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Photo Credit: Miranda Zilkowsky Photography

2018 NHL Draft: Winter Rankings

As mentioned last week, I’ve been working to get some 2018 NHL Draft content together as we head toward the World Juniors that kick off officially in just under a week. I started with a consolidated list of some major industry rankings, before digging into some potentially overrated and underrated players.

Today I’m unveiling my own list of 75 draft eligible prospects, complete with a variety of biographical and statistical data. Before we get to that, I’ve compiled some notes on trends and some notable prospects.

This appears to be the year of the offensive defenceman. It’s been since 2014 since a defenceman was taken first overall, and Aaron Ekblad was hardly a guarantee to go at no. 1. Rasmus Dahlin seems unshakable from his perch for the time being, and there are a plethora of offensively gifted defencemen following behind him. I’ve got five defencemen in my top ten, which is just one more than the consolidated rankings did. The question is, is that wise? History hasn’t been kind to draft with top ten’s that are heavy on blueliners. It’ll be something to keep an eye on next June, as teams are well aware of these trends and offensive defencemen are among the most likely types of players to fall on draft day.

On to the players themselves. No hot takes at first overall for me: like every major industry ranking around, I have Swedish defensive phenom Rasmus Dahlin at the top of my list. It wasn’t a difficult decision – Dahlin is a truly incredible player to watch. How often do you highlights of non-NHL players showing up on twitter that aren’t even goals? Dahlin’s dangles, whether they results in goals or not, show up on social media on a weekly basis; that’s just the kind of foothold this kid already has in the hockey world.

Statistically speaking, everything is going about as well as you’d expect from a future first overall pick. Dahlin leads all draft eligible defencemen in SEAL adjusted scoring (and sits 5th among all skaters), he’s averaging 2.0 shots on net per game, has a positive goal differential and even strength, and is simply too damn good for our pGPS cohort model: Dahlin has zero matches, largely due to the fact that he has a hire adjusted point rate than any other SHL defenceman in his age and stature range in the pGPS database.

Not to be deterred, Russian winger Andrei Svechnikov (2nd) is rediscovering his offensive prowess after missing significant time with an injury. Svechnikov has played just 16 games this season, making it difficult to get a read on some of the underlying trends. Last season, Svechnikov was utterly dominant in the USHL and had a tremendous effect on his Muskegan Lumberjacks teammates whenever he was on the ice (as detailed in the 1-5 section of my summer draft rankings). Early returns are showing similar patterns: he has a 70.6% goals-for percentage, and a +12.3 GF%rel.

I differ from many of the rankings at third overall, where I’ve got Filip Zadina. Like Nico Hischier last year, the Czech winger is tearing up the QMJHL in his rookie year after with the Halifax Mooseheads – he’s even close to matching Hischier’s points per game rate (1.44 to Hischier’s 1.51). Zadina leads all draft eligible players with at least 10 games played in SEAL adjusted scoring so far this season, and is putting more than four shots on net per game.

Another Swedish defenceman sits at no. 4: Adam Boqvist. Like all offensive d-men, especially Swedes, Boqvist has received plenty of comparisons to Erik Karlsson. Boqvist’s production in the Superelit Swedish junior league is on par with Karlsson’s, as his his one point in eight SHL games – Karlsson only had one point in seven SHL games in his draft season, which is part of why he managed to stay on the board until 15th overall in 2008. We wouldn’t expect Boqvist to put up massive numbers in the SHL at this point, but it would be nice if he could stick there. Just recently he was loaned to the Allsvenskan. If teams hope that he’ll have Karlsson-like production in the NHL, they’ll be looking for more in Sweden as the season goes on.

Brady Tkachuk (5th) and Quinn Hughes (6th) are in similar positions: both played with the US National Team Development Program last season, and are now both playing in the NCAA. College hockey can be a big adjustment for 18-year old’s, and both have started a little slow but are finding their legs, particularly Tkachuk, who has four goals and nine points in his last nine games. They’re substantially different players of course: Tkachuk is a raucous centre in the same vein as his brother and father, while Hughes is another offensively gifted defenceman.

I flirted with the idea of putting Isac Lundestrom (7th) at fifth, but changed my mind as Tkachuk began his recent hot streak. Still, the positive signs from Lundestrom this season and last should be hard to ignore. In the summer, I talked about how impressive it was that he stuck in the SHL for almost the entire season as a 17-year old, and he’s continuing to take strides. Consider this quote of mine from August:

The major negative from a statistical standpoint is his 38.1% Goals-for percentage, made worse by the fact that Lulea was roughly a 50/50 team when he was off the ice. Of course, he was a 17-year old playing in a men’s league – I’m not sure how much we should expect him to dominate two-way play. It’ll be something to keep an eye on next season.

So far this season, Lulea has accounted for 58% of the goals when Lundestrom is on the ice, and just 46% when he’s on the bench. That’s certainly a good sign that’s a positive factor for his team when he’s on the ice. His team seems to agree, as his time on ice has jumped to an average of 16:00 from 9:57 last season. He’s fourth among all U20 SHL players this season, after Vancouver’s Elias Pettersson, Buffalo’s Rasmus Asplund, and the aforementioned Rasmus Dahlin.

Guelph’s Ryan Merkley (8th) is still a very enticing defender from an offensive standpoint, but continues to struggle on the defensive side of the puck, much the same as what I said about him in August. He’s second in SEAL adjusted scoring rate only to Dahlin, and his 42 points are second only to Filip Zadina among all first time eligible skaters. But he’s still getting scored on more than he or his teammates are scoring, with a negative relative percentage even on a poor team like the Storm.

Joe Veleno (9th) continues to slip down many of the rankings, including my own. Thanks to Sean Day falling all the way to 81st in 2016, Veleno won’t have to feel the shame of being the first CHL exceptional player to not go first overall into the NHL, but falling out of the top ten seems like a distinct possibility. Playing for the woeful Saint John Sea Dogs wasn’t helping matters, so we’ll keep an eye on how he performs now that he’s been traded to the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Two signs that his luck could turn around soon: he has a shooting percentage of just 6.3% so far this season, and his 25 assists are seventh in the QMJHL despite playing for the lowest scoring team in the league. The Voltigeurs, by the way, are the Q’s highest scoring team.

Evan Bouchard (10th), the young defenceman that Olli Juolevi had taken under his wing the last two seasons in London, is coming along quite nicely: he currently has 41 points in 33 games with the Knights, putting him third among blueliners in SEAL adjusted scoring. He also has a 58% goals-for percentage at evens, and is putting 4.3 shots on net per game from the backend. All but one of his 15 pGPS matches made it to the NHL, and 60% of them spent at least 200 games there. That list includes the likes of Al MacInnis, Ed Jovanovski, and Cam Fowler. Bouchard currently sits 25th in the consolidated rankings, with only three services listing him in the top 20. It’s quite possible that Bouchard jumps up the lists as the season progresses and his point totals (and other statistical highlights) become too loud too ignore.

I’ve got two current members of the USNTDP in the top 15, with Oliver Wahlstrom at 11th and Joel Farabee at 14th. NTDP guys can be a little bit tricky to get good analytics on. Right now my SEAL, pGPS, and Game Sheet Analytics numbers are derived from their limited games in the USHL this season (the NTDP faces a myriad of opponents over the course of their season, including the USHL, the NCAA, and other national teams), where they’ve played just seven of their games so far. Across all opponents, Wahlstrom and Farabee have compiled 31 and 27 points respectively in 26 games.

The three players that I listed as underrated in last week’s article come in at 17th (Jesperi Kotkaniemi), 18th (Cole Fonstad), and 19th (Nathan Dunkley). As early statistical standouts, these three are potential victims for regression in the second half of the season, but I have some confidence in the first two, whose draft-minus-one seasons show positive signs as well. Dunkley’s spot has a bit less security, and after going pointless in four of the final five games headed into the OHL’s 10 day Christmas break, he may be beginning to let up on his impressive early pace.

A handful of other defencemen with offensive upside populate my first round, including Ty Smith (13th), Jett Woo (15th), and Caleb Addison (22nd). Each has a pGPS Expected Likelihood of Success of more than 50%.

German Dominik Bokk (25th) has been tearing up the Swedish junior league this season, with 27 points in 19 games, and has appeared in nine games in the SHL, as a teammate of Elias Pettersson’s with the Vaxjo Lakers, where he has one goal so far. HockeyProspect.com and Sportsnet are the only two that have him ranked in the first round (at 27th and 31st respectively). I have a feeling that more services will catch on to this kid and rank him higher later on in the season.

Speaking of teammates of Canucks’ prospects, a pair of Jonathan Dahlen’s teammates with Timra appear in the thirties: Filip Hallander (31st) and Jacob Olofsson (37th). At points this season, those three have actually played on a line together in the Allsvenskan. We’re always on the lookout for players putting up points in the European professional leagues, even a second tier league like the Allsvenskan.

Before we get into the list itself, take a read through of the stats used in this article, or skip ahead and come back if you’ve forgotten what any of them are.

A Rundown of the Stats Used In These Articles

If you’ve already read this in the previous articles, you can go ahead and skip this section.

You can get draft lists from a myriad of sources, but since you came to Canucks Army, you can expect somewhat of a statistical lean. There will be video and some scouting reports as well, but much ink will be spilled on stats, as we have metrics here that you won’t find anywhere else. What follows is a brief description of each of the stats referenced in the tables below.

  • Age: Exact age to two decimal points, calculated as of September 15th, 2016. That date is used for draft purposes – anyone with an exact age greater than or equal to 16.00 and less than 17.00 as of that date will be eligible for the first time at the 2018 draft.
  • Box Cars: GP, G, A, P stand for the standard Games Played, Goals, Assists, and Points, during the 2017-18 regular season.
  • Sh/GP: Shots on goal per games played.
  • Sh%: Shooting percentage.
  • GF%: Percentage of 5-on-5 on-ice goals scored in favour of the player’s team.
  • GF%rel: The difference between the player’s on-ice GF% relative to the team’s GF% when the player is off the ice.
  • pGPS:
    • XLS is Expected Likelihood of Success for the player, based on how many similar players reached a 200 NHL game threshold, weighted by similarity.
    • XPR is the Expected Production Rate of the player per 82 games, based on how similar players produced in the NHL, weighted by similarity.
    • xVal is Expected Value, the product of XLS and XPR. Check this article to see an Expected Value curve from last year’s draft to get an idea of what constitutes a “good” xVal. Last year the expected values in the first round ranged from about 35 to 15.
  • SEAL: The SEAL adjusted scoring value. SEAL stands for Situational, Era, Age, and League. Here’s a rundown of the current iteration of SEAL, which evolved from a technique that Garret Hohl pioneered for the 2015 draft.

Certain metrics are only available for certain leagues, depending on how easily available the data is to the public, and in some cases whether or not Dylan Kirkby (our resident programmer) and I have had the time to set up the necessary data scrapers. Here’s a run down on which metrics are available in which leagues.

  • pGPS: I can run pGPS data on about 20 leagues right now, so at the top of the draft, it’s easier just to say which leagues it doesn’t do. For the purposes of this list, the missing leagues are: the MHL (Russian Junior), SM-Liiga Nuorten (Finnish Junior), and the OJHL.
  • SEAL: SEAL adjustments are currently available for all CHL leagues (WHL, OHL, QMJHL), USHL, NCAA, and all major Swedish leagues (SHL, Allsvenskan, Superelit). Dependent on availability of situational scoring data.
  • GF% and GF%rel: Currently available for all CHL leagues (WHL, OHL, QMJHL), USHL and the SHL.

2018 NHL Draft Winter Top 75

Rank Player Pos Age Height Nat. League GP G A P Sh/GP Sh% GF% GF%rel pGPS XLS% pGPS XPR pGPS xVal SEAL
1 Rasmus Dahlin D 17.42 6.02 SWE SHL 26 5 6 11 2.00 9.6 52.9% 1.471
2 Andrei Svechnikov RW 17.47 6.02 RUS OHL 16 14 7 21 3.94 22.2 70.6% 12.3% 75% 52 39.3 1.355
3 Filip Zadina LW 17.80 6.01 CZE QMJHL 32 24 22 46 4.25 17.7 61.7% 7.4% 45% 53 24.2 1.592
4 Adam Boqvist D 17.08 5.11 SWE Superelit 17 11 7 18 4.24 15.3 22% 23 5.1 0.723
5 Brady Tkachuk C 17.99 6.03 USA NCAA 19 4 10 14 3.63 5.8 1.305
6 Quinton Hughes D 17.92 5.1 USA NCAA 16 1 9 10 2.69 2.3 0.986
7 Isac Lundestrom C/LW 17.86 6.00 SWE SHL 24 3 7 10 1.04 15.3 57.9% 58% 52 30.0 1.572
8 Ryan Merkley D 17.09 5.11 CAN OHL 32 10 32 42 2.30 13.2 40.7% -4.3% 48% 47 22.6 1.410
9 Joseph Veleno C 17.67 6.01 CAN QMJHL 31 6 25 31 3.06 6.3 42.5% 7.5% 8% 44 3.6
10 Evan Bouchard D 17.91 6.02 CAN OHL 33 11 30 41 4.26 8.3 58.2% 9.1% 60% 41 24.5 1.328
Rank Player Pos Age Height Nat. League GP G A P Sh/GP Sh% GF% GF%rel pGPS XLS% pGPS XPR pGPS xVal SEAL
11 Oliver Wahlstrom C/RW 17.26 6.01 USA USHL 7 6 4 10 3.86 22.2 66.7% 17.4% 24% 73 17.8 1.229
12 Ryan McLeod C 17.99 6.02 CAN OHL 33 8 24 32 2.44 10.8 55.3% 17.6% 26% 37 9.4 1.139
13 Ty Smith D 17.48 5.10 CAN WHL 33 5 29 34 3.09 4.8 63.8% 13.8% 57% 35 20.0 1.048
14 Joel Farabee LW 17.56 5.11 USA USHL 7 5 6 11 2.86 25.0 54.5% 3.2% 6% 54 3.4 1.877
15 Jett Woo D 17.14 6.00 CAN WHL 18 6 11 17 1.94 17.1 70.0% 14.2% 66% 38 24.7 0.966
16 Akil Thomas C 17.70 5.11 USA OHL 32 8 25 33 2.56 9.8 52.8% 5.8% 25% 38 9.3 1.207
17 Jesperi Kotkaniemi C 17.19 6.02 FIN Liiga 34 6 8 14 2.97 5.9 59% 43 25.2
18 Cole Fonstad C/LW 17.39 5.10 CAN WHL 34 11 30 41 2.06 15.7 50.9% 9.7% 33% 47 15.2 1.398
19 Nathan Dunkley C 17.37 5.11 CAN OHL 27 11 19 30 1.75 22.5 70.0% 16.8% 38% 46 17.6 1.356
20 Allan McShane C 17.59 5.11 CAN OHL 33 10 20 30 2.47 11.9 55.0% 6.6% 21% 37 7.8 1.100
Rank Player Pos Age Height Nat. League GP G A P Sh/GP Sh% GF% GF%rel pGPS XLS% pGPS XPR pGPS xVal SEAL
21 Noah Dobson D 17.69 6.03 CAN QMJHL 35 4 28 32 3.97 2.9 57.4% 3.6% 27% 29 7.9 0.812
22 Calen Addison D 17.43 5.10 CAN WHL 33 7 30 37 3.03 7.0 45.8% -8.2% 56% 33 18.4 1.173
23 Jared McIsaac D 17.47 6.01 CAN QMJHL 34 4 16 20 2.35 5.0 52.0% -9.3% 17% 26 4.5 0.487
24 Blade Jenkins C 17.10 6.02 USA OHL 32 12 12 24 2.03 18.5 51.0% -1.4% 24% 44 10.4 1.166
25 Dominik Bokk LW/RW 17.62 6.01 GER Superelit 19 9 18 27 1.33 8.3 53% 42 22.3 1.044
26 Jack McBain C 17.69 6.03 CAN OJHL 33 13 26 39
27 Barrett Hayton C 17.27 6.01 CAN OHL 33 13 17 30 3.03 13.0 58.8% -4.8% 28% 40 11.2 1.079
28 Rasmus Kupari C 17.50 5.11 FIN Liiga 19 3 1 4 1.68 9.4 17% 49 8.3
29 Anderson MacDonald LW 17.33 6.02 CAN QMJHL 32 14 11 25 2.94 14.9 38.6% -10.8% 11% 45 4.9 0.895
30 Bode Wilde D 17.64 6.02 CAN USHL 7 1 3 4 2.00 7.1 53.8% 2.5% 14% 32 4.4 0.572
Rank Player Pos Age Height Nat. League GP G A P Sh/GP Sh% GF% GF%rel pGPS XLS% pGPS XPR pGPS xVal SEAL
31 Filip Hallander C/W 17.21 6.01 SWE Allsvenskan 25 5 8 13 2.15 8.9 0% 0 0.0 1.257
32 K’Andre Miller D 17.65 6.03 USA USHL 7 3 6 9 2.29 12.5 63.6% 13.6% 1.602
33 Aidan Dudas C 17.25 5.07 CAN OHL 31 16 20 36 3.72 13.5 47.6% -1.9% 13% 56 7.4 1.366
34 Serron Noel RW 17.10 6.05 CAN OHL 28 14 11 25 1.72 28.0 50.0% -0.5% 40% 49 19.8 1.175
35 Jesse Ylonen RW 17.95 6.01 USA Mestis 25 8 7 15
36 Mattias Samuelsson D 17.51 6.04 USA USHL 7 1 4 5 1.86 7.7 63.6% 13.6% 49% 38 18.6 0.903
37 Jacob Olofsson C 17.60 6.02 SWE Allsvenskan 24 5 5 10 2.13 9.8 0% 0 0.0
38 Grigori Denisenko LW 17.23 5.10 RUS MHL 19 3 8 11 3.05 5.2
39 Kyle Topping C 17.83 5.11 CAN WHL 34 13 23 36 2.47 15.5 64.3% 19.5% 29% 43 12.4 1.016
40 Nicolas Beaudin D 17.94 5.10 CAN QMJHL 35 8 24 32 2.20 9.1 62.9% 10.4% 26% 32 8.5 0.795
Rank Player Pos Age Height Nat. League GP G A P Sh/GP Sh% GF% GF%rel pGPS XLS% pGPS XPR pGPS xVal SEAL
41 Jacob Ragnarsson D 17.98 6.00 SWE Allsvenskan 26 4 8 12 0.63 23.5 35% 39 13.3 0.764
42 Yegor Sokolov RW 17.27 6.04 RUS QMJHL 33 13 14 27 2.85 13.8 39.2% -3.8% 18% 51 9.2 0.929
43 Gabriel Fortier LW 17.61 5.10 CAN QMJHL 34 15 16 31 2.71 16.3 47.6% -2.4% 9% 42 4.0 0.934
44 Jonatan Berggren C/RW 17.17 5.10 SWE Superelit 26 13 21 34 2.35 21.3 70% 60 42.0 0.946
45 Blake McLaughlin C 17.59 5.11 USA USHL 17 8 13 21 2.00 23.5 46.4% -6.4% 18% 59 10.5 1.393
46 Adam Ginning D 17.67 6.03 SWE SHL 15 0 0 0 0.63 0.0 17% 24 4.2 0.202
47 Jakub Lauko C/LW 17.47 6.01 CZE Czech 28 2 3 5 0.79 9.1 18% 55 10.0
48 David Levin LW/RW 18.00 5.10 ISR OHL 15 5 7 12 2.56 12.2 41.7% -6.3% 12% 33 3.9 0.888
49 David Gustafsson C 17.43 6.01 SWE SHL 25 1 2 3 0.60 13.3 29% 47 13.8
50 Milos Roman C 17.86 5.11 SVK WHL 33 8 21 29 2.00 12.1 62.5% 14.0% 15% 37 5.4 0.855
Rank Player Pos Age Height Nat. League GP G A P Sh/GP Sh% GF% GF%rel pGPS XLS% pGPS XPR pGPS xVal SEAL
51 Santeri Salmela D 17.27 6.01 FIN Liiga 11 0 0 0 1.73 0.0 19% 44 8.4
52 Alexander Khovanov C 17.43 5.11 RUS QMJHL 0 0 0 0
53 Alexander Alexeyev D 17.83 6.03 RUS WHL 25 3 15 18 1.68 7.1 47.1% 4.5% 37% 26 9.4 0.674
54 Philipp Kurashev LW/C 17.93 6.00 SUI QMJHL 33 8 23 31 2.88 8.4 42.5% -12.9% 9% 44 3.9 0.976
55 Martin Kaut RW 17.96 6.01 CZE Czech 24 3 3 6 1.13 11.1 19% 54 10.0
56 Filip Kral D 17.91 5.12 CZE WHL 22 3 12 15 2.36 5.8 66.7% 13.3% 24% 24 5.6 0.667
57 Oscar Back C/RW 17.51 6.02 SWE SHL 6 0 0 0 28% 38 10.7
58 Vitali Kravtsov RW 17.73 6.02 RUS Russia 24 3 3 6 0.92 13.6 4% 42 1.8
59 Benoit-Olivier Groulx C 17.61 6.01 FRA QMJHL 35 15 14 29 2.49 18.4 55.3% -3.4% 9% 47 4.1 0.865
60 Kody Clark RW 17.93 6.01 CAN OHL 28 12 12 24 2.45 16.9 55.6% 23.3% 20% 35 7.1 1.016
Rank Player Pos Age Height Nat. League GP G A P Sh/GP Sh% GF% GF%rel pGPS XLS% pGPS XPR pGPS xVal SEAL
61 Curtis Hall C 17.39 6.02 USA USHL 18 10 7 17 1.94 28.6 68.2% 21.8% 47% 46 21.7 1.060
62 Marcus Westfalt C/LW 17.51 6.03 SWE Superelit 11 6 8 14 0.70 7.1 36% 44 15.8 0.866
63 Rasmus Sandin D 17.53 5.11 SWE OHL 21 2 15 17 1.57 6.1 62.5% 0.3% 47% 32 15.2 0.926
64 Ty Dellandrea C 17.15 6.01 CAN OHL 33 12 14 26 3.33 10.9 37.8% -1.7% 25% 41 10.3 0.854
65 Riley Sutter RW 17.89 6.02 CAN WHL 35 12 12 24 2.75 13.1 57.1% 7.7% 9% 30 2.8 0.789
66 Nando Eggenberger LW/RW 17.94 6.02 SUI NLA 25 2 2 4 0% 0 0.0
67 Adam Samuelsson D 17.24 6.05 USA USHL 7 2 1 3 1.00 28.6 69.2% 20.6% 29% 28 8.1 0.326
68 Albin Eriksson LW 17.16 6.04 SWE SHL 24 13 13 26 3.21 16.9 41% 44 17.9 0.755
69 Xavier Bouchard D 17.55 6.03 CAN QMJHL 32 1 10 11 1.47 2.1 43.5% -9.2% 6% 21 1.3 0.328
70 Dmitri Zavgorodny C 17.10 5.09 RUS QMJHL 29 10 10 20 2.21 15.6 59.5% 2.4% 6% 45 2.6 0.880
Rank Player Pos Age Height Nat. League GP G A P Sh/GP Sh% GF% GF%rel pGPS XLS% pGPS XPR pGPS xVal SEAL
71 Axel Andersson D 17.60 6.00 SWE Superelit 25 3 19 22 2.32 5.2 22% 75 16.7 0.645
72 David Lilja C 17.65 5.11 SWE Allsvenskan 23 3 5 8 0.52 23.1 0% 0 0.0 0.652
73 Lukas Wernblom C/LW 17.15 5.09 SWE Superelit 14 4 6 10 2.71 10.5 3% 27 0.8 0.447
74 Niklas Nordgren RW 17.37 5.09 FIN Liiga 10 0 1 1 1.60 0.0 23% 56 13.1
75 Carter Robertson D 17.67 6.02 CAN OHL 22 1 4 5 1.30 3.3 51.7% 15.1% 7% 20 1.5 0.275