The 2019 NHL Draft will be loaded with young players of elite talent and immense potential, yet the class of 2019 will also boast a number of prospects who have been wrongly overlooked for far too long.
Whether it be a lack of size, exposure, or proven play, the coming Draft will hold a number of hidden gems waiting to be unearthed.
After all, it is these overlooked prospects who typically become crucial players within Stanley Cup winning organizations. Sure, each and every NHL team needs its fair share of stars, but critical depth players who can provide a secondary scoring touch or eat major minutes are also critical components of any winning franchise.
Case in point?
Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals who, despite being selected 93rd overall in the 2008 NHL Draft, was essential to the Capitals’ Stanley Cup championship in 2017-18.
With this being said, here are five largely overlooked prospects set to explode during the upcoming 2018-19 campaign — in alphabetical order:
1. Cole Caufield
Position: Centre/ Right-Wing
2018-19 Team: USA NTDP U18
Cole Caufield is one of the 2019 NHL Draft’s most lethal snipers — he potted 54 goals in just 59 games played for USA Hockey’s NTDP last season, one off of Auston Matthews’ program record of 55 set in 2014-15.
Yet, in addition to his goal-scoring prowess, Caufield is one of the smallest players eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft — a reality which has come to unfairly affect the native of Mosinee, Wisconsin’s stock as an NHL prospect. Standing 5-foot-6 and 160-pounds, Caufield’s lack of size has long been viewed as a deficiency, however, it has never had a glaring impact on his abilities on the ice.
Throughout his young career to date, Caufield has been a remarkably lethal and consistent goal-scorer regardless of where he has played. Fuelled by an accurate shot and a willingness to drive hard to the net, Caufield has learned to score in a multitude of manners and stands as a versatile presence as a result.
2. Nolan Foote
2018-19 Team: Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
The sport of hockey runs rampant in Nolan Foote’s veins — his father Adam played in 1154 career NHL games, while his older brother Cal was chosen by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft.
However, unlike those who share his bloodline, the youngest Foote is a forward rather than a defenceman — and an incredibly skilful one at that.
Entering into his third WHL season with the Kelowna Rockets in 2018-19, Foote stands as one of this year’s most promising and dynamic power-forwards. Tipping the scale at 190-pounds and standing 6-foot-3, Foote boasts the size of his siblings and the skill to match.
For Foote, his game is founded upon his excellent and heavy shot. Able to release the puck in a split-second and capable of pounding it on goal with remarkable accuracy, Foote’s booming shot has the ability to beat opposing goaltenders clean. Although he has missed time due to injury over the past few seasons, expect Foote to lead the perennial powerhouse Kelowna Rockets in scoring this season.
3. Anttoni Honka
2018-19 Team: JYP (Liiga)
Much like his fellow countryman Miro Heiskanen did leading up to the 2016 NHL Draft, expect Anttoni Honka’s draft stock to soar as the 2018-19 season progresses.
As a fleet-footed defenceman who plays a strong two-way game, Honka is mature beyond his years both on and off of the ice. Known for his ability to play a professional-style of game while remaining poised and composed, Honka will suit up for JYP at the Liiga-level this year despite his young age of just 18 years.
What makes Honka unique, however, is the innate offensive abilities which he brings to the ice on a nightly basis. Extremely creative and confident in his puck-handling abilities, Honka will attempt highlight-reel plays without hesitation and execute them with remarkable consistency.
Although slightly undersized for a defenceman given his 5-foot-10 and 170-pound frame, Honka’s intelligence and ability to navigate throughout the ice allows him to elude his competition’s at-times physical approach.
4. Alex Newhook
2018-19 Team: Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
Alex Newhook is one of the 2019 NHL Draft’s most polarizing prospects.
While many view Newhook’s game as elite based on his stellar skating and natural offensive instincts, others hold differing opinions. For the most part, these alternate views derive from the fact that Newhook plays in the BCHL as opposed to the WHL, for example.
After all, he is committed to Boston College for the 2019-20 campaign.
However, this choice should not deter NHL franchises from selecting Newhook in the 2019 NHL Draft, as the native of St. John’s, Newfoundland has long been viewed as one of this year’s top young talents.
In fact, with Victoria last season as a 16-year-old, Newhook blasted home 22 goals and 66 points in just 45 games played — an output which earned Newhook the Bruce Allison Memorial Trophy as the BCHL’s Rookie of the Year.
5. Josh Williams
2018-19 Team: Medicine Hat Tigers
As the fifth-overall selection from the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft, it goes without saying that Josh Williams is an incredibly talented player of immense potential.
However, a somewhat satisfactory rookie campaign with the Medicine Hat Tigers last season seems to have quieted the excitement surrounding Williams. In his 47 games played with the Tigers in 2017-18, Williams netted 11 goals and 20 points — a total which stood as the 25th-best output by a WHL rookie.
So, as if determined to prove himself as an elite prospect, Williams burst onto the scene for Team Canada at the recent Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Despite facing overwhelming competition in order to crack his country’s roster, Williams not only made the team but played a significant role in its success. In fact, in his five games played in the tournament, Williams collected five goals and six points — including a timely marker against Team Sweden which helped cement Team Canada’s Gold Medal.
So, although his skating could stand to improve and he would do well to achieve greater consistency, it remains abundantly clear that Williams is a prospect to watch this season. With a somewhat quiet WHL campaign in-hand alongside a Hlinka Gretzky Championship, expect Williams’ international success to fuel his WHL breakout.