2018 NHL Draft

10 Draft Prospects You

Should Know About

Steve Kournianos  |  07/10/2017 |  New York  |  [hupso]

Left wing Filip Zadina of the Czech Republic is a dark horse to challenge for first overall in the 2018 NHL Draft.

New York (The Draft Analyst) — The 2018 NHL Entry Draft is almost a full year away, but that doesn’t mean it’s not too early to talk about it. As I mentioned in my last post, the 2017-18 regular season and playoffs will be augmented by close to 30 showcases and international events to help separate the top prospects from the rest of the pack. Popular opinion seems fixated on two prospects to challenge for first overall in 2018 — Swedish defender Rasmus Dahlin and Russian sniper Andrei Svechnikov. While the former will be a regular for Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League, the latter has yet to decide whether he will remain with the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks or play for the OHL’s Barrie Colts, who made him the top choice in last month’s CHL Import Draft.

Whether the top slot goes to Dahlin or Svechnikov is something everyone will debate ad nauseum right until the actual pick is made. It makes for good theater and most importantly, brings attention to the draft. Nonetheless, the 2018 crop of draft eligibles beyond Mssrs. Dahlin and Svechnikov is collectively strong, and the reluctance of NHL general managers to part with next year’s picks at both the trade deadline and at last month’s draft is one of several reasons supporting that claim. With that said, let’s take a peek into some of the players who could challenge for the Top-10 of next year’s draft.

LW/C Filip Zadina (Pardubice, Czech Extraliga | 11/27/99, 6’0/190): Explosive talent who as an underager made me lose count of how many tournaments he was the Czechs’ top player. Zadina played close to a full season as a bottom-6 forward in the Czech Extraliga, but his true talent was on display at several marquee events like the under-18 Ivan Hlinka, where no opposing nation had an answer for him as he helped lead the Czechs to their first tournament crown. He has exceptional hockey sense to compliment a nonstop motor and ridiculous vision, and watching him slice though a wall of opponents is becoming commonplace. The Vancouver Giants made him the fourth overall pick in last year’s CHL Import Draft, but Zadina for 2017-18 will stay with Pardubice, almost assured of an expanded role.

LW Isac Lundestrom (Lulea J20, Superelit | 11/06/99, 5’11/176): Lundestrom is a dynamic offensive player with legitimate top-six potential. He owns a quick release, an incredible set of hands and the ability to finish from in close even if travelling at top speed. The manner in which this youngster enters the zone can best be described as unruffled – a mincing machine of sticks, skates and bodies will not deter Lundestrom from not only gaining entry, but taking a direct path to the front of the net. He’s rough around the edges in terms of his overall game, specifically defensive zone coverage and choosing the hard right over the easy wrong.

C/W Jesperi Kotkaniemi (Assat, Liiga) | 07/06/00, 6’2/190): Big-bodied playmaker with soft hands and excellent agility who stood out on Finland’s second line at last year’s U18 worlds. Kotkaniemi is a dual threat in the offensive zone thanks to a wicked shot and keen vision. He looks extrememly confident carrying the puck and is capable of entering the zone clean despite being outnumbered. Having his size certainly helps — defenders look puzzled and indecisive when he’s attacking with speed. He’s clearly the top Finnish draft prospect for 2018, and there’s a good chance he not only spends most of the season with Assat’s top club, but is given a long look for the world junior team.

LHD Giovanni Vallati  (Kitchener, OHL | 02/21/00, 6’1/185): I’m always impressed with young defenders who start a season as depth players before earning an expanded role well into the playoffs. Vallati, who stepped up when Kitchener lost blueliners Doug Blaisdell and Connor Hall to season-ending injuries, is a slick two-way defender with good wheels, sound instincts and can unload an absolute missile from the point. A top prospect in the 2016 OHL Draft, the Ottawa native represented Canada at the 2016 World U17 Hockey Challenge and later this month will compete for a spot with Team Canada at the under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup. This kid is not only confident carrying the puck, but he has very good vision and will spot and connect with open men on the weak side.

RW Dominik Bokk (Kolner EC Jr., DHL | 02/03/00, 6’1/179): Powerful skater with a deadly shot who is the top German-born draft prospect since Leon Draisaitl went in the Top-10 in 2013. A recent import pick of the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders, Bokk is a goal-scoring winger with soft hands and an excellent release. He assumed top-line duties for Kolner, and also for Germany at several international events, including last April’s Division 1B U18 World Championship where he led the tournament in goals. Bokk is a pure goal scorer who can deke or dangle his way into prime shooting areas, and he has the size, puck control and balance to ward off harassment. His plays hard in all three zones and will drop down below his own goal line to lend support, but is smart enough to sniff a possession change and dart into open ice for a counterattack.

LHD Bogdan Zhilyakov (Dynamo SPB, MHL | 4/6/00 | 6’0, 181): One of Russia’s better draft-eligible puck rushers who as a 16-year-old played a key role for Dymamo. Zhilyakov, who should make Russia’s U18 Hlinka squad later this month, is a smooth skater who pivots extremely well and has first-step quickness. One thing that certainly stands out is his poise under pressure, as he routinely spins and curls away from aggressive forecheckers before connecting with a hard tape-to-tape pass. He plays it safe in the offensive zone, but his teammates trust him with the puck, especially during cycles. Zhilyakov has a hard, accurate shot and is capable of running a power play thanks to his quick feet and ability to draw opponents out of position. He can be guilty of overcommitting to the strong side, but he otherwise seems to communicate well with his forwards.

RHD Bode Wilde (U.S. U18, NTDP | 1/24/00 | 6’2/194): Arguably the best American-trained defender for the upcoming draft, this Harvard-bound blueliner is a phenomenal skater with a blistering shot. Big, thick defensemen that look graceful while carrying the puck simply don’t grow on trees, and you’d probably hear more about him if his draft year wasn’t loaded with cornerstone-type defenders. Wilde is one confident teenager, maybe sometimes to a fault, as doing “too much” with the puck is something he’ll have to limit, especially considering how talented the NTDP forwards are. Still, he is perfectly capable of playing a variety of roles with aplomb — power play quarterback, crease-clearer on the penalty kill, and even neutralizing top opponents. A lot of eyes will be fixated on a player I consider to be the leader of an excellent group of NTDP defensemen.

C Krystof Hrabik (Liberec, Extraliga | 9/24/99 | 6’3/209): A big-bodied shutdown center with developing skills to contribute among the top-six, Hrabik last season was one of a handful on 2018-eligibles to play in the Extraliga He has good speed and controls the puck with his head up at all times, but creativity once he’s inside the zone is something he’ll have to continue to work on. Hrabik has a hard, accurate shot and can fire it off the rush, and he seems to favor shooting the puck far more than stopping and creating. His puck skills and skating are slightly above-average for someone considered to be a defensive-minded power forward, and the fact that he consistently uses his size to his advantage makes us think he can develop into something more. Hrabik also is very good on faceoffs, and his combination of defensive prowess and size makes him a likely target of NHL scouts.

LHD Stanislav Demin (Wenatchee Wild, BCHL | 04/04/99 | 6’1, 183): A California-born defenseman who last year was one of the best (and youngest) 2018 first-year eligibles to play in the BCHL. Demin, a Denver commit whose CHL rights are owned by the WHL’s Everett Silvertips, will play for Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka. He’s got good size, a hard shot and skates extremely well. Demin is a three-zone defender who plays more mature than you’d think, and he didn’t crack under the pressure of consistently playing against opposing top lines. If the Americans want to repeat the success they had at last year’s Hlinka, they’ll need Demin’s puck-carrying skills and well-timed pinches to set the tone for what is sure to be a swarming attack.

LW Nando Eggenberger (Davos, NLA | 10/07/99 | 6’2, 185): Just because the Swiss don’t have a Nico Hischier clone for 2018, that doesn’t mean the country’s ability to churn out NHL-caliber prospects has slowed down. Enter Eggenberger, a power forward with skill and good speed who at international events will be leaned on to carry the torch from the aforementioned 2017 top pick. He can be used in all situations thanks to his positioning, active stick and ability to read plays. But make no mistake — this kid is a sniper with a deadly shot/release combo. He played close to a full season last year in Switzerland’s top league, and should be a Top-6 player for the Swiss in December when the WJC rolls around.