As the Colorado Avalanche tumble down the Western Conference standings, there’s no better time to talk about the 2019 NHL Entry Draft [Editor’s note: f*ck you, Tom].
With a couple extra picks — and likely a few more after the team becomes sellers at the deadline — Avalanche fans are going to have a pretty big crop of youngsters to cheer for starting next season.
This year’s draft class is incredibly top heavy. After the top two players of Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, there is a group of about 17 or 18 high-end prospects that will make many teams very happy. After that there is a steep drop off to a large cluster of players.
While the top of the draft is as strong as we’ve seen in a few years, many scouts that believe that it’s not as deep as the past few. That said, there are always players that can be unearthed in the later rounds that can be significant additions to a team’s prospect pool.
Here is a look at some names to keep in mind this June. These are players that could co anywhere from the late second-round to the bottom of the draft and youngsters that might have value beyond the round they are selected.
Danil Antropov, LW, Oshawa (OHL)
The sixth-overall selection in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection Draft, Antropov was once seen as a top prospect in this class. He hasn’t developed the way many had thought but he’s still a legitimate NHL prospect and could end up being a steal in the middle rounds.
He has a very high hockey IQ both with and without the puck. He’s not the fastest skater but knows how to put himself into supportive positions to consistently possess the puck. He’s strong on his skates and protects the puck well using his big frame body. Since the trade deadline, Antropov has been playing on Oshawa’s top line with Avalanche draft pick Brandon Saigeon where the two have shown some instant chemistry.
20 seconds into the third and the Generals captain Jack Studnicka hammers home his 7th of the season. Draft eligible Danil Antropov with the great setup. 3-2 Gens. pic.twitter.com/1c8ywbgzzC— John Morris (@JohnMorrisR53) November 3, 2018
Matias Mäntykivi, F, SaiPa (Liiga)
There likely isn’t a prospect in this year’s draft that has made as much progression this season as Mäntykivi. Starting in Finland’s second-tier junior league, he has worked his way up three levels to play in their top professional league as a 17-year-old. With a six-game tryout in Liiga, the young forward has since been loaned to a lower level, but the fact that he’s playing in a senior professional league is a huge feat given that he’s one of the youngest prospect in the class.
Mäntykivi is a productive forward that is very smart on the ice but has a lot of development to go. His hockey IQ seems to be a strength and it will buy him time to grow the other aspects of the game. He’s a very long term project but will almost certainly have his name called by a smart team this June.
Cole MacKay, RW, Sault Ste Marie (OHL)
Playing on the top line for the Soo Greyhounds, many people like to attribute MacKay’s production to 2018 5th overall selection Barrett Hayton. While Hayton is the straw the one that drives that line, MacKay is a lot more than a passenger.
MacKay’s skating is barely above average, but it’s good enough to be successful as a pro. He’s got strong hands and is learning to be more aggressive when he doesn’t have the puck. He reads the play well and is really good at finishing in close to the net. His 12 even strength goals puts him 10th among draft eligible OHLers this season.
Playing with Hayton, MacKay is matching up against the opposition’s best offensive players on most shits — and he more than holds his own. He also plays on the penalty kill for the Hounds. He’ll get drafted higher than some expect because while MacKay doesn't have an overly high ceiling, he has a game that will transition very well to the NHL.
Maybe the most patiently played 2-on-1 give-and-go you’ll ever see @BarrettHayton to @9Cmackay who waits, and waits, then feeds it back to the @OHLHoundPower captain. pic.twitter.com/BZxuvfVb4C— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) October 20, 2018
Noah Beck, D, St. Michael’s Buzzers (OJHL)
Currently committed to play Division 1 at Clarkson University, Noah Beck is a big two-way defender that could end up in the OHL with the London Knights next season. He is a late bloomer that someone will likely take a flyer on because of his raw potential.
A right-shot, Beck is very lanky at 6’3” and 170 lbs. With time, he can fill out his frame to be an ideal size for the NHL. He’s a long way from being a professional hockey player but with the right development program and a lot of patience, Beck has the potential to make it to the NHL one day.
Lev Starikov, D, Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL)
As a second round pick in the CHL’s Import Draft, Starikov came to the Windsor Spitfires with a lot of promise. Described as “a project” by Spitfires GM Warren Rychel, the 18-year-old Russian had a decent rookie year in the OHL before being cut earlier this year. He is now playing in the USHL where he will hope to rebuild his draft stock.
The one thing that is likely going to get Starikov drafted is the fact that he’s huge. At 6’7” he is a defender with an enormous reach and the frame to turn into a hulking NHLer. He moves pretty well for his size and has a little bit of creativity to his game that you don’t usually see from defensive giants.
He’s a long way off from being a true NHL prospect, but the potential is there and someone will take a flier on him in the last couple of rounds.
Nathan Légaré, RW, Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
Likely the first from this list to be selected, Legare likely won’t make it out of the second round.
The sixth-overall pick in the 2017 QMJHL draft, Légaré is having a breakout season as a sophomore with Baie-Comeau. With 38 goals in 53 games he sits second in the league — one behind Samuel Asselin. Légaré has a nose for the net, putting himself in positions where his teammates can get him the puck. In tight around the net, he has excellent finishing skills, able to get the puck past the goalie with a quick and precise shot.
Légaré is a ferocious forechecker, using his skating ability to put pressure on the defencemen, he also does an excellent job of taking away options and forcing them towards his teammates. He’s not overly big, but at 205 lbs, he’s got the strength to be an effective power-winger in the NHL.
Nathan Légaré with another great game (1 goal, 2 assists). He showcased his great offensive instinct, positioning and powerful shot throughout the game. Definitely a big riser for the #2019NHLDraft ! pic.twitter.com/fjFuJjM7U7— Andy Lehoux (@Andylehoux1) October 27, 2018