Back on the night of April 9, the New Jersey Devils won the 2019 NHL Draft Lottery for the right to select first overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Ever since the announcement, fans, pundits, and team officials have argued, wondered, and metaphorically wrestled over two names. Should the Devils select Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko? This Friday, we will see who it is - but you should expect it to be Jack Hughes.
Do not take our word for it. Take the word of the many mock drafts that have come out in recent weeks prior to this Friday, when first round of the 2019 NHL Draft will take place in Vancouver.
In past years, I have put together a roundup of the many mock drafts between prospect experts, prospect services, media members, and hobbyists alike. I use it as a way to show who and how people think the picks around New Jersey’s will go for at least the first round. Anyone can rank prospects by who is the best, but a mock draft at least considers what a team may be looking for in the draft and that changes things. There is a lot of volatility in a draft after the first few picks, so I find it useful to identify which prospects we may expect to hear the Devils announce.
However, this year’s mock draft round up is different. Very different. For the first time ever, it is unanimous who the top two picks will be and they are, in order, Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. I looked at 26 mock drafts, with 23 of them being freely available. No matter the source, no matter the date, no matter the argument within, the conclusion is the same. Hughes is set to be #1 and Kakko is set to be #2.
In putting it together, I almost found that this year’s roundup would be utterly pointless. The key word is almost. I am posting this for two major points. The first is tradition. What are we if we do not have traditions? They help us keep our balance and so forth. The second will come after the full list:
2019 NHL First Round Mock Drafts: Picks #1 to #5
2019 NHL Mock Draft Roundup - Picks #1 - #5
|Mock Draft||Mock Date||Devils Pick (#1)||OHR (#2)||Chicago (#3)||Colorado (#4)||LA (#5)||Link|
|Mock Draft||Mock Date||Devils Pick (#1)||OHR (#2)||Chicago (#3)||Colorado (#4)||LA (#5)||Link|
|The Draft Analyst (Guide) - Steve Kournianos ($)||6/14/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Bowen Byram||Trevor Zegras||Alex Turcotte||Link ($)|
|Daily Faceoff - Brock Seguin||6/13/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Alex Turcotte||Dylan Cozens||Bowen Byram||Link|
|Draftgeek.ca - Sam Happi||6/13/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Alex Turcotte||Bowen Byram||Kirby Dach||Link|
|DraftSite - Bill Placzek||6/13/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Alex Turcotte||Kirby Dach||Bowen Byram||Link|
|Future Considerations||6/13/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Bowen Byram||Alex Turcotte||Dylan Cozens||Link|
|My NHL Draft||6/13/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Alex Turcotte||Kirby Dach||Bowen Byram||Link|
|Riding Pine - Brandon Holmes||6/13/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Alex Turcotte||Bowen Byram||Kirby Dach||Link|
|Riding Pine Community||6/13/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Vasili Podkolzin||Alex Turcotte||Bowen Byram||Link|
|The Athletic - NHL Beat Writers||6/13/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Alex Turcotte||Dylan Cozens||Bowen Byram||Link ($)|
|Hockeybuzz - Michael Pachla||6/12/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Alex Turcotte||Bowen Byram||Vasili Podkolzin||Link|
|Die by the Blade - Chad DeDominicis||6/11/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Alex Turcotte||Kirby Dach||Dylan Cozens||Link|
|SBN NHL||6/11/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Alex Turcotte||Kirby Dach||Dylan Cozens||Link|
|NJ.com - Chris Ryan||6/10/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Alex Turcotte||Kirby Dach||Bowen Byram||Link|
|Puck Prose - Dave Stevenson||6/10/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Alex Turcotte||Kirby Dach||Dylan Cozens||Link|
|OHL Prospects - Brock Otten||6/6/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Alex Turcotte||Bowen Byram||Matthew Boldy||Link|
|The Athletic - Corey Pronman ($)||6/6/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Alex Turcotte||Bowen Byram||Kirby Dach||Link ($)|
|Detroit Free Press - Helene St. James||6/5/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Alex Turcotte||Kirby Dach||Bowen Byram||Link|
|Rotoworld - Ryan Wagman||6/5/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Kirby Dach||Bowen Byram||Cole Caufield||Link|
|The Hockey Writers - Larry Fisher||6/5/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Alex Turcotte||Trevor Zegras||Bowen Byram||Link|
|NHL.com - Adam Kimelman||6/3/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Alex Turcotte||Dylan Cozens||Bowen Byram||Link|
|NHL.com - Guillaume LePage||6/3/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Dylan Cozens||Alex Turcotte||Bowen Byram||Link|
|NHL.com - Mike Morreale||6/3/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Alex Turcotte||Kirby Dach||Bowen Byram||Link|
|Scouching - Will Scouch||6/3/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Alex Turcotte||Kirby Dach||Bowen Byram||Link|
|Tankathon||6/1/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Bowen Byram||Alex Turcotte||Vasili Podkolzin||Link|
|The Draft Analyst (Site) - Steve Kournianos||5/22/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Bowen Byram||Matthew Boldy||Trevor Zegras||Link|
|TSN.ca - Darren Yourk||5/22/2019||Jack Hughes||Kaapo Kakko||Bowen Byram||Kirby Dach||Cole Caufield||Link|
The second point is that the debate between Hughes vs. Kakko hardly moved the needle. In many of these mock drafts, there has been plenty of sentiment writing that Kakko could be a first-overall worthy pick in most drafts. There has been loads of words published about how Kakko did more than enough to be the top guy in a draft. There has been much about how Kakko made it a closer argument. The result has remained the same when it came time to make a mock draft and publish it under their name. Hughes has been and is seen as the #1 prospect and the prospect they expect New Jersey to announce on Friday, June 21.
It may be more accurate to say that there really is no reason to debate this further. I made it clear in our mock draft post. I would be happy with Kakko, but I prefer Hughes over him because of the skating, the playmaking, and how he fits the type of prospect the Devils have been targeting since Paul Castron joined the organization. I encourage you to read the other mock drafts linked and see their take. (Note: The ones with dollar signs are behind paywalls The Athletic and Steve Kournianos’ guide are worth my money, I think they could be worth your money too.)
As part of tradition (point #1), I included the other four picks after New Jersey to have more of a picture of how this year’s draft will start. All 26 mocks has Hughes first and Kakko second. After then, some variation came into play. Alex Turcotte was the most popular pick at third overall with 18 out of 26 mocks having Chicago taking another top USNTDP forward. Among the eight dissenters, defenseman Bowen Byram was listed in third in five of them. For Colorado’s pick at fourth overall, Kirby Dach won the plurality as 10 out of 26 mocks had him becoming an Avalanche. However, Byram (6), Turcotte (4), Dylan Cozens (3), and Trevor Zegras (2) were all thought about. If Byram slips to fifth overall, then a plurality of 12 mocks have him going to Los Angeles with other selections including Cozens (4), Dach (3), Vasili Podkolzin (2), and Cole Caufield (2). Among the whole group, only three mocks had Turcotte or Byram outside of the top five. Those who want some surprises in their NHL Drafts will likely have to wait to fourth overall to get it. We’ll see if that bears out.
Five 2019 Mock Drafts Beyond the First Round
Instead of just leaving it here with the least interesting mock draft roundup in AAtJ history, I have decided to highlight five mock drafts that went beyond the first round. Some people are so into the draft that they are willing to go beyond the first 31 picks and take a stab at figuring who will be selected as the picks go deeper and the prospects become more under the radar. The Devils have three second round draft picks - 34th, 55th, and 61st overall - and two third rounders - 70th and 80th overall - and they have been able to find some talented young players in recent years with picks outside of the first round. Given how much can change during a two-day draft, I would take these with a little more grain of salt. But, again, the idea is to get familiar with who could really be available with these picks. To that end, here are some longer mocks that you should check out:
Steve Kournianos’ Draft Guide - 2 Rounds
Kournianos’ Draft Report is not free, but he did grant me permission to reference his two-round mock draft. He did post one on The Draft Analyst back in November 2018; however, so much has changed since then (such as the draft order) that I would rather focus on the more recent one he published.
The Second Round Picks: #34 - LW Jakob Pelletier, #55 - LHD Alex Vlasic (who I profiled), and #61 - LW Markos Kallionkieli
Thoughts: Pelletier is the sort of player that could very well be picked at 34th overall. He had a very productive second season with Moncton and that was after a point-per-game season as a 16-year old. He is not big, but he has the blend of offensive skill and work-ethic that fans can appreciate. In my profile of Vlasic, I did not think he would be a good choice at #34 but he could be a good value pick later in the draft. I suppose that is the case here; although I would have preferred Marshall Warren (Kournianos had him at 60 in his mock). Kallionkieli is a Finnish player in the USHL. I expected he made the jump to North America to possibly go play in college, but he is not committed to a college. I checked out a few of his game reports at FinnProspects and he reads like a bit of a project pick - which may be fine for the penultimate pick of the second round.
In general, I like Kournianos’ decisions. While Kallionkieli may be a bit of a reach, it is so close to the third round anyway that I do not think it would be a horrid decision. The other two selections would be good value picks for where they are projected.
Riding Pine’s 2019 NHL Draft Guide, Brandon Holmes - 2 Rounds
Brandon Holmes of Riding Pine has posted up a full draft guide for free at the Riding Pine Hockey website. Yes, for free. Go get it. It includes a two-round mock draft by Holmes. Here is who he thinks New Jersey will pick in the second round. No commentary was given about the players, although they have profiles in the Riding Pine draft guide - which, I remind you, is free.
The Second Round Picks: #34 - LW Patrik Puistola, #55 - LHD Semyon Chistyakov, and #61 - RW Tuukka Tieksola (who Jenna profiled)
Thoughts: FinnProspects has Puistola fourth and Tieksola tenth on their list of Finnish prospects for this year’s draft. If nothing else, these would be good faith efforts for the Devils to finally have a successful Finnish prospect come out of a NHL draft. Puistola does not have much of a defensive game; his appeal and value is all about the offense. I am not sure how that will square away in a league where everyone has to help in both ends, but we’ll see if he can be coached up. Jenna felt that Tieksola should be taken much later than 61st and I can see why. He may have very good hands but without the other skills, it is hard to see how his future would play out. Chistyakov is also not big at all, but he has been solid at both ends as a defenseman and he showed up well at the World U-18s for Russia.
For better or worse, the Devils have not put an emphasis on size in recent draft classes. Holmes has taken that and ran with it with Puistola (6’0” but also under 180 pounds), Chistyakov, and Tieksola. If they have game, that’s fine but there is an element of “they’ll either make it or they will not” among these three. Puistola and Tieksola are offensive players that are either going to make it on their strengths or they just won’t. Chistyakov may be a more reliable pick but it is a question of how his career will project as a 5’10” and 168 pound defender. While I think the Devils have enough young players in the organization to take a couple of chances on prospects, these are three bold picks in terms of risk. I’ll give him points for boldness.
Future Considerations 2019’s NHL Draft Mock - 3 Rounds
Future Considerations is one of several groups that scouts players all year round and puts together a professional draft guide. Their staff is legit, even if they call their mock draft a draft mock. Nevertheless, they deserve credit for putting their mock draft out there as well as going beyond the usual format where the mock only looks at the first round. Justin Froese of Future Considerations made New Jersey’s picks. Here is who he ended up with beyond the first round.
The Second Round Picks: #34 - G Spencer Knight, #55 - LHD Jackson Lacombe, #61 - LW Nolan Foote (who Jenna profiled)
The Third Round Picks: #70 - LHD Artemi Knyazev (who Alex profiled), #80 - RW Alex Beaucage
Thoughts: Froese spread out the roles of New Jersey’s five picks in the second and third rounds. USNTDP goaltender Spencer Knight is someone I would expect to go in the first round, so seeing him at 34th overall makes me think it would be a good value pick. I do expect the Devils to pick a goalie at some point in the draft, picking arguably the best goaltender prospect could be a big win. It could mean a future of Knight and Blackwood, two very athletic goaltenders. I can see it. Jenna profiled Foote and came away thinking he would be a better pick late in the second round given his skating. Froese essentially agreed. As I understand it, the University of Minnesota-bound Lacombe is new to defense and so he has plenty of offensive tools, he has much to learn about defense. Maybe he could switch to wing? Alex profiled Knyazev and figured he could be a late second rounder. An early third rounder is worth about the same. He noted that Knyazev’s opportunity for improvement is on defense as well. Beaucage had a breakout season with Rouyn-Noranda; but his skating and his ceiling could hold him back to a third round selection.
The best I can figure from Froese’s mock is that he also went with high-risk, high-reward prospects. Lacombe and Knyazev are defenders who have issues on defense. Foote and Beaucage have skating issues. Knight is a goaltender. But if they can improve on their issues and sustain (or improve) at what they are good at, then these picks would look fantastic in the future. Especially if Knight performs as well at the next level as those who follow the USNTDP say he does.
Bill Placzek’s Mock Draft at DraftSite - 7 Rounds
DraftSite is a site where you can submit your own mock drafts. Bill Placzek is featured on the NHL page because he performs a full, seven-round mock draft. All 217 picks, even with notations on who originally owned the pick. He keeps it up to date while maintaining previous versions; Version 41 was up on June 14. (I pulled my mock drafts for the first round earlier). It is an impressive effort. Here is Placzek’s full mock draft and here is a breakdown of who he picked for New Jersey:
The Second Round Picks: #34 - RW Nils Hoglander, #55 - LW Robert Mastrosimone, and #61 - LW Samuel Fagemo
The Third Round Picks: #70 - LW Rhett Pitlick, #80 - LW Markos Kallionkieli
The Rest: #96 - G Pytor Kochetkov, #127 - G Dustin Wolf (who Brian profiled), #158 - LW Filip Cederqvist, #189 - G Lucas Johansson
Thoughts: I’ll start with the back end of the draft first. I agree that the Devils will likely take a goalie this year. They should not take three. Their goaltending depth is not in dire enough straits to select three goalies on June 22. Much less two overagers, Kochetkov and Johansson are 19), and one of whom (Johansson) did not even touch a 90% save percentage in his play last season. Wolf would be a good one - but only on its own. As for the second and third rounders, Placzek has the Devils picking up offensive wingers with all five picks and they are mostly good picks. Hoglander would be a great pick at 34th overall. I do not think Mastrosimone would fall all the way to 55th overall but if he does, the pick should be made immediately. Fagemo was a scorer in the SHL last season; for an overage pick, it is a very wise one. The third rounders are more risky but at that point in the draft, I can respect it.
As much as I do not like seeing a mock having New Jersey taking three goalies, I am hoping Placzek is right about the second round at a minimum. I do not think it will happen; I think both Hoglander and Mastrosimone will go before those two picks. It is nice to think about, though.
Larry Fisher’s 8th Annual NHL Mock Draft at The Hockey Writers - 7 Rounds
Like Steve Kournianos, Larry Fisher at The Hockey Writers ranks prospects all year round and ranks more prospects than there are picks in a NHL draft. Unlike Kournianos, Fisher updates his ranks every month and highlights prospects notably rising and falling. Fisher utilizes his knowledge to perform a full mock NHL draft and he has done so for eight years. Each round is a post and he has analysis for every one. It is an impressive effort and should be lauded, even if you disagree with the results. Fisher’s 2019 mock draft starts with this post (other rounds are linked in it) and he helpfully compiles each team’s results in his mock draft with final thoughts about who he picked. From the Devils’ team summary:
The Third Round Picks: #70 - LHD Henry Thrun, #80 - C Nikita Alexandrov
The Rest: #96 - RHD Martin Hugo Has, #127 - LHD Marc Del Gaizo, #158 - G Filip Lindberg, #189 - LW Filip Cederqvist
Thoughts: I think Fisher is reaching if he thinks the Devils will take four overaged players. Fagemo at 34 would be a big reach. I understand there is plenty of buzz given Fagemo’s 2018-19 with Frolunda but I would not want him over other prospects available at that spot. While the fifth, sixth, and seventh rounders are always going to be long-shot picks, I do not think the Devils need to use them all on older players. the Del Gaizo pick is odd given that Fisher chose four defensemen before him. Maybe he saw something in him, I do not know. Some of these picks are OK. Alexandrov had a big season in the QMJHL last season, he could be a fine sleeper pick. Warren and Vlasic is not a bad haul at the end of the second round. Adding a right-handed defender in Hugo Has is good positionally for the pool at least.
I respect Fisher’s work and how much content he produces that is freely available at The Hockey Writers. I think some of these picks are OK. Yet, I think he is offbase with the number of overagers, Fagemo going high in the second round when I would rather see NJ take one of Fisher’s other picks from #35 to #46 (Leason possibly excepted).
While I pulled five mock drafts that went beyond the first round, you can get a sense of how varied they all are. That is partially due to who is making the selections in the mock draft and it is partially due to the nature of any draft. It only takes one team going “off the board” to have everyone else re-assess their draft board and identify who could fall to them that they did not otherwise expect. Or stick to their plan and take the next guy on their board. Hence, the variation between what I highlighted from five mock drafts that went to at least the second round.
However, for the more commonly mocked first round, there is no variation among the 26 I referenced in this post. Expect Jack Hughes to be the first overall pick. Expect Kaapo Kakko to be the second overall pick. After then, the draft can start going in other directions where there is more of a debate regarding who should pick who.
In the meantime, I would like to know your take about all of this. Are you surprised that Jack Hughes has been the unanimous choice for first overall across many different mock drafts by many different people with varying levels of interest in the 2019 NHL Draft? Do you agree with the mock drafts for the first round? If not, who do you think will go in the top five picks for this year’s draft? What is your take about the five mock drafts I highlighted that went beyond the first round? Are there any players among them you hope will be available for the Devils on June 22? Who and why? Who would you like to see taken by New Jersey in the second round and beyond? Please leave your answers to one, some, or all of these and your thoughts about these mock drafts in the comments. Thank you for reading.