I don’t typically publish my preseason rankings, but I just couldn’t contain my enthusiasm for the 2018 draft class.
It’s shaping up to be elite and deep — stacked throughout the first round, providing the prospects continue to develop at their current rate between now and June.
As good as 2015 was — with Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel at the top — 2018 has the potential to be even better.
Sure, 2016 is looking terrific in hindsight too — highlighted by Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine — but that group exceeded expectations, coming on strong as their draft year progressed and then crushing it as rookies.
Aside from Matthews, they didn’t have nearly the preseason hype of this 2018 group — remember, Laine was labelled a potential top-five pick, a possible riser from the outset.
Regardless, it’s becoming more and more of a young man’s game and the skill level of these kids seems to keep improving year over year — though 2017 was a “down” year — with 2018 capable of raising the bar yet again.
Looking back before we look ahead, 2003 saw the likes of Jeff Carter (11), Dustin Brown (13), Brett Seabrook (14), Zach Parise (17), Ryan Getzlaf (19), Brent Burns (20), Ryan Kesler (23), Mike Richards (24) and Corey Perry (28) drafted outside the top 10, with Patrice Bergeron (45), Shea Weber (49), Corey Crawford (52), David Backes (62) and Jimmy Howard (64) among the second-rounders.
The top end of that draft was impressive too, led by Marc-Andre Fleury (1), Eric Staal (2), Nathan Horton (3), Thomas Vanek (5), Ryan Suter (7) and Dion Phaneuf (9). The busts were few and far between, with all 30 first-rounders getting at least a cup of coffee in the NHL and 22 of them having played more than 500 career games to date.
So, that gives you an idea of how special this 2018 draft class could be in comparison.
Now, to look forward and familiarize yourself with the names to watch this season, here are my top 93 prospects for the 2018 draft:
1) Rasmus Dahlin (LHD, Sweden, Frolunda SHL)
2) Andrei Svechnikov (RW, Russia, Barrie OHL)
3) Adam Boqvist (RHD, Sweden, Brynas J20)
4) Brady Tkachuk (C/LW, USA, Boston University NCAA)
5) Filip Zadina (LW/RW, Czech Republic, Halifax QMJHL)
6) Joe Veleno (C, Canada, Saint John QMJHL)
7) Quinn Hughes (LHD, USA, NTDP U18)
8) Ryan Merkley (RHD, Canada, Guelph OHL)
9) Ty Smith (LHD, Canada, Spokane WHL)
— The Draft Analyst (@TheDraftAnalyst) August 7, 2017
10) Rasmus Kupari (C, Finland, Karpat Jr.)
11) Jesperi Kotkaniemi (C, Finland, Assat Liiga)
12) Bode Wilde (RHD, USA, NTDP U18)
13) Ryan McLeod (C, Canada, Mississauga OHL)
14) Barrett Hayton (C, Canada, Sault Ste. Marie OHL)
15) Jared McIsaac (LHD, Canada, Halifax QMJHL)
16) Oliver Wahlstrom (C/W, USA, NTDP U18)
17) Joel Farabee (LW, USA, NTDP U18)
18) Alexander Khovanov (C, Russia, Moncton QMJHL)
19) Vitali Kravtsov (C/W Russia, Belye Medvedi MHL)
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) September 13, 2017
20) Jett Woo (RHD, Canada, Moose Jaw WHL)
21) Calen Addison (RHD, Canada, Lethbridge WHL)
22) Evan Bouchard (RHD, Canada, London OHL)
23) Jakub Lauko (C, Czech Republic, Chomutov Extraliga)
24) Isac Lundestrom (C/LW, Sweden, Lulea SHL)
25) Jack McBain (C, Canada, Toronto OJHL)
26) Luka Burzan (C, Canada, Moose Jaw WHL)
27) Akil Thomas (C, Canada, Niagara OHL)
28) Benoit-Olivier Groulx (C/LW, Canada, Halifax QMJHL)
29) Dmitry Zavgorodniy (RW, Russia, Rimouski QMJHL)
30) Samuel Fagemo (LW, Sweden, Frolunda J20)
31) Mathias-Emilio Pettersen (C, Norway, Muskegon USHL)
32) Jesse Ylonen (RW, Finland, Espoo United)
33) Nando Eggenberger (LW, Switzerland, Davos NLA)
34) Mattias Samuelsson (LHD, USA, NTDP U18)
35) K’Andre Miller (LHD, USA, NTDP U18)
36) Jakub Skarek (G, Czech Republic, Dukla Jihlava, Extraliga)
37) Milos Roman (C, Slovakia, Vancouver WHL)
38) Anderson MacDonald (LW, Canada, Moncton QMJHL)
39) Ty Dellandrea (C, Canada, Flint OHL)
40) Libor Zabransky (RHD, Czech Republic, Kelowna WHL)
41) Xavier Bouchard (RHD, Canada, Baie-Comeau QMJHL)
42) Kevin Bahl (LHD, Canada, Ottawa OHL)
43) Giovanni Vallati (LHD, Canada, Kitchener OHL)
44) Vladislav Kotkov (LW/RW, Russia, Chicoutimi QMJHL)
45) Grigori Denisenko (LW, Russia, Loko Yaroslavl MHL)
46) Philip Kurashev (C, Switzerland, Quebec QMJHL)
47) Jake Wise (C, USA, NTDP U18)
48) Jan Jenik (LW, Czech Republic, Liberec U20)
49) Pavel Rotenberg (RW, Russia, Dynamo SPB MHL)
50) Jonathan Tychonick (LHD, Canada, Penticton BCHL)
— The Hockey Writers (@TheHockeyWriter) August 16, 2017
51) Alexander Alexeyev (LHD, Russia, Red Deer WHL)
52) Filip Hallander (C/W, Sweden, Timra IK)
53) Jacob Olofsson (C, Sweden, Timra IK)
54) Gillian Kohler (RW, Switzerland, Kootenay WHL)
55) Dominik Bokk (RW, Germany, Vaxjo J20)
56) Olivier Rodrigue (G, Canada, Drummondville QMJHL)
57) Lukas Wernblom (C/W, Sweden, MoDo)
58) Jonatan Berggren (C/W, Sweden, Skelleftea J20)
59) Allan McShane (C, Canada, Oshawa OHL)
60) Liam Foudy (C, Canada, London OHL)
61) Johnny Gruden (LW, USA, NTDP U18)
62) Carl Stankowski (G, Canada, Seattle WHL)
63) Alexis Gravel (G, Canada, Halifax QMJHL)
64) Jacob Ingham (G, Canada, Mississauga OHL)
65) Filip Johansson (RHD, Sweden, Leksands J20)
66) Yegor Sokolov (LW, Russia, Cape Breton QMJHL)
67) Kirill Nizhnikov (RW, Russia, Barrie OHL)
68) Samuel Salonen (LW, Finland, Sioux City USHL)
69) Jacob Tortora (LW, USA, Boston College NCAA, over-ager)
70) Jack Drury (C, USA, Waterloo USHL)
71) David Levin (LW, Canada, Sudbury OHL)
72) Gabriel Fortier (C, Canada, Baie-Comeau QMJHL)
73) Adam Liska (LW, Slovakia, Kitchener OHL)
74) Noah Dobson (RHD, Canada, Acadie-Bathurst QMJHL)
75) Nico Gross (LHD, Switzerland, Oshawa OHL)
76) Blade Jenkins (C, USA, Saginaw OHL)
77) Jake Griciius (LW, USA, Portland WHL)
78) Filip Kral (LHD, Czech Republic, Kometa Brno, Extraliga)
79) Rasmus Sandin (LHD, Sweden, Rogle J20)
80) Riley Sutter (RW, Canada, Everett WHL)
81) Riley Stotts (LW, Canada, Swift Current WHL)
82) Carson Focht (C, Canada, Tri-City WHL)
83) Keegan Karki (G, USA, Omaha USHL)
84) Justus Annunen (G, Finland, Karpat Jr.)
85) Toni Utunen (LHD, Finland, Tappara Liiga)
86) Krystof Hrabik (C/LW, Czech Republic, Liberec U20)
87) Martin Kaut (RW, Czech Republic, Pardubice Extraliga)
88) Oliver True (RW, Denmark, Ottawa OHL)
89) Samuel Bitten (C, Canada, Ottawa OHL)
90) Eli Zummack (RW/C, Canada, Spokane WHL)
91) Liam Kindree (RW, Canada, Kelowna WHL)
92) Brodi Stuart (LW, Canada, Kamloops WHL)
93) Chase Wouters (C, Canada, Saskatoon WHL)
Ivan Muranov (LW, Russia, HK MVD MHL)
Kyle Topping (C, Canada, Kelowna WHL)
Olof Lindbom (G, Sweden, Djugardens J20)
Jacob Semik (LHD, USA, Dubuque USHL)
Sean Comrie (RHD, Canada, Spruce Grove AJHL)
Dawson Barteaux (LHD, Canada, Red Deer WHL)
Jack Perbix (RW, USA, Elk River USHS)
Now that I put these rankings out there, they will be all the more fun to track and look back on midway through the season — following the world juniors, right around the CHL Top Prospects Game — and again in April when NHL Central Scouting releases its final list.
By the time I publish my annual mock draft in early June, these rankings will be drastically different, as always, since some prospects will struggle and others will soar in the spotlight.
However the order shakes out, depth should remain a strength, with teams picking impact players into the twenties and beyond in 2018.
General managers will be well aware of that, which could mean fewer trades involving high draft picks this season. Don’t expect to see too many, if any first-rounders moved for deadline rentals. Buyers may need to find another form of currency — be it already drafted prospects or perhaps 2019 picks — but that’s a conversation for another day.
For now, let’s live in the moment and enjoy watching these prospects jostle for draft position. There should be battles all over the board, from top to bottom, so scouts and fans are sure to be in for a treat this winter. Lucky us!
Larry Fisher is a senior writer and head scout for The Hockey Writers, having been an at-large contributor for THW since August 2014. Fisher covers both the NHL and the WHL, specializing in prospects and NHL draft content, including his annual mock drafts that date back to 2012. Fisher has also been a beat writer for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets since 2008, formerly working as a sports reporter/editor for The Daily Courier in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada from 2008-2019. Follow him on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.