Of the 31 first-round NHL 2019 draft picks selected on June 21, nine did not sign. Instead, they opted to continue their education and career in college before turning professional.
The NHL allows teams to draft a player, have them go unsigned and explore opportunities in college as an amateur. That team owns the rights of the player throughout their NCAA eligibility and until 30 days after the player has left college. The amateur can opt to join their NHL team when they seem fit.
Below are the nine first-round NHL draftees who decided to forgo immediate entry into league to further develop their skills and strengthen their bodies at the collegiate level.
Alex Turcotte — Wisconsin
Draft: Los Angeles Kings, 5th overall
Analysts believe Turcotte is the Kings’ future, and picking him at No. 5 overall speaks boisterously to that inclination. But first the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Illinois native will play for the Wisconsin Badgers, who are seeking their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2014.
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Turcotte spent last season with the USA Under-18 Team, where he ranked sixth on the team in scoring with 62 points on 27 goals and 35 assists. His hockey prowess can be traced to his father Alfie Turcotte, a former NHL forward who played seven seasons with the Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets and Montreal Canadiens.
Trevor Zegras — Boston University
Draft: Anaheim Ducks, 9th overall
Boston University found itself in an interesting spot at this year’s NHL Draft. For the fifth consecutive year, the Terriers had a current player or commit selected in the draft’s first round.
Zegras, being one, was Turcotte’s teammate with the USA Under-18 Team where he scored 87 points (26 goals, 61 assists), ranking third on the team.
Standing at 6-feet and weighing 169 pounds, Zegras is a dynamic forward with experience at center and left wing. He could be the catalyst BU needs to return to the Frozen Four, a venture the Terriers haven’t made since 2015 when they lost to Providence in the title game.
Matthew Boldy — Boston College
Position: Left wing
Draft: Minnesota Wild, 12th overall
Boston College’s last national championship, its fifth, came in 2012. The Eagles have not appeared in the last three NCAA tournaments, which is surprising given their rich history. Before this stretch, BC hadn’t gone more than one season without an NCAA tournament appearance since the early 1990s.
Boldy could be the difference maker this season up front. The 6-foot-2, 197-pound forward had 81 points (33 goals, 48 assists) for the USA Under-18 Team last season, and after 95 assists in 126 games, he now ranks fifth all-time on the USA Under-18 Team assists list.
NHL.com analysts believe Boldy could benefit from two years at Boston University before joining the Wild.
Spencer Knight — Boston College
Draft: Florida Panthers, 13th overall
Knight was the first goaltender selected in this year’s draft. To pair his calm demeanor at goal with Boldy’s knack for manufacturing scoring possessions, the Eagles believe the 2019 recruiting class should ignite the program.
The 6-foot-3, 193 pound goalie was 32-4-1 with a 2.36 goals-against average with the USA Under-18 Team last season. He now owns the team’s record for wins (59) in two seasons.
Knight has proven to have game-changing abilities, making him a prime candidate to change the Florida Panthers franchise — a team that has yet to win the Stanley Cup.
Cameron York — Michigan
Draft: Philadelphia Flyers, 14th overall
York, another leader for the USA Under-18 Team last season, dominated with 65 points (14 goals, 51 assists). And with a historically rich ice hockey program currently in a 21-year national title drought, the Wolverines need the elusive 5-foot-11, 172 pound defenseman’s flair in the offensive zone.
As for the Flyers, York’s addition would add much-needed depth to the defensive front. With Philadelphia trading down to get York, pressure might be added, but opting for the college route should help ease his transition.
Cole Caufield — Wisconsin
Position: Right wing
Draft: Montreal Canadiens, 15th overall
Caufield is only 5-foot-7 and 163 pounds but he’s one of the best goal-scorers from the 2019 NHL Draft. He set the record for goals in a season (72) with the USA Under-18 Team and ended his national team career with a program-record 126 goals in two years.
Caufield joins Turcotte at Wisconsin with a chance to immediately make a difference for the Badgers.
Alex Newhook — Boston College
Draft: Colorado Avalanche, 16th overall
The left-handed shooter joins Knight at Boston College, after spending his entire hockey career in Canada. In Victoria, he led the British Columbia Hockey League with 102 points (38 goals, 64 assists). Standing at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, the center should amplify the speed of play for the Eagles.
According to NHL.com, Newhook has the potential to be the Avalanche’s second-line center or the left wing after one or two seasons of development at Boston College.
John Beecher — Michigan
Draft: Boston Bruins, 30th overall
Development at Michigan is crucial for Beecher’s future with the Bruins. His 6-foot-3, 212-frame might seem overbearing for the center position, but his build is just a deception. Beecher’s time with the USA Under-18 Team magnified his fast-paced play — mustering 39 points (12 goals, 27 assists) on the year. Being a part of the national team’s second-unit might not have put him in the greater spotlight, but the Bruins saw something in him that they needed.
In tandem, combining his talents with York should boost the Wolverines’ chances at a second Frozen Four appearance in three seasons.
Ryan Johnson — Minnesota
Draft: Buffalo Sabres, 31st overall
The son of former NHL left wing Craig Johnson is now committed to play at Minnesota, the same school his father attended. His elusive play earned him a spot on the USA Under-18 Team last season, where he had 25 points (six goals, 19 assists).
Buffalo filled their need for a forward with the seventh overall pick, and with Johnson, they checked off a foundational necessity on the defensive end.
He’ll now join a Gophers program that’s missed the past two NCAA tournaments but boasts five national titles and 21 Frozen Four appearances. Johnson, with a left-hand shot, should elevate the program as an all-around skilled defenseman.
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