Many hockey fans have had limited exposure to the 2018 draft class, outside some highlights of the Summer Showcase. The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy breaks down his early projections for the top prospects who will be eligible next summer. His top five shouldn’t surprise any who have been paying attention, but it’s a nice early introduction to the best of the best.
Rasmus Dahlin – D – Frolunda (SHL J20)
As of now, Dahlin is the man to beat for #1. Dahlin is drawing Erik Karlsson comparisons already, which is a tough benchmark for any 17 year old. Coming through the neutral zone, he weaves himself past traffic when there simply doesn’t appear to be a lane. His passes are crisp and accurate, and he isn’t afraid to go to high-scoring areas of the ice. His size at 6’2 makes him even more appealing, as he is not an easy horse to down once he’s achieved full gallop. Dahlin will need to continue to display flashes of offensive brilliance while rounding out his defensive game, but he’s essentially a lock to go top-three.
Andrei Svechnikov – RW – Barrie (OHL)
Svechnikov’s hands can make your jaw drop. Following in a long line of talented Russian scorers, his finesse sets him apart from the rest of his age group. He has a decent element of speed to his game and always finds himself open in high-scoring areas. In Barrie, he’ll need to round out his two-way ability, but barring major setbacks he should produce. Comparisons to other Russian picks will be inevitable (Nail Yakupov) but he seems to think the game at an elite level already. He also doesn’t shy away from cycling when necessary, and has more tricks up his sleeve than a simple rush-and-shoot mentality.
Joe Veleno – C – St John (QJMHL)
Veleno exudes passion, as anyone who witnessed the Ivan Hlinka tournament can attest. He captained the Canadian team to gold in that tourney, and looked like quite the leader in the process. His passes are already NHL level, and he has a sneaky accurate shot. He sees the ice well and coordinates plays well in any situation. His footwork is powerful and is also sure to impress. Veleno was even granted “exceptional status” by Team Canada and his body of work so far suggests it was not undeserved.
Adam Boqvist – D – Brynas (SHL J20)
For a defender, Boqvist can really fire the puck. His wrister is accurate and deadly if not respected. He skates with impressive speed and his edgework is clean and powerful. You can absolutely envision Boqvist quarterbacking an NHL powerplay in a few years’ time. He’s not the flashiest player on the list, to be sure, but he is effective in his straight-ahead style. His passing is impressive, but he might need to pick his spots on the attack a little better. Another player in the Karlsson mold, he should stand out enough to overcome his 5’11 stature.
Brady Tkachuk – LW – Boston U. (NCAA)
This player is a bit of a throwback to days when power forwards actually challenged for NHL roster spots regularly. Like his older brother, Calgary’s Matt Tkachuk, Brady is no pushover. At 6’2 he can hold off opponents while driving his way to the front of the net. His shot isn’t overly remarkable, but he always finds a way to hit twine. His deking ability is enough to drop defenders to their knees, and he has the vision to make special things happen. Tkachuk has committed to B.U. and it will be interesting to see how the rest of his game rounds out in the NCAA.