Three more valuable pieces to the scouting puzzle have been completed with the World Junior A Challenge, the World Junior Championship and the USHL Top Prospects Game in the rearview mirror.
All three events had their own storylines. At the WJAC a second tier of US-born players took gold in Bonneyville, AB. We saw draft eligibles Jack Hughes, Vasili Podkolzin and gold medal winner Kaapo Kakko take centre stage in Vancouver/Victoria at the WJC. And in the USHL Top Prospects Game, Robert Mastrosimone earned the East’s top player award as he continues to battle for first round attention.
In a time span stretching from the world juniors through the Sherwin Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Red Deer on Jan. 23, NHL teams will meet with their scouts to come up with their mid-term lists and set a plan for whom to key-in on in the second half of the season.
While there are a few players who have shifted inside the top 15 this month, there have also been some who have broken into the first round. Here’s a look at our January rankings.
1. Jack Hughes, C, USNTDP, 5-foot-10, 168 pounds: Not at his best due to injury at the WJC, but it doesn’t matter, he’s the top dog for 2019.
2. Kaapo Kakko, RW, TPS (Liiga), 6-foot-4, 207 pounds: The only thing missing is a dynamic element that Hughes has shown. His WJC performance has him anchored in the two-hole.
3. Vasily Podkolzin, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (MHL), 6-foot-1, 183 pounds: Continues to prove he can be leaned on when playing against older competition. He did it at the WJAC and stepped up a notch in class to perform well at the WJC.
4. Dylan Cozens, C, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL), 6-foot-3, 185 pounds: Didn’t hang his head after not getting a chance to go to Canada’s WJC selection camp. Skating ability and smarts make him a legit threat every night.
5. Matthew Boldy, LW, USNTDP, 6-foot-1, 187 pounds: Continues to grow, which can only help an already electric package.
6. Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon Blades (WHL), 6-foot-3, 195 pounds: A beast of a man who is bound and determined to be a pro. A big part of a long-awaited turnaround in Saskatoon.
7. Peyton Krebs, C, Kootenay Ice (WHL), 5-foot-11, 180 pounds: Does being the best player on a poor team make it easier or harder for scouts?
8. Bowen Byram, D. Vancouver Giants (WHL), 6-foot-1, 195 pounds: Has done enough on both sides of the puck to project as a top-four two-way defenceman.
9. Alex Turcotte, C, USNTDP, 5-foot-11, 189 pounds: Just starting to get his game legs back after missing a month and a half. Details and reliability are the hallmarks of his game.
10. Raphael Lavoie, C/RW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL), 6-foot-4, 192 pounds: Truly an enigma who you’d love to see play with the urgency of a fire drill.
11. Arthur Kaliyev, RW, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL), 6-foot-1, 190 pounds: Will get a chance to play a lead role with key offensive players moving on. But that also means there’s less of a supporting cast.
12. Cam York, D, USNTDP, 5-foot-11, 171 pounds: Underrated in the defensive details. Puck movement, gap control and shot-blocking are above average thanks to a great skating foundation.
13. Spencer Knight, G, USNTDP, 6-foot-3, 197 pounds: Hard to argue not playing him at the WJC, but it would’ve made for some great scouting opportunities.
14. Trevor Zegras, C, USNTDP, 6-foot, 166 pounds: Plays with attitude, dangerous one-on-one and is a PP magician.
15. Cole Caufield, RW, USNTDP, 5-foot-6, 155 pounds: Continues to light the lamp, especially against college competition, which is a good indicator.
16. Philip Broberg, D, AIK (Allsvenskan), 6-foot-3, 190 pounds: He’s big and he skates well, but the jury is out on his stick/puck skills. Took advantage of an injury just to make Sweden’s WJC team, but was well down on their depth chart.
17. Alex Newhook, C, Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL), 5-foot-11, 190 pounds: Explosive forward missed four league games to play in WJAC and still has a big lead in the BCHL scoring race with 63 points in 35 games.
18. Jakob Pelletier, LW, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL), 5-foot-9, 161 pounds: Smaller players have to exhibit a dynamic element with off the charts compete. Both boxes are checked for Pelletier.
19. Brett Leason, RW, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL), 6-foot-4, 207 pounds: Questions about pace and skating have quelled. Agility needs to improve, but he’s got a great stick and is especially effective on the forecheck. Not only can he finish, but is an underrated playmaker.
20. Ryan Suzuki, C, Barrie Colts (OHL), 6-foot, 172 pounds: Must prove there are more dimensions to his game, but his hockey IQ will keep him afloat until then.
21. Thomas Harley, D, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL), 6-foot-3, 188 pounds: As calm as the day is long, even when making the high risk play. Has been a pleasant surprise in an otherwise down year for the OHL.
22. Victor Soderstrom, D, Brynas (Sweden U20) 5-foot-11, 179 pounds: Steadiness always plays. He is like the Isac Lundestrom of defencemen.
23. Ville Heinola, D, Lukko (Liiga) 5-foot-11, 178 pounds: World junior injury notwithstanding, has continued a steady rise that has seen him maintain big minutes in Finland’s top pro league all season.
24. Nolan Foote, LW, Kelowna Rockets (WHL), 6-foot-3, 190 pounds: Goal scoring is his calling card, but there’s been steady progression in other areas.
25. Vladislav Kolyachonok, D, Flint Firebirds (WHL), 6-foot, 176 pounds: Matches high-end skating with high-end hockey IQ. Stories of his work ethic are legendary.
26. Pavel Dorofeyev, LW, Magnitogorsk (MHL) 6-foot-1, 167 pounds: Works hard to create offence and is an analytics darling with ability to consistently get chances from the “home plate area.”
27. Alex Vlasic, D, USNTDP, 6-foot-5, 193 pounds: An excellent skater with size who plays with bite. Has a great stick to make him difficult to beat in the defensive zone.
28. Matthew Robertson, D, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL), 6-foot-3, 201 pounds: When he’s healthy he’s going to have to answer the question: “What kind of player will he be at the next level?”
29. Moritz Seider, D, Mannheim (DEL) 6-foot-3, 183 pounds: Being named captain for the U20 team as an underager speaks to the intangibles he brings to the table that complement his size.
30. Philip Tomasino, RW, Niagara IceDogs (OHL), 5-foot-11, 178 pounds: Used an injury to current linemate Akil Thomas to rise to the top of the Dogs’ lineup and has not relinquished his spot.
31. Simon Holmstrom, RW, HV71 (Sweden U20) 6-foot-1, 183 pounds: Has some ground to make up based on injuries that felled him for the November tournaments and the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament before that.