Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical draft profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Sports is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Prospects”! For a Complete Listing of all our 2018-19 Articles Click here. We will be sure to bring you our comprehensive coverage of the 2019 NHL Draft.
February Rankings and Reports: 2019 NHL Draft
With the Junior seasons not just in Canada but throughout the world gearing up for the stretch drive and a number of international tournaments (Ivan Hlinka, Five Nations, Four Nations, Subway Super Series, World Juniors) in the books, we have gotten a decent overview of what some of the biggest prospects for the draft are doing this year. This is an up-to-date look and ranking of these prospects. That said, there is still plenty of work to be done and many important games to be played including the junior league playoffs, European playoffs, and of course the Under-18 World Championships. While the rankings still have some fluidity, a pecking order is also starting to define itself. For now, this is what we have, we hope you enjoy the early preview and be sure to be ready in late March as we roll out our full player-by-player draft preview.
11.) Peyton Krebs, Centre/Left Wing, Kootenay Ice, 5’11” 181 lbs
The 1st overall pick in the 2016 WHL Draft, Krebs spent most of his first season in the league playing left wing for the Kootenay Ice. However, he has converted to centre in his second year in the league. Krebs put up 54 points in 67 games and led all WHL rookies in scoring. This year he has 18 goals and 60 points in 50 games. An outstanding skater, Krebs can create chances in transition due to his speed. He takes defenders wide and can cut to the net. He also has the ability to change direction on a dime making him difficult to contain one-on-one. If defenders back off to respect his speed, Krebs can take advantage of the added room by letting go a powerful and accurate wrist shot, with a quick release.
Krebs is best known for his playmaking ability. He can thread the puck through extremely tight spaces, as well as make strong saucer passes. He is also good at passing the puck on his backhand. His strong hockey sense allows him to read the play and anticipate the movements of teammates and opponents. Krebs works hard in the defensive zone, supporting his teammates down low and working to break up passing lanes. He will need to add some muscle to his frame in the coming years in order to be better along the boards.
12.) Ryan Suzuki, Centre, Barrie Colts, 6’0″ 172 lbs
The first overall pick in the 2017 OHL Draft is the brother of Montreal Canadiens prospect, Nick Suzuki. Last season, he put up 14 goals and 44 points in 64 games. This year he’s improved with 18 goals and 55 points in 51 games. Suzuki uses outstanding skating ability to create space and generate chances. He can beat defenders wide and accelerate to the front of the net with his speed. He can also change directions, or change speeds to open up passing and shooting lanes. Suzuki sees the ice very well and processes the game quickly. He understands where teammates are headed and can make a tape-to-tape pass through tight areas.
Suzuki also has a good release on his shot but needs to add some upper body strength in order to generate more power. He also has a very good backhand. He is a tenacious player who forechecks hard and is willing to battle along the boards. Suzuki could improve his strength to be more effective in these battles though. He could also stand to improve his work in the defensive end of the ice though. This is another area of his game that would improve with added upper body strength.
13.) Cam York, Left Defence, U.S. National Team Development Program, 5’11” 172 lbs
York split last season between the Under-17 and Under-18 US teams, picking up a gold at the U17 World Hockey Challenge and a silver at the IIHF U18. This season, York is leading the blueline for one of the strongest U-18 teams in memory. Consider that he is ranked 13th in this list and is the fifth member of the team in the rankings. He has put up six goals and 33 points in 41 games. York is an excellent skater. He has very good speed and acceleration in both directions. He also has outstanding edgework, agility, and pivots. This gives York the ability to play a strong two-way game.
York’s biggest asset is his hockey sense. He makes smart decisions both with and without the puck. He joins the rush and pinches at the right times. This allows him to create offence while still maintaining his defensive responsibilities. York has excellent vision and the passing skills to quarterback the power play. He also has a good shot, but needs to get better at getting it through passing lanes and on net. His good skating ability allows him to maintain gap control, and to keep opponents to the outside, playing a strong defensive game. York could stand to play a bit more physical though.
14.) Matthew Robertson, Left Defence, Edmonton Oil Kings, 6’4″ 201 lbs
Robertson had seven goals and 24 points in 67 games as a WHL rookie last season. While the stats might not show it, his mature two-way game has caught the eyes of scouts and earned him a spot on Team Canada for the Under-18s. After helping the team to a gold medal, Robertson has picked up six goals and 22 points in 40 games this year, greatly improving his points ber game. Robertson has great size at 6-foot-4 and pairs this with excellent mobility. He skates well in both directions and has the pivots to transition from offence to defence quickly and vice versa. The skating ability has become the foundation of his two-way game. He could work on his agility to keep up with particularly shifty forwards.
Generally, Robertson has good gap control and keeps attackers to the outside on the rush. If they have their head down, he is not afraid to throw a big hit. However, he does not get caught out of position looking for one. He has a strong physical game in the corners and in front of the net. Robertson is a very good passer. This shows up in the transition game where he can start the rush from his own end. It also helps him at the point on the power play. Robertson has a good slap shot and a knack for getting it through the shooting lane. He may never be a big scorer at the next level, but should not look out of place and has the potential to be a top-four defenceman.
15.) Raphael Lavoie, Right Wing/Centre, Halifax Mooseheads, 6’4″ 198 lbs
Lavoie had a strong second season in the QMJHL, putting up 30 goals and 63 points in 68 games with the Halifax Mooseheads. He was also impressive at the under-18 with five goals in five games for Team Canada. Lavoie has continued his momentum this season with 25 goals and 59 points in 55 games. He has the size to be a power winger. Lavoie is a natural sniper. He has an excellent shot and quick release. Lavoie is also good at getting to the front of the net where he has the soft hands and good hand-eye coordination to finish in close to the net with rebounds and tip-ins. He has good stickhandling ability and protects the puck well.
Lavoie is a strong skater for his size. He has a good first step and acceleration, as well as the top end speed to pull away from defenders and create breakaways and odd-man rushes. He also has very good agility and edgework. Lavoie is tough to knock off the puck, with excellent balance. His stride is powerful and he can fight through checks and get to the net. The main criticism of Lavoie at this point is his defensive game. He will need to work on improving that going forward.
Main Photo: KELOWNA, CANADA – DECEMBER 2: Peyton Krebs #19 of the Kootenay Ice skates against the Kelowna Rockets on December 2, 2017 at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)