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This is edition number three of the BSN Denver 2018 NHL Mock Draft. There will be one final one coming next week right after the NHL Awards are finished. This one has some major changes from the last version as the rumor mill continues to churn about who teams are actually targeting.
1. Buffalo Sabres – Rasmus Dahlin, D, Frolunda (SHL)
This is a surefire home run for an organization that badly needs one. They should they had a smash with Jack Eichel as the consolation prize in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes but his inability to stay healthy early on has held him back from achieving the kind of dominant success expected of him. Dahlin is a no-brainer at the top of this draft as he ran away from the pack as the top prospect this year. Expect Dahlin in the NHL right away and for him to work his way to their top pairing in time. He is the franchise defenseman the moribund Sabres have desperately needed.
2. Carolina Hurricanes – Andrei Svechnikov, RW, Barrie (OHL)
This is pick and it’s the right call for Carolina. He visited with the organization and they were sold on him being the guy for them. I wouldn’t be surprised to look back and five years and find Svechnikov is the best player to come out of this draft. I believe he’s that special of a talent.
3. Montreal Canadiens –Noah Dobson, D, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
The Canadiens have been sending out all the right signals about them taking Jesperi Kotkaniemi here and getting the center they so desperately need. I’m happy to buy in to the notion it’s all a misdirection and they want one of the defensemen. They badly need help on that blue line and with approximately half of the picks in the second round belonging to them, the Canadiens can take a bunch of chances on centers there and hope to find a good one. Here they go with the star defenseman who just helped lead his team to the Memorial Cup. Simply put, Dobson rocks and this pick makes sense.
4. Ottawa Senators –Filip Zadina, LW, Halifax (QMJHL)
This is a fascinating selection for a lot of reasons. I am tempted by Adam Boqvist here as a natural replacement for Erik Karlsson (but what if he stays?) and because their blueline doesn’t have much on it (Cody Ceci doesn’t appear to be very good and Thomas Chabot is still an unknown) and even less on the way. But they have another pick in the first so there are some options here. I’m simply taking Zadina even though talent on the wing is their number one strength right now. He’s the top player on the board here and will be a star for years to come.
5. Arizona Coyotes – Evan Bouchard, D, London (OHL)
If Dobson was still on the board, I’d go with him here. If Arizona is able to lock up OEL to the eight-year extension being offered to him on July 1, their left side is taken care of with him and Jakob Chychrun. The right side needs some long-term answers on it and Bouchard just put up a whale of a season for London. He’s a do-it-all defenseman with huge upside. Given the huge glut of quality forwards they’ve drafted over the years, it’s time to take care of defense.
6. Detroit Red Wings – Brady Tkachuk, LW, Boston (NCAA)
This is a nice present for Detroit on draft day. They would have been tempted by Dobson/Bouchard and local boy Quinn Hughes makes plenty of sense as well but this is an organization that has invested a ton of draft capital on defense the last two seasons. With Tkachuk falling to them here, they can afford to just stick to the board and take the pesky Terrier forward. Tkachuk could easily make the NHL next season or return to BU for one last go at it with future star Shane Bowers as his center.
7. Vancouver Canucks – Quinn Hughes, D, Michigan (NCAA)
Another pick with a lot of quality directions to go, I have the Canucks settling on the high-scoring defenseman from Michigan here. They’ve drafted well at the forward position, using three picks in the top two rounds last year on forwards, and have youngsters Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser already showing well in the NHL. With Olli Juolevi coming along and Guillaume Brisebois coming off a solid first season in the AHL, the future left side looks solid already but Hughes is a big cut above both of those players in the dynamic way he attacks with the puck. He brings an exciting element to their back end.
8. Chicago Blackhawks – Oliver Wahlstrom, RW, USNTDP (USHL)
I’ve been looking at the center position for them for a long time and while some people see Wahlstrom as a center down the road, I currently do not. Chicago could use some more help on defense and a guy like Boqvist would make sense here but like Detroit, the Blackhawks have invested a ton of draft picks recently (12 in the last three years!) on defense so I’m using their highest pick in a long time to address forward. With Kotkaniemi and Hayton hanging around, I was tempted to go with one of them but I think Wahlstrom’s pure goal-scoring acumen could provide a nice boost as Patrick Kane gets into his 30’s. This could easily be one of the centers but for now, I’m taking the sniper.
9. New York Rangers – Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Assat (Liiga)
This would be a coup of sorts for the Rangers. There’s a ton of talk about Kotkaniemi potentially going higher than even this come draft day so for the Rangers to sit tight and get him here would be great. Their quick rebuild is already off to a great start with some quality young guys in the NHL and last year’s first rounders Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil on the way as well. Kotkaniemi would give the Rangers a big-bodied center with great playmaking and two-way skills.
10. Edmonton Oilers – Barrett Hayton, C, Sault-Ste. Marie (OHL)
Of all the picks, this has been the toughest between two options. The Oilers have been looking around for a right-handed puck-moving defenseman for many years now and Adam Boqvist is sitting there in their lap. But so is Hayton, the high-energy center from the Greyhounds who is poised for a huge statistical breakout next season. Hayton is a player teams absolutely love because of his relentless work ethic and very high hockey IQ. His presence long-term would allow Edmonton to quit tinkering and just put McDavid with Draisaitl and be done with it.
11. New York Islanders – Adam Boqvist, D, Brynas IF (SHL)
For the Islanders, whoever doesn’t get selected by Edmonton in that coin flip falls to them. They either add Hayton to a lineup that either is built around Tavares and Barzal or is looking to replace Tavares or they add the dynamic puck-mover from Sweden who had a bunch of top-five hype early in the season. Boqvist fits the modern day mold of a defender in that he’s electric moving the puck and flying up the ice creating offense but he’s a touch undersized and still has plenty of work to do on his defensive game.
12. New York Islanders (from Calgary) – Joe Veleno, C, Drummondville (QMJHL)
They missed on Hayton but still address the center position as the speedy Veleno is there for the taking. Regardless of what happens with Tavares, the Isles need more speed up front and adding Veleno to Barzal would give them a very dangerous combination, either on a line or as a one-two punch. The responsible two-way center would be a great fit as New York looks to bolster their ability to get up and down the ice in today’s NHL.
13. Dallas Stars – Vitali Kravtsov, RW, Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL)
The Stars have had no issues going after the late-risers in recent years and they’ve definitely attached themselves to big bodies with a lot of skill. The Nichushkin/Gurianov/Tufte trio speaks to Jim Nill’s affinity for going big on draft day and there’s no bigger wild card in this year’s first round than Kravtsov. An explosive KHL postseason rocketed him up the boards from a second round talent to solidly in the first. This or fellow countrymen Denisenko would both be picks that fit the Stars’ recent mold.
14. Philadelphia Flyers (from St. Louis) – Joel Farabee, LW, USNDTP (USHL)
I’ve had this player matched with this team for a long time. It’s a match that just makes sense. From a stylistic standpoint, Farabee is a hard-working wing who plays above his size and simply outplays opponents thanks to a non-stop motor. He’s been blessed to play alongside extraordinary skill in Jack Hughes and Wahlstrom but he’s a player in his own right. With Wayne Simmonds getting older and nearing UFA, Farabee might be his long-term replacement. Or he could be his future linemate on what would be one the most physical and annoying lines to play against in the entire NHL.
15. Florida Panthers – Ty Smith, D, Spokane (WHL)
Florida needs a little bit of everything so I just dropped the best player left on my board into their lap with Smith. He’s an elite-skating defenseman who has been very good at Spokane but struggled in international competitions. That’s really the only reason I don’t have Smith in the top 10 anymore. He has the kind of talent that could change a defense and he would bring a dynamic element to an old school Panthers defense.
16. Colorado Avalanche – Rasmus Kupari, C, Karpat (Liiga)
This was a tough call. Akil Thomas is a temptation but inconsistent effort and lack of a clear position worry me. Denisenko is intriguing but I don’t love his size and for a player of his skill level his actual production really isn’t impressive. I even considered Bokk here simply because the skill level is so high. Alas, Kupari is a center with great speed and agility, very high skill, and some serious red flags of his own.
There are no players without flaws here (my favorite, K’Andre Miller, plays the position Colorado needs the least) so I’m rolling the dice with the player with the most upside who fits their needs. Kupari’s biggest question marks are his hockey sense and his ability to think the game at a high level. That’s not a great fit for what Colorado has targeted at the top of the draft in recent years but that’s why this pick makes sense for me. You draft where you’re weak and the Avs need more skill, especially at forward, and Kupari is one of the highest skilled players in this entire draft.
17. New Jersey Devils –K’Andre Miller, D, USNTDP (USHL)
The Devils need everything and Miller is a dynamite prospect on the blue line who could be one of the draft’s biggest steals down the road. The organization’s many close ties to USA Hockey and their need for talent on defense makes Miller a great fit. Bode Wilde could just as easily be the guy here.
18. Columbus Blue Jackets – Bode Wilde, D, USNTDP (USHL)
Instead, Wilde lands here! Columbus has drafted a current or future NCAA player in all but two of their seasons in their entire existence! It’s fair to say it’s an area they’ve heavily invested in and Wilde is the best of that bunch remaining. Wilde possesses star potential as a two-way defenseman and while he could be a star, with Seth Jones already in place, the pressure for him to be the number one guy on CBJ’s right side doesn’t exist. This is a great fit for a player who needs a soft landing spot.
19. Philadelphia Flyers –Grigori Denisenko, LW, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
When you have two picks in the first round, you can afford to go ham with one of them. Or both of them, I guess. Here the Flyers take the extremely talented Denisenko. Their system is already full of great talents on both offense and defense. With Farabee and Denisenko added, they have a first round short on size but big on talent and two players with very different games. The diversity in skills is the big reason I’m fine with them adding two pure wingers in the first round.
20. Los Angeles Kings –Serron Noel, RW, Oshawa (OHL)
Noel is a big kid who skates well and plays with plenty of power in his game. In short, he’s a perfect LA King. In addition to Gabe Vilardi last year, Noel continues the identity the Kings have established over the years. His goal-scoring ability could make him one of the premier power forwards in the NHL if he lives up to his vast potential.
21. San Jose Sharks –Akil Thomas, C, Niagara (OHL)
The Sharks sit back and just pluck quality out of whichever spot they happen to be drafting in. They’re pretty consistent in what they do and adding Thomas to their stable is a good fit. He’s a hell of a player who would add some high-end skill to a system lacking it right now. They’ve been aggressive in importing players as positions of need so they’re pretty set throughout their current NHL lineup but Thomas is a guy whose versatility could pay big dividends for the Sharks down the road.
22. Ottawa Senators (from Pittsburgh) –Rasmus Sandin, D, Sault-Ste Marie (OHL)
The Senators avoided temptation with the fourth pick but make their play for a defenseman here instead. Sandin is a guy who could easily go as high as the Islanders and as low as Detroit at 30. All it will take is one team to love the player who played a steady hand in the Greyhounds’ relentless assault on the OHL this year. Staying true to this class, he’s a dynamic defenseman who is just a touch on the small side. That said, if all these smaller guys become NHL regulars, 5’11” won’t be on the small side anymore!
23. Anaheim Ducks – Isac Lundestrom, C, Lulea (SHL)
The Ducks are almost unparalleled in their draft day brilliance. No team in the NHL has a bigger disparity in talent between their amateur and pro scouting staffs. The Ducks regularly crush the draft and frequently see their amazing work undone by the front office’s insistence on playing to the old school guys running the NHL squad. Regardless, here they go with a player who has gotten lost in the shuffle of an extremely unpredictable first round. Lundestrom is solid, reliable, and heading to a team that will definitely need him as Ryan Kesler’s body deterioration makes me wonder if Thanos really did snap his fingers.
24. Minnesota Wild – Ryan Merkley, D, Guelph (OHL)
The Wild have been loading up on solid forwards the past several years. Their highest drafted defenseman since 2013 is 46th overall and that lack of attention to the position is starting to show. With Paul Fenton now running the show, he could look to create the neverending pipeline of quality defensemen he helped create in Nashville since their inception. The Wild would be a great fit for Merkley given time and their inevitable need for more game-breaking talent. It’s a boom-or-bust proposition but for a team built around aging stars, Merkley could be a serious shot of adrenaline to a franchise that has grown stale with their expensive veteran roster and early playoff exits.
25. Toronto Maple Leafs –Dominik Bokk, RW, Vaxjo (Superelit)
I’ve contemplated Bokk with every pick starting with Colorado at 16 but finally found a home for him here. It almost feels like the Toronto media is intent on running one of the Matthews/Marner/Nylander trio out of town before they really get a chance to blossom together but if they don’t, they’re going to need some more help. Bokk is the kind of high-end talent GM Kyle Dubas should be shooting for and would be a continuation of their philosophy from last year when the team took the talented Timothy Liljegren in the first round. Bokk’s talent justifies a higher selection but his immaturity and effort problems push him down. Toronto thanks me later.
26. New York Rangers (from Boston) –Jared McIsaac, D, Halifax (QMJHL)
Having traded Ryan McDonagh away, the Rangers draft a guy in McIsaac who could be able to do a pretty decent McDonagh impression someday. While McIsaac is more known for his offensive prowess than protecting his own zone, I’m a believer in his ability to develop in his own zone as he has all the physical tools to be a very stout defender with excellent puck-moving upside.
27. Chicago Blackhawks (from Nashville) –Ty Dellandrea, C, Flint (OHL)
You basically can’t read anything about this draft right now without someone extolling the virtues of the underrated Dellandrea. He’s a dynamite pivot who produced impressive offense on a bad Flint team and has been overlooked until the last couple of weeks. Dellandrea is a hot enough name right now you could reasonably expect him in the middle of the first round these days. The Blackhawks adding Wahlstrom and Dellandrea is really just adding two-thirds of a future second line if they want to put Toews and Kane back together someday.
28. New York Rangers (from Tampa Bay) –Martin Kaut, RW, Pardubice (Czech)
Kaut had a heart condition that caused him to leave the combine and get a procedure done in order to correct whatever the problem was. It’s said to be minor but in a draft as volatile as this one, it’s enough to push him from consideration at San Jose’s pick down here. With their third pick of the round, the Rangers add another dynamic skater to their coffers to go with McIsaac. Both Kotkaniemi and Kaut could be on fast tracks to the NHL if they play well early on.
29. St. Louis Blues (from Winnipeg) –Ryan McLeod, C, Mississauga (OHL)
As the draft nears, it seems McLeod’s stock is cooling just a bit. He’s not a guy who has produced the kind of offensive numbers you’d hope from him and he’s not quite as obsessed with hard work as his older brother is. In a world of comparisons, Ryan falls just a bit short and while what he does well certainly has plenty of value, there are legitimate questions about what his offensive upside really is. For a St. Louis team that’s set at the position in the NHL, who McLeod is works well for them, especially with the 29th pick.
30. Detroit Red Wings (from Vegas) –Jonatan Berggren, RW, Skelleftea (SHL)
This is a classic Red Wings pick. They devour Sweden en route to scouting the country as thoroughly as anybody (they’ve drafted at least one Swede in 25 consecutive drafts). He destroyed with the J20 team this year and gives them their second high-end talent at forward of the first round.
31. Washington Capitals –Kirill Marchenko, LW, Mamonty Yugry (MHL)
This might just be anecdotal but to my eye, the Caps have one of the most diverse drafting portfolios of anybody out there. They scout everywhere and don’t seem to heavily favor anybody too much. So I’m just going to reach on a guy with big potential and who could be drafted anywhere from this pick to the fourth round and I wouldn’t really blink. His play during the season left scouts wanting more but his international performances put him on the radar and any time you have a player who is 6’3″ with these kinds of natural skills you can get caught dreaming on a kid. For a team that just evicted the monkey from their back, why not dream a little more come draft day?