Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Starting today, and for the next week or so, 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.
The Top Five is available here.
2018 NHL Draft- November Rankings and Reports #6-10
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 a freshman at Boston University after a successful season with the US NTDP and an Under-18 Gold Medal. He has just one goal so far but has 10 points in 15 games. 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.) Quinn Hughes, Left Defence, Michigan Wolverines, 5’9″ 168 lbs
This undersized defenseman is an offensive dynamo. He helped the US to the gold medal at last year’s Under-18 World Championships. Now a freshman at the University of Michigan, Hughes has a goal and nine assists in 14 games to start the year. Hughes is an outstanding skater. He looks like he is floating above the ice. Hughes has a textbook stride, and the ability to change directions on a dime. He uses the outstanding speed to join the rush or to pinch in at the line. Hughes is rarely caught deep as he can still get back into position defensively thanks to that speed.
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. He needs to be quick on the puck on dump-ins, as well as using a good stick check to steal pucks from attackers.
8.) 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. After scoring 32 points in 59 games as a rookie, he has 16 points in 25 games this year. McIsaac has very good mobility, with good speed and acceleration in both directions. He also has the edgework 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 at his age is extremely impressive.
9.) Ty Smith, Left Defence, Spokane Chiefs, 5’11” 176 lbs
The first overall pick in the 2015 WHL Draft, Smith has four goals and 24 points in 25 games. Last season, he 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. He has excellent speed in both directions. Smith also has the pivots, agility, and edgework to cover large areas of the ice. His defensive game is based on smart positioning and a quick stick, but he must continue to get stronger, to be better in front of the net and in the corners.
Offensively, Smith is a very good stick handler. He can lead the rush, but also has the poise to control the puck at the blue line and quarterback the play. Smith also works well as a trailer, reading the play and finding the open ice to create an offensive threat. He is a very good passer 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.) 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. He was outstanding at the Ivan Hlinka tournament with seven points in five games. His performance helped lead Canada to a gold medal. It was hoped this would be the catalyst for a big step forward this year, but that has not happened. He started slowly this season. Veleno picked it up slightly of late and has 24 points in 26 games on the season.
Veleno has tremendous speed and outstanding acceleration. It is his skating skill that truly gave him a leg up on older competition and earned him the exceptional player status. However, the offence has not followed to the level of previous exceptional forwards John Tavares and Connor McDavid. Veleno is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. He has great vision and passing skills. He needs to work on adding muscle to his frame and getting more power on his shot to be a consistent goal scorer.
Veleno is also gritty and not afraid to get involved in battles on the boards at both ends of the ice. He is good on the backcheck and works hard in his own end. His compete level is very high. He could use a bit of work on his positioning. Consistent offence through the rest of the season would help him climb back up the draft boards. He is projecting as more of a solid two-way centre. Veleno needs to show that he has the offensive game to be a franchise player instead of a good top-six forward in the pros.
Check out the reports on prospects 11-15.
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