In every NHL draft, there are prospects that fall way lower than they might deserve to, and prospects that go much higher than where hindsight shows that they should have. This is an inherent element of selecting players at such an early point in their develop curve, and an unfortunate consequence of the lack of available resources to accurately project where prospects will develop to over the course of their careers.
However, even within those constraints, even a casual fan can get a pretty good idea of how good a prospect might be. The league they play in is an important factor, as are the number of points they score and the role they played within the team. The quality of teammates they had is also important, as is their size, their position, and their age relative to their cohorts.
With these publicly available tools in use, fans such as myself get a pretty good idea of how the draft should go. We each get our favourite sleepers, our top 10 rankings, and for me, I get a pretty good idea of who’s going to be a bust and who’s going to be a steal. There’s just some prospects that are projected highly that scream “bust” when you look deeper into them. Similarly, there’s always players who are projected later on that just have this air of being overlooked about them.
That’s why I’d like to take a look at the projections in the first couple rounds of the draft, and using what little I know about the prospects for this year I’ll try to highlight some players that are likely to go much higher or much lower than they probably should. I’m no draft expert, so take these words with a few grains of salt. Last year, I very nearly had Elias Petterson on my ‘bad buys’ list, to give you some idea of how little I know what I’m talking about.
It’s always more fun to start with the positive, so Kaliyev is our first certified Good Buy™ of the 2019 NHL draft.
Kaliyev had an insanely good season with over 100 points for the Hamilton Bulldogs. With his OHL pedigree, it’s a bit surprising that an offensive onslaught like that isn’t ranked higher. However, his work ethic has come into question and that almost always sends teams running. With the level of skill he has shown, it’s almost certainly worth the risk to bite early on Kaliyev and hope that his talent level translates and work level grows to gift you a star in the middle of the first round.
While Kaliyev certainly presents some risk, as not all offensively dominant players pan out the way a player like Alex DeBrincat has, he’s going to come with all the physical tools necessary to succeed at the NHL level. All you have to do is inspire him to work with you on his development, and wait for the offensive explosion to win you some games in the NHL.
Speaking of Alex DeBrincat, it seems that people are keenly searching for the next ‘Cat’ to electrify their offense. People were really counting DeBrincat out, despite simply ridiculous offensive numbers, because of his size and some concerns with his skating ability. However, the pendulum is swinging in full force the other way, as Caufield presents exactly the same concerns, but seems set to go in the top 10 of this year’s draft, instead of the second round where DeBrincat fell.
Caufield’s numbers truly are ridiculous though, and he is deserving of the first round selection to be sure. Where in the first round he should go is a huge question for such a little guy. With almost the entirety of his ice time coming with #1 ranked Jack Hughes, it’s incredibly difficult to separate how much Caufield contributed to his own scoring totals. Hughes has the ability to make everyone around him significantly better, and Caufield seems to be his favourite benefactor. Ultimately, it’s a big risk to take and, assuming that teams are going to pull the trigger somewhere in the 8-11 range, I think this is too much risk to take on, and so he comes as a certified Bad Buy™.
It’s important to set the perspective on Broberg, because he really could be considered a great selection or a terrible selection depending on how things play out. Broberg was at one time a top 10 ranked player, having established himself in the Allsvenskan league (Sweden tier 2 men’s league where a lot of the best Swedish prospects find themselves in their draft years) as a good two-way defender. The Swedish invasion is continuing in full force in the NHL, and Broberg is yet another talented defender threatening to dominate the league’s demographics on D someday.
However, it seems like teams are starting to shy away from him, as Bob McKenzie has dropped him to the 15th spot in his rankings. If this fall continues, as it did for Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren in the past, to the seemingly great benefit of the Maple Leafs, he could be a steal of a selection for someone. I have a feeling that he will indeed fall further than 15 at the draft, and the team that finds him there should be ecstatic to take the risk with him. As such, he’s a Good Buy™.
This might be the easiest Bad Buy™ to certify that I’ve ever seen. Leason is 20 years old, and in his last junior season had an insurgence of production that he hadn’t seen prior. He’s also 6’4″ and 210 pounds, playing against kids, and seemingly having a pretty easy time of it. He’s ranked #34 by Bob McKenzie.
Why any team would select a player with this development path at any point before the 3rd round is beyond me. This is definitely not meant to offend Brett or anyone close to him, as he’s probably put a lot of work into growing his game and it’s shown in his numbers. It’s not even necessarily impossible that his sudden influx of scoring is due to a real increase in core skills that will translate to the NHL. However, the far more likely explanation is that he got bigger, stronger, and more experienced and figured out how to demolish junior players using his newfound advantages – advantages that will disappear the second he plays against talent that is equally big, stronger, and far more experienced. If a team can coach him through that transition and keep him developing those core skills, then perhaps he’ll truly be a good player.
The other advantage is that he can step into your development system in the AHL or ECHL as soon as next season, which will not be the case for the majority of the other players in this draft.
Overall, though, I think it’s safe to sign off on Leason being an official Bad Buy™.
With the actual draft positions of each player being so impossible to predict, it’s going to be really interesting to see just how close an Insider like Bob McKenzie can get into the minds of scouts and which players are going higher than one might think. Even just looking at the basic stuff as we’ve done here, some of the rankings definitely are head-scratchers (I literally scratched my head numerous times throughout the writing of this post).
It’s going to be exciting to see whether I’m anywhere close to the mark, both on where people will even be selected, and more importantly, how good they turn out to be during their development. I hope for the best for each and every one of these kids, but the odds clearly show that only a lucky few will be the kind of impact NHL player everyone on that draft board is dreaming to be.
Let me know if you’ve got any upcoming selections you think are ranked far too high or far too low in the comments, and we can all embarrass ourselves together!