There are always different reasons for why we love watching hockey. For some, it’s the vulcanized rubber poetry of Connor McDavid. For others, it’s the bladed pop of Jerome Iginla giving his all for a shift (and a shift) and a half. Then there are people who just love pissed off goalies.
For draft nerds, it’s all about a good story. Sometimes the story is just ridiculous — like that time a GM named Punch drafted an imaginary Japanese young man. But usually it’s just the story of watching boys become men in your favorite sweater.
What Makes This Draft Different from the Others?
Every year, the draft presents teams with different options. In 2017, if you wanted a center, you’d find one. Seven of the first nine picks were centermen. There was no franchise changing star (although Casey Mittelstadt, who I wrote about, might have something to say about that), the way there was in 2016 with Auston Matthews, or 2015 with Connor McDavid. But there was a ton of depth.
The 2018 draft is the best of the both worlds. First, there’s the game changer in Rasmus Dahlin. If you’ve seen his highlights, then every team except Buffalo is afraid of hockey’s shiny new object. He’s sound defensively, and dynamic offensively; not just in terms of being able to shoot, but in terms of raw, blistering movement. He can pivot, shake and bake, work edges like a bullet time reel, and is all but impossible to crowd.
Then there’s Andrei Svechnikov. He’s the east coast Blade to Tarasenko’s Deacon Frost; all of Vlad’s strengths, and none of his weaknesses. Carolina will pick the 6’3” winger unless they leave the drafting to a chatbot (no disrespect to Filip Zadina, who is basically a left wing Alexander Barkov).
Other names Dallas could hate as early as next season: Quinn Hughes (when they play either Arizona, Detroit, or Ottawa), and well, Quinn Hughes.
This Draft Sounds Perfect! There’s No Way Dallas Can Get it Wrong, Right?
Dallas hasn’t had room to consistently play any of Jim Nill’s first round picks. So for Dallas fans, I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but let’s just say the odds aren’t in your favor.
The good news is that I don’t actually think Nill’s first round has been that bad. It just looks bad because nobody has been given a proper role even when they’ve earned it. Jason Dickinson’s rookie AHL season saw him score more points than Remi Elie did in his first two seasons in the AHL combined. Elie would go on to score 14 points in the NHL this season, so however playing time is “earned”, it certainly doesn’t follow a logical formula.
Julius Honka might have been a reach in 2014, but that’s not the same as being a bad pick. All indications point to him being a legitimate top four option. Valeri Nichushkin is a good winger who has already shown he can play in the top six. Chances are, he’ll never be scratched for Travis Moen ever again (for obvious reasons). Miro Heiskanen is potentially a top pairing blue line option. Jason Dickinson, and Denis Gurianov — especially given his late season burst, and playoff performance thus far — both look like NHL quality wingers. Dallas’ 2016 pick, Riley Tufte, who led the University of Minnesota Duluth in goals and shots (and fourth in goals for players 20 and under), could be an impact forward as well.
TL;DR — Dallas’ recent drafts might be missing some superior options, but if you can fill out half your top four defensemen, and nearly half of your top nine in five years, you should be in pretty good shape (in theory). Which brings me to the fun part.
Your Official Draft Reaction Guide
What names will make you shout for joy? What names should make you weep? If you’re a stats nerd, and need a cheat sheet that looks at estimated primary points, adjusted scoring value, offensive involvement, and shots on goal per game, among many other things, Jeremy Davis has you covered.
Names that will make you wake your napping neighbor: Oliver Wahlstrom (RW), Adam Boqvist (RHD), Quinn Hughes (LHD), and Joe Veleno (C).
There’s no reason why any of these guys should be there at #13 à la Matthew Barzal. Dynamic centers are always a need, so there’s no reason for Veleno to fall. Wahlstrom is like an Ehlers or Nylander type — players who inexplicably fall further than they should because there are a handful of “safe” picks ahead of them. Boqvist and Hughes would be the top defenders if it wasn’t for Dahlin. You won’t hear their names from Jim Nill, but if by some chance you do, you’ve earned that busted larynx.
Names that will make you fist bump your cat: Barrett Hayton (C), Joel Farabee (LW), Jesperi Kotkaniemi (C/LW), Evan Bouchard (RHD), Isac Lundestrom (C/RW), Noah Dobson (RHD).
All of these kids are high floor players. Bouchard and Dobson are big defensemen with speed and puck skills. Regardless of what kind of position Dallas is in need of, they’re good players with real potential. The forwards have different strengths, but all work as dual-purpose threats. Some are stronger playmakers (Farabee), scorers (Kotkaniemi), two-way (Hayton), or quick (Lundestrom).
I like Kotkaniemi and Lundestrom personally. Kotkaniemi because of this tweet (and footage — and the fact that he can play center):
The #2018NHLDraft is next month, and one player that's rising in draft rankings is Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Here's his season compared to other top recent Liiga prospects. He has definitely made a case to be included in the Top 10. pic.twitter.com/HIYi7ecp1d— S7 (@S7Dsn) May 4, 2018
And Lundestrom because his relative goals for percentage relative to his team is second only to Ty Smith among the common top 30 — in the SHL no less. His footage makes a good argument too.
Names that will make you quietly blow a blood vessel: Serron Noel (RW), Filip Hallander (LW), Allan McShane (C), Grigori Denisenko (LW).
None of these players are bad. But they would be considered massive reaches from where Dallas is picking. So as they say...hold onto your butts...
Derek and I will be writing player profiles on most of these players so stay tuned for Defending Big D’s draft coverage.