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2018 NHL Draft First Look Players to Watch

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Sweden v Russia - Bronze Medal Game - 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship
Rasmus Dahlin
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Now that the 2017 NHL Draft is in the books, it’s time to begin focus on the 2018 NHL Draft class, which incidentally, will be the first time players born in the year 2000 will be eligible to be picked.

It’s still very early of course, but at this point 2018 appears to be a much stronger draft than 2017 was.

At the top of the draft, two favorites have emerged to go first and second overall. The first is Russian forward Andrei Svechnikov. Svechnikov played for the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL last season and was extremely impressive as a 16-year-old. He was sixth in league scoring, fifth in goals scored and third in points per game with a 29-29-58 scoring line in just 48 games. He is expected to be the top overall pick in the upcoming CHL Import Draft and play his draft year in the CHL. Svechnikov is a big forward with potential to be a pure sniper at the NHL level.

The other is Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who has already drawn attention for an impressive perfomance at the World Juniors as a 16-year-old, and earning a spot with Frolunda in Sweden’s top pro league. The last two drafts have featured defensemen that started the year in contention to go first overall and then slid significantly by draft day in Jakob Chychrun in 2016 and Timothy Liljegren in 2017. There’s always the potential that the same happens here, though Dahlin’s hockey sense does seem to be a bit better, and he doesn’t seem to be an early developer physically like the other two.

As far as where they rank on the “How worth it is it to tank?” spectrum, Svechnikov doesn’t seem to be in the Crosby/Ovechkin/McDavid/Matthews category, nor is he in the Nugent-Hopkins/Yakupov/Patrick category either. As a frame of reference, the hope would probably be a Stamkos/Tavares-type player in the future. Dahlin is a bit tougher since it there haven’t been as many elite defensive prospects at the top of the draft in recent years, but at this point, there’s the expectation that he could be a true number one defenseman, and an elite one at that.

Beyond the top two, this Draft also seems a little deeper than 2017 was. The amount of Canadian-born talent in the past two drafts was considered to be down by usual standards. Word is this year seems to be much stronger in terms of Canadian-born talent. That includes Quebec forward Joseph Veleno, who was the fifth player to be granted “exceptional player” status by Hockey Canada to play in the CHL a year early, joining John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, and Connor McDavid, all number one overall NHL picks, and Sean Day, who was selected in the third round of the 2016 Draft. Veleno isn’t likely to be the top overall pick, but has played well enough that he’ll likely be in the conversation for the top ten.

Here is my starting point for the upcoming draft season. As always, I’m only listing players I’ve seen and felt comfortable enough to rank.

Players are broken down into three categories. ‘A’ players are likely first round picks. ‘B’ players are players that are very likely to be picked. ‘C’ players are players that have a chance to get picked. Players are listed alphabetically, and with their 2016-2017 team.

A Players

  1. Rasmus Dahlin-D-Sweden
  2. Quinn Hughes-D-NTDP U18
  3. Joel Farabee-F-NTDP U17
  4. Jared McIsaac-D-Halifax(QMJHL)
  5. Milos Roman-F-Ocelari Trinec(SVK)
  6. Andrei Svechnikov-F-Muskegon(USHL)
  7. Brady Tkachuk-F-NTDP U18
  8. Oliver Wahlstrom-F-NTDP U17
  9. Jett Woo-D-Moose Jaw(WHL)
  10. Filip Zadina-F-Dynamo Pardubice(CZE)

B Players

  1. Adam Boqvist-D-Brynas Gavle(SWE)
  2. Paul Cotter-F-Brookings(NAHL)
  3. Nando Eggenberger-F-Switzerland
  4. Ty Emberson-D-NTDP U17
  5. Nico Gross-D-EVG Academy(SUI)
  6. Johnny Gruden-F-NTDP U17
  7. Gavin Hain-F-Grand Rapids(MN HS)
  8. Jack Jensen-F-Eden Prairie HS(MN)
  9. Xander Lamppa-F-Rochester John Marshall(MN HS)
  10. Blake McLaughlin-F-Grand Rapids(MN HS)
  11. K’Andre Miller-D-NTDP U17
  12. Jacob Semik-D-Dubuque(USHL)
  13. Ty Smith-D-Spokane(WHL)
  14. Akil Thomas-F-Niagara(OHL)
  15. Tyler Weiss-F-NTDP U17
  16. Bode Wilde-D-NTDP U17
  17. Jake Wise-F-NTDP U17
  18. Jesse Ylonen-F-Espoo(FIN)

C Players

  1. Mikhail Bitsadze-Balashihka(RUS)
  2. Tyler Borsch-D-Maple Grove
  3. Bryce Brodzinski-F-Blaine(MN HS)
  4. Braden Costello-F-Des Moines(USHL)
  5. Isaiah DiLaura-G-Lakeville South
  6. Brehdan Engum-D-Burnsville
  7. Jace Foskey-D-Tri-City(USHL)
  8. Aidan Fulp-D-Victory Honda U16
  9. Patrick Giles-F-NTDP U17
  10. Tanner Glasrud-D-Delano(MN HS)
  11. Curtis Hall-F-Youngstown(USHL)
  12. Chase Hamstad-F-White Bear Lake(MN HS)
  13. Chase Hartje-D-Moose Jaw(WHL)
  14. Ben Helgeson-F-Hill-Murray
  15. Blade Jenkins-F-NTDP U17
  16. Calen Kiefiuk-F-Bloomington
  17. Jachym Kondelik-F-Muskegon(USHL)
  18. Christian Krygier-D-Lincoln(USHL)
  19. Luke Loheit-F-Minnetonka(MN HS)
  20. Jaxon Nelson-F-Sioux Falls(USHL)
  21. Tony Malinowski-D-Oakland Jr. Grizzlies(T1EHL)
  22. Devlin McCabe-F-St. Paul Academy
  23. Ryan O’Reilly-F-Dallas Stars U16(T1EHL)
  24. Jack Perbix-F-Elk River(MN HS)
  25. Jacob Pivonka-F-NTDP U17
  26. Carter Randklev-F-Moorhead(MN HS)
  27. Jack Randl-F-Omaha(USHL)
  28. Ryan Savage-F-Honeybaked U16
  29. Colin Schmidt-F-Wayzata(MN HS)
  30. Levi Stauber-F-Duluth Marshall(MN HS)
  31. Zach Stejskal-G-Grand Rapids(MN HS)
  32. Samuel Stevens-F-Shattuck-St. Mary’s
  33. Andrew Stoneman-F-Shattuck-St. Mary’s
  34. Peter Tabor-D-Holy Family(MN HS)
  35. Blaine Warnert-F-Chaska(MN HS)
  36. Brady Ziemer-D-Holy Family(MN HS)