Ryan Wagman

Mock Draft

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Mock Draft 1.0

Saturday, April 14, 2018


Welcome to the first of three mock drafts I will be publishing for Rotoworld in anticipation of the Rasmus Dahlin show in Dallas this June. 

 

If you are familiar with my work with McKeens Hockey over the last three seasons, or Hockey Prospectus or ESPN before that, good to see you again. If not, pleased to meet you.  

 

This mock draft – and the next two – are based on my knowledge of the drafting histories of the General Managers and Scouting Directors who pull the trigger on draft day and the organizational depth of the 31 teams. Of course, the mocks will also lean heavily on the scouting performed by the McKeens Hockey international scouting staff, who have been providing scouting reports on the 31 players listed here, as well as many, many others who will hear their names called out between June 22-23 at the American Airlines Center. 

 

It is also very important to note that I care far more about who a team should draft than in trying to predict who they will draft. 

 

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The draft order used for this mock is essentially the ascending order of team records, assuming that the draft lottery rewards failure. I will presume that the Ottawa Senators, scheduled to pick second, do not send their pick to Colorado, and opt to send over their 2019 first rounder instead. Furthermore, the St. Louis Blues will be able to keep their pick if they win the lottery. As this mock is pre-lottery and the Blues are slated to pick 14th, that pick would become property of the Philadelphia Flyers as a remnant of last summer’s Brayden Schenn deal. There are no other conditional picks currently set to be moved. 

 

It also bears in mind that the final four picks will go to the Stanley Cup winner (#31), the Stanley Cup runner-up (#31) and the semi-finalists (#28-29, in ascending order of their regular season record. While I am not here predicting how the playoffs will unfold, I will presume home-ice advantage will play out throughout the playoffs for this mock and order to 28-31 picks accordingly. 

 

The next version of this mock draft will drop in around six weeks, shortly after the conclusion of the Memorial Cup (a.k.a. the end of the Junior season in North America). The draft lottery will have taken place by then. The final version will be published in the run up to draft day. 

 

Without further ado, here is my early mock draft: 

 

1. Buffalo Sabres – Rasmus Dahlin, D (Frolunda HC – Sweden)

The least controversial pick out there. Dahlin is unlikely to have the immediate impact that Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews did, but the gap between Dahlin and the next best talent available this year is greater than the gap between McDavid and Jack Eichel, or between Matthews and Patrik Laine was when it was their turn. Plays like a small defenseman, but has a mature frame. One of the most creative puck carrying defensemen, if not the most creative, since Erik Karlsson was drafted. Dahlin has elite puck skills and very high hockey IQ. It is hard to project any rookie defenseman to step right in as a #1, but Dahlin is close. And if he is not there right away, he will be pretty soon. Will step right into the NHL and provide Buffalo (“in this scenario”, a phrase which I promise not to use for every pick) with the one element they have been absolutely unable to acquire in either of their successive rebuilds yet. 

 

2. Ottawa Senators (note that Ottawa has the right to send this pick to Colorado as part of the Matt Duchene trade, but is very unlikely to do so, even with the worst possible lottery scenario, which sees them picking fifth) – Andrei Svechnikov, RW (Barrie – OHL)

Ottawa is in a sticky situation. Usually, even at the top of the draft, it is advisable for teams not to draft for need, but to draft for long-term upside. The Senators, presuming for now that they keep Erik Karlsson around – if, for no other reason than their 2019 first rounder is property of the Colorado Avalanche – could use a player who is ready now and can add a scoring touch behind Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman. The team lacks high impact wingers after those two and their top two prospects (Colin White and Logan Brown) are both centers. Svechnikov is an excellent skater who tore up the USHL at age 16 and the OHL this year, as a 17 year old. More a goal scorer than a playmaker, he could be receiving regular top six time and ample power play opportunities by mid-season. 

 

3. Arizona Coyotes – Filip Zadina, RW (Halifax – QMJHL)

Although a few other prospects might be more “ready” to contribute next year, Zadina has higher upside than anyone left on the board. An effortless skater with a very creative offensive mind, he dominated in the QMJHL in his first season in North America, after passing up the chance to cross the pond after being selected in the CHL Import Draft by Vancouver in 2016. Gained a lot of fans with a stellar performance in the most recent WJC, with a seven goal showing. He has a very heavy wrist shot and a gift for finding loose spots in defensive coverage and exploiting them mercilessly. Although he received heavy PK minutes in junior hockey with Halifax, he is unlikely to take on that role for at least a few years in the NHL. There are some who think his development would be best served by heading back to Europe to play against men for a year, but there is little to suggest he would not fit in as a top six NHL goal scorer right away. 

 

4. Montreal Canadiens – Brady Tkachuk, LW (Boston University)

The Canadiens have seemingly been searching for toughness and character for a while, a feeling which was reiterated by GM Marc Bergevin with emphasis in his season-ending press conference. It would not at all surprise to see the Habs return to the NCAA ranks for the first round pick for the second year in a row. While last year’s first rounder, Ryan Poehling, was more of a traditional 200-foot center, Tkachuk is a big bruising power forward with remarkably good hands. Kind of like his father Keith, or his older brother and current Calgary star, Matthew. The youngest Tkachuk is ahead of where his brother was at this age and has the strength and understanding to play in the NHL straight away. He excels playing the puck from behind the goal line and is just as likely to attempt a wrap-around stuff play as he is to send a nifty pass to a linemate in the slot or sneaking down from the point. He is the type of player who makes his teammates around him more effective. 

  

5. Detroit Red Wings  - Quinn Hughes, D (University of Michigan)

There are other defensemen would not be shocking at this stage of the draft, including Adam Boqvist, Evan Bouchard and Noah Dobson, but none of those players was tested at the Word Juniors, none has played consistently with players often three or more years his senior, none saw their games improve by as much since the calendar flipped to 2018 and none has as many dynamic qualities to their game as does Hughes. The fact that Hughes spent the year an easy drive from Detroit in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is incidental. He was born in Florida and spent much of his childhood in Toronto, where his father was a long time employee of the Maple Leafs. The Red Wings, who have never replaced Nicklas Lidstrom (forget for a moment that he is irreplaceable) will acquire, in Hughes, a player who has the offensive tools and hockey IQ to grow into a #1 defenseman role. He is dynamic with the puck, improving away from it and approximately 16 months away from being ready to have an impact at the NHL level. 

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6. Vancouver Canucks – Evan Bouchard, D (London – OHL)

Two years ago, with the fifth pick of the draft, the Vancouver Canucks drafted a smart, puck moving defenseman from the London Knights of the OHL in Olli Juolevi. While Juolevi has not advanced as quickly as some may have hoped, he has shown many signs of progress, looking very good this year on loan with Liiga side TPS, against men. This year, the draft positions Vancouver to dip their toes in the same stream once more with Knights’ star defender Bouchard. A true quarterback on the blueline, Bouchard projects as more of an offensive contributor than Juolevi ever did. He continued to rack up points in the OHL, even after the Knights dealt away many of their more experienced players, finishing with an astounding 87 points in 67 games. Between his big point shot and his advanced ability to read the ice, he could quickly team up again with former teammate Juolevi to form the core of the Canucks blueline for years to come. 

 

7. Chicago Blackhawks – Oliver Wahlstrom, RW (USNTDP)

Although the strength of this draft is in its blueliners, there are a few high scoring wingers as well who should come off the board early, such as the three who follow Dahlin at the top of this mock. Wahlstrom is the fourth who projects to a potential first line role. A poacher type who conserves his energy until he can strike, his skating, shot and puck skills all grade out as high end tools. Although currently officially committed to attend Harvard in the fall, there have been many rumors circulating that he will not be going to Cambridge, but will play at Boston University instead, or perhaps Europe (much less likely). His style of play reminds me of Kieffer Bellows, but the Bellows who has dominated action in the WHL and WJC this year as opposed to the sometimes selfish player who preceded Wahlstrom with the USNTDP before his draft year. Will need a strong passing center to score, but he has serious power in his shot. 

  

8. New York Rangers – Adam Boqvist, D (Brynas IF Gavle – Sweden)

Last year, with their first top ten pick since 2010, The Rangers went to Sweden to mature center Lias Andersson, who has since proven to be more advanced than many pundits had expected. This year, picking eighth, the Blueshirts would be advised to return to Sweden to select dynamic defenseman Adam Boqvist. Although Boqvist does not have as much high level experience as Andersson did, his tools rate out higher. With just a touch more physical maturity, and the confidence than often comes with it, he could be the sort of electric blueline presence not since on Broadway since (this is not a comparison!!!) Brian Leetch.  

 

9. Edmonton Oilers – Noah Dobson, D (Acadie-Bathurst - QMJHL)

Although the Oilers have some good young defensemen in the system (think Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones) and some still developing defensemen in the NHL (Adam Larsson, Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom), a team needs six good ones to compete and Dobson would fit in very nicely as a top four option within a few years. A very good skater who thinks the game at a professional level, he has a booming slapshot that suggests a future on the power play while demonstrating the ability to read the game, position himself accordingly and a physical streak to hint at some shut-down potential as well. Dobson does everything at a high level, even if he lacks one stand-out tool. He will be a good one. 

 

10. New York Islanders – Joe Veleno, C (Drummondville – QMJHL)

Although the last two years saw a shift in drafting habits, Garth Snow’s New York Islanders have long using their top picks on high profile players from the Canadian Junior ranks. They will have a chance to return to those roots with this pick with Veleno, the first ever “Exceptional Status” player in the QMJHL. Although he struggled out of the gate this year with a re-tooling Saint John squad, he perked right back up, reaching new levels after being traded to Drummondville at mid-season. He has a combination of puck skills and hockey IQ that allows him to work well with other talented, offensively-inclined linemates. Should John Tavares bolt in free agency this summer, Veleno can be earmarked as the future number 2 center behind Mathew Barzal. 

 


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