2018 NHL draft guide
Welcome to Sports and Other Things official 2018 NHL draft guide. Comprehensive with an extensive breakdown of the top 15 prospects, a top 60 ranking as well as a mock draft! Just in time to give you a resource to understand who is who and what to expect out of your favourite teams brand new prospects!
#1 Rasmus Dahlin, LD/RD
Depending on who you ask, Rasmus Dahlin is either a generational defenseman or one of the best D-men to ever enter the draft. Whether either of those tags are true or not, the underlying point remains that Dahlin is indeed special. Even through a more conservative and realistic lens he is probably the best D prospect since Hedman in 2009.
Hedman and Dahlin are interesting to compare. They both had nearly identical seasons as draft eligible players, with the only real differences being that Hedman was older at the time and far more physically mature. Exactly how much those factors affected the two in their draft eligible season remains speculative.
Dahlin’s strengths lie with his feet, hands, and brain. His skating is elite, all at once efficient and dynamic. On any given sequence, he is equally likely -- and capable of -- rushing the puck up the ice, beating one or two forecheckers in the process, as he is firing off a perfect tape to tape stretch pass through the neutral zone.
He has all the tools to be the perfect modern NHL defenseman, and his arrival in Buffalo is sure to go a long way in healing the wounds of an embarrassing last place finish.
#2 Andrei Svechnikov, RW
While Dahlin may be the undisputed #1 prospect -- and rightfully so -- Svechnikov isn’t just some consolation prize. He himself is an impressive prospect and a potentially special player.
The Russian winger took a slightly more unusual path to the NHL than that of most Russian youngsters, but that path perhaps adds to his appeal.
Coming over as a 16-year-old, Svechnikov dominated in the USHL, scoring X goals in X games in his first season on North American ice. After being selected first overall in the 2017 CHL import draft, Svechnikov went on to light up the OHL right away.
Even a wrist injury wasn’t enough to slow down Svechnikov, who scored 40 goals and added 32 assists in 44 games. The Russian’s 40 goals had him tied for 8th best among skaters, he led the league in goals per game (0.91) and in primary points per game (1.45)
Svechnikov’s offensive tools are not only unique but also rare, his size, skating and release all make for a terrifying goal-scoring threat.
While I hesitate to say his impact will be on the level of Laine, Matthews, and Boeser -- the premier young goal-scorers in today’s game -- Svechnikov no doubt has the potential to match their offensive output long term.
#3 Filip Zadina, LW
Speaking of pure goal scorers, Filip Zadina comes in at three.Zadina topped 40 goals as well, using his lethal shot to his advantage. Zadina’s goal scoring shouldn’t have an issue translating to the NHL level, his innate ability to just know where to be and when to be there isn’t teachable and it isn’t coincidence.
Zadina is better than Svechnikov from the circles down, but it’s the other areas on the ice that the Czech winger comes up short in the comparison.
That isn’t strictly an indictment of Zadina’s skillset. He is capable of both playmaking and moving the puck -- his 36 assists in Halifax are a testament to that ability. Rather, it’s a nod to Svechnikov’s superior transition game and chance creation - both of which push the Russian past the Moosehead winger in that aspect of play.
It’s rare that two elite goal scorers enter the draft together, but it’s even rarer still that both have proven responsible defensively. Most high-end sniper prospects have flaws to their play away from the puck, but these two don’t have that issue.
Over the course of the season, both remained engaged on both sides of the puck and did not show any indication that side of their game would become a weakness overtime.
However despite his talents, Zadina may fall victim to teams prioritizing positional needs in the draft and the thirst for drafting a premier centre prospect may push him down a few slots. But it isn’t fair to hold his position against him in evaluating where he ranks in pure ability.
#4 Brady Tkachuk, LW
Sliding it at #4 is the ever-impressive Brady Tkachuk, and while some may find his continuous inclusion near the top of draft rankings over the course of the season unmerited or controversial, stop. He’s really good.
Now, Tkachuk isn’t exactly Jack Eichel, but his freshman season at BU was impressive nevertheless, and showed tremendous growth and depth to a mature, modern game.
While the games of his brother and father were defined by hard work, grit and annoyance, Brady brings so much to the table on top of his god given obligation to annoy.
His size, strength and skating make him an ideal power forward for today’s fast and furious style of play, but he also has a playmaking ability that adds a totally new dimension to his offensive potential.
23 assists in 40 games is a lot for a freshman in the NCAA, and his world junior performance didn’t exactly hurt his draft stock either.
Brady is the complete package, and his style of play is one that has its place in todays game, whatever team is lucky enough to draft Tkachuk is going to be very fortunate.
I wonder if his brother’s immediate impact on the Flames roster has excited teams on the idea of Brady being a contributor from day one. Whether that is the case, remains to be seen.
#5 Noah Dobson, RD
Noah Dobson’s performance on a memorial cup winning team isn’t one to ignore. There are risks attached to getting excited about small samples like the WJC and the Memorial cup, but watching that performance -- particularly in the tail end of the tournament led -- it’s hard not to find yourself firmly in his camp.
To be sure, Dobson’s game has some flaws, but nothing that is permanently broken. He plays a sound, mature and efficient game in his own zone, while also being equipped to handle the pace and frenetic nature of the game today.
Dobson’s skating is spectacular, with impressive high-end speeds at both sides of the ice, as well as efficient edge work and good balance. Pivoting backwards also hasn’t proven to be an issue for Dobson, either.
Offensively, the Acadie-Bathurst D-man has shown great puck moving ability and an excellent brain to find the open man. He also has a rocket of a shot, giving him a future opportunity as a trigger man on the powerplay.
Complete and polished are the most fitting words to describe Dobson, and although this draft is loaded with quality D-men with incredible potential, Dobson’s memorial cup performance really pushed him over the top in my eyes.
#6 Adam Boqvist, RD
While Dahlin is the cream of the crop, Adam Boqvist is another blue-chip Swedish D-man.
Boqvist’s skating is a sight to behold. Tremendous speed, acceleration and agility make him a one-man transition at times. His skating opens up so many possibilities to rush the puck up the ice and create dangerous transition opportunities.
Offensively, the Swede is incredibly aggressive, always willing and searching for ways to join the rush if he isn’t the one starting it. When he finds them, he has incredible vision and passing, as well as the ability to walk the line and set up opportunities on the man advantage.
Boqvist’s potential is sky-high, and while his defensive game is somewhat messy, it can be cured and he could become a top pairing offensive defenseman.
The team drafting him will have to do a job of developing him, and he does come with some risk attached, but Boqvist remains one of the more promising D-men in this class who could potentially be seen as a top of the draft steal should he follow through on his potential.
#7 Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C
News emerged that Montreal are genuinely locked in on him being their pick -- whether it be at #3 or further down -- the young man will become the supposed savior of an organization desperately needing a new talismanic figure, and more pressingly, a top line centre.
With that comes a microscope, and scrutiny, and criticism. And while that is unfair, it’s not exactly like the cards are stacked against him. He really burst onto the scene for most in last year’s U18, where he scored six points in seven games as an underage player. He then went on to play in the Finnish men’s league (SM-Liiga) and record a further 29 points in 57 games there.
His real rise however, didn’t begin until he led Finland to gold in the U18 this past spring, looking like the best player in the tournament behind 2019 NHL draft prospect Jack Hughes.
Kotkaniemi’s draft season isn’t as flashy as Mikael Granlund or Alex Barkov, but it remains an impressive campaign that showed clear signs of progressions and development.
As a player, he’s efficient and capable in both ways, while some see him as perhaps unremarkable offensively. He has a good shot, good hands and knows where to be, he isn’t exactly a speedster, but he’s a good skater -- capable of doing things at a high speed which is a skill that’s just as valuable as pure speed.
While describing him as jack-of-all-trades and master of none seems harsh, it’s begrudgingly fair. It’s odd to me that Montreal would pick this hill to die on if their reported love for Kotkaniemi is in fact true and not some ploy. His rise coinciding with his impressive U18 showing makes me uneasy, but all late risers in the draft do.
#9 Quinton Hughes, LD
American D-man Quinton Hughes is the older brother of aforementioned 2019 eligible, Jack Hughes.
The focus will eventually switch to Jack -- and rightfully so -- as he looks on par with the two other young American centers headlining the game today, but for now it’s all about Quinton.
The beginning of the season with Hughes was concerning, ripe with red flags about potentially not processing the game at a high enough level defensively and being prone to the far-too occasional mental lapses on the ice.
Those concerns however quickly vanished in the new year as his continued spectacular offensive ability was finally coupled with a defensive game that was not only not disastrous, but actually good.
This turn-around is cause for a lot of optimism. Being able to iron out such a potentially major kink in such quick fashion is a real testament to his skill and perhaps also the development staff at Michigan.
His offensive game is complete, with an ability to thread the eye of the needle, quarterback a powerplay and lead rushes with his dynamic skating.
His shot is good, hard and accurate and he doesn’t struggle with getting pucks through on net, which has caused a lot of issues for other young D-men. 29 points in 37 games from the blueline is impressive and deserving of praise.
Hughes’ size may be a concern to some, but with the rise of smaller and quicker D-men, that line of thinking is becoming antiquated and less relevant than it was three years ago.
#9 Oliver Wahlstrom, C/W
The theme of this draft is goal scorers and dynamic defenders. That continues here with the Oliver Wahlstrom.
Wahlstrom scored 40 goals and added 43 assists in 53 games with the USNTDP in Ann Arbour this year, and is committed to Boston College for next season.
The young American probably has some of the best hands in the draft, and he isn’t afraid to use his vast array of skill and puck control in high traffic areas. His playmaking game is solid, and he is able to make plays for others, but his true value offensively lies in his goal scoring. More specifically, his shot.
Wahlstrom’s shot is up there with Zadina and Svechnikov, and he is on their level as a pure sniper. Slap shot, snapshot, or even a wrist shot, Wahlstrom has an elite shooting ability and is a threat at all levels offensively -- even in close for rebounds and tip ins. His skating is another strength of his, with a tremendous first step and notable agility -- particularly laterally.
However, true concern lie in his defensive play, where describing it as a work in progress would be in some ways kind. He often seems disengaged and settles into being way too much of a puck watcher, hoping for turnovers to create offense. If someone can help tap into his speed and teach him how to use it in defensive scenarios, Wahlstrom’s game could explode to a whole new level.
#10 Evan Bouchard, RD
Bouchard has been really hot and cold for me all year, but overall has done just enough to squeeze into my top 10.
He started slowly but eventually ended the season with 87 points in 67 games, which is very good for a defenseman in their draft eligible year. A helping hand in that offensive production was his rocket of a slap shot which helped him net 25 goals -- more than both Dobson and Smith, his closet comparable players.
Defensively, Bouchard is unafraid to be nasty and physical, and why would he be standing at 6’2” and 192 lbs? His long reach is another defensive asset, as it helps him keep attackers on the perimeter and away from his own net.
My concerns start and end with his first step. It isn’t quick enough to be able to defend at a consistently effective level in today’s NHL and can leave him exposed and chasing in his own zone, which is never ideal.
Skating as a whole isn’t a lost cause for Bouchard, which is promising, but if his acceleration is a concern at a major junior level, it’s far away from being suitable for NHL play, which makes him a slight risk.
Bouchard does have tremendous upside if he can develop and put everything together, but he comes with some form of risk that teams will have to gamble on.
#11 Joe Veleno, C
The first Canadian forward on the list is Joe Veleno of the QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs. Veleno was granted exceptional status back in 2015, becoming the first QMJHL player to be granted such status and then proceeded to ply his trade in Saint-John with the Sea Dogs.
Entering his draft eligible season, concerns surrounded his offensive game. Seven points in five games during Canada’s gold winning Ivan Hlinka tournament in August was a good start, but his return to the Sea Dogs only saw him put up 31 points in 31 games.
Those numbers are not necessarily bad, they’re just underwhelming for a potential high draft pick -- particularly one who Hockey Canada acknowledged as being exceptional.
A trade to Drummondville resulted in an uptick in his production, and he ended the season with 79 points in 64 games. While the concern isn’t exactly gone, it is very encouraging that with better linemtes Veleno was able to elevate his game and sit comfortably right outside the top 10.
Skating and his defensive play are what will most likely entice a team into taking Veleno. His skating is top notch in every way -- particularly in terms of speed -- and as the only seemingly high-end player on Saint John, he was thrust into a role with defensive responsibilities which he impressed in.
That combination of speed and two-way play is going to be hard to pass up for teams in the 8-15 area who may be keen on a center.
#12 Bode Wilde, RD
This draft is loaded with really interesting D-men prospects and Bode Wilde is near the top of my list.
Bode Wilde genuinely has the potential to have Byfuglien like impact on the game, but he remains far too inconsistent.
Offensively, Wilde is able to not only be a trigger man on the powerplay but also do things that other D-men of his size just wish they could do.
On any given shift he can toe the line at the blueline in the offensive zone or break away from forecheckers with his speed and hands. Wilde is a great skater, able to move quickly without struggling laterally. He also has an incredible shot -- not just a bomb of a slap shot from the point but also an accurate and hard wrist shot.
Spending a mid-first round pick on Wilde could have Charlie McAvoy esque rewards, but it could also completely backfire.
Wilde really needs to work on his defensive game and being consistently solid in that end. When he’s in the mood, he is able to control the game with his physical play and he is a force to be reckoned with, it just doesn’t happen often enough.
#13 Ty Smith, LD
Ty Smith slides right into the #13 spot for me. Some services have him in the top 10 and I understand the appeal, but he’s less impressive than the slew of other D-men ahead of him.
Defensively, Smith is very smart positionally. He’s slighter, so adding muscle will certainly help him be good defensively at the next level, but the raw talent is there
Smith is undersized and smooth -- a perfect modern-day defender. His strengths all stem from his absolutely exceptional skating, which allows him to maintain good gap control, be incredibly tough to beat off the rush, and a good transition outlet. When he does his stick handling prowess and crisp passing game elevate the levels of his forwards.
73 points in 69 games for Spokane in the WHL isn’t anything to look down on, and with today’s D-men trending towards the style of player Smith is, he could be another of the really intriguing D-men prospects to emerge out of this draft.
#14 Rasmus Kupari, C/W
The second Finnish center listed in the top half of my first round is pretty remarkable.
Rasmus Kupari is an unbelievable offensive talent. A great skater with good vision, hands and a lot of speed.
Kupari jumped around a bit this year. He split time with an SM-Liiga side, various Finnish international teams and a U20 Finnish club.
His production wasn’t great in the SM-Liiga, but as mentioned before, production from draft prospects in professional leagues is hard to pin down. Kupari didn’t have a huge role, but still displayed more than enough skill and promise and was dominant against players his own age (save for last winter’s World Junior)
Defensively, Kupari is a willing combatant and a hard worker. He needs to learn more of the nuance behind being a center and the more defensive side of the game, but very few players under 20 have that knowledge at their disposal.
Kupari and Kotkaniemi will be a very interesting battle to watch develop. While the latter is rumoured to go very early in this draft, I’m not convinced that Kupari can’t close that gap or completely obliterate it over the next few years.
Just a hunch here but I feel like Kupari may be the type to really break out after his draft, and for that reason, just breaks into my top 15.
#15 Dominik Bokk, RW, Vaxjo (SHL)
Dominik Bokk is probably the most out of range guy listed in my top 15, most services have him hovering around 20-30.
What sold me on Bokk was his combination of incredible acceleration and first step as well as a complete arsenal of shots. Very few combinations of tools are as appealing as speed and shooting, and Bokk ranks among the top 10 of the entire draft in both of those categories.
He struggled in the SHL, mostly getting limited minutes in his 15-game cup of coffee, but among his peers Bokk dominated scoring 41 points in 35 games in the U20 league.
Bokk has a lot to work on, maintaining his speed is one, bar his first step which is explosive he doesn’t necessarily have the breakaway speed to really separate him from the pack. Defensively, being disinterested and out of position have at times been issues, though that can be corrected.
The most interesting thing about this draft for me is how many players are tailor made for the modern game, and have an abundance of speed, smarts and skill. Bokk is another player who falls in that category, goals are at a premium and so is speed, combining both gives you an enticing tool set which is sure to have GM’s licking their lips on the draft floor in Dallas.
Remaining top 60
#16- Joel Farabee, LW, USNTDP (USHL)
#17- Ryan Merkley, RD, Guelph (OHL)
#18- Jared McIsaac, RD, Halifax (QMJHL)
#19- Vitali Kravstsov, RW, Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL)
#20- Barett Hayton, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
#21- Martin Kaut, RW, Dynamo Pardubice (CZE)
#22- Rasmus Sandin, LD, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
#23- K’andre Miler, LD, USNTDP (USHL)
#24- Jake Wise, C, USNTDP (USHL)
#25- Nils Lundkvist, RD, Lulea HF (SHL)
#26-Ryan McLeod, C, Mississauga (OHL)
#27- Jett Woo, RD, Moose Jaw (WHL)
#28- Ty Dellandrea, C, Flint (OHL)
#29- Alexander Alexeyev, LD, Red Deer (WHL)
#30- Calen Addison, LD, Lethbridge (WHL)
#31- Akil Thomas, C/W, Niagara (OHL)
#32- Grigori Denisenko, LW, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL)
#33- Serron Noel, RW, Oshawa (OHL)
#34- Jesse Ylonen, RW, Espoo United
#35- Mattias Samuelsson, LD, USNTDP (USHL)
#36- Jack McBain, C, Toronto Jr. Canadiens (OJHL)
#37- Benoit-Olivier Groulx, C/W, Halifax (QMJHL)
#38- Nicolas Beaudin, LD, Drummondville (QMJHL)
#39- Jay O’Brien, C, Thayer Academy (USHS)
#40- Jacob Olofsson, C, Timra IK (SHL)
#41- Jonathan Beggren, C/W, Skelleftea AIK (SHL)
#42- Liam Foudy, C, London (OHL)
#43- Allan McShane, C, Oshawa (OHL)
#44- Cam Hills, C, Guelph (OHL)
#45- Jacob Bernard-Docker, RD, Okotoks (AJHL)
#46- Jack Drury, C, Waterloo (USHL)
#47- Phillipp Kurashev, C, Quebec (QMJHL)
#48- Filip Hallander, C/W, Timra IK (SHL)
#49- Blake McLaughlin, C/W, Chicago (USHL)
#50- Kevin Bahl, LD, Ottawa (OHL)
#51- Filip Johansson, RD, Leksands (Allsvenskan)
#52- Cole Fonstad, C, Prince Albert(WHL)
#53- Aidan Dudas, C, Owen Sound (OHL)
#54- Adam Mascherin, LW, Kitchener (OHL)
#55- Adam Ginning, LD, Linkopc (SHL)
#56- David Gustafsson, C, HV 71 (SHL)
#57- Jonny Tychonick, LD, Penticton (BCHL)
#58- Sampo Ranta, LW, Sioux Falls (USHL)
#59- Jakub Lauko, C, Pirati Chomutov (Czech Extraliga)
#60- Xavier Bernard, RD, Drummondville (QMJHL)
1 - Buffalo: Rasmus Dahlin, LD/RD
Buffalo selects the obvious #1 pick and ushers in a new saviour that will hopefully do better than the last. Dahlin completely reshapes the trajectory Buffalo were following and gives them a legit franchise D-man. No brainer.
2 - Carolina: Andrei Svechnikov, RW
A team dying for elite skill up front gets exactly that. Svechnikov is an incredibly potent goal scoring and offensive player that is going to look deadly next to Aho for the next decade. Svechnikov is the best of a draft class loaded with elite goal scoring talent. Another obvious choice.
3 - Montreal: Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C/W
So Montreal seems fixated on taking Kotkaniemi, whether that be at 3 or a different spot remains to be seen. Kotkaniemi could be the answer to the Habs long search for an elite pivot, but this pick does also smell like addressing position in a draft. Kotkaniemi is a jack of all trades master of none but has a high ceiling and instantly becomes Montreal’s best young player.
4 - Ottawa: Filip Zadina, LW
Ottawa were rumoured to be giving up their 4th overall pick to Colorado and opt to keep their 2019 1st, but I think that’s unwise. While the team is falling apart and envisioning an NHL where the Sens aren’t last next year seems like an exercise in futility, you can’t justify passing on a talent like Zadina because your pick next year might be better. Zadina is the best available player and will inject serious speed and goals into the Sens lack luster forward group.
5 - Arizona: Noah Dobson, RD
Not sure if I’d call this a reach but it might raise an eyebrow or two. If I were in Arizona’s shoes, choosing between Tkachuk and Dobson is incredibly difficult but with the addition of Galchenyuk to a core that includes Perlini, Keller, Stepan and Strome makes taking a complete, potential top pairing right hand shot the obvious choice to me. Dobson is poised, polished and efficient. Adding him to their blueline gives them an area of incredible strength and depth.
6 - Detroit: Quinn Hughes, LD
Looking at Detroit's roster and prospect pool is hard because every area could be improved significantly, but adding Quinn Hughes gives the Wings a legit potential top pairing D-man, something they haven’t had in a really long time. Hughes probably wouldn’t go this high if he were entering the draft 3 years ago, but his speed and puck moving ability make him an attractive option for any team. Detroit take the Michigan product and continue their rebuild.
7 - Vancouver: Adam Boqvist, RD
The Canucks got screwed over by the lottery again, but fear not, Boqvist is here. Boqvist is an incredible prospect with a sky high ceiling, among the highest of any player in this draft. His skating, puck moving and aggressiveness will make him a great asset for any struggling team. His potential connection with Pettersson is also exciting for Nucks fans.
8 - Chicago: Brady Tkachuk, LW
I’d argue that Buffalo are the winners of the draft because they got Dahlin, but snagging Tkachuk at 8 is a huge win for the Hawks. Talks suggest that Tkachuk is thinking about going back to school, but should the Hawks give him an opportunity to play with either Kane or Toews, I have to think he’d reconsider. Tkachuk does play like his father and brother, but he also has an incredible playmaking game. A strong passer and chance creator with size and snarl, perfect for Chicago’s now again core.
9 - New York Rangers: Oliver Wahlstrom, C/W
Wahlstrom is the BPA here and fits the Rangers needs to a tee. Kicking off a rebuild with the addition of a potentially elite scoring C is quite the start. Wahlstrom struggles defensively and will need work on that area, but his speed and scoring combination will make him a very interesting prospect to follow. Rangers now have both Wahlstrom and Lias Andersson down the middle, with Namestnikov and Buchnevich on the wing. Things are looking good in the big apple.
10 - Edmonton: Evan Bouchard, RD
The Oilers are in the market for a puck moving right hand shot D-man, and have made it known that this pick is available, but sitting at 10 and waiting for either Bouchard or one of the other highly ranked D-men to slip isn’t unwise. Bouchard may be a ways away, but he has a heavy shot and put up 87 points in 67 games this year in London. He fits what the Oilers need and want now and in the future.
11 - Islanders: Ty Smith, LD
With the first of two back-to-back picks in the first round the Isles go with a diminutive skilled D-man in Smith. With Trotz locked up, Tavares hopefully signed, getting help on the blueline in the way of Smith is huge for the Isles. Smith is a great skater, a skilled playmaker and smooth defensively, while he may be small, there’s no doubting his potential and skill set.
12 - Islanders: Domink Bokk, RW
Bokk is the 2nd of the two back to back picks the Islanders have. The German sniper is exceptionally skilled and has loads of speed at his disposal. Bokk may eventually be a fit next to Barzal or JT, bet even beyond that scope, Bokk just has an exciting style of play and the potential to be a high-end impact forward.
13 - Dallas: Barret Hayton, C
The Stars grabbing a centreman is probably the most effective move here, especially considering the youth they have on the blue-line. Hayton or Veleno are both options, but I think the Stars go for the Greyhound man here. Hayton is a good skater and a strong two-way player, he has a heavy shot and an eye for a pass. I said Kotkaniemi was a jack of all trades master of none, but I like giving Hayton that title instead. Hayton does have a heavy shot which helped him up his goal totals this year, and there’s a lot of room for development and growth here. I like this pick a lot.
14 - Philadelphia: Joe Veleno, C
Similar to the Stars grabbing Hayton, I think Philly opts for another centreman here. Veleno has exceptional top end speed and is a strong defensive player. His offensive game really came along as the year progressed and he moved on from the toxicity of Saint-John. Veleno probably will be underwhelming here considering he was granted exceptional status by Hockey Canada a few years ago and hasn’t followed that up enough to really progress into an elite prospect.
15 - Florida: Bode Wild, RD
The Panthers are rumoured to be moving back or outright moving the pick. Considering that I really like the fit with a lot of these prospects and including potential trades in mocks is a bad idea, we’ll assume they stay at 15. Wilde is a really good blend of size, skill and speed, three things that make NHL GM’s salivate. Wilde has inconsistencies to his game, particularly defensively, but Florida could add him to an impressive young blueline that features Ekblad, Matheson, Pysyk and McCoshen.
16 - Colorado: Joel Farabee, LW
A highly skilled winger with speed is pretty much exactly what Colorado needs. Similarly to Florida, the Avs are said to be keen on moving this pick, but adding Farabee to their young group would be a very promising alternative. Farabee is tenacious on the forecheck and committed to playing solid defense, both key attributes that will make him that much more enticing. Colorado have a lot of assets to play with and this pick could be in play for roster upgrades, but I really think adding another quality piece to their group is more valuable than being potentially hasty and moving assets too quick.
17 - New Jersey: Rasmus Kupari, C/W
The Devils have a Hart trophy winner on their roster, and surrounding that talent with the proper supporting pieces is the difference between a flailing superstar and a consistent playoff outfit. Drafting and developing is key to every franchise, but the Devils really need to continue to add young pieces to an exciting core. Kupari is a skilled and fast, that fits the Devils identity. His offensive potential is very high and he’s not bad defensively. With the centre position potentially seeing fluctuation over the next few years, having a prospect like Kupari in your back pocket is excellent use of an asset.
18 - Columbus: Vitali Kravtsov, RW
Columbus isn't afraid to take Europeans and have a loaded blue-line. With the news of Panarin potentially being available, drafting Kravtsov gives them not only one of the better players left on the board, but also a nice extra young piece that can compete sooner rather than later. Kravstov had the best KHL playoff run ever for a teenager with 11 points in 16 games, and has the raw talent to be a potential steal down the line. It’s a risk, but it makes sense considering where Columbus are as an organization to gamble on a player like Kravtsov.
19 - Philadelphia: K’andre Miller, LD
Miller has only been a D-man since 15-16, but he has every tool at his disposal to be a real stud, which is why I think Philly gambles here. I already have them going safe and taking Veleno at 14, so going for a home run here makes sense. I love Millers combination of size and skating, a 6’3” D-man that skates the way he does and has the skills of a forward? Yes please. I also like this fit because this pick would be eerily similar to taking Sanheim in 2014 (same spot, too) and they’ve done a marvelous job with his development. This pick would make me really excited if I were a Flyers fan.
20 - Los Angeles: Sherron Noel, RW
This is yet another pick that could be moved by the time the draft starts, but should LA keep it, grabbing Noel would be a very 2013 Kings move. Noel is 6’5” and well over 200 lbs, he’s as pure a power-forward as they come. His size and speed combination will intrigue scouts into thinking he may have a ceiling beyond that of a typical big body forward. I don’t know how much I agree with that notion, but I do think that LA are a team that could roll the dice on a ceiling that high. I don’t want to call it a boom or bust type of situation, but there certainly seems to be a belief that Noel could be more than meet the eye down the road.
21 - San Jose: Ryan Merkley, RD
If we were observing draft prospects in a vacuum, Merkley would most likely be considered a top 10, maybe top 5 prospect in this draft. Problem is, things like character and work ethic matter in the eyes of scouts, and being talented isn’t enough to warrant accolade. I think Merkley has an incredibly high ceiling but he needs to fix his play defensively, I won’t comment on locker room presence and off ice attitude because I don’t know the person and can’t make a judgement, but on the ice he has boat loads of skill with a huge red flag on the defensive side of the puck. San Jose are a veteran team and an organization that has taken problem children and worked with them before, Merkley could be a fit and make San Jose look like geniuses in a few years.
22 - Ottawa: Jared McIsaac, RD
McIsaac may have dropped off from his pre-season ranking, but nevertheless he remains an excellent defensive prospect with a fairly high ceiling. Ottawa got his Halifax teammate earlier in the draft, and adding him would be a good balancing act. With the Sens supposedly moving Karlsson, I’d expect Dorion to stockpile assets and look for value anywhere he can, so trading down here is an option, but I think McIsaac is a very good player and would fit excellently in Ottawa. Plus, Ottawa have had a lot of success drafting out of the QMJHL, this would fit their draft strategy.
23 - Anaheim: Martin Kaut, RW
Kaut is a pure goal scorer and Anaheim need that in the worst way. Sam Steel was a home run pick in 2016, I’d expect Anaheim to try and pull something similar off here. As previously mentioned, Kaut’s main value is goals, his top end speed is good and he moves well, though he has poor acceleration. Anaheim have been an absolute factory for producing quality D-men over the last few years, but a lack of quality forward development has been disappointing from them. Kaut would add a legit scoring threat to an Anaheim pool that could seriously use it.
24 - Minnesota: Isac Lunderstrom, C/W
New Wild GM Paul Fenton has been rumoured to be active, and with a core that is seemingly slowly rotting, adding fresh young blood will be an immediate priority of his. Lunderstrom is a safe, solid and disciplined two-way center that Minnesota would absolutely love. Offensively, Lunderstrom has a good eye for a pass and is a smart positional player. He thinks the game at a high level and while he may not be the fastest, he is able to process the game quickly and play the game at a high pace. Lunderstrom is a truly vanilla player on the surface, but getting value out of late picks is something Minnesot has done well, and I don’t expect that to change with Fenton.
25 - Toronto: Rasmus Sandin, LD
I don’t know what to expect from Dubas this year. He did well in 2015, and trading back to get Dermott was shrewd, but I don’t think a similar scenario could develop this year. The players drafted from 20-40 are so close in skill that I think he may even look into trading up to get his pick of the litter. Should they stay put, Sandin would be a good, solid pick. Toronto can play it safe with Sandin, and groom a really dependable defenseman. I don’t like comparing players but Sandin just plays so similarly to Muzzin that it’s hard to ignore. Safe, solid, dependable with some upside. Dermott and Liljegren are the Leafs top D prospets without question, and both are dynamic players. I think adding a safe and solid player to that blend is something that will appeal to the Leafs.
26 - New York Rangers: Alexander Alexeyev, LD
The Rangers have two of the next three picks and could be keen on moving up, but I’d probably rather just stay put and get two lottery tickets. With Wahlstrom already added to the picture, I got the Rangers going safe here with the Russian D-man. Though at times unspectacular, I always thought he was positive for his team and helped dictate the pace of the game when things were going well. I think the Rangers are willing and wanting to roll the dice and be aggressive, but there isn’t anything wrong with sitting back and continuing to stockpile assets.
27- Chicago: Jett Woo, RD
My main reason for this selection is that I really wanted to write his name, but he is a good player and I’d love this pick. Chicago have already made out like bandits in my hypothetical world, but adding Woo to an aging blueline is such an appealing possibility to me that I’d be compelled to say they won the first round (save for Buffalo). Woo is so incredibly solid defensively that there isn’t really a role I can’t see him filling. He is so attentive and aware of all the danger in his own zone and he’s always able to make the right decision to get out of it. The modern game prioritizes risk takers, and that’s good, but the modern iteration of a defensive defenseman (good skater and decent puck mover) is ever-present within Woo. Chicago adding two really good pieces to kickstart their ascendance back into contention.
28 - New York Rangers: Akil Thomas, C/W
Thomas is a really fascinating player. Lightning quick speed with a really good playmaking mind gives him so many options. He knows that he can beat pretty much any D-man with his speed so he takes advantage of that and uses his patience to create passing lanes and scoring chances. Even on the power-play, he was used as a set-up man on the point. Wahlstrom would certainly love to play with Thomas, and the two would probably be the quickest duo in the league. The Rangers would have added 3 different types of players that address 3 different types of needs, on top of their future haul of picks and their potential return on assets like Zuccarello and Kreider, which makes them an envious situation for any rebuilding franchise.
29 - St. Louis: Liam Foudy, C
The Blues have two of the most promising young pivots in the league in Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou. Liam Foudy is a similar type of player. Absolutely blazing quick with really good playmaking skills. Foudy’s speed makes him useful in almost any situation, and it especially helps transition or shorthanded, both areas I’d expect him to embrace over the next few years. St. Louis have had a lot of success drafting OHL forwards recently, Foudy has the potential to really break out next year and add to their envious collection of young players.
30 - Detroit: Nils Lundkvist, RD
Adding two small puck movers seems like overkill, but I’d love to have either of these guys, and I suspect Detroit would be rather pleased to walk away on day 1 with two dynamic playmakers on the back end. Lundkvist is a great skater and set up man offensively. He’s slight, which makes him struggle to keep up defensively, and that’s an issue, but he is so skilled with the puck on his stick and such a smooth skater that he remains a very intriguing project.
31 - Washington: Benoit-Oilivier Groux, C/W
With the last pick of the round, the Caps add a really good defensive forward with a really heavy shot. The third Moosehead to go in the first round, Groux is a fascinating player, and one that I would love to have if I’m Washington who’s already short on quality young forwards. While skating is a concern, and not a small one, being good at preventing goals and scoring them is a combination that quite literally everyone likes.