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Prospect Mailbag: Podkolzin vs. Broberg, the Veleno drop and more

With the 2019 Draft just one week away, our prospect expert takes your questions about this year's class and some of the kids who came before them. It's time to get excited about Vancouver.

The 2019 NHL Draft is just one week away and I for one am very excited. Not only because Vancouver has devastating dim sum, but also because this promises to be such an intriguing draft class. Who goes No. 3 to Chicago? When does Cole Caufield get taken? So many questions.

I suspected you, the readers, may have had some queries as well, so I called out on Twitter for your submissions. Here’s a bunch of your questions and hopefully, some satisfactory answers. Holler if you see me in Vancouver!

Who should the Canucks take if both Philip Broberg and Vasili Podkolzin are there at No. 10? – Jeff Putnam, @Putsky88

If Podkolzin is still there at No. 10, you gotta grab him. I feel he’s a top-five talent and while the ‘Russian Factor’ may ding his stock a little (he’s signed in the KHL for the next two seasons), he’s worth the wait. This is a kid who plays all-out in big situations and will have an even meatier role at next year’s world juniors than he did on this season’s bronze-medal squad. While Broberg is super-intriguing, I see his draft range as being a little further down. So value-wise, go Podkolzin.

If Podkolzin starts to fall past 15 could you see a team like the Caps move up to get – ECB, @bce1801

Based off my enthusiasm from the previous question, I bet you can guess my answer: Yes! Especially since the Caps have had such great success with Russians.

Who do you think is the Charlotte Checker most likely to have an impact at the NHL level next year? – Trevor Davidson, @lasthopehockey

It would be easy to say Martin Necas, Jake Bean or Haydn Fleury, but I’m gonna go off the board a bit and say Morgan Geekie (and congrats to the Checkers on winning the Calder Cup). It was Geekie who finished tied for second in playoff scoring on the team and his hard-working game can translate to the NHL quickly. Even if he’s only a fourth-liner to start with, he has value. The more marquee guys I named need to have big summers if they want to become full-timers and while Bean and Fleury have an opening thanks to Trevor van Riemsdyk’s injury, they still have to earn it.

I have to ask who the Avs are rumored to take at No. 4. Plus any bold predictions on who might be a surprise early pick like Barrett Hayton was last year? – Jackie, @tigervixxxen

I don’t have any intel on Colorado, unfortunately (and I am loathe to believe anything ‘leaked’ leading up to the draft), but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them grab Bowen Byram if he’s there. As for bold predictions, I’ll say Ville Heinola. I don’t see the Finnish defenseman going as high as Hayton (fifth overall), but I could see a team jumping up in the 10-15 range for him. Multiple scouts described Heinola as a “poor man’s Miro Heiskanen,” so there’s obviously a lot of potential there.

Can Nic Hague steal a roster spot in Vegas next season? – Aaron Goldschmidt, @lateinthegoldie

You know what? I think he has an outside chance. Looking at the Vegas depth chart right now, there is a path if he has a great camp. His main competition would be Jimmy Schuldt, another left-shot D-man (albeit with a different skill set) who was signed as a sought-after college free agent from St. Cloud State and, to a lesser extent, NHL veteran Jon Merrill. The Golden Knights set a cultural tone early when they refused to gift Vadim Shipachyov with an unearned roster spot, so if Hague can keep up his strong play this fall, there’s no reason not to give him a shot with the big club.

Do you think the injury Peyton Krebs suffered will play a lot in is selection? That he could be out of the top 10-15? – Novam Desjardins, @LeFrere93

I think he’ll be OK. Yes, a torn Achilles tendon is nasty, but scouts already got a full season’s worth of Krebs to know what he projects to be in the future. Perhaps even more crucial, they saw what he could do when surrounded by top-end talent, as was the case with Canada at the world under-18s. Krebs had 10 points in seven games while wearing the ‘C’ as captain.

Whichever team drafts him will just go in knowing that Krebs will need a little more time to develop than initially expected. But that’s fine; look at what injury-plagued Edmonton Oilers pick Tyler Benson did with AHL Bakersfield this year (spoiler: he killed).

Which prospect could have the Joe Veleno fall this year? – JJ Hanke, @JJ_Hanke

I’ll go back to Veleno’s QMJHL for this one and say Raphael Lavoie. I love him, but I had a ‘Q’ exec say something fascinating to me about him this year: “Some NHL teams want him, other teams want someone else to draft him.” Personally, I think Lavoie’s playoff run with the Halifax Mooseheads should put to bed the worries about inconsistency, but that’s just my opinion. If he should slide from the middle of the first to the end, it could be a steal. Just like Veleno was for the Red Wings.

I keep seeing that Ethan Keppen is a "sleeper." At what point is he not a sleeper if everyone thinks he's a sleeper? Do you think there's a chance he'll be a 2nd-3rd rounder? – Colton Hunter, @ColtonHunter17

Ha ha! That’s a pretty good point about “popular” sleepers. I see Keppen as a third-rounder with the potential to go in the second if a team loves him. Keppen is one to keep an eye out for because he has power forward potential and that’s hard to find these days. A guy who can score and impose his will on a game physically? Everybody is looking for that next Tom Wilson. Whether or not Keppen can turn into a Wilson clone is up in the air, but for teams looking for that combination, he’ll be a popular option.

At 15th overall, would you draft the Best Player Available or draft for your need? – Miguel Leduc, @LeducMiguel13

Here’s the funny thing: at 15th overall, a team still probably has a lot of options from high on their list. It’s always suspicious when a GM says “we didn’t think he’d be available when we picked” after a kid is picked, but oftentimes it’s true because individual franchises have such differing opinions, even on top-end prospects (look at Columbus taking Pierre-Luc Dubois over Jesse Puljujarvi, for example). So for that team, they’re going BPA because that player may have been fifth on their list. Drafting for need tends to happen more when a team has exhausted their list in the middle rounds and noticed that hey, they haven’t taken a left winger in two years.

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