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 3 (60-41)
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.
McLeod is an absolute speedster, with great top-end speed and outstanding acceleration. McLeod is one of the fastest skating prospects in all of hockey- he’s that fast. On top of that, he has excellent agility, and the ability to change directions quickly. McLeod uses his skating ability to its full advantage to elude defenders and open up passing and shooting lanes when working off the rush, or even when playing the cycle game. McLeod has good size and is strong on his skates, which is a great asset in working along the boards and in front of the net.
White plays a great puck protection and cycle game, always keeping his feet moving and working down low. He uses his body to shield the puck from defenders, as well as good stick handling to extend plays or to get by defenders. He has the soft hands necessary to finish in close to the net. White wins the vast majority of his puck battles showing outstanding balance and lower-body strength for this age. He can establish position around the crease and create havoc when he is there. White is equally adept as a passer or as a shooter. He is also very good in his own end of the ice. Expect White to be in Ottawa full-time this season.
Bean has great puck control and combines with his skating skill to elude forecheckers and move the puck into good areas to start the rush. In that way, he can lead the rush himself or make a strong pass to get the transition game going. He shows poise with the puck in the offensive zone, and as mentioned he walks the line well in the offensive zone opening up those passing and shooting lanes. His slap shot is hard and accurate, while his wrist shot features a quick release and he uses it effectively to get pucks on net quickly and through heavy traffic. He has very good vision and passing skills, able to thread the needle to set up his teammates for good scoring opportunities. Bean is a dynamic offensive blueliner.
Raddysh is a goal-scoring threat. He has a very good wrist shot and a quick release. With his strong hockey IQ, Raddysh is able to find openings in the defence to set up for a one-timer. He goes hard to the net and pounces on rebounds. Raddysh protects the puck well down low on the cycle, using his body and his stickhandling to keep the puck away from the opponent. He has excellent vision and has really improved his playmaking, making tape-to-tape passes to teammates and threading the needle through tight spaces to create scoring opportunities. Raddysh uses his size, strength and balance to win loose pucks on the boards, and create increased offensive opportunities for his linemates.
Mete is an outstanding skater, with excellent speed and acceleration. He has quick feet, with excellent pivots allowing him to transition from offence to defence, and with very good agility. Mete makes quick cuts and maneuvers away from forecheckers in his own end as well as through the neutral zone. He also has the ability to walk the line in the offensive zone, opening up passing and shooting lanes. Defensively, Mete’s quick feet allow him to keep attackers in front of him, and maintain great gap control. He is very difficult to beat off the rush, especially in one-on-one situations. Mete uses a quick stick to poke check the puck off of his opponents stick.
Donato is a pure goal scorer. He has an excellent wrist shot, and his release is very quick. He also has a good one-timer. Donato has a knack for finding open space when he doesn’t have the puck, allowing teammates to find him for a scoring chance. He can even score with his backhand. He drives the net hard and has the soft hands to finish in close when he gets there. Donato can get tip-ins, pounce on rebounds and quickly fire them into the net. Donato is also a good stick-handler. He protects the puck well and can control play in the cycle game with the right linemates. If he catches a defenseman flat-footed, he can make a quick cut to the net. If a passing lane is there, he will find it.
Dahlen is an impressive offensive talent. He may be a bit undersized, but he has all the skills scouts look for when it comes to an offensive forward. He has an excellent array of shots, including a good wrist shot with a quick release; a hard slapshot; and a quality backhand. He has the soft hands to make moves on defenders and get himself the open space to get a shot off, as well as the hockey sense and the elusiveness to find open spots in the defence where a teammate can hit him with a pass. Dahlen can also play the role of playmaker, with excellent vision and hockey sense, and the talent to slide the puck through small openings or flip a saucer pass to a teammate.
Sprong is a pure sniper. He has a bullet wrist shot with a deadly release. He is dangerous every time he touches the puck and loves to shoot. In fact, there are times when he might get too focused on taking the shot instead of looking for a teammate. Don’t get the wrong impression though, Sprong also has excellent passing ability and can thread the needle and play the role of the playmaker if a linemate has an opportunity. He just needs to work on doing it a little more often. He has taken steps in this regard but sometimes falls into old habits. Sprong has excellent stickhandling ability and the soft hands to get the puck past defenders or to finish plays in tight. He shows effort in the corners and with his improved strength Sprong is better than he was in board battles.
Hronek projects as a puck-moving defenseman as he has a number of good offensive skills. He sees the ice extremely well and has very good instincts and passing skills. He can utilize these with a good first pass out of the zone to start the transition game, or to quarterback things on the power play. Hronek has poise with the puck on his stick, and the patience to wait for a shooting or passing lane to open up. He also has the stickhandling ability to get away from forecheckers and to maneuver with the puck through the neutral zone. Hronek has a decent slapshot, which he gets through traffic and on the net. It could stand to be a little bit more powerful, but that may come with maturity and upper body strength. Hronek’s hockey IQ and offensive instincts are extremely good.
Kravtsov is a skilled offensive player. He pairs his great skating ability with outstanding hands. He can stickhandle in a phone booth. This makes him absolutely deadly in one-on-one situations. The best part of his game is that he can make all these moves and handle the puck while moving at top speed. If defenders back off to respect his speed and stickhandling, he has a deadly arsenal of shots that he can put on net. Kravtsov has a very good wrist shot and snapshot. Both shots feature a quick release. With the hands to also score in tight, he’s a natural sniper. Kravtsov also has the vision and passing skill to be a playmaker off the wing, though he is more of a shoot first player.
Farabee is an excellent skater, with the agility and edge work to get by defenders in one-on-one situations. He also has an outstanding first step and lightning quick acceleration. Farabee has good hands and stick skills allowing him to control the puck while moving at top speed. Defenders must respect his speed, and so they back off him on the rush, creating shooting and passing lanes. Farabee has good vision and is an outstanding playmaker off the wing. He anticipates extremely well and seems to be a step ahead of the play. Farabee finds open ice without the puck and makes smart plays with it. He could stand to add some power to his shot though. This may come as he adds more muscle to his frame.
Like his father, Kieffer Bellows is a pure sniper. He has a tremendous wrist shot and release, as well as an excellent one-timer. His arsenal also features a heavy snapshot and good backhand. Bellows also has the soft hands and quick reflexes to get deflections and to pounce on rebounds and score in tight. He is not afraid to get his nose dirty, battling for space in front of the net. Bellows is more than willing to throw big hits when he gets in on the forecheck. He also shows excellent stickhandling ability, and the agility to beat defenders one-on-one, either off the rush or in the cycle game. Bellows uses his body to protect the puck in the cycle game and extend plays.
Juolevi’s strong two-way game is based on his skating ability. He has very good speed in both directions and good acceleration. His pivots are crisp and his edgework is very solid. This allows him to quickly transition from offence-to-defence or vice-versa. This skating allows Juolevi to cover a ton of ice, and to be able to join the rush, or make pinches at the blueline and still get back defensively. He has excellent vision and the shows the smarts to make the smart play, whether it is in running the point on that powerplay or in starting the rush out of his end of the rink.
Sorokin is an extremely athletic, butterfly style goaltender. He gets side-to-side quickly and makes a number of saves that will leave your jaw dropping. Sorokin never fully gives up on a play and can show very quick recoveries. He has outstanding reflexes and his quick legs take away the bottom of the net. Shooters can try to go high but his blocker and glove are very quick too. He likes to play deep in his crease. He has worked to improve his rebound control over the years and it is now very good. Sorokin also stays square to the puck and even when a rebound is given up, he is in position to make the next stop.
Katchouk is quick to get in on the forecheck and creates pressure on defenders going back to retrieve the puck. He is physical along the boards, looking to finish his checks on those defencemen. He has the willingness to battle in the corners and get himself in front of the net. Katchouk is strong on the cycle, using his body to effectively shield defenders away from the puck. He has a good wrist shot and decent release. He can also score on tip-ins and deflections. Katchouk has really improved as a playmaker over the last two years. He is now a strong stick handler who can drive the play in the offensive zone. He can make quick moves in order to get around defenders or create space in the offensive zone.
Poehling plays a gritty game, battling in the corners and in front of the net; as well as being effective on the forecheck. He also has a decent wrist shot and release. Poehling started to use that shot more this year and his goal totals doubled as a result. He could stand to shoot even more though, as he has a tendency to pass up shooting opportunities in order to make an extra pass. Poehling’s stickhandling is decent, but he plays a very straightforward north-south style of game and isn’t the type to take on defenders in one-on-one situations. Instead, he looks to move the puck to an open teammate and then try to find an open area on the ice. His vision is very good, and he seems to almost always make the smart play with the puck. Poehling is especially strong in the cycle game.
Demko plays a butterfly style and is extremely hard to beat down low due to his long and quick legs. He is so big that even when he does go down he can still take up a lot of the upper portion of the net. Demko has really improved his rebound control. He is very good at staying square to the puck, even when does give up rebounds. This usually puts Demko in a good position to stop any second chance opportunities. He also has a quick glove hand. Demko skates well, meaning he recovers quickly and stays with shooters if they try to deke. He also has a strong push giving him very good lateral movement and his puck tracking ability is very solid. He understands where the play is going, anticipates well, and gets across the crease quickly for cross-ice passes and one-timers
Clague skates the puck up the ice well. He has good stick handling ability and can use his agility to avoid forecheckers and create space to lead the rush. He can also start the transition game with a strong first pass out of the zone and often follows that pass to continue the attack. A natural power-play quarterback, Clague can walk the line, throws strong, crisp passes, and has excellent vision. His slap shot is decent, but not overpowering. It can be improved by adding some muscle to his frame. He already understands how to keep it low and on the net and how to get his shot through traffic. Clague also has a strong wrist shot which he uses to get the puck on net when facing pressure at the blue line.
Vesalainen has excellent size and uses it to protect the puck along the boards and extend plays in the cycle. Gifted with a large wing-span, Vesalainen takes advantage of it and uses his excellent stickhandling ability to play keep-away with defenders. He also has the passing skill to move the puck to teammates in good areas once he creates that time and space. A budding power forward, Vesalainen wins battles along the boards. He is also not afraid to fight through checks to get to the front of the net. Vesalainen also has an excellent array of shots. His wrist shot and snapshot both feature good power and a quick release. He could work on his accuracy. Vesalainen can also bury in tight to the net, with the soft hands to finish in close to the goaltender. He chases down loose pucks relentlessly.
Big and strong, Brown can be a dominant player below the hash-marks. He has a powerful stride, protects the puck and takes it to the front of the net. Brown has the soft hands to finish plays in close to the net, and also has a powerful shot from further out. Brown seemed to shoot a bit more last season though, keeping defenders off-balance. He is still mainly a playmaker. Brown uses his size and strength to protect the puck in the cycle game, extending plays and waiting for teammates to get open. His long reach is a real asset in protecting the puck and keeping possession. Brown has the ability to put the puck on the tape and make saucer passes to get it through traffic in order to set up teammates.
Main Photo: MONTREAL, QC – JANUARY 02: Kristian Vesalainen #34 of Team Finland skates the puck against Martins Dzierkals #10 of Team Latvia during the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship relegation game at the Bell Centre on January 2, 2017 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)