By now everyone has read how good all these prospects are but let’s face it, every year almost EVERYONE is wrong about at least a couple of guys in the Top 10. The reality is not every single prospect is going to end up being a legit NHLer for whatever reason and some guys drafted later will end up being the better player. A lot has to do with how the player develops within a team’s organization and how willing the prospect is to work on his own inefficiencies in his game.
I’ve gone back and forth on this all year but am pretty confident in my evaluations now. I have changed my tune a bit on a few guys recently after watching the playoffs and U18 tourney. As usual, I value what I perceive as NHL translatable skills as opposed to Junior production which leads to too many mis-evaluations IMO. Of course, I’m going to be way off on certain guys but I enjoy breaking every player down and looking for potential weaknesses. Red flags are often overlooked come draft time as too many GM’s think they can develop the prospect properly despite it going against their better judgment.
Important to note in my comparisons that I compare them stylistically to certain players or their possible ceiling if they reach their maximum potential. Many of these kids may never get there. With that in mind, here’s how I rank the Top 31 players in this year’s draft. This isn’t a list of WHERE I think they will be drafted but just who the best 31 Prospects are in terms of projecting to the next level. Consider this a re-draft….5 years from now.
1. Rasmus Dahlin (LD) – All world defenceman who will revolutionize the position. Most points scored by a defenceman in the last 20 years is Erik Karlsson with 82 points. Dahlin has the ability to break that mark one day. Generational talent.
2. Andrei Svechnikov (RW) – 5 tool prospect who can beat you with speed or power, never takes a shift off and plays a complete 200 ft game. Total package who would be #1 in many other draft years. Might be better than Laine overall. Looks like Evgeni Malkin 2.0. No real weaknesses.
3. Brady Tkachuk (LW) – Prototypical power forward who possesses the leadership, determination and confidence to dominate. More well rounded than his older brother Matthew who is a pretty good player himself. He isn’t a pure sniper but has a good shot, is an excellent skater and plays a nasty game where he will get the ugly goals if he has to. Will drive teams nuts his grit and determination. Jamie Benn type for me.
4. Filip Zadina (RW) – Can do a lot of what Svechnikov can do just not quite as physically dominant as Svech but is a dynamic, pure sniper and elite playmaker. Only real potential red flag I see is his questionable decision making occasionally – he can be a puckhog so needs to use his teammates better at times. Maybe his ceiling is Vladimir Tarasenko.
5. Noah Dobson (RD) – Probably the closest thing to a true #1 NHL defenceman after Dahlin. Big, quick, smart and consistent on both sides of the puck. Dobson has all the tools to become an Alex Pietrangelo type though is a bit raw so made need a couple seasons to develop. Whenever that is, he should be able to contribute right away defensively until offence comes around at next level. Safer pick to me than the guys below him though they may ultimately end up scoring more points than him early in their careers.
6. Oliver Wahlstrom (RW) – Pure goal scorer with a heavy shot Wahlstrom is pretty close to Tkachuk in terms of overall talent. Both should have big impacts in the NHL but what separates the two is what is Wahlstrom’s only real weakness from what I can tell – compete level. While Tkachuk is going to bring it every shift every night Wahlstrom does take some shifts off and has been accused of coasting at times. If he can up his consistency and effort he could easily be a 30-40 goal scorer in NHL eventually. Young Corey Perry.
7. Quinn Hughes (LD) – New generational type in the Dahlin mould. Can walk thru a whole team thanks to his terrific skating but at what cost defensively? Appears to have a very high hockey IQ as he can make some great plays defensively with his wonderful anticipating and reading the play. Smaller player who is a risk taker but is very instinctive. There is bust potential with him but his elite skill and skating gives him the edge over guys like Boqvist, Ty Smith & Evan Bouchard for me. Needs to get stronger and work on defensive part of game to compliment a terrific offensive toolkit. Perhaps he is a more instinctive Shayne Gostisbehere.
8. Adam Boqvist (RD) – Has very similar skillset to Hughes and draws a lot of Erik Karlsson comparisons though is much smaller than him right now. No idea what his actual height and weight are as they seem to differ depending on the site. Has all the makings of being the next Karlsson, he even scored one more goal them EK did in his draft year. But he has defensive flaws including poor gap control and questionable defensive awareness at times plus he is the smallest of all the Top dmen. That all makes him the Biggest boom or bust in the draft for me. Could just be another Sami Vatanen which isn’t a bad thing but buyer beware.
9. Joel Farabee (LW) – Tremendous speed and a slick playmaker there’s plenty to like in Farabee. I love how good he is defensively too and he appears to have a very high hockey IQ. He could very well be another great USHL prospect to turn pro in a couple years just like Kyle Connor who he reminds me of. However, he does have a very light frame so he will need to bulk up like so many other young prospects. He’s committed to BU so is at least 2 years away but if a team is patient they could have a legit Top 6 player. Checks all the boxes for me. Work ethic is outstanding.
10. Vitali Kravtsov (RW) – Electric playmaker who could end up being the steal of the draft. Plenty of speed and skill to dominate at NHL level. Probably shouldn’t be rushed to NHL though for at least a couple years. Has followed a very similar path to Evgeny Kuznetsov in the KHL and could have a similar impact eventually if patient. Highlight reel player similar to Kupari but with better finishing ability. 6’2” currently needs to add a bit more weight & strength.
11. Evan Bouchard (RD) – LOVE him as an OHL’er, think he’ll underwhelm at NHL level. Gets so many points on PP with good shot from point. However, is not physical or flashy and is prone to mental mistakes defensively. I would bank on him being a solid NHL’er likely a 2nd pairing guy eventually but think he’s almost plateaued as a prospect. Great poise & leadership. Took me awhile to figure out exactly who he reminded me off but now I know – it’s a young Wade Redden.
12. Bode Wilde (RD) – Bode’s surname suits him as sometimes his game can be described as “Wild”. He has plenty of offensive talent but is a risk taker who hurts his team defensively at times. Regardless, he has a lot of flash in his game and tremendous upside if he can continue to work on his defense. I like this player a lot despite the obvious flaws which are mostly coachable. He has the size and is more physical than Bouchard though not nearly as patient. You can’t teach that athleticism and shot. I think he compares quite well to Matt Dumba in his draft year.
13. Joe Veleno (LHC) – Smoking Joe looks like your prototypical solid 2 way forward. He excels at both ends of the ice but I question his offensive upside. Smart, poised, solid all round. I’ve heard Jonathan Toews comparisons which might be a bit of a reach but I do expect Veleno to eventually be at least a solid 2nd-3rd line centerman in the NHL. Can play all situations and is an excellent skater.
14. Ty Dellandrea (RHC) – Many people will question why I have Dellandrea so high, especially ahead of guys like Kotkaniemi. The reason is I think he is this year’s Robert Thomas (who I was pounding the table for last year). While not quite as smart as Thomas, Dellandrea is very instinctive and just seems to have a knack for scoring. His Flint team last year was young but awful. Dellandrea stood out on Flint but also stood out at the Prospects Game scoring twice. He has all the tools, fast and skilled, is a RHC and an excellent faceoff guy. He plays in all situations. My favourite prospect outside of the Top 10 might not actually get drafted till the 2nd round. Matt Duchene but with a great attitude.
15. Ty Smith (LD) – Offensive defenceman with great leadership qualities who is good enough defensively to be considered one of the most well-rounded defencemen in his class. Excellent PP Quarterback capable of pinching in from point and scoring back door. A lot of Tyson Barrie similarities though he seems to be more reliable and makes better decisions. Needs to put on weight and get stronger. Had a poor showing at Prospects game and underwhelming tournament recently at U18 World’s. His playoff team was eliminated in the 1st round. Probably a #2 or #3 Dman is his ceiling.
16. Jesperi Kotkaniemi (C) – Kotkaniemi appears to be rising fast on draft boards late here but I’m struggling to understand why. He has skating issues especially at accelerating which I think will hinder his progress. I do see some Puljujarvi in him but Jesse was more powerful and had a much quicker first step than Jesperi. I think the fact JK is a C and the upper half of draft is weak at that position is why he’s ranked so high by others. I’m not convinced. Nice playmaker who could be a good player in NHL but I’m not seeing anything that warrants a Top 10 pick. Maybe I’m wrong.
17. Dominik Bokk (RW) – Bokk is probably a long-term project as he hasn’t really faced much quality competition playing in mostly Germany in his career. However, internationally he has show well and did play a season in Sweden this year where he dominated. His shot is an absolute cannon and NHL caliber. His passing and vision is incredible. He appears to be so smart, so savvy he just knows where to go on the ice at all times. I love this player’s game. So many NHL translatable skills. Not a burner but is a good skater. Like so many prospects he needs to get stronger, work on his defense and gain more experience against tougher competition but this kid looks like he’s going to be a helluva player. Maybe David Pastrnak?
18. Rasmus Kupari (C) – I love Kupari’s speed and agility but he doesn’t appear to be a great finisher. I’ve also heard the Aho comparisons but Kupari seems more like an energetic 3rd-4th liner than a Top 6 guy. Being a RHC helps his cause. Either way, could easily be a very solid NHLer with that speed. Can play in all situations and is a talented playmaker. Great vision and passing ability.
19. Akil Thomas (RHC/W) – First off, I like Thomas better as a winger in the NHL. As a Center he seems to defer more but as a winger he seems to move his feet more and go harder to the net. He has blazing speed and a good shot when he uses it. The issue with Thomas is consistency. When he’s on he’s very good but sometimes he disappears for stretches, cheats too much in the defensive zone and overpasses at times. He’s the kind of player who makes you yearn for more. No question talent is there though. Typical mid 1st rounder who needs to get stronger and work on consistency. Enough Red Flags for me to consider a potential bust if doesn’t work hard to improve.
20. Rasmus Sandin (LD) – Many “experts” are all over the map on Sandin. I think he is probably one of the smartest if not THE smartest defenceman in this draft. So many good decisions all over the ice. He’s a bit limited skating wise on the rush but doesn’t appear to have any issues in reverse. He’s not flashy at all just solid at both ends of the rink. Excellent vision, poise, passing ability, shoots well. He’s just a smart, versatile defenceman reminiscent of Kimmo Timonen back in the day. He’s also a big talker on the ice. Loves to communicate. Possibly underrated player who is a 1st rounder for sure in my books. 10+ yr career as a very solid 2nd pairing defenceman is what I envision.
21. Barrett Hayton (C) – Hayton is a guy I could be dead wrong about but I don’t see a legit NHL prospect in him. I think his skating is average at best & seeing he plays on a stacked Soo team it opens ice up for him. Way too many buttonhooks and that curl & drag has become so predictable. He plays a solid 2-way game, is very smart and highly skilled perhaps he overcomes all that and becomes a Logan Couture type but I’m skeptical. Really needs to keep working on his skating but if he does he’ll make it to the NHL. Just too risky for me inside the Top 15-20.
22. Serron Noel (RW) – Noel is probably one of the most intriguing prospects for me in the 1st round as he is one of the biggest forwards in the draft (6’5”) and one of the fastest. His game is still a bit raw, he does have some consistency issues but I’ve seen him dominate games at times. Big, strong, physical with soft hands and some nice moves. If a team is patient with him he could be a force down the road. Reminds me a bit of Patrick Maroon. Boom or bust prospect for sure.
23. Ryan McLeod (C) – McLeod has intriguing skills but every time I watch him something seems “off”. His game screams “perimeter player” to me which doesn’t mean he can’t be effective but makes me question his will and desire. He’s not as physical as his brother Michael but he is a speedster who can make you pay if he gets around you. I often compare him stylistically to Dylan Larkin who is an effective NHL player. Just worry a bit about how bad he wants it. Excellent penalty killer and that speed should translate well to the next level.
24. Gregori Denisenko (LW) – Denisenko is extremely fast and highly skilled. He is electric offensively and at times reminds me a lot of Matt Barzal. However, there are Red flags with him though. For one, he likes to cheat in his own zone and is a defensive liability. Secondly, he appears to be more of a perimeter player and looks disinterested at times. He also needs to get stronger though they said the same about Barzal. High risk and a potential high reward pick.
25. Jonatan Berggren (C/W) – This kid is like a torpedo. He’s small but compact and has blazing speed. Highlight reel goals as he just walks around guys like they’re a pylon. Slick hands but not the biggest shot. Just an electric player he scores big goals on big stages. I see a lot of Kasperi Kapanen in him. He’ll probably end up being a winger in the NHL with that ridiculous speed. Loads of talent though his rambunctious style combined with his slight frame are a concern.
26. Martin Kaut (RW) – Kaut isn’t the flashiest player he is just a solid hockey player everywhere on the ice. More of a passer than shooter he is defensively responsible and can play in any situation. There’s nothing real elite about him but people took notice when he beat out Zadina for a spot the Czech Republic’s World Championship roster. Just looks like a pro and his style reminds me of a young Martin Havlat.
27. Jakub Lauko (C/LW) – Another speedster, Lauko isn’t also afraid to throw his weight around if need be. He has good offensive instincts and is responsible defensively. He also possesses a terrific shot with a lethal one-timer. I didn’t get to see a ton on him but based on his speed and shot alone this kid has a chance. One of the fastest skaters in this crop he also has good size and looks like a natural playmaker. Another real sleeper.
28. Isaac Lundestrom (LHC) – Lundestrom looks to be a creative center who could fill a variety of roles but with marginal speed there is always a chance he only becomes a fringe NHLer at best. Seems to be more of a passer than shooter. Has some grit and can play a variety of roles maybe he ends up being a Sami Pahlsson type player. Ceiling could be a Alexander Wennberg if continues to work on skating.
29. Filip Hallander – Hallander is a smart, solid all round center who plays a great a 200 ft game. His skating needs work but he has good positioning and vision to find the open spaces on the ice. He is very dangerous on the attack as he goes hard to the net. Doesn’t have game breaking ability but is productive. I see a bit of Alexander Steen in him. Might be a bit of a sleeper here.
30. Jared McIsaac (LD) – Big, physical Defenceman who’s got a good shot but is a defence first kind of player. Skates very well and is positionally sound. Limited offense thus far but a workhorse on D. Reminds me of Dion Phaneuf. The key for him being a Top 4 guy in NHL will be consistency and unlocking some of his offensive potential. Tools are there.
31. Jett Woo (RD) – Smart, skilled, fast battler. Woo is built like a tank. He is highly competitive, has some rare agility and is a gamer. Love his work ethic and he makes good decisions all over the ice. Has a good shot when he uses it. Offense likely limited at NHL level but this kid a warrior who could play on my team any day. Could he be the next Scott Stevens? Injury concerns with his aggressive style.
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