PuckNerd: 2018 NHL Mock Entry Draft

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Photo Credit: USHL.com

By: Spencer Fascetta | Follow Me on Twitter @PuckNerdHockey

Let’s start with a few caveats here: I am not, nor do I proport myself to be some sort of draft expert. I do my research, and rely heavily on the work of the top men in the field – Corey Pronman, Scott Wheeler (both of The Athletic), Steve Kournianos (The Draft Analyst), Jeff Marek and Sam Cosentino (Sportsnet), and Craig Button and Bob McKenzie (TSN) are always my sources of information. I watched film on every single one of these players, but very few of them were full games – I do not have the time, nor resources necessary in order to invest that amount of time into their analysis.

Additionally, these are not draft rankings, nor are they how I truly believe the draft will pan out. If it was merely me doing what I expect each team to do, Montreal probably takes Jesperi Kotkaniemi far too early, and there ends up being a domino effect throughout the next 20 picks. Basically, Montreal does something dumb and out of left field, so your typical Habs’ weekday. It is also not a ranking. For instance, Liam Kirk is not projected in the 1st Round in this mock. However, he IS in my Top 30 prospects overall. This is a reflection of how I evaluate and rank prospects, which is reliant on their potential to be an impact NHLer, rather than reaching an arbitrary games-played marker in their NHL careers.

So, without further ado, let’s get this show on the road. Be sure to keep an eye out for a long episode of PuckRants, where frequent cohost Mike Cratty (@Mike_Cratty) joins me to do our own mock draft, and discuss some of the prospects in depth. Also, keep an eye on my Twitter feed during the draft – I will do my best to engage with you guys and give you my opinions on picks as they happen. Enjoy!

 

1) Buffalo Sabres – D Rasmus Dahlin, Frolunda (SHL)

Dahlin

Photo Credit: Bjorn Larsson Rosvall/TT

Is this even in question at this point? Dahlin is everything you want in a modern NHL defenseman – smooth skating, great offensive instincts, obscene hands, a brilliant first pass, and he doesn’t mind laying the big hit in the neutral zone. This is a franchise defenseman who Nick Lidstrom has stated is further along in his development than Lidstrom himself was at that age.

2) Carolina Hurricanes – RW Andrei Svechnikov, Barrie Colts (OHL)

Svechnikov

Photo Credit: Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Again, is this even in question at this point? Svechnikov recently had dinner with Canes’ new owner Tom Dundon, who then all but confirmed that he was pick. Svechnikov is big, strong, and is lethal offensively. He is the next great Russian goal scorer, no doubt about it. He won’t be Alexander Ovechkin, but a more consistent Ilya Kovalchuk? Maybe.

3) Montreal Canadiens – D Quinn Hughes, Michigan (Big 10)

Hughes

Photo Credit: Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Here’s where things start to get interesting. The obvious pick is Halifax’s Filip Zadina, but he has even stated he doesn’t believe Montreal is going to select him. The Habs are looking to either take a centerman or a defenseman here, and I don’t feel comfortable taking one of the top centermen from this class before Zadina. I DO, however, think that there are a couple of defensemen that are arguably at this spot. Barring a trade, I think the Habs will take Michigan defenseman Quinn Hughes.

He’s not as dynamic as Adam Boqvist, but we’ve already seen what happens to dynamic rearguards in Montreal (see Subban, PK). Hughes is a little undersized, but skates incredibly well, and has elite level Hockey IQ. He COULD be in the NHL next year, but I want him to go back to Michigan and obliterate the NCAA – no need to expose him to the raging garbage fire that is going to be the Canadiens’ season next year.

4) Ottawa Senators – LW Filip Zadina, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

Zadina

Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

This is another spot that could see some bizarre things happen, and they all depend on what the Senators decide they want to do with Erik Karlsson. I, for one, think that they won’t be dumb enough to trade the best defenseman we’ve seen in about a decade, but who honestly knows at this point. Ottawa needs so much that I don’t think they can be picky here – take the elite goal scorer in Zadina, and watch him flourish in a market that desperately needs a go-to triggerman that doesn’t play primarily on the blueline.

5) Arizona Coyotes – D Adam Boqvist, Brynas J20 (Superelit)

Boqvist

Photo Credit: Dave Reginek/Getty Images

After a horrendous start spurred on by a bit of bad luck and an injury to Antti Raanta, the Coyotes were actually one of the league’s better teams once Raanta returned to the crease. They have a plethora of elite forward prospects, the least of which should be Dylan Strome, who should be in the NHL full time next year. Beyond Oliver Ekman-Larsson (who I think WILL stay in the desert), all they really have on the back end is Jakob Chychrun, who is coming off an injury-shortened season, and Pierre-Olivier Joseph, last year’s 1st Rounder, who is still several years away from making an impact.

The clear choice in a draft flush with high-end defensemen is to take one, and let Ekman-Larsson help mentor the young Swede in Boqvist. Boqvist is nearly as dynamic as Rasmus Dahlin, and needs a little work in his own end, but should be a point producer on the point for the next decade and a half. I think he eventually has #1 defenseman upside, but with Chychrun and Ekman-Larsson already established in Arizona, he won’t be forced into anything any time soon. Side note – Arizona looks legitimately frightening long term if they take a defenseman in this spot. Dear lord…

6) Detroit Red Wings – D Evan Bouchard, London Knights (OHL)

Bouchard

Photo Credit: Aaron Bell/OHL Images

The fun home-town story in Quinn Hughes is already off the board. Detroit needs just about everything. I don’t think they are enamoured with any of the wingers still on the board here, and they don’t have any one area I think needs a lot of serious attention in particular – they just kinda need good players. The smart play here is Bouchard, who excelled on a London Knights team that began to rebuild for the first time in what seems like forever. He is bigger than Hughes or Boqvist, but slightly less dynamic. He still has top pairing upside, but don’t expect him to put up dominating offensive numbers at the NHL level.

7) Vancouver Canucks – D Ty Smith, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)

Smith

Photo Credit: Larry Brunt/Spokane Chiefs

The Canucks have been tied heavily to Bouchard, but, alas, he’s already off the board. They definitely need a defenseman though. Let’s look at their prospect depth chart there, shall we? Troy Stetcher is in the NHL, but likely nothing more than a bottom pairing puck-mover. Olli Juolevi looked better this year when he returned to Finland, but it remains to be seen what he eventually becomes at the NHL level. Nikita Tryamkin decided he would rather play in Siberia than with the Canucks.

They decided they didn’t want Jordan Subban. After that, their next best defensive prospect is Harvard commit Jack Rathbone, a 4th rounder last year, who is very far away from an NHL job. Look to their backyard, and Ty Smith is your guy. He won’t knock your socks off with high-skill plays, but he thinks the game well, skates well, and moves the puck well. Not elite at any one thing, but really good at just about everything. At this point, he’s just a warm body for a Canucks squad that has no idea how to find defensemen at this point.

8) Chicago Blackhawks – C/W Oliver Wahlstrom, US NTDP (USHL)

Wahlstrom

Photo Credit: Rena Laverty

You know how every year, we look at the Blackhawks’ roster and wonder, “How in the hell did they get THAT guy?” Artemi Panarin – undrafted free agent signing. Brandon Saad – 43rd Overall in 2011. Andrew Shaw – 139th Overall in 2011. Alex DeBrincat – 39th Overall in 2016. They get to pick in the Top 10 since selecting Patrick Kane #1 Overall in 2007. The next highest selection in that timeframe? Kyle Beach, 11th Overall in 2008. Less than ideal. This is another one of those times though. Oliver Wahlstrom has dazzled us with his creativity and hockey sense for years, and has the best shot in the entire draft class. Better than Svechnikov or Zadina, both of whom are pegged as perennial 40 goal scorers in this league.

His playmaking is underrated, and he is defensively responsible. After committing to Maine at age 13, decommitting, and committing to Harvard soon after, he found his academics far too difficult to reach the lofty admission standards for the Crimson. Instead, he will enroll at Boston College in the fall. Not a bad fallback option. He is certainly a 1 and done player in the collegiate ranks, and could even push for a roster spot should he decide to sign his entry-level deal (Cape Breton of the QMJHL hold his CHL rights).

9) New York Rangers – D Noah Dobson, Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)

Dobson

Photo Credit: NHL.com

The Rangers found two great prospects last year in Lias Andersson (7th) and Filip Chytil (21st), both of whom have already played in the NHL. What is concerning following their trade of former captain Ryan McDonagh is their lack of defensive depth. Right now, they look rather barren outside of Libor Hajek (acquired in the McDonagh trade), they don’t have a high end defensive prospect. The jury is still out on Anthony DeAngelo’s development, as he is already on his 3rd organization since being a 1st Round pick, Neal Pionk doesn’t really move the needle, nor does John Gilmour or Rob O’Gara.

I have never been a huge fan of Ryan Lindgren, and the only other two prospects of note are Yegor Rykov (acquired in the Michael Grabner trade with New Jersey) and Sean Day, the only player granted exceptional status by the CHL to be drafted outside of the 1st Round. Dobson is not going to be a top pairing defenseman; he doesn’t have the elite level skill that indicates that to me. He is still a good, puck-moving defenseman, and at minimum should be a middle pairing defenseman who can contribute on both ends of the ice.

10) Edmonton Oilers – LW Brady Tkachuk, Boston University (Hockey East)

Tkachuk

Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

I know that Edmonton really needs defensemen. They’ve needed help on D since the mid-2000s. But has there ever been a player that screams Peter Chiarelli more than Brady Tkachuk? (Milan Lucic is already under contract in Edmonton, he doesn’t count). I’m convinced that, had Jesse Puljujarvi not fallen to them at #4 in 2016, they would’ve taken Brady’s older brother Matthew in a heartbeat.

Tkachuk will be in the NHL next season. I have no doubts about that. He does not possess the high end skill of a Top 5 pick, but he will be much in the role of his brother. He is much more of an agitator than Matthew, but I think Matthew is a better skater. Brady is a quintessential power forward, and my biggest concern is his foot speed. It’s not bad, but it’s not eye-opening either. For a team that needs young, inexpensive help on the wings for their elite top 2 centers, Tkachuk should solve some of their problems in the near future.

11) New York Islanders – C Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Assat (Liiga)

Kotkaniemi

Photo Credit: Kuva: AOP

This is a project pick. Regardless of whether or not John Tavares remains an Islander, Kotkaniemi presents an intriguing set of attributes. He has good size, high end intelligence, already has good speed and puck skills, and has shown a knack for playmaking. He isn’t the number 1 center many are touting him as though. At this point, he is thin and lanky, and skates very much as if he hasn’t grown into his body yet. This can be seen as a positive, given that he is likely to improve once he does, but it also clouds his analysis to some degree. This is a high upside pick the Islanders can and should be willing to make.

12) New York Islanders (via Calgary) – LW Joel Farabee, US NTDP (USHL)

Farabee

Photo Credit: Rena Laverty

That Travis Hamonic deal looks really good now, doesn’t it? If Kotkaniemi is the high risk/high reward pick, Farabee is about as safe as you can get. He WILL play in the NHL eventually, because of his skating and two-way acumen. He’s not overly flashy, but has good goal-scoring instincts, and is a threat to score at any strength. He doesn’t have the breakaway speed you would expect from a goalscorer, but he has quick feet, and is light on his skates. I like his shot, and for a relatively smaller player, he is never shy about taking the puck to the net. The Islanders already have an American goalscorer in the system in Kieffer Bellows, and Farabee has really nice 2nd/3rd line scoring upside. Bellows and Josh Ho-Sang bring the dynamism from the wings, and Farabee and Anthony Beauvillier will bring the two-way, transitional offense.

13) Dallas Stars – C Joe Veleno, Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)

Veleno

Photo Credit: NHL.com

The Stars don’t exactly have a great track record in the last decade with their 1st Round picks. That has left their prospect pool a little dry. Because of this, I’m not sure who they think is going to be playing center behind Tyler Seguin long term. Is it Mattias Janmark? Maybe, but I still haven’t seen the dynamic offensive upside from him. It definitely isn’t Jason Spezza. All of the Stars’ elite forward prospects are wingers. This is an easy spot to take a centerman.

Veleno was the first player ever granted exceptional status by Hockey Canada to enter the QMJHL a year early, but his offense never truly manifested itself in the dominant fashion we saw out of Connor McDavid or John Tavares. He is a player that isn’t exceptional at any one particular thing, but does everything really, really well. A midseason trade to Drummondville saw him generate more offense, so there is a hope that he simply hasn’t had the right situation for that part of his game to develop. This is a good pick to supplement all of the wingers in the Stars’ system.

14) Philadelphia Flyers (via St. Louis) – D Bode Wilde, US NTDP (USHL)

Wilde

Photo Credit: Rena Laverty

The Flyers have one of the deepest prospect pools in the entire league, a credit to the talent evaluation of Ron Hextall. Combined with the fact that they hold two 1st Round Picks this year, they can afford to take a bit of a risk here. Bode Wilde is the ultimate wild card (no, I do not apologize). He is big, moves immensely well for his size, has a good first pass, isn’t afraid to lay the body, and has brilliant hands. Unfortunately, he still has difficulty utilizing all of his skills on every single shift. He can look bored, lackadaisical, and uninterested at times, especially in his own end, but once he gets the puck on his stick, things are gonna get wild (nope, still not sorry).

15) Florida Panthers – D Rasmus Sandin, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

Sandin

Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images

After a slow start in Sweden, Sandin came and joined a powerhouse Greyhounds squad, and was excellent. He has shown great offensive instincts, a good first pass, and a willingness to jump into the offense. I really like his vision, as he consistently makes passes where he appears to have eyes in the back of his head. He is a little undersized, but that is not a liability in his own end, as he has shown an ability to use his stick positioning deftly and accurately. He lacks the afterburner-esque top gear you would expect from a defenseman who plays his particular style, but he has great edgework, and uses it to his advantage. Florida could use a dynamic puckmover on the back end to complement Mike Matheson and Aaron Ekblad moving forward.

16) Colorado Avalanche – LW Vitali Kravtsov, Chelyabinsk (KHL)

Kravtsov

Photo Credit: KHL

Kravtsov did not have a stellar regular season in Chelyabinsk. Granted, he was a teenager getting regular (albeit low in the lineup) playing time in the KHL, not a small feat, but he did not have too much of an impact. He also did not play on Russia’s national team at any tournament this season. What he DID do is obliterate the KHL in the playoffs. After 7 points in 35 regular season games, he tallied 6 goals and 5 assists for 11 points in 16 playoff games. For context, Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov, who is one of 3 players who have tallied at least 30 points in an NHL playoff run this century (31 this year), had 10 points in 16 playoff games in the KHL. Kravtsov is still a few years away, but Colorado could use another high end winger to complement the Gabriel Landeskog/Mikko Rantanen duo on a second line, and Kravtsov has the high end upside to be a real steal at this point of the draft.

17) New Jersey – RW Dominik Bokk, Vaxjo J20 (Superelit)

Bokk

Photo Credit: Nisse Nilsson

Bokk is quite the wildcard. He looked very good in the Swedish Junior league, but not great in limited showings at the professional level. After Dahlin, he has the best hands in the entire draft. Possessing elite creativity, he is going to be a fixture on highlight-reels for the next decade. He is several years away from making an NHL impact, but he adds a level of dynamic offensive skill that will perfectly complement Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier.

18) Columbus Blue Jackets – C Barrett Hayton, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

Hayton

Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images

In stark contrast, Hayton is not a flashy player. He’s a solid two-way centerman, but he has some offensive upside, which he showed when the powerhouse Greyhounds sent much of their roster to the World Juniors. The Blue Jackets saw promising growth out of Pierre-Luc Dubois this year, and Alexander Wennberg can hopefully return to his 2016-17 self, but outside of those two, there isn’t a single promising center-iceman in the system. This is very much a best player available selection, but one Blue Jackets fans should feel comfortable with.

19) Philadelphia Flyers – C Ty Dellandrea, Flint Firebirds (OHL)

Ty Dellandrea of the Flint Firebirds. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images

Dellandrea had the unfortunate issue of playing for the Firebirds, the OHL’s premier disaster of a franchise. Despite the utter lack of help he had around him on their roster, he consistently drove play and pushed the pace both ways. It says a lot about him when he was able to put up such an outstanding performance on a team that was in shambles both on AND off the ice, and not let the off ice garbage effect him. He has a little Travis Konecny in him, and Flyers fans will absolutely love his attitude, as well as his natural playmaking abilities.

20) Los Angeles Kings – LW Grigori Denisenko, Yaroslavl (MHL)

Denisenko

Photo Credit: HC Lokomotiv

The Kings have very few elite offensive prospects in their pipeline. There’s a legitimate reason for that – 2 Cups in the last 6 years will do that. While Denisenko can sometimes have a problem staying dominant on a game to game basis, he is one of the more dynamic offensive talents in this class. When he is on his game, he can take over in an instant. He needs to get a little bigger, and it would serve him to play at a higher level than the Russian Junior Leagues, but if you are a team like Los Angeles, you have to take the chance on the potential superstar this late in the 1st Round, regardless of the risk involved.

21) San Jose Sharks – C Rasmus Kupari, Karpat (Liiga)

Kupari

Photo Credit: Timo Savela

There have been varying opinions on Rasmus Kupari this season. Me, I’m lukewarm on him. I don’t see him as a gamebreaking centerman, but I also don’t think he is a miss this late in the first round. I see a lot of Mikael Granlund in him, without the absurd-level of creativity. He is relatively smart, but decision making is a little touch and go for him at times. He doesn’t have game-breaking speed, but it is good enough to be productive. I worry about how much of his offense will translate to the NHL level, but it is impressive that he was productive at all in the Finnish Elite League in a season where he didn’t turn 18 until over halfway through. San Jose doesn’t have much in terms of centermen in their system, so they can afford to take a chance on Kupari at this point.

22) Ottawa Senators (via Pittsburgh) – C Ryan McLeod, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

Ryan McLeod of the Mississauga Steelheads. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Photo Credit: Aaron Bell/OHL Images

This screams Senators here. McLeod was a high OHL pick, but hasn’t necessarily developed as one would expect. There doesn’t appear to be a ton of elite skill here, but he is pretty good at most everything. He lacks the top-end north/south speed, but is competent enough to get the job done, and has excellent small-area mobility. What concerns me, and leads me to believe there won’t be a ton of offense at the next level is his apparent lack of creativity. A large part of his offense is created by him using his physically more mature body to drive the net against younger, smaller competition.

This is somewhat of a commonality with players who struggle to translate their junior production. He missed being eligible for last year’s draft by only a few days, making him one of the oldest prospects in this class. While it means he has a larger body of work to scout from, it also means he likely has much less growing to do before reaching his ceiling. His 200-foot game is good enough that he should warrant a high selection, but with all of the chaos going on in Ottawa at the moment, I can see them rationalizing a “safe” pick at #22.

23) Anaheim Ducks – C Akil Thomas, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)

Thomas

Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images

Thomas has a tendency to play more of a perimeter game, but for Anaheim, they already have plenty of guys willing to go to the net hard. I love his vision and playmaking ability, and if he were to use it more, his shot would also be a weapon in his arsenal. Thomas needs some work with his stride, which can get short and choppy, especially as he tires, but as we have seen with players like Bo Horvat, this is a skill that is correctable with the right work ethic and skill coach combination. His production stagnated a little this year after a tantalizing Draft minus-1 year, but he does enough well to provide hope that it was an outlier, and he can rebound. Besides, after Sam Steel and Rickard Rakell, who do the Ducks have down the middle once Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf retire?

24) Minnesota Wild – D K’Andre Miller, US NTDP (USHL)

Miller

Photo Credit: Rena Laverty

Miller is a very interesting prospect. A converted forward, his hulking physique would typically scream a classical shutdown defenseman. What we have seen at the USNTDP, however, is smooth skating, and a brilliant student of the game. Don’t expect him to quarterback a powerplay, or be a primary point producer on the back end, but he is the definition of a modern-day defensive defenseman; he has the ability to skate with the elite forwards in the league, makes a smart, well executed first pass, has the ability to jump into the offense when necessary, and, yes, is big and strong enough to be an intimidating presence in his own end. He could play with a little more of a mean streak, but that is not necessarily something to be concerned about. He reminds me very much of Brandon Carlo, with perhaps a little more offensive upside in the tank.

25) Toronto Maple Leafs – LW Jonatan Berggren, Skelleftea J20 (Superelit)

Berggren.jpg

Photo Credit: Erland Segerstedt/TT

This is a fast-rising prospect that has Kyle Dubas written all over him. Berggren may seem like a reach to some here, but I am a huge fan of his. He didn’t spend much time in either of Sweden’s pro leagues, instead torching their top junior circuit to the tune of 59 points in 37 games. For context, that’s a better rate of production than Nicklas Backstrom, William Karlsson, Victor Arvidsson, Elias Lindholm, Adrian Kempe, Gustav Nyquist, Jakob Silfverberg, Mika Zibanejad, Lias Andersson, and Alexander Wennberg at the same age. Not half bad. Where he gets dinged a little is in the size department, but clearly, nobody has informed him of that.

He goes into the hard areas, and is fearless regardless of his opponent at all times. He very much reminds me of Arvidsson – not elite speed, but a ridiculous motor that has you wondering where he is hiding the Energizer Bunny. He is relentless on the puck, and can take over a game in a single shift. While the Leafs definitely have a need on the back end or up the middle, I don’t see someone here that they are going to jump on to fill one of those spots. Berggren is a heavy sleeper in my opinion, and the Leafs may be getting a future top line winger in the fabulous Swede.

26) New York Rangers (via Boston) – D Ryan Merkley, Guelph Storm (OHL)

Ryan Merkley of the Guelph Storm. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Photo Credit: Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Here’s the most controversial prospect in the draft, bar none. Merkley is the most dynamic defenseman in this draft. Yes, I think his offensive creativity rivals and perhaps exceeds (at times) that of Rasmus Dahlin. He is the best puck distributor I’ve seen in years, and will singlehandedly win a game with the plays he makes. Unfortunately, he can also singlehandedly lose you a game in his own end. He is small, and is easily pushed off the puck. He seems frustrated when he can’t figure it out in his own end, and appears to get inside his own head, preferring to give up rather than attack harder on defense. This is not a character flaw as some tout it to be – this is a mental issue, that I think the right organization can help him work through eventually.

He seems open to improving, and were he on a better team, I think he would have fewer frustrations. It reads like a player who gets frustrated because he feels like he has to do everything himself. Proper support should fix that in time. I also don’t think he is the prospect with the most red flags in this draft – being a former #1 Overall Pick in the OHL Draft and playing so close to Toronto has lead to a bit of hyperbole and over analysis of a player who was so dominant as a youth and rookie junior player. It is also worth noting that he is one of the youngest players in this class, not turning 18 until more than a month after the draft. There is far too much upside to ignore at this point in the draft, and as the Rangers have three 1st Round Picks, they can afford to gamble a bit here and get a Top 5 talent late in the 1st.

27) Chicago Blackhawks (via Nashville) – D Calen Addison, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)

Addison

Photo Credit: Lethbridge Hurricanes

The Blackhawks are barren on the back end. Addison brings a puck-moving element that they sorely lack from the blueline. He is a little undersized, and, much like Merkley, struggles in his own end. If you can live with the frustrations in his defensive game, he can push the pace offensively enough to offset them in a limited role. The hope is that the defensive game can reach a relatively competent level; if it does, this is a decade and a half powerplay quarterback for a Blackhawks team that will soon lose Duncan Keith.

28) New York Rangers (via Tampa Bay) – C Isac Lundestrom, Lulea (SHL)

Ishockey, SHL, LuleŒ - Malmš Redhawks

Photo Credit: Simon Eliasson/Bildbyra N

Lundestrom was the centerman for the most dangerous Swedish line at this year’s World Juniors, skating between Bruins’ prospect Oskar Steen, and Blackhawks’ pick Tim Soderlund. The three of them were deadly with their relentless two-way play, skating, and cycle game. I don’t see the game-breaking offense from Lundestrom, but he more than fit in the Swedish Elite League as an 18 year old. His defensive game is nearly pro-ready, and he should provide enough complementary offense at the NHL level to give the Rags a deep center corps for the next decade.

29) St. Louis Blues (via Winnipeg) – RW Serron Noel, Oshawa Generals (OHL)

Serron Noel of the Oshawa Generals. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images

Serron Noel reminds me a little of Blake Wheeler (ironic given how St. Louis acquired this pick) –  a big man who doesn’t necessarily rely on his hitting to overpower opponents, and instead chooses to use his feet and reach to generate offense. He doesn’t do it consistently enough to suggest to me that he can become Wheeler, but he has smooth enough hands to become a key contributor on the edge of the crease, or drive to the net for a classic Milan Lucic-style bang-in back post tally.

30) Detroit Red Wings (via Vegas) – RW Ruslan Iskhakov, CSKA Moscow (MHL)

Iskhakov

Photo Credit: KHL

Speed, power, hands, and a little razzle-dazzle. Iskhakov likely suffers from playing in the Russian junior ranks, casting some doubts on his likelihood of coming over to North America quickly, but he is about as dynamic offensively as you are going to get in a late 1st Round pick. He uses his speed and strength to draw lots of penalties, and can weave his way through an opposing defense with ease. As with most young danglers, he needs to clean up his game significantly behind the opposing blueline, but the upside is clearly there, and Detroit is a franchise with a history of bringing out the best in an eclectic and elusive offensive talent.

31) Washington Capitals – RW Kirill Marchenko, Khanty-Mansiysk (MHL)

Marchenko

Photo Credit: KHL

The Caps were just lead to the Stanley Cup by a Russian goal scoring captain in Alexander Ovechkin. He also lead them in goals in the postseason. Their leading scorer in the post season was Russian Evgeny Kuznetsov. Russian 2015 1st Rounder Ilya Samsonov just signed his entry-level deal last month. If there is a team with zero fear of the “Russian Factor” it should be Washington.

In Marchenko, they begin to restock a forward prospect pool that has very little outside of Shane Gersich now that Jakub Vrana is clearly a regular NHLer. His stupid-high hockey IQ and creativity remind me a lot of Kuznetsov, and he’s a player who, simply put, is fun to watch at all times. This is a potential gamebreaking talent with the last pick in the 1st Round, not much more you could ask for.

My Late Round Sleepers:

C Liam Kirk, Sheffield Steelers (EIHL)

Kirk

Photo Credit: Karl Denham

I have spoken much of Kirk this year, and the upside is for real. He is a dangerous offensive talent who hasn’t had much direction in his development, which leads me to believe that there is significantly more there. He has publicly stated that he plans to play in the CHL next year, so eyes now shift to the CHL Import Draft for his destination. Not only is this a potentially historic pick, but getting a player with game-breaking upside outside the 1st Round is absurd value, and should be impossible to ignore. He also isn’t the only Brit with his eyes on the NHL, so let’s be sure to keep an eye on the Steelers next season…

C Mathias Emilio Pettersen, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)

Pettersen

Photo Credit: USA Hockey

The Norwegian-born Denver commit had an up and down year, but I still see plenty of offensive upside here. He strikes me as the kind of player that will develop into a monster in college, and after he graduates in 4 years, he has the entire league kicking themselves to why they missed on him. Keep an eye in the middle rounds.

C Jachym Kondelik, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)

Kondelik

Photo Credit: The New York Times

Continuing the trend of European-born NCAA commits, this future UConn Husky presents an interesting physical package. It is rare to see 6’7″ centermen with any offensive upside at this point, and I think there is some there for Kondelik. He needs significant work with his skating, and his decision making can be concerning sometimes, but he is worth a pick late in the draft.

D Scott Perunovich, Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs (NCHC)

Perunovich

Photo Credit: Duluth News Tribune

Perunovich is the consummate late bloomer – after playing high school hockey in his first draft year, and not presenting a ton of game-breaking ability in his second draft season in the USHL, he exploded as a freshman with the Bulldogs. If he makes it past the first half of the second round, I’ll be shocked. There are some warts in his defensive game, but if anyone passes on this offensive upside, they better have a very, very good reason for it.

C Yegor Sharangovich, Dinamo Minsk (KHL)

Sharangovich

Photo Credit: Francis Larrede Photography

If you hadn’t guessed my ultimate sleeper, you clearly are new here. I’ve been all aboard the Sharangovich hype train for months. He is pro-ready, has an elite shot and brilliant offensive instincts. He needs a little work in his own end, but everything there is correctable. He lacks the elite top-gear but is fast enough east/west to mitigate any concerns. Seriously, this is the definition of a late round steal, and I would be advocating for him strongly from the 4th Round on.

D Jordan Harris, Kimball Union (US Prep)

Harris

Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

Harris is a little undersized and lacks true game-breaking skill on the back end, but he reminds me very much of a slightly bigger Matt Grzelcyk – smooth skater, an excellent first pass, and makes up for the lack of physical prowess with a great stick in his own end. He beats you positionally and by outthinking the opposition, and I have plenty of time for players whose primary skill is to outsmart you. Realistically, I seem him as more of a late-2nd, early 3rd Round target, but he should be the second prep schooler to come off the board after Thayer’s Jay O’Brien

Enjoy this? Please leave your comments below, and feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns, and be sure to check out the original article, and the rest of my personal work here.

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