Welcome to the 2018 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2018 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. We will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and you can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2018 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed.
What we will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2018-19 roster of the NHL team in question. We will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
Affiliated NHL Prospects: Part 4 (40-21)
After going through each team’s top 10 prospects, and then ranking every organization in the NHL, we now bring you our top 100 NHL Prospects. This was a very difficult list to compile, and there are a number of players who barely missed the cut. There is so much talent coming into the league, hockey fans have a lot to look forward too. With that said, let the debates begin.
One Note, Clicking the Player Name will take you to the team’s prospect page, or his individual draft scouting report.
Timmins was a huge part of a dominant Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds team last year. They were the best team in the CHL in the regular season and he was their top defenceman, though he missed some time due to injury. Timmins scored eight goals and 41 points in 36 games. He also scored five goals and 18 points in 23 playoff games. Timmins also won a gold medal at the World Juniors, scoring one goal and five points in seven games. He is very smart, seeing plays develop and reacting to the movements of teammates and defenders. His vision is good and he sees plays that others don’t. Timmins passing skills are also very good. He can fit pucks through tight openings. He has the skills to make saucer passes to teammates, landing the puck flat on the tape.
Frost uses his speed, quickness, and agility to really challenge defenders in one-on-one situations. He is extremely hard to contain off the rush, as he can use his skating to create openings. Frost also recognizes that if a defender is playing a little bit too far off of him; he can slow up. This creates both passing and shooting lanes which he can take advantage of. He sees the ice extremely well and anticipates the movements of his linemates. As such, he makes smart plays with the puck and sets them up for scoring chances. He can also create in the offensive zone, especially on the power play where he is able to quarterback the play from the point. While Frost is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, he has the soft hands and quick reflexes to finish plays in close to the net.
Steel has outstanding stickhandling ability and very soft hands. He combines this with the skating to weave through traffic and create plays off the rush. Steel also has a good wrist shot and a quick release, allowing him to use defenders as a screen and fire it on the net if they back off too much. Add in excellent vision and passing skills and Steel excels as a playmaker. In fact, his playmaking ability is probably the biggest strength of his game. Steel has outstanding hockey IQ and thinks the game a step ahead of others. He seems to always make the smart play with the puck on his stick. Steel is also a very hard worker, who constantly keeps his feet moving and is involved in every aspect of the play.
Guhle is a strong puck-moving defenceman. His strong skating is combined with good puck handling skills making him someone who can lead the rush. He is also willing to join as a trailer. Guhle has a good array of shooting skills that make him dangerous in this position, or at the point on the power play. He has a very hard slap shot and an excellent one-timer. He also utilizes a good wrist shot and snapshot, both of which feature a quick release. His ability to vary his shots, where he shoots from; and a willingness to go to both sides of the net and high or low all make him difficult to defend. He uses his agility to open up passing and shooting lanes. Guhle can control the play and quarterback things from the point.
Like his family members, Tkachuk plays a power game, doing his best work down low and in tight to the net. He loves to take the puck to the front of the net, and you can often find him at the top of the crease when he does not have it. 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. T Tkachuk is not afraid to play a physical game and is very good on the boards and in front of the net. He can pounce on rebounds and tip in pucks. He also has a good wrist shot and a quick release.
Myers offence has really improved since signing with the Flyers. While he always had a hard slap shot, he had real trouble getting it on the net. Myers corrected that issue and has seen his goal totals increase. His cannon is a feared weapon on the power play. He also became more poised with the puck, waiting for the play to develop before getting rid of it. Myers uses his size to win board battles and to gain leverage in front of the net but isn’t a big hitter. He reads the play well, with good positioning. He anticipates where the play is going, creating turnovers. Once those turnovers are created, he can transition to offence quickly. He uses his long stick to cut down the passing and shooting lanes.
Smith is an excellent skater. He can rush the puck up the ice, or pinch in at the blue line and still cover up his spot defensively. He has excellent speed in both directions. His acceleration is elite, as he reaches top speed in just one or two strides. Smith also has the pivots, agility, and the edgework to cover large areas of the ice. This helps him in the defensive and offensive zones. It also allows him to walk the line, and to open up passing and shooting lanes. Smith has good balance and a low centre of gravity. He will need to keep improving his strength and power though.
Andersson plays the game with a non-stop motor, digging for loose pucks and trying to make plays in all three zones. He gets to the front of the net and plays in the dirty areas of the ice. Andersson is strong on the puck and has a low centre of gravity. He is able to fight off checks and drive to the front of the net, both on the rush and in the cycle game. Andersson has the soft hands to finish plays in close to the net, to get tip-ins and deflections and to pounce on rebounds. When he gains control of the puck in the corner, he moves the puck quickly to open teammates. He has decent vision and passing skill. Andersson also has a very good wrist shot. It is heavy and features a quick release.
Tippett is extremely dangerous off the rush. If defenders back off to respect his speed, he can use his excellent wrist shot or snapshot and beat goalies with a quick release. Tippett’s shot is amongst the very best in the OHL. He is a pure sniper who is dangerous anytime he finds open space to get a shot off. He also shows the ability to find soft spots in the defensive zone, and get open to let off a one-timer. Tippett also has excellent hand-eye coordination and can tip in shots from the point. He is not afraid to battle down low and fight for the key space in front of the opposition’s net. Tippett also improved his playmaking skills last season.
Valimaki is an excellent skater. He has very good speed and acceleration in both directions. This allows him to join the rush and get back defensively. His edgework and pivots are also good, allowing him to play his two-way game and transition from offence to defence (and vice-versa) quickly. Offensively, Valimaki’s game has really grown over his junior career. He carries the puck and leads the rush more often than he did when he first came to North America. However, he is still more likely to start things with a good first pass and getting involved as a trailer. He also has an excellent point shot. Defensively, he is willing to play physical, taking out his man along the boards and clearing the front of the net.
Kyrou is an excellent playmaker. He has good vision and the ability to extend plays and wait for teammates to get open before feathering them a tape to tape pass. He reads the play well and makes good decisions on when to make that pass to an open teammate. Kyrou’s speed makes him extremely dangerous off the rush, however, he also controls the puck well in the cycle game and works hard down low. He improved his wrist shot over his junior career. He has increased power and his release was quicker. Kyrou must add some muscle and weight though. He needs to add additional upper-body strength in order to win more battles along the boards and establish his position in front of the net. He was strong enough to do these things in junior but will face a bigger challenge moving to the pros.
Jokiharju is a solid puck handler. He can lead the rush or join in as a trailer. He also has the poise to quarterback the play from the blue line. Jokiharju keeps his head up and makes smart passes. He can make the long stretch pass in transition, as well as make a cross-ice pass to set up a one-timer for a teammate. Jokiharju possesses excellent vision, the smarts to see plays developing before they happen, as well as the skill to fit the puck through tight openings. He makes those passing lanes a little less tight, through his excellent lateral mobility and poise with the puck. Jokiharju has very good positioning and gap control. He keeps his man to the outside and away from the dangerous areas of the ice. His good lateral agility makes him very hard to beat in one-on-one situations.
Suzuki is extremely intelligent as a hockey player. He thinks the game very well, spotting openings that other players do not see and seems to be a step ahead of where the puck is going. When he has the puck, he makes smart plays, and when he does not, he finds openings to get the puck and create a scoring chance. Suzuki has excellent vision and is a very good playmaker. He can feather tape-to-tape passes through tight openings and can put his linemates in a great position to finish his passes. Also impressive as a goal scorer, Suzuki has quick hands and drives the net, where he can finish plays in tight. Suzuki is strong enough to battle for position in front of the net and slippery enough to avoid a defender and find a soft spot in a good scoring area.
Vilardi has a very long reach and excellent puck handling ability. He uses these assets to extend plays and wait for teammates to get open, before hitting them with a pass. Vilardi has the vision and passing skill to be a solid playmaker, both off the rush and in the cycle game. Vilardi is constantly moving and getting involved in the play. He is extremely gritty and involved in battles along the boards and in front of the net. The power forward prospect also has a very good wrist shot and an excellent release. His shot is powerful and deadly accurate. He also has the hands to finish plays in tight to the net, scoring on rebounds, tip-ins and one-time plays. His hockey IQ is also above average.
Liljegren is an elite skater. He moves well both forwards and backwards, with excellent speed and acceleration. He also has very good edgework and pivots. As such he can cover a ton of ice. Liljegren can make offensive plays rushing the puck, or pinching in at the blue line; but still has the speed to get back defensively. He also has good balance and lower-body strength. This helps him to win his battles along the boards and in front of the net. When carrying the puck, he is tough to knock off of it. Liljegren has the poise and smarts to quarterback a power play. He has excellent vision and makes good passes to set things up at the line. Liljegren finds the open man and makes tape-to-tape passes through tight areas.
Rasmussen had another solid regular season for Tri-City with 31 goals and 59 points in 47 games. However, it was in the playoffs that he really exploded with 16 goals and 33 points in just 14 playoff games. Rasmussen’s long reach makes it very hard to get the puck off of him, and he has the slick hands to control it in tight areas or make plays in close to the goalie. This, along with his strength on the puck allows him to extend plays in the cycle game, waiting for teammates to get open. His vision is very good, as is his ability to pass the puck through tight spaces. If Rasmussen is put on a line with at least one other forward who can work this style, he will be able to maintain possession and control the puck down low for long periods of time.
Bouchard has an absolute bomb of a slap shot. His slap shot and one-timer are already NHL calibre. He also has an outstanding wrist and snapshot. Bouchard has a real knack for getting his shot on the net, despite heavy traffic. He is poised with the puck and makes subtle moves to open up passing and shooting lanes. Bouchard also understands how to keep the puck low, allowing teammates to get deflections, tip-ins, and rebounds. He also really improved his passing last season. Bouchard is far more accurate and consistent than the previous campaign. He quarterbacks the play from the point and also leads the rush. He has very good vision and anticipates developing plays. Bouchard finds open teammates and makes smart plays with the puck, especially in transition.
Thomas is an extremely smart player, making the right plays both with and without the puck. Offensively, he has soft hands and good stickhandling ability. He can control the puck off the rush and in working down low, extending plays and waiting for teammates to get open. Thomas uses his good lateral agility to make quick moves and open up a passing or shooting lane. He also has the vision to find teammates with smart passes, and to set-up plays. Thomas is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. He has good accuracy on his shot but could stand to improve his power. He has improved his release over the last year. Most of his goals come in tight to the net, where he can utilize his quick and soft hands.
Boqvist has 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. Boqvist has a tremendous shooting arsenal. He gets a lot of power on his wrist shot and has a quick and deceptive release. He also has a great slapshot and one-timer from the point. Boqvist understands how to keep his shot low, and on the net, leading to tip-ins and rebounds for teammates. Boqvist is smart in the offensive zone. He walks the line to create passing and shooting lanes. He is poised with the puck and has the patience to wait for plays to open up.
Hart makes up for his lack of size with his exceptionally fast reflexes. He gets in and out of the butterfly very quickly and takes away the bottom of the net with exceptionally fast legs. He also is an aggressive goalie who makes himself seem bigger by taking full advantage of his ability to come out of the net and cut down angles. Strong skating, being able to move out and back quickly, as well as a good push and the ability to go side-to-side with ease allow Hart to fully take advantage of a style that sees him really challenge shooters and aggressively play the angles. He also has a quick glove hand. Carter Hart is extremely athletic in the crease. While most young goalies struggle with rebound control this is a strength of Hart’s game, as he often swallows up pucks or directs them into the corners.
REGINA, SK – MAY 21: Robert Thomas #27 of Hamilton Bulldogs is back checked by Glenn Gawdin #15 of Swift Current Broncos at Brandt Centre – Evraz Place on May 21, 2018 in Regina, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)