Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column looking at Hockey’s Future Stars. Over the next few days, we will be previewing the 2018 NHL Draft by ranking our top 30 prospects and honourable mentions.
With the Junior seasons not just in Canada but throughout the world gearing up for the stretch drive and a number of international tournaments (Ivan Hlinka, Four Nations, Subway Super Series, World Juniors) in the books, we have gotten a decent overview of what some of the biggest prospects for the draft are doing this year. This is an up-to-date look and ranking of these prospects. That said, there is still plenty of work to be done and many important games to be played including the five nations, junior league playoffs, European playoffs, and of course the Under-18 World Championships. While the rankings still have some fluidity, a pecking order is also starting to define itself. For now, this is what we have, we hope you enjoy the early preview and be sure to be ready in late March as we roll out our full player-by-player draft preview.
Our last update, the late November Rankings are here.
2018 NHL Draft February Rankings: Top Five
1.) Rasmus Dahlin, Left Defence, Frolunda HC, 6’1″ 181 lbs
Dahlin came into the season as the front-runner for the top spot, and he has done nothing to change that assessment. In fact, Dahlin’s strong play has likely widened the gap between first and second overall. Dahlin was outstanding at the World Junior Championships, which is normally a difficult tournament for a 17-year old defenceman. He put up six points in seven games and was named the top defenceman in the tournament while helping Sweden to a silver medal.
Dahlin is an elite offensive defenceman, who has been playing above his age group for quite some time, both at the international and club level. This season, he has carried his strong play into the SHL where he has 6 goals and 16 points in 34 games. He’s also earned a spot on Sweden’s Olympic Team.
Dahlin’s passing ability is outstanding, with extremely good vision and the ability to thread the needle through the smallest openings. He can start the rush, make the long breakaway pass, and quarterback the power-play. He also has an outstanding slap shot and one-timer.
Dahlin is also very effective defensively, utilizing his strong positioning as well as the good stick-checking ability to shut down forwards on the rush. He keeps them to the outside and has good gap control. He is not the most physical player, though that may come with more time, and added weight. Outstanding skating ties it all together. Dahlin has very good speed in both directions, as well as excellent edge work and agility.
#2 Andrei Svechnikov, Right Wing, Barrie Colts, 6’2″ 187 lbs
Svechnikov has missed some time during his rookie season with the Barrie Colts, due to a hand injury. However, he has been dominant when he is in the lineup. Its hard to argue with 21 goals and 15 assists in 26 games. He also played at the World Juniors, but did not have the best tournament, on a Russian team that underwhelmed. He ended up putting up five assists in the five games, but did not score a goal. Previously, Svechnikov has been dominant at the international level. He had five points in five games at the Ivan Hlinka; eight points in four games at the U17; eight goals and 12 points in four games at the WJAC; and nine points in seven games at the Under-18 last season. His older brother was drafted in the first round by the Detroit Red Wings.
Svechnikov has every offensive skill you would want in a player. He has a fantastic wrist shot with a bullet-quick release. He also has the ability to stick handle in a phone booth, beating defenders one-on-one, and in close to the net. Svechnikov protects the puck well and has the power to control it down low and create in the cycle game. He has excellent vision and passing skills as well. Tie this together with elite speed, sublime edgework and agility, and very good balance in his skating stride and he is an outstanding young prospect.
3.) Filip Zadina, Left Wing, Halifax Mooseheads, 6’1″ 192 lbs
Zadina is a Czech winger who was drafted 7th overall by the Halifax Mooseheads in the CHL Import Draft. After Timo Meier and Nico Hischier, it appears that the Mooseheads have hit another import draft home run. So far he has 27 goals and 53 points in 36 games this year. Zadina was dynamic at the World Juniors, scoring seven goals in seven games and making the tournament all-star team.
The Czech winger is another strong skater. He has good top end speed, but is not a speedster. The lack of elite top end speed is the only thing holding back his skating. He shows great agility and the ability to make quick cuts and get by defenders. He also has the power necessary to fight through checks and take the puck to the net. All of this makes him very strong one-on-one and off the rush. He can take a defender wide and cut to the net. He also has very good balance and can control the play down low on the cycle.
Zadina also has a very heavy shot, with a good release. He can combine this with his skating and power game to be a real threat off the wing. An absolute sniper, he can score with his wrist shot, snapshot, slap shot and one-timer. He even has a strong backhand. Zadina takes advantage of his shooting skill, as he generates a very high number of shot attempts every game. Zadina also has the soft hands to score in close to the net. As a playmaker, he needs to make better decisions with the puck. Zadina can sometimes hold it too long and get himself into trouble instead of moving it quickly.
4.) Brady Tkachuk, Left Wing, Boston University Terriers 6’2″ 194 lbs
The son of Keith Tkachuk, and brother of Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk, Brady is a freshman at Boston University after a successful season with the US NTDP and an Under-18 Gold Medal. He has seven goals and 21 points in 26 games this year. Tkachuk had a strong showing at the World Junior, finding chemistry with Casey Mittelstadt and putting up nine points in seven games.
Tkachuk has good speed once he gets going, as well as a strong and powerful stride. However, he can work on his first step quickness and agility. Like his family members, Tkachuk plays a power game, doing his best work down low and in tight to the net. He is very hard to knock off the puck and has the quick hands to make plays in tight or control the puck on the boards. Tkachuk is not afraid to play a physical game and is very good on the boards and in front of the net. He also has a good shot and release.
His hockey sense and passing ability are even better than his brother Matthew. There has been some talk that Tkachuk may convert to centre, but he has been used almost exclusively at wing at BU and at the WJC. His game does seem to project more as a winger than a centre.
5.) Adam Boqvist, Right Defence, Brynas IF, 5’11” 170 lbs
Boqvist is the younger brother of Jesper Boqvist, who was a second-round pick of the New Jersey Devils last year. Boqvist had his coming out party at the Ivan Hlinka where he was one of the best players in the tournament. He scored eight points in just five games and helped Sweden to the Bronze medal. An August birthday, he will be one of the younger players in the draft. Boqvist did not make the World Junior team, although his age and a strong Swedish defence group are reasons for that. He has one assist in 11 SHL games, and two assists in seven Allsvenskan games. However, he’s dominating his age group with 12 goals and 19 points in 21 J20 games. Video is a bit hard to come by, and it will be good to get some more up-to-date video at the upcoming Five Nations and Under 18 tournaments.
Boqvist is an outstanding skater. He has excellent speed and acceleration in both directions. He also has tremendous edgework, and pivots allowing him to transition from offence to defence quickly and vice versa. His agility is also top notch, and he can change directions on a dime. This skating becomes the foundation for an excellent two-way game. Boqvist also has the outstanding vision and the ability to thread the needle on passes. He is a very aggressive player, willing to join or lead the rush and to make pinches at the blue line. Defensively, he maintains his position and gap control through his strong footwork. He is willing to play a physical game in the corners and in front of the net but is limited by his lack of size.
Embed from Getty Images