Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Starting today, and for the next week or so, I will be bringing you features on the next wave of NHL players. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical draft profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Sports is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Prospects”! For a Complete Listing of all our 2017 Draft Articles Click here. We will be sure to bring similar coverage of the 2018 NHL Draft.
With the CHL season a good eight weeks old, a month or so of NCAA hockey, plenty of games for the US National Team Development Program, the Ivan Hlinka Tournament, an international break in Europe, and the Canada-Russia Series all being played since we last updated our draft rankings, we have gotten a decent overview of what some of the biggest prospects for the 2018 NHL draft are doing this year.
That said, as a staff, we haven’t seen every player yet—it’s quite simply not possible this early in the season. If there is an obvious name left out, we’ll do our best to get a look before the February rankings; as well as before our final rankings that go from April through June.
The group we haven’t seen a lot of our European prospects who, for whatever reason, haven’t had much exposure on the international stage. With the World Juniors, Five Nations, and the Under-18 all to come later in the year, we should get a better look at most of those players.
2018 NHL Draft- November Rankings and Reports #21-25
21.) Jacob Olofsson, Centre, Timra IK, 6’2″ 185 lbs
Olofsson has been a staple on Swedish international teams in his age group. He scored a goal and an assist at last year’s World Under 17 Hockey Challenge, helping Sweden to gold. He added three goals at the Under 18, despite playing as an underager. This season he scored two goals and four points in five games as Sweden took home bronze at the Ivan Hlinka. Playing for Timra in the Allsvenskan, he has nine points in 21 games, in the second tier of Sweden’s men’s hockey.
Olofsson has very good stickhandling ability and excellent speed. This makes him extremely dangerous off the rush. He can beat his man wide and cut to the net. He can also dangle a defender and make a quick cut into the open space that he generates. Olofsson is a smart player who can set up a teammate, or score with a quick wrist shot and good release. He is also strong in his own end.
22.) Isac Lundestrom, Centre/Left Wing, Lulea HF, 6’0″ 185 lbs
Lundestrom has played for Sweden in the last two Under-18 World Hockey Championships, scoring five points in seven games last year. As an underage player he was a depth forward on the 2016 Bronze Medal winning squad. That season he played a bigger role for the Under 17 team, who won silver that year. He played 45 games with Lulea in the SHL last season, but only had six points. This year he is doing a lot more with 10 points in 21 games in Sweden’s top league.
Lundestrom is a strong player in all three zones. He 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. He is a strong skater, with decent speed and acceleration. He is also willing to play a gritty game, battling on both the forecheck and the backcheck. Lundestrom has good vision and passing skills, as well as an accurate shot with a quick release.
23.) Evan Bouchard, Right Defence, London Knights, 6’2″ 181 lbs
With Victor Mete playing for the Montreal Canadiens, and Olli Juolevi playing in Europe, Bouchard has been forced to step into a much bigger role on the London Knights blue line. He has thrived in the opportunity, with 30 points in 25 games this year, including an astonishing 18 points in November. In 2015-16 he won a World Under 17 gold medal, and was on the tournament all-star team, and led all defencemen in scoring. He also was part of London’s Memorial Cup winning team that year, but as a young defenceman did not see a lot of minutes on that squad.
Bouchard has an absolute bomb of a slap shot. His slap shot and one-timer are already NHL calibre. He has also really improved his passing this season. He is far more accurate and consistent than last season. Bouchard can quarterback the play from the point, and can also lead the rush. He has decent speed when he gets going, but needs to work on his first step and acceleration. Bouchard is willing to play a physical game on the defensive end of the ice.
24.) Noah Dobson, Right Defence, Acadie-Bathurst Titan, 6’3″ 174 lbs
The sixth overall pick in the 2016 QMJHL Draft, Dobson put up three points in five games in helping Canada to a gold medal at this summer’s Ivan Hlinka tournament. He also put up 26 points in 63 games for the Titan in his rookie campaign. This year he has improved his offensive game with 25 points in 26 games to start the year.
Dobson plays a strong defensive game, with good positioning and gap control. He also has the passing and skating skills to move the puck up the ice and provide some offence from the backend. He is a good playmaker, who can create off the rush, and play a quarterback role on the powerplay. Dobson can stand to improve his upper body strength and be more effective in physical battles and get more power on his shot. There is time for the 17-year-old to add muscle to a skinny frame.
25.) Jack McBain, Centre, Toronto Jr. Canadiens, 6’3″ 196 lbs
McBain has scored 12 goals and 37 points for the Jr. Canadiens this year, playing in the OJHL while being committed to Boston College for next season. He played for Team Canada in this summer’s Ivan Hlinka, scoring five points in five games and helping the squad to gold. He also won a silver medal at last year’s Under 17.
McBain has excellent size and reach. He uses his frame effectively to win battles in the corners and to get to the front of the net, where he screens goalies and gets tip-ins and rebounds. McBain also protects the puck well, extending plays in the cycle and finding teammates with a pass in front of the net. Skating is a concern here though. McBain has a short, choppy stride. If he can lengthen it out to something more appropriate for his size, he can gain power and speed and will shoot up the ranks.
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