Here is my final ranking of the top 100 players for the 2019 NHL draft, which begins with Round 1 on June 21 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Each ranked prospect includes a scouting report, with a more comprehensive look at the top 10 names on the board.
Note: Heights and weights are via Central Scouting and/or NHL combine testing, stats are from Elite Prospects and ages are representative of how old each player will be on draft day.
1. Jack Hughes, C, USA U18 (NTDP)
Age: 18 | Ht: 5-10 | Wt: 170 | Shot: L
50 GP | 34 G | 78 A
As much as Kaapo Kakko narrowed the gap, Hughes finishes as my wire-to-wire No. 1 prospect for the draft class. Hughes has such great burst and an effortless glide in his skating, and he uses his edges deceptively and to create separation. He sees the ice and processes play development at an elite level. He is a shot-pass threat, though he's more likely to choose the pass option, as his shot still needs improvement. Hughes is an expert in making plays in small areas, which is why his size is less of a bother. Although he definitely needs to continue tacking on muscle and weight to his below-average frame, Hughes is unafraid to go to the hard areas of the ice and protects himself well, thanks to his skating and anticipation skills. He takes care of his own end and uses those anticipation skills to cut down passing lanes, but his defensive and takeaway capabilities need improvement, which might come with time and strength.
Perhaps the single biggest reason Hughes is atop my list is that I have yet to watch a game in which he didn't drive play for his line, shift in and shift out, constantly keeping defenders on their heels and making the guys on his line better. He broke the National Team Development Program's career scoring record and averaged more than two points per game this season. Hughes should be an NHL all-star and a play-driving No. 1 center.
2. Kaapo Kakko, RW, TPS (Finland)
Age: 18 | Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 194 | Shot: L
45 GP | 22 G | 16 A
Your eyes did not deceive you at the World Championship. Kakko already plays at a high level with and against pro-level players. After he recorded the third-best scoring season by a U18 player in Liiga history, it was not a shock that he posted six goals and an assist for gold-medalist Finland. Only Patrik Laine had more points at a World Championship as a U18 player. There's so much to love about Kakko's game. He has a great frame and uses it well, as he's hard to take off the puck and uses that ability to create extra time for himself to find plays. He has the vision to spot those plays and make them quickly, and I think his hand skills have gotten to a fringe elite level. His shot is high-end and heavy; he can beat goalies from distance, but then he also has the skill to make plays in tight at the net front.
Although not Hughes-like in his skating, he is powerful and has enough speed to break away from the opposition. His edgework is strong, and his balance makes him so difficult to play against. He has power, but he does need more explosiveness in his skating. Kakko battles as well as any player, both in puck pursuit and with it on his stick. There's a definite fire in him to compete, and he will be a cornerstone NHL winger.
3. Alex Turcotte, C, USA U18 (NTDP)
Age: 18 | Ht: 5-11 | Wt: 186 | Shot: L
37 GP | 27 G | 35 A
It has been a winding season for Turcotte, who was on the shelf with a significant injury the first half of the season and had to deal with a bout of mono toward the end, but when he was healthy, he was exceptional. He is a smart, two-way forward with an unrelenting motor and an ability to make plays in the offensive end of the ice. Turcotte is dogged in puck pursuit and remarkably strong, despite being average-sized. He is a fierce competitor but does not step over the line very often. He is not always flashy and doesn't always make the eye-popping play, but he makes the right plays. Turcotte goes hard to the net and into the corners, and he has the touch and plus-level vision to make plays under duress and find better options in tougher situations with the puck on his stick. On top of that, Turcotte has good speed and can make plays in transition. He has deceptive feet, showcasing a good second gear that allows him to beat defenders wide or challenge them inside.
Although his season was abbreviated by injury, some of his rate stats stand out. He appeared in just 16 games against USHL competition but had 34 points, an average of 2.13 points per game -- higher than Hughes. His 1.68 points per game in all competitions for the U18 Team was second only to Hughes, albeit a distant second.
4. Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon (WHL)
Age: 18 | Ht: 6-4 | Wt: 198 | Shot: R
62 GP | 25 G | 48 A
Dach has size, smarts and skill. It's not often that you get a play-driving center at 6-foot-4 who makes the game look as easy as Dach does. Although he lacks explosiveness, he skates smoothly and has a great sense of how to get to where he needs to be efficiently. Size and body positioning are two ways he can mitigate some of the concerns about footwork and lack of separation speed. When he does have the puck, Dach is a shot-pass threat who can score goals in a variety of ways. He's especially successful at driving the net.
While he has that size and solid middle drive, Dach can also pick teams apart from the outside, thanks to high-end vision and elite distribution skills. He has dealt with bouts of inconsistency that caused some concern and a general dip in projections, and he didn't necessarily dominate the WHL on a regular basis. But when he was on, he was unstoppable. It's something to take into account, but I still place a high value on Dach's best being so much better than that of a large swath of the top players in this class.