summer Hlinka-Gretzky tournament, notching a point per game. He’s a Harvard commit.

53. Matvei Guskov, C, London (OHL), 6-1, 172, Nizhnekamsk, Rus.
Coming to the OHL as a talked-about import from Russia, Guskov brought high expectations with him. On a team laden with older NHL prospects, points were harder to come by, though there is some leeway for a kid just getting his first taste of North America. “In the first half, he was just learning the league,” said one scout. “He played very well in the second half. Good athlete, good skater, good board play, and he’s reliable. They moved him from center to the wing, and it helped. The upside is pretty good.” Not all evaluators were so forgiving, however. “He’s just OK for me,” said another scout. “He was highly touted coming in. I understand he’s adjusting to North American hockey and the culture over here, and we make allowances for that, but he’s been a bit disappointing. He’s a skilled guy and understands the game, but he needs to be more involved and engaged. In London, there’s a pecking order for special teams, and he hasn’t forced himself onto it.” The fact he plays for the NHL feeder system that is London will surely give him a bump in his stock, however.

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54. Robert Mastrosimone, C, Chicago (USHL), 5-10, 170, East Islip, N.Y.
He doesn’t have the speed of higher-rated and undersized prospects Jakob Pelletier or Jamieson Rees, but Mastrosimone plays a similar game. He’s a wide-bodied player who is dogged on the puck and plays with a high degree of energy. “If he hits his lowest-case scenario for potential, there are still a lot of reasons why you want this guy,” said one scout. “If he hits his higher potential, then you’re laughing all the way to the bank.” Mastrosimone, bound for Boston University, has everything in his game. He can play a physical style despite his size, but he also has the ability to create some offense and is responsible in his own end. To suggest he could be a first-line winger is a stretch, but he has the potential to carve a niche as a second- or third-liner. “At his size, you want his skating to be better, but it’s good enough,” said another scout. “The question is, is he your F6 or your F9? The good news is he’s not going to be any less than your F9.” Mastrosimone has shown good sniping ability in junior. If that translates at the pro level, he’s a decent bet to be an F6.

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55. Ryder Donovan, RW, Duluth East (USHS), 6-3, 183, Duluth, Minn.
Some scouts were disappointed with how Donovan’s season began. Playing in the Upper Midwest Elite League (a prelude to the Minnesota high-school season), he put up numbers but didn’t dominate. With his size and skill, however, the kid gets a long leash. “He’s hard on the puck and uses his body well,” said one scout. “He’s pass-first to a fault, but his heavy shot creates a lot of rebound opportunities. The physical package and skill set will be hard for a team to pass up.” Duluth East lost in the quarterfinal of the Minnesota state high-school tournament. After that, Donovan joined USHL Dubuque, where offense was tough to come across (one assist in 10 games). Originally linked to North Dakota, Donovan rescinded his verbal commitment in November and later chose Wisconsin. Though he has played center, evaluators see him as a winger. “Ryder is a physical specimen,” said another scout. “He can skate and handle the puck. He’s a power forward, maybe in the Blake Wheeler mold, though Wheeler had more hockey sense at that age.”

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56. Jack Malone, C, Youngstown (USHL), 6-1, 192, Madison, N.J.
To say Malone has opened eyes would be an understatement. As a USHL rookie, he had just three goals, and he didn’t make Team USA’s Hlinka-Gretzky squad last year. But the growing was already underway in his game. “He’s one of the bigger risers,” said one scout. “A lot of us had him pegged as just a hard-working guy, but he has shown a lot of stick skill. He’s strong and good around the net. He’s made plays off the rush where I’ve said, ‘I can’t believe that was Malone.’ ” In December, he won gold with Team USA at the World Jr. A Challenge. Playing on the top line in Youngstown with Buffalo pick Brett Murray, Malone ran some great numbers, though not every scout was a fan. The kid was divisive, and some evaluators said they had to look for him in certain high-profile games. But his steady development had plenty of talent hawks looking at the bright side of things. “He got better as the year went on,” said another scout. “He had more consistency in his play.” Committed to Cornell, Malone was a multi-sport athlete as a youth, also excelling at baseball.

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57. Marcus Kallionkieli, LW, Sioux City (USHL), 6-1, 176, Helsinki, Fin.
The good news is that Kallionkieli played on one of the most dangerous lines in the USHL this season, partnering up with Calgary Flames pick Martin Pospisil and fellow 2019 draft prospect Bobby Brink. The bad news is that it seems like Brink was doing most of the work. “People took notice when Brink was out injured and (Kallionkieli’s) game went south,” said one scout. “But he’s an NHL physical specimen – tall and long, skates well, shoots the puck. He’s going to have to compete for pucks and share the puck more. He doesn’t win a lot of 1-on-1 battles right now. He’ll fascinate me.” Even as a complementary player, the Finnish import had a pretty nice rookie year with the Musketeers, finishing third amongst freshmen in USHL scoring. Another question surrounding him, however, concerns his immediate future. Unlike most USHLers, Kallionkieli has yet to make a college commitment. “The negative is I don’t know the path he’s going on,” said another scout. “It sounds like the NCAA would be tough for him to get into. Having said that, he can score in bunches. He’s an enigma.”

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58. Artemi Knyazev, D, Chicoutimi (QMJHL), 5-11, 176, Kazan, Rus.
Another undersized defenseman in this draft, Knyazev plays the game with high pace and energy. He’s not seen as a player who will be on a first power-play unit at the NHL level, but he could be on the second. Scouts love his enthusiastic approach to the game, knowing full well he’ll have to play a more controlled style for his game to translate to the next level. “He’s like a ball of energy,” said a scout. “Everything he does is quick and explosive and fast. You’d rather tame a tiger than paint stripes on a goat. He has to slow it down a little, but you’ve got to be careful because you don’t want to take away his best attribute, which is how hard he plays.” Knyazev is on the slight side, but he makes up for it with high-end skill. And he has an ability to get on pucks in the defensive zone and get them going back the other way. “He moves the puck, and if he can’t, he can get it out with his skates,” said another scout. “He can rush with it if he has to.” The Russian is not shy about playing a physical game as well. He’s shown good gap control and a willingness to hit in the corners.

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59. Aaron Huglen, LW, Roseau High (USHS), 5-11, 176, Roseau, Minn.
Huglen first came into the hockey world’s greater consciousness at the summer Hlinka-Gretzky tournament, when he pulled off the ‘Michigan’ lacrosse goal for Team USA against Canada. But he really didn’t slow down after that. Huglen started off his season in the USHL with Fargo, and the Force would have loved if he had stayed. But he returned to northern Minnesota for the high-school season to play for his hometown Rams. “I love the kid – he’s an absolute rink rat,” said one scout. “He’s not real big, and he’s not a fantastic skater, but the puck follows him around. He doesn’t score like Brock Boeser, but he handles the puck better and makes more plays than Boeser.” The NCAA Minnesota commit had room to be creative with Roseau, and that meant opportunities to wow the talent hawks. “He makes slashy Pavel Datsyuk moves where he’ll walk guys, but it’s done with a purpose,” said another scout. “He has natural skill, great scoring touch and creativity. Great character, too.” Once Roseau was eliminated, Huglen returned to Fargo and put up decent stats on a veteran team.

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60. Mads Sogaard, G, Medicine Hat (WHL), 6-7, 196, Aalborg, Den.
If scouts assessed Sogaard strictly on his body of work at the world juniors, he wouldn’t get drafted at all. Luckily for him, he came to the WHL and put together a very good campaign with Medicine Hat. Sogaard and Denmark had a tournament they’d rather forget. He gave up more than 30 goals in five games and had a save percentage of .802. The most intriguing aspect of Sogaard is his size. Simply put, he’s an enormous young man, and when he goes post-to-post with the butterfly spread, there’s a two-foot area down low where it’s almost impossible to score. “He was good when some of those young things he does are compensated by a level playing field,” said a scout. “He’s not getting any smaller, and he’s an elite athlete.” Said another scout: “This is a kid who is tearing up the WHL. He has size and extremely good athletic ability. Then, when you look at how big he is, now it’s at another level. But there’s sloppiness to his game. There are holes in his game.” Goalies are long-term projects. He’s best suited to a team with multiple picks in the second round.

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61. Ethan Haider, G, Minnesota (NAHL), 6-2, 207, Maple Grove, Minn.
Haider, the latest NAHL netminder to catch eyes in the draft world, has everything a team could ask for in a goalie recruit. “He’s got size, quickness, compete level, and he’s very athletic,” said one scout. “He’s aggressive in his crease. I like him. He’s got the tools, for sure.” The starter on a Magicians team that had an average offense in front of him, Haider put up excellent stats and was more noteworthy in the clutch. He won all four of his shootouts, giving up just two goals on 12 attempts. Committed to Clarkson, Haider will be heading out East for his college experience, and that’s also the time zone he impressed in when one of the NAHL’s marquee events rolled into Massachusetts this year. “He did well at the NAHL Prospects tournament,” said another scout. “I don’t think he let in a goal. For that league, he showed himself to be one of the best.” While that was a small sample size of two appearances, Haider has always been a big-gamer: in high school, he led Maple Grove to the Minnesota high-school tourney as a 15-year-old with a dominant performance in the sectionals.

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62. Mikko Kokkonen, D, Jukurit (FIN.), 5-11, 190, Mikkeli, Finn.
With 19 points in the Liiga, Kokkonen made quite the impression. Keep in mind, Miro Heiskanen only had 10 in his draft year. Kokkonen’s success came partly by being in the right situation at the right time. Jukurit’s decision to move veteran blueliners Aleksi Salonen and Teemu Suhonen at mid-season opened the door. “He started to get more responsibility after they traded their top two defensemen,” said one scout. “He plays a quiet, solid game. I would like to see more offense attached, though most kids that age try to avoid mistakes when they are playing against men. He plays a reliable, two-way game.” Kokkonen averaged 17:24 of ice time, but his final month was the busiest – 20:34 in March. “You only hear good things about how he conducts himself,” said another scout. “The skating worries me a little – his mechanics are not optimal – but that’s the only issue.” While it’s not an easy criticism to explain, the scout sees Kokkonen’s skating as something that won’t affect him as a young player who still has his flexibility, but it will need to be rectified.

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