So, let’s start with the obvious – the Buffalo Sabres are taking Rasmus Dahlin first overall.
He’s a franchise-changing defenceman, a blue line prospect we haven’t seen in years with a skill set that winks at Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, Victor Hedman and praise from all corners that makes hockey fans wonder when someone will claim Dahlin invented oxygen.
This kid is really good.
So good that no matter what else happens this weekend in Dallas with trades and picks, the Sabres win the 2018 draft, hands down.
We all expect Carolina to go with Andrei Svechnikov, the Russian winger from the Barrie Colts. An elite prospect with both traditional power forward tendencies and new-age creativity, Svechnikov is also physically mature to the point where most expect him to step into the Hurricanes lineup next season.
Then it gets interesting.
Or as Sam Cosentino says: “The draft starts at three.”
We know Montreal is talking to teams about pick number three. No surprise there, but the issue becomes who do they covet, and how far down can they flip picks and still draft the player in question? That player is believed to be left-shot centre Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Few believe they can drop lower than the Arizona spot at six. The two teams have already come together on a deal in the past week and many wonder if they are done swapping.
And from there it’s jump ball with every teams’ list looking vastly different. The one thing they can all agree on, however, is there are as many as 50 different players that could get selected in the first round.
Furthermore, many teams seem to feel that they can get a player of equal value regardless if they pick 12th or 25th so expect teams to try and move down in the draft to collect assets.
With that said, here’s a crack at what the first round could look like based on personal viewings along with conversations with scouts, GMs, coaches, and broadcasters.
1. BUFFALO SABRES
Rasmus Dahlin, D, Frolunda (Sweden): Buffalo gets the best player in the draft. Does everything you want a defenceman to do in 2018. Franchise changer.
2. CAROLINA HURRICANES
Andrei Svechnikov, RW, Barrie (OHL): A beast. Plays like he’s 22 years old already. Power moves to the net and also a playmaker’s touch.
3. MONTREAL CANADIENS
Brady Tkachuk, LW, Boston University (NCAA): Like his father and brother, don’t expect Brady to play a single game in the AHL. He’ll go right into the NHL.
4. OTTAWA SENATORS
Noah Dobson, D, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL): The sky is still the limit for this right shot defenceman. On a rebuilding Ottawa team imagine Dobson and Thomas Chabot on the same team for the next 10 seasons.
5. ARIZONA COYOTES
Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Assat (Finland): The Finnish centre is the cream of the crop of players down the middle this year.
6. DETROIT RED WINGS
Filip Zadina, LW, Halifax (QMJHL): A shoot first, ask questions later type player.
7. VANCOUVER CANUCKS
Evan Bouchard, D, London (OHL): Plays a mature, composed game and puts up offensive numbers. Named captain of the London Knights halfway through the season.
8. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Oliver Wahlstrom, RW, USNTDP: This kid can score. Maybe the best hands in the draft.
9. NEW YORK RANGERS
Quinn Hughes, D, University of Michigan (NCAA): His slick skating and edge work make up for a lack of size. Creatively gifted.
10. EDMONTON OILERS
Adam Boqvist, D, Brynas (Sweden): Dynamic offensive defenceman. The comparisons to Erik Karlsson are out there.
11. NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Joel Farabee, LW, USNTDP: Great speed and smarts. Can create and finish, plays a solid 200-foot game. Off to BU in the fall.
12. NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Joe Veleno, C, Drummondville (QMJHL): The only player ever granted exceptional status in the QMJHL. Strong skater and playmaker.
13. DALLAS STARS
Barrett Hayton, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL): The “all-in” guy. Eats/sleeps/breathes hockey. In a draft with few high-end middlemen Hayton stands out. He will be a good pro.
14. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Rasmus Kupari, C, Karpat (Finland): High-end skating and a dangerous shot. His offensive game is on point, but it’s the other side of the puck that he needs to work on.
15. FLORIDA PANTHERS
Vitaly Kravtsov, RW, Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL): Already has NHL size (6-foot-2, 183 pounds) and a shot to go with it.
16. COLORADO AVALANCHE
Grigori Denisenko, LW, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL): Not the biggest forward, but makes up for it with a lethal offensive game. Makes head-turning plays.
17. NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Ty Smith, D, Spokane (WHL): A first overall pick in the WHL draft currently being guided in Spokane by a former elite Western League defenceman – Danny Lambert. Smith is an offensive weapon from the blue line.
18. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Bode Wilde, D, USNTDP: So fluid on his skates for a big man. Wilde can anchor your power play, possesses a great shot and isn’t afraid to take risks that others wouldn’t dare to try. He does not lack confidence.
19. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Dominik Bokk, RW, Vaxjo (Sweden): Germany continues to send high-end players to the NHL. Bokk plays a strong offensive game. Silky mitts, as the kids say.
20. LOS ANGELES KINGS
Isac Lundestrom, C/LW, Lulea (Sweden): Plays a strong 200-foot game that every team craves.
21. SAN JOSE SHARKS
K’Andre Miller, D, USNTDP: A big, strong, powerful defender, Miller is an intriguing talent. He’s still a little raw, but you can see all the potential there. He’s going to the defenceman factory at the University of Wisconsin next year. That will help.
22. OTTAWA SENATORS
Serron Noel, RW, Oshawa (OHL): Raw power forward who is only starting to scratch the surface of how good he can be. Father played in the CFL for Ottawa – Dean Dean the Touchdown Machine Noel.
23. ANAHEIM DUCKS
Akil Thomas, C, Niagara (OHL): Put up big points in Niagara this season and can play all three forward positions. Sees himself as a centre.
24. MINNESOTA WILD
Mattias Samuelsson, D, USNTDP: Second generation defenceman (his father is ex-NHL giant Kjell Samuelsson) who excels on the defensive side of the puck. His long reach allows him to create turnovers and he does have an offensive side to his game.
25. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Rasmus Sandin, D, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL): When Conor Timmins (COL) went down with injury, Sandin picked up the slack and the minutes to keep the Greyhounds’ winning streak going. Excellent on a top team in a tough league.
26. NEW YORK RANGERS
Ty Dellandrea, C, Flint (OHL): When the stage is the biggest (Ivan Hlinka, Top Prospects game, U18) he delivers. Was a bright spot for the Firebirds in a tough season for Flint.
27. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Jonatan Berggren, C/RW, Skelleftea (Sweden): A late addition into the first round of the draft for most, Berggren is a great skater with high-end hockey smarts and a potent offensive game. Despite being on the smaller side he doesn’t shy away from the physical game.
28. NEW YORK RANGERS
Ryan Merkley, D, Guelph (OHL): Huge risk, but potential for huge reward. Defensive awareness and off-ice conflicts make him a risky pick, but if he pulls it together someone has a home run here.
29. ST. LOUIS BLUES
Liam Foudy, C, London (OHL): Maybe the best “athlete” in the draft. Dad won a Grey Cup, mom won a silver at the Olympics and Liam is now starting to show people how dynamic a player he is.
30. DETROIT RED WINGS
Jacob Olofsson, C, Timra (Sweden): A smart two-way player who can produce offence. Can play many roles.
31. WASHINGTON CAPITALS
Martin Kaut, RW, Dynamo Pardubice (Czech): Heart issues kept him out of the NHL Scouting Combine, but he’ll be back to training in a couple of weeks. A really creative playmaker, good with the puck in the offensive zone.