In the third edition of “Top 5”, we profile the right wing prospects heading into the draft. These rankings are the top 5 at the position at the time this piece was written and these rankings could change come draft day.
Kaapo Kakko spent the 2018-2019 season with TPS in the Liiga, (The Finnish Elite League). In 45 games with TPS Kakko recorded 22 goals and 16 assists. In five playoff games, he scored four goals and had one assist. Kakko stands 6-foot-2 and is a left-handed shot that plays both center and wing.
Kakko has quick feet and a great first step. He has top-end speed. He uses his strength and balance to protect the puck on the move. Kakko has a great wrist shot. It has power and comes with a quick release. Kakko can also be described as a playmaker. He is a smart player and knows where his linemates are. His uses his vision skills to find open teammates. Kakko is also an effective option on the power play.
He has a pretty good defensive aspect to his game. He can read the play well and he keeps himself in good position. Kakko fights hard on the boards and is an effective back-checker. Kakko has displayed his ability to play against men during his time this past season in the Finnish Elite League.
Expected Draft Range: 2nd Overall Pick
This past season Vasili Podkolzin played over three levels in Russia. His showing in those levels is not spectacular—only 13 points in 28 games. Podkolzin has, however, shined with the U18 and U20 teams with Russia. He is a left-handed shot and is under contract with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL for the next two seasons.
The young Russian is a fairly good skater. His speed allows him the ability to fight through checks. He has a good balance of balance and power. Podkolzin is great at stickhandling. Which makes him tough to defend one on one, and when he beats the opposing defenseman Podkolzin likes to drive the net. He is also a natural goal scorer. Strong wrist shot and a rocket of a one-timer.
He has a fair defensive side to his game. He is willing to battle at both ends of the ice and he has an active stick which allows him to break up plays. Podkolzin has also been trusted on the penalty kill. His talents suggest he is a top 5 talent in this class. However, some teams may scoff at the fact that he is under contract in the KHL for the next 2 seasons. Whatever team drafts Podkolzin will need to have patience with him.
Expected Draft Range: 3rd Pick-7th Pick
Cole Caulfield is one of the fastest rising prospects in this draft in recent weeks. He was a no doubt first round pick but his play his last couple of games have jolted him in the conversation for a top 10 pick. With Team USA at the U18 World Junior Classic, Caufield scored 14 goals in seven games. In 64 games with the U.S National U18 Team, he scored 72 goals. He is a right-handed shot and will play hockey next season at the University of Wisconsin.
If you couldn’t tell by his stats he is a pure goal scorer. He can score in a variety of ways with his wrist shot, his snapshot, and a slap shot. All of his shots are quick, powerful, and accurate. He also possesses the ability to make passes through tight areas. He can control the puck well and has soft hands.
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Caufield is quick and has good anticipation in the defensive end. He can create turnovers and is able to transition quickly. On the penalty kill, he is very effective. He may be 5-foot-7 but he is one tough cookie. He is not afraid to battle in the rough areas. Caufield gets a lot of Alex DeBrincat comparisons due to his size and scoring ability.
Expected Draft Range: 6th Pick-10th Pick
The 2017 16th overall pick in the USHL draft spent last season with the Sioux City Musketeers. In 43 games he recorded 35 goals and 33 assists. Bobby Brink is a right-handed shot and he is a University of Denver commit.
Brink is a good skater but lacks that top end speed. His quick first step is what keeps him up there with others. He can make quick cuts and is good on his edges. Brink is a pure goal scorer. His wrist shot has a rocket-like release. He has one of the more accurate shots in the class. His stick handling is as good as the next guy and he is good and having clean zone entries.
Brink is an effective back checker and he supports his defense well. He finds himself in the right positions and reads the plays well. He will battle for loose pucks and isn’t afraid to take a hit in order to make a play. Brink will need to continue to add strength in the coming seasons and playing college hockey will allow him to do so.
Expected Draft Range: Late First Round
Albin Grewe spent the 2018-19 season with Djurgardens IF J20 in the SuperElit. In 25 games he recorded 13 goals and 21 assists. In 17 international games with the Sweden U18 Team, he scored five goals to go with four assists. Grewe is a left-handed shot and plays primarily right wing but can also play the center position.
Grewe plays with a large amount of energy, he works hard every shift. He plays a fast-paced game. Grewe can attack wide and drive the net when he puts his shoulders down. He is a slick stick-handler which makes him dangerous in the offensive end. Grewe will need to work on avoiding turnovers.
Grewe is a versatile forward who makes plays in tight areas. He is strong on the forecheck and the backcheck and isn’t afraid to lay the body. Grewe can handle himself well in all situations and he is strong on the penalty kill. He isn’t afraid to battle along the boards. Grewe has a lot of raw skills and talents. He has the ability to be a Top 6 forward in the NHL. The biggest thing he will need to work on is his puck control.
Expected Draft Range: Late First Round-Early Second Round
Honorable Mentions: Simon Holmstrom (HV71, SuperElit), Sasha Mutala (Tri-City, WHL), Nathan Legare (Baie-Comeau, QMJHL), Maxim Cajkovic (Saint John, QMJHL), Judd Caufield (NTDP, USHL)
Chris Bugajsky covers the Dallas Stars, the NHL and the NHL Draft for Full Press Coverage. Follow Chris on twitter @CBugajsky14.