The 2018 NHL draft appears to be shaping up as Rasmus Dahlin — and then everyone else. There’s consensus that the 17-year-old Swedish defenseman is the best player in the draft and by a fairly decent margin. Barrie Colts forward Andrei Svechnikov seems to be the only player with a semi-realistic chance at catching Dahlin. It’s a long season, though.
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The draft has a lot of players with exciting and diverse talents. That is particularly true among defensemen. There should be a whole bunch taken in the first round, with several in the first half of the first round. We haven’t seen the number of blueliners selected in the first round hit double digits since the 2012 draft, when 13 were selected, but this year is going to get close to that. Dahlin is obviously at the top, but there are so many others, including four in the top eight of this ranking.
It is an especially deep crop of dynamic puck-moving defensemen under 6-feet tall. That group includes the University of Michigan’s Quinn Hughes and Bryans IF’s Adam Boqvist, with others such as Ty Smith of the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes and Ryan Merkley of the OHL’s Guelph Storm falling in line. As the NHL continues to look more and more like a rush league, where a premium is placed on highly skilled defensemen with top-end passing skills, this year’s draft is very much on trend.
Despite the expected run on defensemen, there is a deep group of forwards that are going to make some teams very happy come June. Svechnikov is far and away the top in that group, but Filip Zadina, Brady Tkachuk and Joe Veleno are among the difference-makers up front.