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2019 NHL Draft November Rankings and Reports: Part Three
With the CHL season nearly two months old, a month or so of NCAA hockey, plenty of games for the US National Team Development Program, the Gretzky-Hlinka Tournament, an international break in Europe, and the Canada-Russia Series all being played since we last updated our draft rankings, we have gotten a decent overview of what some of the biggest prospects for the 2018 NHL draft are doing this year.
That said, as a staff, we haven’t seen every player yet—it’s quite simply not possible this early in the season. If there is an obvious name left out, we’ll do our best to get a look before the February rankings; as well as before our final rankings that go from April through June.
The group we haven’t seen a lot of our European prospects who, for whatever reason, haven’t had much exposure on the international stage. With the World Juniors, Five Nations, and the Under-18 all to come later in the year, we should get a better look at most of those players.
21.) Victor Soderstrom, Right Defence, Brynas, 5’11” 176 lbs
Soderstrom has already started playing games against men, with two assists in ten games for the Brynas main club in the SHL. He also has eight points in 14 games with the Under-20 squad. He is an elite skater which allows Soderstrom to play an effective two-way game. His speed is exceptional, in both directions. He also has very good edgework and agility, allowing him to quickly change directions. With good pivots, he transitions from offence to defence and vice-versa quickly.
Soderstrom has good vision and passing skills, whether it is starting the rush or quarterbacking the play at the point. His wrist shot is hard and features a quick release. However, he could use some work on his slap shot. Soderstrom can handle the puck, skating it out of danger or rushing through the neutral zone. He is also very good defensively, with a quick stick. He is tough to beat in one-on-one situations and forces opponents to the outside.
22.) Jakob Pelletier, Left Wing, Moncton Wildcats, 5’9″ 161 lbs
The third overall pick in the 2017 QMJHL Draft, Pelletier is another undersized playmaker with outstanding speed. His speed allows him to take a defender wide and cut to the net. Once he gets a step on his man, he can drop his shoulder and cut to the net. Pelletier has the hands to finish in tight. However, he is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. Pelletier has excellent hockey IQ. He knows where his teammates are and is able to thread passes through tight areas. He has the patience to wait for a linemate to get open and in a good scoring position.
Last season, Pelletier put up 61 points in 60 games as a QMJHL rookie. This year, he’s taken his game up another notch with 15 goals and 35 points in just 23 games so far. Pelletier picked up two points in four games this summer, helping Team Canada to the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup gold medal.
23.) Alex Vlasic, Left Defence, U.S. NTDP, 6’6″ 192 lbs
The cousin of San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Alex also plays at the back end. Another member of the strong NTDP squad this season, Vlasic has three goals and 11 points in 20 games this year. The towering defender already uses his size effectively to clear the front of the net and win battles on the boards. His long stick helps him to take the puck off of opponents and cut down passing lanes. However, he could be even better if he can add muscle to his frame and become even more powerful in these areas.
Like many bigger defencemen, Vlasic’s skating has been a concern. However, he has started to improve that area of his game and it has helped him at both ends of the rink. He has decent speed and has improved his agility and edgework but more improvements can still be made. Vlasic makes a good first pass out of the zone and can start the transition game. He also has a very good slap shot and one-timer from the point.
24.) Samuel Poulin, Left Wing, Sherbrooke Phoenix, 6’1″ 207 lbs
The second overall pick in the 2017 QMJHL draft is the son of Patrick Poulin. Already coming in at 6-foot-1 and 207 pounds, Poulin plays with power. He is willing to drive the net with the puck, and forecheck hard without. Poulin also shows some skills, with soft hands, good skating ability and a powerful shot. His shot features a quick and deceptive release, which allows him to fool goaltenders from outside the face-off circle.
Playing on the wing, he also has the vision and passing skills to be a playmaker. Poulin has good hockey IQ, anticipating the movements of his teammates and getting them the puck in good spaces. He cycles well and is particularly effective in the give-and-go type plays. Poulin put up 16 goals and 45 points in 55 games as QMJHL rookie last year. This season he has 10 goals and 18 points in 23 games. He was also part of Team Canada’s Hlinka-Gretzky winning team.
25.) Tobias Bjornfot, Left Defence, Djurgardens, 6’0″ 187 lbs
Bjornfot was the Swedish captain at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament, helping the team to a silver medal. He was also part of the bronze medal winning Swedish team at the 2018 IIHF U-18s. Bjornfot is another strong two-way defender, whose game is based on strong skating ability. He has very good speed in both directions, as well as the pivots, agility and edgework to play a two-way game. He has a strong lower-body which helps Bjornfot win battles along the boards and in front of the net. Bjornfot defends well against the rush and is very well positioned and disciplined in his own end.
In the offensive end, Bjornfot has a good wrist shot. He sneaks in from the point to get it off closer to the net. However, his slapshot could use some work. Bjornfot makes good passes to start the rush and transition game and is not afraid to rush the puck up the ice himself or join in as a trailer. He has some creativity on the point, but this is an area he can continue to work on.
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