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2019 NHL Entry Draft: Round 1 Recap and Team Grades

#1 – New Jersey Devils

Jack Hughes – C – U.S. National Team Development Program

Grade: A

Hughes will be an elite, top-line center for a very long time in the NHL. Him and Nico Hischier down the middle is scary. The Devils couldn’t mess this one up.

#2 – New York Rangers

Kappo Kakko – RW – TPS  [Liiga]

Grade: A

An easy consolation prize for the Rangers. Kakko will likely have a more immediate impact in the NHL. He’ll be a terrifying player to defend for years, too.

#3 – Chicago Blackhawks

Kirby Dach – C – Saskatoon Blades [WHL]

Grade: A

Dach might grade out as the third-best player in this draft. At times, in Saskatoon, he was flat-out dominant, putting the entire team on his shoulders. If he can put his tools together as a full-time NHL player, the Blackhawks have found themselves a star.

#4 – Colorado Avalanche (via OTT)

Bowen Byram – D – Vancouver Giants [WHL]

Grade: A

I am too easy of a grader; what can I say? Byram is a fourth forward on the ice and will slot in well with Colorado’s D-corps.

#5 – Los Angeles Kings

Alex Turcotte – C – U.S. National Team Development Program

Grade: B

Turcotte is a fantastic player on offense with a good skating stride and excellent vision. I’m curious to see how long he needs at Wisconsin.

#6 – Detroit Red Wings

Mortiz Seider – D – Adler Mannheim [DEL]

Grade: A

Some are calling this a reach, but I love the pick. Seider only escalated his game when faced with a new challenge this season, and he’s such a cerebral presence on the blue line.

#7 – Buffalo Sabres

Dylan Cozens – C – Lethbridge Hurricanes [WHL]

Grade: B

Cozens’ game will translate well to the NHL, I believe, which is helpful for a team like Buffalo. He’s good all around and a surprisingly excellent shooter.

#8 – Edmonton Oilers

Philip Broberg – D – AIK [Allsvenskan]

Grade: D

It’s not that Broberg is a bad player; he could be an excellent offensive force or a smart two-way option. But I think this was the first big reach of the night and not even for the best defender available at the time.

#9 – Anaheim Ducks

Trevor Zegras – C – U.S. National Team Development Program

Grade: B

Zegras is such an impressive, creative offensive playmaker. I think Anaheim could have made a smarter pick with Krebs here though.

#10 – Vancouver Canucks

Vasily Podkolzin – RW – SKA-Neva St. Petersburg [VHL]

Grade: B

I was a bit surprised with this pick, but what a hit it was in front of the hometown fans. He’s just behind Hughes and Kakko in terms of raw talent. Sure, the contract is a potential concern, and maybe his game doesn’t come together at this level, but it’s a good risk.

#11 – Arizona Coyotes (via PHI)

Victor Söderström – D – Brynas IF [SHL]

Grade: B

I like Söderström a lot; he’s a good skater, has a good shot and is a creative passer. Critics are calling him a safe pick, but I like Arizona moving up to snag him.

#12 – Minnesota Wild

Matthew Boldy – LW – U.S. National Team Development Program

Grade: B

Boldy will be an offensive zone gift for the Wild just like Zegras will be for Anaheim. I would have gone with Krebs here, but Boldy is a good number two and the improvements he made in his skating are encouraging.

#13 – Florida Panthers

Spencer Knight – G – U.S. National Team Development Program

Grade: C

Everyone knows the story on Knight; he’s an excellent prospect and could be one of the best in the net to come through the draft in recent memory. It’s a smart move for Florida, but 13 was too high.

#14 – Philadelphia Flyers (via ARI)

Cam York – D – U.S. National Team Development Program

Grade: D

Not only could York have been selected later in the first round, but I don’t even consider him the best defender on this USNTDP squad. He’s a good prospect, but Caufield and Krebs were still available.

#15 – Montreal Canadiens

Cole Caufield – RW – U.S. National Team Development Program

Grade: A

72 goals. Sure he’s small, and yes, he played with Jack Hughes all season, but 72 goals. What a steal at 15.

#16 – Colorado Avalanche

Alex Newhook – C – Victoria Grizzlies [BCHL]

Grade: B

Newhook is a solid pick-up at 16 and a great haul when combined with Byram. I am curious to see better play-driving at the next level, but he’s got loads of talent.

#17 – Vegas Golden Knights

Petyon Krebs – C – Kootenay Ice [WHL]

Grade: A

I can’t believe Krebs fell this far. I get the injury concern, but he’s a top-10 talent in this draft who dragged an awful Ice squad all season and plays a dominating game down the middle of the ice.

#18 – Dallas Stars

Thomas Harley – D – MIssissauga Steelheads [OHL]

Grade: C

Harley is a good skater, great shooter and awesome possession player. His defense isn’t great, and his awareness could use some work. He could have been available later this round.

#19 – Ottawa Senators (via CBJ)

Lassi Thomson – D – Kelowna Rockets [WHL]

Grade: D

The first pick that was completely off the board. Thomson came in at 46th in my pre-Draft rankings. He’s a good puck-handler with a great shot, but he isn’t an impact first-rounder to me.

#20 – Winnipeg Jets (via NYR)

Ville Heinola – D – Lukko [Liiga]

Grade: C

I like Heinola a lot. He’s an intelligent player that moves the puck north-south very well. He is a good puck protector with an okay skating stride. I think it’s a good combination of talent and need for the Jets, but he wasn’t the best player available.

#21 Pittsburgh Penguins

Samuel Poulin – RW – Sherbrooke Phoenix [QMJHL]

Grade: D

This was another curious pick leading up to Nashville’s selection. I like Poulin, who came to Sherbrooke with a highly-touted pedigree and hasn’t disappointed, but, again, there were several better names still on the board.

#22 – Los Angeles Kings (via TOR)

Tobias Björnfot – D – Djurgarden IF J20 [SuperElit]

Grade: C

Björnfot has risen up my list in the past couple weeks, but I’m still not convinced he was a first-round player. With Turcotte in their pocket, the Kings going after defense makes sense, but, again, not the best player available.

#23 – New York Islanders

Simon Holmström – RW – HV71 J20 [SuperElit]

Grade: C

I think Holmström has tons of skill and will be a good middle-six player with a scoring touch in the NHL some day. But he was likely available in round two as well.

#24 – Nashville Predators

Philip Tomasino – C – Niagara IceDogs [OHL]

Grade: A

With several excellent options inexplicably available for Nashville at 24, I think they knocked this one out of the park. High-skill, great pace, good awareness, and tons of even-strength offense. Tomasino is an excellent prospect.

#25  – Washington Capitals

Connor McMichael – C – London Knights [OHL]

Grade: C

I like McMichael, who plays well around the net and is disciplined on defense, and think he will project well as a middle-six center for Washington. Goals were still on the board in Kaliyev and Lavoie, alas, so the C grade.

#26 – Calgary Flames

Jakob Pelletier – LW – Moncton Wildcats [QMJHL]

Grade: B

Pelletier is a well-rounded player who isn’t a natural scorer but torched the QMJHL this season. The gear he constantly plays with is impressive; I like this pick.

#27 – Tampa Bay Lightning

Nolan Foote – LW – Kelowna Rockets [WHL]

Grade: F

This might be the biggest reach of the first round. Foote is a third- or fourth-round player. Sure, he was electric on the power play, but his skating is a huge impediment.

#28 – Carolina Hurricanes

Ryan Suzuki – C – Barrie Colts [OHL]

Grade: A

Suzuki should have gone in the top 15. Carolina came away from Day 1 with a massive pick-up of a polished, patient offensive player that can dominate the zone.

#29 – Anaheim Ducks (via SJS & BUF)

Brayden Tracey – LW – Moose Jaw Warriors [WHL]

Grade: C

I think Tracey could surprise some people when he gets to the NHL with his ability to find and create space. He needs to shoot more, but I like how he stays active when he doesn’t have the puck. He was likely available later, however.

#30 – Boston Bruins

John Beecher – C – U.S. National Team Development Program

Grade: F

Beecher is the most conservative pick of this round. He probably projects as a safe NHL player due to his skating and puck protection, but his ceiling is lower than most, and he would likely have been available mid-to-late round two.

#31 – Buffalo Sabres (via STL)

Ryan Johnson – D – Sioux Falls Stampede [USHL]

Grade: D

I like Johnson as a prospect, but I think Buffalo reached. I suppose it’s okay to do so with Cozens already picked, though. Johnson is a good skater and should command good controlled zone exits and entries. His defense is a question mark to me—as is his on-ice attitude at times.