Go check out the previous 2018 draft rankings to see how they’ve shifted over the course of the season
1. Rasmus Dahlin, D, 6’2″ 183 lbs (Frolunda, SHL)
To no surprise, Rasmus Dahlin remains at the top of the rankings this month and that will not change. He came into the season with high expectations as the consensus number one pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and somehow he was able to exceed those expectations. He’s been one of the top defensemen in the Swedish Hockey League for over a year now and that is unheard of considering he became a regular in Frolunda’s lineup at the age of 16. What he does on a consistent basis in the SHL is just remarkable. He makes opposing players look silly at times and he’s only going to get better, a lot better. He has been talked about as the best defenseman to come out of the draft since 1973 when the New York Islanders drafted Denis Potvin and I don’t think that thought is ridiculous at all. At the same stage in development, Dahlin is better than players like Victor Hedman, Nick Lidstrom, and Erik Karlsson. Dahlin is just an unbelievable player. He joins the attack up the ice and can help create offense and usually when you have players like that it means that they have deficiencies on the defensive side of the game. But that’s not the case for Dahlin. He has improved the defensive game a lot over the course of the year and has also put on a considerable amount of weight since the summer. He has no flaws in his game, I know that sounds crazy but he is pretty much the perfect player. he probably needs to work on his shot but that will get better in time. It’s just crazy what he can do playing against men as a teenager. Rasmus Dahlin will be a Buffalo Sabre (I still can’t believe it), and he is going to be a gamechanger from day one. Now expectations need to be tempered here with Dahlin. He just turned eighteen and it is very, very rare that a defenseman can come into the NHL and be an impact player at that age. He’s going to have some nights where he looks incredible and there’s going to be some nights when he’ll look like a fish out of the water and making turnovers because of his flashy style. But that’s okay, Housley needs to let Dahlin play his game and encourage that offensive-minded style (I think he will). Get excited Buffalo, we have a great one in Dahlin and he’ going to be here for a long time. I can go on and on but I have 30 other prospects to talk about…
2 Andrei Svechnikov, RW, 6’2″ 187 lbs (Barrie, OHL)
It seemed like people started to sour on Svechnikov after a disappointing performance at the World Juniors but he the criticism of Svechnikov was completely unwarranted because of the flat-out incompetence of the Russian coaching staff. Seems kind of strange that you wouldn’t be giving a lot of ice time to your best and most talented player but I’ll move on. Svechnikov had a great season with Barrie, scoring at nearly a goal per game pace with 40 goals in 44 games. Svechnikov will be in the NHL next year with the Carolina Hurricanes no doubt about it. As far as I’m concerned, Svechnikov is the second best player in the draft and I don’t think it’s close at all. He is going to be an elite goal scorer at the next level. He’s great offensively and he also has a pretty good 2-way game. Russian players sometimes get a reputation of being bad defensively and lazy but that is the opposite for Svechnikov. Throw the supposed “Russian factor” right out of the window because he’s going to be in the NHL for a very long time and he’s going to be very good. I’d say if Svechnikov was in the 2017 draft he’d probably go number one over Nico Hischier, he’s just that good. Probably one of the best shots in the draft as well as one of the best skaters as well. Not enough people are talking about this kid and I think he can make a Patrik Laine like impact in Carolina sooner rather than later.
3. Filip Zadina, RW, 6’1″ 192 lbs (Halifax, QMJHL)
Zadina really opened a lot of eyes at the 2018 World Juniors in Buffalo. He was one of the best players in the tournament playing on a sleeper team in the Czech Republic with the likes of Martin Necas and Martin Kaut. Zadina has one of the best shots in the draft and he had 44 goals in 57 games on a stacked Halifax Mooseheads team. He is that new age player that every team wants. I wouldn’t say that Zadina has elite speed but he’s still a fast player and I envision him possibly being a 30 goal scorer at the NHL level. Montreal has the third overall pick in this year’s draft and I think despite their need for defense and centers, Zadina should still be their pick. I wouldn’t be surprised if he can step into the NHL right away in October. Walking out of the draft with a dynamic and potential elite scoring winger is a huge win for Montreal.
4. Quinn Hughes, D, 5’10” 174 lbs (University of Michigan, NCAA)
Hughes had a very good freshman year at the University of Michigan as the youngest player in college hockey this year. He didn’t look out of place at all on the USA World Junior team as a draft eligible player. He showed flashes of brilliance at times but with his style of play, there will times where he’ll turn the puck over and that is okay with me. He’s a dynamic defenseman that joins the rush regularly and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that he’s the best skater in the draft. And that is very high praise considering the number of high end skaters at the top of the draft like Dahlin and Svechnikov. He’s currently playing for USA at the IIHF World Championship and also hasn’t looked out of place as the youngest player on the team. I think this kid is the real deal and should be the next defenseman to be selected after Rasmus Dahlin this year. He’s probably another year away from making it to the NHL but I think when he gets to the next level he will be an impact player for a very long time.
5. Oliver Wahlstrom, RW, 6’1″ 205 lbs (USNTDP)
Wahlstrom will be the Casey Mittelstadt of this draft. I don’t think he will go in the top five or six but teams will be kicking themselves a year or two from now for letting him slide to around eight. Wahlstrom has the best release in this draft and it might not even be close.
Yeah, his shot is just stupid good. He’s a very smart player and has one of the best skillsets in the draft. He’s going to play at Michigan or BC next season and there’s always unwarranted fear over college players going to free agency. But there’s nothing to worry about with Wahlstrom. I think he will be a one and done at the school that he picks and will be in the NHL contributing to the team that drafts him. I thought that he should’ve gotten a look with team USA at the World Juniors in Buffalo but unfortunately, he didn’t make the team. But he should be one of the best players on the team next season.
6. Adam Boqvist, D, 5’11” 170 lbs (Almtuna, Allsvenskan)
The next Erik Karlsson? Possibly. At least one defenseman in every draft in the last several years has been tagged as the next Erik Karlsson. Last year it was Cale Makar and now this year it is Swedish defenseman Adam Boqvist. Boqvist is a modern day defenseman. He is a great skater that can jump up into the play and create offense. He’s been up and down between the SHL, Allsvenskan, and the J20 league but it is pretty clear that when he is playing against his peer age group, he can just flat out dominate. He was a force for Sweden at the World U18s and showed that he should be considered to be one of the best defensemen in the draft. The thing that he has that Quinn Hughes doesn’t is a bomb of a shot. Boqvist has the best shot out of any defenseman in the draft. He’s probably another year or two away from the NHL but a full year in Brynas playing against men should do wonders for his development. Boqvist has all the tools to be a great defenseman at the NHL level.
7. Brady Tkachuk, LW, 6’3″ 196 lbs (Boston University, NCAA)
Tkachuk is probably one of if not the most polarizing prospects in this year’s draft. Some think that he should be in contention for being selected in the top three and then there’s some that even have him outside of the top ten. I think Tkachuk will still go in the four/five range but there are still better options available. If you compare Wahlstrom and Tkachuk head to head, Wahlstrom probably wins in every category other than physicality. With that being said, I still think Tkachuk is a great prospect. People look at his production with BU this year but I’m not concerned with that at all. If he decided to play with the London Knights, his production would be good and might even be pretty close to Zadina and Svechnikov’s production. World Junior performances aren’t everything…
8. Evan Bouchard, D, 6’2″ 193 lbs (London, OHL)
Evan Bouchard has been getting a lot of love from the draft community as of late but this month I just couldn’t move him up or down from eight. I really like his game. He’s not necessarily an elite skater like Hughes or Boqvist and his skating isn’t as good as defensemen like Ty Smith or Noah Dobson but he’s still a great defenseman. The London Knights pretty much purged their roster of most of their good players and Evan Bouchard stepped up his game. He had over 80 points and that is great for a draft eligible defenseman in the OHL. He’s a very smart defenseman with a bomb of a point shot. And on top of that, he’s a right handed shot which is always coveted by NHL teams. Bouchard is a can’t miss top ten pick.
9. Ty Smith, D, 5’11” 176 lbs (Spokane, WHL)
Ty Smith jumps up one spot from last month’s ranking. I have had the pleasure of watching Ty Smith the most out of any of these prospects and he just blows me away every time. Just like most of the other defensemen that are at the top of the draft, Smith isn’t the biggest guy but he plays that style of game that every team is looking to add more and more of every season. He’s a dynamic skater and can help create offense. He should be a big contributor to the Canadian World Junior team next season.
10. Noah Dobson, D, 6’3″ 179 lbs (Acadie-Bathurst, QMJHL)
Dobson dropped one spot from last month but that’s not an indictment on Dobson at all. I just love Smith’s game so much that I felt that he deserved to be put up a spot. At this point in the draft, Smith, Dobson, and Bouchard are just so close they are really interchangeable. Wouldn’t be surprised at all if Dobson goes before those two other defensemen. Dobson plays a fast paced game and has a great point shot. I could definitely see Dobson being a powerplay quarterback at the NHL level. Dobson and the Acadie-Bathurst Titan are on their way to the Memorial Cup so I’m interested to see if his draft stock can rise even more if he performs well.
11. Joel Farabee, LW, 6’0″ 174 lbs (USNTDP)
I’m a huge fan of Joel Farabee and I thought that he deserved to be bumped up two spots after a very strong performance at the World U18s. Farabee is among the smartest players in the draft and has great playmaking ability. He can also rip the puck and is very skilled. He has that complete package that will make him a very good NHLer for a very long time. And on top of that, by all accounts, he is a good leader and character guy. Farabee is set to go to Boston University next season and I look forward to seeing him succeed there. Whoever gets Farabee in the top 15 is getting a great prospect. There’s a lot to like about this player.
12. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, 6’2″ 190 lbs (Assat, Liiga)
This draft is probably the worst draft in recent memory for high end centers. Kotkaniemi is the first natural center on my list. He had a solid year for Assat this year as an 18-year-old and had pretty good production as a draft eligible. I’m not comparing Jesperi Kotkaniemi to Mikko Rantanen by any means, they are completely different players but just from a production standpoint in their draft years, Rantanen had 28 points and Kotkaniemi had 29. Kotkaniemi is a smart 2-way center and I think he has a chance to be a good top 6 center in the NHL.
13. Joe Veleno, C, 6’1″ 195 lbs (Drummondville, QMJHL)
Veleno is right there with Kotkaniemi for being the best center in the draft. They’re pretty close. Obviously, Veleno has been kind of disappointing in the sense that he was granted exceptional status a few years back and hasn’t lived up to that status at all. But he is still a very good prospect. Saint John traded him to Drummondville this during the season and he started to play much better. I feel like people aren’t really talking about Veleno that much because of the exceptional status but he’s a very talented prospect that fans should be excited about.
14. Bode Wilde, D, 6’2″ 197 lbs (USNTDP)
Wilde is a big puck moving defenseman. The offensive upside may not be as high as the defensemen that are higher than him on this list but I do believe that he can help create offense at the NHL level. And on top of that, he’s a right handed shot. Big mobile right shot defensemen are hard to come by and Wilde is the real deal. He’s going to the University of Michigan and may even be playing on a pair with Quinn Hughes. If Michigan can add Jack Hughes and Oliver Wahlstrom to their mix of good players, they may be a lock to win the national championship.
15. Barrett Hayton, C, 6’1″ 185 lbs (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL)
Hayton is a versatile player that can play either center or wing. He plays for a very good team in Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and has even gotten some time with Flyers prospect, Morgan Frost. He had a solid playoff run with the Greyhounds where they lost in the OHL final against the Hamilton Bulldogs. Hayton is a two-way centerman that can rip the puck as well as make some great plays with his passing ability. He could work on his skating but other than that, there’s a whole lot to like out of Barrett Hayton.
16. Vitali Kravtsov, RW, 6’2″, 183 lbs (Chelyabinsk, KHL)
Kravtsov has been by far the fastest riser in my rankings over the past two months. He already has over a year of experience of playing against men in the KHL. He even became the youngest player to score a goal in the Gagarin Cup playoffs last season as a 17-year-old. He hasn’t gotten much time playing for Russia in any IIHF tournaments but I think that will be changing very soon as he will be a big part of the Russian world junior team next season. He has the size, a good shot, good puck skills, and is also a good skater. His playoff run this year was remarkable and he had the best playoff production from a U19 player in KHL history. Kravtsov’s a can’t miss prospect.
17. Rasmus Kupari, C, 6’1″ 183 lbs (Karpat, Liiga)
Kupari had a pretty decent year for Karpat this season production wise. An 18-year-old playing in a men’s league in most cases, Isn’t going to light it up on the scoresheet. In Kupari’s case, it’s important to look at what he did against his peers in the World Juniors as well as the World U18s. He didn’t get a whole lot of ice time in Buffalo at the World Juniors as he was one of the youngest players on the team. He did, however, have a great World U18 tournament over the the last two seasons. Kupari is a talented centerman that can play the game at a high pace. I’m excited to see him step his game up next year with another year of development under his belt. He has the tools to be a very good NHLer. It is rumored that Kupari will spend another couple of seasons in Finland before signing his ELC. I don’t think this will affect his draft stock at all. He’s a good prospect and teams will be clamouring for a talented player like Kupari to add to their system.
18. Rasmus Sandin, D, 5’10” 183 lbs (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL)
I love Rasmus Sandin’s game. He can absolutely fly up the ice and it’s like having a fourth forward out there. He’s a fast dynamic defenseman with a high offensive upside. He made the choice to come over to North America from Sweden to compete with the likes of Evan Bouchard and he did not disappoint. Sandin had a strong playoff with Sault Ste. Marie and they just came up short of being in the Memorial Cup. Sabres fans should be praying that he slides to 32 but I don’t think that will be happening.
19. Isac Lundestrom, C, 6’1″ 185 lbs (Lulea, SHL)
Lundestrom has been a steady riser in the draft over the course of the season. His two-way game is probably his best asset and I think he’s a pretty safe pick in this range of the draft. He has already played two seasons against men in the Swedish Hockey League, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he’d be able to make the jump to the AHL like Lias Andersson and Filip Chytl did this year. In a draft that is lacking centers in the first round, Lundestrom will be highly coveted by many teams. His production in Lulea wasn’t great but it’s something that he can look to improve upon in another year in the SHL if he doesn’t make the jump to North America right away.
20. Grigori Denisenko, LW, 5’11” 175 lbs (Yaroslavl, MHL)
I see a lot of potential for Denisenko to slide a bit in the 2018 draft. The combination of him being kind of undersized and having the Russian factor play into it as well that could have him slide. But I think he’s a really talented player with good playmaking and skating ability. He’s currently playing in the Russian jr. league so I’d like to see him make the jump to the KHL next year. Maybe there’s even a possibility that he gets selected in the CHL import draft and he come’s over to North America earlier than expected like Flyers prospect German Rubtsov.
21. Ryan Merkley, D, 5’11” 170 lbs (Guelph, OHL)
Merkley has been steadily sliding down everyone’s rankings for the balance of the season. He is probably one of the most talented players in the draft. Like many of the defensemen on this ranking so far, he’s that type of defenseman that every team in the NHL is looking for. He’s a fast puck moving defenseman with a whole lot of skill. But the knock on his game is that he is dreadful in his own end. And there are also concerns about his attitude. That stuff is a legitimate concern for me and that is the reason why he is so low on my list. Now we have to remember, Merkley is still an 18-year-old kid and there is still plenty of time to fix those concerns. There’s at least one player every year that gets over analyzed and Merkley is definitely the victim this season. The past couple of seasons it was Jakob Chychrun and Timothy Liljegren and so far those two are proving that they shouldn’t have slid down that far. Can Merkley do the same? Possibly. But this whole situation sounds eerily similar to former Carolina Hurricanes first round pick, Ryan Murphy from 2011. I think Merkley is worth the risk late in the first round. I’m certainly hoping that he slides to Buffalo at 32 and at this point in time, that might be possible. The sky is the limit for Ryan Merkley but it’s up to him if he wants to be a great NHL player.
22. Jared McIsaac, D, 6’1″ 195 lbs (Halifax, QMJHL)
The more and more that I watch of Jared McIsaac, the more I appreciate his game. He’s not all that flashy and dynamic like most of the defensemen on this list but he just does everything right. He’s a solid 2-way defenseman with great passing ability. McIsaac plays a simple game but he gets the job done. I’d say that he’s a very safe pick in the 18-24 range. I think he’s going to be a good NHL defenseman for a long time.
23. Serron Noel, RW, 6’5″ 201 lbs (Oshawa, OHL)
Serron Noel is dangerous in front of the net and that’s where he gets a lot of his goals. He is a power forward with good goal scoring ability. I have seen Blake Wheeler comparisons for Noel. Now I don’t think he will be that good but I still see him as a guy who at worst can be a good third line winger who can chip in offensively. Skating isn’t his strongest attribute but I still think Noel is a solid prospect and is deserving of being drafted in the first round.
24. Akil Thomas, C, 5’11” 170 lbs (Niagara, OHL)
This is the point where the players in the draft start to become interchangeable. I’d say from this point it’s pretty even up until the early 40s. Thomas had a great season for the IceDogs this season. The playmaking center had 81 points on the season and 59 of which were assists. He actually led all OHL draft eligible players in points for this season. Thomas is a fast and skilled player who can a steal in this area of the draft. He needs to put on some weight but I see a very high ceiling for Akil Thomas/.
25. Martin Kaut, RW, 6’1″ 174 lbs (Pardubice, Czech)
Kaut really had a strong WJC in Buffalo this year. Playing with a guy like Filip Zadina for the Czechs really boosted his draft stock and got him noticed by the scouts and fans. Kaut is having a good season in the Czech league and when you stack his production up against other top prospects that play in that league at the same age, he fares pretty well in comparison to them.
Kaut has a good 2-way game and I wouldn’t be surprised if he can step into the AHL right away and contribute.
26. Jonny Tychonick, D, 5’11” 165 lbs (Penticton, BCHL)
Tychonick is just yet another small-ish offensive minded defenseman in the top 31. He’s kind of under the radar because he plays in the BCHL. He was nearly a point per game player for the Vees this season. More players are going high in the draft out of the BCHL as of late including Cale Makar, Tyson Jost, Dante Fabbro, and Dennis Cholowski. In comparison to Makar and Fabbro, Tychonick’s production wasn’t as good but his production is pretty similar to Cholowski in his draft year. Tychonick is committed to the University of North Dakota for next season and I believe he’ll have a very successful college career for the Hawks.
27. Jonatan Berggren, RW, 5’11” 183 lbs (Skelleftea, SuperElit)
Berggren had a phenomenal year in Skelleftea this year putting up 57 points in 38 games. He’s been a guy that’s been flying under the radar for most of the year but people finally started to notice him after a great performance at the World U18s (10pts in 7 games). Berggren is a great skater and has the potential to be a huge steal in the draft. I have him at 27 but I don’t think he will be picked until somewhere in the second round.
28. Dominik Bokk, RW, 6’1″ 179 lbs (Vaxjo, SHL)
Bokk decided to come over to Sweden from Germany for this season and it’s paid off for him. He spent most of the year in the SuperElit jr. league and he had a terrific year being well over a point per game for Vaxjo. He even had an opportunity to play for the men’s Vaxjo club in the SHL for 15 games but the production didn’t quite transfer. Bokk is a very talented player and is very much deserving of being selected in the late first round.
29. K’Andre Miller, D, 6’4″ 205 lbs (USNTDP)
Miller surprisingly just made the switch to defense over the last few years after playing forward. He’s going to the University of Wisconsin next year and will be playing with 2017 Sabres’ 7th round pick, Linus Weissbach. Miller is a powerful but smooth skating defenseman that has a physical side to his game. I think there’s a lot of upside here.
30. Ryan McLeod, C, 6’2″ 200 lbs (Mississauga, OHL)
McLeod has shown pretty steady growth over his three seasons with the Mississauga Steelheads. He finished the season with 70 points in 68 games. That production is very impressive considering that he didn’t get much ice time with Panthers prospect, Owen Tippett, and Devils prospect, Mike Mcleod. Like his brother, Ryan McLeod is also a great skater.
31. Mattias Samuelsson, D, 6’4″ 216 lbs (USNTDP)
Samuelsson is another player in the top 31 that is a product of the U.S. development team. At 6’4″, Samuelsson is the biggest defenseman in this month’s ranking. He’s very solid defensively and is committed to Western Michigan University for next season. He’s also the son of former NHLer, Kjell Samuelsson. Samuelsson got to play a lot with Bode Wilde for the development team and they played fantastic together.
Thanks for checking out this month’s ranking. Another ranking or two will be up before the draft and possibly a couple mock drafts so stay tuned. Go and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @TheChargingBuf. You can also find me on Twitter @JoeTCBNHL