Pike’s Picks: 2018 NHL Draft Rankings – January Edition

The calendar has flipped over from 2017 to 2018. Most junior teams have played in excess of 40 games, so there’s a fairly large recent sample size from which to potentially judge the 2018 NHL Draft class. In addition, the annual World Junior Hockey Championship tournament has come and gone, providing a snapshot of how several top draft prospects fare against older competition in a best-on-best environment. With all these factors in play, it’s time for the January edition of my 2018 NHL Draft rankings.

Rasmus Dahlin
Rasmus Dahlin of Frolunda HC (Tommy Holl/IBL)

This is the third edition of my annual NHL Draft rankings. Roughly every other month, I will attempt to rank the top players in this year’s draft class as if I were drafting a team from scratch. My main proviso? I want the players that will help my team win consistently. The usual disclaimers apply: I live in Western Canada so I see Western Hockey League players the most often, followed by the remainder of Canada’s prospects – especially those affiliated with Hockey Canada. I have to rely on video for players in the United States and Europe for the most part. I’m also hesitant to draft goalies early due to the sheer number of weird things that can go wrong and derail their development.

For a couple second opinions, check out the latest rankings from my colleagues Larry Fisher and Brett Slawson.

As always, your mileage may vary.

The Top 62

No. Player Pos. 2017-18 Primary Team
1 Rasmus Dahlin D Frolunda HC (SHL)
2 Andrei Svechnikov RW Barrie Colts (OHL)
3 Brady Tkachuk C Boston University (NCAA)
4 Filip Zadina LW Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
5 Joseph Veleno C Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)
6 Quinn Hughes D University of Michigan (NCAA)
7 Ty Smith D Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
8 Adam Boqvist D Brynas IF (SuperElit)
9 Oliver Wahlstrom C U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
10 Ryan Merkley D Guelph Storm (OHL)
11 Rasmus Kupari C Karpat (SM-Liiga)
12 Ryan McLeod C Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
13 Joel Farabee LW U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
14 Jared McIsaac D Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
15 Benoit-Olivier Groulx C Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
16 Bode Wilde D U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
17 Akil Thomas C Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
18 Jett Woo D Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
19 Noah Dobson D Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)
20 Evan Bouchard D London Knights (OHL)
21 Jack McBain C Toronto Jr. Canadians (OJHL)
22 Isac Lundestrom C Lulea HF (SHL)
23 Jasperi Kotkaniemi C Assat (SM-Liiga)
24 Barrett Hayton C Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
25 Calen Addison D Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
26 Serron Noel RW Oshawa Generals (OHL)
27 Anderson MacDonald LW Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
28 Philipp Kurashev LW Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
29 Jacob Olofsson C Timra IK (SHL)
30 Alexander Alexeyev D Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
31 Jesse Ylonen RW Espoo United (Mestis)
32 K’Andre Miller D U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
33 Rasmus Sandin D Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
34 Vladislav Kotkov LW Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)
35 Jonny Tychonick D Penticton Vees (BCHL)
36 Ty Dellandrea C Flint Firebirds (OHL)
37 Mattias Samuelsson D U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
38 Allan McShane C Oshawa Generals (OHL)
39 Nando Eggenberger LW HC Davos (NLA)
40 Grigori Denisenko LW Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
41 Riley Sutter RW Everett Silvertips (WHL)
42 Adam Samuelsson D U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
43 Libor Zabransky D Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
44 Alexander Khovanov C Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
45 Xavier Bouchard D Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
46 Filip Hollander C Timra IK (Allsvenskan)
47 Niklas Nordgren RW HIFK (Jr. SM-Liiga)
48 Vitali Kravtsov C Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL)
49 Filip Johansson D Leksands IF (Superelit)
50 Cole Fonstad C Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
51 Jakub Lauko C Pirati Chomutov (Extraliga)
52 Linus Nyman LW Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
53 Gabriel Fortier LW Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
54 Jacob Ingham G Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
55 Filip Kral D Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
56 Giovanni Vallati D Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
57 Olivier Rodrigue G Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)
58 Jakub Skarek G HK Dukla Jihlava (Extraliga)
59 Adam Ginning D Linkoping HC (SHL)
60 Milos Roman C Vancouver Giants (WHL)
61 Aidan Dudas C Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
62 Jake Wise C U.S. National Development Team (USHL)

Honourable Mentions

Here are 10 intriguing prospects that narrowly missed the cut (presented in alphabetical order):

  • D Kevin Bahl – Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
  • LW Dominik Bokk – Vaxjo Lakers HC (SHL)
  • C Luka Burzan – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
  • C Nathan Dunkley – London Knights (OHL)
  • C Eric Florchuk – Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
  • RW Martin Kaut – Parbudice HC (Extraliga)
  • C Jachym Kondelik – Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
  • LW David Levin – Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
  • C Kirill Nizhnikov – Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
  • LW Joel Teasdale – Blainsville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL)

The Rundown

As noted in previous editions of these rankings, there remains a pretty well-defined top six grouping in the draft. In terms of “tiers,” there’s a defined top two, then a slight drop after the next four or five players, then a drop after around the 19th or 20th player. The late first rounders are functionally of a similar quality as the mid second round players. At the top end, it’s definitely “Fallin’ for Dahlin” and “Slacking Off for Svechnikov,” though you could make an argument that teams might also “Suck for Tkachuk” in terms of getting a franchise-impacting player early in the draft. There are some nice rewards in this class from painful seasons for the draft lottery teams.

The rankings have shuffled around quite a bit due to the larger sample size of half of the junior season, but also because of the World Junior tournament performances of several of these ranked players. Twelve of the ranked players (and one of the honorable mentions) played in the tournament in Buffalo. Dahlin and Svechnikov likely cemented themselves as the top pair of players in this class, but Tkachuk went a long way towards cementing himself as a high-end prospect with his performance – he’s been solid if unspectacular with Boston University and his Team USA run suggests that he does have the high-end skills that we saw at that tournament. Also impressing at the event were Hughes, Zadina, Lundestrom and Skarek, who was superb in net for the Czech Republic.

If teams are looking for a defenseman, the first round looks to be pretty full of good ones. 12 of the projected first round players are blueliners, with the remainder being forwards. Three goaltenders appear in the top 62, along with 23 defenders and 36 forwards. In terms of player sources, it’s an interesting mix of locales both in the first round and overall: Canadians (from all three major junior leagues and one junior-A league), Americans, Swedes, Czechs, Finns and even a few Russians. In terms of development cycles, it’s a “down year” in terms of high-end prospects from the WHL and USHL, but those two leagues will likely still produce several strong players in the later rounds.