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.
With the CHL season a good eight weeks old, a month or so of NCAA hockey, plenty of games for the US National Team Development Program, the Ivan Hlinka Tournament, an international break in Europe, and the Canada-Russia Series all being played since we last updated our draft rankings, we have gotten a decent overview of what some of the biggest prospects for the 2018 NHL draft are doing this year.
That said, as a staff, we haven’t seen every player yet—it’s quite simply not possible this early in the season. If there is an obvious name left out, we’ll do our best to get a look before the February rankings; as well as before our final rankings that go from April through June.
The group we haven’t seen a lot of our European prospects who, for whatever reason, haven’t had much exposure on the international stage. With the World Juniors, Five Nations, and the Under-18 all to come later in the year, we should get a better look at most of those players.
2018 NHL Draft- November Rankings and Reports
1.) Rasmus Dahlin, Left Defence, Frolunda HC, 6’1″ 181 lbs
Dahlin came into the season as the front-runner for the top spot, and he has done nothing to change that assessment. In fact, Dahlin’s strong play has likely widened the gap between first and second overall. He is an elite offensive defenceman, who showed off his capabilities as a 16-year-old at last year’s World Junior Championships and played 26 games in the SHL for Frolunda last year, competing against men. While he did not score much in the SHL, he dominated in the J20 league, with nine goals and 22 points in 24 games. This season, he has 10 points in 22 games with Frolunda and is already showing his offensive prowess in Sweden’s top league.
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 power-play. He also has an outstanding slap shot and one-timer.
Dahlin is also effective defensively, utilizing his strong positioning as well as the 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, Barrie Colts, 6’2″ 187 lbs
The Russian winger spent last season with the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the USHL, putting up 58 points in 48 games. This year, he is playing for Barrie in the OHL and has 10 goals and 14 points through 10 games. Unfortunately, Svechnikov hurt his hand at the end of October. Russia hopes that he can be back in time for the World Juniors. 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 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 edgework and agility, and tremendous power in his skating stride and it’s easy to see why he will be one of the top picks in the 2018 NHL Draft.
3.) Adam Boqvist, Right Defence, Brynas IF, 5’11” 170 lbs
Boqvist is the younger brother of Jesper Boqvist, who was a second-round pick of the New Jersey Devils last year. Boqvist had his coming out party at the Ivan Hlinka where he was one of the best players in the tournament. He scored eight points in just five games and helped Sweden to the Bronze medal. An August birthday, he will be one of the younger players in the draft.
Boqvist is an outstanding skater. He has excellent speed and acceleration in both directions. He also has tremendous edgework, and pivots allowing him to transition from offence to defence quickly and vice versa. His agility is also top notch, and he can change directions on a dime. This skating becomes the foundation for an excellent two-way game. Boqvist also has the outstanding vision and the ability to thread the needle on passes. He is a very aggressive player, willing to join or lead the rush and to make pinches at the blue line. Defensively, he maintains his position and gap control through his strong footwork. He is willing to play a physical game in the corners and in front of the net but is limited by his lack of size.
4.) Filip Zadina, Left Wing, Halifax Mooseheads, 6’1″ 192 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 has 35 points in 25 games this year. The Czech winger is another outstanding skater. He has very good top end speed as well as great agility. He also has the power necessary 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, snapshot, 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.) 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. This year he’s picked up right where he left off and even taken his game to the next level. He has 14 goals and 28 points in just 20 games this year.
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 playmaker. 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 and outstanding release. While his shot was already at a high level, it seems it is even better this year, and Wahlstrom is using more. He is a pure sniper, and with this aspect of his game improving he is a better and more dangerous player. The rise up the draft board is well earned.
Main Photo: TORONTO, ON – JULY 6 – Prospect Rasmus Dahlin during the practice. Don Meehan’s agency, Newport Sports Management, held a camp for his top prospects for the 2018 NHL draft. (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images)