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The 2019 draft may still be seven months into the future, but it is not too early to start narrowing our focus on those young players who are primed to be top selections in Vancouver.

Of course, some of these names were already in the spotlight as much as two or three years ago. When was the name of Jack Hughes not bandied about by the prospect cognoscenti?

KAMLOOPS, CANADA - NOVEMBER 5:  Kirby Dach #77 of Team WHL skates against the Team Russia on November 5, 2018 at Sandman Centre in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)

KAMLOOPS, CANADA - NOVEMBER 5: Kirby Dach #77 of Team WHL skates against the Team Russia on November 5, 2018 at Sandman Centre in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)

Even a league like the WHL – which is the league to scout this year – with its Bantam Draft popping 14 and 15 year olds, which never fails to elicit a think piece or two about the folly of projecting players so young, is putting that to the test, as the top three players selected in the 2016 Bantam Draft are all listed among our first top 31. In addition to that big three of Peyton Krebs, Kirby Dach, and Bowen Byram, that 2016 first round also included projected first rounders Dylan Cozens (19th overall), and Matthew Robertson (seventh overall). The other players selected in that first round needn’t feel too bad as seven others are in our “Honorable Mention” grouping, and others are sure to feature here as the season progresses and we expand our rankings.

In addition to the WHL, the USNTDP has another extremely strong class of players this year, led by the aforementioned Hughes, who is not surprisingly our top ranked player. He is joined by winger Matthew Boldy (9th) in our top ten, Cole Caufield (11th), Alex Turcotte (14th), Cameron York (17th), and Trevor Zegras (18th) in the top 20. Teammates John Beecher (25th) and Marshall Warren (30th) are also in our early first round and there are others in the honorable mention chomping at the bit. Of note among that next tier, netminder Spencer Knight is making us consider our longstanding philosophy of avoiding goalies in the first round. He may be that good, and another month like the last one will both get him on to the American WJC squad and place him in our second look at the top 31. There are some other good netminders this year, most notably Dustin Wolf and Taylor Gauthier, both WHLers currently ranked in the Honorable Mentions, but Knight is the only one who has the chops to break into the rarified air of first round goalies.

Forward #34 Arthur Kaliyev of the Hamilton Bulldogs

Forward #34 Arthur Kaliyev of the Hamilton Bulldogs

In a reversal of the standard state of affairs, the QMJHL has more high end talent than the OHL this year. The latter only placed two players in our top 31 in Ryan Suzuki (10th) and Arthur Kaliyev (20th). The Q, on the other hand, has Raphael Lavoie (7th), Jakob Pelletier (22nd), and Samuel Poulin (26th) at the moment. In fact, before we get to draft day, there may be as many non-USNTDP USHLers in the first round as there are OHLers, as Robert Mastrosimone (29th) could be joined by Bobby Brink (HM), who has started his draft year on a blistering pace.

The European talent is split pretty evenly between Finland, Sweden and Russia, with all three countries likely to see 2-4 players selected in the first round and each one placing a player in the top ten.

It is too early to hone in on specific trends in the draft class, as much will change as the season progresses and many NHL scouts really only begin to bear down on the talent at hand after the holidays, but it is fair to note that the forwards have the upper hand this year, with only 10 blueliners ranked in our top 31. Even looking at the 37 players ranked in our Honorable Mention, only eight more defensemen are listed. Again, things will certainly change as the months fly by, but this may be something to keep in mind.

Finally, a note on the Honorable Section. The 37 players listed alphabetically there are not ranked in any order and are not even necessarily the next 37 best prospects. They are simply a grouping of players who have all created fairly positive impressions already but not positive enough to be in our top 31. As we refine our rankings more over the coming months, we will grow more certain in our scouting looks at the class of 2019 and expand our hard rankings accordingly.

RANK PLAYER POS TEAM HT/WT DOB GP-G-A-PTS
1 Jack Hughes C NTDP (USA) 5-10/170 14-May-01 18-9-27-36
2 Dylan Cozens C Lethbridge (WHL) 6-3/185 9-Feb-01 18-9-14-23
3 Kaapo Kakko RW TPS Turku (Fin) 6-2/195 13-Feb-01 16-3-7-10
4 Vasili Podkolzin RW SKA-1946 St. Pete. (Rus) 6-1/190 24-Jun-01 10-5-2-7
5 Kirby Dach C Saskatoon (WHL) 6-3/200 21-Jan-01 22-12-23-35
6 Philip Broberg D AIK (Swe 2) 6-3/200 25-Jun-01 15-0-4-4
7 Raphael Lavoie C Halifax (QMJHL) 6-4/200 25-Sep-00 20-12-10-22
8 Matthew Boldy LW NTDP (USA) 6-1/185 5-Apr-01 18-13-8-21
9 Bowen Byram D Vancouver (WHL) 6-1/195 13-Jun-01 19-5-9-14
10 Ryan Suzuki C Barrie (OHL) 6-0/175 28-May-01 17-7-20-27
11 Cole Caufield RW NTDP (USA) 5-7/155 2-Jan-01 18-16-6-22
12 Peyton Krebs C Kootenay (WHL) 5-11/180 26-Jan-01 22-6-21-27
13 Alex Newhook C Victoria (BCHL) 5-10/190 28-Jan-01 23-12-23-35
14 Alex Turcotte C NTDP (USA) 5-11/195 26-Feb-01 3-1-1-2
15 Victor Soderstrom D Brynas (Swe) 5-11/180 26-Feb-01 8-0-1-1
16 Matthew Robertson D Edmonton (WHL) 6-3/200 9-Mar-01 16-2-9-11
17 Cam York D NTDP (USA) 5-11/170 5-Jan-01 18-2-14-16
18 Trevor Zegras C NTDP (USA) 6-0/165 20-Mar-01 17-10-19-29
19 Nolan Foote LW Kelowna (WHL) 6-3/190 29-Nov-00 18-11-5-16
20 Arthur Kaliyev RW Hamilton (OHL) 6-1/190 26-Jun-01 19-17-13-30
21 Tobias Bjornfot D Djurgardens (Swe Jr) 6-0/200 6-Apr-01 17-3-4-7
22 Jakob Pelletier LW Moncton (QMJHL) 5-9/165 7-Mar-01 20-11-19-30
23 Anttoni Honka D JyP Jyvaskyla (Fin) 5-10/170 5-Oct-00 15-1-3-4
24 Pavel Dorofeyev LW S/L Magnitogorsk (Rus Jr) 6-1/170 26-Oct-00 10-8-5-13
25 John Beecher C NTDP (USA) 6-3/205 5-Apr-01 18-3-8-11
26 Samuel Poulin RW Sherbrooke (QMJHL) 6-1/205 25-Feb-01 21-9-7-16
27 Nils Hoglander LW Rogle (Swe) 5-9/185 20-Dec-00 16-1-2-3
28 Mikko Kokkonen D Jukurit (Fin) 5-11/200 18-Jan-01 18-1-7-8
29 Robert Mastrosimone C Chicago (USHL) 5-10/170 24-Jan-01 11-8-5-13
30 Marshall Warren D NTDP (USA) 5-11/170 20-Apr-01 12-1-5-6
31 Lassi Thomson D Kelowna (WHL) 6-0/190 24-Sep-00 20-7-9-16
RANK PLAYER POS TEAM HT/WT DOB GP-G-A-PTS
HM Egor Afanasyev C Muskegon (USHL) 6-3/205 23-Jan-01 12-8-7-15
HM Logan Barlage C Lethbridge (WHL) 6-4/200 7-Jan-01 18-7-9-16
HM Bobby Brink RW Sioux City (USHL) 5-10/165 8-Jul-01 15-11-15-26
HM Maxim Cajkovic RW Saint John (QMJHL) 5-11/185 3-Jan-01 22-5-9-14
HM Billy Constantinou D Niagara (OHL) 6-0/185 25-Mar-01 19-4-9-13
HM John Farinacci C Dexter (USHS-MA) 5-11/185 14-Feb-01 2-0-0-0
HM Taylor Gauthier G Prince George (WHL) 6-1/195 15-Feb-01 5-6/ 2.84/ .910
HM Albin Grewe RW Djurgardens (Swe Jr) 5-11/190 22-Mar-01 15-6-14-20
HM Matvey Guskov C London (OHL) 6-1/175 30-Jan-01 18-3-9-12
HM Daniil Gutik LW Loko Yaroslavl (Rus Jr) 6-3/180 31-Aug-01 18-3-6-9
HM Dillon Hamaliuk LW Seattle (WHL) 6-3/195 30-Oct-00 16-8-11-19
HM Thomas Harley D Mississauga (OHL) 6-3/190 19-Aug-01 19-3-13-16
HM Simon Holmstrom RW HV 71 (Swe Jr) 6-0/185 24-May-01 7-4-2-6
HM Marcus Kallionkieli LW Sioux City (USHL) 6-1/175 20-Mar-01 12-10-5-15
HM Spencer Knight G NTDP (USA) 6-3/195 19-Apr-01 9-1/ 2.21/ .925
HM Artemi Knyazev D Chicoutimi (QMJHL) 5-11/180 4-Jan-01 21-5-8-13
HM Kaedan Korczak D Kelowna (WHL) 6-3/190 29-Jan-01 20-2-11-13
HM Jake Lee D Seattle (WHL) 6-2/215 13-Jul-01 18-2-13-15
HM Nathan Legare RW Baie-Comeau (QMJHL) 6-0/205 11-Jan-01 22-14-19-33
HM Connor McMichael C London (OHL) 5-11/175 15-Jan-01 18-12-5-17
HM Ilya Mironov D Loko Yaroslavl (Rus Jr) 6-3/200 15-Mar-01 18-0-4-4
HM Patrick Moynihan RW NTDP (USA) 5-11/185 23-Jan-01 18-3-3-6
HM Blake Murray C Sudbury (OHL) 6-2/190 5-Jul-01 18-5-5-10
HM Sasha Mutala RW Tri-City (WHL) 6-1/195 6-May-01 15-4-9-13
HM Valentin Nussbaumer C Shawinigan (QMJHL) 6-0/165 25-Sep-00 19-5-8-13
HM Nicholas Porco LW Saginaw (OHL) 6-0/175 12-Mar-01 19-9-8-17
HM Patrik Puistola LW Tappara (Fin Jr) 6-0/175 11-Jan-01 17-9-7-16
HM Xavier Simoneau LW Drummondville (QMJHL) 5-7/175 19-May-01 17-7-11-18
HM Elmer Soderblom RW Frolunda (Swe Jr) 6-6/220 5-Jul-01 18-3-3-6
HM Yegor Spiridonov C S/L Magnitogorsk (Rus Jr) 6-3/195 22-Jan-01 16-5-10-15
HM Philip Tomasino C Niagara (OHL) 6-0/180 28-Jul-01 19-4-7-11
HM Luke Toporowski C Spokane (WHL) 5-11/180 12-Apr-01 19-7-12-19
HM Alex Vlasic D NTDP (USA) 6-6/195 5-Jun-01 18-2-7-9
HM Cade Webber D The Rivers School (USHS-MA) 6-6/195 5-Jan-01 7-0-0-0
HM Josh Williams RW Medicine Hat (WHL) 6-1/195 8-Mar-01 21-3-9-12
HM Dustin Wolf G Everett (WHL) 6-0/155 16-Apr-01 13-6/ 1.73/ .927
HM Oleg Zaitsev C Red Deer (WHL) 6-1/185 7-Jan-01 17-5-12-17
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