NHL Central Scouting, meeting to determine its final rankings of the top North American skaters and goaltenders for the 2019 draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on June 21-22, offered some insight on the top five North American skaters and No. 1 goalie in its midterm ranking and the No. 1 skater in its international ranking.
Leading up to the 2018 NHL Draft, Central Scouting considered defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, chosen by the Buffalo Sabres with the No. 1 pick, to have traits similar to Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman. Forward Andrei Svechnikov, taken by the Carolina Hurricanes at No. 2, was thought to have a skill set comparable to St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko.
This season, Dahlin ranks first among NHL rookie defensemen with 41 points (eight goals, 33 assists) in 80 games. Svechnikov is tied with Andreas Johnsson of the Toronto Maple Leafs for third among NHL rookies with 20 goals in 80 games.
Players for the 2019 draft are listed in order of Central Scouting's midterm release in January (all statistics are regular season).
NORTH AMERICA SKATERS
1. Jack Hughes, 17 years old (5-foot-10, 170 pounds), C, USA U-18 (USHL)
2018-19: 41 games, 23 goals, 63 assists, 86 points, 18 PIM, plus-32, 203 shots on goal
Best assets: Compete, skating, hockey sense
Possible NHL comparable: Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres center; Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers center
NHL Central Scouting analysis: "He's a unique player. He has an unbelievable motor, great speed, but a stride not too dissimilar from Jack Eichel in that he generates speed with a lot of motion and a good core. His ability to be elusive in traffic is similar to what Connor McDavid does; he's not afraid to challenge that opening that others may not be able to get through because he sees beyond with the opportunities there."
2. Kirby Dach, 18 (6-3, 199), C, Saskatoon (WHL)
2018-19: 62 games, 25 goals 48 assists, 73 points, 40 PIM, plus-15, 208 shots on goal
Best assets: Playmaking, hockey sense, 200-foot game
Possible NHL comparable: Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets center
NHL Central Scouting analysis: "A deceptive skater with top-end speed when in motion. He has excellent vision and skill with a quick release scorer's shot to finish chances. He's a legitimate threat when the puck is on his stick and capable of controlling pace and the outcome of games."
3. Dylan Cozens, 18 (6-3, 180), C, Lethbridge (WHL)
2018-19: 68 games, 34 goals, 50 assists, 84 points, 30 PIM, plus-32 rating, 223 shots on goal
Best assets: Fast, shooter, competitiveness
Possible NHL comparable: Chris Kreider, New York Rangers forward
NHL Central Scouting analysis: "He displays explosive speed with excellent acceleration and can make quick decisions on the fly. He competes at an elite level and is tough to contain in all areas of the ice. He can drive the net with authority and plays well on the defensive side of the puck."
4. Bowen Byram, 17 (6-0, 193), D, Vancouver (WHL)
2018-19: 67 games, 26 goals, 45 assists, 71 points, 80 PIM, plus-33, 193 shots on goal
Best assets: Hockey sense, leadership
Possible NHL comparable: Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman
NHL Central Scouting analysis: "Byram is a high-end two-way defenseman that excels in all situations and logs big minutes every game. He's skilled, has some snarl to his game, and finished third among all WHL defensemen in points and first in goals and game-winning goals (nine)."
5. Alex Turcotte, 18 (5-11, 185), C, USA U-18 (USHL)
2018-19: 30 games, 23 goals, 30 assists, 53 points, 18 PIM, plus-29, 79 shots on goal
Best assets: Shot, hockey sense, strength
Possible NHL comparable: Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild forward
NHL Central Scouting analysis: "Has good speed and quickness with the puck and can make plays at high speed. He has good hands and is a solid puck mover with high hockey IQ and a responsible 200-foot game. He protects the puck well and has good strength."
NORTH AMERICA GOALIES
1. Spencer Knight, 17 (6-3, 192), USA U-18 (USHL)
2018-19: 32 games, 27-3-0, 2.50 goals-against average, .906 save percentage, 1 shutout
Best assets: Skating, technical ability, post play
Possible NHL comparable: Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens goalie
NHL Central Scouting analysis: "His mannerisms are reminiscent of Carey Price. He has an excellent pro presence with flawless positional play in all situations. He's a very smart goalie with great instincts and plays mostly in the paint area on initial shots while square to the shooter. He has very good feet and is quick to flare out his pads when dropping in the butterfly to protect the low corners. He's very efficient, has quick post-to-post play and offers huge NHL potential."
1. Kaapo Kakko, 18 (6-2, 194), RW, TPS (FIN)
2018-19: 45 games, 22 goals, 16 assists, 38 points, 10 PIM, plus-1 rating, 228 shots on goal
Best assets: Hockey sense, good under pressure, playmaking
Possible NHL comparable: Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche forward
NHL Central Scouting analysis: "Mikko and Kaapo each had big roles when they played at the IIHF World Junior Championship. Both are big-bodied forwards playing a mature game at a young age, and both have high hockey IQ and are consistent offensive threats on every shift. Kaapo is a big power forward who plays effectively on either wing (he is left-handed) where he showcases his strong playmaking ability. His hockey sense and skills, when combined with his size and strength, allow him to be an impact player in all situations."