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Mock Draft: Meltzer makes his first round picks

Flyers contributor selects all 31 teams and his reasons why

by Bill Meltzer @BillMeltzer /

Mock Drafts are a guessing game. Teams have different methods of drafting (best available player, focusing on positional needs within the system, differing levels of risk tolerance, etc). Internal Draft rankings are a very closely guarded secret, especially nowadays. Additionally, a single off-the-board pick by a team can significantly alter how many of the ensuing picks go. 

The following 2019 first-round mock Draft is strictly a hypothetical exercise by the author. Any resemblance between the selections within it -- including the Flyers' selection at 11th overall -- and the actual progression of the first round is after picks come the first round are coincidental. Secondly, a straightforward "best player available" methodology was used, rather than an in-depth positional depth analysis of all 31 NHL farm systems.

1. New Jersey Devils: Jack Hughes (C)

Hughes has been touted for several years as a potential NHL superstar offensive talent. Even on the USNTDP's ultra-stacked talent roster on the national under-18 team, Hughes was the featured player. He lacks height and muscle but every other tool -- outstanding speed, puckhandling, ice vision, passing touch, creativity and one-on-one ability -- is of elite caliber. It would be disappointing if Hughes proves to be anything less than a bonafide first-line NHL center as he matures. In tandem with 2017 first overall pick Nico Hischier, the Devils should have a formidable 1-2 punch down the middle for a decade or more.


2. New York Rangers: Kaapo Kakko (RW)

If Kakko were a center -- the forward position at which many NHL organizations place the highest valuations -- he might have edged out Hughes for the top spot. As it is, the Rangers will have arguably the easiest decision in the Draft. Whereas the Devils had to give pause to consider whether to bypass Hughes in favor of the more physically mature Kakko, the Rangers have a no-brainer choice once Hughes is off the board. The gifted Finn has all the makings of a future high-scoring star in the NHL.


3. Chicago Blackhawks: Kirby Dach (C)

While there are some consistency question marks thus far in his career, Dach is one of the "toolsiest" players in this year's Draft class: an intriguing combination of size (6-foot-4, 198 pounds), speed, playmaking ability and slick stickhandling. He needs to shoot the puck more often and he has been prone to streakiness in his Draft-eligible year but Dach elevated his game in the postseason to finish on a strong note. Both his floor and ceiling are high. 


4. Colorado Avalanche: Trevor Zegras (C)

The USNTDP squad was absolutely stacked down the middle this season, and there is a tough decision to make between Zegras and Alex Turcotte. Zegras is an outstanding playmaker (Turcotte is a little better as a finisher, Zegras the superior setup man), a plus-skater both in a straight line and moving east-west and one of the top stickhandlers in this year's Draft class. Nathan MacKinnon will still be in the prime of his career when Zegras is ready to start contributing at the NHL level.


5. LA Kings: Bowen Byram (D)

The consensus top Draft-eligible defenseman this year may very well be off the board in the actual NHL Draft before LA's turn comes up at fifth overall. If he's still available, LA could pounce. His skill set, with a penchant for jumping into the play and a particular talent for scoring back-door goals and tallies from near the hash-marks or faceoff dot, is very much in demand in today's game. His defensive game was considered strictly average heading into the season but he set aside those concerns with a solid two-campaign. 


6. Detroit Red Wings: Alex Turcotte (C)

Offensively dynamic, exceptionally speedy and hard-working, Turcotte's natural skill set is sometimes compared to that of Red Wings standout Dylan Larkin (himself a USNTDP alum). In this mock draft, Larkin and Turcotte end up as (eventual) teammates. 


7. Buffalo Sabres: Cole Caufield (RW)

This would a history-making pick if the Sabres swung for the fences with the prolific goal-scoring USNTDP sniper this early in the Draft. No player who stands smaller than 5-foot-9 has ever been selected in this early in the NHL Draft but Caufield may be a special case. Comparisons abound between Caufield and the likes of Johnny Gaudreau and Alex DeBrincat. Selecting Caufield means risk tolerance -- there will be matchups on both sides of the puck that will be difficult for him to handle -- but the potential reward in this exercise is the potential for Jack Eichel and Caufield to light up the scoreboard together.


8. Edmonton Oilers: Dylan Cozens (C)

Good size, smooth skating, two-way acumen and an above-average shot are the traits that make Lethbridge Hurricanes center Dylan Cozens a potential top-10 pick. An advanced game without the puck -- some sources rank him as the best defensive forward in the Draft -- as well as a top-nine floor and the upside to play with the top six of a forward rotation at the pro level are why many scouts consider him one of the safest picks in this year's Draft class.


9. Anaheim Ducks: Peyton Krebs (C)

A recent Achilles tendon injury should not prevent the Kootenay center from being picked in the top end of the first round; perhaps even in the top one-third as per this example. Krebs was a reliable standout on a very weak Ice team He is a very good skater and above-average playmaker who tends more toward being a little more of a pass-first type of forward although he has a good shot when he uses it. 


10. Vancouver Canucks: Vasili Pozkoldin (RW)

Podkolzin has significant offensive upside with all the tools to be a regular scorer. However, in terms of actual point production, he has not shown the same degree of offensive game-breaking as some of the other top-end prospects in the Draft pool. Rather, what scouts generally like most about the Russian forward is his competitiveness, two-way hockey smarts, puck protection skills, and overall upside as the type of player who can legitimately drive play and be used in penalty killing and late-game lead protection situations as well as an offensive role.


11. FLYERS: Matthew Boldy (LW)

In this mock Draft, nine of the first 10 picks have been forwards. Thus, the Flyers have a decision to make, based on whomever is atop their "best available player" rankings at this stage. They will have plenty of quality defensemen to choose among if they don't opt for a forward. In terms of system depth needs below the NHL level, the prospect pool on the blueline is in need of replenishment. However, in this mock, it is impossible to ignore Boldy's talents. He is a highly skilled winger.big-framed winger who also has above-average puckhandling skills, a heavy shot and a surprisingly deft passing touch and ice vision. These are not a common combination of traits for players who generically get described in the "power forward" category. Some improved consistency and added first-stride explosiveness probably would made Boldy a slam-dunk pick for the top five to 10 picks. In the actual NHL Draft, he may be off the board before Philly selects.


12. Minnesota Wild: Cam York (D)

The parade of USNTDP prospects continues, and a run on defensemen may begin here (if it does not start with the Flyers). York isn't big (5-foot-11, 172 pounds) but fits the puck-moving mold that has been highly valued in recent years. York can jump into the play as a trailer in the offensive end, is a slick passer and has point-producing potential even at higher levels of the game. 


13. Florida Panthers: Victor Söderström (D)

A combination of mobility, hockey IQ and two-way upside could enable Söderström to beat out countryman Philip Broberg as the first Swede taken in this year's Draft. Söderström lacks size and his nascent offensive tools may or may not develop into point-production but he moves the puck well and, in most aspects, is an above-average blueline prospect. 


14. Arizona Coyotes: Moritz Seider (D)

The defensive game needs considerable refinement but the physical tools and offensive upside are well above-average for the German blueliner. Seider played on Germany's senior national team at the 2019 IIHF World Championships and is already a regular starter in the DEL (Germany's traditionally import-heavy top league), so he's already used to playing against grown men.


15. Montreal Canadiens: Alex Newhook (C)

The Boston College bound Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL) captain may go higher than this spot as long as the team that selects him feels comfortable selecting a player with a limited sample size of experience against the top players his age. In the case of Newhook, who racked up 102 regular season points (53 GP) and 24 playoff points (15 GP) for Victoria this season, some of the concerns were answered in April by his performance for Team Canada at the Under-18 World Championships in Sweden. 


16. Colorado Avalanche: Spencer Knight (G)

With their second pick of the opening round, the Avs may be very tempted to be the first team to select a goaltender in this year's Draft. A product of the USNTDP, Knight is considered about as safe of a bet to develop into a future NHL starting goalie as one can find with a teenage prospect. Has all of the physical attributes, technical skills and mental toughness aspects that are prized in goaltenders are present in Knight.


17. Vegas Golden Knights: Raphael Lavoie (RW)

A bit of a risky pick, but one with major upside: Lavoie is a sniping Halifax Mooseheads right winger with a huge frame (6-foot-4, 200 pounds) and a stellar playoff run (20 goals in 23 games) to his credit. All of the tools are there to be a fine offensive player at the pro level if he displays greater consistency.


18. Dallas Stars: Philip Broberg (D)

Big-framed (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) with elite mobility, Broberg has already graduated from the Swedish junior leagues to become a regular in Allsvenskan (the top minor league) for AIK Stockholm. In terms of physical tools and puck-moving upside, he is off the charts. However, Broberg is unlikely to be a prolific offensive point producer and his defensive game still is rather inconsistent. 


19. Ottawa Senators: Thomas Harley (D)

A puck-moving defenseman with good size (6-foot-3, 193 pounds) and offensive upside (top 10 in scoring among OHL defensemen), Harley could be the second CHL defenseman off the board in this year's draft, and possibly the second one from any league. 


20. Winnipeg Jets: Ryan Suzuki (C)

A former first overall pick in the OHL Midget Draft and the younger brother of top Montreal prospect Nick Suzuki, the Barrie Colts center Ryan Suzuki is likely to be chosen in the middle to late stages of the 2019 first round. To some extend, Suzuki's stock has been hurt by over-scouting -- after multiple years of viewings, the creative plays are expected and there's sometimes more nitpicking of a bad shift here or a bad game there. Suzuki is a creative attacker with good speed (although a high-ankle sprain affected him in the latter part of this season). His competitiveness level and intensity are sometimes questioned.


21. Pittsburgh Penguins: Arthur Kaliyev (RW)

The Hamilton Bulldogs right winger is arguably the most divisive prospect in this year's Draft class. He racked up 50 goals this season and is already fairly mature physically (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) for a player who did not turn 18 until June 1. However, many other aspects of his game -- skating, play without the puck, conditioning, willingness to battle for pucks and shift-in and shift-out energy level -- are questioned. Pittsburgh is a team that is willing to swing for the fences, often trading away its first-round (and, in some cases, also their second-round) pick in recent Drafts. 


22. LA Kings: Connor McMichael (C)

There are some "red flags" on the skilled London Knights forward -- a late-season dropoff in his play, a significant discrepancy in his home vs. road performance --but there are not a lot of rookies in the OHL who step in and score 36 goals (tops among all Draft-eligible centers from the OHL, WHL and QMJHL). He should play bigger minutes next season and McMichael's production is likely to increase correspondingly.


23. New York Islanders: Ville Heinola (D)

Heinola has point-producing upside and is a heady and highly competitive player. Despite giving away size and muscle to most opponents, he plays a fearless brand of hockey. Some defensive improvement is needed along with skating refinement but much of this is related to adding strength. 


24. Nashville Predators: Samuel Poulin (LW)

Physical maturity and two-way upside are the primary traits that attract scouts to this second-generation player (Samuel is the son of former NHLer Patrick Poulin). He gets high marks for his character and competitiveness and has puck skills as well. However, Poulin lacks an extra gear in his skating.


25. Washington Capitals: Lassi Thomson (D)

A Finnish import to the Western Hockey League this season (he's slated to play at the pro level in Liiga next season), Thomson is one of the smoothest-skating defensemen in this year's Draft class and also has a blistering shot from the point. His play without the puck needs improvement and he can better pick his spots up ice. 


26. Calgary Flames: Phil Tomasino (C/W)

Tomasino excelled in the Top Prospects Game and skills events, and enjoyed a very productive season in the Ontario League. Most of his points came at even strength. He is one of a batch of prospects who could selected in the middle to late stages of the first round.


27. Tampa Bay Lightning: Simon Holmström (RW)

It's all about the tools with Holmström, a 6-foot-1 speedster with high-end puck skills and offensive potential as a playmaking winger. Holmström will likely need several years to develop before he is NHL-ready but the Lightning would have reason to feel compelled to rush him.


28. Carolina Hurricanes: Jackson LaCombe (D)

An American player who excelled at the prep school level for Shattuck St. Mary and also fared well in the USHL with Chicago, LaCombe is already a polished skater and has shown above-average offensive upside. His play without the puck is not as advanced, but trended in the right direction as the 2018-19 season progressed. 


29. Anaheim Ducks: John Beecher (C)

Widely considered either a late first-round option or second-round candidate, Beecher is more of a project than some of his USNTDP counterparts. His offensive skill upside is a divisive question: Does he project as a middle six forward or an NHL fourth-liner? Scouts who believe the former are more inclined to rank Beecher within first-round range. What no one questions is that 6-foot-3, 210-plus pound forwards who are also plus skaters are not readily available.


30. Boston Bruins: Jakob Pelletier (C/W)

There's a bit of a Brendan Gallagher or Tyler Johnson upside at Pelletier's ceiling. He competes for space fearlessly despite being physically small, and has shown an ability to put the puck in the net. 


31. Buffalo Sabres: Pavel Dorofeyev (LW)

A late birthday player who was born five weeks too late to qualify for the 2018 NHL Draft, Dorofeyev will turn 19 on Oct. 26. This past season, Dorofeyev was offensively dominant at the Russian junior level (MHL) and also dressed in 23 KHL games with Metallurg Magnitogorsk.

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