The 2018 NHL Entry Draft will be held in Dallas this coming Friday and Saturday. As is our annual tradition, here is HabsWorld’s official mock draft. The Habs hold the 3rd overall selection in the first round following their victory in the lottery back in April. In our mock, we project the entire first round plus all of Montreal’s picks inside the top-100.
Joining me to pick the draft this past Thursday (the 14th) was HW Editor Norm Szcyrek. Picks were made on an alternating basis as follows:
1, 3, 5, etc – Brian
2, 4, 6, etc – Norm
Each writer offers up their rationale for their selections below.
#1 – Buffalo – Rasmus Dahlin, D, Frolunda (SHL)
This one doesn’t really need a lot of explanation. Dahlin is the consensus top player in the draft and is believed to be a legitimate franchise defenceman. Who needs a franchise blueliner to complement their group of young, talented forwards? Buffalo does which makes this a perfect match.
#2 – Carolina – Andrei Svechnikov, LW, Barrie (OHL)
Many people forget that coming into the fall of 2017, the margin between Svechnikov and Dahlin was very close. Some scouts expected the Russian forward to challenge for the #1 rating, and he got off to a red-hot start, scoring ten goals and four assists in his first ten games. Unfortunately, an injury cost him the chance to earn that ranking, but due to his size and elite-level offensive skills, he’s still the highest-rated forward in this draft and is someone who can immediately help Carolina.
#3 – Montreal – Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Assat (SM-liiga)
This may not be a popular pick (Zadina was also closely considered) but the Habs have needed a top centre for a long time. GM Marc Bergevin has frequently stated that the only way to get one nowadays is to draft one. With that in mind, if Montreal’s scouts believe that Kotkaniemi has 1C potential down the road, there’s a good chance they’ll take him as a top centre trumps a top winger long-term in terms of value. It wouldn’t be surprising to see them look to move down a spot or two if they think he’ll still be there but if not, they’ll roll the dice on him in the number three spot.
#4 – Ottawa – Filip Zadina, RW, Halifax (QMJHL)
Filip is a pure sniper, who is very similar to another high-scoring NHL forward with the same first name, Filip Forsberg. He is certainly the type of winger the Senators could use, and since they have two other fine young centres drafted in Logan Brown and Colin White, they can easily target a winger to improve their depth. Many Hab fans and media have debated whether Montreal should draft Zadina or Kotkaniemi, so both of the Senators selections may be opined for several years going forward depending on the success of both players.
#5 – Arizona – Quinn Hughes, D, Michigan (NCAA)
Hughes is the prototypical new-age defender in that he’s smart and fleet of foot. Years ago, his size would have made him plummet in the draft but now he’s viewed as a potential top pairing defender. The Coyotes haven’t shied away from drafting smaller players in recent years and I can’t see them doing so here. Hughes has big-time upside and will add another dimension to Arizona’s back end in the near future.
#6 – Detroit – Adam Boqvist, D, Brynas Jr (SuperElit)
Boqvist has elite level skating and mobility. He loves to jump into the rush, acting much like a fourth forward at times. His hockey sense and decision making are excellent so those rushes rarely burn him defensively. The Red Wings lack a top pairing defenceman, so a player like Boqvist can help them tremendously. His defensive game is still developing, so when combined with his size and lack of strength, the Wings would benefit from letting Adam develop in Sweden for at least a year.
#7 – Vancouver – Noah Dobson, D, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
It’d be tempting to pick a forward here especially with the Sedin twins retiring but the Canucks have a quality young nucleus up front to work with. The same can’t be said for their back end which is aging quickly without too much promise in the system aside from Olli Juolevi. Dobson finished his junior season up strong and would make for a good partner for Juolevi down the road. This may not be a BPA pick but the back end is a big enough need for Vancouver to take the defender here.
#8 – Chicago – Oliver Wahlstrom, RW, US NTDP (USHL)
A dynamic scoring forward like Wahlstrom will help Chicago tremendously, especially with the departure of Artemi Panerin last offseason. Oliver’s offensive skills are elite level, and he’s also diligent in the defensive zone. He has played both right wing and centre and could play either position in the pros. Depending on the needs of the Blackhawks he may even surprise many by making the team this fall.
#9 – NY Rangers – Evan Bouchard, D, London (OHL)
The Rangers have done a nice job stocking the cupboards up front but there is no real blue-chip rearguard in their system. Bouchard isn’t an elite prospect (his skating is a concern) but he would bring a skillset to the table that New York lacks. They have two more picks at the back of the round but by then, the opportunity to get a top-three defender is basically gone so even though there are still some quality forwards on the board, if they want a blueliner, this is the spot to take one. With how polished his offensive game is, he could make a run at a roster spot right away.
#10 – Edmonton – Ty Smith, D, Spokane (WHL)
Smith is a highly mobile defenceman, much like Adam Boqvist in style and size. He has excellent passing ability to launch the puck out of his zone to a teammate, or take it out of there on his own. His defensive game is good but not great, although his hockey smarts help him to play within his limits so he does not make many bad decisions in his own zone. Ty represents a potential top-two defenceman for the Oilers, which is still a big need for that team. It does not hurt that he’s an Albertan kid, so the Oilers should know the book on Smith inside and out.
#11 – NY Islanders – Brady Tkachuk, LW, Boston University (NCAA)
This is the by-product of the Habs taking Kotkaniemi as Tkachuk winds up being passed over for better fits by a few teams. If he winds up falling this far, the Islanders will be quite thankful. Regardless of what happens with John Tavares, they could use a true power forward inside their top six and that’s what Tkachuk is. His offensive upside is a bit of a mystery given his up-and-down year in college but he was playing against players a fair bit older than him which has to be considered as well. It helps that he could move fairly quickly; it’s not impossible to think that he could turn pro next year as he is physically ready.
#12 – NY Islanders – Barrett Hayton, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Without knowing the status of John Tavares re-signing with the Islanders, it’s likely they will make their second first-round pick another forward. Barrett is an excellent two-way playmaking centre, who was a solid young leader on the Greyhounds this season. His hockey sense and creativity with the puck are top notch, although his skating is only above average. His work ethic is high-end, so it’s likely he will improve his skating enough in the next few seasons to make it a non-issue.
#13 – Dallas – Joe Veleno, C, Drummondville (QMJHL)
Veleno has seen his stock fall in recent years as he hasn’t been the elite talent that many expected when he was granted exceptional status in the ‘Q’. At this point, I think it’s making him a bit underrated. His play took off when he was dealt to the Voltigeurs and really showed his offensive upside. Even if he isn’t a top-line talent, he could still be a quality second line centre and at this stage of the draft, that’s a pretty good return.
#14 – Philadelphia – Ryan McLeod, C, Mississauga (OHL)
A pro size forward with superb skating and hockey sense, Ryan’s offensive game was good this season, but more was expected. There are some discussions about his compete level lacking, perhaps because his older brother Michael (a first-round pick of New Jersey in 2016) is an ultra-competitive player. That has led to some inconsistencies in McLeod’s game. However his upside is still significant, and with the Flyers depth at centre, at worst McLeod could become a third liner, or gets moved to the wing.
#15 – Florida – Joel Farabee, LW, US NTDP (USHL)
The Panthers are trending towards being a team that plays with more pace and Farabee will fit in well with that style of play. He’s one of the more well-rounded forwards that’s available and has a strong scoring touch as well. He’ll need to bulk up which will make him a bit of a longer-term project than some others that should available at this slot but Farabee should slot in nicely on the second line for a long time.
#16 – Colorado – Rasmus Kupari, C, Karpat (SM-liiga)
Kupari is listed as a centre with blazing speed and a great shot. His character and hockey sense are excellent which he uses in both offensive and defensive situations. Some feel he’s destined for the wing when he’s ready to turn pro. In Colorado, they could use a forward with the versatility to play either forward position well.
#17 – New Jersey – K’Andre Miller, D, US NTDP (USHL)
There are some players who have seen their stock rise lately and Miller is one of them. Physically speaking, he’s the type of blueliner that scouts and teams crave. He needs to work on his defensive game but he has made considerable strides since converting from being a forward. He’s still a long-term project but he should be worth the wait and the Devils certainly need some help on the back end down the road (and in the present too).
#18 – Columbus – Vitali Kravtsov, RW, Chelyabinsk (KHL)
Due to an exceptional playoff performance in the KHL, Kravtsov’s draft position was rising among many scouts. His puck handling abilities are exceptional, with equally impressive hockey sense. They combine to make him a very deadly player with the puck, not only to score but to set up a teammate. His defensive game still requires work, and he could build up his strength to handle the pro game at the NHL level. He is a bit of a wild card, and it’s difficult to say whether he could break into the Columbus lineup right away or require some time before he’s ready.
#19 – Philadelphia – Serron Noel, RW, Oshawa (OHL)
I know the Flyers are more about speed and skill nowadays but this still feels like a Philadelphia pick. Noel doesn’t have the top-end skill that some of the other forwards in this draft class do but he has the frame to be a top-six power forward. The skilled forwards on the Flyers will benefit from a complementary player like Noel who could wind up stepping into Wayne Simmonds’ role a few years from now.
#20 – Los Angeles – Isac Lundestrom, C, Lulea (SHL)
The Kings top two centres are aging, so when the prospect of a player like Lundestrom comes along in this draft, they are likely to pounce. Isac is an excellent two-way forward, with impressive hockey sense and competitive drive. He began playing in the Swedish SHL at age 16, which is practically unheard of. Thanks to that advanced placement, Lundestrom may be ready to jump to the NHL this fall.
#21 – San Jose – Bode Wilde, D, US NTDP (USHL)
It has been four years since the Sharks have drafted a defenceman in the first round; basically, they’re due to pick one. Wilde is a little wild in the defensive zone and almost plays like a rover at times. If any teams can harness that, it’s San Jose who already has a defender who jumps into the attack a lot in Brent Burns. Wilde is a few years away from being ready but they have a deep enough back end that they can afford to wait a little longer.
#22 – Ottawa – Rasmus Sandin, D, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
With their second pick this round, it’s likely the Senators will draft a mobile defenceman like Sandin. Rasmus has great hockey sense and loves to rush the puck too. Despite his size, he’s good in his own end due to his smart stick to break up plays before they can begin. Erik Karlsson could mentor the fellow Swede if the Ottawa captain re-signs with the Senators or Sandin could help replace him eventually.
#23 – Anaheim – Martin Kaut, RW, Pardubice (Extraliga)
Kaut is a safe selection here. He’s not going to be a first liner in the pros but he plays a mature all-around game that is going to earn him the trust of the coaching staff in a hurry. He hasn’t been overmatched playing against the pros in the Czech league and may be ready to make the jump fairly quickly. He’s not going to be a long-term Corey Perry replacement but he should settle in nicely as a second liner for years to come.
#24 – Minnesota – Ty Dellandrea, C, Flint (OHL)
The Wild are another team with aging centres who are likely to target one when their turn comes up in the first round. Dellandrea’s OHL team struggled greatly this season which did not help him with his draft position. Despite that, his talent is still significant, with an excellent shot, strong skating and passing, and is a very hard worker in all three zones. His offensive numbers picked up around the second half of the season to help him and his team a little.
#25 – Toronto – Grigori Denisenko, LW, Yaroslavl (MHL)
I think the Leafs would prefer a centre here but I see them wanting to take a swing in terms of overall upside which brings us to Denisenko instead. If teams were just drafting on pure skill, he’d have gone well before this slot but he is a bit on the smallish side and there are teams that are still scared off from drafting Russians. Toronto was quite pleased when Timothy Liljegren fell to them last year after being ranked higher and they’d be just as happy if the talented winger was still on the board for them to pick here.
#26 – NY Rangers – Dominik Bokk, RW, Vaxjo Jr (SuperElit)
After the Rangers purge of veterans this past season, their multiple first-round picks will help restock their cupboard in a big way. With their previous pick being a defenceman, it makes sense they will target a forward, and Bokk is an exciting option. Dominik has the offensive skill set to become a top-six forward in the NHL. He’s an exciting skater who has very good offensive skills although his compete level was inconsistent this past season.
#27 – Chicago – Jared McIsaac, D, Halifax (QMJHL)
After landing Wahlstrom earlier, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them look for a defenceman here and boy, do they need help on their back end. McIsaac isn’t going to be the second coming of Duncan Keith on their blueline but he made good strides this past season in becoming more reliable in his own end while possessing strong mobility and a decent offensive game. He’s a safer selection and lacks top pairing upside but he could slot in on their second pairing for a long time.
#28 – NY Rangers – Akil Thomas, C, Niagara (OHL)
Thomas is one of the more inconsistent players towards the upper end of the draft but when he’s on, his potential is hard to overlook. He has a strong shot that should carry over to the pros and is a strong skater. He is, however, a little undersized which may work against him. If he can become more of a consistent producer, he should be a top-six forward but his all-around game and energy make him a safe bet to play on the third line even if he can’t do so.
#29 – St. Louis – Ryan Merkley, D, Guelph (OHL)
Yes, there are lots of question marks and this could wind up backfiring in a big way. However, Merkley’s talent is undeniable – he’s an elite offensive threat and a strong skater which makes him a high risk/high reward selection. The Blues have a strong prospect pool and can afford to take the gamble. If he can learn to be more stable in his own end and calm down some of the attitude concerns, this could be a huge steal. If not, it could blow up in their face entirely. No pressure here…
#30 – Detroit – Jacob Olofsson, C, Timra (Allsvenskan)
After selecting a defenceman earlier, the Red Wings will find Olofsson a good fit for their team. Jacob is a centre with pro size, soft hands, and good hockey sense. He combines those fine offensive skills with pro size and advanced two-way play.
#31 – Washington – Calen Addison, D, Lethbridge (WHL)
Washington has started to see their back end turn over in recent years and that could continue unless they find a way to keep John Carlson around. With that in mind, it would make sense for the Caps to pick up another blueliner to start restocking their pipeline. They have a good collection of forwards locked up long-term and they’re set in goal so if they want to pick more for future need here, they’re justified in doing so.
In determining Montreal’s next few picks, we made a conscious effort to try to stagger the signing points for these prospects. Logically, they’re not going to want to draft all CHL players who have to sign within two years; the smarter and likelier scenario is to have some two-year and some four-year players so that they don’t run into a situation where they have more players to sign than they have available contract slots down the road.
#35 – Montreal – Jay O’Brien, C, Thayer Academy (USHS)
O’Brien has shown that he can score at the high school level where he averaged nearly a goal and a half per game this past season while leading his team in scoring by a country mile. The question is if he can do so against better competition – he held his own briefly in the NTDP program but didn’t flourish either. He has a good two-way game that gives him a high floor to work off of and if he can develop his offensive game, he has top-six potential. He’s a long-term project, however.
#38 – Montreal – Nicolas Beaudin, D, Drummondville (QMJHL)
Beaudin is an undersized offensive defenceman in this draft. With outstanding playmaking ability and hockey sense, he can dominate the game on the power play. He put in extra effort last offseason to improve his strength, and it helped his defensive play. Some scouts say his lack of size will set him back at the pro level, but with his competitiveness, he should be able to overcome that. With Habs new assistant coach Donald Ducharme who coached Beaudin, there’s a good chance Montreal will utilize his insight to draft Beaudin.
#56 – Montreal – Martin Fehervary, D, Oskarshamn (Allsvenskan)
Martin is a great skating, two+way defenceman. He plays an aggressive game, relishing the chance to hit an opponent, but knows when to let up and neutralize with his stick. He’s a steady defender, with a little but not a lot of upside to his offensive game. He’ll need some time to develop but should end up as a second pairing defenceman at the NHL level.
#62 – Montreal – Sampo Ranta, LW, Sioux City (USHL)
Sampo is a Finnish winger who moved to the U.S.to further his hockey development in the USHL. With good size and tenacious play, he has adjusted well to the North American hockey style. His shot is pro level now, as his skating. He will need to work on is creativity and fine tune his edge work to become a top-six level forward in the NHL.
#66 – Montreal – Blade Jenkins, LW, Saginaw (OHL)
If there was a reward for the player with the best hockey name, then Blade would win it this year. Jenkins is a high tempo winger, who due to his tenaciousness and size is very difficult to play against. He has good hands and good vision on the ice, but it’s too early to tell what level his offensive game will be. He’ll return to junior hockey where he’ll earn more responsibilities to help show if he’ll be more of a top or bottom-six winger. That development time will be helpful to focus on improving his consistency and his defensive end coverage.
#97 – Montreal – Gabriel Fortier, LW, Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)
Fortier’s offensive game hasn’t developed a ton in his first couple of junior seasons but he is a high-energy player with strong speed. If he makes it to the NHL, it’s likely that it’s in a bottom-six role but we’ve seen the Habs pick players like that in recent years. Chances are that they will look to make a safe selection or two at some point in the draft and this would certainly fit the bill.
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