NHL draft preview: Breaking down the top 10 prospects on the board
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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Blackhawks won’t be landing the best player in the NHL draft later this month, but with nine seemingly sure-fire standouts, they’re sitting pretty at No. 8. Here are the 10 top prospects to know leading up to the June 22-23 draft in Dallas:
1. Rasmus Dahlin, D
Hometown: Trollhattan, Sweden
Vitals: 6-2, 181 pounds, shoots left
Stats: 7G, 13A in 41 GP with Frolunda (SHL)
Noteworthy: Already deemed a generational talent, Dahlin is a brilliant skater with outstanding vision and world-class hockey sense. Very few defensemen can make the jump straight to the NHL, but Dahlin will have no such trouble with the Buffalo Sabres. He will become just the second Swedish-born top pick, following Mats Sundin in 1989.
Quoteworthy: “I need to improve on my defensive side. I need to get stronger — my shot, too. I think my best thing is probably my hockey IQ.”
Blackhawks director of scouting Mark Kelley’s view: “You’re just excited to see him come to the league. He’s a dynamic player. He plays hard and has fun out there. … It’s easy to look at him and project that he is going to be one of those franchise-altering players.”
2. Andrei Svechnikov, RW
Hometown: Kazan, Russia
Vitals: 6-2, 188 pounds, shoots left
Stats: 40G, 32A in 44 GP with Barrie (OHL)
Noteworthy: A power forward in the making, Svechnikov was the OHL rookie of the year thanks to his rare combination of speed, power and skill. His brother, Evgeny, plays for the Red Wings and the two hope to be reunited, but he’s likely headed to Carolina at No. 2.
Quoteworthy: “[Evgeny told me] to be a strong player and to always play for the team.”
Kelley’s view: “He’s a highly skilled player. Very competitive out there. He wants to win.”
3. Filip Zadina, RW
Hometown: Pardubice, Czech Republic
Vitals: 6-0, 195 pounds, shoots left
Stats: 44G, 38A in 57 GP with Halifax (QMJHL)
Noteworthy: Zadina combines elite playmaking skill with a solid defensive game to be one of the more well-rounded prospects in the draft. After being named to the QMJHL All-Star and All-Rookie teams, he won the Mike Bossy Trophy as the league’s best pro prospect.
Quoteworthy: “I’m doing the best I can [to be NHL-ready right away]. I just want to be stronger and be faster. I’ll be ready.”
Kelley’s view: “He came over here from the Czech Republic and quickly found a comfort level. He’s a goal-scorer.”
4. Brady Tkachuk, LW
Hometown: Scottsdale, Ariz.
Vitals: 6-3, 196 pounds, shoots left
Stats: 8G, 23A in 40 GP with Boston University
Noteworthy: The son of NHL great Keith Tkachuk and brother of Flames winger Matthew, Tkachuk is the total package — big, strong and skilled. He captained Team USA’s gold-medal team at the 2017 World Juniors, and posted four goals and 12 assists in 14 total World Junior games. He won’t decide if he’s going back to BU for his sophomore season until after the draft. He said he “definitely” feels NHL-ready.
Quoteworthy: “I’m pretty used to [being around the NHL]. I’m used to the lifestyle, and know how each guy carries himself. It’s nice to finally be a part of it.”
Kelley’s view: “We’ve been watching him for a few years. He’s a hard-nosed player — very, very visible in the offensive zone, in the corners, in front of the net. He plays in the dirt.”
5. Evan Bouchard, D
Hometown: Oakville, Ontario
Vitals: 6-2, 193 pounds, shoots right
Stats: 25G, 62A in 67 GP with London (OHL)
Noteworthy: The best power-play quarterback in the draft and the captain of the London Knights, Bouchard led all OHL defensemen in points this past season. He won an OHL title in his first season while playing alongside current NHL players Mitch Marner, Christian Dvorak, Matthew Tkachuk and Victor Mete.
Quoteworthy: “I’m really trying not to focus on [where I’ll get picked]. Whatever team drafts you, they clearly like you. So I think that’s the main thing.”
Kelley’s take: “Offensively gifted. He’s got a very good shot, and he’s a very good puck-mover.”
6. Noah Dobson, D
Hometown: Summerside, PEI
Vitals: 6-3, 180 pounds, shoots right
Stats: 17G, 52A in 67 GP with Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
Noteworthy: Dobson’s combine week was a few days shorter than the other prospects, but for good reason — he was busy winning junior hockey’s Memorial Cup last weekend. A solid two-way defenseman with a big shot, he’s more advanced in the defensive zone than most 18-year-old blue-liners, but still is a big-time offensive threat.
Quoteworthy: “I think I bring a complete, two-way game. I’m reliable defensively [but] I can get up in the play and create offense. Two-way defensemen are pretty valuable for teams. I think that’s what I bring.”
Kelley’s view: “[The Memorial Cup] plays in his favor — he’s a winner. Noah’s a big defenseman, a smooth skater who loves to get up in the offense. His mobility gives him so much of a presence out there.”
7. Quinn Hughes, D
Hometown: Orlando, Fla.
Vitals: 5-10, 170 pounds, shoots left
Stats: 5G, 24A in 37 GP with University of Michigan
Noteworthy: Another outstanding two-way defenseman with plenty of offensive flair. Despite his size, he’s a creative playmaker and fluid skater and has been on the Blackhawks’ radar for three years. He played a significant role for Team USA at the World Championships, sitting next to Patrick Kane in the locker room. But nearby Detroit at No. 6 is another ideal landing spot.
Quoteworthy: “Just the way [the Hawks] play, it’d be a great fit for me. A lot of the guys are awesome. Connor Murphy, I played with him a bit. Alex DeBrincat, I got to know him closely. He’s a pretty good ping-pong player. It was good for me to meet those guys. But wherever I end up, I end up.”
Kelley’s view: “Just a really dynamic offensive defenseman. It seems like every time he has the puck, he creates something.”
8. Oliver Wahlstrom, RW
Hometown: Quincy, Mass.
Vitals: 6-1, 205 pounds, shoots right
Stats: 22G, 23A in 26 GP with USNDT (USHL)
Noteworthy: A spectacular scoring threat, Wahlstrom might be the best pure offensive talent in the draft, with size, speed, skill and a nose for the net. He modeled his big shot after Patrik Laine, and grew up idolizing Alex Ovechkin. The Blackhawks are very high on him, and if they’re not thrilled with whichever of the top five defensemen is left at No. 8, they’d be very happy to see Wahlstrom fall to them.
Quoteworthy: “My game is a big, strong power forward, with a lot of skill and creativity. My shot’s my biggest asset. Humbly, I feel I have the best shot in this draft, and I work on it every day. … I feel I’m right up there with [Svechnikov, Zadina and Tkachuk].”
Kelley’s view: “Oliver’s a pure goal-scorer. He gets open, the puck finds him, and it’s in the net.”
9. Adam Boqvist, D
Hometown: Falun, Sweden
Vitals: 5-11, 168, shoots right
Stats: 5G, 12A in 19 GP with Swedish national teams
Noteworthy: Like so many other Swedish defensemen, Boqvist’s favorite player is Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson. Unlike so many others, he actually plays like Karlsson, too. He’s only 17 and is still pretty raw — he said Saturday that he’s “2 or 3 years away” from the NHL — but he’s a terrific puck-mover with tremendous skill.
Quoteworthy: “I try to play with the puck and do things out there and make a good play [using] my skating and shot. That’s me. … I need to improve my defensive play, and win more battles than I lose. And be harder in the front of the net.”
Kelley’s view: “Adam is a very gifted, puck-moving defenseman. Probably more visible offensively than defensively, but he creates offense.”
10. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C
Hometown: Pori, Finland
Vitals: 6-2, 188 pounds, shoots left
Stats: 10G, 19A in 57 GP with Assat Pori (SM-Liiga)
Noteworthy: The X-factor in the first round, Kotkaniemi has been climbing mock drafts over the past few months after cracking Finland’s top league at just 17 years old, and could sneak into the top 10. In a draft that’s short on centers, Kotkaniemi could be the first one to go. He’s got good size and strength, but his hockey sense, creativity and lethal shot make him one of the most intriguing prospects.
Quoteworthy: “I’m mostly a playmaker, but I also have a good shot. I’m a big guy, and I love to go in the corners and be in front of the net. I like those hard battles.”
Kelley’s view: “Very good both ways, really came on this year. He’s getting a lot of attention, which he deserves.”