All posts by Hannah Stuart

Final NHL Mock Draft: Byram, Cozens move up while Broberg falls to Habs

The NHL draft begins Friday night in Vancouver. Here's our final mock draft of the first round.

1. New Jersey Devils - Jack Hughes, C, USNTDP

Hughes is still No. 1. This shouldn't be surprising if you've been following our draft coverage. From his ability to think the game at a higher level than his peers, to his speed, to the way he combines those abilities to drive play, he's our guy for first overall.

2. New York Rangers - Kaapo Kakko, RW, Liiga

Kakko's a wonderful consolation prize. As we've said all season, the gap between Hughes and Kakko is exponentially smaller than it is between them and the rest of the class. The Rangers' recent acquisition of Jacob Trouba indicates their rebuild has kicked into high gear, and with Kakko, they'll get a player who's ready to jump into the NHL. He has size (and more importantly, uses it effectively) and great instincts. Fans already got a taste of what he looks like playing against NHL competition at the World Championship.

3. Chicago Blackhawks - Alex Turcotte, C, USNTDP

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Turcotte missed a good chunk of time this season, but he played enough to put his innate skill on display. His vision is elite, and he uses it to be an excellent playmaker - something that should translate to the NHL level. His relentlessness on the ice is the kind of energy the Blackhawks need. He's headed to college at the University of Wisconsin in the fall, but don't be surprised if he only stays a year or two.

4. Colorado Avalanche (via Ottawa) - Kirby Dach, C, WHL

Many could argue defenseman Bowen Byram is the right pick here. They wouldn't necessarily be wrong. However, there have been rumors that the Avalanche are targeting a forward with at No. 4. While they have their pick of several talented players, Dach seems like a logical choice. He combines hockey sense, size, and smooth puck-handling ability in an attractive package. He could be more consistent, but the skill is there.

5. Los Angeles Kings - Bowen Byram, D, WHL

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It's difficult to see the Kings passing on Byram if he's available at fifth overall. Without question the best defenseman available, he's a puck-mover with the ability to control play and drive the pace thanks to his excellent hockey sense and skating. If the Kings are looking to shift to a more mobile, speedy, offensive style, picking Byram is one step in the right direction.

6. Detroit Red Wings - Trevor Zegras, C/W, USNTDP

Though we had Cole Caufield going to Detroit in our first mock - and it's still an attractive idea - it's hard to imagine Steve Yzerman leaving Zegras on the board. His skill level in all areas is simply too high. He's brilliantly smart and possibly the best pure playmaker on this year's U18 team at the NTDP (yes, including Hughes). Zegras goes out and tries stuff other guys won't even think of, and he makes it happen. As a general manager, how could you not want that?

7. Buffalo Sabres - Peyton Krebs, C, WHL

Krebs is our pick for the best player out of this year's top WHL trio after a great year on a terrible team. His vision was mostly wasted on wonderfully creative plays that his teammates weren't able to finish - yet he still managed to end the season at a slightly better than point-per-game pace. The way Krebs thinks the game would slot in neatly with guys like Rasmus Dahlin, Jack Eichel, and Jeff Skinner, so this pick makes all kinds of sense for Buffalo.

8. Edmonton Oilers - Dylan Cozens, C/RW, WHL

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Although TSN's Ryan Rishaug reported that the Oilers are considering Philip Broberg at No. 8, the blue-liner comes with some concerns, and Edmonton has quite a few left-shooting defensemen in its system already. A forward is a safer bet, especially considering that the best player available here will be one. It also wouldn't be surprising to see the Oilers take a guy they're more familiar with, and Cozens is coming from the WHL. He's got offensive upside thanks to his great puck-handling, but he's not so flashy that he chances being a bust - it's about as safe a pick as you can get here while still gunning for first-class talent.

9. Anaheim Ducks - Vasili Podkolzin, RW, MHL

Podkolzin is polarizing. We've got him at No. 9, but it wouldn't be shocking to see him go anywhere from fourth to 20th. So much of his future success depends on when he comes over to North America and how he's supported through that massive adjustment. What it boils down to, though, is that he has skill to burn. If he can adapt to the North American game with any measure of consistency, he'll bring his future fan base great joy.

10. Vancouver Canucks - Alex Newhook, C, BCHL

Vancouver has a lot of good options at No. 10. Newhook hasn't necessarily received the accolades he deserves this season due to a slow start - and likely, in part, because he plays in the BCHL. He's a terrific skater, and his offensive abilities shine when he's playing with confidence. He'd look great with Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and Quinn Hughes. He won't look great with guys who play like boat anchors, though, so it's a positive that he'll likely spend a couple of years at Boston College before joining his future NHL team.

11. Philadelphia Flyers - Cole Caufield, C/RW, USNTDP

Picking Caufield anywhere outside the top five is a good idea. If he's still on the board at No. 11, there's no good reason for the Flyers to leave him there. Caufield's a terrific goal-scorer, reminiscent of Alex DeBrincat but with more advanced skating ability than DeBrincat at the same point in his career. Let him cook in college (Wisconsin) for a couple of years and then let him loose. Goals are how games are won, after all.

12. Minnesota Wild - Matthew Boldy, LW, USNTDP

Let's face it, the Wild are kind of mediocre and boring right now. Boldy is anything but. While he needs seasoning, he's a good choice for the direction Minnesota should move in if the team wants to contend anytime soon. He is responsible defensively but also has excellent offensive skills, including hockey sense that allows him to score on plays other guys may not even consider making. He needs to work on driving play on his own, but he's got talent to spare.

13. Florida Panthers - Arthur Kaliyev, LW, OHL

There are a variety of opinions on Kaliyev, and some of the more negative ones contain legitimate critique. That being said, he's the second-best goal-scorer in the draft after Caufield (who's a more well-rounded player) due to his hockey sense. With sniper type Owen Tippett already in the Panthers' pool, Florida can give Kaliyev time to work on his weaknesses - his top skating speed, for example. There's nothing that can't be fixed in development, and it likely won't require sacrificing his offensive ability.

14. Arizona Coyotes - Raphael Lavoie, C/RW, QMJHL

Lavoie has NHL size, but that's not his major draw - it's just a benefit. He's an agile skater, a smart playmaker, and someone who's put in the work year over year to show consistent improvement. All of these attributes seem like ones the Coyotes would find attractive. After swinging for the fences on Barrett Hayton last year at No. 5, who knows what route they'll take.

15. Montreal Canadiens - Philip Broberg, D, Allsvenskan

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Broberg could go earlier or even a bit later in the first round - his rankings have been all over the place of late - but it's easy to see the Canadiens drafting a defenseman, and easy to see them finding Broberg particularly attractive. He's got good vision, which allows him to anticipate the action on the ice. However, his shooting accuracy could use some work.

16. Avalanche - Bobby Brink, RW, USHL

Brink probably won't go as high as his talent deserves, but this is one spot where he's a possibility. Colorado can be a bit looser with its second pick of the round, and Brink is the kind of guy worth selecting with that freedom. His skating is good, with above-average speed and agile footwork, but Brink's real draw is his scoring ability and vision. He just needs to add some upper-body strength in college.

17. Vegas Golden Knights - Matthew Robertson, D, WHL

Cam York is also a legitimate option here, but what tips the scales for Robertson is that Vegas general manager Kelly McCrimmon is quite familiar with the WHL. Robertson is a speedy, agile skater for someone who stands 6-foot-4 (though we're approaching a point where it's no longer especially remarkable for tall skaters to be mobile), and his excellent passing skills and defensive positioning stem from his high hockey IQ.

18. Dallas Stars - Philip Tomasino, C, OHL

Do the Stars need a center? Maybe not. But Tomasino is a solid option who could slot in neatly with guys like Ty Dellandrea and Jason Robertson. He's got wicked acceleration, and he frustrated opponents with his above-average pivoting ability. He needs to add strength to translate his offensive game to the NHL level, but he's got good vision and great puck-handling skills. His defensive positioning needs work, though.

19. Ottawa Senators (via Columbus) - Moritz Seider, D, DEL

Seider has been drifting up everyone's rankings over the last little while, and rightfully so - his skill set was on full display at the World Championship, and fans and pundits alike are beginning to grasp what he brings to the table. He's an excellent, agile skater whose edgework allows him to shift direction on a dime, and he's a great puck-handler, which comes in handy when he carries it out of his own end. His defensive positioning needs to be more consistent, but that will come with time and experience.

20. Winnipeg Jets - Cam York, D, USNTDP

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York may be off the board by No. 20. He's very smart, usually making the right decision under pressure, and can connect on difficult passes. He's also an agile skater with excellent edgework, which helps to make up for the fact that his acceleration and top speed both need improvement. He could also stand to shoot more often.

21. Pittsburgh Penguins - Ryan Suzuki, C, OHL

Suzuki's flashy and fun, and if the fact he needs to improve defensively causes him to drop into the 20s, the Penguins should thank the hockey gods and snatch him up. He's tenacious and has a burning top speed that he matches with elite hockey smarts. As long as he can add upper-body strength and become more consistent in his own end, he's golden.

22. Kings (via Toronto) - Connor McMichael, C, OHL

Gabriel Vilardi's injury issues have created some questions about his future (he was the Kings' No. 11 overall pick in 2011), so L.A. would be wise to pick up another skilled center - and from the same league, no less. The well-rounded McMichael is strong at both ends of the ice thanks to his vision and hockey IQ. A smart playmaker, he's equally able to anticipate the course of play in his own end.

23. New York Islanders - Victor Soderstrom, D, SHL

Soderstrom's another defenseman who could go higher in the round. He had a great season, showcasing excellent defensive positioning while finishing the regular season with the most points of any U18 player in the SHL. He has solid offensive vision and is also a superb skater. Adding upper-body strength will give his shot more power.

24. Nashville Predators - Ville Heinola, D, Liiga

The Predators don't have an amazing prospect pool and some of their better options are on defense, so they could take a forward here. At No. 24, though, Heinola isn't the kind of guy you pass on. He's on the smaller side at 5-foot-11 and 181 pounds, but he's a terrifically agile skater with high-end smarts that he uses to make plays and cut down opponents' shooting lanes. He needs to improve his acceleration and overall speed, as well as add some muscle, but he's got a lot of potential.

25. Washington Capitals - Jakob Pelletier, LW, QMJHL

Pelletier should probably go higher than this, but will probably drop because of his size (he's 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds) and because he played in the Q. There's so much to like about this kid, though, and it starts with his elite vision and the way it allows him to anticipate the flow of play. He's an excellent playmaker, he can score, and he's a fantastic skater. His defensive positioning needs work, but that's no reason not to take a chance - especially at No. 25.

26. Calgary Flames - Egor Afanasyev, C, USHL

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Afanasyev will be playing for the Windsor Spitfires next season - and the OHL will be a good place for him to develop - but he's coming off a fantastic USHL season. He's a good skater with an excellent array of shots, and he's a smart and effective playmaker. While his defensive game needs smoothing out - he can get caught puck-watching - he's good at protecting the puck when he has it.

27. Tampa Bay Lightning - Pavel Dorofeyev, LW/RW, MHL

Dorofeyev was in a weird spot this year - he's clearly too skilled for the Russian junior leagues, but he's not quite ready to be a KHL regular. He's worth taking a swing on this late in the first round, though, especially for a team with Tampa Bay's track record. While Dorofeyev's skating could use some work, his vision, creative playmaking, and smart positioning in his own end are quite appealing.

28. Carolina Hurricanes - Robert Mastrosimone, C, USHL

Mastrosimone seems like a Rod Brind'Amour kind of guy. He's relentless and pairs his tenacity with high-end offensive skill. Though he could easily slip into the beginning of the second round, he's not a reach here. He has great hockey sense and an excellent shot, but he could be more consistent in his own end. College (Boston University) is a good place for him to refine some skills.

29. Ducks (via Buffalo) — John Beecher, C, USNTDP

Beecher doesn't get enough attention. He spent the season playing behind guys like Hughes and Zegras and saw the ice accordingly (Prospect-Stats estimates him at just under 11 minutes per game). He's worth a look, though, and could be a smart selection for the Ducks with their second pick of the round. Sixteen of his 20 USHL points in 27 games were primary points, he's a smart player, and he's difficult to knock off the puck. At 6-foot-3 and 209 pounds, he's already got NHL size, too.

30. Boston Bruins - Albin Grewe, RW, SuperElit

Grewe could slip to the second round, but he wouldn't be out of place here. Much like Mastrosimone, Grewe has a tenacious, never-quit attitude the Bruins would love. His high hockey IQ allows him to see the ice well, and he can both score and make plays. He's also demonstrated a strong work ethic, as his skating is dramatically better than it was a year ago. It's not a stretch to assume he would apply himself equally to addressing other weak areas of his game.

31. Sabres (via St. Louis) - Samuel Poulin, LW, QMJHL

Poulin's a solid choice here if the Sabres want to continue stockpiling forwards with offensive potential. He recorded 62 primary points among his 76 points - an indicator that he can drive play - and he marries his smooth offensive skill with a powerful style of play and smart positioning in his own end. His first step could use work, however, as his skating isn't quite as explosive as his future team may want it to be.

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NHL Mock Draft: What happens after Hughes and Kakko go 1-2?

Hockey fans have been spoiled of late with seemingly deep drafts, but 2019 is a bit different. The strength of this class seems to lie mostly at the top, with a chunk of potential diamond-in-the-rough players in the middle.

Slots three through 15 could play out in any number of ways. Many overagers returning to the draft pool have made quite an impression and could skew things - Brett Leason of the Prince Albert Raiders chief among them.

Here's our first attempt at projecting what general managers and scouting staffs may do with this year's crop of players.

Editor's note: Draft order determined by NHL standings along with certain assumptions made by theScore regarding playoff results.

1. New Jersey Devils - Jack Hughes, C, USNTDP

It's difficult to imagine a world in which the Devils don't take American center Jack Hughes first overall. It's not impossible, of course (nothing is until the draft is done), but it's difficult. Everything about Hughes' game is designed for the modern NHL. He skates fast and thinks faster. He can make opponents look silly. If someone tells you he's too small or will get outmuscled by NHLers, remind them that the NTDP U18s play against college teams with some players as old as 24. Size won't be an issue for Hughes.

2. New York Rangers - Kaapo Kakko, RW, Liiga

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Kakko is more than a consolation prize for the Rangers. He's skilled to the point that some pundits argue he could potentially be selected first. While we're confident Hughes is going No. 1, there is a divide between Kakko and the next group of players in this year's class. He's strong on the puck and efficient away from it, and he uses his impressive puck skills and hockey sense to torment the opposition.

3. Chicago Blackhawks - Alex Turcotte, C, USNTDP

Top five is where I've wanted to rank Turcotte all season, and it's where I had him on our first couple Big Boards. Since our most recent Big Board, he returned from injury (though later missed a few more games due to a different one) and showed how consistently and truly good he can be. Turcotte's tenacity and hockey IQ may prove difficult to pass up for a Blackhawks team that is creeping ever closer to the end of the Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane era. Bonus: If Turcotte manages to make the team while the two Chicago stalwarts are still playing, his style of play will slot in neatly alongside theirs.

4. Colorado Avalanche (via Ottawa) - Kirby Dach, C, WHL

The Avalanche may not be drafting first overall thanks to the Senators, but they still stand to walk away with a good player. Despite being 6-foot-4, Dach isn't unwieldy. He's not the best skater in the class, but it's a positive when a prospect that tall still has good agility and edge work. Dach pairs his size and skating with a high offensive ceiling, and he'll become a more consistent player as he develops.

5. Los Angeles Kings - Vasili Podkolzin, RW, MHL

There are enough high-end facets to Podkolzin's game to make him worth taking a chance on. His acceleration is above average, he's smart and tenacious with and without the puck, and he's got an excellent wrist shot. Don't let the bias against Russian players fool you - if Podkolzin's drafted by a team that's dedicated to his development, he projects to be a solid NHLer.

6. Detroit Red Wings - Cole Caufield, C/RW, USNTDP

Caufield is arguably the best goal-scorer in this draft class. A final tally of 72 goals in 64 games (1.12 per game) is difficult to debate, especially when you sit down and watch him score those goals - he's not just padding his stats by picking up passes from linemates (including projected No. 1 pick Hughes). Steve Yzerman is in charge in Detroit now, and we all know he's not afraid to take a chance on smaller skill guys. With the Red Wings in rebuild mode, there's very little downside to adding Caufield.

7. Buffalo Sabres - Bowen Byram, D, WHL

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While this year's crop of defensemen isn't as strong as last year's, Byram is eye-catching. He's a fantastic skater with a fluid stride and very good top speed, and he's just as good skating backward. One of the best parts of his game is his vision - it lets him read the best options to get a pass to a teammate through traffic, or to find or create shooting lanes for himself.

8. Edmonton Oilers - Peyton Krebs, C, WHL

Krebs has passed Dylan Cozens on our list, and here's why: Despite playing on a dramatically bad team (the Kootenay Ice won 13 of 68 games this season), Krebs averaged more than a point per game, and over 70 percent of those were primary points. That's not easy to do, especially as a draft-eligible player. Underlying numbers, including but not limited to controlled entries, indicate Krebs drives play a bit more than Cozens. The Oilers are in a tough spot. Adding more young guys who can drive offense and, in Krebs' case, who aren't afraid to get involved physically can only be a good thing.

9. Anaheim Ducks - Trevor Zegras, C/W, USNTDP

After a bleak season, adding Zegras to the standouts already in their prospect pool could offer a light at the end of the tunnel for the Ducks. Zegras marries stellar hockey sense, which allows him to anticipate the flow of the game and create plays, with high-end acceleration and puck skills. He's also effective in his own zone, using that hockey sense to limit opponents' opportunities. He's headed to Boston University in the fall where he'll have the opportunity to add strength while continuing his development.

10. Vancouver Canucks - Dylan Cozens, C/RW, WHL

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Canucks fans were likely hoping for that top lottery slot so that the Hughes brothers could be reunited, but Vancouver can still add a solid player at No. 10. Cozens is a very good prospect, despite the fact Krebs and Dach passed him in our mock. He comes with a high offensive ceiling and terrific goal-scoring ability. Any concerns about his ability to drive play can be addressed in his development. He reads his options on the ice fairly well, and while he can sometimes skate into trouble, his skating itself (including his first step and top speed) is high end.

11. Philadelphia Flyers - Matthew Boldy, LW, USNTDP

The last NTDP left winger the Flyers took has worked out OK so far, eh? While Boldy is a completely different player than Joel Farabee - not quite as relentless on the forecheck, for example, and perhaps more creative as a playmaker - there's a lot to like about the kid. He'd probably be a valid choice inside the top 10 as well as just outside it. He's got an NHL-level release, and he can set up his teammates as well as he can score himself. His vision allows him to read the play and know when to strike or when to hesitate. His defensive play noticeably improved over the course of the season, too.

12. Minnesota Wild - Alex Newhook, C, BCHL

Newhook is another player who could go just about anywhere in that No. 7-15 range, and he's likely underrated by some due to playing in the BCHL. His 102 points in 53 games this season stand out, but it's not just the numbers that make him a legitimate top prospect. He's fast and agile, and his high-end hockey sense allows him to make the right decision at top speed.

13. Florida Panthers - Philip Broberg, D, Allsvenskan

Broberg is down from his spot on our most recent board, but that has more to do with what the players ahead of him accomplished than his own performance. He looked good at the recent U18 worlds and impressed in the Swedish second-tier men's league this season. Hallmarks of Broberg's game include exceptional positioning, fluid skating, and elite hockey sense that allows him to see where the game is and where it could go. He can play in all situations, and while he could stand to improve his shooting accuracy, he has good offensive instincts.

14. Arizona Coyotes - Pavel Dorofeyev, LW/RW, MHL

Though Dorofeyev struggled to translate his scoring touch in the MHL to higher levels, he saw action in both the KHL and the Spengler Cup this season - valuable experience for a crafty young forward who shows lots of promise. He doesn't just drive play offensively; he's also active and perceptive in his own end. However, he needs to become a more explosive skater to grow into the dynamo he could be thanks to his creative puck skills and excellent vision. His top speed is good, not great, and he needs a better first step. Fortunately, those capabilities can be developed.

15. Montreal Canadiens - Arthur Kaliyev, LW, OHL

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Kaliyev is right behind Caufield as the class' best scorer, with 51 goals in 67 games this season. He's got a terrific shot arsenal, and his puck skills make him difficult to defend. He needs to be better in his own end, but that comes with time, and his goal-scoring talent is elite enough to make him worth the risk. One thing he absolutely needs to improve, however, is his skating - specifically, his first step and top speed. If he does, he'll be a far more well-rounded prospect and will absolutely benefit the Canadiens.

16. Avalanche - Philip Tomasino, C, OHL

Tomasino has experience playing down the middle and on the wing, and he's sharpened the defensive aspect of his game enough that, with his hockey sense and skating ability (he's got terrific speed and edge work), he could very well succeed as a center at the next level. In order to do that, he'll need to improve both his positioning and upper-body strength, but his work ethic is strong enough that that's not as concerning as it might be for other prospects.

17. Vegas Golden Knights - Cam York, D, USNTDP

York is a solid, complete two-way defender. His hockey sense is high end, lending itself to smart decision-making under pressure and excellent passing ability, though he could stand to get his own shot on net more consistently. (That area of his game looked more promising at the U18 worlds, where he scored four goals in seven games.) One particularly useful aspect of his skating is his agility, which allows him to pivot and change direction at the drop of a hat. His top speed may not be great, but his quick reaction time helps him get off on the right foot, so to speak.

18. Dallas Stars - Bobby Brink, RW, USHL

Brink seems to make things happen every time he's on the ice. He's an explosive and agile skater who can make high-quality plays at his top speed. Brink is also good in his own end, anticipating the moves of opponents and using that knowledge to position himself to force turnovers. He's committed to the University of Denver, where he'll have the opportunity to round out his game against college competition.

19. Ottawa Senators (via Columbus) - Matthew Robertson, D, WHL

At 6-foot-4, Robertson is surprisingly mobile, with above-average speed in both directions. He's smart, maintains good gap control, and knows when to jump up into the play (and, more importantly, when not to). He can start the rush and make sneaky-good passes to his teammates, using his agility to create shooting lanes. While he may never put up high-end offensive numbers himself, it wouldn't be surprising to see Robertson help drive play.

20. Carolina Hurricanes - Ryan Suzuki, C, OHL

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Suzuki is incredibly gifted offensively. The younger brother of Canadiens prospect Nick Suzuki, Ryan has terrific hands and is flashier with the puck than Nick. He also goes in hard on the forecheck, using his instincts to force turnovers that he can sometimes turn into opportunities the other way. He's got a burning top speed, thinks the game at a very high level, and is just plain fun to watch. He'd be a fine addition to the Hurricanes' group of young forwards, though he'll probably spend another year in the OHL first.

21. Rangers (via Winnipeg) - Victor Soderstrom, D, SHL

The Rangers got the forward their rebuild needed in Kakko. Now it's time to nab a defenseman. Soderstrom played in the top Swedish league this season, and his seven points were the most for any U18 player who appeared in the league this year. His elite skating allows him to pivot quickly and transition from offense to defense - crucial in today's NHL. His vision and puck skills are also high end.

22. Pittsburgh Penguins - Connor McMichael, C, OHL

Connor McWho? He's no McDavid, but Connor McMichael is a valuable prospect, and with more opportunity this season came more production. Last year, McMichael had six points in 28 games. This year, he put up 72 points in 67 games - and 63 of those were primary points. His production is driven by excellent hockey sense and puck skills, and he's strong in his own zone as well. It's time for Pittsburgh to stop trading away first-round picks and start restocking the cupboards, and a smart player like McMichael would be a great place to start.

23. Kings (via Toronto) - Ville Heinola, D, Liiga

Another draft-eligible defenseman who spent the season in a top European men's league, Heinola also won gold with Finland at the 2019 world juniors. A strong and agile skater, he could stand to improve his first step and get a bit quicker. Still, his mobility, combined with the vision to effectively start the transition game and create opportunities for his teammates, would make selecting him a step in the right direction for L.A.

24. Nashville Predators - Raphael Lavoie, C/RW, QMJHL

Lavoie has shown consistent offensive improvement over his three years with the Halifax Mooseheads, who seem to continually churn out NHL-caliber forwards. He's another prospect with NHL size, already standing 6-foot-4, and he's quite agile and fast considering. One of the highlights of his game is his quick release, but he's also got the vision to be an effective playmaker.

25. Washington Capitals - Egor Afanasyev, C, USHL

As Muskegon's top-line center, Afanasyev made a strong case for himself to be a first-round pick this year. He's got excellent hands, and his offensive production leaped from 14 points in 45 games last season to 62 in 58. More importantly, he has elite skating ability, with good edge work that allows him to be elusive and a smooth, fluid stride. While he could improve his decision-making in his own end, the rest of his game is appealing enough to take a chance on.

26. Calgary Flames - Samuel Poulin, LW, QMJHL

Poulin is another player with impressive primary point production: 62 of his 76 points came from either goals or primary assists. He's a power-forward type, with the size that more traditional scouts like to see combined with a killer shot, passionate work ethic, and good puck-protection skills. He needs to work on his first step to improve his quickness and be more explosive in his skating.

27. Tampa Bay Lightning - Moritz Seider, D, DEL

Keep an eye on Seider, who's been ranked anywhere from 11th to 27th this year. The German defenseman played in the top German men's league this season and helped his teammates win D1A world juniors gold. Seider is a great skater with good vision and strong shots. He sometimes gets out of position in his own end while looking for a hit, but that part of his game can be coached and developed.

28. New York Islanders - Jakob Pelletier, LW, QMJHL

At 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, Pelletier is small by hockey standards, but in a draft with Cole Caufield, no one should care about that. Pelletier is an excellent skater (particularly when it comes to his first step and acceleration), and his hockey IQ allows him to read his options and make the best play for the situation, setting up his teammates for quality opportunities. His defensive positioning could use work, but he's got time.

29. Ducks (via St. Louis) - Brett Leason, C, WHL

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Leason will be 20 years old by the time of the draft - which would make it very unusual for him to be chosen in the first round - but he's consistently been ranked either inside or just barely outside the first round for good reason. He can score effectively thanks to his quick release, he's got quality vision that allows him to set up teammates, and he's dramatically improved his skating over the last season or so. Plus, scuttlebutt suggests that scouts just really like the guy. Realistically, Leason will probably fall to the second round, but the Ducks are in a position to take a chance with their second first-round pick.

30. Buffalo Sabres (via San Jose) - Albin Grewe, RW, SuperElit

Grewe is another prospect more likely to go in the second round than the first, but with the Sabres' second pick, they're playing with house money. Grewe's been a power-forward type in the SuperElit, with good vision and slick puck skills. His energy is relentless, and he's one of the hardest-working guys whenever he's on the ice. If he can translate his offensive production to a higher league, he'll be a solid addition to Buffalo's top six down the road.

31. Boston Bruins - Robert Mastrosimone, C, USHL

Mastrosimone is perhaps a slight reach at No. 31, but at this point in the first round, there's too much to like about his game, starting with the fact that 51 of his 60 regular-season points were primary. He's a goal-scorer for sure, and his skating improved over the season (though it could still stand to get better). Bonus: He'll be right in the Bruins' backyard at Boston University next season, where he'll have plenty of opportunities to keep developing his game away from the puck.

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NHL Prospect Notebook: Who goes 3rd overall, Cozens or Dach?

We're well into the second half of the hockey season. The world juniors are behind us (congratulations on building a powerhouse development program, Finland) and NHL Central Scouting released its midterm rankings with Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko topping the North American and European rankings, respectively.

Some highlights: the WHL is having a strong year with three players listed among the top five North American skaters, and the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP) U-18 team has six players in the top 15.

Prospect spotlight

February's spotlight is split between two players because the pair has us torn on who should rank third overall on our next NHL Prospect Big Board. They are, of course, WHL standout centers Dylan Cozens and Kirby Dach.

Cozens, who plays for the Lethbridge Hurricanes, boasts some of the best skating skills in the draft despite standing 6-foot-3. Opponents don't like him much, not only because he can get down the ice at top speeds, but because he's an intelligent and consistent player. He's got 27 goals and 62 points in 53 games this season. Cozens probably won't be the guy you look to for the flashy, creative play, but that doesn't matter. He scores anyway and he's effective in any situation.

Dach plays for the Saskatoon Blades and there's a lot to like about him as well. He's already got NHL size at 6-foot-4 and 198 lbs and brings elite hockey smarts and an offensive ceiling that draws the eyes of many scouts. Dach's 57 points in 50 games aren't as flashy as Cozens' totals, but his puck skills and ability to read and project the play around him are impressive.

Marissa Baecker / Getty Images Sport / Getty

In the minors

The Pittsburgh Penguins recently called up prospect Teddy Blueger, who has 21 goals in the AHL this season, and so far so good. The forward has two goals and an assist in six NHL games, so don't expect him back any time soon, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

The Chicago Blackhawks sent defenseman Henri Jokiharju down to the Rockford IceHogs, citing a need for him to play more minutes. Jokiharju is only 19 and the fact he made the Blackhawks out of training camp was no small feat. His assignment to the AHL will allow him to play regularly against top competition and on the power play. If the Blackhawks trade Duncan Keith or Brent Seabrook ahead of the trade deadline, though, don't be surprised to see Jokiharju back in Chicago to close out the season.

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Washington Capitals forward prospect Riley Barber was named AHL Player of the Month in January, amassing seven goals and 14 points in 10 games for the Hershey Bears. Barber, a member of the 2013 U.S. team that won world junior gold, already has more points this season (41 in 43 games) than he finished with last year (38 points in 60 games).

Meanwhile, Carolina Hurricanes goaltending prospect Alex Nedeljkovic was named AHL Goaltender of the Month. Nedeljkovic went 6-0-0 in January, posting a .938 save percentage and two shutouts for the Charlotte Checkers. He also made his first NHL start with the Hurricanes in a 5-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks.

The new class

Jack Hughes missed the 2019 Under-18 Five Nations Tournament in Sochi, Russia earlier this month, but not before moving into second place in USNTDP career assists in January. He's currently at 119 helpers - three behind all-time leader Jeremy Bracco - with the potential to tie or pass Bracco when he returns from injury.

Forward Bobby Brink of the Sioux City Musketeers is back from the ankle injury he sustained and played through at the World Junior A Challenge. Brink had eight points for the U.S. in that tournament en route to a gold medal. The Denver commit, who some feel is a potential first-round prospect, has 17 goals and 39 points in 23 games with the Musketeers.

Vancouver Giants defenseman and 2019 top prospect Bowen Byram was named WHL Player of the Month for January after recording 19 points in 13 games. He's been solid in February so far, too, with two goals and six points in six games.

Marissa Baecker / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Forward Arthur Kaliyev of the OHL's Hamilton Bulldogs is one of the best - if not the best - pure goal-scorers in this year's draft. He has 42 goals and 83 points in 53 games. While some forwards who score a lot in junior aren't able to do the same in the NHL, Kaliyev's shot arsenal sure makes it seem like he won't have much trouble.

Junior leagues

New York Islanders defensive prospect Bode Wilde is having himself a season with the OHL's Saginaw Spirit. With 13 goals and 54 points in 46 games, Wilde's proving that choosing major-junior hockey over college hockey was the right move for him. It's not necessarily that he's facing easier competition than he would have in college, or that he wouldn't be able to hack it in college hockey. Rather, it's about finding the environment best suited to improving the small things in his game. He still has a tendency to take risks he probably shouldn't, but his playmaking has improved; he's learning to use his high-end hockey smarts effectively at game speed.

Dallas Stars prospect Ty Dellandrea, captain and center for the OHL's Flint Firebirds, is another player having an impressive Draft+1 year. Selected 13th overall by the Stars last June, Dellandrea was one of Canada's first cuts ahead of the 2019 world juniors. He seems to be using that as motivation in the second half of his season and has 17 goals and 53 points in 47 games thanks to his high-end skating and puck-handling skills. He could stand to develop more patience instead of continually forcing the play to the middle when he's battling along the boards, but Dallas should feel encouraged. Dellandrea's trending in the right direction, and he's doing it on a team that doesn't exactly provide the best developmental setting.

Graig Abel / Getty Images Sport / Getty

School days

Quinn Hughes is essentially the best prospect outside the NHL right now. He's got 29 points in 26 games with the University of Michigan, but even those numbers don't fully showcase how efficiently he drives play. Hughes may join the Vancouver Canucks to close out the NHL season depending on when his NCAA campaign ends, but there are still several options at play. He could potentially sign an entry-level contract beginning next season and play out the remainder of this year on an amateur tryout with the AHL's Utica Comets.

Dave Reginek / Getty Images Sport / Getty

In other news

Keep an eye on your favorite team. We're swiftly approaching the point in the season where front offices start considering signing NCAA free agents - college players who went undrafted - as well as their own NCAA prospects. Sometimes those signings are a good idea. Look at the Pittsburgh Penguins and Zach Aston-Reese, for example. Sometimes the players merely turn into depth AHL players. Half the fun is waiting to see which way your team's coin-flip lands.

Hannah Stuart keeps a close eye on both drafted and draft-eligible prospects and can usually be found trying to learn more about hockey analytics. She has previously written for FanRag Sports, The Hockey Writers, and Hooked On Hockey Magazine, and can also be found at High Heels and High Sticks. Find her on Twitter at @HockeyWthHannah.

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Film Room: Hurricanes finally have a true No. 1 center in Aho

The Carolina Hurricanes have lacked a game-changer at center ever since Eric Staal's heyday, but it appears that player is here. With 24 goals and 39 assists through 56 games this season, Sebastian Aho is thriving as Carolina's No. 1 center after moving from the wing in December following Jordan Staal's injury.

So, what makes Aho so dynamic? Let's study the film.


We'll begin with Aho’s skating, because here’s the thing - it's amazing. Take this example from Carolina's matchup with Vegas on Feb. 1, in which Aho absolutely embarrasses defenseman Deryk Engelland. After carrying the puck around the perimeter of the offensive zone, Aho comes down the left side and Engelland thinks the shooting lane is cut off. Oops ...

Courtesy: NHL

As seen above, Aho stops on a dime and immediately wheels backward out of Engelland’s path, sliding over to the right and opening up a shooting lane as the defender falls to the ice. The move requires serious agility and balance, which Aho displays while controlling the puck with his backhand. It's even more impressive from this angle:


Aho uses his dynamic skating to create scoring opportunities for himself, which are necessary on a Hurricanes team that's middle of the pack when it comes to lighting the lamp. In fact, no other player on the roster has exceeded 15 goals this season, so Aho's production has been vital following the trade of Jeff Skinner in the summer.

On Jan. 13, Aho recorded a hat trick against Nashville, with the first goal coming on a breakaway. As seen below, Aho receives the puck and takes off, showcasing the top speed that burns so many opposing defenders. He handles the puck deftly at that speed, too, and then slips it past Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne, making it look easy:

Courtesy: NHL


This next sequence - which leads to Aho's second goal against Nashville - features his ability to read the ice and project how a play will unfold. It's just Aho's third NHL season, but the 21-year-old already possesses incredible hockey IQ, allowing him to slow the game down, read his options, and make the best choice.

Here, Aho begins with the puck and makes a pair of passes along the right side of the offensive zone. As the play continues on the other side of the net, he finds open space closer to the crease and gets ready to receive a pass before one-timing a shot past Rinne.

Courtesy: NHL

Next, we have an example of Aho's patience and hockey sense, which lead to a goal against the Vancouver Canucks. The play begins with teammate Nino Niederreiter in a board battle, while Aho skates by the scrum at the perfect time to grab the puck and give Carolina control in the offensive zone. Aho then skates below the goal line, keeps his head up, and holds the puck until Niederreiter's ready to receive a pass in good position.

At that point, Aho passes, Nino shoots, and the Hurricanes score:

Courtesy: NHL

Defensive zone

In Staal’s absence, Aho has matched up with some of the league's top players at both ends of the ice, and he's handling his own zone like a seasoned pro. Here, we have a tiny moment against Vancouver, during which Aho shows vision in his own end by grabbing the puck and neatly sweeping it away from danger with an offensive player closing in:

Courtesy: NHL

It's a small play in the grand scheme of things, but it's a good example of Aho's hockey sense allowing him to track a play, put himself in the right place at the right time, and act quickly to limit opposing opportunities.

After playing in his first career All-Star Game last month, it would be no surprise if Aho's improving skill set leads to more appearances in the future, and to the No. 1 center job in Carolina for years to come.

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Film Room: Stars rookie Heiskanen skating out of Dahlin’s shadow

The NHL's top rookie defenseman plays for Buffalo, but he has some serious competition in the Lone Star State.

Miro Heiskanen, who doesn't turn 20 until July, has been a bright spot in a tumultuous Dallas Stars season. And while No. 1 overall pick Rasmus Dahlin understandably remains the apple of fans' eyes when it comes to first-year defensemen, Heiskanen could be a franchise cornerstone too.

Through 46 NHL games, Heiskanen's numbers aren't the flashiest - he's got nine goals and 11 assists - but his puck-moving helps his Stars create offense. He's proven difficult to rattle, even when he makes mistakes. And the factors driving his success are the same things that endeared him to scouts and made him the franchise's highest-drafted player in the Dallas era at No. 3 overall in 2017.

A key feature of Heiskanen's game is his skating, which he showed off on his second assist of a Dec. 9 game against the Vegas Golden Knights:

Courtesy: NHL

Heiskanen skates down to retrieve the puck and builds speed as he carries it through the neutral zone and into Vegas' end - then abruptly pivots and changes position to protect the puck when an opponent moves into his lane. His edge work and agility allow him to shift direction in a split second. Rather than turning over the puck, he's able to stay on top of it and fire a pass to Esa Lindell, who eventually scores a power-play goal.

Stars fans likely recall the Jan. 2 game against the New Jersey Devils primarily for Miles Wood's hit on Dallas captain Jamie Benn, but it was also the second two-goal outing of Heiskanen's NHL career. He scored the first goal in the immediate aftermath of the hit and subsequent fight, with the teams playing four on four:

Courtesy: NHL

At the beginning of the play, Heiskanen displays his puck control and excellent hands. His initial shot is denied, but when he gets the puck again a few moments later, he fakes out goalie Mackenzie Blackwood and makes it count. (Heiskanen would score his second goal in the game on his backhand.)

Before Heiskanen was drafted, there was some concern that he needed to improve his shot, despite his quick release. Although some of his shots are obviously effective at the NHL level already, adding upper-body strength would help him put more power behind all of them.

Good defensive play can be harder to recognize than good offensive play; it's more often something that you notice when it's missing. Heiskanen's game is no exception. When the Stars played the Montreal Canadiens on New Year's Eve, his defensive lapse in overtime contributed to Montreal's game-winner, but he was superb during the rest of the contest, as he is here:

Courtesy: NHL

With just over a minute left in the first period, the Canadiens clear the puck. Heiskanen outraces the Montreal skater, using his body positioning to hold him off, and carries the puck up ice. He successfully blows past another Canadiens player and then makes a perfect pass to fellow defenseman John Klingberg to kick off a four-on-three rush. It's a great example of how good defense can quickly turn into offense.

Heiskanen also displayed his defensive prowess against the Devils:

Courtesy: NHL

With three minutes to go in the third period, the Devils looking for the tying goal, and goaltender Ben Bishop tied up on the other side of the crease, Heiskanen finds himself in the right place at the right time and sweeps the puck away and up the ice before it can cross the goal line.

Heiskanen's a composed, steady player. That's partly because he doesn't just see where the puck is, but he's able to project where it's going to be. Of course, he makes some mistakes - he's a rookie who's still adjusting to North American ice, never mind the NHL - but he has the skill set to be successful at this level for a long time. In the first period against Vegas, he exhibited several of his best qualities on a single play:

Courtesy: NHL

Heiskanen receives a pass and skates the puck through the neutral zone and into the Knights' end. When it looks like the defense might cut him off, he passes to a teammate. He then heads to the net to receive a pass, firing a shot at Vegas netminder Marc-Andre Fleury without hesitation.

Though that play didn't produce a goal, it does show off Heiskanen's skating, puck skills, and perhaps the most important part of his game: his hockey IQ. Heiskanen consistently knows where he needs to be in order to be the most effective. He also recognizes when he can handle a situation on his own and when it's better for him to get the puck to a teammate (and can often do so successfully). That's mature decision-making for a teenager in his first NHL season, and it should serve as the foundation for a productive career.

Hannah Stuart keeps a close eye on both drafted and draft-eligible prospects and can usually be found trying to learn more about hockey analytics. She has previously written for FanRag Sports, The Hockey Writers, and Hooked On Hockey Magazine, and can also be found at High Heels and High Sticks. Find her on Twitter @HockeyWthHannah.

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Prospect Big Board 3.0: Podkolzin, Zegras climb, Hughes still No. 1

The champagne's been popped, the calendar's turned, and the world juniors are over - it's now 2019, and the next NHL Entry Draft is less than six months away.

Without further ado, here's the third edition of theScore's Prospect Big Board (player ages and stats as of Wednesday, Jan. 9):

1. Jack Hughes

C | 5-foot-10 | 168 lbs | U.S. National Team Development Program
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 1

26 12 38 50

Hughes is still hockey's top prospect - and barring some dramatic, unforeseen event, that isn’t going to change. While he sat out three games at the world juniors, Hughes did produce four assists in four appearances and had moments when it seemed like his numbers would have been much better with different wingers. Regardless, his speed and electric skill set were on display during most shifts, and we should expect a big second half with the U.S. National Team Development Program and at the Under-18 World Championship in April.

2. Kaapo Kakko

Rich Lam / Getty Images Sport / Getty

RW | 6-foot-1 | 181 lbs | TPS (Liiga, Jr. A SM-liiga)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 2

27 9 11 20

Kakko's tournament-winning goal for Finland at the world juniors was just the latest example of why he's a star in the making. Though he's still behind Hughes, there's a wide gap between Kakko and the next tier of prospects, and his advanced hockey sense is a big reason. It’s not the only reason, though, as he also brings an appealing combination of composure, high-end puck skills, and physicality.

3. Kirby Dach

C | 6-foot-4 | 198 lbs | Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 3

39 16 30 46

Dylan Cozens and Peyton Krebs are hot on his heels, but at this point we still prefer Dach. While his scoring pace has slowed down - thanks to an 11-game stretch with just one assist - Dach still has more points than games played. With a high offensive ceiling and an NHL-ready frame, he looks to be solidly in the top five.

4. Vasily Podkolzin

RW | 5-foot-11 | 165 lbs | SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 8

10 5 2 7

If you're wondering why Podkolzin's only played 10 MHL games ... well, he had a very busy December. The winger followed up an excellent Hlinka-Gretzky Cup performance by representing Russia at both the World Junior-A Challenge, where he had eight points in six games and won silver, and the world juniors, where he had three points in seven games and earned bronze. It's easy to like Podkolzin when you see his tenacity in these best-on-best matchups - especially against older players at the world juniors - while he's a smart, creative forward who's effective at both ends of the ice.

5. Dylan Cozens

C | 6-foot-3 | 176 lbs | Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 6

39 23 32 55

Cozens was the 2017-18 WHL Rookie of the Year for a reason. He's the full package - a complete, confident player who makes smart decisions, battles hard, and burns opponents with high-end speed. Don’t be surprised if Cozens moves up even higher as the season wears on. Keep an eye out for him - and others - in the upcoming CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.

6. Bowen Byram

Marissa Baecker / Getty Images Sport / Getty

D | 6-foot-1 | 192 lbs | Vancouver Giants (WHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 4

38 10 23 33

Byram's still the top defenseman in this year’s class, as his terrific skating, excellent poise, and high-end vision make him a one-man breakout machine. He's occasionally caught out of position, but it's the type of risk that comes with young, dynamic puck-moving defensemen, and an area where Byram should improve as he matures.

7. Matthew Boldy

LW | 6-foot-0 | 174 lbs | USNTDP
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 7

33 20 17 37

Boldy's improved shot and skating ability - combined with silky hands and composure - make him another appealing product of the U.S. development program. He takes advantage of every opening to create opportunities for himself and his teammates, and he managed to keep producing just fine without Jack Hughes (which is also a credit to teammate Trevor Zegras, who's one spot back).

8. Trevor Zegras

C | 5-foot-11 | 159 lbs | USNTDP
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 13

32 13 33 46

Zegras is sometimes hidden behind Hughes with the USNTDP, but he showcased his high-end skills during the latter's time at the world juniors. As a crafty playmaker and an excellent skater, Zegras creates chances for his teammates and embarrasses opponents.

9. Alex Newhook

C | 5-foot-11 | 183 lbs | Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 10

35 21 42 63

Newhook still possesses the raw skills we liked so much early in the season - burning speed and playmaking ability - but he needs to pick it back up in the second half following a less-than-impressive World Junior-A Challenge. On a more positive note, Newhook's only three points away from last year's point totals in 10 fewer games.

10. Philip Broberg

Marissa Baecker / Getty Images Sport / Getty

D | 6-foot-3 | 198 lbs | AIK J20 (SuperElit)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 19

28 0 7 7

Broberg, a smooth-skating defenseman with power behind his stride, has leapfrogged up these rankings, in part due to a respectable performance as an underager at the world juniors. While he's got space for growth (especially with his puckhandling skills), Broberg projects to be a solid player at the next level.

11. Peyton Krebs

LW | 5-foot-11 | 181 lbs | Kootenay Ice (WHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 9

38 14 33 47

Krebs is an exciting, tenacious, well-rounded player who could certainly be selected inside the top 10. He performs well under pressure, and his elite offensive production is largely due to his excellent vision.

12. Ryan Suzuki

C | 6-foot-0 | 172 lbs | Barrie Colts (OHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 12

37 12 28 40

While he needs to improve his game away from the puck, Suzuki's a creative and exciting forward. Teams will salivate over his puckhandling skills and his high-end vision.

13. Cole Caufield

C/RW | 5-foot-6 | 154 lbs | USNTDP
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 15

33 28 11 39

Sure, he's small, but so is Alex DeBrincat. Caufield's offensive instincts and terrific skating ability - along with having virtually no quit in his game - make him a threat nearly every time he's on the ice.

14. Alex Turcotte

C | 5-foot-11 | 194 lbs | USNTDP
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 5

11 6 8 14

Everyone rejoice - Turcotte's healthy once more and should display the skills that kept him high on this list even while missing time. He's a relentless player with strong offensive instincts who makes good decisions at both ends of the ice. And realistically, Turcotte's probably a top-10 talent, so don’t be surprised if he climbs back up these ranking.

15. Cam York

D | 5-foot-11 | 165 lbs | USNTDP
Age: 18 | Previous Rank: 11

32 2 18 20

York's a strong, mobile defenseman with a high offensive ceiling. He's also an excellent skater who's poised and continues to improve the weaker areas of his game.

16. Raphael Lavoie

Minas Panagiotakis / Getty Images Sport / Getty

C/LW | 6-foot-4 | 192 lbs | Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Age: 18 | Previous Rank: 14

37 19 24 43

Lavoie scored an invite to Canada’s world junior pre-tournament camp, and that's nothing to sneeze at. The projected power forward has an accurate and heavy shot, while he's good at protecting the puck.

17. Victor Soderstrom

D | 5-foot-11 | 176 lbs | Brynas IF J18/J20 (J18 Elit/SuperElit)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 17

14 1 7 8

Soderstrom's an offensively minded puck-mover who, despite his size, isn’t afraid to get involved in the physical side of the game. He's also recorded four points, including two goals, in 22 SHL games this season.

18. Matthew Robertson

D | 6-foot 3 | 201 lbs | Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 18

32 5 16 21

Robertson isn't the flashiest defender out there when it comes to offense, but he's smart, plays in all situations, and is pretty mobile for a guy who stands 6-foot-4.

19. Arthur Kaliyev

LW | 6-foot-2 | 190 lbs | Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 16

40 31 32 63

Kaliyev may not be at a goal-per-game pace anymore, but he's always dangerous thanks to his excellent release. He protects the puck well and isn’t afraid to get into difficult spots.

20. Connor McMichael

C | 6-foot-0 | 170 lbs | London Knights (OHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 36

37 25 21 46

McMichael's terrific vision, hockey IQ, and point production in the OHL make him an appealing prospect. He's also a good skater and playmaker who works hard in all three zones.

21. Nolan Foote

Marissa Baecker / Getty Images Sport / Getty

LW | 6-foot-3 | 187 lbs | Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 24

37 20 15 35

22. Anttoni Honka

D | 5-foot-10 | 170 lbs | JYP (Liiga)
Age: 18 | Previous Rank: 22

15 1 3 4

23. Jakob Pelletier

LW/RW | 5-foot-9 | 161 lbs | Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 27

39 21 34 55

24. Maxim Cajkovic

LW/RW | 5-foot-11 | 187 lbs | Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Age: 18 | Previous Rank: 26

33 8 14 22

25. John Beecher

C | 6-foot-3 | 203 lbs | USNTDP
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 25

32 4 14 18

26. Moritz Seider

D | 6-foot-4 | 183 lbs | Adler Mannheim (DEL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 21

24 1 3 4

27. Robert Mastrosimone

C | 5-foot-10 | 170 lbs | Chicago Steel (USHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 28

22 12 10 22

28. Samuel Poulin

LW | 6-foot-1 | 207 lbs | Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: NR

39 15 26 41

29. Bobby Brink

C/W | 5-foot-10 | 165 lbs | Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 34

19 15 18 33

30. Mikko Kokkonen

D | 5-foot-11 | 190 lbs | Jukurit (Liiga)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 20

34 1 11 12

31. Albin Grewe

Dave Reginek / Getty Images Sport / Getty

C/RW | 6-foot-0 | 176 lbs | Djurgårdens IF J20 (SuperElit)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 23

19 11 17 28

32. Phillip Tomasino

C | 6-foot-0 | 181 lbs | Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 37

38 19 22 41

33. Alex Vlasic

D | 6-foot-6 | 192 lbs | USNTDP
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 33

31 3 10 13

34. Nils Hoglander

LW | 5-foot-9 | 185 lbs | Rogle BK (SHL)
Age: 18 | Previous Rank: 29

28 4 3 7

35. Spencer Knight

G | 6-foot-3 | 198 lbs | USNTDP
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: NR

16 2.45 .921 0

36. Valentin Nussbaumer

C | 5-foot-11 | 165 lbs | Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
Age: 18 | Previous Rank: 42

30 7 11 18

37. Ben Brinkman

D | 6-foot-1 | 181 lbs | University of Minnesota (NCAA)
Age: 18 | Previous Rank: 40

19 1 4 5

38. Thomas Harley

D | 6-foot-3 | 183 lbs | Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 45

39 6 27 33

39. Tobias Bjornfot

D | 6-foot-0 | 187 lbs | Djurgårdens IF J20 (SuperElit)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 44

24 6 6 12

40. Pavel Dorofeyev

LW/RW | 6-foot-0 | 163 lbs | Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk (MHL)
Age: 18 | Previous Rank: 41

15 13 11 24

41. Marshall Warren

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

D | 5-foot-11 | 168 lbs | USNTDP
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: NR

27 5 11 16

42. Sasha Mutala

RW | 6-foot-1 | 198 lbs | Tri-City Americans (WHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 32

35 9 13 22

43. Blake Murray

C | 6-foot-3 | 185 lbs | Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 39

37 14 10 24

44. Lassi Thomson

D | 6-foot-0 | 187 lbs | Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Age: 18 | Previous Rank: 48

38 7 18 25

45. Simon Holmstrom

RW | 5-foot-11 | 172 lbs | HV71 J20 (SuperElit)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 31

9 4 2 6

46. Ryan Johnson

D | 6-foot-0 | 161 lbs | Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 43

23 2 9 11

47. Cole Mackay

RW | 5-foot-11 | 185 lbs | Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: NR

39 14 22 36

48. Egor Afanasyev

LW | 6-foot-3 | 203 lbs | Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: NR

28 16 20 36

49. Matvei Guskov

C | 6-foot-1 | 172 lbs | London Knights (OHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 49

29 7 13 20

50. Dustin Wolf

G | 6-foot-0 | 161 lbs | Everett Silvertips (WHL)
Age: 17 | Previous Rank: 50

37 1.80 .929 3

Hannah Stuart keeps a close eye on both drafted and draft-eligible prospects and can usually be found trying to learn more about hockey analytics. She has previously written for FanRag Sports, The Hockey Writers, and Hooked On Hockey Magazine, and can also be found at High Heels and High Sticks. Find her on Twitter @HockeyWthHannah.

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

5 players who have shown the most upside at the WJHC

For many players, the World Junior Championship is the first time they’ll play in front of an international audience. The stakes are undeniably high. While one tournament shouldn’t be enough to completely tank or skyrocket a player’s stock, it is a great opportunity for them to showcase the work they’ve put in and the growth they’ve achieved.

Here are some players we feel really showed off their skill at this year’s WJHC.

Tyler Madden - USA (Vancouver Canucks)

Madden, a 2018 third-rounder (68th overall) of the Vancouver Canucks, has certainly made an impression during his first games in front of his potential future team's fans. He’s been one of the United States' most aggressive players offensively, driving the net and pushing play forward. Madden has great hockey sense, but he's a pretty small guy in his draft year - listed at 5-foot-11 and 152 pounds - so it makes sense that he was lower on some of the more traditional scouting lists. Still, this tournament has made it clear that, at least against his peers, Madden has what it takes.

In the quarterfinal, he had the most ice time among American forwards with 18:17. He was named player of the game in the USA’s round-robin win over Finland. It took time for his efforts to show up on the scoresheet, but anyone paying attention could see that Madden was continually making life difficult for opponents. He makes great plays and he’s starting to adjust his game to a faster pace. While he’s still got some work to do, signs point toward a future as a solid middle-six NHL forward.

Alexander Romanov - Russia (Montreal Canadiens)

Rich Lam / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Romanov, the 2018 Montreal Canadiens second-round pick (38th overall) impressed everyone from the word go at this year’s tournament. On a team that doesn’t have a lot going for it defensively, he’s consistently impressed. And he’s not just doing his best to shut down opponents - he’s been contributing at the other end as well.

Going into the medal games, Romanov is behind only Grigori Denisenko for the team lead in points with seven in six games, including one goal. He’s been playing heavy minutes for Russia, taking on difficult competition, and while it took the team a while to get clicking, Romanov was playing well from the start.

Ryan Poehling - USA (Montreal Canadiens)

People wondered how the USA would replace Brady Tkachuk offensively. Poehling seems to have taken that as a personal challenge. With eight points, including five goals, going into the gold-medal game, the Canadiens' 2017 first-rounder is tied for the tournament lead in points with Morgan Frost (CAN) and Artur Gatiyatov (KAZ), both of whom are no longer playing.

While the U.S. eventually fell 5-4 to Sweden, Poehling’s natural hat trick in the round-robin game drove the Americans' comeback to force overtime. He’s been an offensive force, driving the pace of play and searching for opportunities every time he takes the ice. He has shown significant growth as a player over the past year and has made a great case for himself as a tournament MVP candidate.

Philipp Kurashev - Switzerland (Chicago Blackhawks)

Rich Lam / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Kurashev has, perhaps, made the biggest impression at the world juniors. He leads the tournament in goal-scoring with six goals going into the bronze-medal game and was the engine behind Switzerland’s offense for the majority of the competition. His seven points should see him finish inside the top 10 in scoring.

Kurashev was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the fourth round (120th overall) in 2018 and is producing in the QMJHL regular season as well, with 18 goals and 25 assists in 33 games. During this tournament, he’s shown that his club numbers aren't just a product of playing in the Q. His offensive instincts have been on full display as he's played big minutes and scored in big moments, including a hat trick to lead Switzerland over Denmark and the only Swiss goal against Finland in the semifinals. His overall game is more solid than it was last season, and that has to have the Blackhawks feeling good.

Nando Eggenberger - Switzerland (2019 eligible)

Eggenberger, who captained the underdog Swiss team to almost unbelievable heights in this year’s tournament, has used the world juniors to show exactly why he should’ve been drafted - not passed over - in 2018. Going into the bronze-medal game against Russia, Eggenberger has four points in six games in his third WJHC appearance. It’s a solid addition to his performances with the OHL's Oshawa Generals so far this season.

Along with Kurashev, Eggenberger has been a critical part of Switzerland's attack, consistently pushing the pace. He’s a good skater, is deceptively speedy, and has a great release and solid hockey sense; he clearly came into the tournament with a drive to put all of those skills to work.

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5 burning questions for the 2019 world juniors

Here are five key questions about the 2019 world junior hockey championship, which begins Dec. 26 in Vancouver.

Who are the favorites?

On paper, four countries stand out: Canada, Finland, Russia, and the United States. You can read more details in our team-by-team previews, but these rosters appear to be the deepest, especially when it comes to goal-scoring threats.

Out of that group, Canada's likely the favorite to repeat as champion, but will be without talented forwards Gabe Vilardi and Alex Formenton due to injuries. Finland's filled with some serious skill, but is also missing several of its best age-eligible players, including Kristian Vesalainen and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Russia has a deep roster, but it's a green one in terms of experience at the world juniors. Meanwhile, the Americans pack a lot of firepower up front, but will have to face both Finland and Sweden in group play.

There are also potential contenders outside that top four. The Czech Republic - with AHLers Filip Zadina, Martin Kaut, and Martin Necas - is surprisingly deep up front, while Sweden's always a factor, even with a less impressive roster than usual this year.

How will top NHL prospects Jack Hughes (U.S.) and Kaapo Kakko (Finland) fare in their head-to-head matchup?

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

It'll sure be fun to find out.

Hughes and Kakko - the top two prospects for the 2019 NHL draft - will meet when the United States and Finland face off on New Year's Eve. Here's how both players are faring in their respective leagues this season:

  • Hughes: 10 goals, 38 assists in 25 games (U.S. National Team Development Program)
  • Kakko: 9 goals, 11 assists in 27 games (Finnish Liiga)

It's also important to put those numbers in context. The U.S. National Team Development Program plays against college and USHL opponents, while Kakko is facing men in the Finnish Liiga - a much more difficult situation for a 17-year-old. In both cases, the production is very impressive.

And of course, a player's performance in a short tournament can only affect their draft stock so much. It would take an overwhelmingly good tournament from Kakko (and a pretty bad one from Hughes) for the top-pick conversation to shift significantly in the former's favor. Even then, it's unlikely Kakko would overtake Hughes, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy watching them battle it out.

Can the Americans replace Brady Tkachuk?

Tkachuk was a big reason that Team USA claimed bronze at the 2018 world juniors, but he'll be sticking with the Ottawa Senators this time around. So, who can help replace his combination of point production and tenacity?

From an offensive perspective, the Americans have serious forward depth. Contributions from guys like Joel Farabee, Ryan Poehling, Jack Hughes, and Oliver Wahlstrom, among others, should lead to plenty of goals.

But how about replacing Tkachuk's feisty, irritating nature? One possible answer might surprise you. In Team USA's final pre-tournament game against the Czech Republic, defenseman Quinn Hughes (Jack's brother) decided he didn't like a hit from Jakub Lauko, and the gloves flew.

"I think me and him were going at it the entire game, and I saw him hit a couple other guys a little dirty, so I just didn’t really appreciate that too much," Quinn said afterward.

When it was pointed out that fighting isn't usually part of his game, the defenseman noted that "it can be." Maybe he got some tips from Tkachuk, his old roommate with the U.S. National Development Team.

How will Kazakhstan stack up against heavyweights?

Laszlo Szirtesi / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Kazakhstan's back in the top division of the world juniors for the first time in a decade, but finds itself in a difficult group that includes the Americans, Sweden, and Finland. One good sign? The Kazakhs won all their pre-tournament games against Canadian university teams, which should at least boost their confidence level.

Their best chance for a win in group play is likely against Slovakia, and even that would be tough to pull off. It's likely we'll see the Kazakhs in the relegation round - will they survive and return in 2020, or end up being a one-and-done?

Meanwhile, Germany won the lower-level tournament earlier this month, earning a spot at the world juniors in 2020.

Who will be the top scorer?

In short tournaments, a wide range of players can end up with the most points. And the scoring race will be impacted by how often players see the ice and whether they're given power-play opportunities - those on deeper rosters will face more competition for minutes from their star teammates.

Meanwhile, the top scorer will likely come from a team that goes deeper into the tournament, which is no guarantee for anyone - even the favorites. From a viewer's perspective, that unpredictability is fun.

For now, these names jump to mind:

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. And every edition of the world juniors also winds up featuring an under-the-radar player who lights it up.

That's the beauty of a short tournament - almost anything can happen.

Hannah Stuart keeps a close eye on both drafted and draft-eligible prospects and can usually be found trying to learn more about hockey analytics. She has previously written for FanRag Sports, The Hockey Writers, and Hooked On Hockey Magazine, and can also be found at High Heels and High Sticks. Find her on Twitter @HockeyWthHannah.

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

World Junior Championship preview: Canada still the team to beat

The arrival of the holiday season has an additional meaning for hockey fans, even as NHL arenas go dark for a three-day stretch.

It's officially time for the world junior hockey championship. Close friends become fierce rivals. Rivals become teammates and brothers in arms. And while the games should provide plenty of drama, fans shouldn't be shocked if it's an all-North American showdown for gold.

Here's a team-by-team breakdown of this year's World Junior Championship (2018 results and team stats included).

Canada (Group A)

Kevin Light / Getty Images Sport / Getty
6-0-1 19 39 11 Champion

Head coach: Tim Hunter

Strengths: Forward depth is always a strength for Canada, and this edition of the tournament is no exception - especially since roster selection, for the most part, favored skill players over role players (which hasn't necessarily been the case in recent years).

Weaknesses: Canada's defense and goaltending are good but green. Opponents would be wise to exploit this. Though the Canadians should have the depth to recover, they've got some injury concerns: It's yet to be determined whether Jaret Anderson-Dolan, recovering from wrist surgery, will be able to play center and take faceoffs, and they're still waiting on the status of forward Brett Leason, who injured his hand in a game against the U SPORTS All-Star team.

Notable draft prospect: F Alexis Lafreniere, Rimouski (QMJHL)

Outlook: Setting out to defend last year's gold-medal win with just one returning player (Maxime Comtois) from the championship squad, Canada's chances are good. Keep an eye on players like Cody Glass, Owen Tippett, Evan Bouchard, and Ty Smith, and enjoy getting your first look at Lafreniere on the big stage. One thing to keep in mind: Beating Canada will be a battle as always - especially with this lineup - but this tournament is no longer theirs for the taking. That's good for hockey.

Sweden (Group B)

Marissa Baecker / Getty Images Sport / Getty
6-1-0 17 28 14 Runner-up

Head coach: Tomas Monten

Strengths: The mobile, skilled blue line ranks among the best in the tournament and features recent first-rounders such as Rasmus Sandin, Erik Brannstrom, Adam Boqvist, and Nils Lundqvist.

Weaknesses: Sweden lacks big-name offensive talent to match the depth of its defense, though rearguards like Boqvist and Brannstrom can contribute on the scoresheet. No stars are here to save the day. The team's going to have to score by committee.

Notable draft prospect: D Philip Broberg, AIK (HockeyAllsvenskan)

Outlook: Unlike past years, Sweden isn't one of the top squads here. Still, the Swedes could well surprise people and play spoiler. The Anaheim Ducks released Isac Lundestrom to play in the tournament, joining a forward group that includes Filip Hallander (Penguins) and Jacob Olofsson (Canadiens). And Sweden hasn't lost a round-robin game since 2007.

United States (Group B)

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty
5-2-0 14 35 19 Third place

Head coach: Mike Hastings

Strengths: Forward depth. Last year's team scored 35 goals across the tournament, and this group is poised for an equally high-scoring performance.

Weaknesses: One thing Team USA doesn't have this time around is pest Brady Tkachuk. In addition to agitating his opponents, Tkachuk lit up the scoresheet, ending the 2018 world juniors with nine points in seven games.

Notable draft prospects: F Jack Hughes, U.S. National Team Development Program; G Spencer Knight, U.S. National Team Development Program

Outlook: While the U.S. is not the gold-medal favorite, it's a strong contender. Between a deep forward corps, a blue line boasting several big-name NHL prospects, and a solid goaltending trio that should be internally competitive for the starter's spot, don't count the Americans out. If Hastings keeps them together (and he should), look out for the line of Joel Farabee, Hughes, and Oliver Wahlstrom. There's significant scoring potential thanks to their history together, both at home and in international tournaments. On the back end, keep an eye out for the highly touted Quinn Hughes (Canucks), as well as K'Andre Miller (Rangers) and Mattias Samuelsson (Sabres).

Czech Republic (Group A)

Gregory Shamus / Getty Images Sport / Getty
4-3-0 11 27 34 Fourth place

Head coach: Vaclav Varada

Strengths: Don't underestimate the additions of Filip Zadina (Detroit Red Wings), Martin Necas (Carolina Hurricanes), and Martin Kaut (Colorado Avalanche) - all of whom have played in the AHL this season - to the Czech Republic's already competitive lineup of forwards.

Weaknesses: For all their strength up front, the Czechs are not in an easy group - and if they make the quarterfinals, they'll likely have to get through an intimidating opponent.

Notable draft prospect: D Hugo Has, Tappara (U20 Jr. A SM-liiga)

Outlook: The Czechs haven't medaled at the world juniors since 2005, but as usual, they're an intriguing spoiler. With forwards including Zadina, Necas, Kaut, Boston Bruins prospect Jakub Lauko, and Edmonton Oilers prospect Ostap Safin, plus Jakub Skarek (Islanders) in net, they could potentially push for a medal if things go well. More than half the players they invited to camp already play on North American ice. At the very least, expect them to make life difficult for the other teams in Group A.

Russia (Group A)

Marissa Baecker / Getty Images Sport / Getty
2-2-1 7 19 17 Fifth place

Head coach: Valeri Bragin

Strengths: Goaltending. Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Daniil Tarasov is Russia's projected starter with Pyotr Kochetkov and Amir Miftakhov backing him up.

Weaknesses: Russia's only returning player is Klim Kostin, meaning the majority of its roster lacks any world junior experience. But the real question about the Russians is whether all their good pieces will add up to something more.

Notable draft prospect: F Vasili Podkolzin, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)

Outlook: After finishing fifth last year, expect Russia to come back with a vengeance. Most of the players have some professional experience, with a few in the KHL or the AHL full time. A few play in Canadian major-junior leagues. Keep an eye on forwards Vitali Kravtsov (Rangers), the 2018 KHL rookie of the year; Kostin (Blues); and Grigori Denisenko (Panthers). Alexander Alexeyev (Capitals) and Dmitri Samorukov (Oilers) are also worth monitoring.

Finland (Group B)

Nicholas T. LoVerde / Getty Images Sport / Getty
2-2-1 7 18 16 Sixth place

Head coach: Jussi Ahokas

Strengths: Finland's forward corps is as solid as they come - starting with Aleksi Heponiemi, who has 26 points, including eight goals, for Karpat of the Finnish Liiga this season. The puck-moving blue line is nothing to sneeze at, either.

Weaknesses: Finland's missing many of its best eligible players. Winnipeg Jets forward Kristian Vesalainen, currently playing with Jokerit of the KHL, turned down his invitation, and the Canadiens opted to keep forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Chicago Blackhawks prospect Niklas Nordgren, a forward who plays for HIFK in the Liiga, was recently injured and likely won't make the trip to Vancouver.

Notable draft prospects: F Kaapo Kakko, TPS (Liiga); D Anttoni Honka, JYP (Liiga); D Lassi Thomson, Kelowna (WHL); D Mikko Kokkonen, Jukurit (Liiga)

Outlook: For a country that's perennially among the world's top hockey powers, Finland had a rough time at last year's tourney. Fortunately for Suomi fans, things are looking up. Top-two centers Heponiemi and Rasmus Kupari can hang with the best of them, and the Predators' late release of Eeli Tolvanen makes the absences of Vesalainen and Kotkaniemi sting a little less. Finland's back end is bolstered by the late additions of Blackhawks defenseman Henri Jokiharju and Bruins blue-liner Urho Vaakanainen, who's recovered from a concussion that kept him out for nearly two months.

Slovakia (Group B)

Adam Pulicicchio / Getty Images Sport / Getty
2-3-0 6 12 17 Seventh place

Head coach: Ernest Bokros

Strengths: Much of this team plays together for most of the year, and should benefit from that chemistry and familiarity. Slovakia's also bringing back nine players from last year's roster, including five forwards.

Weaknesses: While Slovakia can usually hang around to make everyone else's lives difficult, the country's chances of extending its quarterfinals streak could hinge on goaltending - and all three of the team's netminders are new to the tournament (Jakub Kostelny was Slovakia's third goalie last year, but saw no playing time).

Notable draft prospects: F Maxim Cajkovic, Saint John (QMJHL)

Outlook: While their last medal was in 2015, this team has made the quarterfinals every year since 2001 - not an easy feat. One gets the sense, however, that Slovakia feels a bit like it's time to put up or shut up. The roster is good, not great, but Slovakia's always a threat to win games it shouldn't win on paper. Keep an eye on draft-eligible Cajkovic, as well as three Calgary Flames forward prospects who will likely be counted on for leadership: Adam Ruzicka, Milos Roman, and Martin Pospisil.

Switzerland (Group A)

Nicholas T. LoVerde / Getty Images Sport / Getty
1-4-0 3 12 28 Eighth place

Head coach: Christian Wohlwend

Strengths: More than half the players on Switzerland's roster already play in North America, so far fewer of them will need to adjust to the smaller ice.

Weaknesses: Switzerland lacks a game-breaker. Nobody on the squad can completely take over the game like Jack Hughes or make things happen from the back end like Adam Boqvist. Any wins the Swiss achieve are truly going to be a team effort.

Notable draft prospects: F Valentin Nussbaumer, Shawinigan (QMJHL)

Outlook: Since the country's never won a world-junior medal, that's presumably the target, but to get there, Switzerland needs to score more than it did last year. Another key question is whether the team's goaltending will hold up against its opponents' offensive firepower. If it can, the Swiss should be able to make the quarterfinals. From there, who knows?

Denmark (Group A)

Yelena Rusko / TASS / Getty
2-4-0 5 10 32 Ninth place

Head coach: Olaf Eller

Strengths: Tenacity is Denmark's biggest strength. It's the country's fifth consecutive year in the top division, and despite lacking big-name players, the Danes have kept hanging around and even occasionally made things tough for their competition. Eller's coaching is part of that tenacious identity and will be important again this year.

Weaknesses: With no real standout offensive talent - they had two goals in non-relegation games last year - the Danes might have trouble scoring against the heavyweights.

Notable draft prospects: G Mads Sogaard, Medicine Hat (WHL)

Outlook: Denmark doesn't want to end up in the relegation round again. To avoid that fate, it'll need to score more in round-robin games than it did in last year's tournament while relying on its netminders to keep the goal differential reasonable. While it'd be satisfying to give some of the top teams a scare, Denmark's real objective is simply to gain a sixth consecutive year in this division and a spot in next year's tournament in the Czech Republic.

Kazakhstan* (Group B)

Laszlo Szirtesi / Getty Images Sport / Getty
5-0-0 13 20 10 Promoted

*Promoted to top division by virtue of winning Division IA

Head coach: Sergei Starygin

Strengths: Many players on the Kazakhstan U20 squad have been playing together all season in the MHL, Russia's junior hockey league, for Snezhnye Barsy Astana. That familiarity benefits any team in a short tournament.

Weaknesses: Kazakhstan faces a rough road. In a group with Finland, Sweden, and the U.S., it's going to be difficult to build momentum, never mind earn a win.

Notable draft prospects: None

Outlook: For the first time in a decade, Kazakhstan is back in the top division. And while the country won't contend for a medal, avoiding relegation could be a realistic target. Players returning from the Division I win will help, including forwards Artur Gatiyatov (37 points in 38 games, including 14 goals) and Sayan Daniyar (11 goals and 27 assists). Valeri Orekhov, a 19-year-old defenseman who's spent this season in the KHL with Barys Astana, has six points in 24 games.

Hannah Stuart keeps a close eye on both drafted and draft-eligible prospects and can usually be found trying to learn more about hockey analytics. She has previously written for FanRag Sports, The Hockey Writers, and Hooked On Hockey Magazine, and can also be found at High Heels and High Sticks. Find her on Twitter @HockeyWthHannah.

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Film Room: Senators rookie Brady Tkachuk has his father’s qualities

Just 21 games into his NHL career, Brady Tkachuk is drawing comparisons to another talented but truculent winger - one he knows quite well.

Brady's father, Keith, potted 538 goals in parts of 18 NHL seasons and was as well-known for his physical play as he was for his scoring prowess. And there are plenty of similarities between father and son that go beyond the No. 7 jersey they share: Brady willingly parks himself in front of the net, pounces on any opportunity or loose puck he sees, and doesn't hesitate to mouth off to anyone who gets in his way.

The 19-year-old's overall game seems more suited for his father's era when the power forward role was far more prevalent, but with nine goals and 16 points in 21 games so far, whatever he's doing is working just fine in 2018.

Prior to being selected fourth overall by the Ottawa Senators this past summer, scouting reports on Tkachuk noted he was a fixture around the net even when he didn't have the puck. And that remains the case with the Senators. He excels at reading the play and knows the ideal time to head to the goal, as shown below in a game against the Florida Panthers:

As the primary trailer, Tkachuk swoops in unchecked and converts a Mark Stone rebound, taking advantage of a gap in coverage between Panthers defenseman Alexander Petrovic - who overskates the loose puck - and forward Mike Hoffman.

Despite having a nose for the net to rival his famous father, Brady was criticized for his weak skating prior to the draft. It's still a valid complaint at times. Although he has good speed when he gets going, his first step still lacks that explosiveness exhibited by the better skaters in the league - for example, his teammate Thomas Chabot. Tkachuk would be well-served to make that an area of focus this offseason.

That said, Tkachuk's skating has improved during his brief NHL career, though that has more to do with tenacity than physical ability:

Here, Tkachuk kicks off the rush by leaving the puck for teammate Maxime Lajoie. Recognizing the opportunity to create an odd-man rush, Tkachuk barrels to the Philadelphia Flyers' blue line ahead of the play; once the puck crosses, he immediately heads for an opening to the right of the puck-carrier. The pass misses Tkachuk, but this clip still serves as a good example of what he does best. He's not a fast or fancy skater, but he knows where to be.

The 19-year-old has proven his worth on offense despite entering Wednesday mired in a seven-game point drought. The underlying metrics suggest a bounce back is inevitable; 12 of his 16 points (including seven of his nine goals) have come at even strength, while he has just four secondary assists. Advanced stats like him, too: According to Corsica, at even strength, Tkachuk's primary points per 60 minutes of play currently sits at 1.91. In all situations, his primary P/60 is 2.95. That's good, particularly when you consider the majority of his shifts begin in the defensive zone.

More significantly, Tkachuk has made an impact even when he's not racking up the points. He ranks fifth among first-year players in hits with 52 and, despite weighing under 200 lbs, is happy to tangle with foes big or small. Here's an example that would make dad proud:

At the moment, his predilection for provoking opponents isn't a problem. According to Evolving Hockey, Tkachuk is even on major penalties taken and drawn and has only taken one more minor penalty than he's drawn. So he isn't making himself a liability ... yet.

That said, it would be wise for him to steer clear of his dad's example - Keith racked up more than 2,200 career penalty minutes - and instead mimic his brother Matthew, a winger for the Calgary Flames. At one point during the 2017-18 season, Matthew had the most minor penalties drawn in the NHL over a 13-month span.

The Senators would love to see Brady become that type of player. Ottawa ranks last in five-on-five shot-attempt differential (minus-457) by a significant margin but is a respectable 12th in power-play success rate (21.8 percent) while seeing the ninth-most power-play time in the league (170:16). The ability to draw more penalties might earn Tkachuk more time with the man advantage - he's at 2:14 per game at the moment, good for 10th on the team.

But Tkachuk's contentious - and irritating - moments are both a signifier and byproduct of the tenacious, relentless nature that drives him. And that isn't about to change, especially when it leads to results like this:

Here, Tkachuk has his stick knocked out of his hands by Flyers captain Claude Giroux. He retrieves it without hesitation, spots his opportunity, and redirects the puck for the game-tying goal.

Tkachuk has shown signs he'll soon be ready to lead the next generation of power forwards. And if his skating improves, along with his discipline, he could very well wind up with the best resume in the family.

Hannah Stuart keeps a close eye on both drafted and draft-eligible prospects and can usually be found trying to learn more about hockey analytics. She has previously written for FanRag Sports, The Hockey Writers, and Hooked On Hockey Magazine, and can also be found at High Heels and High Sticks. Find her on Twitter @HockeyWthHannah.

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.