Joe Veleno Regaining Draft Stock With Strong Resurgence Following Trade

Joe Veleno entered the 2017-18 season as a top 5 prospect for the 2018 NHL Draft. In November, I had him 5th on my list, and viewed him as a future first line centre. A month later, in December, I had him 13th, and viewed him as more of a two way 2C. At that point, I started to doubt if he would be able to produce enough at the NHL level to be a first liner. I haven’t released a ranking since then, but I’m finalizing my list for a February 1st release. In early January, when his slump continued, my initial doubts worsened, and I began to believe that he might only ever be a 3C. Now, in late January, I see him as a 2C again, thanks to him breaking out of a lengthy slump following a trade deadline move.

On December 8, Joe Veleno was traded from the Saint John Sea Dogs to the Drummondville Voltigeurs for 3 QMJHL 1st round picks and 2 secound round selections. Veleno moved from the QMJHL’s second last team to the fourth best. With the Sea Dogs, Veleno had 31 points in 31 games. Those are good numbers, but not what is expected from a top 5, or even top 8 pick. So far with Drummondville, he has 15 points in 10 games, a 1.5 PPG clip. That’s top 5 production. When a player goes from a bad team to a good team, a rise in production is expected. However, I think Veleno should still get credit for ending his slump.

Veleno was at a PPG with one of the league’s worst teams, and he’s now at 1.5 PPG with one of the best. Using some amateur analytics , we can say that Veleno would be at roughly 1.25 PPG, top 10 numbers, on an average team.

I ultimately see Veleno as a second line centre, and a top 15 pick. He has only played 10 games with his new team, so the emphasis placed on his play with Drummondville should he limited. I think he will end up with about a 1.25 PPG by the end of the season. Good numbers, but I still don’t know if he has the offensive potential for the first line. Instead, he looks best suited to lead a second line that can both produce offense and shutdown the opposition’s top players, thanks to his 200-foot game.

There is still lots of time left for Veleno to regain the massive potential that he used to have. It’s hard to regain lost ground, but the hard-working Veleno could certainly accomplish that. Keep an eye on this kid.

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The Oilers Playoff Hopes Are All But Gone, But The 2018 Draft Offers A Chance To Fill Holes For The Future

Nothing has gone right for the Edmonton Oilers. They’ve had plenty of injuries, slumps from key players, and absolutely dismal special teams. Through 43 games this season, the Oilers have put up just 39 points, good for 3rd last in the Pacific. Although they aren’t mathematically eliminated yet, the chances of them surging back to make the playoffs are slim, especially with how they have been playing lately.

The Oilers have lost their last two games 1-5 and 1-4, to the Stars and Blackhawks. Before that, they beat the Ducks in a shootout, and prior to that, they lost twin 5-0 games to Kings and Ducks. They’ve rarely looked liked the team they were last year, when they were playing their best hockey of the last decade. Last year was a nice break from the darkness for Oilers fans, but it looks like true light won’t come to Oil Country until next year at the earliest, and that’s optimistic.

As it stands now, the Edmonton Oilers are not a playoff team. They were last year, but due to declining players and significant downgrades in the offseason, that is no longer true. Currently they are a top 6 winger and a solid defenceman short of being playoff-calibre. The Oilers had both last year, but thanks to Peter Chiarelli, they now lack both. When Chiarelli moved Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome in the offseason, he lost the top 6 winger that Eberle was, getting a 3rd line forward in return, and by declining to replace declining borderline third pairing defenceman with a better option, he weakened the defence corps of this team. Last year, Russell was a #4 defenceman, but only when Andrej Sekera was there to help hin out. This season, he has struggled on defence, the only aspect of his game he isn’t terrible at. He consistently makes poor reads, and has seemingly forgotten how to defend a two on one, choosing to play the shooter on more occasions than I can count on one hand. Just in case you aren’t aware, you are supposed to play the pass on those. Don’t worry if you got that wrong though, I can’t really blame you. If an NHL player making $4 million a year doesn’t know, why should you?

Peter Chiarelli has created holes in this team, and it is too late for a quick fix. However, it can be patched up after just one year out of the playoffs, and that is what most Oilers fans will want. Few people will want to go back into a short rebuild after a decade of absence from the playoffs, and lucky for them, this is the plan that Chiarelli will likely follow, based on his track record of panic and lack of patience.

If I were Peter Chiarelli, I would be looking to add a young top 6 scoring winger, at the cost of a defenceman like Klefbom or Nurse. Then, I would begin to shop both Milan Lucic and Kris Russell, in an effort to lose those terrible contracts so the cap space to keep Nuge would be there, as well as some additional room to surround McDavid with more speedy talent, or to retain Maroon.

By filling the forward need, we weakened our defense, so now we need to add a defenceman or two. That’s where the draft comes in. Without one of Klefbom or Nurse, the already poor defence is even worse, and the offence, even with the addition of Hoffman, would still be unable to make up for it. This is an issue that won’t be able to be resolved this season, because this is where the draft comes in.

The 2018 NHL Draft lacks the top centre prospects that usually occupy the top positions in the draft. Instead, those spots are filled with wingers and defencemen, the two very needs that the Oilers have. In the grand scheme of things, it may actually be a good thing that the Oilers have played so poorly this season, as the draft is perfectly suited for their needs. Rasmus Dahlin, the prize of the draft, would be a great fit, especially if they move a left handed defenseman like Klefbom or Nurse. He’s a guy that could jump right into a top 4 role as the clear Calder favourite. By 2021, whoever has him could very well have the best defenseman in the league. If the Oilers lottery luck continues, they could have both the leagues best forward in McDavid, and the best defensemen with Dahlin.

If they don’t get the first pick in the draft, they can still get their hands on a solid consolation prize. Svechnikov, Zadina and Tkachuk, ranked #2, 3 and 5, are all game changing wingers (Tkachuk can also play centre, but I, as well as many other scouts, see him as a winger long term), while Adam Boqvist and Quinn Hughes (#4 and 6), are future top pairing defensemen. Ty Smith, Noah Dobson and Evan Bouchard have top 4 potential. All of those players will be impact players for the team that drafts them, and for one of those players, that team will likely be the Edmonton Oilers.

Best case scenario, the Oilers get the first pick and take Dahlin. That would be fantastic for the future of the team and their blueline. However, more likely than not, they end up with a pick somewhere in the 2-10 range, and that means that they’ll draft either a winger or a defenceman. The later in the draft that their pick ends up being, the more likely it gets that they tale a defenseman. If they do get an earlier pick, probably somewhere in the 2-5 range, chances are that they’ll end up with one of the 3 wingers I have ranked there. If that happens, their blueline still needs some help. In that scenario, they would need to make a trade to add another defenseman, and in that scenario, I would be looking at trading Kailer Yamamoto for a young top 4 defensive prospect.

If I were Peter Chiarelli, thinking like Peter Chiarelli, that would be the course of action that I would take if I wanted to try to fix this in a short amount of time, and this may be what he tries to do. Chiarelli has a history of making bets and taking chances, and there is a lot of that in this plan.

Now, if I were GM, and I was thinking like myself, not Chiarelli, I would do things differently. Today’s NHL is built around speed, and I would try to build this team around that. Chiarelli built this team for the 2012 NHL, back when heavy hockey was the way to go. Nowaday’s, the game is too fast for that style, and the Oilers need to adjust to fit that fast style of game, and that means a moderate overhaul of this team.

Under my direction, the team would essentially go into a 2-3 year rebuild. I’d try to move Maroon and any other UFAs with any value at the deadline, and I would shop Russell and Lucic. I could see the Canadiens taking Lucic, they have some cap space, and adding another middle six winger would allow them to use Gallagher or Galchenyuk to add a centre. Montreal was also interested in him when he was available as a free agent, and was even reportingly willing to give him 7 million dollars a year. Russell will be harder to move, he makes a very small impact offensively, and his defense appears to have declined since last year, as he now makes at least one terrible defensive play each game, something I didn’t notice last year. The only thing he is good at is shot blocking, which really isn’t as great as a lot of people make it out to be, as for every quality shot he blocks, he makes two poor defensive plays, essentially canceling out his shot blocking. Both Russell and Lucic do have no-move clauses in their contracts, so hopefully they’ll waive those. If they resist, maybe spending the rest of the season in the press box will convince them. Getting Russell and his overall negative impact out of the lineup will be a positive anyways.

Moving those two players will only add to the holes in this lineup, which is why they’ll need to undergo a short rebuild first. Yamamoto will be the top 6 winger replacing Lucic, likely as soon as next year. I’d still like to see them add another, preferably a left winger. We’ve already got Puljujarvi and Yamamoto on the right side long term. That winger will come through the draft, as will the top 4 defenseman that they also need to add. The 2018 draft is deep defensively, so it is likely best for them to add the blueliner there, but if a winger like Andrei Svechnikov, Filip Zadina, Brady Tkachuk or Oliver Wahlstrom is the best player available and they take him, you won’t see me complaining. They can try to get a defenseman like Bowen Byram, Tobias Bjornfot, Ilia Mironov or Matthew Robertson in the 2019 class. The one thing that needs to happen though, is them adding a top 4 defence prospect and a future top 6 winger. If they do that, they’ll have pretty solid top 6 and top 4 groups.

In this post, I’ve gone over two possible courses of action that could be taken to try to make this team a true contender. The first was what I believe that Chiarelli will try; a plan including panic and weakening one area of the team to improve another. It could work and get the Oilers to the playoffs next year, but it seems more likely that the defence will just be too weak for them to extend their season. The second plan is the map that I would follow as GM; essentially a short rebuild, where they trade away vets and count on the draft to fill holes.

The two plans differ dramatically. One has panic, the other patience. One is short, but risky, the other is longer and safe. One might temporarily fix the team now, while the other will guarantee a future of success in Edmonton.

Which way will Chiarelli go?

Rasmus Dahlin Using WJC To Cement Himself as #1 Prospect For 2018 Draft

Most first year draft eligibles don’t even make the WJC team of their respective countries, and if they do, they typically play a minor role. Top 2018 draft prospect Rasmus Dahlin not only made his team, but he’s been one of the top players. Dahlin has 5 points through 4 games, tied for the lead for defensemen with 2016 Tampa Bay 2nd round pick Libor Hajek, who represents the Czech Republic. Before this tournament, Dahlin and #2 prospect Andrei Svechnikov were viewed as near equals, with Dahlin usually narrowly in front. That gap may be wider now.

World Junior Championship bias is very much a thing, and it can be quite prominent in some rankings. I try very hard not to let the fact that certain players made their WJC teams affect my rankings, and that is part of the reason why I don’t publish January draft rankings – I like to give myself extra time following the WJC to watch some other players in a normal setting before I formulate my rankings. A strong WJC can catapult a player up draft boards, even if that rise isn’t deserved. One tournament doesn’t show the future potential of a player. This could happen with Filip Zadina, who has had a great WJC, impressing a lot of people, including me. However, Zadina hasn’t been at that excellent level of play when playing for the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL. Zadina is going to leapfrog Adam Boqvist on some draft rankings because of the WJC, as Boqvist was not at the WJC, and wasn’t able to put up a strong performance of his own to match Zadina’s.

However, the WJC can still be a great scouting tool when used properly. A scout shouldn’t use the World Juniors for getting a feel for a player’s skills or potential, that should be saved for regular season games. Instead, it should be used as an opportunity to compare players, provided that they are all at the tournament of course. So the WJC can be used to compare Dahlin to Svechnikov in the same setting. Of course, this shouldn’t be weighted too high in rankings, because players can have good or bad WJC.

That is exactly what I did at this year’s WJC; I compared Dahlin and Svechnikov, and so far, Dahlin has come out ahead by a wide extent. Dahlin has fantastic, he’s been playing a lot, and that playing time has been well deserved. A player that can chip in offensively from the blue line like Dahlin can be very valuable, and the Swedish coach realises that.

Andrei Svechnikov needs a strong tournament to match Dahlin’s if he wants to remain in contention for 1st overall, but so far he has not had that. Svechnikov has had a solid tournament, but it hasn’t been near Dahlin’s level, and it will be hard for him to stay close to Dahlin at this rate.

Rasmus Dahlin has shown that he can be dominant against the best U20 players in the world, which Svechnikov has not demonstrated. You have to think that that increased the probability of Dahlin going first overall. At this point, Svechnikov’s first overall hopes are becoming more and more unlikely. I just can’t see Svechnikov usurping Dahlin. For the first time this year, the race for first overall is no longer a two horse affair.

Sam Happi’s NHL Draft Notebook

This is the first edition of what should become a weekly thing, where I share my notes from the last week.  Over the course of a week, I watch a game or two featuring 2018 NHL Draft eligible prospects, and I’ll share my notes from those games, as well as the latest prospect news and analysis here.

Joe Veleno

Veleno was traded from Saint John to Drummondville in the QMJHL Friday.  Veleno will hope to rebound with his new team after a tough first couple months that has seen him falling on draft boards.  He has started to regain his footing after a tough start, and is now at 31 points in 31 games on the year, exactly a point per game.  Veleno is -10 this season.  He’ll look to heat up with Drummondville as he tries to make up lost ground.

WJC

Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov, Brady Tkachuk, Quinn Hughes and Rasmus Kupari headline the 2018 eligible draft talent that are expected to make WJC teams.  Adam Boqvist was the most surprising draft eligible snub.  Boqvist, ranked 3rd, was not named to Sweden’s preliminary WJC roster.  Oliver Wahlstrom and Jesper Kotkaniemi were also surprisingly left off WJC rosters.

Andrei Svechnikov

Svechnikov has returned from his hand injury and will play on Saturday against Oshawa, a game that will be shown on Sportsnet in Canada as a part of their CHL Saturday Showcase series.  Viewers with Sportsnet as a part of their television plans will be able to see Svechnikov multiple times this season, as the Barrie Colts are frequently involved in the Saturday Showcase on the channel.

Noah Dobson

Dobson continues to rise on draft boards, as his calm, puckmoving game continues to impress scouts.  Could be the Cale Makar of 2018, a dark horse top 5 pick.

Jack McBain

McBain has seen himself fall after a poor start to the season where he has had 38 points in 31 games in the OJHL, a Junior A league.  Those numbers appear to be good, but a potential first round pick should really stand out in a 2nd-tier junior league, and McBain has not done so this season.

Gap Between Dahlin, Svechnikov and Others Not as Large as Commonly Thought

    Scouts rave about the two top 2018 NHL Draft prospects, Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov, and for good reason. The two players are exceptionally talented, and that is necessary if you want to go high on any draft, none the less the 2018 draft, which is one of the deepest in years.

    The group of players set to be selected in June 2018 beats out nearly all of the draft classes since 2010 in terms of skill and total potential, and it comes right after a draft class weaker than most. The 2017 draft broke the 2 year streak of having a franchise player available to be selected. In 2015, Connor McDavid, who is more than just a franchise player, he’s a generational talent, and Jack Eichel were selected. A year later, Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine were picked first and second overall. The best that 2017 had to offer was Nico Hischier, who beat out fellow top prospect Nolan Patrick for the honour of being taken with the first overall pick, which was held by the New Jersey Devils. Both players possess elite potential, as do fellow top 5 draftees Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar and Elias Pettersson. After that top 5, the draft had little to offer, as Kailer Yamamoto, Casey Middelstadt and Timothy Lilgegren appear to be the only ones with a legitimate chance at carving out a career near those as the guys who went top 5. If the 2017 and 2018 draft classes were merged and one single draft was conducted, I believe that both Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick wouldn’t have gone top 5. The 2018 draft is just that much better. Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov, Adam Boqvist, Filip Zadina and Brady Tkackuk would be selected, in that order, with the top 5 picks.    Dahlin and Svechikov, the studs leading the 2018 draft pack, are often mentioned in a different breath than the other top prospects in this draft, most notably the players rounding out the top 4-Adam Boqvist and Filip Zadina. Those are the top players available, the big step back in talent doesn’t come after Dahlin and Svechnikov, it comes after the top 4, after Dahlin, Svechnikov, Boqvist and Zadina. There is a smaller step back from Svechnikov and Boqvist, but it isn’t as close as it is made out to be. Dahlin and Svechnikov are the top tier of prospects, Boqvist and Zadina make up the second tier, and then it goes down from there.

Prospect Tiers in the Top 10:
1: Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov (#1-2)

2: Adam Boqvist, Filip Zadina (#3-4)

3: Brady Tkackuk, Quinn Hughes, Oliver Wahlstrom (#5-7)

4: Ty Smith, Bode Wilde, Rasmus Kupari (#8-10)

I might expand on prospect tiers in a later post, they are helpful to see where the gaps in talent in the draft are. The biggest gap in talent are in between prospect tiers 2 and 3 (Zadina and Tkachuk). The gap isn’t huge, in fact, it’s small, but the others are smaller, so that where the big gap is, it isn’t after the top 2, but behind the top 4.

2018 NHL Draft December Top 50

Holiday decorations are beginning to pop up, and that means that it’s time for my December draft rankings.  Big changes to the rankings since last time, I saw a lot of prospects play this month.  Those changes are detailed below.Edit

Risers and Fallers
First off, it’s important to note that these are only the most notable prospects that are listed here, and only the one’s that rose or fall by large amounts. If a guy rose or fell one or two spots, they aren’t listed.

Rising:

Brady Tkackuk

November: 11

December: 5

⬆️ 6

Oliver Wahlstrom

November: 14

December: 7

⬆️ 7

Noah Dobson

November: 20

December: 12

⬆️ 8

Adam Ginning

November: Not Ranked

December: 24

⬆️ 27+

Rasmus Sandin

November: Not Ranked

December: 25

⬆️ 26+

Ryan McLeod

November: 29

December: 23

⬆️6

With most of these prospects, the opportunity to see them play more allowed me to get an better idea of what their skill level is compared to the other prospects available in the draft. Dobson and McLeod both impressed me during the Canada-Russia juniors series, Dobson playing for the QMJHL and McLeod representing the OHL, while viewings of the other’s playing for their teams caused the rise for the others.

Falling:

Joe Veleno

November: 5

December: 13

⬇️8

Akil Thomas

November: 7

December: 14

⬇️7

Ryan Merkley

November: 10

December: 16

⬇️6

Jack McBain

November: 15

December: 39

⬇️24

The fallers fell for differing reasons, but they all mostly revolve around a poor start that has showcased their flaws. For Veleno, those flaws are his passing and defensive play. His passes have been off, and his defensive play hasn’t been two-way centre calibre. Akil Thomas just hasn’t really done that much this season, and he’s been outshone by others, while Merkley’s negative plus-minus this season shows that his offence doesn’t make up for his poor defence. And finally, Jack McBain, who has fallen all the way from 15th to 39th, hasn’t been producing in the second-tier junior league that he plays in, and a top prospect should be dominating.  

I’ve kept you waiting long enough, here’s the list.

1. Rasmus Dahlin, D
Scouts everywhere gush about Swedish defenceman Rasmus Dahlin, and for good reason. The defenceman is good at a lot of things, especially on offence. The defenceman possesses great speed, which he uses to generate opportunities off the rush. Dahlin’s speed and puck skills allows him to go end to end with the puck. That won’t work too well in the NHL, where the defence is considerably better, but Dahlin can still use his speed and passing to move the op ice quickly. The Swede is nearly as deadly when set up in the offensive zone as he is off the rush, as his shot and offensive instincts allow him to score from the point, set up teammates, and jump up into the high slot and finish from there.  Dahlin is exceptionally talented and has drawn comparisons to Erik Karlsson. They certainly share some similarities, but I believe that Dahlin will establish his own game, and in 10 years, top prospects will be compared to him. One similarity that the two Swedes do share? Franchise potential.

2. Andrei Svechnikov, RW

Svechnikov broken hand is unfortunate, but it won’t affect his draft position. He is way too good for that. As good as Dahlin is, Svechnikov is not far behind. The Russian winger doesn’t really fit into any of the groups that prospects are often sorted into, not because he can’t snipe it, or he can’t drive the net, but actually because he can do it all. He can be a sniper, but he isn’t solely a sniper. He can take the puck to the net, but he isn’t just a power forward. In fact, if I had to put him in a category, it would be two way player, not because Svechnikov is gonna be a shutdown player, but because he’s nearly just as good in his own zone as he is on offense, and that’s saying a lot when you look at his offensive talent. To give you a better idea of how good he truly is on offense, if Svechnikov was 2017 eligible, he would of been 1st overall by a landslide, and in 2016 he would of been 2nd or 3rd overall, not quite as good as Auston Matthews, but practically equal to Patrik Laine. To put this simply, he’s really good.

3. Adam Boqvist, D

Adam Boqvist might be one of the most NHL-ready players, not because he is physically dominant, in fact, he is slightly undersized, but because he already plays an NHL style game on the blue line. Many top defensive prospects take advantage of the poor competition in their respective junior leagues and go end to end quite often, using their superior speed and hands to make highlight-reel plays. Top prospect Rasmus Dahlin is guilty of this, but it’s not like it’s a bad thing. There is nothing wrong with doing that, if it’s possible, why not do it? The only downside is that it will take prospects that do this more time to adjust to NHL play, where the competition is just too strong to consistently go end to end like that. Boqvist plays like how I think Dahlin will once he adjusts to the NHL, instead of going end to end, he generates opportunities by skating the puck up and dishing the puck up to forwards, and then joining the rush that he created. Boqvist can also generate a lot of opportunities when set up offensively, using his vision or shot to set up teammates or to get a hard shot on net. I like Boqvist’s play on the defensive side of the puck as well. He holds his own in battles in front of the net and in the corners, as well as playing well positionally and in 1v1 situations. His play popped out to me right from the start (I actually had him #1 for a bit in September), and I’m looking forward to seeing him play as an elite puck-moving defenceman in the future.

4. Filip Zadina, LW

You know it’s a deep draft when a guy like Filip Zadina doesn’t even crack the top 3. In most drafts, a player that looks like a future 40 goal scorer would go first overall, second at the latest, but the depth of this draft has bumped him Zadina is a goal scorer with speed, puck skill and creativity, which he combines to become absolutely lethal in the o-zone. He has a knack for finding a way to the net, whether that is by dangling, speeding past a defender, or dishing it off to a teammate, moving into open space and getting a return feed. His creativity makes him difficult to defend, as he might try something new on every play. I mentioned before that he could be a consistent 40 goal scorer, and that isn’t as hard as you might think when you have as good as a release as Zadina. I would say that it nears Auston Matthews’ especially in terms of release. It is absolutely lethal. Some of his plays remind of Ovie in his prime, when #8 was a dynamic, dangling winger with a great shot, not 30 year old Ovie that relies on his one-timer from the top of the circle to score a lot of his goals. Could be a steal at #4, it’s not often that you get someone this good outside the top 3 picks.

5. Brady Tkachuk, C

Brady Tkackuk plays is a powerful two way centre with a real knack for finding a way to the net. He’s a really smart player, and he moves into open space really well. He plays a power game atypical of a bottom 6 player, going to the net, except hems got elite skill. Goes to the net a lot and he’s got the shot and he hands to finish. Tkackuk excels at the behind the net style of play, when he has the puck down behind the goal line he’s got the skill to have multiple lethal options. He can cut the net, he can hit a teammate with a really nice pass or he can continue to cycle it down low, and he does all of them with elite fashion. Solid defensively, good on the forecheck. Really combined the best qualities from his father and his brother, and he’s the better than both of them. Really good player, would of gone first overall in 2017 for sure.

6. Quinn Hughes, D

Quinn Hughes has done nothing but rise since the beginning of the year, thanks to his success on the NCAA level. Hughes is a fast puck-moving two-way defenceman capable of making a large mark on a game. He can rush the puck, he can make good, accurate breakout passes, he’s really good at quickly moving the puck up ice, making him a great transition defenceman and a great fit for today’s NHL. When I last saw Hughes play, the opposition was collapsing around their net, giving the two opposing defenseman a lot of room to work with on the point, and Hughes took advantage. He controlled the point, found open passing and shooting lanes, and generated a lot of opportunities. For me, a good sign of a defenseman with good offensive zone skills is the ability to walk the point to find an open lane. A lot of dmen will stay stationary, and either take a shot, pass it off or chip it in, but Hughes is able to walk the point and wait for things to open up. A top pairing defenseman if I’ve ever seen one.

7. Oliver Wahlstrom, C

Wahlstrom was a viral sensation as a kid thanks to his lacrosse-style goal in a shootout, and while a lot of the time those kids don’t end up making it to the show, it looks like Wahlstrom will. He’s got the best hands out of anybody in the draft class, and he uses them exceptionally well, creating countless opportunities. Great shot, deceptive release and he skates well with a powerful stride. Shows flashes of a power forward, can protect puck well and drove the net. Physical game needs some work. There isn’t much that’s bad about this player, he’s got elite skill and potential:

8. Ty Smith, D

Ty Smith, like Adam Boqvist, plays an offensive NHL-style game using speed and smarts to move the puck up ice quickly. As skilled as Smith is, the most impressive part of Smith’s game isn’t his skating or his hands, it’s his hockey IQ. Smith consistently makes smart plays with the puck, allowing his team to control possession. Another example of his smarts is how he shoots low, allowing his team to get tips and rebounds. His defense allows him to succeed as well, as he is solid in his own zone, winning battles in the corners and in front of the net, and his active stick closes passing lanes effectively. Will be an effective two-way top pairing defenseman.

9. Bode Wilde, D

Wilde is a big defenseman that moves the puck really well and generally plays an offensive style game without sacrificing much on the defensive side of the puck. His crisp, accurate passes appear effortless, and he uses them to breakout effectively and control the transition game. Wilde likes to jump up and make himself an option in the rush, and he can be a lethal high guy on the rush thanks to his deadly shot. He can really snipe the puck, I’ve seen him knock the water bottle off on numerous occasions. Plays an offensive NHL style game, doesn’t make many risky plays but still generate lots of offense. He’s so calm with the puck, he can have multiple players on him and wait until they are about to check him and then put a pass right on a teammate’s tape. Some of his passes are just amazing. One of the top passers in the draft. Puck moving defensemen like Wilde are all the rage in the NHL, and team’s will be eager to snap him up, especially since he’s already huge and essentially NHL ready physically. 

10. Rasmus Kupari, C

If Wahlstrom’s got the best hands in the draft, it isn’t by much, because Kupari is right behind him. The kid’s got hands like pillows. He can really dangle a player and he’s done that numerous times, but each to the finish just wasn’t there, and that could be Kupari’s biggest I said as he develops. Despite having fantastic hands and a great shot, he just seems to really struggle finishing in tight, and that could hold him back. There’s a point where he’s almost more dangerous from the hash marks that he is from right in front of the net, because at the hashes he has time to get that laser of a shot off, while he can’t do so in tight. That last sentence makes it sound like he needs a lot of time to take a shot, but the opposite is actually true. Kupari’s got a filthy release. It’s just that he seems to struggle with those open blade shots by the goalie. That’s really his only offensive weakness, because he can shoot, pass and dangle better than most. He’s a really exciting player to watch, might struggle a bit at first in the NHL as he has less space and time, but once he adjusts he could be a deadly threat.

11. Jett Woo, D

Jett Woo joins Adam Boqvist, Bode Wilde and Ty Smith as defencemen that play a two-way, NHL-style game, and while he is ranked later than the two of them in overall skill, he would ahead of both in terms of defensive skill, and maybe even first overall. Woo’s active stick allows him to keep opposing forwards to the perimeter, limiting scoring chances, and them important battles he wins in the corners and in front of the net lead to breakouts for his team. Not afraid to use his body, can separate the man from the puck. As Woo’s WHL experience has grown, so has his offensive impact, as Woo now joins the rush quite often, giving teammates another option. He’s also taken over a PP QB role for his team, and he’s good at it. He moves the puck around very well. A player of Woo’s skill-set will prove very valuable to his team, as he can be counted on as a shutdown defenceman as well as to create offence. Has the potential to become one of the league’s premier shutdown defensemen.

12. Noah Dobson, D

Dobson is a speedy puckmover that really impressed me in the Canada-Russia series for Team QMJHL, where he was paired with fellow draft eligible Jared McIsaac. Dobson shows a lot of patience and poise with the puck, and is very calm, waiting for an opportunity to make a good pass. He consistently makes good decisions with the puck, whether that is making a good pass, or finding a shooting lane. His NHL-style puck moving game should lead to top 20 draft position in June.

13. Joe Veleno, C

Veleno is a smart two way centre with a lot of skill. Veleno has dropped a lot since my last ranking, as he hasn’t really done much while other prospects are impressing me more. Veleno was overhyped, granted exceptional status as 15 year old, but he really isn’t on that “exceptional” level. He definitely has top 6 potential, and at this point I still think he could be a top line centre, but I’m not as sure as that as I used to be. At the start of the year, the question was whether or not Veleno could be an elite top line centre, now the debate for me is whether or not he can be a top line centre at all. Right now, the answer to that is yes, but if he doesn’t improve that could change. Veleno’s slow start has really magnified his flaws, particularly his offensive talent. He’s more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, but his passes aren’t consistently on the tape, which is necessary to be an elite playmaker. His speed and hockey IQ allow him to make good offensive plays, but against better NHL defence, those two factors will become less dominant. Veleno is often regarded as a two way centre, and he is pretty good in his own zone, and that is exactly what I think he’ll become. The real question however is whether or not he can improve offensively and be a top line true 200 foot player, or if he will be more of a two way, shutdown 2nd like pivot. I still have high hopes that he can achieve option number one, but he needs to step it up.

14. Akil Thomas, C/RW

Akil Thomas is one of the player’s who’s draft position isn’t very consistent across rankings because scouts either love their style of game or hate it. I like it, I wouldn’t say that I love it per say, but I think it will lead to success on the NHL level. One thing that I do love about Thomas is how energetic he plays. He’s always moving around, making it hard to defend against him. This, when combined with his speed, shot, hockey IQ and hands make him a constant offensive threat. Thomas is more of a playmaker, mad he’s a good one. His passes are accurate, I’d say more so than Joe Veleno, and he makes the smart play every time, and doesn’t attempt super risky passes that he’s going to miss 9 times out of 10. His defense needs some work, when I’ve seen him he’s chased the puck a little too much, but that should improve as he matures. Definitive top 6 talent with high upside. 

15. Jared McIsaac, D

McIsaac, like Dobson, was very good during the Canada-Russia series for the QMJHL. He’s very calm with the puck, taking his time to make good plays. McIsaac isn’t afraid to circle back when he doesn’t have options when bringing the puck up-ice, nor does he shy away from jumping up into the play, both on the rush or when set up in the offensive zone, which he does quite often. A two way defenseman, McIsaac is hard to beat 1 on 1 and isn’t bad in the corners and in front of the net. He and Dobson are actually fairly similar, playing NHL-style, puckmoving games, and both will be top picks in the 2018 NHL Draft.

16. Ryan Merkley, D

Merkley can do it all on offense, creating countless opportunities for his team. He’s deadly off the rush, and is equally good when set up offensively. He can shoot, pass and dangle, but there is one thing that he cannot do, and it’s pretty significant. The defenceman simply cannot defend, and it’s going to cost him at the draft. Merkley gets beat way too often in the corners and in front of the net, and while this should improve as he gets stronger, I expect this to continue to the NHL. Positionally, he isn’t very good either. The one thing he isn’t terrible at is 1 on 1’s, where he uses his speed and agility to counter the opponent. When I’m ranking offensive defencemen like Merkley, I usually try to see if the offence makes up for the defence, and in Merkley’s case, it doesn’t. His plus-minus makes that clear. Despite all the points Merkley puts up, he still allows more goals than he scores. Merkley is dynamic offensively and I think he’ll be a solid NHL player, but I can’t envision a player as bad at defense as him as top pairing defender, although he could possibly succeed playing alongside a shutdown defender.

17. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C

Jesperi Kotkaniemi is a true 200 foot player, which is rare with draft eligibles. A lot of players develop that defensive responsibility later on, but Kotkaniemi’s got a head start. He’s responsible in his own end, he plays well positionally and wins battles. He goes in hard on the forecheck, and can strip the puck from an opponent with ease. Offensively, he’s a dangling, sniping centre (or at times, winger) that generates opportunities from high-danger areas. Controls play offensively. Top 6 potential with elite ceiling.

18. Nando Eggenberger, LW

Eggenberger has more than just a great name, he also has great speed, a deadly shot, and a knack for finding open space. Combine all the three, and you’ve got yourself a lethal offensive force, especially on the rush. Has silky hands too, has scored some nice goals, included a Bobby Orr-style diving across the net tally. The depth of this draft is impressive, as not always can you find a guy with this much potential in the mid-late first round. Could see him, as well as Kotkaniemi, on a top line some day.

19. Isac Lundeström, C

Lundeström has done nothing but impress with his slick passes and hockey IQ playing against men in the SHL this season. Really like how he’s played so far. Lundeström is a playmaking centre with fantastic offensive instincts, he seems to know where everybody is on the ice at all times and can make some beautiful passes accordingly. Passing is definitely his most refined skill, and he’s one of the best in this draft at it. Makes smart choices in the offensive zone, doesn’t overpass, knows when to get the puck to the net. He has pretty good hands, not as good as most others in the top 20 but it won’t hold him back offensively, still has the talent to finish. Slick playmaker has found success in the SHL, and that should translate to the NHL as well.

20. Calen Addison, D

Addison is undersized at 5’9 but that doesn’t hold him back at all. Addison can take over the games at times, generating a ton of offence from the blue line. Moves the puck up ice well, passes are hard and accurate, and is good in the offensive zone, controlling the blue line and keeping pucks in. Holds his own in defensive battles, has a good active stick that takes away passing lanes. In previous drafts Addison might have slid due to his size, but he came around at the right time to be selected in the first or early second round like he deserves to.

21. Anderson MacDonald, LW

Power forward plays a physical game and has natural finishing ability.

22. Evan Bouchard, D

Bouchard is a two way defender that can be very dangerous when he joins the rush, thanks to his skating and puck skills. Good at 1v1 defense, but struggles in the corners and in front of the net.

23. Ryan McLeod, C

Speedy way centre plays a power game and possesses a shoot first mentality. Good with his stick defensively, good on forecheck, using his speed to close in on opponents.

24. Adam Ginning, D

Big puck moving defender has a shoot first mentality in the offensive zone. Tends to panic a bit on the point, taking quick shots when he could walk in. 

25. Rasmus Sandin, D

Puckmoving defenseman likes to join the rush. Creates oppurtunities from the point with smart shots and passes.

26. Barrett Hayton, C

Hard working, two way centre that wins board battles and finishes well in tight.

27. Benoit-Oliver Groulx, F

Groulx is a fast and smart forward that plays a skilled, energetic game. Groulx is always hard in on the forecheck, and angles players out well, causing turnovers in the offensive zone. He’s also very smart, and always knows who is around him. I’d like to see him win some more puck battles, but overall his game is mostly positive.

28. Ty Dellandrea, C

Two way centre is great in his own zone, and works hard in the o-zone. Finishes well in tight, good hands.

29. Dennis Busby, D

Two way defender excels in the transition game and is a great skater and positional player.

30. Serron Noel, W

6’5 power forward moves well for a guy his size. Uses size and skating to be dominant when driving the net.

31. Allan McShane, C

McShane is a two way centre with playmaking ability. Patient in the offensive zone, waits for lanes to open up. Needs to improve his skating if he’s going to succeed as a playmaker in the NHL.

32. Nicolas Beaudin, D

33. Alexander Alexeyev, D

34. Xavier Bouchard, D

35. Joel Farabee, LW

36. Jakub Lauko, C/LW

37. David Levin, LW

38. Kevin Bahl, D

39. Jack McBain, C

40. Gleb Babintsev, D

41. Simon Appelquist, LW

42. Giovanni Vallati, D

43. Jacob Olofsson, C

44. Luka Burzan, C

45. Mattias Samuelsson, D

46. Jesse Ylönen, RW

47. Cole Fonstad, C/LW

48. Lukas Wernblom, C/LW

49. Vitali Kravstov, F

50. Alexander Khovanov, C

2018 NHL Draft November Top 50

It’s November, and I’ve updated, and added to, my draft rankings.  The list is now 50 players long, with a brief description for the top 15.  

There weren’t many huge changes, with the biggest probably being Ryan Merkley dropping to 10th.  Merkley has shown that his defense is just as bad as ever with his -12 start to the OHL season.  If he doesn’t pick it up, he may fall even more.

1. Rasmus Dahlin, D

Dominant offensively, and isn’t bad on defence either.

2. Andrei Svechnikov, RW

Got off to a hot start in the OHL before being sidelined with a broken hand.  Two way force, great on offense.

3. Adam Boqvist, D

NHL style defenseman that makes smart plays and decisions.  Great puckmover, PP QB and shooter.

4. Filip Zadina, LW

Elusive force on the wing, has all the skills to put up a ton of points.

5. Joe Veleno, C

Smart two way centre off to a tough start in the QMJHL.

6. Quinn Hughes, D

Fast puck mover, great offensively and pretty good defensively.

7. Akil Thomas, C/RW

Plays a very energetic game, always moving.  Puts himself in good spots to make plays.

8. Ty Smith, D

Dynamic two-way D makes smart plays and moves the puck up ice well.

9. Bode Wilde, D

Big defenseman plays an offensive game.

10. Ryan Merkley

Electric offensively, but poor defensively.  High risk, high reward.

11. Brady Tkachuk, C

Plays physical two-way game, could possibly be better than brother Matthew.

12. Rasmus Kupari, C

Dynamic centre uses speed, hands to make plays.

13. Jett Woo, D

Smart two way defwnseman, uses speed and puck moving skill to generate oppurtunities for his team.

14. Oliver Wahlstrom, C

Skilled player, creates a lot of oppurtunities

15. Jack McBain, C

Two way centre, good defensively.  Some concern about offense from others, but I don’t really see it.  Kind of like 2017 prospect Ryan Poehling.

16. Jared McIsaac

17. Jesper Kotkaniemi 

18. Calen Addison

19. Anderson MacDonald

20. Noah Dobson

21. Ty Dellandrea

22. Gleb Babintsev

23. Evan Bouchard

24. David Levin

25. Nicolas Beaudin

26. Ryan McLeod

27. Alexander Alexeyev

28. Xavier Bouchard

29. Joel Farabee

30. Giovanni Vallati

31. Benoit-Oliver Groulx

32. Jakub Lauko

33. Allan McShane

34. Simon Appelquist 

35. Jacob Olofsson

36. Luka Burzan

37. Isac Lundeström

38. Mattias Samuelsson

39. Jesse Ylönen

40. Barrett Hayton

41. Lukas Wernblom

42. Vitali Kravstov

43. Alexander Khovanov

44. Dennis Busby

45. Samuel Bitten

46. Ty Emberson

47. Grigori Denisenko

48. Axel Andersson

49. Filip Hallander

50. Kevin Bahl