In many years, the buildup to the NHL entry draft is often hyped up through a wide-ranging discussion about which player is going to be selected 1st overall. If there’s a catchy way to summarize the race (such as Taylor versus Tyler or Nico versus Nolan), then all the better.
Even drafts where the top choices seem obvious you occasionally get some last-minute “what if” thinking. What if Jack Eichel is better than Connor McDavid? What if Patrik Laine is better than Auston Matthews?
Halfway to the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, however, and you have to look long and hard for any dissenting opinions about who is this year’s top dog.
All across the board, pretty much everyone agrees that Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is going to be the first player chosen come draft weekend in Dallas in June. And for good reason: the 17 year-old Dahlin has been an exceptional hockey talent for most of his life, playing against older competition and excelling while doing so.
How exceptional is he? He hasn’t even been drafted yet, but he just got named to his country’s roster for the Olympics.
While the top pick in this year’s draft isn’t really open for discussion, the rest of the picks, however, are. This is true every draft, but this one seems to have even more disparity than usual, with certain polarizing players being considered as high as Top 5 or Top 10 picks by some sources and listed outside of the 1st round altogether by others.
After months of research, dedicated thought and some last-minute fine-tuning, I have compiled my own list, ranking the top 101 prospects. This is still an early, mid-season version of the rankings, with the final list coming in June.
This list has been compiled and refined through a laborious collection of in-person scouting (I live in Calgary and am credentialed with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen), statistical analysis, watching live games and highlight packages online, reading scouting reports, discussions with scouts and other methods.
Let’s dig in.
1) Rasmus Dahlin — Defense — Frolunda (SHL)
The consensus top overall prospect in this draft, and right now it’s not even close. A polished defenseman that can do it all and will eventually anchor the top pairing of whatever lucky team gets to take him.
2) Andrei Svechnikov — Right Wing — Barrie Colts (OHL)
An explosive, dynamic winger who can terrorize defenders in a number of ways. Possesses a tantalizing package of size, speed, smarts and puck skill.
3) Filip Zadina — Left Wing — Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
A slick winger with ankle-breaking one-on-one moves and a lethal shot. Went into the World Juniors with a lot of hype and lived up to all expectations for the Czechs.
4) Brady Tkachuk — Left Wing — Boston University (NCAA)
Brady quite doesn’t have the same playmaking ability as older brother Matt, but he’s a better skater. A smart player with a great frame and a finisher’s touch around the net.
5) Adam Boqvist — Defense — Almtuna (Allsvenskan)
An elegant, smooth-skating blueliner that can also make pretty plays when he gets the puck on his stick. Boqvist is undersized, but his skating will allow him to succeed in the NHL.
6) Olivier Wahlstrom — Right Wing — USNTDP (USHL)
Much like Zadina, Wahlstrom is a shoot-first winger with a pro release who is dangerous almost anywhere in the offensive zone. Can find holes in coverage as well as create space for himself.
7) Noah Dobson — Defense — Acadie-Bathurst Titan
A workhorse defenseman that already logs a ton of ice time for his club, including both sides of special teams. Does a remarkable job of controlling the pace from the back end.
8) Bode Wilde — Defense — USNTDP (USHL)
A big, athletic, toolsy player that is only just beginning to scratch the surface of his abilities. Could be a game-changing #1 defenseman one day if his development goes according to plan.
9) Quinn Hughes — Defense — University of Michigan (NCAA)
One of the best skaters in the draft, Hughes is a prospect that brings fans to the edge of their seats when he really gains speed going up the ice. Defensive game needs a lot of refining.
10) Ty Smith — Defense — Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
Mature well beyond his years, Smith is a defender that drives possession for his team. Sets up his teammates with sharp passes offensively while staying calm and in position defensively.
11) Joel Farabee — Left Wing — USNTDP (USHL)
Farabee is skilled in a number of different areas, but his hockey IQ is his best attribute. Plays a team-first, 200-foot game. Makes his linemates better, despite playing on the wing.
12) Jacob Olofsson — Center — Timra (Allsvenskan)
Olofsson is still a raw prospect, but will have a high ceiling if he can put all the tools together. A tall, skinny center with a long stride that can protect and distribute the puck.
2018-eligible Jacob Olofsson scored his first Allsvenskan goal for Timrå last night. Possesses a good, accurate shot w/ plenty of punch. pic.twitter.com/4L4JukjVCn— Alex Nunn (@aj_ranger) September 27, 2017
13) Evan Bouchard — Defense — London Knights (OHL)
One of the fastest risers in this draft, Bouchard is a blueliner with size, mobility and puck skill. Especially lethal on the powerplay. Needs to play with more intensity while defending.
14) Joe Veleno — Center — Drummondville Voltiguers (QMJHL)
Veleno isn’t a flashy pivot, but he plays a very pro style of game that coaches will love. Excellent ability to protect the puck and has the vision to find his teammates in coverage.
15) Mattias Samuelsson — Defense — USNTDP (USHL)
The son of former NHLer Kjell Samuelsson has great height and a long reach, and complements those attributes with deceptively agile skating and composed puck movement.
16) Jett Woo — Defense — Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Woo isn’t the biggest defenseman, but he’ll fit in just fine in the new NHL. Always in position defensively and can transition the puck up ice by skating it out or using a good first pass.
17) K’Andre Miller — Defense — USNTDP (USHL)
Built like a truck, Miller can move opposing forwards out of his crease without breaking a sweat. Makes hard passes and is really starting to build confidence when the puck is on his stick.
18) Jared McIsaac — Defense — Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
McIsaac is a steady, reliable player in his own zone, but he also likes to occasionally surprise opposing teams by jumping up into the rush. Very advanced understanding of the position..
19) Barrett Hayton — Center — Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
One of the hardest-working players in the draft, Hayton never seems to take a shift off. Really battles for pucks, using persistent stick work. A Jack-of-all-trades with an amazing work ethic.
GOAL!— Soo Greyhounds (@OHLHoundPower) January 14, 2018
You can NOT go any more cheddar than BARRETT HAYTON! pic.twitter.com/gmtlgQrj4R
20) Ryan Merkley — Defense — Guelph Storm (OHL)
Merkley is blessed with an abundance of natural talent, but often looks lost or, worse, disinterested in his own zone. One of the most polarizing prospects in the draft. Very boom or bust.
21) Filip Hallander — Center — Timra (Allsvenskan)
A forward with a lot of finesse, Hallander is producing at a great rate against men in Sweden. Gains separation with his skating and can make plays with the puck as well as finish them.
22) Jesperi Kotkaniemi — Center — Assat (Liiga)
Kotkaniemi is a lanky, unrefined forward that could be something special once he polishes his game. Choppy skating, but he hits a nice top gear. Likes to be assertive and make an impact.
23) Isac Lundestrom — Center — Lulea (SHL)
One of the safest players in the draft, Lundestrom plays a 200-foot game and does a little bit of everything. Should have a long pro career, but does he possess Top 6 upside?
24) Jack McBain — Center — Toronto Jr. Canadiens (OJHL)
A big center that can be hard to contain when he’s really on his game. Not really a dynamic player, but he gets results. Going the NCAA route is the perfect fit for his development.
25) Serron Noel — Right Wing — Oshawa Generals (OHL)
Noel is a enormous figure, standing 6’5”, and generates a lot of power and speed when he gets his legs moving. Loves to crash the net. Don’t be surprised if a team takes him much higher.
26) Rasmus Kupari — Center — Karpat (Liiga)
A pass-first playmaker that can saucer the puck and thread it through traffic. Makes up for his small stature by keeping a wide skating stance, making it harder to get knocked off his feet.
27) Alexander Alexeyev — Defense — Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Alexeyev is a two-way defender that can also make the odd highlight-reel play. With size, mobility and puck skill, there’s a lot to like there. Good stats despite playing on a bad team.
28) Ryan McLeod — Center — Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
McLeod is an incredible skater, with a blazing top gear and strong edge work. His frame, at 6’2” and 190, is also solid. And yet, his low production leaves you wondering what’s missing.
29) Akil Thomas — Center — Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
A shifty, elusive player, Thomas is adept at slowing the play as he carries the puck and scans for options. Could stand to add an extra gear and more muscle, but doing both won’t be easy.
30) Dominik Bokk — Right Wing — Vaxjo (SHL)
A German import playing pro in Sweden, Bokk shows flashes of high-end offensive ability. Carries the puck confidently in transition and can unleash an accurate wrist shot.
31) Benoit-Olivier Groulx — Center — Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
The son of a successful, longtime coach, and it shows. The former 1st overall pick in the QMJHL draft has a high hockey IQ, makes a concerted effort and can be trusted in all three zones.