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NHL Draft

5 things to watch for at NHL Central Scouting final meeting

Top North American skater for 2019 Draft after Hughes, number of NTDP first-round candidates among topics

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

TORONTO -- NHL scouts are getting ready to make their last evaluations and set up their final lists ahead of the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver on June 21-22.

NHL Central Scouting hopes to make that process easier beginning Wednesday when it meets to determine the final rankings of the top 217 North American skaters and 31 North American goaltenders eligible for the 2019 draft. Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting, will chair the six-day meeting, which will include input from eight full-time scouts.

The NHL Draft Lottery to determine the first 15 picks of the NHL draft will be held in Toronto on April 9.

"The challenging part of any final ranking meeting is determining the order between each of the players, particularly those in the first round, based on their NHL projection," Marr said. "Some players ranked high might be at a development level to which they can go right to the NHL, while some others require additional development time, yet their upside potential could be much higher when projecting 3-4 years away."

Goran Stubb, NHL Director of European Scouting, will supply and recommend to Marr his ranking of the top International skaters and goaltenders later next week.

Here are 5 things to watch for at NHL Central Scouting's final meeting:


How many players from USA Hockey's National Team Development Program under-18 team could be first-round picks?

Center Jack Hughes (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) was No. 1 in Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters and likely will hold that position in the final ranking. Hughes leads the NTDP with 86 points (23 goals, 63 assists) in 41 games, and has set NTDP career records in assists (139) and points (202).

There were seven other players from the NTDP projected as first-round candidates at the midterm: forwards Alex Turcotte (No. 5), Matthew Boldy (No. 6), Trevor Zegras (No. 7), and Cole Caufield (No. 15), and defensemen Cameron York (No. 12) and Alex Vlasic (No. 25). Also, Spencer Knight was No. 1 among North American goalies. The expectation is these players again will be listed as potential first-round targets in the final release.


Who is the next-best North American skater after Jack Hughes?

There could be as many as five players in the running for No. 2 after Hughes. Center Kirby Dach (6-3, 199) of Saskatoon in the Western Hockey League, center Dylan Cozens (6-3, 181) of Lethbridge in the WHL, defenseman Bowen Byram (6-0, 194) of Vancouver in the WHL, Turcotte (5-11, 189) and Boldy (6-1, 187).

Dach, No. 2 on Central Scouting's midterm list, had 73 points (25 goals, 48 assists) in 62 regular-season games. Cozens (No. 3) ranked 11th in the WHL with 84 points (34 goals, 50 assists) in 68 games. Byram ranked third among WHL defensemen with 71 points (26 goals, 45 assists) in 67 games. Boldy is fourth on the NTDP with 69 points (30 goals, 39 assists) in 55 games, and Turcotte is fifth with 53 points (23 goals, 30 assists) in 30 games.


Is there a dark horse prospect to keep an eye on?

Moose Jaw left wing Brayden Tracey (6-0, 177), No. 73 in the midterm ranking, led WHL rookies with 81 points (36 goals, 45 assists) and 12 power-play goals in 66 regular-season games, and played on the top line and No. 1 power-play unit. He was named WHL Eastern Conference rookie of the year.


How strong are the goalies eligible for the 2019 draft?

Knight (6-3, 197) hopes to become the 10th United States-born goalie to be chosen in the first round and first since Jake Oettinger went No. 26 to the Dallas Stars in 2017. Hunter Jones (6-4, 196) of Peterborough in the Ontario Hockey League, Mads Sogaard (6-7, 192) of Medicine Hat in the WHL also are in the mix of goalies projected to hear their names as early as the second- or third round.

Knight, who is 27-3-0 with a 2.50 goals-against average and .906 save percentage in 32 games this season, and also won a silver medal as the third goalie for the U.S. at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. He holds the record for career wins (54) at the NTDP.


Who are the top high school players available?

Forwards John Farinacci (5-11, 185) of Dexter School in Massachusetts and Ryder Donovan (6-3, 184) of Duluth East in Minnesota, and defensemen Jayden Struble (6-0, 194) of St. Sebastian's School in Massachusetts; Jackson Lacombe (6-1, 171) of Shattuck-St. Mary's Prep in Minnesota; Braden Doyle (5-11, 167) of Lawrence Academy in Massachusetts; and Cade Webber (6-6, 194) of Rivers Academy in Massachusetts might be projected to go in the second or third round.

"The high school and prep school prospects include some very talented forwards and defensemen that have a chance to be selected in the first three rounds rather than being later-round considerations," Marr said.

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