Vancouver, Washington and Tampa Bay are teams that made multiple bargain selections in the 2019 NHL draft according to scouts who evaluated prospects for The Hockey News Future Watch 2020 issue.
Those three teams each had two picks who would have made significant moves upward were the 2019 to be held again today. That’s the consensus opinion of a panel of nine scouts who evaluated the top 310 NHL-affiliated prospects in the game. A byproduct of the Future Watch project is when distilling the top 100 prospect results you can look back at recent drafts to see how they might unfold in the present day. The most interesting is typically the most recent draft.
How would the top 10 sort out? Which second-rounders would have moved up into the first? Which first-rounders would have slid down to the second? Did any teams get multiple bargains?
In doing this exercise, you do so with an open mind. Scouts are still projecting – they’re just doing so with an additional half-season or season of information. The intelligence given to us by our panel of nine scouts, directors of player personnel and GMs is a blended opinion of how these prospects have progressed in the 10 months since the 2019 NHL draft. In many cases, the merged results won’t be the same thought processes as individual teams. For example, Edmonton drafted Skelleftea defenseman Philip Broberg eighth overall. Our panel thinks he would go No. 17 if the draft was held again today. Yet ask the Oilers and they might be content to take him again at No. 8.
The point here isn’t to second-guess the selection of NHL teams at the time of the 2019 draft. It’s to show the progression of these draft prospects over the short term. How they ultimately develop, of course, is a long-term timeline.
For the Future Watch project, we asked these scouts to consult a list of 310 NHL prospects (the top 10 from each of the 31 teams) and to establish their own top 60 list, based on a five- to 10-year projection window of NHL upside. Most of the NHL-affiliated players on this list of 310 were from drafts prior to 2019 or free agents. But 82 of them – almost 26 percent – were selected last June.
With this information culled from our scouting panel, we can redux the 2019 draft if it were to be held again today. Three players from the 2019 draft made the immediate jump to the NHL. New Jersey’s Jack Hughes, New York Rangers’ Kaapo Kakko and Chicago’s Kirby Dach fast-tracked this Future Watch rating exercise. For the sake of argument, we’ll rank them Nos. 1 to 3 even though there’s a decent chance other 2019 draftees returned to junior, college or Europe may surpass one or more of them in coming seasons.
Here’s how the first round would play out, based on the scouting committee’s evaluation of their progression in this pandemic-shortened season of 2019-20.
1. Jack Hughes, C (taken 1st by New Jersey)
2. Kaapo Kakko, RW (taken 2nd by NY Rangers)
3. Kirby Dach, C (taken 3rd by Chicago)
4. Bowen Byram, D (taken 4th by Colorado)
5. Trevor Zegras, C (taken 9th by Anaheim)
6. Spencer Knight, G (taken 13th by Florida)
7. Moritz Seider, D (taken 6th by Detroit)
8. Dylan Cozens, C (taken 7th by Buffalo)
9. Vasily Podkolzin, RW (taken 10th by Vancouver)
10. Alex Turcotte, C (taken 5th by Los Angeles)
11. Alex Newhook, C (taken 16th by Colorado)
12. Cole Caufield, RW (taken 15th by Montreal)
13. Victor Soderstrom, D (taken 11th by Arizona)
14. Connor McMichael, C (taken 25th by Washington)
15. Peyton Krebs, C (taken 17th by Vegas)
16. Ville Heinola, D (taken 20th by Winnipeg)
17. Philip Broberg, D (taken 8th by Edmonton)
18. Nils Hoglander, LW (taken 40th by Vancouver)
19. Nolan Foote, LW (taken 27th by Tampa Bay, now property of New Jersey)
20. Thomas Harley, D (taken 18th by Dallas)
21. Philip Tomasino, C (taken 24th by Nashville)
22. Tobias Bjornfot, D (taken 22nd by Los Angeles)
23. Nick Robertson, LW (taken 53rd by Toronto)
24. Samuel Poulin, LW (taken 21st by Pittsburgh)
25. Lassi Thomson, D (taken 19th by Ottawa)
26. Matt Boldy, LW (taken 12th by Minnesota)
27. Cam York, D (taken 14th by Philadelphia)
28. Shane Pinto, C (taken 32nd by Ottawa)
29. Ryan Suzuki, C (taken 28th by Carolina)
30. Samuel Fagemo, LW (taken 50th by Los Angeles)
31. Arthur Kaliyev, RW (taken 33rd by Los Angeles)
Early second round:
32. Jakob Pelletier, LW (taken 26th by Chicago)
33. Hugo Alnefelt, G (taken 71st by Tampa Bay)
34. Ryan Johnson, D (taken 31st by Buffalo)
35. Raphael Lavoie, RW (taken 38th by Edmonton)
36. Johnny Beecher, C (taken 30th by Boston)
37. Matias Maccelli, LW (taken 98th by Arizona)
38. Aliaksei Protas, C (taken 91st by Washington)
Making the biggest team impression is Washington. They nabbed Connor McMichael late in the first round. He’d go 11 spots higher at No. 14 today. And the Caps’ late third-round pick of Aliaksei Protas was a coup as well. He’d go early in the second round, No. 38 today.
Vancouver’s selection of Vasily Podkolzin at 10th was solid. He’d go No. 9 today. But the Canucks essentially got another mid-first-rounder in Nils Hoglander midway through the second round. He’d go No. 18 today.
Tampa Bay drafted Nolan Foote late in the first round. He’d go No. 19 today. (His rights were since traded to New Jersey in the Blake Coleman deal.) And the Lightning’s pick of prospect goalie Hugo Alnefelt in the third round looks astute. He’d be an early second-rounder today, at No. 33.
Los Angeles went into the 2019 draft with two first-round picks, but wound up with four of them. Alex Turcotte would have slipped from fifth overall to 10th, while Tobias Bjornfot would stay at No. 22. But second-round picks Arthur Kaliyev and Samuel Fagemo would’ve risen to become the final two picks in the first round.
Toronto didn’t have a first-round pick in 2019, but effectively got one by selecting Nick Robertson 53rd overall. He’d go No. 23 today.
First-round selections from 2019 making jumps further up the opening round include Trevor Zegras (Anaheim), Spencer Knight (Florida), Alex Newhook (Colorado), Cole Caufield (Montreal), Peyton Krebs (Vegas), Ville Heinola (Winnipeg) and Philip Tomasino (Nashville). First-rounders slipping in the opening round include Broberg (Edmonton), Samuel Poulin (Pittsburgh), Lassi Thomson (Ottawa), Matt Boldy (Minnesota) and Cam York (Philadelphia). A lot of hypothetical movement is very slight.
Just five actual first-rounders from 2019 wouldn’t go in the first round if it were redone today: No. 23 Simon Holmstrom, RW, NY Islanders; No. 26 Jakob Pelletier, Calgary; No. 29 Brayden Tracey, LW, Anaheim; No. 30 Johnny Beecher, Boston; No. 31 Ryan Johnson, Buffalo.
And just to reiterate, this is the opinion of the Future Watch scouting panel. The teams that selected these prospects where they did, may do so again today, based on positional need or their own assessment being different.
Four of the top NHL-affiliated prospects in the game – Bowen Byram, Igor Shesterkin, Vasily Podkolzin and Erik Brannstrom – are on the cover of this year’s Future Watch issue, now available on newsstands and our digital store. Colorado’s list of prospects and 21-and-under NHLers was graded the best in the NHL.