The CHL Top Prospects game was recently held in Guelph Ontario and it featured the top prospects across the CHL for the 2018 NHL Draft. The game gave us a good opportunity to watch two prospects in particular that are battling for the second overall rank between Andrei Svechnikov and Filip Zadina. Zadina came out of the World Junior with the edge from that head-to-head competition and again was the better in this match. With Rasmus Dahlin the clear top prospect, the battle for second overall is quite tight with Brady Tkachuk also firmly entrenched in the competition.
The next tier of four players is interesting as for me it is all defensemen. Adam Boqvist leads the pack and his strongest competition to me is two hot and rising prospects in Evan Bouchard and Noah Dobson who both had outstanding Top Prospects game performances. They currently have a slight edge over Quinn Hughes as I see them all having great skill sets but Hughes is the smaller of the bottom three in this group.
The next tier is a small one for me consisting of two forwards that are interchangeable rounding out the top ten in USNTDP teammates Oliver Wahlstrom and Joel Farabee.
Top risers and faller since my last rankings from October:
Noah Dobson who was previously unranked in my October ranking debuts this month at seventh overall. Evan Bouchard jumps up 17 spots to crack the top ten at sixth overall. He is the leading scorer among all draft eligible prospects during the TPG and had a four point game at the game itself. Breaking my first round ranking this month are newcomers Dominik Bokk, Martin Kaut, and Calen Addison at 21, 22, and 23 overall. Not far behind them are fellow newcomers Jacob Olofsson at 27th and just cracking the first round is defenseman Jonny Tychonick , and Rasmus Sandin.
Two players dropping a little out of the top ten are Ty Smith and Joe Veleno who fall to 11th and 14th overall. Bigger fallers include Jared McIsaac falling 18 places to 28th overall and Akil Thomas falling ten spots to 30th overall just holding onto a first round place. Players not so lucky that drop out of the first round include Allan McShane, Ty Dellandrea, Dmitry Zavgorodny but would remain in the second round. The biggest declining players from the start of the year have to be Nando Eggenberger who has had a very disappointing draft year. David Levin of the Sudbury Wolves failed to make the TPG as his stock is falling hard as well. My 31st ranked player in October Kirill Nizhnikov is another faller, Nizhnikov didn’t find the chemistry I was hoping for in Barrie with Svechnikov with just three goals in 25 games and was traded to the struggling Sudbury Wolves. Jack McBain who drops from 14th overall out of the first round is another.
1. Rasmus Dahlin, D – Frolunda (SHL)
This is officially the Rasmus Dahlin Draft now as he has established clear separation from the rest of the pack. He has earned some lofty recognition being declared just as potentially impactful a player as Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews have been. My take on Dahlin will likely solicit some disdain but here goes. Now I am not comparing him to Bobby Orr, but if you watch how Dahlin carries the puck up ice then watch Orr, there are some similarities. Their anticipation and ability to elude forechecking pressure is remarkable. Again, not saying Dahlin will be as good as Bobby Orr….but I wouldn’t say he isn’t capable of it.
2. Andrei Svechnikov, RW – Barrie (OHL)
A hand injury has cost Svechnikov some games, and he was used sparingly by Russia at the World Junior which perhaps has help lent to a diminished opinion of his game. The ascension of Dahlin and rise of Zadina and Tkachuk made it tempting to move Svechnikov down the list a few pegs, but the fact remains he is an elite offensive threat, with size, skating, and smarts that are already NHL level.
3. Filip Zadina, RW – Halifax (QMJHL)
Zadina has been a prominent player for this draft for some time, but he really used the big stage of the World Junior for his coming out to the hockey world. He followed that up in another big game event with two goals in the Top Prospects game. Zadina could easily be the second player picked in the draft and is trending in the right direction to be my second ranked prospect in my final rankings, but for today, he moves up from fifth to third.
4. Brady Tkachuk, C - Boston U. (NCAA)
Tkachuk remains at fourth overall but his dominant performance with USA at the World Junior made for a compelling argument he could be the second overall player in this draft. Tkachuk can impact the game in more ways than just offense as he is a nasty, physical player that is reliable defensively as well. A slow start to the season is the reason why I have him at fourth.
5. Adam Boqvist, D – Byrnas (SHL)
In a draft full of undersized offensive defenseman, Boqvist is the best of the bunch. He does fall from third overall in October to fifth by virtue of not making the World Junior team, and struggling to make an impact playing pro hockey at the SHL in Sweden. However, his slight dip is by no means a strong concern as he is a 17-year-old player that has played on six different teams in his draft year in three different leagues and in three different tournaments. Boqvist may be a longer wait than some other prospects in the top five but his upside is significant.
6. Evan Bouchard, D – London (OHL)
Bouchard is the leading scorer among all draft eligible prospects, but the London Knights Captain may see a second half point reduction after the Knights purged most of their star prospects at the OHL trade deadline. Nevertheless, he is a prolific puck distributing defenseman with size and mobility that the Knights will look to build around for next year.
7. Noah Dobson, D – Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
This draft is heavy with defense and many are of the undersized variety. While the less than six foot defenseman has never been more accepted in the NHL, when all things are equal teams will always take the bigger player. At 6-3 Dobson has a size advantage over many of his peers in the draft, and he is a competent offensive player producing a point per game offense, he is a good skater and is impactful defensively as well.
8. Quinton Hughes, D – U. of Michigan (NCAA)
One of the best offensive and puck moving defensemen in the draft, Hughes is an elite skater with an appetite for offense. Hughes relies on skating to carry the puck, or join the rush as a fourth forward. Hughes can control a game with his skating and transition ability.
9. Oliver Wahlstrom, RW – (USNTDP)
A highly skilled offensive player with silky soft hands. He has good size and impressive strength to be a threat to score down low and in tight on the goal. He also has a lethal shot that makes his a threat on the rush and from above the circles as well.
10. Joel Farabee, LW - (USNTDP)
Farabee is an outstanding skater and highly skilled with soft hands. He has a high compete level and plays a determined game. A Boston U. commit will have the opportunity to add some muscle and mass next year in the NCAA and build on his slight 5-11, 160 pound frame.
11. Ty Smith, D – Spokane (WHL)
Smith had a terrible Top Prospects game as Captain of Team Orr, but the former first overall WHL pick, is an offensive defenseman with good mobility and can play big minutes in all situations. Don’t let his poor minus -4 Top Prospects game fool you if that is your only viewing of him this year, his regular season performance speaks for its self
12. Ryan Merkley, D – Guelph (OHL)
Merkley is a dynamic offensive defenseman with elite vision, playmaking ability and an elite skater. His defensive abilities and compete level have come under scrutiny as have some of his off-ice behaviours. The skill is undeniable but there are some major red flags.
13. Rasmus Kupari, C – Karpat (Liiga)
After a strong start to the draft year in the Ivan Hlinka, Kupari has hit a wall. He was held pointless at the World Junior with Finland and has struggled playing pro hockey in Liiga and has been loaned to the Mestis. Despite these potential setbacks, keep in mind he is a 17-year-old. The potential with this player is very high.
14. Joe Veleno, C – Saint John (QMJHL)
A real wild card that may be ranked anywhere from the top ten range to a late first round pick depending on who’s list you read. I saw an impact player at the Memorial Cup as a 17-year-old and a leader who has captained both Saint John and Canada. He is more of a playmaker than a sniper and can impact both ends of the ice with his hockey sense.
15. Ryan McLeod, C – Mississauga (OHL)
McLeod had a breakout performance in the playoffs last year and has continued to produce in his draft year, but at times plays a soft game or a perimeter game. The strengths in his game are his skating and shooting abilities, but needs to improve his compete level at times.
16. Bode Wilde, D – (USNTDP)
A big and fluid skating defenseman. He lacks the ceiling of many of the other defensemen in the draft offensively, but he plays a solid defensive and physical game that has a very high ceiling and probability of translating to the NHL. A safe and sure-fire first round pick.
17. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C – Assat (Liiga)
In a draft that is thin with centres at the top of the draft, Kotkaniemi is one of the better options. He really checks a lot of boxes with size, skill, smarts and skating all on the plus side. Kotkaniemi is playing well for Assat in the Liiga and has two more years remaining there on his contract.
18. Benoit-Olivier Groulx, C – Halifax (QMJHL)
Loved his performance at the Top Prospects game, while he may not have the offensive ceiling as some of the other players in the draft, he has the ability to impact the game in a number of other ways as a two-way player, a leader, and an energy player.
19. Isac Lundestrom, C/LW – Lulea (SHL)
The 18-year-old is already in his second season in the SHL and was a member of the Silver Medal winning Team Sweden at the World Junior scoring two goals. Lundestrom has good size and playing against men the past two years bodes well for his projection towards the NHL in the future.
20. Dominik Bokk, LW/RW – Vaxjo (SHL)
After dominating the SuperElite league, Bokk has graduated to the SHL where he continues to find his way as an 18-year-old playing pro hockey. Bokk has good size for his age, and has shown plenty of skill. Unfortunately Germany did not qualify for the top group at the World Junior and it was difficult to get views of his performance. Bokk was selected in the first round of the CHL Import Draft last summer by the Prince Albert Raiders so hopefully he comes to North America next year.
21. Martin Kaut, RW – HC Dynamo (Czech)
Kaut had a breakout World Junior with the Czech Republic riding shotgun on a line with Filip Zadina and Martin Necas. Kaut showed he was quite capable of keeping pace with his line mates and the quality of the World Junior. In addition to his offensive game, he plays a committed defensive game as well. Skating could be better.
22. Calen Addison, D – Lethbridge (WHL)
Addison is another undersized and offensive defenseman that can carry and skate with the puck. He is deadly on the powerplay and distributes the puck in the offensive zone quickly and decisively. Addison is willing to battle defensively but needs to improve his decision making defensively.
23. Serron Noel, RW – Oshawa (OHL)
Noel had a good Top Prospects game and may have improved his draft stock. He is a giant of a winger that uses his size well to his advantage, but is not an overly aggressive player. He is a competent skilled player that can handle the puck well, makes plays and has creative offensive vision.
24. Grigori Denisenko, LW – Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
Denisenko is a highly skilled playmaker that skates well and is very agile. May be several years away from the NHL and being drafted in the CHL Import Draft this summer and coming to North America would go a long way in diminishing any Russian factor concerns.
25. Jett Woo, D – Moose Jaw (WHL)
Woo can play an impactful physical game as he is a hard hitting defenseman at 6-0, 205 pounds and a right shot defenseman. He missed the Top Prospect Game due to injury
26. Barrett Hayton, C – Sault Ste, Marie (OHL)
Hayton is an offensive forward with a tremendous shot and a quick release. Hayton is piling up the points on a dominant Grey Hounds team in his draft year. Skating has room for improvement, in particular his first step acceleration.
27. Jacob Olofsson, C – Timra (Allvsvenskan)
A big center with skill had a strong showing at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament to start the year. Olofsson has a great mix of size, skating and skill and dangerous off the rush. An early born player he is just 17-yers-old but has some great upside.
28. Jared McIsaac, D – Halifax (QMJHL)
The second overall pick from the 2016 QMJHL Draft, McIsaac is a big and strong two-way defenseman. Somewhat of a throwback to the old school NHL Defenseman yet he still has the ability to transition to offense and move the puck to the forwards. Another low ceiling, high floor safe pick player.
29. Mattias Samuelsson, D – (USNTDP)
Son of former NHL defenseman Kjell, Mattias plays the game like his old man; he is a hard hitting and plays a hard game. He may have a better offensive game than his father as he posted nearly a point per game in the USHL. Samuelsson is committed to Western Michigan University for his post draft year.
30. Jonny Tychonick, D – Penticton (BCHL)
Tychonick is a highly offensive defenseman with a high compete level, and has been another steady riser in this draft. He is an outstanding skater and puck carrier that excels a transition and initiating the breakout. He is powerplay quarterback with a good shot that gets pucks on goal consistently. Tychonick was the biggest standout player at the CJHL Top Prospect game. Tychonick may continue to rise in the second half of the season, how high can he rise remains to be seen.
31. Rasmus Sandin, D – Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
A late comer to the OHL, but he has been an impact player to the Soo since his arrival and as a result has been a steady draft riser that played his way into the Top Prospects Game. Sandin moves the puck well and is smooth with the puck carrying it up ice. Sandin plays big minutes and consistently makes good decisions with the puck.
Just for fun, check out these highlight reels to compare Bobby Orr to Rasmus Dahlin
For more draft rankings visit our NHL Draft Ranking page that has our Fantasy Rankings, and previous rankings including Cam Robinsons and Peter Harling.
Another great site to visit is My NHL Draft Rankings which has the latest rankings from great sources such as Craig Button (TSN), Jeff Marek (SportsNet), Ryan Kennedy (Hockey News), Draft Analyst, Hockey Prospect, McKeens and DobberProspects.