Welcome to the 2018 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2018 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. We will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and you can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2018 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed.
What we will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2018-19 roster of the NHL team in question. We will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
Affiliated NHL Prospects: Part 1 (100-81)
After going through each team’s top 10 prospects, and then ranking every organization in the NHL, we now bring you our top 100 NHL Prospects. This was a very difficult list to compile, and there are a number of players who barely missed the cut. There is so much talent coming into the league, hockey fans have a lot to look forward too. With that said, let the debates begin.
One Note, Clicking the Player Name will take you to the team’s prospect page, or his individual draft scouting report.
HMs: Jake Walman, Janne Kuokkanen, Akil Thomas, Brett Howden, Jared McIsaac, Cayden Primeau, Dominik Bokk, Mathieu Joseph, Ryan Merkley, Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Mason Appleton, Tristan Jarry, K’Andre Miller, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Jacob Olofsson, Filip Gustavsson, Joshua Ho-Sang, Rasmus Sandin, Max Gildon, Martin Kaut, Adam Gaudette, Ryan McLeod, Oliver Kylington, Jesse Ylonen, Dennis Cholowski, Ty Dellandrea, Joey Anderson, Alexander Alexeyev, Ethan Bear, Jonatan Berggren, Dylan Sikura, Gabriel Carlsson, Michael DiPietro, Aleksi Heponiemi
Denisenko is extremely dangerous off the rush. He is an excellent skater. He pairs that skating ability with the hands to make plays while moving at top speed. His soft hands and excellent stickhandling ability gives him a number of quick dekes and feints that can beat a defender one-on-one. If defenders give him too much space, it opens up passing and shooting lanes and Denisenko is skilled enough to take advantage of the situation. He sees the ice extremely well and has outstanding passing skills.
Zykov is a big forward, who plays with a gritty edge and is developing into a power forward. He goes to the net very hard and knows what to do when he gets there. He has great hands in tight and can make slick moves, tip-in shots, or bury rebounds. A natural goal scorer, Zykov also has a strong wrist shot and quick release. He also works extremely hard in the corners, winning board battles, and playing a gritty, physical game.
Hajek shows the ability to move the puck, transitioning quickly out of his own end and making a strong first pass. He is not a huge producer at the blue line on the power play, but he has shown some ability to make plays there. Hajek is a strong defensive defender. He is difficult to beat off the rush and forces attackers to the outside. He uses his long stick to cut down passing lanes.
Elvenes split time between the Allsvenskan and SHL last year and put up eye-popping numbers for a teenager. In 28 games of SHL play with Rogle, he scored five goals and 16 assists. In 22 games of Allsvenskan play with IK Oskarshamn, he had four goals and 21 points. He also added seven points in seven playoff games. Despite so few games, he led the Allsvenskan in assists by a junior-age player. Elvenes is a very good skater and outstanding stickhandler.
Lundestrom has high-end hockey IQ and always seems to make the right play. While he is not outstanding in any one area, his skills are good in almost all areas. Lundestrom has good vision and passing skills. He also has the soft hands, and the agility to beat defenders in one-on-one situations, as well as to make a quick move to open up a passing or shooting lane. Lundestrom is also willing to play a gritty game, battling hard on the forecheck, forcing turnovers and creating scoring chances. Lundestrom can also play the role of finisher. He has an accurate wrist shot with a quick release.
Wilde pairs excellent size with smooth-skating and two-way ability. He is strong on his skates defensively, with the physicality to clear the front of the net as well as win battles in the corners. His speed and footwork allow him to keep attackers in front of him, maintain good gap control and force them to the outside. He also has very good acceleration in both directions. This also allows him to join the rush. Wilde also shows good edgework and pivots. He transitions quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. He also has the agility to walk the line, opening up shooting and passing lanes on the power play.
Joseph is a smart player, who can quarterback the play from the point. He has very good vision, and the passing skills to be a playmaker. Joseph can make a good pass, both to start the transition game, or to set things up at the blue line. He is poised with the puck on his stick, taking the time to survey the ice and make the right play. Joseph’s mobility makes him very difficult to beat one-on-one, and his active stick allows him to play a strong defensive game.
At 6-foot-4 Ulmark has a frame that most NHL teams are looking for in their goaltenders in recent years. He is an extremely athletic goalie. He is a good skater. Ullmark plays deep in his net and does not always take advantage of his size by coming out to the top of the crease and challenging shooters. However, his quick reflexes and excellent butterfly technique allow him to still make the save. He has an excellent side-to-side push, getting across the crease quickly and in control.
Cirelli made quite the impression in his first professional season. He was called up to the Lightning where he impressed down the stretch with five goals and 11 points in 18 NHL games. Cirelli earned the trust of coach Jon Cooper and played in 17 playoff games, often getting tough assignments for a rookie. He has good speed and acceleration, allowing him to play a strong two-way game. Cirelli is good at working the cycle game. He has strong stickhandling ability, protecting the puck down low. He also has good vision and good hockey IQ. Cirelli finds the open man and keeps the puck moving.
Full disclosure, we realize that this will be an extremely controversial pick. We are higher on Josh Brook than almost any other publication out there. Brook can do it all. He is a strong skater, good in his own zone, is able to move the puck up the ice with both puckhandling and passing, and can quarterback things on the powerplay. Brook has struggled with injuries the last two years. If he can stay healthy, the 2017 second rounder could be one of the best defencemen in the WHL this season. We predict that Brook makes the Canadian World Junior team, and that after the tournament, there will be a lot fewer questions about this ranking.
Boqvist combines his excellent skating ability, with the quick hands to stick handle in a phone booth. His dekes, feints, and puck protection make him a real handful for defenders. When Boqvist gets a step on a defender, he drives to the net looking to make a play. He is also a strong playmaker, using his vision to find open teammates and his lateral agility to open up passing lanes. Most of Boqvist’s goals come in close to the net. He has the hands to finish in tight, and the quickness to pounce on rebounds.
Fabbro improved his offensive output across the board in his second season with Boston University. He put up nine goals and 29 points in 38 games. He helped the Terriers to a Hockey East title. Fabbro also played for Team Canada at the World Juniors, winning a gold medal. The strength of Fabbro’s game comes from his silky-smooth skating stride. Fabbro is a two-way defender who does everything well. He moves the puck effectively, with a crisp first pass and good stickhandling ability. Defensively, he takes away the middle of the ice and forces attackers to try to beat him to the outside.
At 6-foot-5, Thompson has the size and uses it to his full advantage in playing a power forward’s game. He is often the first one in on the forecheck, pressuring defenders into mistakes. He works very well down low, below the hash marks, cycling the puck and getting to the front of the net. Once there he can tip in pucks, pounce on rebounds, or fire in a pass from a teammate. Thompson also has an excellent one-timer, however, his wrist shot is an elite tool. It is powerful and features a quick release allowing him to score goals from further out.
Andersson is an offensive talent. He is able to move the puck with a good first pass, as well as through skating it himself. He also has good stickhandling ability. His slapshot is hard and extremely accurate, and his wrist shot features a quick release. Andersson uses his agility and ability to walk the line to open up shooting lanes. He has the ability to get his shot through traffic. The bread and butter of his game is his playmaking ability. He has very good poise at the line, taking the time to let plays develop. He also has the vision and passing ability to thread the needle and set up teammates in the offensive zone.
Bjork is a very intelligent player. He sees the ice well and anticipates what teammates and opponents will do. Bjork is a strong playmaker with the passing skill to put the puck through tight areas. He is also a hard-worker. He cycles the puck effectively, keeping it moving with quick passes to teammates. While he is slightly undersized, he battles hard in the corners and in front of the net. When Bjork gets the opportunity, he takes the puck to the front of the net. He has the soft hands to finish in close. He also has a strong wrist shot and a good release. Bjork has a knack for finding open ice when he does not have the puck.
Abramov may be slightly undersized, but there are more and more undersized players succeeding in the NHL today. One thing that Abramov has in common with the most successful of these undersized players is that he is an outstanding skater. He has great speed and tremendous acceleration, allowing him to blow past opponents on the rush. Abramov marries his skating ability with soft hands and good stickhandling ability. This makes him very tough to defend one-on-one, whether it be off the rush or working the puck down low. He can stickhandle in a phone booth, making Abramov a nightmare for defenders even when they try to take away his time and space.
Juulsen plays a physical game in his own end. He throws hits and battles for loose pucks in the corners. He also does a decent job clearing the crease. Juulsen is tough to beat off the rush due to his good skating and edgework. He has really worked on his hockey IQ and reading the play when the other team has the puck down low. Juulsen is mainly known for his defensive game, but there are some untapped offensive skills. He has very good hockey sense, making smart plays with it on his stick, and choosing good times to join the rush or pinch in at the blue line.
Kunin shows high-level hockey IQ. He seems to always make the right play with the puck on his stick. Without it, he is able to find openings in the defence and set up to fire a wrist shot, snapshot or one-timer. Kunin’s release is quick and his shot is heavy. He can also score goals in front of the net, with quick hands to pounce on rebounds and the hand-eye coordination to tip-in shots. Kunin also shows the good stick-handling to protect the puck, extend plays and work in the cycle game. He also has the vision and passing skills to set up others, making tape-to-tape passes when he finds a linemate open.
Vaakanainen is very mobile. He has good speed and acceleration in both directions; as well as the edgework and pivots to transition quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. Vaakanainen is strong on his skates and has good balance. He has excellent hockey IQ. He reads the play very well in both the offensive and defensive ends of the ice. Vaakanainen makes smart plays both with and without the puck. Defensively, he has great gap control and positioning. Vaakanainen takes the body in the corners and in front of the net.
Terry is an excellent stick-handler. He protects the puck well on the rush, and on the cycle game. He can beat defenders one-on-one and has the quick hands to finish in close to the net. Terry has poise and can slow the play down in the offensive zone. When a teammate gets open, he can fire a tape-to-tape pass through a tight area. He can also score goals with a good wrist shot as well as a quick release from further out. He is not afraid to stand in front of the net, despite his smaller size.
Main Photo: Plymouth, MI – February 14: Bode Wilde #15 of the USA Nationals passes the puck against the Czech Nationals during the 2018 Under-18 Five Nations Tournament game at USA Hockey Arena on February 14, 2018, in Plymouth, Michigan. The Czech Republic defeated the USA Nationals 6-2.