Since we last saw one another, not much has happened in the hockey world, but also everything happened in the hockey world. The St. Louis Blues won their first Stanley Cup title. Around 1.5 million people showed up for the parade. The Carolina Hurricanes’ AHL franchise, the Charlotte Checkers, won their first AHL title as well. I don’t think their parade was as big, but good for them too.
Both of these championships, while far removed from the draft, are apt reminders that teams need to be successful on draft day to win, both on day one and in the later rounders. The Blues Stanley Cup winning lineup included a number of players brought into the NHL by those self-same Blues as first round picks, including Alex Pietrangelo, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Robert Thomas, and Robby Fabbri. There were also a larger number of players who were later round picks by the Blues, including star netminder Jordan Binnington, Vince Dunn, Joel Edmundson, Colton Parayko, Ivan Barbashev, Sammy Blais and others.
The Checkers were also built through the Carolina prospect acquisition machine. While the roster had a few players who were acquired via trade, or as unsigned free agents, there were four prominent former first rounders of Carolina’s in Hayden Fleury, Jake Bean, Julien Gauthier, and Martin Necas. Day two picks included netminder Alex Nedeljkovic, Morgan Geekie, Nicolas Roy, Clark Bishop Trevor Carrick and others.
We will have to wait a few years, and we have no way of knowing who, but a number of the players mentioned below, as well as many others whose names will be called out next weekend in Vancouver, will play critical roles in helping their future teams win championships.
As always, the picks below represent my views as filtered through the McKeens Hockey scouting staff. Throughout the year, the staff has been rinkside, watching all manner of prospects, draft eligible and not, writing scouting reports on those deemed worthy of attention. Subscribers will have access to well over 100 scouting reports as well as the full McKeens Draft Guide, wherein we rank the top 217 draft eligible prospects, as well mention around 100 more as players of note who could be selected. This mock draft leans heavily on those evaluations, as well as our knowledge of drafting trends, around the league and within each franchise and the men who make the decisions at the draft table.
1. New Jersey Devils – Jack Hughes, C, USNTDP (USHL)
Nothing has changed here since I first mocked the 2019 draft. The gap between Jack Hughes and the field – but particularly the next man up – has shrunk, but there is still daylight between the two figured. The best-case scenario here is Patrick Kane as a center. The worst-case scenario (realistic worst case – still assuming general health) is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Hughes will play in the NHL from day one, will be in the top six by mid-season and a superstar by year two of his career.
2. New York Rangers – Kaapo Kakko, RW, TPS Turku (Liiga)
This is the easiest pick in the draft. There are only two plausible answers for the top two picks of the draft, and I believe that Hughes at #1 is around an 85% certainty at this point. So on the 15% chance that the Devils don’t take Hughes, the Rangers surely do. But in most reasonable scenarios, Hughes is gone and the Rangers have nothing to do but to select Finnish power winger Kaapo Kakko. Physically, Kakko may be more ready for the NHL right now than Hughes, but the upside is still a little bit lower. He could fit anywhere in the Rangers lineup from day one, and has a clear projection as a long-term first liner beginning in the near future.
3. Chicago Blackhawks – Alex Turcotte, C, USNTDP (USHL)
In a sense, this is the first pick of the draft. We know who the top two picks are going to be. There are around ten players the Blackhawks could reasonable choose at #3, and none of them are objectively wrong. I have a slight preference for Bowen Byram as the third best player in the draft class, but the difference is marginal at best. With the Blackhawks having taken defensemen with each of their top two picks in both of the last two drafts, I don’t think they will go that route again. Even more so after trading for Olli Maatta from Pittsburgh a few days ago. I think they take a forward and there have been whispers tying them to Illinois native Alex Turcotte, a player as notable for his energy as for his skill. And he has tremendous skill. Going to the University of Wisconsin next year, he will not jump right into the NHL like the first two picks will, but assuming better health next year, there is no reason why he cannot make his debut in the 2020-21 season. He has first line upside and comparable downside. Kirby Dach and Dylan Cozens would also fit this objective, and while both have distinct size advantages over Turcotte, they lack his high-end scoring upside.
4. Colorado Avalanche (from Ottawa Senators and the Matt Duchene trade) - Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon (WHL)
When a team earns a top five pick, the player they ultimately select is seen as potentially the needed catalyst to a new and brighter future. When a team gains a top five pick as the result of a long-ago trade that was lopsided the minute it was made (in the drafting team’s favor), the player they acquire is essentially a bonus. The Avalanche are not top five in the draft bad, but they are also not yet a complete team, one that is expected to compete for numerous Stanley Cups. In other words, they could use anyone. The system has some good pieces on the blueline (Cale Makar, Conor Timmins), and some intriguing forwards (Martin Kaut, Shane Bowers). The team has also not extensively mined the CHL in recent years, but down not neglect it either, like Buffalo does. I could see the draw in taking the best defenseman in this draft class in Byram, but I get the sense that taking a future #2 center would be more of a draw. Between Dach and Cozens, Dach is the more likely to remain a center in the long term.
5. Los Angeles Kings - Bowen Byram, D, Vancouver (WHL)
Unlike Colorado above, the Kings organization is currently rather bereft of high-end talent. They used their top two picks on forwards in 2017 and each of their first four picks it was on a forward. They still need more forwards to get back to contention, but they really could use a top blueliner to buttress Drew Doughty in the seasons to come. In this scenario, the Kings should be overjoyed. We believe that Byram is the third best player in the draft class – not by a ton, but third nonetheless. And he is clearly the top defenseman in the class. The Kings haven’t drafted out of the WHL much in recent years (one player in the past three drafts), but it’s not like they aren’t scouting the West Coast. Byram is a future number one and plays the fast-paced style of puck moving hockey that took over from the heavier, plodding style that allowed the Kings to win two Cups not all that long ago.
6. Detroit Red Wings – Trevor Zegras, C, USNTDP (USHL)
There is some uncertainty about how the Red Wings will run under new GM Steve Yzerman, especially as there may not have been enough time for him to fully implement the people he brought with him from Tampa Bay, as well as how much information they were able to bring with them and what remained property of the Lightning as a form of non-compete (we’ll see this again in a couple of picks with Edmonton). On the other hand, Yzerman was reared in the Detroit front office before going to Florida and the Tampa approach of the last few years was not all that different from Detroit’s historical approach. They like players with talent and grit. When possible, they like leaders. They are not afraid of picking Russians. And they don’t rush prospects. They will play when they are ready. That said, Tampa only rarely drafted Europeans who were not about to move to North America. On the other hand, both the Wings and the Lightning have been comfortable drafting players bound for college in recent years. I could see Yzerman going for Peyton Krebs in his first draft as GM of the Red Wings, but I feel more strongly that they take the USNTDP’s incredibly inventive playmaker, Trevor Zegras instead. He plays a tough game and makes everyone around him better.
7. Buffalo Sabres – Matthew Boldy, LW, USNTDP (USHL)
There is no clearer trend in the NHL in terms of the draft than that Buffalo GM Jason Botterill does not turn to the CHL for his picks. On the one hand, I respect his use of the extra years afforded to his organization by taken European or college bound players. Whereas he would have to offer an NHL contract to a CHL-drafted player within two years, he has three or more with NCAA/European trained prospects. On the other hand, value is value and he must take the best value where he can. Especially at the top of the draft class. The top draft prospect on the McKeens board at this stage is Dylan Cozens. As a big, skilled center, he certainly fills a need in the Buffalo organization. Another stylistic fit would be Vasili Podkolzin, the Russian winger who has immense skill but has not yet brought it to the fore consistently. But not only has Botterill not yet drafted from the CHL, he has also not yet selected a Russian-based player. Thankfully, there is another player of similar value and style available here and this one is college-bound. Matthew Boldy’s game grew exponentially this year, as he showed more flashes of skill as his confidence rose. He has top line upside and is the type of player who contributes even when he is not scoring. Botterill should be happy to watch him progress for the next season or two at Boston College.
8. Edmonton Oilers – Dylan Cozens, C, Lethbridge (WHL)
Just as I wrote about with Detroit above, the same holds true here with Edmonton. New GM Ken Holland took over at the top very recently and the organization has a number of holdovers from the Chiarelli regime as well. Based on talent and Holland’s previous proximity in Michigan, I imagine that the Oilers would strongly consider talented goal scorer Cole Caufield here. On the other hand, they could also be somewhat dissuaded by the performance of Kailer Yamamoto, himself a small winger who was supposed to be a point producer, but has since struggled with injuries and didn’t produce at either the AHL or NHL level when healthy last season. As enticing as a pairing of Caufield and McDavid looks, I could just as easily see the team preferring to set their sights on a player who can play a wider variety of roles. The system is also very light on forwards, so the top of the second tier of blueliners is not likely to appeal just yet. Based on who is still available, I could see Holland making a pick similar to the selection of Michael Rasmussen in the first round for Detroit a couple of years ago. A big, physical specimen of a forward who can skate and has good hands and advanced hockey smarts.
9. Anaheim Ducks – Cole Caufield, RW, USNTDP (USHL)
The Ducks are fun to speculate on because they draft from everywhere. But they always draft for skill. This is a team that got old in a hurry and a number of their top forwards have had recent seasons – and in some cases, careers – disrupted by serious injuries. Talent is already on the way in the form of Troy Terry, Sam Steel and more. But the Ducks need goal scorers. They need someone who can take advantage of the passes Ryan Getzlaf can make while he is still in his drawn-out prime. Caufield is that man. Short, but stocky enough not to be too concerned about his size issues, he seemingly does nothing but score. I would say that I am not sure what he provides when he isn’t scoring, but that hasn’t happened all that much yet. He will play at Wisconsin for the next year or two, but he has superstar potential.
10. Vancouver Canucks – Peyton Krebs, C, Kootenay (WHL)
Brock Boeser, Olli Juolevi, Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes. F, D, F, D. I guess it’s time for another forward. They don’t generally eschew any particular development path when drafting, although they almost always pick up one or two players from the WHL. I could see them considering drafting a defenseman, most likely Sweden’s Philip Broberg. Cam York and Mortiz Seider might also enter the discussion, but the most likely courses of action involve skilled forwards who spent last year in BC, but who are both moving East next season. One is Alex Newhook, terrorizer of the BCHL and future Boston College Terrier. The other is Peyton Krebs, most recently with the Kootenay ICE of the WHL and now moving with the franchise to Winnipeg. Incidentally, the latter two candidates were tied for the lead in scoring for Canada’s WU18 entry. At this stage, I would give the edge to Krebs, as we feel he is a more dynamic skater and has more translatable skills, but the edge isn’t very large.
11. Philadelphia Flyers – Moritz Seider, D, Mannheim (DEL)
Another team with a new GM, to know how the Flyers look at the draft, we must think about how the Minnesota Wild drafted for the past few years. At the top of the draft, they have tended to go for the all-around players, who provide 200 feet of battle. Think Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin. They have also always picked up someone based out of Minnesota, although that might have been an homage thing which I won’t yet assume went with Chuck Fletcher and Assistant GM Brent Flahr to Philadelphia. I also expect the Flyers to be thinking defense more than forward as their system has incredible depth up front. There are a couple of intriguing defensemen out of Sweden on the board in Broberg and Victor Soderstrom, and the USNTDP’s Cam York, but I sense a better fit for Fletcher in Germany’s Moritz Seider, who plays an incredibly mature game and has the tools to be a two-way threat in short order.
12. Minnesota Wild – Raphael Lavoie, RW/C, Halifax (QMJHL)
From Chuck Fletcher’s new team to his old team. GM Paul Fenton underwhelmed in his first draft in the big chair, with last year’s first rounder Filip Johansson looking like a severe overdraft at the time and doing nothing since then to change minds. I would think that he would want to make a different impression in his second draft and go in a different direction. Think a toolsy forward. After drafting two players from the QMJHL last year, he will have the opportunity to go there on day one now for a big bodied skilled winger who took his game to another level in the Q playoffs. Raphael Lavoie skates very well for his size and is a beast on the puck with his long reach. As an added bonus, as a late birthday player, the Wild will be able to assign him to the AHL as soon as 2020-21.
13. Florida Panthers – Cam York, D, USNTDP (USHL)
While I typically don’t advocate with drafting for need in the first round, in the case of the Panthers, their biggest organizational weakness lines up quite well with the draft board and the best players currently available. The system is very weak on the blueline and between Broberg, Soderstrom and York, Florida will have a few attractive options to choose from here. I am leaning to the latter here, because as talented and promising as Broberg and Soderstrom are, the Panthers have not been on the habit of drafting out of Sweden, turning there only once in the past three drafts. As for York, I think we might have a better fit for now and the future. Think Keith Yandle but a higher upside at even strength and better suited to the modern game of quick puck transition. York could head to Michigan for two years and come out with Yandle having only two years left on his contract. And for those keeping score at home or at work, that makes six of the first 13 picks in this version of the draft coming from out of the USNTDP.
14. Arizona Coyotes – Arthur Kaliyev, RW, Hamilton (OHL)
First off, I would be remiss in not pointing out that Arizona GM John Chayka has gone on record that he is very open to trading this pick for NHL help. Trading anything really. But as I am out, out of principle, predicting trades, let’s see what the Coyotes like to do. They have depth all through the organization at every position, although they do not have many blue chippers (Barrett Hayton is the only one). If they keep this pick, I would expect them to draft the player with the best chance of being a first line/first pairing player. And no, I don’t see the analytically inclined Chayka drafting a goaltender in the first round. On the blueline, Broberg has the tools for the first pairing, but not the full season results. Soderstrom has a higher floor, but his upside is less likely to be as high. Up front, there is Vasili Podkolzin, who is somewhat similar to Broberg in the tools/performance divide. Alex Newhook has both, although there might be concern about who he was doing it against. And then there is Arthur Kaliyev, the best goal scorer this side of Cole Caufield in this draft. Considering his amazing numbers as well as the Coyotes affinity to the OHL (eight picks in the past three drafts), that’s where I am leaning.
15. Montreal Canadiens – Philip Broberg, D, AIK (Allsvenskan)
I believe that ideal situation for Montreal would have fallen one of two ways. In one perfect situation, Raphael Lavoie, who fits the team’s long stated desire to get bigger, while meeting the fans’ wishes for a Quebecois talent, would have been available. On the other hand, Philip Broberg would be on the board. Broberg is a big teenager in his own right and is possibly the best skater available in this year’s draft class. His numbers in the Allsvenskan were not inspiring, although his ability to compete against men is promising. On the occasions when he played against his peers (Hlinka Gretzky, U18), he dominated. He has a chance to be a blueline anchor if the Canadiens are patient.
16. Colorado Avalanche – Victor Soderstrom, D, Brynas (SHL)
We have already looked at the Colorado system when discussing their first pick. With Dach now an Avalanche prospect in our alternate universe, Joe Sakic and company could now be looking for blueline help. This is also the first reasonable spot where top netminder Spencer Knight could be taken, although I don’t see a great fit. I also saw Sakic watching Knight on one of his more challenging late season games, which may be biasing me on this front. Nonetheless, I think a skater is more likely at this point and a defender most likely. Thankfully, the top player on the McKeens board is a blueliner and his high IQ coupled with strong skating and understated puck skills make him the type that can soon play with Makar and Timmins in the NHL.
17. Vegas Golden Knights – Vasili Podkolzin, RW, SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (VHL)
With only two drafts to their credit, the Golden Knights don’t have enough history to profile. Neither does new GM Kelly McCrimmon, although we know he has deep ties to the WHL. Team President George McPhee has a deeper history, and it may be instructive if the first 16 picks play out as I have envisioned. I am talking about Russia. He made his bones as the GM of the Washington Capitals, picking some high-end Russians early (Ovechkin, Kuznetsov). Last year, the Golden Knights’ first pick was used on Russian forward Ivan Morozov, and he seems to be progressing nicely. With the higher end WHLers off the board, Vegas could be in prime position to take the top Russian prospect of the 2019 class in Podkolzin. His hands are among the best in the draft class, and there is a reasonable chance he is off the board as many as ten picks before Vegas in the real world, but his lack of production everywhere but the Hlinka Gretzky Cup or the WJAC could see him slip a bit. That, and his stated intent to play out the remaining two years on his KHL contract.
18. Dallas Stars – Alex Newhook, C, Victoria (BCHL)
Outside of 2017 third overall pick Miro Heiskanen, the Stars’ recent first rounders have disappointed. In the last seven years, the best three first rounders after Heiskanen are Radek Faksa, Valeri Nichushkin, and Jason Dickinson. The book has not yet been completed on the others (or on those three), but it is underwhelming to say the least. Over the last few seasons, Jim Nill and company have drafted heavily out of the CHL and there are the players this year to continue that bias, although they also like college-bound players and there is still one prospect out there with star upside if he his talents are translatable against better competition. Alex Newhook destroyed the BCHL and was a star at the recent WU18, although he had struggled in the past in tournament competition. At 18, he is worth the gamble.
19. Ottawa Senators (from Columbus Blue Jackets, in the other Matt Duchene trade) – Simon Holmstrom, RW, HV71 (SuperElit)
As the disastrous series of Matt Duchene moves are finally in the rearview mirror, the Senators can finally start the second stage of the rebuild. The system has some strong pieces (Erik Brannstrom, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, Logan Brown and others) but is not strong enough in any particular area to be considered to have a strength. They have shown a preference for college bound players and would likely have fallen all over themselves to get to the podium if Newhook was available. They have a historical connection to Sweden and while they haven’t drafted as many players from Sweden in the past few drafts, they acquired three SHL based players in the last year to be clear that they were scouting Sweden hard. It is certainly possible that, on one of their scouting trips out there, they were impressed by dynamic Swedish winger Simon Holmstrom, who is as quick of foot as he is of hands, and has the hockey IQ to play at the pace matching his natural gifts. A bit of a swing for the fences, as he has rough areas too, but a strong pick for this part of the draft.
20. Winnipeg Jets (from the New York Rangers in the Jacob Trouba, who actually got the pick from the Winnipeg Jets in the Kevin Hayes trade. The circle of life is complete) – Samuel Poulin, RW, Sherbrooke (QMJHL)
Here I was, all set to make a pick again for the New York Rangers when the Jets sent RFA defenseman Jacob Trouba to Broadway for Neal Pionk and the first-round pick that Winnipeg had sent to the Rangers in February for the last two months of Kevin Hayes’ contract. That didn’t work out too well. The Jets like players who can move the puck and they tend to draft out of Europe first, doing so in each of their last three drafts. That said, they aren’t averse to picking North American players, and the system is very light on forwards at present while the available Europeans who fit best at this slot are blueliners. Another notable point about Winnipeg drafts lately is that they place of an emphasis on speed than do many other teams and still have a thing for size. So while OHL forwards Ryan Suzuki or Philip Tomasino would be good fits here, Samuel Poulin, a big, hard playing winger with soft hands and 100% effort fits better.
21. Pittsburgh Penguins - Philip Tomasino, C, Niagara (OHL)
The Penguins picking in the first round is almost uncharted territory, having done so only once in the past six drafts. When they do draft (they also skip many later round selections) they have leaned more towards the blueline than forwards in recent years (six forwards, nine defensemen, one goalie in the last three drafts). The top two forwards drafted by the Penguins in the past five years (Kasperi Kapanen and Daniel Sprong) have both already been traded away. It is time to replenish Pittsburgh’s up-front talent. The top two forwards available are both OHL talents in Philip Tomasino and Ryan Suzuki. They are both offense-first players who need time to physically mature. I will give the slight edge here to Tomasino thanks primarily to his better performance at the WU18. But either player would be a good add to the Penguins’ organization here.
22. Los Angeles Kings (from Toronto Maple Leafs, in the Jake Muzzin trade) – Ryan Johnson, D, Sioux Falls (USHL)
See above for thoughts on how the Kings built their system. In this scenario, they have already selected Bowen Byram and might now be more inclined to draft a forward. They could also be a landing spot for top netminder Spencer Knight, but having selected three goalies in the last two drafts, maybe not, even if there is no heir apparent in the system to replace Jonathan Quick and Knight is actually from the same hometown. Instead, I see them going for a second defenseman, this time staying closer to home. Ryan Johnson is a native Southern Californian, although more Anaheim than LA. His father Craig is a former King and the current team Development Coach. This is not a nepotism pick though, as Johnson is solid value in the back third of the first round. He is an incredible skater and is preternaturally composed on the puck. He excelled in his first season in the USHL and will have more time to refine his game at the University of Minnesota. This is a projection pick, and one with a high floor already and a ceiling that is shrouded in fog.
23. New York Islanders – Ryan Suzuki, C, Barrie (OHL)
Although they are competitive now, the Islanders spent a few years in the wilderness before getting to this point, and stockpiled more than a few high-end players, who currently dot the organizational depth chart. One area of weakness in the system however is at center. As much as GM Lou Lamoriello likes big players, this may be too early for USNTDP speeding giant John Beecher. Instead, I see the choice as falling to one of Ryan Suzuki or Connor McMichael, both offensively-inclined centers from the OHL. I will give the edge here to Suzuki, as McMichael’s production deteriorated in the last month of the regular season and failed to pick it back up in the OHL postseason. A playmaker with good skating and puck skills and advanced vision, Suzuki could help get the most out of the talented wingers in the system.
24. Nashville Predators – Bobby Brink, RW, Sioux City (USHL)
With the system looking a bit barren at the moment, I don’t expect to see the Predators locked in on any one type of player. That said, there is only one natural right winger in the system below the NHL and I am talking about a 22-year-old they signed as an undrafted free agent less than two months ago. Considering how heavily the Predators scout the USHL (eight picks in the past three years spent some time in their respective draft years in the USHL), they might be the team to take Sioux City’s high scoring right winger Bobby Orr Brink. Yes, Orr is his real middle name. I have concerns about Brink’s foot speed, but his wrist shot and instincts are high end. They will need to be patient, and he will need to improve his skating, but he has top-six upside.
25. Washington Capitals – Brett Leason, RW, Prince Albert (WHL)
For years, Washington has practically excluded large swathes of prospects based on geography. They never draft out of the QMJHL or Finland and only very rarely out of the OHL. As they went with blueliners with their first picks in each of the last three drafts, they are probably due to take a forward. Considering how they are still square in their window of contention and have more use from an NHL-ready (or nearly so) player than most teams, Prince Albert’s late-blooming winger Brett Leason is a good fit. He has improved his skating enough since being passed over the third time that it is now passable. With his big time shot and NHL-ready size, he could be a middle six winger very soon, if not right away.
26. Calgary Flames – Thomas Harley, D, Mississauga (OHL)
Even though they didn’t make a pick until the fourth-round last year, each one of their five picks was used on a forward. Now the blueline, while young at the NHL level, is shallow organizationally. As much as the Flames like Slovakians, the best of that bunch will still be available in the latter rounds. Instead, while they should consider Swedish defenders Tobias Bjornfot and Albert Johansson, this should be the lowest that Mississauga’s Thomas Harley falls. He could go off the board ten picks earlier, but in this scenario, he just doesn’t. He offers Calgary a player who is used to playing big minutes, with high end skater and strong puck handling chops to suggest that top four is his destiny.
27. Tampa Bay Lightning– Tobias Bjornfot, D, Djurgardens J20 (SuperElit)
Although Tampa Bay has a new GM in Julien BriseBois, as an internal hire, I don’t expect the team’s drafting philosophy to differ much from the Steve Yzerman years. They value high floors and leadership without fully eschewing offensive skill. In that sense, the defenseman who captained Team Sweden to a Gold Medal on home ice at the WU18 is a good match. Tobias Bjornfot is a strong skater with a high hockey IQ. He has put up good numbers in Sweden’s junior leagues and is ready for a regular role in the SHL. He may only be a second pair at his best, but there is a lot of value in that. This is another potential landing spot for Spencer Knight, after they traded away one of the few goalies in the system, Connor Ingram, to Nashville a few days ago.
28. Carolina Hurricanes – Ville Heinola, D, Luuko (Liiga)
Looking at the new Hurricanes who finally broke the team’s long running postseason-less streak and the Charlotte Checkers roster than won the AHL’s Calder Cup, the Hurricanes seem to succeed with hard working, two-way players who have enough skill to be respected. They also love drafting players from Finland. While this year’s Finnish crop is not as strong as some other recent classes, they have Kaapo Kakko at the top and a few other players being considered in the first round as well. One of them is Patrik Puistola, about whom not everyone is convinced about his commitment level away from the puck. The other player, defenseman Ville Heinola, is undersized and not the most physically gifted player, but his hockey IQ is high end and helps everything else play above its inherent limitations. He also played most of his draft year in Liiga, against men, and might be more ready than others to play professionally in North America.
29. Anaheim Ducks (from St. Louis Blues, by way of the Buffalo Sabres. St. Louis traded the pick to Buffalo in the Ryan O’Reilly trade. Buffalo flipped the pick to Anaheim in the Brandon Montour trade) – Matthew Robertson, D, Edmonton (WHL)
We gave them Cole Caufield before, but the Anaheim blueline is also aging and thinning out due to trades. Noting that GM Bob Murray also likes players with size, after the tiny Caufield, expect him to draft big. Caufield’s USNTDP teammate Alex Vlasic has all that and might have some skill in his hands as well, but I like them drafting Matthew Robertson from Edmonton instead. He has size at 6-4”, and over 200 pounds and a strong two-way game. His playoff run hinted that his offensive upside might be higher than previously shown, but his floor is high enough to make this pick work even if his offensive output doesn’t take another step forward.
30. Boston Bruins – Spencer Knight, G, USNTDP (USHL)
The Bruins, despite a long history of NHL success, have a deep and varied farm system. Outside of the WHL, they draft from everywhere and have players who can be plugged into the NHL roster at every position. Except in net. They have a few guys who could be NHL backups if things break right, but Tuukka Rask is already 32 and his recent regular seasons were not as strong as this year’s magical postseason run. I have hinted that Spencer Knight could be a target for a few teams higher up (Tampa Bay, Colorado, Los Angeles) and others are surely thinking about it, but in this scenario, he isn’t drafted by those other teams, and the Bruins will have a chance to round off their system with the best draft eligible netminder in a few years. The wait will be long (he is, after all, a goalie) but the Bruins are not in any rush.
31. Buffalo Sabres (from San Jose Sharks, in the Evander Kane trade)– Robert Mastrosimone, LW, Chicago (USHL)
We gave the Sabres a big left winger in the top ten and noted how they don’t like to draft CHLers under GM Jason Botterill. I would bet on a CHLer at some point in this draft, but I am happy to play out the trend through their Day One picks. So we will go back to the USHL and take an undersized, yet hard-nosed winger with New York State roots who was the engine that took the Chicago Steel to the Clark Cup final in Robert Mastrosimone. He needs some time on campus (Boston University) to beef up, but he has a lot of offensive tools and plays a hard style of game.