We are a little over a month away before the hockey world converges in Dallas for the 2018 NHL Draft. For the first time since they selected Patrick Kane first overall back in 2007, the Chicago Blackhawks will be picking within the Top 10. According to Blackhawks director of scouting Mark Kelly, this year is going to be a good draft. Hockey prognosticators have touted that the possibility of a majority of the top 10 overall picks will be NHL-ready between within one to two seasons.
In this mock draft, I will project how the Top 10 will unfold.
No. 1: Buffalo Sabres – Rasmus Dahlin (D), Frolunda (Sweden)
No need for Buffalo to be cute with this one. Dahlin has been the consensus number one pick for almost two years now. I would argue that based on pure potential alone, he is better than Aaron Ekblad, the last defenseman to go first overall in the draft. Dahlin will be NHL-ready on Day One, and would be a force to be reckoned with along with Jack Eichel and Casey Mittelstadt.
No. 2: Carolina Hurricanes – Brady Tkachuk (LW), Boston University
In a recent interview with Canes GM Don Waddell, he said that apart from Sebastian Aho, every current player in Carolina’s roster is “available”. Based on this piece of information, I was very tempted to actually project the Canes picking defenseman Quinton Hughes, the top American defensive prospect this year, with the second overall pick, since they already have their stud forward in Aho, and there aren’t a lot of high-quality centers in this draft class. That being said, Waddell has worked with USA hockey a lot before getting the top job in Carolina, and he knows that Tkachuk has the size and the hockey IQ to be ready as soon as this fall.
No. 3: Montreal Canadiens – Andrei Svechnikov (RW), Barrie Colts (OHL)
With Tkachuk going second overall, Mark Bergevin will not be able to resist the allure of Andrei Svechnikov. Despite his injuries, Svechnikov is a pure goal scorer and play maker along the lines of Artemi Panarin, something that the Canadiens have not had in their roster since the halcyon days of Max Pacioretty. With the Habs’ captain’s future with Montreal in doubt, Bergevin will pull the trigger on this one.
No. 4: Ottawa Senators – Adam Boqvist (D), Byrnas Jr. (Sweden)
Boqvist is described as a dynamic defenseman that compensates for his average size with terrific hands, lightning speed, and a propensity to join the rush in the offensive zone and distribute the puck unselfishly. Sounds familiar? With all the brouhaha concerning Erik Karlsson’s future in Canada’s capital, and his own job in the hot seat, Pierre Dorion will use the number 4 pick on Boqvist.
No. 5: Arizona Coyotes – Filip Zadina (LW), Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
With news breaking two days ago that Yotes GM John Chayka is close to signing his number one defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson long term, Chayka may now be thinking that Filip Zadina would look mighty good in a line with Dylan Strome. Zadina put up monster numbers in the QMJHL this past season, and putting him on Strome’s line with, let’s say, Christian Fischer, would give the Coyotes a legitimate top 6, along with Max Domi, Derek Stepan and Clayton Keller.
No. 6: Detroit Red Wings – Noah Dobson (D), Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)
The Red Wings have only drafted one defenseman in the first round in the past 10 years. Considering the amount of d-man talent in this draft class, and the fact that Dobson stands out size-wise, the Red Wings will draft him with the sixth overall pick. It will no hurt that Dobson also has a lot of offensive upside, netting 69 points in 67 games in the QMJHL this year.
No. 7: Vancouver Canucks – Quinton Hughes (D), University of Michigan
I predict that the retirement of the Sedins will usher in a “wilderness” period for the Canucks, meaning it’s gonna get worse before it starts to get better. They already have the building blocks in center Bo Horvat, winger (and probable Calder Trophy winner) Brock Boeser, and goalie Jacob Markstrom. Troy Stecher may have played a lot of minutes in Vancouver’s top D pairing with Alexander Edler this past season, but he is not comfortable holding the puck for too long, and is prone to dumping it in the defensive zone. Hughes, who has explosive speed, could be the perfect complement for Stecher, creating what could be the top pairing of the future for the Canucks.
No. 8: Chicago Blackhawks – Oliver Wahlstrom (RW), USNDTP
While being aware that the blue line was the most glaring weakness the Blackhawks had this past season, Stan Bowman said that they will draft “the best player available” with the eighth overall pick. At this point, it is Wahlstrom. He is big (198 lbs.), versatile (can play both wings and pivot), and has a hair-trigger release. He has the size to win board battles and get in front of the net to bury those greasy goals, but has the finesse to slip into the soft areas and get at those one-timers. I was tempted to give the Blackhawks Evan Bouchard, who I believe could play himself into the roster out of training camp if he is chosen, but with the Hawks seeming high on Jan Rutta, Henri Jokiharju and Blake Hillman, Bowman may go for the dynamic forward in Wahlstrom. Besides, think of what he can accomplish with Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane. I have chills already.
No. 9: New York Rangers – Evan Bouchard (D), London Knights (OHL)
The Blue Shirts have a plethora of developing blue-line talent with Ryan Lindgren and Libor Hajek, but adding Bouchard into the mix significantly bolsters their pool. He has high offensive upside (87 points in 67 games with the Knights) and is comfortable quarterbacking a power play AND headlining a penalty kill unit. He’s basically an all-around defenseman.
No. 10: Edmonton Oilers – Barrett Hayton (C), Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
Arguably the best center in the draft this year. With Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl making so much money right now, the Oilers will need good, affordable pieces to bolster their depth down the middle. Hayton fits the bill.