As I sit down to respond to the following questions, we are less than 72 hours from a contingent of Buffalo Sabres stepping up to the podium and announcing that they have selected Rasmus Dahlin as the first pic of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. A few minutes after that, we expect the Carolina Hurricanes’ representatives to follow suit and announce the selection of Andrei Svechnikov. After that, who knows, really?
We don’t pretend to work for NHL clubs here at McKeens, but we spend a lot of time trying to figure out what is in their best interests. We don’t know what they will do, for the most part, but we have strong opinions on what they should do and why.
With that in mind, we asked you, our awesome readers, what you would like to know about the draft. A number of you replied on Twitter and I will do my best to satisfy your curiosity. Here goes:
Who do the Red Wings target with the 30th pick?
Ryan - McKeens: The simple answer, Gary, is best player available. It’s hard enough to know who they will have available for pick 6, much less pick 30. That said, I can point out that the Wings lack much in the way of high end talent up and down the organization. They have a big center in Michael Rasmussen and a few decent young defenders in Filip Hronek, Dennis Cholowski and Joe Hicketts, and I expect the latter group to grow by one with pick six. In fact, if he is still on the board, I strongly expect the Wings to select Michigan blueliner Quinn Hughes with their first pick. If that was not the case before, Hughes’ performance at the World Championships, under the watchful eyes of Blashill, should have convinced them. Assuming that Hughes is the first pick, I could easily see the Red Wings more focussed on forwards with their next pick. After Rasmussen and Yevgeni Svechnikov, the latter of whom is likely ready for a full time job in the NHL, there isn’t much left. In recent mock drafts I have put together, I had Ryan McLeod or Rasmus Kupari falling to the 30 spot. Both are speedy centers who would offer the Wings depth down the middle and both project for middle six roles at their peaks. Similarly ranked players who could be available at that spot and fit a similar future role are Jacob Olofsson and Benoit-Olivier Groulx.
Most likely Player to drop unexpected in 1st Rd?
Ryan - McKeens: With the late rise in public perception of Finnish center Jesperi Kotkaniemi, someone we had ranked higher is bound to drop somewhat. There are rumors of Filip Zadina going later than expected, but I still don’t see him lasting past pick #5 at the latest. One who could drop out of the top ten, after beginning the season as a clear top five favorite is Swedish blueliner Adam Boqvist. It seems that more and more teams see him as fourth among the group of Hughes, Bouchard, Dobson and Boqvist. He probably does not get past the two Islanders picks, but on talent alone, the Isles should feel lucky to grab him. Another defender who might go later than expected is USNTDP blueliner Bode Wilde, who has been passed by teammate K’Andre Miller on a number of boards. I still see him as a first rounder but not as high as was once assumed.
In a relatively deep draft, what position do see having the most value in the later rounds?
Ryan - McKeens: This is certainly a relatively deep draft with likely NHL contributors through the end of the third round. One consequence of not having any high end goalie prospects this year is that there are a number of project netminders who would make for good upside plays in the second half of the draft. We also see the blueline cohort to be especially deep this year and expect there to be a lot of value in stocking up on the blueline n the later rounds. On the other hand, the lack of high end centers is mirrored in the later rounds. There are some guys worth taking, but this is not a strong year up the middle.
How many defenceman do you think will be drafted by the time the Canucks will pick at 7? And which guys do you think will go?
Ryan - McKeens: In the most recent mock draft I put together, I had three defensemen off the board within the first six picks. After the obvious Dahlin pick, I expect to see a small run on wingers over the next three picks before Arizona takes Evan Bouchard and Detroit drafts Quinn Hughes. That scenario allows the Canucks to draft Memoria Cup winner Noah Dobson at number seven, giving them two high end defensemen in the system, one from each side in Ollil Juolevi (left) and Dobson (right). If you believe in building from the backline on out, that’s a pretty good start.
What's your take on Marc Del Gaizo?
Ryan - McKeens: To be honest, I prefer his older brother, Anthony, who we have ranked at 181 in this class. Both Del Gaizo siblings played this year with Muskegon of the USHL. Anthony is in his third year of eligibility and finished off with a bang, reminiscent of Ross Colton a few years back, leading the USHL in goals (40) and points (72). He lacks great size, but plays a game worthy of the pest role, a-la Brad Marchand. He’s a tough customer. As for your question, Marc is a nice offensive defenseman, but in my viewings, I did not see any one tool that would sell him as a legit NHL prospect. His puck moving is a little above average, but I want smaller defenders to have more mobility than MDG has. He has a bit of his brother’s jam, but he can negate his best strength with some misguided puck decisions and/or sloppiness.
Do you take any stock in the players age when evaluating I.E. Q Hughes (late birthday) ? being a late birthday compared to a earlier one ever play a factor in your mind or in your Rankings? Thanks
Absolutely we do, Matt. It has less of a role at the very top of the draft, where the differences in players is more clear. But further down the board, where the talent gaps are much smaller, it is a factor. As an example, a mid July birthdate helped us feel confident in ranking Jonatan Berggren in the first round. Being born on the last day before he would be pushed to the 2019 draft also helped is look more favorably on Jan Jenik. For the inverse, being born in late September 1999 did not help Ryan McLeod in our final rankings.
All of that said, none of the above moved a player very much one way or the other, but it is absolutely a factor to be considered.
Kupari, Kravtsov, and Denisenko. Whos got the best tools and whose got the most top line upside?
Ryan - McKeens: I sent this question to our Russian and Finnish scouts, and I will allow them each to answer.
Alessandro Seren Rosso:
To me, both Kravtsov and Denisenko are a good pick. Both are very talented, and have the good intangibles needed to be a first-round pick. Denisenko has more raw talent, and probably also the higher upside, but a few question marks on his character and his style of play make Kravtsov a safer option, even if he probably has less upside. In my opinion, however, both have first-line upside. In particular Kravtsov is a safer option, albeit less talented. His combination of shot and size, though, is very good.
I think Kravtsov's ceiling is higher and there is some gap. Again, purely in terms of the ceiling.
Probably I should elaborate a bit: I think that despite being a half-year older, Kravtsov has actually more space under the ceiling to fill out comparing to Denisenko. Denisenko already posesses the raw tools and even some decent muscles and we just hope that all that will be polished, put in a toolbox and, if everything is going smoothly, would result in a 60+ point Top6 LW, who would just exhaust the opposing D guys with his energy and explosiveness even if he is not picking up those points. With Kravtsov it is a bit different: it's pretty hard to evaluate the ceiling as there are things that can be added that could and should notably amplify his game: for example, both lower and upper body strength is just not there at the moment and it is not that hard to add it when you're 6'3" (takes time and some work, of course). Adding some more intensity and maturity is harder, but again, it is about toolboxes, almost everyone has to get through that. So in the end I don't think it is too optimistic to consider his ceiling at around 70+ points and the "too optimistic" mode can get the evaluation even higher.
About the tools, I think they are pretty comparable. Both got good hands: Kravtsov's hands look softer, but Denisenko looks better at dangles. Shooting department's level is comparable, yet different in terms of details: Kravtsov's shot is a continuation of his soft hands, as he hot a great release and precision on his wrist shot, Denisenko is not that precise at least at this point, but his right-handed slapper is a serious weapon. Currently I'd give a slight edge to Denisenko in the skating department due to his explosiveness, but Kravtsov should be able to potentially gain it too. Both are creative, but I'd clearly rank Kravtsov higher here. At the overall hockey sense both got a lot of work in front of them, but again I'd give a slight, but confident edge to Kravtsov as he has shown that he can play more or less disciplined game in the KHL play-offs, while Denisenko wasn't too impressive here even in the juniors. Physicality here is mostly defined by the frame: Kravtsov's 6'3" Vs. Denisenko's 5'11" gives Kravtsov a clear advantage long-term, but he needs to fullfill that, as currently Denisenko looks even stronger than him despite the height disadvantage. In terms of two-way game, both have a lot to learn here, won't give anyone of them an advantage.
Kupari has the tools to be a first-line center but I wouldn't bet my money on it as there are some question marks surrounding his game. The combination of speed and skill is intriguing, but as the past season progressed, I started to have questions about his offensive vision and ability to make plays under pressure. The tools to become a strong three-zone player are there, however, to me he seems more destined for a second-line role.
Ryan - McKeens: Back to me now. When doing our rankings, we try to focus on projection more than anything. So our overall rankings can sort of answer your questions. We have Kravtsov ranked 16, Kupari 21, and Denisenko 27.
Ryan - McKeens: As of this writing, the teams without first round picks include Calgary, Pittsburgh, Boston, Nashville, Tampa Bay, Winnipeg and Vegas. Nashville, in fact, does not draft until the third round. I have the hardest time seeing any of Calgary, Boston, Nashville. Tampa or Winnipeg, getting into the first round. That leaves Pittsburgh and Vegas. I think Pittsburgh could try to dangle Kessel for a first rounder and more and GM Jim Rutherford is a classic wheeler-dealer. Vegas has plenty of draft assets and many a few extraneous parts on the NHL roster. I believe that GM George McPhee would like to continue to build a roster that could compete long term for the Cup and could see him poking around looking for an extra high end pick to add to their 2018 trio of Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, and Erik Brannstrom.
Is Veleno's lack of goals concerning and does he project to be a better winger in the nhl? 2) I really like both Farabee and Berggren. They both seem very similar in talent and projection. Why is farabee a top 15 pick conversation and Berggren not?
Ryan - McKeens: First thing’s first. Veleno is a center. And a good one, but more of a second line guy who would not be expected to carry the offense for long stretches. He needs to play with finishers, but I see him as one of the better true centers in this draft class, up there with Barrett Hayton and Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
As for your Farabee/Berggren question, we like them both, but they are not similar players. Breggren is speed and puck skills. Farabee has high end hockey IQ. Both are a little on the smaller sided as well, but Farabee has two older brothers who are both rather large. He could have a few more inches in him. Farabee also has substantially more high level experience – and success at those high profile events as well. Farabee is safer in the sense that there is less question about whether he can reach his projections. That isn’t to say that Berggren can’t have the more successful career in the long run, but it’s harder to see at this stage.
Between Bouchard, Dobson and Boqvist who has the highest ceiling?
McKeens: Boqvist. The young Swedish defender is absolutely electric, comparable in some ways to Quinn Hughes. Boqvist, who was only born in August of 2000 is also much younger than the other two you asked about, giving him more room for potential growth.
That said, he also has the lowest floor of the big five defensemen. He is very much a one way guy and needs to learn how to play away from the puck.
Let's say the Habs draft a D with the 3rd overall pick, which D should they take?
Ryan - McKeens: They should just trade down a few spots and take whichever of Hughes, Bouchard, Dobson, or Boqvist that is left on the board. Not coincidentally, that is the order we rank the group of post-Dahlin defensemen in this draft class.
Thank you all for your patronage and your questions. I hope all of your teams leave Dallas on Saturday happy with the talent they have added to their respective organizations. Except for the Stars. They should probably stay where they are.