With the 2018 NHL Entry Draft behind us, the process of determining how each team did is already underway. Naturally it’s going to be a while before we can reach any conclusive verdict on how each team did, but what our annual draft grades does offer is a first impression as well as a recap of the major draft selections and trades that happened.
If you want to see our draft grades for the East, you can click here.
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First Round Selection(s): Isac Lundestrom (23rd)
One thing that stands out about the Ducks draft is that they took a lot of players that some scouts would argue dropped further than they should have. Benoit-Olivier Groulx was ranked between 22nd by ISS Hockey to 38th by McKeen’s and Anaheim took him with the 54th overall pick, Blake McLaughlin was their 79th overall pick and was ranked 40th by McKeen’s, 51st by TSN, and 54th by ISS Hockey, and Lukas Dostal was taken with the 85th overall pick after being ranked 63rd by McKeen’s and 72nd by TSN. Of the three, arguably goalie Dostal is the most interesting.
Dostal is on the small size for a goaltender at 6-foot-1, 165-pounds and he needs to work on his rebound control, but his athleticism and quickness stand out. There’s the potential here for him to be the Ducks’ future starting goaltender even if it will take him years of development to get to that point.
As for the Ducks’ top selection, Lundestrom, he’s a center who plays a two-way game and has spent the last two-plus seasons playing against men in Sweden’s top league. He’s got one season left on his contract with Lulea HF, but depending on how he develops over the next year, he could be someone to keep a close eye on in 2019-20. All-in-all, this was a solid draft for Anaheim.
First Round Selection(s): Barrett Hayton (5th)
There were quite a few surprising in the first round, but arguably none were bigger than the Coyotes taking Hayton. Filip Zadina wasn’t expected to fall into the Coyotes’ lap given that many scouts as him as the third best prospect in the draft pool and when he improbably was available for Arizona, the Coyotes went with Hayton instead, who was seen as a fringe top-10 pick at best.
That’s not to suggest that Hayton is a bad prospect, just that he was taken earlier than expected. Stepping back from where he was taken and just looking at what he brings to the table, there is a lot to like here. He’s a smart center that can contribute defensively, but still has quite a bit of offensive capabilities. While his 60 points in 63 games isn’t particularly impressive by the standards of the OHL elites, it is when you consider that the stacked Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds often used him as a third-line center. There’s an argument to be made that he was underutilized for a significant portion of 2017-18 and perhaps that was part of the Coyotes thinking when they went with this bold pick.
With the 55th overall pick, the Coyotes selected Kevin Bahl, who is an imposing defenseman at 6-foot-6, 231-pounds, but is a great skater despite his size. He’s definitely someone to keep an eye on. Also noteworthy was their decision to take Liam Kirk in the seventh round as he’s the first player that was born and trained in England to be taken in an NHL draft. He set the EIHL’s record for most points by an under-18 player with 16 points in 52 games.
First Round Selection(s): None (first pick was Martin Pospisil at 105th overall)
The Flames didn’t have a single pick in the first three rounds of this year’s draft so there’s really nothing worth talking about there. On the trade front though, they made a major splash by acquiring Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm from the Carolina Hurricanes for Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland and Adam Fox.
This just doesn’t look like a great trade to me from Calgary’s perspective. Hamilton might not be the best of offensive defensemen, but he has been one of the most consistent with four consecutive 40-plus point seasons. He’s still just 25-years-old and comes with a reasonable $5.75 million cap hit for each of the next three seasons. Hanifin still has untapped upside and is already a decent defenseman, but he’s not worth giving up Hamilton.
As for the Ferland-Lindholm part of it, you’d think that Lindholm would have the easy edge given his upside, but I’m not so sure. First off, Lindholm will turn 24 in December and hasn’t done better than 45 points yet, nor has he come close to the 20-goal milestone, so there is the danger of him being a bust still. Meanwhile, Ferland is coming off a 21-goal season and might be able to build on that going forward. Certainly there’s a risk with Ferland, but given the uncertainty with Lindholm, I’m not inclined to say that there’s a substantial gap here.
Finally the Flames gave up Adam Fox, who has been a solid offensive defenseman in the NCAA with 12 goals and 68 points in 64 games through two seasons. I don’t like this trade much for Calgary without Fox’s inclusion and him being in there might be what tips the scales substantially in the Hurricanes’ favor.
The Chicago Blackhawks had two picks in the first round, thanks to the Ryan Hartman trade that involved Chicago getting the 27th overall selection from Nashville. The Blackhawks went off the board when they used that 27th pick to take Beaudin, but what they’re getting is a fast and offensively gifted blueliner. The knock on him is his size as he stands at 5-foot-11, 175-pounds and we’ll have to see if that proves to be a problem for Beaudin at the NHL level.
The Blackhawks other first round pick, Boqvist, is another offensive defenseman. He’s terrific when it comes to his puckhandling and skating. With Brent Seabrook now 33-years-old and Duncan Keith less than a month away from his 35th birthday, Boqvist might make his transition to the Blackhawks at a key time for the franchise. Before that happens though, he’ll need to work on his defensive game as right now that’s the main knock against him.
First Round Selection(s): Martin Kaut (16th)
Kaut has decent size at 6-foot-1, 175-pounds and is strong defensively thanks in part to his high hockey IQ. He also has plenty of experience playing against men given that he spent the last two seasons in the Czech League. So he’s strong in a lot of the areas that other high-end prospects typically need improvement in. He has some offensive upside too, but that aspect of his game doesn’t seem to be at an NHL level yet, so even if he did make the Avalanche in 2018-19, he wouldn’t be ready for a top-six role. Still, this is a strong mid-first round pick.
Colorado also acquired Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik from Washington in exchange for the 47th overall selection, which Washington used on forward Kody Clark. The trade made sense for the Capitals in part because Colorado agreed to take Orpik, which gave the Capitals some valuable cap space ahead of them re-signing John Carlson. This is a really great trade from Colorado’s perspective too though as it’s rare to see a goaltender of Grubauer’s caliber and potential go for just a second rounder, which is basically the only sacrifice the Avalanche made given that they had the short-term cap space necessary to buyout Orpik painlessly.
First Round Selection(s): Ty Dellandrea (13th)
Dellandrea had 27 goals and 59 points in 67 games last season, which doesn’t stand out by OHL standards, but he was playing for a horrible Flint Firebirds squad, which likely played a big role in depressing his numbers. Beyond the numbers, what Dallas is getting is a hard-working, two-way center who is strong positionally and protects the puck well. He stands at 6-foot-0, 190-pounds and isn’t afraid to play physically or drive to the net. He could still stand to do more defensively, but he’s already a pretty good package.
None of the Stars other picks really jump out of the page, but forward Albin Eriksson, who was taken 44th overall, certainly has good size at 6-foot-4, 207-pounds. Despite that he doesn’t play a game that lends itself to a bottom-six role and his offensive skillset, while fine, doesn’t stand out, so he’d probably need quite a bit of work if he is to make it in the NHL. He won’t even turn 18 until July 20th though, so there’s a lot time for him to develop into a potentially impressive power forward.
First Round Selection(s): Evan Bouchard (10th)
The 2017-18 campaign was a very disappointing one for Edmonton, but with the top-10 pick that provided them with the Oilers are getting a great two-way defenseman. He had an impressive statline last season with 25 goals and 87 points in 67 OHL games. He got there thanks to a high hockey IQ and in particular, making smart, properly timed passes. He’s strong in his positioning when he doesn’t have the puck. On top of that, he has size at 6-foot-2, 193-pounds. He’s just that full package that Oilers fans will learn to love if he continues develop as hoped.
They also managed to get Ryan McLeod with the 40th overall pick, who some projected as a late first rounder instead. He’s the younger brother of Devils prospect Michael McLeod. Like his brother, Ryan is a great skater and has a high hockey sense. The similarities between the two might have actually been part of the reason why Ryan McLeod fell to 40th though. His older brother was taken 12th overall, but hasn’t developed as well as hoped, so there might be some fear that Ryan will follow a similar path.
Los Angeles Kings
First Round Selection(s): Rasmus Kupari (20th)
Kupari isn’t the most exciting of prospects. He’s a speedy center and puckhandler who can use that combination to win one-on-one battles with defenseman. He passes well, but could use some work shooting. He’s not projected to become a star though and instead could end up as a second or third-line center. So while he could end up being valuable to the Kings, he might not ever become a household name.
The bigger news during the draft was that the Kings managed to sign Ilya Kovalchuk to a three-year, $18.75 million contract. The length of that contract is a risk given that he’s 35-years-old and hasn’t played in the NHL since 2013, but of course we saw him dominate in his prime and he’s continued to be a huge offensive force in the KHL. It’s exciting to think of how he might do with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown on the top line, if that is indeed where the Kings put him.
First Round Selection(s): Filip Johansson (24th)
The Wild went off the board when they selected Johansson and the reason why he wasn’t projected as a first rounder is because he doesn’t do much offensively. In fact, he had just a single goal and no assists in 23 games with Leksands IF in Sweden’s second-tier league, though he did do better in Sweden’s Junior league with four goals and nine points in 29 games. He’s not a nonfactor offensively though as he does know when to jump into the attack and he moves the puck well. His point shot isn’t great though, so he we’re probably not looking at a future asset in power-play situations.
So what do the Wild see in him? His intelligence is a big selling point, which does tie into his defensive abilities. He’s also a good skater and plays a strong game, which should get more effective as he adds to his 6-foot-1, 174-pound frame. Johansson compared himself to Adam Larsson and while Larsson isn’t the type of blueliner that fantasy owners love, he certainly has an important place in the NHL today.
First Round Selection(s): None (first pick was Jachym Kondelik at 111th overall)
The Predators were one of the quietest teams over the draft. They went in without a first or second round pick and traded their third-round pick away to the Florida Panthers to get a third rounder next season, which speaks to what they thought of the talent available at that point in the draft. In the end, Nashville took just four players with the highest being Kondelik. He’s a towering center at 6-foot-6, 226-pounds that’s alright offensively, but doesn’t play with the level of offensively that you’d want out of someone that big. Maybe there’s something there if he starts taking better advantage of that size, but as a fourth rounder he’s obviously not someone that’s likely to show up again on your radar anytime soon, if ever again.
San Jose Sharks
First Round Selection(s): Ryan Merkley (21st)
The Sharks took perhaps the first rounds main high-risk, high-reward player in Merkley. He’s an outstanding offensive defenseman with superb speed and the ability to outmaneuver defensemen. He melds those skills with a great ability to make smart passes, though sometimes he gets a little too fancy with the puck and that ends up being to his detriment. Still, there aren’t many defensemen in this draft that compare favorably to what he can do offensively. He’s also shown some growth defensively, though that is still an area of concern with him.
The bigger concern though is with his attitude and that’s the part that likely kept him from being a top-10 prospect. There have been incidents like him getting into public arguments with his coach and the three-game suspension he received for a retaliatory slash. On top of that, he sometimes drags his shifts out too long or stops focusing on his defensive game.
We’re talking about someone who won’t even turn 18-years-old until August 14th, so these are issues that certainly could go away with time. To his credit, he has acknowledged that he has bad habits that he needs to work on and while it’s easier to say that then to change, there’s at least the hope that he will improve with time. As a mid-to-late first rounder, he’s more than worth gambling on.
St. Louis Blues
First Round Selection(s): Dominik Bokk (25th)
Bokk is clearly a player that the Blues think highly of given that they sent the Toronto Maple Leafs the 29th (Rasmus Sandin) and 76th (Semyon Der-Arguchintsev) overall picks in the draft to make sure they got Bokk. So what did they trade up for? Bokk’s an offensively gifted winger with great speed, the ability to be patient with the puck long enough to catch defensemen and goaltenders off guard, and creativity when it comes to his passing game. He’s got a lot of potential, but what he lacks is experience, even compared to many other members of the 2018 draft class.
Bokk grew up in Germany and the German Junior league isn’t an ideal spot for a high-end prospect to challenge himself. In 2016-17, he destroyed the U19 league with 34 goals and 71 points in 41 games. After that, he made the move to Sweden in 2017-18 where he continued to do well in the Swedish Junior league with 14 goals and 41 points in 35 games, but was relatively quiet during his stint in their men’s league as he had a goal and an assist in 15 contests. He needs more time to hone his game either in Sweden or the AHL before he will be refined enough to hold his own against NHLers.
First Round Selection(s): Quinn Hughes (7th)
Hughes is a defenseman that’s excelled offensively at the NCAA level with five goals and 29 points in 37 games with the University of Michigan in his freshman season. He also helped Team USA win a Bronze Medal at the World Juniors in 2018. His creativity stands out and his skating and stickhandling ranks among the best of the 2018 class. If there’s a drawback to him, it’s his size at 5-foot-10, 170-pounds, but strong enough that he should be able to overcome that at the NHL level. It’s also worth noting that he’s got a younger brother, Jack Hughes, that could end up as the number one overall pick in 2019.
The Canucks added another defenseman with the 37th overall pick in Jett Woo. He might have been a first round pick too if he didn’t miss time in 2017-18 due to injuries that included a separated shoulder. He doesn’t have the offensive talent that Hughes possesses, but Woo can still contribute somewhat in that regard while focusing more on the defensive side of things. He stands at 6-foot-0, 205-pounds and can play a physical game.
Vegas Golden Knights
First Round Selection(s): None (first pick was Ivan Morozov at 61st overall)
Vegas didn’t have a selection in the first round and thanks to the squad’s success in the playoffs, the Golden Knights’ next pick didn’t come until near the end of the second round. Morozov is a center that can contribute both offensively and defensively. He doesn’t have a ton of upside, but he’s good enough all around that he could develop into a complimentary player for Vegas.
First Round Selection(s): None (first pick was David Gustafsson at 60th overall)
Like Vegas, Winnipeg’s top pick was on someone that might turn into a complimentary forward. The knock on Gustafsson – and the thing that might limit his upside – is his skating. He works hard though, has decent size at 6-foot-2, 196-pounds, and he will drive the puck to the net and fight in tough areas. He’s a good team player, but not an offensive driver.