This is part two of my draft rankings, #1-15 can be found right here.. If you haven’t read those yet, you should do so now.
Otherwise, let’s get straight to the fun part!
16. Vasili Podkolzin (RW, Russia U17)
Podkolzin is a skilled Russian winger that excelled at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, lifting him up the draft ranks. Like with Broberg, I’d warn not to get too excited by a short tournament, which is why I don’t have the Russian too high, but he displayed tremendous upside and an impressive skill-set.
The winger plays a dynamic game powered by his intelligence, skating ability, and soft hands. He’s energetic and wants to have the puck on his stick, and is a threat whenever it is.
Podkolzin had good results in a poor league in his D-1 season, posting 30 points in 21 games in Russia’s U17 circuit, where one point is equivalent to just 0.24 in the Ontario Hockey League. He doesn’t fare well in Adjusted Points-Per-Game, ranking as just the 65th forward, but I think this a case where an excellent grade on the eye test can supersede a poor one on the statistical exam.
17. Henry Thrun (LHD, USNTDP)
I’ve selected Henry Thrun as the extremely underrated player whose tires I am going to (deservedly) pump all year. Statistically, Thrun was the top defenceman on a USNTDP blueline that included Drew Helleson, Cam York, Marshall Warren, and Alex Vlasic.
Thrun is in great company by points-per-game with the U17s, not far behind Chad Krys and Noah Hanifin and ahead of Will Butcher, Zach Werenski, and Adam Fox. Furthermore, Thrun’s cohorts from Manny’s model are Hanifin and Bruins defenceman Charlie McAvoy.
A steady defenceman, Thrun makes good decisions and can move the puck up ice. He displays a high hockey IQ in both ends of the rink, and is solid in his own zone. He can be depended on in all situations, and consistently makes the right play. Won’t blow you away with a flashy style, but does a lot of things well.
Adjusted Points-Per-Game ranks Thrun as the third strongest defenceman and 43rd best skater. He’s in excellent statistical company, and plays an effective style of hockey that is generating remarkable results.
18. Blake Murray (C, OHL)
A smooth skating power pivot, Blake Murray has an excellent mix of speed, shooting ability, and strength on the puck. At 6’2”, 179 pounds, he’s already pretty big, and he uses that to his advantage to protect the puck and win battles down low. His speed makes him a threat off the rush, and when given space, his shot is extremely dangerous.
— objectively biased towards jonatan berggren ? (@DraftLook) August 7, 2018
Statistically, Murray was the top forward in a weak OHL class. He’s the 9th best skater by Adjusted PPG, ahead of several of the players that I have ranked before him. His PPG rate is within 0.04 points-per-game of Eric Stall, Matt Duchene, Max Domi, and Jeff Skinner at the same age.
The reason Murray is ranked this low some of the players ahead of him, along with his nice array of skills, is because I’m not sure that he can create for himself, which a lot of the other players ahead of him are capable of.
19. Arthur Kaliyev (LW, OHL)
Kaliyev plays a similar game to Blake Murray — both have styles that revolve around speed and shooting ability. Kaliyev probably shows a little better than Murray by the eye test — he’s ranked ahead of Murray by most of the rankings I’ve seen — but it’s close, and Murray has the statistical edge.
Kaliyev is an extremely skilled winger with dynamic skill. He skates pretty well, has an incredible shot, and is difficult to knock off the puck.
It was actually speculated that Kaliyev may be older than he and his identification say he is (he’s not), which is nothing but praise at this point and speaks wonders about Kaliyev’s skill level.
Kaliyev’s statistics roughly align with his ranking here. He’s 16th by Adjusted PPG, the second best OHLer.
20. Trevor Zegras (C, USNTDP)
We’ve got another very skilled player that doesn’t have the elite production to match here in Trevor Zegras. Zegras was actually ranked third by Corey Pronman, which reveals a lot about his skill level.
Zegras is an excellent skater with good agility and top-end speed. His vision and intelligent play make him an effective playmaker, but he can threaten with his stick-handling and shot as well.
Adjusted Points-Per-Game slots Zegras in as the 19th best skater. He was buried behind Hughes and Turcotte for the start of the season, but received a larger role when the call-ups began.
Here is an example of Trevor Zegras combination of skill and quick decision making. A #2019NHLDraft eligible center that played in the shadow of both Hughes and Turcotte, but that fully I expect to raise on many lists this season. He has already entered my top 15. pic.twitter.com/CyG7aG8ydf
— Andy Lehoux (@Andylehoux1) July 31, 2018
21. Tobias Bjornfot (LHD, SuperElit)
Bjornfot outproduced Philip Broberg in the SuperElit last season, and although he’s not as flashy as his Swedish counterpart, I think he’s even more effective. His intelligence stands out, he rarely makes poor decisions and is always looking to advance the play.
He’s not gonna be a guy that’ll go end-to-end on a frequent basis, but Bjornfot can still transition the puck using his hockey IQ, mobility, and vision. He’s capable of carrying the puck, with above-average acceleration and an ability to find seams, but it’s not the main facet of his game like it is for Broberg.
?? Tobias Bjornfot (’19) – D – 6’0” 187
Bjornfot was revelation for me. He was a horse for the Swedes. Displayed good offensive instincts and strong puck movement. Defensive coverage was great. He owns high-end hockey sense, reads and reacts like a pro. #HlinkaGretzkyCup
— Matt Mosewich (@EDMFutureWatch) August 12, 2018
22. Dmitri Sheshin (LW, MHL)
Sheshin is the second extremely underrated Russian in my top 20 (Dorofeyev is the other). He’s also the second tiny forward with excellent statistics (Caufield). At just 5’7”, 143 pounds, Sheshin will have to fight through height concerns to go on to a successful NHL career, but he has high-end skill to accompany promising MHL production. In 51 MHL games, Sheshin scored 38 points — 0.75 PPG. Factor in Sheshin’s May birthday and that’s excellent — good for 11th by Adjusted PPG. His D-1 PPG in the MHL was higher than that of Klim Kostin, Vitali Abramov and Kirill Kaprizov.
Sheshin is a quick and agile winger with fantastic hands and scoring ability. It’s extremely difficult to find video of him, but from what tape I’ve seen and what I’ve heard, he’s a dynamic player with game-breaking skill.
23. Simon Holmstrom (RW, SuperElit)
Holmstrom had the 16th highest PPG in the SuperElit last season despite being a D-1, an impressive feat. Furthermore, he produced at a higher rate than 2018 Dallas second-rounder Albin Eriksson, despite being a year younger. He’s in excellent statistical company.
The winger skates well, has good hands and is frequently in possession of the puck. He can carry it through the neutral zone, and is pretty good at entering the zone.
24. Nolan Foote (LW, WHL)
This draft has more than it’s fair share of siblings — this is already the fourth. Jack Hughes (Quinn), Anttoni Honka (Julius), Ryan Suzuki (Nick), and now Nolan Foote (Cal) all have brothers already in NHL organizations.
At 6’3”, Foote is a physical force, but he’s more of a skill type than a power forward that relies on his size and strength to create. Foote’s primary weapon is his powerful shot, which he can get off quickly and fairly often, with 2.6 shots-per-game, 5th on his team. He’s definitely a shoot first player, opting for the shot frequently when he has time and a clear look in the offensive zone.
These 2019 draft-eligibles can shoot! This is Nolan Foote with the snipe. pic.twitter.com/nnb6Qt8aFn
— objectively biased towards jonatan berggren ? (@DraftLook) August 8, 2018
He has soft hands which he uses well, especially to get into open areas to get his shot off. Foote is also a proficient playmaker that can thread the puck through sticks and bodies to get it into the middle of the ice.
Statistically, Foote appears to be a tier behind the big three of Cozens, Dach, and Krebs in the WHL. Despite this, he still stacks up well to his peers in other leagues, ranking 15th by Adjusted PPG.
25. Philip Broberg (LHD, SuperElit)
The Ivan Hlinka U18 tournament can be a an excellent tool for prospects to get themselves noticed, and Broberg has made use of it. He’s been one of Sweden’s best players, and has put his skating ability and intelligence on full display.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) August 6, 2018
Broberg appears to be an excellent defensive prospect. He has excellent straight-away speed, makes good passes, and is big at 6’3″.
I don’t put too much weight into short tournaments like these, which is why Broberg is in the bottom third of the first round here. In the SuperElit, he was solid, but not elite, posting 0.565 PPG. That puts him as the fifth best defenceman by Adjusted PPG, he’s the fourth ranked here. His upside appears to be tremendous from what we’ve seen at the Hlinka, but he wasn’t at the same elite level back home in Sweden during the regular season.
Furthermore, I don’t think Broberg has the edges and ability to move laterally to be an elite puck-carrier, which I explained more in depth here.
26. Maxim Cajkovic (RW/LW, SuperElit)
Cajkovic seems a bit overrated because he’s played out of his mind at international tournaments like the IIHF U18s, where he was lights out with 11 points in 5 games. During regular season play, his production was considerably more middle-of-the-pack. Cajkovic ranks 30th by Adjusted PPG with 21 points in 28 SuperElit games.
The Swede skates well and plays fast. He plays with energy and urgency, making quick, skilled plays with the puck. He’s an excellent passer with a pretty good shot, making him a dangerous dual-threat option with the puck. He plays in and around the slot a lot and can make things happen from that area.
He’s a dynamic winger with tremendous upside. He’ll play for the St. John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL in 2018-19, where he’ll want to get his numbers to the point where they match his apparent skill level.
27. Valentin Nussbaumer (C, NLA)
Nussbaumer spent his D-1 season in the NLA, the top senior circuit in Switzerland, which is pretty impressive. The NLA is a decent league — it’s NHLe factor is very similar to that of the Liiga. However, he wasn’t all that productive there, posting just six points through 26 games. Contributing even further against Nussbaumer’s cause is his age — the Swiss forward was born on September 25th, just 10 days after the cutoff for the 2018 draft. After all of this is factored in, Nussbaumer ranks just 27th by Adjusted Points-Per-Game.
Playing in the NLA at a young age doesn’t appear to be any indication of future success – since 2000, 27 players under the age of 18 have suited up for at least 20 games in the NLA, but only two — Roman Josi and Raphael Diaz, both defencemen — went on to relatively successful NHL careers.
Nussbaumer has above-average speed, excellent edgework, soft hands and a quality shot.
2019 eligible Valentin Nussbaumer goes end to end. The most promising Swiss player for next year’s draft showed some flashes of his skill. The youngest Swiss player taking over initiatve #WJC2018 pic.twitter.com/Q566GJ4YMM
— Dennis Schellenberg (@ScoutingFactory) January 2, 2018
He played in the World Juniors this year, which is impressive at his age, but it speaks more about Switzerland’s lack of depth than Nussbaumer’s skill level.
Nussbaumer will head over to North America to play in the QMJHL this upcoming season after being selected fourth overall by the Shawinigan Cataractes in the CHL Import Draft.
28. Mikko Kokkonen (LHD, Mestis)
Kokkonen is a smooth-skating defenceman that can move the puck. He spent the majority of his season in the Mestis, a Finnish senior league a tier below the Liiga, playing 29 games there, totalling 9 points. He also played 12 games in the Liiga, going pointless in that time. There’s no lack of pro experience for Kokkonen, and even though he didn’t have great results at that level, it’s still impressive that he stuck there.
Kokkonen doesn’t show super well by Adjusted Points-Per-Game because of a low translation factor for the Mestis (it’s about the same as the ECHL). He ranks as the 11th defenceman and 82nd skater. However, his time at the senior level bumped him up, as few players have that on their resume.
The defenceman is a playmaker from the blueline, making smart passes to advance the play. He’s not flashy, but he’s dependable in both ends and can handle a variety of situations.
29. Drew Helleson (RHD, USNTDP)
Helleson plays an aggressive style of game that can create offensive opportunities, but he’s also susceptible to poor reads and decisions that can leave his partner defending odd-man rushes. That mental side of the game should develop as he ages, leaving a two-way defenceman that can create offensively behind.
The defenceman was the second-best blueliner for the USNTDP U17s last season, behind Henry Thrun, but the gap wasn’t a big one. As far as Adjusted PPG goes, Helleson was the fourth best defender.
Helleson skates well, is mobile, and is an excellent playmaker from the back-end.
30. Cam York (LHD, USNTDP)
York definitely plays the flashiest game of all the USNDTP players that will follow on this list, but he didn’t generate the same kind of results. York is a smooth-skating, puck-moving defenceman that can evade pressure and transition the puck forward.
The data from Mitch Brown’s CHL Tracking Project can be an excellent tool for prospect evaluation, provided that they are included in the dataset. In his time with the U18s, York had an 80% controlled exit percentage, which was beaten by only 2018 picks Bode Wilde and K’Andre Miller.
York was the fifth best defenceman by Adjusted PPG, behind his teammates from the USNTDP Henry Thrun and Drew Helleson, as well as top defensive prospects Bowen Byram and Anttoni Honka.
He’s an offensive defenceman that can break the puck out of the zone with control and chip in points-wise, but his two-way game will need some work.
31. Albin Grewe (C/RW, SuperElit)
Grewe is a creative forward with an excellent shot. On the surface, he appears to be a dynamic player that oozes skill. He has breakaway speed, good hands and is very effective driving the net.
However, Grewe lacks production to match his skill, and he does not appear to have a high-end hockey IQ. 27 points in 36 SuperElit games puts him at just 28th by Adjusted PPG. His inability to produce at an elite level despite seemingly making a lot of things happen can probably be tied to his poor hockey sense — he doesn’t consistently get to the right areas.
In case you weren’t convinced about how poor Grewe’s production is: Timothy Liljegren and Adam Boqvist, both defencemen, had higher point-per-game rates in their D-1 season than Grewe, a forward, did.