2018 NHL Entry Draft Top 10: Where Are They Now?

It’s interesting how long five years can feel in sports. There are times that these Top 10 Draft Pick articles feel rather dull, as the players are just starting their careers with the team that drafted them, so there isn’t much to say other than things are looking good and the future is still bright. For better or for worse, the 2018 NHL Draft is not one of those classes. So much has happened during these players’ first five seasons post-draft that you could write a novel about each. So, let’s take a look at the top ten picks of the 2018 NHL Draft to see how they are developing so far.

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Note: The 2018 NHL Draft took place June 22nd-23rd at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.

#1. Rasmus Dahlin – Buffalo Sabres

After experiencing another miserable season that kept the Buffalo Sabres at the bottom of the standings, the much-maligned franchise finally caught a break when they won the 2018 Draft Lottery, which gave them the first-overall pick for the first time in over 30 years (despite many valiant attempts). With this selection, the Sabres took defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who was seen as the best player in this class, despite his game likely needing a lot of polish.

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In his first five seasons in Buffalo, Dahlin has been about everything you can expect from a developing top-end defenseman. In his rookie outing, he posted nine goals and 44 points en route to a nomination for the 2019 Calder Trophy, then he saw his development disrupted by the worldwide hockey closures before getting back on track again in 2021-22.

Rasmus Dahlin Buffalo Sabres
Rasmus Dahlin of the Buffalo Sabres. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

However, in the 2022-23 season, Dahlin went from a tantalizing prospect to a legitimate top-pairing defenseman who played 25-plus minutes each night, posted 70-plus points, and even finished top-ten in Norris voting. By all accounts, if he can keep this level of play up in the coming years he will not only live up to the hype of his first-overall selection, but he could work his way into the Norris Trophy discussion. So, this was a big win for the Sabres as they look to break their playoff drought.

#2. Andrei SvechnikovCarolina Hurricanes

While the Sabres may have won the 2018 NHL draft by taking home the first-overall pick, you can make the argument that the Carolina Hurricanes were the winner of the lottery when they jumped from the 11th-overall pick to second. At that time, the Hurricanes were merely an average team, that often hung around the middle of the pack but were never bad enough to really draft that high-profile superstar talent in the first round. With their newly won second-overall pick, however, they had a chance to find that offensive game-breaker to define their franchise.

Related: NHL Draft: Where Are They Now? Collection

With this pick, the Hurricanes selected an offensive dynamo in Andrei Svechnikov, who was coming off a 40-goal season for the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).

Andrei Svechnikov Carolina Hurricanes
Andrei Svechnikov of the Carolina Hurricanes. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Following this selection, Svechnikov wasted no time making an impact in the NHL. In his first full season, he posted 20 goals and was on pace for 30-plus before the play was halted. In his next full season in 2021-22, he broke that 30-goal threshold for the first time in his career, and he was on pace to set career highs for goals and points scored in 2022-23 before a major knee injury ended his season prematurely. Assuming he makes a full recovery, there’s no reason to think that he can’t continue taking that next step in his career with the Hurricanes and post 30 to 40 goals routinely for the foreseeable future.

#3. Jesperi KotkaniemiMontreal Canadiens

If there was a defining moment from the 2018 Draft, it was the live fan reaction when the Montreal Canadiens selected Jesperi Kotkaniemi third overall. While the Finnish forward was expected to be a top pick with his experience playing against men in Liiga, he was seen as a bit of a reach this early, especially given the caliber of player available. However, the Canadiens made their choice and immediately brought the young forward over to play in the NHL for the 2018-19 season.

Throughout his first three seasons in Montreal, Kotkaniemi didn’t wow, but he played well in the 2021 postseason, and showed steady development on the ice. Despite this growth, his scoring totals were a bit underwhelming, and many questioned if he could live up to the billing of a third-overall pick for the Canadiens.

However, this story took an unexpected turn during the 2021 offseason, when the Hurricanes stepped in and made a massive one-year, $6.1 million offer sheet that allowed them to poach Kotkaniemi off the Canadiens’ cap-crunched roster.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi Carolina Hurricanes
Jesperi Kotkaniemi of the Carolina Hurricanes. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Now two seasons in with the Hurricanes, Kotkaniemi has settled into a middle-six role with the franchise, and he looks like a player who can contribute 20 goals and 50 points a season with room to still grow in his game. This was good enough for Carolina to offer him an eight-year, $4.65 million per season contract to make him far more than just a petty revenge play by the franchise.

#4. Brady TkachukOttawa Senators

As one of the big losers of the draft lottery, the Ottawa Senators still managed to get their guy when Brady Tkachuk fell to them with the fourth-overall pick. As a member of the Tkachuk family, expectations were high that Brady would enter the league and continue the legacy that his father built and brother, Matthew, continued when he was selected sixth overall in 2016.

Related: 2016 NHL Entry Draft Top 10: Where Are They Now?

It took no time for Brady to make his mark on the NHL, as he took the ice in 2018-19 and posted 22 goals and 45 points as a rookie. In the following years, he grew into his power-forward frame, while racking up points and laying down 250-plus hits each season. He is also a leader on the ice for the Senators, which led them to name him the tenth captain of the franchise and sign him to a seven-year, $8.214 million per season contract early in the 2021 season.

Brady Tkachuk Ottawa Senators
Brady Tkachuk of the Ottawa Senators. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

For the Senators, Tkachuk has been everything and more for a top draft pick. When you have the opportunity to draft this high in any season, you need to nail that pick, and they absolutely did. Now, it’s the rest of the NHL that will have to deal with a duo of Tkachuk’s running around the league and helping to form its future.

#5. Barrett HaytonArizona Coyotes

Oftentimes, drafts are defined by unexpected choices that are either lauded as shrewd moves or a reach, based on the information we have as followers of hockey. One of the first ‘reaches’ of the 2018 draft occurred when the Arizona Coyotes selected centerman Barrett Hayton fifth overall, despite most having him ranked in the 20th-overall range. Some saw him as the best centerman available, while others an unproven commodity who benefitted from playing on a deep team in the OHL.

As said by THW’s own Mark Scheig in his 2018 profile of Hayton:

So what do we have in Hayton? We have someone who does a lot of things well. He can score with an excellent shot. He’s a good passer. He has some of the best hands in this draft. He can kill penalties and isn’t afraid to forecheck the heck out of you. He’s relentless on defense. Although his overall skills aren’t elite, they’re very good.

Hayton is one of those players who really saw his development cycle get derailed from the pandemic, as he essentially lost two years of development due to global conditions outside of anyone’s control. However, over the previous two seasons, he’s been able to take over a full-time role for the Coyotes, and he posted a career-best 19 goals and 43 points in 82 games played during a full 2022-23 season.

Barrett Hayton Arizona Coyotes
Barrett Hayton of the Arizona Coyotes. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It’s still far too early to call this pick a hit or a miss yet, due to how his development was derailed, but there’s reason to believe that Hayton will be a fixture as a #2 Centerman for Arizona for years to come if he continues down the path he’s currently on. That’s not a bad outcome for a fifth-overall pick.

#6. Filip ZadinaDetroit Red Wings

It’s rare that you can call a player a complete bust for the team that drafted them just five years after their selection, yet we have one here in the Detroit Red Wings’ sixth-overall pick, Filip Zadina. Heading into the draft, most had Zadina as the third-best player of the class, and the fact that he fell to the Red Wings looked like an absolute steal for the franchise. He was that perfect combination of high-end skill, scoring, and size that made everyone assume he would be a star for the Red Wings.

However, time told a different story. Despite playing in 74 games in 2021-22, he only posted 10 goals and 24 points. With this in mind, Detroit still believed in what he could bring to the franchise, so they signed him to a three-year deal hoping he would take that next step. Instead, he regressed and struggled to make his way into their nightly lineup, where he often acted as a scratch.

Filip Zadina Detroit Red Wings
Filip Zadina, formerly of the Detroit Red Wings. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With tension mounting between player and franchise, Zadina was placed on waivers during the 2023 offseason, and his contract was terminated, which gave him a clean split from Detroit. After this, he signed a one-year ‘show me’ deal with the San Jose Sharks in hopes of recapturing what made him a top prospect in 2018. So, while his NHL career is far from over, he has a lot to prove if he is going to find his place in the league.

#7. Quintin HughesVancouver Canucks

If you’re looking for one of the biggest hits of the 2018 Draft, look no further than Quintin (Quinn) Hughes, who was selected seventh overall by the Vancouver Canucks. The Orlando, Florida native played 37 games for the University of Michigan as the youngest player in the NCAA that season heading into the draft, then returned to Michigan for the 2018-19 season before making the jump to the NHL.

Immediately, Hughes found his place with the Canucks, as he took on close to 22 minutes of ice time each night, posted 53 points, and finished second in Calder Trophy voting.

Quinn Hughes Vancouver Canucks
Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

By all accounts, Hughes is one of the best, young offensive defensemen in the NHL. He finished the 2022-23 season with 76 points in 79 games played and even saw his plus/minus jump from minus 24 in 2020-21 to plus 15. With a six-year contract signed in 2021, he will be a key part of the Canucks’ future as they work to rebuild the franchise into a playoff contender.

#8. Adam BoqvistChicago Blackhawks

It’s not uncommon for talented but developing players to be used as key pieces in a blockbuster trade as the team that selected them looks to bring in talent that can help them now. That’s what happened to defenseman Adam Boqvist, who was traded by the Chicago Blackhawks to the Columbus Blue Jackets just three years after they selected him eighth overall. Now if you’re going to be involved in a trade, this pre-2021 draft deal was at least one of the biggest ones of the year as it saw Seth Jones, Boqvist and a myriad of top draft picks change hands.

Adam Boqvist Columbus Blue Jackets
Adam Boqvist of the Columbus Blue Jackets. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

On the ice, Boqvist’s career has been largely derailed due to injuries. This has limited his development in recent years, as he has started just 174 games in four seasons. When he is able to play there’s a lot of promise in his game, but he has to be able to put together a full season season before you can really evaluate where he is at in his career. It’s important to remember that even in the best circumstances it can take a long time for a defenseman to develop, so there’s no reason to believe that he can’t still become a top-four starter in Columbus.

#9. Vitali KravtsovNew York Rangers

Another player who hasn’t panned out in the NHL, one can still understand why the New York Rangers fell in love with Vitali Kravtsov’s toolkit and took a swing on him with the ninth overall pick. As a big-bodied winger, Kravtsov was already taking on ice time against men with Traktor Chelyabinsk in the KHL as an 18-year-old, and he even set the league record for the most postseason points by a player his age. All of this made him an intriguing prospect who looked like a sure-fire hit to be a middle-six winger for the Rangers as soon as he was ready to make the jump to the NHL.

Vitali Kravtsov New York Rangers
Vitali Kravtsov, formally of the New York Rangers. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

However, the Rangers were unable to find a spot on their roster for him despite signing him to a three-year entry-level contract in 2019. While they wanted him to develop with their AHL affiliate, Kravtsov wanted to keep playing in Russia and this appeared to create some tension between player and management. After a few years of requested trades and back-and-fourth, New York split from their top pick of 2018 and they sent him to the Canucks at the 2023 Trade deadline.

Once the 2022-23 season finished, Kratsov returned to Russia and signed a two-year contract with his former team. This could signal the end of his NHL career, or he may return down the road should the right opportunity present itself. Either way, this was a definitive miss by the Rangers who were in the process of a deep roster rebuild back in 2018.

#10. Evan BouchardEdmonton Oilers

With the tenth overall pick at the 2018 NHL Draft, the Edmonton Oilers decided to address team defense by selecting one of the top offensive defensemen available, Evan Bouchard. In the season prior to his selection, Bouchard was a star for the London Knights of the OHL, where he posted 87 points in 67 games played while helping to carry the team to the postseasons.

Since his selection, Bouchard took steady but seemingly small steps to develop his game while playing in the OHL, AHL, and even overseas in Sweden before breaking into the NHL full-time for 2021-22. In back-to-back regular seasons, he played 82 and 81 games, respectively, while scoring 43 and 40 points. These are all strong totals for any young defensive prospect, but he really took that next step in his development during the 2023 Playoffs, as he scored 17 points in 12 games played, while averaging 23 minutes of ice time each night. This led the Oilers to sign him to a two-year bridge deal in order to fully evaluate where his top-end potential could be.

Evan Bouchard Edmonton Oilers
Evan Bouchard of the Edmonton Oilers. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

There’s a real chance that the Oilers snagged a defensive star with Bouchard. If he continues developing his two-way game along with his offensive instincts, he could have the enviable job as their powerplay quarterback, racking up points alongside superstars like Connor McDavid. In many ways, you can argue that he is in the best spot out of any player on this list to reach his full potential with that future ahead of him.

The 2018 Draft Top-10 Saw Derailed Development

Overall, the top-10 picks of the 2013 Draft have been a bit of a mixed bag. For some, their selections were a complete whiff, with the player leaving the franchise in short order. For others, the draft proved to be a transformative one, with franchise-defining players selected and developed.

Related: 2013 NHL Entry Draft: Where Are They Now?

It’s important to remember that these prospects are some of the hardest hit by the pandemic and the ensuing worldwide turmoil that created. Many lost valuable playing time during their most formative years, which put them behind what they could have been had everything stayed running like normal. So, don’t be shocked if you see some of these players pop over the next year or two, as they make up for lost time.