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2019 NHL Draft Prospect Profiles: Center

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

This Friday night, the 2019 NHL Draft will open and 31 new prospects will be selected in the first round of the draft.

The Flyers currently hold the 11th overall pick in the NHL Draft, and throughout the week, we will look at prospects at each position as potential targets and top players available in the draft.

Over the next few days, we will look at centers, wingers and defensemen, as well as the possibility of the Flyers trading the pick during the first night of the draft.

We start our NHL Draft preview with a look at centers.

Dylan Cozens

Do not confuse this young center with the player in the Phillies minor-league system, even though their names are spelled exactly the same. Dylan Cozens was the WHL Rookie of the Year in 2017-18 and followed that up with a season where he scored 34 goals and had 84 points in 68 games for Lethbridge.

Cozens has some versatility. He played center in the WHL and was a threat offensively, but lacks some of the anticipation and hockey sense needed to excel as a center in the NHL. He could translate to the wing in the NHL. Everything else about Cozens seems to be solid. He’s an excellent skater, makes quality plays with good vision and possesses decent size at 6’3” and 181 pounds.

Cozens also has a lot of the qualities that teams love in a center. He’s got great two-way ability, is good on face-offs, blocks shots and backchecks well with his skating ability.

“There are lots of things to like about him,” a scout said in Recrutes Draft Guide. “He is one of the better defensive players in this draft, so that makes him one of the safer picks. He will play; perhaps in your top six, and certainly in your top nine. I like him, but will he be your first or even second-line center? That’s the question. I see him playing on the wing in a top-six role.”

Alex Turcotte

Get used to hearing about the plethora of American prospects available at the draft. They are plentiful and outside of likely top pick Jack Hughes, Turcotte may be the next-best one.

He’s great at playing two-way hockey with good speed and acceleration that makes him solid on zone entries. He’s a play driver who can make a lot happen with his legs and protects the puck well to create opportunities. He has good vision and can serve as a net-front presence, even without demanding size at just 5’11” and 185 pounds.

For the NTDP U18 team last season, he scored 27 goals and had 62 points in 37 games and he can certainly qualify as a playmaking forward with good hands, while still being heavily involved in the defensive side of the game.

“He’s a Swiss army knife kind of player, can play any way you want and be effective,” Hockey Prospect scout Dusten Braaksma said in the Hockey Prospect Black Book. “Personally I’d have no qualms with using a Top 5 pick on him. I want character, leadership and maturity. He checks all those boxes and has excellent skill to go with it.”

Kirby Dach

A centerman that combines skill and size very well. Kirby Dach is a 6’3”, 197-pound offensive center.

He’s not the 200-foot player that Turcotte and Cozens are, but he’s finding his game in that area and does play with a confidence that makes him enticing. He’s got a ton of power and his hockey sense is off the changes. Combine that with the skill set and you get a player who has the potential to be great if he rounds out his game with more physicality, getting better on face-offs and winning more battles.

He scored 25 goals and had 73 points in 62 games for Saskatoon last season in the WHL, so he has the ability to put up points and the puck seems to find him. It comes down to consistency with him, and that’s what he needs to find for the team that drafts him.

“He's still way up our list which speaks to his talent,” Hockey Prospect scout Mark Edwards said in the Hockey Prospect Black Book. “He’s up with the best in this class when it comes to hockey sense and skill. If he ever flicks the switch to the ‘on' position on a full time basis, look out he’ll be fantastic.”

Trevor Zegras

Zegras is another product of the NTDP and had 66 points in 53 games this season. In an additional 26 games in the USHL, he scored 15 goals and had 40 points.

He’s regarded as one of the better playmakers in the draft and is a dynamic passer. His vision is tremendous and very offensively-gifted. He’s also a very good skater and has the hockey sense to operate at high speed. He definitely has the ability to think a few seconds ahead in the game and use some deception on his play-making abilities.

He can get a little over-active with his playmaking at times and that can lead to turnovers. He’s also been hesitant to go to the areas, and that has likely hurt his numbers a bit, but he has improved over the last season at going after the puck when forechecking and winning board battles. He’s certainly got Top-6 potential.

“His best assets are his skill and his brain,” an NHL scout said in the Hockey Prospect Black Book. “Skating is good, he won’t blow by people but he’s shifty as hell.”

Peyton Krebs

Peyton Krebs is a center that has a lot of talent and potential in a lot of areas, but needs to keep growing. He gets a ton of ice time and was able to put up decent numbers -- 19 goals and 68 points in 64 games for Kootenay, but nothing earth-shattering.

He’s got great playmaking ability and can easily become a player who takes over a game and makes a huge difference with excellent vision and a solid shot and a really high compete level that makes him noticeable. His hockey sense is good and he has a well-balanced game, both offensively and defensively.

The biggest red flag at the moment is a possible Achilles injury that could cause him to slip in the draft if teams become tentative about selecting an injured prospect. He has some size issues that can make him more effective in board battles than he already is. He’s not an overly skilled player and lacks that high gear skating, but the foundation is there for those areas to improve. He’s not weak in any area, but there’s not really an area where he truly excels on a nightly basis.

“He’s the heart and soul guy of this draft class,” an NHL scout said in the Hockey Prospect Black Book. “I think he's going to go high and some people will think it’s a bad pick and then he's going to prove that he was worthy of going as high as he did. He has nothing with him on that team.”

Raphael Lavoie

Lavoie has the size of a power forward and solid speed that allows him to enter the zone smoothly. He can stickhandle really well and is able to create a lot with his hockey sense.

Lavoie is not considered to be one of the high-end picks in the draft -- think possibly Top-20 and a candidate for the Flyers if they were to trade down -- but he can give you that size and ability in his game that make him dangerous. He’s a real power forward.

With Halifax last season, he scored 32 goals and had 73 points in 62 games. He may need some work on his game and to build his confidence, but he has the tools. It’s just about putting it all together.

“How much do you trust what you're seeing right now though? What's the real guy? I don't know,” a QMJHL scout said in the Recrutes Draft Guide. “He's got so many good attributes -- size, skills, speed, puckhandling, the shot. He's like a bow-legged skater, but he goes.”

Ryan Suzuki

This would be another candidate for the Flyers if they were to trade down, and possibly in the second-round if Suzuki were to slide far enough.

Suzuki has a bunch of talent and that can be evidenced by his 75 points in 65 games last season for Barrie. His offensive skill set is very good, he can take over a game on any night and he is a tremendous passer. Simply put, there is nothing wrong with his skill and it will translate to the next level.

The knock on Suzuki is that his compete level simply isn’t there. There are too many nights where he doesn’t make much of a showing and that won’t get you to the NHL. There are some scouts that believe the game has always come easy to him, and that keeps him impressing in juniors, but it doesn’t always translate to success. As a result, he went from being a borderline Top-10 pick to possibly late first-round at best.

“His issue is a lack of compete,” an OHL scout said in Recrutes Draft Guide. “He's a good kid, and been a winner the whole way up, so you hope it’s just a phase and he figures it out.”

Alex Newhook

Newhook was the captain of the Victoria Grizzlies in the BCHL and had 102 points in 53 games, so offensive ability is not an issue at that level and he is a solid skater with a good motor and energy that keeps him going.

He’s got playmaking ability that can break down a defense and can get shifty at times, though his skill is not an overall high point in his game. His shot is good but probably a bit behind his playmaking ability, but can be deceptive at times, making him a scoring threat.

His puck skills are a weakness, as most of his points came from vision and skating to capitalize quickly, not creating the opportunity, and he’s not dynamic enough to be a top-line player, but can certainly fall into a middle-six role in time if he improves his puck skills. He’s also shown an ability to adjust to new leagues as he has grown. His next challenge will be the college ranks, and then ultimately the professional game.

“He’s a powerful skater but his mechanics aren’t as refined,” Hockey Prospect scout Brad Allen said in the Hockey Prospect Black Book. “If he can clean them up, then he has a better chance of making it.”

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