By: Spencer Fascetta Twitter: @PuckNerdHockey
The world of prospects is in full swing. With the World Juniors ending last week in Buffalo, and the World Under-18s taking place in the same timeframe, I felt it might be time to start talking about the next wave of NHL prospects, and how the Boston Bruins can continue to add to their already deep pool of youngsters. The B’s have 6 picks in the 2018 draft, all their own. They have their 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 7th round draft picks (they relinquished their 5th rounder in the Drew Stafford deal at the deadline last year). I’m not going to pretend to know enough about the entire crop of draft eligibles to give you exactly who should be taken and where, or to compile an extensive list ranking each player. For that, I suggest you visit thedraftanalyst.com. Steve Kournianos does a tremendous job, and will likely have the information you are looking for. But, for argument’s sake, I think giving you some guys that the B’s can and should look to add throughout the draft, as well as give you my thoughts on the top prospects available this June.
Without further ado, here are (in my opinion) the top prospects available in the 2018 NHL Draft:
1) Rasmus Dahlin, D (Frolunda HC, SHL)
Future Considerations: #1
What else can really be said about Dahlin? He is easily the most dynamic and complete defenseman we have seen enter the draft in years. He’s been playing in the Swedish Elite League since the age of 16 and can dazzle any time he has the puck on his stick. The thing that really stands out to me though is that he is not a one-trick pony. Erik Karlsson comparisons aside, he is quite adept in his own end and loves to throw the body. I see much more Brian Leetch in him than Karlsson, but I think he is probably a more physical player than Leetch ever was.
2) Andrei Svechnikov, W (Barrie Colts, OHL)
Future Considerations: #2
Although Svechnikov didn’t get a tremendous role to play in the World Juniors, that he was included on the roster at all is a testimate to his skill level, as Russia has a long history of heavily favoring 19-year-olds in that tournament. He also missed more than a month with a broken hand just before the tournament. What he HAS done when healthy this year is shred the Ontario Hockey League as a rookie. In 20 games this year with Barrie, who selected him with the 1st pick in the most recent CHL Import Draft, he has 16 goals and 26 points. Last year as a 16-year-old he demolished the USHL, racking up 29 goals and 58 points in 48 games with Muskegon. His release is tremendous, and his playmaking ability is severely underrated. He has the raw scoring ability to be a consistent 40 goal scorer in the NHL within two or three years.
3) Filip Zadina, W (Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL)
Future Considerations: #5
If Svechnikov is the goal scoring master, Zadina is the slick, uber-skilled sniper to go along side him. He does things with the puck that should be illegal. He has adapted to the QMJHL with ease this year and was far and away the best forward on a Czech team that had several high-end offensive players at this year’s World Junior’s. He has the ability to take over an entire game in a single shift. Before leaving Halifax for the World Junior’s, he had 27 goals and 51 points in 34 games for the Mooseheads as a rookie. He has made the adjustment from European hockey to the North American game without any problems, and I see him as a high-end Top 6 force for the next decade-plus.
4) Brady Tkachuk, C/W (Boston University Terriers, Hockey East)
Future Considerations: #4
I didn’t think there could be a player who enjoys being a pest more than his brother Matthew, but Brady might actually be that guy. He spent the entire World Junior’s tournament trolling his opponents – and shredding them offensively. He has a higher offensive ceiling than his brother, and might even be more of a pain. Think a bigger Brad Marchand with less of a conscience. He’s had 16 points in 21 games as a Freshman at BU and was disappointed in his production. Yeah, he’s gonna be fine.
5) Ty Smith, D (Spokane, WHL)
Future Considerations: #8
Ty Smith is the steady guy in your arsenal. Except, he skates beautifully. And can run a powerplay. And make a stellar first pass. Basically, he does everything really well. He is potentially the best defender in his own end in this entire draft, and he has the ability to eat minutes for eternity. He’s the safest pick on the back end this side of Dahlin. At worst, he’s a good, two-way, 2nd pairing guy. At best? An elite #1 defender in the mold of a Justin Faulk.
6) Adam Boqvist, D (Brynas J20, Superelit)
Future Considerations: #3
Boqvist is the most dynamic offensive defenseman in a draft that also has Rasmus Dahlin, Quinn Hughes, and Ryan Merkley. What separates him from his fellow countryman in Dahlin is in his own end. He still has to get better at anticipating plays in his own zone, but as soon as the puck is on his stick, look out. Bar none the best first pass in the draft. He could be a dynamic forward if he were asked to play there. Despite his struggles and inconsistency in his own zone, I like his play in the neutral zone, which indicates a high level of confidence in his own ability. Like what I see quite a bit, but probably needs a year of pro hockey before making an impact at the NHL level, as he hasn’t been able to stick in the SHL like Dahlin has.
7) Quinn Hughes, D (Michigan Wolverines, Big-10)
Future Considerations: #6
There is not a ton that separates Boqvist and Hughes. In terms of skillset, Boqvist is more of a dynamic player in terms of “wow” factor, but Hughes has much higher hockey IQ. He’s a tremendous powerplay quarterback, and thinks the game 2, 3, even 4 plays ahead of the opposition. He’s a little undersized for a guy you’d think of as a surefire top pairing d-man, but that stereotype should really now be moot. Think a bigger Torey Krug.
8) Oliver Wahlstrom, W (USNTDP, USHL)
Future Considerations: #9
This one is a bit personal. Wahlstrom played with many of my friends growing up, because he often played 2-3 years above his age group. And still dominated. He was a 1st Liner scoring over a point per game at North Yarmouth Academy AS AN 8TH GRADER. Also, he did this…
And also this…
Since then, he’s done nothing but score, shredding the opposition for the famed Shattuck St. Mary’s program, and becoming a key cog for the US National Development Program this year. He has brilliant hockey sense, and is a threat to put the puck in the back of the net any time he touches it. Committed to Harvard for next year after being the youngest person to commit to play college hockey (Maine at age 13), he probably needs a little work in his own zone, but not a ton. More NHL ready than you’d think, especially with a later birthday making him one of the younger players in this draft class.
9) Joe Veleno, C (Drummondville, QMJHL)
Future Considerations: #7
From one player with hype generated at a younger age to another. Veleno was just the 5th player granted exceptional status to jump into the CHL a year early at 15, and the first to be granted it in the QMJHL (the previous 4 all played in the OHL). John Tavares, Connor McDavid, and Aaron Ekblad all went 1st Overall in their respective draft year. Sean Day was a 3rd Round pick of the New York Rangers last year. Veleno is by far the least dynamic of the group, but he is smooth and consistent. He does most everything pretty well, and offers a lot of leadership ability. That said, he has not shown the elite offensive ability he flashed to be granted exceptional status yet, so he will have to rely on his two-way game to carry him to the next level.
10) Joel Farabee, W (USNTDP, USHL)
Future Considerations: #17
Farabee, yet another high end Boston University commit, is the other offensive catalyst for the USNTDP this year alongside his runningmate Oliver Wahlstrom. He is dangerous with the puck, and uses his speed to be reliable and competitive in all 3 zones. I like his hockey IQ a lot, and he would do well to use his shot more often, but the potential is certainly there.
Here are some guys that I think B’s fans would be prudent to keep an eye on as we approach the draft:
Philip Kurashev, C (Quebec Remparts, QMJHL)
The Swiss import has done well in the Q, offering a high level of offensive skill to any team. Probably a late 1st or early 2nd Round pick.
Rasmus Sandin, D (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL)
Sandin is yet another European import in the CHL, but one who has the rare ability to slow a game down with the puck on his stick. He makes the right play 9 times out of 10 and has shown the ability to be a good complement to high-flying offensive d-men after being the long-time d-partner for Adam Boqvist in international play. Late 2nd or Early 3rd is likely.
Jachym Kondelik, C/W (Muskegon Lumberjacks, USHL)
Has yet to put up the ridiculous offensive numbers of fellow European teenagers in the USHL, but the size (6’7″, 218 lbs) and skating ability have me intrigued. He projects as a likely 3rd Round target and is committed to the University of Connecticut for next fall.
Mikhail Bitsadze, C (HK MVD, MHL)
Bitsadze has been hurt much of this year, and if he were healthy, he probably would be a Top 20 pick. Regarding raw offensive ability, there are few better in this class. However, he’s Russian, he’s been hurt much of the year, and he’s small (5’10”, 165 lbs.). However, he’s seen action in the KHL already as an 18-year-old, something that not many have the opportunity to do. Mid-round option with plenty of upside.
Mathias-Emilio Pettersen, C (Muskegon Lumberjacks, USHL)
A youngster out of the hockey hotbed of Norway. All jabs aside, he’s been in the US for several years now and is committed to Denver for next year. I like his speed with and without the puck, and his creativity in the offensive zone. Needs to find a little consistency. Mid-rounder in the mold of a smaller Danton Heinen.
David Levin, W (Sudbury Wolves, OHL)
This is a tremendous story. Levin, born in Israel, has been in Canada for the last 6 years. After only playing roller hockey until making the move, he became the number one pick in the 2015 OHL priority draft after only starting to play organized hockey at the age of 12. He’s got a good shot and plenty of upside for someone still technically learning the game. This is a long-term investment, but one with potentially the highest upside in the entire draft. 3rd or 4th rounder in all likelihood.
Patrick Khodorenko, C (Michigan State Spartans, Big-10)
Khodorenko is one of a few overagers I think it would be smart to take later in the draft. A sophomore at Michigan State, he already has outscored his output as a freshman. He’s not going to wow you in the offensive zone, but he is an excellent two-way guy with some offensive upside. Why not in the 5th or 6th round?
Zach Solow, C (Northeastern Huskies, Hockey East)
The Florida-born Solow fell to the curse of size in his initial draft year. At only 5’9″, teams generally only give guys a look if they are ridiculously productive in high-level leagues. Well, Solow played his draft year in the USHL with Dubuque and put up 69 points in 56 games. Great, but not eye disintegrating numbers in a league that historically does not get a lot of coverage for prospects. However, he has been spectacular as a freshman centering Northeastern’s top line, being the 3rd cog between Dylan Sikura and Adam Gaudette, two of the nation’s top collegiate players. Solow has the profile of a late-bloomer, and could (potentially) end up in the mold of a Tyler Johnson or Brayden Point.
Samuel Bucek, W (Chicago Steel, USHL)
Bucek was Slovakia’s best skater at the World Juniors this year, and he had a point on all three goals the Slovaks scored in the 302 upset over the host United States. He knows how to use his size to his advantage, and has a tremendous net-front presence. He’s taken an odd career path to this point, which may keep him lower on some draft boards, as he came over to the USHL late in the 2015-16 season from Slovakia, then transitioned to Shawinigan of the QMJHL in his draft year. This season, he’s back to the Chicago Steel of the USHL, and the lower production level is a bit concerning. There is enough raw ability here to keep me intrigued.
Scott Perunovich, D (Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs, NCHC)
Perunovich won the “Who the heck is that” award this year at the World Juniors, making the US roster as an overage draft-eligible. He’s been passed over twice already, but there is a simple explanation for that. In his first draft year, he was still playing Minnesota High School hockey (68 points in 25 games is still absurd production at that level for a defenseman). Last year, he played 56 games for a below-average Cedar Rapids squad in the USHL. However, he has embraced his late-bloomer tag as a freshman with the UMD Bulldogs this year, with 19 points in 20 games already to his name. He is an excellent skater, and, although a little undersized, is dynamic in the offensive zone. He’s a younger Matt Grzelcyk, who needs a lot more work in his own end.
Yegor Sharangovich, C (Dinamo Minsk, KHL)
The best player (in my opinion) at the World Junior’s this year who was never talked about, Sharangovich was one of the money-makers for a Belarusian team that was in nearly every game they played this year despite being relegated once again. He led the tournament at times in shots taken, and played in the World Junior’s as a underager in 2015-16, the last time Belarus was in the 1st tier tourney. He’s a regular this year with Dinamo Minsk in the KHL as a 19-year-old and has 10 points in 42 games, excellent production for someone of his age. I like his shot and offensive upside, and he has the potential and raw skill to end up as more of an Artemi Panarin than a Vadim Shipachyov.
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