The time has come! The skates have long been dried and hung up. The combine has finished, and the kids have sweated their way through dozens of interviews. We’re now just days away from the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
More so than any draft I’ve scouted (going back to 2013), this crop has that true blender feel to it. There will be a great deal of disparity among individual and team lists. That starts around pick three and becomes intensified in the 20-40 range. It’s made for a highly enjoyable (and wildly time-consuming) venture in ranking these players.
When putting together my personal rankings, I rely a great deal on the minds and opinions of some more experienced scouts. This has been aided by countless hours of video and live viewings that I log myself.
I place a great deal of emphasis on skating, processing ability, puck skills and an ability to thrive on a consistent basis. Can you make players around you better? Do you possess translatable skills? These are just a sample of the questions I’m constantly asking myself while honing in on specific players.
These rankings are not intended to mimic how the draft will end up this June. It is a glimpse into how I feel the players will progress as they mature and (hopefully) experience success as NHL players.
Regarding tiers, this crop has a clear number one in Rasmus Dahlin. Behind him, Andrei Svechnikov has separated himself enough to form his own single tier. Players in the 3-9 slots would make up the third tier and likely the end of the obvious high-end talent.
The fourth tier is comprised of players in the 10-20 positions who all display desirable skills and nice upsides. Tier five is a gauntlet. You could conceivably place picks 21-39 into a bucket and let a toddler pull them out at random. Tier six is your players from 40-55. Look for players 56-76 to be a nice full grouping in tier seven.
Consider players in the 77-130 range to be in the arena that will have a lot of variances. One list may have a guy 30-plus spots higher than the scout next to him depending on the days they’ve seen them play and the assets they truly value. Each has a skill or two that is admired but also feature a troubling deficiency or three.
Remember, these are approximations and not steadfast tiers written in stone. They are meant to give an indication to the levels and groupings that certain players fall into.
A note: I’m limited to a degree by not getting to see all these players play consistently all season. That said, I’ve had eyes and a focus on each player listed at some point this year. I’ve spent the last six weeks going back over old game film and speaking with several scouts whom I trust to try and pin down slots for these players.
This opportunity to go back and look at a player with fresh eyes and see where they were in November, March, and May allows me to get a more holistic interpretation of their ability. As such, there is usually some more movement amongst some players between my final two rankings. This year is no different.
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You can find my previous rankings here:
- Rasmus Dahlin / LHD / 6’3 185lbs / 04-13-00 (SHL)
We haven’t seen a draft-eligible defender with this level of upside since Drew Doughty. Dahlin’s ceiling is even higher. Effortless skating mixed with size, smarts, and dangles that would make Pavel Datsyuk nod in approval. He’s the entire package and has all the tools to become a game-changing pillar for an organization. Buffalo is rightly excited.
- Andrei Svechnikov / RW / 6’2 192lbs / 03-26-00 (OHL)
Physically ready for the NHL, Svechnikov blends world-class finishing ability with hard-nosed and defensively responsible play. A goal scorer who can impact the game in all situations. A terrific blend of speed, power, and precision. He’ll be a front-line threat for years to come.
- Quinn Hughes / LHD / 5’10 174lbs / 10-14-99 (NCAA)
A consummate playmaker who boasts the elite speed needed to thrive at his stature. The youngest player in the NCAA this season, his confidence continued to build all season long. He was tremendous for Michigan down the stretch and looked more than capable at the World Championships. The best skater in this class and a one-man breakout machine. He can run a power play with the best of them. Needs some more pop on his shot.
- Filip Zadina / RW / 6’ 196lbs / 11-27-99 (QMJHL)
Uses his size and strength to create space and then delivers electric moves and finishing ability. He’s absolutely lethal from the circles down. A tireless worker who loves the big stage. Strong and decisive with the puck. Need a first line winger? He’s your man.
- Oliver Wahlstrom / RW / 6’1 208lbs / 06-13-00 (USNTDP)
Owns the best release in the class. The goal-scoring forward doesn’t shy away from attacking dangerous scoring areas and boasts strong speed and quick feet. A volume-shooter who is deadly from the left circle on the power-play. Feasts on penalty killers. Terrific pure puck skills. Off to Boston College in the fall. This kid is going to score a boatload of goals in the NHL.
- Noah Dobson / RHD / 6’3 177lbs / 01-07-00 (QMJHL)
A right-shot defender who has all the tools to be an all-around top-four producer. Had a terrific year with Acadia-Bathurst of the QMJHL, leading them to a Memorial Cup victory. Brings high-end processing ability, soft hands and a willingness to take calculated risks. A smooth and powerful skater. Often logs 30-plus minutes a night with ease. Reminiscent of Alex Pietrangelo.
- Jesperi Kotkaniemi / C/LW / 6’2 181lbs / 07-06-00 (Liiga)
Great puck skills, vision and processing skills, but skating still a work in progress. Offers a clunky stride that doesn’t generate a ton of top-end power. That didn’t stop him from putting up more than respectableLiiga numbers though, albeit from the wing. A strong Five Nations and U18 tournaments while playing the middle of the ice should convince scouts that’s where he belongs long term. May not be flashy, but gets the job done. Appears to have the highest upside of the centres in this crop.
- Adam Boqvist / RHD / 5’11.5 165lbs / 08-15-00 (SuperElit)
Dynamic puck skills, terrific vision, high-end quickness, top speed, smarts, and a heavy shot. His late birthday means he is just a month away from being eligible for the 2019 class further illustrating how massive his potential is. Has a big shot and loves to unload it. Concluding his season against peers at the U18’s was exactly what he needed to demonstrate his elite skillset. Oozes potential but carries a touch of risk.
- Brady Tkachuk / LW / 6’2 192lbs / 09-16-99 (NCAA)
The elder statesman of the 2018 crop missed last year’s draft by a single day. Had an adequate season as one of the younger players in the NCAA, but his lights out World Junior showing moved the needle for many. His hands are soft, his shot is heavy and he plays an abrasive, pro-style game. He’ll be a fan favourite.
- Joel Farabee / LW / 6’ 162lbs / 02-25-00 (USNTDP)
Slight and slippery, he feasts on oppositions with his vision and his finishing ability. A great skater who works tirelessly in all three zones. Had a tremendous season with the USNTDP this year. He thrived while playing with Wahlstrom and 2019-eligible super-prospect, Jack Hughes, and didn’t miss a beat while anchoring his own line. Needs to add strength but does all the little things that make players successful. Can hurt the opposition during all situations. He’ll add strength and that will only further his impact. Off to BU in the fall.
- Dominik Bokk / LW-RW / 6’1 176lbs / 02-03-00 (SuperElit)
Agile, quick hands, elusive in the offensive zone and makes a habit of landing on the scoresheet. Big-time J20 season and received a cup of coffee in the SHL. He’s just getting started after transitioning from the German league where the quality of competition wasn’t high enough. If you like high-octane skill, you’ll love Bokk.
- Ty Smith / LHD / 5’11 176lbs / 03-24-00 (WHL)
The dynamic two-way defender continued to display his full arsenal of weapons with Spokane this season. The former first overall pick in the 2015 WHL bantam draft, Smith is a tremendous skater who demonstrates poise and patience with the puck. His outlets are crisp and his head is always up. He’s a player you fall in love with because he always makes the right play. Clicked at over a point-per-game this season. High ceiling and high floor – What’s not to like?
- Rasmus Kupari / C / 6’1.5 189lbs / 03-15-00 (Liiga)
Cracked the WJC roster for the Fins and did well in a secondary role. He owns high-end playmaking ability that compliments his quick and elusive style. fast and creative hands can embarrass defenders. His smaller role with a top-level Liiga team limited his overall production. Has added substantial strength this season and it hasn’t slowed him down.
- Jonatan Berggren / RW/C / 5’10 183lbs / 07-16-00 (SuperElit)
An absolute wrecking ball of a player who has been posting tremendous numbers in the Swedish J20 circuit. Logs miles of ice as he forechecks with impunity; distributes the puck effectively and knows how to finish as well. Terrific international performances at the Hlinka, Five Nations and U18’s offer scouts a glimpse of his skill on some big stages. He even looked capable in a 12-game stint in the SHL. Some of the best one-on-one skills in the class. A player his coaches love and his opponents hate.
- Evan Bouchard / RHD / 6’2 196lbs / 10-20-99 (OHL)
A strong puck-moving defender who took on all the tough minutes on a depleted Knights’ squad. Runs the power play with precision, uses his big shot with impunity and finds a way onto the scoresheet most nights. Lacks dynamic skills that jump out at you, so it’s sometimes hard to fall in love with him, but he’s a workhorse and that gets the job done. Is a volume shooter but has very nice vision and offensive instincts. Needs to quicken his feet and his pace as he transitions up.
- Vitali Kravtsov / RW / 6’3 184lbs / 12-23-99 (KHL)
A smooth skater with skill to burn managed to produce a few points in the KHL regular season as a 17-year-old – no easy feat. He followed that up with an explosion of goals as a go-to option during the playoffs and has seen his stock rightly rise. Came into the season lacking exposure due to not being selected for Russia’s international squads but that’s changed this season. Is a highly talented player with soft hands and pro-level release. Will be deadly down low on the PP.
- Grigori Denisenko / LW / 5’11 172lbs / 06-24-00 (MHL)
A creative player with the puck who can dart in and out of the lanes with expert edgework, quick acceleration, and creative lines. Slight stature but enjoys engaging physically. His talent hasn’t always resulted in points but it sure jumps off the page.
- Barrett Hayton / C / 6’1 180lbs / 06-09-00 (OHL)
Improved speed and strength has been the noteworthy traits in his draft season. A quality release, good vision, quick hands, and can play centre or wing. Is very well regarded in his own end. Has flashed game-breaking stuff deep in the OHL playoffs this spring. A safe player with a projectable future.
- Jake Wise / C / 5’10 195 / 01-02-00 (USNTDP)
Speed-driven, cerebral and crafty centre who has thrived in a 2C role with the USNTDP this season. Battled injury to begin the year, but produced top-level numbers once he returned. Was overshadowed by the likes of Hughes, Wahlstrom, and Farabee but was a solid addition to the top PP unit or as the lynchpin on PP2. Has a future as a top-six centre. Off to BU in the fall.
- Isac Lundeström / C / 6’0 183lbs / 11-06-99 (SHL)
Skilled puck-distributor has shown very well as a draft-eligible player in the SHL – his second year in Sweden’s top league. His skill is unspectacular, but the nuances to his game are terrific. He’s the type of player you like the more you watch him. In a centre-lite draft, his stock has risen. Saw his role expand in the WJC and thrived with more ice.
- Joseph Veleno / C / 6’1 194lbs / 01-13-00 (QMJHL)
A jack-of-all-trades player with a nice tool belt. Great edgework, acceleration, vision and puck-protection skills. Blazing fast in a straight line. The 18-year-old is already a consummate worker in the defensive end and is a very safe selection as he has a pro-level approach. One of the best power play distributors in the QMJHL.
- Martin Kaut / RW / 6’1 175lbs / 10-02-99 (Czech)
A right-shot winger who had his coming out party for the Czechs at the World Junior Championships with seven points in as many games. He’s a late ’99 birthdate so he’s older but produced very strong numbers in the Czech top league this season – comparable to Martin Necas and Filip Chytil a season ago. He’s quick, elusive and knows how to finish.
- K’andre Miller / LHD /6’3 198lbs / 01-21-00 (USNTDP)
Converted to the backend just a few seasons ago, the offensively-inclined defender demonstrates tremendous skating ability for his size. Prone to the odd poor decision, he can also frustrate. The potential is massive though and worth the swing.
- Nils Lundkvist / RHD / 5’11 173 lbs / 07-27-00 (SHL)
Smooth skating, right-shot defender who has looked comfortable and calm in the SHL as a 17-year-old. Can run a power play, jump of the ice to join the attack and offers reliable positioning in the defensive end. Had a strong Five Nations tournament and has looked capable again at the U18’s. Has been making a charge up the rankings for many.
- Jay O’Brien / C / 5’11 176bs / 11-04-99 (HS-Prep)
Something of a hidden gem playing prep school hockey at Thayer Acadamy. Strong pivot who skates very well and is a tireless worker. He offers a nice upside. Transition to the NCAA next fall will be telling.
- Akil Thomas / C / 5’11 177lbs / 01-02-00 (OHL)
A buzz-saw of a player. Needs to add strength, but moves as quick with the puck as he does without. Terrific vision and distribution skills. Likely better suited for the wing at the NHL level. A well-respected and admired teammate.
- Ty Dellandrea / C / 6’ 183lbs / 07-21-00 (OHL)
Anchored with a bottom-feeding junior club in Flint, Dellandrea produced on his own most nights. The shoot-first centre offers good quickness, is effective on the power-play and owns a strong work ethic. A noteworthy U18 tournament culminated a successful individual season.
- Serron Noel / RW / 6’5 204lbs / 08-08-00 (OHL)
A long, fluid stride generates loads of power and speed for such a big man. He’s young for this crop and still quite raw, but the potential for a productive winger with his size and strength is tantalizing. Already a heavy load in the corners and the paint. Has good vision.
- Jonny Tychonick / LHD / 5’11.5 177lbs / 03-03-00 (BCHL)
The former 12th overall selection in the WHL Bantam draft decided to go the NCAA route and has been terrorizing BCHL opponents from the backend on the always-powerhouse, Penticton Vees squad. He’s heading to a top-notch program at North Dakota next fall. Mobile, offensively-orientated, and full of hockey smarts. Loves to join the rush. He’s a new-age defender.
- Bode Wilde / RHD / 6’2.5 198lbs / 1-24-00 (USNTDP)
A strong skater who owns a big shot. Can step up and make a big hit, but is also guilty of poor decision-making at times. Flashes elite upside, but hasn’t put it together for long stretches. He’s a player who carries some risk. His perceived offensive ability appears to be inflated by many.
- Ryan Merkley / RHD / 5’11 167lbs / 08-14-00 (OHL)
One of the youngest players in this draft, he’s also one of the most offensively gifted (and enigmatic). The reigning OHL Rookie of the Year boasts elite offensive skills from the back end: Vision, passing, dynamic edges, good top end speed, and impressive acceleration. His play in his own zone and decision-making without the puck are still very much a work in progress. Couple that with whispers of attitude issues and we may see him slide considerably on draft day. However, the right-handed defender has the makings of a dynamic point-producer if he hits. His boom or bust tag has been well earned.
- Rasmus Sandin / LHD / 5’11 186lbs / 03-07-00 (OHL)
Transition defender who offers strong vision and crisp passes. A smart player who knows when to pinch and can read the play happening at both ends of the rink. Lacks elite quickness but has a knack for changing gears to create separation while on the attack.
- Calen Addison / RHD / 5’10 178lbs / 04-11-00 (WHL)
Undersized defender knows how to create offense on the man-advantage. Owns strong vision, soft hands, and a big shot. It would be nice to see him create more at even-strength. Has plenty of work to do in his own end both positionally and with his decision-making. Could be a sheltered yet productive player at the next level.
- Nicolas Beaudin / L