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2019 NHL Draft Notebook

US Development Program well represented, left-handed defencemen common among top 62 skaters

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

Kevin Cheveldayoff and the Winnipeg Jets scouting team continues to tweak its list heading into next weekend's NHL Draft in Vancouver. While that list remains top secret, the Jets are currently slated to pick four times throughout the event, which takes place June 21 and 22.

With selections in the second, fourth, and fifth rounds, Cheveldayoff - complete with information from the team's scouts, management, and interviews gleaned from the annual NHL Combine - will make sure no stone is left unturned heading into the team's ninth draft since relocation.

Here are some of the trends from the list of the top 31 skaters on both the North American and International Skaters lists (compiled by NHL Central Scouting), as well as the top 31 North American goaltenders.

USNTDP

The United States National Team Development Program has six prospects in the top 12 of NHL Central Scouting's North American Skaters list, not to mention another two goaltenders in the top four of the North American Goalies group.

Leading the group of skaters is Jack Hughes, who is projected to go first overall at the NHL Draft in Vancouver, BC on June 21. Hughes, a centre, had 25 goals and 92 points in 43 games this season. On top of that, he had 20 points in USA's bronze medal performance at the U-18s, as well as another four assists at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship. Hughes followed that performance with another three assists in seven games at the IIHF World Hockey Championship.

Along with Hughes, Alex Turcotte, Trevor Zegras, Cole Caufield, Matthew Boldy, and Cameron York round out the USNTDP top skating prospects. 

Caufield scored 29 goals in the 28 USHL games he played this season. He also scored 14 times at the U-18s, earning him tournament all-star status, alongside Hughes and York.

The USNTDP also boasts the top ranked North American goaltender in Spencer Knight. The 6'3" Connecticut product posted a 1.51 GAA and a 0.936 save percentage at the U-18s, both of which were tournament bests. He then moved on to the NHL Combine, where he finished in the top 15 of eight fitness testing categories.

Knight's teammate on the U-18 team was Cameron Rowe, who is ranked fourth by NHL Central Scouting. Rowe had a 3.05 GAA in 16 USHL games in 2018-19.

COLLEGE COMMITMENTS

Numbers like those in the section above are bound to catch more eyes than just those in NHL Central Scouting. Schools in the NCAA have also taken interest in these players and as a result, 21 players (skaters and goaltenders combined) out of the top 62 are committed to college hockey.

The majority, of course, are committed for the 2019-20 season - Turcotte (Wisconsin), Zegras (Boston University), Caufield (Wisconsin), Boldy (Boston College), York (Michigan), Knight (Boston College), Rowe (North Dakota), Alex Newhook (Boston College), Vladislav Firstov (Connecticut), Shane Pinto (North Dakota), Isaiah Saville (Nebraska-Omaha) and Benjamin Kraws (Miami University - Ohio).

However, there are nine that start later, eight of which are goaltenders:

Cole Brady (Arizona State, 2020-21)

Carter Gylander (Colgate University, 2020-21)

Ethan Haider (Clarkson University, 2020-21)

Henry Wilder (Boston College, 2020-21)

Gabriel Carriere (Vermont, 2020-21)

Jonathan Williams (Michigan State, 2020-21)

Derek Mullahy (Harvard, 2020-21)

Matthew Davis (University of Denver, 2021-22)

The lone skater that is committed for 2020-21 is Bobby Brink, the USHL's Forward of the Year. The right winger had 35 goals and 68 points in 43 games with Sioux City in 2018-19. He's committed to the University of Denver.

CENTRE HEAVY TOP END

Five of the top six spots on the North American Skaters list are occupied by the centre position - Vancouver Giants defenceman Bowen Byram (ranked second on the list) is the lone defenceman.

Hughes leads the way, with USNTDP teammates Turcotte and Zegras also in the mix.

Kirby Dach of the Western Hockey League's Saskatoon Blades is the third ranked skater - and second-highest ranked centre - on the list.

Dach had 25 goals and 73 points in the 62 games he played in 2018-19. It was a great follow up to the 2017-18 campaign where he led all WHL rookies in assists with 39. While the Blades were eliminated by the eventual WHL champion Prince Albert Raiders in the second round of the playoffs, Dach got the taste of a championship by helping Canada to gold at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

Dach's WHL counterpart, Dylan Cozens of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, is also in the cluster of centres in the top six spots.

Cozens, who was Dach's teammate at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, was the WHL's Rookie of the Year in 2017-18. He followed that up with 34 goals and 84 points in the 2018-19 season, which put him in a tie for 10th in the entire league in scoring. 

LEFT HAND D

Of the 18 defencemen in the top 62 North American and International skaters, 12 of them are left-handed.

In fact, five of the six North American defencemen in the top 31 patrol the left side of the blue line.

Bowen Byram, who went to the WHL Final with the Vancouver Giants and is ranked second among North American skaters, led the WHL in goals by a defenceman with 26. His 71 total points were the third most in the WHL compared to his fellow defensive counterparts.

He took his game to another level in the postseason, where he led all skaters - not just defencemen - in points with 26 in 22 games. He was the only player on his team in the top five of playoff scoring.

On the International skater side, defencemen make up seven of the top 10 ranked skaters. Five of those seven defencemen are left-handed, including Finland's Ville Heinola, who won gold at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship alongside Jets prospect Santeri Virtanen.

Right behind Heinola, at number five on the International Skaters list, is Philip Broberg of Sweden. Broberg helped his country to a gold medal at the U-18s and was named the tournament's best defenceman. He was also selected to the tournament All-Star team with six points in seven games.

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