We are only a day away from the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. There is very little intrigue at the top of the draft as Rasmus Dahlin has been locked in as the No. 1 pick for a year now, while Andrei Svechnikov has been the obvious second pick for almost as long.
That’s where things might get crazy.
Right now, the Montreal Canadiens hold the third pick in the draft and it’s starting to sound like they’re planning to turn the draft upside down early. Everyone and their grandmother has the Habs selecting Finnish center Jesperi Kotkaniemi at No. 3, but there are a few little birdies that think those rumors have been floated in order to distract people from their real target.
Here is my spicy take at how the first round could play out tomorrow evening:
1. Buffalo: Rasmus Dahlin - D - Frolunda-SHL
2. Carolina: Andrei Svechnikov - LW - Barrie-OHL
This is also a stone cold lock. Svechnikov is by far the best forward in the draft and had Carolina won the draft lottery, there’s a very good chance he would have gone ahead of Dahlin.
Trade: The Montreal Canadiens trade pick No. 3 & Jeremiah Addison to Arizona for picks No. 5, No. 55 & No. 74
3. Arizona: Filip Zadina - RW - Halifax, QMJHL
John Chayka has proven he’s not afraid to move up for a prospect he wants. He did it to grab Jakob Chychrun and that turned out swimmingly. These teams couldn’t make it work as a part of the Domi/Galchenyuk deal, but on the draft floor things finally come together. Arizona might have been able to wait it out and have Zadina fall to them, but it wasn’t worth the risk of missing out on the elite sniping talent. With an impressive young core in place, Zadina will be able to make an immediate impact the way Clayton Keller did last season.
4. Ottawa: Brady Tkachuk - F - Boston University, NCAA
The Senators decide to hang onto the pick (lol) and defer their 2019 first rounder to the Avalanche. In Tkachuk they get a kid that can come into the league right away and drive opponents nuts. Because of his shit-heel tenancies, a lot of fans are overlooking just how talented Brady Tkachuk is. He has the ability to play both wing and center while quarterbacking a poweplay from the half boards. Recently, it’s become en vogue to dismiss Brady as a top-5 pick, but keep in mind, he might be the more talented of the two Tkachuk brothers.
5. Montreal: Quinn Hughes - LD - Michigan, NCAA
They did it. The Habs played you all for fools. With Kotkaniemi still on the board, the Canadiens select the player they wanted all along while picking up an extra second round pick in the process. Quinn Hughes has an elite skill set that would make him the best defenseman in man draft classes. He’ll likely take the Zach Werenski route and stay at Michigan for another season - allowing the Habs to tank for his younger brother Jack.
*I know, having Marc Bergevin do something smart might be the hottest take I’ve ever had.
Trade: The Detroit Red Wings trade pick No. 6 to the New York Rangers for pick No. 9 & No. 26
6. N.Y. Rangers: Oliver Wahlstrom - RW - USNTDP, U18
The Rangers want Wahlstrom badly and they weren’t going to wait around any longer. They knew they had to get above Chicago, so they bit the bullet and traded away their second first round pick go get the player they covet. Wahlstrom is a dynamic forward that reminds come scouts of Jack Eichel. He’s strong, quick, and tremendous with the puck on his stick. By moving up to grab the second best forward in the draft, the Rangers know they’ve got the future face of the franchise.
7. Vancouver: Jesperi Kotkaniemi - F - Assat, Liiga
Some believe that Kotkaniemi is the best center in the draft - even though he barely played any center at all this season for his club team. He has flown up the draft boards this season and after a tremendous U18 World Championship, he is the poster boy for recency bias.
Don’t get me wrong, he is a great prospect and will be a very good NHLer, but falling to the Canucks at 7 is about where he should be selected in the draft.
8. Chicago: Noah Dobson - D - Acadie-Bathurst, QMJHL
Hoping to have Wahlstrom fall to them, Chicago settles on Noah Dobson who instantly becomes the best defensive prospect in their system. He’ll never be a number one defender in the NHL, but Dobson is a very good addition to a Chicago team that is going to need a lot of good young (cheap) talent over the next few seasons.
9. Detroit: Evan Bouchard - D - London, OHL
The Red Wings have wanted Evan Bouchard for a long while now - probably because Ken Holland doesn’t like travelling and London is only a 2 hour drive from Detroit. Bouchard is a decent player, but you have to take his numbers with a grain of salt as the London Knights always seem to deploy their defenders in a weird way. He’ll be a solid second pairing guy when the Red Wings finally decide to re-build in 2021.
It’s not the best pick at this spot, but it’s a better pick than when they spent last year’s 9th overall pick on Michael Rasmussen.
Trade: The Edmonton Oilers trade pick No. 10 + Jesse Puljujarvi + Milan Lucic to the Carolina Hurricanes for Jeff Skinner
*No. 10 and Puljujarvi was too much for just Skinner, so the Oilers were able to offload Milan Lucic’s horrendous contract to a team that has said they value “character over strategy”
10. Carolina: Barrett Hayton - C - Sault Ste. Marie, OHL
Many people around both the NHL and junior hockey expect Hayton to be a top 10 pick. the first natural center off the board, Hayton is a tremendously skilled player that has the potential to be a legitimate top line two-way pivot down the road. To go along with Svechnikov and now Puljujarvi, it’s been quite the haul for Carolina. Unfortunately, they all have Milan Lucic there to tear the whole thing down.
Trade: N.Y. Islanders trade pick No. 11 to Washington for Philip Grubauer
*In a last ditch attempt to convince John Tavares to come back, Lamoreillo moves the first of his back-to-back picks for the goalie of the future. (10 days later Johnny T signs with the Maple Leafs)
11. Washington: Joseph Veleno - C - Drummondville, QMJHL
The rich get richer as the defending Stanley Cup Champions walk away with the best center in the draft. After joining the QMJHL early on an exceptional status exemption, many scouts thought that Joe Veleno didn’t have the game breaking ability they want from a 1C. He’s proved them wrong since his trade to Drummondville. He plays like Jonathan Toews but with more offensive skill. Veleno will be a steal at 11 and slotted near the top-5 in re-drafts a few years from now.
12. N.Y. Islanders: Ty Smith - D - Spokane, WHL
Ty Smith is really stinkin’ good. The Islanders get a two-way player that will be able to play as a legitimate shut-down defender despite being a little undersized. He’ll be known for his puck moving ability, while at the same time being able to matchup against the top players every night. A future top pairing guy that reminds me a lot of Morgan Rielly.
13. Dallas: Adam Boqvist - D - Brynas, J20 SuperElit
He doesn’t tumble quite as far as Timothy Liljegren, but the young defender who was once looked at as a lock for the top-5 falls all the way to Dallas. He’s got a ton of offensive potential but is seen by many as one of the bigger boom or bust prospects in the draft. Boqvist will take a while to be ready for the NHL, but at No. 13, it’s going to be next to impossible to draft him.
14. Philadelphia: Joel Farabee - LW - USNTDP, U18
15. Florida: Rasmus Kupari - C - Karpat-Liiga
Say what you want about Dale Tallon as an NHL GM, but the team’s Director of European scouting Jari Kekalainen is one of the best in the business. Kupari will be sitting there for the Panthers and will give them another game-breaker to add to their already impressive stable of forward prospects.
16. Colorado: Vitaly Kravtsov - RW - Chelyabinsk, KHL
A match made in heaven. Kravtsov gives the Avalanche the elite winger they need to play in the top-6 and Kravtsov lands with an organization that isn’t afraid to invest heavily in Russian players. Give him a year or two and Kravtsov might end up pushing Mikko Rantanen down to the second best winger in the Avalanche lineup.