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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.
26.) Connor McMichael, Centre, London Knights, 6’0″ 170 lbs
McMichael has had an excellent start to the season with 14 goals and 23 points in 24 games for the London Knights. McMichael is a good skater, with very good top-end speed along with solid edgework and pivots. He is becoming more of a shooter this season, taking advantage of a better release on his wrist shot. He also has good accuracy and decent power. McMichael has the soft hands to make plays and finish in close to the net. He can beat defenders in one-on-one situations and create space.
McMichael also has excellent vision and hockey IQ allowing him to make the correct play. He needs to bulk up in order be tougher along the boards and in battles for pucks. McMichael is a hard worker who brings a high compete level in all three zones. This play has earned an increase in ice time as the season has gone on, even on a strong Knights team. He has also shown strong instincts in the defensive end. He has a quick stick, effectively cutting down passing lanes and breaking up plays.
27.) Billy Constantinou, Right Defence, Kingston Frontenacs, 6’0″ 185 lbs
Recently traded from the Niagara Ice Dogs to the Kingston Frontenacs, Constantinou has had a solid start to the season. He has scored four goals and 15 points in 24 games. Constantinou is an outstanding skater. His edgework, agility, and pivots are outstanding. He also has very good speed going forward. This gives him great mobility. Constantinou pairs this with very good stickhandling ability and is able to skate the puck out of his own zone as well as lead the rush. Constantinou loves to do so and is a big risk taker from the back end.
Constantinou also has a very good wrist shot and a good release. He can also take a strong slap shot from the point on the power play. Constantinou also has very good vision and passing skills. He can start the breakout or quarterback the power play. He needs to work on his defensive game as he can struggle in his own end.
28.) Brett Leason, Centre/Right Wing, Prince Albert Raiders, 6’4″ 205 lbs
It’s rare to see a player passed over in a previous draft be ranked as a first-round prospect. Leason is even more rare as he’s been passed over twice. In fact, Tanner Pearson is the only CHL player passed over in two NHL drafts to be drafted in the first round in a future year. However, Leason is having an extremely rare season. He has put up 26 goals and 55 points in 25 games this year, leading the Prince Albert Raiders to the best record in junior hockey.
Leason has good size and plays a power game. He is willing to battle along the boards and get to the front of the net. Once he gets there, he has a good wrist shot and quick release. He also has the ability to get tip-ins, pounce on rebounds, and make plays in tight to the net. Leason also has good vision and passing skills, protecting the puck in the cycle game and making plays for his teammates. He has made real improvements in his skating over the off-season and this has been a big reason that he has been able to put it all together this year. However, he still needs work on this aspect of his game.
29.) Thomas Harley, Left Defense, Mississauga Steelheads, 6’3″ 183 lbs
Harley has had a really strong startMaxim Cajkovic to the year with four goals and 20 points in 24 games. He is a strong two-way defender with good size and skating ability. He has very good speed and acceleration in both directions. Combine this with his good agility, edgework, and pivots and his skating allows Harley to play a strong game in both ends of the ice. Harley makes a good first pass out of the zone and can start the transition game. He is also able to make smart plays with the puck in the offensive zone. However, Harley lacks the point shot to be a real threat on the power play at the next level.
Harley is an excellent defensive defenceman. He keeps good gap control and forces defenders to the outside. Harley forces attackers into bad shooting positions and uses his long reach to cut down passing lanes. He also has good positioning and reads the play well, helping him to be especially strong in his own end for a 17-year-old.
30.) Maxim Cajkovic, Right Wing/Left Wing, Saint John Sea Dogs, 5’11” 187 lbs
The first overall pick in the CHL Import Draft, Cajkovic put up 11 points in just five games for Slovakia at last year’s IIHF Under-18 World Championship. He has struggled in his first season in the QMJHL with just five goals and 15 points in 24 games. However, it must be noted that he is still adjusting to a new team, a new country, a new language, and North American Ice. He is also playing on a weak Saint John team.
There have been flashes of brilliance and it is clear that Cajkovic has dynamic offensive skills. He is an excellent stickhandler, who can use his moves to beat defenders one-on-one. His creativity creates space and opens up passing and shooting lanes. Cajkovic finds open teammates with a quick pass and has the vision to see scoring opportunities as they develop. He also has the ability to score goals. He is not afraid to get to the front of the net and has the hand-eye coordination to finish when he gets there. Cajkovic also has a nice arsenal of shots with a good wrist shot, snapshot, backhand and one-timer.
31.) Blake Murray, Centre, Sudbury Wolves, 6’3″ 185 lbs
Murray put up 21 goals and 44 points in 57 games for the Sudbury Wolves last season. He started slowly this year but has picked things up as of late. Murray has nine goals and 15 points in 24 games. Murray is a natural sniper, with a strong wrist shot and excellent release. He is willing to shoot the puck if given the slightest opportunity. He creates space with a quick first step and excellent acceleration. Murray has the size to take the puck to the front of the net and is not afraid to go to the dirty areas to score goals. He gets in quickly on the forecheck and causes turnovers.
Murray has very good hands and stickhandling ability. He is able to make quick moves on defenders in order to open up passing and shooting lanes. He is also strong at protecting the puck and extending plays. Murray handles the puck while moving at top speed. He needs to improve his upper body strength, as well as improve his work away from the puck.
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