Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2019 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we feature our NHL Draft Grades.
The big day has come and gone, and now we look back to see how each team did in the NHL Draft. Look, we know that it is way too soon to evaluate a draft and that the true evaluation will be seen four or five years from now. However, we don’t want to wait, instead, we follow our yearly tradition and do our NHL Draft Grades now.
To be clear, our NHL Draft Grades are based on the quality and quantity of total talent added in the draft. It is not based on getting value for where you pick. For example, due to a lack of total picks the Columbus Blue Jackets are likely to be given a very poor grade for this year’s draft regardless of how they use them.
LWOH 2019 NHL Draft Grades
Note: VALUE PICK does NOT mean the best player drafted. It means the best value. For example, Jack Hughes was the first player taken in this draft. However, he is not our best value pick for the Devils. Why? Because anyone can take the best player with the first overall pick, we are looking for value here, what steal did the team get in the draft that went later than we thought he would? If it was merely an exercise in naming the best player drafted, might as well just name the team’s first pick, as that is who their own scouts felt was their best player.
A second note: The links lead back to our scouting reports.
San Jose Sharks: C+
Lack of picks dooms the Sharks in our draft grades. Kniazev is a potential offensive defenceman. While it is unlikely that he will ever become a defensive stalwart, he has the tools to be passable as an NHL defenceman if he develops properly. A prototypical power forward, Hamaliuk loves to get in on the forecheck, pressuring opposing defenders and creating mistakes. He gets to the front of the net both with and without the puck. Spiridonov is strong on the puck. He has long reach and is a good stick-handler which helps him to protect the puck down low. Spiridonov keeps possession in the offensive zone and has the patience to wait for a linemate to find an opening. Hatakka plays a solid defensive game and has the offensive tools to be a puck moving defender as well.
St. Louis Blues: C-
Picks: Nikita Alexandrov, Colten Ellis, Keean Washkurak, Vadim Zherenko, Jeremy Michel
The Stanley Cup Champions also suffer from a lack of picks. Alexandrov’s game is a mix of skill and power. He is strong enough to get the puck to the front of the net, and this is where he creates the majority of his offence. Alexandrov drives the net hard as well as having the soft hands to finish in tight to the goal. At 6’1″ Ellis isn’t the ideal size for a goalie prospect but he is very athletic. He never gives up on the play and makes some jaw-dropping saves. Washkurak is a hard-working centre with decent speed and a solid two-way game. With only five picks, taking two goalies is also a little odd. Zherenko was solid in limited minutes in the MHL.
After taking Cal Foote two years ago, the Lightning take Nolan Foote. Some might say they have a Foote fetish. Foote has very good size and plays with a blend of skill and power in his game. He has an excellent wrist shot and release. Alnefelt has been inconsistent this year but put together an excellent tournament at the Under-18s. It is clear that Cajkovic has dynamic offensive skills. The question is how much of his reduced production is lack of consistency and how much is the fact that he had very little in the way of offensive support. Crozier has shown the skating and passing skills to develop into a puck-moving defender. Passed over in two drafts, Shalagin improved his skating and watched his offensive game explode as he shattered the MHL record for goals.
Robertson has a non-stop motor and is always involved in the middle of the play. He is also skilled. He has good hands and can make strong stickhandling moves around a defender. When he creates some space, he is able to get off a good wrist shot and a quick release. Kokkonen does a lot of things well, both with and without the puck. However, he needs to improve his skating. He could become a top-four defender and power play weapon. Abramov creates space with his quick changes of speed and direction. He takes advantage of being an outstanding skater and having quick hands to create passing lanes with subtle changes of direction or changes in angles. Passed over in two drafts, Abruzzese had a huge season with Chicago in the USHL. He takes his great vision and passing skills to Harvard.
Podkolzin was a fantastic value at the 10th overall pick. On our board, he was the third most talented prospect in this draft. He can play with both skill and power. Undersized at just five-foot-nine, Hoglander makes up for it with outstanding skating ability. He is lightning quick, with outstanding speed and acceleration. He also has soft hands. Keppen loves to shoot and gets himself in good positions for wrist shots, snapshots, and one-timers. He has good size and can play a powerful game. Undrafted a year ago, Kocht played a dependable two-way game for the Hitmen this year.
Krebs seemed to fall due to concerns about his Achilles injury. At his age, he should be able to fully recover and shouldn’t lose any of his speed. Krebs is an extremely smart player who can play centre or the wing. Korczak’s calling card is his defensive game. His strong skating ability leads to outstanding gap control. He is very difficult to beat in one-on-one defensive situations whether that be on the rush or containing his man on the cycle. Dorofeyev is a very creative winger. He has outstanding hands and is very difficult to defend in one-on-one situations, both off the rush and in the cycle game. His quick dekes, changes of directions, and ability to change angles with the puck opens up passing and shooting lanes.
Ahac is a solid defender. He doesn’t have any single outstanding skill but also does not have any real weaknesses. A big, powerful forward, Donovan is a good skater for his size. He gets in quickly on the forecheck and has the agility and edgework to maneuver through traffic. Saville is a bit undersized but hides that by getting well out of his crease and challenging shooters. His side-to-side movement is especially good.
Lack of picks hurts the Capitals in our draft grades. McMichael may not have the upside to be a true franchise centre at the NHL level. However, he is very well-rounded. If he develops correctly, he could become a second-line centre, capable of bringing offence and also playing against the opponent’s top lines. Undrafted the last two years, Leason was fantastic for Prince Albert this season. He has good size and plays a power game. He is willing to battle along the boards as well as establish his position in the front of the net. Once he gets there, he is able to score goals. Leason’s teammate in Prince Albert, Protas is a big centre who needs to add muscle. He has good stickhandling and passing skills. He also has a good shot. Has is a big defenceman who likes to play physical. He is good defensively and has a strong first pass. He needs to work on his skating.
Winnipeg Jets: C+
With his intelligence and skill set, Heinola could develop into a top pair defenceman who can run his team’s power play. The skating will need to improve for him to reach that ceiling, but even if it does not, he could still become a second pair player with offensive upside. Lundmark’s game is based around his strong skating ability. He is extremely smooth, with outstanding edgework, agility and pivots. This allows Lundmark to cover a lot of ice efficiently. Nikkanen is a big centre who can protect the puck and make plays for his linemates. He struggled with injuries and consistency. Blaisdell is a hard-working centre who is strong defensively. His shot features a quick release and is very accurate.
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