December 18, 2020

Redrafting the 2018 NHL Draft

Not a year has gone by in the 58-year history of the NHL Entry Draft without there being players that greatly exceed or fail to meet expectations.

The 2018 NHL Draft is not too far in the rearview but already there are some general managers and scouting teams that are looking like geniuses. On the flip side, some are looking fairly shortsighted.

In their developmental years, two seasons is a long time for a prospect. With that being said, FCHockey examined how the 2018 NHL Draft would pan out if it took place today.

1 – Buffalo Sabres: Rasmus Dahlin, LHD (-)

Actual Selection: Rasmus Dahlin, D

FCHockey’s Rank: 1

In 2018, Rasmus Dahlin was labelled a potential franchise defenseman and one of the best prospects of the decade. Two seasons later, he has done nothing to surrender that designation, often drawing comparisons to his compatriots Erik Karlsson and Victor Hedman. Already capable of producing end-to-end rushes and highlight-reel plays like the former, he has been working on becoming dependable in all situations like the latter.

The Swede turned 20 in April and produced the second-most points by a teenage defenseman in NHL history. However, his five-on-five play has been inconsistent at times due to his tendency to try for the spectacular play rather than make the simple play. According to his coach Ralph Krueger, he became more patient throughout the 2019-20 season – and he is still in the infancy of his career.

With the organization cleaning house and heading in a new direction, Dahlin should help spearhead the new-look Sabres as well as a new era of highly-skilled and smooth-skating defensemen.

2 – Carolina Hurricanes: Andrei Svechnikov, LW (-)

Actual Selection: Andrei Svechnikov, LW

FCHockey’s Rank: 2

After a promising rookie season, Andrei Svechnikov truly announced himself to the league in 2019-20 – and fashionably so. Not only did he double his points-per-game, but he also scored two lacrosse goals.

What makes the Russian so deadly is his ability to beat you in a multitude of ways. Possessing a big frame, he can drive his way to the net with ease. He can also skate circles around the defence and find a teammate or beat the goaltender with a powerful release. His diverse offensive toolkit makes him one of the most watchable players in the league – you never know what he’s going to do.

Unlike the Sabres, the Hurricanes are ready to compete now, in no small part thanks to the immediate impact Svechnikov has made in two years.

3 – Montreal Canadiens: Quinn Hughes, LHD (+4)

Actual Selection: Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C

FCHockey’s Rank: 6

The first alteration made in this redraft, Quinn Hughes has already proven in one (shortened) season that he should’ve been selected earlier than seventh overall. Following his second year at the University of Michigan, in which he was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, the defenseman made a seamless transition to the NHL. He met all the expectations of him: he carried the puck exceptionally well out of his own zone and evaded opposing defenders with his quick footwork. He also exceeded expectations in other areas. Viewed as a future power-play anchor, he worked his way onto the first unit as a rookie and was integral to its success as the Canucks finished with the league’s fourth-best powerplay.

Rookie defensemen usually take time to adjust to the pro game, but Hughes is already being deployed in key matchups and playing with the poise of a veteran. He can keep up with just about any forward and the league and makes up for his small frame with proper gap control and smart use of his stick. He’s already taking over playoff series. If Dahlin is leading the next generation of defensemen to the NHL, Hughes is right behind him.

4 – Ottawa Senators: Brady Tkachuk, LW (-)

Actual Selection: Brady Tkachuk, LW

FCHockey’s Rank: 4

Already displaying the energetic and direct approach that made him such an attractive prospect ahead of the draft, the Senators are without a doubt happy with their selection of Brady Tkachuk two years ago. His underlying statistics have been fantastic – his nose for the net is reflected in his high expected goals and high-danger chances totals. Scouts often worry about players who hug the perimeter of the offensive zone – that is one of the best aspects of Tkachuk’s game. He isn’t afraid to drive for the net and he has the size and skill to get there. With more experience in the league and better players around him, he will be a star.

5 – Arizona Coyotes: Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C (-2)

Actual Selection: Barrett Hayton, C

FCHockey’s Rank: 13

When the Habs took Jesperi Kotkaniemi with the third overall pick in 2018, it was considered by many to be a stretch in order to fill organizational needs. He impressed many in his first season – in which he was the youngest player in the league – with flashes of brilliance, but struggled with consistency. Those struggles continued this season and he spent time in the AHL.

Despite this, the Finnish centreman’s upside is certainly higher than once anticipated. He looked good in the playoffs, making smarter decisions and keeping the high-scoring Penguins at bay. If he keeps playing with this confidence and works on his skating, he could turn into the top centre the Canadiens picked him to be.

6 – Detroit Red Wings: Filip Zadina, RW (-)

Actual Selection: Filip Zadina, RW

FCHockey’s Rank: 3

In terms of raw skill, Filip Zadina was considered by some to be behind only Dahlin in the class. His shot and hands were NHL-ready. However, his transition to the pros has been rocky. We haven’t seen that ability to take over games because the defenders aren’t swarming him as they did in junior. In the year he spent in Grand Rapids, he often shot from too far away from the net, showing a lack of confidence.

In 2019-20, he played on an awful Red Wings team and didn’t see much time with the likes of Dylan Larkin or Anthony Mantha. As a result, he wasn’t getting the puck in dangerous areas much. However, his production before suffering a season-ending injury was impressive considering the circumstances.

With Zadina, it appears to be a case where all the tools are there, but the execution isn’t. He still gets picked by Detroit this time around because there’s still a good chance he is a future 40-goal scorer.

7 – Vancouver Canucks: Adam Boqvist, RHD (+1)

Actual Selection: Quinn Hughes, LHD

FCHockey’s Rank: 7

With Hughes taken third, the Canucks get the next best thing in Adam Boqvist. There is obviously a significant gap in their current stage of development, but the Swede was always going to be more of a project.

He spent 2018-19 with the London Knights and caused defenders nightmares, scoring 30 goals and 73 points in 65 games, including a four-goal outing in the playoffs. However, he remained a liability in his own zone. After 15 games in the AHL in 2019-20, he showed enough improvement for the Blackhawks to call him up and he remained in the NHL.

There is a chance he never ends up being a top-pair defenseman, but if he can at least manage to defend at the NHL standard, his offensive toolkit will carry him.

8 – Chicago Blackhawks: Noah Dobson, RHD (+4)

Actual Selection: Adam Boqvist, RHD

FCHockey Rank: 10

Whereas there is some risk in picking Boqvist, Noah Dobson is closer to a sure thing. He was one of the biggest risers in the draft and has continued on that progression. He won back to back Memorial Cups before being promoted to the New York Islanders this year as the seventh defenseman. Although used sparingly, he had the best expected and actual goals percentage on Barry Trotz’ juggernaut defense. Should he continue to mature and improve offensively, Dobson could grow into a franchise defenseman. If not, he will without a doubt be a top-six shutdown guy.

9 – New York Rangers: Evan Bouchard, RHD (+1)

Actual Selection: Vitali Kravtsov, RW

FCHockey Rank: 8

In case you forgot, this was a very deep class for defensemen. Evan Bouchard is another potential top-pairing defenseman, but also more of a work-in-progress. In his first season in the AHL, he displayed all the qualities that made him a top-10 pick, but still looked like he could use another season to work on his play in his own zone. Learning from his mistakes in the NHL will be the difference between Bouchard becoming a top defenseman and a power-play specialist.

10 – Edmonton Oilers: Vitali Kravtsov, RW (-1)

Actual selection: Evan Bouchard, RHD

FCHockey Rank: 28

After a season of moving from the AHL to the KHL to the VHL, Vitali Kravtsov began 2020-21 with Traktor Chelyabinsk on a tear. With eight goals and 10 points in his first 16 outings, the winger seems to have found his feet. It’s a small sample size, but thus far the big Russian is finally displaying the skills that saw him picked ninth overall. Should he continue this fine play, he will no doubt be recalled to the NHL when the season starts.

11 – New York Islanders: Joel Farabee, LW (+3)

Actual selection: Oliver Wahlstrom, RW

FCHockey Rank: 15

Joel Farabee was a revelation for the Philadelphia Flyers this year, building off of a great year at Boston University. The American impressed many in the postseason with his high compete level and smarts. If he can add a better first three steps to his impressive top speed, the 20-year-old can become a forechecking monster capable of complementing any line.

12 – New York Islanders: Barrett Hayton, C (-7)

Actual selection: Noah Dobson, RHD

FCHockey Rank: 11

Fifth overall was a stretch for Barrett Hayton two years ago, and that remains true today. Although he had a phenomenal 2020 World Juniors with Canada and has developed the offensive side of his game more, his upside just isn’t as high as the names above him. What looks more and more likely, however, is that he will become an effective 2C.

He thinks the game at a high level, using a variety of techniques to get himself out of trouble and towards the net. After picking Hayton, then-Coyotes GM John Chayka praised him for not having a hole in his game. There’s not one area in which he is head and shoulders above the rest of the class, but versatility can be a useful asset for a coach.

13 – Dallas Stars: Ty Smith, LHD (+4)

Actual selection: Ty Dellandrea, C

FCHockey Rank: 9

After dominating the WHL for the past three seasons, it looks very likely Ty Smith will play in the NHL when the 2020-21 campaign begins. His numbers were ridiculous: he had 19 goals in 46 games and led all under-20 defensemen in points-per-game with 1.28. He didn’t meet his own high standard at the World Juniors, but his track record suggests that he will produce at the pro level. Even with two years of hindsight, it’s still a mystery how Smith slipped to 17th.

14 – Philadelphia Flyers: Kirill Marchenko, LW (+35)

Actual selection: Joel Farabee, LW

FCHockey Rank: 59

Just as expected when he was drafted, Kirill Marchenko signed a three-year contract extension with SKA St. Petersburg in December 2019 which will see him stay in Russia until 2022. His desire to play in his home country no doubt had an effect on his draft stock, which is why he made such a jump in this redraft.

Just like Kravtsov, Marchenko has begun the 2020-21 campaign at the top of his game. He has scored six goals and 10 points in 14 games at the KHL level and seven points in two games in the VHL. By the time he comes over to play in North America, he will likely have grown into his six-foot-three frame and will be capable of playing in a top-six role in the NHL.

15 – Florida Panthers: Oliver Wahlstrom, RW (-4)

Actual selection: Grigori Denisenko, LW

FCHockey Rank: 5

Oliver Wahlstrom had an underwhelming post-draft season at Boston College and this year in the AHL. You begin to wonder if he struggles without elite linemates like Farabee and Jack Hughes, who he played with on the USNTDP. He also didn’t stand out in either of the past World Junior Championships. Still, the size, skill and hockey sense are there and should carry him to the NHL, albeit perhaps in a lesser role than once projected.

16 – Colorado Avalanche: Grigori Denisenko, LW (-1)

Actual selection: Martin Kaut, RW

FCHockey Rank: 18

Grigori Denisenko’s transition to the KHL hasn’t been as smooth as many anticipated – 2019-20 was his first full season in the pros – but he has dominated at multiple age levels internationally. He was named a top-three player this year for the Russians as they won silver at the World Juniors and had the most points in the tournament the year prior. There’s a lot of skill and drive in his game but if he can’t figure out how to put it all together soon, he will slide down this list.

17 – New Jersey Devils: Rasmus Sandin, LHD (+12)

Actual selection: Ty Smith, D

FCHockey Rank: 19

Rasmus Sandin was the best defenseman at this year’s World Juniors and looks to be one step away from becoming an NHL regular. He shot up prospect rankings after an incredible season in the AHL as an 18-year-old and has continued to develop this season, splitting time between the minors and the NHL.

The Swede doesn’t have the ceiling of the defenders above him on this list, but he is certainly more NHL ready than some. He has been playing with the confidence and poise of a pro since he arrived in Sault. St. Marie in 2017.

18 – Columbus Blue Jackets: Nils Lundkvist (+10)

Actual selection: Liam Foudy, C

FCHockey Rank: 35

Sandin’s defence partner with Team Sweden burst onto the scene in his third year in the SHL. Playing on first-placed Lulea, Nils Lundkvist had the most points amongst U20 skaters with 11 goals and 20 assists in 45 games. Concerns about his decision-making have eroded over time and it looks as his offensive ability – which made him a first-round pick – was underestimated.

19 – Philadelphia Flyers: Alexander Romanov (+19)

Actual selection: Jay O’Brien, C

FCHockey Rank: 179

A particularly divisive prospect, some cite Alexander Romanov’s exceptional performances at the past two World Juniors as reasons to have him higher on the list, whereas others cite his average numbers in the KHL to have him lower. The truth is, he lies somewhere in the middle.

He played limited minutes on the best team in Russia, which negates the arguments about his performance in league play. However, he hasn’t shown he has the toolset of a true powerplay anchor, which limits his upside. The defining aspects of Romanov’s game are his patience and four-way skating ability, which allow him to be a calm presence in his own end, finishing his checks with ease and transiting the puck well up the ice.

20 – Los Angeles Kings: Rasmus Kupari, C (-)

Actual selection: Rasmus Kupari, C

FCHockey Rank: 16

After two solid seasons as a teenager with Karpat of the Liiga, Rasmus Kupari endured a tough first season in North America. He struggled to adjust to the physicality of the AHL and then tore his ACL in the first game of the World Juniors. Hopefully, 2020-21 will prove to be a transition season for the Finnish centremen, because the skillset is all there.

21 – San Jose Sharks: Liam Foudy, LW (-2)

Actual selection: Ryan Merkley, RHD

FCHockey Rank: 49

After a surprise two-game emergency spell in the NHL in February, Liam Foudy returned to the OHL with a swagger to his game. He had a point in all of his final 18 games and his hands were keeping up with his feet consistently – a criticism aimed at him in the past. The versatile forward rode that hot streak and has joined the Blue Jackets in the NHL playoffs, where he posted a goal and an assist in 10 games. He also played a key role for Team Canada as they won gold at the World Juniors.

22 – New York Rangers: Egor Zamula, LHD (Undrafted)

Actual selection: K’Andre Miller, LHD

FCHockey Rank: 105

When Egor Zamula came to the WHL in 2017-18, he was swiftly put on waivers by the Regina Pats to make room for another import player. Moving to a weak Calgary Hitmen team hurt his draft stock and he was not selected.

Since being signed by the Flyers out of rookie camp in 2018, he has rapidly established himself as one of the most intriguing prospects in the NHL. Standing at six-foot-three, his reach allows him to break up play with his stick in Zdeno Chara-like fashion.

At the World Juniors, he was Russia’s number one defenseman. With the Hitmen this season, he was a point-per-game player as a result of his great hands and proclivity to join the rush.

23 – Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Merkley, RHD (-2)

Actual selection: Isac Lundestrom, C

FCHockey Rank: 25

Two years later, selecting Ryan Merkley in the first round is still a high-risk, high-reward pick.

However, following an impressive season in London under Dale Hunter’s no-nonsense system, there is less risk and more reward than in 2018. Concerns about his attitude and effort level are still present, however, there were limited instances of frustration or laziness. In fact, the offensive dynamo spent plenty of time on the Knights’ penalty kill.

As long as he continues to work on the problems that have followed him his whole career, Merkley has too much talent to not be a first-round selection.

24 – Minnesota Wild: Jan Jenik, C  (+41)

Actual selection: Filip Johansson, RHD

FCHockey Rank: 94

Although he only played 27 games, Jan Jenik scored at a pace of 2.07 points-per-game in the OHL this year – only 2020 top prospect Marco Rossi had more. He had two goals and three points in three games in the World Juniors before a knee injury saw him leave the tournament and remain on the sidelines for the remainder of the season.

He is not a great skater – and knee surgery won’t help that – but he thinks the game at a very high level. The Czech is a player who creates offense from static positions in the opponent’s zone, driving to the net and finding an open teammate or beating the goalie with a quick release.

25 – St. Louis Blues: Tyler Madden, C (+43)

Actual selection: Dominik Bokk, LW

FCHockey Rank: 87

Tyler Madden was a revelation in 2019-20 with Northeastern. Although he is undersized, standing at five-foot-11, 155 pounds, he did not shy away from contact and consistently made high-end plays to attack the net. He is offensively gifted enough to negate his small frame but will need to either add weight or improve defensively in order to be used in all situations.

26 – Ottawa Senators: Scott Perunovich, LHD (+19)

Actual selection: Jacob Bernard-Docker, RHD

FCHockey Rank: 270

The Hobey Baker winner was on track to secure the University of Minnesota-Duluth their third consecutive Division 1 Championship prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.

While Scott Perunovich lacks the physicality to be an all-situations guy, he is one of the most offensively-gifted defenders not playing in the NHL. He doesn’t possess game-breaking skill but he does possess the ability to slow the game down and makes all the right plays with the puck on his stick. Time will tell if he can learn to defend at the pro level.

27 – Chicago Blackhawks: Dominik Bokk, LW (-2)

Actual selection: Nicolas Beaudin, D

FCHockey Rank: 33

The German started 2019-20 slowly with Rögle BK of the SHL, but caught fire after returning from the World Juniors. Dominik Bokk scored 10 of his 11 goals after the holiday season but otherwise had a disappointing season. He had just 17 points in 45 games, compared to the season prior, in which he had 23 in 47.

The raw skill is there – Bokk can stickhandle in a phone booth – but there’s a lot for him to work on, starting with his consistency.

28 – New York Rangers: Joe Veleno, C (+2)

Actual selection: Nils Lundkvist, D

FCHockey Rank: 14

The only player to receive exceptional status in the QMJHL, Joe Veleno has not reached the heights people once thought he would. He is nowhere near the other players to play in the CHL at 15 in terms of his ceiling, however, there is still a very good chance he becomes a serviceable player at the pro level. While he doesn’t possess the speed of Connor McDavid, or the goal-scoring ability of John Tavares, he does everything well and should end up being a useful middle-six forward in the NHL.

29 – Toronto Maple Leafs: Calen Addison, RHD (+24)

Actual selection: Rasmus Sandin, LHD

FCHockey Rank: 50

Yet another mobile, puck-moving defenseman to come out of this draft, Calen Addison was deputized as the quarterback on Canada’s first power play at the World Juniors and lived up to expectations. He had eight assists and nine points in seven games, bringing home the gold medal.

He takes a lot of risks to create chances and is lacklustre in his own end, but has consistently produced at all levels of competition. The former second-round pick projects as a powerplay specialist, fourth forward type defenseman.

30 – Detroit Red Wings: Jacob Bernard-Docker, RHD (-4)

Actual selection: Joe Veleno, C

FCHockey Rank: 32

In direct contrast to Addison, Jacob Bernard-Docker’s game is much more focused on his end. He joined Addison on Team Canada’s blue line but was tasked with shutting down the opponent’s top forwards.

Although the game seems to demand offensive ability of defensemen more and more, there is still room for reliable, stay-at-home rearguards. That being said, his production has come along nicely in two years with the University of North Dakota, where he will once again lace up his skates in 2020-21.

31 – Washington Capitals: Alexander Khovanov, C (+55)

Actual selection: Alexander Alexeyev, LHD

FCHockey Rank: 37

Alexander Khovanov was one of the best players at the 2020 World Juniors and with the Moncton Wildcats in the QMJHL.  His shot is effective and he is an elite playmaker, but he is not a great skater. He can certainly think the game at a high pace, but he will not have as much time to make decisions in the NHL. His defensive game could also use work.

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