I expected Buffalo to be picking in the top five and they got the top pick after getting screwed out of Aaron Ekblad and Connor McDavid. What hasn't changed is that Rasmus Dahlin is still the top prospect after being the top prospect for us heading into the preseason.
The 6-2 181 lb Rasmus Dahlin was 161 lbs heading into last season, but he added 20 lbs of muscle and beat out Timothy Liljegren for the final spot on Sweden's World Junior Championship team at the age of 16.
Rasmus Dahlin checked out all the boxes that I look for in a defender on tape. Dahlin has the skating, physical tools, durability, size, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, passing, deking, stick handling, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, hockey IQ, checking, ability to play in a zone to defend the neutral zone on the ice, can be a quarterback on the power play, does well at penalty killing, and the shot blocking that NHL teams covet on tape. He's a very aggressive player, but he's also very calm mentally on the ice which is what you want in a defenseman.
You'd like to see him add more muscle, but I can live with a defender at 6-2 181 lbs since that's bigger than either defender that went in the top 5 of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Dahlin also got the Frolunda Indians to the 2017 SHL Semifinals in Sweden where the Frolunda Indians lost to Brynas IF with home ice in game 7 of the SHL Semifinals. Dahlin had 7 goals, 13 assists, and 20 points in 41 regular season games in the SHL in 2017-2018 before losing in the quarterfinals of the 2018 SHL Playoffs.
There is an outside chance Dahlin may return to Frolunda in 2018-2019 according to Elite Prospects which has arguably the best content on NHL Draft prospects out there, but number one picks usually make the jump to the NHL right away.
Buffalo needs a line 1 defenseman that can anchor their blue line, be a leader and compliment the teams star line 1 center Jack Eichel. Buffalo brought in a lot of talent last year, but they lacked that blue line player who would compliment Eichel and now they will finally have that with Rasmus Dahlin assuming he plays on the top line right out of the gate for the Sabres come October of 2018.
I also have a film session of Rasmus Dahlin on my Youtube Channel. Dahlin placed his stick a bit too high at times, but that's something he will correct with coaching and he's someone who can be an immediate difference maker for the Buffalo Sabres.
Philadelphia jumped from 13 to 2 in the 2017 NHL Draft. Carolina had a similar leap moving from 11 to 2 in the 2018 NHL Draft after having the eleventh worst record.
This team had the talent to be a playoff team based on the season preview I did, but did not put things together which is why Don Wondell, a former Penguins scout is replacing Ron Francis as the GM. It's also why former Hurricane Rod Brind'Amour is the new head coach.
Once I knew Carolina was picking second, I figured Andrei Svechnikov would be the second overall pick. I really considered Filip Zadina here at 2 after hearing reports that Carolina preferred him over Svechnikov, but I've also heard that Carolina loved Svechnikov's interview at the 2018 NHL Combine and that they showed Svechnikov better body language from the interview which was the biggest reason I mocked Nico Hischier to New Jersey at 1.
The 6-2 187 lb Andrei Svechnikov is the little brother of Detroit Red Wings 2015 first round pick Evgeny Svechnikov. Andrei isn't as big as his brother.
Like his brother, he has the speed, vision, passing, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, hockey IQ, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, and versatility is all there with Andrei Svechnikov on tape.
Andrei Svechnikov's versatility is the biggest question mark. Some scouts believe he can play left wing, center, or right wing and brings more to the table versatility wise than his older brother Evgeny Svechnikov. Other scouts believe he's a pure right winger. I need to see what Andrei does this season versatility wise.
His instincts as a forward are simply off the charts. Adding more muscle and improving his slap shot are the only things Andrei needs to work on.
One positive about Andrei is that he's a better defender than his brother was at this point in terms of development. That's why should join his older brother in the NHL in 2018 as Evegeny is set to make his NHL debut with the Red Wings in 2017 after leading the Grand Rapids Griffins to a Calder Cup in the AHL.
Andrei Svechnikov had 29 goals, 29 assists, 58 points, and a +29 +/- ratio with the Muskegon Lumberbacks in 48 regular season games in the USHL getting them to the opening round of the 2017 Clark Cup Playoffs in the USHL.
He got picked first overall in the 2017 CHL Import draft though and will play for the Barrie Colts in the Ontario Hockey League in 2017-2018. Svechnikov needed a big year to beat out Rasmus Dahlin for the top pick, but he did not do enough to supplant Dahlin.
I love what Andrei does on tape for the most part. Andrei Svechnikov had 40 goals, 32 assists, and 72 points in 44 OHL games with the Barrie Colts and unlike Muskegon, he got the Barrie Colts to the second round of the 2018 OHL Playoffs improving on his previous season in the USHL. Svechnikov had dinner with Carolina Hurricanes team owner Thomas Dundon who basically said that if we are staying put at second that we are taking Svechnikov and that it's not even close.
Translation Carolina is taking Svechnikov at 2 unless the Sabres take him at 1 and in that scenario the Hurricanes would draft Dahlin, but I think Dahlin to Buffalo at 1 and Svechnikov to Carolina at 2 are locks now. Carolina would probably put Svechnikov on the second line as a line 2 right winger even though the upside to be a first line player is there. I see them starting him on the second line behind Teuvo Teravainen who has the line 1 right wing role locked up.
I also have a film session of Andrei Svechnikov on my Youtube Channel. Svechnikov checked out a lot of boxes on tape. He hesistated on one play defensively, but I'm willing to look past that since he can do so much offensively.
Montreal had a good squad in terms of talent heading into the season. The injuries to Shea Weber and Max Pacioretty are honestly the biggest reason why this team did as bad as they did in my personal opinion. Montreal had the fourth worst record among NHL teams, yet moved into the top 3 of the 2018 NHL Draft during the lottery.
Filip Zadina is the clear cut third best player avaialble. Yet Montreal's inept front office is ignorning this because the team is desperate for a line 1 center. One player who has gained a ton of momentum is Jesperi Kotkaniemi who is now the favorite to go third overall after he began gaining momentum as of Friday after someone tweeted that sources close to the Canadiens now favor Kotkaniemi. Bob McKenzie of TSN also believes that he will be the pick so at this moment I have to believe he's now the favorite for Montreal at 3 given how desperate Montreal is for a first line center.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi did awesome interviewing with teams during the 2018 NHL Combine. There are as many as five teams in the top 15 that are rumored to have Kotkaniemi as their top ranked center including the Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings, Arizona Coyotes, Dallas Stars, and Philadelphia Flyers. I didn't think Montreal would consider a center at 3, but you know how quickly things can change.
Some of the other teams in the top 10 like the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks are taking a second look at Kotkaniemi so Arizona could reach for him at 5 if he's the top center on their entire draft board since this class doesn't have an NHL ready center which is a rarity.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi is a 6-2 190 lb center with the versatility to play left wing, center, or right wing. Kotkaniemi has 3 goals, 4 assists, 7 points, and a +3 +/- ratio. The wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, and slap shot accuracy is there. This guy can pass the puck and win face offs. Awareness on both offense and defense needs improvement which is why Kotkaniemi was a late first round pick heading into the 2017-2018 Season for me even though a lot of boards mocked him in the top 15 at the beginning of the year.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi improved his offensive awareness and defensive awareness in 2017-2018 answering a lot of questions about him that I had on tape heading into the season. He also had 10 goals, 19 assists, and 29 points. He also became the line 1 center on Assat's top line as well as their line 1 guy on both the power play and Assat's penalty killing unit showing outstanding offensive awareness and defensive awareness at both ends. His hockey IQ has skyrocketed and now you can make the case for Kotkaniemi as early as three.
Despite a sluggish World Junior Championships performance, Kotkaniemi rebounded down the stretch nearly checking out all the boxes on tape for Assat this season. He also impressed at the 2018 NHL Combine in both the performance drills as well as the interview process which has caused his draft stock to skyrocket to the point where he could go as early as three if Montreal has him as their top graded center on their board, and they might with Kotkaniemi's power play ability and penalty killing improving drastically this past season. Kotkaniemi will play in Assat next season, but could be NHL ready as early as 2019 if he improves with Assat next season in Finland's SM Liiga league.
I was initially going to give Montreal a B+ grade for taking Kotkaniemi at 3. The Canadiens have four second round picks and can use those picks to gamble on future line 1 centers or package those picks to move back into the first round for a center. That's why passing on Zadina at 3 for Kotkaniemi is now a C+ grade rather then a B+ grade. It would be understandable if Montreal only had one first round pick and one second, but they got the third overall pick along with four second round picks.
I also have a film session of Jesperi Kotkaniemi on my Youtube Channel. Kotkaniemi checked out a lot of boxes on tape. He may be the only player in this entire draft who could be a line 1 center with the right development showing flashes of Alexander Barkov and Anze Kopitar when watching the tape.
Ottawa will have their pick between Filip Zadina and Brady Tkachuk at 4. They brought in both Filip Zadina and Brady Tkachuk for private interviews. My thought process is that Ottawa will take Zadina and draft the best player on the board at 4. Tkachuk interviewed better talking about doing whatever it takes to win and Ottawa took him.
The 6-2 195 lb forward is more versatile than his father who could play left wing or right wing in Keith Tkachuk and he's even more versatile than his brother since Brady Tkachuk can play left wing, center, or right wing. He's not as big or as skilled as his father or older brother though.
He's a better skater than Matthew, but he's not the skater Keith was and he lacks that explosive speed on the ice that Matthew possesses. He may get picked ahead of his older brother because he's more dynamic. Tkachuk was 24 hours away from being NHL Draft eligible for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft where he would have been a top 20 pick.
Brady Tkachuk has the slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, passing, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, deking, stick handling, hockey IQ, and ability to win face offs consistently. Tkachuk was also team captain for USA's Under 18 team at the World Junior Championships last year.
Brady Tkachuk's 8 goals, 21 assists, and 31 points are underwhelming to a degree, but he was a top line player for Boston University showcasing line 1 skill and leadership as a true freshman at all three forward spots. I think he can be a line one winger in the NHL, but not a line one center cause he didn't win face offs consistently at Boston University like he did on Team USA in the USHL when he was the captain of the United States Mens National Developmental Team.
Tkachuk showed me he could make an immediate jump to the NHL when I watched him in his final game of the year versus Michigan where he intercepted Quinn Hughes on one play where the puck was intended for Hughes on a pass. He set up his teammate for a game-tying assist in that game.
Brady Tkachuk seems like someone who is NHL ready right now like his older brother. He should be Boston University's highest draft pick since Jack Eichel back in 2015.
He reminds me a lot of a more durable Alex Galchenyuk teams will knock him for the lack of points, but he's a better fit at the wing and should have success as a top 6 winger in the NHL right away assuming the team that takes him at 5 offers him a contract to leave Boston University to sign with an NHL team because Tkachuk is open to that and will discuss his future with his family after getting drafted. The fact that he's already on the top line only helps his case and with him moving from center to wing, that only strengthens this winger class and weakens the center group that much more if he moves from center to winger in the NHL.
I also have a film session of Brady Tkachuk on my Youtube Channel. Tkachuk checked out a lot of boxes on tape. You have to love the attitude and unselfishneess that Tkachuk showed versus Michigan.
Arizona took a top 15 talent at 5. This is like when Vancouver took a top 13 player at 5 overall. I had Hayton graded lower then Elias Lindholm and I gave Vancouver a D grade for that pick so I'll give Arizona a D- grade here.
Barrett Hayton had 21 goals, 39 assists, and 60 points this season with a huge season. Hayton also had 8 goals, 13 assists, and 21 points in the 2018 OHL Playoffs helping Sault Ste. Marie get to the championship round of the OHL Playoffs where they lost 4-2 to the Hamilton Bulldogs. This is the weakest center draft since 2002 so horrible draft pick by the Coyotes at 5.
Filip Zadina only had 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, and a -9 +/- ratio in 25 games in the Extraliga league. Zadina will play for Halifax in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League after being drafted tenth overall by the Halifax Mooseheads in the 2017 CHL Import Draft.
NHL scouts believe that after Rasmus Dahlin, Zadina has the best work ethic of any international player. Nothing about the 6-1 190 lb Zadina impressed me on tape before he arrived on Halifax. Zadina had 44 goals, 38 assists, and 82 points at Halifax. He also had 5 goals, 7 assists, and 12 points in the 2018 QMJHL Playoffs even getting Halifax to the 2018 QMJHL Quarterfinals where Charlottesville swept the Mooseheads.
Scouts were right about Zadina's work ethic because when you watch his tape before Halifax and then watch the growth he had with the Mooseheads you can really make a case for Zadina to be in the same conversation as Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov as one of the sure fire top 3 players in this years NHL Draft. Some people even believe Zadina deserves to go ahead of Svechnikov and you can definitely debate he's worthy of going second after Dahlin.
Detroit can start out Zadina on the third line as early as next season. Zadina will help Detroit turn things around as he gives Michael Rasmussen last years potential first round pick a linemate.
I also have a film session of Filip Zadina on my Youtube Channel. Zadina checked out a lot of boxes on tape. Instead of providing commentary I posted a film session of Zadina versus 2018 Memorial Cup Champion Acadie Bathurst-Titan.
Many consider Quinn Hughes a top 5 player because of his ability on offense believing he can be a quarterback on the power play. He's got the best skating and athleticism of any player in the class. That's a valid argument, but the 5-10 178 lb defender may spend a second season at Michigan like Zach Werenski before making the leap to the NHL.
Quinn Hughes has the speed, skating, slap shot power, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, vision, and hockey IQ NHL teams covet. The only knock on Hughes game is his size and if you look past that you could be getting a special defender once he adds more muscle. Hughes entered the year at 5-9 168 lbs, but grew an inch and added 10 lbs of muscle to get up to 178.
Hughes had 5 goals, 24 assists, and 29 points in 2017-2018 during his freshman year at Michigan. He may end up being teammates with his younger brother Jack Hughes who is expected to be the top pick in the 2019 NHL Draft as Jack will either join his brother in Michigan or play for Mississauga next season in the OHL.
Hughes parents want to be patient with their kids and want to keep them grounded so he may return to Michigan rather then joining the Canucks. The scary thing is his brother may get picked by Vancouver first overall in 2019 when the 2019 NHL Draft heads to Vancouver.
Since there is no NHL ready player on the board at 8, I'll keep this simple and mock the best player available to Vancouver on my board. That player at this pick is Adam Boqvist who may not be ready until 2020, but has Erik Karlsson upside. Giving the Blackhawks a player of Karlsson's caliber as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane enter their thirties will allow those guys to play into their late thirties and give the Blackhawks another offensive element.
Adam Boqvist checked out all the boxes that I look for in an offensive defender on tape. Boqvist has the skating, durability, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, passing, deking, stick handling, offensive awareness, hockey IQ, and can be a quarterback on the power play. He's the best offensive defenseman in Sweden even though he's not as complete as Rasmus Dahlin defensively along with not being the two way defender Dahlin is on tape. The 5-11 170 lb offensive defender could become Chicago's version of Erik Karlsson if the Blackhawks remain patient with him. He's not aggressive enough defensively and his defensive awareness is inconsistent at times.
Adam Boqvist only had 1 point on the Brynas I.F. main roster in the SHL from an assist. He needs more time to develop, but the upside to be an elite offensive defender who anchors a top line down the road is certainly there.
The upside to be a 25 goal defenseman with 50 assists per year is there and the Blackhawks gave Toews and Kane a future quarterback on the power play. Excellent pick by Chicago and I was tempted to give the Blackhawks an A+ grade here.
I mocked Kratsov to the Rangers at 28. He's a huge reach at 9 and you can argue this pick warrants an F grade, but I'm gonna hand out my second D- grade of the night.
The 6-2 183 lb Vitali Kravtsov could get drafted as early as ninteenth overall. He had 4 goals, 3 assists, and 7 points in the regular season before having 6 goals, 5 assists, and 11 points in the 2018 KHL Playoffs showing the skills of a clutch playoff performer.
Kravtsov has the size and speed to be a top 6 forward who can play on a first line or a second line in the NHL. He's an ideal replacement for Rick Nash on the New York Rangers at 28.
Evan Bouchard had 2 goals, 15 assists, 17 points, and a +15 +/- ratio in his rookie season. Last season Bouchard had 11 goals, 33 assists, 44 points, and a +30 +/- ratio. He had 2 assists in the 2016 OHL Playoffs. He had 7 points in the 2017 OHL Playoffs.
Bouchard has the wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, passing, and ability to block shots on tape. His puck handling is exceptional. That's why Bouchard is a top 25 prospect. Bouchard may be talented enough to make the NHL right away if he can develop a slap shot this season.
Evan Bouchard had 25 goals, 62 assists, 87 points, and a +23 +/- ratio this season. Bouchard even got voted team captain of the London Knights displaying outstanding leadership. I don't see someone with the Hockey IQ to anchor a top line, but with veteran forwards in Edmonton maybe he can adapt quickly and have an impact which is why I gave the Oilers an A grade because I love this fit.
I had the Islanders picking at 11 back before the start of the regular season. Coincidentally, that's where they ended up.
The Islanders finally got the most out of Matthew Barzal who I had a top 6 grade on back when the 2015 NHL Draft took place. John Tavares enters a contract year and Oliver Wahlstrom is a top 10 pick according to most scouts and some scouts had him at 5 in the top 5. My issue with him going in the top 10 is that he won't make that immediate jump to the NHL despite having immense upside and I like Adam Boqvist more on tape so Wahlstrom goes to Boston College for a year and then goes to the Islanders in 2019 where he can replace John Tavares or be a third line center if Tavares gets extended.
New York bolsters their blue line at 12. The 6-3 190 lb Noah Dobson dominated this year with 17 goals, 52 assists, 69 points, and a +33 +/- ratio. Dobson had 3 goals, 10 assists, and 13 points in the 2018 QMJHL Playoffs. He also led Acadie-Bathurst Titan to their first Memorial Cup in team history something even Mario Lemieux didn't accomplish at Acadie-Bathurst.
New York adds a future defenseman to develop along with their 2017 first round pick Henri Jokiharju. Noah Dobson is the best player on the board for the Islanders at 12. Dobson is the best defensive defender in this draft not named Rasmus Dahlin. He sounded sort of nervous in the interviews at the NHL Combine, but he's more effective as a two-way defender on tape then Evan Bouchard so this is a steal.
Dallas Stars: Ty Dellandrea, C, Flint Firebirds (OHL)D- Grade
The Stars passed on both Joe Veleno and Ty Smith for Ty Delalndrea who had 27 goals, 32 assists, 52 points, and a -30 +/- ratio. He's a great character guy and hard worker who got promoted to alternate captain, but a huge reach at 13. The fact that he was one of the fifteen guys Nill interviewed at the 2018 NHL Combine which is why the Stars got the third D- grade of the 2018 NHL Draft.
The Flyers got this pick from the Blues. Joel Farabee is someone with a line 1 left wing ceiling despite being raw on tape prior to this season.
Joel Farabee has first round talent on tape with 12 goals, 11 assists, 23 points, and a 0 +/- ratio last season. Farabee had 15 goals, 25 assists, 40 points, and a +26 +/- ratio this season.
The reason he fell to the Flyers is he's still a project and needs two years at Boston University in 2018-2019 as well as 2019-2020. The fact that Farabee needs two years in the NCAA before making the jump to the NHL is why this top 10 talent according to most scouts slides to 14 where the Flyers are loaded with centers and defenders, but need more depth with wingers on the back 6.
I had Gregori Denisenko as the fifty seventh best player on my board. NBCSN believes he has line one upside and he made my top 80 as well as the second round of my 2018 NHL Mock Draft. This is the worst pick in the top 15, but it's not worthy of an F grade.