Everyone tends to go nuts about drafts when they’re 12 months out or so. In 2012 I was raving to people 12 months out about how amazing that draft was going to be….it was terrible. But this draft is really shaping up to be a solid one. Better than last June’s was, remains to be seen if it’ll match up to 2015 or 16. If I had to compare it to one, at least at this point, I’d say 2008.
Nothing original from what anyone else is saying, but the way I see it is this is going to be a defence rich draft, just like 08. That draft was supposed to be amazing, and never came close to those expectations. But the one thing which did happen in that draft is a lot of the D-men either met or exceeded expectations. If you go through the first round, the busts were mostly forwards and goaltenders. Doughty, Pietrangelo, and Karlsson all became stars, others like Myers, Gardiner, Sbisa and Carlson at least met expectations, and then guys such as Bogosian, Schenn, and Del Zotto have underwhelmed but were still able to carve out nice careers in the league.
Anyway, this will be the first of at least five different rankings list I’ll put out this year. Without a doubt this one will be the worst. A lot is going to change, a lot more information will be gathered and shared on these kids, and I’m sure you’ll see at least one or two of the kids in my top 32 today end up being fifth or six rounders. For those of you who remember Nick Ebert….going into the season I believe everyone had him as a top ten pick, some in the top five of the 2012 draft. He ended up being the last pick of that draft. A LOT of hockey to be played.
As always before I begin, pay closer attention to the tiering than the ranking. Especially right now. Tough to separate these kids at this point and time.
1. Rasmus Dahlin Frolunda SHL
Pos: RD Ht: 6’2 Wt: 181 Shot: L
Comparison: Drew Doughty
The initial reaction with Dahlin is to go nuts with this comparison. It’s so rare we see a defenceman who can excite you at both ends of the ice like Dahlin can. And remember, he’s playing against men. He can play either side of the ice, tremendous wheels, loves to play physical, great vision, I wouldn’t say he has a bomb but he has a very good shot, he’s just got elite/number one defenceman written all over him. I know some are gun shy on taking D-men high in the draft, and history proves that it’s risky, but this kids the exception to that rule. I believe that because he’s a D-man that some have been slow to realize just how special this kid is, but I believe by late June he’ll be the clear cut top pick and a franchise changer for whichever team is lucky enough to land him.
2. Adam Boqvist Brynas SWE-U20
Pos: RD Ht: 5’11 Wt: 170 Shot: R
Comparison: Brian Leetch
He’s the first major riser of the season. This kid had scouts drooling at the Hlinka. I don’t think you can call a D-man who is 5’11 undersized anymore. Last year, six of the nine D-men taken in the first round were only 6’0 or shorter. Some of that was a result of it being a weaker draft year, but there is zero doubt that the league is trending towards smaller, higher skilled D-men. Going with Leetch as the comparison rather than Erik Karlsson…some of that is looking to avoid what others are going to say. Either way, we’re talking about a potential elite offensive defenceman.
3. Brady Tkachuk Boston University NCAA
Pos: LW Ht: 6’2 Wt: 194 Shot: L
Comparison: Keith Tkachuk
I once had Matt Tkachuk’s comparison be the old man. And I’ve heard analysts say that during this past season. NOPE. Matt is a rat (and I mean that as a massive compliment), where Keith was one of the biggest, baddest power forwards in the league in the 90’s. Brady Tkachuk plays more of this style. Look at his 126 PIM’s in 61 games last season…to go with 25 goals and 54 points. An old school, put you through the boards type of power forward. He’s the type of winger who I’m not afraid to rank high, because he’s rare, especially in today’s game. Tkachuk skates well enough and has enough of a “bully” type personality on the ice that I really could see him dominating the league. Missed last year’s draft by one day. Might have gone as high as 3rd had he been eligible. If you’ve read my stuff in the past then you wonder why I’d have a winger ranked this high. True, I always say wingers can’t lead teams to Cups, but in the case of Tkachuk, he is such a rare type of player to find that I believe you have to jump on the chance to take him if you can.
4. Andrei Svechnikov Barrie OHL
Pos: RW Ht: 6’2 Wt: 187 Shot: L
Comparison: Vladmir Tarasenko
Not done for shock value. Scouts are raving about this kid, but once again we have the big, fast, unstoppable Russian winger. These types of players never have the impact on a team that many fans and media believe’s they’ll have. As I said with Klim Kostin throughout last season, I’m just out on the big Russian winger. But he at least is still 5th which is higher than I’ll have most of these kids. He’s compared to Tarasenko because of size, speed, skill, shot, and of course nationality, I just think they have a very similar style. So if he can get near that level, he’ll be well worth the 5th pick in the draft.
5. Jack McBain Toronto OJHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’3 Wt: 196 Shot: L
Comparison: Ryan Johansen
I might have him higher than anyone. The book is that he’s not a great skater, and I’ve been preaching the last year or so that the league is getting A LOT faster so you can’t just be an ok skater anymore. The other night though I seen my man Brock Otten (who I’ve never met and maybe talked to once on Twitter) talk about how his skating is getting really underrated. Even if it is a weakness, I believe McBain has the right makeup to not only improve it with a tenacious work ethic, but the smarts to overcome it should it not get a whole lot better. And it really is his first few steps that needs work, his top end speed is good. I feel like players can improve their explosiveness. And he has the rest. Size, tremendous vision, great shot, and is very committed to playing a 200 foot game. In the past, the league he plays in would hold him back. But it’s not tough to scout a league like the OJHL anymore. We all saw Cale Makar shoot up into the top five last season. A weaker draft definitely played into that, but I’m sure it’ll be in most scouts minds when looking at McBain this season.
6. Rasmus Kupari Karpat Liiga
Pos: C Ht: 6’0 Wt: 168 Shot: R
Comparison: Matt Duchene
Another kid who is on the rise as we enter the season. Size is decent, right handed shot, skill, wheels, already plays a very responsible 200 foot game, this kid has it all. I get the sense that if he were in the CHL and his name were Max Power (great name) that he might already be hyped as a top three pick. For now, I’ll put him sixth at the top of the second tier, but I won’t be surprised if I’m moving him up to that next tier come January/February when I do my next list.
7. Bode Wilde USNTDP USHL
Pos: RD Ht: 6’2 Wt: 194 Shot: R
Comparison: Aaron Ekblad
Already committed to Harvard for the 2019 season. Harvard. So it’s safe to assume he’s got a high IQ, to go with real good size and a RH shot. I don’t know if I LOVE the Ekblad comparison, but there is a lot to it. Smart, good size, good skater, big shot, righty, willing to play nasty, and plays with some swagger. I’m tempted to put Wilde higher because of all that, but he’s still a bit raw. Some of the more raw type prospects who I’ve been sky high on in the past have me a little spooked and questioning myself when it comes to my theories on these type of players. Anyway, I still like Wilde a lot and could see him sneaking up into that first tier by seasons end. A lot of people have Wilde coupled with Quinn Hughes, and Hughes ranked higher. Wilde is a 2000 born, and potential to be the type of kid who can play in any situation, where Hughes size will limit him even though he very likely will be the better offensive defenceman.
8. Quinn Hughes Michigan NCAA
Pos: LD Ht: 5’9 Wt: 168 Shot: L
Comparison: Sami Vatanen
Like with Brady Tkachuk, Hughes is a late 99 which is why he’s already playing at Michigan this season. Side not, you’ll start hearing a lot about his brother Jack this season as he has scouts buzzing (available for the 2019 draft). So last year, I used Vatanen as the comparison for Erik Brannstrom. Ironically, Hughes not only has a very similar game and stature to Brannstrom, they’re only a little over a month apart in age (September 1999 for Brannstrom, October 1999 for Hughes, also Lou Bega was big at that time). A little surprised with how much he’s risen already, but as I said off the top, speed and skill is really taking over. While I still believe you can’t over do it, teams are going to be more willing than ever to ignore size.
9. Filip Zadina Halifax QMJHL
Pos: LW Ht: 6’0 Wt: 198 Shot: L
Comparison: Nikita Kucherov
Here’s a guy who has some scouts going NUTS. Being a winger, and the type of winger that isn’t overly tough to find these days, I’m not going near as nuts, but still being in the top ten is nothing to sneeze at. It could be because of who I have him compared to. Kucherov broke out last season, and if they’re seeing that too with Zadina then that would explain it. I’m comparing him to Kucherov with past seasons in mind, not so much his 2017 campaign. On skill alone Zadina is a top five pick, and easily could be. For me though I just prefer to jump on players who are a little tougher to find and there for he ends up in the ten spot.
10. Ty Smith Spokane WHL
Pos: LD Ht: 5’10 Wt: 176 Shot: L
Comparison: Jared Spurgeon
I’ve scouted this kid as much or more than anyone to this point. How do I know that? Because I’ve watched him since about Novice as he played a lot with my nephews growing up. The talent was pretty obvious early on. Great skater. He’s not overly dominant at either end of the ice, but despite his size is developing into the type of player who can play in any situation. Ironically, this MIGHT hurt him come draft day. Some might scoff at the Spurgeon comparison or be underwhelmed by it, but I just mean he’s an undersized kid who knows how to contribute at both ends of the ice, and I might be a bigger Spurgeon fan than most are.
11. Jared McIsaac Halifax QMJHL
Pos: LD Ht: 6’2 Wt: 209 Shot: L
Comparison: Oscar Klefbom
Offensively at this point, he’s probably not in the same category as the D-men ranked above him. But man, he has a lot of the same game and upside as Bode Wilde. Maybe has the best breakout pass of any D-man in the draft at this point. Real nice size, real good skater, bomb of a shot. Some comparisons I’m shaky on, but I love this one of McIsaac to Klefbom.
Joe Veleno St. John QMJHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’0 Wt: 181 Shot: L
Comparison: Brad Richards
I believe I’m the only person to have Veleno this high, but whatever. My list. Simply put, he’s the best centre in the draft and the best centre in the draft doesn’t tend to fall very far. 2012 might be looked at as an exception to that rule, but remember that Alex Galchenyuk was drafted as a centre, and injuries that season cost him going 1st overall. But on top of all that, what doesn’t Veleno possess? He’s a complete player who plays very cerebral. Terrific skater, good size (not great for a centre, that might be another small thing that hurts him), his reputation is that he’s got a tireless work ethic, he just does EVERYTHING so well. He’ll be a coaches dream. So what’s the issue? First thing that springs to mind is that maybe being a CHL exceptional player that he hasn’t met scouts lofty expectations? Maybe it’s that he doesn’t have that elite offensive flash in his game? Either way, I’m sky high on the kid.
13. Barrett Hayton S.S. Marie OHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 186 Shot: L
Comparison: Bo Horvat
A complete centre. Tough to see him becoming a first line centre at this point, but definitely has potential to be one of those elite second line centres who a coach can use in any situation.
14. Oliver Wahlstrom USNTDP USHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 195 Shot: R
Comparison: Nick Schmaltz
A boat load of skill, but a questionable motor. I have my doubts on whether or not he’ll remain a centre at the next level. Some might question the comparison here, and there’s a very good chance it can change. But at the moment, it’s perfect. Size, shot, position, questions of if he’ll play the middle, questions about his motor, just couldn’t be more similar…at least as prospects.
15. Ryan McLeod Mississauga OHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’2 Wt: 190 Shot: L
Comparison: Sean Monahan
Another kid who just missed last years draft by a few days, six in his case. Did not perform too well in the regular season, but then he came alive in the playoffs going at a PPG pace. Kind of like the Wahlstrom/Schmaltz comparison, McLeod more so reminds me a lot of Monahan in his draft year. Late birth date, similar size and skill set, maybe a little underrated due to over exposure, and just a solid overall game where he does nothing special but everything very well.
16. Benoit-Olivier Groulx Halifax QMJHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 192 Shot: L
Comparison: Ryan O’Reilly
Very similar prospect to Jack McBain, with less size and there for I got him lower. But again, despite the skating issues (and like McBain it’s the first step that’s lacking), I believe this kid has the compete and work ethic to fix the problem and become a very good two way centre someday. Plays a very complete game.
17. Joel Farabee USNTDP USHL
Pos: LW Ht: 5’11 Wt: 152 Shot: L
Comparison: David Pastrnak
I have a feeling I’m going to be pushing Farabee up my rankings all season. I don’t like taking wingers, but where I get burned is on wingers who can tilt the ice, because those guys aren’t useless. Farabee can FLY. Going to be one of the best…perhaps the best…skater in the draft. He has elite puck skills and vision to go with those wheels, and a high motor on top of it all. Not a lot to dislike other than the current weight, but once he’s up around 170 or so it won’t be any issue.
18. Jet Woo Moose Jaw WHL
Pos: RD Ht: 6’0 Wt: 205 Shot: R
Comparison: Travis Hamonic
It’s funny, a lot of people really like Woo, but everyone has him ranked around this spot. Doesn’t have the offensive upside which guys like Wilde, Hughes, Smith and McIsaac have. But having said that, he really gives you nothing to dislike. Size is fine, RH shot, great skater, plays confident, very willing to get his nose dirty, just a damn good and in my opinion he’s a very safe kid to roll the dice on.
19. Ryan Merkley Guelph OHL
Pos: RD Ht: 5’11 Wt: 165 Shot: R
Comparison: Tyson Barrie
I have seen some compare him to Ryan Murphy and if I start seeing that same thing then he’s going to go into free fall in these rankings because Murphy had no idea how to distribute or play away from the puck. But that’s just who some compare Merkley to, not everyone. He has all the ability to be an elite point producer from the blueline in the show someday.
20. Evan Bouchard London OHL
Pos: RD Ht: 6’2 Wt: 181 Shot: R
Comparison: Jeff Petry
Nothing flashy about Bouchard. He isn’t going to lay anyone out with a big open ice hit, and he isn’t going to create any highlight reel plays. With everyone looking for the pure puck movers these days, a kid like Bouchard is probably getting a bit underrated. But while most like to criticize the limited upside, I think you have to get a little excited about the limited downside.
21. Jacob Olafsson Timra SHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’2 Wt: 185 Shot: L
Comparison: David Krejci
22. Isac Lundestrom Lulea SHL
Pos: C Ht: 5’11 Wt: 178 Shot: L
Comparison: Sam Reinhart
23. Jesperi Kotaniemi Assat Liiga
Pos: C Ht: 6’2 Wt: 190 Shot: L
Comparison: Victor Rask
24. Ty Dellandrea Flint OHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 181 Shot: R
Comparison: Alexander Wennberg
25. Xavier Bouchard Baie-Comeau QMJHL
Pos: RD Ht: 6’2 Wt: 176 Shot: R
Comparison: Alec Martinez
26. Akil Thomas Niagara OHL
Pos: RW Ht: 5’11 Wt: 165 Shot: R
Comparison: Vincent Trocheck
27. Alexander Khovanov Moncton QMJHL
Pos: C Ht: 5’11 Wt: 187 Shot: L
Comparison: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
28. Anderson McDonald Sherbrooke QMJHL
Pos: LW Ht: 6’2 Wt: 203 Shot: L
Comparison: James Neal
29. Milos Roman Vancouver WHL
Pos: C Ht: 5’11 Wt: 194 Shot: L
Comparison: Bryan Little
30. Calen Addison Lethbridge WHL
Pos: RD Ht: 5’10 Wt: 179 Shot: R
Comparison: Alex Goligoski
31. Krystof Hrabik Liberec CZE
Pos: LW Ht: 6’3 Wt: 209 Shot: L
Comparison: David Backes
32. Giovanni Vallati Kitchener OHL
Pos: LD Ht: 6’1 Wt: 185 Shot: L
Comparison: Damon Severson
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