With the Stanley Cup Finals starting up on Monday, most hockey fans are getting excited about the upcoming NHL Draft. After the NHL Draft Lottery confirmed that Buffalo, Carolina and Montreal would be picking in the top 3, fans have been buzzing. It is assumed among hockey experts that #1 rated defenseman Rasmus Dahlin will be going 1st overall to Buffalo. Finally, the Buffalo Sabres have won the draft lottery, after being shafted twice before in 2015 and 2016. Surprisingly, the Carolina Hurricanes, who had the 11th best odds at winning the lottery, won the 2nd overall selection. After missing the playoffs for the last 9 years, they need to utilize this pick, via selection or trade, to boost the fortunes of their ailing franchise. Finally, the Montreal Canadiens leap-frogged the Ottawa Senators and Arizona Coyotes to earn the 3rd overall pick.
With the order now set, the folks at Scrimmage and Stats proceeded to look at some serious tape, and not just your average Youtube highlight real. We’ll preview the top-10, while also listing our 31 picks to give you an idea of who your favourite team will select. The positions are based on our own invidual lists and might defer from our pre-lottery Mock Draft (LINK). However, due to the recent World U-18 Championship and CHL playoffs, many players have risen/fallen in our rankings. Without further ado, let’s get this started:
1st overall pick: Buffalo Sabres – D Rasmus Dahlin
Scouts have labeled the young Swedish defenseman as a potential generational talent. Dahlin projects as a franchise defenseman that could play both left and right (although he prefers and excels on the left side). He played amongst men in the Swedish Elite League (SHL) for Frolunda for the last two seasons. SHL fans have called it an absolute joy to watch the young rearguard develop into a force on the back-end. He scored a staggering 7 goals and 20 points in 41 games this season in a low-scoring league. He’s the highest scoring 18-year old defenseman in 30 years in the SHL. In comparison, Erik Karlsson put up 1 goal in 7 games during their 2007-2008 season He scored 10 points in 45 games during the 2008-2009 season as a 19 year-old. He had already been drafted 15th overall by the Ottawa Senators at that point. Not impressed yet? Hall of famer and former SHL defenseman Niklas Lidstrom was able to put up 16 points in 39 games. Lidstrom was the same age as Dahlin and played in a higher scoring era, which further highlights Dahlin’s accomplishments.
Dahlin’s best asset is his speed, as he can catch forwards on their heels in the neutral zone and make successful zone entries at will. His corsi stats in the SHL are off the charts, as his puck possession skills were put on full display when trying to make a play. His slap shot, albeit not elite, is extremely precise and his wrist shot is deadly from the point. Currently standing at 6’2 and 185lbs, Dahlin has a lot of room to grow and fill in his frame. His defensive game needs some work in order to transition to the North American style of play, but he’s close. He is surprisingly physical for a such a talented defenseman. He is not shy to line up players along the boards or along the blue line. This added edge makes him a total package of speed, skill and toughness for the Buffalo Sabres. The left side of their current defensive corps leaves a lot to be desired. Dahlin would easily slot on the top pairing with another Rasmus (Ristolainen) and would give the Sabres the back-end stability they have lacked since the 80s.
2nd overall pick: Carolina Hurricanes – RW Andrei Svechnikov
It’s one thing to be a point-per-game in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) as a draft-eligible 17 year-olds, but it is another feat entirely to go an entire season scoring a goal-per-game. His 40 goals in 44 games for the Barrie Colts make him the most proven goal scorer in this draft. His size, at 6’2 190lbs, makes him a force along the boards and extremely hard to knock off the puck. His speed and willingness to go to the net immediately destroys the “lazy Russian” stereotype. NHL Hall of Famer and Colts Head Coach Dale Hawerchuk has applauded Svechnikov on adapting well to the North-American game.
Bob Mackenzie has called the young Russian an “elite scoring prospect” and he is not wrong in the slightest. The last junior player to be able to release a puck that quick is currently the captain of the Edmonton Oilers. His wrist shot is a laser and becomes even more lethal when he uses his speed to cut through the middle and shoot from the slot. His shiftiness with the puck while in stride allows Svechnikov to create significant space for himself. Furthermore, his passing skills are just as refined, as he can make cross-ice passes from pretty much anywhere. Many will see him as a can’t miss first-line right-winger. After watching him this season, the best comparable to Svechnikov’s style would be an Evgeni Malkin who plays the wing. Carolina would certainly love to add goal scoring like this after the terrible season they just had. There is a chance they might trade the pick (LINK), but expect them to take the surefire star in Svechnikov.
3rd overall pick: Montreal Canadiens RW Filip Zadina
The Montreal Canadiens have the worst center depth in the NHL, but there is no center in sight in the top-end of this draft. Jesperi Kotkaniemi is a solid choice for a center prospect, but the Canadiens need to pick the best player available. They ultimately chose the Czech forward playing for the Halifax Mooseheads. Filip Zadina came over this year for Halifax and was a force offensively, putting up 82 points in 57 games. He also greatly improved his defensive game while leading the Mooseheads back to the playoffs. The 6’0 200 lbs winger put up almost identical numbers as former Moosehead Jakub Voracek as a 17 year-old in Halifax. Mooseheads have compared Zadina to Voracek since coming over to the NHL. Both players controlled the play in a similar way, but they note that Zadina is much more defensively responsible.
Although he may be a strong two-way force, don’t think that Montreal is once again going for the safe pick in this case. Quite the opposite, Zadina’s offensive upside (scoring 44 goals in his rookie season) puts him on par with another former Moosehead, Nikolaj Ehlers. Ehlers scored 49 goals in 63 games at the same age, but Ehlers was also playing with a certain Jonathan Drouin as his set-up man. Zadina’s numbers are even more indicative of his talent, as he played without another top QMJHL star similar to Drouin. The Canadiens would have no choice but to recognize the talent of this young winger and fill their hole at center via trade. Zadina will finally allow Montreal to have a top end scoring that controls the play. Although Max Pacioretty, who could be dangled come Draft Day, has a similar offensive flair, Zadina is far more involved in the play.
4th Overall pick: Ottawa Senators – D Adam Boqvist
Quite simply, because defense is a strong organizational need for the Senators. With the possible departure of franchise defenseman Erik Karlsson, the Senators have a need on the right side. Enter Adam Boqvist. Similarly, to the scouting reports on Oliver Ekman Larsson in 2009, Boqvist is the prototype for the modern NHL defenseman: Speed, Skill, Shot, Smarts. He can rush a puck, patrol a blueline. Boqvist knows when to jump in on the play and has the most precise wrist shot out of any defenseman in this entire draft.
Although he may not be the biggest D-man at 5’11 and 172 lbs, Boqvist can defend quite well by the use of his positioning and active stick. He was money for Sweden at the Ivan Hlinka tournament this year when he put up 8 points in 5 games. He split time between the Swedish Hockey League and the Swedish 1st Division league this season. He has matured well in the shadow of fellow Swede Rasmus Dahlin, as he looked more than capable for Brynas If Gavle of the SHL. His numbers are similar to those of Erik Karlsson at the same age. Many scouts have have compared Boqvist’s style of play to Karlsson’s, which would make Boqvist a good piece to outweigh the potential loss of Karlsson. Boqvist would probably play another season in Sweden for seasoning, before making the Senators out of camp the following year.
5th Overall: Arizona Coyotes – Quinn Hughes
Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Jacob Chychrun are the only homegrown defensemen to have played for the Coyotes this season. Further adding to this problem would be the fact that Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s contract will be coming to an end at the end of the 2018-2019 season and, should OEL chose to leave, the Coyotes don’t have anyone that could step in to replace him. The undersized defenseman (5’10 180lbs) makes up for his lack of physicality with jaw-dropping talent. The first of three brothers, all pegged to be high draft-picks in their respective age groups (remember Jack Hughes everyone), Quinn is an absolute bullet on the ice and can drive a play by himself. Although he may not have the strongest slapshot, his wrist shot is extremely precise and his passing is second to none in this draft.
He plays a very similar game to that of Ryan Ellis, if Ellis had turbo jets attached to his feet. His ability to shake off forecheckers, enter the offensive zone with ease, create space for his teammates with his blistering speed makes him one of the most attractive defensemen in this draft outside of Dahlin. If he were 3 inches taller, he would be going right after Dahlin without a shadow of a doubt. He put up 29 points in 37 games as a freshman for the University of Michigan, which is 4 more points than Zach Werenski put up for Michigan at the same age. Not convinced yet? Hughes was a force for Team USA at the World Junior Championships and World Championships. He was the most dynamic defenseman on the ice whenever both junior and senior American teams were playing. He would fill a huge hole in the Arizona defence, and his excellent play as a true freshman in the NCAA hints that he could make that transition as early as this next season.
6th overall pick: Detroit Red Wings – D Evan Bouchard
There is perhaps no greater riser in this year’s draft like Evan Bouchard of the OHL’s London Knights. Bouchard was originally ranked in the later parts of the first round and has vaulted up the rankings thanks to his 87 points in 67 games. His speed and skill would instantly would translate well to the faster modern NHL game. He is an absolute joy to watch in the opposition’s zone, as he patrols the blue line and has a high takeaway count. What is more impressive is that he led his team in scoring by a whopping 27 points. Did I mention he was also 6’2 and weighs 193lbs? He has posted the best offensive output for an OHL defenseman in a significantly long time. The last draft eligigble defenseman to come close to Bouchard’s numbers was Ryan Ellis in 2008-2009.
Bouchard put up a ridiculous 25 goals, mainly due to his speedy and shifty skating ability and his wicked wrist shot. However, his defensive game requires a little bit of work for him to truly become a top-pairing defenseman going forward. He often gets caught up in the play and leaves the opposition to counter-attack in odd-man rushes. He also needs to work on his defensive-zone position, as he is sometimes taking himself out of the play to make a hit. These are all things that the Red Wings development team can assist him in learning. After all, you can’t teach talent.
7th overall pick: Vancouver Canucks F Noah Dobson
Noah Dobson is an absolute beast. He is most probably the more complete defensive prospect in this draft, after Dahlin. He is a defensive rock for the QMJHL Champions, the Acadie-Bathurst Titans. He played on their top-pairing with over-ager Olivier Galipeau and outshined him on several nights. He can be used at 5on5, on the Penalty Kill or on the Power Play at any given time and excel. He scored a whopping 17 goals and 69 points in 67 games. He produced 13 points in 20 playoffs games en route to a QMJHL title, and has been a force in the Memorial Cup as well. His 7 points in 3 games place him first in points for a defenseman and third overall for skaters. That’s quite an impressive spring for the young P.E.I. native.
His incredible run this year has vaulted Dobson into the top-10 of this draft, and many see immense untapped potential. His progression this year make him an ideal candidate for a team looking to build their defensive corps. Drafting a player like Dobson would complement a future Canucks core that already includes Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, Adam Gaudette and Nikolay Goldobin. The Canucks have a need on defense, as the grand majority of their top prospects are forwards. Dobson looks like a surefire top-4 defenseman that can eventually become a top pairing guy.
8th overall: Chicago Blackhawks C/LW Jesperi Kotkaniemi
Speaking of risers in this year’s draft, the Chicago Blackhawks select the young Finnish center who was previously ranked in the teens. Kotkaniemi, who plays left-wing for the Finnish Liga’s Assat Pori and center internationally, had a late season surge in his draft stock. His size ( 6’2 192lbs) and his speed make him an ideal pro-level center for Chicago. He put up 29 points in 59 games in Finland, which is quite an achievement for an 18-year old. Comparatively, Patrik Laine, who was drafted 2nd overall in 2016, scored 33 points in 46 games. Kotkaniemi isn’t an elite scorer, but he is an all-around solid offensive force.
He plays a strong 200-foot game, which made him extremely effective at center for Team Finland’s junior and men’s team. During this winter’s World Junior Hockey Championships, Kotkaniemi put up 3 points in three games for Finland. He then followed up that performance with 9 points in 7 games en route to a gold medal. Jesperi is a versatile player than can also play on a penalty-kill and be a dangerous presence with his speed. Chicago needs a boost of speed and talent in their forward ranks to retool their offensive corps. Kotkaniemi would fit perfectly on an eventual second line for Chicago as early as next season, but I see Chicago being patient with him.
9th overall: New York Rangers LW Oliver Wahlstrom
Oliver Wahlstrom was put on this planet to do one thing: fill the net with pucks. His 22 goals and 45 points in 26 games for the USNDT put him in elite company in regards to USHL scoring. Oliver Wahlstrom is the best draft eligible scorer to come out of the USNDT program since Jack Eichel, which says just about as much as you need to know about him. His 22 goals and 45 points in 26 games for the USNDT put him in elite company in regards to USHL scoring and his exceptional performance at the U-18s solidified his position as an elite goal-scorer. He has outproduced last year’s 8th overall pick, Casey Mittelstadt in the USHL during their respective draft years, while also being more of a factor defensively as well. His 7 and 9 points in 7 games for the US U18 team this April have vaulted him up the rankings, as he could ultimately surpass Zadina and Svechnikov when all is said and done.
Wahlstrom projects to be a goal-scoring top-6 winger and his 6’1 205lbs frame is already pro-ready, which makes him an extremely attractive consolation prize for a team that missed out on Dahlin. Many have compared his style to that of Brock Boeser, as his wrist shot is hard and precise. Montreal would love to add such a versatile player to their top-6, but I do not see them picking Wahlstrom due to the young forward projecting as a full-time left-winger in the pros. With Bob MacKenzie calling this a very deep draft, it seems like the right time for New York to swing for the fences and pick that top-end offensive talent they are so sorely lacking. He would fit well on the wing next to Mika Zibanejad or 2017 1st round pick Lias Andersson on a future 2nd line.
10th overall: Edmonton Oilers LW- Brady Tkachuk
Brother of Calgary Flames young forward Matthew Tkatchuk, Brady is an absolute tank on the ice. His 6’3 and 200 lbs frame make him an easy guy to spot on the ice for amateur scouts. Beyond his obvious physical traits, Brady can play some serious hockey. He scored 31 points in 40 games as a freshman for the University of Boston and was an offensive sparkplug for team USA during the World Junior Championships. He projects as a top-6 bruising winger that plays a similar game to his brother Matthew. Edmonton has a huge organizational need on Left-Wing, as their top left-winger only posted 34 points this season. Their prospect pool doesn’t have a winger in the mold of Tkachuk and would greatly benefit from his physical style.
Tkachuk was initially ranked as high as 2nd overall in early 2018. His decision to return to Boston University and his marginal offensive output this season made him drop on many scouting lists. Brady Tkachuk is also the oldest player in this draft, coming a few days short of being eligible for last year’s draft. This makes his 31 points in 40 games for Boston University a little less impressive than a true freshman like Hughes. Nonetheless, he has the build and talent to be a complimentary top-six forward that helps you win championships. His tenacity and character make him an ideal pick for an Oilers organization looking to insulate McDavid.
11th overall: New York Islanders C Joseph Veleno
12th Overall: New York Islanders D Ty Smith
13th overall: Dallas Stars (St-Louis Blues) LW Joel Farabee
14th overall: Philadelphia Flyers RW Vitali Kravtsov
15th overall: Colorado Avalanche D Rasmus Sandin
16th overall: Colorado Avalanche C Rasmus Kupari
17th overall: New Jersey Devils RW Martin Kaut
18th overall: Columbus Blue Jackets: C Akil Thomas0
19th overall: Philadelphia Flyers: D Bode Wilde
20th overall: LA Kings: D Jared McIsaac
21st overall: Buffalo Sabres (San Jose Sharks): C Isac Lundestrom
22nd overall: Ottawa Senators (Pittsburgh Penguins): C Ryan McCleod
23rd overall: Anaheim Ducks RW Serron Noel
24th overall: Minnesota Wild D K’Andre Miller
25th overall: Toronto Maple Leafs D Ryan Merkley
26th overall: New York Rangers (Boston Bruins) Grigori Denisenko
27th overall: Chicago Blackhawks (Nashville Predators) Dominik Bokk
28th overall: New York Rangers (Tampa Bay) C Ty Delleandrea
29th overall: St-Louis (Winnipeg Jets) D Jett Woo
30th overall: Detroit Red Wings (Vegas Golden Knights) C/RW Jonathan Berggren
31st overall: Washington Capitals C Jack Wise