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Ryan Dittrick takes a shot at predicting the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /'s Ryan Dittrick takes a crack at predicting the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft:

1. Jack Hughes - Center - USNTDP (USHL) - New Jersey Devils

The consensus first pick goes right where he should. Hughes, a dynamic young centre out of the U.S. National Team Development Program, absolutely torched the competition last year, scoring 34 goals and 112 points in 50 games, and set NTDP records for assists (154) and points (228) in 110 games over two seasons with the program. In this case, the numbers do all the talking.

2. Kaapo Kakko - Right Wing - TPS (Liiga) - New York Rangers

His 22 goals last year set a record for the most ever by a draft-eligible prospect in Finland's top league, surpassing Aleksander Barkov (second overall by Florida in 2013), before he suited up for his country and scored six goals in a gold medal-winning run at the 2019 IIHF World Hockey Championship. The 6-foot-2, 194 lb. winger is a powerful skater, has an elite shot, and can dominate the competition - physically - down low and off the rush.

3. Alex Turcotte - Center - USNTDP (USHL) - Chicago Blackhawks

Turcotte grew up in Chicago, was a Blackhawks fan, and idolized Jonathan Toews growing up. Fittingly, he plays a nearly identical style to his hero, citing Toews' "compete and 200-foot game" as his top attributes. But unlike Toews, Turcotte is more sniper than playmaker, scoring 35 times in only 37 tilts on the stacked U.S. team this year. Teammate Jack Hughes had this to say about him at this past weekend's NHL Scouting Combine: "He's a beast."

4. Bowen Byram - Defence - Vancouver (WHL) - Colorado Avalanche (via the Ottawa Senators)

If Hughes is the consensus first pick, then Byram is, too, when it comes to the blueliners. The 6-foot-1, 193 lb. rearguard put up 71 points (26G, 45A) in 67 games, helping the Vancouver Giants reach the WHL Final and take home the CHL Top Prospect of the Year Award. He's an elite skater with unlimited potential offensively. Look no further than what Charlie McAvoy is doing for the Boston Bruins, or Seth Jones did with the Columbus Blue Jackets playoff run last month, to see value in these of franchise-defining defencemen.

Video: "I'm a hard-working guy, in the gym and on the ice."

5. Dylan Cozens - Center - Lethbridge (WHL) - Los Angeles Kings

He's the modern-day power forward with the ability to create chaos in all three zones. Excellent speed, is quick, agile and a masterful puck-handler. He led the Hurricanes with 84 points (34G, 50A) in 68 regular-season games before adding another eight points in seven playoff tilts. The Whitehorse product is set to become just the third Yukon-born player to reach the NHL.

6. Cole Caufield - Right Wing - USNTDP (USHL) - Detroit Red Wings

With the NTDP housed in Plymouth, Michigan, no one got a better look at this generational U.S. squad than the Red Wings. What Caufield lacks in size, he more than makes up for in skill - rightfully drawing comparisons to Chicago's Alex DeBrincat. The 5-foot-7, 162 lb. winger scored an incredible 72 goals last year and when asked at the Combine if he was the best pure goal-scorer in the draft, the Wisconsin product replied simply: "I do."

7. Trevor Zegras - Center - USNTDP (USHL) - Buffalo Sabres

From a goal-scorer one pick to a playmaker the next - Zegras is one of the top distributors in the draft. He has incredible vision and the awareness to find players in traffic with his elite peripheral instincts. Coach John Wroblewski said he's grown from a "good" player to one that wants to be in the "best on the planet." His 87 points (26G, 61A) last year certainly speak to that.

Video: "I'm a really good playmaker that sees the ice well."

8. Kirby Dach - Center - Saskatoon (WHL) - Edmonton Oilers

A composed, balanced and highly intelligent 200-foot player, Dach gives the Oilers another talented building block down the middle. Big body at 6-foot-4, 197, is a top-end playmaker will be a reliable, two-way centre with exceptional offensive instincts.

9. Matthew Boldy - Left Wing - USNTDP (USHL) - Anaheim Ducks

A skilled player with "silky-smooth hands" (his words), Boldy - another graduate of the generational NTDP program - is one of the most exciting wingers in the draft. As a power forward with scoring touch, he never overhandles the puck and is always ready to attack. In 64 games last year, the Milford, Mass. product put up 81 points (33G, 48A). Has already committed to Boston College for next season - the same school as Johnny Gaudreau.

10. Ville Heinola - Defence - Lukko (Liiga) - Vancouver Canucks

Ranked seventh among European skaters at the mid-term, Heinola jumped three spots and finished fourth thanks to an excellent season in Finland's top league - playing the entirety of it as a 17-year-old. The 5-foot-11, 178 lb. defenceman is a fantastic skater with tremendous hockey sense.

11. Philip Broberg - Defence - AIK (Allsvenskan) - Philadelphia Flyers

At 17 years old, he was the youngest player to suit up for AIK in the Swedish Allsvenskan league, recording nine points (2G, 7A) in 41 games. Was a standout at the World Under-18's, finishing second in points among defencemen with two goals and six points. His performance earned him a selection on the tournament all-star team. The last time a Swedish defenceman earned such a nod was in 2009-10 (Adam Larsson). Has great vision, controls the game in all three zones and has a terrific shot.

12. Alex Newhook - Center - Victoria (BCHL) - Minnesota Wild

Dominated the BCHL, scoring 38 goals and 102 points to lead all skaters by 18 points (43rd-ranked Alexander Campbell was the closest challenger on Victoria, with 35 fewer points). Most impressively, though, Newhook brought that same pace to the World Under 18's, scoring 10 points (5G, 5A) in seven games against players from 'better' leagues.

13. Thomas Harley - Defence - Mississauga (OHL) - Florida Panthers

To quote one scout I talked to at the Combine, "This guy came outta nowhere!" Indeed, what a season it was for the sophomore blueliner, taking over the No. 1 role and running with it after Nic Hague and Vili Saarijarvi left for pro. His offensive production quadrupled over his rookie season, finishing the 2018-19 campaign with 58 points (11G, 47A) in 68 games. An elite skater for a player of his size (6'3", 188 lbs.), and is an excellent puck-mover/handler, a la Thomas Chabot.

Video: Mississauga defenceman Thomas Harley at Combine

14. Vasili Podkolzin - Right Wing - SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (VHL) - Arizona Coyotes

Unquestionable talent and could be a Top 5/10 pick, but being under contract in the KHL for two more seasons, it could give some teams pause when considering their first-round bounty. In speaking to Podkolzin at the Combine, he insists he'll be in the NHL "right away" after his KHL deal expires. Would be a great fit alongside Clayton Keller and Alex Galchenyuk in a few years.

15. Cam York - Defence - USNTDP (USHL) - Montreal Canadiens

A puck-moving defenceman that excels on the powerplay, York had one of the best U-18 performances ever among blueliners when he produced 11 points (4G, 7A) in seven games. Has the potential to be a top-pairing guy at the pro level thanks to that, his hockey sense and defensive acumen.

16. Victor Soderstrom - Defence - Brynas (SHL) - Colorado Avalanche

Played big, big minutes in 44 games in the SHL last year. Excellent puck-mover, has a good shot, and likes to throw his weight around. He's a strong skater with exceptional top-end speed, pivots well and is especially dangerous in transitioning from defence to offence.

17. Spencer Knight - Goaltender - USNTDP (USHL) - Vegas Golden Knights

With Marc-Andre Fleury turning 35 in the fall, the Golden Knights have to ask themselves: Is Malcolm Subban The Guy long term in Vegas? Max Lagace? Oscar Dansk? Knight is the consensus top pick when it comes to goaltenders in this class, but teams are often leery of using a coveted first-round selection on a position so difficult to project. Knight had a 32-4-1 record, a .918 save percentage and a 2.36 goals-against average in 39 appearances with the NTDP last year. His calm demeanour and poised approach to the position is reminiscent of Carey Price. Plus, a Knight drafted by the Knights? How perfect.

Video: Top goalie Spencer Knight on his development

18. Arthur Kaliyev - Left Wing - Hamilton (OHL) - Dallas Stars

The Stars need a goal-scorer and Kaliyev brings that and then some, having scored 51 (in only 67 games) in the OHL last year, including 20 on the powerplay. Best of all, he's not reliant on others to do the dirty work for him - he's willing to go the hard areas and pot some greasy ones, or showcase his world-class ability off the rush to get the job done. One scout I talked to at the Combine described him as an "inventive" player that "drives the bus" offensively.

19. Peyton Krebs - Center - Winnipeg (WHL) - Ottawa Senators (via Columbus)

The Calgary native has great hockey sense, is an elite passer and is able to find gaps in coverage with his feet and by reading the ice well off the rush. He generates chances at will, and does a great job setting up his linemates when a play no longer seems possible. Led the Ice with 68 points (19G, 49A) in 64 games last year.

20. Ryan Suzuki - Center - Barrie (OHL) - Winnipeg Jets

Has great hockey sense, vision, is effective at making plays at high speed and can make good decisions under pressure. Scored 25 goals for 75 points in the OHL last year, but told me at the Combine he wants to develop more of a shooter's mentality. Considering the already elite level at which he makes plays and processes the game, look out. 

21. Nils Hoglander - Left Wing - Rogle (SHL) - Pittsburgh Penguins

An aggressive winger that plays - as one scout told me - at a "cantankerous" pace. A very good skater with a powerful first stride who can accelerate quickly and reach top speed in a heartbeat. His quick feet and agility in the neutral zone allow him to pull off moves that make defenders look foolish. He won the SHL Goal of the Year with a lacrosse-style goal you have to see to believe.

22. Simon Holmstrom - Defence - HV71 (Swe. U-20) - Los Angeles Kings (via the Toronto Maple Leafs)

A strong skater with good hands who controls the puck well at top speed. Has a high-end hockey IQ, excellent awareness in terms of his defensive positioning, and uses his body (and stick) well to take away passing lanes; reads the play well and creates space for his teammates. Battled injuries last year and was limited to only 21 games, but when he was healthy, he showed how good he can be.

23. Samuel Poulin - Left Wing - Sherbrooke (QMJHL) - New York Islanders

Led the Phoenix with the 29 goals and 76 points last year, before adding another 14 points (8G, 5A) in 10 playoff contests. Has NHL bloodlines, with his father, Patrick, having played more than 600 career games with the Whalers, Blackhawks, Lightning, Canadiens and Nordiques. Good size at 6'1", 208, and will be a challenge to handle physically at the pro level.

24. Connor McMichael - Center - London (OHL) - Nashville Predators

Considered by many to be one of the best skaters in the draft, McMichael led the Knights in scoring this past season with 72 points (36G, 36A) in 67 games. Brings a balanced playbook on the offensive side, and can be deployed in either the role of a triggerman or playmaker, making him especially dangerous on the powerplay. Is an excellent two-way player and helps drive the pace with a relentless approach on the forecheck.

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25. Raphael Lavoie - Right Wing - Halifax (QMJHL) - Washington Capitals

The 6-foot-4, 196-lb. pivot can do a little bit of everything, but the offensive side of his 2019 playoff performance is what has teams salivating over as we approach the draft. Lavoie had 32 points (20G, 12A) in 23 games to lead the Mooseheads to the Q Final, but falling just short to Rouyn-Noranda. The blend soft hands and brute strength were again on display at the Memorial Cup, where he produced three points (2G, 1A) in four games.

26. Lassi Thomson - Defence - Kelowna (WHL) - Calgary Flames

The Finnish blueliner has incredible offensive upside, scoring 41 points (17G, 24A) last year in his North American debut. Is a great skater, whose top-end speed is rivaled only by his world-class edge-work, pivoting and lateral mobility. He walks the line well and can open up lanes on the offensive side of the ice, but also defends well and uses a tight gap to guard plays off the rush.

27. Philip Tomasino - Center - Niagara (OHL) - Tampa Bay Lightning

A dynamic skater that moves east-west particularly well through the neutral zone, creating space for himself and his linemates. His creativity and "subtlety" - as one scout told me - off the rush allows him to fake out defenders and punch through tight gaps in coverage. One of the most naturally-gifted goal-scorers of the draft class, having produced 34 goals in 67 games with the IceDogs last year.

28. Bobby Brink - Right Wing - Sioux City (USHL) - Carolina Hurricanes

Played on the same team as Flames prospect Martin Pospisil, edging the 2018 pick by five points in team scoring (68 to 63 points). Has elite hockey sense and a ridiculously high, albeit raw skill-set, that allowed him to bang off 35 goals in 43 games.

29. Brett Leason - Right Wing - Prince Albert (WHL) - Anaheim Ducks (via the Buffalo Sabres, San Jose Sharks)

With the season he had, it's a no-brainer. Imagine how much higher he'd go if he was 18, not 20. Leason, passed over in the draft for the past two years, had a breakout season with the Raiders, leading PA to its first WHL title in 34 years with 89 points (36G, 53A) in 55 games - more than double his previous year's output after improving his foot-work over the off-season.

Video: Calgary native Brett Leason speaks at the Combine

30. Nicholas Robertson - Left Wing - Peterborough (OHL) - Boston Bruins

The phrase 'first guy on, last guy off' comes to mind. Still raw, but works diligently on his game and has the offensive pedigree to do great things at the pro level. Has an explosive first step, can distribute the puck beautifully, and led the Pets in scoring this year with 55 points (27G, 28A) in 54 games.

31. Brayden Tracey - Left Wing - Moose Jaw (WHL) - Buffalo Sabres (via the St. Louis Blues)

A Calgary product closes out the first round. In his first full season, Tracey made waves with his offensive production, tallying 81 points (36G, 45A) to lead all CHL rookies in scoring. He's an excellent possession player who distributes the puck well, has a good shot, and displays great deception when carrying the puck off the rush.

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