Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Starting today, and for the next 40 or so days I will be bringing you features on the next wave of NHL players. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical draft profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Sports is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Prospects”! For a Complete Listing of all our 2017 Draft Articles Click here. We will be sure to bring similar coverage of the 2018 NHL Draft.
2018 NHL Draft Preview
The 2017 NHL Draft has come and gone, and most teams have already held their post-draft development camp, getting an up close and personal look at the players they have selected in their new jerseys. However, scouting new talent never stops and with this in mind we turn our attention towards the talent that will be available in the 2018 NHL Draft. It may be early and there is still a full year of hockey to be played, likely leading to a lot of movement between these rankings and where players end up at the end of next season, but still lets take a look and preview the 2018 NHL Draft. At this point the 2018 draft class looks to be even better than the 2017 class.
Early Look at the Top 15 for the 2018 NHL Draft
1.) Rasmus Dahlin, Left Defence, Frolunda HC, 6’1″ 181 lbs
It is still early but Dahlin is the front runner for 1st overall in the 2018 NHL Draft. He is an elite offensive defenceman, who showed off his capabilities as a 16-year-old at last year’s World Junior Championships. He has already played 26 games in the SHL for Frolunda, competing against men. While he did not score much in the SHL, he did dominate in the J20 league, with nine goals and 22 points in 24 games. Dahlin is an elite offensive defenceman. His passing ability is outstanding, with extremely good vision and the ability to thread the needle through the smallest openings. He can start the rush, make the long breakaway pass, and quarterback the powerplay. He also has an outstanding slap shot and one-timer.
Dahlin is also effective defensively, utilizing his strong positioning as well as good stick checking ability to shut down forwards on the rush. He keeps them to the outside and has good gap control. He is not the most physical player, though that may come with more time, and added weight. Outstanding skating ties it all together. Dahlin has very good speed in both directions, as well as excellent edge work and agility.
2.) Andrei Svechnikov, Right Wing, Muskegon Lumberjacks, 6’2″ 187 lbs
The Russian winger spent last season with the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the USHL, putting up 58 points in 48 games. Though he was drafted 1st overall by the Barrie Colts in the CHL Import Draft, Svechnikov has not yet committed to play for the team. Svechnikov has been absolutely dominant at the international level. He had five points in five games at the Ivan Hlinka; eight points in four games at the U17; eight goals and 12 points in four games at the WJAC; and nine points in seven games at the Under 18 last season. His older brother is was drafted in the first round by the Detroit Red Wings.
Svechnikov has every offensive skill you would want in a player. He has a fantastic wrist shot with a bullet quick release. He also has the ability to stick handle in a phone booth, beating defenders one-on-one, and in close to the net. Svechnikov has excellent vision and passing skills as well. Tie this together with elite speed, sublime edge work and agility, and tremendous power in his skating stride and it’s easy to see why he will battle for first overall in the 2018 NHL Draft.
3.) Joseph Veleno, Centre, Saint John Sea Dogs, 6’0″ 181 lbs
Granted exceptional status to enter the QMJHL at 15-years-old in 2015, Veleno put up 40 points in 45 games in his second year of junior hockey. He helped the Sea Dogs to a QMJHL Championship, and an appearance at the Memorial Cup. Veleno has tremendous speed and outstanding acceleration. It is his skating skill that truly gave him a leg up on older competition and makes him a good choice as an exceptional player.
Veleno looks like more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, as he does have great vision and passing skills. He will need to work on adding some muscle on to his frame and getting more power on his shot to be a consistent goal scorer but has started to show improvement in those areas. Veleno is also gritty and not afraid to get involved in battles on the boards at both ends of the ice. He has already shown to be good on the backcheck and to work hard in his own end. His compete level is very high. He could use a bit of work on his positioning though.
4.) Filip Zadina, Left Wing, Halifax Mooseheads, 6’0″ 198 lbs
Zadina is a Czech winger who was drafted 7th overall by the Halifax Mooseheads in the CHL Import Draft. After Timo Meier, and Nico Hischier, it appears that the Mooseheads have hit another import draft home run. Zadina is another outstanding skater. He has very good top end speed as well as great agility. He also has the power necessart to fight through checks and take the puck to the net. All of this makes him very strong one-on-one and off the rush. He can take a defender wide and cut to the net. He also has very good balance and can control the play down low on the cycle.
Zadina also has a very heavy shot, with a good release. He can combine this with his skating and power game to be a real threat off the wing. An absolute sniper, he can score with his wrist shot, snap shot, slap shot and one-timer. He even has a strong backhand. Zadina also has the soft hands to score in close to the net. As a playmaker, he needs to make better decisions with the puck. Zadina can sometimes hold it too long and get himself into trouble instead of moving it or shooting early.
5.) Jared McIsaac, Left Defence, Halifax Mooseheads, 6’2″ 209 lbs
The second overall pick in the 2016 QMJHL Draft, McIsaac is another prospect showing the brilliance of the Mooseheads drafting and development program over the years. He put up 32 points in 59 games as a rookie defenceman. McIsaac has very good mobility, with good speed and acceleration in both directions, as well as the edge work and agility to cover 360 degrees of ice. This helps him to be an excellent two-way defender. He is very difficult to beat one-on-one. McIsaac can also play a physical game in the corners and in front of the net.
McIsaac can carry the puck out of his own zone and lead the rush. He combines excellent puck handling skill with his good skating and can carry the puck end to end. He also has the vision and skill to make a strong first pass and start the rush that way. McIsaac has a strong shot in addition to the ability to quarterback the power play. He is a very smart player, who almost always seems to make the right play with the puck. His ability to slow things down and anticipate plays as a 16-year-old was extremely impressive.
6.) Brady Tkachuk, Centre/Left Wing, Boston University Terriers 6’2″ 194 lbs
The son of Keith Tkachuk, and brother of Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk, Brady is headed to Boston University after a successful season with the US NTDP and an Under 18 Gold Medal. His OHL rights are owned by the London Knights. He has good speed once he gets going, and strong power in his stride. However, he can work on his first step quickness and agility.
Like his family members, Tkachuk plays a power game, doing his best work down low and in tight to the net. He is very hard to knock off the puck and has the quick hands to make plays in tight or control the puck on the boards. Tkachuk is not afraid to play a physical game and is very good on the boards and in front of the net. He also has a good shot and release.
7.) Oliver Wahlstrom, Centre, US NTDP U18, 6’1″ 198 lbs
Wahlstrom split last season between the US Under 17 and Under 18 teams. He had 25 points in 43 games with the U17s. However, he had even better numbers with the U18 squad with 15 points in 20 games, and with five points in seven games in helping to win gold at the IIHF Under 18 World Championships.
One of the best stick handlers in the draft, Wahlstrom has an impressive array of moves. He isn’t afraid to use them in traffic either. He is a very good play maker. Wahlstrom can extend plays and wait for a teammate to get open. Once they do, he can make a pass through the tightest of openings. He also has a very good wrist shot. If Wahlstrom can be more consistent this year, he could rise even higher on the boards before the 2018 NHL Draft.
8.) Ryan Merkley, Right Defence, Guelph Storm, 5’11” 165 lbs
The first overall pick in the 2016 OHL Draft, Merkley had a tremendous first season while playing for a rebuilding Guelph team. He put up 55 points in 62 games to lead all OHL rookies, and take home the Rookie of the Year award. He is a tremendous offensive defenceman, with great skating in both directions. Tremendous edge work, pivots and agilit allow him to cover a ton of ice. He also has an excellent point shot and loves to let it go from the point. Merkley is a very good passer. He can quarterback the power play and lead the rush. However he must show improvements in his strength and defensive play.
9.) Ty Smith, Left Defence, Spokane Chiefs, 5’11” 176 lbs
The first overall pick in the 2015 WHL Draft, Smith put up 32 points in 66 games. He also captained Team Canada Black to a silver medal at the Under 17s. Smith is another excellent skater. He can rush the puck up the ice, or pinch in at the blue line and still cover up his spot defensively. His defensive game is based on smart positioning and a quick stick, but he must get stronger this season, to be better in front of the net and in the corners. He is a very good paser and can set things up on the rush or from the point on the power play. Smith has a good wrist shot, but could stand to improve his slap shot.
10.) Bode Wilde, Right Defence, US NTDP U18, 6’2″ 194 lbs
Despite being born in Montreal, Wilde plays for the US NTDP and is part of a strong American contingent for the 2018 NHL Draft. He is committed to Harvard for the 2018-19 season. Wilde pairs excellent size with smooth-skating and two-way ability. He is strong defensively, with the physicality to clear the front of the net as well as win battles in the corners. He has an absolute bomb of a point shot, and understands how to keep it low and on net to give teammates an opportunity for a deflection or rebound. He is a decent passer, starting breakouts and making plays at the point as well. This is an area he could get better at though.
11.) Anderson MacDonald, Left Wing/Centre, Sherbrooke Phoenix, 6’2″ 203 lbs
The 10th overall pick in the 2016 QMJHL Draft, MacDonald scored 29 goals and 41 points in 50 games during his rookie year. MacDonald is very good in front of the net. He has the quick hands to beat goalies in tight, as well as to get off one-timers. He also has the hand-eye co-ordination to tip in point shots. MacDonald has a strong wrist shot and can score from further out. He is very smart, and can find openings in the defence in order to get open for teammates. He is also a decent passer.
MacDonald’s skating is a bit of a work in progress. He has good balance and lower body strength, making him hard to knock off the puck. MacDonald also has decent agility. However, he can work on lengthening his stride and improving his speed and acceleration.
12.) Quinton Hughes, Left Defence, Michigan Wolverines, 5’9″ 168 lbs
This undersized defenseman is an offensive dynamo who helped the US to the gold at the Under 18 World Championships. He is one of four members of that team to be featured in the early 2018 NHL Draft Rankings. Hughes is an outstanding skater. He also has excellent vision and playmaking ability, as well as the hockey sense to almost always make the right play. He seems to think the game and anticipate plays better than others out there on the ice. Hughes also has a hard slap shot. His defensive game is based on his anticipation and ability to quickly transition the puck out of his own zone. The size is a liability as Hughes can be outmuscled in his own end.
13.) Ryan McLeod, Centre, Mississauga Steelheads, 6’2″ 190 lbs
Ryan Mcleod’s older brother and teammate Michael McLeod was drafted in the first round by the New Jersey Devils in 2016. Ryan McLeod put up 42 points in 68 games for the Steelheads last year. However, he took a real leap forward with 20 points in 20 playoff games. If he continues with that type of production his 2018 NHL Draft stock will certainly increase.
Like his brother, McLeod is an outstanding skater, and very good two-way player. He also has very good vision and passing skills. McLeod can create off the rush. Working down low, he can also control the puck, slow the play down and set-up plays when his teammates get open. He also has a decent wrist shot, but doesn’t use it often enough.
14.) Benoit-Olivier Groulx, Centre, Halifax Mooseheads, 6’1″ 176 lbs
The first overall pick of the 2016 QMJHL Draft is the son of legendary head coach Benoit Groulx. He is a pure sniper. Groulx has the soft hands to finish plays in tight to the net, as well as a strong wrist shot and quick release. His slap shot is an absolute bomb. He is an excellent stick handler and can make plays off the rush as well as on the cycle. Groulx can also play the role of play maker, with good vision and passing skills. While the offensive skills are there, he did not produce as much as expected last year and needs to do a little more this season. One area he does excel is in the defensive side of the game. Scouts will spend plenty of time in Halifax, preparing for the 2018 NHL Draft.
15.) Joel Farabee, Left Wing, US NTDP U18, 5’11” 171 lbs
Farabee had 31 points in 42 games with the U17 team, and 19 points in 22 games with the U18 squad. It was enough to get a role at the IIHF Under 18 World Championships, where he put up six points in seven games and helped the Americans to the gold medal. He is an excellent skater, with the agility and edge work to get by defenders in one-on-one situations. He also has outstanding acceleration. If he gets a step on a defenceman, he can blow past him and cut to the net. Farabee has very good vision and is an outstanding play maker off the wing. He could stand to add some power on his shot this year.
TORONTO, ON – JULY 6 – Prospect Rasmus Dahlin during the practice. Don Meehan’s agency, Newport Sports Management, held a camp camp for his top prospects for the 2018 NHL draft. (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images)