It’s officially 2019, and with the turn of the calendar comes our first NHL Draft ranking of the year.
The class eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft is one which features a great deal of skill and variety. In fact, in addition to a number of wildly talented players available, this year’s crop of young prospects is also proving to be exceptionally deep and positionally versatile.
Outside of the likes of Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, a distinct group of secondary prospects has clearly emerged. Comprising this secondary class of prospects are players of varying position, age, and nationality — all of which boasting the skill-set necessary to one day make an impact at the NHL-level. Of the lot, it is prospects such as Brett Leason and Hunter Jones who — although unlikely to be chosen in the opening round — will prove to be downright steals once selected by an NHL franchise.
With less than six months until draft day and the second half of the 2018-19 season in full swing, let’s take a closer look at three prospects who have impressed of late before moving onto January’ top-31.
Three Prospects on the Rise
2018-19 Team: Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
Total Points in December: 9GP: 4G, 11Pts
Although somewhat of a relative unknown ahead of the 2019 NHL Draft, Yegor Afanasyev has played exceptionally well of late and is continuing to strengthen his stock as a premier NHL prospect. Committed to Michigan State University, Afanasyev is a sizeable forward who features the unique ability to combine his strength and skill on a nightly basis.
Well-known for his devastating shot, Afanasyev is also a quality playmaker who can devise and implement high-percentage scoring opportunities if afforded too much time and space in the offensive zone. A force in front of the goal given his 6-foot-3 frame and seemingly impossible to move owing to his 205-pound weight, Afanasyev is quickly becoming an elite offensive player in the USHL and one whose name could be called surprisingly early come Draft day.
2018-19 Team: London Knights (OHL)
Total Points in December: 9GP: 8G, 17Pts
The London Knights are a force to be reckoned with in the OHL this season, and a major reason for their potency has been the play of Connor McMichael. Despite an average start to his second OHL campaign, McMichael has been red-hot of late — driving the Knights’ offence while playing a crucial role at both ends of the ice as well.
A natural centre-man, McMichael’s offence derives from his remarkable speed and agility on the ice. Capable of reaching top speed in a short number of strides and able to maintain his momentum through the neutral zone, McMichael attacks his defenders with pace and forces them onto their heels as a result. Once established in the offensive zone, McMichael is a threat to pass the puck as well as shoot it — a reality which makes him a versatile and growing offensive threat.
2018-19 Team: Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Total Points in December: 9GP: 5G, 12Pts
The Niagara IceDogs are loaded for a legitimate Memorial Cup run. Boasting impressive depth throughout their roster as well as players of varying age, the IceDogs could pose a serious threat to the highly touted Ottawa 67’s in the Eastern Conference. Aside from the play of Ben Jones and the recently acquired Jason Robertson, one player who has made significant strides while influencing the play of his team is Phillip Tomasino.
Although his offensive production was relatively meagre to begin the 2018-19 campaign, Tomasino’s play has surged alongside Niagara’s success — the native of Mississauga, Ontario recorded 12 points in his nine games played in December, defined by a five-point performance against the Oshawa Generals. For Tomasino, a spike in his confidence offensively has fuelled his outburst, as the former first-round choice of the IceDogs has suddenly become a threat to pass the puck as well as shoot it.
January’s Top-31 Prospects
Although only two new players have cracked our top-31 NHL prospects ranking for the month of January, there was a great deal of change within the order itself as this year’s top talent continues to jostle for position.
Related: All 2019 NHL Prospect Profiles
Enjoying the biggest rises in this month’s ranking are Bobby Brink, Vasili Podkolzin, and Alex Turcotte — three players whose outstanding yet consistent offensive play has thrust them onto the brink of potential stardom at the NHL-level. On the opposite end of the spectrum were Matthew Boldy, Cole Caufield, and Ryan Suzuki — three players who have slid slightly owing to their mediocre play of late in combination with the impressive efforts of those trailing closely behind.
As always, be sure to check out our past rankings in order to track how particular players have progressed over the course of the season.
Related: All 2019 NHL Draft Rankings
|1||–||Jack Hughes||C||USA U18 (NTDP)|
|2||–||Kaapo Kakko||C/RW||Turku (SM-liiga)|
|3||–||Kirby Dach||C||Saskatoon Blades (WHL)|
|4||+1||Dylan Cozens||C||Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)|
|5||-1||Bowen Byram||D||Vancouver Giants (WHL)|
|6||+2||Philip Broberg||D||AIK J20 (SuperElit)|
|7||–||Alex Newhook||C||VIctoria Grizzlies (BCHL)|
|8||+1||Peyton Krebs||C||Kootenay Ice (WHL)|
|9||+1||Arthur Kaliyev||RW||Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)|
|10||+4||Vasili Podkolzin||RW||SKA 1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)|
|11||–||Trevor Zegras||C||USA U18 (NTDP)|
|12||+1||Jakob Pelletier||C/LW||Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)|
|13||-7||Ryan Suzuki||C||Barrie Colts (OHL)|
|14||+1||Cam York||D||USA U18 (NTDP)|
|15||-3||Tobias Bjornfot||D||Djurgardens IF J20 (SuperElit)|
|16||–||Albin Grewe||RW||Djurgardens IF J20 (SuperElit)|
|17||–||Anttoni Honka||D||JYP (SM-liiga)|
|18||+7||Alex Turcotte||C||USA U18 (NTDP)|
|19||-1||Raphael Lavoie||LW||Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)|
|20||+8||Bobby Brink||RW||Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)|
|21||-1||Victor Soderstrom||D||Brynas IF J20 (SuperElit)|
|22||–||Nils Hoglander||LW||Rogle BK J20 (SuperElit)|
|23||–||Thomas Harley||D||Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)|
|24||-3||Matthew Boldy||LW||USA U18 (NTDP)|
|25||-6||Cole Caufield||RW||USA U18 (NTDP)|
|26||NR||Connor McMichael||C||London Knights (OHL)|
|27||-3||Matthew Robertson||D||Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)|
|28||-1||Spencer Knight||G||USA U18 (NTDP)|
|29||–||Nathan Legare||RW||Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)|
|30||–||Max Wahlgren||C/RW||MODO J20 (SuperElit)|
|31||NR||Pavel Dorofeyev||LW/RW||Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk (MHL)|
15 Honourable Mentions
For the first time this year, here are 15 honourable mentions to accompany this month’s top-31 prospects.
Essentially, these 15 players are ranked 32-47th overall and stand on the cusp of selection in the first round — as of now. As the season progresses, expect our list of honourable mentions to grow — these are the players you’ll want to keep an eye on in the months ahead as they attempt to dive into the first round.
To simply this feature, the 15 honourable mentions below are listed in alphabetical order.
|HM||Yegor Afanasyev||F||Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)|
|HM||Alexander Campbell||C||Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)|
|HM||Nolan Foote||LW||Kelowna Rockets (WHL)|
|HM||Hunter Jones||G||Peterborough Petes (OHL)|
|HM||Vladislav Kolyachonok||D||Flint Firebirds (OHL)|
|HM||Kaeden Korczak||D||Kelowna Rockets (WHL)|
|HM||Brett Leason||RW||Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)|
|HM||Ilya Mironov||D||Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)|
|HM||Samuel Poulin||LW||Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)|
|HM||Nicholas Robertson||C/LW||Peterborough Petes (OHL)|
|HM||Dmitri Sheshin||LW/RW||Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk (MHL)|
|HM||Lassi Thomson||D||Kelowna Rockets (WHL)|
|HM||Phillip Tomasino||C||Niagara IceDogs (OHL)|
|HM||Alex Vlasic||D||USA U18 (NTDP)|
|HM||Marshall Warren||D||USA U18 (NTDP)|