2018 Draft crop shaping up

Dan Stewart2018 Draft Center, IIHF, NCAA, OHL, QMJHL, USHL, WHL

Photo by Tommy Holl

Here we are, at the halfway point of the 2017-18 season.

Time flies, doesn’t it?

One thing we have learned over the course of that time is that the 2018 NHL Draft indeed holds some franchise changing talents.

A handful of gems at the top end that we believe have the ability to step right in and contribute to improving the fortunes of the organizations that are lucky enough to select them this June.

Whether that is the drafts top-ranked talent in exciting Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin of Frolunda, who seemingly produces a weekly highlight worthy offensive rush from his play in the SHL, or the rising Halifax winger Filip Zadina, who has been destroying competition in the QMJHL and will look to do the same while playing top line minutes in the NHL as early as next season.

We feel the teams selecting among the first five or six picks have a strong chance to add a future core piece to their rosters from this draft class.

Among the upper tier talents available are Dahlin, who we feel is in a class of his own.

There are plenty who follow.

Andrei Svechnikov of the Barrie Colts, Zadina, and Brady Tkachuk of Boston University headline an emerging forward tier. Defensemen Adam Boqvist of Brynas and Quinton Hughes of the University of Michigan round out the top echelon of talents as we see it.

Svechnikov and Tkachuk both play a really strong offensive power game that infuses high-end vision, determination and finishing skills along with size and strength.

Boqvist and Hughes are high-end distributors who use shifty moves, strong vision and high-end intelligence to control the pace of play from the back end.

The strength of this class is definitely found in the talent coming from European countries with as much as 60 percent of the first round talent originating from countries like Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic.

The United States also makes up a large portion of the remaining talent, with Canada specifically experiencing a down year from what it is used to producing at the NHL draft.

There looks to be some very solid depth to this class, as there are other forward and blueline prospects available that we feel strongly will become impact NHL players after a few seasons of further development.

Some may even end up being better NHL players than a few names at the top end of our ranking.

Need a top-4 defensemen?

There are a number of solid blueliners, of all types, with top-four upside that we’re pretty excited about. They’re sprinkled, at this stage, among the top 100 prospects available. With plenty of wildcards, the onus will be on NHL clubs to further their development after drafting.

It doesn’t appear as though the same can be said for help down the middle.

It’s not a great crop of talent for NHL teams looking to find that future top-line, offensive center as top line wingers seem to be the forwards ‘du jour’ in 2018.

Thoughts in the crease?

The goaltender crop this year, while lacking that top tier talent, has a few bright spots such as Jakub Skarek, who although disappointed with his World Juniors showing, has played well in the Czech’s top league.

Olivier Rodrigue and Alexis Gravel, as well as Finnish stopper Justus Annunen, all look solid. But on the whole, this crop in the crease has been a bit disappointing as many of the names we were excited about heading into the year have failed to live up to expectations.

That does not mean there won’t be future NHL puck-stoppers to come out of this crop. It just means that finding them might be a little more difficult and a team might need to have more patience, as they develop to see what you have.

Overall we are excited about the prospects available, especially those at the top end, in 2018, and feel NHL teams should be able to pull future roster players out of this deep and talented crop well into the second day.