2018 NHL Draft: Top 50 Prospects

The U-18’s are done.  The Worlds are done.  The Memorial Cup is done.  The draft combine is done.  The Golden Knights are almost done.  We’re only 16 days away from the first night of the NHL draft!

 

It’s an odd draft year.  I say that because on one hand we have a superstar pick at one, and to me the draft is wide ass open.  There’s some separation for me between picks 2-19, but not a lot (for most it’s between 4 and probably 19 or 20).  Then you have a little glut of really talented guys with big question marks for about 10 picks, and then to me it really starts to drop right off.  Last year around this time, I was gushing over my top 50 guys and had to make a top 62 by the next list.  This year I get past 30 and I kind of lose a bit of interest.  But it’s far from done.  We see ridiculous movement of all lists in these final 16 days.  We’ll start hearing and reading more and more things to come out of the combine (mostly interview information) and that could really change my mind especially on some guys as I’m really big on that part of the process.

 

As for what I look for?  The main thing I look to do is view it as if I were a GM.  So I like guys who have the most value above all else, but I attempt to balance that with how I believe they’ll pan out.  I really look at trends, so I put risers higher than some, and guys falling lower than most (unless of course I feel the rise or fall is unwarranted, which you’ll see right off the bat on this list).  I also like rare, so I might value things like elite speed, elite size or right handed shooting centres and D more than most.  I put a lot of stock into the birthdates.  I love kids with vision and who are playmakers.  Playmakers can play with playmakers, snipers don’t fit with other snipers.  I really believe this is becoming a playmakers league as much or more so than it is a skating league.  I’m also really into building a team not just compiling talent, so I put a big premium on centres and D-men over wingers.  Finally, I tier my prospects.  I’ve done this since I started doing a top prospects list in 2015, and this season I’m seeing a lot more people take this same approach.  It just makes much more sense.  So pay more attention to the tier a guy is in and less as to what the number is beside his name.

 

Another thing I should give warning to before I start, read what I have to say if a guy is higher or lower ranked than most have him.  I lay out my logic a lot more than most people do, and I’m not about to put a player higher or lower just because its popular opinion.  Its my list, and if I’m proven wrong that’s just fine.  It has happened a lot in the past and will happen a lot moving forward.

 

Also put out my third mock draft of the year today so if you’re interested on how the pieces may fit: Mock Draft 3.0

 

Ok, let’s kick it off with the obvious.

 

Tier One

1. Rasmus Dahlin  Frolunda  SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Drew Doughty

Just like with McDavid and Matthews, the top spot is pretty boring from now until late June when I do my final rankings.  It’s the Rasmus Dahlin draft.  He looks like the closet thing to a generational defenceman that we’ve maybe ever seen.  I don’t know if people who watch him realize how big he is.  The only thing about Dahlin that is different from Doughty is the offensive ability is probably better, but I might look at Doughty differently than others.  To me, Drew Doughty had a lot of the offence and creativity coached out of his game by Daryl Sutter.  Had Drew Doughty come along playing under a Mike Babcock, he’d be more like Erik Karlsson…but with the physicality, which is what I think of when I think of Dahlin.  He just MIGHT be Erik Karlsson offensively, while able to log that 25-30 minutes a night and play in all the difficult situations.  Amazing talent, and the Sabres are extremely lucky to draft him.

 

Tier Two

2. Joe Veleno  Drummondville  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 194  Shot: L

Comparison: Brad Richards

Yep.  Everyone loves to talk about the speed of this league (including me), but as I said in the opening, this has become a playmakers league.  And you can call me nuts on this one all you want but I’m all in with Veleno.  The stat that got me to start looking closer at Veleno: After January 1st, Filip Zadina produced 1.43 PPG.  Veleno over that same time…1.53 PPG.  I had a feeling at the start of the year that the scouting community had fatigue on Veleno and that he didn’t meet their lofty expectations of him, so they were ready to bail on him as quickly as they could…and did.  And yeah, you expected him to be annihilating the Q by this season and he didn’t.  Yet if you move past that aspect, he outproduced everyone’s number three ranked prospect (my second ranked guy last time around) in the same league, on a team with very similar talent, for the last three months of the season.  Playoff numbers went towards Zadina who had 12 points in 9 games, but Veleno had 11 in 10 games so really not too different.  But it’s not just the numbers for me with Veleno.  All the scouts rave about his work ethic, and all point out how strong of a 200 foot game he already has, which is shit you constantly see me harp on.  The IQ, the speed, the playmaking, the skill, good size, plays 200 feet, he’s got everything I’m looking for in a player.  Don’t forget too as I go back to comparing him with Zadina, Veleno is a 2000 born, where Zadina is a late 99.  Don’t confuse this with me believing he’ll even go close to second in the draft, he won’t.  But in 5-10 years, I believe he is going to teams and scouts kicking themselves on putting too much stock into his early season struggles.

 

3. Filip Zadina  Halifax  QMJHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 197  Shot: L

Comparison: Nikita Kucherov

He’s one of the most exciting players in the draft.  Good size, terrific speed and elite skill.  The thing that is most intriguing with Zadina however is his five on five scoring.  44 goals, 36 of which were at even strength.  38 assists, 26 of which were at even strength.  I love how tenacious he plays too.  Constantly on pucks.  He’s going to be that Kucherov, Taylor Hall, Patrick Kane type winger.  Not saying he’ll win a Hart trophy, but he’s going to be a high end offensive driver.  I pretty much laid it out already in writing about Veleno, but again….he’s a late 99, he’s a winger, and their production was very similar from January 1st until the end of the season.  So when I factor all of that in, I prefer Veleno.  But they’re in the same tier in my books and feel a team can’t go wrong with Zadina.

 

Tier Three

4. Noah Dobson  Acadie-Bathurst  QMJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 177  Shot: R

Comparison: Seth Jones

Believe it or not, the Memorial Cup performance really isn’t the reason I had Dobson jumping to fourth.  It didn’t hurt, but barring looking bad at the Memorial Cup I simply found myself loving Dobson as time went on.  I’m sky freaking high on this kid, and I really love the comparison I’ve come up with to Jones.  Even the way Dobson skates and holds his stick reminds me of Jones, they’re just extremely similar both in terms of style and upside.  The mobility combined with the frame (and obviously what the size will likely be 195-210 lbs), maturity, IQ, and vision.  He doesn’t have the edge to his game you’d like, but in today’s game there aren’t many who have it.  I think he’s got legitimate number one defenceman written all over him.

 

5. Jesperi Kotkaniemi  Assat  Liiga

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Mikko Koivu

I say I always try to avoid the “stereotypical comparison”, yet here is as stereotypical comparison as you’ll find.  So I won’t lie to anyone on this, the biggest reason for this jump into the top five on my list is that Corey Pronnman has him fourth.  Pronnman LOVES small skill, and frankly has seemingly had a bias towards smaller players.  So if he loves him, that’s a sign to me right there that I’m not wrong in liking him myself.  I was already looking to put Kotkaniemi much higher, but that sealed it for me.  Big, skating is OK (it’s improved dramatically), 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.  And let’s not confuse second line centre with second line player.  In my mind, your second line centre should be at least your third best forward, if not your second best.  It’s tough to look at Kotkaniemi and not be reminded of a Koivu or Barkov.  The size and the style are just so similar between the three of them, and then of course they’re all Fins.  Do I got him too high?  Maybe, but these are the type of players you NEED to win in this league.  Even Vegas, they might be the worst team ever down the middle to win a Cup, but they still had William Karlsson emerge this season as not only one of the best goal scorers in the league (don’t expect THAT part to continue to the level it was this season), but one of the best two way centres in the game (expect THAT part to continue to the level it was this season).  D-men and centres who can play in all situations are just so vital to team success.

 

6. Andrei Svechnikov  Barrie  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Thomas Vanek

Before I begin, some might scoff at that comparison, especially when I have him ranked 6th.  Remember Vanek 10 years ago?!  Dude was one of the best wingers in the league!  So I’m not talking about Vanek of today (who is still very productive and underrated), but pre Minnesota Thomas Vanek.  Ok, Svechnikov.  If you’re new to my rankings, Svechnikov has actually risen since my last list.  Last time I put him 9th.  My reasoning is simply that I don’t trust Russian forwards.  Prejudice?  Stupid?  Well, since 2008 there have been six Russian forwards taken in the top 15 of the draft.  0 for 6.  Can he think the game?  Can he make his teammates better?  Is he an easy fit with most players?  In junior, a kid can run the show and play one on five.  That always seems to be a question that’s never asked when it comes to gifted wingers like this.  How’s the vision?  The video I dug into showed most of the assists weren’t a result of great vision, but coming from rebounds or standard passes on the pp.  I saw a lot of dangling defenders down low that he likely won’t be able to do in the pro’s, lot of blowing past defenders with ease that he likely won’t be able to do in the pro’s.  Let’s not get it twisted though, I got him 6th, not 66th.  I’m well aware of the five on five production being all time great in the CHL (taken from Brock Otten at ohlprospects.com, better than McDavid, Crosby, Tavares, Stamkos).  I’m well aware of is how much everyone loved him at the draft combine, how much a few ex-teammates have raved about him, I heard a lot of that with his brother three years ago too.  I’m not saying he’ll without a doubt be a bust, not at all.  I just believe there is bust potential here.  Add to that, should he pan out, will he score at the elite level to justify being selected in the top five, or top three?  I fully understand the love in for him, and I’m fully aware of how dumb I potentially could look here with Veleno that high and Svechnikov here.  Whatever, this is how I feel.  I dug deeper into this with a Svechnikov vs Veleno piece I also wrote today.

 

7. Brady Tkachuk  Boston University  NCAA

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Keith Tkachuk

A little fall for Tkachuk in my rankings, but not much.  I just decided (as I did with four or five guys) that I was falling in love with the player and the style, and not what he actually can be, which is DAMN GOOD…but not likely elite.  He’s such a difficult type of player to find though, so that’s where finding the balance becomes difficult.  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 a good skater, maybe a little better than what he gets credit for, but far from an elite skater.  But in saying that, he can play at any tempo because he’s one of the smartest players in the draft.  His overall package makes him such a rare type of player to find in today’s league.  What might get him drafted top three or so is that he’s ready and he’s a damn safe pick.  He just barely missed last year’s draft, he’s physically developed, extremely high IQ.  There was talk of him for sure going back for his sophomore season next fall (that he later denied any decision was made), but the team who selects him are going to want him in the lineup in October, so I just can’t see him back at BU.

 

8. Adam Boqvist  Brynas  SWE-J20

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11.5  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Kris Letang

I hate that I used this comparison for Timothy Liljegren last season, but it’s tough to not see it with Boqvist as well.  Falls to eighth, but like Tkachuk, I don’t really like him any less it’s just that I’m not as sold on him his ability to potentially become a number one D-man.  Tremendous offensive talent.  He’s just so damn smooth out there.  Vision, skating, ability to jump in the play, he’s got 60+ point ability.  Defensively, he’s not great just yet, but he’s also only listed at 168 lbs right now.  When he’s 185-190 it should be a tremendous boost to his defending, though the player has to show a willingness to learn and be coached up at that end of the rink.  One mistake scouts get burned on a lot is assuming that players will simply learn the defensive side of the game.  He does show flashes at that end of the ice though.  Real good stick, and pretty solid positionally.  I’m interested to see what Boqvist measures at the combine, because watching him at the U-18’s to me he looked bigger than 5’11, 168 lbs.

 

9. Evan Bouchard  London  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 196  Shot: R

Comparison: Larry Murphy

I despise using other people’s comparisons, especially since I really believe I come up with better ones than most.  But I think it was Craig Button who used the Murphy comparison, and the more I thought about it, the more I loved it and had to use it.  Bouchard is going to have a much better clapper than Murphy, but other than that, so many similarities.  I’ve changed my tune on Bouchard.  The more I look at clips and whatever I can find on him, the more I feel that I’m overrating how poor his skating is (it’s solid, just not spectacular), underrating how terrific he moves the puck (ELITE), and how much better his shot is going to get as he adds weight and strength (which I underrated the last time around too).  Two things still worry me with Bouchard though.  One is still the skating because this league is just getting SO fast.  But the second thing is that he has to change his game a bit because of the skating.  He jumps up in the play a ton, and with those wheels he won’t be able to recover in the NHL like he can in the OHL.  Now, because of his IQ, I believe he’s going to figure that out.  And that puck moving ability, it’s just going to be such a massive asset to a team to have a D-man back there who might have the ability to move it like Erik Karlsson does someday.  Just 35 of 87 points on the pp.  Most D-men will have around half of their production on the pp.  But keep in mind, he had basically no talent around him from January on, yet continued to produce near the same clip.  If he’s playing in Hamilton or the Soo, he’s easily over 100 points.  Simply put, he makes his teammates better, and that is maybe the number one quality for me in a player.

 

10. Serron Noel  Oshawa  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 204  Shot: R

Comparison: Blake Wheeler

Remember…these are MY rankings, not yours.  The big thing for me is that with Noel still physically developing he’s forced to think the game, which will serve him very well in the pro’s.  And 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.  He’s obviously a project.  If you’re drafting him, you best plan to give this kid three years minimum before you’re trying to fit him in the lineup.  Rushing any player is a mistake, but especially a project like this. I’m prepared to look dumb on this in the short term.  Kids like Hughes, Wahlstrom, Thomas, Farabee and others are all likely going to be better than him for the next few seasons.  But you can see when you watch Noel 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 doubt he will, but I would.  As for the Wheeler comparison, I’m thinking both of what Wheeler was like in his draft year, and what he’s become.

 

Tier Four

11. Ty Smith  Spokane  WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 176  Shot: L

Comparison: Brian Rafalski

WHL scholastic player of the year.  To quote someone who knows him very well “he’s a genius”.  To go with that ridiculous IQ, he’s got the skating, work ethic, leadership and coachability to be a legitimate number one defenceman someday.  I got him ranked about where most have him, but I’m sure some of the D-men whom 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.  And that seems to be REALLY underrated by the scouting community.  I get that you can coach a kid up to be solid in his own zone, but how willing are the large majority of those kids to learn it?  Smith shows he’s willing to do it already, and that’s a big deal in my books.  The biggest knock I’ve heard on him 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.  He was over a PPG player this season, PPG in the playoffs.  I don’t care if any of those were highlight reel quality.  As of now I can’t bring myself to put him higher than 11th because of the lack of size, but if Smith ends up being the second best D-man in this draft I’ll be nothing surprised.

 

12. Bode Wilde  USNTDP  USHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2.5  Wt: 198  Shot: R

Comparison: Jacob Trouba

First things first, I completely missed that he ended up choosing Michigan over Harvard.  All season I had on here that he was going to Harvard, when that’s been wrong literally all season.  So my apologies on that.  It wasn’t wrong initially wrong, he did commit to Harvard, but things changed, and changed before I even did my first rankings in early October.  Anyway, the big question for everyone is how is the IQ?  I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, if he’s a smart kid, then I’m not worried about the mental mistakes he currently makes which are the knock on him.  If he’s smart, he’ll figure it out.  If he’s not….it hurts, but I still believe that much like Trouba (who also had this knock), he can be a top four guy because he just simply has all the tools.  A top four D-man who leaves you wanting more is still a top four D-man.  Good size, great skater, big shot, righty, willing to play nasty, and plays with some swagger.  When it comes to kids like Wilde and Svechnikov, I’d love a wunderlic or some other IQ test on him to see where his intelligence is.  If with either player they have an IQ over 110 then a lot of my concerns with these players would be nullified.  Maybe teams do this on their own?  I doubt it because then you have a lot of kids doing 31 of these tests rather than just one for all teams to see, but I guess you never know.

 

13. Quinn Hughes  Michigan  NCAA

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 168  Shot: L

Comparison: Phil Housley

Lower than most have him, I realize that.  And wow, did I ever love hearing him interviewed at the combine.  He’s 18 going on 35.  But I just don’t know if he is ever going to be that legitimate number one defenceman, so right off the bat I feel his upside is limited.  The big question then becomes is does he have the type of offensive ability where he’s simply able to dominate like an Erik Karlsson or back in the day Paul Coffey or even the guy I compare him to Phil Housley?  He honestly might.  I believe that’s what others think, but I’m just not willing to bet on that because I haven’t seen THAT at Michigan or the WJC or the World’s.  Probably the best skater in the draft, and he can really drive play.  And you might say “well he’s only an inch and a half or so smaller than Smith and you think he can be a number 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.  I really like Hughes, and I’m not saying I wouldn’t draft him in the first round or anything along those lines.  Hell, his mom follows me on Twitter!!  So I’m a big fan!  I just prefer the kids who show a more complete game.  He’s going to go much higher than this though, I guarantee it.

 

14. Akil Thomas  Niagara  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 177  Shot: R

Comparison: Mitch Marner

I still got him as a winger because I wonder how he’ll develop physically, but he was the second line centre in Niagara all season.  Good skater with silky smooth hands and tremendous vision.  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 (as a ceiling).  I could be wrong about this, but I don’t believe Thomas seen much five on five time with Kirill Maksimov this season, instead playing strictly on the Ice Dogs second line with essentially nobody.  I know for some they’ll be worried about nearly half his assists coming on the PP, but that was the only time he was playing with the top finishers on his squad.  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.  Just love his vision though, and I’m sky high on playmakers right now.  As much as speed is taking over, it’s really now more than ever a playmakers league.  And the thing about playmakers is that they can usually play in any situation with other playmakers, so you can never have too many.

 

15. Oliver Wahlstrom  USNTDP  USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 208  Shot: R

Comparison: Phil Kessel

Again, I don’t like using other people’s comparisons.  But I did see somebody (I THINK it was THN, someone else also may have had it), had Kessel for Wahlstrom as well.  I have no clue if I had it first, but definitely not looking to copy anyone, so it’s just a coincidence.  Anyway…I’ve had a real tough time with Wahlstrom.  On one hand, he looks as though he’s going to be purely a sniper without a big motor.  Then on the other hand, the kid just has so much skill and could be one of those ELITE snipers that are damn difficult to find (think Brock Boeser, Kessel, Laine, etc.)  And Oilers TV interviewed him at the draft, man he passed that test for me (as did a lot of kids this year).  But I can’t move past that first part.  The motor is concerning, the one dimensional aspect is concerning, and so I can’t put him any higher than this yet I’m fully prepared to be wrong on him.  It’s not as though with some of these kids I’m down on (Svechnikov, Hughes, Wahlstrom) more than others that I’m missing what others love about them.  I totally get it, and I want to be wrong about them all as a fan because I think all three could be tremendously exciting players!  But my belief is that even if these guys pan out, I don’t believe they’ll have the impact on teams others believe they will.

 

16. Isac Lundestrom  Lulea  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 183  Shot: L

Comparison: Henrik Zetterberg

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.  Speed, vision, shot, 200 foot game, frame (currently 183 lbs, 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.

 

17. Joel Farabee  USNTDP  USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 162  Shot: L

Comparison: Kyle Palmeri

Like Hughes, Farabee is a kid who I really like!  But I just can’t bring myself to put him higher up than this.  He can FLY, one of the best skaters in the draft.  One of the best motors in the draft too.  But while he has good vision and good skill, I’m not sure it’s at the level where he’ll be that winger who can really carry a line.  I get the draw though, and while the weight isn’t where you’d like it now, he’s going to be 175-180 lbs before too long.  Like him a lot, just trying not to confuse how much I like the player with his upside.

 

18. Rasmus Kupari  Karpat  Liiga

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 189  Shot: R

Comparison: Matt Duchene

Winger or a centre?  That’s going to be the debate on Kupari should he make it, much like it’s always been with the guy I compare him to.  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.

 

Tier Five

19. Barrett Hayton  S.S. Marie  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 190  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan O’Reilly

You’ll hear this endlessly from now until the draft, but Hayton is a complete centre.  I don’t see him ever becoming that legitimate first line centre, but definitely has potential to be one of those elite second line centres who a coach can use in any situation (very similar to O’Reilly in that way as well).  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.  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.  My fondness so to speak for the player doesn’t reflect the ranking, as I believe it does with a lot of other scouts.  I love his game too, but the skating worries me too much.  O’Reilly would be the ceiling, but I believe the level he’ll get to will be more of a Jordan Staal type in terms of production.

 

20. Jacob Olofsson  Timra  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2.5  Wt: 189  Shot: L

Comparison: Alex Wennberg

Another stereotypical comparison I know, but I couldn’t avoid it.  By the way, THN, Ryan Kennedy, whichever one of you I have to blame….quit stealing my comps!  First off, if we’re grading the hair on these kids, he’s 5/5!  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 real 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.  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.

 

21. Ty Dellandrea  Flint  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 184  Shot: R

Comparison: Elias Lindholm

An example of how you should stick to your guns.  Start of the reason I brushed up on Dellandrea and thought “man, I love what I can find on this kid!”  And then throughout the season, scouts were way down on him.  Now?  He’s rising back up.  The big concern for me is the organization he’s with.  Flint is a complete tire fire.  So, is he a flower in a land fill?  Or are they wrecking his development?  After his prospects game performance, then his U-18 performance, he’s looking like a kid who is a lot better than what he looked like throughout the season.  He’s one of these kids who does everything well, nothing spectacular.  But the book is that he’s a really intelligent and hard working kid, so if the tools are there, he should at least turn into something in the show.

 

22. Rasmus Sandin  Sault Ste. Marie  OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 186  Shot: L

Comparison: Andrej Sekera

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, but it’s a lot like Evan Bouchard in that he does everything else so well that it minimizes the problem.  Vision is high end, and IQ is high end.  And as we’ve seen with Vegas, it’s so much more about the transition than the actual speed of the individual players.  So if you got a kid like Sandin who can really move the puck, it’s a huge boost to your blueline.

 

23. Jonatan Berggren  Skelleftea  SWE J-20

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Jaden Schwartz

Biggest riser in the draft?  There are actually two kids back to back here that are pretty big risers for most.  I’m loving what I’m reading on Berggren though.  Take the write up that THN did on him, where one scout they interviewed said “he struggles under contact” or something to that effect.  Well, ok.  Does he shy away from it though?  If he doesn’t shy away from it, then learning to play when the game gets physical is something that a kid can learn.  Berggren has real high end skill and speed, so even if he does have trouble when things get rough its not a good enough reason to put him any further down the list than this.

 

24. Dominik Bokk  Vaxjo  SuperElite

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 176  Shot: R

Comparison: Martin Havlat

As Chris Berman would call him “Dominik Bokk like an Egyptian”.  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. 

 

25. Grigori Denisenko  Yaroslavl  RUS-JR

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 172  Shot: R

Comparison: Sergei Samsonov

The “Soups Russian factor” ranking.  It’s another one of those stereotypical comparisons, but it’s really tough not to look at the way Denisenko plays and not be reminded of Samsonov being that smaller, gritty Russian who was a righty shot playing on his off wing while being a highly skilled pass first guy.  I put him down here primarily because he’s Russian.  And again, I make no apologies for it.  If anyone has an issue with that, blame the insane amount of Russian forwards who have busted in the first round since 2008.  3/13 in the first round from 08-15 (obviously a few of those guys can still turn it around, but to this point).  I don’t think it’s fair to include 2016, but if you want to, German Rubtsov sure hasn’t looked too good thus far either.  So those numbers just make it so difficult for me to want to take a chance on a kid like Denisenko until late first/early second round.

 

26. Vitali Kravtsov  Chelyabinsk  RUS

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 184  Shot: L

Comparison: Filip Forsberg

And again, the “Soups Russian factor” comes to the fore front.  If you want to read why I’m hard on Russians then you clearly didn’t read the Denisenko write up literally right above here.  And just like Denisenko, if Kravtsov is from pretty much any other nation, I got him in my top 20 for sure, MAYBE even my top 15.  Thing is that with Kravtsov, I really like what I read in regards to his style of play (hence the Forsberg comparison).  Skilled, fast, physical, great with the puck, a terrific shot, and he’s still filling out.  184 lbs at the combine, probably will get up to 200-205 in a few seasons.

 

Tier Six

27. 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 tremendous 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.

 

28. Jack McBain  Toronto  OJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 201  Shot: L

Comparison: Jason Spezza

In regards to my rankings, McBain is a poor man’s version of Joe Veleno.  I believe scouts expected so much out of him this season, they were just waiting for him to obliterate the OJHL, and when he didn’t then he fell off the map for a lot of them….at least in terms of being a first round pick.  I still like him though because the book on the kid is still that he’s a tremendous worker, his skating has improved to the point where it’s not a concern, still has tremendous skill, and that size is nothing to scoff at.  And again like Veleno, he’s a playmaker.  Those 58 points in 48 games could become 78 points in 48 games if he has the right guy to finish for him.  I thought just the way he got around the big ice at the U-18’s might alleviate some concerns on him, but it doesn’t seem like that happened.  He’ll need time, but he’s going to BC in the fall and a team drafting him having three years (let’s be honest, if a player gets to his fourth year then he’s gone) before they need to sign him is going to be good for him.

 

29. K’Andre Miller  USNTDP  USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 198  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.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I scoff at that anymore.  Kids with a certain level of size and talent don’t ever have to think the game on the way up.  Then they get the “low hockey IQ” label.  Bullshit.  If they’re intelligent, they’ll figure it out.

 

30. Jet Woo  Moose Jaw  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 200  Shot: R

Comparison: Travis Hamonic

Here’s another kid like Ty Smith who gets knocked because he’s not “dynamic”.  Who cares how effective a player is right?  As long as they can toe drag someone…He’s a stay at home type, but a new age stay at home type and that gets undervalued in today’s game.  And it’s not as though Woo is a 6’5 coke machine who can’t skate in the Derrian Hatcher mold.  Great skater and plays in your face.  The offensive potential is there too, and if that ever gets tapped into teams will deeply regret passing on Woo.

 

31. Adam Mascherin  Kitchener  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Mike Cammalleri

He’s back!  And so you have to put him in here!  I loved the idea of the Oilers trading for Mascherin leading up to the June 1st deadline.  And while he doesn’t have incredible upside, I really believe he’s going to be a consistent scorer in the league, along the lines of a Cammalleri, or Michael Ryder, or Jordan Eberle.  In other words, he won’t do much else for you, but he’ll fill the net.  Add in the fact that he’s close to playing, and for me I’d have him as early second…maybe even late first round value.  But don’t confuse this ranking with where he’ll go.  He won’t go until at least the second round, and might fall to the third or fourth.  GM’s normally don’t like kids who re-enter the draft.

 

32. Cole Fonstad  Prince Albert  WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 159  Shot: L

Comparison: Ray Whitney

He’s under the radar for a lot of guys, but Fonstad is an intriguing kid and one I’d have big interest in if I’m the Oilers for example with the 40th pick should he still be on the board.  Put up PPG numbers (21 goals, 73 points total, 16 goals, 47 points ES) on a P.A. team this season which overachieved but isn’t overly skilled.  Higher ranked than most will have him, but the more I’ve read on him the more I’ve liked him and when he gets his weight up to 175-180 lbs the size will be just fine with the way the game is played today.

 

33. Jesse Ylonen  Espoo  FIN

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 160  Shot: R

Comparison: Gustav Nyqvist

He’s a lot like Berggren, Bokk and Fonstad before him in that he has great wheels, great skill, and there’s just a question of whether or not he’s willing to play in traffic.  Out of those four kids, I personally think he might have the least skill, but might be the most intelligent.  Like most kids with dad’s who played in the NHL, he just seems to have that next level of smarts out on the ice.

 

Tier Seven

34. Calen Addison  Lethbridge  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 178  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.  I probably trust Addison to get to a level defensively where he can be a number four guy who runs a pp more than I can trust a kid like Quinn Hughes to get to a level where a coach is willing to use him in all situations.

 

35. Jonathan Tychonick  Penticton  BCHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11.5  Wt: 177  Shot: L

Comparison: Tobias Enstrom

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.  The slight concerns that remain with a kid playing in a CJHL league should have been nullified with his play at the U-18’s where he looked just fine.  Off to UND next season.

 

36. Ryan Merkley  Guelph  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 168  Shot: R

Comparison: Ryan Murphy

If you have to go out of your way to tell people that your teammates don’t dislike you, chances are that you’re swimming with issues.  He just reminds so many of kids like Ryan Murphy, Anthony DeAngelo, Oliver Kylington, where they all have the talent to be stars in the show, but they seemingly refuse to learn the defensive game, and don’t seem to know how to use their teammates properly.  A talent like that is worth the shot in this range, and perhaps Merkley is a smart enough kid to start learning how to play in his own zone and start learning to just take the play that is given to him, but those other three I’ve compared him to have yet to do so.

 

37. Allan McShane  Oshawa  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Stephen Weiss

I’m not sure what the upside is with McShane, but I really believe this kid is as safe of a pick as you’ll find in this area of the draft.  He’s going to be a real versatile guy who can play anywhere in your bottom nine (has anyone ever called it a bottom nine?)  I’m not saying he’ll only be Mark Letestu, but I believe that’s going to be the floor.  He’s a really cerebral player.  But the big knock on him like with a lot of these kids I’ve got in the 20-40 range is whether or not he’s willing to play in traffic.  Everyone is cool with smaller players, but they need to be fearless and have some bite.  He hasn’t shown a lot of that to this point.

 

38. Benoit-Olivier Groulx  Halifax  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 193  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 might be a damn good alternative.  Groulx 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.  But go back and look at his numbers.  There were a lot of seasons where Perreault was a very solid and skilled second line centre.  This is how I see Groulx.  Talented, and highly intelligent kid who can play in any situation and put up some decent numbers, but his skating will hold him back a bit.

 

39. Alexander Alexeyev  Red Deer  WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Alex Edler

I’ve seen someone describe him as the best defender in the draft.  And that’s not to suggest he has no offensive game…37 points in just 45 games this season on a weak Red Deer Rebels team.  It’s not eye popping for a 99 born, but it’s not far off the type of production Flames 2017 first rounder Juuso Valimaki had last season as a 98 born on a much better Tri-City team.  He’s a kid who I really worry that I’m ranking too low and other people are too due to his lack of “wow” which as I’ve said in the past I find a bit ridiculous.

 

40. Mattias Samuelsson  USNTDP  USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 218  Shot: L

Comparison: Marc Staal

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 17th!  Being a kid with great size and being the son of a guy who was a very intelligent NHL defenceman, I can see the draw.  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 offensive upside.

 

41. Jared McIsaac  Halifax  QMJHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 189  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!  I also had his height and weight very wrong all year.  I thought he was 6’2-6’3, 205-210 lbs as a few publications had it.  So 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 it’s not as though I now view him as small, he still has decent size.  I’m just not sure he’s going to put up much for offensive numbers.  I could see him breaking into the league, looking great initially, all the analysts will tell us what tremendous potential he has, and then he’ll stagnate as a player.  It’s actually something we see often with defencemen.

 

42. Liam Foudy  London  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 174  Shot: L

Comparison: Craig Smith

A burner and a shoot first guy, so chances are he’s better suited for the wing.  But nevertheless he’s got a lot of people buzzing despite underwhelming numbers this season as a whole, but great numbers in the second half.  Once the Knights cleared out the vets at the trade deadline Foudy got his opportunity and capitalized, and continued his strong play at the U-18’s.

 

43. Jake Wise  USNTDP  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 195  Shot: L

Comparison: Daniel Briere

I’m not sure he’s a centre at the next level, but much like with Foudy, I don’t view that as a knock.  I prefer kids who play centre in junior.  In MLB, teams constantly take shortstops.  Why?  Because a kid who is playing shortstop can be developed to play pretty much anywhere defensively.  A centre can’t play anywhere, but its likely he’ll be able to play on either wing in addition to the middle.  Anyway, Wise had a tough year.  Looked like a sure fire first rounder entering the season, ran into injury problems, and had trouble really gaining traction.  Even then, he still put up 43 points in 38 games on the season.  The foot speed is what’s concerning for me.  Being only 5’10 and likely not being able to add much more weight than he’s listed at, the foot speed will need to improve a lot.  If it does though, someone is going to have a damn good player on their hands!

 

44. Martin Kaut  Pardubice  CZE  Extra

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 176  Shot: R

Comparison: Alex Steen

I might be underrating Kaut, because his calling card is his all around game.  He’s not a flashy winger who you’re drawn to when you watch him.  But he’s a coaches pet type of player where he’s just making the right play every time he’s on the ice.  And at only 176 lbs, he’s got a lot of filling out that he can still do.  It’s so tough to look at some of the higher skilled kids and not fall in love with their talent, but probably 50-75% of those kids are going to be nothing, while Kaut is damn near a lock to play in the league….just might not be in a teams top six.

 

Tier Eight

45. Jacob Bernard-Docker  Okotoks  AJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 187  Shot: R

Comparison: Trevor Daly

“Trevor Daly?!”  Some of you might think that, but I think pretty highly of Daly, always have.  And if he came along now I believe he’d be a lot more revered than he’s been.  Great skater, great puck mover, but real dependable in all situations rather than a big point producer and that’s what I see with Bernard-Docker.  I saw…three Okotoks games this season I believe?  Played my nephew twice, though neither of those games I got to see (nothing gets in the way of me watching the Super Bowl).  Anyway, when I did see him play it was impressive to see an 18 year old be such a key contributor to a top team in the AJHL.  He’ll be joining good friend Jonny Tychonik at UND either this fall or in the fall of 2019.

 

46. Adam Ginning  Linkoping  SHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 206  Shot: L

Comparison: Erik Gudbranson

I could have gone stereotypical with the comparison here.  Mattias Nordstrom, Niklas Grossman, Adam Larsson (whom he even says he plays a lot like), those type of stay at home Swedish D-men.  But Gudbranson fits this mold too.  Anyway, that pretty much sums up Ginning.  The kid is a killer along the blueline.  There isn’t a big need for stay at home D-men like this anymore, but there is still room for them.  The skating is solid, nothing spectacular, and his ability to move the puck is good but has room to grow.

 

47. Kevin Bahl  Ottawa  OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’6  Wt: 216  Shot: L

Comparison: Joel Edmundson

I had a tough time with this comparison, because naturally you want to look at the few guys left in the league who are big, intimidating D-men.  So you look at Brooks Orpik, and Dion Phaneuf, and Marco Scandella, and go down the line of the big stay at home D-men.  But he looks like he can be more than that, which is what we’ve seen of Edmundson in the past.  Watching this kid in the U-18’s, he was active, skilled, and yet still showed his toughness.  Similar to how he performed at the top prospect’s game.  It makes you wonder if he’s being poorly coached or if there isn’t the belief in him there should be in Ottawa.  Again I go back to Vegas, loo at how great Engelland and McNabb were this season.  It’s not as much the skating ability as it is coaching the players to stay on their toes and play with speed.  I really believe if Bahl went to the right situation, he could become something really special.

 

48. Jakub Lauko  Chomutov  CZE

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Carl Hagelin

He’s a total burner, one of the best skaters in this draft.  And for me, I LOVE kids who have an elite quality like that.  On top of that, the kid has no issues getting his nose dirty and going to the tough spots on the ice.  Don’t let any publication tell you differently, he’s a winger in the pro’s.  He played some centre this season, that’s fine, but his game is 100% winger.

 

49. Nils Lundkvist  Lulea  SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 173  Shot: R

Comparison: Jonas Brodin

There are two things I look to avoid with my comparisons.  1) I don’t want to repeat a comparison I’ve used in the past few seasons.  2) as I’ve said a few times now, I hate doing the stereotypical comparison.  But the problem here is that Lundkvist and Brodin are just so similar that I can’t go with anyone else.  He’s nothing flashy, but the kid is really solid defensively at only 5’11, 173 lbs.  So what’s he going to be like when he gets up around 190 lbs?  And he has untapped offensive potential as we see with a lot of Swedish defenders.

 

50. Dennis Busby  Flint  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 180  Shot: R

Comparison: Kimmo Timonen

This is as high or higher than most will have Busby.  He missed all but two games this season with a broken collarbone.  But he’s a kid who was looking like a first round pick after last season and has all the tools to be a damn good D-man in time, though in time because he now has a full season to make up for.  But he has great wheels, great vision, can tilt the ice, and has shown to be pretty committed to learning how to play in his own zone too which as I’ve discussed can be difficult to find with these undersized puck movers.  A ton of the decision on him would have come down to the interview, but from everything I can find on the kid it sounds like the IQ and the work ethic really check out.

 

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