Scouching’s 2018 Draft Rankings

The 2018 draft is fast approaching, and with the U18s wrapped up and every CHL league now complete, it seems like the right time to finalize and publicize this year’s rankings. All of you know that I’m an analytically-minded voice in the room, but that doesn’t create a full picture in any case. I try to catch as much as possible with my eyes, and I try to link what I see on paper with what I see with my eyes. The junior game is a completely different animal from the NHL game, and over the last year, one thing I’ve learned is that there are certain skills that translate and project more to a higher level than others. The ability to make a smart simple play quickly, the ability to cycle a puck along the boards, the ability to cut into dangerous areas, mobility on your skates and the ability to protect the puck with body positioning are all just a small, but important part of the equation. Some players excel in different skillsets, and some players will develop immensely in skills that aren’t quite there when the player is drafted. So many factors go into developing young players that can and can’t be controlled, so my approach is almost always to take players that are measurably excellent today with visible skills that can translate to the NHL one day. Those players need to be put in positions where they can play and excel in major roles until they develop to the point where they can be comfortable pushing for an NHL spot.

I’ve been through this before, but my goal isn’t to replace traditional scouting. Most NHL teams ideally end up with around three regular players every two years or so in the draft. If my methodology and approach increases that the four or even five every two years, that’s a significant improvement, even though many picks will still fail to develop. I’m still in the early stages of my work, but just judging by my list of players I would’ve slotted in where my hometown Leafs would’ve picked, I could see six players from 2016 and 2017 still breaking into the NHL: Jonathan Dahlen, Taylor Raddysh, Adam Fox, Frederic Allard, Mikhail Berdin, and Ivan Chekhovich. On top of Auston Matthews and Timothy Liljegren, that could result in eight NHLers across two drafts.

If you’re new here, my rankings are usually tiered, with numerical rankings coming afterwards, but I figure I’d rather group the two sets together. On the whole, this year’s draft looks good, with certain parts looking great. The defense crop is excellent, and the group from Europe on the whole also looks very good. The names towards the end of the ranking are what I’m considering “Shoot for the Moon” names who are worth a pick just to see what happens and are in no particular order.

Tier I

1 Rasmus Dahlin – D (DY) Frolunda HC SHL
  • Dahlin is going #1, we all know it. He may need some sheltered minutes to get going, but he’s the brightest defense prospect in years. He’s shifty, smart, mobile, and produces well. He makes the game look easy against grown men, and in a few short years we could be looking at a Norris candidate so long as Buffalo doesn’t throw him into the deep end too early and/or fails to develop an actual hockey team around him.

Tier II

2 Andrei Svechnikov – RW (DY) Barrie Colts OHL
  • I was a huge Svechnikov fan last year, and this year is no different. The guy has just had his way with North American junior hockey for two years now. He’s an animal with the puck and is an offensive juggernaut. My recency bias is recalling a Blake Wheeler type with a bit more of a nose for the net. Svechnikov can protect the puck well, he can score from a variety of locations, and gets to dangerous areas of the ice almost every shift. His second half was certifiably bonkers, and if he can have a full healthy summer of training, he’s going to be a devastating offensive threat very soon in the NHL.

Tier III

3 Filip Zadina – LW (DY) Halifax Mooseheads
QMJHL
4 Quinn Hughes – D (DY) University of Michigan
Big-10
5 Adam Boqvist – D (DY) Brynäs IF J20
SWE-U20
  • You could honestly convince me on any of these at any slot around here. If you have a choice between a Patrik Laine, Shayne Goestisbehere, or a PK Subban, which do you pick?
  • Zadina has a laser beam with a great set of wheels, solid puck protection ability and would make any power play much more dangerous.
  • Hughes has played at extremely high levels and not looked out of place. Arguably the most agile skater available and a great puck rusher/shooter, with some more development in his own end and filling out his small frame, he could be an excellent 5v5/PP offensive threat.
  • If you like a defender who has two way upside who isn’t afraid of jumping into a rush or shooting a puck from anywhere, Boqvist is your man. He’s mobile and looked great at the U18s.

Tier IV

6 Evan Bouchard – D (DY) London Knights OHL
7 Noah Dobson – D (DY) Acadie-Bathurst Titan
QMJHL
8 Ty Smith – D (DY) Spokane Chiefs WHL
9 Jesperi Kotkaniemi – C (DY) Assat Liiga
10 Oliver Wahlstrom – C/RW (DY) Team USA USDP
11 Brady Tkachuk – C/LW (DY) Boston University HE
12 Akil Thomas – C (DY) Niagara IceDogs OHL
13 Ryan Merkley – D (DY) Guelph Storm OHL
14 Joe Veleno – C (DY) Drummondville Voltigeurs
QMJHL
15 Barrett Hayton – C (DY) Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds OHL
16 Joel Farabee – LW (DY) Team USA USDP
17 Martin Kaut – RW (DY) HC Dynamo Pardubice
CZE-Extra
18 Rasmus Kupari – C (DY) Karpat Liiga
19 Vitali Kravtsov – F (DY) Traktor Chelyabinsk KHL
  • I’ve been on the Bouchard train all year. Insane production, calm collected game, needs to improve defensively and the raw skating speed could be better, but he could be a legit minutes eater with a ton of shooting upside.
  • That being said, at 6 you could convince me of anyone of Bouchard, Dobson, Smith, Tkachuk, Kotkaniemi or Wahlstrom in any order for different reasons. Do you need a goal scorer? A two-way centre who’s producing well against men? Honestly might come down to who might fit in best with the infamous “culture” of your team.
  • Tkachuk is almost a can’t miss NHLer, and he’ll definitely produce fine, but I don’t see the same upside as much as the other aforementioned names. I have him going to Montreal at 3, but that’s only because I feel like Bergevin and Co. will lean that way. He’s a versatile two-way threat who can skate well enough, but his production for his age and his real lack of that “wow” factor when I saw him leads me to put him a bit further back.
  • I know the concerns with Merkley are real, but so is his remarkable talent. I loved his U18, and I think he plays with a lot of “passion” that needs to be reined in if he’s to move forward. He’ll be frustrated a lot as he develops, and he’ll need to know how to manage that and rebound from it if he’s going to reach his ceiling.
  • I really like Kravtsov, but I think there’s a bit of rose coloured glasses going on after his playoffs. He’s a skilled winger who can protect the puck, and he’s underrated, but a few shots here and there that probably should’ve been saved, and his production isn’t as historically good in the KHL. Top 20 pick to me? Sure.

Tier V

20 Isac Lundeström – C/LW (DY) Luleå HF SHL
21 Calen Addison – D (DY) Lethbridge Hurricanes WHL
22 Jacob Olofsson – C (DY) Timrå IK
SWE-2
23 Serron Noel – RW (DY) Oshawa Generals OHL
24 Ryan McLeod – C (DY) Mississauga Steelheads OHL
25 Grigori Denisenko – LW (DY) Loko Yaroslavl MHL
26 Filip Hållander – C/W (DY) Timrå IK
SWE-2
27 Jonatan Berggren – C/RW (DY) Skelleftea AIK U20
SWE-U20
28 David Gustafsson – C (DY) HV71 SHL
29 Dominik Bokk – LW/RW (DY) Vaxjo Lakers U20
SWE-U20
30 Ty Dellandrea – C (DY) Flint Firebirds OHL
31 Jake Wise – C (DY) Team USA USDP
32 Nils Lundkvist – D (DY) Luleå HF SHL
33 Alexander Alexeyev – D (DY) Red Deer Rebels WHL
34 Rasmus Sandin – D (DY) Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds OHL
35 Allan McShane – C (DY) Oshawa Generals OHL
36 Niklas Nordgren – RW (DY) HIFK U20
FIN-U20
37 Bode Wilde – D (DY) Team USA USDP
38 Nicolas Beaudin – D (DY) Drummondville Voltigeurs
QMJHL
39 Blade Jenkins – C (DY) Saginaw Spirit OHL
40 Mattias Samuelsson – D (DY) Team USA USDP
41 K’Andre Miller – D (DY) Team USA USDP
42 Jared McIsaac – D (DY) Halifax Mooseheads
QMJHL
43 Jonathan Tychonick – D (DY) Penticton Vees BCHL
44 Linus Karlsson – C (DY) Karlskrona HK U20
SWE-U20
45 Jack McBain – C (DY) Toronto Jr. Canadiens OJHL
  • Serron Noel is big, but he isn’t the big guy who can’t skate that everyone is afraid of in 2018. He can skate and he has a creative streak to him. He is huge, and gets to dangerous areas better than anyone except Andrei Svechnikov. He was great in the U18 and should significantly improve his OHL metrics next year. He’s a true power forward for the modern era, and I think there’s an underrated NHLer there.
  • I’m a big Wise fan for his ability to QB a line and move the puck. If a goal was scored in the USHL with him on the ice at even strength, he had a point 95% of the time. Only Alex Steeves comes close at 90%.
  • Dellandrea had a great U18 and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get picked earlier. He’s mobile and powerful on his feet. I’m unsure of his upside, but a 30%INV player on a terrible Flint team is promising in terms of late 1st, early 2nd value.
  • Berggren was a standout at the U18s for me. He surprised me with his NHL-style game, especially along the boards. He’s agile and a shoot-first type that would slot in well on any NHL roster one day. He’ll need to get stronger, but the skill, IQ and instincts are there. Should be an SHL regular next year in Skelleftea.
  • Speaking of U18 standouts, Niklas Nordgren looks like a potential steal. I’ve been very high on him all year, and his scoring instinct is excellent. My concern lies in his skating and ability to project his size to the next level. He’ll need to be a bull on skates to play the way he does in the NHL one day. He’s 5’9″, but has a great shot and is a very creative playmaker. He’ll require training and patience, but in the 2nd round you could do much, much worse.
  • Blade Jenkins is a Scouching Tracking Doc standout, plain and simple. Just 44 points this year, but he had a goal or primary assist on 75% of even strength goals scored on the ice, and points on 84% in total. 26% of his shots were high danger, 42% were high or medium. He’s got the size to project that to the next level, and reminds me of a similar case last year in Jonah Gadjovich. I might have him higher than I should, but if he’s there in the 3rd, I’d have a hard look.
  • Who is Linus Karlsson? Arguably the unluckiest junior player in Sweden. He’s an older eligible, but he’s an average sized centre playing for the newly relegated Karlskrona from the SHL. He landed an assist in 14 SHL games this year, but had 52 points in 42 games at the U20 level. Playing for Sweden’s U19 team at the 5 Nations, he had six points in four games. He’s skilled, needs to improve his skating, but his 47%INV leads me to believe that big things are in store for him in the Allsvenskan next year.

Tier VI

46 Cam Hillis – C (DY) Guelph Storm OHL
47 Jett Woo – D (DY) Moose Jaw Warriors WHL
48 Philipp Kurashev – LW/C (DY) Quebec Remparts
QMJHL
49 Johnny Gruden – LW (DY) Team USA USDP
50 Alexander Steeves – F (DY) Dubuque Fighting Saints USHL
51 Ryan O’Reilly – F (DY) Madison Capitols USHL
52 Riley Sutter – RW (DY) Everett Silvertips WHL
53 Jay O’Brien – C (DY) Thayer Academy USHS
54 Cole Fonstad – C/LW (DY) Prince Albert Raiders WHL
55 Alexander Khovanov – C (DY) Moncton Wildcats
QMJHL
56 Marcus Westfält – C/LW (DY) Brynäs IF SHL
57 Jesse Ylonen – RW (DY) Espoo United FIN-2
58 Carl Wassenius – C (DY) Oreboro U20
SWE-U20
59 Kody Clark – RW (DY) Ottawa 67’s OHL
60 Benoit-Olivier Groulx – C (DY) Halifax Mooseheads
QMJHL
61 Jakub Lauko – C/LW (DY) Pirati Chomutov
CZE-Extra
62 Jack Drury – C (DY) Waterloo Black Hawks USHL
63 Linus Nyman – LW/RW (D+1) Kingston Frontenacs OHL
64 Xavier Bernard – D (DY) Drummondville Voltigeurs
QMJHL
65 Curtis Douglas – C (DY) Windsor Spitfires OHL
66 Albin Eriksson – LW (DY) Skelleftea AIK U20
SWE-U20
67 Kyle Topping – C (DY) Kelowna Rockets WHL
68 Filip Kral – D (DY) Spokane Chiefs WHL
69 Blake McLaughlin – C (DY) Chicago Steel USHL
70 Liam Foudy – C (DY) London Knights OHL
71 Marcus Karlberg – LW/RW (DY) Leksands IF J20
SWE-U20
72 Bulat Shafigullin – F (DY) Reaktor Nizhnekamsk MHL
73 Nathan Dunkley – C (DY) London Knights OHL
74 Axel Andersson – D (DY) Djurgardens IF U20
SWE-U20
75 Sean Durzi – D (D+1) Owen Sound Attack OHL
76 Matej Pekar – C/RW (DY) Muskegon Lumberjacks USHL
77 Vladislav Kotkov – LW (DY) Chicoutimi Sagueneens
QMJHL
78 Jacob Bernard-Docker – D (DY) Okotoks Oilers AJHL
79 Stanislav Demin – D (DY) Wenatchee Wild BCHL
80 Tyler Madden – F (DY) Tri-City Storm USHL
81 Aidan Dudas – C (DY) Owen Sound Attack OHL
82 Jeremy McKenna – RW (D+1) Moncton Wildcats
QMJHL
83 Kirill Marchenko – F (DY) Mamonty Yugry MHL
84 Scott Perunovich – D (D+2) University of Minnesota-Duluth
NCHC
85 Milos Roman – C (DY) Vancouver Giants WHL
86 Razat Timirov – F (D+1) Reaktor Nizhnekamsk MHL
  • I think Woo could be a steal if you think he can recapture his play at last year’s U18 and start of this year. Injuries completely derailed him, but his strong two way play and skating ability is promising when he’s on.
  • If Steeves can get faster and more agile, he could be a massive get. He’ll need time at Notre Dame, but I like the tools and metrics that I see.
  • Foudy is a huge wild card. Crazy shooting percentage, and some measurably awful defense, but he was searing hot down the stretch, and had a good U18. I might hold back from picking him a bit, but you could make a case in the 3rd.
  • I don’t know how Nyman went undrafted last year, but I can’t see the same happening this year. He produces a ton, he’s a great skater, and creative playmaker. He carries the puck at high speed very well, and his upside is remarkable. Defense needs work, but the pros heavily outweigh the cons to me.
  • I will be fascinated to see where Shafigullin goes, and I will be doubly fascinated as to where his career goes. He cheats for offense, and his effort level seems a bit inconsistent from shift to shift, but his skill, intelligence and speed is undeniable. He was arguably the MHLs best player for his age, and held his own in the KHL. I can see why NHL scouts might be scared off, but if he can kick the bad habits and play with more intensity, the tools are drool-worthy.
  • Kotkov strikes me as a really solid power forward option down the line. He can get to the net, create a play, and drove goal differentials well in a solid role in the QMJHL.
  • Dudas is a buzzsaw with remarkable skills, and while he may project as a winger, if he can strengthen his frame and learn to hold onto the puck a bit less, he could be a solid option, especially on a power play. His raw offense is tantalizing once the 2nd round closes up, and you could convince me to use a 3rd or even a late 2nd on him depending on who was left.
  • Timirov was a linemate of Shafigullin, and he makes this list as an overager because he really stood out to me more than Shafigullin to my eye when I watched. He plays with intensity and focuses on driving pucks up ice. Over 3 points and 11 shots per 60 put him near the top of the MHL, and he was excellent in Reaktor’s playoff run.

Tier VII

87 Trey Fix-Wolansky – RW (D+1) Edmonton Oil Kings WHL
88 Samuel Fagemo – LW/RW (DY) Frolunda U20
SWE-U20
89 Jerry Turkulainen – RW/LW (D+1) JYP Liiga
90 Jacob Ragnarsson – D (DY) Almtuna IS
SWE-2
91 Lenni Killinen – RW (DY) Blues U20
FIN-U20
92 Eric Florchuk – C (DY) Saskatoon Blades WHL
93 Lukas Wernblom – C/LW (DY) MODO U20
SWE-U20
94 Jack Perbix – F (DY) Elk River High USHS
95 Chase Wouters – LW (DY) Saskatoon Blades WHL
96 Semyon Der-Arguchintsev – C (DY) Peterborough Petes OHL
97 Declan Chisholm – D (DY) Peterborough Petes OHL
98 Matthew Struthers – C (DY) North Bay Battalion OHL
99 Anderson MacDonald – LW (DY) Moncton Wildcats
QMJHL
100 Jan Jenik – F (DY) HC Benatky nad Jizerou
CZE-2
101 Ivan Morozov – F (DY) Mamonty Yugry MHL
102 Alec Regula – D (DY) London Knights OHL
103 Brendan Budy – F (DY) Langley Rivermen BCHL
104 Nikita A. Rozkhov – F (DY) Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk MHL
105 Shawn Boudrias – RW (D+1) Gatineau Olympiques
QMJHL
106 Otto Kivenmäki – F (DY) Assat U20
FIN-U20
107 Pavel Gogolev – RW (DY) Peterborough Petes OHL
108 Martin Fehervary – D (DY) IK Oskarshamn SWE-2
109 Luka Burzan – C (DY) Brandon Wheat Kings WHL
110 Max Ellis – RW (DY) Youngstown Phantoms USHL
111 Dmitry Zavgorodniy – C (DY) Rimouski Oceanic
QMJHL
112 Kristian Tanus – F (DY) Tappara U20
FIN-U20
113 Gabriel Fortier – LW (DY) Baie-Comeau Drakkar
QMJHL
  • I have been championing Jerry Turkulainen for two years now. I’ve loved his tenacity and ability to give 150% when he’s out there for a shift. Defensive play needs work, and he played on arguably the best line in the Liiga this season, but he can get his nose dirty and do his best to play bigger than he is. He’s a creative playmaker who can also get dangerous shots off from high and medium danger areas. He fell through the whole draft last year, but I don’t think the same will happen this year. He was excellent in the Champions league, and will hopefully take a big step forward as he turns 20.
  • Boudrias is another name I thought would be picked last year. He’s a hulking winger who needed to improve his skating ability and increase his production, and he’s apparently done both. There may not be much upside there, but teams still need guys who can play physical and play with power, and Boudrias could be an interesting option.
  • I really liked Tanus at the U18s for Finland. He is a creative pass-first playmaker who has a decent enough shot. He’s small, but everywhere he’s gone, he’s produced well, especially internationally. A late birthday, I’d be curious if he came over to play Major Junior next year.

Shoot for the Moon

SFTM
Axel Bergkvist – D (DY) Leksands IF J20
SWE-U20
SFTM
Bryce Brodzinski – F (DY) Blaine High USHS
SFTM
Rafael Harvey-Pinard – LW (D+1) Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
QMJHL
SFTM
Nikolai Kovalenko – RW (DY) Loko Yaroslavl MHL
SFTM
Emil Lindblom – RW (D+1) Timra IK U20
SWE-U20
SFTM
Ilya Kruglov – F (DY) MHK Dynamo Moscow MHL
SFTM
Oliver Okuliar – LW (DY) HK Dukla Trencin U20
Slo-U20
SFTM
Severi Lahtinen – RW/LW (D+1) Peliitat FIN-2
SFTM
Dmytro Danylenko – C (DY) Bilyy Bars Bila Tserkva UKR
SFTM
Michal Kvasnica – RW/LW (DY) HC Frydek-Mistek
CZE-2
SFTM
Liam Kirk – F (DY) Sheffield Steelers EIHL
SFTM
Mac Hollowell – D (D+1) Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds OHL
SFTM
Justin Almeida – C/LW (D+1) Moose Jaw Warriors WHL
SFTM
Toni Utunen – D (DY) Leki Mestis
SFTM
Marcus Bjork – D (D+2) IK Oskarshamn
SWE-2
SFTM
Nikita Rtishchev – RW (DY) Krasniya Armiya Moskva MHL
SFTM
Ivan Kosorenkov – RW (D+2) Victoriaville Tigres
QMJHL
SFTM
Einar Emanuelsson – RW (D+3) Luleå HF SHL
SFTM
Demetrios Koumontzis – F (DY) Edina High USHS
SFTM
Pavel Vorobey – D (D+3) Kunlun Red Star KHL
SFTM
Lucas Chiodo – LW (D+1) Barrie Colts OHL
SFTM
Patrick Khodorenko – C (D+1) Michigan State University
Big-10
SFTM
Dylan Plouffe – D (D+1) Vancouver Giants WHL
  • Honestly, AMA on these guys. These are cupcakes to be thrown at the wall a la Bart Simpson.
  • Brodzinski is headed to St. Cloud State University. He played for Riley Tufte and Nick Bjugstad’s old high school Blaine High, and basically did whatever he could to carry them into the playoffs. His 70%INV displays that. For every goal Blaine scored in total, Brodzinski could be expected to have a point 70% of the time. Nobody else even crossed 60% (except maybe Jay O’Brien but I can’t really tell).
  • Danylenko played in the Ukrainian men’s league, which is far from a high level, but he was top five in scoring across the whole league. His U20 in Division 1B left a lot to be desired, but he had 8 points on 18 Ukrainian goals at the U18 1B level. Not bad at all, and he’s a project likely in need of a change of scenery, but as a swing in the late rounds you could do worse. Late in the CHL import draft, if I’ve got the roster room, I throw a pick his way and see what he can do in a junior league.
  • Kirk played a support role on the British team that managed to get promoted to the World Championships next year. He was a shooting machine while on the ice and didn’t look out of place. I would’ve played him a bit more, but they were clearly sheltering him a bit. I imagine he’ll be a CHL import pick, and once the 4th or 5th round comes along, if he’s there, I take the shot. I could see him going as high as the 3rd round, but I think that’s doubtful.
  • Emanuelsson is a D+3 winger who produced very well with the SHL. He was often playing with likely 1st rounder Isac Lundestrom, and was often the one passing pucks to him. He’s a dynamic speedy winger, and while he didn’t produce like a Viktor Arvidsson, he’s a player who could jump over to the AHL as soon as next year, but more likely to be 2019-2020. He’s a player who you draft so you don’t have to compete to sign him next year.
  • I’m a Chiodo fan. I liked him and his production last year, and he’s only improved this year. Smart, agile, and creative, he’s an undersized option that could be a pro should he get stronger on his frame. The skill is there, just going to be an uphill battle.

So that’s that. Feel free to ask me anything on Twitter, My DM’s are open, and I have no life, so reach out if you desire. For NHL teams in the draft, you better hope you nail your first pick, make a solid project pick in the 2nd round, and ideally take a swing on names you like later on. As I said, so many things can prevent a player from an NHL career, but like any methodology in the draft, it will take a few years to see how this works out. Any analytical work is about positively shifting probabilities, and it’s likely you’ll be able to land a number of these ~130 players with almost every pick you have this year, and if a handful of those work out, you’ve already beaten the odds.

May your respective teams’ odds be ever in your favour.

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