Last week I made mention that I would try to start bringing the focus of the Journey back to a broader pool of prospects, as opposed to remaining fixated on the 2019 draft class. Well, I lied. I had a moment of nostalgia involving a high school yearbook and thought to myself: This could be a great and fun way to talk about prospects – so I’m doing it. Not quite like this though…
Today we’ll have a look at the most obvious – the NHL Entry Draft Class of 2019.
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”
– Some guy
“I’m just excited to meet Ryan Getzlaf I guess.”
“I think I’m a two-way forward, really good vision, see the ice really well. Not afraid to make pretty cool passes. Really good on the power play.”
6-0 | 170lbs | Anaheim Ducks
Drafted: 9th Overall
Most likely to: Go pro after one year in the NCAA
Quinn Hughes, Charlie McAvoy, Zach Werenski, the list goes on… Sometimes good players just need another year to refine their game. The NCAA is an excellent spot for players do develop into the NHL-ready products that their teams’ desire, and Trevor Zegras is not far off.
This six-foot winger has already displayed one of the most elusive 200-foot games of any player from the 2019 draft class. Zegras’ ability to find open ice and frequently create high-danger scoring opportunities is the pinnacle of a skillset that makes him a highly intimidating opponent. The 18-year-old brings an electrifying level of energy to every shift that sometimes gives the false impression that he lacks poise. In fact, the Ducks likely selected one of the more intelligent, sound decision makers of the draft – the fact that his feet seemingly never stop moving is simply a bonus. There’s no question that the Ducks will be salivating at the opportunity to see Zegras in black and gold after he begins to dominate Hockey East. Freshman success could quite conceivably earn him a contract regardless of the other budding prospects in their system.
“I think I’m an offensive forward with high hockey IQ, good puck skills and shooting ability that scores a lot.”
5-8 | 159lbs | Philadelphia Flyers
Drafted: 34th Overall
Most likely to: Leave for the CHL (Portland) after a year in the NCAA
Over the last couple of years we’ve begun to see a small trend of young NCAA players forgoing their education after a year of missing expectations. Examples of players headlining the trend include Islanders’ 2016 19th overall draft pick Kieffer Bellows, as well as more recently, Flyers’ 19th overall selection, Jay O’Brien. While Bellows opted for the Portland Winterhawks, who owned his CHL rights, O’Brien, whose CHL rights are owned by the QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes has committed to the Penticton Vees of the BCHL. The reasoning for both players departures from the collegiate level can be determined by reading between the lines.
- Both were selected in the first round – their teams likely had high expectations for them as they set out to conquer the next tier of hockey.
- Both had low-moderate production in their freshman year of college
- Both played on relatively successful teams which appeared to limit their opportunity (Bellows – BU: HockeyEast Champion; O’Brien – Providence: Frozen Four
The bottom line for both players is that a different/lower tier of hockey simply offered them more opportunity to have offensive success.
Now, where does Bobby Brink fit in? The 18-year-old will attend The University of Denver next fall. By all accounts, the Pioneers will be a contending squad led by the likes of Ian Mitchell (CHI), Cole Guttman (TB) and Mathias Emilio Pettersen (CGY). The 5-8 winger could be poised for an outstanding freshman campaign alongside those players. If he struggles to produce, however, Brink could follow in the footsteps of Bellows and head north to Portland for a boost.
“I want to stay here because this hockey is so much better than in Russia”
6-0 | 181lbs | Minnesota Wild
Drafted: 42nd Overall
Most likely to: Play out his NCAA career and be sought after elsewhere as a free-agent
The Minnesota Wild entered the 2019 NHL Entry Draft with Paul Fenton as their General Manager, and Paul Fenton Jr. (P.J.) as their Head Amateur scout. With the elder Paul now ousted from the Wild front office, it’s anyone's guess what kind of relationship the incoming regime will have with their recently drafted prospects. Despite Fenton’s untimely demise in the Twin Cities, the Wild’s 2019 draft board appears to be quite satisfactory, by and large.
Their second selection of the draft came at 42nd overall where Fenton selected Waterloo Black Hawks forward Vladislav Firstov. The native of Yaroslavl, Russia, dominated the USHL as a 17-year-old and will continue his hockey career in North America with the UConn Huskies. The Huskies play in the star-studded Hockey East conference where they’ve struggled to complete as of late. The 6-foot tall Firstov, however, should have an excellent opportunity for individual success throughout his time in Connecticut. That being said, his lack of draft pedigree may present a barrier for recognition. If there’s any hint of a sense that the Russian is undervalued by the new management, we could be looking at a familiar scene of teams vying for his services as he approaches graduation.
I’d love to hear thoughts on this kind of a writing format. If it’s a popular segment I’d love to incorporate it into The Journey on a regular cycle.
Find me on Twitter @olaf1393 / Thanks for reading.