The 2018 NHL Entry Draft is set to go in Dallas on Friday. Everyone’s hockey seasons are over, and the final scouting reports have been completed. Teams have their lists completed and ready to go. They will continue to have heated and spirited debates over who they should pick right up until they hit the stage on Friday.
Experts and bloggers alike have been posting mock drafts ever since the draft order was finalized in April. I wanted to wait until closer to draft day in case of any major trades that might impact what certain teams might do, such as the trades made by Montreal and Ottawa in recent days. I have based my selections on each team’s needs. I have also incorporated each player’s prospect rankings into my decision making process. Since this is an Oilers blog, I have only selected the first ten picks in this draft.
The Buffalo Sabres are on the clock. With the 1st overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, the Buffalo Sabres will be proud to select:
Rasmus Dahlin, D, Frolunda (Sweden)
6’2”, 181 lbs
Dahlin is a franchise defenceman, and he will mesh nicely with Jack Eichel in Buffalo. It’s an easy choice for Buffalo. On to the slightly more difficult decisions…
2. Carolina Hurricanes: Andrei Svechnikov, RW, Barrie Colts (OHL)
6’2”, 192 lbs
Needs: Top C, RW
Svechnikov has separated himself from the rest of the forwards in this draft. Carolina has picked defencemen in the first round in 3 of the last 4 years. They need scoring. Carolina needs Svechnikov.
3. Montreal Canadiens: Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Assat (Finland)
6’1.5”, 185 lbs
Needs: Franchise C, Scoring, Defence Prospects
This is where the draft will start to get interesting.
Upon drafting Alex Galchenyuk in 2013, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin said that big centres don’t come by very often, but “when they do, you draft them because you can’t really trade for one because they’re not available. Down the middle for me has to be a strength and he fits the bill”. Bergevin told NHL.com recently that a team’s job in the draft is to decide who the best player might be in 5 years rather than who is the best player today. “That’s why in the draft, teams pick other players who weren’t projected to go in certain spots. Sometimes a team will pick someone with an early pick and you say ‘Wow, that was a surprise’. And then down the road, you find out that yeah, that was a really good pick”.
Bergevin traded Galchenyuk to Arizona for Max Domi last week. Galchenyuk never found a home at centre in Montreal. Galchenyuk finally got moved after more than a year of trade rumours. Domi is predominantly a winger, but he can play centre from time to time if needed. I believe that Bergevin made this trade with the intention of using Domi on the wing and drafting a centre on Friday.
A team going off the board with the 3rd pick to draft a centre isn’t unfathomable. One just has to look to the 2016 draft where the Columbus Blue Jackets took Pierre-Luc Dubois 3rd overall while leaving consensus 3rd pick Jesse Puljujarvi available for the Oilers with the 4th pick. I can see Montreal doing the same thing with Kotkaniemi. It was reported that Montreal took Kotkaniemi out for dinner at the scouting combine, which also a good indication that Montreal is leaning in his direction.
4. Ottawa Senators: Filip Zadina, RW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
6’0”, 197 lbs
Needs: Scoring Wingers, Top Four Defenceman
It’s a complete mess in Ottawa right now. There have been rumours surrounding the trade of franchise defenceman Erik Karlsson since the trade deadline. Scoring winger Mike Hoffman was just traded after dealing with trade rumours since the deadline as well. The straw that broke the camel’s back for Hoffman was the suspicion that his fiancée had posted threats towards Karlsson, his wife, and their still born child online. Add that to the drama created by owner Eugene Melnyk last season, and you have a disaster in Ottawa.
It has been suggested that Ottawa might draft a defenceman with this pick for fear of losing Karlsson, but the only defenceman in this draft that will be NHL ready next season is Dahlin. He will not be available to Ottawa. They will need more immediate help if they lose Karlsson. The defence of the Senators is quite young, so I don’t think they will draft a defenceman here. Not with an NHL-ready scorer like Zadina on the table. The loss of Hoffman has created a need for a scoring winger that can play immediately. Ottawa’s wingers are all aging, so they need an infusion of young talent up front. Zadina will certainly give them that.
5. Arizona Coyotes: Noah Dobson, D, Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)
6’3”, 177 lbs
Needs: RD, Time
The Coyotes have an impressive collection of young talent up front. Rookie Clayton Keller lead the attack last year. Christian Dvorak, Christian Fischer, and Dylan Strome are primed to become featured scorers in Arizona. Oh yeah, and they just traded Max Domi to Montreal for Alex Galchenyuk. This team is loaded up front, so the last thing they need is another top forward. As it stands currently, Jason Demers is Arizona’s only right-handed defenceman. Three of their top four defenceman are over the age of 30. The Coyotes need to add a young right-handed offensive defenceman to the group. Dobson’s performance at the Memorial Cup seems to have made his stock rise, making him the right-handed defenceman that will go highest in this draft. Adding Dobson to a group that includes Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Alex Goligoski would make the Coyotes’ defence one of the most dangerous groups in the NHL in a few years.
6. Detroit Red Wings: Quinn Hughes, D, Michigan Wolverines (NCAA)
5’10”, 173 lbs
Detroit has a big group of young forwards including Gustav Nyqvist, Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Martin Frk. Meanwhile, they have one defenceman below the age of 27 on their roster. Hughes seems to be the closest to being NHL-ready despite being the youngest player in NCAA hockey last season. The Michigan Wolverine made the United States’ men’s World Championship team this May. He’s a dynamic offensive defenceman that I don’t think Detroit can afford to pass on.
7. Vancouver Canucks: Evan Bouchard, D, London Knights (OHL)
6’2”, 196 lbs
Needs: Defence, Time
The retirement of the Sedin twins has created a void of NHL-ready forwards in Vancouver. Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser will lead a group of young forwards that will take the reigns from the Sedins going forward. Swedish Elite League star Elias Pettersson will likely add to that group next season. The Canucks currently have no defencemen under 24 years old though. It’s not an old defence group, but it is one that lacks intriguing prospects. Olli Juolevi, the left-handed offensive defenceman they drafted in 2016, will be having back surgery this summer. That will likely slow his development. Bouchard fits a need for a right-handed offensive defenceman for the Canucks.
8. Chicago Blackhawks: Brady Tkachuk, LW, Boston University Terriers (NCAA)
6’3”, 192 lbs
Needs: Youth, Scoring, Defence Prospects
Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook started to show their age just a little bit last year. Keith is signed for another 5 years, while Seabrook is signed for another 6 years. It might be time for the Blackhawks to think about drafting a defenceman to replace one of the two at the top of the depth chart in a few years. However, I don’t think they are in a big panic to do that right this second because Keith and Seabrook have so much term left. Marian Hossa has indicated that his health won’t allow him to play hockey again, which is a big loss that they couldn’t handle last season. They traded Artemi Panarin for Brandon Saad, which was a tremendous downgrade in scoring ability. They traded Ryan Hartman at the deadline, which was another forward lost. Alex DeBrincat had a nice rookie season, but he couldn’t replace those losses on his own.
To many, it will be a complete shock that Tkachuk will have fallen this far since he has been ranked in the top 4 of this draft all year long. There’s usually one player that falls, and I think that Tkachuk will be that player due to the quality defencemen that I have going in front of him. Chicago will be lucky to get him with the 8th pick.
9. New York Rangers: Oliver Wahlstrom, RW, USNTDP
6’1”, 208 lbs
The Rangers announced to their fans and to the league that they would be entering a rebuild prior to last season’s trade deadline. They got a quick start on the rebuild by shipping out veterans Ryan McDonagh, Rick Nash, and JT Miller. Veteran defencemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Marc Staal have 3 years left on their deals. Behind them, the Rangers have a group of young, mobile defencemen including Brady Skjei, Neal Pionk, and Anthony DeAngelo. Their more pressing need is for scoring wingers since they traded Nash and Miller away at the deadline. A rebuilding team will also generally take the best player available to them in the draft, and that player is sniper Oliver Wahlstrom.
10. Edmonton Oilers: Adam Boqvist, D, Brynas Jr (Sweden)
5’10.75”, 168 lbs
Needs: Right-Handed Offensive Defenceman, Scoring LW
The Oilers have not had an elite offensive defenceman on their roster since Chris Pronger was a part of their 2006 run to game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Having one seems to be a pre-requisite for winning a Stanley Cup these days. Pittsburgh has Kris Letang. When Letang was hurt in the playoffs two seasons ago, it was Justin Schultz who stepped up. Chicago has Duncan Keith. LA has Drew Doughty. Boston has Zdeno Chara. Washington has John Carlson.
Those are all of the Stanley Cup champions since 2009. The Oilers have an opportunity to draft an offensive defenceman of their own with the 10th pick this year. My original prediction was that the Oilers would take Bode Wilde with this pick. That was because I thought Boqvist would be selected in the top 5. Adam Boqvist is the most dynamic defenceman in this draft not named Rasmus Dahlin. Boqvist was ranked as the 2nd best international skater behind Dahlin in Central Scouting’s Final Draft Rankings. The fact that he is right-handed only makes his value higher in my opinion.
His draft stock has reportedly been sliding because of his size and his raw defensive skills. I would point to Erik Karlsson and remind everyone that he was also small when he was drafted, and he struggled defensively in his first couple of NHL seasons. Now, Karlsson is hailed as the best defenceman in the NHL. I see absolutely no reason to hesitate on taking a kid with as much offensive skill as Boqvist. Defence can be taught. Offensive talent like Boqvist’s can’t be taught.
The Oilers already have Ethan Bear in the system, but it is still to early to tell just how good Bear will become. Since right-handed offensive defencemen are so rare, the Oilers would be smart to draft as many of them as they can. The worst thing that could happen with that strategy is that they end up like Anaheim who had a slough of great defence prospects. They ended up using some in trades down the road, such as acquiring Adam Henrique for Sami Vatanen.
Other prospects that the Oilers could look at:
Ty Smith, D, Spokane Chiefs (WHL): Smith is known as a steady, reliable defender with some offensive upside. He played with Kailer Yamamoto in Spokane, so he has that going for him. Oilers Insider Bob Stauffer stated that some scouts that he has talked to said that they like Smith more than Boqvist on Oilers Now this week. Smith is left-handed. I strongly believe that the defenceman that the Oilers take with this pick needs to be right-handed to better complement the powerplay.
Barrett Hayton, C, Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds (OHL): Hayton is a reliable two-way centre. He doesn’t project to be a franchise centre. With McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins, Strome, and Khaira that can all play centre already, the Oilers do not need another centre right now.
Joel Farabee, LW, USNTDP: Farabee is a small and skilled left winger that is being compared to Johnny Gaudreau. He would also be similar to Kailer Yamamoto, who the Oilers drafted at right-wing last year. Left wing is a position of need for the Oilers, but they need more immediate help at that position than what Farabee can provide. Tyler Benson, Kirill Maksimov, Cooper Marody, and Ostap Safin are all solid prospects that could become left-wingers for the Oilers in due time, and I don’t think that Chiarelli needs to add to that group with the 10th pick.
There you have it! Assuming that none of the picks in the top 10 get traded before Friday, that is how I think the draft will shake out.
Stay tuned to Oil Drops next week when I will provide an analysis of the draft that was for the Oilers, and where I’ll dive into any free agency rumours that come out.