I Hate to be the Oilers Fan Who Hates on the Flames, BUT…

I’ve wrote a few of these now!  Let’s not lie, because I firmly believe that being completely honest is much more fun and people obviously have respect for it.  I get really annoyed by things that get badly overrated.  It’s a shame it happens to be who it is, because the narrative for anyone who reads this will be “typical bitter Oilers fan hating on Calgary” and it really isn’t about Edmonton v Calgary.  I pull for the Flames!  I want the Oilers to beat them more than when they play any other team, but I want the Oilers to beat the Flames at their best, not kick them when they’re down.  And in reality, what I’m bitching about today means nothing.  But I get annoyed by it, and when I’m annoyed I feel like I do my best work, so here it is.

 

The love that the Calgary Flames get from the national media is nothing short of completely nauseating.  I can’t figure out what it is, but since 2015, this team has gotten so BADLY overrated going into every season by the national media.  At this point, it has truly become head scratching.  And no matter what they do, how badly they under perform, or what wrong moves they seem to make, it doesn’t seem to make a lick of difference to the national media.  My theory for a while was that they all fell in love with the team after their miracle 2015 season.  But now I’m really starting to wonder if something more goes on that we don’t see.  Either way, when you think people might finally wake up and be honest about what their team is, it might be as bad now as it’s ever been.

 

How much is that roster truly improved from last season?  Brad Treliving (who I have always stated I’m a MASSIVE fan of) lost the Dougie Hamilton trade.  I know it’s viewed as a win for them because they got a bit of an odd duck out of the room.  But people, he’s a top 20 defenceman.  Borderline number one guy.  But for whatever reason, everyone assumes T.J. Brodie is going to step right in for Hamilton, Hanifin in for Brodie, and the blueline will be fine.  Well first of all, that blueline was the most overrated in the league last season.  They were getting compared to Nashville before the season.  Everyone assumes that it is because Brodie has been playing on the left side and he’s more comfortable on the right side as to why he’s struggled.  Did we ever think that MAYBE he just had a career year in 2015 like so many other Flames did?  Did we ever think that MAYBE he just fit under Bob Hartley and couldn’t play in a more structured system under Glen Gulutzan….and if you thought Gulutzan was structured, Bill Peters makes Glen Gulutzan look like Pat Quinn in comparison.  But no, Brodie will go to the right side with Giordano and he’ll be an All-Star is LITERALLY what everyone assumes.  Ok…

 

Let’s not forget Giordano who is now 35.  He’s not going to decline at all?  Duncan Keith apparently may as well retire at 35, but Mark Giordano is just entering his prime?  I really like Giordano, but I haven’t thought he’s looked anything too special the last two seasons, and wonder if he wasn’t living off Hamilton more than Hamilton was living off him?

 

Then you have Noah Hanifin, and again it’s just a complete assumption that Hanifin is now a top four D-man, when he was on Carolina’s bottom pairing last season.  I know that Hanifin will be a top four guy at some point, again I’m a big fan (I don’t know if the Flames have a player I really dislike other than Matt Tkachuk and that’s more envy than dislike), but Hanifin is nothing proven as a top four defenceman yet.  His partner to start the season?  Travis Hamonic, who looks shot and if he were an Edmonton Oiler he’d be pissed on by the national media.

 

Up front, and this is why I believe most like them, they got a LITTLE better.  But they didn’t get A LOT better.  I believe what people are blinded by is the value that Brad Treliving got.  It was actually similar last season when they got Hamonic.  I believe people were so infatuated with what they paid rather than the impact he would have on the team.  And with their off-season pickups it is a lot of the same.  They didn’t pay AS MUCH as most believed James Neal would cost.  But Neal has only hit 30 goals twice, has trouble staying healthy, is an average skater who is now 31 years old, and has taken a beating over the years.  The Preds had no problem exposing him in the expansion draft.  The Golden Knights didn’t seem to mind letting him walk this off-season.  Nobody signed him on the first day of free agency.  But apparently NONE OF THOSE ARE RED FLAGS…

 

Austin Czarnik.  A lot of teams were interested in him, a lot of people feel like with a true chance he can be a regular in the league, but he’s going to have a big impact is he?!?  Derek Ryan was a much better bargain than Tyler Bozak, and they’re almost identical as players.  But he’s worth 3 mil?  Paying a 4th line centre 3 mil a year is a great move?  Bringing in a 4th line centre to be a 3rd line centre is smart?  Apparently it is!  And apparently those two players are just going to move the needle tremendously.  This team isn’t going to miss Michael Ferland at all, and they added these three offensive stars up front.

 

Finally, Mike Smith.  Now, there at least is SOME chatter about Mike Smith being able to both stay healthy and repeat what he did.  But there is zero chatter about the fact that they were just barely in the playoff hunt with Smith playing incredible.  So if he simply drops off a bit this season, how good are they going to be with a SLIGHTLY improved roster?!  This is what I don’t get.  I’m running down this roster (both with my eyes and my words), and I’m not seeing this major improvement, yet it is just a slam dunk for the national media that they’re going to be great.  John Shannon said on HC at noon the other day that he believes James Neal could get 40 goals playing on their 2nd line.  MOTHER FUCKER THE GUY HASN’T GOT 40 SINCE 2012 PLAYING FIRST LINE WITH EVGENI MALKIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Now he’s going to get 40 seven years later playing with Mikael Backlund?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?  It just drives me INSANE as you can read, not because it’s the Flames and I’m an Oilers fan, but it is so clear that there is something not right with this!  I’m blown away with how overrated they’re getting!

 

I’m by NO MEANS suggesting the Flames can’t be good.  I have no doubt they can finish top three in the division.  If you think the Flames can finish top three, of course.  Can they finish ahead of the Oilers?  Of course.  They have some real good pieces and should be solid.  It’s the fact that it’s such a lock that the media has them as which drives me nuts.  The Oilers are being shit on, and I both get why that is (I’m not delusional) and honestly prefer it because we’ve seen a lot lately how much expectations can effect teams.  But I might argue the Oilers have less question marks than the Flames.  Are the PK, PP, and Cam Talbot all going to be THAT bad this season?  As long as all three are simply solid, don’t have to be anything amazing, just solid, just not horrific, they’re likely back in the playoffs!  And yet those things get glossed over!  Forget that I’m an Oilers fan, because I really do try hard to look at things objectively.  The Oilers question marks are pretty solvable.  Not to say they don’t have holes.  The blueline is suspect, Klefbom staying healthy is a massive key, and they’ll need some kids on the wings to really step up.  But the Flames have a lot too and it is impossible not to compare the two teams as a fan of either one will tell you.

 

I hope the Flames have a great season.  Oilers and Flames in the Pacific division final, how tremendous would that be?!  But let’s just get a LITTLE realistic on this team.  They COULD be good, but why don’t we wait until they prove it to be so sure that they are?

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Hot Takes – August 13th

So I had been wanting to write one of these for a week or so, and life has got in the way.  But I’m finally getting around to it now.  I had to scrap the opening of how “hot” these actually were as it was +30 or more most of last week.  But it isn’t today.  Its just ok out.  So that’s screwed.  And only a part of this is about anything real recent (the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup stuff), so nothing is really a “hot take” other than a few of those observations.  This might get renamed this season because if you don’t get that its sarcasm, which I’m certain most don’t, then its a ridiculously named piece.  Anyway, here you go.  Read this.

 

I’ll start it off with the passing of Stan Mikita, and I’m too young to have seen him play, but he was one of those players who doesn’t get the love that he maybe deserves from fans and the media, but was one of the most respected players all time by his peers.  The one thing I always go back to is what a terrifyingly dirty player he apparently was when he first entered the league, and then ended up a two time winner of the Lady Byng.  Imagine a guy like Brad Marchand winning the Lady Byng.  I can’t speak to whether or not that is exactly how Mikita played early on, but I’m guessing its not a terrible example either!  Probably would have won a Selke had the trophy been around in the 60’s, and how many people know that he held the record for most points in a season?!  Only held it for two years, but he had it.  The man who now holds that record took his first face-off in the league against Mikita.  He’s always felt like a very underrated guy among the legends of the game.  He’s always mentioned, but I can’t help but think Bobby Hull couldn’t have done a lot of what he did without Mikita doing a ton of the dirty work.  From all accounts, as great of a man as he was a player.  A legend.

 

I wanted to do a full blog on Jarome Iginla and didn’t get around to it.  So this is essentially it.  He made mention during his press conference while talking about the 2004 run “we even had some Edmonton fans pulling for us”.  I was one of those fans.  I wasn’t putting on a Flames jersey or anything along those lines, but that team was one of the most likable teams I remember watching, and Iginla was the biggest reason for that.  St. Albert kid, grew up an Oilers fan, as humble of a star as you’ll ever find, and the guy played the game EXACTLY how any fan would want a player to play.  He could score anyway he needed to, was fearless, and if things weren’t going his way he’d looked to kick the shit out of you.  And he didn’t pick his spots either.  Remember the 04 run?  Mattias Ohlund, who wasn’t much of a fighter but was a big boy and Iginla had enough of him in that first round series.  Derrian Hatcher who was a TOTAL spot picking piece of shit, and Iginla didn’t care that Hatcher had three inches and probably 25 lbs on him.  None of the Sharks would go him in the Conference finals that year because word had likely got out that its what would get him going!  Lecavalier obliged in the final though, and what a great tilt that was.  Maybe the best star v star fight in playoff history?  I don’t know of too many others off the top of my head.  Loved him.  Absolutely loved him, and I don’t care who your team is, I’m not sure how you couldn’t.  He’s a guy who deserved a Cup, and it really is a shame that he’s walking away without one.  But really, would it have changed anything?  Me personally I don’t think it would have.  Had they won in 04, and he been a winger who carried his team to a Cup, THAT would have changed my view on him!  But the fact that he was able to get that team to game seven of the final was insane.  That and the gold medal game performance in 02.  The more iconic highlight is setting up Crosby in 2010, but in 02 the combination of him and Sakic was just INCREDIBLE.  That season was his coming out party, and that game was his grand finale.  Remember, he wasn’t initially a camp invite that fall.  He was a last minute replacement for….Brendan Shanahan if I recall right?  I should look it up, but I like the challenge of seeing if I get it right (no joke, I hate looking things up because I feel like I should know, even if it looks more unprofessional).  Anyway, what a tremendous career, tremendous player, and again just like Mikita, Iginla has always been a total class act.

 

Last week (five days ago to be exact) was the 30 year anniversary of the Gretzky trade.  30 years since one of my earliest childhood memories, balling my eyes out.  I remember actually crying about it in my kitchen when the news broke, and then again when mom and I were out picking up the chicken we ordered from KFC (I probably didn’t even enjoy the KFC that night, and as anyone who has seen me knows…I love KFC!  At that age, I was all about the chicken skin, wouldn’t eat any other part of the chicken, just the skin and put it back in the bucket, don’t know how I became such a fat little fuck….)  And this might have been a few days later, but I just remember it was the news that Messier was going to be the Captain.  For whatever reason, Kevin Lowe was my second favourite Oiler as a four year old, and I thought he should be the captain.  So that crushed me, but in reality it was knowing that Gretzky was gone.  It really bugs me to this day from the standpoint of I was of an age where I barely remember it.  Certain moments here and there, but for the most part I remember watching post Gretzky.  My first game was in 89, we started going regularly in 90, basically the one time I really remember watching a game was when they beat the Bruins to sweep the 88 final and our neighbour came over and I just recall him saying “oh they won it already”.  Not anything about the game, just how it was so matter of fact that the Oilers won another Cup.  There were three more Cups left in that team.  Maybe not in a row, but definitely three more.  It still makes me a little sick to see all the stuff on it.

 

So the big reason I wanted to do this piece today was to talk about the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup.  First thing I noticed: This is annoying for a draft guy like myself, because what we saw last week is going to get extremely overrated by a lot of people who had never seen the tournament before.  I’ve never seen so many draft experts on Twitter.  And I’m definitely not claiming to be, but fella’s, you’ve never seen the tournament before, so how would you know how well guys performed when you don’t have another Hlinka tourney to compare it to?  SETTLE DOWN…

 

You would think Craig Button hadn’t seen it before with his overreaction rankings.  Dylan Cozens is now second?  Really?  And Alex Turcotte is now out of the top five?  Seriously?  Come on guys.  Alex Newhook, who shouldn’t have been cut from team Canada, he’s apparently out of the top five now too even though its highly likely that Newhook got left off the team just because he’s not a CHL kid.  I get it, Cozens looked great.  But Cozens performance didn’t really stun me, nor did Kirby Dach’s.  Now, some things I’ve heard about Dach have me questioning whether or not I should have him 2nd on my rankings, but the talent doesn’t.  Bowen Byram, same thing.  Vasili Podkolzin was tremendous but yet again, it wasn’t a big stunner that many are making it out to be.  I guess it is for guys who had never heard of any of these players, and I’m not trying to downplay it at all but I just think if you were going nuts about some of these players on Twitter or other forms of social media that you probably knew nothing about these kids before hand.

 

Obviously I’ve left out one big name to this point, but he deserves his own paragraph.  Alex Lafrenière is another kid who had a performance “up to par”, though that goal against the Swedes in the gold medal game was just ridiculous.  For me, his wowing me moment was in the U-18’s last year where he and Jack Hughes for my money were the two best players in the tournament.  Maybe its the Canadian in me, but to me, Lafrenière is going to be the better player….SLIGHTLY.  Offensively, Hughes will have the edge.  Hughes is a faster and slightly bigger version of Patty Kane in my opinion.  Lafrenière might be the more complete guy though, while still owning a tremendous offensive skill set of his own.  Lafrenière has the size advantage too.  Hughes isn’t tiny, but he’s not big.  Lafrenière might be 6’2, 205 lbs by the time the 2020 draft hits.  Either way though I believe it’ll be splitting hairs with these guys.  Its going to be awesome to watch them grow.  I don’t think either guy is generational, but not very damn far off.

 

The big surprise and the big surge up the rankings will be from Philip Broberg.  And no doubt, he should be well within everyone’s top 31 now.  But some are talking as if he’s emerged as the top D-man in the draft and he’s going top five.  If those people can tell me what else they saw from him other than elite speed, then I’ll gladly listen.  But be honest, he jumped off the screen with a few highlights and that’s why you’re so high on him.  At this point, he looks like another Jay Bouwmeester to me, which is a damn good top four defencman….but not someone I’d be overly excited about.  Bowen Byram is the much better defencemen of the two.  Byram is exactly what teams are craving in a D-man these days.  I love how active he is, not just jumping in the play but without the puck as well.  Keeps his feet moving, itching to read the play, itching to make a play, and yet when he gets the puck as we seen on that completely legal and not anything wrong with game tying goal against the Americans….amazing composure.

 

Speaking of that goal…I’m going to look at this from both sides.  I think we all agree, that was horse shit.  I felt dirty after Canada won.  The Americans were very wronged.  And as a Canadian, World Junior loses really don’t both me in the grand scheme of things.  We usually don’t have our full lineup, so it is what it is.  And yes, we did knock them off in the U-18’s last spring.  Having said that…this one worried me.  That was the Americans at about half strength…if that.  They didn’t have two absolute STUD players, both of whom might be better than any Canadian kid, not to mention several others like Cole Caufiled, Cam York, Alex Vlasic, etc.  And they technically beat us with our best.  That’s big time worrisome as a Canadian hockey fan.  The Canadian media has been itching for this to be the case for 20 years now, but I think it might finally be the case.  Not now, but 10 years from now, we might be a clear cut 2nd best internationally.  Now, having said that…a part of me looks at what happened to the Americans as a bit of karma.  You dip shits half ass it when you play every other country internationally and then play the game of your lives against Canada.  They’re LITERALLY more concerned with pissing off Canadians than winning anything.  Look at the World Juniors.  That team made a tremendous comeback and beat Canada in a shootout (of course), and then in the semi final against the Swedes they looked like they were playing a pre tournament game.  Its very obvious that you don’t care as much about winning as you do about beating Canada, so maybe next time play your balls off for the entire tournament and a bounce like that won’t go against you.

 

Anyway, if I had to redo my rankings today, I’m not sure my top 10 would look a whole lot different.  MAYBE Broberg gets into the nine or ten spot?  Cozens MAYBE moves up a spot or two?  Literally off the top of my head I’d probably go Hughes, Turcotte, Byram, Dach, Newhook, Cozens, Kakko, Podkolzin (and if I got a Russian kid this high then you know I must like him), Krebs and Broberg.  So….not a LOT of movement for me.  I question how much you’ve seen Hughes play if you currently believe anyone will challenge him.  I’m not going to ding Alex Turcotte for not playing in the tournament.  Byram moves from six to three, Dach slides from two to four, Newhook sides from four to five but even with getting cut from the freaking team I still am not going to ding him too much and prefer the centre over the next four who are all wingers in Cozens (up one), Kakko (down two), Podkolzin (up nine) and Krebs (down one).  Broberg is 10 but like I say I’m going to need to see more than just an ability to out skate kids.  Miles Wood can out skate a ton of players too.  Pump the brakes on the hype train.  And remember, this was the first showcase of the season for these kids.  We have a LONG ways to go.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Hot Takes – July 16th

I have to start this today with a tribute to Ray Emery.  A lot of times when celebrities or athletes pass away, especially like this scenario where its so tragic and FAR too soon, we tend to glorify the person maybe a bit too much.  So I try not to do that.  But I can honestly say that Ray Emery was one of my absolute favourites.  He had a style all his own.  He was known as one of the best fighters in all of hockey…as a goaltender.  I Always LOVED the masks with the different boxers on them, especially his one in Philly with Joe Frazier and Bernard Hopkins on each side, and then Rocky on the back.  Initially, I recall Emery being nicknamed “Sugar Ray” which I just thought was AWESOME!!  But then “hockey guys” started calling him “Razor”.  Well that’s boring, what guy named Ray DOESN’T get that nickname?!?  Sugar Ray though?  That was beautiful!  Couldn’t have fit any better, and I never understood why that went away other than other players and the media being lame for lack of a better term.  Sugar Ray wasn’t lame though, the nickname or the person.  Dude was the coolest player in the league for a significant stretch.  I nearly bought a suit one time specifically because I seen Emery rocking it pre-game one night and just thought it was so cool that I had to have it (then found out the price and all of a sudden I didn’t have to have it).  There are two things in his career that don’t get the love they deserve.  One is his amazing comeback from the hip injury.  His career was done, I’m not over blowing that.  It was the same hip injury that ended Bo Jackson’s football career, and while Jackson returned to baseball, he was never anything close to what he was again.  And that kind of leads me into the second thing that deserved more love.  Because not only did Emery comeback from the injury, but people forget how incredible he was for the Hawks during the 2013 season.  17-1 with a 1.94 G.A.A. and a .922 Sv%.  He never saw action in the playoffs that spring (although I’m sure he was damn close to entering game four of the Stanley Cup final with Corey Crawford struggling mightily), but he was a big part of that Cup win for the Hawks.  They went 11-2 at home in the playoffs that season, only 5-5 on the road.  If they don’t get the goaltending Emery gave them that season, they might not end up with home ice throughout the playoffs and there for might not win that Cup.  RIP Ray, from every account you were an absolute gem, one of the coolest players in league history (of which there aren’t many) and will be sorely missed.

 

Not easy to transition after that, so I’ll just simply have to do it very clumsily like this.

 

So, its now mid July, and the Montreal Canadiens still have Max Pacioretty on the roster.  Everyone was quick to call for Marc Bergevin’s head after the Subban deal and I was likely one of the very few exceptions.  I don’t know if the problem is with Bergevin or with the Moulson family.  One thing I’ve started to look at lately is how much more say ownership has in certain organizations than we believe.  Fans and media will hear when a new GM is brought in that “he has full control to do what is needed to get this organization to the next level” or something to that effect.  But it really isn’t the case in so many scenarios and I wonder who is calling which shots with the Habs?  Nevertheless, they’re a complete mess and desperately need to rebuild.  For me, it was this off-season.  This was their last chance to salvage it.  And they’ve done next to nothing.  Now is the time to blow it up.  Trade Carey Price.  Trade Brendan Gallagher.  Trade Shea Weber once he returns.  Why?  You have an incredible draft class in 2019.  Then in 2020, you have the local boy who looks to already be a lock to go number one in Alexis Lafrenière.  So if you’re ever going to rebuild, what a terrific time to do it!  Its not as though they have NOTHING right now, but they don’t have anywhere near enough to make them much better than they currently are.  Granted, teams won’t be as willing to part with their 2019 first round picks as in other years, but for a goaltender like Price I bet they’d pay up.  Could you get both one’s from the Avs in a deal?  I bet you could, as they have a boat load of cap space and even though they just got Philipp Grubauer, we’re talking about an elite goaltender.  It just couldn’t be a better time to blow it all up for them, yet you get the sense that its not even on the table for them.

 

I have a LOT of Oilers I wanted to hit on today, namely two trade ideas I want to lay out (neither of which I’m expecting to happen).  But before that, I’m going to start with Mikko Koskinen.

 

Now, this should have been wrote right after the signing.  I’m sure it was by someone, but I haven’t seen it.  But it started to bother me that the signing was and still is getting as crushed as much as it was by so many fans and Ryan Rishaug….mainly Rishaug.  Normally, I’m with anyone ripping on Peter Chiarelli, and I’m not necessarily singing his praises here or even defending him.  But what I do believe is that people are looking at the signing all wrong.  The reaction is “2.5 mil for a BACKUP?!?  Look at what other backups went for!!!  What an awful signing!”  I completely understand where you’re coming from on that.  But what if you change the POV on that?  What if he just signed a STARTER for 2.5 mil?  That’s a low salary for a starting goaltender, isn’t it?  And they were quite clear on the fact that they weren’t looking for just a normal backup, they wanted someone who could play 30-35 games next season.  35 games is only six short of half the season!  And Chiarelli should be given credit for is his track record finding goaltenders.  He didn’t really find Tim Thomas, but he stuck with him in Boston and made sure that Thomas got a legitimate chance.  In 07, which was Chiarelli’s first season as Bruins GM, there were a lot of reasons to get rid of him or trade for an upgrade and Chiarelli simply stuck with him.  When he got here he did the deal for Cam Talbot which despite some rough stretches we all believe is a legitimate starting goaltender in this league and capable of carrying a team deep into the playoffs.  He brought Anders Nilsson back to the NHL and he’s become a solid backup who has produced some real hot stretches the last three seasons including one where it looked as though he’d established himself as the number one goaltender here.  Look at the talent the Oilers now have in the system between the pipes.  Chiarelli or someone on his staff has a great eye for goaltenders.  The other end of this is that while they paid that price, that was the rumoured rate for Koskinen and a lot of teams were seemingly willing to pay it.  Look at his numbers, its not just in the regular season, its not just in the KHL in general.  In three of his last four seasons, his playoff numbers have been better than his regular season numbers.  His numbers for Finland internationally have been stellar the last four seasons.  Now, I fully understand those numbers don’t tell a lot of the story as they can be padded facing greatly inferior competition at times, but we’re not talking about someone who has come out of nowhere like a Jonas Gustavsson was once upon a time (which admittedly is a dumb example for me to bring up because while I’m referencing when the Leafs signed him, one of the oddest and worst signings Chiarelli has made was Gustavsson to be Talbot’s backup).  Koskinen was the 31st pick of the 2009 draft.  I really believe that their thinking here is he’s got the ability to be a legitimate number one goaltender, and so should Talbot struggle again like he did last season, Koskinen can step in, carry them, and possibly even end up being the guy they go with heading into next season should things go bad for Talbot again.

 

So I’ve mentioned Brett Connolly a lot over the last two years, but I’m going to yet again.  What a signing by the Caps, and it pisses me off from the standpoint of them not needing what he does best.  The Oilers badly need that RH shot on the off wing for the top pp unit, Connolly can be that guy, and he hardly sees the ice during Caps man advantages as long as Ovechkin and Oshie are healthy.  They’re only paying him 1.5 mil for next season, so they have no need to move him.  The Oilers would have to pony up and make it worth their while.  And you don’t want to overpay, I get that.  But I can’t get over the need for a sniper to play opposite McDavid on the top pp unit, not to mention the chemistry I believe he could have with McDavid and RNH five on five (not that I have ANY issue with Ty Rattie, but I do believe Connolly could be better), and he’s only a 1.5 mil cap hit IF they could get him.  But again, what’s the price?  Would Slepyshev and a pick get it done?  The Caps could perhaps sign Slepyshev to a two year deal at the same ticket while adding a pick?  The Oil own an extra 3rd rounder in this next draft, though they pissed away their 5th on a goaltender they haven’t signed going into his final season of college hockey not that I’m panicking that they made yet another absolutely horse shit/beyond moronic/completely fucking careless personal move or anything…

 

Here’s another possible move that I’ve been wondering about that’ll without a doubt be much sexier to Oilers fans than Brett Connolly.

 

Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek ran down all 31 teams on the last 31 Thoughts podcast.  When they got to Edmonton, Friedman made it sound as if there is a bridge which is either currently or about to be lit on fire between the Oilers and Oscar Klefbom.  Maybe the gasoline is poured and one side is trying to get the lighter going but its a new lighter and they’re having issues knowing where you old it down so the lighter will light not that I’ve ever had that happen a billion times to me before.  Seriously though, he kind of compared it to the Dougie Hamilton situation in Calgary and I believe said something to the effect of “its the same deal, best to move on from the problem now before things get bad”.  Not an exact quote, but something to that effect.  Later on, they got to the Blues and Marek asked him if the Parayko trade talk was real, and Friedman believes it was or is.  His thinking on that is perhaps the Blues don’t want too much money tied up on the right side of the D, and they’re going to have to extend Alex Pietrangelo soon.  Add to that, the Blues left side all of a sudden looks relatively weak with Jay Bouwmeester and Carl Gunnarsson, both impending UFA’s, and both coming off disastrous seasons.  They have Vince Dunn, but probably don’t want to throw him to the wolves just yet.  So it made me wonder, especially with how talked about the Oilers always seem to be with Parayko (especially leading up to the draft) if there is a deal to be made there?  I believe the initial thought is “they’d need to pay a lot more than Klefbom”.  Would they?!  Go look at their career numbers, they’re VERY similar, and combined with their cap hits to me it would make them almost identical in value depending on what you’re looking for.  Parayko has more points in less games, but we’re talking 13 less games, and 9 more points.  By the way, Klefbom has 5 more goals than Parayko in his career.  And I honestly wonder if the Blues aren’t worrying that he already is what he’s going to be?  SO many defenceman step into the league, will look great early on, but never can really grow their games to the levels expected.  Think of Dion Phaneuf.  10 years ago, if you told somebody he’d never be considered a top 10 defenceman in the league they would have told you that you’re insane.  So with that being said, why would the Oilers want him?  Well, obviously they’d be banking on that not being the case, along with the obvious balancing out of the blueline and the big RH shot bomb for the pp.  Would the Blues do the deal?  If Friedman’s theory is correct then it does make a lot of sense for them.  Klefbom is 1.3 mil cheaper, has an extra year on his deal compared to Parayko, and they’re very similar defencemen who are the same age (in fact, Klefbom is actual a couple months younger despite being drafted a year earlier).  Just thinking out loud, but would Klefbom and Matt Benning for Parayko and maybe a prospect like Jake Walman make sense?  I really don’t know, and I’m really just putting two and two together here and spit-balling.  But to me, it does feel like a deal could be made that makes sense for both sides and improves both clubs.

 

Before I finish this today, its not hockey, but hockey is how I know and am buddies with the guy even though I haven’t got to see him in a long time.  Congrats Kurt!!  You’re really going to make me do this another nine times (at least) aren’t you?  I’ll do it, but just don’t expect me to come up with anything real original.  Seriously though, the guy is at an all-time great level right now.  I watched every run at the Stampede, and out of all his runs where he blew everyone away, the most impressive one was (I believe) Thursday night where he gets off to a slow start on the barrels, is fourth over half way through the race, damn near takes the heat, and ends up with the third best time of the night.  Its honestly like watching Tiger Woods in 2000 where you pretty much knew he was going to win every tournament.  Awesome to see!

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Hot Takes – Free Agency

The NHL>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>NBA.  I don’t know how else to say it right now.  The NBA has such a massive issue right now.  Off the court, the NBA is intriguing because of the four year limit on contracts.  But why would anyone even bother to watch the NBA at this point?  The intrigue is completely gone, and has been for what’ll be three seasons in a row.  Stars in their prime looking to gravy train there way to championships, it really is embarrassing.  Players are much more worried about their brand than winning.  Then take the NHL.  The Leafs, already a damn good team, add one of the best players in the league to the team.  Are they now winning the Cup?  Who the hell knows?!?  They have a chance, as do probably 10 other teams!  Its wide open.  Sure, we all wish the NHL had more off ice action as the NBA has so much off court action, but I’ll take the boring NHL news cycle with an intriguing product over an over dramatic NBA news cycle with what is rapidly becoming an embarrassing product.  So with that said, lets get to the off ice NHL talk.  Obviously the place to start is in Toronto.  This is going to take three paragraphs to lay out.  So first, I’ll give the praise.

 

Everything has fallen the right way for the Leafs during this build.  Its unreal when you think about it.  Sure, they didn’t get McDavid and were apparently very close to winning that lottery in 2015.  But since Brendan Shanahan came in, he has COMPLETELY turned this franchise around.  And when I say its fallen the right way, in no way do I mean that they’re simply lucky.  Not at all.  This organization is crushing it.  But Mike Babcock became a free agent in the summer of 2015.  They won Auston Matthews in 2016.  I believe that in time, the fall of Timothy Liljegren to the 17th pick in the 2017 draft is going to prove to be a massive break (even though that one will go unnoticed for now).  And now, John Tavares made it to free agency and he is now a Leaf.  You can look at them as breaks/bounces, and yeah in a way they are.  But they don’t happen unless the organization is being extremely well run.  They got Babcock to go there because Shanahan had a tremendous vision in mind.  They won Matthews because they did it right and were ok with bottoming out when a lot of organizations try to fight it.  They got Liljegren because they didn’t look to out-think the room like so many teams did when it came to potentially drafting him.  And finally this organization landed Tavares because they’re so well setup.  Being from Toronto, that’s a ways down the list as to why Tavares signed there.  He did because he’s seen this progression, his agent has seen this progression, and its simply the perfect time to play in Toronto because they’re now a contender.  So I’m really pumped up for Leafs fans.  But the key word here is the Leafs FANS…

 

Then you have my “boys”, the media.  Specifically, the Toronto media.  This is why the rest of the country simply can’t stand the Leafs.  Some say its the fans, every fan base has good fans and dip shit fans.  Are there more?  Yeah, because there are more Leafs fans in general.  More per capita?  Not at all.  But the media just gets so ridiculous when something like this happens.  So many of them are now claiming that the Leafs are about to win a Cup, they’re the best team in the East, for some reason believe that they’ll simply outscore everyone with the roster as is….SPARE.  ME.  The Leafs got shit kicked for the most part by the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs.  They went seven, but the Leafs were only the better team in one of those games.  Freddy Andersen stole two of them.  So seven looked good, but they weren’t that close to Boston.  Boston got shit kicked by Tampa.  Tampa probably should have lost in five to Washington.  Soooo John Tavares just magically fixes their average blueline?  He just magically fixes the lack of size and toughness on this team?  This team isn’t built to play playoff hockey, as we saw in April.  And let’s not forget, they lost JVR, Bozak and Komarov on Sunday.  Good players.  It isn’t as if they simply added Tavares and the rest of the team is in tact.  I believe this team CAN win the East and possibly the Cup with this roster, but I wouldn’t say this move puts them ahead of Tampa, Boston, or Pittsburgh who lets not forget only missed winning a third straight Cup because they ran out of gas.  I’d say the Leafs would be SLIGHTLY ahead of Washington thanks to the Caps likely having a Cup hangover this upcoming season (probably more literally than figuratively), but that’s debatable.  So I’m in no way looking to piss on the signing, but its a bit of a love hate thing in that I’m pumped for the Leafs fans who have had to put up with so much garbage for the last 50+ years, but the Toronto media being so giddy and so unprofessional and being unable to take their homer goggles off to talk about this is disgusting.

 

The attention for Kyle Dubas now has to shift to the blueline in my opinion and already the incredible free agency class of 2019 has three of the top four D-men off the board.  Can he possibly land Erik Karlsson?  If Karlsson is a deadline rental next February, I see that happening.  Long term though, he needs to package up something really good and go hunting.  The guy I’d move is William Nylander.  I believe he’s going to be the odd man out, and they have a kid in Kasperi Kapanen who can move into that spot on the second line and they won’t lose a ton of production from what Nylander currently gives them.  Before writing this though, I had it in my head that they’d need to package Nylander, but the guys I believe could be had aren’t star D-men who would have amazing value.  They’re good, but Nylander on his own would at least come close to getting them that guy.  The number one team to look at for a deal here are the Hurricanes.  Dougie Hamilton?  Justin Faulk? (Faulk would need other pieces coming with him to get Nylander)  There is a great fit for a deal between these two teams.  Then you have Chris Tanev who has been rumoured to be on the move from Vancouver for the last few seasons.  In my opinion, there isn’t a better fit out there for someone to play on the top pair with Morgan Rielly.  He would possibly bring back another asset to even out the deal, maybe a kid like Kole Lind?  Then a bit of a wildcard idea I’ll toss out.  We heard Colton Parayko’s name on draft day, and the Blues could be in a cap crunch.  Nylander likely doesn’t interest the Blues, but maybe Nylander for a young D who could be flipped to the Blues to buy down on Parayko?  The Leafs have the chips to make something happen.  And while I believe Nylander will end up being the odd man out, they might be able to do it without using Nylander as the bait this season.  I also wonder if they aren’t going to sign Calvin de Haan next who would be a terrific fit despite not being a LH shot.  If I’m running the show, I believe they need two top four D-men brought in, AND I’d be looking to upgrade on Jake Gardiner.  Even if you’re taking back a guy who brings less offence, that’s cool.  This team is too soft to win in the playoffs, specifically on defence, and he is the exhibit A.

 

Ok, so I apologize to the Leafs haters who are now pissed at me for doing over 1000 words on them, but whether you love them or hate them, they’re an intriguing team to follow right now.

 

I thought we were trending towards July 1st being more and more reasonable?  How come GM’s can’t figure out to simply wait out these agents?  Why the desperation?  Guess what Philly?  JVR ain’t making much of a difference in your lineup.  7 mil per makes you SLIGHTLY better this season, and likely hurts you in years three, four and five of that deal.  Hey Doug Armstrong, 5 mil per on Tyler Bozak isn’t helping you.  I LOVE Bozak too, but he isn’t doing much for your team at all.  Bozak is a 2 mil per centre.  Is Bozak better than Derek Ryan by any measure?  Yet he made nearly 2 mil per more a season.  And I don’t like the Ryan signing by the Flames either!  But at least they only went about a mil over what they should have for a guy who is the same age, same size, same wheels, same righty shot, same production.  And I could go down the line on the deals that would make me puke if my team signed them.  Michael Grabner, Ian Cole, Leo Komarov, David Perron, Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, Ryan Reaves, just so many AWFUL deals.  Did we not learn one FUCKING thing from this years Stanley Cup final?!  The Caps had downgraded in talent from the year before, and won.  The Golden Knights had a group of cast off’s, and made the final.  Find the right fit, don’t go pissing away your cap money on guys who will nominally at best improve your team.  Its just ridiculous that so many GM’s get caught up in this stupid shit.

 

I mentioned the Derek Ryan signing, but the Flames did do better than most.  I’m not a big James Neal fan, but as someone pointed out to me, he brings a lot of qualities to the table.  He’s not Ferland, but obviously he has similar size and skating ability, and as you know can replace most or all of Ferland’s production from last season.  Ryan as I said, was about a mil more than I would have paid for him, but I do like him a lot.  Brad Treliving definitely needed to upgrade his roster and I believe he did so and at a better prices than most other GM’s  got.  I’m not sure either player makes the Flames a playoff team, but they’re a better team today than they were and neither deal should cripple the Flames situation down the line.

 

Are we seriously going to go into next season with Erik Karlsson still an Ottawa Senator and Max Pacioretty still a Montreal Canadien?  Its looking that way.  The league basically shuts down for the summer come mid July, so the clock is ticking.  And while I’m talking about trades, big shocker that hardly any have happened after “things are going to get crazy” never happened for the fourth year in a row.

 

I wasn’t the only one saying it, a lot of Oilers fans were, but wow was it great that he didn’t have cap space!  A) he likely would have overpaid for a guy like JVR or James Neal, and B) he was forced to make cheaper/more intelligent signings.  Kyle Brodziak as the fourth line centre for a mil and one year, I’m good with that.  He’s a good fit, I worry about the wheels still being good enough, but truth be told even when I’ve watched Blues games the last season or two, I haven’t noticed Brodziak too much.  Getting Tobias Rieder back was massive.  Just a year at two mil, and then he’s still an RFA, perfect.  You can’t help but wonder if he could be a fit with Draisaitl, but even if he’s not he’s a very legitimate top nine player.  Steve Tambellini’s biggest error (which from what I recall, he simply refused to give Rieder first round pick type money on his ELC which he had earned) is in a way now corrected.

 

I really don’t think Chiarelli is done though.  My prediction back in February on Patrick Maroon has come to fruition thus far.  I can’t help but wonder if something is holding up him signing somewhere?  Maybe a potential trade of another heavy/slower player?  I love the idea of Maroon on a one or two year deal for 2 mil per or less.  And the further we go into free agency, the more realistic that becomes.  But not without Lucic moving on.  Chiarelli also needs to clean up the blueline.  I’m not sure if he believes that, but everyone else sure does.  You could never convince me that Kris Russell isn’t movable as long as he’s willing to waive.  You could likely clear all of his 4 mil, and then look at bringing in a guy like Justin Faulk in a separate deal.  Ideally, this team needs to get more mobile on the back end and bring in guys who are much better puck movers than what they currently have.

 

Currently, in my opinion, the combination of the draft and July 1st has the Oilers at about a B+ grade this off-season….to this point.  Failure to address the remaining holes would have me concerned going into next season, but there is time to make the necessary adjustments.  But credit where credit is due, and so far, so good.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2019 NHL Draft: Top 32 Prospects

Welp…2018 is done, onto 2019!  That quickly, I’m onto the next chapter.  And part of the reason I am is because of how great the 2019 draft is expected to be.  You’ll hear people (who don’t know what they’re talking about) say “oh, every draft is supposed to be better than the last”.  No.  Some have been overrated, but for the most part you can see which drafts were expected to be good and which were expected to be weak.  Not that it hasn’t happened that way before.

 

2012 was expected to be tremendous a year out, and was viewed as a disaster by the time draft day 2012 was here.  We’re FAR from knowing how these latest drafts will pan out, but to this point 2015 was supposed to be amazing, it was.  2016 was supposed to be a bit below it but still great, it was.  Last year was supposed to be well below those two and 2018, it looks to be the case.  This year had a better high end than last, but I’ve never heard anyone credible suggest that the depth of this draft was overly good, and that looks to be the case, although time will tell on all of these recent ones.

 

The long winded point being here, 2019 is expected to be incredible.  Somewhere between 2015 and 2016.  You have a damn near generational talent at the top in Jack Hughes (brother of Quinn, shoutout to his mom who for some reason follows me on Twitter and I’m incredibly appreciative of it!), then to follow him you have a group of centres all with legitimate number one centre potential, some highly talented D, and some big power forward type wingers.  This is a lot more of my kind of draft, where the kids who are already near the top of the rankings are the type of kids that will fill big needs for organizations.

 

I’m not going to spend much time doing write up’s on these kids.  I only say anything about the top 15, though I still have the comparisons and hopefully that gives you all an idea of how the player plays.  Another thing is even though I rank them all, we’re a year out and so many of them just wrapped up their first year of junior, SO MUCH of this is going to change over the next 12 months.  So this is more of an introductory than a list which should be taken as the gospel.  We’re all still getting to know these kids, even the scouts.  Sure the scouts have been watching them for two or three years by now, but the real work begins this summer starting at the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup in August.

 

Tier One

 

1. Jack Hughes

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 161  Shot: L

2018 Stats – GP: 27  G: 21  A: 33  P: 54

Birth: 5/14/01

Comparison: Patrick Kane

He’s a superstar.  The only question I have is whether he’ll play the middle or be better suited for the wing in the pros, but for me he’s not McDavid, but probably better than Matthews on the number one pick scale.

 

Tier Two

2. Kirby Dach

Team: Saskatoon  League: WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 185  Shot: R

2018 Stats – GP: 52  G: 7  A: 39  P: 46

Birth: 01/21/01

Comparison: Ryan Getzlaf

Damn near a PPG as a 16 year old, pure playmaker, on a weak Blades team.  Higher on him than most at this point.  I just think with the combination of speed, size and vision this kid will be unstoppable.  And the cherry on the sundae is he’s a right handed shot.

 

3. Alex Turcotte

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 194  Shot: L

2018 Stats – GP: 31  G: 8  A: 24  P: 32

Birth: 02/26/01

Comparison: Pat LaFontaine

An EXCELLENT playmaker and terrific skater.  Those are by far the two best qualities he possess…in a league that has evolved to where the two most vital traits a player can have are skating and playmaking.

 

4. Alex Newhook 

Team: Victoria  League: BCHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 183  Shot: L

2018 Stats – GP: 45  G: 22  A: 44  P: 66

Birth: 01/28/01

Comparison: Pavel Datsyuk

Newhook is going to obliterate the BCHL next season…even more so than he just did.  Honestly, between Newhook and Turcotte at this point you can simply flip a coin.

 

Tier Three

5. Kaapo Kakko

Team: TPS U-20  League: SM-Liiga

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 207  Shot: L

2018 Stats – GP: 38  G: 25  A: 30  P: 55

Birth: 02/13/01

Comparison: Rick Nash

Kakko is 5th, and I can think of years where he’d probably be the top pick.  That’s how great this draft is.  Size, speed, power, he’s a total package type winger.

 

Tier Four

6. Bowen Byram

Team: Vancouver  League: WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 179  Shot: L

2018 Stats – GP: 60  G: 6  A: 21  P: 27

Birth: 06/13/01

Comparison: Duncan Keith

This kid is tailor made for the way the game is played today.  I heard him described as “a bit undersized” the other day.  He’s 6’0.  Have we not been paying attention??  He’s got the ability to be a number one guy.

 

7. Dylan Cozens

Team: Lethbridge  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 176  Shot: R

2018 Stats – GP: 57  G: 22  A: 31  P: 53

Birth: 02/09/01

Comparison: Max Pacioretty

The native of Whitehorse, Cozens was named the WHL rookie of the year.  In addition to the great regular season, he also had an impressive 7 goals and 13 points in 16 games during the Hurricanes run to the Eastern Conference final.  Cozens is a good skater for a big kid with a hell of a shot and also goes to all the dirty areas.

 

8. Peyton Krebs

Team: Kootenay  League: WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 172  Shot: L

2018 Stats – GP: 67  G: 17  A: 37  P: 54

Birth: 01/26/01

Comparison: Mikael Granlund

Incredible vision.  That’s the calling card for Krebs.  But he also has great wheels and can snipe, and at 172 lbs he’s really just scratching the surface.

 

9. Maxim Cajkovic

Team: Malmo  League: SWE-J20

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 187  Shot: R

2018 Stats – GP: 28  G: 10  A: 11  P: 21

Birth: 01/03/01

Comparison: Marian Gaborik

Lightning fast with a bullet of a shot.  He’s going to be one of the most exciting players to watch in the years to come.

 

10. Victor Söderström

Team: Brynas  League: SWE-J20

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 176  Shot: R

2018 Stats – GP: 16  G: 3  A: 3  P: 6

Birth: 02/26/01

Comparison: Tyson Barrie

Extremely active and offensive minded, and has no issues with mixing it up physically.

 

11. Cam York

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 165  Shot: L

2018 Stats – GP: 33  G: 3  A: 11  P: 14

Birth: 01/05/01

Comparison: Cam Fowler

So I’m not going to bull shit anyone with this comparison, I really believe Fowler felt like the closest comparison, but I could have been influenced by his name being Cam, and hailing from Anaheim Hills California.  I don’t think that’s really it though!  I THINK its his game.  Because he’s a terrific skater who is real good offensively, but not necessarily elite offensively, much like Fowler.

 

Tier Five

12. Valentin Nussbaumer

Team:  EHC Biel-Bienne  League: NLA

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 159  Shot: L

2018 StatsGP: 26  G: 5  A: 1  P: 6

Birth: 09/25/00

Comparison: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Cerebral and highly skilled, he needs to pack on the pounds as you can read, but when he does I believe his game is going to go to another level and justify or surpass this ranking.

 

13. Tag Bertuzzi

Team: Geulph  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 192  Shot: L

2018 Stats – GP: 41  G: 3  A: 8  P: 11

Birth: 02/18/01

Comparison: Brad Marchand

Todd’s kid plays an in your face style.  I maybe have him ranked higher than anyone else will, but these types of players are damn near impossible to find.

 

14. Cole Caufield

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’6  Wt: 154  Shot: R

2018 Stats – GP: 32  G: 23  A: 10  P: 33

Birth: 01/02/01

Comparison: Zach Parise

Ridiculous skill…goes without saying for a kid who is only 5’6.  I realize Parise wasn’t nearly this small, but the style is extremely similar.

 

15. Simon Holmström

Team: HV71  League: SWE-J20

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 172  Shot: L

2018 Stats – GP: 28  G: 11  A: 19  P: 30

Birth: 05/24/01

Comparison: Victor Arvidsson

Much like with Bertuzzi, I just love the way this kid plays!  Speedy and completely fearless.

 

16. Ryan Suzuki

Team: Barrie  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 172  Shot: L

2018 StatsGP: 64  G: 14  A: 30  P: 44

Birth: 05/28/01

Comparison: Brayden Point

 

17. Vasili Podkolzin

Team: Vityaz Podolsk U-17  League: RUS-U17

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 165  Shot: L

2018 StatsGP: 21  G: 13  A: 17  P: 30

Birth: 06/24/01

Comparison: Artemi Panarin

 

18. Raphaël Lavoie

Team: Halifax  League: QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 192  Shot: R

2018 Stats – GP: 68  G: 30  A: 33  P: 63

Birth: 09/25/00

Comparison: Dave Andreychuk

 

19. Arthur Kaliyev

Team: Hamilton  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 165  Shot: L

2018 Stats – GP: 68  G: 31  A: 17  P: 48

Birth: 06/26/01

Comparison: Geoff Courtnall

 

Tier Six

20. Matthew Robertson

Team: Edmonton  League: WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 196  Shot: L

2018 Stats – GP: 67  G: 7  A: 17  P: 24

Birth: 03/09/01

Comparison: Ryan McDonagh

 

21. Anttoni Honka

Team: JYP U-20  League: SM-Liiga

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 170  Shot: R

2018 Stats – GP: 28  G: 4  A: 13  P:17

Birth: 10/05/00

Comparison: Lubomir Visnovsky

 

22. Alex Vlasic

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 190  Shot: L

2018 StatsGP: 34  G: 4  A: 9  P: 13

Birth: 06/05/01

Comparison: Colton Parayko

 

23. Blake Murray

Team: Sudbury  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 179  Shot: L

2018 Stats – GP: 57  G: 21  A: 23  P: 44

Birth: 07/05/01

Comparison: Tanner Pearson

 

24. Jakob Pelletier

Team: Moncton  League: QMJHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 159  Shot: LW

2018 StatsGP: 60  G: 23  A: 38  P: 61

Birth: 03/07/01

Comparison: Nikolaj Ehlers

 

25. Matthew Boldy

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 174  Shot: L

2018 StatsGP: 34  G: 12  A: 23  P: 35

Birth: 04/06/01

Comparison: Jason Pomminville

 

26. Ilya Mironov 

Team: Loko-Yunior Yaroslavl  League: NMHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 198  Shot: L

2018 Stats – GP: 15  G: 2  A: 6  P: 8

Birth: 03/15/01

Comparison: Janne Niinimaa

 

27. Case McCarthy

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 194  Shot: R

2018 Stats – GP: 22  G: 2  A: 7  P: 9

Birth: 01/09/01

Comparison: Justin Faulk

 

28. Daniil Gutik

Team: Loko-Yunior Yaroslavl  League: NMHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 179  Shot: R

2018 StatsGP: 12  G: 2  A: 8  P: 10

Birth: 08/31/01

Comparison: Jakub Voracek

 

29. Robert Mastrosimone

Team: Chicago  League: USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 159  Shot: L

2018 StatsGP: 60  G: 16  A: 29  P: 45

Birth: 01/24/01

Comparison: Jonathan Marchessault

 

30. Nolan Foote

Team: Kelowna  League: WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 187  Shot: L

2018 Stats – GP: 50  G: 13  A: 27  P: 40

Birth: 11/29/00

Comparison: Kevin Hayes

 

31. Josh Williams

Team: Medicine Hat  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 185  Shot: R

2018 Stats – GP: 47  G: 11  A: 9  P: 20

Birth: 03/08/01

Comparison: Chris Kreider

 

32. Ethan Keppen

Team: Flint  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 205  Shot: L

2018 StatsGP: 63  G: 10  A: 8  P: 18

Birth: 03/20/01

Comparison: Andrew Ladd

 

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2018 NHL Draft: Recap

The final blog on the 2018 draft.  I only wrote a combined 15 blogs on this years draft, not much at all!  Frankly, I’m a little burnt out from all the draft stuff I ended up doing this year and I’m not sure when I’ll get started on the 2019 stuff.  Oh, which reminds me, watch for my 2019 top 32 prospects list out later this week, possibly as early as tomorrow.  Why?  Because I have a serious problem, THAT’S why.

 

Ok, so this is the part where I’m going to get very egotistical/obnoxious/annoying/etc.  6/31 on my first round picks.  I’m good with that, especially considering three were outside of the top 10 picks.  I GUESS I got the position right on Rasmus Sandin too, a couple of guys I had to go to their teams in the first (Noel, Berggren) went to them in the second.  But those don’t count, so 6/31, but the one everyone else seems to judge their lists/mocks on is how many of those guys you had going in the first, went in the first.  Last year I recall guys talking up Sam Cosentino having 27/31.  Guys were talking up Bob McKenzie having 27/31.  Last year, I had 28/31 (which if you’ve read my stuff you’ve now read that too much).  This year by my count, McKenzie had 25/31.  I got 27/31 with my mock draft.  I felt with the way that first round ended up breaking, that was a pretty good number.  I’m not an egotistical guy, I don’t like people who brag, that’s not my intention here.  But I put in a SHIT TON of work with this stuff and I’m proud of it.

 

As I always say, this piece is done for fun and this year I even decided to get away from flat out saying who won or lost, good or gross, anything like that.  Sure, I’m critical of some and high on what others did in here, but I felt just simply recapping how I thought every team did was a better way to go.  I’m going to be VERY wrong on some of what I say here, and it’ll be funny as shit for the rest of you to go back and read in five years.  Conversely, it’ll be fun for me to re-read it in five years and pat myself on the back for the one or two things I’m right on!  We all win!

 

Anaheim

Didn’t mind it.  It’ll be a recurring theme on here with a few guys, but despite being a bigger Lundestrom fan than most, I don’t understand how you can like Lundestrom more than Joe Veleno.  And its clear the last two years how much they trust their Q scout because the next pick was Benoit-Olivier Groulx, which I again didn’t mind but felt they could have done better.  Blake McLaughlin has a lot of skill but off-ice issues.  I wasn’t big on taking two goaltenders, didn’t really like any of the late picks in fact.  It was an ok draft but just felt they could have done much better.

 

Arizona

People be hatin’ the Hayton pick, but they likely couldn’t trade down.  I have a feeling that Chicago was ready to pounce on him at eight, so if Detroit or Vancouver wasn’t budging there is simply nothing they could have done.  I wasn’t super high on Barrett Hayton, but I do understand the desperation for centres.  I really liked most of what they did otherwise.  Again like the Ducks, two goaltenders late rather than just one I’m not sure I’m thrilled with, but Kevin Bahl, Jan Jenik, Ty Emberson and Dennis Busby, really liked those picks and with rounds two through seven I’m not going to harp on the order they went in.

 

Boston

No first, only five picks overall, but loved their first two picks in Axel Andersson and Jakub Lauko.  I believe Lauko will play thanks to his speed, and Andersson has a lot of tools to be a pp QB someday.  Then Curtis Hall in the fourth round was well worth a roll of the dice, that’s where you take projects like him.  So for what they had to work with, they did ok.

 

Buffalo

They got Dahlin, so its a homerun weekend right there.  The rest of the draft was basically the scouting staff saying what they should have said last year which was “oh shit, we better load up on D because we don’t have many!”  Five of the six picks were defencemen.  I didn’t like the Samulesson pick at 32, but it wasn’t a reach either.  As for the last three D-men they took…hope they know what they’re doing because I had a lot of trouble finding anyone who even had them ranked.  Matej Pekar (94th overall) is a kid who could play in their bottom six someday thanks to a high motor, though not a lot of skill.  Again, they got Dahlin so its incredible for the franchise, but I’m not a fan of how they’ve drafted the last two years under Jason Botterill.

 

Calgary

Only five picks, but I do LOVE Martin Pospisil!  That kid seems like a piece of shit on the ice…and I mean that in a very complimentary way!  It was clear to me that their game plan was to just simply take pure skill and hope they could make something out of a pretty hopeless situation.  Of course the big news for the Flames was the trade, and I felt like they lost it.  Yet Brad Treliving did what he could with what was maybe a disgruntled star in Dougie Hamilton and two guys who were going to walk on him in Michael Ferland and prospect Adam Fox.  Noah Hanifin might be a kid who leaves people wanting more.  I don’t believe he will, but some worry he’ll never be more than what he is.  But even if he does, as I’ve said leading up to this draft with certain kids…a top four D-man who leaves you wanting more is still a top four D-man.  And he legitimately sounds thrilled to be going to a hockey market.  I really liked Elias Lindholm, but I worry about some of the stuff that’s now coming out about how soft he apparently is.  When he was drafted he was known as the Swedish Mike Richards.  But he’s been lacking Richards bite in his game.  I could see him really thriving on the Flames top line though, which is apparently where he’ll start.

 

Carolina

Speaking of Carolina, I may as well just continue talking about that trade.  Hamilton is an upgrade, and if they can extend Michael Ferland he’d give them an element they’ve badly missed on that team.  I feel they won the trade, but they won’t if they can’t sign Ferland and/or Fox.  As for the draft, Svechnikov was a layup as everyone except me had him ranked second at worse.  As for the rest of their draft, didn’t love it, though one kid I do really like is Luke Henman who they snagged at 96.  He has a LOT of weight to put on and when he does he just might take off.  They took 5’8, 145 lbs 20 year old defenceman Jesper Sellgren in the sixth round.  Interesting pick…

 

Chicago

Passed on Noah Dobson for Adam Boqvist…that was odd.  Over Dobson and Bouchard was odd in a way because I thought they’d love Bouchard if he was on the board, but definitely over Dobson.  Having said this, Boqvist is a kid I was still real high on.  But it was more so what they did the rest of the way is what has me loving their draft.  Nicolas Beaudin (27th), Jake Wise (69th), Niklas Nordgren (74th), and Philipp Kurashev (120th).  All of them are the Blackhawks type of players.  Some of them aren’t the best skaters, but they are all very highly skilled, can really move the puck around, and play their puck possession style.  That’s what makes the Hawks so successful in my opinion is because its a philosophy that’s organization wide.  So Quennville has the players playing that system, Stan Bowman looks for those type of players in trades and free agency, and the scouts look for those type of players in the draft.  You’d think that this is standard for every organization but it very much so isn’t.

 

Colorado

I liked the Martin Kaut pick, but I felt the same with that as the rest of their draft which I was just simply indifferent on.  Sampo Ranta was good value where they got him (78th), but the rest was just…ok.  Took three big swings on three Russians late in the draft, I will say I really like that because the Russian kids have tremendous skill so late in the draft is great spot to load up on them.  But nothing really stood out for me.  Didn’t feel like they knocked it out of the park with anything, yet don’t feel they did bad either.

 

Columbus

Liam Foudy at 18 over Joe Veleno, Rasmus Kupari, even Isac Lundestrom seemed REALLY weird if you’re looking for a centre…and by the way I don’t think Foudy is a centre (mind you neither is Kupari but if they figure Foudy is…), but it felt like they got really wrapped up in the idea of snagging the sexy riser in the draft and ended up reaching bad for him.  I had Foudy to go 20th to the Kings thinking someone was going to reach bad on him and I believe most scoffed at that idea, yet that was still not high enough.  And hey, I LOVE second round pick Kirill Marchenko.  That kid is a steal of a pick at 49 in my mind.  Here’s another tidbit though, and hey…we’re talking about a 7th round pick right now…but I hope they did their homework on Trey Fix-Wolansky because if some of the off-ice stuff that I’ve heard is true, there is potential for them to have some egg on their face for the making that pick.  Overall, wasn’t a fan of what they did, though again that Marchenko pick is one to keep an eye on.

 

Dallas

I liked what they did in the middle rounds (Albin Eriksson, Oskar Back, Adam Mascherin, Curtis Douglas, Riley Damiani), but that Dellandrea pick felt like a BIG reach to me.  Again, Veleno, but I just don’t know by what measure Dellandrea looks like the better prospect.  Had a better U-18’s, but better prospect?  Ok.  It kind of spoiled their draft for me, and I like Dellandrea!  Start of the year I was high on him and loved the idea of the Oilers snagging him when it looked like the Oilers were going to pick in the bottom four (seems like a LIFETIME ago).

 

Detroit

Its tough not to love their draft.  I felt like they needed to go D with that 6th pick, but how in the hell can you argue with taking Zadina who fell to them?  And then at 30 they got who I clearly feel will be the biggest steal of the draft considering I have Veleno 2nd on my list and they got him at 30.  They needed a centre and I think they got the best one in the draft.  Of course this could go two ways: Veleno thrives off being slighted like this, or it crushes his confidence.  We’ll see.  Jonatan Berggren at 33 was another big steal.  I had them taking him at 30, but obviously with Veleno still on the board…but then they realized they needed to grab some D, so their next three picks were all D-men, two of the three were righties, the other was Jared McIsaac whom I wasn’t big on all season but at 36 he’s got enough talent to easily justify in that spot.  Loved their draft, don’t know what else to say.

 

Florida

Well…I told you all along they’d be the team to grab Serron Noel…just didn’t know it wouldn’t be until the 34th pick!  That, even more so than Veleno for me was the shock of the draft.  Veleno I had a hunch could fall and only figured a couple teams may step up and grab him between 13-25.  Noel, I wasn’t going to be shocked if he ended up top 10 with his skill set!!  And they got him at 34, unreal.  He’s going to make a lot of people regret passing on him.  So Denisenko and Noel, combine them with Logan Hutsko at 89 and it really didn’t matter what else the Panthers did.  Great draft for them, and I’m the guy who’d argue they took Denisenko too high.  It doesn’t matter with how things turned out, and its not as if I’m not aware of how skilled he is.

 

Los Angeles

Much like the Panthers with Noel, Akil Thomas being there for the Kings at 51 was just absurd!!  He’s the one kid who I cringed at the Oilers passing on while taking Ryan McLeod at 40.  Is he a centre?  Probably not.  Is he potentially a 50-60 point winger?  Yep!  And I feel as if that’s a BIG mistake that some scouts make is when they get fixated on a guy being able to play the middle.  If you ask me, their top two picks of Rasmus Kupari and Thomas are both going to play the wing.  Bulat Shaffigullin is a Russian kid who is a project, but has a ton of tools and in three or four seasons could be a real gem.  Aidan Dudas felt like good value at 113, and I was sky high on Jacob Ingham so I feel like they stole him with their final pick (175th).  All the tools, just needs to calm his game down and have a shorter memory.  As for the Kovalchuk signing, it feels like a team that is desperate to hang on/terrified of the inevitable which is a rebuild.  I don’t know why Drew Doughty is going to sign long term there unless he doesn’t care to win anymore.  Then again, its not as if just because he signs the deal he can’t ask out if/when things start getting bad.

 

Minnesota

Felt they had an awful draft overall and it was basically just because of the first pick.  Filip Johansson at 24 was very odd.  Over Nils Lundkvist.  Over Bode Wilde.  I have to assume that for Wild fans it reminds them of the Doug Reisbrough days of A.J. Thelen,  Colton Gillies, and Tyler Cuma.  Its weird, this organizations first ever draft pick was Marian Gaborik who was a very exciting player.  Since him however, they’ve never had a very exciting pick.  A few guys like Bouchard, Granlund, Burns turned into one but really never was when he was picked or during his time in Minny.  But man, Johansson over so many players who so many had higher ranked, I’m not sure why you don’t look to trade back, and you can’t say you couldn’t because with the very next pick the Leafs traded down with the Blues.  Jack McBain with the 63rd pick was amazing value, but not enough to change this view on the draft they had.

 

Montreal

In 2012 and 2013 I felt they had great drafts as well.  In hindsight…it didn’t go well for them.  So take this for what its worth, but I really liked their draft.  Didn’t LOVE it.  If I had one criticism its that they passed on Bode Wilde twice in the second round.  But, who knows how high they were on Alexander Romanov, and Jesse Ylonen was no reach at 35.  Other than that though, I truly believe that just like in 2016 when Columbus showed some brass balls and made the right move taking Pierre-Luc Dubois (which I praised them for on this write-up two years ago), the Habs made the right decision in taking Kotkaniemi.  A centre who can play in all situations…it doesn’t matter if he becomes a legitimate first line centre, he’s the type of centre you need to win in this league.  After Ryan Poehling last year, Kotkaniemi, Jacob Olofsson and Allan McShane in this draft, I’d say they’ve got the centre spot looked after as far as the future goes.  Then they took Cole Fonstad at 128.  I feel like that’s a steal, that kid is going to play (by the way I see some have him as a centre?  No, winger).

 

Nashville

Didn’t pick until 111, didn’t really care for anyone they took, not much at all to say here.  Teams damn good though!

 

New Jersey

In my bias/homer opinion, Ty Smith was a straight up steal for them at 17 and a perfect fit for the continued effort to rebuild their blueline.  Didn’t pick again until 110, but like Xavier Bernard there, then took goaltender Akira Schmid at 136 and he was a kid who I really liked as a late round gamble as I always think you should do with a goaltender.  Mitchell Hoelscher is a kid I knew a little bit about entering the draft, but Mark Seidel told me he was sky on high on him as a late round steal and Seidel’s guy last year was Kirill Maksimov who already looks like a steal for the Oilers from last years draft.  Really liked what Jersey did.

 

NY Islanders

WOW!!!  Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson, and Bode Wilde.  I would love to credit their scouting staff, but how do you when stud kids fall right into their lap?  They really just didn’t screw it up.  I truly believe they got two top four RH shooting D-men, and the perfect sniper to play with John Tavares….should he stay.  Then you get the kid who most had as the top tendy on their boards in Jakub Skarek.  Even Ruslan Iskhakov, while he didn’t make my top 75, he was a kid I was up on and heavily considered for that list and don’t deny his skill just worry about the size to speed ratio.  But at 43, nothing wrong with that gamble.  They just simply had the best draft of any team in my mind.

 

NY Rangers

You know, they didn’t do too bad either!  Vitali Kravtsov over Dobson and Wahlstrom was definitely surprising, I wouldn’t have taken Kravtsov that high, but I do like him a lot.  I LOVED their last two first rounders though in K’Andre Miller and Nils Lundkvist.  For me (and trust me, this is basically just me), those two picks could be the backbone of their blueline for the decade of the 20’s (I can’t FUCKING believe that its only a year and a half until we’re in the 20’s).  All totaled, six D-men for the Rangers in this draft which I loved because that was the big need in my mind coming in, and they got a high end winger to pair with their centres they took last year, and lets not forget they have a damn good young centre in Mikka Zibanejad on the roster.  Its a rebuild that’s gotten off to a good start, but if I’m them I stick with this.  You got an incredible draft coming up, so keep stockpiling those picks, don’t do what the Rangers have often done which is deem the rebuild done after one good draft.

 

Ottawa

I wondered prior to the draft if they’d go with Filip Zadina as more of a PR pick.  Then they took Tkachuk, which could also be viewed as that.  Now, we’ll see if he goes back to BU.  Some think he could since it was the Sens who took him (that kid could really fuck them over if he chose with the option to go back to school and them being so vulnerable right now).  Then again, Nick Kypreos pointed out that it could be a good thing for the Sens as they then don’t have to subject him to the shit show.  They had an ok draft overall, and I didn’t love taking Jacob Bernard-Docker where they did, but having said that I love that they took both Bernard-Docker and his buddy Johnny Tychonik.  That’s a cool thing for those two as they now aren’t just going to UND together but now also to the Sens.  They could have done more, but they addressed the back end, got a type of winger who is damn near impossible to find, and took a goaltender late so I definitely didn’t dislike their draft.

 

Philadelphia

Again, as you’ll see with most of the drafts I’m down on, I didn’t like their first round pick, or in this case picks.  Farabee was a faller for most in the draft, and he felt like a kid who they didn’t need to take at 14.  Mind you, I had him going 16 to Colorado, so perhaps they felt that they had to take him there.  Jay O’Brien….I know Hockey Prospect really loved him from at least mid-season on.  They sold me on him a bit, but I still didn’t think he was worth a first rounder.  We’ll see.  Adam Ginning was good value, but they pretty badly need RHD in their system with only one in the system (Philippe Myers) and only two in the organization (Radko Gudas is the other).  They did take two after that, but not kids to get too excited over for the time being.  Not bad, they made their organization better, but it felt like they could have done much better than they did.

 

Pittsburgh

Only four picks so not much to say, but Calen Addison is SO their type of defenceman, and Filip Hallander will likely play in their bottom six someday, so they did ok considering they didn’t have much to work with.

 

San Jose

They took Ryan Merkley at 21.  I don’t need to say anymore to be honest with you.  Just horrible.  If you’re paying attention, while this club has picked a few nice players of late, they’ve passed on a lot of better ones if theirs haven’t busted.  If you’re wondering how the rest of their draft went, you tend to look for good value with the rest of a teams picks and I don’t believe any of them were good value.  Mind you, having said this, they have a tendency to develop a later round player or two in every draft so saying that could look dumb in five or six years.

 

St. Louis

I wasn’t a big fan of Dominik Bokk for them.  The problem with blindly picking BPA is that sometimes it’ll lead to selecting a ton of wingers.  While so many of you reading this are going to say “position doesn’t matter, make trades after the fact”.  Ok, but wingers aren’t worth near what D-men and centres are on the trade market.  Right now, the Blues have a lot of quality wingers to trade, but when you have centres and D to move it makes trading a whole lot easier.  I really believed a LH shooing D made sense from both a need and value standpoint for the Blues.  Sandin, Beaudin, Tychonik, Alexeyev, Ginning, obviously if they wanted to go value in my mind then Veleno would have been a smart pick, I just wasn’t a big fan of it for the Blues.  Mind you, Bokk is one of those kids who I think is going to be a LOT of fun to watch, but I’m just not as high on as others.  As for the rest of their draft, I personally didn’t think it was anything to get excited about.  I felt they reached on Scott Perunovich, and wasn’t really high on any of the other kids they drafted.

 

Tampa Bay

No first, but Gabriel Fortier feels like the type of kid they thrive on selecting.  Smaller, tremendous motor, he’s going to play in the league.  Dmitri Semykin has nice size,so I like that pick for them especially with how well they’ve done with Russian kids, and Alex Green at 121 could prove to be a real shrewd pick and both kids are RH shooting D so I view that as smart drafting when you target valuable assets like RH shooting D-men.  Felt they did ok as they always do.

 

Toronto

I liked the trade back in the first, I wasn’t a fan of the Rasmus Sandin pick.  I get that Kyle Dubas is familiar with him but over Joe Veleno…I’m not sure by what measure a team would deem Sandin to be a better prospect than Veleno.  And the Leafs have a massive need at centre in the organization.  Its not overly bad, if you’re going to miss I suggest you do so with a D-man with how valuable they are, but it wasn’t even a RH shooting D.  Didn’t like that at all.  Sean Durzi is and I was a lot better with that pick.  But wasn’t high on Sandin, frankly didn’t like the rest of their draft, and the Leafs (for me) were probably in my top five for worst drafts.  We’ll see though, I know analytics guys would have been high on a kid like Durzi, and were sky high on a kid like SDA even though he’s only 5’9 and can’t skate…

 

Vancouver

If you’re going D at the seventh pick, I’m just not sure how you go with Quinn Hughes over Noah Dobson.  If you want to argue Hughes over Boqvist or Bouchard, I get that one.  I don’t get Hughes over Dobson, and its not as though I believe Hughes will be a disappointment, but I believe they’re going to regret passing on Dobson maybe more than any of the other teams just simply because I believe they need all world kids to build around and Hughes…while being terrific, is going to be limited in my mind.  Which was kind of my “beef” (if you want to call it that) with him this whole time.  Wasn’t that I didn’t like him, far from it.  But I didn’t like him ahead of some of the other D-men.  Anyway, I thought they did ok with the rest of their draft.  Jet Woo could be a TERRIFIC D partner for Quinn Hughes down the line, Tyler Madden was solid at 68, took a goaltender late which I always like, so a real solid draft for the Canucks.  Just not sure Hughes over Dobson is going to age well.

 

Washington

They did fine.  I was pumped I called Alexander Alexeyev, and man, after hearing his interview after the pick I became an even bigger fan!  That kid just sounds so thankful and humble, he’s going to be a kid I’m BIG TIME rooting for (which is weird because I’m apparently racist against Russians…)  I felt like they maybe took Martin Fehervary (46th) a pick too soon, would have liked him better at 47 (good one eh?  This is why I’m not a comedian).  They did good.  I wouldn’t say they did great.  Loved the Grubauer trade though, very shrewd to turn him into 46 AND shed Orpik’s deal to help sign John Carlson, and from the sounds of it re-sign Orpik to a much more team friendly deal.  That’s how you GM.

 

Winnipeg

Didn’t have a first round pick, so that makes their draft tough right off the bat, but I liked all the kids they drafted and where they picked them.  Nothing shocking since I often rave about their drafts, but it was just simply my kind of draft.  Liked David Gustafsson, liked Nathan Smith, liked Declan Chisholm, Giovanni Vallati was very highly ranked at this time last year, Austin Wong is a bit of a knucklehead but can play, and Jared Moe (I know I’m out of order with the last two picks) is a tendy late.  You watch, they’ll have one or two players out of this with another one or two becoming real good prospects.

 

Edmonton

Well…I was loving their draft through two picks.  Bouchard was insane because he just couldn’t be a more perfect fit for what they need.  I believe it’ll hurt in four or five years to see Dobson, because I really believe Dobson is going to be a number one and though I do believe Bouchard can be that guy, Dobson does so many little things better.  But again, the fit and the fact he’ll very likely step right in next season was just too difficult to pass on and in my mind was the right decision for the Oilers.  Some will argue that he steps in, but he’s ready.  Most I think see the big shot and the elite passing and believe the Oilers would be just rushing him in because of how badly they need those things.  And maybe it is, but for me he’s got the three things I believe you need coming right out of your draft to step in and that’s a very high IQ, and both physical and mental maturity.  He’s on the top pp unit by January, he’s in their top four by March.

 

Ryan McLeod was the same type of deal, need and value.  I’ve never shut up about how badly they needed centres the last few drafts, and they finally got a golden chance to address it, and did.  He’s too much of a perimeter kid right now, but the kid is a hell of a player!  Work ethic isn’t questioned, real good size, plays 200 feet, great playmaker, this could be said for both him and Bouchard but if both guys can get just a little bite in their games these steals will be even greater for the club.  I wouldn’t be asking either kid to start getting into players faces and look to put opposition players through the boards.  But just learn to embrace taking some punishment.  McLeod talked about how big of a Ryan Smyth fan he was growing up, so my message to both would simply be to get some of “that” in your game.  Here’s something for you….we’re all talking about Bouchard making the team out of camp.  I wouldn’t be SHOCKED…surprised, but not SHOCKED…if McLeod made the team.  I’m not advocating for it, but just know that like Bouchard he’s played three years junior, has the size, speed, is good in his own zone, he could be ready as well and the thing is that this team needs guys who can play on cheap deals, and if he had a spot it would just add to their team depth next season by keeping someone on the farm with the ability to recall them.  Third line LW?  Fourth line C?  I could be wrong, but I believe the last two second rounders to make (and stick) with their teams out of camp were Patrice Bergeron and Ryan O’Reilly.  It didn’t hurt them at all.  It wouldn’t SHOCK me, not saying I’d bet on it though.

 

Then you have Olivier Rodrigue.  Now, I was very critical of it on Twitter because I’m sick of these kind of decisions by this organization.  I think back to David Musil, Mitch Moroz, the Griffin Reinhart trade, you know exactly why this team is doing what they’re doing.  Its possible that this was just simply a case of the scouting staff loving him, and they’ve NAILED IT with their goaltending selections (Miroslav Svboda isn’t in the organization anymore but is a real prospect, Dylan Wells has been well worth a 5th round pick, and then Stuart Skinner was amazing upon arrival in Swift Current last season).  So I trust them, but I don’t trust the higher ups and I really worry that this was their call.  Hope I’m wrong, and in no way am I doubting Rodrigue as a prospect.  I believe I had him 67th?  So right around that area, and the only real knock on him moving forward is his height.  He’ll put on the weight, he’s technically VERY sound, but is he big enough?

 

Fluke of the year maybe, I spoke on Michael Kesselring pre draft and speculated that he could be a kid the Oilers got their eye on, because it is clear now they have a “type” they’re looking for late in the draft.  Righty D-men who skate well, good size, have a high IQ, and are going the NCAA route so they have an extra year or two to allow the kid to develop before making a decision on him.  Kesselring has questionable “hockey IQ”, but I’m not big at looking into “hockey IQ”.  I just want to know if the kid is intelligent in anyway.  If he is, I’d be confident in him gaining the “hockey IQ”.  And for a 6th round pick, Kesselring has an intriguing skill set.  He’s close to 6’5, 191 lbs, and just simply a lot of raw talent.  Added bonus, next year he’s in the USHL (Des Moines), so they’ll have four years before a decision has to be made on him.  They’ve (in a way) gone three for three on these picks already.  All three picks look much better than 6th or 7th rounders.  Will any of them play?  I don’t know, but to me if you out play your draft position then that’s a win of a pick.

 

Finally, I know nothing about Patrik Siikanen.  I believe McKeen’s had him 200th, Steve Kournianos had him 254th, while Hockey Prospect (in my opinion the best scouting resource out there) didn’t even have a write-up on him and I believe they have scouting reports on 300 players.  Its the 7th round, so don’t get this twisted.  I’m not going to lose it over a 7th round pick.  BUT…I’m not sure what they saw in Siikanen to where they believed he was a better prospect than ironically teammates in Eric Florchuk and Chase Wouters.  Its flat out shocking to begin with that Florchuk was the final pick and Wouters didn’t even go, but I just don’t know how if the Oilers figured Siikanen was a better pick.  Forchuk put up 21 points in 28 games for the Saskatoon Blades after arriving mid-season.  Wouters is Mr. Everything on any team he’s played on and I truly believe will be a kid who ends up playing 500 or more NHL games.  Again, there is no point in freaking out about a 7th rounder for a team, but both those kids seem like much more sure bets than Siikanen, but I’d be lying if I said I knew anything about Siikanen and who knows what kind of intel they have on him.

 

The first two picks were so good, that it really didn’t matter how the rest of the draft went quite frankly.  Its a HELL of a draft that filled two very critical needs with players who were outstanding value where they got them.  And again, I’m critical of the organization for the Rodrigue pick, but I’m not critical of Rodrigue as a prospect at all.  There’s a very good chance that he makes them look shrewd and me look foolish just like Stuart Skinner did this season.  And I hated the move for Skinner for somewhat similar reasons and here I am, not in ANY way looking to hide from it and admit to this point I’ve been proven VERY wrong.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2018 NHL Draft: Final Mock

Its here!!!  It is quite frankly embarrassing how geeked up I get for the draft.  Can’t help it.  I know most love the movement that happens during the draft, and don’t get me wrong I do too.  But I just love to see how these teams build.  The draft is the most important day on the calendar for NHL clubs, and even though it takes 5-10 years to know the results, I love watching it all unfold.

 

If you’re new to my mock drafts, I’m going to take this time to brag.  Last year with my final mock draft, I was 6/6 to start, hit on 7 picks total, and had 28 of 31 going in the first round.  In comparison, Sam Cosentino and Bob McKenzie had 27 of 31.  I went 7/8 to start the draft in 2015, was all over Columbus to pass on Puljujarvi for a centre (initially I said Dubois, but figured by draft day they would move back) earlier than anyone else was (feel free to seek out my 2016 3.0 mock draft), and though I don’t like to put it in with the others, my third mock draft in 2014 I ended up doing the best I’ve done, hitting on 11 of 30 first round picks (the problem being that I did two more mocks after that and the immense trade talk around that draft really screwed me over, lesson learned).  I don’t like bragging (though you’d never know it from this paragraph), but I work my ass off on these pieces and take a lot of pride in them (although, expect spelling mistakes because I close to 5,000 words here and can’t catch them all).

 

Something new I’ve done this season is put the tier the player is in along with the ranking.  So normally beside a players name in the mock drafts I have where I’ve ranked the prospect on my top prospects list.  Now, I’ve put his tiering first, followed by his ranking.  So Rasmus Dahlin for example is in the first tier, and ranked first, so he’s listed as 1-1.  Filip Zadina is in the second tier and is fifth ranked, so he’s listed as 2-5.  Ty Dellandrea is in the fifth tier and is 25th raned so he’s 5-25.  If you don’t have it by now, I don’t know what to tell you other than you might have an ADHD issue.

 

Want to know more about where I’m coming from on some of these prospects?  You can read my thoughts on them in my Top 75 Prospects piece I put up just yesterday.

 

1. Rasmus Dahlin (1-1)  Frolunda  SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Drew Doughty

No point in changing this write up.  I don’t believe we need to spend much time on this one.  Jackpot if you’re a Sabres fan.  They were desperate for someone who could anchor their blueline, and they won one of the best D prospects of all time.  This was a DARK season for Buffalo, a terrific hockey market who don’t deserve what they’ve been going through.  Happy for them, and Dahlin is the real deal.

Other Options: None

 

2. Andrei Svechnikov (2-6)  Barrie  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Thomas Vanek

I worry about Svechnikov, but I’ve never denied his upside or looked to hate on what other people see in him.  And if he pans out the way just about everyone believes he will, the Canes will have a great combination up front (Necas and Svechnikov) to go with a lot of depth and then a terrific blueline.  Its funny, Dundon apparently wants to make dramatic changes, yet on paper it looks like if they just continue to be patient that they could be in the playoffs next season with tremendous potential to be a powerhouse in the years to come.  Winnipeg was the same way, and look how loaded they now are.  Dundon should be ecstatic that the heavy lifting has been done for him already.

Other Options: None

 

3. Jesperi Kotkaniemi (2-3)  Assat  Liiga

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Mikko Koivu

Its between Kotkaniemi and one of the D-men (I would highly assume Dobson).  A trade back sounds like something Bergevin would like to do, but come on.  I’ll believe one is capable of happening in the top five once it happens.  Twice in the last 17 years has it happened, once was it simply a trade back as Bergevin wants to do.  Once in 17 years.  He stays at three at makes his pick, and I believe its Kotkaniemi.  He’s the type of centre teams crave, a guy who can play the tough minutes while putting up 55-65 points a season.

Other Options: Noah Dobson

 

4. Noah Dobson (2-4)  Acadie-B.  QMJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 177  Shot: R

Comparison: Seth Jones

What a mess.  Me being an Oilers fan, fuck, did we go through a lot of dark years (and still aren’t out of those woods).  But NOTHING compared to what the Sens and their fans are going through right now and I feel horrible for them.  Anyway, this pick is extremely interesting.  We still don’t know for sure if they’re going to keep it or perhaps look to swing a deal with the Avs to get back that 2019 first.  We’ll see.  But assuming they keep it, on one hand I could see them going with Filip Zadina for PR purposes.  Not that he’d be anything of a reach, but a kid who just lit the Q up and will step right in for the Sens in the fall might be something that just has to happen for the Sens.  But they don’t take wingers high.  They haven’t taken a winger in the first round since 2011, haven’t taken one with their top first round pick since 2006 (Nick Foligno).  Couple that with how bad things are all of a sudden looking on the blueline throughout their organization and I believe they’ll go with the top D-man they can get which in my mind would be Dobson.  He fits the bill perfectly for them.

Other Options: Filip Zadina, Evan Bouchard

 

5. Evan Bouchard (3-11)  London  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 196  Shot: R

Comparison: Larry Murphy

This is not a “good young hockey team”, it’s just a “young hockey team”.  They have a very long ways to go, and really can’t make a wrong move in terms of need no matter who they select here.  A lot of people believe it’ll be Brady Tkachuk, as did I for a long time.  But that is more of a PR move, and something I’ve learned in the NHL is to not assume teams are going to do PR picks in the draft.  For pretty much all these teams, not even the GM’s have much say in the picks, its the director or heads of amateur scouting who do it.  The blueline doesn’t look good moving forward, especially on the right side.  Even on the big club currently, Demers is getting older, Hjalmarsson is on the last year of his deal (I know he’s a lefty but he plays the right side), its not pretty.  And as Marek pointed out (and I hadn’t caught this so full credit goes to him), they LOVE the OHL.  11 kids out of the OHL in the last four drafts.  Its nuts.  So with all this taken into consideration, Bouchard is looking like a kid who makes all the sense in the world for the Coyotes at five.

Other Options: Filip Zadina, Brady Tkachuk

 

6. Quinn Hughes (3-13)  Michigan  NCAA

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 168  Shot: L

Comparison: Phil Housley

So most agree with me that they should be taking a D-man, and Quinn Hughes was playing in their backyard this past season, so in this scenario he seems to make all the sense in the world.  But I have heard that they would prefer a forward here.  If Ken Holland were to take another winger with a top pick I might lose my skull.  They made a bad pick to this point with Svechnikov over a kid like Joel Eriksson Ek, and Colin White in 2015, and Michael Rasmussen last year looks good but I truly believe he’s going to end up on the wing in the pros.  You’re set on the wings (no pun intended), you need to start looking after the important shit Kenny!  So I really hope in this scenario, for the sake of Wings fans, its either Hughes or Boqvist….but I wonder.

Other Options: Filip Zadina, Adam Boqvist

 

7. Adam Boqvist (3-10)  Brynas  SWE-J20

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11.5  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Kris Letang

If this is how things break, I really believe the Canucks will still take a D-man.  I know Canucks beat writer Ben Kuzma was discussing this scenario (or one similar to it) with his followers last weekend, but that’s where I’ve also got my stuff on how Jim Benning wants to go D with this pick.  The question for me is would it be Boqvist, or would they go what would perceived to be off the board with Ty Smith?  You’re in a spot where you can’t move back to eight or nine because the Hawks and Rangers are sitting there with three of Zadina, Tkachuk and Wahlstrom all still on the board and knowing they’re now getting one of them.  And if you go back to eleven you’re running the risk of losing Smith to the Oilers because it sounds like they’re obsessed with him.  So its yet another damn difficult spot for the Canucks, and I believe they’ll stand pat and grab Boqvist whom the fans would still be excited about and he fills a key need for them moving forward.

Other Options: Filip Zadina, Ty Smith

 

8. Brady Tkachuk (3-8)  Boston University  NCAA

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Keith Tkachuk

Well what a break this would be for the Blackhawks.  Their choice of three kids who I’d assume they love relatively equally.  Tkachuk though in my opinion can play that puck possession style they love to play, while giving them an agitating and power forward style of game they lack.  I know most would suggest that if it broke like this that Zadina would be the pick.  But I’m guessing in this scenario they’d have an eye on next season and next season a kid like Tkachuk is maybe more of a need than a sniper like Zadina.  I got the other options below, but I didn’t mention Barrett Hayton.  Word at one time was that they really wanted a centre.  He’s a kid who I could see a team reaching a bit on.

Other Options: Filip Zadina, Oliver Wahlstrom

 

9. Filip Zadina (2-5)  Halifax  QMJHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 197  Shot: L

Comparison: Nikita Kucherov

I’ve talked a lot in recent weeks about the noticeable amount of New Englanders with the Rangers both on and off the ice, which led me to believe that Oliver Wahlstrom is going to be their pick.  I think he is, if anyone (realistically) EXCEPT Filip Zadina were here.  But if Zadina gets to this point, how in the Blue shirt hell do you pass on him?  Wahlstrom looks like the goods, but Zadina is just simply better.  I don’t know how else to put it.  Will Zadina get here?  I can’t imagine both him and Tkachuk getting to this range of the draft, but don’t forget the 2012 draft which was also D heavy at the top.  Filip Forsberg was looked at by the Oilers for the number one pick (I don’t think all that seriously, but I recall they flew him in pre draft).  Sometimes, its just circumstances and I believe this is what we could see tonight.

Other Options: Oliver Wahlstrom, Vitali Kravtsov

 

10. Ty Smith (3-12)  Spokane  WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 176  Shot: L

Comparison: Brain Rafalski

Oliver Wahlstrom is still on the board in this scenario, and yet I think it won’t matter who might fall to them, they’re hell bent on taking Smith which I love from the standpoint of being an Oilers fan from Lloyd, but I don’t like it for the Oilers or Ty because if they take him while passing on someone the rest of the hockey world has higher ranked then he’s in for an uphill climb right off the bat.  It’ll be mixed for me, because I’m sky high on the player, I completely understand what they see in him, but over Wahlstrom?  And if not Wahlstrom, potentially Zadina?  Or potentially Tkachuk?  I don’t like any prospect entering the organization having to carry that burden.  Passing on Boqvist for him wouldn’t be so bad, but one of those three….I cringe at the thought for both the player and the team.

Other Options: Barrett Hayton, Vitali Kravtsov

 

11. Oliver Wahlstrom (3-7)  USNTDP  USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 208  Shot: R

Comparison: Phil Kessel

How ironic would it be for the Oilers to pass on a talent like this and the Islanders reap the rewards.  First Mathew Barzal, then Jordan Eberle, and if you want to say they reap the rewards of just Peter Chiarelli he also gifted them Johnny Boychuk back when he was with the Bruins.  You think if the Isles got Wahlstrom after bringing in Lamoriello as GM and Trotz as coach might be able to convince Tavares to stay?  I’d say so.  Wahlstrom MIGHT be ready to step in this fall.  But at the max I’d say he’s ready to go for 2020.

Other Options: Joe Veleno, Vitali Kravtsov

 

12. Barrett Hayton (4-15)  Sault Ste. Marie  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 186  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan O’Reilly

Originally Calgary’s pick.  Even if Tavares re-signs the Islanders still can use some strengthening in the middle and should use one of these two picks to do so.  If JT bolts, he’s a potential second line centre to do the dirty work behind Barzal.  If JT re-signs (and sure looks like he’s going to), he’s a perfect third line centre as I’ve described.  Of course in either case this won’t be for another year or two, but the Isles simply have nothing coming at centre, so expect them to take at least one centre with these two picks.  Side note: you can add these other options to the two I gave with the previous pick, any of these six total players make sense to me for the Isles.

Other Options: K’Andre Miller, Grigori Denisenko

 

13. Joe Veleno (2-2)  Drummondville  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 194  Shot: L

Comparison: Brad Richards

Last year, my Stars “guy” was spot on with where they were going.  This year he’s maintained that the Stars are looking hard at centres going into this draft.  As you can read, I’m sky high on Veleno.  I’m not a scout, and in the Veleno case that might benefit me, because I don’t have a chip on my shoulder for this guy not meeting my expectations.  The scouting community definitely do though, and they’ve forgotten (in my mind) what the upside is with this kid and that he has the work ethic and drive to get that upside out of him.  This could be a grand slam pick for the Stars.

Other Options: Isac Lundestrom, Rasmus Kupari

 

14. Vitali Kravtsov (4-22)  Chelyabinsk  RUS

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 170  Shot: L

Comparison: Filip Forsberg

Originally St. Louis’ pick.  You know, the draft REALLY opens up, not just this one, but every year around the 10th or 11th pick.  Teams lists just simply do not look alike.  I’ve seen a few people suggest this pick, and it makes sense.  The Flyers went with a Russian kid just two years ago (German Rubtsov who doesn’t look like a great pick thus far), and they can use some skill up front, and Kravtsov still brings the size and a little bit of bite that we know they love in Philly.  Plus, if Kravtsov made it here, it’d likely be viewed as a BPA falling into their lap as some see him as a dark horse to sneak into the top 10.

Other Options: Serron Noel, Grigori Denisenko

 

15. Serron Noel (3-9)  Oshawa  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 204  Shot: R

Comparison: Blake Wheeler

I feel like someone is taking Noel higher than most people have him.  There have been a few rumours that suggest Noel scouting staffs for NHL teams like him a lot more than independent guys.  I obviously like him more than the independent guys myself, but I understand the fears with him.  Dale Tallon and the Panthers are old school.  They love size, and while I wouldn’t say they LOVE the OHL, they’ve taken their fair share of OHL guys.  So I’m guessing that Noel is directly in their wheelhouse.  And with a young roster which is locked down, they can afford to take a guy like Noel and give him the two or three years he needs to develop.

Other Options: K’Andre Miller, Martin Kaut

 

16. Joel Farabee (4-22)  USNTDP  USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 162  Shot: L

Comparison: Kyle Palmeri

12 months ago I would have suggested they need to invest three or four straight first rounders on D-men!  Fast forward to now and the Avs own Cale Makar, Conor Timmins, and Sam Girard.  It’s not enough, but it’s a HELL of a start!  They have picks 47 and 58 to perhaps add a couple more quality D-men to that stable.  If you look at the Avs organizational depth chart, they don’t have a lot of high end skill playing behind MacKinnon and Rantanen.  Farabee isn’t the most skilled player left on the board, but he’s a burner, he’s a character kid that they’ve loved (Landeskog, Conner Bleackley, Jost), and its not as though he’s lacking skill either.

Other Options: Martin Kaut, Rasmus Kupari

 

17. K’Andre Miller (4-17)  USNTDP  USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 198  Shot: L

Comparison: Ed Jovanovski

I say they still really need some D.  Ray Shero did a HECK of a good job piecing a competent blueline together last season.  Having said that, they still need some guys and Miller would fit the bill.  The upside on this kid is just ridiculous.  They have a good enough blueline in the short term to get by and let him develop for in my opinion two years minimum (yet who knows what kind of strides he can make in a year), but I believe they’ll want a D and he has the biggest upside of the D-men left on the board.

Other Options: Nils Lundkvist, Bode Wilde

 

18. Rasmus Kupari (4-23)  Karpat  Liiga

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 189  Shot: R

Comparison: Matt Duchene

I really hate suggesting that their Finnish GM is going to take a Finnish player, because just about everyone (not me…not so humble brag) believed that’s why he was taking Jesse Puljujarvi the whole way leading up to the 2016 draft.  Here however, it makes sense.  Aaron Portzline is their top beat guy and he believes they’ll almost certainly be taking the top forward on the board here, and while none of us know what their board looks like, Kupari is definitely one of the most talented players available in this scenario.  He’s listed as a centre, but I firmly believe he’s playing the wing in the show.

Other Options: Martin Kaut, Dominik Bokk

 

19. Nils Lundkvist (4-14)  Lulea  SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 173  Shot: R

Comparison: Nick Leddy

With both Kravtsov and here with Lundkvist, neither guy feels like a Philly guy.  But that’s what Ron Hextall is attempting to build here.  He’s looked to get away from their old ways and build and much more intelligent roster.  I love the fit here because they’ve graduated most of the high picks they spent on D-men from 2013-2015.  Only the first of that group (Samuel Morin) is left in the system, and he’s starting to look like more of a suspect than prospect.  They do have Phillippe Myers on the come, and Myers is the only serious RH shooting D prospect in the system.  Add to that, they only got one on the current roster (Radko Gudas).  So they could really stand to add a righty D-man, and while this might seem early for some, I really love Lundkvist and believe he’s going in the 11-20 range.

Other Options: Martin Kaut (again), Bode Wilde

 

20. Liam Foudy (6-43)  London  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 174  Shot: L

Comparison: Andrew Cogliano

I can’t bring myself to move off the point that the Kings are in love with the OHL.  There are other players from the OHL who they might have interest in here like Akil Thomas, Ty Dellandrea, maybe a defenceman like Rasmus Sandin, but I’m going with a hunch here.  Foudy is an OHL kid with blazing speed, and the Kings have been looking to add a lot more speed to their organization.  Another reason for the hunch here is that risers rise.  Foudy ended up 29th on Bob McKenzie’s list, so I tend to believe that he’ll end up going higher than that.  Maybe I’m really reaching here, but I believe this makes a ton of sense.

Other Options: Akil Thomas, Ty Dellandrea

 

21. Martin Kaut (4-20)  Pardubice  CZE  Extra

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 176  Shot: R

Comparison: Alex Steen

They’re a candidate to trade back, to the point where I kind of expect it, especially if things break this way.  If one of Miller or Lundkvist gets here, I like one of them.  But if they don’t, they don’t have a second or a third rounder and they don’t have much in the system.  I don’t do trades in my mocks, so I’m picking, and with no D-man in sight that I believe they’ll love getting Kaut here who is very much so their type of player.  Reminds me a little of Hertl, a little of Meier, and if they were to move back then they could focus on D-men at that time.  As for the trade back possibilities, perhaps the Rangers for 26 or 28 (not both, one or the other) and 39 for 21?  Maybe Detroit could pull it off too perhaps by giving 30 and 36?  Maybe even Montreal for 35, 38 and 62?  They have seven picks total in the draft, but only one in the top 110.

Other Options: Bode Wilde, Rasmus Sandin

 

FUN FACT: the lowest I’ve ever projected someone to a team was Freddy Gauthier to the Leafs at 21 in 2013, so the rest of these are very, very wrong!  At least I KNOW I’m getting two spot on this year.

 

22. Nicolas Beaudin (6-32)    Drummondville  QMJHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 172  Shot: L

Comparison: Torey Krug

Originally Pittsburgh’s pick.  After giving this some thought, the Sens are going to be open to taking another D-man with this pick.  They have too big of a hole on that blueline moving forward.  Sure, they could address it some if/when (without a doubt when unfortunately for Sens fans) they move Erik Karlsson, but even then they will likely need more.  I’ve soured a bit on Rasmus Sandin recently, and really fallen hard for Beaudin as I see them as very similar guys but Beaudin is the better skater and the less physically developed.  Not to mention, the Sens know the Q very well, so I’ll say its Beaudin.

Other Options: Bode Wilde, Rasmus Sandin

 

23. Isac Lundestrom (4-16)  Lulea  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 183  Shot: L

Comparison: Frans Nielsen

They’ve had such tremendous success with Swedes over the last five drafts or so.  For me, Lundestrom falls to them.  But that isn’t the case if you look at most scouting services.  Most of them aren’t too high on Lundestrom.  I do think its likely they go centre though even if its not Lundestrom.  Getzlaf and Kesler are on the back nine of their careers, and while I like Sam Steel, and Adam Henrique is still only 28, its simply not enough.

Other Options: Ty Dellandrea, Jack McBain

 

24. Grigori Denisenko (5-28)  Yaroslavl  MHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 163  Shot: R

Comparison: Sergei Samsonov

Its my opinion that they need some help on the blueline and should be focusing there.  Beat writer Mike Russo seems to think they need to grab an elite offensive talent.  I always get a little scared when beat writers claim they know what the team wants and it fits exactly what a beat writer would love to see the team do.  But for now I’ll take his word for it and believe the Wild are going for the most dynamic forward on the board which would be Denisenko.  They have a lot of need though and are really in no man’s land as an organization right now.  It feels like Wild fans are stuck just waiting for the rebuild to happen.

Other Options: Bode Wilde, Dominik Bokk

 

25. Ty Dellandrea (5-25)  Flint  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 184  Shot: R

Comparison: Elias Lindholm

To me, Dellandrea just makes a ton of sense here to the Leafs.  I’m pretty confident that they go centre here.  To my eye they have two needs in the system and that’s RH D-men, and centres.  But they have Timothy Liljegren so its not as though they don’t have anyone on the blueline with a righty shot.  But they don’t have a centre who is anything of a threat for a prospect.  Being a righty fits in really well behind Matthews and Kadri down the line.  I’ve seen some suggest Ryan Merkley here, I can’t see it.  I think that’s still a very real possibility with the 52nd pick to be honest.

Other Options: Akil Thomas, Bode Wilde

 

26. Bode Wilde (4-18)  USNTDP  USHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2.5  Wt: 198  Shot: R

Comparison: Jacob Trouba

The fall of Wilde ends here, although it doesn’t really sound like a fall anymore….just where he’s projected to go.  At least according to Sam Cosentino, who I definitely trust.  I still like Wilde a lot, as I’ve said all along a top four D-man who leaves you wanting more is still a top four D-man.  Think of Bouwmeester, think of Phaneuf, think of Bogosian, all guys with all the talent but maybe don’t have the elite intelligence to be that number one guy.  The Rangers with three first round picks are definitely a candidate to take a swing on him should he get to this point in the first.

Other Options: Akil Thomas, Dominik Bokk

 

27. Akil Thomas (4-19)  Niagara  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Mitch Marner

Originally Nashville’s pick.  All things even at eight, I believe they’d take a centre.  But there really isn’t a centre to take anywhere near eight, and I had Zadina and Tkachuk falling right into their lap.  This one is interesting though, because I really don’t see Thomas as a centre.  I love his game, but see him as a one way player and there for he’d be much better suited for the wing.  Still, I believe Thomas talent at this point is too good for a team who LOVE guys who can play a puck possession game and be creative in the offensive zone.  So I say they take him here

Other Options: Dominik Bokk (again), Johnny Tychonik

 

28. Dominik Bokk (5-26)  Vaxjo  SuperElite

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 179  Shot: R

Comparison: Martin Havlat

Originally Tampa Bay’s pick.  FINALLY I have Bokk going after viewing him as a possibility for what felt like half the league.  However with these two picks the Rangers have late first, I won’t be anything shocked if they end up going WAY off the board with both.  Filip Chyitl was on my radar as a potential late first last year, but I’m sure nobody thought he’d go as high as 21st.  Both their top picks last year showed that they aren’t afraid to do what they think.  I could see a kid like Kirill Marchenko, I could see Johnny Tychonik, I could see Calen Addison, a lot of options for the Rangers who need a lot of different things.  But I’ll GUESS they snag Bokk here.

Other Options: Kirill Marchenko, Johnny Tychonik

 

29. Rasmus Sandin (6-33)  Sault Ste. Marie  OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 186  Shot: L

Comparison: Andrej Sekera

Originally Winnipeg’s pick.  The Blues could go about a billion ways with this pick to be frank.  After they’ve walked out of the last two drafts with two real good centres (Tage Thompson, Robert Thomas) and two real good wingers (Jordan Kyrou, Klim Kostin), if I had to guess with this one I’d say they’ll be looking for a D-man here.  It’s not as if they’ve got an old blueline, they don’t.  Next season they likely feature Parayko, Vince Dunn and Jordan Schmaltz all as regulars and they’re all 25 and under.  But you always want that next wave to be ready, and there is a nice pocket here where there will be a lot of D in this range.  .

Other Options: Alexander Alexeyev, Adam Ginning

 

30. Jonatan Berggren (4-21)  Skelleftea  SWE J-20

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Jaden Schwartz

Originally Vegas’ pick.  They got their D-man at six, and while I’d definitely argue that they should be looking to take a centre here, I can’t see them passing on Berggren should he get to this pick.  We all know their track record with Swedish kids, and this looks like a BPA scenario so I agree with taking him here.  If they did go centre, I mention the two kids below, but also Ivan Morozov is a kid I personally think very highly of and we all remember the success the Wings of the late 90’s/early 2000’s had with Russians.

Other Options: Jacob Olofsson, Ryan McLeod

 

31. Alexander Alexeyev (6-39)  Red Deer  WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Matthias Ekholm

We know how well they’ve done with Russian kids.  Its not just Ovechkin, not just Kuznetsov, Alex Semin (even though he washed out in the league), Orlov, Varlamov, Ilya Samsonov has stayed on course thus far, they’ve had tremendous success with Russian kids.  They also have gone to the WHL for a lot of recent picks, and I’d suggest the need here for them is more so on the blueline.  So with this said, I love Alexeyev to go to the Caps.  But like anyone else down here, they could go a million different ways.  I spoke about how well they’ve done with Russians and two that I LOVE in this range are Kirill Marchenko and Ivan Morozov.  There’s three other Western Canadian D-men in this range too in Jet Woo, Jacob Bernard-Docker and Calen Addison.  Or maybe its a kid they feel has fallen like a Ryan McLeod.  It is a total guessing game at this point.

Other Options: Kirill Marchenko, Calen Addison

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2018 NHL Draft: Top 75 Prospects

BIG movement on my final list!  I’ve done a lot of work, whether its watching video on kids, digging for my in-depth reports on kids, taking in more opinions in general on kids, etc.  I can tell you this, one thing I’ve found with me is that while I have my beliefs and my rankings reflect that, I’m very willing to listen to what other people have to say.  More so, I want to here them say the right things.  If you lay out your rationale to me, then I’ll at least listen.  And that’s all I hope you do with my rankings, just listen to them.  Anyway, probably the most movement I’ve had from my early June list to my final list.

 

Before I start, allow me to acknowledge that I’m not a scout.  I literally try to read everything I possibly can from every publication, minus what Grant McCagg puts out because the guy seems like a complete piece of shit human.  But Bob McKenzie’s list is very important, I love the work Hockey Prospect does and highly recommend buying their Black Book, Future Considerations, Sam Cosentino, Peter Loubaridas, Craig Button, Corey Pronman, Steve Kournianos, ISS, Brock Otten covering the OHL kids does awesome work, Andy Lehoux is a kid who does a lot of stuff on YouTube that is great, so I compile from a lot of different people.  Now, I do watch as much as I can get my hands on, and I read into a lot of what these people have to say to form my own opinion.  But I’m no scout and all of these people along with many others deserve a boat load of credit because without them, a nobody like myself can do a list like this.

 

It’s an odd draft year.  I had a tough time with this list which likely explains so much late movement from my top 50 list to this one.  I like centres, which this draft really lacks.  I love D-men, but they’re a much tougher evaluation.  I value wingers a distant third, but we have a lot of very highly talented wingers in this draft.  And while last year I found myself needing to expand my top prospect list from 50 to 62 because I was high on so many kids, this year I kind of lost a bit of interest after about 46 so I’m not sure if that’s just a me problem or if this draft simply isn’t as deep as last year’s was.  Obviously a much better high end this year though, and I still ended up doing a top 75 this time around because I’m apparently a sucker to do a shit ton of work for free.

 

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.

 

If you’re actually reading this opening, which I’m sure most of you haven’t, make sure to come back tomorrow for my final mock draft (that I will update throughout the day leading up to the draft in case any news or pick information comes in), and go back and read my stuff I did earlier this week.  My latest mock draft came out Monday, Tuesday I did a piece on what the Oilers could do in the draft, and yesterday I got in-depth as to why I favour Ty Smith slightly over Quinn Hughes.

 

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

 

Tier One (1)

1. Rasmus Dahlin  Frolunda  SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Drew Doughty

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 (5)

2. Joe Veleno  Drummondville  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 194  Shot: L

Comparison: Brad Richards

Nothing is changing with my second ranked player.  I laid a lot of it out here as I got in-depth about why I love Veleno and have some concerns on Andrei Svechnikov.  But the big knocks on Veleno are that he didn’t meet scouts expectations this season, and that he doesn’t have a great shot.  I wonder if these scouts realize that a shot is something that can easily be developed, and that the kid has everything you can’t teach?  Size, speed, vision, IQ, work ethic, apparently had a great interview at the combine, he’s got everything you need to be a first line centre.  He’s not going to work his balls off on his shot?  He was at a 96 point pace after being dealt from a horrific team in St. John to Drummondville.  Would have put him third in scoring in the Q.  The first time I saw Superbad I said “its not THAT great”, because some of my buddies hyped the living shit out of it as the greatest movie I’ll ever see.  A year later I went back and watched it and thought it was hilarious, loved it.  Expectations are everything, and Veleno didn’t meet most scouts expectations, but they’re forgetting that he still has everything you need to be a first line centre in the NHL.

 

3. 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.  He just continues to climb my list, and ends up as my third ranked guy.  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.  Simply put, you just need these types of guys to win, and they’re damn difficult to find in trades, free agency, or later in the draft.

 

4. Noah Dobson  Acadie-Bathurst  QMJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 177  Shot: R

Comparison: Seth Jones

I’m sky freaking high on this kid, and really have been since pretty early on.  There is just nothing he can’t do for a team out on the ice and it would actually surprise me if he didn’t become at least a top pairing defenceman.  The comparison to Seth Jones is one of my favourites I came up with this season.  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. 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 dropping as we get closer to the draft, although as was pointed out in Bob McKenzie’s final list the other day, it likely has more to do with others moving up than Zadina doing anything wrong.  This kid is going to step into a lineup next fall and produce.  He’s NHL ready.

 

6. Andrei Svechnikov  Barrie  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Thomas Vanek

After giving it heavy consideration, I know this won’t appease the “race baiters” (people ACTUALLY suggested I was racist for being concerned with the track record of Russian FORWARDS in the draft), but I decided to move Svechnikov into my second tier.  When you start to read things from Bob McKenzie like (paraphrasing here) “one scout told me he’s a lot closer to Dahlin than he is to the rest of the pack”, I felt as though I had to do at least a little something different that was more fair to the talent of the prospect, so he moves into my second tier which basically means I’d take the player who best fills my teams needs of those in the tier.  I still worry about the fact that Russian forwards have been 0 for 6 in the top 15, and only 3 for 13 in the first round from 2004-2015, and I still worry about the track record of the “big, fast, unstoppable winger” and their ability to impact a game (i.e. Rick Nash).  But there is ZERO doubting this kids ability on my part.  He has everything needed to be a superstar in the league.

 

Tier Three (7)

7. Oliver Wahlstrom  USNTDP  USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 208  Shot: R

Comparison: Phil Kessel

I almost put Wahlstrom here with my last rankings, and then I got cold feet about the questionable motor and bumped him back to 15.  But I got him now at seven because I just think there is too much with the kid to suggest that he’s going to be an elite sniper in the show.  As you’ve likely been able to tell over the years, I’m not super high on one dimensional guys.  But A) He’s a scorer, not just a sniper.  He’s got incredible skill, incredible hands, and a really high IQ.  B) I think he has 40-50 type goal potential, which is extremely rare.  C) He’s got the skill and the IQ to develop his playmaking, and the size and speed to really become a complete player.  I don’t believe he’s becoming Marian Hossa…but he could be that guy if he chose to be.  Realistically, I believe he’s an elite goal scorer who can do enough of everything else to be a high end winger in the league for a long time.

 

8. Brady Tkachuk  Boston University  NCAA

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Keith Tkachuk

He’s falling for everyone, but for me he’s not falling because I like him ANY less, its just that others have moved ahead.  He’s such a difficult type of player to find, and I view him as the safest pick in the draft in terms of what he’ll become, so that’s where finding the balance becomes difficult.  Couple both those things with the fact that he’s going to step into a lineup next season (ignore the story that he’s going back to BU, my theory is that its only if he doesn’t make an NHL roster) and it raises his draft stock.  Size, IQ, work ethic, coachability, hands, passion, grit, agitating, toughness, you name it he has it.  Even the speed that some knock him for, he skates fine he’s just not a high end skater.  He’s the perfect complimentary winger.

 

9. 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.  I might have 12 kids behind him who are 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 go up here, but I would do it, and I honestly won’t be surprised if he’s the “surprise guy” we normally get within the top 10.  As for the Wheeler comparison, I’m thinking both of what Wheeler was like in his draft year, and what he’s become.

 

10. 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 tenth, 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.  The reason for him sliding a bit in not only mine but others rankings is that he probably isn’t going to be that number one guy on a team, and he’s further away from playing than some believed earlier in the season.  Defensively, he’s got a ways to go.  But he’s also only listed at 165 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.  There are also concussion concerns which could hurt the draft stock.  But the talent and potential is ridiculous, and he apparently was a great interview at the combine which is something I’m very big on.

 

11. 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.

 

12. Ty Smith  Spokane  WHL

Pos: RD  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.  I’m not expecting it because of the size, but if Smith ended up becoming a number one D-man in the league I wouldn’t be anything shocked.  To me, he’s a lock to be a top four, but he’ll need another year in Spokane before he’s ready for the show.

 

13. Quinn Hughes  Michigan  NCAA

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 168  Shot: L

Comparison: Phil Housley

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 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.  For me, Hughes is a lot like Tkachuk with his ranking in that I really like him, 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.

 

Tier Four (11)

14. Nils Lundkvist  Lulea  SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 173  Shot: R

Comparison: Nick Leddy

Sometimes you have to just not bull shit anyone.  Last year, I had read up on Martin Necas and whoever it was I read wasn’t overly high on him.  So around the week of the draft I read up on Necas (I believe I stumbled upon some stuff), and everyone else was sky high.  I admitted my mistake, got him ranked accordingly on my final list, and have smiled ever since.  It is the same thing here with Lundkvist.  I actually was going to put him in the late first after reading up and seeing him a LITTLE.  Then someone (I won’t say who, but his name sounds a lot like Porey Cronman….) shit all over him.  So I still kept him on my list because I didn’t get it.  Then, I heard some more stuff on him, was going to bump him up a bit, and then I came across a very detailed report on him.  WOW!  Throw out what Porey Cronman has to say, this kid is a first round pick and is going in the first, MAYBE even higher than where I got him going (as risers tend to do), and the kid is going to be a player.  Not only is he a tremendous skater, has an extremely high IQ, RH shot, offensive tools, awesome in his own zone, doesn’t shy away from the physical play…..not only ALL of that, but he apparently was an incredible interview at the combine.  That seals it for me.  He’s a year from playing, and he needs to put on 15-20 lbs, but that’ll come.

 

15. Barrett Hayton  Sault Ste. Marie  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 190  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan O’Reilly

Complete centre.  Scholastic player of the year in the OHL.  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 not dynamic, 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 to put him any higher than this.  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.

 

16. Isac Lundestrom  Lulea  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 183  Shot: L

Comparison: Frans Nielsen

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. K’Andre Miller  USNTDP  USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 198  Shot: L

Comparison: Ed Jovanovski

Currently, he’s very raw.  And a lot like Serron Noel, the warning has to be there that he needs time to develop.  Apparently he was an amazing interview at the combine, a lot of teams loved him, and that’s how he moved from I believe 29th last time around to 17th on this final list.  I’m perhaps to a fault, insanely high on the interview process, especially with a kid like Miller because the talent is so ridiculous.  He’s only been a D-man for a very short period of time, yet he was perhaps the best D-man for the USNTDP this season (perhaps better than Wilde).  If that’s the case now, how good is he going to be in two or three years?  If he had a low IQ I wouldn’t suggest that, but Miller seems to be a really intelligent kid.  If he ends up being a number one D-man someday, it really wouldn’t shock me.  Again, like Noel, he has all the physical ability to do it, and he’s been forced to think the game which will benefit him greatly moving forward.

 

18. Bode Wilde  USNTDP  USHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2.5  Wt: 198  Shot: R

Comparison: Jacob Trouba

I’m slightly tapping on him.  The news of him de-committing to Michigan, after switching his commitment from Harvard to Michigan in the fall, something about it just bothers me and I can’t help but wonder if it goes hand in hand with his question mark which is the IQ.  And don’t get me wrong here, nobody is going to suggest Wilde is dumb.  But to be a top end D-man in the NHL, perhaps the most important quality is high end intelligence.  But I’ve said all along and I’ll still say it here: a top four defenceman who leaves you wanting more is still a top four defenceman.  Jay Bouwmeester, Dion Phaneuf, Zach Bogosian (when he was healthy) were all guys who left most of us pulling out our hair that they couldn’t be number one guys and so they got underrated.  But they were still very good top four defencemen.  So I wonder if all, including me, aren’t being a little unfair to Wilde.  No concerns about his work ethic or passion he plays with, and he literally possesses all the physical ability.

 

19. Akil Thomas  Niagara  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 177  Shot: R

Comparison: Mitch Marner

Draft him assuming he’s a winger, and if he ends up playing the middle, consider it a huge bonus.  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.  You can never have too many, and they can all play with each other.

 

20. Martin Kaut  Pardubice  CZE  Extra

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 176  Shot: R

Comparison: Alex Steen

Apparently the heart (literally, not figuratively) issues are a thing of the past and he’s deemed good to go, so he’s a kid who drastically shoots up my list.  Its funny with me, because I have no problem calling out guys for underrating centres and D all year leading up to the draft (I think of kids like Cody Glass, Robert Thomas, Pierre Luc-Dubois, Mathew Barzal who got underrated by most throughout the process), yet these types of wingers do too.  The guys who aren’t AS skilled as others, yet do everything so well.  I just love these types of wingers who can play in any situation, and Kaut is going to have the size too.  Only 176 lbs right now, he looks as though he has the frame to get up to 205-210 lbs without hurting his speed and quickness.

 

21. Jonatan Berggren  Skelleftea  SWE J-20

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Jaden Schwartz

One of the biggest risers in the draft this season.  Berggren has real high end vision, speed, IQ, and has the work ethic to go with it.  I view him as one of the safest picks in the draft.  I think what has me higher on him than some, and others maybe not as high as I believe they should be on him, is he’s not overly “dynamic” out there (here comes another rant on it from me).  Scouts LOVE their “dynamic” guys, and I just really believe that it is so overrated.  I want the smarts, because in the NHL the “dynamic” guys often won’t be able to do too many “dynamic” things.  They won’t be toe dragging anyone, they won’t be dangling defenders deep in the zone, unless you’re a McDavid, Crosby, Ovechkin, Matthews, Seguin, MacKinnon, Hall, etc. you aren’t doing these things to NHL defencemen, so you better know where to go at all times, as Berggren does.

 

22. Vitali Kravtsov  Chelyabinsk  RUS

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 184  Shot: L

Comparison: Filip Forsberg

The “Soups Russian factor” comes to the fore front.  But one thing to take note of here, I now have him in my very wide open fourth tier.  For me, that’s huge.  Others will look at it and think “well you still got him 22nd you racist” (again, some have literally claimed I’m RACIST for pointing out the fact that Russian forwards have proven to be risky to take in the top 15, going 0 for 6 since 2004). 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.  I’m finding it very difficult to keep him down here, but the Russian forwards who have come before him is what makes me nervous to pick him in the top 15-20.

 

23. Rasmus Kupari  Karpat  Liiga

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 189  Shot: R

Comparison: Matt Duchene

I tap on him being a centre, everything screams winger so I’m listing him as such.  Kupari is a kid who is more about the upside than about the production.  I seen a debate about this with a kid last year: Casey Mittelstadt.  Analytics guys were down on Mittelstadt because so much of his damage was done five on four, while more traditional scouting services loved him because of the skill set.  Wheels and skill.  I understand maybe more than most about the IQ concerns, but if you draft him assuming he’s a winger and you look at his attributes, those concerns are much easier to live with.  I’ve seen guys with lower “hockey smarts” succeed in the league on the wing.  They can’t at centre, but can on the wing.

 

24. 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 keep dropping him because I have trouble justifying him over others.  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 vs the upside.

 

Tier Five (4)

25. 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.

 

26. 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.  A lot of people questioning his play away from the puck.  He put 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.  Another minor concern is his skating.  He has speed, but you’d like to see him clean up his stride and edge work that would help take him to another level.  Skill set is without a doubt there for this kid to become a front line player though.  Hands and vision are real high end, and the size will be good too once he fills out. 

 

27. Kirill Marchenko  M. Yugry  MHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Marian Hossa

DO NOT GET THE COMPARISON TWISTED HERE!!!  I found it difficult to find a good comp for him.  But there are a lot of parts of his game that are very similar to Hossa.  Size, puck protection, 200 foot game, etc.  Is he going to be Hossa?  I HIGHLY doubt it.  Does he play exactly like Hossa?  No, just in certain area’s.  Having said all this, he’s so damn intriguing!  He’s a power forward who has a great motor and has shown a willingness to play a 200 foot game.  His drawback right now is his skating and its basically just that he doesn’t have the strength to match his body type right now.  Once he gets that strength, look out!  It’s a bit concerning that he never came over for the combine, so you wonder how intrigued he is by the idea of the NHL, but I’d watch for one of these teams with an extra first rounder in the 26-31 range to perhaps take a swing on a kid this talented.

 

28. Grigori Denisenko  Yaroslavl  RUS-JR

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 172  Shot: R

Comparison: Sergei Samsonov

Again, 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.  And I love the intensity and grit he’s shown from time to time.  But I put him down here primarily because he’s Russian, and no “race baiting” can change my mind on this.  Absolutely LOVE the skill with this kid, and won’t be anything shocked should he prove me wrong to have him this low.

 

Tier Six (15)

29. Jack McBain  Toronto  OJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 201  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan Johansen

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.

 

30. 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 Olofsson doesn’t seem like an excitable guy out on the ice.  Just plays 200 feet, good size, good shot, good vision, and the IQ most of all is his calling card.  I think he’s worst case scenario a terrific third line centre, best case scenario he’s an elite second line centre.  You know earlier in the year I had seen someone rave about his speed, and this was after I had watched him play.  I thought maybe my eyes deceived me, and of course instead of going back and double checking, I went with what the guy said.  Just goes to show you that even with some of the guys who really push their stuff, you can’t take them at their word.  Sometimes they’re just guessing.  I’m never guessing, I’ll tell you what I do or don’t know, but I should have more detail than that.  Anyway, Olofsson is NOT a great skater despite what this one guy said.  He is an ok skater, decent speed, nothing special, though not a big flaw either.  Not really really a flaw in his game actually, 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.

 

31. 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.

 

32. Nicolas Beaudin  Drummondville  QMJHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 172  Shot: L

Comparison: Torey Krug

Late riser, especially for me.  I was well aware of him prior to this, but just hear/seen a lot of people who I really respect raving about him, starting researching him more, and felt somewhat the same.  Beaudin was very consistent all season, and as you can see at only 172 lbs he still has about 20 lbs to pack on.  IQ is really high (terrific combine interview), high end passing abilities, high end speed isn’t great but he makes up for it with his foot speed and edge work which are both elite.  Honestly, I’d much rather a kid be able to cut, stop/start at an elite level than be able to win a 100 foot race because its a skill that’s rarely needed.

 

33. Rasmus Sandin  Sault Ste. Marie  OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 186  Shot: L

Comparison: Andrej Sekera

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.

 

34. Ivan Morozov  M. Yugry  MHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 178  Shot: R

Comparison: Tomas Plekanec

I’ve harped on the Russian forward factor throughout my rankings, but once we get into the early second round that really goes away for me because now the risk factor isn’t nearly as large and you can find some real good value with some of them.  Marchenko is a kid I find myself getting higher and higher on, and the same can be said for Morozov.  The kid is just a very complete centre.  Very skilled in the offensive zone with great vision, a terrific shot, plays a very sound 200 foot game, seems to have a real high IQ, and has a great motor.  The more I read about him, the more I find myself saying “this is my kind of player”.

 

35. Jet Woo  Moose Jaw  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 200  Shot: R

Comparison: Travis Hamonic

Here’s another kid 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.

 

36. 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.

 

37. 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.

 

38. 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 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.

 

39. Alexander Alexeyev  Red Deer  WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Matthias Ekholm

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.  This time around, I got him six spots higher, had trouble putting him any higher than this, but I’m starting to see what a few others are in him.  Not to mention, I didn’t know until recently about some of the personal problems he went through this season.

 

40. 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.  You have to remember that when Gudbranson was drafted, he went third in 2010 because he looked as though he had untapped offensive potential.  Obviously he’s never tapped into that, but that doesn’t mean Ginning can’t.  While he’s a killer on the blueline, and looks as though he’ll be an effective shutdown defender, he has a good point shot and moves extremely well for a kid his size.

 

41. Jesse Ylonen  Espoo  FIN

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 160  Shot: R

Comparison: Gustav Nyqvist

He’s a lot like Jonatan Berggren 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.  But the IQ appears to be extremely high.  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.  A quiet prospect, not much flash in his game, but I could see him being one of those early second round picks who this time next year has people questioning why he didn’t go until the second round.

 

42. Jay O’Brien  Thayer Academy  USHS

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 176  Shot: R

Comparison: Joe Pavelski

Playing high school hockey for the large majority of the season, coupled with him being a late 99 birth, its tough to rank him.  Last time around, I had him in mind for the top 50, but I wasn’t sold.  Obviously I’m much more sold now, but I still have hesitation.  Off to Providence next season where we’ll get a much better gauge on what he can do vs top competition.  Going off what I’ve seen of him (not a lot) and his stats, I’d suggest that he’s better suited for the wing than centre.  But again I’ll state, I do like him playing the middle and view it as a big bonus because it forces kids to do more in their own zone at the lower levels.

 

43. Liam Foudy  London  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 174  Shot: L

Comparison: Andrew Cogliano

A burner and a shoot first guy, so chances are he’s better suited for the wing much like Jay O’Brien.  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.  For me, I worry about how he can perform while playing “off the puck” offensively (like that?  I doubt I use it again).  In the NBA or basketball in general, a popular term is “playing off the ball”.  Lebron James handles the ball, but some wonder if he ends up signing with the 76ers and playing with Ben Simmons if he’s willing to play “off the ball”.  It reminds me of Foudy.  If you look at his goals, A LOT of them are him just burning average OHL defencemen, really not using or needing the help of his linemates.  He doesn’t have great vision (or at least has yet to display that), and he’s really just using his speed and shot.  It reminds me of Ryan Murphy even though he was a D-man.  Maybe its a bad observation, and in no way am I suggesting that he won’t be successful or that I don’t like him.

 

Tier Seven (9)

44. 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 O’Brien and 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!

 

45. Niklas Nordgren  HIFK  SM-Liiga

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 169  Shot: R

Comparison: Jonathan Drouin

On skill, he’s a top 25 pick, if not a top 15 pick.  But his skating is weak.  Now, the weight is under 170 lbs, so perhaps once he packs on another 15-20 lbs.  Increasing his lower body strength could go a very long way for him.  If he does increase his speed, no matter how he might do it, someone is getting a hell of a player.

 

46. 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.

 

47. Adam Mascherin  Kitchener  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Mike Cammalleri

He’s back!  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.

 

48. Jared McIsaac  Halifax  QMJHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 189  Shot: L

Comparison: Brayden Coburn

I worry about his IQ.  He’s mobile, and he has ok 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.

 

49. 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.  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, and believe he’ll just be a stay at home guy who if he’s in the right organization and gets the right fit could be a number four, but that’s a lot of things needing to go right.

 

50. Jan Jenik  Benatky N.J.  CZE 2

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 171  Shot: L

Comparison: Valtteri Filppula

From what I can gather, he played the wing this season (which is why some list him as a RW) yet is a natural centre.  I like this kid because his only real flaw is that he’s thin.  Maybe the biggest issue in his game is that he doesn’t generate enough power in his stride.  Well, he’s carrying around a 6’1 frame with only 161 lbs this season (at least that’s what he was listed at during the season).  At the combine he weighed in at 171 lbs.  Once he gets up around 190-200 lbs, I’m going to guess that problem is going (assuming he puts it on properly).  Nobody has anything bad to say about his game either.  Gets his nose dirty, smart player, does a great job of protecting the puck, good vision (SOMEONE made the statement that he isn’t a “dynamic” playmaker….I’m not even sure what that means!).  So I got him a lot higher than most do and really believe someone could be getting a big steal when they take him.  Another bonus is that he’s the youngest kid in the draft, born on September 15th, 2000.

 

51. Albin Eriksson  Skelleftea  SWE-J20

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 207  Shot: L

Comparison: Ulf Dahlen

I’m going a little old school on this comp, mainly because he’s a tough kid to find a comp on!  I think of a few guys from the 90’s when I think of Eriksson.  Eric Daze was another.  Anyway, that size makes him very intriguing, and while he has some skating issues, its things like edge work and foot speed which we’ve seen a lot of guys overcome.  As you’d expect, he’s difficult to handle down low and on the wall, he takes the puck to the net, and has a heavy shot.

 

52. 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.

 

Tier Eight (9)

53. Ryan Merkley  Guelph  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 168  Shot: R

Comparison: Ryan Murphy

All the talent in the world to be an elite defenceman in the game, yet it sounds like the kid just simply has a few screws loose.  Big time shame.  I would take him mid-late second round, as long as he indicated that he’s open to it I’d get him some mental help.  When he’s giving up on plays, is he just being far too harsh on himself?  Is he quitting on his team?  And if he’s quitting on his team, why?  Some of the stuff like being rough on teammates I honestly believe could just be a case of him being so talented that he craves being surrounded with similar talent.  That sounds egotistical if the case, but it might not be intentional on his part.  Think of some of the best minds and talents in different walks of life, they can be extremely difficult to work with because people aren’t on their level.  Not that Merkley is the kind of talent we’ve never seen before or anything along those lines, but he is ridiculously talented.  If he’s handled right, someone could have one of the all time best draft steals, because he truly is a top five talent.  But I hope that whoever drafts him have a plan on how they need to work with him and can get him on board for fixing the issues that are currently holding him back.

 

54. 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 second round range is whether or not he’s willing to play in traffic or else how will he hold up when playing in traffic.  McShane is the former more than the latter.  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.

 

55. Filip Hallander  Timra  SWE-Als

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 188  Shot: L

Comparison: Phillip Danault

Hallander is a very typical two way centre with size.  No flash in his game at all, but extremely intelligent player.  Far more of a sure thing to play in the league, but the ceiling maybe maxes out as a third line guy.  The high end speed isn’t as good as you’d like, but his foot speed is terrific, and for me that’s a much more important quality in a player.

 

56. Filip Johansson  Leksands  SWE-J20

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 176  Shot: R

Comparison: Jonas Brodin

Nothing flashy in anyway, you can see some offensive tools, but what he is and likely to stay being is a defensively sound defenceman who’ll probably be best used on a top pairing…but as a complimentary guy to the number one guy.  A Jonhansson type would look incredible beside a Doughty, Keith, Subban, Hedman, Rielly, etc.

 

57. Kevin Bahl  Ottawa  OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’6  Wt: 216  Shot: L

Comparison: Joel Edmundson

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.

 

58. Benoit-Olivier Groulx  Halifax  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 193  Shot: L

Comparison: Yannic Perreault

The wheels are just too concerning.  If he can fix the skating, he’ll play in the NHL, because he’s so smart out there and is willing to do anything that is asked of him.  But he’s too slow right now.

 

59. Gabriel Fortier  Baie Comeau  QMJHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 170  Shot: L

Comparison: Bryan Rust

One of the top skaters and best motors in the draft, this kid always gives a max effort.  The offensive upside is questionable, but has the ability to be a complimentary top nine winger.  Apparently was an awesome interview at the combine.

 

60. Sean Durzi  Owen Sound  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 188  Shot: R

Comparison: Alec Martinez

Thing that I honestly see as a positive for a team drafting Durzi, much like with Mascherin, is that he can step right into the AHL and be an asset to your organization.  I could see that having some value with teams in the second round tomorrow, specifically those who are thin at the AHL level.  The IQ with Durzi is definitely there to play in the NHL.  And I love the fact that he’s a righty who has a lot of damn good offensive tools.  So end of the second round is where I’d look at him based off all that.  His skating still needs to improve though.  For a guy only 6’0, you’d like to see better wheels.

 

61. 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.

 

Tier Nine (14)

62. Jacob Ingham  Mississauga  OHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 191  Glove: L

Comparison: Mike Smith

He had a bad year.  Really bad, really inconsistent.  And this is higher than pretty much anyone has him.  But here is what I know: he has the size, the talent, and the work ethic to be a starting goaltender in the NHL.  For goaltenders, its all mental, and that’s what it was for Ingham this season.  He gets that part figured out, he’ll thrive.  He’s a kid who I meant to mention and forgot to when writing my piece on the Oilers draft on Tuesday and how I could see the Oilers taking him.  Reminds me a lot of both Dylan Wells and Stuart Skinner.

 

63. Philipp Kurashev  Quebec  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 190  Shot: L

Comparison: Joe Juneau

A ton of skill, a pure playmaker, some really worry about the motor but I wonder if Quebec just wasn’t a bad spot for him to play.

 

64. Axel Andersson  Djurgarden  SWE-J20

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 178  Shot: R

Comparison: Dennis Wideman

A lot of tools at his disposal to be developed into a very solid offensive defenceman.

 

65. Martin Fehervary  Oskarshamn  SWE-Als

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 194  Shot: L

Comparison: Dan Hamhuis

Good skater, high IQ, and very physical.  Was apparently an excellent interview at the draft combine.

 

66. Nico Gross  Oshawa  OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Calvin de Haan

Complete defencemen with a high IQ and good skating ability, offensive ceiling isn’t high though.

 

67. David Gustafsson  HV71  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Jay Beagle

No flash here, just a very dependable centre.  The ceiling isn’t all that high, but Gustafsson looks like he can play in the league as a 3rd or 4th line centre.

 

68. Bulat Shafigullin  Reaktor  RUS-Jr.

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Comparison: Benoit Pouliot

A sneaky draft favourite of many.  Very raw talent and will take a while but he could be a very nice reward for a team someday if they’re patient.

 

69. Olivier Rodrigue  Drummondville  QMJHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 156  Glove: L

Comparison: Ryan Miller

Lacking the size, but doesn’t lack the talent.  He’s right on the edge of being too small for today’s NHL.

 

70. Chase Wouters  Saskatoon  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 176  Shot: R

Comparison: Casey Cizikas

I’m not writing much on the kids past 62, but he gets an exception.  This might be a bias to have Chase here, but I’ve watched this kid most of his life and since about his second year pee-wee I said “he’s going to play in the show”.  I always felt as though he modeled his game after Jonathan Toews when I’d watch him play.  51 points as a playmaker on a weak Blades team is nothing to scoff at, yet what the scouts like about him is his 200 foot game, lack of flaws, and his motor.  He could be a flat out steal for someone because he just works his balls off, has an extremely high IQ (runner-up to his buddy Ty Smith for WHL scholastic player of the year), and does anything asked of him by his coaches.  Probably tops out as a third line centre, but I have a ton of faith in this kids ability to get to the show knowing what I know.

 

71. Milos Roman  Vancouver  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 188  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan Spooner

Looked like a fringe first round pick at the start of the season before injuries derailed him.  A lot of speed and skill.

 

72. Martin Pospisil  Sioux City  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 173  Shot: L

Comparison: Nazem Kadri

Skilled, has filling out to do, and plays really dirty.  You can’t teach edge, but you can tame it.  Not saying he’ll be Kadri, but maybe a poor man’s version.

 

73. Jakub Skarek  Jihlava  CZE Extra

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 192  Glove: L

Comparison: Robin Lehner

Most have him as the best goaltender in the draft.  Has everything needed to be a starter.

 

74. Oskar Back  Farjestads  SWE-J20

Pos: C  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 204  Shot: L

Comparison: Carl Soderberg

Just a very smart 200 foot centre who plays a very heavy game.

 

75. Luke Henman  Blainville-Boisbriand  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 150  Shot: L

Comparison: David Krejci

Has a lot of skill and as you can see he’s yet another kid who has a lot of filling out to do that’ll help him in a ton of area’s of his game.  The comparison to Krejci is about style, but also how Krejci was so rail thin when he was drafted.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2018 NHL Draft: Quinn Hughes vs Ty Smith

When it comes to defencemen in the 2018 draft, we can throw out Rasmus Dahlin.  We know he’s already going to Buffalo.  So when we’re ranking the defencemen, you might as well just look at everyone beyond him.  Today I got what will likely be a polarizing opinion.  Will I change minds?  I doubt it.  But it’s just my POV on two players who are in reverse order for pretty much every other ranking but my own.  I don’t do this for attention or anything along those lines, it’s my honest opinion.  If I’m wrong, I’m wrong.  There’ll be a ton of shit that we’re all wrong about once the dust settles on this draft in 10 years or so.  And this isn’t to suggest I hate one guy and love the other.  In fact with today’s players, I really like both guys!  But one has to be ahead of the other.

 

Quinn Hughes

Team: Michigan  League: NCAA

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 168  Shot: L

2018 Stats – GP: 37  G: 5  A: 24  P: 29

Birth: 10/14/99

Comparison: Phil Housley

Soups on Hockey Rank: 13 (3rd tier)

vs

Ty Smith

Team: Spokane  League: WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 176  Shot: L

2018 Stats – GP: 69  G: 14  A: 59  P: 73

Birth: 3/24/00

Comparison: Brian Rafalski

Soups on Hockey Rank: 12 (3rd tier)

 

Its funny that I’m about to write what I’m going to write.  In 2010, my nephews played with Ty.  Can’t recall if that was the first season they did or not, but if it wasn’t, then it was when Ty really started to stand out.  He drove me NUTS watching him, because he was so talented…but he pretty literally NEVER passed the puck!!  I remember thinking “this kid is so good but he’s not going ANYWHERE until he starts passing the puck”.  Mother f***er, did he ever learn to pass the puck…

 

But I’ll get back to Smith in a bit.

 

Quinn Hughes.  Where I believe everyone is making the mistake on Hughes is how they’re quick to point out that no matter where he is (Michigan, the WJC, the World Championships), he hasn’t changed his game, and he’s looked comfortable.  To me, they’re looking at it wrong.  They’re right in believing people need to accept with Hughes that he’s not going to be an all situations guy, even if his defensive play is fine.  However, what they need to be asking is if his offensive play is so elite that it makes his defensive play irrelevant?

 

Something I read recently, and I’m paraphrasing here, but it was along the lines of “he’s awful in his own zone, but he always has the puck on his stick”.  Ok, but that’s not going to be the case in the NHL.  To me, that means a coach is going to really have to shelter him.  Hughes is going to have to be one of the most elite offensive players in the game, not just among defencemen, with how he plays.  Is he THAT guy?  That’s a very difficult ask.  He’s great, he’s electric, I’m not sure he’s THAT.

 

Something else I’m seeing people quickly point to with Hughes is how he held his own at the World Championships.  And by no means am I saying its nothing, it is something.  But the last draft eligible defenceman I recall playing for Canada or the U.S. was Ryan Murray in 2012.  Like Hughes, Murray was a late birthday in his draft year, and like Hughes, Murray held his own and looked fine.  In the case of both, their games are much better suited for the big ice.  So its not as though I’m intending to piss on it, but I am warning people to perhaps pump the brakes on an ok showing at the Worlds.

 

On top of that, I don’t see it as overly difficult to find a poor man’s version of what Hughes is.  This isn’t really speaking to which player is better as much as it is a kids “draft stock”, but I do believe it should be noted.  Every team in the top 10 (with the exception of Arizona because they don’t have an early 2nd rounder) might be able to land Calen Addison, Johnny Tychonik, or Ryan Merkley in the late 1st/early 2nd round, and would anyone be surprised if any of those three are near what Hughes will become?  Obviously we all believe Hughes is much more of a sure thing, but all three of those kids have very similar ceilings to Hughes.  Now ask yourself this: who is the poor man’s Smith in this draft that you’ll be able to find late 1st/early 2nd round?  Someone might become that, but none currently show that kind of ability.

 

Smith doesn’t play with the flash that Hughes does, but he plays a much more cerebral game than Hughes does.  And he is already very solid in his own zone.  You’re talking about a kid who is the WHL scholastic player of the year this season.  As someone who knows Smith very well told me “he’s a genius”.  So you got a PPG D-man who is a great skater, solid in his own zone, and has a very high IQ.  Something else for me that I can speak to with Smith is that I know he is an extremely humble, hard working, and coachable kid.  I’m not huge on intangibles, but he does have all the intangibles you crave in a player to go with that talent (he’s often wore the “C” on his teams).  To me, that means he’s will always be looking to improve his game, and he’s only going to grow at both ends of the rink.

 

I believe Hughes has some of these qualities too, but in reading into his interviews and the reports on his personality, he does seem strong willed.  If that’s the case (and again, I don’t know that it is), it’ll help him play and stick in the league and be a damn good player.  But I’m not sure I can trust that guy to evolve.  Think of a shoot first point guard in the NBA.  A lot of those guys are alpha’s, and extremely strong willed (Allen Iverson, Steve Francis, Stephon Marbury, Russell Westbrook), but they either didn’t or haven’t (in the case of Westbrook) evolved their game to a style that’s needed to be successful.  Great careers, and the strong will/belief in themselves is what made those great careers, but they couldn’t adapt and I wonder if Hughes has a bit of this in him?  Again, don’t know that, can’t stress that enough, but I wonder.

 

As you would have read in the tale of the tape on both guys, I use Phil Housley as my comparison for Hughes, but I personally see him production wise as more of a Tyson Barrie.  Where with Smith, I compare him to Brian Rafalski and do see the same kind of production as Rafalski.  So if you believe Hughes will be around the same level of player as Barrie, and Smith will be around the same level of player as Rafalski, its a simple question of which player would you rather have?  Rafalski played tougher minutes, was much better in his own zone, and still put up damn good numbers year to year (especially when you consider that from 2000-2004 he was playing in the dead puck era for the kings of dead puck hockey the New Jersey Devils).  Barrie put up 0.84 PPG, good for 2nd in the league this past season.  That’s awesome!  But I’ll take the slightly less offensive production for a guy who you can throw on the ice in any situation.

 

Again, I’m begging you to not get this twisted.  I’m a big fan of Quinn Hughes despite having him lower than most do on my list.  Love his game.  As an Oilers fan, if he’s there at 10, I’d be very happy to get him.  And we’re really splitting hairs for the most part here.  Skating, could argue it either way.  Passing, could argue it either way.  Hughes becomes the offensive threat some believe he can be, then perhaps I’m singing a different tune.  And yes, I fully admit I have a bias towards Smith having watched the kid since he was in Atoms.  But I’m not sure if its as much of a bias as its knowing what the kid is all about.  In the first few seasons of their career’s I can easily see Hughes being the more effective player.  The problem with that is you shouldn’t be drafting a kid to be better for the next two or three years, you should be drafting a kid whom you believe will be the better player throughout their career.  I also wonder with some if they don’t simply fall in love with the more exciting player rather than who can be the better player?  Hughes can bring people out of their seat, Smith won’t.  As a fan, I know what I’m more drawn to.  But if I’m evaluating a player, it shouldn’t mean much.

 

I was so pumped to do these pieces this season, but they’ve frankly sucked to do.  Why?  Because to make the case for one guy you have to essentially shit on the other.  Both are awesome!  If I had to go with one though, I prefer Smith.  I just believe the kid has the makings of a legitimate number one defenceman, and that’s so difficult to find.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2018 NHL Draft: Edmonton Oilers

Yesterday, the draft was only four days away.  So you know what that means?!  Today, the draft is only THREE days away!!!  I don’t mean to brag, but I can count with the best of them as I just proved.  So wanting to do so much draft stuff in the week leading up I decided I’d dedicate a blog to the Oilers draft and look at just what they could or might do with their six picks on Friday night/Saturday morning (MST).

 

Originally, I was going to do this like a mock draft.  But that’s just too damn tough.  You end up rattling off more and more names the deeper you go and the fact is that a guy you may think will go in the 3rd round ends up going in the 7th, if he even gets drafted at all.  The draft does nothing but opens up more and more and more the deeper we go.  So doing a mock draft is kind of pointless.  So I’m not necessarily going to do that (though I will talk about who I believe could be in range with certain picks), but I’ll look at who I like for the Oilers, and who the Oilers track record suggests they could look for.

 

10th Pick

With my last mock draft, I had Brady Tkachuk falling to them.  The big reason for this is the need for D with teams in the 4-7 range of the top 10.  Kotkaniemi is going 3rd, so if D-men are going 4-7 its going to leave Zadina, Wahlstrom and Tkachuk there for 8, 9, and 10.  I believe most Oilers fans would view this as a massive win for the organization.  Zadina and Tkachuk are both going to step right into the lineup of the team which drafts them next fall.  Wahlstrom won’t, but he is that deadly right handed sniper Oilers fans have craved to be put with McDavid since he arrived.  So anyone of those three would just be so incredible to land.

 

Having said all that, it is crystal clear that the organization is in love with Ty Smith.  Bob Stauffer won’t shut up about him.  Stauffer and Jack Michaels both basically said on the Oilers TV mock draft that it’ll either be Smith or Barrett Hayton with Vitali Kravtsov also being in the mix.  Would that be at the expense of one of the wingers mentioned above?!  I sure hope not.  And hey, I’m basically anti winger!  But those three wingers are all elite level guys.  I’m sky high on Smith too.  I’ve got him in my third tier with Tkachuk and Wahlstrom (Zadina is in the second tier), and I truly believe that if he were 6’2 he’d be the clear cut number two ranked D-man in this draft.  But he’s not.  He’s not even quite 5’11 (5’10.8 to be exact).  So that’s a concern, because for all that talk of how much less of an emphasis there is now on size, if you go look at all the legitimate number one guys in this league, they’re all bigger than Smith.  I personally think Smith can become a number one guy.  A guy you want to use 25-28 minutes a night and not only can play but excels in all situations.  But I also wouldn’t say he’s for certain going to be that guy either.

 

Something that peaked my interest yesterday when speaking about Smith on Oilers Now, Bob Green said that he prefers Smith to play the right side, believes he’s more comfortable on his off-side.  That could be a big reason the Oilers seem to have him higher than Adam Boqvist.  And in fairness, that is something we do too often is get caught up in the hand a guy shoots and not the side he’s more comfortable on.  Hell, case in point look at T.J. Brodie.  Glen Gulutzan continually tried to use Brodie on the left side, and the success Brodie had playing for Bob Hartley was on the right side.  Jonas Brodin, Dion Phaneuf, even this years top pick Rasmus Dahlin are all guys who seem to prefer playing their opposite hand.  Even growing up playing D, I always wanted to play my right side (righty shot), but would come across guys who had legitimate reasons as to why they were more comfortable playing their opposite side.  So if they’re viewing Smith as a right side D-man, combine that with his extremely high IQ, passing ability, elite skating, work ethic, coachability, etc. then it does make a lot more sense as to why they love him so much.

 

So with the 10th pick, none of us know who for sure is going to go.  I’d say the safest bet is that it’ll be Ty Smith.  I personally don’t like to go the wishful thinking route which is what projecting Tkachuk or Wahlstrom to the Oilers feels like.  However, I really don’t think its far fetched that one of those two fall to them.  And even though its further fetched, Zadina wouldn’t completely shock me either.  The draft really opens up from four on (at least with it now looking as though the Habs are taking Kotkaniemi).  As for Barrett Hayton…I love my centres, and I’ve argued hard for a couple years now that they need to start loading up with centres in the draft.  I compare him to Ryan O’Reilly and believe he’ll produce along the lines of what Jordan Staal does.  If he’s a Ryan O’Reilly or Bo Horvat, yeah, that’s tough to pass up.  But you better be DAMN sure that’s what he’s going to be if you’re taking him.  He has skating issues, which this team doesn’t need more of.

 

It doesn’t get talked about, but while I wouldn’t be very interested in trading out of the pick, I definitely would be interested in trading back.  What if the Kings were to offer 20 and their 2019 (a ridiculous draft class) for the 10th pick?  Obviously the pick would be protected, but perhaps you could have lighter restrictions than simply “lottery protected”.  Maybe you could say its only top five or three protected?  And that’s just an example, no clue if the Kings would want to trade up.  Point being here though, this scouting staff has done a good job thus far, so I feel as though we can trust them to move back in certain situations and get great value with the picks they have.

 

40th Pick

A guy who could be both on the radar and fall to that pick is Jack McBain.  I got him 28th, but McKenzie has him 35th so I do think its possible.  Big, physical, intelligent, high end distributor, known for his work ethic, he fits the type of player Chiarelli likes, and he fits the need of a centre.  He’s fallen a lot since the start of the season, but I personally just keep coming back to the physical ability combined with a high IQ and great work ethic…not sure that formula can fail.

 

Would they dare take a swing on Ryan Merkley with this pick should they get one of those wingers at 10?  I think it would open the door for the thought, but I can’t see them being the team to do that.  As much as I’m down on Merkley myself, at the 40th pick, especially if they go with any kind of forward at 10, I believe its worth doing.  The thing with Merkley though is you have to get him help.  You have to have the right people working with him, and he has to be open to getting the help.  It didn’t sound like he was very aware of his faults from the draft combine interviews, which turns a few red flags into a few more red flags.  Teams want to hear you be aware of your flaws, not in denial of them.

 

Two other guys he has in that range though are Jacob Olofsson and Calen Addison.  Olofsson’s drop this season has essentially been due to him not being flashy enough, but he’s really a lot like Barrett Hayton in that he isn’t a terrific skater but he does everything so well.  Addison has a game a lot like Merkley, just without the baggage.  Can move it and skate it out of his own zone, undersized, RH shot, if he can clean up the play in his own zone he’ll be a top four guy in the league.

 

If you want a kid who is safe in his own zone but has questionable offensive upside, then perhaps you take RH shooting Okotoks Oilers defenceman Jacob Bernard-Docker.  Smooth skater, great puck mover, high IQ, not much flash at all but has the ability to be a top four guy in the NHL.

 

Then you have the kid who maybe would have the biggest upside of the kids who POSSIBLY could be available at 40 and that’s Kirill Marchenko.  I don’t think Marchenko will be on the board, but McKenzie has him 44th.  Power forward who plays an excellent 200 foot game, and maybe his biggest issue is his skating but it simply just looks to be a case of lack of strength.  Once he gets the strength to match his frame, the kid could be a star.

 

McKenzie’s list has Nils Lundkvist still down at 36.  That’s the dream for him to fall to 40, but it ain’t happening.  I have to believe he’s going in the first round with how some rave about him.

 

A lot of who I’d take at 40 depends on who I get at 10.  If they take Smith at 10, then I definitely want a centre at 40.  If they get one of the wingers at 10, then my focus might change to one of the RH shooting D-men, though in either of these scenario’s if a good centre is there to be taken I believe they have to pull the trigger as its just become far too big of a need for the organization.  Its not as though you don’t have more picks to add to that, but this is a good spot to do so as I believe a lot of quality centres will be on the board here.  Having said that, if a kid like Marchenko is still around….TOUGH to pass up.

 

71st Pick

First guy who comes to mind for me is Jan Jenik.  He’s a natural centre even though he played the wing this season, and this kid is much like Marchenko in that he just needs to pack on the weight and gain strength and it will likely solve a lot of his issues.  Good skater, plays 200 feet, willing to go to all the dirty area’s on the ice.  He’s also the youngest kid in the draft, so he’ll need some time.  But in three or four years, the team which gets him could have a hell of a player on their hands.

 

I don’t love Allan McShane, but if he’s on the board at 71 he’s a centre well worth looking at.  We’re talking about a kid who skates well and has terrific vision.  The book is that he prefers to play on the perimeter, but if the kid has the right makeup that is something that he can overcome.  Its as much a playmakers league these days as it is a skating league.

 

McKenzie doesn’t even have him ranked, which I’m guessing speaks volumes on where NHL teams are going to rank a kid re-entering the draft (no collusion here folks….), but this is the pick I’d start looking at Adam Mascherin.  He’s a made prospect.  Steps right into Bakersfield next season and maybe even sees some games in the show should they take him.  He reminds me so much of Mike Cammalleri, whom the Oilers got too late, but if they had got the 2009 Mike Cammalleri this season to pair with McDavid it would have been lethal.

 

I’m a big Cole Fonstad fan.  I fully admit, I went a little too nuts with his ranking on my last list (I want to say I had him around 31 or so…just not right), but you can still have a kid down around the 40-50 range and still love him.  The P.A. Raiders winger is another high end playmaker, who right now is yet another kid who has strength issues.  PPG player on an average Raiders team this season, but the league has become tailor made for players like Fonstad, and the Oilers can’t take enough skilled wingers in these later rounds to possibly pair with McDavid or Draisaitl down the line.

 

133rd, 164th, and 195th picks

Its just easier to lump these in together.  I’ll start with one of my favourites.

 

Will he still be on the board with this pick?  He is one of those kids who could go anywhere from the 3rd round on in my opinion.  But this is where I’d be taking my guy Chase Wouters.  For how long has Wouters been “my guy” for the 2018 draft?  Well I’ve been watching him play since Novice or so, and I believe I was first saying “he’s playing in the league” in his second year pee-wee.  He has always been willing to do anything asked of him on the ice.  He’s a 200 foot centre, he’s a great playmaker (51 points in 72 games on a weak Saskatoon Blades team this season, 36 of them five on five), size is good enough (big frame too, probably can put on another 25 lbs or so), skates good, really high IQ, the kid is a coaches dream.  I really believe that Wouters can be one of those Casey Cizikas, Matt Cullen, Derek Ryan types who are elite fourth line centres, with his ceiling being a Tyler Bozak type.  That might not excite fans too much, but while the ceiling isn’t enormous, I view him as a very safe pick since I believe he’s going to play in the league.

 

Another kid I’m really intrigued by in this range is Martin Pospisil.  37 points in 49 games this season with 253 PIM’s.  I LOVE this kid as a later rounds guy because the knock on him is that he takes far too many penalties and acts like a dip shit out on the ice.  PERFECT!  As long as he checks out in the interview process and teammates don’t have an issue with him, you can reign in the other shit and he’ll eventually figure out to tone it down.  He’s got the talent to play otherwise.  Quick, good hands, good vision, and he’s got a good frame that he can still add 25 lbs or more to.  He could be a HELL of a pick.  An agitator who can play which is so damn tough to find.

 

I know Matt Moss (A.K.A. EDM Prospect Watch on Twitter) is really high on centre Luka Burzan as a latter rounds pick and I agree.  Burzan has a pretty big ceiling if you’re looking to take a big swing with some of these later picks, but has a very questionable motor.  If the pilot light ever gets lit, the kid could really be a player.  While I’m on the topic of kids he likes, Moss has also mentioned LW Eric Florchuk who I’ve heard a few people also mention as a kid they like in the later rounds.  A lot of Florchuk’s shortcomings should be overcome with added weight and strength much like Marchenko and Janik whom I previously mentioned.  The skating and the shot specifically.

 

Dennis Busby is a kid I’m really high in my rankings, but not to suggest he’s going to go high in the draft.  He was being discussed as a first round pick prior to the season, and then he ended up only playing two games all season due to injury (collar bone).  But he’s another smaller (5’11) RH shooting D-man who can really transport the puck and produce on the blueline.  Obviously he’ll need some time, but if he happened to still be around in the later rounds, I’d absolutely be grabbing him.  The only knock is that he missed a season?  And the injury wasn’t a back or knee AKA something that could linger?  He’d be a great get, and this scouting staff has loved their OHL kids in the middle rounds in the last two drafts, taking four in the last two drafts.

 

Speaking of RH shooting D, something this organization has loved to do in the Chiarelli era is take a RH shooting D-man with good size, good skating ability and a high IQ late in the draft.  John Marino, Vincent Desharnais, and last year Philip Kemp.  So this is something to keep an eye on.  With that in mind, here are a few guys who fit that bill.

 

Michael Kesselring even fits the bill for someone going the college route as those previous three picks did.  The one thing with Kesselring is I’m not sure the IQ is considered great, but as I often bring up….is it his actual smarts, or is it just that he’s never been forced to think the game?  But he’s a good skater, great size, RH shot, and put up some great offensive numbers for a D-man this season (albeit playing high school hockey).  Another kid really fitting this bill well is Alex Green.  Much like Desharnais in that he’s in his third year of eligibility, and just finished his freshman season at Cornell where the Oilers scouts may have seen him while watching one of Matt Cairns whopping ten games.  Green is a terrific skater and can really move the puck, pretty much exactly what the Oilers have looked for late in the draft.

 

Another thing Peter Chiarelli has been hell bent on doing since taking over as Oilers GM is ensuring that they’re deep in goal.  So I think its likely they take another tendy this year, but I’d have a few ground rules with this one.  A) needs to be a 2000 born, get some separation from Wells and Skinner.  B) it would be ideal for him to be going the NCAA route or in Europe so they’ll have an extra year to make a decision on him.  Which leads me to someone who really fits that bill in Erik Portillo.  He’s huge, one of the youngest tendy’s in the draft (September 3rd, 2000), he fits the Oilers mold of goaltender, and he fits the criteria that I believe is a must if they take a goaltender in this draft.

 

Another kid who fits that bill is Swiss born Akira Schmid.  Another big tendy (though not as big as Portillo) who moves well in net and much like a lot of the kids I love the later rounds, is currently really lack size (weight) and strength.

 

I know Jack Michaels brought up during the Oilers TV mock draft that he believes they’ll have eyes for Olivier Rodrigue.  At 40, that’s absolutely disgusting and will be yet another example of how inept this organization is taking the very last need for the organization with such a high pick simply because his dad is the goaltending coach.  Humiliating…at that pick.  However, if he falls due to his size (very possible) and can be had with one of the last three selections I wouldn’t have a big issue with it.

 

To me, the ideal draft is to walk out with two centres minimum, two D-men (both on the right side), and two wingers.  You can afford to pass on a goaltender in this draft with two entering pro hockey this fall.  If they must take one though, do it at the expense of the second winger.  Having said this…you can’t plan a draft like that.  You have to stick to your board, especially later in the draft.  And I’ll say it again, this team doesn’t have one need.  They need pretty much everything.

 

I trust this scouting staff to make the right picks come Friday night.  However, the front office is a different story.  The front office has lost the trust of the fan base, so its vital that they stay out of the way of the scouting staff and simply let them do the job that they have been crushing thus far.

 

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