The 2018 NHL Draft is shaping up to be one of the deepest and most skilled in recent history.
With lethal forwards, sturdy defencemen, and impenetrable goaltenders all available, each and every NHL franchise will own the opportunity to drastically improve their respective organization in the blink of an eye come Jun. 22-23.
As we head into the month of March, this year’s class of prospects have finally begun to solidify their places within the ranking. With Rasmus Dahlin long considered as the top prospect available, Filip Zadina and Andrei Svechnikov have settled into their places within the top-five, while others such as Evan Bouchard and Barrett Hayton have firmly cemented themselves as top-10 choices.
Further, at this point in time, significant mobility within the ranking is extremely difficult and is made possible only by bouts of incredible production and consistency. Given the fact that each prospect has been viewed countless times this season, every writer, scout, and general manager — myself included — has generated a concrete understanding of every prospect’s skill set and their respective potential at the NHL-level.
Now, with movement within the ranking at a minimum, let’s dive into March’s draft ranking.
A Solidified Top-Five
#1 – Rasmus Dahlin
Given how close we are to the 2018 NHL Draft, don’t expect Dahlin to fall from his perch as this year’s top prospect.
Lethal in the offensive zone and a tremendous defender within his own, Dahlin’s complete two-way game at such a young age will make him a true game-changer once he breaks into the NHL. Gifted with the puck and of great vision, Dahlin completes tough passes with ease and isn’t afraid to take chances in order to generate scoring opportunities. Further, defensively, Dahlin utilizes a quick stick and excellent agility to pressure opposing forwards into turnovers.
Boasting size, speed, skill, and physicality, Dahlin’s play is the whole package, making him a legitimate star waiting to explode.
#2 – Filip Zadina
Although he began the 2017-18 season as a definite first-round pick, excellent play in the QMJHL, at the 2018 WJC, and during the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game has elevated Zadina to the second-best prospect available this year.
As a pure-goal scorer, Zadina boasts an NHL-calibre shot and the ability to blast the puck on net in the blink of an eye. Not only accurate in his shooting but also overpowering, Zadina can rip the puck on net and past opposing goaltenders before they catch a glimpse of the puck. However, Zadina is much more than a goal-scorer, as his excellent vision and passing abilities enable him to set up teammates in high-percentage scoring situations — an ability which keeps opposing defenders on their heels.
Eerily similar in playing style to Nico Hischier of the New Jersey Devils, Zadina is yet another excellent prospect to develop and emerge from the Halifax Mooseheads, following in the footsteps of Hischier, Jonathan Drouin, Nathan MacKinnon, and Nikolaj Ehlers.
#3 – Andrei Svechnikov
Long projected to be made the second-overall choice in the 2018 NHL Draft, Svechnikov has slipped to third-overall but by no fault of his own.
Despite being surpassed by the exceptional play of Zadina, Svechnikov has continued to excel and establish himself as an elite NHL prospect. Having scored 31 goals and 55 points in a mere 36 games played to begin the month of March, Svechnikov has been as consistent and lethal as they come. Scoring highlight-reel goals on a nightly basis, Svechnikov’s competitive nature and physicality have combined to make him an overpowering offensive threat in the OHL.
Far more professional than dynamic in terms of his playing style, Svechnikov will have no trouble adapting to the NHL, as his size, strength, and skill already stand at an elite level. In the end, whichever franchise selects Svechnikov will have landed a top-six talent of endless upside, as he compares well to Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
#4 – Adam Boqvist
If you’re looking for an incredibly gifted offensive defenceman, Adam Boqvist is your man.
Although he is of smaller stature given his 5-foot-11 height and 170-pound weight, Boqvist makes up for this perceived deficiency through his incredibly potent on-ice abilities. Boasting a strong shot alongside a quick release, Boqvist loves to blast the puck on goal and has the ability to push the puck through traffic with ease. Further, Boqvist is a gifted playmaker, an ability which makes him a lethal threat on both the power play as well as at even strength.
— Tre Kronor (@Trekronorse) August 12, 2017
However, Boqvist is no slouch defensively, as his quick feet and smooth skating allows him to trap and then pin opposing forwards within his own zone before jarring the puck loose. Capable of making crisp and deliberate outlet passes, Boqvist feeds his team’s transition game and is extremely effective when it comes to facilitating zone time and quality scoring chances.
Unless the franchise who chooses fourth-overall in the draft is in desperate need of a forward, don’t expect to see Boqvist fall from his current position. As a player whose game is similar to that of Miro Heiskanen and Tyson Barrie, Boqvist’s high selection in the coming draft will be very well deserved.
#5 – Brady Tkachuk
Brady Tkachuk rounds out the top-five prospects available in the 2018 NHL Draft, as he, alongside the four prospects previously mentioned, stand in a class of their own.
Much like his older brother Matthew Tkachuk, Brady plays the game with a physical edge and one which he does not withhold from his opposition. Gritty below the goal line and as competitive as any within the game today, Tkachuk’s playing style can be best defined as the unique combination of speed, skill, physicality, and grit.
A natural playmaker who can also bury the puck, Tkachuk plays a solid 200-foot game and refuses to neglect his responsibilities defensively. Ferocious in his own zone yet calculated in doing, Tkachuk consistently forces turnovers and plays a crucial role in exiting in own zone. Sure to develop into a top-six player at the NHL-level, Tkachuk’s willingness to mix it up physically alongside his natural offensive instincts combine to make him one of the most unique prospects available in the coming draft.
Canada’s Bludgeoning Blueliner
Ranked as the third-best defenceman in this month’s ranking, Bouchard of the London Knights has continued to take substantial steps in his personal development.
Throughout the 2017-18 OHL campaign, Bouchard has continued to reinforce his stellar and enviable two-way game. Seemingly unsurpassable in his defensive end and a lethal playmaker in the opposing zone, Bouchard’s all-around game has earned him a wealth of praise ahead of the draft, and deservingly so.
A native of Oakville, Ontario, Bouchard’s unique ability to read and understand plays before they develop have made him an astute defender of ample potential. Capable of dismantling plays devised by his opposition before jumping into the rush himself, Bouchard’s on-ice awareness and excellent positional play should allow for a smooth transition to the NHL-level.
Perhaps the scariest fact of all is that Bouchard and his game have continued to mature consistently this season, making his absolute potential of the sky-high variety.
The Next Patrice Bergeron?
Although he isn’t the flashiest player on the ice, Hayton has continued to prove himself as one of the most mature, poised, and consistent prospects available in the coming draft.
A natural centre who is strong on his skates and a professional in every sense of the word, Hayton has rocketed up respective draft rankings this season owing to his stable play. Dominant in the offensive zone and seemingly impossible to knock off of the puck, Hayton’s clever playmaking and intelligent approach to the game have already drawn comparisons to Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins.
Further, Hayton plays a crafty game within his own zone, using his size and strength to his advantage in order to disrupt scoring chances devised by his opposition. And, while his offensive skills aren’t the strongest, his shot, instincts, and nose for the net have continued to improve drastically this season with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL.
Like Bouchard, Hayton is a player who should have little trouble adapting to the NHL game. Ranked as the eighth best prospect in March, Hayton’s constant improvement and strong overall game will combine to make him a tremendous prospect and, one day, an excellent NHL player.
Small, Shifty, and Skilled
Many scouts and their resulting draft rankings don’t think very highly of the diminutive Aidan Dudas, as he was rated as the 131st best prospect in NHL Central Scouting’s Midterm Ranking.
I, on the hand, see a much different player and prospect than most, as Dudas clearly boasts the skill-set and drive necessary to prove his critics wrong en route to a highly successful NHL career.
While he may only stand 5-foot-7 and weigh in at 165-pounds, Dudas is an incredibly competitive and driven individual whose game has improved drastically in 2017-18. A top talent within a strong Owen Sound Attack roster, Dudas has produced at both ends of the ice for the Attack this season and has been incredibly consistent in doing so.
— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) February 9, 2018
Blessed with smooth hands and crafty mitts, Dudas is a quick-strike player who can make opposing teams pay dearly if left unguarded. Capable of meandering his way through defenders before wiring a shot on goal, Dudas is also more than willing to battle hard in front of the net and isn’t afraid to mix things up physically. Somewhat similar to Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher, Dudas boasts immense potential and will be a steal for the team which decides to select him.
The Ranking: March’s Top-31
It’s time to take a look at March’s Top-31 prospects ahead of the 2018 NHL Draft.
If you’re looking for a little context in terms of how these players have shifted over the last month, be sure to check out February’s Top-31 before you continue. Or, perhaps more simply, take a look at the +/- column, which indicates how each and every prospect’s stock has changed since Feb. 1.
As always, feel free to comment your thoughts on this ranking or regarding a particular prospect in the comments section below!
Frölunda HC (SHL)
|–||Filip Zadina||LW||Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)|
Barrie Colts (OHL)
|–||Adam Boqvist||D||Brynäs IF J20|
Boston University (NCAA)
|+1||Evan Bouchard||D||London Knights (OHL)|
University of Michigan (NCAA)
|+3||Barrett Hayton||C||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)|
Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)
|-2||Oliver Wahlstrom||C/RW||U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)|
Guelph Storm (OHL)
Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)
U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)
U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)
|+8||Grigori Denisenko||LW||Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)|
Oshawa Generals (OHL)
|+5||Akil Thomas||C||Niagara IceDogs (OHL)|
Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
|+1||Ty Smith||D||Spokane Chiefs (WHL)|
Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
|–||Jett Woo||D||Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)|
Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
|-5||Jesperi Kotkaniemi||C||Assät (Liiga)|
Oshawa Generals (OHL)
|–||Isac Lundeström||C/LW||Luleå HF (SHL)|
U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)
|–||Aidan Dudas||C||Owen Sound Attack (OHL)|
Timrå IK (Allsvenskan)
|–||Calen Addison||D||Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)|
Toronto Jr. Canadiens (OJHL)