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.
Top 20 Affiliated NHL Prospects
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.
Roslovic is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. He has very good passing skill, excellent vision, and the hockey IQ to make the smart plays. When he does give up the puck, he often darts into an opening, looking for a give-and-go from a teammate. Roslovic has extremely good stickhandling ability, and the soft hands to make skilled plays in tight areas. This creates the room for him to open up passing lanes. Roslovic has a decent release, but his shot could add power and he could use it more often. His hands are good in close to the net.
Roslovic likes to play a dump and chase game and has the speed necessary to get to pucks in the corners or to pressure defencemen. Previous knocks on Roslovic centred on his physicality. There were times when he is willing to play a fearless style, digging for pucks, holding on to the puck an extra second and taking the hit to make a play, or getting to high traffic areas. However, there were other games when he shied away from the contact and was not always fully engaged in battles for the puck. This seems to be a thing of the past. As Roslovic has added muscle to his frame, he has become much more consistent in playing a gritty game.
Wahlstrom has an impressive array of moves. He isn’t afraid to use them in traffic either. While he won’t initiate contact, he does take hits to make offensive plays. He is a very good playmaker. Wahlstrom can extend plays and wait for a teammate to get open. Once they do, he can make a pass through the tightest of openings. He also has a very good wrist shot and outstanding release. However, it is the improvements in his shot that have taken Wahlstrom’s game up a notch.
While his shot was already at a high level, it seems it got even better last year, and Wahlstrom was using it more. He became a pure sniper, and with this aspect of his game improving he is a better and more dangerous player. Wahlstrom is taking a ton of shots, from high danger areas, and putting the puck in the back of the net. He has an outstanding snapshot, wrist shot and slap shot. His release is very quick and can fool goaltenders. He also scores goals in front of the net with good tip-in skills and the quickness to bang in rebounds.
Samsonov has the ideal size that teams are looking for in goaltenders today. He makes the most of that size, coming out to challenge on plays and reducing the amount of net that forwards have to shoot at. He is very athletic and never gives up on a play, resulting in him being able to make some ridiculous saves. Samsonov has strong legs and gets side-to-side across the crease quickly and efficiently. He plays a tight butterfly and his legs kick out quickly to take away the bottom of the net. He has a fast glove hand and blocker as well.
Samsonov skates backwards very well, and this makes him hard to beat on dekes. He comes out to cut down those angles but backs up quickly if the shooter instead tries to go around him. His positioning is very good. He remains square to the puck even when moving around the crease. In terms of weaknesses, Samsonov has improved his rebound control, though this is still something that can better. He also doesn’t seem to handle the puck very well, though he also doesn’t do it very often.
The third overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, Strome went to the AHL last year, where he was dominant with 53 points in 50 games as a rookie. On his return to Tucson, he kept scoring with eight points in nine playoff games. Strome has an outstanding wrist shot and a great release. He also has very good hands in tight and can be a real sniper. Strome also has the ability to be a playmaker with great vision and passing skills. He has good size and uses it to protect the puck in the cycle game. Strome is great at working down low, extending plays and waiting for the opening to take the puck to the front of the net. He can also wait for a linemate to get open and make the tape-to-tape pass.
Strome has high-end hockey IQ, and seems to make the right play with the puck on his stick, or can find openings in the defence to set himself up for a one-timer. He is not afraid to battle for loose pucks in the corners. If he wins the battle he can quickly get the puck to an open teammate. With his size, he is not afraid to drive the net. Dylan Strome’s skating has been a source of criticism. He shows relatively smooth skating stride once he gets going, but his first few steps are really choppy. This really hurts his acceleration and his start-up speed.
Dobson plays a strong defensive game, with good positioning and gap control. His strong skating allows him to keep attackers in front of him and force them to the outside. He keeps himself between the puck and the net and uses a long and active stick to cut down passing lanes. Dobson is not afraid to put his body on the line to block shots. He battles hard along the boards, and wins most of his battles at the junior level, but can still get stronger. He is also very good at clearing the front of the net. Dobson has also been known to throw a big hit from time-to-time, but these are rare as he works hard not to get caught out of position.
Dobson 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. He has the vision and smarts to find the open man, and the passing skill to thread the needle through tight openings. Dobson uses his agility to walk the line and open up passing and shooting lines. Dobson has a bomb of a slapshot and one-timer and he lets both fly from the blue line.
Chytil is an outstanding skater. His stride is near textbook, and it gives him excellent top-end speed, as well as great power. His first step is very good, as is the acceleration. Chytil reaches that top end speed quickly. He wins races to loose pucks. His speed is also a weapon on the rush, where he can beat defenders to the outside. While Chytil looks skinny in his upper body, his lower body is strong. He has excellent balance, making him tough to knock off the puck. Chytil wins battles along the boards and is good at establishing his position in front of the net. His agility is also good and allows him to avoid hits and slip past defenders.
Chytil is willing to play a gritty and physical game. He gets in quickly on the forecheck, pressuring defenders into mistakes, and getting to loose pucks. He can create offence by digging the puck out of the corner and getting it to the front of the net. Chytil is not afraid to throw his weight around, or play in the dirty areas of the ice. He is also very skilled. He has a heavy wrist shot. Chytil gets that shot off quickly as well as accurately, with a lightning quick release. It can fool goaltenders from further out with its quickness. Chytil can also play the role of playmaker. He can create openings with his skating and has the stickhandling ability to control the play.
Glass has good hands, with the ability to stick handle in tight spaces and make moves one-on-one. He protects the puck extremely well down low, extending plays and keeping possession. He shields the puck well, using his body to keep defenders away, while also having the good balance to fight through checks. Glass is good in board battles, and could be even better as he adds some muscle to his frame. He also has the passing skills and vision to make his linemates better and put up points. Glass is a creative playmaker, finding a way to get the puck to a teammate, even when there doesn’t appear to be much of a lane to do so. He can make those passes on both his forehand and backhand and through tight spaces.
He also has a decent wrist shot and good release. Glass’ quick hands help him to finish plays in tight to the net. What really sets him apart offensively though is his hockey IQ. He is almost always in the right spot or making the correct play with the puck. He puts the puck into good areas, allowing a teammate to get it and make a play. Glass then finds an opening, and looks for a soft spot in the defence to get open for a return pass.
Borgstrom has very good stickhandling ability. He protects the puck extremely well and can slow the play down, waiting for an opening to make a slick pass to a teammate. He can thread the needle through small openings and has the hockey IQ to see plays developing. Put this all together and he is an excellent playmaker.
He can also play the role of sniper, with good wrist shots and snapshots, as well as a quick release. Borgstrom is not afraid to drive the net and has the soft hands to finish in tight. He needs to bulk up in order to win more battles on the boards and to control the puck better in the cycle game. Bigger, stronger opponents knock Borgstrom off the puck. Borgstrom uses his high hockey IQ and good motor in the defensive zone. He supports the defence down low. He positions himself well to cut down shooting and passing lanes.
Tolvanen had one of the best KHL seasons for a teenager in league history. He put up 19 goals and 36 points in 49 games for Jokerit. He also added six goals and seven points in 11 playoff games. Tolvanen got plenty of experience for Finland on the international stage. He put up six points in five games at the World Juniors, nine points in five games at the Olympics, and four points in four games at the World Championships. Tolvanen finished the year playing his first three games for the Predators but is still searching for his first NHL point.
Tolvanen is a pure sniper who scores goals in a variety of different ways. He reads the play extremely well and gets himself into the right position to create a scoring chance. Tolvanen has an outstanding one-timer, with great power and accuracy. He also has a lightning quick release on his wrist shot. That wrist shot is heavy, and he is also very accurate. It is one of the best shots of any player not in the NHL. Tolvanen has the soft hands to make quick moves and beat defenders with his stick handling ability. Tolvanen’s snapshot is also deadly. He can fire that vast assortment of shots in stride. He can also bury rebounds and has the hand-eye coordination to get deflections in front of the net as well.
Makar can be an offensive force. He has a very good wrist shot, as well as a strong slap shot. A bit more strength on his frame could make that slap shot an even bigger weapon in his arsenal. Makar’s skating and lateral agility allow him to walk the line and open up passing and shooting lanes. He understands how to get his shot through traffic, as well as how to keep it low and on the net. This helps his teammates to set up screens, capitalize on rebounds, and make deflections. He also has excellent stickhandling abilities and can rush the puck from end-to-end. Makar can also join the rush as a trailer, picking good opportunities to add offence from the back end.
Makar is a very intelligent player. He shows high hockey IQ and makes smart plays both with and without the puck. Add in strong passing skills and excellent vision and Makar is a threat to generate a scoring chance nearly every time he touches the puck. Makar is a little undersized but has impressed with outstanding skating ability. He is quick in both directions. He has very good speed and acceleration. However, it is in his agility and edgework where he really shines. Makar has excellent lateral mobility and can cover a ton of ice. His pivots are crisp and clean, allowing him to transition from offence to defence quickly and vice-versa. He can pinch deep or join the rush, and also get back defensively.
Kaprizov is only 5-foot-9. He makes up for that diminutive in other areas. One of these areas is skating. Kaprizov has outstanding agility and edgework. He changes directions and makes quick cuts on a dime. This makes him extremely elusive and hard for defenders to contain. Kaprizov is extremely creative. He has very quick and has very soft hands. He can stick handle in a phone booth and has a wide variety of moves. When this is combined with his quick skating, he is very tough to handle one-on-one. He also has excellent vision and passing skills. He makes tape-to-tape passes, hitting teammates through tight spaces.
As good as his playmaking skills are, Kaprizov is a goal scorer. He has a strong wrist shot and excellent release. He also has an outstanding one-timer. Kaprizov has a knack for finding soft spots in the defence and getting that shot off. He also uses his speed to threaten defenders on the rush and when they back off so he does not get by them one-on-one, Kaprizov fires a shot, using them as a screen. He also works to get to the front of the net and is not afraid to be in battles despite his size. Kaprizov has the soft hands to finish in close to the net, burying rebounds and getting tip-ins.
Necas can handle the puck and make plays while moving at top speed. His hands are quick and soft, and he protects the puck well. This makes him extremely dangerous on the rush. Necas has excellent vision and makes tough passes through tight areas. He is very creative with his passing game and can find openings that other players wouldn’t try. Necas sees the ice extremely well and has the hockey IQ to anticipate plays before they happen. He seems to know what his teammates are thinking ahead of time. He can also be dangerous as a shooter with a quick release on both his wrist and snapshots. Necas will need to add more power going forward.
Necas needs to get to the dirty areas of the ice more consistently. He sometimes has a tendency to play too much of a perimeter game. At his best, he gets involved in the corners and in front of the net. He may be willing to do this more as he continues to add strength to his frame. He is good in the cycle game, using his body to protect the puck, and his vision and passing skill to make plays for teammates.
Kotkaniemi has good size. He takes advantage of his big frame, as he’s willing to work down low. He loves to take the puck and drive to the front of the net. Without the puck he is also found around the top of the crease, ready to provide a screen or pounce on a rebound. Kotkaniemi has a strong wrist-shot and an excellent release. He is a smart player and has a knack for finding open space without the puck and setting himself up for a one-timer or wrister on net.
Kotkaniemi is also a good playmaker, with good vision and passing skills. He has the stickhandling ability to protect the puck on the cycle and extend plays to find an open teammate. Kotkaniemi anticipates the movements of his teammates and can get them the puck in good scoring areas. He does not force things and is willing to keep possession by hitting the open man in the cycle rather than making an overly risky play. Kotkaniemi is also strong on the forecheck, pressuring the defence and creating turnovers and scoring chances for teammates.
Zadina is a pure and talented goal scorer. He has a very heavy wrist shot, with a good release. He can combine this with his skating and power game to be a real threat off of the wing. An absolute sniper, he can score with his wrist shot, snapshot, slap shot and one-timer. He even has a strong backhand. Zadina takes advantage of his shooting skill, as he generates a very high number of shot attempts every game. Zadina also has the soft hands to score in close to the net. He can bury rebounds, deke goalies, and get tip-ins. He has a knack for getting himself open, finding soft areas on the ice even when everyone is watching him.
As a playmaker, he needs to make better decisions with the puck. Zadina can sometimes hold on to it for too long and get himself into trouble instead of moving it quickly. He has the passing skill to get it through tight openings and make tape-to-tape passes when he does move it. He is willing to work in the cycle game, and to battle along the boards and in front of the net. Zadina is not afraid to get to the dirty areas of the ice in order to create offensive chances. He will need to put on weight in order to do this at the next level.
Mittelstadt has excellent puck handling ability. He can beat defensemen one-on-one with a number of moves and has the soft hands to stick handle in a phone booth. He combines this with his skating ability to really create chances both on the rush or working down low. Mittelstadt is an excellent playmaker who creates passing lanes with his quick puck movement, stops and starts, and deceptive moves. He only needs a small opening and can make difficult passes through tight spaces, or the tough saucer pass. Add to this excellent hockey sense, and the intelligence to make smart plays with the puck, and Mittelstadt makes his linemates better.
He can also be a goal scorer. Mittelstadt has a varied arsenal of shots. His wrist and snapshots both feature good power, accuracy, and a lightning quick release. He can score from further out with a good slapshot. Mittelstadt also has the soft hands to finish plays in close to the net, including rebounds and deflections. Mittelstadt is an outstanding skater. He has excellent top-end speed, as well as the quick first step, and strong acceleration to take advantage of it. This strong skating allows Mittelstadt to get to loose pucks, create odd-man rushes and to play a strong two-way game.
Hughes has excellent vision and playmaking ability, as well as the hockey sense to almost always make the right play. He seems to think the game and anticipate plays better than others out there on the ice. With his skating and stickhandling ability, Hughes is not afraid to skate the puck out of his zone or lead the rush. He can also make a long pass to start the transition game and start an odd-man rush. He has the passing ability and the hockey IQ to quarterback the play from the point. Hughes has the poise to make plays under pressure. Hughes has a good arsenal of shots. His wrist shot is strong and accurate and features a quick release. He uses it often when trailing the play on the rush, or when pressured by shot blockers. He also has a hard and accurate slap shot.
Hughes is an outstanding skater. He looks like he is floating above the ice. He has very good speed and acceleration in both directions. Hughes has a textbook stride, and the ability to change directions on a dime. He uses the outstanding speed to join the rush or to pinch in at the line. Hughes is rarely caught deep as he can still get back into position defensively thanks to that speed. His agility and footwork allow him to beat defenders one-on-one as well as to walk the line and make quick moves to open up passing and shooting lanes. Hughes has a low centre of gravity which helps his balance and makes him strong on the puck.
Heiskanen has very good skating ability. He has good speed and acceleration in both directions. Heiskanen also has the agility and edgework to make quick pivots and transition from defence to offence, or vice-versa. This allows him to get up in the play, join the rush, and pinch in the offensive zone, and also get back defensively. His skating ability means that he can cover a lot of ice, providing a two-way game. Heiskanen’s lateral agility and ability to walk the line allows him to open up passing and shooting lanes on the power play. He needs to continue to get stronger, to improve his balance, and ability to win battles along the wall and in front of the net.
Heiskanen can generate some offence from the back end. He is a good passer and can start the rush by making a move to avoid a forechecker and getting the puck up the ice to a teammate. He can also lead or make plays on the rush. Heiskanen’s passing skills extend to his ability to man the point on the power play, where he can set things up on the back end. He is an excellent stick-handler. He can lead the rush and make plays through the neutral zone, and also has the poise to make plays at the blue line. Heiskanen improved his slap shot this past season. It may not be a cannon, but he has decent power. Added upper body mass may allow him to fire it even harder. He makes even better use of his wrist shot though.
Svechnikov is an outstanding skater. He has elite level speed and very good acceleration. He can beat his defender to the outside and cut back to the net. Svechnikov also has sublime edgework and agility, making him very hard to defend in one-on-one situations. He has very good balance and power in his skating stride. This skating ability allows him to play a skilled offensive game, as well as to be a power winger. He has the power to fight through checks and win battles on the boards, as well as to beat defenders with slick moves. He’s not a big hitter, but it is very difficult to knock Svechnikov off the puck.
Svechnikov has every offensive skill one would want in a player. He has a fantastic wrist shot with a bullet-quick release. He also has an excellent snapshot and a great one-timer. His shooting arsenal is elite, and NHL ready. His backhand is elite. A pure sniper, he can also tip-in pucks, and has the quick hands to finish on rebounds, or on dekes close to the net. Svechnikov can stickhandle in a phone booth, beating defenders one-on-one, and in close to the net. He protects the puck well and has the power to control it down low and create in the cycle game. While he is best known as a sniper, he has excellent vision and passing skills as well. In the cycle game, he can play the role of playmaker for his linemates. Svechnikov is a smart and creative player, who is often one step ahead of the competition.
Pettersson is a strong skater. His top end speed and acceleration are both very good, but there is still room to improve as well. The best part of his skating though is his agility and edgework. Pettersson can stop and cut on a dime, and make a number of moves that can help him to get past a defender. Pettersson has very good offensive instincts and makes smart plays with the puck. His hockey IQ is his biggest weapon, as it seems that Pettersson almost always makes the right play with the puck on his stick. Pettersson is very good at give-and-go type plays, dishing the puck and then skating to open ice. He shows off his intelligence by spotting the open areas of the ice and getting himself open to make plays.
His stickhandling and puck possession are also extremely good, and he can create plays off the rush or in the offensive zone. He can make plays with the puck while moving at top speed. He also controls the puck well down low, but this is an area where the added bulk will really help him at the next level. Pettersson shows a very good work ethic. He is tenacious in puck pursuit, and with his forechecking, despite his slender frame. Pettersson is also extremely hard to stop if he gets a defenseman one-on-one. He also has excellent vision and passing skills. To top it off, he has a strong and accurate wrist shot and quick release.
The key to Rasmus Dahlin’s game begins with his outstanding skating. He has very good speed and outstanding acceleration in both directions. His skating is sublime and at times he seems to be floating above the ice. Dahlin has outstanding pivots, agility, and edge work. This allows him to cover all areas of the ice, and transition quickly from offence to defence. Dahlin is strong on the puck, but should get even stronger, and continue to improve his balance as he adds muscle.
Dahlin is an elite offensive defenceman, who has been playing above his age group for quite some time, both at the international and club level. Dahlin’s passing ability is outstanding, with extremely good vision and the ability to thread the needle through the smallest openings. He can start the rush, make the long breakaway pass, and quarterback the power-play. He also has an outstanding slap shot and one-timer. Dahlin moves the puck out of the zone quickly. He utilizes his skating and strong first pass to start the transition game.
Dahlin’s creativity and hockey sense are off the charts. He makes plays that other defenders would not even dream of trying. His strong skating allows him to walk the line, and to open up passing and shooting lanes. Couple this with the stickhandling to elude defenders one-on-one and the skating to beat them as well, and he is one of the most dynamic offensive defencemen in years.