2018 NHL Mock Draft, Round 1, picks 1-10

The 2018 NHL Entry Draft is tomorrow, June 22nd and what better way to ring in another year than to give you another mock draft to look at and speculate with. Fair warning, you may not agree with everything said in this article (all of it is my opinion) so feel free to let me know what you think in the comments or message me on twitter @will_borowski.

Buffalo Sabres – #1

Rasmus Dahlin, Frölunda HC (SHL)

Player Vitals:

Position: Defense

Age: 18

Handedness: Left

Height/Weight: 6’2″/183lbs

7-13-20 in 41 games this year for Frölunda.

Player Background:

Rasmus Dahlin is everything you want in a defenseman. Not only is he quick and agile, but he’s eventually going to put on some pounds and will be able to throw the body if needed. He commands the game at his pace without flaw and to quote Craig Button of TSN, “He is to defenseman in this coming draft, exactly what (Connor) McDavid and (Auston) Matthews were to elite centers”. What baffles me about Dahlin in this draft is that he’s only 18 and will continue to grow. I believe that if or when he lives up to the hype of this draft, he could be one of the best defensemen to ever play in the NHL.

Reason for selection:

Winning the lottery obviously helps any team in the draft and after falling short of McDavid a few years ago, Buffalo needed a break. Snagging the 1st overall pick in this year’s draft has set up Buffalo’s success for the next couple of years. With young players like Casey Mittelstadt, Sam Reinhart, and Jack Eichel along with prospects like Cliff Pu and Alexander Nylander looking to make the full-time jump come this fall, the Sabres have enough cap space to make a run at a top free agent and possibly sneak into a wild card spot this year.

TSN’s NHL comparable: Victor Hedman

Carolina Hurricanes – #2

Andrei Svechnikov, Barrie Colts (OHL)

Player Vitals:

Position: Right Wing

Age: 18

Handedness: Left

Height/Weight: 6’3″/187lbs

40-32-72 in 44 games this year for Barrie

Player Background:

Andrei Svechnikov put up monster numbers in his rookie season for the Barrie Colts. The young Russian winger set two OHL records for first-year players with the most goals scored by a rookie (40) and the most points scored by a rookie (72). He also earned the Emms Family Award for OHL Rookie of the Year. This stat is incredible and worth noting because among the top rookies in the OHL this season, Svechnikov had played 16 fewer games due to a hand injury that had sidelined him at least 5 weeks. The second-best rookie this season was centerman Cam Hillis of the Guelph Storm. Hillis had 20 goals and 39 assists for 59 points in 60 games.

There were talks about Svechnikov going first overall in this draft but experts quickly shut the talk down once they experienced more of Dahlin’s play. Now that’s not a knock to Svechnikov, but rather a praise of Dahlin and his excellence.

Reason for selection:

The Carolina Hurricanes are in a bit of a grey area in terms of where they want to be as an organization. They aren’t opposed to moving their #4 point getter this season in Jeff Skinner for a 1st round pick and a prospect (per Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic). And while it wouldn’t be the worst idea if they were to pick up Svechnikov in the draft, they definitely need as much help as they can get on offense. Teuvo Teravainen, Sebastian Aho, and Svechnikov cannot carry this offense alone. Their defense, on the other hand, looks great on paper. Jaccob Slavin, Justin Faulk, Brett Pesce, and Noah Hanifin are a fantastic top-4. If they can sign Hanifin to a fairly long contract, I think they’ll be in good shape.

TSN’s NHL comparable: Marian Hossa

Montreal Canadiens – #3

Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Ässät (Liiga)

Player Vitals:

Position: Center

Age: 17 (18 in July)

Handedness: Left

Height/Weight: 6’2″/ 190lbs

10-19-29 in 57 games this year for Ässät

Player Background:

Jesperi Kotkaniemi is a very intelligent player with a sneakily dangerous shot. His skating is above average as is his puckhandling and creativity. From what I’ve seen from highlight videos, he’s aggressive on the forecheck and knows where to place his stick. He’s going to grow into a great 2-way player and play a major part of a team’s power play and penalty kill.

Reason for selection:

Before you rip my head off, let me explain. I believe that the Canadiens should take a center in this draft. I know how good of a player Filip Zadina is and how his shot alone can change the pace of a game, but talent down the middle is lacking. The last time the Habs drafted 3rd overall, they took Alex Galchenyuk hoping that he would become their #1 center of the future. That didn’t seem to pan out the way they wanted it too. (Midway through writing this Galchenyuk had been traded to the Coyotes for Max Domi, 1 for 1. What in the world is Marc Bergevin doing?) Anyway, now that the trade is official, the Canadiens desperately need a center and they would be acquiring a great two-way playmaker in Jesperi Kotkaniemi if his name is called at #3.

TSN’s NHL comparable: Anze Kopitar

Ottawa Senators – #4

Filip Zadina, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

Player Vitals:

Position: Left Wing

Age: 18 (19 in November)

Handedness: Left

Height/Weight: 6’1″/192lbs

44-38-82 in 57 games this year for Halifax

Player Background:

Filip Zadina has one of if the not the best shot in this draft and that’s represented by his goal count this year (44 in 57 games). What makes him such a dynamic force is his ability to get find scoring areas. His release is otherworldly and his skating allows him to be defensively responsible and also allows him to pressure opponents into making quick decisions. His game will translate beautifully to the NHL and the team who drafts him will be getting a strong two-way forward with an emphasis on offense and playmaking.

Reason for selection:

The Ottawa Senators are in a bit of a bad situation right now. Their captain has recently requested a trade, and their third-leading scorer’s girlfriend is a psychopath. On the bright side the Sens draft 4th and 22nd in this year’s draft. The Sens are desperate for offense and Zadina will most definitely help in that regard at number 4. He’ll fit well with Matt Duchene on the first line, most likely replacing Mike Hoffman on the wing due to Hoffman being sent to San Jose for Mikkel Boedker, Julius Bergman, and a 2020 6th round pick in a package deal with Cody Donaghey and a 2020 5th round pick. In conclusion, the Senators need the best offensive player in the draft and taking Zadina is, in my opinion, the right move here with the number 4 overall.

TSN’s NHL comparable: David Pastrnak

Arizona Coyotes – #5

Noah Dobson, Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)

Player Vitals:

Position: Defense

Age: 18

Handedness: Right

Height/Weight: 6’3″/179lbs

17-52-69 in 67 games this year for Acadie-Bathurst

3-10-13 in 20 games the Memorial Cup Playoffs

Player Background:

Noah Dobson is the all-around package for a defenseman and has shot up defensive draft rankings the most of any player this year. He knows exactly when to make a play and rarely misses his assignment. He can provide an offensive touch when needed and can shut down offensive threats in his own end. This past season Dobson wore an “A” for the Memorial Cup Champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan and considers himself more of a quiet leader. He likes to lead by example on the ice and isn’t very vocal but that doesn’t diminish his leadership abilities. Dobson’s skating is smooth as butter and has a lethal shot that can take you by surprise if you aren’t prepared for it. Whoever drafts Dobson won’t be disappointed in the player that they receive.

Reason for selection:

The Yotes are another team in a weird scenario. They have great young players in Clayton Keller, Christian Dvorak, Jakob Chychrun, and Dylan Strome (to a degree…) to build around but they also have guys like Dave Bolland, Jason Demers, Zac Rinaldo and Brad Richardson who are aging and inching toward the end of their respective careers and if Arizona wants to rebuild with their young core, they need to dump these guys immediately. When I imagine the Coyotes with Oliver Ekman-Larsson who received a monster contract and is entering his prime, they should continue to build a team that’s centered around the new-age NHL that’s focused more on speed and skill and not so much grit. Grabbing Noah Dobson with the 5th pick in this draft would definitely help rapidly advance the more speedy and skilled Arizona Coyotes era.

TSN’s NHL comparable: Seth Jones

Detroit Red Wings – #6

Brady Tkachuk, Boston University (NCAA)

Player Vitals:

Position: C/LW

Age: 18 (19 in September)

Handedness: Left

Height/Weight: 6’3″/196lbs

8-23-31 in 40 games for Boston University

Player Background:

Brady Tkachuk is the son of Hall of Famer Keith Tkachuk and the brother of Matthew Tkachuk who is currently playing for the Calgary Flames. Now that that’s out of the way, Tkachuk is a prototypical power forward who loves getting into puck battles. A very gritty and powerful player who will force his way into any place on the ice that he wants. Not only can he do that but he is smart enough to know where to be on the ice in certain scenarios. After watching him and Boston University in the Hockey East Tournament that BU eventually won, you could tell that this kid has a certain finesse to his game as well that not a lot of power forwards possess these days. And if you watched any of Team USA’s games in the World Junior Championship this year you would know that too. Also worth mentioning he is quite possibly a better agitator than his brother Matthew and that’s saying something.

Reason for selection:

The Red Wings are possibly one of the worst situations in the league. The bright spots in their lineup are Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Anthony Mantha. The rest of their team is either on the last leg of their prime or almost on their way out. The Captain, Henrik Zetterberg says he hopes to play the 3 more years that are on his contract but I just don’t see that happening. Every player from the recent Stanley Cup years are too seasoned to play through the intensity of the playoffs and Ken Holland needs to learn that a rebuild is knocking on this team’s door. Adding Brady Tkachuk to this lineup could be what they need to possibly put them on the right track to success in the future.

TSN’s NHL comparable: Matthew Tkachuk

Vancouver Canucks – #7

Evan Bouchard, London Knights (OHL)

Player Vitals:

Position: Defense

Age: 18 (19 in October)

Handedness: Right

Height/Weight: 6’2″/192lbs

25-62-87 in 67 games this year for the Knights

1-4-5 in 5 games in the playoffs this year.

Player Background:

Evan Bouchard is an incredibly gifted defenseman. The way he sees the ice is unbelievable. He finds lanes that other players do not see and capitalizes on the opportunity. He’s active in his own end and isn’t afraid to move up on offense and like his draft classmate Noah Dobson, his shot is deceptive. If you aren’t prepared, he’ll make you pay. Bouchard is, in my opinion, the best pure passer in this draft and all of his assists and stretch passes (from what I’ve seen) look effortless. When you have guys like Quinn Hughes (5’10”), and Adam Boqvist (5’11”) who are undersized talent and then see a guy like Bouchard at 6’2″, scouts and GM’s are going to look at Bouchard more due to his size and would maybe rather a more traditional D-Man with size.

Reason for selection:

The Vancouver Canucks are a team that I want to watch develop offensively in the next few years. With Brock Boeser having a Calder Trophy type season this year before injury, and Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen, and Adam Gaudette getting more playing time next year with the Sedin twins retiring. And Elias Pettersson looking to make the NHL roster in this fall, I believe that they would want a defenseman with a lot of offensive ability. Evan Bouchard is just that. Even though he plays a well-rounded game, he can run an efficient power play and can make a huge difference on offense even if it’s just distracting defenders from checking up on Brock Boeser. With this pick, the Canucks get younger and receive a player that can immediately make the jump to the NHL and contribute effectively.

TSN’s NHL comparable: John Carlson

Chicago Blackhawks – #8

Quinn Hughes, Univ. of Michigan (NCAA)

Player Vitals:

Position: Defense

Age: 18 (19 in October)

Handedness: Left

Height/Weight: 5’10″/174lbs

5-24-29 in 37 games this year with Michigan.

Player Background:

Quinn Hughes is one of many undersized defensemen in this draft but what makes him different than the rest is his elite level decision making and his ability to outplay opposition in his own end. The only flaw in his game is his defense. It’s not bad by any means but just lesser than his other skills. Hughes has been deemed the consensus best skater in the draft and something else worth noting, he rarely ever gets pressured to make a play because he controls the pace of the game due to his stickhandling and decision making. He can move with ease on the ice and if he doesn’t see a lane that’s open, he can regroup and try again. Not many defensemen in this draft have his composure and decision-making ability.

Reason for selection:

The Chicago Blackhawks are looking for a player that has, “The hockey IQ, the skating, (and) the skillset” and they, “want to draft players who play the style we [the Blackhawks] like to play. That is fast and with the puck” (Mark Kelley, Blackhawks’ Vice President of amateur scouting via Jimmy Greenfield of ChicagoTribune.com) I think that Quinn Hughes is this player. While I believe that there are similar players like Hughes who like to play a fast game like Mark Kelley described in the quote above, I think that Hughes would best fit in Chicago. Their D-Men are aging much like the Red Wings and could definitely use some defensive depth in their system. Quinn Hughes would be a great addition to this lineup.

TSN’s NHL comparable: Morgan Rielly

New York Rangers – #9

Oliver Wahlstrom, USNTDP Juniors/ U.S. National U18 Team

Player Vitals:

Position: Center/Right Wing

Age: 18

Handedness: Right

Height/Weight: 6’1″/207lbs

USNTDP Juniors statistics: 22-23-45 in 26 games this year

U.S. National U18 Team statistics: 48-46-94 in 62 games this year

Player Background:

Oliver Wahlstrom is one of my favorite players in this draft. He relies heavily on his instincts and stickhandling. His positioning is superb and his IQ is better than a lot of the top players in this draft. His style of play exploits defensive mistakes and capitalizes on them. He also has a very powerful and accurate shot that can rival Filip Zadina’s. Curtis Joe of EliteProspects.com has been quoted in saying that Wahlstrom, “is able to create opportunities for himself, as well as his teammates, out of nothing; this, in turn, translates to energy on the ice and in the building as a whole.” Being that Wahlstrom is only 18 and already 207lbs leaves space for more growth and will allow him to use his body to create more scoring chances than he already does.

Reason for selection:

The New York Rangers had 2 first rounders last year, one of them in which they acquired days before the draft when they traded Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes for Anthony DeAngelo, a former first rounder and the #7 overall pick in the 2017 Entry Draft where they selected Lias Andersson. They also used their 21st pick to draft 17-year-old Filip Chytil. Now, the Rangers have had a major problem for a while. They’ve had players who could score a decent amount, but they haven’t had a player that possesses elite scoring ability since Jaromir Jagr in 2005-06(123 points),  I truly believe that Oliver Wahlstrom could finally be the player that the Rangers have needed for a very long time and they would be making a grave mistake if he’s available at #9 and they don’t pick him. And since Kevin Hayes trade rumors are lingering this pick makes even more sense.

TSN’s NHL comparable: Alex Ovechkin

Edmonton Oilers – #10

Adam Boqvist, Brynäs IF J20, SuperElit

Player Vitals:

Position: Defense

Age: 17 (18 in August)

Handedness: Right

Height/Weight: 5’11″/165lbs

14-10-24 in 25 games this year with Brynäs

Player Background:

Every single time I watch Adam Boqvist highlights, I feel as though I’m watching a superstar forward play defense. His offensive skillset is just that good. He loves carrying the puck much like Quinn Hughes and is gifted offensively. Adam Boqvist is someone you can rely on to carry the puck on his stick. He’s a fantastic skater and knows what to do in the offensive zone. He’s a threat whenever he’s on the ice and can change a game with a single shift. That’s what makes him such a prized undersized d-man in this draft.

Reason for selection:

The Edmonton Oilers lack the help of an offensive defenseman. They need someone that can be a threat from the blueline and can help offensively from there as well. For a player like Boqvist to play with one of the best players in the world in Connor McDavid and be a player that can help take the weight of defensive pressure off of Darnell Nurse’s shoulders, he could fit right into Edmonton and be a catalyst moving forward.

TSN’s NHL comparable: Erik Karlsson

Tomorrow I’ll release the rest of round 1 (picks 11-20 and 21-31) in separate articles leading up to the time of the draft. Thanks for reading.

(featured picture courtesy of NHL.com)

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