Chris Ransom follow @DraftUtopia Last Updated: October 3, 2017.
Vegas Golden Knights: Rasmus Dahlin, D, Frolunda Indians (Elitserien)
- Our Vegas Golden Knights 2017 Season Preview is up. This team has some good offensive pieces, but they lack a blue chip defender and while I think the Vancouver Canucks will have the worst NHL regular season record in 2017-2018, ultimately we see the second worst team the Vegas Golden Knights win the 2018 NHL Draft Lottery. Rasmus Dahlin has now jumped Andrei Svechnikov as the top prospect on most teams boards and its no surprise because Dahlin is the more complete player when watching him on tape.
- The 6-2 181 lb Rasmus Dahlin was 161 lbs heading into last season, but he added 20 lbs of muscle and beat out Timothy Liljegren for the final spot on Sweden's World Junior Championship team at the age of 16. Rasmus Dahlin has the best chance of surpassing Andrei Svechnikov as the top pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.
- Rasmus Dahlin checked out all the boxes that I look for in a defender on tape. Dahlin has the skating, physical tools, durability, size, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, passing, deking, stick handling, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, hockey IQ, checking, ability to play in a zone to defend the neutral zone on the ice, can be a quarterback on the power play, does well at penalty killing, and the shot blocking that NHL teams covet on tape. He's a very aggressive player, but he's also very calm mentally on the ice which is what you want in a defenseman.
- You'd like to see him add more muscle, but I can live with a defender at 6-2 181 lbs since that's bigger than either defender that went in the top 5 of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Dahlin also got the Frolunda Indians to the 2017 SHL Semifinals in Sweden where the Frolunda Indians lost to Brynas IF with home ice in game 7 of the SHL Semifinals. So far in 4 regular season games this season he has 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, and his line has not allowed a single goal for the Frolunda Indians in the Elitserien league now known as the SHL.
- Based on the tape I saw with Andrei Svechnikov and Rasums Dahlin, I'd be more comfortable taking Dahlin at 1. Svechnikov entered the year as the favorite to go first overall, but Svechnikov lacked slap shot power or slap shot accuracy on his shot while Dahlin just looks like a complete blue chip prospect that warrants number one consideration much like Aaron Ekblad back in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
Vancouver Canucks: Andrei Svechnikov, RW, Barrie Colts (OHL)
- Our Vancouver Canucks 2017 Season Preview is up. I have the Canucks finishing with the leagues worst record in 2017-2018, but losing the NHL Draft Lottery to the Vegas Golden Knights. Vancouver still gets a sweet consolation prize with Andrei Svechnikov at 2 since Loui Eriksson has no business on the top line.
- The 6-2 187 lb Andrei Svechnikov is the little brother of Detroit Red Wings 2015 first round pick Evgeny Svechnikov. Andrei isn't as big as his brother.
- Like his brother, he has the speed, vision, passing, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, hockey IQ, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, and versatility is all there with Andrei Svechnikov on tape.
- Andrei Svechnikov's versatility is the biggest question mark. Some scouts believe he can play left wing, center, or right wing and brings more to the table versatility wise than his older brother Evgeny Svechnikov. Other scouts believe he's a pure right winger. I need to see what Andrei does this season versatility wise.
- His instincts as a forward are simply off the charts. Adding more muscle and improving his slap shot are the only things Andrei needs to work on.
- One positive about Andrei is that he's a better defender than his brother was at this point in terms of development. That's why should join his older brother in the NHL in 2018 as Evegeny is set to make his NHL debut with the Red Wings in 2017 after leading the Grand Rapids Griffins to a Calder Cup in the AHL.
- Andrei Svechnikov had 29 goals, 29 assists, 58 points, and a +29 +/- ratio with the Muskegon Lumberbacks in 48 regular season games in the USHL getting them to the opening round of the 2017 Clark Cup Playoffs in the USHL. That's why we have a photo of Svechnkov in his Muskegon uniform right now.
- He got picked first overall in the 2017 CHL Import draft though and will play for the Barrie Colts in the Ontario Hockey League in 2017-2018 where he may tear it up point wise becoming the second player on the Barrie Colts to go first overall after Aaron Ekblad who was the top pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
- I love what Andrei does on tape for the most part as he already has 3 goals, 2 assists, and 5 points in his first 5 OHL games. My pro player comparison for Andrei Svechnikov would be Alex Ovechkin the winger for the Washington Capitals.
Colorado Avalanche: Brady Tkachuk, C, Boston University
- Our Colorado Avalanche 2017 Season Preview is now up. Brady Tkachuk is the best player on the board at 3, and if the Avalanche are picking this high, there is a good chance Matt Duchene is no longer with the team meaning Tkachuk can be his replacement here.
- Brady Tkachuk is the best player on the board at 3. The 6-2 194 lb forward is more versatile than his father who could play left wing or right wing in Keith Tkachuk and he's even more versatile than his brother since Brady Tkachuk can play left wing, center, or right wing. He's not as big or as skilled.
- He's a better skater than Matthew, but he's not the skater Keith was and he lacks that explosive speed on the ice that Matthew possesses. He may get picked ahead of his older brother because he's more dynamic. Tkachuk was 24 hours away from being NHL Draft eligible for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft where he would have been a top 20 pick.
- Matthew Tkachuk got suspended for some games as a rookie. NHL scouts are saying Brady may be worse so character and maturity is a question mark, but not an issue at this point. Tkachuk has the slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, passing, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, deking, stick handling, hockey IQ, and ability to win face offs consistently. Tkachuck was also team captain for USA's Under 18 team at the World Junior Championships last year.
- There is nobody better than Brady Tkachuk when it comes to winning face offs in this class. Brady Tkachuk seems like someone who is NHL ready right now like his older brother. He should be Boston University's highest draft pick since Jack Eichel as long as he doesn't get suspended in his draft year like Matthew did during his rookie season on the Calgary Flames in the NHL.
- Tkachuk had 2 goals and an 1 assist in his debut in an exhibition game for Boston University. This school produced a top 5 pick in Jack Eichel back in 2015 and they look like they have another top 5 pick in Brady Tkachuck.
New Jersey Devils: Filip Zadina, LW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
- Our New Jersey Devils 2017 Season Preview is now up. New Jersey may be a dark horse with their top line featuring Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, and Palmeri, but the rest of the team still needs to improve some.
- The New Jersey Devils draft the top player here since they need upgrades at both wing positions on the back 6 for their third and fourth lines along with a few defenders for their second or third line. New Jersey is only set at center and goalie and just needs to take the best winger or defender on the board at 4. That player is Filip Zadina.
- Filip Zadina only had 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, and a -9 +/- ratio in 25 games in the Extraliga league. Zadina will play for Halifax in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League after being drafted tenth overall by the Halifax Mooseheads in the 2017 CHL Import Draft.
- NHL scouts believe that after Rasmus Dahlin, Zadina has the best work ethic of any international player. Nothing about the 6-0 190 lb Zadina impressed me on tape before he arrived on Halifax. Zadina already has 4 goals, 3 assists, and 7 points in 4 games with the Mooseheads. His strong start keeps him in my top 5 for now.
Buffalo Sabres: Adam Boqvist, D, D, Brynas I.F. (Elitserien)
- Our Buffalo Sabres 2017 Season Preview is now up. Buffalo has a very bright future and this team will be back in the playoffs by 2019. I feel like one more defenseman is in order though and Adam Boqvist is the best offensive defender in the 2017 NHL Draft.
- I like what Buffalo did by bringing in Marco Scandella and Nathan Beauleau. I feel like Beauleau was a bust in Montreal though and that he's a line 3 defender at best at this point. I don't love the moves. They may work out if Buffalo waits one more year though as they improve the Sabres' defense short-term.
- Adam Boqvist checked out all the boxes that I look for in an offensive defender on tape. Boqvist has the skating, durability, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, passing, deking, stick handling, offensive awareness, hockey IQ, and can be a quarterback on the power play. He's the best offensive defenseman in Sweden even though he's not as complete as Rasmus Dahlin defensively. The 5-11 170 lb offensive defender could become Buffalo's version of Erik Karlsson and give Buffalo the missing piece they need to finally make the playoffs.
- Boqvist may not have a point this season yet. When you watch the tape you see a guy who got 4 assists versus Frolunda the team Dahlin plays for and he got a hat trick versus Finland in an International tournament last year. Boqvist will surge into the top 5 if he dominates the World Juniors because like Dahlin, he's the line 1 defender who anchors his blue line on Brynas I.F.
Previous Pick: Nando Eggenberger, RW, HC Davos (National League A)
Arizona Coyotes: Joe Veleno, C, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
- Our Arizona Coyotes 2017 Season Preview is now up. Arizona is another team that just looks really bad on paper at this point.
- Arizona has made some moves this offseason. I don't like any of the moves they made. I'm not sure Rick Tocchett's coaching will translate.
- The 6-0 181 lb Joe Veleno did alright as rookie with 13 goals, 30 assists, 43 points, and a +7 +/- ratio as a rookie. Veleno was the first Quebec Major Junior Hockey player to gain exceptional status entering the QMJHL Draft at the age of 15. The Saint John Sea Dogs drafted Veleno first overall in the 2015 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Draft.
- Veleno only had 13 goals, 27 assists, 40 points, and a +8 +/- ratio last season. As far as tape goes Veleno has the slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, passing, deking, stick handling, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ you look for.
- Veleno is expected to get promoted from the second line on the Saint John Sea Dogs to the first line after guiding them to the 2017 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs where he had 11 points on a second line in the playoffs guiding the Saint John Sea Dogs to the 2017 Memorial Cup.
- Veleno has two issues. One his production isn't where you want it to be during the regular season. The other thing Veleno needs to work on is winning face offs. Veleno is versatile enough to play left wing, center, or right wing in the NHL. If he cannot correct his face off problems, we could easily see Veleno move to a wing role.
- Veleno got voted team captain for the Saint John Sea Dogs in 2017. Veleno has 1 goal, 3 assists, and 4 points in 5 games. He's got the work ethic and tools to make a push for being a top 5 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. I doubt Arizona passes on him at 6.
Previous Pick: David Levin, RW, Subury Wolves (QMJHL)
Toronto Maple Leafs: Jared McIsaac, D, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
- Our Toronto Maple Leafs 2017 Season Preview is now up. Toronto is loaded offensively. This team won't take off until the defense improves though.
- Toronto takes a defenseman here. Jared McIsaac is the top defenseman available.
- The 6-2 209 lb Jared McIsaac was drafted second overall by the Halifax Mooseheads in the 2016 QMJHL Draft after Halifax traded up to get him. The slap shot power, wrist shot power, passing, defensive awareness, checking, ability to play quarterback on the power play, penalty killing, and ability to block shots is all there on tape. McIsaac has such a powerful shot that he could break a glass wall or a brick wall simply by shooting the puck.
- Shooting accuracy with his slap shot accuracy and wrist shot accuracy is something McIsaac needs to correct this season. He also needs to be more alert on plays. His offensive awareness and hockey IQ need to get better. Sometimes he won't recognize a guy coming his way to cause a take away on tape. That's why McIsaac was the Mooseheads' #4 defender playing a complimentary role on the second line. When you draft a defender in the top 5 you want someone who has line 1 potential down the road. Philadelphia is a team with the luxury to develop McIsaac as long as they want.
- McIsaac had 4 goals, 28 assists, 32 points, and a +7 +/- ratio during the regular season. He struggled during the 2017 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Playoffs. McIsaac is a scrappy player sometimes he knocks guys down and other times he gets knocked down.
- Pairing McIsaac with Timothy Liljegren Toronto's 2017 first round pick and veteran Morgan Reilly gives the Maple Leafs a deadly blue line for years to come. Toronto already has the offense. Once they put the defense together they will have a Stanley Cup contender for years to come.
Previous Pick: Evan Bouchard, D, London Knights (OHL)
Florida Panthers: David Levin, RW, Subury Wolves (QMJHL)
- Our Florida Panthers 2017 Season Preview is now up. Florida got some International wingers overseas to replace Jaromir Jagr. If they don't pan out then David Levin could be an option at 8.
- David Levin was the first OHL player to be granted exceptional status entering the league at age 15 since proven stars like Aaron Ekblad in 2011 and Connor McDavid in 2012. Levin had 80 points in 55 games in the Minor Midget AAA league as an alternate captain before entering the OHL at age 15 as the top overall pick in the 2015 OHL Draft.
- His story is pretty interesting because his father has Latvian descent and his mother has Russian descent. Levin was born in Isreal despite having a father who came from Latvia and a mother who came from Russia. Levin has a chance to be the first Isreal born player to be drafted into the NHL.
- Levin is one of the most complete players offensively maybe even the most complete player offensively in this class as far as long-term potential goes. The speed, skating, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, passing, vision, the versatility to play left wing or right wing, and ability to dominate on the power play is all there. He has a left-handed shot and is better at right wing. He can be used as a left winger as well though. Levin had 9 goals, 21 assists, and 30 points in his rookie season in 47 games. Levin had 18 goals, 35 assists, and 53 points in 66 games last year.
- Levin's biggest issue is his play on defense. For starters, he's undersized at 5-10 172 lbs. He got worse defensively last year. Levin only had a -26 +/- ratio during his rookie season. Last year Levin had a -38 +/- ratio.
- Not only is Levin's defensive awareness an issue, he also struggles with penalty killing. Levin began putting things together when he got to the opening round of the 2017 OHL Playoffs where he had 1 goal, 5 assists, 6 points, and a -1 +/- ratio in 6 OHL playoff games before Subury got eliminated in the opening round.
- Kailer Yamamoto was a great defender as well despite being undersized at 5-7 144 lbs. That's why he went in the first round despite his size. With Levin you are getting a one-dimensional player that probably ends up on your back 6 on the third or fourth line unless he improves defensively. That's why some will argue that Levin is a boom or bust prospect, but for now the Panthers take David Levin at 8.
Previous Pick: Joe Veleno, C, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
San Jose Sharks: Ryan McLeod, C, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
- Our San Jose Sharks 2017 Season Preview is now up. San Jose added more youth at center at 9.
- Back in 2015, many thought Ryan McLeod may be the top pick in the 2018 NHL Draft because he won the OHL Cup MVP on his Midget Hockey League team where he was teammates with 2017 draft pick Matthew Strome. The Flint Firebirds were an expansion franchise and they took him third overall.
- The 6-2 190 lb center got traded from the Flint Firebirds to his hometown team in Mississauga. He would be re-united with his older brother Michael McLeod a first round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft as well as team captain of the Mississauga Steelheads.
- Ryan McLeod had 7 goals, 13 assists, and 20 points in his rookie season. McLeod had 9 goals, 33 assists, and 42 points. He also improved his +/- ratio from -6 as a rookie to +12 in his second season. McLeod also had 5 goals, 15 assists, 20 points, and a +13 +/- ratio during the 2017 OHL Playoffs.
- McLeod has the slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, passing, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, vision, hockey IQ, and the ability to win face offs. McLeod is a special player. I think the only thing holding him back from a top 5 grade is the fact that he plays on Mississauga's second line behind his older brother. McLeod would probably be a first line player on any other OHL team.
- San Jose needs a quality center with this top 10 pick. Ryan McLeod has 2 goals, 1 assist, and 3 points in 4 games this season. San Jose can get a forward here at 10 and McLeod is the top forward available.
Detroit Red Wings: Jett Woo, D, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
- Our Detroit Red Wings 2017 Season Preview is now up. Detroit addresses their blue line at 10 here.
- The 6-1 200 lb Jett Woo sounds like an extra in a Bruce Lee movie. In all seriousness, the fourth overall pick in the 2015 WHL Draft is a player that I think is a top 5 talent, but he has falls to Detroit at 10 due to the depth and talent in this 2018 NHL Draft.
- Jett Woo had 5 goals, 17 assists, 22 points, and a +12 +/- ratio in 67 regular season games. Woo had 3 assists in the 2017 WHL Playoffs before the Moose Jaw Warriors got eliminated in 7 games during the opening round.
- Jett Woo has the skating, explosive speed, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, passing, checking, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, hockey IQ, and the ability to block shots effectively on tape. Woo is someone who can play the quarterback on the power play or penalty killing to develop into a line 1 defenseman.
- He was also team captain for Canada on their Under 17 team at the World Cup of Hockey last fall showing leadership as well. If he shows he can maintain all of these skills in his draft year, he's someone who could easily creep into the top 10 maybe even the top 5 because outside of Rasmus Dahlen this was the only player that checked out all the boxes when watching Woo's tape.
- Woo is off to a strong start with 2 goals, 3 assists, 5 points, and a +4 +/- ratio. Detroit would be a perfect fit for Jett Woo at 10 here.
Previous Pick: Adam Ginning, D, Linkopings HC (Elitserien)
New York Islanders: Ty Smith, D, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
- Our New York Islanders 2017 Season Preview is now up. I have both New York teams missing the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs tied for the same record. The Islanders ended up picking at 11.
- The Islanders take the best player on the board here. Ty Smith was the first overall pick in the 2015 WHL Draft.
- Smith finally worked his way up to top line on the Spokane Chiefs last season. He played on the first line with Kailer Yamamoto and had 5 goals, 27 assists, and 32 points in 66 games. The downside is he had a -12 +/- ratio. The upside is he will have two years of experience on a first line next season.
- The slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, passing, and offensive awareness is there. Smith can be a quarterback on the power play and is a clutch player who can step up offensively in critical situations.
- There are some questions with Smith though. Smith is only 5-11 175 lbs. He hasn't developed a good wrist shot yet in terms of power or accuracy meaning he relies on his slap shot. He also needs to improve his ability to play physical on defense, become more of a defensive defender, and improve his hockey IQ.
- I think Ty Smith can be a first round prospect. Especially if he was taken first overall. The problem with Smith is he is a boom or bust prospect with six pros and six cons to his game.
- Smith is off to a strong start in 2017-2018. Smith has 2 goals, 6 assists, 8 points, and a +7 +/- ratio in 4 WHL games so far with the Spokane Chiefs. Smith is starting to generate top 10 buzz in the eyes of most scouts now after being considered by most a late first round pick even though we've had Smith getting picked at 11 most of the Summer. If he continues to fix his weaknesses he will move into the top 10.
New York Rangers: Ryan Merkley, D, Guelph Storm (OHL)
- Our New York Rangers 2017 Season Preview is now up. I have both New York teams missing the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs tied for the same record. The Rangers ended up picking at 12.
- The New York Rangers go with a defender at 12. The 5-11 165 lb Ryan Merkley was the top pick in the 2016 OHL Draft after being the team captain of the team he was on in Midget Hockey prior to the OHL.
- Merkley had 12 goals, 43 assists, and 52 points in 62 OHL games. Merkley also had a -41 +/- ratio and that's horrible when you consider how undersized Merkley is. He has 1 goal, 5 assists, 6 points, and a -2 +/- ratio in 4 games this season.
- Merkley has the slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, passing, and offensive awareness you look for. This guy can be a quarterback on the power play. He has good handles and can maneuver the puck effectively. He is terrible defensively though and needs to fix that area of his game. That's the biggest reason why some NHL teams have a second round grade on him while others have a first round grade on him. I'll give Merkley the benefit of the doubt for now and put him at 12, but this is a guy that could slide on draft boards if he does not improve defensively.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Riley Sutter, RW, Everett Silvertips (WHL)
- Our Tampa Bay Lightning 2017 Season Preview is now up. Tampa Bay should go with a forward at 13.
- Riley Sutter is a 6-2 201 lb right winger on the Everett Silvertips. Riley Sutter comes from a lineage of current and former NHL players.
- Riley Sutter's father is Ron Sutter. His uncles include Darryl Sutter, Duane Sutter, Brent Sutter, Rich Sutter, and Brian Sutter. His cousins include Brett Sutter, Merrick Sutter, Brandon Sutter, Brody Sutter, Luke Sutter, and Shaun Sutter. The Sutter's are one of the more well known families in the NHL.
- Riley Sutter had 20 goals, 19 assists, 39 points, and a +7 +/- ratio in 67 games last year. Riley Sutter may be the best overall sniper in the 2018 NHL Draft.
- Riley Sutter has the slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, vision, and hockey IQ NHL teams covet. He's extremely calm and has good puck movement as well. The only thing he needs to work on is to develop more as a passer. If Riley Sutter can do that he could be a special player in the NHL who potentially creeps into the top 10 with a strong season next year.
- Sutter only has 3 goals through 4 games this season. He hasn't improved as a passer and some scouting services think Riley Sutter may fall to the second round, but I still see a first round talent plus his family lineage may intrigue Yzerman so I'm not ready to move him down yet.
Previous Pick: Kirill Nizhikov, RW, Barrie Colts (OHL)
Winnipeg Jets: Quinn Hughes, D, Michigan
- Our Winnipeg Jets 2017 Season Preview is now up. Winnipeg can take the best player on the board at 14.
- Many consider Quinn Hughes a top 10 player because of his ability on offense believing he can be a quarterback on the power play. That's a valid argument, but the 5-9 168 lb defender may spend a second season at Michigan like Zach Werenski before making the NHL.
- Quinn Hughes has the speed, skating, slap shot power, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, vision, and hockey IQ NHL teams covet. The only knock on Hughes game is his size and if you look past that you could be getting a special defender once he adds more muscle.
Previous Pick: Jett Woo, D, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
St. Louis Blues: Benoit-Olivier Groulx, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
- Our St. Louis Blues 2017 Season Preview is now up. St. Louis can take the best player on the board at 15.
- The 6-1 176 lb Benoit-Olivier Groulx had 17 goals, 14 assists, 31 points, and a -18 +/- ratio in 62 games. Benoit-Olivier Groulx had 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, and a +3 +/- ratio in the 2017 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Playoffs where he improved defensively. The top pick in the 2016 QMJHL Draft is a player St. Louis can get at 15.
- Benoit-Olivier Groulx has the slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, vision, and offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to thrive in the NHL down the road. You'd like to see him develop more as a passer in the QMJHL, but he was a great passer on his midget team where he was an alternate captain with 30 assists before Halifax took him first overall in the 2016 QMJHL draft. You'd also like to see Benoit-Olivier Groulx show the versatility to play left wing or right wing with his size.
- I wouldn't call Benoit-Olivier Groulx a complete player yet as a prospect. I want to see how he does on the top line now that Nico Hischier is gonna be on the Devils plus there are a few tweaks he can make to his game. Plus Benoit-Oliver Groulx is the final player in this class that may be NHL ready so that's why I feel like there is a huge drop off after this pick.
Previous Pick: Connor Roberts, C, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)