You would think that since I did a top 32 list in early October that it would cut down the time it would take me to put this one together. This took me something like three weeks to write up! So if you see some stats or some information in here that’s a week or two old, I apologize in advance. I always try to proof read my stuff, but I’m about as good of a proof reader as I am writer, so I end up missing a lot of shit.
I left it as a top 32 again this time around. I just still don’t have enough information on enough guys to do a top 50 or 62 right now. Eventually I will, but not this time. And I make no bones about it, I’m not a scout, I compile information. I look to what Craig Button, Bob McKenzie, Hockey Prospect, Future Considerations, Jeff Marek, ISS, Red Line Report, and even to a much lesser extent CSS (man they are dinosaurs with how they do things) have to say, not to mention searching for any videos I can find on these kids to get a better feel for the type of game they play, but I’m in no way a pro with this.
It’s a very odd draft class. You have a kid who most want to call a generational talent, but most are scared to do so (including me) because of the track record defencemen who go first overall have. There isn’t that standout, sure fire, top five pick centre in this draft. A lot of real good ones, and who have potential to be number one guys, but much more likely that they are 2nd and 3rd line guys. A lot of wingers who’ll tilt the ice. I don’t like wingers, but it’s tough to not get real excited about what some of these wingers bring to the table. And of course the calling card is the defencemen. After Dahlin there is still a plethora of D-men who have legitimate number one ability, and elite puck moving D-men, and D-men with tremendous upside.
It’s very much shaping up to be like the draft of ten years ago where we saw eight of the 12 D who went in the first round either be solid or home run’s (and I considered both Bogosian and Luke Schenn disappointments despite playing over 500 games…in fact, Schenn is almost at 700 which is second for D in that draft behind Doughty). If you go into the second round, good defencemen were still being taken (Voynov before he destroyed his career, Josi, Justin Schultz, and Hamonic). Meanwhile, 12 of the 16 centres or wingers taken were either big disappointments or outright busts. So keep that in mind, as this draft has an extremely similar look to it.
Something to know with my rankings, and that is the tiers are much more important than the actual ranking. With tiers (which in my mind is how everyone should do their rankings), you’re taking the need for your hockey team, and if a player from a higher tier should fall to you, then you take him over the player in the next tier (think Matthew Barzal falling to the Oilers in 2015, you take him in that scenario because he’s going to worth a whole lot more than the player you take, you can use him later on to fill your need worst case scenario). To me, you shouldn’t be passing on a need to take a player you have a spot or two higher and essentially equal with the player who can fill that need. It’s damn near impossible to trade in this league anymore, so if you’re going to pass on a need for a guy you deem to be clear cut better, you best be damn sure!
I also put a lot of stock into upside. What I look for is upside combined with IQ, work ethic/coachability. If there’s a kid I’m lower on with a big ceiling, it’s likely because I’ve read something negative on the players IQ or work ethic. But if there’s a kid with a big ceiling and I see or read that he’s got the makeup to realize that upside, I’m going to be sky high on him. I also put more value on centres than anyone, and tend not to be real high on wingers (centres can play wing, wingers can’t play centre, you’ve heard it a million times). Defencemen are a bit of a crap shoot, but they carry more value than any other position in the NHL so in my opinion it’s vital for teams to load up with them. In only rare instances would I take a goaltender in the first round. Round two is ok, but preferably in rounds three through seven are when I would do it. And finally, I now put a ton of stock into skating ability. Obviously it’s always been important, but with how much faster the league has gotten in the last three seasons, skating ability is simply at another level now and you need players who can play with and keep the pace.
Again, as always, I’m going to point out that my comparisons, like most others, are mostly just in terms of style. I do try to matchup things like position, stature, shooting hand and lastly the upside. I’ll try to fit in what I’m thinking for the comparisons on all these players, but when I don’t just keep in mind that if the comparison seems too lofty, I’m very likely just comparing the style and stature of the player, maybe a couple other things that may remind me of the comparable, but not necessarily that he’ll get to the same level as the comparable player did.
I think I’ve set the table enough, and it won’t matter as some of you are guaranteed to still tell me how dumb things are and why player A should be ahead of player B. That’s cool, those are your rankings bro…these are mine:
1. Rasmus Dahlin Frolunda SHL
Pos: RD Ht: 6’2 Wt: 181 Shot: L
Comparison: Drew Doughty
Back in October I was worried about how people would take this comparison when I made it. I don’t think anyone is going to have a problem with it after seeing Dahlin anchor the Swedes blueline all the way to the gold medal game at the WJC. He’s as elite of a talent on the blueline as there has been perhaps since Chris Pronger. I know the other day Craig Button said he’s been the best since Denis Potvin, but guys like Pronger, Doughty and Hedman were ELITE guys. They just happened to all come out in years where there were elite centres available as well. At this point, he’s better than Hedman, better than Doughty. I find it odd that I seem to be the only person alive who is making the comparison of Dahlin to Doughty. He doesn’t HAVE to be compared to other Swedes you know….TSN….
2. Filip Zadina Halifax QMJHL
Pos: LW Ht: 6’0 Wt: 198 Shot: L
Comparison: Nikita Kucherov
I can’t believe I have wingers in the two and three slots in my rankings, but here we are! This draft is a very odd one. Either one of these wingers could be ranked 2nd, but I like Zadina a tad more. I just feel his skill is on such an elite level that while others will put up great numbers, it’ll be Zadina who is putting up monster numbers year after year, making everyone around him better, and can do anything for a hockey team. He’s got the speed and smarts to play on the PK, he’s as good of a playmaker as he is a finisher, and he’s incredibly quick with the puck. I’m just really high on this kid.
3. Brady Tkachuk Boston University NCAA
Pos: LW Ht: 6’2 Wt: 194 Shot: L
Comparison: Keith Tkachuk
It’s tough not to love this kid and badly want him on your team. And I said this in the fall but will say it again, he’s much more like the old man than his brother. Matt is a pest, Brady is a power forward. Not to say Brady can’t play that game as well, but Brady will put guys through the boards, and I’m guessing he’ll be a pretty good fighter once he’s playing in a league where he can drop the gloves. He’s the slowest skater of the big three wingers (not that he’s slow, just not real fast), but he might be the smartest, and his overall package makes him such a rare type of player to find in today’s league. For me, if a team took Tkachuk over Zadina I would have no problem with it at all. Hell, if the Oilers took Tkachuk over Zadina, even with the Oilers needing more speed on the wings, I still wouldn’t have any issue with it. It’s more so just a preference between the two.
4. Adam Boqvist Brynas SWE-U20
Pos: RD Ht: 5’11 Wt: 168 Shot: R
Comparison: Brian Leetch
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.
5. Noah Dobson Acadie-Bathurst QMJHL
Pos: RD Ht: 6’3 Wt: 178 Shot: R
Comparison: Seth Jones
So I put Dobson and Boqvist in their own tier. I was more inclined to put Boqvist in the same tier as the two wingers, but I personally have him and Dobson so close together, and I wasn’t quite ready to rank Dobson alongside guys like Zadina or Tkachuk. But having said that, I’m sky freaking high on this kid. The comparison to Jones I feel is spot on. Even the way Dobson skates and holds his stick reminds me of Jones, they’re just extremely similar kids and Dobson has very similar upside. The mobility combined with the frame (and obviously what the size will likely be 195-215 lbs) and the vision. He’s not too physical, but in today’s game there aren’t many who are. That edge is always nice to have, but now days it’s much more vital to have that reach and use it effectively. I think he’s got legitimate number one defenceman written all over him.
6. Joe Veleno Drummondville QMJHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 195 Shot: L
Comparison: Brad Richards
Call me nuts, but I’m not quitting on this kid as a top 10 guy, not yet anyway. And I was going to. I had him a lot lower than this for most of the time I spent doing these new rankings. But he’s been on fire of late. QMJHL player of the week not this passed week but the one before, capped by a tremendous three assist performance on the road against the top team in their division Blainville-Boisbriand. And then in his next game (after I had that part written) he recorded a hat trick in a 3-1 win, and then on Friday night he had a goal and two assists. So he could be very well be hitting his stride here. And it’s tough to ignore a very poor St. John squad holding him back in the first half of the season, and that he’s likely now getting comfortable with his new squad and in the beginning of really busting out and having run for the rest of the season most expected of him. But it’s not because of a little hot streak that I put him back up this high. I can’t get past the fact that he without a doubt has the biggest upside of any centre in this draft, and scouts rave about his work ethic. The IQ, the speed, the playamking, good size, and he has shown a commitment to playing a 200 foot game. He has a little Connor McDavid in him in that he won’t shoot the puck, Connor’s only kind of/sort of flaw. Another guy like that is Matt Barzal. A very similar game to Veleno’s and he’s thriving in his rookie season after not looking overly great in junior as a 19 year old last season. I believe that if/when Veleno starts to shoot the puck, his game will go to another level and we could be all wondering why people ever had him to go in the 15-30 range of the first round.
7. Bode Wilde USNTDP USHL
Pos: RD Ht: 6’2 Wt: 194 Shot: R
Comparison: Dougie Hamiltion
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, how could I say anyone else for the comparison? Actually, everyone else will say Jacob Trouba (guarantee it), but the knock on Trouba has always been his IQ. Wilde is smart, good size, good skater, big shot, righty, willing to play nasty, and plays with some swagger. Probably goes without saying, but this ranking is a lot about upside. Wilde has very legitimate number one potential. Only reason he’s not with Boqvist and Dobson in the next tier is simply because as of writing this I feel like he’s just a little more raw than those two.
8. Ty Smith Spokane WHL
Pos: LD Ht: 5’10 Wt: 176 Shot: L
Comparison: Jared Spurgeon
He’s got the speed, IQ, work ethic, leadership and coachability to be a legitimate number one defenceman someday. And I fully admit, some of this is bias. I’ve watched this kid play a ton over the years. He used to make me want to pull my hair out when he was in Atom hockey because he’d never pass the puck. Well, he learned how to pass the puck!! (probably was much more on the coaching…) I got him ranked about where most have him, but I’m sure some of the D-men I have him ranked higher than will be puzzling for a few compared to other lists. But I know Smith has both the skill set and the mental makeup to potentially thrive at both ends of the ice. I love how solid his game is on the defensive end. The biggest knock I’ve heard on Smith is that he’s not “dynamic”, which has been a word I’ve despised from scouts. It’s as though they truly believe you get extra points for style. Smith is damn near a PPG player this season, I don’t care if any of those were highlight reel quality. Another knock is his prospects game performance. That was a one off. Shitty night, no doubt, but don’t let that distract you from how good this kid is going to be. The prospects game is littered with great performances from average players and poor performances from great players.
9. Andrei Svechnikov Barrie OHL
Pos: RW Ht: 6’2 Wt: 188 Shot: L
Comparison: Vladmir Tarasenko
My rankings, not yours, and in my rankings I don’t trust Russian forwards. Prejudice? Well, since 2008 there have been six Russian forwards taken in the top 15 of the draft. 0 for 6 (I guess you could argue 1 for 7 if you consider Alex Galchenyuk Russian, I don’t seeing he was born in the States and represents the States in international competition). Filatov, Burmistrov, Yakupov, Grigorenko, Nichushkin, and Gurianov. Of those players, Filatov, Yakupov, and Nichushkin were getting close to the same type of hype that Svechnikov is. Now, I do really like that Svechnikov has been over in North America playing in the USHL last season and now Barrie. And I compare him to Tarasenko who has been tremendous (by the way, notice I went top 15, had I said top 16 there would be one guy who was a home run….) And obviously the talent is ELITE. Skating, shot, size, he’s got the tools to be an elite sniper. But can he think the game? That always seems to be a question that’s never asked on prospects like this. How’s his vision? I keep hearing people rave about it, and then you look and the kid only has 18 assists this season. If his vision is so great, shouldn’t he be finding his teammates more often than 18 times in 32 games? And again I’m going to harp on the fact that wonderlic testing should be done at the combine. If Svechnikov tested good, then I’d be much higher on him. But so many of these Russian kids have the size, speed and shot and just don’t get close to what they’re hyped to be. But let’s not get it twisted, I got him 9th, not 39th. I’m not saying he’ll without a doubt be a bust, but I just question even if he does stick in the league will he score at the elite level to justify being selected in the top five, or top three? And I’m fully aware of how dumb I’m going to potentially look here with Veleno still that high and Svechnikov this low. Whatever, this is how I feel. You’re probably going to roll your eyes or call me a dip shit for who I have next too, that’s cool. I feel Veleno will make his teammates better, where Svechnikov will need guys around him to get the most out of his game. And no, this isn’t done for shock value. None of my stuff is because I’d much rather get it right than be right.
10. Serron Noel Oshawa OHL
Pos: RW Ht: 6’4 Wt: 200 Shot: R
Comparison: Blake Wheeler
I find this to be such an intriguing comparison from Svechnikov to Noel. I probably like Noel better, but I’m just not quite ready to have him ahead of Svechnikov. Hey let’s not lie, it’s not easy to go against everyone else! It’s not easy to have Svechnikov as low as nine and Noel as high as ten, because people will tell you what a moron you are. But Noel has to think the game right now while his game develops, where Svechnikov doesn’t. In five years, when Noel is fully developed physically, who will be better off for that? I love how smart and mature Noel comes off as. Obviously you’re drawn to that size, but for me it’s the smarts and maturity which suggests he’s going to be coachable with a great work ethic that will help him put it all together and thrive at the next level. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a project. If you’re drafting him, you best plan to give this kid three years before you’re trying to fit him in the lineup. Rushing any player is a mistake, but especially a project like this. And be prepared for some heat if you take him up here, because kids like Wahlstrom, Farabee and Thomas are all likely going to be better than him for the next few seasons. But you can see when you watch him play that his strength doesn’t come close to matching his size at this point. So the combination of size, skating ability, shot, skill, work ethic and IQ would make me feel completely comfortable taking him this high. I have a good track record of being right on guys I’m higher on. 2013, Darnell Nurse. I had him as a number one defenceman someday, liked him better than Seth Jones, and he’s now trending that way. 2014, Dylan Larkin, couldn’t understand why he wasn’t going top 10. 2015, Matthew Barzal, I had him 5th in my rankings ahead of Dylan Strome, ahead of Mitch Marner. Last year, Robert Thomas, I think the kids going to be a 1st line centre and the only thing I’m upset about is that I didn’t trust myself enough to put him in my top 10. As of right now, Noel is this guy for me. Someone else may emerge, some new information on Noel may sour me on him, but right now I just think the kid is going to be a star as long as the team drafting him can be patient. As for the Wheeler comparison, I’m thinking both of what Wheeler was like in his draft year, and what he’s become.
11. Isac Lundestrom Lulea SHL
Pos: C Ht: 5’11 Wt: 178 Shot: L
Comparison: Henrik Zetterberg
I think if there’s a centre who is going to shoot up these rankings that scouts will eventually drool all over Lundestrom. He gets a lot of comparisons to Lias Andersson whom the Rangers took 7th last year, while most had him going in the 15-20 range. Centres are more vital than wingers, I don’t know how many times I have to say it. And I think right now Lundestrom has some knocks that people are paying more attention to than his tremendous game. He’s a late 99 birthdate, he’s sub 6’0 which for a centre isn’t the best size, and he’s still pretty thin on top of that. Now, shall I go over the boatload of attributes he brings to the table which make me believe he’s going to be a tremendous centre? Speed, vision, shot, 200 foot game, frame (he might be under 180 lbs now, but simply looking at his frame I’d say he’ll be close to 200 lbs in a few years), strength, puck protection, compete level. I just love this kids game and can’t really see why he’s getting underrated by some.
12. Jesperi Kotkaniemi Assat Liiga
Pos: C Ht: 6’2 Wt: 190 Shot: L
Comparison: Mikko Koivu
I say I always try to avoid the “stereotypical comparison”, and then with these last three guys I’ve had a stereotypical comparison. But I’m not sure how anyone could think of another player than Koivu when watching Kotkaniemi. Big, good skater, plays a very responsible and understated game. Will he be a legitimate first line centre? He could be, but he looks like a kid whom if he’s your second line centre then you’re going to be a Cup contender. Another Fin whom he may you remind you of is Sasha Barkov, and you would say that same thing about him. The Panthers love him, and he can play the tough minutes. But if he were there second line centre, they’d be right there with the Leafs and possibly the Lightning in the Atlantic. He might not be a flashy or fan favourite type of pick, but I feel he’ll be a very safe and solid pick for someone.
13. Jack McBain Toronto OJHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’3 Wt: 196 Shot: L
Comparison: Jason Spezza
Most are down on him because he has impressed to the level expected of him this season. He’s in his second season in the OJHL, the Jr. Canadiens are kind of in no man’s land as far as the standings go, and he’s already committed to Boston College. So it has to be REALLY tough to get up for some of these games. Come playoffs, if he’s still failing to live up to expectations, then maybe it’s cause for concern. But not now. Plus, who knows if the kid is trying to play through an injury, it could easily be the case because him not dominating like was expected doesn’t really add up. The one thing I keep coming back to when I read up on McBain is scouts rave about his work ethic. So with the skill set he has I’m not going to allow myself to be scared off because others don’t even have him in their top 31. To me his skill set/work ethic combination means he has the second biggest ceiling of any of the centres in the first round discussion. Not the best skater in the draft, that’s for sure, but it’s come a long ways from what it was even at this time last year, and I would at least now say it’s above average. Even though I have put him down to 13th, I still won’t be surprised if he shoots up others rankings before the season is done and goes top 10. I believe NHL scouts will like him a lot more than independent scouts do.
14. Barrett Hayton S.S. Marie OHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 186 Shot: L
Comparison: Ryan O’Reilly
You’ll hear this endlessly from now until the draft, but Hayton is 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. Of course when most other people say that, it’s looked at as a second line player. In my mind, your second line centre should be at least your third best forward, and probably your second best. When I think 2nd line centre, I think of a guy who can be a second line centre on a Cup winning team, not a Derek Roy/Sam Gagner type for example. He’s never going to stand out with his skill, but he’ll do everything right to constantly put himself in the best position possible to produce for his team. Stat that I love: as of writing this he has 46 points in 49 games, with only 13 of the 49 points coming on the pp.
15. Rasmus Kupari Karpat Liiga
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 183 Shot: R
Comparison: Matt Duchene
I have trouble putting him above any of this group of centres mainly because I’m not sure his skills translate to playing centre in the NHL or if he might be better on the wing (a lot like the debate for years with Duchene). And Kupari is a kid who is more about the upside than about the current production. I seen a debate about this with a kid last year: Casey Mittelstadt. Analytics guys were down on Mittelstadt, while more traditional scouting services loved him because of the skill set. For me, I can’t get past the skill set with Kupari (for now), but am intrigued to see more of the kid. He’s got the type of skill that could make him the best centre to come out of this draft. I don’t know if I’d call him a boom or bust guy, but I’m cautious of him.
16. Quinn Hughes Michigan NCAA
Pos: LD Ht: 5’9 Wt: 168 Shot: L
Comparison: Dan Boyle
Lower than most have him, I realize that. But I also feel as though we’re maybe starting to lean too heavily towards undersized D-men that can wheel offensively and simply ignoring their faults. He’d be considered tiny for a forward, and he has such a long ways to go in his own zone before he can ever be more than just a PP specialist in the show. He is never going to be that legitimate number one defenceman, so right off the bat his upside is limited. And to that you might say “well he’s only an inch smaller than Smith and you think he can be one”, and that’s fair. But Smith is already showing a commitment and ability to handle things in his own zone, where Hughes would have to change a lot of his game to be that guy. He’ll need to be on a blueline like Pittsburgh’s or Toronto’s where it’s simply more vital to have five or six guys who can get the puck up to their high end forwards who can dominate possession, because I think he’ll have a hell of a time not getting exposed in his own zone. I like Hughes, I’m not saying I wouldn’t draft him in the first round or anything along those lines, I just wouldn’t take him where others are currently ranking him (5-10 range).
17. Joel Farabee USNTDP USHL
Pos: LW Ht: 5’11 Wt: 152 Shot: L
Comparison: David Pastrnak
These next three are really odd rankings, because I love all three kids. But my rule on wingers is that you don’t go for one in the first round unless you’ve got your centre and blueline situations in real good shape, or of course if you have the kids that we have at the top this season who are just so unique that you have to take them. So if you’re a team that is picking high yet has everything in order, no reason these kids can’t be in your top 10. But if you don’t, you need to be looking at bigger needs because skilled wingers aren’t difficult to find. And again, this is why I do tiers, and this 5th tier is large for a reason. Anyway…Farabee can FLY, one of the best skaters in the draft. He has elite puck skills and vision to go with those wheels, and a high motor on top of it all. The high motor is what gives him the edge in my opinion over the next kid, but it’s really close between the two of them. Not a lot to dislike other than the current weight, but once he’s up around 175 or so it won’t be much of an issue.
18. Oliver Wahlstrom USNTDP USHL
Pos: RW Ht: 6’1 Wt: 195 Shot: R
Comparison: Nick Schmaltz
A boat load of skill. He’s listed as a C/RW for most, and the large majority of the time I just say “well then he’s a winger because it’s nothing for a centre to move to the wing”, but with Wahlstrom, going to Harvard next year, if you hear him interviewed he’s a pretty intelligent and mature kid, I wouldn’t be shocked if he is a full time centre at Harvard and thrives doing so, which in turn would make him a much more valuable prospect. The one flaw though that I kind of hit on while discussing Farabee is that Wahlstrom really lacks consistency. When he’s on, he’s electric. But he has an off switch that is a bit concerning for me.
19. Akil Thomas Niagara OHL
Pos: RW Ht: 5’11 Wt: 165 Shot: R
Comparison: Mitch Marner
I don’t get why Thomas is ranked so much lower than Farabee and Wahlstrom for some. Because when I watch Thomas I see a very similar player to those two. And Thomas has played centre most of the season. I got him as a winger because I wonder how the 200 foot game will be, but he’s been the second line centre in Niagara all season. High end skater with silky smooth hands and tremendous vision. I wonder if he’ll be a kid that some organizations shy away from? Reason being that while I don’t know what he’s like off the ice, on the ice he plays with a lot of swagger (which I personally love), and I know “hockey men” usually have a problem with. As for the comparison, consult what I said in the opening, it’s much more about style. Having said that, I don’t see why Thomas can’t rival what Marner does. I could be wrong about this, but I don’t believe Thomas sees much five on five time with Kirill Maksimov, instead is on the Ice Dogs second line with essentially nobody. In his draft year, Marner was playing with Max Domi and Christian Dvorak most of the season. So it might not be just the style and stature that’s similar with the two players.
20. Evan Bouchard London OHL
Pos: RD Ht: 6’2 Wt: 181 Shot: R
Comparison: Ryan Whitney
I simply don’t like him as much as others do. Now this easily could change, but it’s where I stand at this time, even after a terrific prospects game. I’m seeing some terrific stats, but I’m seeing a lot of jumping in the play, which he won’t be able to do near as much in the NHL because his wheels are just good enough to do it in the OHL, not the NHL. His shot to my eye looks accurate, which is good, but he’ll have to add a lot of power to it (I seen Jeff Marek call it a bullet, maybe I haven’t seen it enough but to my eye it didn’t look that powerful). I actually like his wrist shot a lot more than his clapper. And this might seem odd, but I worry that only a third of his points are on the PP. Normally, I’d love this stat. With Bouchard, I’m really not sure if it’s a good thing because again with his speed being a bit of an issue he’ll have trouble jumping in the play. If he was torching everyone on the PP, then I would say his game could be fine the way it is. But I just really believe he’s going to have to change a lot of his game to be a top four defenceman in the NHL. Here’s another thing to remember: who have the London Knights produced on D who met expectations after being taken high in the draft? Olli Maatta might be the only one (don’t give me John Carlson, he only spent a season there, post being drafted). They’ve had a some guys succeed whom were basically afterthoughts while in London, but the track record of their guys picked in the first and second rounds isn’t pretty. Now, let’s not get it too twisted here. I have him 20th in a good draft. It’s not like I’m saying he won’t make it or that he doesn’t have upside. He has the tools to be a top four D-man. I just think there is a lot more risk with him than most are realizing right now and that his stats could be blinding some. Brock Otten who covers the OHL made a comparison in his mid-season rankings to Cody Franson (more so just asking if he’s going to be more like that), and that really hit with me. Franson became a dominant defenceman in his final year of junior and big things were expected once he turned pro, but has never had that next gear he needed to be a regular top four guy in the NHL.
21. Jacob Olafsson Timra SHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’2 Wt: 185 Shot: L
Comparison: Alex Wennberg
Another stereotypical comparison I know, but I couldn’t avoid it. Solid two way centre. It’s not anything that anyone will get excited over, and Olafsson doesn’t seem like an excitable guy out on the ice. Just plays 200 feet, good size, skates well, high IQ, good shot, good vision, I think he’s worst case scenario a terrific third line centre, best case scenario he’s an elite second line centre. He’s a lot like Kotkaniemi, but I feel as though Kotkaniemi has a higher ceiling offensively. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. Not really really a flaw in his game, just does nothing at an elite level which is something I like a first round pick to have is that one elite quality to work with.
22. Grigori Denisenko Yaroslavl MHL
Pos: LW Ht: 5’11 Wt: 163 Shot: R
Comparison: Alexander Radulov
Lower than some scouting services have him, but again, my trust in Russian hockey players is really low right now. Denisenko reminds me a lot of Denis Gurianov three years ago in that so many people were talking as though Gurianov was different from other Russians, and to this point Gurianov is exactly like other Russians…anyway, they are completely different players so who knows. Like Bokk, talent is zero question here. And I’m not anything afraid to admit that if he were Canadian, American, Swedish, etc. that he would be up there with my second group of wingers, and maybe with Zadina, I feel he’s got that level of talent. But how do you trust drafting a Russian forward right now?
23. Dominik Bokk Vaxjo SuperElite
Pos: RW Ht: 6’1 Wt: 179 Shot: R
Comparison: Martin Havlat
As Chris Berman would call him “Dominik Bokk like an Egyptian”. Maybe the fastest riser in the draft right now? He’s definitely gaining traction, and the kid has ridiculous one on one skills which can help make a kid an online sensation. But I have seen people questioning his play away from the puck. He puts up points and he can make beautiful plays, but if you’re much more of a liability out there than an asset, you’re not going to see the ice. Skill set is without a doubt there for this kid to become a front line player though. Speed, hands, vision, are all real high end, and the size will be good too once he fills out. It won’t surprise me if I’m putting him in that Farabee/Wahlstrom/Thomas group on the next rankings, but I’m hesitant to put him up there just yet.
24. 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 Dobson, Wilde, Hughes, and Smith 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.
25. Benoit-Olivier Groulx Halifax QMJHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 192 Shot: L
Comparison: Yannic Perreault
A very similar guy to Barrett Hayton. Similar size, similar game, similar skating issues, just maybe doesn’t have the offensive game and/or quite the same bite to his game that Hayton has but I’d suggest that if your team has eyes for Hayton and they can’t get him then Groulx would be a damn good alternative. Groulx probably isn’t as weak of a skater as Perreault was, and some might be scoffing at this comparison because Perreault is strictly remembered for his face-off ability. Go back and look at his numbers. There were a lot of seasons where Perreault was a very solid and skilled second line centre. If he had the speed his offensive numbers likely would have been in the 70 point range for a few seasons. This is how I see Groulx. Talented, and highly intelligent kid who can play in any situation and put up some good numbers, but his skating will hold him back a bit.
26. Ryan McLeod Mississauga OHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’2 Wt: 190 Shot: L
Comparison: Andrew Cassels
McLeod has everything you need to be a number one centre, except he just doesn’t show that he’s very willing to do what it takes. I don’t know if that’s the case off the ice, but on the ice it is in that he’s a perimeter player and really doesn’t like the traffic. But he’s a great skater, has great vision, and actually plays a pretty solid two way game. Maybe it’s a case of a kid who is trying to play too cautious? I doubt it, but you never know. I put Andrew Cassels as the comparison, but the guy I worry that he’s exactly like is Peter Holland who had a very similar scouting report coming out of the OHL.
27. Calen Addison Lethbridge WHL
Pos: RD Ht: 5’10 Wt: 179 Shot: R
Comparison: Alex Goligoski
Pretty standard analysis with Addison. Small, fast, quick, right handed shooting puck mover. He’ll never be a number one defenceman, but he could thrive in the right situation and be a solid second pairing kid. As of right now, he has a long ways to go in his own zone. But with his offensive abilities, as long as he gets it to a level where he’s not a liability, he’ll be ok.
28. Jared McIsaac Halifax QMJHL
Pos: LD Ht: 6’2 Wt: 209 Shot: L
Comparison: Brayden Coburn
I worry about his IQ. Now, in saying that, I really don’t know. It’s just an opinion formed off a couple interviews I’ve seen him do. That could be 100% wrong! But to me I think he’s going to be a nice D-man, maybe a number four, but I have my doubts he’ll be anything more than that. He’s mobile, and he’s got good size (especially by today’s standards for D-men), but I’m just not sure he’s going to put up much for offensive numbers, which when you add all that up is that not what Brayden Coburn has been? I think he’ll play in the league, I just worry about the ceiling.
29. K’Andre Miller USA NTDP USHL
Pos: LD Ht: 6’3 Wt: 194 Shot: L
Comparison: Ed Jovanovski
Don’t tweak about the comparison and just keep in mind that I’m talking about the style, not necessarily the ceiling. Having said that, it wouldn’t shock me if someday Miller got near the level that Jovo was in his prime. Currently, he’s very raw. And a lot like Serron Noel, the warning has to be there that he needs time to develop. He’s a kid whom I’d LOVE to interview and figure out his smarts, because he’ll definitely get the label of “low hockey IQ” being raw and talented. If the IQ is there with him, he would rocket up my rankings. One thing that will need work though is the explosiveness. He has great top end speed, but the first steps need work.
30. Mattias Samuelsson USA NTDP USHL
Pos: LD Ht: 6’3 Wt: 209 Shot: L
Comparison: Luca Sbisa
Son of Kjell, not Ulf, which I’m sure will be asked by plenty of 30+ year old readers. He’s on the rise in a lot of rankings. Hockey Prospects has him 13th! For me, I need to see more of him. Being a kid with great size and being the son of a guy who was a very intelligent NHL defenceman, I can see myself shooting him up these rankings come June. But to my eye when I’ve seen him I really don’t like the skating ability. Not that he’s a poor skater, but I personally am looking more for kids now with high end skating ability, especially on the blueline. As of now I’m not seeing the upside (which is why I give Miller a very slight edge over him at this time), but he could be a kid I grow a lot fonder of as we go along here.
31. Jonathan Tychonick Penticton BCHL
Pos: LD Ht: 5’11 Wt: 166 Shot: L
Comparison: Tyson Barrie
He’s exciting. Terrific skater (the first step in particular is what I love), terrific passing ability, terrific shot (more so talking about his wrist than clapper), and unlike a kid like Ryan Merkley who is very similar, all reports are that Tychonick is a great kid who has a great attitude. It’s tough, just like with Jack McBain he’s playing in the CJHL and not the CHL or even USHL so some will be hesitant. But I think this kid is going to turn heads at North Dakota next season and leave everyone wondering why he wasn’t taken much sooner than he was. Definitely a candidate to move up my rankings, and if the Vees get bounced early like they did two years ago when they had Jost and Fabbro, a trip to the U-18’s could be massive for his draft stock.
32. Rasmus Sandin Sault Ste. Marie OHL
Pos: LD Ht: 5’11 Wt: 183 Shot: L
Comparison: Paul Martin
It’s a long list down here of the D-men, but it’s the year of the D-man in the draft so what do you expect. Not in love with the skating. He does everything else offensively better than the five D-men I have in front of him, but the skating is just good not great so he ends up behind them. He’s a lot like Evan Bouchard for me. Vision is high end, IQ is high end, but what is the upside? He should play, but without that ability to cut and stop and start being at an elite level it makes me wonder if he can go beyond a number five guy.
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