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Redoing the 2018 NHL draft: How would it unfold two years later?

A panel of scouts help us look back almost two years to the 2018 draft. Which prospects would become first-rounders if the draft was held today? And which prospects slide down?
Quinn Hughes

The Arizona Coyotes went into the 2018 NHL draft with one pick in the first round. Two years later, it looks as though they came out of it with three first-rounders. That's one of many takeaways from the results of a scouting analysis done for Future Watch 2020.

Barrett Hayton was taken fifth overall by the Coyotes at the 2018 draft in Dallas and he spent 20 NHL games with Arizona this season. Redo that draft again today and he's joined in the first round by a pair of other Coyotes selections – defenseman Kevin Bahl, who was taken 55th overall, and center Jan Jenik, who was drafted 65th. They'd go 26th and 18th, respectively. (Bahl has since been traded to New Jersey as part of the Taylor Hall deal.)

We're re-ranking where 2018 draft prospects would go based the consensus opinion of a panel of nine scouts who evaluated the top 310 NHL-affiliated prospects in the game. A byproduct of the Future Watch project is when distilling the top 100 prospect results you can look back at recent drafts to see how they might unfold in the present day. Last week, we re-did the 2019 draft. Today it's the 2018 draft.

In doing this exercise, you do so with an open mind. Scouts are still projecting – they're just doing so with an additional two seasons of information. The intelligence given to us by our panel of nine scouts, directors of player personnel and GMs is a blended opinion of how these prospects have progressed in the nearly 24 months since the 2018 draft. In many cases, the merged results won’t be the same thought processes as individual teams. For example, San Jose drafted OHL defenseman Ryan Merkley 21st overall. Our panel thinks he would last until the middle of the second round if the draft was held again today. Yet ask the Sharks and they might be content to take him again at No. 21.

The primary 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 2020 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.

With this information culled from our scouting panel, we can redux the 2018 draft if it were to be held again today. Eleven players from the 2018 draft are now classified as NHLers – not prospects. They include the first eight players taken in 2018, from Buffalo's Rasmus Dahlin to Chicago's Adam Boqvist, plus Noah Dobson (NYI) at No. 12, Joel Farabee (Phi) at No. 14 and Rasmus Sandin (Tor) at No. 29. For the sake of argument, we’ll rank them Nos. 1 to 11 with some slight fine-tuning when appropriate – Vancouver Quinn Hughes surely moves up from No. 7 selection – even though there’s a decent chance other 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 the past two seasons.

First round:
1. Rasmus Dahlin, D (taken 1st by Buffalo)
2. Andrei Svechnikov, RW (taken 2nd by Carolina)
3. Quinn Hughes, D (taken 7th by Vancouver)
4. Brady Tkachuk, LW (taken 4th by Ottawa)
5. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C (taken 3rd by Montreal)
6. Barrett Hayton, C (taken 5th by Arizona)
7. Filip Zadina, RW (taken 6th by Detroit)
8. Adam Boqvist, D (taken 8th by Chicago)
9. Noah Dobson, D (taken 12th by NY Islanders)
10. Joel Farabee, LW (taken 14th by Philadelphia)
11. Rasmus Sandin, D (taken 29th by Toronto)
12. Grigori Denisenko, LW (taken 15th by Florida)
13. Alexander Romanov, D (taken 38th by Montreal)
14. Evan Bouchard, D (taken 10th by Edmonton)
15. Vitali Kravtsov, LW (taken 9th by NY Rangers)
16. Liam Foudy, C (taken 18th by Columbus)
17. Oliver Wahlstrom, RW (taken 11th by NY Islanders)
18. Jan Jenik, C (taken 65th by Arizona)
19. Isac Lundestrom, C (taken 23rd by Anaheim)
20. Ty Dellandrea, C (taken 13rd by Dallas)
21. Ty Smith, D (taken 17th by New Jersey)
22. Joe Veleno, C (taken 30th by Detroit)
23. Nils Lundkvist, D (taken 28th by NY Rangers)
24. Alexander Alexeyev, D (taken 31st by Washington)
25. K'Andre Miller, D (taken 22nd by NY Rangers)
26. Kevin Bahl, D (taken 55th by Arizona, traded to New Jersey)
27. Jacob Bernard-Docker, D (taken 26th by Ottawa)
28. Dominik Bokk, RW (taken 25th by St. Louis, traded to Carolina)
29. Tyler Madden, C (taken 68th by Vancouver, traded to Los Angeles)
30. Kirill Marchenko, RW (taken 49th by Columbus)
31. Justus Annunen, G (taken 64 by Colorado)

Early second round:
32. Rasmus Kupari, C (taken 20th by Los Angeles)
33. Alexander Khovanov, C (taken 86th by Minnesota)
34. Martin Kaut, RW (taken 16th by Colorado)
35. Ivan Prosvetov, G (taken 114th by Arizona)
36. Scott Perunovich, D (taken 45th by St. Louis)
37. Joel Hofer, G (taken 107th by St. Louis)
38. Nicolas Beaudin, D (taken 27th by Chicago)
39. Martin Fehervary, D (taken 46th by Washington)
40. Jonatan Berggren, C (taken 33rd by Detroit)

Six players taken outside the first round two years ago would be first-rounders today – if this was a hypothetical draft for 20-year-olds. Jenik made the biggest relative jump, from 65th to 18. Montreal prospect defenseman Alexander Romano, who went 38th in 2018, would be selected in the top 13. Third-rounders Tyler Madden (Van) and Justus Annunen (Col) would move up to the bottom of the first round. And Columbus prospect right winger Kirill Marchenko would move up from No. 49 to No. 30.

And, of course, six players would slip out of the first round and into the second, or lower, according to our scouting panel. They include Martin Kaut (16th by Colorado), Jay O'Brien (19th by Philadelphia), Rasmus Kupari (20th by Los Angeles), Merkley, Filip Johansson (24th by Minnesota) and Nicolas Beaudin (27th by Chicago). And just to reiterate, 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.

A couple of goalie prospects taken in the fourth round would jump up to early second round if we re-did the draft today. Arizona took Ivan Prosvetov 114th in 2018. He's ranked the No. 89 prospect in Future Watch 2020, meaning he'd go early second round today. And St. Louis took Joel Hofer 107th in 2018. He's No. 92 in Future Watch and would get selected early second round as well.

Four of the top NHL-affiliated prospects in the game – Bowen Byram, Igor Shesterkin, Vasily Podkolzin and Erik Brannstrom – are on the cover of this year’s Future Watch issue, now available on newsstand and our digital store. Colorado's list of prospects and 21-and-under NHLers was graded the best in the NHL.

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