It’s been nearly three months since I last dropped a consolidated draft rankings on this site, so it’s I’d say it’s high time to check on how the 2018 class is shaking out. In the time since the last list was published, there haven’t been any major events (World Juniors and CHL Top Prospects game had recently taken place), but all eligible prospects have now finished their 2017-18 regular seasons and shot into the playoffs for their respective leagues (and many have already been knocked out). For some prospects (cough, Vitali Kravtsov), that will springboard them up the rankings. For others, it might expose them to some sort of “doesn’t perform when it counts” narrative.
As always, we’ll begin by going over which mainstream services were used in the creation of this list.
|Service||Future Considerations||Hockey Prospect||ISS Hockey||McKeens||The Athletic||TSN Craig’s List||TSN Industry||The Hockey News||Sportsnet||ESPN||Dobber Prospects|
|Author||Staff||Staff||Staff||Staff||Scott Wheeler||Craig Button||Bob McKenzie||Ryan Kennedy||Jeff Marek||Chris Peters||Cam Robinson|
|Date||March 20||March 6||April 4||April 9||February 19||March 19||January 26||January 22||March 7||January 30||March 18|
The majority of the rankings have been updated since the last installment – only Bob McKenzie, The Hockey News, and ESPN have not – which has led to plenty of movement. Before we get into some of the minutiae of the draft class, let’s take a look at the reason you all clicked on this article: the consolidated list for April, 2018.
The Top of the Class
Rasmus Dahlin continues to stand alone in the number one spot. No mainstream rankings have him going anywhere lower than first overall, and seriously, your takes would have to be so, so, so hot to continue having any one else besides the Swedish defensive phenom on top of your board.
Right after Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov and Filip Zadina are continuing to duke it out for second overall, and at this point, Svechnikov is winning the battle. Funny, if I’d done a consolidated ranking in February, or even March, the two prominent wingers would have been a lot closer to each other – a handful of services had Zadina ahead of Svechnikov, liking owning to the former overshadowing the latter at the World Junior Championships (Brady Tkachuk also took points away from both of the other two for much the same reason). However, with a little extra time, balance is being restored and Svechnikov is regaining his hold on second. His performance in the OHL playoffs has a lot to do with that.
Speaking of Brady Tkachuk, he passed Adam Boqvist for fourth overall in the aggregated list. Tkachuk’s size, style and bloodlines are pushing him forward, in addition to a strong second half in college hockey. Boqvist hasn’t exactly been cementing his case either. Despite continuing to make the occasional highlight reel, the fact that he struggled to stick in the SHL at any point this season makes it difficult to guarantee him a spot in the top five.
Now let’s take a closer look at some of the players who are on the move on the list.
One of the biggest risers all season long has been Evan Bouchard, and that hasn’t changed in the past couple of months, as the London Knights captain has moved from 13th to 8th. Bouchard achieved the highly impressive feat of leading all first time eligible players in raw points – as a defenceman in the OHL no less. Bouchard excels in a lot of areas, though his acceleration and top speed are still just average, which is likely what will keep him in the latter half of the top ten.
Though he only moved up a couple of spots, I’d like to draw attention to Joe Veleno, now of the Drummonville Voltigeurs. Back in January, when I released my personal Winter Rankings, I wrote this about Veleno, who has just been traded:
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.
Lo and behold, the change did Veleno quite a bit of good, and he’s been back in top ten conversations ever since.
Since being traded to Drummondville, Joe Veleno's points/game has been 1.47 in the QMJHL. Filip Zadina's points/game in Halifax has been 1.43.
— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) March 17, 2018
Another prominent riser over the last couple of months is Finnish forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi. I’ve been a booster of his since early on in the year, labeling him as an underrated prospect to that point, particular in comparison to his countryman Rasmus Kupari, who was routinely ranked higher in spite of inferior results in nearly every area. Most people seem to have caught on, as Kotkaniemi is now ranked above Kupari on six of the 11 lists used herein, and is above Kupari on the consolidated board for the first time all season. One thing to keep an eye on for those that have a positional preference: while both are listed as centres, only Kupari spent significant time there this season, while Kotkaniemi spent the majority of time on the wing – not that he couldn’t transition back to the middle in the future.
The biggest riser of the month is Rasmus Sandin, who has jumped up eight spots from 32nd to 24th. The Swedish born defenceman had a fantastic second half for the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds and continues to add to his resume in the Ontario League playoffs, with seven points in 11 games so far as Sault Ste. Marie enters the OHL conference finals against Kitchener.
The next biggest jump came from Russian Vitali Kravtsov, who just missed this top 31 list after jumping seven spots from 39th to 32nd. Kravtsov has always been a well regarded prospect, but his historical run in the KHL playoffs last month had people tripping over themselves to move him up their boards – and rightfully so. Kravtsov’s 11 playoff points were the most in KHL history by a U20 player, with names like Evgeni Kuznetsov and Valeri Nichushkin in his rear-view mirror. The fact that Kravtsov isn’t in this consolidated first round yet is likely only due to the fact that most services haven’t updated their lists since he caught fire. I’d wager that by the time the next wave of lists come out, he’ll be considerably higher across the board.
The aforementioned Kupari is the most notable faller on the board, but he isn’t the only one. Bode Wilde has tumbled a handful of spots, but that likely has more to do with other players in that area turning up the heat than it does with Wilde diminishing himself in anyway. Wilde has long been a sturdy, offence-second defenceman anyway, and he could probably do with a little downward adjustment anyway.
Halifax’s Benoit-Olivier Groulx fell six spots, hanging by a thread at the end of the list at 31st. Groulx’s scoring pace dipped towards the end of the season, and he finished well under a point per game in the Q. Over his last 27 games, he scored 21 points, and it’s notable that nine of those points came in two games against Saint John and Moncton, a pair of bottom feeders, leaving just 12 points in the other 25 games from mid-January to the end of the year.
Two prospects fell half a dozen spots and landed outside the first round. The first was Jack McBain, a centre from the OJHL who’s going to continue having trouble impressing as long as he’s in junior A. An appearance on Team Canada in the forthcoming World Under-18 tournament could have a prominent effect of his final rankings, offering scouts one last chance to see him compete against his peers.
The other was Calen Addison, a high scoring defenceman with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. This one’s a bit more of a headscratcher: Addison had a pretty prominent second half, despite a noticeable dip in production in late January. Addison’s skating and puck skills are his calling card, though he lacks any sort of physical edge. Deficiencies aside, Addison’s drop might have more to do with the likes of Kravtsov and Czech forward Martin Kaut moving up, than any failing of his own.
Tiers and drop offs are always a focus of draft fans. Everyone wants to know when the talent starts to thin out, especially at a time like now when the season has ended and the pre-lottery positions are set. So, as the people pleaser that I am, I’ve thrown this chart together to give an impression of where the talent drop offs are, according to the industry averages.
Once again, Rasmus Dahlin is in a tier of his own. Svechnikov and Zadina are now is a second group of their own as well, instead of being lumped together with the likes of Tkachuk or Boqvist.
The most noticeable drop off begins after ninth (Noah Dobson), and a second substantial drop off occurs after 18th (Grigori Denisenko). After that point, you’re getting into the list of controversial players who could go anywhere from the early teens to right out of the first round.
The World Under-18’s are right around the corner, and this tournament is chock full of draft eligible prospects, which means that players are likely to be on the move again in future rankings. If you’re scouting the tournament, mind your sample sizes! And perhaps take another look at Jackson McDonald’s do’s and don’ts for evaluating prospects at tournaments like this.