Now that the World Juniors is over, it’s time for unnecessarily critical speculation about the skill, value, and utility of a bunch of eighteen year olds in a professional league known to be just as mentally difficult as physically difficult.
Being eighteen is hard enough without intense international scrutiny, but a bunch of brave little lads have put themselves forward for consideration through displays of skill, teamwork, and brilliance at the junior or men’s levels around the world. Given the Capitals’ current cap situation, the best way to add skill for cheap is through the draft, and lucky for the Caps, not only do they own most of their picks this year, the 2019 NHL Entry draft isn’t anywhere near short on skill!
If the draft pick order was solely based on league standing as of 9:00am PST on January 10th, 2019, the Flyers would have Jack Hughes, as they’ve just barely edged the Senators out for 31st place in the league. The last pick in the first round would belong to Tampa Bay, who seem to have the President’s Trophy in the bag by a mile, and Washington would be picking eighth from the end of each round, at pick number twenty four.
The first three rounds of picks and some honorable mentions are commonly projected out in “Top 100” lists, so that’s as far as I’m going to go — the wild jungle of the later rounds is hard to predict, but I have a few favorites that are worth keeping an eye on.
Round One (24th OVR): Arthur Kaliyev (LW, Hamilton [OHL] — 41GP – 31G – 32G – 63P – 6PIM)
Arthur Kaliyev’s ranked in the early twenties by ISS Hockey and McKeen’s Hockey, and the goal scoring winger’s scouting report is nothing short of impressive. The right wing has been shooting up the rankings since the beginning of the year, and after an impressive showing at the U18 Hlinka had Kaliyev leaving without a medal but above a point per game, he’s only stepped up his game more. Coming off an OHL Championship with the Hamilton Bulldogs as a rookie last season, Kaliyev is proving that, when you’re skilled, there’s no sophomore slump — in forty-one games, he has thirty-one goals and thirty-one assists, already tying last year’s goal marker, which took him sixty-eight games to achieve as a rookie. He’s on pace to more than double his assist total as soon as next week, and has already blown last year’s forty-eight points out of the water, playing at a point and a half per game. Kaliyev’s speed and stickhandling play into easy maintenance of possession, and his ability to get open and stay that way coupled with his nose for the net would be useful to a Capitals team with no shortage of playmakers.
Trade Up Candidates: Anttoni Honka (RHD, JYP [Liiga] — 15GP – 1G – 3A – 4P – 6PIM), Pavel Dorofeyev (LW, Stalnye Lisy [MHL] — 15GP – 13G – 11A – 24P – 10PIM), Cole Caufield (RW, USNTDP U18 [USHL] — 33GP – 28G – 12A – 40P – 28PIM)
Trade Down Candidates: Nils Höglander (LW, Rogle [SHL] — 28GP – 4G – 3A – 7P – 18PIM), Tobias Björnfot (LHD, Djurgardens J20 [SuperElit] — 24GP – 6G – 6A – 12P – 8PIM), Valentin Nussbaumer (C/LW, Shawnigan Cataractes [QMJHL] — 31GP – 8G – 12A – 20P – 6PIM)
Round Two (55th OVR): Matvei Guskov (F, London [OHL] — 29GP – 7G – 13A – 20P – 18PIM)
A skilled center that plays a 200 foot game, Matvei Guskov has twenty points in twenty-nine games with a stacked London Knights team. Despite scoring only two points (both goals) with the Russian U18 team at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup this summer, Guskov’s first season in the OHL has already been impressive. He’s mostly played wing, rather than center, since the move to Canada, but his effortless skating and speed have made the transition from the MHL to the OHL easy. Guskov is a bit of a project, but stands to benefit from a London system including Evan Bouchard, Alex Formenton, Adam Boqvist, and Liam Foudy, among others.
Trade Up Candidates: Mikko Kokkonen (LHD, Jukurit [SM-Liiga] — 34GP – 1G – 11A – 12P – 14PIM), Robert Mastrosimone (C, Chicago Steel [USHL] — 22GP – 12G – 10A – 22P – 12PIM), Yaroslav Likhyachyov (RW, Gatineau Olympiques [QMJHL] — 30GP – 3G – 4A – 7P – 4PIM)
Trade Down Candidates: Nicholas Robertson (C/LW, Peterborough Petes [OHL] — 26GP – 14G – 13A – 27P – 14PIM), Yegor Afanasyev (LW, Muskegon Lumberjacks [USHL] — 28GP – 16G – 20A – 36P – 14PIM), Jamieson Rees (19GP – 7G – 11A – 18P – 14PIM)
Round Three (86th OVR): Harrison Blaisdell (LW, Chilliwack Chiefs [BCHL] — 33GP – 25G – 19A – 44P – 23PIM)
Harrison Blaisdell stands just outside of the top ten in BCHL scoring with forty-four points, an impressive feat given that he’s one of only three ’01 born forwards in the top fifteen, and second in total scoring on his team. Blaisdell is in the top five league wide in goals and points per game — his lack of assist production is the only thing keeping him further down the charts. Blaisdell also spends little time in the penalty box (roughly 0.70 minutes in the sin bin per game in the thirty-three he’s played so far this season), which is a relief for a team carrying both Tom Wilson and Madison Bowey. He replicated this success at the WJAC-19, where Blaisdell scored five points (4G/1A) on a Canada West team that earned a bronze medal. Blaisdell is committed to the University of North Dakota starting in the fall of 2020, and given his time (and exponential improvement) in the BCHL, it’s no long shot to expect him to excel on the NCAA stage.
Trade Up Candidates: Leevi Aaltonen (RW, KalPa U20 [Jr. A SM-Liiga] — 17GP – 7G – 13A – 20P – 22PIM), Nathan Légaré (RW, Moncton Wildcats [QMJHL] — 40GP – 28G – 29A – 57P – 36PIM), Henri Nikkanen (C, Jukurit U20 [Jr. A SM-Liiga] — 14GP – 2G – 7A – 9P – 18PIM)
Trade Down Candidates: Michael Vukojevic (LHD, Kitchener [OHL] — 40GP – 2G – 9A – 11P – 35PIM), Luke Toporowski (C/LW, Spokane [WHL] — 39GP – 13G – 19A – 32P – 48PIM), Owen Lindmark (C, USNTDP U18 [USHL] — 26GP – 6G – 6A – 12P – 12PIM)
Late Round Surprises
Trevor Janicke (RW, Central Illinois Flying Aces [USHL] — 27GP – 9G – 16A – 25P – 22PIM)
A Christmas born miracle, Trevor Janicke spent two years with the USNTDP program with little buzz surroundiblang his name thanks to his fourth line role, but has hit the ground running with the Central Illinois Flying Aces this year, scoring twenty-five points in twenty-seven games. Janicke played for the champion United States U19 team at the WJAC-19 this season, and scored at a point per game pace, evenly split between goals and assists, good for second on the USA U19 team, only behind Bobby Brink, and medaled at the WJC18 last year. He’s a little undersized, at 5’10”, but has time to learn and grow under an excellent coaching staff at the University of Notre Dame. He was also named to the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, which took place earlier this week, where he collected an assist.
Grant Silianoff (RW, Cedar Rapids Rough Riders [USHL] — 25GP – 9G – 9A – 18P – 12PIM)
Silianoff has eighteen points in twenty-five games in the USHL as a rookie this season, after joining the Rough Riders after his season with Shattuck St. Mary’s Midget Prep team ended. The first overall pick at the USHL Futures draft in 2017 scored at a point per game page (1G/4A) at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup with the USA U18s this summer, and was named to the WJAC-19 team as well, though he had only one assist in six games, which is a decent tradeoff for a gold medal. A dangerous scorer with a lot of speed, Silianoff is committed to Notre Dame beginning this fall, where he’ll be teammates with fellow USHL product Trevor Janicke. Projected to go in the fourth or fifth round, Silianoff’s April Fools birthday shouldn’t scare anyone away — this kid’s the real deal.
Shane Pinto (C, Lincoln Stars [USHL] — 24GP – 15G – 13A – 28P – 45 PIM)
Another American power forward and North Dakota commit, Pinto’s USHL preseason showed that he’d adjusted well to the pace and timing of the league. Described as “almost a one man show” on offense, Pinto has twenty-eight points in twenty-four games for the Lincoln Stars after several standout years at the Selects Hockey Academy. He scored two points at the WJAC-19 on a tournament champion USA U19 team and, though many would like to see Pinto’s first full season at the USHL level before making any decisions about where he falls on the draft board, strong performances internationally inspire quite a bit of confidence.
Filip Prikryl (C/RW, Saint John Sea Dogs [QMJHL] — 40GP – 4G – 8A – 12P – 12PIM)
Prikryl, who joined a rebuilding Saint John team that had missed the postseason for the first time in four seasons this fall, stands just outside the top ten of the team in scoring with twelve points in forty games. The numbers (4G/8A) aren’t encouraging, but the top scorer on the Sea Dogs, Robbie Burt, only has 27 points (15G/12A) in as many games, roughly two times Prikryl’s tally. Given Prikryl’s international success (five points in seven games on the Czech U18 team so far this year), and the appalling state of the team’s goal differential, Prikryl might be worth taking a chance on to the Capitals, who have enough of a logjam at forward that they can afford to take on a few projects. Given the Capitals’ success with Czech wingers with national team success, Prikryl might be worth a look.