The year of Rasmus Dahlin is fast upon us.
The sensational Swedish defenceman will go first overall to Buffalo with the highly touted Andrei Svechnikov off to Carolina. At three is where this draft gets exciting.
The Montreal Canadiens own the third overall pick and regardless of what they do with it, the third pick will go a long way in setting the order for the next seven or eight picks thereafter. Most teams have similarities in the 10 names after the top two, but the order is all over the map.
There are two reasons for this:
1. The intersection of best player available and organizational need
2. There’s not a lot separating the projection of the players in that group.
What also makes this draft so fascinating is the number of teams with multiple picks in the first two rounds. It begins with the Rangers, who have three first round picks (9, 26 and 28) and an additional two in the second round. Detroit has picks 6, 30, 33 and 36. Ottawa, Chicago, Philadelphia and the Islanders also have multiple first round selections. And don’t forget about Montreal with four second-rounders in their arsenal. Multiple teams with multiple picks in the first two rounds suggests we will see some activity leading up to and during the draft.
In a general sense, this draft class is high-end, D-heavy and that includes several right shot defencemen, which always adds extra value. I liken this draft to that of 2008 when we saw 12 defencemen go in the first round. To this point 10 of them have played at least 489 NHL games. We may not see as many as 12 defencemen go this time around, but I do believe we’ll look back at this draft a decade from now and see a high number of games played by several of the blueliners selected.
The 2008 draft produced three true No. 1 defencemen in Drew Doughty, Alex Pietrangelo and Erik Karlsson. John Carlson was also taken by Washington late in the first, and while he doesn’t meet my standards as a true No. 1, he’s about to get paid like one.
I do believe with Dahlin at the head of the class, we may see one or two others emerge as true No. 1 NHL defencemen.
1. BUFFALO SABRES
Rasmus Dahlin, D, Frolunda (Sweden): First live NHL game was Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final this year. His next will be Oct. 4 when Buffalo hosts Boston.
2. CAROLINA HURRICANES
Andrei Svechnikov, RW, Barrie (OHL): The most well-rounded and NHL ready player in this draft.
3. MONTREAL CANADIENS
Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Assat (Finland): An extra half inch in height from the mid-term rankings combined with a gold at the U-18 and a solid season playing against men has him as the highest-rated centre.
4. OTTAWA SENATORS
Noah Dobson, D, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL): Easily adaptable game with a huge ceiling. The Memorial Cup confirmed what this author has been saying all year.
5. ARIZONA COYOTES
Filip Zadina, RW, Halifax (QMJHL): Goal scoring ability transcended the regular season, world juniors, prospects game and the playoffs. That skill will also translate at the next level.
6. DETROIT RED WINGS
Brady Tkachuk, LW, Boston University (NCAA): All of the elements are in place to become a producing power forward who is responsible enough to play in all situations. Oh ya, and he’ll be good at drawing the attention of the opposition.
7. VANCOUVER CANUCKS
Evan Bouchard, D, London (OHL): Stronger than he appears, this minute-eating, point-producing, right-shot rearguard will play top four minutes and be an asset on the power play.
8. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Quinn Hughes, D, University of Michigan (NCAA): Acquitted himself well at the worlds. He has power play QB potential because of poise, and puck moving abilities.
9. NEW YORK RANGERS
Oliver Wahlstrom, RW, USNTDP: Challenges Zadina as the best pure goal scorer in this draft class, with a dose of heaviness added at 6-foot-1 and 208 pounds.
10. EDMONTON OILERS
Ty Smith, D, Spokane (WHL): It all starts with great skating ability and blossoms from there. His jersey is never without a letter and you can’t quench his thirst to become a pro.
11. NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Adam Boqvist, D, Brynas Jr (Sweden): A slight drop from original projections due to concussion concerns. A goal-scorer from the back end, especially from the right side, is a rarity.
12. NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Barrett Hayton, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL): Two-way player with a pro attitude whose point totals are misleading based on having played on an offensively gifted team where the options ran 10 deep.
13. DALLAS STARS
Grigori Denisenko, LW, Yaroslavl Jr (Russia): One of the most skilled players in this draft class slips below his true value as there are concerns around his contractual situation.
14. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Serron Noel, RW, Oshawa (OHL): Despite inconsistency concerns, there’s a massive ceiling where size and skating ability intersect with good hands and a great shot.
15. FLORIDA PANTHERS
Ty Dellandrea, C, Flint (OHL): No hesitations committing to Flint in tumultuous times. Good numbers on a weak team, and a fine showing at the U-18.
16. COLORADO AVALANCHE
Martin Kaut, RW, Dynamo Pardubice (Czech): Regardless of the end result, a heart issue is not something to be taken lightly. The Avs back-up plan lies in Ottawa’s first-rounder next year.
17. NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Joe Veleno, C, Drummondville (QMJHL): If not held to “exceptional player” standards, is an all-around player whose second half was more predictive of his next level projections than his uninspiring first half.
18. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Joel Farabee, LW, USNTDP: A gifted playmaker with a work ethic normally reserved for a lesser skilled individual.
19. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Vitaly Kravtsov, RW, Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL): Added 14 pounds from mid-season rankings and is up to 184. Strong finish to the season with 11 points in 16 KHL playoff games.
20. LOS ANGELES KINGS
Dominik Bokk, RW, Vaxjo Jr. (Sweden): Super skilled player who can control the pace of a game due to his ability to handle the puck at all speeds.
21. SAN JOSE SHARKS
K’Andre Miller, D, USNTDP: One of the most improved players in this draft class, his upside is too much to ignore when you consider size, skating ability, and athleticism.
22. OTTAWA SENATORS
Isac Lundestrom, C/LW, Lulea (Sweden): A classic two-way centre who doesn’t project to be a go-to offensive threat, but should produce enough to bounce around the middle six of any team.
23. ANAHEIM DUCKS
Liam Foudy, C, London (OHL): Destroyed both the CHL Prospects and NHL Combine testing. Wicked athletic genes and proved, when given playing time, that he can produce.
24. MINNESOTA WILD
Rasmus Kupari, C, Karpat (Finland): Hot start at the Ivan Hlinka, limited minutes in Finland’s top league and injury limited him to four games at the U-18. Would’ve looked great in Sault Ste. Marie.
25. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Ryan McLeod, C, Mississauga (OHL): One of the most difficult players in this draft class to project. Has a high-level toolbox, waiting for the mechanic to fully utilize it.
26. NEW YORK RANGERS
Jay O’Brien, C, Thayer Academy (US High School): It’s difficult to scout such an elite player against lesser competition, but the returns are skill and work ethic are top notch, so too is his physical conditioning.
27. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Bode Wilde, D, USNTDP: Truly a “Wilde” card in this draft, he is skilled enough to go in Round 1, but the most recent viewings at the U-18s raised some red flags.
28. NEW YORK RANGERS
Rasmus Sandin, D, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL): Settling into Sault Ste. Marie was the best thing to happen to Sandin’s career to date. He’s an elite puck-mover who showed signs of fatigue in the latter stages of the playoffs. Strength and conditioning will have to improve.
29. ST. LOUIS BLUES
Akil Thomas, C, Niagara (OHL): Will his speed and shooting ability be better served in the NHL as a centre or on the wing? Phenomenal young man who has already started his own business.
30. DETROIT RED WINGS
Jonatan Berggren, C/RW, Skelleftea Jr. (Sweden):
A strong U-18 will leave scouts with a lasting impression. Can drive the play because he plays larger than his size.
31. WASHINGTON CAPITALS
Kirill Marchenko, RW, Khtany-Mansiysk (MHL): A remarkably consistent season in the Russian equivalent to the CHL, Marchenko checks the size, skill and right shot boxes.