Ryan Wagman

Mock Draft

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The Final Mock Draft

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


 

With the draft a few days away, we are seeing trade talk heat up and some trades have already been consummated, including a minor blockbuster on Friday which saw the Montreal Canadiens and the Arizona Coyotes execute a classic challenge trade, with Alex Galchenyuk going to the desert and Max Domi going to La Belle Province.

Expect to see a few more deals finalized this week, but the floodgates will only truly open up on the draft floor. By all accounts, the top two are pretty settled at this point, but there is a lot of mystery after that slot. The Montreal Canadiens hold the third pick, barring a trade and have been connected at various points to players including Filip Zadina, Evan Bouchard, Noah Dobson, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Brady Tkachuk, at minimum. And, of course, there is also plenty of speculation that they are trying to trade down 3-5 spots.

A number of other teams are expected to entertain trade offers as well, with Ottawa (will they give the pick to Colorado this year and keep it for next year as some expect the team’s off-ice troubles to extend to the ice next year), Arizona, Chicago, and Edmonton among the teams with rumors being floated about their intentions.

With so much uncertainty about who will even be picking at various spots, the purpose of this exercise is to both shed some light into how teams think about their early draft picks and provide some enlightenment on the players who would make sense in these ranges. As always, this is less a prediction about what will happen than a snapshot of what would make sense if it occurred and why.

 

For more about the upcoming draft, please head to mckeenshockey.com. Our annual draft guide was published a few weeks ago for all subscribers and profiles on 125 players are included in the offering along with much, much more.

 

Editor’s Note: Fantasy Baseball season is here! With over 15,000 reviews, DRAFT is the highest rated fantasy sports app. For a limited time, DRAFT is giving Rotoworld readers a FREE entry into a real money fantasy baseball draft and a Money-Back Guarantee up to $100! Here's the link.

 

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Without further ado, the Buffalo Sabres are invited to make the first pick of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft

 

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

From the first day of the 2017-18 scouting season, Rasmus Dahlin was the odds-on favorite to be selected first overall in June. The only mystery was which team would have both the misfortune of suffering through a miserable season as well as the fortune of the bouncing balls in the draft lottery. This year, that team is the Buffalo Sabres. The player that Dahlin most reminds me of is Drew Doughty. He is a good skater, but his hands are quicker and more talented than his feet. He has an NHL frame and a significant amount of senior level hockey under his belt already. He is ready to play top four minutes right away, and about one year away from being a first pairing defender.

 

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

After the World Juniors and the CHL Top Prospect Game, Svechnikov, whose older brother Yevgeni may be ready to become a full time NHLer with Detroit, was trailing Filip Zadina in the draft rankings, as the latter was far more impressive at those two high profile events. Thankfully for the Russian born Barrie Colt, there were a few more months of hockey to go before the draft. In the second half of their respective draft years, Svechnikov took his game up a notch, playing with more intensity and more dynamism. The Hurricanes, at one point, were thought to be shopping the pick, but of late have cooled on that possibility and are widely expected to draft the big goal scorer with the second pick.

 

3. Montreal Canadiens – Brady Tkachuk, C/LW, Boston University (Hockey East)

There is a good to very good chance that this pick is traded on draft day. According to reports from multiple sources at multiple outlets, the Canadiens are hell bent on drafting a center with their first round pick. Failing a center, a defenseman. There is talk about Jesperi Kotkaniemi being the selection here, but that would be a mistake. Both on a persona level and throughout the McKeens organization, there was never any reason to believe that the big Finnish pivot is better than 8th or so in this draft class. He has skills and smarts, but lacks the skating you would want in a first line center. While a trade can end in the any umber of scenarios, Tkachuk, while a left winger, has some experience down the middle, makes some sense in this slot and fits some of what the Habs are seeking.

 

4. Ottawa Senators – Filip Zadina, RW, Halifax (QMJHL)

Technically, the Senators can give this pick to Colorado, as they have to give the Avalanche either this pick or their first rounder from the 2019 draft, but they are expected to keep this one even though the organization is burning off the ice and seems to be in good position to lead the Jack Hughes sweepstakes. The Canadiens taking Tkachuk works well for them keeping this pick as Zadina was in contention for the top post-Dahlin pick as recently as three months ago. The reason he dropped past Svechnikov, and in this scenario, Tkachuk, was due to seemingly plateauing from that point onwards, while Svechnikov kept getting better and better. Zadina gives the Senators a goal scorer that they simply do not have in their organization.

 

5. Arizona Coyotes – Evan Bouchard, D, London (OHL)

Even though the Coyotes have locked up Oliver Ekman Larsson for eight more seasons on top of the next one, and they have also been stockpiling defensemen in recent drafts, there is still no one in the system who projects as a top pairing blueliner at his peak. Jakub Chychrun (16th overall, 2016) and Pierre-Olivier Joseph (23rd overall, 2017) are both good and young, but look more like second pairing defenders. This draft, with its strength in the back at this stage, and the Coyotes love of scouting the CHL in general, and the OHL in particular (three OHL picks last year alone) point the way for Evan Bouchard, a natural quarterback for the offense at even strength as well as the man advantage, a natural fit to head to the desert. With three years’ experience already in Major Junior, he is ready for at least a look in the NHL and should be ready for a full time job by the 2019-20 season.

 

6. Detroit Red Wings- Quinn Hughes, D, Michigan (Big 10)

Born in Florida, raised in Toronto, Hughes has been in the Red Wings’ backyard for the past three seasons, the first two with the USNTDP program in Ann Arbor/Plymouth and last year with the Wolverines in Ann Arbor. It would have been very easy for the Red Wings’ top brass to get look after look at Hughes. And then, to top it off, Hughes was named to the American entry for this year’s World Championships in Denmark – a rare occurrence for the draft eligible player, especially so for a defender – which was coached by Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill. Hughes was excellent at the tournament. Between his skating, puck handing and vision, Hughes would leapfrog players like Dennis Cholowski and Filip Hronek as the best defenseman in the Red Wings’ system and a potential future first pairing player with a little bit more refinement in his own zone.

 

7. Vancouver Canucks – Noah Dobson, D, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)

The seventh pick is another one that is largely expected to be on the block. On the other hand, the Canucks have openly mused about drafting one of the available blueliners, even with Olli Juolevi progressing well enough in Finland with TPS. With Dobson in tow, the Canucks would now have their projected future first pairing locked up, with Juolevi on the left and Dobson on the right side. Dobson can do a but of everything, big and strong enough to shut down opponents in his own zone and skilled enough to pose a serious threat in the offensive end.

 

8. Chicago Blackhawks – Oliver Wahlstrom, RW, USNTDP (USHL)

The main separator between Wahlstrom and Svechnikov and Zadina, who should both be long off the board at this stage, is consistency of effort. Wahlstrom has just as much skill, as much speed, as much of a fearful shooting ability, as those other two, but he can disappear for a period or more at a time. The Hawks have a deep history of drafting talent from the USNTDP and have drafted heavily in recent years from the stream of player heading on the NCAA track of development. The Hawks have the luxury of a number of potential options here, including Adam Boqvist and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, among others, but Wahlstrom still seems like the best fit.

 

9. New York Rangers – Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Assat Pori (Liiga)

Sure, the Rangers drafted two forwards in the first round last year who both are listed as centers, but both are also listed as wingers and neither would be the first highly talented amateur center to end up on the wing as a pro. In this scenario, where we cannot project trades, the biggest late riser in the draft, Finnish center Kotkaniemi, is available for the Rangers in their first of three picks, and he is a good enough fit at the spot. He has great hands and an advanced beyond his year hockey mind. And with a July of 2000 birthdate, he has room to grow that most others in the draft class do not have. The Rangers found a gem like that last year in Filip Chytil (September birthday) and can add a very important future forward piece here in Kotkaniemi, who is signed for two more years with Assat.

 

10. Edmonton Oilers – Adam Boqvist, D, Brynas (SHL)

The last time the Oilers used their first round pick on a prospect from Sweden was in selecting Oscar Klefbom with the 19th pick in 2011. Injury marred last season aside, that has worked out pretty well for Edmonton. Boqvist is the pure antithesis style-wise to Klefbom, so the comparisons can stop there. He is raw and exceptionally talented on the offensive side of the puck. One of the better skaters in this draft class and a special puck handler for a defender. On the other hand, he can be a bit rough off the puck and is well undersized. He may be the furthest away from contributing among all of the projected top 10, but his upside is as high as any of them. The Oilers also lack much in the way of upside at center in the system, and could be persuaded to draft one of Joe Veleno or Barrett Hayton at this spot.


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