The 2018 NHL Draft class is assessed as being deep enough to satisfy every team’s wish list. From puck-moving defensemen to electrifying forwards, the upper echelon of this year’s crop will provide teams with the opportunity to select first-round quality prospects well into the late stages of the second round.
Ranking such an impressive collection of players has been more difficult than in recent years.
For one, the majority of players pegged for the upper half of first round from as far back as July all either met or significantly exceeded expectations. Additionally, practically all these kids were among the top players in their respective leagues, let alone their own team. Their success in league play and on the international stage made drastic shifts in individual rankings practically non-existent — eight of the top 10 players ranked in September remained in the top 10 some eight months later.
Right wing Andrei Svechnikov was on a 60-goal pace and was the Ontario Hockey League’s Rookie of the Year after winning the same award in the USHL the season before. Rasmus Dahlin was dominant in the SHL as a 17-year-old defenseman and is all but guaranteed to be the first player taken. But neither he nor Svechnikov has done enough to definitively prove one prospect has the higher upside than the other. Signs point to the duo making immediate impacts for their eventual NHL clubs, and their expected success should render their eventual draft position as nothing but a mere footnote.
Not far behind Dahlin and Svechnikov are almost a dozen players who are by today’s NHL standards ready to make the jump to the highest level.
While the results of the draft lottery April 28 are expected to have a profound impact on the way the first round actually unfolds, the rankings below should give you a pretty good idea on how the better prospects might be grouped.
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1. Andrei Svechnikov, RW, Barrie (OHL)
Although it's highly unlikely Svechnikov leapfrogs Dahlin to be the first name called on draft day, his goal-scoring abilities are on par with the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine, only Svechnikov is more reliable defensively at his age.
2. Rasmus Dahlin, LHD, Frolunda (SHL)
An electrifying defenseman with ankle-breaking moves, Dahlin is ready to show the NHL what he's made of. He's been called the Swedish Bobby Orr, but Dahlin's passing ability and puck control techniques are quite unique for a defender from any era.
3. Filip Zadina, LW, Halifax (QMJHL)
This Czech sniper consistently has been the best player for his teams in both league and international play. Zadina is a complete player who is a danger to score no matter the situation.
4. Adam Boqvist, RHD, Brynas (SHL)
A lightning-quick puck rusher with a blistering shot, Boqvist has drawn comparisons to Erik Karlsson. He was too dominant for Sweden's top junior league, and his quick-strike mentality should present him with plenty of chances to create offense in today's up-tempo NHL.
5. Joe Veleno, C, Drummondville (QMJHL)
A quick-skating pivot with elite vision, Veleno is one of the best of what appears to be a thin group of centers. A midseason trade from Saint John helped boost his production and did wonders for Drummondville's power play. Veleno has pro size (6-1, 190) and is capable of taking on a leadership role.
6. Brady Tkachuk, LW, Boston University (Hockey East)
His last name may be synonymous with hard-nosed play, goal scoring and pugilism, but this power winger has great vision, an incredibly soft set of hands and anticipates puck travel better than any of his draft-eligible peers. Brady is both quicker and more disciplined than brother Matthew or father Keith.
7. Oliver Wahlstrom, RW, U.S. U18 (NDTP)
Wahlstrom is one of the top goal-scoring prospects in this draft. He plays an in-your-face style and crashes the net with little regard for his own safety. He also kills penalties and can provide any coach with the necessary intangibles they covet.
8. Ty Smith, LHD, Spokane (WHL)
A silky-smooth puck mover who is the cream of this year's Western Canadian draft contingent, Smith is an outstanding power-play quarterback with excellent agility and a real nose for the net. There's some Drew Doughty to his game, especially the way he handles an aggressive forecheck.
9. Joel Farabee, LW, U.S. U18 (NDTP)
One of the more opportunistic forwards available, Farabee is a quick-skating offensive force who served as Team USA's captain. You're not going to find many teenagers who exploit turnovers better than this Syracuse-area native, who this year combined with Wahlstrom to form one of the USHL's most lethal duos.
10. Quinn Hughes, LHD, Michigan (Big 10)
Hughes had an outstanding season as a freshman for Michigan and was a key cog in the Wolverines' march to the Frozen Four. He's quick, nimble and passes the puck with authority, and his size (5-10, 170) doesn't prevent him from out-muscling bigger forwards in the corners.
11. Rasmus Kupari, C, Karpat (SM-Liiga)
Slick, dual-threat center with size who took to his role as a depth player on a contender in Finland's elite league. The Finns have become quite popular in terms of the recent NHL drafts, and Kupari arguably is the best they have to offer in 2018.
12. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C/W, Assat (SM-Liiga)
Like his countryman Kupari, Kotkaniemi spent his draft year playing in Finland's top circuit. Only difference is Kotkaniemi significantly out-produced him. He's a mature playmaker with world-class vision, but his first-step quickness at this stage of his development is average.
13. Barrett Hayton, C, Sault Ste Marie (OHL)
Hayton is a heady two-way center that drives opponents batty with his rapid directional changes and ability to thread the needle with his passes. His straight-line speed probably is the one thing preventing him from being talked about as a lock for the top five, but Hayton checks every other block. It shouldn't shock anyone if he’s the first Canadian-born player drafted.
14. Noah Dobson, RHD, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
Pound for pound, there isn't a better one-on-one defender in this draft than Dobson, who uses his quick feet and NHL-caliber smarts to smother opposing puck carriers. On offense, he's more of a facilitator than an orchestrator, but he oozes potential in every area of the game and should be groomed to anchor a top pairing.
15. Bode Wilde, RHD, U.S. U18 (NTDP)
A thoroughbred puck mover who likes to live on the edge with his reads, Wilde has the skills to become one of the top players taken from this draft. Some question his ability to defend, but Wilde has proven he knows how to do it when it's asked of him. He's only a tweak or two away from becoming his generation's version of Scott Niedermayer.
16. Akil Thomas, C, Niagara (OHL)
Skilled center who can control the puck for extended periods and punish opponents for giving him the smallest of windows. Thomas, who was born in Florida but reared in Canada, has an excellent shot and can play the wing as well.
17. Evan Bouchard, RHD, London (OHL)
Bouchard, who this season was the OHL's top-scoring defenseman and carried London's gutted roster for almost three quarters of the season. He is a one-man breakout with a howitzer for a shot, plus he has the size (6'2, 190) and reach to make up for foot speed that appears average at best.
18. Vitali Kravtsov, RW, Chelyabinsk (KHL)
Kravtsov not only is an 18-year-old forward that actually played more than three minutes a game in the KHL, but he also scored in bunches in the playoffs. He's big (6'2, 170) and soft mitted, but his contract in Russia likely stops him from getting drafted in the top 10.
19. Ryan McLeod, C/W, Mississauga (OHL)
Big-bodied power forward with speed and playmaking abilities who was one of the top OHL scorers among first-year draft eligibles. McLeod's versatility is one of several things that stand out about him — he can play center or wing, shoot the puck with authority and is a mainstay on both the power play and penalty kill.
20. Jacob Olofsson, C, Timra IK (Allsvenkan)
Olofsson was named the best rookie in Sweden's top minor league and played an important role in vaulting Timra into the SHL's top division for next year. He's big, quick and strong on the puck, plus he can be counted on to match up against top players.
21. David Gustafsson, C, HV71 (SHL)
Gustafsson was a role player for HV71's top team, but watching him play against peers reveals a dominant puck hound that is a threat in open ice. He uses his quick feet and active stick to strip pucks from defenders behind the net, but it's his ability to spot cutters and weak-side teammates that puts him in a select group of draft-eligible centers.
22. Rasmus Sandin, LHD, Sault Ste Marie (OHL)
Sandin is proof that you don't have to be fancy with the puck in order to achieve results. His decision to leave Sweden's junior league for the OHL is looking smarter by the day, as he is a top contributor for the Soo as they vie for a Memorial Cup bid. Sandin is a smooth skater who is as dependable away from the puck and he is with it on his stick.
23. Grigori Denisenko, LW, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
Flashy winger with a ton of upside who can make a variety of moves to get within striking distance of the goal. Denisenko dealt with consistency issues throughout the season, but he's an unstoppable force when engaged.
24. Ty Dellandrea, C, Flint (OHL)
Underrated center that made the most of his opportunities despite having the misfortune of playing for a doormat. Dellandrea can score in a variety of ways and uses his size to protect the puck extremely well. He was Flint's go-to guy in every critical situation, so it's no surprise he likes to model his game after Jonathan Toews.
25. Ivan Morozov, C, Mamonty Yugry (MHL)
One of the draft's top defensive centers also is a crafty playmaker and finisher. Morozov is strong on his skates and catches defenders flat footed with a deceptively quick first step.
26. Isac Lundestrom, C/W, Lulea (SHL)
Responsible two-way center who makes plays at high speed and beats defenders wide with regularity. Lundestrom was one of Sweden's top under-20 players and helped boost his draft stock when he filled in admirably for an injured Lias Andersson at the world juniors.
27. Jesse Ylonen, RW, Espoo United (Mestis)
Lightning-quick Finnish winger whose father Juha played several seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes. Jesse was one of the leading junior scorers in Finland's top minor league and should be named to next year's under-20 world junior squad.
28. K’Andre Miller, LHD, U.S. U18 (NTDP)
Miller is a big defenseman with a long, smooth stride who didn't take long to become Team USA's most reliable defender. A converted forward, he looks quite comfortable skating the puck out of harm's way and can unload a bomb of a shot.
29. Dominik Bokk, RW, Vaxjo (SHL)
This German-born goal scorer poses a bit of a conundrum for draft evaluators because he was too good for junior hockey but very green for the SHL. Bokk's puck skills are undeniable, however, and he's proven to be a low-maintenance winger in terms of creating his own chances.
30. Alexander Alexeeyev, LHD, Red Deer (WHL)
Underrated two-way defender with size who can either slow a game down or speed it up. Alexeeyev is very active in the offensive zone and uses his quick first step and elusiveness to sneak into the high slot with regularity.
31. Jared McIsaac, LHD, Halifax (QMJHL)
McIsaac is a physical two-way defenseman with occasional flashes of brilliance that make you think he's holding back far too often. He is a very good all-around rearguard who may not develop into a big point producer but can consistently provide clean puck management.
32. Jakub Lauko, C, Chomutov (Extraliga)
Excitable forward with breakaway speed and a heavy shot who loves to agitate and irritate.
33. Philip Kurashev, C, Quebec (QMJHL)
Swiss-born pivot with skill who can perform multiple duties regardless of the score or time on the clock.
34. Jonathan Tychonick, LHD, Penticton (BCHL)
Swift puck mover who is headed to play college hockey in North Dakota. Tychonick is one of the draft's best power-play quarterbacks
35. Filip Hallander, C/W, Timra IK (Allsvenskan)
Hard-nosed forward with the puck skills to compliment an abrasive, in-your-face style.
36. Martin Kaut, RW, Pardubice (Extraliga)
Mature playmaking winger who was counted on to contribute as Pardubice advanced deep into the Extraliga playoffs.
37. Benoit-Olivier Groulx, C, Halifax (QMJHL)
Three-zone center with a hard shot who plays with a team-first attitude and kills penalties with the best of them.
38. Jake Wise, C, U.S. 18 (NTDP)
Elite playmaker and power-play specialist who bounced back from an early-season injury to anchor Team USA's top line.
39. Dmitry Zavgorodniy, RW, Rimouski (QMJHL)
A fierce competitor who poses a matchup nightmare for opposing coaches, Zavgoridniy was one of the QMJHL's top rookies following his impressive performance last August at the under-18 Ivan Hlinka.
40. Milos Roman, C, Vancouver (WHL)
Top Slovak draft prospect was a key cog on Vancouver's top line before an injury cut his season short.
41. Serron Noel, RW, Oshawa (OHL)
Noel's combination of skill and power makes him an intriguing option for a team looking to roll the dice on a forward with the potential to be a dominant force.
42. Jakub Skarek, G, Dukla Jihlava (Extraliga)
The best goalie available in 2018 held his own while splitting the season between two adult leagues. Skarek has been thwarting adult-age competition for a few years and is considered the best Czech goalie prospect since Dominik Hasek.
43. Aidan Dudas, C, Owen Sound (OHL)
A diminutive speed merchant with dizzying moves and finishing abilities, Dudas was a consistent scorer for a loaded team.
44. Jack McBain, C, Jr. Canadiens (OJHL)
Aggressive power forward with a hard, accurate shot who turned down the chance to play major junior to maintain his NCAA eligibility for Boston College.
45. Blake McLaughlin, C, Chicago (USHL)
A gifted playmaker that can play physical and stick handle in a phone booth, McGlaughlin is one of the more complete players in the draft. He's among Chicago's scoring leaders and is expected to play for the University of Minnesota next season.
46. Ryan Merkley, RHD, Guelph (OHL)
Fantastic puck skills and elite vision may be enough for a team to overlook Merkley's shoddy defensive play and allegations that he's got a poor attitude.
47. Cam Hillis, C, Guelph (OHL)
Meat-and-potatoes center who plays the game the right way and can be counted to make proper decisions no matter the situation.
48. Mattias Samuelsson, LHD, U.S. U18 (NTDP)
The son of former NHL defender Kjell Samuelsson has his father's size but is far more mobile and dangerous with the puck.
49. Gabriel Fortier, C/W, Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)
Speedy two-way forward who is money around the goal and a threat to score on the penalty kill.
50. Kevin Bahl, LHD, Ottawa (OHL)
Stay-at-home defender with size who plays a smart game and uses a quick stick to create turnovers.
51. Curtis Douglas, C, Windsor (OHL)
Mammoth 6-foot-8 center with soft hands and deceptive speed who wears defenders out during puck battles.
52. Jonatan Berggren, C/W, Skelleftea J20 (Superelit)
Pesky waterbug with a nonstop motor who uses his speed and anticipation to turn a harmless dump-in into a quality scoring chance.
53. Ondrej Buchtela, RHD, Chomutov (Extraliga)
Mobile blueliner who likes to throw his weight around and quickly transition the puck up ice.
54. Ryan Chyzowski, C, Medicine Hat (WHL)
Power center that can play in all situations and create havoc in front of the net.
55. Cole Fonstad, RW, Prince Albert (WHL)
Dangerous two-way forward with excellent vision and a penchant for making big plays late in games.
56. Jett Woo, RHD, Moose Jaw (WHL)
Poised defender with above-average speed and a strong understanding of the game.
57. Jay O'Brien, C, Thayer (HS-Mass.)
The top high school player in the U.S. displays a mix of grit, speed and determination.
58. Adam Ginning, LHD, Linkoping J20 (Superelit)
Physical defender who looks to deliver big hits but has the quickness to carry the puck away from danger.
59. Ivan Muranov, LW, HK MVD (MHL)
Power forward that plays hard in all three zones and dominates the low slot.
60. Filip Johansson, RHD, Leksands J20 (Superelit)
Reliable defender with size and decent foot speed who likely tops out as a safety net for a top or middle-pairing puck mover.
61. Calen Addison, RHD, Lethbridge (WHL)
The puck skills are great; the commitment to defense is not. Addison is a very good puck manager with a hard shot who needs to clean up his play inside his own end.
62. Allan McShane, C, Oshawa (OHL)
Pass-first center with very good vision who was Oshawa's most reliable producer for a significant part of the season.
Steve Kournianos is the founder of TheDraftAnalyst.com, a blog dedicated to the NHL Draft. He is a former prospects writer for ESPN.com and worked briefly for the Associated Press and McKeen’s Hockey. He also covered the Boston Bruins, the AHL and Hockey East for SportsTicker, and was a minor league baseball editor for Howe SportsData.