A byproduct of getting a Future Watch panel of scouts to rank the top NHL-affiliated prospects in the game as they stand right now is when distilling the results you can look back at the 2018 draft and see how it might unfold if it were conducted again today.
How would the top 10 sort out? Which second-rounders would have moved up into the first? Which first-rounders would have slid down to the second? Did any teams get multiple bargains?
In doing this exercise, you have to have an open mind. The intelligence given to us by a panel of 11 scouts, directors of player personnel and GMs is a blended opinion of how these prospects have progressed in the two-thirds of a season since the draft. In many cases, their merged results won’t be the same thought processes as individual teams. For example, Arizona drafted Sault Ste. Marie center Barrett Hayton fifth overall. Our panel has him going No. 9 if the draft was held again today. Yet ask the Coyotes and they might be content to take him again at No. 5 – although we’d never know their true opinion for sure because this is hypothetical.
The point here isn’t to second-guess the selection of NHL teams at the time of the 2018 draft. It’s to show the progression of these draft prospects over the short term. How they ultimately develop, of course, is a long-term timeline.
For the Future Watch project, we asked these scouts to consult a list of 310 NHL prospects (the top 10 from each of the 31 teams) and to establish their own top 60 list, based on a five- to 10-year projection window of NHL upside. Most of the NHL-affiliated players on this list of 310 were from drafts prior to 2018 or free agents. But 75 of them – almost 24 percent – were selected last June.
With this information culled from our scouting panel, we can redux the 2018 draft if it were to be held again today. Four players from the 2018 draft made the immediate jump to the NHL. Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin, Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov, Montreal’s Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Ottawa’s Brady Tkachuk fast-tracked this Future Watch rating exercise. For the sake of argument, we’ll rank them Nos. 1 to 4 even though there’s a decent chance 2018 draftees returned to junior, college or Europe may surpass one or more of them in coming seasons.
Here’s how the first round would play out, based on the scouting committee’s evaluation of their progression so far in 2018-19.
1. Rasmus Dahlin, D (taken 1st by Buffalo)
2. Andrei Svechnikov, RW (taken 2nd by Carolina)
3. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C (taken 3rd by Montreal)
4. Brady Tkachuk, LW (taken 4th by Ottawa)
5. Quinn Hughes, D (taken 7th by Vancouver)
6. Vitali Kravtsov, LW (taken 9th by NY Rangers)
7. Grigori Denisenko, LW (taken 15th by Florida)
8. Filip Zadina, LW (taken 6th by Detroit)
9. Barrett Hayton, C (taken 5th by Arizona)
10. Noah Dobson, D (taken 12th by NY Islanders)
11. Adam Boqvist, D (taken 8th by Chicago)
12. Evan Bouchard, D (taken 10th by Edmonton)
13. Rasmus Kupari, C (taken 20th by Los Angeles)
14. Ty Smith, D (taken 17th by New Jersey)
15. Joel Farabee, LW (taken 14th by Philadelphia)
16. Rasmus Sandin, D (taken 29th by Toronto)
17. Oliver Wahlstrom, RW (taken 11th by NY Islanders)
18. Dominik Bokk, RW (taken 25th by St. Louis)
19. Alexander Romanov, D (taken 38th by Montreal)
20. Isac Lundestrom, C (taken 23rd by Anaheim)
21. Ty Dellandrea, C (taken 13th by Dallas)
22. Joe Veleno, C (taken 30th by Detroit)
23. Nicolas Beaudin, D (taken 27th by Chicago)
24. Liam Foudy, C (taken 18th by Columbus)
25. Alexander Alexeyev, D (taken 31st by Washington)
26. Martin Kaut, RW (taken 16th by Colorado)
27. Bode Wilde, D (taken 41st by NY Islanders)
28. K’Andre Miller, D (taken 22nd by NY Rangers)
29. Akil Thomas, D (taken 51st by Los Angeles)
30. Jacob Bernard-Docker, D (taken 26th by Ottawa)
31. Tyler Madden, C (taken 68th by Vancouver)
Early second round:
32. Serron Noel, RW (taken 34th by Florida)
33. Jonatan Berggren, C (taken 33rd by Detroit)
34. Scott Perunovich, D (taken 45th by St. Louis)
35. Martin Fehervary, D (taken 46th by Washington)
36. Ryan Merkley, D (taken 21st by San Jose)
37. Jared McIsaac, D (taken 36th by Detroit)
Making the biggest impression in this do-over of the early portion of the draft are Vitali Kravtsov, Grigori Denisenko, Rasmus Kupari and Rasmus Sandin. Based on their advancements so far this season, they would have moved up significantly. The New York Rangers selected Kravtsov at No. 9. Redo the draft today and he moves up to No. 6. He’s the No. 5 prospect in Future Watch 2019. Denisenko (Florida) moves up from No. 15 to seventh, Kupari (Los Angeles) goes from No. 20 to 13th and Sandin (Toronto) from No. 29 to 16th. The biggest prospect mover into the first round belongs to Vancouver. The Canucks selected center Tyler Madden early in the third round at No. 68. After a standout freshman NCAA season at Northeastern, he moves into the first round at No. 31.
Just three actual first-rounders from 2018 wouldn’t go in the first round if it were re-held today: No. 19 Jay O’Brien, C, Philadelphia; No. 24 Filip Johansson, D, Minnesota; and, No. 28 Nils Lundkvist, D, NY Rangers. They’d be no higher than mid-second rounders. The 32nd pick (Mattias Samuelsson, Buffalo) and 35th pick (Jesse Ylonen, Montreal) would have dropped to at least the mid-second round as well in a redux. And just to re-iterate, this is the opinion of the Future Watch scouting panel. The teams that selected these prospects where they did may do so again today based on positional need or their own assessment being different.
First-rounders to drop the most are Martin Kaut (10 spots, from No. 16 to 26), Ty Dellandrea (eight spots, from No. 13 to 21), Oliver Wahlstrom (six spots, from No. 11 to 17), Liam Foudy (six spots), K’Andre Miller (six spots) and Hayton (four spots).
Two players taken in the second round would move up significantly. The biggest jump was CSKA Moscow’s Alexander Romanov, selected 38th by Montreal. He’d be in the top 20 today. And center Akil Thomas has played so well this season, he’d be a late first-rounder in a redo of the draft. He was taken 51st overall by Los Angeles. The Kings were the biggest movers upwards in this exercise – Kupari from 20 to 13 today, and Thomas from 51 to 29 today.
The top three NHL-affiliated prospects in the game – Cale Makar, Quinn Hughes and Cody Glass – are on the cover of this year’s Future Watch issue, now available on newsstand and our digital store. Philadelphia’s list of prospects and 21-and-under NHLers was graded the best in the NHL. Los Angeles and Ottawa had six players apiece among the top 100 NHL-affiliated prospects.