2018 NHL Draft: 10 Players To Watch

The 2018 NHL Draft will be a deep one, and is full of impact talent, especially on the blue line.  More than 15 defencemen could hear their names called in the first round at the 2018 draft, compared to 8 in both 2016 and 2015, and just 5 in 2014, which saw a defenceman, Aaron Ekblad go 1st overall.

The consensus top 2 draft eligible prospects are Rasmus Dahlin, a two way defenceman, and Andrei Svechnikov, a big power winger.  After those two, it’s quite close when it comes to the 3rd overall pick, with at least 5 overall picks with a fair chance at being selected there.  All that being said, it’s still very early, and things will change a lot.  At this point last year, Timothy Liljegren was projected to go top 5 at the 2017 draft.  He ended up being selected 17th overall to the Leafs, after mono kept him out for the majority of his draft year.  A prospect’s draft year is what will ultimately decide his final draft decision.  A good draft year can lead to a dramatic rise in draft rankings, while a poor draft year can lead to a large drop.  These 10 players will hope for a good 2017-18 season as they fight to go as high as possible in the draft.

    1. Rasmus Dahlin

LD, 6’2, 181 lbs

Dahlin, who is projected to go 1st overall, is a two way defenceman with enormous offensive upside.  A fantastic skater, Dahlin has drawn comparisons to Erik Karlsson.  Dahlin uses his exceptional vision and passing skill to make plays and move the puck up ice.  He can singlehandedly create opportunities, using his skating and hands to get past defenders.  Doesn’t have a cannon, but is shot is hard and accurate.  Great hitter, punishes forwards in open ice.  He’s pretty good in his own end, he will improve in the corners and in front of the net as he gets bigger.  Needs to make the simpler play more often, as he often makes very risky plays that will not work in the NHL, but he has shown coachability, so I have no doubts that he will address that.  A generational talent, looks like a future Norris winner.

    2. Andrei Svechnikov

LHD RW, 6’2, 187 lbs

Svechnikov is a big skilled power forward. He primarily creates opportunities by driving to the net, where he uses his hands to finish. A natural scorer, Svechnikov skates well and has a good shot. His combination of skills will likely lead to extreme NHL success.  Svechnikov will look to add on to a wildly successful USHL season with an equally good year in the OHL.

    3. Adam Boqvist

RD, 5’11, 170 lbs

Adam Boqvist is a highly skilled offensive defenceman. He skates well and has good vision and passing. He scores a lot of goals from the top of the circle after walking in from the blue line. Boqvist is active in the offensive zone, he’s always moving around trying to get open to unleash his shot. The majority of his points come from his shooting and passing, which stands out in a draft class full of dangling defencemen. His style of play should translate well to the NHL.

    4. Filip Zadina

RHD LW, 6’0, 170 lbs

A scorer-playmaker combo, Zadina does a lot of things well. He skates well, has nice hands and a hard, accurate shot. Nice vision, makes good decisions while under pressure. Great passer, passes are hard and on the tape. Overall he’s a great player with no real flaws.  He and Svechnikov are on another level compared to the other forwards in this draft. Really talented player, could be a surprise #1 on draft day.

    5. Quinn Hughes

LD, 5’11, 170 lbs

Quinn Hughes is a two way defenceman that can rush the puck very well. Good skater, he’s fast and good on his edges. Pass first mentality, doesn’t really take a lot of shots, likely because his shot isn’t too good. Slapshot is below average, low power on it. Wrist shot is okay. Can make some nice passes. Good on both sides of the puck. Safe with the puck, doesn’t make high risk plays but still generates offence at a high rate. Impressive player.

    6. Ryan Merkley

RD, 5’11, 179 lbs

An offensive defenceman capable of putting up a lot of points. Good skater, nice shot. Smart player, very patient, waits for space to open up. Good hands, has scored some highlight reel, end to end goals. Good PP QB. Most impressive part of his game for me is his vision, he always knows where everybody is on the ice. Good at disguising his passes. Has struggled with turnovers, largely due to poor decision making. Sometimes takes poor penalties when frustrated. Defence is an issue, needs to improve there. Struggles with consistency. Some concern about how well his game will translate to the NHL, as his end to end attempts won’t work as often in the NHL. Will likely become more of a playmaker, utilizing his vision. A talented player, Merkley has the offensive skill to go high in the draft, but he’ll need to improve his defence, consistency and attitude.

    7.  Joe Veleno

A skilled two way centre, Veleno has elite skill.  A playmaker, he uses his IQ and passing ability to create oppurtunities.  Great skater,  has a smooth skating stride, agile. Good puck skills, can get by players with ease.  Needs to improve his shot, not very powerful at this point.  Game changing skill, 1C potential.

    8. Akil Thomas

RC/W, 5’11, 170 lbs

An offensive centre (that can play some wing) with the skills to take over a game, Akil Thomas has impressed on a terrible Niagara IceDogs team.  He does everything well in the offensive zone.  He skates well, he has a great first step and impressive lateral movement.  He’s an elite playmaker, utilizing his top end vision and hockey IQ.  Good hands and shot.  Needs to improve away from the puck and add strength.  Lots of offensive potential, could be a future top line forward.

    9. Bode Wilde

RD, 6’2, 170 lbs

A big two way defenceman, difference maker on the blue line.  Skates well, transitions are smooth.  Good puck mover.  Big slap shot from the point, a lot of power on it.  Calm with the puck, rarely panics.  Shuts opponents down physically.  Solid two way defenceman with offensive upside, top pairing potential.

    10. Ty Smith

LD, 5’11, 174 lbs

Smart defenceman with skill. Great skater, great hockey sense, great puck mover. Drawn comparisons to Duncan Keith. Very sound defensively, smart in his own end, good positionally and one on one. Solid two way defenceman.

Disappearance Of Three Stores Is An Apt Symbol Of Why There Are Only 7 Canadian Franchises In The NHL

When I lived in Toronto there were three stores that I (and sometimes my parents) would sometimes visit. These were Knob Hill Farms (a grocery chain), Sam The Record Man (title says it all), and Honest Ed’s (Toronto’s greatest discount store). All three are now gone and Toronto (and Canada) is the poorer for it. At all three, tremendous savings could occur. At Knob Hill Farms (owned by Steve Stavro, a future owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs), food was cheap. In its heyday, Sam The Record Man could probably boast that they sold the cheapest records and tapes in the world (that’s right the world. It’s not an exaggeration). And when my mother made her occasional expeditions to Honest Ed’s she would make my father and me who were trying to watch television stop while she pulled out all of her purchases from bags and boast how much money she had saved us.

All three stores are gone now and there are serious economic and social consequences because of it. When the stores existed, what did it mean? It meant a bigger market. Poorer people and those not so well off (though not the very poor) were able to stretch their dollars and get more. By spending less on food, records, and other commodities, it meant that these people could put more of their salaries into the bank and when they had accumulated enough they could even start to buy luxury goods that before had been beyond their grasp. It was a win-win situation. By showing some generosity, these entrepreneurs increased the size of the market and business activity. When one visited their stores, the parking lots and street parking were full and the stores were often jammed to the hilt.

When Stavro became the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, his regime was the only period in the long (50 years and counting) dismal years of bad Toronto Maple Leaf ownership between the horrible Harold Ballard and the even worse Ontario Teachers Pension Fund when the Leafs iced decent teams (the Doug Gilmour-Matts Sundin era) that had a chance to win the Stanley Cup. In other words, which is the point of this article, an NHL owner has to show some generosity in order to ice a winning team. When the Teachers took over from Stavro, they regarded the Leafs as merely an economic investment in which everything had to be squeezed out and nothing put back in. And if you knew some teachers (as I did), all you had to do is listen to them talk to understand why the Leafs were as bad as they were. Somehow they exceeded even the horrible Ballard which I would never have believed possible. In the entire time of the Teachers ownership, there was not one playoff game.

toronto

Which brings this article to the issue of NHL expansion into Canada. At the highest level, you have to show some generosity and give something back. And in too many articles to count that I have written on this blog and others, I have illustrated that all through the NHL expansion years from 1967 to the present day, the Canadian franchise owners in the NHL have shown little or no generosity about putting more franchises in Canada. Only Calgary, Ottawa, and the return of the Winnipeg Jets from Atlanta have not met with any opposition.

Canadians like to believe the myth that American owners led by the Commissioner/President of the NHL are anti-Canadian. The American owners are probably indifferent at worst. If you are going to blame Clarence Campbell, John Ziegler, and Gary Bettman for anything, it is their failure to curb the opposition of Canada’s NHL franchise owners to share the northern market and Canadian television money.

Hamilton

The two current obvious exclusions are Quebec City and Hamilton. Both have fanatical fan bases for hockey and acceptable arenas. Hamilton’s city council was even prepared to spend $50 million to upgrade Copps Coliseum to an acceptable 18,500 seats and luxury boxes if Jim Balsille had managed to bring the Coyotes from Phoenix. Los Angeles and New York in the NHL and other cities in other professional sports leagues have been able set reasonable compensation packages for new teams moving into an existing team’s regional market, but not in ungenerous Canada. No terms for a Hamilton franchise have ever been laid out. So an almost guaranteed money-making franchise, one that has been estimated that could even become the third most valuable NHL franchise, behind only Toronto and the New York Rangers does not exist.

In Quebec City’s instance, the problem is that the NHL does not like the bidder, Pierre Karl Peladeau, a supporter of the provincial separatist party, Parti Quebecois. Separatism is by nature an exclusionary action; in Quebec, based on language and racial descent. When Peladeau lost a bidding war with Geoff Molson to own the Montreal Canadiens, he made a public remark implying that it was inappropriate for Molson to own the Canadiens because he is an Anglophone Quebecer. That remark, plus an attempt to obstruct one of Molson’s business colleagues damned Peladeau in the NHL Board’s eyes and doomed any attempt by Quebecor to bring back the Quebec Nordiques long before a single shovel went into the ground to build the new Videotron arena.

Quebec

Equally unfortunate is that no other acceptable Quebec investors have made any attempt to bring back the Nordiques. And the possibility of retaliation by racists acting through a Parti Quebecois provincial government has stopped any investors from “English Canada” from trying to restart the Quebec NHL franchise. Despite having an acceptable arena that the NHL loves, an increased population of over 800,000, a fanatical local fan base, and a market which stretches half way to Montreal and includes the four Maritime provinces, Quebec City still does not have the Nordiques back. Indeed it is possible to imagine that if there was no racial/political issue involved, Quebec would not have lost its team in the first place and the Videotron would have been built years ago with private funds.

As noted above, if you want your market to increase, if you want to ice a competitive team, you have to show some goodwill and generosity at the highest level. But as noted, stores that practiced that policy in Toronto have disappeared. The market shrinks, there is less money, and new investments and opportunities do not occur. In the case of NHL expansion into Canada, all that is left is for Canadians to believe the myth that the “American” NHL is anti-Canadian.

This is Canada’s 150th birthday and the Centenary of the NHL. Commissioner Gary Bettman could have made it a year to really celebrate in Canada by granting new Quebec and Hamilton franchises. But in ungenerous, elitist, exclusionary Canada, it was not possible.