Happy New Year, everyone! It’s been a while since I last updated this site, but now that the hockey season is well underway and the World Juniors are finished, I felt it prudent to start sorting out my views on the upcoming NHL draft.
As many of you may know, I’m not a fan of numerical rankings. They’re divisive, unreasonable, and they miss the point of discussing young athletes and their professional trajectory. Teams create lists as the draft approaches of course, but from what I’ve seen they appear to go by the mantra “if Player X is there, we’ll take him. If not, Player Y, if not, Player Z” and so on. I still put out yearly rankings, but that’s mostly because of some level of pointless insecurity regarding my ability to separate from the pack. That’s a discussion for another day, but in my mind, the best way to approach looking at players is to separate them into tiers. The goal is to provide groupings of players containing completely different types of players, but also different levels of measurable talent as of the time of writing.
One last note is that I’ve gone as far as the end of the 3rd round. I find the differences between players really come down to taste at that point. You take who you like when you feel it’s prudent. Without further ado, here are 93 2018 NHL Draft Prospects sorted into tiers.
The A Tier
|Rasmus Dahlin||Frolunda HC||SHL|
- Dahlin is one of the best defensive prospects I’ve ever laid eyes upon, and likely the best under-18 defender in the SHL since Victor Hedman almost a decade ago. To me, he’s the clear-cut #1 and could step into the NHL immediately. He’s an exceptional skater, deceptively skilled, and a great puckmover. Decision making is perhaps his one weakness, and he’ll need to adjust to smaller ice, but I have no doubt that he’ll be a franchise-level guy on highlight reels for years.
The B Tier
|Andrei Svechnikov||Barrie Colts||OHL|
|Filip Zadina||Halifax Mooseheads||QMJHL|
- At the outset of this season, it seemed like Andrei Svechnikov was ready to challenge Rasmus Dahlin for #1 overall, but an injury early in the year coupled with Dahlin’s ridiculous progression in his game has left Svechnikov firmly in the #2 slot. Let there be no doubt though, Andrei Svechnikov is a horse, and will score many goals in the NHL. His 16 year old season in the USHL was worthy of him being a top NHL pick had he been available to select, and he’s scoring nearly a goal per game in the OHL even as he recovers from his aforementioned injury.
- Filip Zadina has been a favourite of mine since his U18 appearance two years ago as a quick, powerful skater with a hell of a shot and great positional instincts. His World Junior performance this year was excellent, while Svechnikov was underused and snakebitten.
- While I still believe Svechnikov is the #2 player available, the case could be made to go with Zadina. He has more of a playmaking streak to his game, and I like his skating a bit better, but Svechnikov is one of the best raw goal scorers I’ve had the pleasure of tracking.
The C Tier
|Adam Boqvist||Brynäs IF J20||SWE-U20|
|Brady Tkachuk||Boston University||HE|
|Quinton Hughes||University of Michigan||Big-10|
|Evan Bouchard||London Knights||OHL|
- Beyond Svechnikov and Zadina, it’s entirely possible one or two of the names in the C Tier sneak into their group.
- Quinn Hughes and Adam Boqvist are electrifying offensive defenseman playing in excellent competition.
- Brady Tkachuk is a rambunctious dynamo who can play centre and plays a big-league style game already. In terms of upside, you could have a real good top-six forward who annoys teams to pieces, but he’s also one of the oldest first year eligibles in the draft which is important to keep in mind when evaluating his okay production for a freshman.
- Evan Bouchard is arguably the biggest surprise of the season for me with his excellent shot, great skating ability, and is the defenseman that arguably plays the best two-way game of anyone at the top of the draft. He wasn’t even on my radar to start, but over the year he’s just gotten better and better on an off-year with London. His second half will be interesting as most of the major names on London have been traded, but his ability to drive goal differential and generate offense off his shot is among the best in the draft.
The D Tier
|Isac Lundeström||Luleå HF||SHL|
|Ty Smith||Spokane Chiefs||WHL|
|Ryan Merkley||Guelph Storm||OHL|
|Joel Farabee||USA U-18||USDP|
|Oliver Wahlstrom||USA U-18||USDP|
|Jett Woo||Moose Jaw Warriors||WHL|
|Cole Fonstad||Prince Albert Raiders||WHL|
|Ryan McLeod||Mississauga Steelheads||OHL|
|Noah Dobson||Acadie-Bathurst Titan||QMJHL|
|Barrett Hayton||SSM Greyhounds||OHL|
|Joe Veleno||Drummondville Voltigeurs||QMJHL|
|Vitali Kravtsov||Traktor Chelyabinsk||KHL|
|Allan McShane||Oshawa Generals||OHL|
|Calen Addison||Lethbridge Hurricanes||WHL|
Note: Just because these players are in a “D Tier” doesn’t mean I’m not high on them. These are players who will be great pieces for whomever selects them. This is one of the deeper drafts in recent memory in my opinion, especially on the backend, and this group is demonstrative of that.
- Jett Woo is one of the most underrated players in the draft and his if he can build on his skillset and keep producing, he’s going to be a great player one day.
- Ryan Merkley is unbelievably talented offensively, especially on the power play, and his defensive play has improved over the course of the year.
- I’ve hoped for more out of Joe Veleno, but his deeper metrics still show a solid option, especially for a centre.
- Isac Lundestrom and Jesperi Kotkaniemi has shot up my rankings with their smart, north-south North American style of play down the middle of the ice in men’s leagues.
- Rasmus Kupari may not be producing much, but his skill and possession game is undeniable. More of a project, Kupari has a ton of upside and I think there’s a lot to work with.
- Vitalii Kravtsov is playing decent minutes in the best league outside of the NHL which you do not see every day, and his production is among the best historically for 17 year old KHLers.
The E Tier
|Grigori Denisenko||Loko Yaroslavl||MHL|
|Dominik Bokk||Vaxjo Lakers||SHL|
|Curtis Hall||Youngstown Phantoms||USHL|
|Filip Hållander||Timrå IK||SWE-2|
|Filip Kral||Spokane Chiefs||WHL|
|Bode Wilde||USA U-18||USDP|
|Martin Kaut||HC Dynamo Pardubice||CZE-Extra|
|Akil Thomas||Niagara IceDogs||OHL|
|Nicolas Beaudin||Drummondville Voltigeurs||QMJHL|
|Philipp Kurashev||Québec Remparts||QMJHL|
|Marcus Westfält||Brynäs IF||SHL|
|Carl Wassenius||Oreboro U20||SWE-U20|
|Benoit-Olivier Groulx||Halifax Mooseheads||QMJHL|
|Alexander Alexeyev||Red Deer Rebels||WHL|
|Serron Noel||Oshawa Generals||OHL|
|K’Andre Miller||USA U-18||USDP|
|Blade Jenkins||Saginaw Spirit||OHL|
|Jacob Ragnarsson||Almtuna IS||SWE-2|
|Niklas Nordgren||HIFK U20||FIN-U20|
|Marcus Karlberg||Leksands IF J20||SWE-U20|
|Jakub Lauko||Pirati Chomutov||CZE-Extra|
|Blake McLaughlin||Chicago Steel||USHL|
|Jacob Olofsson||Timrå IK||SWE-2|
|Jack McBain||Toronto Jr. Canadiens||OJHL|
|Rasmus Sandin||SSM Greyhounds||OHL|
|Nathan Dunkley||Kingston Frontenacs||OHL|
|Jonatan Berggren||Skelleftea AIK U20||SWE-U20|
|Milos Roman||Vancouver Giants||WHL|
|Dmitry Zavgorodniy||Rimouski Oceanic||QMJHL|
|Adam Samuelsson||USA U-18||USDP|
|Jared McIsaac||Halifax Mooseheads||QMJHL|
|Jesse Ylonen||Espoo United||FIN-2|
|Riley Sutter||Everett Silvertips||WHL|
|Caleb Everett||Saginaw Spirit||OHL|
|David Lilja||BIK Karlskoga||SWE-2|
|Michal Kvasnica||HC Frydek-Mistek||CZE-2|
|Tyler Madden||Central Illinois Flying Aces||USHL|
|Ty Dellandrea||Flint Firebirds||OHL|
|Jonathan Tychonick||Penticton Vees||BCHL|
|Tim Berni||GC Kusnacht Lions||SWI-2|
|Kevin Bahl||Ottawa 67s||OHL|
|Anderson MacDonald||Moncton Wildcats||QMJHL|
|Alexander Khovanov||Moncton Wildcats||QMJHL|
- The number of prospects explodes in the E tier, but that’s only because there are a lot of players who I see as on a relatively similar level, and the discussion could be made for very different reasons to take these players in the late 1st through the 2nd round.
- Niklas Nordgren might be the most undervalued guy relative to his ranking in the draft. Small, but a powerful skater who is great around the net. Produced a boatload in the Finnish U20 league and landed a hat trick in the Champions Hockey League.
- I’ve liked my viewings of K’Andre Miller, an offensive defender with size and have my eye on him.
- Riley Sutter has stood out in my sheet for his numbers on paper. He’s been a great two-way player in decent icetime. There’s a lot of upside to his game with primary points on well over 60% of goals scored while he’s on the ice at even strength.
- For teams looking for a pure, raw power forward similar to Jonah Gadjovich last year, Serron Noel is your guy. My viewings and analytics show me a ridiculously strong power winger who can force his way to the net and get nasty points. Primary points on well over 60% of team goals while on the ice, two thirds of his shots are listed as high or medium danger, and pushing 30%INV is a recipe for success. I’m unsure of his upside as a true gamebreaker, but I don’t see why a player like him wouldn’t crack an NHL roster one day.
- Dominik Bokk is my pet project for the year. Going from the German U19 Junior League to the Swedish U20 league, to the SHL is no small feat, but he’s forced his way into the discussion to go in the 1st round. He’s a dynamic offensive winger with great skating ability and versatile offensive tools. Definitely one to watch, and I’d give him a hard look in the late 1st.
- Blade Jenkins is my analytics-favourite for the year. He’s right at 2.5 primary points per hour at even strength, has primary points on over 75% of goals scored at even strength in Saginaw, and he’s getting 43% of his shots from high or medium danger areas. There could be some serious value there.
- I hoped for a lot more of Tim Berni in the WJC, and he showed me flashes, but he made a lot of bad plays and showed considerable softness defensively. He’s producing on a development team in a men’s league though, and for a defenseman, it intrigues me. He’s a project, but I’m interested.
- Martin Kaut was a pleasant surprise to me at the World Juniors. A great playmaker with a solid set of tools I’d be curious to keep an eye on.
The F Tier
|Ryan O’Reilly||Madison Capitols||USHL|
|Max Ellis||Youngstown Phantoms||USHL|
|Brady Hinz||Sarnia Sting||OHL|
|Albin Eriksson||Skelleftea AIK U20||SWE-U20|
|Brendan Budy||Langley Rivermen||BCHL|
|Zach Solow – D+1||Northeastern University||HE|
|Damien Giroux||Saginaw Spirit||OHL|
|Hunter Holmes||Flint Firebirds||OHL|
|Lenni Killinen||Blues U20||FIN-U20|
|Severi Lahtinen – D+1||Peliitat||FIN-2|
|Bulat Shafigullin||Reaktor Nizhnekamsk||MHL|
|Mattias Samuelsson||USA U-18||USDP|
|Sean Durzi – D+1||Owen Sound Attack||OHL|
|Linus Nyman – D+1||Kingston Frontenacs||OHL|
|Jerry Turkulainen – D+1||JYP||Liiga|
|Gabriel Fortier||Baie-Comeau Drakkar||QMJHL|
|Axel Andersson||Djurgardens IF U20||SWE-U20|
|Marcus Bjork – D+2||IK Oskarshamn||SWE-2|
|Adam Ginning||Linköping HC||SHL|
|Jack Drury||Waterloo Black Hawks||USHL|
|Aidan Dudas||Owen Sound Attack||OHL|
|Lucas Chiodo – D+1||Barrie Colts||OHL|
|Axel Bergkvist||Leksands IF J20||SWE-U20|
|Jason Willms – D+1||Barrie Colts||OHL|
|Johnny Gruden||USA U-18||USDP|
You’ve probably noticed that this tier is considerably smaller than the previous one. That’s mostly because this group is full of “wait and see” guys that I think you’re mostly selecting because you like what you’ve seen of them. Some guys with noticeable weaknesses such as lack of size are in here, as are high producing guys in lower leagues. I’ve seen players in situations like this turn into steals, and I’ve seen some fizzle out and never turn into NHLers. I suppose that’s what I sign up for, but my opinion is that ~10% of draft picks in the 3rd round or later end up tenured NHLers, so even if 20% of these guys turn into players, it would appear that my picks were an improvement vs. the trend.
- Toni Utunen isn’t the best skater, but he’s been great in Finland’s 2nd division. The last comparable I could find was Sami Niku, who has been a great value pick for Winnipeg out of the 7th round. Utunen has a good shot and smart passing ability and I’m very curious to see where he ends up.
- Continuing in Finland, Severi Lahtinen is an older ’98 who was passed over in his first draft last year, but has responded with being well over a point per game in Finland’s second division. A 40%INV player in a men’s league just after his 19th birthday is no small feat.
- Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I’ve adopted Jerry Turkulainen as my tiny son. He’s small, he looks small on the ice, but he’s a powerful, agile, sneaky skater who can get under your skin around the net. He’s an excellent driver of offense at even strength, and is dangerous on a powerplay. He was invited to the Maple Leafs development camp, but is still draft eligible. He’s scoring in clusters in the Liiga and Champions Hockey League, and I think there’s a real player there if he can play more of a straight-line game.
- Linus Nyman is another small player who has impressed me in his second draft year in Kingston. He’s agile, and loves to have the puck on his stick. He’s been an effective pair with Jason Robertson and I’m expecting a massive 2nd half with the firepower Kingston has added.
- Axel Bergqvist may be 5’8″, but I feel as though if he were 5’10” and playing in North America, he would be much higher in people’s lists. I’ve seen a great offensive skater with a heck of a slapshot from the point for a little guy. He’s shown he’s capable of a very good passing game and if he can get stronger and smarter defensively, there could be good value there.
- I’m really not sure what to think of Nando Eggenberger. I was really curious to watch him at the World Junior, but I didn’t see much that screamed “Top Pick” to me. He showed a decent pair of feet and a good shot, but his production in the NLA and his performance in Buffalo left me wanting a bit more. I’d love for him and the team drafting him to prove me wrong.
- I thought Sean Durzi would’ve been picked last year, but every time I’ve seen an Attack game, he’s been a standout. He’s quick, reliable defensively, and plays a smart 60/40 offensive game on a potent offense. I’ve seen him pinch off bluelines very well, pass the puck with ease, and lands over six shots on goal per 60 minutes at even strength.