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2018 NHL Draft: The Draft Year Begins

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

TSN hockey insider Bob McKenzie released his first set of rankings, a top-20 list, for the 2018 NHL Draft on Wednesday, based on a survey of 10 NHL scouts.

There’s a lot of 2018 Draft projections already out there, and thanks to the buffet of information now available online, most do a pretty decent job of capturing the consensus of the hivemind at the moment. But McKenzie’s rankings are significant though, because it’s the first time you’re getting the opinions of people with an actual stake in the success or failure of these picks.

When we last left off talking about this year’s draft class, it was a two-horse race for the number one overall slot between Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov. Since then, Dahlin seems to have edged his way ahead of Svechnikov as the clear-cut first overall pick. That’s hardly set in stone though, especially with Svechnikov moving to the OHL this upcoming season. If he can score similar to the way he did in the USHL this past season, he’ll likely be in the conversation once again. There’s a lot more potential variability in a player’s draft ranking when he moves to a new league, especially one scrutinized as closely as the CHL. It gives people an easy data point to make comparisons to. That was the case this past season with Nico Hischier tearing up the QMJHL and eventually moving up the board to go first overall. It’s unlikely he would have gone first overall even if he played at the same level in some Swiss pro league.

As for the rest of the top 20, it’s shaping up to be a pretty good year for NCAA-bound prospects. I can’t count the number of times last season when I solicited an opinion on the NTDP U18 team’s draft outlook and the reply was “Their best two prospects aren’t eligible until 2018”. And to begin this season, that still holds true.

Boston University’s Brady Tkachuk holds down the first spot after the “Big 2” at third overall. Tkachuk has come a really long ways since joining the NTDP two years ago, and especially come on in the last six months. I’m not sure he’ll provide the type of high-end offensive flash one would hope to get with a pick that high. Again, a lot will depend on how he adjusts and performs at the NCAA level this season. If he’s a premier scorer in college hockey, he’ll definitely hold this spot. If not, he’s such a good all-around player that I don’t see him slipping too far, but he would definitely slip some.

The other is Michigan defenseman Quinn Hughes, who is ranked sixth on McKenzie’s list. I didn’t catch more than a few bits on television of the World Juniors summer camp/exhibition games, but Hughes was reportedly electric at the event, which has helped moved him into the top 10 on most everyone’s board. Developing defensemen has been a major struggle for Michigan in recent years—save freakshows like Jacob Trouba and Zach Werenski that were going to thrive regardless—but that could change with a new coaching staff in place.

Next on the list is Bode Wilde, who committed to Michigan last night, at tenth overall. I didn’t quite put Wilde as a first round pick when I previewed the draft class back in June, but I also understand why he’s that high. There’s definitely a difference in how players are graded prior to their draft year and how they are graded in their draft year. Prior to their draft year, it’s all about what they could do, and in Wilde’s case, his potential is unmistakable. There are very few players his size with his maneuverability. But watching a player in his draft year, scouts become picky and start looking for negatives with a player, and I think they’ll certainly find some with Wilde when it comes to his play with the puck. He has shown improvement in that area over the past year, however, and if he continues that upward trajectory, he could move even higher than he’s already listed.

Three other eastern prospects come in on the second half of the list. Harvard commit Oliver Wahlstrom is 13th. Ontario forward Jack McBain, committed to Boston College, is right behind Wahlstrom at 14th. And Boston University has a commit listed in Joel Farabee at 19th.

Here is McKenzie’s full list:

  1. Rasmus Dahlin-D-Frolunda(Sweden)
  2. Andrei Svechnikov-F-Barrie(OHL)
  3. Brady Tkachuk-F-Boston University
  4. Adam Boqvist-D-Byrnas(Sweden)
  5. Joseph Veleno-F-Saint John(QMJHL)
  6. Quinn Hughes-D-Michigan
  7. Filip Zadina-F-Halifax(QMJHL)
  8. Ty Smith-D-Spokane(WHL)
  9. Ryan Merkley-D-Guelph(OHL)
  10. Bode Wilde-D-NTDP U18(Michigan commit)
  11. Jared McIsaac-D-Halifax(QMJHL)
  12. Rasmus Kupari-F-Karpat(Finland)
  13. Oliver Wahlstrom-F-NTDP U18(Harvard commit)
  14. Jack McBain-F-Toronto(OJHL)(Boston College commit)
  15. Barrett Hayton-F-Sault Ste Marie(OHL)
  16. Ryan McLeod-F-Mississauga(OHL)
  17. Benoit-Olivier Groulx-F-Halifax(QMJHL)
  18. Jett Woo-D-Moose Jaw(WHL)
  19. Joel Farabee-F-NTDP U18(Boston University commit)
  20. Isac Lundestrom-F-Lulea(Sweden)