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2019 NHL Draft: Young prospects opening eyes at the U18 World Championship

We’ve had to get creative for these.

Peyton Krebs - Team Canada
Chris Tanouye/HHOF-IIHF Images

The preliminary round at the IIHF World U18 Championship wrapped up yesterday. A plethora of 2019 draft-eligible prospects have had statement games for their teams and have been able to boost their stock.

The United States and Canada finished atop their respective groups. Since I’ve only had the opportunity to watch those two teams closely (TSN didn’t air any games that didn’t feature those two teams, sorry), I compiled a list of players who fit the following criteria:

  1. Really impressed me
  2. Play for USA or Canada
  3. The Avalanche could potentially draft in June

Now, the Avs own the fourth overall pick (thanks, Ottawa!), as well as a pick somewhere between 16 and 31 (depending on how far they advance in the playoffs). That’s a large range — but it also means they won’t end up with Jack Hughes (Kaapo Kakko isn’t playing at the U18s) or anyone projected to go from fifth to 15th.

With the 4th Overall Pick

Hughes and Kakko will go 1-2. We think (and hope) that Chicago takes Vasili Podkolzin third. If they don’t, he will be in the mix here. As far as North American eligibles that the Avalanche could draft, though, I’ve come up with five who have really impressed me in the last week.

Dylan Cozens (C) — Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)

Cozens is the player the Avalanche should take with this pick. He has extremely smooth skating for a player of his stature (6’3”) and he’s a natural goal-scorer. Whether it’s banging in rebounds around the crease or unleashing his wicked shot, he’s been extremely prolific for Canada — including putting up five points against Belarus.

Peyton Krebs — Kootenay Ice (WHL)

Krebs is Canada’s captain as this tournament. He centers the top line with Cozens and Alex Newhook (who is further down in this article). He’s an incredibly intelligent and aware centerman who does all the right things, but he can also set teammates up for goals and score on his own. Ever since this line was put together against Belarus, they’ve clicked and become a dangerous threat every time they cross opponents’ blue lines.

Alex Turcotte — USNTDP (Wisconsin commit)

Turcotte battled injury early in the season, but he’s really come into his own as the season’s continued. He has great offensive instincts and is labelled as the best two-way player available in the draft. Turcotte is a very agile and sneaky skater, a relentless forechecker, and really stepped up his play for the US National Team when Hughes was injured late in the season. He centers the second line for the United States at the U18s. Turcotte and Matthew Boldy have made an offensively formidable pair behind the lethal duo of Hughes and Cole Caufield.

Off-the-Board Choices

Trevor Zegras — USNTDP (Boston University commit)

Zegras is projected to go somewhere around sixth, but this is a player whose skill and vision are comparable to Hughes. He spent a lot of time on Hughes’ wing, but he’s been given more responsibility as the team’s second-line center at the U18s. He’s more of a playmaker than a finisher, but Zegras has excited fans and scouts all season and could be a player who ends up being drafted much higher than where he’s projected to go.

Matthew Boldy — USNTDP (Boston College commit)

Moving Zegras to play with Boldy at the U18s has benefited both of them. Boldy is the finisher on that line, but he’s also got elite vision that opens him up to offensive opportunities others may not be aware of right away. His skating has looked a lot stronger as of late. He’s the total package that scouts love — size, speed, and skill. He the longest-shot of the five here, but anything can happen on draft day.

With the Other First-Round Pick

I divided up this section because it’s dependent on whether or not Colorado reaches the Conference Final. It’s more likely at the moment that they’ll be picking mid-first, but I’ve given options just in case they end up playing into late-May (or trade down).

Mid-First Round

Cam York — USNTDP (Michigan commit)

Think Sam Girard or Cale Makar when you look at Cam York. He’s an offense-first defenseman with effortless skating and vision. Like any offensive defenseman, the defense part of the game tends to take a back-seat — which is what York needs to work on to make the NHL. Even with that said, he rarely gets burned in his own end, and York’s skating is often good enough to get him back to his own end after joining the rush. He’s on USA’s top pair at the U18’s, and leads the tournament in scoring by a defenseman.

Philip Tomasino — Niagara (OHL)

Tomasino is a defensively-responsible center who is just as good at setting up his teammates as he is at potting goals himself. Down 2-1 to the Czechs after the first on Tuesday, Tomasino (and linemates Dylan Holloway and Jakob Pelletier) took the game over. Tomasino set up Holloway for the tying goal, and Holloway repaid the favor by feeding Tomasino for the go-ahead goal minutes later. They were relentless on the forecheck, and absolutely peppered the Czech goalie with shots until he was beat.

Alex Newhook — Victoria (BCHL, Boston College commit)

The only Canadian U18 player who isn’t playing major junior also happens to be leading the team in scoring. Newhook obliterated junior-A this season with 102 points in 53 games. He was moved to Canada’s top line with Cozens and Krebs and has flourished. Newhook got Canada on the board on Tuesday, hopping out of the penalty box and burying the receiving 2-on-1 pass. He’s one of the fastest players available in the draft with the ability to make plays and finish them off.

Late-First Round

Brayden Tracey — Moose Jaw (WHL)

Tracey started the U18s as Canada’s 13th forward. Four goals and six points later, he’s definitely not that anymore. He’s been a huge part of why Canada has the top powerplay in the tournament and we’re seeing the same Tracey that Moose Jaw fans have been watching in awe this season. He scores from the crease or in the slot, and is usually parked in front of goalies. A speedy skater with great edges and unafraid to engage in battles along the boards, Tracey is an opportunistic offensive producer and led the CHL in scoring by a rookie this season.

Jamieson Rees — Sarnia (OHL)

Has there been a better and more consistent player for Canada in this tournament than Rees? He missed the first half of the season due to a lacerated kidney and was suspended in the playoffs for a high hit, but he’s bounced back with a very impressive showing at the U18s. He has an innate ability to accelerate quickly and blow by defenders with his strong stride (maybe a little less powerful than Nathan Mackinnon). Rees reads plays extremely well, can find the open areas of the ice, and is as good of a player in his own end.

Jakob Pelletier — Moncton (QMJHL)

The third player on the Tomasino line may not go as high, but Pelletier has one of the best hockey IQs of a draft-eligible and is always driving play on whatever line he’s on. He’s a smaller player, but can cut around defensemen and use his deft hands to create offense by finding open space. He can play all three forward positions and anywhere in a lineup. A shifty two-way threat, Pelletier is relentless on forechecks and in board battles at both ends of the ice.

Prospect Statistics

Regular Season Numbers

Player Team Position GP G A P
Player Team Position GP G A P
Alex Turcotte USNTDP C 33 26 35 61
Matthew Boldy USNTDP LW 60 32 46 78
Dylan Cozens Lethbridge - WHL C 68 34 50 84
Peyton Krebs Kootenay - WHL C 64 19 49 68
Trevor Zegras USNTDP C/LW 56 26 53 79
Alex Newhook Victoria - BCHL C 51 38 64 102
Cam York USNTDP D 59 11 48 59
Jakob Pelletier Moncton - QMJHL LW 65 39 50 89
Brayden Tracey Moose Jaw - WHL LW 66 36 45 81
Philip Tomasino Niagara - OHL C 67 34 38 72
Jamieson Rees Sarnia - OHL C 37 10 22 32
Statistics from Elite Prospects

Statistics at the U-18s

Player Team GP G A P
Player Team GP G A P
Matthew Boldy USA 4 3 8 11
Alex Newhook CAN 4 4 4 8
Alex Turcotte USA 4 3 5 8
Peyton Krebs CAN 4 4 3 7
Dylan Cozens CAN 4 3 4 7
Jamieson Rees CAN 4 2 5 7
Brayden Tracey CAN 4 4 2 6
Cam York USA 4 2 4 6
Philip Tomasino CAN 3 1 3 4
Trevor Zegras USA 2 0 3 3
Jakob Pelletier CAN 4 0 2 2
Statistics as of April 23, 2019 Statistics from Elite Prospects

European Prospects To Watch

With the tournament coming to an end this weekend, here are European draft-eligible skaters to keep an eye on (I’ll finally get a chance to watch them too):

  • Vasili Podkolzin, RUS
  • Anttoni Honka, FIN
  • Ville Heinola, FIN
  • Philipp Broberg, SWE

Quarter-finals begin tomorrow. Here’s how the schedule breaks down: