Once you moved beyond the premium picks, the 2018 NHL Draft became “The Year of the Mobile Defensemen.” Almost half of the first round featured defensive picks, most of whom fit the mold of the modern, attacking NHL.
The draft began with two predictable top picks, and then the drama escalated once the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators came into the mix. Maybe hockey fans should just get used to that, as those franchises stir things up more than any others?
Early on, it seems like the Red Wings and Islanders rank among the biggest winners once you push beyond the slam-dunk picks. Time, of course, will tell if that’s even remotely accurate.
Check out the first round results below, along with some early analysis. The remainder of the 2018 NHL Draft takes place early on Saturday.
1. Buffalo Sabres – Rasmus Dahlin, Defenseman, Frolunda (Sweden)
“He is a terrific skater and stick handler who can rush the puck, or join the attack in a hurry. Impressive agility makes him a good one-on-one defender. He has fine passing ability, and although not a big-time bomber, he has an accurate shot from the point.” – Elite Prospects.
Dahlin is the most hyped defensive prospect in years, if not decades. Some say we haven’t seen this kind of excitement for a defenseman since Denis Potvin. Yeah.
2. Carolina Hurricanes – Andrei Svechnikov, Winger, Barrie (OHL)
“Svechnikov has size, speed and skill. He can play a power game or a finesse game, make plays or score goals any way they can be scored – off the rush, one timers from far out, getting his nose dirty in front of the net or off the cycle.” – Bob McKenzie, TSN.
3. Montreal Canadiens – Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Center, Assat (Finland)
“A smart forward with a dangerous shot, Kotkaniemi possesses a high hockey IQ and determination with the skills to back it up. Positions himself well and often seems to be a step ahead of plays.” -Matias Strozyk, Elite Prospects.
4. Ottawa Senators – Brady Tkachuk, W, Boston University (NCAA)
“Tkachuk is a lot less refined and less polished than the other elite picks but the big raw-boned winger plays a hard driving, aggravating power and agitation game.” McKenzie, TSN.
5. Arizona Coyotes – Barrett Hayton, C, S.S. Marie (OHL)
“Very smart two-way centre who contributes in all areas of the game and has potential to be a very key player.” TSN.
6. Detroit Red Wings – Filip Zadina, W, Halifax (QMJHL)
“Filip Zadina is a dynamic offensive forward that plays a complete game. A deft and agile skater, he exhibits explosive mobility both up and down the ice. In all three zones, he proactively looks to create problems for the opposition.” – Curtis Joe, Elite Prospects.
7. Vancouver Canucks – Quinn Hughes, D, Michigan (NCAA)
“He plays a go-go-go offensive game, at times more like a rover than a defenceman. He’s fearless, not afraid to make high risk, high reward but also high danger plays.” TSN.
8. Chicago Blackhawks – Adam Boqvist, D (Sweden)
“A dynamic offensive defenceman that can carry plays with the puck on his stick. A highly mobile and nimble skater that moves with fluidity, balance, and confidence. Utilizes an active stick and creates turnovers frequently. Could be more proactive in his own end …” Curtis Joe, Elite Prospects.
9. New York Rangers – Vitali Kravtsov, W, Chelyabinsk (KHL)
“A big, skilled winger that can play up and down the lineup and provide scoring in a number of roles. He brings grit and physical size, but could be more assertive in throwing his weight around more.” Elite Prospects.
10. Edmonton Oilers – Evan Bouchard, D, London (OHL)
“A highly intelligent all-around defenceman that plays with poise and can shift the pace of play in a multitude of ways. Showcases smooth four-way skating ability and loves to get involved in all situations – especially when that situation happens to be an up-ice rush.” – Curtis Joe, Elite Prospects.
11. New York Islanders – Oliver Wahlstrom, W, NTDP
“Offensively, he might be described as uncontainable: the confidence he has in his individual puck skill, paired with a high level of thinking, makes him a difficult cog to take out of alignment. He is able to create opportunities for himself, as well as teammates, out of nothing; this, in turn, translates to energy on the ice and in the building as a whole.” – Curtis Joe, Elite Prospects.
12. New York Islanders (from Flames) – Noah Dobson, D, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
“Dobson is a strong skater with a high degree of creativity, vision and offensive prowess. Scouts feel we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg here.” – Bob McKenzie, TSN.
13. Dallas Stars – Ty Dellandrea, C, Flint (OHL)
“Very strong two-way centre who plays all situations and can contribute offensively and defensively. Terrific improvement.” TSN.
14. Philadelphia Flyers (from Blues) – Joel Farabee, W, NTDP
“Plays all situations in the game with full understanding and has the skills to contribute offensively.” Craig Button, TSN.
15. Florida Panthers – Grigori Denisenko, W (Russia)
“Highly skilled, very dynamic offensive player who is a very dangerous player and capable of quick strike scoring.” Craig Button, TSN.
16. Colorado Avalanche – Martin Kaut, W, Parduice (Czech Extraliga)
“All the skill to be a top six winger who is capable of scoring and being a playmaker.” Craig Button, TSN.
17. New Jersey Devils – Ty Smith, D, Spokane (WHL)
“Elite skating defender whose upside is not far off from the top defenders in the 2018 class.” ISS Hockey.
18. Columbus Blue Jackets – Liam Foudy, C, London (WHL)
“Great speed that creates opportunities for his team and makes life uncomfortable for opponents. Catalyst type player.” Craig Button, TSN.
19. Philadelphia Flyers – Jay O’Brien, C, Thayer (USHS)
“Smart with a quick mind and very good hands where he can make a play or finish a play. Improvement as good as any player.” Craig Button, TSN.
20. Los Angeles Kings – Rasmus Kupari, C, Karpat (Finland)
“Slick Finnish forward, very dangerous with the puck on his stick, always a threat offensively.” – ISS Hockey.
21. San Jose Sharks – Ryan Merkley, D, Guelph (OHL)
“There is chatter that he’s a bad teammate/uncoachable. He’s also one of the most purely gifted playmaking defencemen not named Rasmus Dahlin that we’ve seen in recent years. None of Timothy Liljegren, Erik Brannstrom or even Cale Makar had his kind of creativity in 2017. Nor did Olli Juolevi, Mikhail Sergachev or Charlie McAvoy in 2016.” – Scott Wheeler, The Athletic (paywall).
22. New York Rangers (from Ottawa Senators, previously from Penguins) – K’Andre Miller, D, Wisconsin (NCAA)
The Rangers traded up to make this choice.
“Strong skating, puck carrying defenceman who can quickly get the play moving forward. Athletic with excellent potential.” Craig Button, TSN.
23. Anaheim Ducks – Isac Lundestrom, C (Sweden)
“Very versatile and can adapt to different positions and play in different slots in the lineup. Very smart with good skill.” Craig Button, TSN.
24. Minnesota Wild – Filip Johansson, D (Sweden)
Some believe Paul Fenton made a reach with his first pick as Wild GM.
25. St. Louis Blues (from Toronto Maple Leafs) – Dominik Bokk, W (Sweden)
“A hungry scorer who likes to shoot the puck and gets himself into scoring spots and has a very good shot.” Craig Button, TSN.
26. Ottawa Senators (from New York Rangers, previously from Bruins) – Jacob Bernard-Docker, D, North Dakota (NCAA)
“Steady presence, never gets burned, headed the NCAA route out of the AJHL,” – Scott Wheeler.
27. Chicago Blackhawks (from Predators) – Nicolas Beaudin, D, Drummondville (QMJHL)
“Nicolas Beaudin is a diminutive yet cunning defenceman that is able to use his size to his advantage. His mobility is all but elite at this point; he primarily uses his speed to open up passing and shooting lanes in the offensive zone.” Curtis Joe, Elite Prospects.
28. New York Rangers (from Lightning) – Nils Lundkvist, D (Sweden)
“Acquitted himself very well in the Swedish top league as a 17-year old. Smart and knows how to take advantage of his skills.” Craig Button, TSN.
29. Toronto Maple Leafs (from St. Louis Blues, previously from Jets) – Rasmus Sandin, D, S.S. Marie (OHL)
“Not big in stature but he plays a strong game in all areas. Skates, thinks, makes plays with puck and competes.” Craig Button, TSN.
30. Detroit Red Wings (from Golden Knights) – Joe Veleno, C, Drummondville (QMJHL)
Veleno dropped in the first round after being one of the few players (along with the likes of John Tavares and Connor McDavid) of being granted “exceptional player” status.
“The fleet-footed center is unselfish and will primarily look to make a play at top speed; however, when the chance arises to put it in the pot himself, he will capitalize. He sees the ice well and is rarely caught out of position. His defensive game is refined and he actively pursues puck control.” Curtis Joe, Elite Prospects.
31. Washington Capitals – Alexander Alexeyev, D, Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
“He’s a mobile puckmover in the mold of the modern NHL defenders.” Mike Vogl, Washington Capitals website.