Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2018 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here.
The NHL Draft Lottery went down last night, and we now know the order for the first 15 picks in this year’s draft. With that in mind, we start our 2018 NHL Mock Draft.
For those who haven’t read the LWOH mock before here are the rules.
1) No trades except for those that have already been made by NHL teams.
2) A two-round Mock draft will be done in four parts. The first part comes out today. More parts will be added in time.
3) Clicking the Player’s name will bring you to a full scouting report.
4) For Picks 31-32, we will assume that the team with the home-ice advantage will win the series. Mocks will be updated as each series end if that changes the draft order.
So with that out of the way, I present the LWOH 2018 NHL Mock Draft.
2018 NHL Mock Draft Part 1 – The Lottery Picks
This is a no-brainer pick. Dahlin is a generational defenseman. He is as good a defence prospect as Connor McDavid was a forward prospect in the 2015 draft. The Sabres are loaded with young forwards. In recent years they have taken Sam Reinhart, Jack Eichel, Alexander Nylander, and Casey Mittelstadt with high first-round picks. Now they get and defenseman to start their transition game.
Svechnikov is a pure sniper. The Hurricanes scored just 228 goals this year, worst in the Metro Division, and Svechnikov is an injection of instant offence. Playing for the Barrie Colts, he scored 40 goals and 72 points in just 44 games. Svechnikov has every offensive skill one would want in a player. He has a fantastic wrist shot with a bullet-quick release. He also has an excellent snapshot and a great one-timer. His shooting arsenal is elite, and NHL ready. His backhand is elite.
The top two picks in this draft are locks. This is where the debate begins. The Habs are another team that desperately needs an injection of offence, and Zadina is the second best pure scorer in this draft. He has a very heavy wrist shot, with a good release. He combines this with skating and power to be a real threat off of the wing. An absolute sniper, he can score with his wrist shot, snapshot, slap shot and one-timer. He even has a strong backhand. Zadina generates a very high number of shot attempts every game. Zadina also has the soft hands to score in close to the net. He can bury rebounds, deke goalies, and get tip-ins. He has a knack for getting himself open, finding soft areas on the ice even when everyone is watching him.
Superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson is entering the final year of his contract and looking at unrestricted free agency next summer. It has already been heavily rumoured that the Senators are ready to trade him. The Senators draft Boqvist, as a player who might become a replacement for Karlsson in time. Boqvist is an outstanding skater. He has excellent speed and acceleration in both directions. He also has tremendous edgework and pivots allowing him to transition from offence to defence quickly and vice-versa. His agility is also top notch, and he can change directions on a dime. This skating becomes the foundation for an excellent two-way game.
Coyotes general manager John Chayka believes in analytics. He is not afraid to take an undersized player if that player is highly productive. This has worked well with Clayton Keller, taken in the 2016 NHL Draft. Here he grabs Quinn Hughes, who had an incredible season with the University of Michigan. Hughes has helped his team to reach the Frozen Four. Hughes has five goals and 29 points in 34 games this season. He also had three assists for Team USA in the World Juniors. Hughes is an outstanding skater. He looks like he is floating above the ice. He has very good speed and acceleration in both directions. Hughes has a textbook stride, and the ability to change directions on a dime.
Ken Holland built his Championship Red Wings teams on the strength of great defence. While the Red Wings rebuild has already begun with a number of excellent forwards in Dylan Larkin, Evgeni Svechnikov, Michael Rasmussen, and Anthony Mantha; they don’t have the same quality young prospects on the blueline. With Dobson, they start to build that defence. He is an excellent all-around defender. He may need a year or two of development time, but he has the potential to be a number one defenceman at the NHL level, playing both the power play and the penalty kill, and taking on other team’s top lines.
The Canucks have a pair of excellent young forwards in Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson. They add a power forward, giving them even more skill up front, but also adding a new dimension to the forward group. Like his family members, Tkachuk plays a power game, doing his best work down low and in tight to the net. He loves to take the puck to the front of the net, and you can often find him at the top of the crease when he does not have it. He is very hard to knock off the puck and has the quick hands to make plays in tight or control the puck on the boards. Tkachuk is also not afraid to play a physical game and is very good on the boards and in front of the net.
The Hawks had an elite defence, that was a big part of three Stanley Cup Wins. However, that defence aged quickly. Brent Seabrook is no longer a top-tier NHL defenseman. Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson are both former Blackhawks. Duncan Keith is coming off his lowest scoring season since 2007-08. The team gets an infusion of youth on the backend in Bouchard. Bouchard has an absolute bomb of a slap shot. His slap shot and one-timer are already NHL calibre. He also has an outstanding wrist and snapshot. Bouchard has a real knack for getting his shot on net, despite heavy traffic. He is poised with the puck on his stick and makes subtle moves to open up passing and shooting games. Bouchard also understands how to keep the puck low, allowing teammates to get deflections, tip-ins, and rebounds.
Last year, the New York Rangers addressed their centre depth with Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil. Here they add a pure sniper to bury some goals off the wing. One of the best stick handlers in the draft, Wahlstrom has an impressive array of moves. He isn’t afraid to use them in traffic either. While he won’t initiate contact, he does take hits to make offensive plays. He also has a very good wrist shot and outstanding release. He is a pure sniper, and with this aspect of his game improving he is a better and more dangerous player. Wahlstrom is taking a ton of shots, from high danger areas, and putting the puck in the back of the net. He has an outstanding snapshot, wrist shot and slap shot.
The Oilers continue to struggle on the blue line. They are in desperate need of a puck-moving defenseman who can start the transition game and move the puck to their talented forwards. Smith is a very good stick handler. He can lead the rush, but also has the poise to control the puck at the blue line and quarterback the play. He has excellent vision and reads the play extremely well. Smith is patient and poised. He makes smart passes to teammates, giving them good scoring chances. He also works well as a trailer, reading the play and finding the open ice to create an offensive threat. Smith almost always seems to make the right play with the puck. Smith is a very good passer and can set things up on the rush or from the point on the power play.
The Islanders are hoping that one of the defencemen drafted above falls to them. With the way, this mock has gone the best player available is Finnish centre Kotkaniemi. He was outstanding at the recent Under-18s and is the best centre in the class. He takes advantage of his big frame, as he’s willing to work down low. Kotkaniemi loves to take the puck and drive to the front of the net. Without the puck he is also found around the top of the crease, ready to provide a screen or pounce on a rebound. Kotkaniemi has a strong wrist-shot and an excellent release. He is a smart player and has a knack for finding open space without the puck. Kotkaniemi is also a good playmaker, with good vision and passing skills. He has the stickhandling ability to protect the puck on the cycle and extend plays.
12.) New York Islanders (from Calgary) – Joel Farabee, Left Wing
Thanks to the Travis Hamonic trade, the Islanders get back-to-back picks. Here they take a talented winger. Farabee has good hands and stick skills allowing him to control the puck while moving at top speed. Defenders must respect his speed, and so they back off him on the rush, creating shooting and passing lanes. Farabee has good vision and is an outstanding playmaker off the wing. He anticipates extremely well and seems to be a step ahead of the play. Farabee finds open ice without the puck and makes smart plays with it.
13.) Dallas Stars – Joe Veleno, Centre
The Stars top line was one of the best in the NHL this season. However, a lack of depth saw them on the outside looking in at the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Jason Spezza is older and not the same player that they traded for in 2014. Meanwhile, Martin Hanzal only put up 23 points and continued to be injury-prone. Veleno won’t step into the NHL right away, but he gives the Stars a potential top-six centre to replace one of them. Veleno is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. He has great vision, hockey sense, and passing skills. Veleno reads the play well and anticipates where his teammates will be. He uses his speed and agility to open up passing lanes. He also has the ability to put the puck through tight spaces, and make tape-to-tape passes to set up linemates in good scoring areas.
14.) Philadelphia Flyers (from St. Louis) – Rasmus Kupari, Centre
The Flyers have one of the best groups of young talent in the NHL. This allows them to go for the best player available. They get the other Rasmus in this draft. Kupari is most dangerous with the puck on his stick. He is a tremendous stick handler and can beat defensemen one-on-one. Pairing this with his skating skills, and he is difficult to defend. Kupari also has very good passing skills and excellent vision. Once he opens up a passing lane, he quickly makes a tape-to-tape pass to a teammate. Kupari anticipates plays well and knows where his teammates are going before they make their move. He almost always makes the smart play with the puck. Kupari wrist shot has a good release, but he needs to work on both the accuracy and power.
A serious boom-or-bust prospect. Merkley’s offensive skills are as good as any defenceman in this draft class not named Rasmus Dahlin. However, his defensive game leaves a lot to be desired at this point in his development. Merkley is a dynamic offensive defenseman, with great skating in both directions. He seems to glide above the ice. Merkley has the skating and passing skill to start the transition game. He is a talented puck handler who can carry the puck out of his own end and lead the transition game. Merkley is also able to make a long home-run pass in transition. He can also quarterback the play from the point. Merkley has great vision and passing skill. He can thread tape-to-tape passes through tight areas.