In the lead-up to the 2019 NHL draft, Free Press sports writer Helene St James will be looking at draft fits for the Detroit Red Wings:
The Wings hold the sixth pick in the June 21-22 draft in Vancouver, British Columbia. The benefit of drafting Cole Caufield was explored at the NHL combine. I had the Wings selecting Dylan Cozens in my first mock draft, and Trevor Zegras in the second.
In this edition, I have the Wings selecting right wing Vasili Podkolzin. He has been projected to go as high as third overall, but a number of factors could see him available at sixth – or drop out of the top 10.
Podkolzin, who will turn 18 later this month, is ultra competitive, a tenacious guy at both ends of the ice. He had eight goals and five assists in 26 games split between Russia’s junior league and second-highest league, and went scoreless in three KHL appearances. Those numbers pale compared to other top-rated prospects, but Podkolzin is strong on the puck and once he gets into a rhythm with his KHL team, his numbers should rise.
Podkolzin’s stock slipped after being limited to three assists during seven games with his native Russia at the World Junior Championship, and Podkolzin didn’t help himself with a subpar performance at the U-18 World Championship. While he sagged in projections, players such as Cozens, Bowen Byram and Alex Turcotte rose.
More: Detroit Red Wings have chance to boost rebuild in draft. Here’s how
Podkolzin is under contract the next two seasons with SKA St. Petersburg, so whichever team drafts Podkolzin would have no control over his development before 2021. He has indicated he’ll come to North America at that time, but he can still make more in the KHL than on an entry-level NHL contract.
This would be an interesting choice because of who else will be available at sixth – likely at least two among centers Cozens, Zegras and Kirby Dach, plus possibly Caufield, one of the best goal scorers in the draft. They all have had much more statistically dominant performances in their draft years.
More: Wings 2017 NHL draft review: Some quality choices amid quantity
Here are my picks for the teams ahead of the Wings.
1. New Jersey Devils
Center Jack Hughes, U.S. U18 National Team Development Program: He’s been projected to go first overall for the last year. He’s an elite combination of skating, passing and hockey sense.
2. New York Rangers
Right wing Kaapo Kakko, TPS Finland: He’s a 6-foot-2, 194-pound teenager who stood out playing against men at the 2019 World Championship, where he had six goals in 10 games as Finland won gold.
3. Chicago Blackhawks
Center Alex Turcotte, U.S. U18 NTDP: He’s high-end skater and thinker with a knack for making plays small spaces. Has great explosiveness in his stride.
4. Colorado Avalanche
C Dylan Cozens, Lethbridge, WHL: He’s 6-3, shoots right, and plays a 200-foot game. Has a quick release, and isn’t afraid of going to the net. He’s a good skater with excellent vision, and can fit at either center or right wing
5. Los Angeles Kings
Defenseman Bowen Byram, Vancouver, WHL: He’s the highest-ranked defense prospect, an offensive threat with the moxie to make plays under pressure. Logs big minutes and can run a power play.
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter.
Published at Wed, 12 Jun 2019 11:28:52 +0000