2018 NHL Draft

Mock Draft 2.0: Round 1 (Picks 1-31)

Photo: Simon Hastegård

Swedish gunslinger Adam Boqvist should be a hot topic among teams looking to draft an elite defense prospect.

Steve Kournianos  |  3/11/2018 |  Nashville  |  [hupso]

NASHVILLE (The Draft Analyst) — We finally are at the point of the NHL season where we can separate the contenders from the pretenders, especially after several teams waved the proverbial white flag at the trade deadline by selling off veterans for future draft picks. While some may say the only race that matters is that for the Stanley Cup, you can’t help but notice the nudging and bumping being done by bottom dwellers as they (not admittedly) jockey for the chance at the highest draft pick.

Make no mistake — this draft deservedly is known as the Rasmus Dahlin Draft. A legitimate question to ask, however, is for how long? In other words, will the NHL careers of some of his notable draft peers make the eventual order of selection nothing more than a formality? History tells us that is very much a possibility, and you don’t have to go too far back to find examples. Auston Matthews, who went first overall in 2016, was the consensus top pick since his days as an early teens. Yet two years later, it’s the play of the player taken No. 2 — Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine — who leads the draft class in goal and points. In 2004, there was no debate whether or not Alex Ovechkin would be the first pick in the draft. But it didn’t take long for Evgeny Malkin, the player drafted 6ight after Ovechkin, to shift the discussion from where they were picked to which player will be first to make the Hall of Fame.

The point is simple — Dahlin has been anointed the best prospect for the draft and deservedly so. But that doesn’t mean he’ll end up with the better NHL career or enjoy greater team success than the players picked immediately after him. My guess is the “Rasmus Dahlin Draft” will be renamed a “Great NHL Draft” in just a few short seasons, especially if/when RW Andrei Svechnikov (Ranked No. 1) and LW Filip Zadina (Ranked No. 3) are each hitting the 50 to 60-point mark before they reach 20.

The U18 5 Nations Tournament: This year’s winter event in Plymouth was almost like a mini-WJC in that it allowed scouts, front office types and analysts to watch most of the elite draft eligibles compete against one another. You’ll hear varying opinions on just how well certain notable prospects performed, but there’s a good bet that tournament was enough to solidify a handful of prospects on the upper end of several NHL draft boards, beginning with Svechnikov. My biggest takeaway from the tournament was that RHD Adam Boqvist (Ranked No. 6) is a lot better defensively than I previously gave him credit for — something I confirmed during film sessions of some of his recent J20 games with Brynas.

Tanking and the Trade Deadline: Take a gander at the bottom portion of the NHL standings. Teams that sold off at the deadline are leaking losses all over the place, namely the Red Wings and the Canucks. Nobody likes using the term “tank”  because it’s so hard to do without getting caught. But the two aforementioned teams are in desperate need of a franchise player, and both likely think that player in Dahlin. If neither team gets the first pick, they’ll likely look towards a playmaking defenseman like Boqvist, LHD Ty Smith (Ranked No. 5) or LHD Quinn Hughes (Ranked No. 10),  or “settle” for a skilled winger like Svechnikov, Zadina, or rugged LW Brady Tkachuk (Ranked No. 8). There is no better time for fans of losing teams than after a post-deadline sell-off to embrace the idea of a gaining higher pick by all means necessary. When it comes to the chance to draft a player like Svechnikov or Dahlin, losing is actually winning, and winning is way worse than losing.

–Goals matter. So does draft position: While I won’t go as far as to say Dahlin will burst onto the NHL scene the way Connor McDavid did in 2015-16, you cannot argue against the pre-draft hype that began surrounding the young Swede early last year. Although I do think snipers like Svechnikov and Zadina eventually will have star NHL careers, thus putting the onus on Dahlin to live up to the hype by doing what only one of 13 defenseman picked 1st overall has ever done — win a Norris trophy. Goal scoring remains an important facet of the game, and if you want elite snipers that don’t require flashy puck movers to feed them the puck, a good place to start is picking first or second overall.

Rank Player Goals Drafted Overall
1 Alex Ovechkin, LW 42 1st (2004)
2 Patrik Laine, RW 41 2nd (2016)
3 Evgeni Malkin, C  40 2nd (2004)
4 Eric Staal, C  37 2nd (2003)
5 Tyler Seguin, C  37 2nd (2010)
6 William Karlsson, C  35 53rd (2011)
7 Nikita Kucherov, RW 33 58th (2011)
8 Nathan MacKinnon, C  32 1st (2013)
9 Connor McDavid, C  31 1st (2015)
10 Anders Lee, RW  33 152nd (2009)
11 Taylor Hall, LW 31 1st (2010)
12 John Tavares, C  31 1st (2009)
13 James van Riemsdyk, LW 31 2nd (2007)

The latest version of my mock draft is based on the NHL standings from a week ago, so stomping up and down and banging your shoe on a table like Khruschev at the UN because your team had a hot week and is no longer out of the playoff picture gets you nowhere. I’ve said it a zillion times — mock drafts are for fun. They are intended to give fans a general idea on where prospects could be grouped. On the other hand, my rankings attempt to put players in order of NHL upside. Mock drafts are nothing more than a guessing game designed to spark draft-related discussion.

I’m not an expert. Neither are you.

Team Pick Player Notes
1 LHD Rasmus Dahlin

Frolunda, SHL

6’2, 181 | 4/13/00

Dahlin is so good, he manages to make the term “generational talent” not sound so cliche. His playmaking ability from the back end should inject excitement into a franchise that could use it.
2 RW Andrei Svechnikov

Barrie Colts, OHL

6’2, 187 | 3/26/00

With the clock ticking on Alex Nylander, the Sabres can dive right in and select the draft’s best pure goal scorer. Svechnikov is a beast on skates who can kill penalties and make goalies pay for showing the smallest of openings.
3 RHD Adam Boqvist

Brynas J20, Superelit

5’11, 170 | 8/15/00

The Sens might seem crazy to pass on Filip Zadina, especially with Thomas Chabot’s promising rookie season. But Boqvist would be in the discussion for first overall had it not been for Dahlin grabbing all the headlines. He’s a fantastic offensive defenseman with a blistering shot who’s shown an improving defensive game.
4 LW Filip Zadina

Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL

6’0, 198 | 11/27/99

The Canucks on paper look set on the flanks, but there’s simply no way you pass on the best player available regardless of what the team needs or has a surplus of. Zadina has all-star potential and is a hard competitor in all three zones.
5 RW Oliver Wahlstrom

U.S. U18, NTDP

6’1, 205 | 6/13/00

Wahlstrom knows how to finish and possesses one of the best shots among draft prospects. He plays a fearless, blood-and-guts style in all three zones but also can excel in open ice and make jaw-dropping plays. His ability to compliment the McDavid-esque style of 2019 draft stud Jack Hughes and finish on the power play makes selecting this power winger an easy choice.
6 LW Brady Tkachuk

Boston Univ., Hockey East

6’2, 194 | 9/16/99

The Canadiens may need a star defenseman, but they also could use a talented playmaker like Tkachuk who fights tooth and nail to create or finish plays. His effort and leadership are infectious, and he’s capable of playing and producing in a top-line role.
7 LHD Quinn Hughes

Michigan Wolverines, Big-10

5’10, 170 | 10/14/99

Detroit should finish the season with four of the first 38 picks in a very deep draft, and they keep it local with their initial selection by securing this elte offensive defenseman. Hughes is having a strong freshman year at Michigan and is second in the nation in first-year defense scoring. 
8 LW Joel Farabee

U.S. U18, NTDP

6’0, 167 | 2/25/00

Rangers look like they’re loading up on strong, character types, but few in this draft can provide both in addition to having speed and strong playmaking skills. A Syracuse native, Farabee plays a similar game to Claude Giroux in that he has an excellent shot to compliment his elite vision.
9 C Joe Veleno

Drummondville Voltigeurs

6’1, 195 | 1/13/00

Veleno is a 200-foot player who anchors Drummondville’s top power play and penalty-killing units, and their special teams have improved exponentially since the trade from Saint John. He’s an excellent skater who can make plays in tight spaces or off the rush.
10 LHD Ty Smith

Spokane Chiefs, WHL

5’11, 176 | 3/24/00

Smith is the cream of one of the thinnest crops of WHL-trained draft prospects. But don’t for a second think that its the reason why he stands out — Smith is a dynamic puck mover with veteran-like maturity and the ability to anchor a top pairing in any critical situation.
11 LW Jesperi Kotkaniemi

Porin Assat, SM-Liiga

6’2, 188 | 7/6/00

Savvy SM-Liiga rookie who thinks the game like a 20-year veteran and delivers results in all three zones. Kotkaniemi is a dual-purpose threat on offense in that he can finish as well as he can set up chances. He can play center or wing.
12 RHD Bode Wilde

U.S. U18, NTDP

6’2, 195 | 1/24/00

Speed kills, and Wilde’s got plenty of it. There are times when he looks like a young Scott Niedermayer, who like Wilde slowly developed his defensive game as a junior. The Blue Jackets seem to favor defenders with size, but not many can slice through a clogged neutral zone as well as this thoroughbred.
13 C Rasmus Kupari

Karpat, SM-Liiga

6’1, 183 | 3/15/00

One of the top playmakers available in 2018. Kupari has good size, excellent hands and can be a force in open ice. He brings a lot of skill to the table and is a BPA type for the Flyers, who have an excellent crop of prospects and can swing for the fences with the first of their two first rounders.
14 RHD Noah Dobson

Acadie-Bathurst Titan, QMJHL

6’3, 180 | 1/7/00

Dobson’s size, mobility, physicality and maturity are obvious from the second he hits the ice, but he too has excellent puck skills and the ability to lead an attack either with his wheels or his crisp, accurate stretch passes.The Islanders’ pathetic defensive play this season almost assures they use this pick on a play killer like Dobson.
15 RHD Evan Bouchard

London Knights, OHL

6’3, 193 | 10/20/99

Bouchard, a big power-play quarterback who leads all OHL defenders in scoring. He essentially carried the Knights when their key players left for the WJC, proving that he’s capable of handling an increase in both role and responsibility. He’s got a howitzer for a shot and makes tough passes look easy.
16 RW Vitaly Kravtsov

Traktor Chelyabinsk, KHL

6’1, 170 | 12/23/99

Kravtsov by KHL rookie standards is having a season for the ages, especially when you factor in the playoffs. He has the size, speed and lethal shot to make it in today’s up-tempo game, but he keeps you honest with a variety of dekes and dangles that get him closer to the goal. This kid’s hand/eye coordination is ridiculous.
17 C/RW Isac Lundestrom

Lulea, SHL

5’11, 178 | 11/06/99

Speedy 200-foot forward who is showing marked improvement in his second year in the SHL. Lundestrom has a lot of skill and makes plays at high speeds, but he’s made the effort to fine tune his play in all three zones to the point where he is used on the penalty kill and plays a regular shift late in games.
18 C Jacob Olofsson

Timra IK, Allsvenskan

6’2, 193 | 2/8/00

Olofsson is a strong two-way center who is having a tremendous season in Sweden’s Allsvenskan, which is comprised mostly of adults. He was recently named the league’s top rookie — an award previously won by the likes of William Karlsson and Filip Forsberg
19 RW Serron Noel

Oshawa Generals, OHL

6’5, 209 | 8/8/00

This is the only pick the Sharks have in the first three rounds, so there’s a good chance they take a home run swing for a raw, toolsy power winger like Noel. The scary thing is that he’s already 6’5 and could grow even more.
*20 LHD K’Andre Miller

U.S. U18, NTDP

6’3, 207 | 1/21/00

Miller is a converted forward who quietly caught up to his more heralded NTDP teammates to be mentioned as a legitimate first-round pick. Miller is big, poised and graceful, plus he’s got a hard, accurate shot. Bound for Wisconsin in the fall, there are few defenders in this draft who tighten the gap better than Miller.
21 RW/C Ryan McLeod

Mississauga Steelheads, OHL

6’2, 205 | 9/21/99

McLeod is a two-way forward with size and speed who can play either center or wing. He knows how to adapt to his role and plays with a team first attitude. Put him at center, he’ll take big draws and create chances. Slot him on the wing, and he’ll take it strong to the net or look to hammer it from the circles.
22 C/W Filip Hallander

Timra IK, Allsvenskan

5’11, 176 | 6/23/00

Aggressive forward with skill who combines finesse with  physicality. Like Jacob Olofsson, Hallander is making money in the Allsvenskan and last month put together a strong U18 5 Nations tournament. Initially labeled a 2nd or 3rd round pick, Hallander should no longer be considered a sleeper.
23 C/W Akil Thomas

Niagara Ice Dogs, OHL

5’11, 170 | 1/2/00

You have to go all the way to 1996 and Alexander Volchkov to find the last time the Capitals used a first-round pick on an OHL forward. Only unlike Volchkov, Thomas is a tireless worker who competes hard, shoots hard and can stickhandle his way out of any jam.
24 LHD Jared McIsaac 

Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL

6’1, 193 | 3/27/00

Specimen of a shutdown defender, only this one can skate and chip in on the good side of the red line when the situation necessitates it. But aren’t many defenders in this draft better at smothering puck carriers off the rush than McIsaac, who has quick feet and maintains an incredibly tight gap.
*25 RW Grigori Denisenko

Loko Yaroslavl, MHL

5’11, 172 | 6/24/00

Denisenko is an offensive dynamo in the mold of Toronto’s William Nylander — an elusive stickhandler and finisher with soft hands and the accuracy of a sharpshooter. He plays the game at a fast pace, but Denisenko likes to get involved physically and doesn’t shy away from the corners.
26* C Benoit-Olivier Groulx

Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL

6’1, 190 | 2/6/00

Groulx could very well be one of the draft’s most underrated pivots. Playing on a Halifax squad loaded with talent, Groulx is a highly-skilled two-way center with an acute understanding of the game.
27* LW Dominik Bokk

Vaxjo, SHL

6’1, 181 | 2/3/00

Pure offense from the wing is what the German-born Bokk brings to the table, and if you don’t believe me, just ask opposing coaches in Sweden’s top junior league. He’s deceptively quick, powerful on his skates and has a lethal wrist shot.
28* C/W Jack McBain

Toronto Jr. Canadiens, OJHL

6’3, 183 | 1/6/00

There’s a lot to like about this power center, who competes hard every shift and uses his deceptive speed and anticipation to create havoc on the forecheck. Only McBain isn’t a checker — he has soft hands and spots the open man for the corners in addition to owning a heavy shot.
29* C Barrett Hayton

Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds, OHL

6’1, 191 | 6/9/00

Hayton is a two-way playmaker whose true abilities may be masked by the fact that he plays on such a dominant team. The kid cashes in regardless and you can bank on his point totals increasing next year after the Greyhounds get hit hard with graduations.
30* C Ty Dellandrea

Flint Firebirds, OHL

6’0, 190 | 7/21/00

Dellandrea has the misfortune of being a top-line center on a thin team, but he’s a strong two-way center with very good vision and an excellent shot who has legitimate leadership qualities. Dellandrea is very good on both the power play and the penalty kill.
31* RHD Ryan Merkley

Guelph Storm, OHL

5’11, 163 | 8/14/00

The Rangers bolstered their prospect pool at the trade deadline but did not address a serious need for a power play quarterback. New York can afford to gamble on fixing Merkley’s defensive shortcomings and immaturity since they have multiple picks in each of the first three rounds. 
    • The Ottawa Senators’ first-round pick in the 2018 draft is Top-10 protected and will transfer unprotected to Colorado in 2019, based on the conditions of the Matt Duchene trade.
    • The New York Rangers own Boston’s 2018 first-round pick as part of the Rick Nash trade.
    • The New York Rangers own Tampa’s 2018 first-round pick as part of the Ryan McDonagh trade.
    • The Ottawa Senators own Pittsburgh’s 2018 first-round pick as part of the Derrick Brassard trade.
    • The Detroit Red Wings own Vegas’s 2018 fist-round pick as part of the Tomas Tatar trade.
    • The New York Islanders own Calgary’s 2018 first-round pick as part of the Travis Hamonic trade.
    • The Philadelphia Flyers own St. Louis’s 2018 first-round pick as part of the Brayden Schenn trade.
    • The St. Louis Blues own Winnipeg’s 2018 first-round pick as part of the Paul Stastny trade.
    • The Chicago Blackhawks own Nashville’s 2018 first-round pick as part of the Ryan Hartman trade.