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 31 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. Be sure to check back 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 Ranking, February Edition: #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 goals and 20 points in 37 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.) Akil Thomas, Centre/Right Wing, Niagara Ice Dogs, 5’11” 170 lbs
After a strong rookie season where he scored 21 goals and 48 points for the Ice Dogs, Thomas has taken the next step this season. He has 15 goals and 59 points in 49 games this season. Thomas was also part of Canada’s gold medal squad at the Ivan Hlinka, scoring six points in five games.
Thomas is a speedster, who also has good acceleration, edge work and agility. He plays a solid two-way game, as he hounds puck carriers on the backcheck, and then quickly transitions to offence. He 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. His wrist shot is average though. There is plenty of room for improvement, which would make him a more dynamic player overall. Thomas is poised with the puck and keeps his head up. He also plays the point on the Ice Dogs power play, excelling in the role of quarterback.
23.) Jett Woo, Right Defence, Moose Jaw Warriors, 6’0″ 205 lbs
Woo has taken his game to a new level this year. He has started strong with eight goals and 23 points in 30 games. However, an upper-body injury has had him on the shelf recently, and he is week-to-week. Last season, Woo had 22 points as a WHL Rookie and also captained Team Canada White at the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge. He also played as an underager and impressed at the Under 18 World Championships, and was a key defenceman for the Ivan Hlinka winning squad this summer.
He is strong in both ends of the ice. Woo shows poise with the puck on his stick, keeping his head up and looking to make plays. He has a strong first pass out of the zone and has shown the ability to quarterback the power play. Woo has dramatically increased his offence this season by joining the rush more and pinching at the blue line. He picks spots well and is rarely caught out of position.
However, the bread and butter of Woo’s game is his defensive game. Even at 16, he was a key penalty killer and playing against top lines in the second half of last season. He battles hard in the corners and wins physical battles in front of the net. He also maintains good gap control at the defensive end, funnelling attackers to the outside and keeping himself between the puck and the front of the net. Woo’s positioning and instincts are already high-end.
24.) Dominik Bokk, Right Wing, Vaxjo Lakers, 6’1″ 179 lbs
Bokk had an impressive showing at the D1A World Junior, helping the German team to third place with five points in five games. He is currently playing in Sweden where he has spent time in both the SHL and J20 leagues. His SHL time has been limited, with just 15 games, mostly on the fourth line. He has one goal and one assist. In the J20, he is dominating with 13 goals and 34 points in 29 games.
Bokk has outstanding stickhandling ability. He has incredible hands and can make plays in a phone booth. He pairs this with very good vision and passing skill. Bokk has a good shot, and a quick release as well. His speed is above average, but not blazing. He has good acceleration, and agility though. Bokk has high-end hockey IQ, he always seems to make smart plays with the puck and knows how to get open without it. He needs to add more muscle to his frame. He also needs to work on his defensive game, with more commitment to the backcheck, and better positioning needed.
25.) Mattias Samuelsson, Left Defence, US NTDP, 6’4″ 216 lbs
The son of former NHL defenceman Kjell Samuelsson is playing for the US National Team Development Program and has 19 points in 34 games this year. Last year, he had 14 points in 37 games for the Under-17 squad. He stepped up his offence this season. Samuelsson should be a big part of the Under-18 World Championship team. Samuelsson committed to play for the University of Michigan next season.
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 has good balance and can use his size to outmuscle opponents. He is a good skater for his size, with decent speed in both directions. However, his acceleration, agility, and footwork can improve. Samuelsson likes to join the rush as a trailer. Looking to add extra offence. He has a very good slapshot.
Embed from Getty Images