February 2018 NHL Draft Rankings

It’s been two months since my last draft rankings, and a lot has happened in that period. The World Junior Championship has come and gone, as have the CHL, CJHL and USHL top prospects games. Strong performances in those can boost a prospect’s draft stock, especially in the case of the WJHC. Rasmus Dahlin, Filip Zadina, Brady Tkachuk, Isac Lundestrom and Martin Kaut, among others, used it well, either moving up the rankings or widening the gap between them and the next guy. Before we get to those rankings, I’d like to talk about a few things first.

Adjusted PPG

The biggest complication in the scouting process is comparing players that are playing in different leagues. It’s hard to compare players when one plays in the SHL and one plays in the OHL, like Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov. One way that that can be done is through adjusted points per game. Prospect’s PPG numbers are multiplied by league and age translation multipliers that put the players all on the same level, as if they were all the same age, all playing in the same league, in the case, the OHL. I compiled all these numbers in a spreadsheet which I will link to. Here is the top 5:

  1. Andrei Svechnikov-1.19 PPG
  2. Ryan Merkley-1.15 PPG
  3. Dominik Bokk-1.09 PPG
  4. Filip Zadina-1 PPG
  5. Calen Addison-0.98 PPG

You’ll also notice that two of the players, Bokk, and Addison, aren’t regarded as top prospects like the other three players. That’s the other use of this list; finding underrated prospects. Players with top PPG numbers in their draft year typically go on to NHL success.

The full spreadsheet can be found here.

Now that that is out of the way, we can get to some player talk. The first 15 players have a paragraph or two summarizing their game and in some cases, explaining their rise or fall. However, there are a few players outside of the top 15 that I’d like to talk more about.

Grigori Denisenko

The MHL is one of the lesser known leagues, it doesn’t get much attention, and because of that, prospects playing there are often underrated. Grigori Denisenko is one of those players. He’s incredibly skilled offensively, but that will go largely unnoticed because of the league he plays in. The best move a prospect can make if they want to get noticed is to play in a top league like the CHL, NCAA or a good European junior league like the SuperElit. A good player from the OHL will often be drafted over a better player in the MHL simply because of how much more attention he gets.

Aidan Dudas

Dudas has cracked the first round for the first time this year, and he will hope to stay in it by continuing the fantatic season he’s had so far. He’s been on my radar for some time now, thanks to his stats, but it wasn’t until the Top Prospects game that I could really see how he got those numbers. He’s very fast, and can dangle, shoot and pass. I see top 6 upside in him.

Jared McIsaac and Bode Wilde

My ranking of these two players is controversial, so I’ll take some time to explain it. Most rankings have these two in the top 15, or at least the top 20. Both players pass the eye test, they appear to be strong puckmoving defensemen that play with poise and confidence. I’m a big fan the two when I ignore stats, especially Bode Wilde. However, their statistics make them risky picks.

Goals For % (GF%) is a measure of the even strength goals a player’s team scores while said player is on the ice, versus the goals against the player’s team while they are on the ice. GF% rel is a player’s GF% relative to the GF% of their team while the player is not on the ice. Essentially, it measures whether a player has a positive or negative impact on a team’s goal differential (which then translates into wins or losses). Good players rarely dip into the negatives, unless they play on terrible teams, an excuse that neither player is entitled to use. My research actually suggests that if a player’s GF% rel is anywhere below +9, the chances of that player living up to their potential lowers. Both players are well below that. Unfortunately, the sample size for my findings is small, so it may not be completely accurate. GF% rel numbers are only available in the QMJHL, and have only been available since 2015. Doubt me if uou want, you certainly have a basis to do so, but when (if) these guys end up as 3rd pairing D or worse, I’ll be saying I told you so. More on this in a future post.

And now, the rankings. If you have any questions, ask me on Twitter, @DraftLook, or by email, samhappi77@gmail.com.

1. Rasmus Dahlin, LD

Dahlin, a dynamic, offensive defenseman used the WJC to cement his place as this year’s #1, dominating against top competition. He is often compared to Erik Karlsson, but he plays his own style of game. The biggest similarity between those two will likely be the gigantic impact that they will both have on a game, and Dahlin has the potential to leave an even larger footprint. He is more than just a franchise player, he is borderline generational, because he has the potential to be the best defenseman in the league for the majority of his career.

2. Andrei Svechnikov, RW

Svechnikov lost ground in the race for #1, but it wasn’t at all his fault. Svechnikov had only recently recovered from a broken hand, and his play at the WJHC reflected that, although he was still an important player for Russia. Dahlin played his best hockey when it counted, and impressed a lot of scouts, leaving Svechnikov appearing underwheming in comparison. At this point, Dahlin is simply the better player, and that isn’t a knock on Svechnikov. It’s like the 2015 draft with McDavid and Eichel. Eichel is a franchise player, but he couldn’t beat the generational McDavid.

3. Filip Zadina, LW

Zadina exploded at the WJHC, and was one of, if not the best players for the Czech Republic. Out of all the 2018 eligibles at the WJHC, he impressed me the most, playing a lethal dual threat game. He’s an elite sniper and an elite playmaker, and he combines the two in a way that only game changing players can. Most players fit into one pf the two categories, but Zadina fits in both, something only seen in world-class players such as Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews. He’s the type of player that you could build a team around.

4. Adam Boqvist, RD

Adam Boqvist was the only player in my top 6 that wasn’t named to a WJHC squad, a surprising snub from Team Sweden. I think he deserved to make the team, although he hasn’t been able to establish himself in the SHL so far this year. Currently, he’s playing in Sweden’s tier two men’s league, the Allsvenskan. He probably plays the most like Erik Karlsson out of everybody in this draft class; an NHL style game, using his speed, vision and shot to create offensive opportunities. Looks like a future top pairing defender. He’ll probably need another year before he is NHL ready, where he can play in the SHL and get used to a higher level of play.

5. Brady Tkachuk, LW/C

Even if Brady Tkachuk wasn’t as skilled as he is, he might still have been a top prospect for the draft, because he has almost everything NHL teams like; size, NHL bloodlines, physicality, and leadership. In reality, he has all that, and incredible skill. He’s a goal scorer, and has good puck-skills and a quality shot. He also possesses a soaring hockey IQ. His most impressive trait IMO, is his ability to find open space. A lot of players will get the puck and then take the space, but Tkachuk helps himself to the space, then calla for the puck, giving the opposition less time to try to catch him. He has first line tools.

6. Quinn Hughes, LD

This draft is loaded with offensive minded defensemen, including Quinn Hughes, a speedy puck moving blueliner. The staple of his game is his puck rushing, which he excels at. He picks his head up, finds a lane, and takes it. If there isn’t a lane, he either creates one, pr finds a teammate with a hard, accurate pass. He’ll be a top pairing defenseman, and an elite PP QB.

7. Oliver Wahlstrom, RW

Oliver Wahlstrom, a winger for the USNTDP, has great hands and an elite shot. He first attracted media attention when a video of a shootout attenpt of his went viral. He displayed great hands, and now, those great hands will help carry him to a top 10 selection at the draft. He plays on a line with fellow draft eligible Joel Farabee and 2019 top prospect Jack Hughes for the USDP, and they have been lighting it up. He’s a top notch finisher, but doesn’t depend on others to create oppurtunities for him. He uses his hands, speed and vision to do that for himself. He’s destined for the first line, and if placed with a good playmaker, he could score 50.

8. Ty Smith, D

Ty Smith is a two way defenseman that doesn’t always get the respect he deserves, because he doesn’t play a flashy game like Dahlin, Hughes, and partially Boqvist, although he doesn’t make as many end to end plays as those two, and the end to end rushes are typically the plays that get a lot of retweets and attention on Twitter. Also, Smith plays in the WHL, which I have noticed not to get as much attention as other leagues, especially the European leagues. The European leagues get the most attention, since games from the SHL, Liiga and some of the junior leagues can be streamed relatively easily. The OHL is next, simply because of all the scouts situated there, as well as the popularity of that league. After that is the NCAA, then the QMJHL, the WHL, and finally the MHL. Grigori Denisenko, an under the radar prospect plays there, and if he was in the CHL, NCAA, or one of the more popular European leagues, he would get a lot more attention.

Smith can make an offensive impact while also being solid in his own zone. He plays an NHL style game, moving the puck up ice, while also being able to skate the puck up ice himself. Defensively, he can play physically while also possessing a good defensive stick. He could be a staple on a team’s top pairing for a long time.

9. Noah Dobson, D

Noah Dobson has been a big time riser this year. He started out as a projected 2nd or 3rd round pick, but since then, he has exploded onto the scene, establishing himself as a top 15 prospect. He’s put up fantastic numbers in the QMJHL, and has demonstrated impressive puck moving ability, as well as hockey IQ. During the CHL-Russia series, Dobson and Jared McIsaac formed a pairing for Team QMJHL, and the two 2018 eligibles impressed me with their calm, puck-moving play. Dobson appears to have the higher ceiling out of the two, with top pairing potential, while McIsaac has dropped considerably since December.

10. Evan Bouchard, D

Bouchard has exploded in the draft year, climbing draft boards. He is a shot machine, he is one of the shot leaders in the entire OHL, and those shots have led to points, either from rebounds or them just going in. He’s on pace for 80 points, which would be fantastic, especially for a blueliner. He can jump up into the play, and is lethal as the late man in on the rush. He can take advantage of slacking or tired backcheckers and rip one home. He can move the puck up ice, and is incredibly poised and confident. He has top pairing potential, and will be an elite powerplay QB.

11. Dominikk Bokk

One of the mosy underrated prospects in the draft, Bokk is high on some draft lists and low on others. The main difference between the lists that have him high and the ones that have him low is the attention that they pay to stats. A lot of scouting services look at very few stats when formulating their rankings. They depend on the good ol’ fashioned eye test. A prospect should definitely be watched before you make a judgement on their potential, but statistics deserve a place in the scouting process as well. Dominik Bokk has 29 points in 21 games in the SuperElit, 1.3 PPG. Those are very good numbers, 2nd out of all draft eligible prospects in unadjusted PPG, and 3rd when PPG is adjusted for league and age. Following his great 29 SuperElit games, Bokk went to the SHL, where he has put up 2 points in 15 games. There is going to be an adjustment period there, and when you go from playing against youth to men, it can be fairly lengthy. He’s also playing a much smaller role in the SHL, so the decrease is expected.

Stats aside, Bokk is a winger with both offensive and defensive skill. Offensively, he is a goal scorer that finds the prime scoring areas. He has great hands and a great shot. He’s the best German prospect since Leon Draisaitl. Defensively, he takes away lanes, can lend support down low, and is always ready for a counterattack, but not in a way that compromises him defensively.

12. Joe Veleno, C

Veleno has had an up and down season so far, but I think he has started to right the ship, and it will be smooth sailing for him from now on. He struggled with one of the worst teams in the QMJHL earlier in the season, sparking doubts about his potential. However, following a trade to a top team in December, he seems to have regained his production, and if he can keep this up, he may also be able to regain his previous place on draft boards, which was usually top 5. I don’t see that happening, I think the best he’ll do is 8th, but I can’t predict the future 100% accurately, only about 90%. I think slump that came from playing on a poor team spoke a lot about what kind of player he’ll be in the future; he won’t be able to carry a line, he’ll need good teammates to help him out if he’s gonna put up points. As a playmaker like Veleno is, you need linemates that can finish on the oppurtunities you create for them. If your wingers can’t score, you won’t be getting assists, and for Veleno, that’s the majority of his points (85% to be exact). At the start of the year, he looked like he had 1C potential, and he may still, but I’m concerned about his offensive potential, so I think he’s more suited for a 2C role, centering a line that can both shutdown the opposition as well as provide some scoring.

13. Barrett Hayton, C

I have Hayton 13th right now, but he could be a riser. I’ve seen him as high as 6th on some lists, but he’s also in the 25 to even 40 range on others. Hayton started the year as a projected 2nd rounder, but has impressed with his poise and shot to fight his way up. He’s a goal scorer, he’s got a 40-60 goal-assist split as of January 17 (when all stats mentioned are from, unless otherly specified). He has a nice shot, good release; his release almost incorporates a toe drag, he brings the puck back and then towards his body on his shot. He’s very patient, if he isn’t forced to make a move, he won’t. If he’s not being pressured, he’ll hold onto the puck and try to draw a defender out of position, especially on the powerplay. He’ll skate with the puck if nothing opens up as well, I’ve seen him take it back behind his own net from the neutral zone if he can’t find any options. I do have a few concerns though. Sometimes, he is a little too patient, and it results in turnovers, and he does try to do too much with it in his own end sometimes, and he’s lost it there as well. Both should resolve themselves as Hayton develops further, but they are things to keep an eye on. That aside, I think Hayton, like Veleno, has definite top 6 potential, and a 1C ceiling, if he develops well.

14. Isac Lundestrom, C

This Swedish centre is an underrated prospect that is beginning to receive more attention following a strong performance at the WJHC, where he centred an effective line for Sweden. Lundestrom plays against men in the SHL, and has put up impressive numbers for a teenager. He has 10 points in 26 games, good numbers for his age, especially when you incorporate his minimal role on the team. Those numbers are good for a 0.61 league/age adjusted PPG in a men’s league. Lundestrom uses his hockey IQ to make plays, getting into good spots and finding open teammates. He projects as a second line centre long term, I don’t think he has the offensive potential for the first line, but he could be apart of a second line that provides solid scoring.

15. Calen Addison, D

I have Addison ranked pretty high at 15, while most other lists will have him in the 20-40 range. He’s an underrated prospect, another WHL player. He’s a small defender, officially listed as 5’10, but he’s probably closer to the 5’8-5’9 range. I think he’ll end up being picked late first, and his height will be what holds him back. NHL teams continue to have biases towards taller players, despite the success of smaller players like Erik Karlsson or Samuel Girard. In Addison’s case, I don’t think his height holds his on ice play back at all, he plays like a bigger guy. He doesn’t get knocked off the puck very easily, and he can knock others off of it. He can move the puck up ice effectively, and excels in the offensive zone, making smart decisions and generating offensive opportunities. He’s good at keeping the puck in, allowing his team to continue their offensive zone time. Definitely has top 4 upside.

16. Joel Farabee, LW

Slippery winger excelling on line with Jack Hughes and Oliver Wahlstrom for the USNTDP.

17. Ryan McLeod, C

Fast, two way centre can shut down opposition and produce offence.

18. Akil Thomas, C/RW

Smart forward is always moving, creating opportunities.

19. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C

Skilled centre putting up great numbers in top Finnish league, playing against men.

20. Filip Hallander, F

Gritty winger also has skill, good numbers.

21. Grigori Denisenko, LW

Underrated player is very skilled, hidden away in MHL.

22. Ryan Merkley, D

Incredibly talented offensively, struggles in own zone. Boom or bust prospect.

23. Rasmus Sandin, D

Impressive puckmoving ability, good at getting shots through from point. Was great at CHL Top Prospects game.

24. Jacob Olofsson, C

Well rounded centre has few weaknesses, scoring touch.

25. Ty Dellandrea, C

Two way centre can deliver offensive production as well as solid defensive play.

26. Aidan Dudas, C

Speedy forward has a nice shot and puts himself in positions to score.

27. Rasmus Kupari, C

Highly skilled centre doesn’t have the offensive production to match his talent.

28. Jett Woo, D

Two way defenceman moves puck well, plays calm game.

29. Jake Wise, C

Smart player can pass and score. Plays a solid two way game.

30. Bode Wilde, D

Below average skater has poor underlying numbers.

31. Jared McIsaac, D

Passes the eye test, but advanced statistics are concerning. Risky pick.

Prospect Tiers (Top 31)

Tier 1: Rasmus Dahlin

2: Andrei Svechnikov, Filip Zadina, Adam Boqvist, Brady Tkachuk

3: Quinn Hughes

4: Oliver Wahlstrom, Ty Smith, Noah Dobson, Evan Bouchard

5: Dominik Bokk, Joe Veleno, Barrett Hayton

6: Isac Lundestrom, Calen Addison, Joel Farabee, Ryan McLeod, Akil Thomas, Jesperi Kotkaniemi

7. Filip Hallander, Grigori Denisenko, Ryan Merkley, Rasmus Sandin, Jacob Olofsson, Ty Dellandrea, Aidan Dudas, Rasmus Kupari, Jett Woo

8. Jake Wise, Bode Wilde, Jared McIsaac

32. Adam Ginning, D

33. Allan McShane, C

34. Anderson MacDonald, LW

35. Jack McBain, C

36. Alexander Alexeyev, D

37. K’Andre Miller, D

38. Dennis Busby, D

39. Serron Noel, RW

40. Martin Kaut, RW

41. Marcus Karlberg, W

42. Jonatan Berggren, C/RW

43. Albin Eriksson, LW

44. Alexander Khovanov, C

45. Phillipp Kurashev, C/LW

46. Kevin Bahl, D

47. Cole Fonstad, C/LW

48. Jakub Lauko, C/LW

49. Nando Eggenberger, LW

50. Benoit-Olivier Groulx, F

51. Nicolas Beaudin, D

52. Xavier Bouchard, D

53. David Levin, LW

54. Gleb Babintsev, D

55. Vitali Kravstov, F

56. Giovanni Vallati, D

57. Mattias Samuelsson, D

58. Adam Samuelsson, D

59. Miles Roman, C

60. Adam Liska, LW

61. Martin Fehervary, D

62. Filip Kral, D

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