2019 NHL Mock Draft: 1st-Round Predictions and Top Prospects on the RiseJune 19, 2019
The final days, hours and minutes are ticking away before the New Jersey Devils officially begin the 2019 NHL draft.
New Jersey is preparing to choose Jack Hughes―the likely pick―or Kaapo Kakko, and the New York Rangers are expected to select whichever player of that duo drops to No. 2.
From there, though, it's anyone's guess.
Thanks to a strong dose of lottery luck, the Chicago Blackhawks hold the third overall choice despite narrowly missing the playoffs. They have narrowed their list of potential picks to six players, according to Adam Kimelman of NHL.com.
Chicago understands Hughes and Kakko will likely be off the board. Beginning with the Colorado Avalanche at No. 4, though, the rest of the league must be ready to adjust on the fly.
2019 NHL Mock Draft Round 1
1. New Jersey Devils: Jack Hughes, C, U.S. National U18 Team (NTDP)
2. New York Rangers: Kaapo Kakko, LW, TPS Turku (Liga)
3. Chicago Blackhawks: Alex Turcotte, C, U.S. National U18 Team (NTDP)
4. Colorado Avalanche (via OTT): Dylan Cozens, C, Lethbridge (WHL)
5. Los Angeles Kings: Bowen Byram, D, Vancouver (WHL)
6. Detroit Red Wings: Trevor Zegras, C, U.S. National U18 Team (NTDP)
7. Buffalo Sabres: Cole Caufield, RW, U.S. National U18 Team (NTDP)
8. Edmonton Oilers: Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon (WHYL)
9. Anaheim Ducks: Peyton Krebs, C, Winnipeg (WHL)
10. Vancouver Canucks: Philip Broberg, D, AIK (Allsvenskan)
11. Philadelphia Flyers: Victor Soderstrom, D, Byrnas (SHL)
12. Minnesota Wild: Vasili Podkolzin, RW, SKA (MHL)
13. Florida Panthers: Thomas Harley, D, Mississauga (OHL)
14. Arizona Coyotes: Matthew Boldy, LW, U.S. National U18 Team (NTDP)
15. Montreal Canadiens: Arthur Kaliyev, LW, Hamilton (OHL)
16. Colorado Avalanche: Spencer Knight, G, U.S. National U18 Team (NTDP)
17. Vegas Golden Knights: Raphael Lavoie, C, Halifax (QMJHL)
18. Dallas Stars: Alex Newhook, C, Victoria (BCHL)
19. Ottawa Senators (from CBJ): Ryan Suzuki, C, Barrie (OHL)
20. New York Rangers (from WPG): Philip Tomasino, C, Niagara (OHL)
21. Pittsburgh Penguins: Cam York, D, U.S. National U18 Team (NTDP)
22. Los Angeles Kings (from TOR): Nils Hoglander, LW, Rogle (SHL)
23. New York Islanders: Moritz Seider, D, Mannheim (DEL)
24. Nashville Predators: Nolan Foote, LW, Kelowna (WHL)
25. Washington Capitals: Samuel Poulin, RW, Sherbrooke (QMJHL)
26. Calgary Flames: Jakob Pelletier, LW, Moncton (QMJHL)
27. Tampa Bay Lightning: Ville Heinola, D, Luukko (Liiga)
28. Carolina Hurricanes: Brayden Tracey, LW, Moose Jaw (WHL)
29. Anaheim Ducks (from SJS via BUF): Matthew Robertson, Edmonton (WHL)
30. Boston Bruins: Patrik Puistola, LW, Taapara (Liiga)
31. Buffalo Sabres (from STL): Alex Vlasic, D, U.S. National U18 Team (NTDP)
Top Prospects to Watch
So, what exactly should the Blackhawks do?
Mark Kelley, the team's vice president of amateur scouting, said the organization will be able to prioritize the best player available, but he sees a clear strength in this year's class.
"Where we're picking we get our choice," he said, per Kimelman. "I think if you looked at the draft as a whole probably the depth of the first round is at the forward position."
Alex Turcotte, Dylan Cozens, Trevor Zegras, Cole Caufield and Kirby Dach are among the highest-ranked forwards. The Blackhawks will likely consider Bowen Byram, though they'd be using a first-round selection on a defenseman for the third straight year.
The Canadian is a special talent, though.
Byram racked up 71 points (26 goals, 45 assists) in 67 regular-season games with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL. In the playoffs, he collected a league-high 26 points (8 G, 18 A) in 22 games.
If the Hawks pass on the 18-year-old, the Avalanche could snag him.
"He's the new-age defensemen here in the National Hockey League," said Alan Hepple, the Colorado director of amateur scouting, per Mike Chambers of the Denver Post. "He skates, he moves the puck, his puck management is unbelievable. His sense for the game—he's got that little bite in his game, that grit, that I think is important ... He's not going to be stopped. This kid is really good."
Still, the forwards will be enticing.
Turcotte posted 62 points (27 G, 35 A) in 37 games, and Cozens accounted for 84 (34 G, 50 A) in 68 appearances. Zegras, Caufield and Dach all averaged more than a point per game, too.
Given the lack of consensus for those scorers, any one of the coveted prospects could rise. Whether it's a surprise is based on your preference―and if Friday's selection matches that perception.
Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.