The 2018 NHL Entry Draft is in the books now, so obviously that’s what I’m going to write about today. Let’s start with who I consider to be the big draft winners. And no, I don’t consider the Sabres or the Hurricanes here even though they got the two best players from this draft class because I’m not overly excited about the other players they drafted. Here are my top five winners in order.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Considering their earliest pick was 53rd overall and they only had a total of four draft picks, the Penguins have to be happy with what they got. Both Calen Addison and Filip Hållander are first-round talents in my books but somehow they managed to get both of them late in the second round. Click on their names to read their fantasy hockey profiles, and don’t forget them in your own fantasy hockey draft this summer.
Florida Panthers: The Panthers added three right-handed shot forwards with their first three picks by selecting Grigori Denisenko 15th overall, Serron Noel 34th overall and then Logan Hutsko 89th overall. Denisenko has top-line upside, and he was one of my hot takes in the prospect report, so I’m very glad the team I’m covering drafted him. Considering how raw Noel is, we honestly don’t know how high his ceiling is. There might be some risk with Hutsko considering the injuries he’s had but there’s definitely talent there. Again, just click on their names to find their fantasy hockey profiles. The Panthers didn’t have any picks in the fourth and fifth rounds which hurts the overall value they gained from this draft. Maybe this is a bit of a homer selection since I cover the Panthers here but I think they did a great job with the picks they had available.
Detroit Red Wings: The Red Wings got a gift handed to them when Filip Zadina somehow was still available at sixth overall. They continued their strong draft by selecting Joe Veleno 30th overall and Jonatan Berggren 33rd overall. But I’m not overly excited about Jared McIsaac who they took 36th overall, and I think they made some questionable selections with their three third-round picks.
Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks decided to focus on skill despite some shortcomings in other areas. They drafted Adam Boqvist eighth overall, Nicolas Beaudin 27th, Jake Wise 69th, Niklas Nordgren 74th and Philipp Kurashev 120th. All of them are worth drafting in deep fantasy hockey leagues. They probably reached a bit for Beaudin but Wise, Nordgren and Kurashev were great value picks.
New York Islanders: At this point, we’re all already familiar with the Islanders and how Oliver Wahlstrom (11th overall), Noah Dobson (12th) and Bode Wilde (41st) happened to fall to their lap. But they also had the courage to draft small offensive dynamo named Ruslan Iskhakov 43rd overall. I created his fantasy profile recently, so check it out if you’re not familiar with him already. They also added Jakub Skarek 72nd overall, and many considered him to be the best goaltender in this draft class. I’ve also noticed a lot of people are high on Blade Jenkins who they managed to get 134th overall. The Islanders are my winners of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
This year maybe more than ever before, we saw some really interesting players going undrafted. There were at least a few North American names that seemed to surprise a lot of people on Twitter. But since I’m more familiar with the European depth options, I’m going to focus on them.
Perhaps the most common name I saw on Twitter was Swiss winger Nando Eggenberger. Eggenberger was ranked 90th overall at the final TSN Draft Ranking which was published less than a week before the draft, so I have no idea what happened with him. Eggenberger has spent two years in the NLA which is the top league in Switzerland. Playing at the top level is impressive but he hasn’t shown much offensive talent while playing there or in international tournaments either. However, he has good size (6-2, 185), and he’s shown a good amount of energy and leadership skills. I think he could become a good bottom-six player, so I would have been willing to spend a late pick on him. Eggenberger will attend the development camp of the Canucks.
A sort of similar player is Czech winger Michal Kvasnica. Kvasnica has good size (6-1, 187) and he played against men at the second highest level in Czech Republic. He may not have much offensive upside but it’s not difficult to see him becoming a bottom-six player in the NHL. This is why I don’t like the idea of spending high picks on potential bottom-six forwards – you can find guys like them in the seventh round or you can sign them as free agents.
But the most shocking name to me is Russian goaltender Amir Miftakhov. At 6-0, Miftakhov is not big but he’s still two inches taller than Juuse Saros. Miftakhov was ranked third among European goalies by NHL Central Scouting – ahead of guys like Justus Annunen (64th overall by the Avalanche) and Olof Lindbom (39th overall by the Rangers) – and Corey Pronman at The Athletic ranked him first among all goaltenders in this draft class. Miftakhov had a great season in the Russian junior league but didn’t impress at the U18 World Championship tournament which may have hurt his chances. This could be one player who goes pretty high next year if he has a strong season.
Another Russian name I was expecting to see drafted was Danila Galenyuk. Galenyuk is a defenseman who already played a few games in the KHL as a 17-year-old. He doesn’t have a ton of offensive upside but he can move the puck and play solid defensive game. Has decent size as well (6-1, 201).
There were a few Finns worth mentioning as well. I thought Santeri Salmela, Jerry Turkulainen, Kristian Tanus and Arttu Nevasaari were worth a late pick but NHL teams didn’t think so. Turkulainen will attend the development camp of the Panthers. The Swedes had a great draft but two names I was expecting to see drafted were David Lilja and Lukas Wernblom.
There are a few more names I could add from Europe, and obviously there are some North American names that could be added here as well, so perhaps the NHL should considering adding another round to the draft. It seems like there’s too much talent going undrafted.
And that’s all for now. Feel free to add comments below. Follow me on Twitter @JokkeNevalainen.
Images used on the main collage courtesy of NHL.com