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Photo Credit: NHL.com

January thoughts about the 2018 NHL Entry Draft

The NHL All-Star game is in the rearview mirror and it feels like the real hockey season is here.

Teams are ramping up for playoff runs or looking at what assets that they can sell. It also means that the NHL Entry Draft is less than 5 months away. I’ve been lucky enough to attend the last two and intend on heading to Dallas this June. My major takeaway is that it’s hard to keep up with everything that is happening that weekend.

So I figured it’s better to get ahead of it and do as many posts as I can leading up to it. Some posts will be focusing on specific players, trends, thought processes and speculating the best way the Canucks can handle the draft. It also means that I have these things rattling around in my head all the time, so let’s throw some of them out there now.

Rasmus Dahlin

He will be the first player selected in June and if you see a ‘prospect analyst’ with anyone else ahead of him, they are just looking for clicks.

I try my best to be as objective as possible and understand why people have opposing views to my own. But Dahlin is a game-changer for any organization, and there aren’t any other players in the same class that will have as much of an impact. Andrei Svechnikov and Filip Zadina are in the next tier and will be fantastic prospects, but they are not in the same class as Dahlin.

The Swedish defenceman has great offensive instincts, willing to use his excellent puck skills and skating to make moves that others don’t even think of, and isn’t afraid to be physical.

It’s the first year since 1994, where a defenceman is the undisputed first overall pick. Ed Jovanovski was taken by Florida that year and ended up playing over 1100 games in the NHL but Dahlin has a higher ceiling than the former Canuck and will be the first name called on draft day.

Year of the Defencemen

Jeremy Davis does a fantastic job of consolidating a bunch of public draft rankings to show how players and draft classes are trending. It’s clear that this year will be loaded with defencemen, and more specifically a lot of CHL defencemen.

Based on the January rankings, there are 13 defencemen ranked in the first 31 selections. For comparison’s sake, there were 9 defencemen taken in the first round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

We will see Dahlin go first overall, and then will likely see Adam Boqvist, Quinton Hughes, and at least one of the CHL defencemen go in the Top 10. (Evan Bouchard is making himself a serious contender to be a lock in that Top 10)

Every draft class depends on which players rise to the top – but it is interesting to see how many defencemen are ranked this early at the top of the draft. There are a few of them that I am apathetic towards, but it’s clear that if teams are looking to address an organizational need, it’s a good year to target blueliners.

Depth of the Draft

Looking back – it’s funny that the 2017 draft class was viewed as weak. Many people (including myself) didn’t feel that way, but it was a consistent storyline leading up to this past June.  With this year’s class, it’s probably the correct narrative.

The Top 5 of the draft is very good and the 6-14 overall ranked players are good.

But after that, it’s a drop-off.

That isn’t to say that there won’t be players in this draft class, but it feels like a lot of middle six forwards and 3/4 defencemen. There will be some diamonds in the rough, and it will be up to the scouting staffs to find which players will set themselves apart from that group.

Earlier this month, I tweeted this out:

I had been watching a Kelowna Rockets game, and 2018 draft eligible Kyle Topping had been playing well. But he is a sloppy skater who has been a benefactor of playing with Kole Lind, Cal Foote, and Dillon Dube. He is an intriguing player in the second or third round, but he isn’t going to be a game breaker. (Worth noting that Jeremy Davis had him ranked 39th overall in his Winter rankings here)

Which is the general feeling I get when looking through the players available after those Top 15 players.

Speaking with another scout recently, my feeling about this year’s crop isn’t far off.

Intriguing players

This morning, Corey Pronman with The Athletic posted an article about Dominik Bokk and it was filled with glowing reviews of the German-born forward. I’ve been firmly on the Bokk bandwagon for the last few months, as I’ve seen him play a bunch with Vaxjo.

Another couple of players who have jumped out to me are Adam Ginning (D) and David Gustafsson (C). Both have been able to secure regular spots in the SHL during their draft years, which is always a good sign.

On this side of the ocean, Ty Dellandrea had a good performance at the Sherwin Williams Top Prospects game. I’ve also been a big fan of Serron Noel this year. When he plays the way he can, he’s a really hard player to contain.

Joe Veleno is a really interesting player as he’s had so many expectations placed on him. He has been really good since being traded in the QMJHL and is seeing his draft stock stabilize a bit. But I do think he will be an NHL player. It’s just hard to know where he ends up and figure out what his ceiling will be.

All these players come with flaws though, which goes back to the theme that I mentioned before. It will be important to get as many views and use data, to find out who is the best options in those first few rounds.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this is something that I can do on a monthly basis leading up the draft as it’s easy to get caught up in scouting players and being behind the 8-ball, publicly, on players. (*cough* Bokk *cough*)

There is still so much hockey left to be played that it can be hard to predict how the dust will settle. At the very least, it allows us to look at some of the players and trends that are going on with this group.

It’s all about building on the pile of knowledge…. so that is all used up in less than 24 hours in June.

  • No mention of Tkachuk? Think he’ll challenge for #2 – possesses an element neither Svech nor Zadina has; big & fast, can play C, nasty disposition with soft hands. Ranked #2 by ISS; #3 by Hockey Prospects – yet seems to be flying under CA radar – wondering why & where you have him?

    • I view Zadina and Svechnikov as a step above Tkachuk.

      There is nothing wrong with Tkachuk, but I would not pass on either of those players for him – if you are chasing that toughness, you pass on skill.

  • Sean Durzi for top overage prospect should be intriguing

    Not sure 1994 was the last year where a d was the consensus #1. I’m pretty sure EJ in 2006 was far and away #1. In 1994 there was some thought that Bonk might be the best player.

    • One of those players that should’ve been taken in the 7th round last year – now teams will be tripping over themselves to get him in the 2nd and 3rd round

      I don’t think EJ was the clear cut #1 pick – Toews, Staal, and Backstrom were at least in the conversation. 1994 is well before my time of ‘covering’ NHL – but that comment about Jovo was mentioned by someone who is older and been around longer.

  • Site would be of more interest if the writers of articles actually responded to comments & questions. Simply posting material suggests the authors are only interested in their own opinions.

  • Thanks for the read, Ryan. Excited to see you coverage of the draft moving forward. To throw my personal opinion in there, Dahlin -Zadina – Svechnikov, in that order no doubt. I really hope to see one of them putting on a Canucks jersey at the draft…

  • you could call it “the year of the undersized defenseman”… nucks need offense from thr backend but im worried they’re going to spend a high pick on someone who isnt a total package and has to be sheltered. Maybe not a winning formula.