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2019 NHL Entry Draft Preview: Rounds 2-7

Wrapping up our series on potential draft targets with a look at the later rounds

2018 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

This week we’ve been lucky enough to have our friend Luke Adomanis chipping in with some potential prospect reports, getting us ready for the 2019 NHL Draft which kicks off tonight in Vancouver. Check out his earlier posts on The Big Five (with more info on the resources and tools behind the analysis), the rest of the first round, and some potential D and goalies the Caps might target early on. Today we wrap things up with a hunt for hidden treasure in rounds 2-7. Take it away, Luke!

Yes, all of the fun is usually done in the first round. It’s a lot easier to see someone’s skill and ceiling in the first round, and the deeper you get into the draft the harder it is to find a high-end player... but they do exist. There’s always a handful of players in every draft found after the first round that can turn into great NHL talents. And it’s very important that teams like the Capitals, and others that tend to pick later in the first round and/or don’t have many later picks, find these players later in the draft.

The blueprint laid out for the first round still holds for the rest of the draft: the Capitals MUST draft high end, highly skilled, and high risk, if need be, forwards. They cannot play it safe like they did last draft when they selected Kody Clark in the second round when players like Akil Thomas, Kiril Marchenko, and Filip Hallander were still available. If the Capitals want to stay competitive for years to come they must stop playing it safe.

2nd Round (#56 pick)

NIKITA ALEXANDROV, C
QMJHL
64 games played: 27 goals, 34 assists
6’0.5”, 190 pounds

Nikita is a highly skilled, possession-driving center that does everything well. He led all draft eligible forwards in the QMJHL and OHL (WHL doesn’t track it) in 5v5 expected goals per game and expected goal per 60 after Arthur Kaliyev. And he led in High Danger Shots/60 among all draft-eligible players (again among only OHL and QMJHL) by a wide margin; he had 3.82 per 60 while the second place player had 2.94 per 60. His shot is very good, and he has great vision and offensive skills. He’s dynamic when he has the puck. He’d be higher on everyone’s draft lists if he weren’t playing on a bad team, and his age may scare some teams off (if he had been born one day earlier he would have been drafted last season, making him one of the oldest players, if not the oldest player, in the draft). But he checks just about every box and could end up being a steal of a pick.

JOHN BEECHER, C
USDP
63 games played: 15 goals, 28 assists
6’3”, 209 pounds

Beecher might seem like an odd inclusion on this list because, as stated many times, the Caps need to be going for high-end offensive guys... and Beecher technically isn’t that. But his other tools of size mixed with speed and smarts are so great it’s hard to ignore. He’s a fantastic shutdown guy, shown by his DefCat%. Of the 68 players ranked in DefCat% for this draft he has the fifth best numbers. And it’s not that he’s terrible offensively, as his shot is really good. It’s just that he isn’t given much chance to show off because he’s surrounded by great players such as Hughes, Caufield, Trevor Zegras, Alex Turcotte, and Matthew Boldy, all of whom are top 15 picks - so he’s not really getting much power-play time and is stuck with mostly bottom-six minutes. Still, I wouldn’t have a problem spending a second on a guy that’s big, can skate, and shuts down other guys, while also having the potential to break out offensively if put in the right situations.

ILYA NIKOLAYEV, C
MHL
41 games played: 10 goals, 15 assists
6’0”, 190 pounds

Nikolayev is a very skilled center who seems to have eyes in the back of his head. He’s also a great stickhandler, and is tough to knock off his skates. He competes and battles every shift. He’s fantastic at both ends of the ice and can be trusted to tackle tough defensive assignments; his smarts and heavy game make him a great shutdown and penalty kill player. He needs to be way more consistent with his offensive skill, though, if he wants to become a real two-way threat. Speed is what’s holding him back from reaching the next level, though he isn’t slow, just could be faster. Still, he’s very young and has time to improve. If a team can help him work on his skating he could be a great grab in the second round.

JAMIESON REES, C
OHL
37 games played: 10 goals, 22 assists
5’10”, 182 pounds

Jamieson is one of the most creative players in the draft. He has fantastic vision and great hands, especially when in close to the net. He loves to make plays from behind the net. He’s small but he’s tenacious and wins a lot of battles. He still needs to fill out to get to the next level. He ended up second in CHL in 5v5 primary assists per game, and would probably be ranked higher had he not missed time due to injury and suspension.

MATIAS MACCELLI, LW
USHL
62 games played: 31 goals, 41 assists
5’11”, 170 pounds

I don’t think Matias is being talked about enough. He has high-end skill, hands, and vision. His defensive side of the game and compete level is lacking, but he’s fully aware of it and knows he needs to work on it. He put up the best draft-eligible USHL numbers since Kyle Connor’s 74 points in 56 games in 2013-2014. Other comparable USHL draft eligible seasons: Jake Guentzel 73 points in 60 games, Johnny Gaudreau 72 points in 60 games, and Erik Haula 72 points in 56 games. That’s a good group to be around. Maccelli also led his team by 22 points, which says a lot. One reason he might scare teams away is he’s going back to Finland this upcoming season, which a lot of teams won’t like, and he might not be active enough in the dirty areas. But it’s hard to ignore his high-skill offensive toolkit. He is very much a high-risk high-reward player, but if he works out he easily has top six talent at the NHL level.

SHANE PINTO, C
USHL
26 games played: 11 goals, 16 assists
6’2”, 195 pounds

When in the offensive zone, Pinto is a deadly force, and he has a 20.43 NHLeS, which is borderline first line value. He plays a power game with a good shot (led all USHL rookies in shots), anticipates plays extremely well and knows what to do before he gets the puck. He needs work defensively, but more importantly work on being offensive more consistently. It looks like he has skill at one moment but not the next. The hope here is a team helps him find that consistency so he becomes a power forward with offensive capability in the NHL.

KARL HENRIKSSON, C
SuperElit
45 games played: 13 goals, 36 assists
5’9”, 176 pounds

Henriksson is a speedy center with great hands and even better IQ. His vision is high end that allowed him to be a top playmaker in the European leagues this season. He tied for first in SuperElit league scoring and was first overall among all U18 and U19 players. It’s not easy finding playmaking centers this late in the draft, so if one falls to you it can’t be easy to ignore. He could probably be had in the third round, but wouldn’t be the end of the world snagging him at the end of the second.

MATVEI GUSKOV, C
OHL
59 games played: 12 goals, 18 assists
6’1”, 172 pounds

Guskov is a good two-way center who has high-end offensive skill and work ethic, size and skating ability, which is a good package. His issue is he doesn’t use his size enough to go to the slot or near the net enough — if he wants to get to the next level and earn more ice time he’ll have to do that. He’s a bit hidden because he was playing depth on a great team in London, and could be a good steal if he starts to get more time in the OHL next season.

ALEX BEAUCAGE, RW
QMJHL
68 games played: 39 goals, 40 assists
6’2”, 192 pounds

Beaucage has all you want in an offensive toolkit when it comes to putting up points. He has good vision and passing ability, and his shot is NHL ready. He shoots a ton (11.3 per 60) and does it from in close to the net, which led to 39 goals this season, tied for second best among QMJHL draft eligible players. His biggest issue by far is his skating ability, or lack thereof. If he were even an average skater he’d be fighting to be a first-round pick, and if he ever develops into one, he’ll be a very dangerous offensive weapon. His NHLeS is 21.42, which is first-round value. I originally had him as first in my third round section, but since the Caps don’t have a third round pick, I’d have no problem if they reached him in the second. His offensive tools are hard to ignore.

3rd Round (No pick)

YEGOR SERDYUK, RW
QMJHL
62 games played: 25 goals, 40 assists
5’11”, 165 pounds

It’s odd to say a kid has one of the best, elite level shots in the draft in the third round, but it’s true. Serdyuk is a really good goal scorer, though his numbers don’t really show it because his team isn’t all that great. As a 17-year-old winger he led his team by 10 points. Their number one center will be 21 years old in October and put up 55 points in 60 games. So it’s understandable why Serdyuk’s numbers weren’t better. He’s also a good playmaker but doesn’t have many players to pass to. He should probably be ranked higher in terms of pure forward talent, but because of his age, playing his first year in North America, and playing on a bad team he could be snagged in the third, maybe fourth round. More speed would drastically improve his game, but he can still get to where he needs to go.

ADAM BECKMAN, C
WHL
68 games played: 32 goals, 30 assists
6’1”, 168 pounds

Beckman is a smart player who reads the game well and has a good set of hands on him. His best attribute is his shot; it’s very hard and accurate. The hope is he grows into his body and fills out into a goal scoring threat. He isn’t the best playmaker but when you score a lot it’s okay. He finished eighth in all of the CHL in 5v5 goals and his NHLeS is 18.55, which is barely outside first round value. Those two stats combined should make it easy to call his name in the middle rounds.

LEEVI AALTONEN, LW
Jr. A SM-liiga
29 games played: 12 goals, 24 assists
5’9”, 168 pounds

Aaltonen is an elusive, very quick skating winger (one of the fastest in the draft) with great offensive skills, mainly as a playmaker. It’s okay to be small like Aaltonen is, but he sometimes plays small in that he backs down from a lot of battles, which isn’t good. It doesn’t matter how good you are; if you don’t want to battle, you won’t make the NHL. But he’s still young and has a lot to learn and the reports are he started to engage in more battles as the season went on, which is a good sign. If he can add some muscle and start going to the dirty areas more, he’ll have a fantastic overall package that will make a deadly player. He has an NHLes of 18.69, which is good second-round value. He’s tricky for the Caps, though, because the second round might be too soon - and the fourth round too late.

ALEXANDER CAMPBELL, C
BCHL
53 games played: 21 goals, 46 assists
5’10”, 154 pounds

I didn’t know Alexander was a prospect until I was watching video of Alex Newhook and saw Campbell’s skill level. Campbell has amazing hands and vision. He’s very shifty and hard to stop once he has the puck. Obviously weight is an issue. Smaller forwards can survive in the NHL these days but you have to be really, really good. Not saying Campbell can’t be, but that skill level in that size is hard to find. He finished second in the BCHL in U18 and U19 players, with only Newhook above him. His only drawback is size and wondering if Newhook boosted him up. We’ll see how he does next season when he heads off to Clarkson University to lead his own line. But there’s no denying he has the speed and skill level to make it to the next level.

HARRISON BLAISDELL, C
BCHL
51 games played: 33 goals, 25 assists
5’11”, 186 pounds

Blaisdell is a good, two-way working center that has some good offensive skills. He isn’t amazing at everything, but as a package he looks good. He also has some great speed and agility, which mixed with his hard work helps win a lot of battles. He finished third in the BCHL among U18 players and fourth among U19 players. And he tied fifth among all BCHL players in goals with 33. He was involved in 31.56% of all of his teams goals and scored almost 18% of them. He’s also trustworthy in defensive shutdown situations. What you hope for Harrison is he takes his good all-around game and makes it a great all-around game going forward.

NIKOLA PASIC, LW
SuperElit
33 games played: 18 goals, 18 assists
5’10”, 181 pounds

I have a soft spot for shoot-first players, because the Caps seem to be such a pass-first team, and Pasic is all about shooting, if he has the puck he doesn’t look to pass at all, which can be a problem depending on the situation. In his short 15 game stint in the SHL he put up great driving possession numbers, and that was against men. He’s good at hunting pucks down and wins a lot of battles, though he needs to do it way more consistently. He has a great speed and two way play. It’s hard to find shoot first guys so he wouldn’t be a wasted pick at all.

VALENTIN NUSSBAUMER, RW
QMJHL
58 games played: 17 goals, 21 assists
6’0”, 168 pounds

Nussbaumer is an acquired taste. He certainly didn’t tear it up in his first North American season, in fact he really struggled. Though that can be attributed to playing for a terrible QMJHL team. Playing your first year in North America is hard enough, but to play for a bad team makes it even more difficult. He has a great offensive skill set with good vision, speed, and a nice shot. It’s just a matter of putting it together on a consistent basis in North America. And maybe because he wears number 65, he kind of reminds me of Andre Burakovsky, which could mean you want him or don’t want the Capitals to have anything to do with him. He will be a pretty big project, but if he works out he’ll be a good offensive weapon in the NHL.

4th Round (#118 pick)

LUKA BURZAN, C
WHL
68 games played: 40 goals, 38 assists
6’1”, 190 pounds

The only reason Burzan isn’t ranked in at least the second round is he’s an overager, meaning he was in last year’s draft and was passed over. He’s making teams regret not taking him now after a 40-goal season, good for ninth in the WHL. But goal scoring isn’t his only strength; he’s an above average playmaker with speed and a nose for the net. His defensive game and playing with more grit are his negatives, but his offensive tools outweigh the bad parts of his game. He’s been getting compared to Trey Fix-Wolanksy, who was an overager last draft taken in the seventh round, and was one of the top players in the WHL last season (102 points). If the Caps can grab him in the fourth round then they most definitely should.

ETHAN KEPPEN, LW
OHL
68 games played: 30 goals, 29 assists
6’2”, 214 pounds

Keppen has been an analytics darling all season long. For instance, his NHLeS is 20.45, which is first round value. Finding that in the back half of the draft is huge. He’s a big boy that creates space with his size. He competes every shift and has a great shot that led to 30 goals on a bad team. He had the most 5v5 points on his team in total (47) and primary (42). He’s extremely underrated and could be poised to have a huge season next year. He reminds me of Tom Wilson lite: his package of speed, size, smarts, and average to above average skill could make him a fantastic supporting piece on a skilled line.

RHETT PITLICK, LW
US High School
25 games: 28 goals, 33 assists
5’9”, 161 pounds

If you want speed then Rhett is your guy — he’s one of the fastest in the draft, and he matches that speed with tenacity. He even has a good offensive toolkit that includes some great hands in tight spots. The reason he isn’t ranked higher is he’s coming out of the US High School system, which doesn’t have the highest amount of talent, so it’s hard to tell if players are as good as they are. He did play seven games in the USHL, a much better league, and put up five points. Speed like his is unteachable, so the hope is a team can help bring out his offensive game more so he can become a NHL threat.

ANTTI SAARELA, C
Liiga
24 games played: 2 goals, 8 assists
6’0”, 190 pounds

Saarela is a very quick, smart, physical player playing against men overseason. He has good all around offensive capabilities but nothing spectacular. His defensive game is very good as well. But he is young so there could be some potential there. If he can find something to add to his speed he could be a good weapon in the NHL. His speed, smarts, two way play, and a nose for the net could compliment a highly skilled line at the next level. His NHLeS is 15.12 NHLeS, which is really good value for the fourth round.

XAVIER SIMONEAU, C
QMJHL
55 games played: 18 goals, 39 assists
5’7”, 172 pounds

Xavier is one of the better playmakers in the draft. He has great vision and passing ability, demonstrated by being the eighth best QMJHL draft eligible forward in 5v5 points per game. He did this while playing down the lineup on a pretty good team. His main issue is size and not having the speed to match that size. But the playmaking skill set is worth taking a shot at this point in the draft. He also plays with a lot of passion and battles hard, and has good balance though he doesn’t have the speed — but his big drawyou draft him mainly for his playmaking.

Round 5-7 (#129, #211 picks)

MIKHAIL SHALAGIN, RW
MHL
43 games: 48 goals, 27 assists
6’4”, 168 pounds

Shalagin has been one of my favorites for a loooong time. In fact, I would have no problem if the Capitals selected him in the second round - they just shouldn’t have to. I love goal scorers so if you can find someone that scores a ton of them, they’re worth a look. In fact, Shalagin has scored the most goals EVER in the MHL. He also finished first in the MHL in points per game. Add to this that he’s had the fifth best MHL season ever for a U20 player in points per game (1.74). Two players that were better than him? Nikita Gusev (2.24) and Nikita Kucherov (1.87). His downfall? He’s a D+2 player, meaning he was not drafted the last two seasons, so he’s an older player. He’s also needs to put on a lot more weight; he’s basically a stick. If he can add weight, he’d be a great package of size and scoring ability. He’s also an underrated playmaker. When I talk about high-risk potentially high-reward players, Shalagin is the definition of it. You’re taking a chance on him but if he works out you’re getting a legit top-six scoring machine at the NHL level.

BRYCE BRODZINSKI, RW
USHS-Minnesota
23 games played: 32 goals, 44 assists
6’0”, 196 pounds

Bryce is an overager coming out of the High School system in Minnesota, which is pretty competitive when it comes to High School league. He won Mr. Hockey, which is given to the best High School hockey player in the state of Minnesota, joining the ranks of future NHLers like Casey Mittelstadt, Nick Bjugstad, Nick Leddy, and Ryan McDonagh. He’s a great mix of size, speed, and skill. His best asset is his passing ability, but he also has a great shot when he gets it off, which is usually in the slot. Being an overager and playing in high school is why he isn’t ranked higher.

HENRY RYBINSKI, LW
WHL
47 games played: 8 goals, 32 assists
6’1”, 174 pounds

Rybinski is an interesting case. After scoring only five points in 14 games with the Medicine Hat Tigers, he asked for a trade, which eventually happened with the Seattle Thunderbirds. With Seattle he put up 35 points in 33 games, which is 1.06 points per game. That rate would have tied him with Peytn Krebs in U18 WHL forwards. Krebs will be a top 10 pick this summer. Overall, Rybinski has good speed, hands, and shot, but that doesn’t stop him from playing a very good defensive game. Considering his age, underlying numbers, and his play with Seattle, he could be a good steal candidate late in the draft.

KRISTIAN TANUS, C
Mestis
33 games played: 13 goals, 31 assists
5’8”, 159 pounds

I first noticed Tanus when I was watching Patrik Puistola in the Mestis league, and they lit it up together. He’s a very creative playmaker with high hockey IQ and passing ability, maybe one of the smartest in the draft. Weight for him is obviously an issue, as is being an overager. He’s a perimeter player that likes to see the ice to make high-risk but very high-reward plays. His playmaking shouldn’t be looked over this time through the draft. He’ll be a project but worth it in the later rounds.

YAROSLAV LIKHACHYOV, RW
QMJHL
57 games played: 12 goals, 12 assists
5’11”, 168 pounds

Yaroslav had a tough first season in North America shown by his poor possession and boxscore numbers. But he is one of the youngest players in the draft and it’s never easy to try to jump the ocean, adapt, and play well. He has one of the best hands in the draft and has a very high skill level. He has great vision, a great touch, and is hands are incredible in close to the net. He’s a kid you draft and hope his maturity and smarts take him to the next level, because he has the skill to be deadly. Plus, his name is badass.

MICHAEL GILDON, LW
USHL
26 games played: 13 goals, 19 assists
6’2”, 194 pounds

It’s weird seeing Gildon projected to be taken in the bottom half of the draft after seeing he finished his USHL season ranked first in 5v5 primary assists and sixth 5v5 primary points per game in the USHL. That said, he was the wingmate to Cole Caufield and Jack Hughes in the USHL, aka the top pick and probably top-10 pick in the draft, so he’s being docked for potentially riding their coattails and racking up the points as a result. But like Brayden Tracey who played with two great linemates and tore it up, you shouldn’t hold it against Gildon. It isn’t easy to play with skill and produce, and Gildon has done it. His smarts allowed him to adapt to playing with such high skills, which is a gift in itself. He also has good size and two way play.

JOSH NODLER, C
USHL
54 games played: 17 goals, 25 assists
6’0”, 194 pounds

Nodler is a very good playmaker with great hockey sense and passing ability. This is proven by the fact he was fourth in 5v5 primary assists in the USHL this season. He’s also very reliable on the defensive side and knows what to do at both ends of the ice. As you can tell from his stats, he just needs to fire the puck way more. It’s a miracle he hit 17 goals. He has nice weight but for his size he needs to skate a lot better, and if he can add more speed to his game he could be a good NHL player down the line.

JEREMY McKENNA, RW
QMJHL
68 games played: 45 goals, 52 assists
5’10”, 174 pounds

As you can see from the numbers Jeremy is a hell of a player. He led his team last season in points and is doing so again this season as well. He is D+1 but has good hands, vision, and a heavy shot. He had the sixth best xG per game played in the QMJHL. He was second in goals in the league. Yes he’s an overager but with numbers like that he should be an easy candidate in the late rounds.

MATTHEW STRUTHERS, C
OHL
61 games played: 31 goals, 50 assists
6’2”, 209 pounds

Struthers isn’t much different from McKenna. They both have fantastic underlying numbers and box score numbers, but since they are overagers it hurts their draft stock. Struthers has NHL size but needs to find more speed to his game if he wants to make it to the next level. An easy swing late in the draft.

FILIP PRIKYL, C
QMJHL
67 games played: 14 goals, 17 assists
6’1”, 170 pounds

Filip came over this year to the QMJHL looking to make a splash, but he was sorted into arguably the worst team in the league and he didn’t exactly flourish. But it doesn’t take away from his smarts and skills. He seems to be at the right place at the right time, it’s just a matter of him adapting to the North American game. He has the grit and will to do it, it’s just a matter of actually doing it.

ARTUR GATIYATOV, F
MHL
58 games played: 24 goals, 42 assists
5’7”, 130 pounds

Between Artur’s age, size, and the fact he plays for Kazakhstan internationally, there’s about a zero percent chance that this kid gets drafted. But there’s no denying his skill. Playing for a very bad Kazakhstan team at the World Juniors this past year — against very good teams — he had five goals and three assists in six games, and his 1.33 points per game were good for second in the whole tournament! Even in the MHL he finished fourth in overall points, and with such a high INV% rate. he probably carried that team as well. To me he’s more than worth it to grab in the seventh round. Go big! Or very small in this case.

Conclusion

They are hard to find but there are definitely some potential gems throughout the draft. It doesn’t help the Capitals are without a third- or sixth-round pick, and it would be wise to at least try to find a third, because there are some great players there. Either way, as long as they are drafting for high-end skill, no matter what else weighs down the player, the Capitals should walk away with a player or two that could surprise.