With hockey leagues all over the world getting under way, let’s get you updated on all the top prospects for the 2018 NHL Draft..

2018 NHL Draft: Overview

It is still early, but the crop of players for the upcoming draft looks exceptional. The top of the draft is elite, teetering on generational. The first round as a whole is extremely deep, with a defensive class that looks to provide cornerstone number 1’s and number 2’ for many years to come. And with the depth of the draft, it looks quite likely that a significant number of players selected outside the first round will go on to have fruitful NHL careers.

Each summer before the start of the junior hockey season, there is a U-18 tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, called the Ivan Hlinka Memorial. It is here that many of the top prospects for the draft get together to represent their countries, compete for medals, and finally, to provide scouts an early look at the international draft class. After last years tournament.. the 2016 Ivan Hlinka.. the buzz in the scouting community was almost non-existent. The players did not appear to be elite, and the draft was shaping up to be one of the weaker ones in recent memory….. And yet, as the season went along and now that the draft has concluded, the scouting community and hockey fans all over the world have seriously warmed up to the prospects, and the 2017 draft class is starting to project as fairly solid, if not slightly above average in comparison to other years. As a testament to this, two late first round picks from the draft, who were not even expected to sniff the NHL for at least another year or two, have made their NHL team’s opening night rosters for the start of the regular season. These two players are Kailer Yamamoto of the Edmonton Oilers, and Filip Chytil of the New York Rangers.

Now….. let’s contrast the sentiment and buzz (or lack thereof) from last year’s draft class to this year’s.. The 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament has concluded, with the powerhouse Canadians overcoming the energized, exuberant, home-ice underdog Czech’s in the gold medal match, to the tune of a 4-1 victory. The tournament was a great opportunity for the scouts at CrossBarr to get an early look at some of the prospects for the upcoming draft, and based on the outstanding play from the participants, we are as excited as ever to watch these players strut their stuff and compete for their draft positions throughout the entirety of this season.

Let’s get up to date on some of the top prospects from this tournament as well as some other notable players to keep an eye on this season.

Adam Boqvist

At the conclusion of the 2017 Ivan Hlinka, we performed a thorough analysis of all the players in the tournament and officially crowned Adam Boqvist as the most valuable, and best all-around player. (Our complete Ivan Hlinka player rankings are posted on CrossBarrConsulting.com in the scouting section) He displayed the total skillset package and excelled in all aspects of the game. Boqvist is a dynamic player that uses his breakaway speed to perform full-length rushes and has the vision to distribute the puck at any sign of high pressure. He has quick hands and will challenge defenders straight on knowing he can sidestep the opposition with good lateral movement and has the hands to keep the puck out of reach. His shot is hard and accurate, especially the snapshot, which is his preferred all-situations shot. Boqvist defends with his quick feet, and an effective stickcheck.

Adam Boqvist was rated 19th overall on our pre-Hlinka draft list, and shot up all the way to the 3rd position at the conclusion of the tournament. If there was a player outside of Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov that could challenge for the 1st overall pick, Adam Boqvist would be that guy. In terms of style, he projects as an Erik Karlsson type player. Boqvist has rotated between Brynäs IF of the Swedish Hockey League and the Brynäs U-20 team so far this season.

Joe Veleno

The first ever Quebec Major Junior player to be granted exceptional status, Veleno was able to play in the league during his 15 year old season. Being compared to other exceptional status players like John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, and Connor McDavid can certainly be a heavy weight to bear, but Veleno has responded in a positive way during his two seasons of QMJHL play. He has yet to break out in a dominant fashion in terms of point totals, notching 43 pts in 62 gms, and 40 pts in 45 gms last season… but based on his dominant play at the Ivan Hlinka tournament, look for Joe Veleno to tear up the ‘Q’ this year with his blazing speed, and to seriously challenge for a top three position at the upcoming draft.

Along with Veleno’s great speed, he possesses a heavy shot, quick release, and an ability to disguise his release point on snapshots. He is also an adept passer of the puck.. giving defenders a very tough assignment, as it is close to a 50/50 chance of whether Veleno will take the shot or find an open man when he is in control of the puck. Veleno is playing in Saint John (QMJHL) this year, after coming off a Quebec championship and Memorial Cup berth last season.

Rasmus Kupari

Behind only Veleno and Boqvist, Kupari was CrossBarr’s third best performer at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka tournament. Splitting time between U-18 and U-20 programs in Finland last year, Kupari made big strides this offseason, and has battled his way into the Karpat lineup, in the top Finnish men’s league for this upcoming season. In the spring of 2017, Kupari played up an age group in the U-18 World Championships on the ‘kid line’ along with Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and together they helped Finland all the way to a 2nd place finish.

Kupari is an offense first player that possesses incredible speed, and a determination to control the puck like few others. He will look to establish a 200 foot game, as well as putting weight onto his 163 lb frame in order to excel at higher levels. Kupari projects to go in the top half of the first round at the 2018 draft.

Akil Thomas

Took his game to the next level at the Ivan Hlinka tournament. Thomas can play in all-situations and has a shot that will produce in the NHL. His lack of a dominant ‘wow factor’ trait may slightly deflate his draft position, but our early projections see Thomas as one of the best players in this draft class. Coming off an impressive 48 pt campaign (61 gms) as a 16 yr old, Thomas is underway in his second OHL season at Niagara.

Rasmus Dahlin

We’ve seen his highlight videos already, and yes, they’re mesmerizing. What’s even more amazing is that he’s doing them as a 16 yr old against grown men (if you haven’t seen the highlights yet, check them out)! Rasmus Dahlin is the early favorite to go 1st overall, looking to become the first Swede since Mats Sundin in 1989 to achieve this honor.

Dahlin is an offensive dynamo, who has such a level of poise with the puck that…. not only will he stickhandle around you in a phone booth… he will also dip, dive, duck, and straight up dodge you too.. with his superior footwork, edges and body positioning. Dahlin is more than adequate at defending, and will frequently use his body to knock players off the puck.

Right now, the battle for 1st overall sees a slight edge to Dahlin with Andrei Svechnikov and Adam Boqvist nipping at his heels. Dahlin is playing this season in the Swedish Hockey League with Frolunda.

Andrei Svechnikov

He has been under the microscope for a long time now, after playing up one, and sometimes two age brackets in international tournaments over the last few years. Svechnikov tore up the USHL last season, a remarkable feat for a 16 yr old, where he put up 29 goals, 29 assists and 58 pts in just 48 games for the Muskegon Lumberjacks.

Svechnikov possesses good size at 6’2 and will look to break the 200 lb barrier as he adds bulk to his frame, which will make it even tougher for the opposition to knock him off the puck. Known for his deadly shot, Andrei is playing for the Barrie Colts this season, where he will continue to terrorize netminders on his way to a top three draft position in June.

Quinn Hughes

Skates like Scott Niedermayer, where the stride is so pure and effortless that you are left wondering how he just possibly blew by every last defender. Quinn Hughes is a new-age defenseman that is small, speedy, and offensive minded. An intelligent player who excels at zone entries, Hughes can quarterback the powerplay, and is also an effective puck mover. This year will be a great test for Hughes, as he plays at the University of Michigan under new head coach Mel Pearson, after Red Berenson, the coach since 1984, retired last season.

Ryan Merkley

Defenseman for Guelph in the OHL. We know he can bring it offensively, as he put up staggering numbers as a 16 yr old last season (55 pts in 62 gms) and.. unbelievably.. led his entire team in points. The challenge this year will be to round out his defensive game as he looks to prove he can be a 200 ft player. Very likely to be a top 20 pick at the NHL draft.

Brady Tkachuk

The son of former NHLer Keith and brother of current Calgary Flame Matthew, Brady Tkachuk brings a rare skillset amongst the top rated players in the draft. His combination of skating, hands, and ferocity, make him a terror for the opposition and a dream for his linemates. Tkachuk will do whatever it takes to help his team gain the upper hand. This includes getting in on the forecheck, making a big hit, pile driving the puck towards the net, sliding to block a shot, leading the rush with his wheels, cycling the puck, and skating hard on the backcheck after a lengthy offensive zone shift.

Tkachuk will look to improve on his stride and shot this season, and should have a great year of development playing against older NCAA players as he starts his freshman campaign at Boston University. Look for Tkachuk to be a top 10, possibly top 5 pick at the 2018 draft.