We’re hitting the stretch run of the scouting season as the importance of games ramps up all across the hockey world, whether it’s in a Swedish pro league or the CHL, where the Memorial Cup will be awarded in Regina.
There is no change at the very top of our draft rankings in February, but we are seeing a shift in the No. 2 spot that Andrei Svechnikov has held all season. After many discussions with talent evaluators, here is how our top 31 shakes out this month.
1. Rasmus Dahlin, D, six-foot-two, 181 pounds (Frolunda, SHL): Kinda like Muhammad Ali in the day, the undisputed champ.
2. Filip Zadina, RW, six-foot, 196 pounds (Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL): Started with little room to move, but the snipe show has transcended league play, international play and best-on-best at the Top Prospects game.
3. Andrei Svechnikov, RW, six-foot-two, 186 pounds (Barrie Colts, OHL): Big, strong and powerful — skating is smooth as silk. Game is less dynamic and more pro.
4. Brady Tkachuk, LW, six-foot-three, 196 pounds (Boston University, NCAA): World junior performance carries a lot of weight as do the bloodlines.
5. Adam Boqvist, D, five-foot-11, 168 pounds (Brynas Jr.): Game-changing offensive abilities where the feet and hands work well in concert.
6. Oliver Wahlstrom, RW, six-foot-one, 205 pounds (USNTDP): His shot would play in the NHL today. He has improved his all-around game and ability to utilize teammates.
7. Noah Dobson, D, six-foot-three, 180 pounds (Acadie-Bathurst Titan, QMJHL): His rise from the start of the season to now is reminiscent of Travis Sanheim from the 2014 draft.
8. Evan Bouchard, D, six-foot-two, 193 pounds (London Knights, OHL): Three years ago a few wisemen (Dale and Mark Hunter) claimed Bouchard as one of the smartest young players they had seen in some time. Go figure.
9. Quinn Hughes, D, five-foot-10, 170 pounds (U of Michigan, NCAA): He’s been bypassed by both Dobson and Bouchard, but still remains inside the top 10.
10. Barrett Hayton, C, six-foot-one, 191 pounds (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL): As mature a young man as you’ll find, he’s got game that when matched with character makes him an easy pick.
11. Rasmus Kupari, C, six-foot-one, 183 pounds (Karpat, Finnish Liiga): Was incredibly close to going to Sault Ste. Marie after the world juniors and now it looks like important peer viewings will not be garnered in the upcoming Five Nations tournament.
12. Joel Farabee, LW, six-foot, 164 pounds (USNTDP): Highly skilled forward who presents the dual threat as his hockey IQ makes him equally as dangerous a playmaker as he is a shooter.
13. Isac Lundestrom, C, six-foot, 185 pounds (Lulea, SHL): Excellent speed and versatility with attention to detail in his game make him a solid pick.
14. Joe Veleno, C, six-foot-one, 195 pounds (Drummondville, QMJHL): The weight of the draft and taking on more than he could chew in Saint John stymied the production. The real Joe Veleno is emerging daily in Drummondville.
15. Mattias Samuelsson, D, six-foot-four, 217 pounds (USNTDP): Think Cal Foote from the 2017 draft. Not flashy — just gets the job done.
16. Ty Smith, D, five-foot-11, 176 pounds (Spokane Chiefs, WHL): Despite a poor showing at the Top Prospects game, there’s too much evidence in skating, character and compete to knock him too far down the list.
17. Jared McIsaac, D, six-foot-one, 195 pounds (Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL): Brings a little bit of everything into the fold with just enough of an old school touch to let you know he’s a defenceman first.
18. Bode Wilde, D, six-foot-three, 195 pounds (USNTDP): There’s a lot of risk in his game, but rather than the prototypical undersized puck mover, Wilde has size without sacrificing mobility.
19. Grigori Denisenko, LW, five-foot-11, 176 pounds (Yarolsavl Jr.): Wickedly skilled, but will likely go lower than where his skill set says he should.
20. Serron Noel, RW, six-foot-five, 200 pounds (Oshawa Generals, OHL): At the start of the year he looked more like a project, but the player he can become is starting to come into focus.
21. Jacob Olofsson, C, six-foot-two, 192 pounds (Timra, Allsvenskan): Has always produced despite playing second fiddle, be it internationally or in the Allsvenskan.
22. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, six-foot-two, 188 pounds (Assat, Finnish Liiga): Drives the play, doesn’t give up the play and can play any style of game.
23. Ryan McLeod, C, six-foot-two, 200 pounds (Mississauga Steelheads, OHL): Excellent vision accompanied by dynamic playmaking ability. Is a bit of a wild card as to where he’ll end up.
24. Rasmus Sandin, D, five-foot-11, 183 pounds (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL): He’s found comfort in his new digs and it shows in his play.
25. Jett Woo, D, six-foot, 205 pounds (Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL): Getting healthy and a long playoff run should help scouts get a better feel for NHL projection.
26. Benoit Olivier-Groulx, C, six-foot-one, 192 pounds (Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL): Third-line centre would be his floor, but with increased scoring this year, the ceiling has risen.
27. K’Andre Miller, D, six-foot-three, 206 pounds (USNTDP): A converted forward from a few years ago, Miller is still refining his game. But he’s an elite skater, which helps him immensely on both sides of the puck.
28. Akil Thomas, C, five-foot-11, 169 pounds (Niagara IceDogs, OHL): There’s a complete package to work with and he’s started to produce more consistently.
29. Dominik Bokk, LW, six-foot-one, 180 pounds (Vaxjo, SHL): Chose Sweden over the CHL as a means to balance game play and practice. Leon Draisaitl comparisons are a stretch, but late first round is not.
30. Ryan Merkley, D, six-foot, 170 pounds (Guelph Storm, OHL): Most polarizing figure in this draft — he’s a top-10 talent, but talent alone doesn’t get you by like it used to.
31. Martin Kaut, RW, six-foot-two, 176 pounds (Pardubice, Czech Extraliga): Good-sized right shot was very effective at the world juniors playing in all situations. Is also having a solid year in a tough league playing against men.