The Ontario Hockey League season is officially over. That means it’s on to the NHL Draft!
With the Hamilton Bulldogs bowing out of the Memorial Cup in the semifinals, the attention across the OHL will turn to Dallas. Who will be the first OHLer off the board? Is there even a chance Andrei Svechnikov squeaks into consideration at first overall if it somehow isn’t Rasmus Dahlin? How many from Ontario will hear their names called in round one and beyond at the NHL Draft?
The NHL Scouting Combine goes from May 27 to June 2 in Buffalo. It offers an off-ice look at the top draft eligibles for this year. 24 OHLers were invited, including every name mentioned on this list. And the name atop the list?
Needless to say, it’s familiar.
OHL Prospect Power Rankings for the 2018 NHL Draft: Final Rankings
1. Evan Bouchard, D, London Knights; TI Score: 123
Evan Bouchard led all OHL defencemen in scoring with 87 points, nine better than Mississauga’s Nic Hague. Bouchard finished second to Hague in goals with 25, with ten of those coming on the power play. They were the only two defencemen in the league to lead their teams in scoring. Bouchard’s season really took off in November, and he never looked back, leading the NHL Draft rankings in every month but October. The third-year defender doubled his point total from last year (44 in 68 games in 16/17) and brings plenty of size. Whether he makes the jump will depend on where he goes in the draft.
Where Last Word has him going: LWOH has him landing at eighth overall to Chicago. He’d be an excellent piece for the Blackhawks to rebuild their D around. He could fit with the New York Rangers (9) or Edmonton Oilers (10) too.
.@coreypronman on Evan Bouchard: Really intelligent, moves the puck well, has a big shot. I worry he's not a high-end skater, that his skills aren't as high-end. But he has the size, he has the brain. But he never hit the next level as having that impact skill to take over a game
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) May 29, 2018
2. Andrei Svechnikov, RW, Barrie Colts; TI Score: 103.5
Svechnikov played a lot of hockey in 2017/18. And we mean a lot. A hand injury limited him to 44 OHL games but he still managed 72 points. He added four games at the Under-18 and five games at the World Juniors for Russia. Svechnikov dominated the U-18s with four goals and four assists in eight games and added five assists in five games at the WJC. He was also four goals shy of being a goal-a-game player in the OHL (40 in 44). While he’s undoubtedly a one-and-done in the CHL, he was definitely worth the first overall pick in the Import Draft.
Where Last Word has him going: Rasmus Dahlin is on another level and is going first overall to the Buffalo Sabres. But Svechnikov and Filip Zadina are as close as you can get to a competition for first overall. We have him going to Carolina, but the Montreal Canadiens (3) and Ottawa Senators (4) make sense too. The Sens could have a big hole on the blueline in the future and defence makes sense. Then again, it’d be fun to see them make a move up to two to grab a franchise-defining scorer.
2.Carolina Hurricanes – Andrei Svechnikov
Canes have a strong stockpile of young D, will add to a promising F core with a dynamic goal scoring threat in Svechnikov. Has the ability to push the pace on both sides of the puck, will fit into the Canes system well
— ISS Hockey (@ISShockey) May 24, 2018
3. Akil Thomas, C, Niagara IceDogs; TI Score: 102
Thomas has been in the top four of the NHL Draft power rankings all year and with good reason. He did it all for the IceDogs, leading them in assists, and finishing fifth in goals. Thomas also led the team in power-play points with 32. He finished the season strong too. In his last ten games, Thomas logged two three-point games and three two-point efforts. He also improved astronomically in the faceoff circle. He went 70/149 in year one (46.97%), but took an astounding 1151 draws this year, winning 615 of them (53.4%).
Where Last Word has him going: If things go the way we have them, Thomas will land with the Minnesota Wild at 24. He’d provide Minnesota with an influx of speed and skill at a position that could quickly become a need. It’s tough to see him fitting in with the Los Angeles Kings (20) or Anaheim Ducks (23) because of his size. But what about with Ottawa’s second first round pick (22)? The Islanders could be interesting too with two firsts (11 and 12) even if it seems a little high.
4. Barrett Hayton, F, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds; TI Score: 86.5
Hayton’s an impact player on a deep team. Bumping his goal total from nine in his rookie season to 21 this year, he’s also riding a 21-point postseason into the draft. If it wasn’t for a five-game scoreless drought towards the end of the season, he would’ve topped 40 assists too (he finished with 39). With a good amount of strength packed into his 6’1” frame, Hayton wasn’t fazed by a long season. While some of his teammates slowed down as the playoffs wore on, Hayton didn’t. He had some big moments in Games 6 and 7 against Kitchener and had points in four of six championship games. He finished the series with three goals and two assists in six games.
Where Last Word has him going: With the Columbus Blue Jackets looking to mix in a few young forwards, Hayton would provide them with a versatile presence. That’s why we have him going there at 18. The Colorado Avalanche (16), Philadelphia Flyers (19) or Los Angeles Kings (20) provide interesting landing spots too.
5. Ryan McLeod, C, Mississauga Steelheads; TI Score: 86.5
A gifted playmaker, McLeod’s biggest improvement actually came in his goal-scoring this season. After scoring a combined 16 in his first two seasons, McLeod finished the year with 26. He continued his steady improvement in other categories too, notching a career-high 44 assists. He also averaged a point-per-game (1.03) for the first time in his career. Considered one of the best skaters in the league, any team that lands the two-way centre will have found a gem. He was big in the first four games against Barrie round one (five points) but was quiet in the last two. He had 0 points and was a minus-five combined in those games.
Where Last Word has him going: Two OHLers going to the Blackhawks? We have it happening as Bouchard and McLeod would be a great double-dip for Chicago. If he doesn’t come off the board at 27, the Detroit Red Wings (31) could pounce if he slides that far. Farther up the board? The Wild would be interesting. While they’re likely looking on the blueline, what about the Toronto Maple Leafs (25)?
6. Aidan Dudas, F, Owen Sound Attack; TI Score: 79
Dudas finished his first season with eight goals and 21 points. Fast forward a year and he finished 17/18 with 31 goals and 65 points. Dudas started the season on the cusp of the top ten, but then found himself in the thick of things the rest of the way, finishing as high as fifth but no lower than seventh. He’s considered one of the most under-rated players in the league and that probably has a lot to do with his size. Coming in at 5’8” and under 160lbs, even with a renewed emphasis on speed and skill in the league, is a hard sell. Dudas isn’t considered a first-round NHL Draft prospect, even after his excellent season, but he could make some team very, very happy.
Where Last Word has him going: Again, not really considered a first-round prospect, Dudas didn’t crack the first-round mock draft. That doesn’t mean he couldn’t be a first rounder though. A team could snap him up late in the first round (Washington or Detroit via Vegas), or he could be a steal in the second. The Vancouver Canucks (37) like the Owen Sound pipeline. Edmonton (40), Pittsburgh (53) and Tampa Bay (59) are interesting spots too.
7. Allan McShane, Oshawa Generals; TI Score: 77
McShane creates. That’s the easiest way to put it. McShane finished with the four-most assists among draft eligibles, finishing second on Oshawa. While he ran a little hot-and-cold at times, McShane had one of the best stretch runs in the OHL. From January 27 to the end of the year, McShane scored 10 goals and 19 assists in 22 games. While he’s a little bigger than Dudas, he shares similar size concerns. His smarts will be what propel him up the ranks though. He’ll be a very interesting player to watch mature over his next two OHL seasons.
Where Last Word has him going: McShane is another player who didn’t crack the first round in LWOH’s mock draft. With two picks in close succession (31 and 33) the Red Wings may have an interest in McShane. The Florida Panthers make some sense at 34, and so do the Colorado Avalanche at 47. The Winnipeg Jets (60) are a team who could be patient with him.
— Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) May 21, 2018
8. Rasmus Sandin, D, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds; TI Score: 72.5
If it wasn’t for spending the first month of the season over in Sweden, Sandin would have finished way higher in the rankings. Regardless, the Swedish defender made his presence felt at both ends of the ice. Despite playing on a deep Soo team, he got to strut his stuff when Conor Timmins missed significant time in the second half. He was four points shy of Mac Hollowell for the lead among defenders in scoring in 12 fewer games. He scored as many Hollowell but fell 11 assists shy. All that playing time was reflected in the rankings. Starting in December, Sandin was never outside the top ten. He slotted in at ninth for three months before finishing the season in tenth.
Where Last Word has him going: Because they’ve only drafted two defencemen in the past two years, LWOH has Sandin going to the Sharks at 21. If he doesn’t go there and the Sens go forward with their first pick, he fits well with Ottawa at 22. If you want to go a little higher up the board, Florida (15) and New Jersey (17) make sense.
9. Ryan Merkley, D, Guelph Storm; TI Score: 71.5
The curious case of Ryan Merkley. Last year’s first overall pick had another outstanding offensive season, but it didn’t come without question marks. Merkley seemed to butt heads the Storm at times, taking away from his elite offensive abilities. Then there’s also the fact that a player with 67 points finished the season a minus-29. A big part of that is his power play production (34 points), which makes the swing a little less dramatic. In a perfect world, Merkley is a top-10 pick. In November, December and January he was good enough to finish top three. He fell all the way to eighth, eventually settling at ninth to finish the year. Will a team bank on his talent and take him in the top of the first round, or will he have to wait to hear his name called?
Where Last Word has him going: The Panthers could use a game changer on defence, so Merkley makes sense at 15. That’s where he falls in the mock. If you want to believe the hype, Dallas is interesting at 13. Still inside the top 20, Philadelphia could have some interest at 19. Outside of the first round, he’d make that Montreal Canadiens’ (35) defence fun to watch alongside Victor Mete. The Canadiens have gone pretty heavy on defenders lately though.
Lots of talk about the Leafs and Ryan Merkley. It might not be a popular thought for some on here, but the interview process at the combine is going to be absolutely huge for Merkley. He will have to convince a team he's worth their first pick.
— Tom Hunter (@PuckDontLie) May 23, 2018
10. Cam Hillis, F, Guelph Storm; TI Score: 67
Hillis quietly went about his work in Guelph this year and the league took notice. Voted one of the hardest workers in the West, Hillis was a point shy of 60 in his first season (59 points in 60 games). Hillis finished the season strong with points in four of his last five games (one goal, five assists), and was third on the Storm in scoring. Another forward with a slighter frame, Hillis will slide a couple of rounds in the draft. He’ll be a good investment in the mid-rounds though, with the chance for even more minutes coming next year.
Where Last Word has him going: It would be a big surprise if Hillis cracked the first round, so he’s likely destined for the second or third. The Columbus Blue Jackets (49 and 80) could take an interest in Hillis. With a lengthy list of defenders drafted recently, maybe the Habs ignore the suggestion of Merkley and go with his teammate with one of their four second-round picks (35, 38, 56, 61). The New York Islanders (41, 43, and 72) and Dallas Stars (44 and 75) could invest too.
— Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) May 21, 2018
Main Photo: GUELPH, ON – JANUARY 25: Evan Bouchard #2 of Team Cherry skates with the puck against Ryan McLeod #91 Team Orr in the 2018 Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects game at the Sleeman Centre on January 25, 2018, in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Team Cherry defeated Team Orr 7-4. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)