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

The annual Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament for under-18 players has come and gone, which officially kicks off the scouting season for the 2018 National Hockey League draft class. Based on the early buzz, the two standouts of the 2018 class are Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin and Russian forward Andrei Svechnikov, who’s spent the last few seasons in North America – for the 31 NHL clubs, it’ll be either fallin’ for Dahlin or slacking off for Svechnikov when it comes to the top end of the talent pool (and the bottom of the league standings).

Ryan Merkley of the Guelph Storm. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

This is the first edition of my annual NHL Draft rankings here at The Hockey Writers. Starting with these preliminary rankings and updating them 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.

As always, your mileage may vary.

The Top 50

No. Player Pos. 2016-17 Primary Team
1 Rasmus Dahlin D Frolunda HC (SHL)
2 Andrei Svechnikov RW Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
3 Brady Tkachuk C U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
4 Jared McIsaac D Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
5 Joseph Veleno C Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
6 Filip Zadina LW HC Dynamo Pardubice (Extraliga)
7 Ryan Merkley D Guelph Storm (OHL)
8 Bode Wilde D U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
9 Anderson MacDonald LW Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
10 Benoit-Olivier Groulx C Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
11 Ty Smith D Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
12 Quinton Hughes D U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
13 Oliver Wahlstrom C U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
14 Adam Boqvist D Brynas IF (SuperElit)
15 Jack McBain C Toronto Jr. Canadians (OJHL)
16 Akil Thomas C Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
17 Evan Bouchard D London Knights (OHL)
18 Jett Woo D Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
19 Alexander Khovanov C Irbis Kazan (MHL)
20 Ryan McLeod C Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
21 Isac Lundestrom C Lulea HF (SHL)
22 Joel Farabee LW U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
23 Xavier Bouchard D Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
24 Jake Wise C U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
25 Philipp Kurashev LW Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
26 Ty Dellandrea C Flint Firebirds (OHL)
27 Mattias Samuelsson D U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
28 Giovanni Vallati D Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
29 Jonathan Tychonick D Penticton Vees (BCHL)
30 Jesse Ylonen RW Espoo Blues (Jr. SM-Liiga)
31 Alexander Alexeyev D Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
32 Rasmus Sandin D Brynas IF (SuperElit)
33 K’Andre Miller D U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
34 Jesperi Kotkaniemi C Assat (Jr. SM-Liiga)
35 Kirill Nizhnikov RW Barrie Colts (OHL)
36 Vladislav Kotkov LW Krasnaya Armiya Moskva (MHL)
37 Grigori Denisenko LW Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
38 Allan McShane C Erie Otters (OHL)
39 David Levin LW Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
40 Nando Eggenberger LW HC Davos (NLA)
41 Libor Zabransky D HC Kometa Brno (Czech)
42 Calen Addison D Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
43 Niklas Nordgren RW HIFK (Jr. SM-Liiga)
44 Jacob Ingham G Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
45 Barrett Hayton C Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
46 Luka Burzan C Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
47 Jacob Semik D Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
48 Zack Malik D Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
49 Carl Wassenius C AIK (Sweden U18)
50 Jachym Kondelik C Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)

Honourable Mentions

  • D Kevin Bahl – Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
  • C Mikhail Bitsadze – Dynamo Balashikha (VHL)
  • LW Samuel Fagemo – Frolunda HC (Sweden U18)
  • LW Gabriel Fortier – Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
  • C Jan Jenik – Billi Tygri Liberec (Czech U20)
  • C Vitali Kravtsov – Belye Medveci Chelyabinsk (MHL)
  • C Adam McMaster – North Bay Battalion (OHL)
  • G Olivier Rodrigue – Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)

The Rundown

The projected first round is fairly defender-heavy, with 14 blueliners and 17 forwards (and zero goaltenders) at the top end of the mix right now. There’s a bit of a dropoff talent-wise after the top five; it was a top four and a half before the Hlinkas, but Veleno’s strong performance at that event nudged him into the top group for now. Keep an eye on Ryan Merkley, who was impressive at Hockey Canada’s camp and rock-solid during the tournament itself. Overall, the projected first round group looks to be a little bit better than the first rounders from the 2017 Draft, and right now it seems as if this year’s edition lacks the big drop between groups that we saw last year.

It looks to be a strong year for the OHL and the QMJHL, while a year that seems to be a step back for the WHL – the high end of the draft looks to resemble the lean 2016 Jake Bean draft year with a handful of first rounders and then a stronger secondary group. The U.S. National Development program seems to be stepping back into the forefront after a quieter year last season, while the European presence at the high end of this draft seems strong albeit a bit leaner on pro experience than their 2017 cohort.