On a personal note, it’s been something of a whirlwind these past three weeks for me. At the completion of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, I flew home to join my wife in packing, selling and moving all the possessions we’ve accumulated over the last near-decade. Some boxes went on a buddy’s truck this way. A few more went another direction. Even our former neighbour’s shed is home to some furniture that didn’t move quickly enough on UsedVictoria.
We then packed up our cars, drove and ferried our way to a tiny Gulf island where we’ve made a 27-foot fifth wheel our home for the summer. So far, it’s been amazing. Boat trips, camp fires, gardening and sleeping in. The internet is spotty and the cell service near-void.
With all that said, it’s time I rejoin my post at DobberProspects and start firing these Ramblings out with ferocity.
Not a day goes by that someone on Twitter doesn’t inquire to my fantasy ranking of the 2018 class. The thing is, every league has a unique set of categories that makes it near-impossible to pump out a glove that fits each hand.
This offseason, I’ve begun offering personalized rankings for people. I sit down and take into account all the categories, situations (rebuilding vs challenging) and everything in between to produce a set of rankings tailored specifically to you and your league. You can contact me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson for more information.
Here’s a snippet of how I see this class breaking down in a points-only league where you start 6-8 forwards and four defenders.
- Andrei Svechnikov
The most physically-ready player in the group (choke back that DOB joke) is also the deadliest goal-scorer. He’ll be placed in a position to succeed right off the hop in Carolina and should see immediate returns. I fully expect him to cross the 30-goal barrier in 2018-19 and be deep in the running for the Calder Trophy. A top power play that features Sebastian Aho, Martin Necas, Dougie Hamilton and Svechnikov sounds like a dirty proposition for the near-future.
- Rasmus Dahlin
Second overall in drafts like these are as good as you can get. Just let the pole position make the difficult choice between Svechnikov and Dahlin and you can take whoever is left sitting there. In this case, you can nab a pillar for your blueline for the next 15 years. Dahlin will take a bit of time to produce high-end fantasy numbers but by year-three, he could very well be sniffing around the 60-plus point zone. Joining Jack Eichel and Casey Mittelstadt will thrust Buffalo into the ‘must-have’ category. Something we haven’t said in forever. His ceiling is a point-per-game blue liner and those are crown jewels in a points-only setup.
- Filip Zadina
He slipped down the draft board in Dallas last month but there’s no reason he should slip down yours. Zadina is a world-class finisher from the circles down. He blends power, speed and electric moves to embarrass defenders and goaltenders alike. It may take a bit of time, but by the end of 2019-20, he’ll be Detroit’s most dangerous weapon.
- Oliver Wahlstrom
The New York Islanders had a pretty bad week to start July, but they had a tremendous finish to June. Being able to grab an elite triggerman like Wahlstrom at 11th overall was a coup. Wahlstrom is a prime one-and-done candidate at Boston College and should then begin his ascension onto the wing of Mat Barzal. Once there, the Metro division will be scratching their heads on how to stop what should be a formidable duo. Wahlstrom has legitimate 40-goal upside and a game that should translate quite well.
- Quinn Hughes
Jim Benning could hardly conceal his elation when the Canucks marched to the podium to select Quinn Hughes. The college freshman had just come off an impressive season with Michigan and strong World Championship tournament as the youngest player in both settings. Hughes brings world-class skating ability to the table to compliment his quick hands, elusiveness and great vision. He’s an offensively-inclined defender who can create plays from nothing. A future on a top power-play unit with Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and Elias Pettersson have all sorts of tasty possibilities.
Let’s talk about Cody Glass and Nick Suzuki for a moment. These two players have an inordinate amount of similarities. Both produced exemplary draft results playing in the CHL. Glass scored 32 goals and 94 points in 69 games for Portland. Suzuki recorded 45 goals and 96 points in 65 games for Owen Sound.
Both play the middle of the ice, and both were selected in the top half of the first round in 2017. And of course, they were both selected by the Vegas Golden Knights. Having two top-notch centre prospects at the same stage of development in one system is a shining achievement for an organization. However, it also fuels a great deal of bet-hedging on the fantasy side of things.
Which player has the easier path to that coveted top line gig? Who makes it into the NHL sooner? Well, let’s take a deeper look.
Glass is your more prototypical ‘do-everything’ centre. He uses great patience to open up lanes at both even-strength and on the power play and loves to distribute the puck. He has a projectable frame at 6’2 and 185lbs and has spent the past two seasons shredding up the Western league. The Winnipeg-native was something of a surprise cut from Team Canada’s World Junior Squad but should play a sizable role on the team next winter.
Outside of the disappointment of not suiting up for the junior national team, 2017-18 was friendly to Glass. He finished sixth in WHL scoring with 102 points – 76 of those being of the primary variety. Additionally, his 14 percent conversion rate on 4.1 shots-per-game is a sound metric for transference.
Glass has been compared to Nashville’s top line centre, Ryan Johansen for some time, and it’s not just because they both suited up for the Winterhawks. Here’s a look at the two from their draft-eligible campaigns.
I feel that Johansen is a nice benchmark in which to predict the future success of the Knights sixth overall pick from a year ago.
The continuation of similarities between these two continue. Suzuki was also a surprise omission from the Gold Medal winning Canadian squad at the WJC. It sure didn’t put a damper on his season though.
Suzuki drives play at a faster pace. He uses expert skating, edge-work and dynamic puck skills to create offense with regularity. He provides a heavier does of goal-scoring from the middle of the ice, as evidenced by his 87 goals the past two seasons – second most in the OHL over that span.
This past year, Suzuki finished third in the OHL in goals with 42, and fourth in primary points with, you guessed it, 76 (just like Glass). All while taking 4.4 shots-per-game and converting on a sustainable 15 percent of those shots.
He accomplished those feats despite losing his regular line-mate and Canucks’ draft pick, Jonah Gadjovich for several stretches throughout the year.
Heading into the 2017 draft, Suzuki was compared favourably to Matt Duchene’s draft-eligible season with Brampton. They both own excess speed and skill. Suzuki may even have the higher pure ceiling compared to what we’ve seen from Duchene so far in his career.
Who Cracks the Lineup First?
Due to the NHL-CHL agreement, neither of these players are eligible for the AHL despite having proven (almost) all you can at the junior-level. Suzuki won’t turn 19 until mid-August, while Glass just became legal back in April.
Looking at the depth chart in Vegas doesn’t make the jump any easier for these two elite prospects. The addition of Paul Stastny clogs up one top six gig, while 40-goal man, William Karlsson holds the other. As we know, the Golden Knights love to come in waves, so their third line boasts strong deployment opportunities as well, but Erik Haula won’t be relinquishing that spot this year.
Many young centres can crack an NHL lineup from the wing position and both would get a chance to supersede a player like Tomas Nosek to sneak in as a bottom six right-winger. That appears to be the only avenue for one to make the squad and I’d give the edge to Suzuki due to his advanced skating ability.
The most likely scenario sees both back in the CHL and playing monster roles for Canada in Vancouver/Victoria with an eye towards another gold for the host nation.
Looking down the line, I like Suzuki to be the player tasked with more offensive deployment while Glass will become something of a matchup nightmare – going head-to-head with the oppositions top lines and winning many of those battles.
That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson