75th Overall: 3rd-Round Options for Nashville

Nashville should pick up a deep class despite not having a second-round pick.

On the eve of the first round of the 2019 NHL Entry draft, I will be highlighting some smart options for Nashville to target with their third-round pick. Below you can check out who I tabbed for rounds four through seven:

210th Overall: 7th-Round Options for Nashville

179th Overall: 6th-Round Options for Nashville

148th Overall: 5th-Round Options for Nashville

109th and 117th Overall: 4th-Round Options for Nashville

Finally, once again, my disclaimer about these players:

My method here is to identify players who I think will be available at this selection and who I think present the best value. Therefore, this exercise doesn’t account for the trading of any picks or the whims of other general managers. With several hundred draft-eligible players, it’s very likely none of these players end up being Nashville’s pick. Bear that in mind as you read further.

Jordan Spence

Moncton Wildcats [QMJHL] - 2001 - D - Sydney, Australia

On The Forecheck Rank: 75th - All Skaters

NHL Central Scouting Rank: 59th - North American Skaters

2018-19 Stats: 68 GP / 6 G / 43 A / 49 PTS

Spence made sure no one didn’t know who he was this season, establishing his presence on Moncton’s top pair and special teams unitsquickly as a 17-year-old. He didn’t disappoint with 49 points in 68 games, which was best among Wildcats defenders, fifth on the team, and first among U18 defenders in the QMJHL this season.

He only put 144 shots on net this season, mostly from low-danger areas (the point), but is bound to improve from a 4.17% shooting rate in year two—much like Samuel Girard did (five to 10 goals from years one to two; 43 to 74 points).

As you can see, Spence was good-not-great at controlled exits and entries this season, but one of the better defenders relative to his teammates in the QMJHL this season (Carry-In Prevention Rel%). With increased offense will likely come better transition numbers, and, obviously, an improved Corsi rating.

Above is Spence, #12 in white, quarterbacking Moncton’s power play. He’s an excellent passer and sees the ice well from up top. I would like to see him shoot more next season because he maintains an excellent, low wrist shot, but the awareness is already there.

I think Spence, #20 in red, defends the above play well. He maintains a good gap and cuts off a passing lane across the slot with a well-placed stick. I’m not a huge fan of the step towards the middle with his man, but he communicates well with his partner. Grewe’s shot is near impossible to stop in this case despite keeping him to the outside.

Maxim Cajkovic

Saint John Sea Dogs [QMJHL] - 2001 - W - Bratislava, Slovakia

On The Forecheck Rank: 45th - All Skaters

NHL Central Scouting Rank: 91st - North American Skaters

2018-19 Stats: 60 GP / 22 G / 24 A / 46 PTS

Cajkovic has been one of the most divisive skaters entering this draft, and he might also be one of my favorites. He was the first overall selection in the CHL Import Draft last season, going to a horrid Saint John team after scoring 21 goals in 28 games for Malmo J20 as a 16-year-old.

To give you context as to how bad Saint John was at producing offense: Cajkovic led the team in scoring by 12 points and was the 74th-best scorer in the entire QMJHL. For a player with his hype, you would certainly like to see more than 22 goals and 46 points (only eight of which were secondary, for what it’s worth) on the season. But he only shot at a 10.19% rate (over 3.5 shots per game). He also scored seven points for Slovakia in seven games at the U18 WJC, and I am betting on a huge breakout season next year.

I’m not convinced he will be available at pick 75. I have him in the forties, but Bob McKenzie just recently ranked him at 90. So, who’s to say? But, if Nashville can call his name in the third, I think it’s a no-brainer.

Cajkovic, in my eyes, is an underrated skater. Everyone is well aware of the hands he possesses, but I think he has an excellent separation gear as seen above. He tops it off with a beautiful finish, too. His skating stride is so technically fluid; it’s a wonderful thing to watch.

Cajkovic, #88 in white, is so creative with his hands and feet. He can transition passes from his skates to stick blade rapidly and keep moving at a good pace. He also has a unique ability to keep his blade primed to fire off a good wrist shot while always looking for a pass to a high-danger area.

Albert Johansson

Farjestad BK J20 [SuperElit] - 2001 - D - Karlstad, Sweden

On The Forecheck Rank: 60th - All Skaters

NHL Central Scouting Rank: 37th - European Skaters

2018-19 Stats: 40 GP / 5 G / 24 A / 29 PTS

Johansson has been a slow riser this season but impressed with 29 points in 40 SuperElit games and a three-game stint in the SHL. He was second among all skaters on Farjestad in scoring and led all defenders by nine points. League-wide, Johansson finished tied for third among defenders in points, but where he really stands out is his possession ability—specifically controlled exits and entries:

It was the U18 World Junior Championships this season where many took note of Johansson. Despite only one assist in seven games, he stood out as a shutdown option among the likes of Björnfot, Broberg, and Söderström.

Above, Johansson (#3 in blue) assists on the gold-medal-winning goal at the U18 World Junior Championships. He won’t often play the puck deep in the offensive zone, but he’s a reliable handler closer to the blue line and a helpful distributor.

Johansson is a cerebral player with the puck. I think he can thrive as a second or third pair defender in the NHL due to his skating ability and ability to find good skating lanes between his zone and the offensive zone. His counting stats are probably limited, but Evan (an excellent follow) highlights above the skill he can bring from the back-end.

Leevi Aaltonen

KalPa U20 [Jr. A SM-liiga] - 2001 - LW - Mikkeli, Finland

On The Forecheck Rank: 64th - All Skaters

NHL Central Scouting Rank: 29th - European Skaters

2018-19 Stats: 29 GP / 12 G / 24 A / 36 PTS

Aaltonen was notably absent from Bob McKenzie’s final draft rankings—a curious move to me. He was dominant this season for KalPa, finishing with 36 points in 29 games which led his team and ranked him eighth in the league in points per game among U19 skaters.

At the U18 World Junior Championships, Aaltonen shone for Finland, recording five points in five games, leading the team in shots (although often long-distance), and was above-average at even strength scoring contributions.

Above, Aaltonen (#10 in blue) shows how adept he can be on special teams. His footwork allows him to be an ace on the power play and play with an excellent separation gear, but I was impressed by his work on the penalty kill at the WJC, including covering lanes like above and springing his teammate for a breakaway goal.

Above is Aaltonen using his feet to create a shooting lane and burying it with his top-notch wrist shot.

Honorable Mentions:

Jayden Struble (D) - St. Sebastian’s School [USHS] - 65 GP / 9 G / 37 PTS

Nikola Pasic (F) - Linkoping HC J20 [SuperElit] - 33 GP / 18 G / 36 PTS

Ilya Altybarmakyan (F) - SKA-Varyagi im. Morozova [MHL] - 52 GP / 21 G / 40 PTS

Karl Henriksson (C) - Frolunda HC J20 [SuperElit] - 45 GP / 13 G / 49 PTS

All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com and prospect-stats.com.