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2019 NHL Draft: Playmakers, high scoring defensemen, and more

It’s a WHL-heavy group today as we look at players outside of the Hughes/Kaako equation.

Saskatoon Blades v Calgary Hitmen Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

Last week, we took a look at some of the top potential draft picks for the 2019 NHL Draft. And while we hope that the Kings will, indeed, wind up picking first or second, there’s of course a chance that they drop. And, of course, the Kings have a second pick in the first round, as well, as they’re hanging onto the Toronto Maple Leafs’ pick, thanks to the Jake Muzzin trade. Given that prospect rankings gets a little murky once you get past the tandem of Jack Hughes and Kappo Kaako, we’re going to spend some time giving you looks at a broad variety of potential draft picks to get your hopes up about.

If you missed the first part of our series on draft-eligible players, head on over here. And if there’s a player you want to know more about, let us know in the comments so we can include them in a future installment of this series.

Trevor Zegras

Position: Forward (Center)
Age: 18 (March 20, 2001)
2018-19 Team: U.S. National Team Development Program (USHL)
2018-19 Statistics: USHL: 25 games played, 11 goals, 25 assists, 36 points. U18 National Team: 52 games played, 23 goals, 51 assists, 74 points

When you’re playing on the same team as Jack Hughes, you might find yourself in the shadows a bit. But Trevor Zegras is fine there, not letting any comparisons or attention to Hughes get in the way of him having a phenomenal season with the USNTDP. The competition has been welcome for the young center, as playing on a team with Hughes has forced him to step up his game. He’s become a threat on all areas of the ice, and particularly so on the power play, where his on-ice vision really shines. He’s a patient player, willing to hang onto the puck rather than force a move. Zegras is generally thought of as a top 10 pick in this year’s draft; seeing him move up into top-five range wouldn’t be a surprise, either.

Bowen Byram

Position: Defense
Age: 17 (June 13, 2001)
2018-19 Team: Vancouver Giants (WHL)
2018-19 Statistics: 67 games played, 26 goals, 45 assists, 71 points

Yes, that’s right. A defenseman has 71 points. Byram is third in scoring from the blueline in the WHL this year, and second overall on his team. Byram is a bit of a long shot for the Kings to draft, if only because they need more help up front with scoring than they do on the blue line, and as a young defender, Byram is a few years away from making an impact for the Kings as it is. But if they find themselves dropping out of the top four draft positions, Byram’s status as one of the top defenseman in this draft class could be appealing.

He plays well with and without the puck and is a powerful skater who excels at creating breakouts. He’s very mobile and can carry the puck in or use his shot to get it to the net. Byram may still make plays that get him in trouble, but he learns from his mistakes and is a player you want to allow to have the freedom on ice to be creative, even if that’s going to naturally involve some risk.

Kirby Dach

Position: Forward (Center)
Age: 18 (January 21, 2001)
2018-19 Team: Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
2018-19 Statistics: 62 games played, 25 goals, 48 assists, 73 points

Another big player out of the WHL, the 6’4” Dach is a playmaking center who creates time and space on ice for his teammates. He’s somewhat overshadowed in the WHL by teammates who are more of a shoot-first mentality, but Dach excels at setting up his teammates, so he’d be best on a line with a bona fide shooter on his wing. He’s a smart player, comparing himself to a player like Mark Schiefele, who strives to understand analytics as a way he can improve his game. He also looks up to Ryan Getzlaf as a player to emulate, and if that’s the style of player he wants to model himself after, then he’ll fit in very well on the west coast.

Peyton Krebs

Position: Forward (Center/Wing)
Age: 18 (January 26, 2001)
2018-19 Team: Kootenay Ice (WHL)
2018-19 Statistics: 64 games played, 19 goals, 49 assists, 68 points

Peyton Krebs may be one of the most difficult forwards to assess when it comes to the top tier of players in this year’s draft, and it’s largely due to the fact that the Kootenay Ice were one of the worst teams in the WHL this season. They were dead last in their division by a mile; the Ice finished the season with 36 points, while the team directly ahead of them in the standings ended the season with 72 points. Krebs’ 68 points led the Ice, and while he played at a pace of slightly more than a point a game, it puts him 40th in overall league scoring. Not exactly where you expect to see a potential top-10 draft pick land in the scoring race.

Krebs has the full package in terms of skating, on-ice vision, shooting, passing, defense, you name it. He’s played all forward positions so has some versatility to his game. He’s got a reputation as a tenacious player, willing to go hard after a puck to gain possession. The biggest drawback in Krebs’ game is likely his scoring. He’s scouted as a playmaker more so than a scorer and his stats reflect that, so learning not to defer to his teammates so much will be a process for him at the professional level.