With the 2018 NHL Draft just around the corner, speculation continues to arise as players slip and slide in the projections. The 1st overall pick is consensus but the battle for the coveted 2 and 3 picks is tougher than ever. It’s a battle of the European super powers as Andrei Svechnikov and Filip Zadina each make their final statement before they hear their names called come June 24th. With that said, here’s who I believe will be the top 5.
Buffalo Sabres: D Rasmus Dahlin
The NHL has a recent history of 1st overall forwards. Since the 2006 draft, only 1 defenseman has been taken 1st overall, Aaron Ekblad, whom continues to improve steadily with the Florida Panthers. Rasmus Dahlin has been the projected 1st overall pick since before the 2017 draft. Dahlin has proved himself as the most talented player available throughout the SHL season. A mobile two-way defenseman, he has appeared for Team Sweden in the 2018 World Juniors, and the 2018 Olympics at just the age of 17 years old. While playing in those tournaments, he wasn’t even old enough to wear a visor. Dahlin is repeatedly being compared to many NHL legends, Ray Ferraro even saying, “He defends like Lidström, skates like Karlsson”. When the Sabres select Dahlin, they’ll have their forward core set with Eichel, Mittlestadt, and Reinhart, and now Rasmus Dahlin will join Rasmus Ristolainen to form a terrifying and young D core.
Carolina Hurricanes: Andrei Svechnikov
The Hurricanes finished 2018 once again without a playoff appearance, but they were only 1 spot out of a wildcard. The Canes went into the Draft Lottery with the 11th pick but jumped 9 spots into #2. They have an interesting choice between Andrei Svechnikov and Filip Zadina. I think they go with the #1 ranked NA skater in Svechnikov, because he can provide elite scoring ability almost immediately. Carolina lacks a guy who can put up 35+ goals but Svechnikov could be that guy. Andrei is the younger brother of 2015 19th overall pick, Evgeni Svechnikov, and has even been called the next Alex Ovechkin. The reasons for Zadina are there but I think the Canes will jump on that scoring help with no hesitation. The ravishing Russian for the Barrie Colts might be the most NHL ready forward available and will look pretty good in Carolina Red, should they go that route.
Montreal Canadiens: Filip Zadina
The Habs have disappointed everyone this year. After trading away a top defense prospect for hometown hero Jonathan Drouin, the Canadiens had high expectations for themselves. Following a 1st round exit in 2017, Marc Bergevin looked to Drouin in hopes that he could solve their problems down the middle of the ice. Zadina is a fantastic two-way player who can put the puck in the back of the net at a fantastic rate. He’s the type of player who could help move Drouin to center full time, especially if the Habs deal Alex Galchenyuk. The Czech winger might potentially slot in alongside Brendan Gallagher and Max Pacioretty in year 1. Fun Fact, during his 1 year with Halifax, Zadina billeted with the same family as 2017 1st overall pick, Nico Hischier.
Ottawa Senators: Brady Tkachuk
Brady has some big shoes to fill bearing the Tkachuk name but he has done nothing but prove himself at the college level. With Karlsson’s contract on the ropes, the Sens need a big pick to help keep him in Ottawa. Brady is the oldest player available in the 2018 draft, his birthday being 1 day past the deadline for him to be eligible for the 2017 draft. Regardless of age, Tkachuk is the ideal type of power forward for today’s game. The Boston University product has speed to burn, strength to hit, a strong ability to score goals, and the versatility to move from Center to Left Wing or vice versa. The son of a NHL legend and younger brother of another elite power forward, Tkachuk, much like Ottawa, has hockey in his blood.
Arizona Coyotes: Adam Boqvist
The Yotes are coming off of another terrible year in the desert. Arizona lost 2 spots in the draft lottery but will still likely get one of the best players that fit with their needs. Adam Boqvist is a Swedish defenseman coming from Bynas IF of the SHL. The Coyotes have Oliver Ekman Larsson and Jakob Chychrun but having Boqvist in the system puts Arizona in a perfect position for the future. Boqvist is as dynamic as they come and is gifted offensively. He has gears like a mountain bike and loves to have the puck on his stick. Adam likely won’t be a year 1 player, but by the time he arrives, he could be as electric as his fellow Swede, Erik Karlsson.