NHL teams want mobile, puckmoving defensemen these days and it seems like this draft is bountiful at the top end with rushing blueliners.
With the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament finished and the World Junior Summer Showcase in the books, this seems like a good time to kick off the 2018 draft with my first rankings of the year. Canada won the Ivan Hlinka, beating the host Czechs in the final. The WJSS isn’t so much about the wins and losses, but it did provide a nice spotlight for our top pick and a couple other gems.
Since the regular season hasn’t even started yet for these players, consider this initial ranking as a baseline. My hope here is to give you a sense of what this draft could look like and introduce you to the big names.
If there is one early theme I am detecting, it’s that we are living in the age of Erik Karlsson. NHL teams want mobile, puckmoving defensemen these days and it seems like this draft is bountiful at the top end with rushing blueliners. And as we saw in 2017 with Cale Makar and Miro Heiskanen, you don’t have to be huge to go high anymore.
So let’s get to it, shall we?
- Rasmus Dahlin, D, Frolunda (Swe.): Not only does he play that sweet, Karlsson-esque game, but Dahlin actually has some decent size at 6-foot-2 and 181 pounds. Expectations will be high, but the kid has the talent and vision to live up to them.
- Andrei Svechnikov, RW, Barrie Colts (OHL): It’s going to be fun to see what Svechnikov can do with the Colts. He’s big, skilled and powerful, plus he’ll have a couple weapons to play off on a rebuilding team.
- Joe Veleno, C, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL): Veleno captained Canada to gold at the Ivan Hlinka and though he probably tried to do too much at the start of the tourney, he finished strong. Veleno is smart, hard-working and he makes plays.
- Adam Boqvist, D, Brynas (Swe.): One of the stars of the Ivan Hlinka, Boqvist helped Sweden to bronze over Russia. He’s a dynamic D-man with puck skills who doesn’t neglect his defensive duties.
- Brady Tkachuk, LW, Boston University (Hockey East): He’s bigger than brother Matthew, but just as tough around the net. Tkachuk has loads of potential and it will be interesting to see what he can do as an NCAA freshman.
- Filip Zadina, LW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL): Selfishly, I love that Zadina is coming to Halifax, because it will make it easier for me to watch him. The talented winger has an unceasing motor and has consistently produced above his age.
- Ryan McLeod, C, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL): McLeod was fantastic in the OHL playoffs last year and has a lot of great elements to his game. He’s a smart kid and will take on a big role in ‘Sauga this year.
- Quinn Hughes, D, University of Michigan (BigTen): A Kris Letang clone who stuck around Team USA for the whole WJSS, Hughes will bring all his puckmoving talent to Michigan this fall, where the Wolverines can use his skill.
- Ty Smith, D, Spokane Chiefs (WHL): Another dynamic puckmover, Smith was great at the Ivan Hlinka and will be one to watch on a Chiefs team that has Kailer Yamamoto and Jaret Anderson-Dolan to play with up front.
- Ryan Merkley, D, Guelph Storm (OHL): Merkley savaged the OHL in his rookie campaign after going first overall to the Storm. Plays the game a little loose right now, but the offensive rewards far outweigh the defensive risks.
- Bode Wilde, D, U.S. NTDP (USHL)
- Jack McBain, C, Toronto Jr. Canadiens (OJHL)
- Jared McIsaac, D, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
- Benoit-Olivier Groulx, LW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
- Jett Woo, D, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
- Oliver Wahlstrom, C, U.S. NTDP (USHL)
- Barrett Hayton, C, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
- Joel Farabee, LW, U.S. NTDP (USHL)
- Evan Bouchard, D, London Knights (OHL)
- Vitali Kravtsov, LW, Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL)
- Anderson MacDonald, LW, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
- Jacob Olofsson, C, Timra (Swe.)
- Jakub Skarek, G, Dukla Jihlava (Cze.)
- Jesse Ylonen, RW, Espoo (Fin.)
- Akil Thomas, RW, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
- Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Assat (Fin.)
- Jakub Lauko, C, Pirati Chomutov (Cze.)
- Isac Lundestrom, C, Lulea (SHL)
- Jacob Ingham, G, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
- Dmitri Zavgorodny, C, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
- Philipp Kurashev, C, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)