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February Rankings and Reports: 2019 NHL Draft
With the Junior seasons not just in Canada but throughout the world gearing up for the stretch drive and a number of international tournaments (Ivan Hlinka, Five Nations, Four Nations, Subway Super Series, World Juniors) in the books, we have gotten a decent overview of what some of the biggest prospects for the draft are doing this year. This is an up-to-date look and ranking of these prospects. That said, there is still plenty of work to be done and many important games to be played including the junior league playoffs, European playoffs, and of course the Under-18 World Championships. While the rankings still have some fluidity, a pecking order is also starting to define itself. For now, this is what we have, we hope you enjoy the early preview and be sure to be ready in late March as we roll out our full player-by-player draft preview.
21.) Spencer Knight, Goaltender, US NTDP, 6’3″ 198 lbs
The clear top goaltender in this year’s draft, Knight has put up a .913 save percentage in 19 games with the US NTDP. He is committed to attend Boston College next season. Knight was also Team USA’s third goalie at the World Juniors. Already at six-foot-three and still just 17-years-old, Knight has the type of size NHL teams are looking for in goalie prospects as well as room to grow. Knight takes advantage of that size by coming well out of his net and challenging shooters. His rebound control is especially well developed for a goaltender his age. As with any young goalie, there is still room for refinement, but he is already well ahead of the curve.
Knight has powerful legs which allow him to take away the bottom of the net. He also gets across the crease quickly and under control. His puck tracking is very good for his age. Add in a quick glove hand and Knight has all the technical ability to be a top goalie. He also shows maturity, not being rattled by goals or traffic around his net. He keeps his composure and is ready to make the next save. Knight can also handle the puck to help his defence and start the transition game.
22.) Connor McMichael, Centre, London Knights, 6’0″ 170 lbs
McMichael has had an excellent season with 32 goals and 63 points in 51 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 to 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.
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 four goals and 21 points in 40 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.) Moritz Seider, Right Defence, Adler Manheim, 6’4″ 198 lbs
Seider is playing in the top German league and has put up a goal and four points in 25 games. His coming out party though came at the D1A World Juniors where he picked up a goal and seven points in five games. He was named the best defenceman in the tournament and helped the German squad to a gold medal and qualification to play in the top division at next year’s World Juniors.
Seider pairs excellent size at 6-foot-4 with strong skating ability. He moves the puck up the ice with good stickhandling and quick skating, as well as the ability to make a strong first pass. Seider also has a very good point shot. Defensively he plays a physical game, looking to throw a big hit if an opposing forward challenges on his side of the ice. However, he can get himself out of position looking for those hits and must become more disciplined. There is intriguing upside here but it should be noted that Seider is a long-term prospect as he will need some coaching on his positional play. He won’t be able to get away with some of the things he does in the defensive zone when he faces tougher competition.
25.) 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 rarer 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 33 goals and 78 points in 45 games this year, leading the Prince Albert Raiders to the best record in junior hockey. He also picked up five points in five games with Team Canada at the World Juniors.
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.
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