It’s June, and the draft is less than 20 days away now. A steady stream of draft rankings have been released. Now, it’s my turn.
These are my personal rankings, not a mock draft. In terms of the eye test, I view skating and hockey IQ as very important, and my rankings will reflect that. If a prospect struggles with skating, they must be extremely skilled elsewhere and show high potential for improvement in that area to be ranked high. Jesperi Kotkaniemi is a fine example of this. He’s not the greatest skater, but he’s very skilled in other areas and I believe his skating will improve with additional leg strength and practice.
I’m a lot heavier on the stats than a lot of prospect analysts/scouts that you will see.
Statistics do have a fair amount of weight in my rankings. The more traditional “eye test” makes up the rest. I believe a mix of qualitative (the eye test) and quantitative (statistics) analysis is the best way to evaluate any hockey player.
You’ll hear me mention the metric League/Age Adjusted Scoring quite frequently throughout the rankings. This metric puts the production of prospects of different leagues and ages, on an even playing field. This makes it an extremely valuable evaluation and comparison tool.
NHLe coefficients are used to adjust for league. I use Rob Vollman’s NHLe coefficients for North American leagues, and Ian Tulloch’s for European Leagues, which are calculated using the “Wilson Method”. The Wilson Method looks at all players that go from a particular league to the NHL, regardless of any potential stops in other leagues in between. Regular NHLe only looks at players that go directly from one league to the NHL.
Updated translation factors
.43 SM-Liiga, Swiss NLA, NCHC
.33 Big 10
— Rob Vollman (@robvollmanNHL) May 22, 2017
NHLe translation factors using Wilson Method:
Jr Liiga: 0.26
— Ian Tulloch (@regressIan) May 30, 2017
To adjust for age, I use the factors provided in the fantastic book “Stat Shot”, written by Rob Vollman. He recently made those coefficients public on Twitter.
Want to calculate age adjustments for NHL prospects?
Based directly on @IainFyffe's work in Stat Shot, use this table to convert a player's scoring data to the equivalent of an 18-year-old. pic.twitter.com/Jl3MkgrGt6
— Rob Vollman (@robvollmanNHL) June 1, 2018
I’ve provided profiles for every prospect ranked in the top 31, or first round. I tried to give a gist of both their strengths and weaknesses. If you have any additional questions on any of the prospects, don’t hesitate to reach out, either in the comments section of this article or on Twitter.
1. Rasmus Dahlin (LD)
I didn’t have to spend much time on this one. Dahlin is a franchise-defining defenceman that has a serious chance at reaching a higher level than Erik Karlsson, the best defenceman on the planet. Karlsson didn’t leave the board until 15th, but now, when NHL teams put less of an emphasis on size and defensive ability, especially for prospects, Dahlin is a lock for #1. His 20 points in 41 SHL games are historic for a teenage blueliner and place him 1st among all skaters in Adjusted Points Per Game, an incredibly impressive mark for a defenceman.
Dahlin was one of the top defencemen in the SHL, a truly incredible feat for a draft-eligible defenceman. At 18, he’s already proficient defensively, but that’s just the icing on the cake. The Swede is an offensive dynamo capable of nearly anything offensively.
He can take the puck from end to end, make insane goal line to opposing blue line stretch passes, or simply use his dazzling skills to create space for teammates. That array of offensive skills, when coupled with his defensive ability and lack of any true weaknesses will make him a dominant NHL player, as well as the first overall pick at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft in June.
2. Andrei Svechnikov (RW)
The Carolina Hurricanes, owner of the #2 pick of the draft, missed out on Dahlin, but they’ll get one hell of a consolation prize in Andrei Svechnikov. In this article, Steve Kournianos makes a convincing argument in favour of a 1A, 1B situation at the top of the draft with Dahlin and Svechnikov. While I don’t agree with Steve when he says that they are virtual equals, I would settle that the gap between them is smaller than it’s often made out to be.
This draft has two franchise players at the top, and one is Svechnikov. Similar to Dahlin, the Russian winger lacks any significant weaknesses. He’s one of the best two-way forwards available, with a polished defensive game, and his offensive tools are off the charts.
He’s arguably the best available skater, in both pure speed as well as agility and edge work. That skating ability, when combined with his physical stature, makes him a huge threat driving to the net. He also has soft hands and a heavy, accurate shot, which allows him to score in countless other ways as well.
This season, Svechnikov posted 72 points in 44 games for the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League, which is 1.64 PPG. When adjusted for league and age, that is good for 2nd among all draft-eligible skaters, leading the next highest total, which is owned by Oliver Wahlstrom, by 0.15. The Russian also leads all OHL draft-eligibles in GS/GP by a margin of 0.54, and has the edge in ixG/GP by 0.13, which is equal to nearly 10 ixG over a 68 game basis.
Finally tracked Barrie, so here's Andrei Svechnikov vs. Filip Zadina based on percentile rank within sample of 190 CHL forwards.
Must say, I'm quite surprised that Svechnikov rated higher in transition & shot assists. pic.twitter.com/Ju5ZUiZdIz
— Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) April 24, 2018
If we get into micro-stats – meticulously tracked by the fantastic Mitch Brown – Svechnikov shines once again. Those are fantastic numbers; Andrei is in a very high percentile for essentially every statistic.
That should carry over to the NHL. Svechnikov has all the tools to be an elite offensive threat at the NHL level.
3. Quinn Hughes (LD)
Bob McKenzie once called Quinn Hughes “more of a rover than a defenceman”, and like most things that come out of McKenzie’s mouth, that is spot on. Hughes is an offensive force and plays a very offensive role for the University of Michigan Wolverines. His excellent skating allows him to play this way without sacrificing much on the defensive end, since he can recover and get back on defence quickly.
His skating is also what allows him to dominate the transition game; he uses it to take the puck through the neutral zone and generate successful controlled zone entries at a high rate. Aside from top-notch skating, Hughes is also a good passer and is also exceptionally smart.
When people see an undersized, offensively dynamic defenceman like Hughes, they sometimes assume that that defenceman also steuggles defensively. That’s not the case with Hughes. He’s very much a two-way defenceman, as he’s very effective defensively, using his body exceptionally well to take away space from forwards and force them into the boards.
Hughes’ offensive game and ability to dominate in the neutral game is extremely impressive on it’s own, but it’s his defensive play that gave him the edge over other players like Filip Zadina and Oliver Wahlstrom. This kind of two-way ability is rare for a first-year draft eligible; in this draft, two-way play at this level is only possessed by Quinn Hughes and consensus number one pick Rasmus Dahlin.
4. Filip Zadina (RW)
Zadina, a dynamic Czech winger, came over to North America this year to play for the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL where he enjoyed a successful debut season. In 57 games, Zadina scored 44 goals and added 38 assists for a total of 82 points.
That’s 12th among draft-eligible skaters in League & Age Adjusted Scoring – not what one would expect from a player of Zadina’s pedigree. Akil Thomas, Jake Wise and Joe Veleno, who are considered to be considerably worse prospects than Zadina, lead him in this category. Now, it’s important to specify that that does not make them superior prospects; all three are ranked significantly below Zadina in these rankings. However, this statistic does carry weight in my rankings.
Despite this, Zadina is still an exceptional goal scorer and point producer. He arguably has the 2nd best shot in the draft, and also possesses soft hands, smarts, good vision, and some playmaking skill.
The winger’s biggest weakness is undoubtably his skating – one could make an argument for his defensive play, but it would be a poor one, for his defence is on track for a player his age. Zadina lacks the high-end speed that is quite common in top prospects nowadays. He makes up some of the difference with his agility, but top notch speed is more or less a staple of top NHL players.
If Zadina wants to reach a high level and achieve the status of a top goal scorer, his speed needs to be a focus for him. If he can improve on that, Zadina’s ceiling is sky-high. If he cannot, he’ll still likely make the NHL and be an effective player, but won’t be able to reach “star status”. It will be interesting to watch it play out.
5. Oliver Wahlstrom (RW/C)
I’ve got Wahlstrom at 5, which may be the highest you’ve seen, but I think it’s warranted. The American-Swedish dual citizen is one of the top point producers in this class and has been one of the top players for a USNTDP team that is loaded with talent boasting players like Jack Hughes, Joel Farabee, Bode Wilde and K’Andre Miller. He’s primarily a goal-scorer, but he has playmaking ability as well, and that’s visible in his statistics.
This season, Wahlstrom put up 94 points in 62 games. Of that, 48 were goals and 46 were assists; a 58:48% split. From that alone, it’s easy to deduce that Wahlstrom is more of a shooter than a passer, but some serious playmaking ability must be present to put up 46 apples.
His 1.38 P/GP is good for 3rd among all draft-eligibles when adjusted for both league and age, behind only Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov.
Wahlstrom skates well, and is armed with a hard, accurate shot and a quick release. This shot can be deadly, especially in high danger areas. He’s also an excellent puckhandler, with some of the strongest puck skills in this year’s draft.
His skating, shot and puck skills are his main offensive tools, but Wahlstrom possesses good vision, passing ability and a high hockey IQ.
All in all, Wahlstrom is a deadly offensive weapon that has proven himself with USNTDP and on the international stage. His defensive play isn’t fantastic, but isn’t poor for a player his age. He projects as a top line winger that could potentially score 30+ goals a season.
6. Adam Boqvist (RD)
Adam Boqvist didn’t have the draft year that he and many scouts would have liked, but he still has a very bright future nonetheless. Boqvist was unable to stick in the Swedish Hockey League, playing just 15 games, and instead played the majority of his season with Brynäs of the SuperElit. In 25 games there, he put up 24 points – a decent total, but one would expect a bit more out of a prospect of Boqvist’s pedigree, even if he’s a defenceman.
Despite his somewhat disappointing point total, it’s impossible not to be reminded of Erik Karlsson when you watch Boqvist play. He’s an excellent skater- very fast and agile – and he uses this to aid him in taking the puck up ice. He’s shown impressive puck-moving ability and is able to move the puck up ice quickly and effectively.
Defensively, he’s more of a work in progress, but he does have the essentials down. He’s got a good defensive stick, which he uses to take away lanes well, and he has a decent grasp of positioning. He needs some work in the area of physical battles, but that should come with growth.
He’s just one month away from being a 2019 draft-eligible, so he’s a bit behind in that department. The Swedish defenceman is a dynamic offensive defenceman with puckmoving ability and a developing two-way game. The top pairing is nowhere near out of his reach.
7. Jesperi Kotkaniemi (C/RW)
Jesperi Kotkaniemi has exploded up draft rankings lately, powered by a fantastic U18 tournament that saw him post 9 points in 7 games. Prior to the U18s, Kotkaniemi’s mean ranking was right around 15th; now, it is much closer to 10. The Finnish forward spent his season in Finland’s Liiga, putting up 29 points in 57 games, a very good total for a player who hasn’t even turned 18 yet.
He spent most of his time on the wing, but played centre before that. His position going forward is a bit of an unknown; as long as he’s in the Liiga, he’ll likely be on the wing, as the centre spots will be taken by older players, but he possesses the insticts and ability of a centre, so he may switch back to a pivot once he reaches the NHL.
Kotkaniemi is extremely skilled, and possesses excellent puckhandling, shooting and passing ability. However, he’s lacking in the skating department. His skating may be best described as average; it doesn’t have the speed or agility to stand out, but it still gets the job done.
His skating is what’s holding him back from being a consensus top 8 pick, because he’s exemplary in basically every other category and has held his own against men in the Liiga. Kotkaniemi has the potential to be a top line centre, but that’s dependent on his skating improving. If not, he could top out on the 2nd line, potentially as a winger rather than a centre.
8. Joel Farabee (LW)
I’ve warmed up to Farabee a lot lately, and now he cracks my top 8. Farabee is a responsible two-way winger, but he’s still capable of a large offensive impact. He’s 13th out of all draft eligibles in League/Age Adjusted Scoring and 5th in SEAL+INV%, one slot behind Filip Zadina in both metrics. He was the 2nd highest scorer on the USNTDP U18 team, behind just Oliver Wahlstrom, despite playing a good portion of his season on the team’s second line.
Scouts rave about Farabee’s work ethic, and for good reason. He goes all out whenever he hits the ice and is often the hardest working player out there. Also a fantastic skater, Farabee’s ability to change speeds allows him to blow past defenders that are unable to adjust to his bursts of speed.
Add Farabee’s skating and work ethic to his pro-level shot and you have a fantastic player on your hands. He projects to go somewhere between 10 and 15, so whatever team drafts him will be getting great value.
9. Ty Smith (LD)
Ty Smith’s struggles in high profile events like the CHL Top Prospect’s Game and U18s have hurt his draft stock, but don’t let yourself be fooled by these games, which mean nowhere near as much as the actual regular season games that Smith was very good in.
Smith is a two-way defenceman that controls the transition game with his ability to move the puck up ice quickly. Smith is a very strong skater, with a good top speed as well as balance and agility. He can play as both a puck-mover and a puck-rusher, and can use a combination of passing and rushing to move the puck forward.
Smith’s hard, accurate shot and crisp passing makes him an excellent power play QB, a role he was successful in for Spokane of the WHL. Smith’s all around ability will make him invaluable to whatever team selects him, possibly in a top pairing role.
10. Jonatan Berggren (C/RW)
If you follow me on Twitter or have read my most recent article, you probably know how much of a huge fan of Swedish forward Jonatan Berggren I am. He has great stats and passes the eye test easily, but is often ranked in the late first-early second range, something I find extremely confusing. He’s been one of Sweden’s best players at multiple of their international events this season, but still isn’t getting the recognition he deserves.
Berggren is a lightning-fast forward with strong puckhandling and playmaking skills. His speed is what creates the majority of his opportunities, but he possesses the quick hands and finishing ability to capitalize. He’s an absolute force on the forecheck; he uses his speed to get on the opposing defencemen quickly and is relentless in hunt of the puck.
His greatest weakness is his physicality. At 5’10, 180 lbs, Berggren isn’t a big guy, and that shows in his physical play. He struggles in puck battles and other situations where size is a significant factor.
This should improve as he grows, so it isn’t much of a worry at this point. Berggren had 57 points in 38 games for Skellefteä of the SuperElit, and earned a ten game call-up to the SHL. He ranks 7th in League/Age Adjusted Scoring.
Berggren has top-line upside. His weaknesses are few, and unlikely to carry over to the NHL, and he possesses the skill set of an effective point producing forward. For more on Berggren, refer to my recent article, which he was the topic of.
11. Evan Bouchard (RD)
Evan Bouchard is a smart, two-way defenseman with a good offensive toolbox. He’s a fantastic passer, and is capable of long stretch passes that can jump-start the breakout. Offensively, his shot is a major threat.
He has a knack for getting his shots through to the net, and finds tips quite well. He makes calculated decisions and only goes with the risky play if he’s sure it will work.
Bouchard had 87 points in 67 games as a defenceman for a London Knights team that wasn’t all that good. He’s 4th in League/Age Adjusted Scoring, and the top defenceman in that metric. In SEAL+INV%, he was the 2nd best defenceman and 6th strongest skater.
Bouchard’s biggest weakness is his skating, and that weakness is why he isn’t in the top 10 of these rankings. Bouchard lacks the speed of the other puckmoving defenceman, and it restricts his ability to carry the puck and have the same impact on the transition game as the other blueliners.
12. Noah Dobson (RD)
Noah Dobson has been rising up draft rankings all year, and that looks set to continue after the fantastic Memorial Cup that he has enjoyed. Dobson is a smooth skating, puckmoving defenceman that can create opportunities offensively without sacrificing much in his own zone. He’s not the fastest skater, but he possesses good agility and edgework.
He’s a pretty good passer, but he could still use some work in that area. Dobson has a great slapshot which is a threat from the point, as well as good wrist and snap shots. At 6’3, Dobson is a big guy, and he uses his size and reach very well defensively. He’s good against the boards and in front of the net, and has a good defensive stick.
Dobson has a chance at going top 5 after his excellent showing at the Memorial Cup. I think that’s too high, but Dobson has bright future as a top 4 defenceman nevertheless.
13. Joe Veleno (LC)
Joe Veleno didn’t have the start to the season that he would have liked, dropping out of the top 10, and in some cases, the top 15, but he managed to salvage his season after a December trade, regaining some lost ground. Veleno was one of the most hyped draft-eligible players entering the season, as he was granted “exceptional status” by the CHL in his mid-teens. Veleno hasn’t quite lived up to that hype, but he has a bright future regardless.
Veleno is a two-way centre that skates well and has a high hockey IQ. A playmaker, Veleno finds open passing lanes well and is an excellent passer. He has a good shot, and when combined with his soft hands, it makes him a goal scoring threat from in tight.
Defensively, Veleno plays a responsible game. He assists his defencemen by chipping in down low and helps start the breakout. Veleno projects as a two-way 2C that can chip in offensively.
14. Martin Kaut(RW)
Martin Kaut is one of the most underrated players in this class. The Czech has outproduced Martin Necas and Filip Chytil in their draft years, both of which are considered top prospects, yet Kaut is typically considered to be a late first pick at best. Kaut actually beat out fellow Czech Filip Zadina for a spot on the Czech Republic’s World Championship team.
Kaut’s main offensive weapon is his shot, which is hard, accurate, and has a quick release. He’s very good on the puck; his balance makes him difficult to knock off of it, and he has the hands and playmaking ability to make things happen with it. He skates fairly well, with a good top speed, but his first step and acceleration could use some work.
Kaut is responsible defensively as well. He positions himself very well, and can take away lanes and force turnovers. On the backcheck, he works hard to get back in the play and puts pressure on the opposition.
The winger has top 6 potential as a two-way winger with a good offensive toolbox.
15. Brady Tkachuk (LW/C)
Tkachuk, a gritty but skilled winger, is the kind of player teams hate to play against, but is he worth a top 5 – or even a top 10 – pick? The winger certainly has skill, but his results in the NCAA suggest that he’s not the offensive force that he’s thought to be.
In 40 NCAA games, Tkachuk posted 31 points, not what you would expect out of a “top 5” prospect. That is 46th in League/Age Adjusted Scoring. Nothing about his statistics suggest that he’ll be a top line threat at the NHL level.
Tkachuk is armed with soft hands, a good shot and the ability to find open space. These make him a threat in tight, however, Tkachuk isn’t a great skater and lacks the speed to make him a constant threat with the puck.
Tkachuk looks more likely to be a middle six winger than a top line threat. While he is very good right around the net, Tkachuk doesn’t possess the skills to be all that dangerous further out, unlike the forwards ranked ahead of him.
16. Ryan Merkley (RD)
Ryan Merkley is one of the most interesting players up for the draft. He’s incredibly skilled offensively; right on par with Dahlin. However, he’s also one of the worst players I have ever seen defensively.
He just looks lost in his own zone. I’ve watched my fair share of minor hockey, and I’ve seen 13-year-olds that are stronger defensively than Merkley.
Offensively, Merkley is a fantastic skater with the vision and passing ability to be a high-end playmaker from the point. He moves the puck up ice well and isn’t afraid to rush it himself. He loves to dangle at the blueline, which is generally an ill-advised move, but Merkley has the skill to pull it off.
Merkley has another red flag accompanying his defensive game. There are rumours of attitude issues that are believed to be true, something that NHL teams will not like. I expect that he is on the “do not draft” list of several teams.
His NHL future is entirely dependent on his ability to improve his defensive play. If he can, he could be one of the best defencemen in the league. If he fails, he likely will never earn the trust of his coaches and could never crack the NHL.
The ultimate “boom or bust” prospect.
17. Vitali Kravtsov (RW)
Vitali Kravtsov started shooting up draft rankings following a fantastic playoff showing in the KHL, quickly becoming one of the biggest risers of the year. In 16 postseason games, Kravtsov posted 11 points, very impressive for a 17-year old that wasn’t receiving consistent top-6 minutes. That playoff performance was largely responsible for Kravtsov earning KHL Rookie Of The Year” honours.
The Russian wasn’t quite as impressive in the regular season as he was in the playoffs, but he was good nonetheless. His 7 points in 35 KHL games may seem underwhelming, but again, his age and the quality of the league must be taken into account.
Kravtsov is an excellent skater with good top speed and agility as well as a fantastic stickhandler and shooter. These three skills drive the bus for him offensively and make him absolutely deadly on the rush.
Kravtsov is also a proficient playmaker, possessing the required vision and passing ability. However, he’s primarily a sniper and it looks like he’ll be a good one.
18. Dominik Bokk (RW)
Dominik Bokk, a German winger, has seen himself fly up draft rankings after first attracting attention near the beginning of 2018. One of the first things you’ll notice about him are his mesmerizing puckhandling skills, which were dominant against SuperElit defenders this year. Bokk’s hockey IQ shines as well.
He consistently makes good reads and identifies holes in the defence that can be attacked. In addition to his hands and hockey IQ, the winger’s shot is a significant weapon. His release is quick and deceptive, and he can get quality shots off in a variety of ways.
Bokk isn’t the fastest skater, but what he lacks in speed is made up in agility and acceleration. If he can improve his top speed, he could be a dominant skater. Like most prospects his age, the defensive side of the game is a weakness, but there is no reason to believe he’ll be a poor player defensively in the future.
Bokk certainly has some weaknesses, but they are dramatically outweighed by the positive aspects of his game. His potential is that of a future top-six winger and because he doesn’t project to be drafted in this range, he’s a potential steal.
19. Grigori Denisenko (RW/LW)
Grigori Denisenko’s 22 points in 31 MHL games isn’t all that impressive, so he has to be skilled for me, a person who puts a lot of weight into stats to put him this high. The Russian is a fantastic puckhandler, capable of making defenders look silly. Combine this with his speed, edgework and all around excellent skating and you have a lethal force on the rush.
Denisenko has the shot to finish chances created by his hands and skating. Although it isn’t the most accurate, Denisenko has the deceptive and quick release for it to be a significant threat.
Denisenko has struggled to be a consistent threat for Loko Yaroslavl of the MHL. One game he might be dominant, but sometimes he’s invisible the next.
Skill-wise, Denisenko could be higher than this, but his poor stats and inconsistency drag him down. His ceiling is high, but there’s a fair amount of risk mixed in there as well.
20. Rasmus Sandin (LD)
Rasmus Sandin came over to the OHL mid-season from the SHL, an unusual situation, but it worked out pretty well for Sandin. He enjoyed extreme success with the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds, the top team in the OHL, and managed to stand out on a talented team.
Sandin is a very good all-around defender. One particular skill doesn’t necessarily stand out, but Sandin is good in nearly all areas.
One of those areas is puck moving. Sandin is effective in transition and gets the breakout started quite well. He’s not the type to take the puck end to end, instead deferring to a more passing-oriented, NHL style game to control transition.
Sandin is also one of the better players defensively in the draft. He has solid gap control, good positioning and a good stick.
The Swede’s kryptonite is his skating, and even that isn’t that bad. He’s not as fast as some of the other undersized blueliners, but his skating still projects as above average, as do quite a few of his other skills.
21. Barrett Hayton (LC)
This draft doesn’t have much in the way of centres, but for the teams looking to add a pivot, Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds centreman Barrett Hayton will get a long look. Hayton didn’t play a key role for the deep, OHL-best Greyhounds, playing an estimated 12.84 TOI/GP, but was successful in that limited role, posting 0.95 P/GP.
Hayton is primarily an offensive-minded centre, but his defensive game is quite developed as well. He’s aggressive in pursuit of the puck pursuit and appears to win considerably more puck battles than he loses. He has good defensive positioning and supports his defensemen well.
Moving to the offensive part of the game, Hayton is a quality skater powered by a long stride and good edgework. His skating is a legitimate offensive threat and he possesses the balance and lower body strength to barrel towards the net.
Along with his skating, Hayton’s shot is a weapon as well. He has a deceptive release, dramatically changing the angle of his shot before letting it go. It’s powerful, accurate, and a significant inconvenience for goalies.
His vision makes him a dangerous playmaker as well. He identifies open players and can get them the puck, stretching out the defence and creating time and space.
Hayton is a skilled centre with a developed two-way game. He poses a significant offensive threat and creates opportunities for himself and his teammates. He has the potential to be an offensively contributing two-way 2C and has elements of Patrice Bergeron in his game.
22. Isac Lundestrom (LC)
The World Juniors can be a fantastic resource for draft prospects looking to boost their stock; just ask Isac Lundestrom. After earning a spot on the Swedish roster, Lundestrom played an important role for Sweden, centering one of Sweden’s better lines. Lundestrom also holds the achievement of being one of the few 18-year-olds to hold an SHL job. In 42 games, Lundestrom recorded 6 goals, 9 assists and 15 points. That is 8th in League/Age Adjusted Scoring.
Lundestrom plays a smart, two-way game, creating offence through his speed, shot and hockey IQ. The Swede has fantastic vision, making him a dangerous playmaker as well. He isn’t afraid of the puck, and will keep it to make things happen offensively.
You have to be very skilled to play centre in a men’s league as an 18-year-old, but Lundestrom is just that. He’ll need some more time to develop, but when he’s ready, Lundestrom could become a top-6 NHL option.
23. Akil Thomas (RW/C)
Thomas is a hard-working, offensive forward that can play both centre and wing, although he most likely projects as a winger in the NHL. A versatile player, Thomas was entrusted with ice time in all situations for the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs, rewarding his coaches with 80 points in 68 games. That total is good for 9th in League/Age Adjusted Scoring.
Thomas owns a heavy shot, quick hands and good speed and agility. When combined, these make him a dangerous offensive weapon and a constant scoring threat. Thomas also possesses the vision to be a proficient playmaker as well.
He gets pushed around by larger players, but that will improve with growth. The forward is sometimes prone to overpassing the puck and could benefit from holding onto it himself.
Thomas has the makings of a middle-six forward that can have an offensive impact. His compete level and versatility will make him a very useful player at the next level.
24. Rasmus Kupari (C)
Finnish centre Rasmus Kupari is the latest extremely skilled player to struggle with consistently. A fantastic skater, Kupari threatens with quick changes in speed and direction, making him difficult to defend against. He has great hands, and is capable of making defenders look silly. His vision makes him a passing threat as well.
As skilled as he is, consistency has been an issue for Kupari. He can look amazing one day, and invisible the next. International tournaments have been kind to the Finn; at the Hlinka, he had 7 points in 4 games, and he cracked the Finnish WJC squad.
Kupari is somewhat of a “boom or bust” prospect. He’s skilled no doubt, but he’ll have to figure out his consistency issues and improve his defensive game to reach his full potential.
25. Nils Lundkvist (RD)
One of the biggest risers of the year, Lundkvist exploded into the draft scene after Christmas and has now established himself as a consensus late-first selection. A puck moving defenceman, Lundkvist skates well and isn’t afraid to carry the puck. He moves the puck through the neutral zone with ease, controlling the transition game.
Lundkvist spent the season with Luleä of the Swedish Hockey League, posting 5 points. He was entrusted with power play duty, quarterbacking Luleä’s second unit.
His defensive game is well developed for his age. He’s a good one on one defender and has good positioning and a strong defensive stick in his own zone.
A future in a team’s top 4 is not out of the question for Lundkvist. Puckmoving, two way defencemen like him are hard to come by. He’s almost like a poor man’s Rasmus Dahlin or Adam Boqvist.
26. Jonny Tychonick (LD)
Last year, Cale Makar went 4th overall after spending his draft year in the AJHL, the Alberta division of Canadian Junior A hockey. This year, it looks like Jonny Tychonick of the BCHL will be the first Junior A player off the board. Tychonick has long overtaken Jack McBain for that honour, powered by a dominant season that saw him produce at a clip of just under one point per game as a defenceman.
A University of North Dakota commit, Tychonick plays an offensive, puck moving game. He loves to have the puck on his stick and isn’t afraid to rush with it. He makes crisp passes, and absolutely dominated the transition game for the Penticton Vees.
Tychonick does have his weaknesses. He struggles to get shots through from the point at times and his defensive game needs fine tuning. However, neither of these project to carry over to the next level.
He’s a high-upside, high-risk player. He oozes skill, but whether or not his stellar play would be at a similar level against stronger competition remains largely unknown.
27. Calen Addison (RD)
Another undersized, offensive defenceman, Addison is always looking for a way to make an offensive impact. In the transition game, Addison uses his passing or skating ability to either move the puck up to a forward or carry it himself. His heads-up play and hockey IQ allows him to find the best play, which he is then capable of executing at a high level.
In the offensive zone, it’s more of the same; Addison finding open teammates and distributing the puck to those players. He’s always looking to get the puck to the player in the best position to threaten the net.
Addison’s defensive game has a lot of room for improvement and he sometimes gets too excited about offensive opportunities, putting himself in bad spots.
Addison has some major strengths, most involving his offensive game, but he also has some weaknesses. He’s a bit of a project, but when he does crack the NHL, it could be as a top 4 defenceman.
28. Ty Dellandrea (RC)
One of the top two-way centres available, Flint Firebirds centre Ty Dellandrea plays a responsible, defensive game while still managing to make an offensive impact. He’s similar to Barrett Hayton in that he can make major offensive contributions without sacrificing much on the other side of the puck, and like Hayton, he has shades of Patrice Bergeron in his game.
His 59 points in 67 games isn’t quite what one would want it to be, but it’s important to recognize just how bad his team was. Incredibly enough, Dellandrea’s 35% GF% was still higher than that of his teammates. Once that is considered, his point total is actually somewhat impressive.
An all-situations centre, Dellandrea has been capable of filling nearly every role for Flint; offensive, defensive, power-play, penalty-kill; you name it, Dellandrea can probably handle it. He skates well, has a good shot, and identifies holes in the defence well. Dellandrea was a constant offensive threat, despite not having much help.
Defensively, Dellandrea positions himself well, offering support to his defencemen. He can break up passes and makes good defensive reads.
Dellandrea could fall into the 2nd round, and if he does, he’s a guy you should be hoping you’re team has their eye on. He looks like he was put on Earth to play in a two-way 2C role, and he has a good chance of being just that.
29. K’Andre Miller (LD)
“Raw, but has the fundamentals to become a strong two-way defenceman down pat” is a phrase that I’ve heard been used to describe K’Andre Miller several times, and it’s spot on.
Despite being 6’3, Miller is very mobile, moving well forwards, backwards and laterally. He’s a good passer and is very good at finding open forwards. These skills make him effective in the transition game.
Miller has the tools to make an offensive impact, but he plays a conservative game that limits the effect of his offensive abilities.
Defensively, he’s good in puck battles, but struggles in other areas, most noticeably positioning. He’s a converted forward and has only played defence for a few years, and that is evident in his defensive play.
He has some things to work on, like activating more offensively and his defensive play, but Miller has the tools to be an effective two-way defenceman. He’s several years away, but could very well be worth the wait.
30. Nicolas Beaudin (LD)
Yet another puck-moving defenseman makes an appearance in these rankings, and this time it’s Drummondville Voltigeurs defenceman Nicolas Beaudin. Beaudin had a good season in the QMJHL, posting 69 points in 68 games for a Drummondville team that was among the league’s best. A fantastic distributor of the puck, Beaudin sees the ice very well and makes quick passes to open players, not giving his opponents time to take away passing lanes.
He’s calm with the puck, and although he’s not one to rush the puck, he’ll hold onto it if need be, drawing forecheckers towards him and opening up previously closed lanes. This passing ability makes him extremely effective on the breakout.
The defenceman isn’t afraid to join the rush, and can often be found following up the play, supporting his forwards.
Unfortunately for Beaudin and his first-round aspirations, he’s not a great skater, and it’s hurting his position in the consensus rankings. His acceleration is lacking, and it hurts his ability to escape forecheckers and win races for the puck. Once he does get up to speed, he moves fairly well, but he needs time to do so.
An excellent transition defender, Beaudin would be a tremendous asset to NHL teams. However, his skating is dragging him down, and he’s likely to go in the second round as a result. A potential steal.
31. Niklas Nordgren (RW)
The prize of my spreadsheet, Finnish winger Niklas Nordgren first entered my radar after I calculated League/Age Adjusted Scoring after season’s end. Nordgren’s 1.5 PPG in the Finnish Jr. A SM Liiga is good for 6th in that metric. Soon after, Nordgren sold me on him with a fantastic performance at the U18s that saw him put up 10 points in 7 games.
Nordgren is undersized at 5’9, but his work ethic makes up for any adverse effects that his size might have in his play. He competes hard in battles and manages to win his fair share of them despite his size. Similar to Joel Farabee, he always has his motor running.
Nordgren has soft hands and a laser of a wrist shot. His stickhandling prowess can create space for him to get his shot off, and when he does, it can be lethal. This is exemplified by his 8 goals at the U18s. His vision is a weapon as well, making him a playmaking threat. 29 of his 42 points were assists, so he can definitely play as a set-up man as well.
A potential steal, Nordgren has top-6 potential, but that upside is accompanied by some risk as well. The Jr. A Sm-Liiga isn’t a particularly good league, so his ability to produce against stronger competition is shrouded in question marks. However, his U18s were a strong argument in favour of being capable of such a task.
32. Jake Wise (C)
33. David Gustafsson (C)
34. Johnny Gruden (LW)
35. Jay O’Brien (C)
36. Ryan McLeod (C)
37. Aidan Dudas (C)
38. Bulat Shafigullin (RW)
39. Jesse Ylonen (RW)
40. Jett Woo (RD)
41. Serron Noel (RW)
42. Jacob Olofsson (C)
43. Filip Hallander (LW)
44. Liam Foudy (C)
45. Jerry Turkulainen (RW/LW)
46. Bode Wilde (RD)
47. Carl Wassenius (C)
48. Matthew Struthers (C)
49. Blade Jenkins (C)
50. Cam Hillis (C)
51. Alexander Alexuev (LD)
52. Luka Burzan (C)
53. Albin Eriksson (LW)
54. Marcus Karlberg (RW/LW)
55. Alexander Khovanov (C)
56. Milos Roman (C)
57. Jared McIsaac (LD)
58. Filip Kral (LD)
59. Nathan Dunkley (C)
60. Jack McBain (C)
61. Jacob Bernard-Docker (RD)
62. Allan McShane (C)
63. Linus Nyman (LW/RW)
64. Sean Durzi (LD)
65. Scott Perunovich (LD)
66. Ruslan Iskhakov (RW)
67. Phillip Kurashev (C/LW)
68. Sampo Raanta (RW)
69. Blake McLaughlin (C)
70. Kevin Bahl (LD)
71. Cole Fonstad (RW)
72. Adam Ginning (LD)
73. Jakub Lauko (C/LW)
74. Giovanni Vallati (LD)
75. Benoit-Olivier Groulx (C)
76. Adam Samuelsson (LD)
77. Martin Fehervary (LD)
78. Anderson MacDonald (LW/C)
79. Vladislav Kotkov (LW)
80. Linus Karlsson (C)
81. Adam Liska (C)
82. Mattias Samuelsson (LD)
83. Nando Eggenberger (LW)
84. Lukas Wernblom (C)
85. Christian Tanus (LW)
86. Olivier Rodrigue (G)
87. Oscar Back (F)
88. Filip Johansson (RD)
89. Axel Andersson (RD)
90. Brandon Saigeon (C)
91. Alexis Gravel (G)
92. Kirill Niznikov (RW)
93. Ivan Morosov (C)
94. Dennis Busby (LD)
95. Gabriel Fortier (RW)
96. Curtis Hall (C)
97. Tyler Madden (C)
98. Jacob Ingham (G)
99. Xavier Bouchard (LD)
100. Riley Sutter (C/RW)