Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2018 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here.
For those who haven’t read the LWOH mock before here are the rules.
1) No trades except for those that have already been made by NHL teams.
2) A two-round Mock draft will be done in four parts. The second part comes out today. More parts will be added in time.
3) Clicking the Player’s name will bring you to a full scouting report.
4) For Picks 30 and 31, we will assume that the team with the home-ice advantage will win each of the three series. Mocks will be updated as each series end if that changes the draft order.
2018 NHL Mock Draft Part 2 – Playoff Team First Round Picks
The Avalanche went from the worst team in the league in 2016-17, to a playoff squad just one year later. In recent years, the Avalanche have been stronger up front, than on the blue line, when it comes to young players and prospects. With the additions of Cale Makar, Conor Timmins, and Samuel Girard over the last year, that has started to change. The Avalanche have dynamic scoring on the team in the form of Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Raantanen. They also have a number of strong two-way forwards both on the team and in the system. Here they add a player with the potential to bring big-time offence in Vitali Kravtsov.
Kravtsov is an excellent skater. He pairs his great skating ability with outstanding hands. He can stickhandle in a phone booth. This makes him absolutely deadly in one-on-one situations. The best part of his game is that he can make all these moves and handle the puck while moving at top speed. If defenders back off to respect his speed and stickhandling, he has a deadly arsenal of shots that he can put on net. Kravtsov has a very good wrist shot and snapshot. Both shots feature a quick release. With the hands to also score in tight, he’s a natural sniper.
Like the Avalanche, the Devils are another team that had a quick turnaround after a poor 2016-17 season. The Devils biggest asset is the speed and offensive ability of their young forward group. Veteran Taylor Hall was joined by super rookie Nico Hischier. Jesper Bratt, Miles Wood, and Pavel Zacha all show potential. Meanwhile, Michael McLeod leads a strong group of forward prospects. The Devils add Bode Wilde to the mix on the defensive end to contine building the blueline.
After scoring 19 points in 57 games in 2016-17, Wilde has picked up his offensive game this year. He scored 11 goals and 36 points in 53 games with the Under-18 program. Wilde was committed to Harvard, but has changed that and is now committed to the University of Michigan for the 2018-19 season. Wilde pairs excellent size with smooth-skating and two-way ability.
The Blue Jackets have one of the best young defence corps in the NHL. The team also has a number of talented wingers, and a Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender. However, Columbus needs help up the middle. Pierre-Luc Dubois had a strong rookie season, but the Jackets would like to continue to add depth, and strength down the middle. Barret Hayton was part of the CHL’s top-ranked team, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds this season. He spent much of his time as the team’s second line centre, behind OHL scoring leader Morgan Frost. Hayton is versatile, also playing at top line left wing.
Hayton has a heavy shot and a good release. A big reason for his increased goal scoring this year has been his ability to get into the right spots and use that wrist shot more often. Hayton plays a straightforward game. He protects the puck well on the cycle and has some soft hands. However, he is not the type of forward to dangle a defenceman and get past him in a one-on-one situation. Instead, Hayton looks to keep the puck moving, find the open man, and then get it to the net. He is a smart player, who makes quick, smart plays with the puck on his stick. He is also good on the forecheck. While he does not lay a lot of big hits, he gets in quickly, pressuring defenders and creating turnovers.
Previous Pick: Rasmus Kupari, Centre
Its been a remarkable year for German Hockey The Flyers add to that by making Dominik Bokk the third ever German player taken in the first round of the NHL Draft. Bokk is a pure goal scorer. He has a good arsenal of shots. His wrist shot and snapshot are hard and accurate. They both also feature a quick release. Bokk’s slap shot and one-timer are also strong. While his shots are good Bokk can also score in tight. He goes to the net and can score with tip-ins, pounce on rebounds, and with the quick hands to bang in passes from teammates. He also has good stickhandling and playmaking skills.
The Kings got a huge steal in Gabriel Vilardi in last years draft. They also watched Adrian Kempe come into his own as an NHL rookie. With the future of their forwards in good hands, the go out and grab a defenceman in Jared McIsaac.
McIsaac is an outstanding skater. He has very good mobility, with top-notch speed and acceleration in both directions. This allows him to lead the rush out of his own end, or to make pinches at the blue line and still recover defensively. Quick feet good agility, edgework, and pivots allow McIsaac to cover 360 degrees of ice. He transitions quickly from offence to defence, and vice versa. His strong skating ability makes him very difficult to beat on the rush. McIsaac has good strength in his lower body. This gives him excellent power and balance. It helps him to win battles in front of the net, and along the boards. He is also strong on the puck.
In the last 11 NHL drafts, the Sharks have only once taken a defenceman with their first pick. They need to add youth to the system on the blue line and go for Sault defenceman Rasmus Sandin. He is is an extremely intelligent player. He is poised with the puck on his stick and makes smart plays. Sandin has great vision and the ability to thread the needle to the open man with good passing skills. He can make the long stretch pass to create a breakaway or odd-man rush when it is available. When the home-run type play is not there, he does not try to force it, instead he finds a quicker, shorter pass to start the transition game. Sandin also has the vision and skills to set up plays on the power play.
22.) Ottawa Senators (from Pittsburgh) – Isac Lundestrom, Centre/Left Wing, Lulea HF, SHL
Previous Pick: Adam Boqvist, Right Defence
The Senators addressed the blue line with their first pick. Here they add a versatile forward who can play both centre and wing. Lundestrom has high-end hockey IQ and always seems to make the right play. While he is not outstanding in any one area, his skills are good in almost all areas. Lundestrom has good vision and passing skills. He also has the soft hands, and the agility to beat defenders in one-on-one situations, as well as to make a quick move to open up a passing or shooting lane. Lundestrom is also willing to play a gritty game, battling hard on the forecheck, forcing turnovers and creating scoring chances. He is a strong player in all three zones.
Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Patrick Eaves, Ryan Kesler, it’s no secret, a key group of Ducks forwards are getting older quickly. There are some good young forwards on the team, and in the system, but adding more will be necessary for the coming years. In Denisenko the Ducks add the most purely skilled forward still on the board.
Denisenko is extremely dangerous off the rush. As noted, he is an excellent skater. He pairs that skating ability with the hands to make plays while moving at top speed. His soft hands and excellent stickhandling ability gives him a number of quick dekes and feints that can beat a defender one-on-one. If defenders give him too much space, it opens up passing and shooting lanes and Denisenko is skilled enough to take advantage of the situation. He has outstanding vision and passing skills. He can make a perfect tape-to-tape pass to a teammate. Denisenko has the stickhandling ability and the intelligence to slow the play down and wait for the perfect time to make that pass to his teammate.
The Wild’s top two centres are Mikko Koivu and Eric Staal. As well as they played last year, they are not getting any younger. Luke Kunin and Joel Eriksson-Ek are good prospects, however, there are still questions if they are true top line scorers or two-way types. In Akil Thomas, the Wild take an undersized prospect who might have the high-end skills to become a big-time scorer.
Thomas is a speedster, he can absolutely fly. He reaches that top speed in just a few strides thanks to his excellent technique and acceleration. Thomas adds strong edge work and very good agility. He is very dangerous off the rush. Thomas maintains that top speed with the puck on his stick. Defenders must back off or risk getting beaten to the net. Thomas is a smart player taking advantage of this time and space to create passing lanes to teammates and set up scoring opportunities. He can also create space with very good stickhandling ability. While he is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, Thomas has shown some scoring instinct. His wrist shot is average, though he has improved the power a bit as the season has gone on.
The Leafs prospect pool has been well stocked in recent years. There is a ton of depth on the wings, a good number of prospects on the blue line, and some potential between the pipes. While the Leafs have young centres at the NHL level though, there is a real lack of system depth at the position. The Leafs have shown that they are not afraid to mine the Swedish leagues in recent years, both in the draft, and through undrafted free agent signings. They do so again, filling their need with centre Jacob Olofsson.
Olofsson is also good at controlling the puck down low and making plays out of the cycle game. He also gets to the front of the net and has the hand-eye coordination to tip in pucks, and the quickness to pounce on rebounds. The question mark seems to be around how high his offensive ceiling is. Olofsson plays a very straightforward game. More often than not, he makes the simple and safe play rather than try to be creative. Olofsson already plays a solid two-way game for his age. He is strong on the backcheck, helping the defence with back pressure and support.
Previous Pick: Oliver Wahlstrom, Right Wing
The Rangers addressed needs for centres in last year’s draft. In our mock draft, they took a high-end winger in the first round. With this pick, they look at the blueline. K’Andre Miller is a very raw prospect. A forward for most of his life, he only began playing defence in 2015-16. Despite that, he would make the US National Team Development Program just one year later. Miller really struggled when he first started with the Under-17 team, but has made great strides over the last two seasons.
Miller is an outstanding skater. His stride seems almost effortless but generates very good speed in both directions. He can rush the puck up the ice, or pinch at the blue line and still get back defensively. Miller has very good acceleration as he reaches that top speed very quickly. His edgework, pivots, and agility are top notch. Miller changes direction effortlessly. He also can make quick cuts, as well as transition quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. Miller has a strong lower body. He is tough to knock off the puck. His balance and power are also effective in winning battles on the boards, and in clearing the front of the net.
Previous Pick: Evan Bouchard, Right Defence
The Hawks addressed their blue line depth with their first pick in our mock draft. They add a speedy centre in Ryan McLeod with the pick acquired for Ryan Hartman. McLeod is an outstanding skater and this helps him to be a very good two-way player. He is one of the fastest players in the OHL. He has a long and powerful stride, and gets up to top speed with excellent acceleration. McLeod has outstanding edgework and agility. He can change directions on a dime. This ability to make quick cuts can drive defenders nuts. His speed and ability to close space quickly also helps him defensively. McLeod has the power to fight through checks and still get to the front of the net. He has excellent balance, and wins battles along the boards and establishing a position in front of the net.
28.) New York Rangers (from Tampa Bay) – Serron Noel, Right Wing, Oshawa Generals, OHL
With three first-round picks, the Rangers rebuild is in full swing. With this pick they take a high-upside player who could be a top-line power forward. Serron Noel projects as a goal scorer. He has one of the hardest wrist shots in the entire draft, generating excellent power. His accuracy is good, and he features a quick release. Noel uses his size to get to the front of the net. His quick hands help him finish in tight, with tip-ins, scoring rebounds, or making quick moves to beat a goalie in tight. Further out, he needs some work on his one-timer. He also needs to be more consistent in finding opportunities to get his shot off. So much of the NHL game is generating shots, and Noel can sometimes leave one waiting for him to shoot more.
29.) St. Louis Blues (from Winnipeg) – Martin Kaut, Right Wing, HC Dynamo Pardubice, Czech Extraliga
The Blues gave up their first-round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers at last year’s draft. They picked up this pick when they sent Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets at the trade deadline. The Blues have one of the best prospect pools in the NHL. They are able to keep adding to it, by going with the best player available.
Kaut is a pure goal scorer. His powerful skating ability allows him to drive the net. When he gets there, he has the quick hands to finish in tight. He can also pounce on rebounds or tip in shots. Kaut has a very good wrist shot. It is accurate and powerful and can fool goaltenders with a quick release. Kaut’s snapshot is also above average. He needs work on his one-timer. A smart player, Kaut finds the soft spots in the defence to get open. Kaut is also a talented playmaker. He anticipates plays well and makes strong passes to teammates. He works well in the cycle and can make tape-to-tape passes if a teammate finds open space in a scoring area.
The Capitals continue to add to the blue line, adding Alexeyev. He has good vision and passing skills. He can start the play with a good pass out of his own end, as well as quarterback the play from the blue line. Alexeyev has the skating ability to retrieve dump-ins and loose pucks as well as the poise to move it out of danger in his own end. He can lead the rush but also makes smart passes to get the transition game going. Alexeyev does not force plays. If he is skating up the ice and does not like the way things look, he is not afraid to stop, turn back to his own end and try it again. Alexeyev also has a hard slap shot but must find a way to get it through to the net and keep it low for teammates to grab deflections and rebounds.
Previous pick: Noah Dobson, Right Defence
As mentioned earlier, the Wings need a real influx of talent on their blueline. While they started the process with Dobson earlier in this mock, they continue it here with Mattias Samuelsson. The son of former NHLer, Kjell Samuelsson played in Michigan with the US NTDP.
Samuelsson is a big defenceman, who plays a physical game in his own end of the rink. He throws big hits if an attacker comes down his side of the ice, and also battles hard in the corners and in front of the net. Samuelsson sometimes gets into penalty trouble by being a bit too aggressive though. If he learns to walk the line between being strong physically and taking penalties, he will be an absolute force. He uses a long, and active stick to cut down passing lanes and is not afraid to block shots. Samuelsson is a strong penalty killer. His hockey IQ and anticipation are strong. He can provide some offence as well with 31 points in 58 games.
The Second Round of our Mock Draft Will come closer to draft day.