While the 2019 NHL Draft is top-heavy with elite forwards, don't be surprised if there are as many as 10 defensemen selected in the first round at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on June 21 (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS). Rounds 2-7 are June 22 (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN).
This year's group of defensemen from Europe particularly is impressive, topped by Victor Soderstrom, Philip Broberg and Tobias Bjornfot of Sweden and Ville Heinola of Finland, all of whom could go in the first 31 selections.
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Bowen Byram of Vancouver of the Western Hockey League is projected as the best draft-eligible defenseman and is expected to be chosen among the top-five picks.
There were 70 defensemen selected in the 2018 NHL Draft, including 14 in the first round. Rasmus Dahlin, chosen No. 1 by the Buffalo Sabres, led rookie defensemen in points (44), assists (35) and power-play points (20), and finished second in goals (nine) and average ice time (21:09) while playing 82 games. He's a finalist for the Calder Trophy and was the only defenseman from the 2018 draft class to play in the NHL the entire season.
Here are NHL.com's top 10 defensemen available for the 2019 Draft:
1. Bowen Byram, Vancouver (WHL)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 2 (North American skaters)
Byram (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) led WHL defenseman in goals (26) and game-winning goals (nine) and was third in points (71) in 67 regular-season games. He led all players with 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists) in 22 WHL playoff games. He has good awareness, plays with an edge and likes to get up in the rush.
Video: Bowen Byram is named No. 3 on Draft Prospects list
2. Philip Broberg, AIK (SWE-2)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 5 (International skaters)
The 6-3, 200-pound left-handed shooter is a smooth skater with excellent acceleration capable of controlling both ends of the ice. A two-way defenseman with good compete, Broberg had nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 41 games in Sweden's second division. He had six points (two goals, four assists) and 20 shots on goal in seven games at the 2019 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. Sweden won the gold medal and Broberg was named the tournament's best defenseman.
3. Victor Soderstrom, Brynas (SWE)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 3 (International skaters)
Soderstrom (6-0, 182) was promoted to the Swedish Hockey League in November and improved his overall game. A creative right-shooting defenseman who can see the ice well, Soderstrom had seven points (four goals, three assists) in 44 games for Brynas. He had one assist, a plus-2 rating and 13 shots on goal in four games for Sweden at the World U-18 Championship but missed the final three games after sustaining a concussion against Russia on April 23. He cleared his medical exam and participated in all the testing during the NHL Scouting Combine.
4. Thomas Harley, Mississauga (OHL)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 11 (North American skaters)
Harley is a two-way defenseman with good skating, intelligence and shot. The 6-3, 193-pound native of Syracuse, New York, was named best offensive defenseman and most improved player in the OHL Eastern Conference Coaches' Poll. He ranked fourth among OHL defensemen in assists (47) and had 58 points in 68 games. He was first on Mississauga with 31 power-play points (five goals, 26 assists). Harley had four points (one goal, three assists) in seven games for fourth-place Canada at the World U-18 Championship.
5. Cameron York, USA U-18 (USHL)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 12 (North American skaters)
York (5-11, 172) led NTDP defensemen with 65 points (14 goals, 51 assists) and 132 shots in 63 games. The Anaheim Hills, California, native is elusive with the puck, can dominate with his decision-making and is deceptive in the offensive zone. York, committed to the University of Michigan starting next season, had 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in seven games for the bronze medal-winning United States at the World U-18 Championship, and was named to the tournament all-star team.
6. Moritz Seider, Mannheim (GER)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 6 (International skaters)
Seider (6-3, 208), a right-handed shot, had an excellent rookie season for Mannheim in Germany's top pro league. He had six points (two goals, four assists) and a plus-2 rating in 29 games and was named the league's rookie of the year. He helped Mannheim win the league championship with five assists and a plus-6 rating in 14 playoff games. Seider had seven points (one goal, six assists) in five games to help Germany win the IIHF World Junior Championship Division IA bracket and advance to the top group at the 2020 World Junior Championship, where he likely will play a big role.
7. Ville Heinola, Lukko (FIN)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 4 (International skaters)
As one of the most improved players in Finland this season, Heinola (6-0, 178) had 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) in 34 games in Liiga, the country's top professional men's league. He compensates for his lack of strength with his skating, hockey sense and playmaking ability. Heinola had four points (one goal, three assists) and 26 shots on goal in five games for seventh-place Finland at the IIHF World U-18 Championship.
8. Tobias Bjornfot, Djurgarden Jr. (SWE-JR)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 7 (International skaters)
The 6-foot, 193-pound left-handed shot had 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) and a plus-15 rating in 39 games in Sweden's junior league. Bjornfot is a two-way defenseman with good puck control and is an active skater with good timing on offense and defense. He also played seven games for Djurgarden in the Swedish Hockey League late in the season.
9. Lassi Thomson, Kelowna (WHL)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 15 (North American skaters)
Thomson (6-0, 186) was the highest-scoring rookie defenseman in the WHL with 41 points (17 goals, 24 assists) in 63 games and was third among all rookies with seven power-play goals. He was named WHL Western Conference Rookie of the Year and a Western Conference Second Team All-Star. He sustained a concussion and missed the final four games of the regular season but passed his medical exam and participated in the testing during the NHL Scouting Combine.
10. Vladislav Kolyachonok, D, Flint (OHL)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 31 (North American skaters)
Kolyachonok (6-1, 189) came to North America from Minsk, Belarus, played one game for London, then was placed on waivers and claimed by Flint. Despite all the moving around he had 30 points and finished second among OHL rookie defensemen with 26 assists in 54 games. He's a good two-way defenseman, strong on his skates and poised and patient with the puck.
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