It is often said that it takes five years to truly grade a draft and properly assess if a prospect has reached his potential or not. Each year I like to re-rank the drafts in an exercise that forces a re-evaluation of player development along the way from each draft year I have produced a draft guide. 2014 was the inaugural draft guide for DraftBuzz Hockey, so I am building out a refreshed top 100 from that draft class. Each year the list gets harder to grade, and this one has been the hardest as more and more prospects land with split pro time in the NHL/AHL on top of others playing in Europe and some still with junior experience only. NHL production is still King, with the assessment being a hybrid of production vs. upside, and identifying how much of that upside has been realized. At this point, selection begins to have less importance though greater weight may be given to a higher pick in a close call. Consider these ranks fluid, and likely in ranges. For instance, Nylander and Ehlers is a toss up for me. In a perfect world, this list is published prior to the start of the season so hot 2017-2018 starts (small sample) will not have a huge effect on the list.
Here is the top 50:
Rank – Player – Position – Team – Selected
- Leon Draisaitl, C, EDM, 3
- David Pastrnak, RW, BOS, 25
- William Nylander, C/RW, TOR, 8
- Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, WPG, 9
- Aaron Ekblad, D, FLA, 1
- Dylan Larkin, C, DET, 15
- Sam Reinhart, C, BUF, 2
- Viktor Arvidsson, RW, NSH, 112
- Robby Fabbri, C, STL, 21
- Brayden Point, C, TBL, 79
- Sam Bennett, C, CGY, 4
- Nick Schmaltz, C, CHI, 20
- Christian Dvorak, C, ARI, 58
- Kevin Fiala, LW, NSH, 11
- Nick Ritchie, LW, ANA, 10
- Brendan Perlini, LW, ARI, 12
- Jakub Vrana, L/RW, WSH, 13
- Jake Virtanen, RW, VAN, 6
- Julius Honka, D, DAL, 14
- Michael Dal Colle, LW, NYI, 5
- Anthony DeAngelo, D, NYR, 19
- Josh Ho-Sang, RW, NYI, 28
- Jared McCann, C, FLA, 24
- Kevin Labanc, RW, SJS, 171
- Ivan Barbashev, C, STL, 33
- Brandon Montour, D, ANA, 55
- Ondrej Kase, C, ANA, 205
- Nikolay Goldobin, LW, VAN, 27
- Sonny Milano, LW, CBJ, 16
- Adrian Kempe, LW, LAK, 29
- Travis Sanheim, D, PHI, 17
- Kasperi Kapanen, RW, TOR, 22
- Alex Tuch, RW, VGK, 18
- Vladislav Kamenev, C, NSH, 42
- John Quenneville, C, NJD, 30
- Danton Heinen, LW, BOS, 116
- Nikita Scherbak, RW, MTL, 26
- Gustav Forsling, D, CHI, 126
- Igor Shestyorkin, G, NYR, 118
- Anders Bjork, LW, BOS, 146
- Nikita Tryamkin, D, VAN, 66
- Haydn Fleury, D, CAR, 7
- Devon Toews, D, NYI, 108
- Oskar Lindblom, LW, PHI, 138
- Ilya Sorokin, G, NYI, 78
- Kyle Wood, D, ARI, 84
- Lucas Wallmark, C, CAR, 97
- Michael Amadio, C, LAK, 90
- Samuel Blais, C, STL, 176
- Thatcher Demko, G, VAN, 36
51-100 to follow…
vs. Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
Rangy 2018 NHL Draft defensive prospect Jared McIsaac shows he has no shortage of confidence in his ability to make opponents miss. Scooping up the puck behind his net, he uses a very slick delay on the attacking forward making him think he was caught. Bursting right past him took guts, and skill, but it was very risky. Volatile seems to be the name of the game with McIsaac.
Here McIsaac shows classic defensive zone puck movement that is crisp until he puts it diagonally on the tape of teammate Barrett Dachyshyn. Dachyshyn bungles forward progress by bringing the puck back into his own zone and flinging an errant pass. Thankfully, McIsaac comes to his aid along the R boards, collects the puck, and jams it out. This is a plus sequence for McIsaac who shows fluid in stride mobility/hands with the puck as well as composure to clean up his teammates mistake.
Keep your eye on the eventual one-on-one matchup where McIsaac gets taken wide and beaten by a step to the middle of the ice. Atoning for his open ice misplay, he doesn’t give up using his stickwork to prevent the shot from getting off. With the play driving to the corner boards, he makes no mistake on finishing his check off aggressively.
Entrusted as the lone D on the PP formation, McIsaac shows some unsteadiness in pass delivery sending one puck into Max Fortier’s skates, and the other lands as a slap pass that doesn’t have enough steam for the amount of finesse it lacked.
All is well until the shot is taken, where McIsaac proceeds to get pushed lightly and loses his man in front of the net who ends up scoring.
vs. Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
2018 NHL Draft top prospect Benoit-Olivier Groulx takes a lead pass from his D man and goes exit-to-entry with significant steam in an impressive pro display. We see him release a shot in the slot, but what’s going to excite scouts is how he stops at the net and gets his own rebound and jams it home. That, friends, is an NHL caliber goal. With size, more speed, and more skill, he might just be what we all wanted Max Comtois to be last year.
vs. Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
Despite teammate and fellow 2018 NHL Draft prospect Jared McIsaac getting turned inside out badly, Alexis Gravel is fascinatingly still as he waits for the Titan’s Truchon-Viel to take the direct path/shot he’s waiting for. Gravel’s presence screams top prospect as he stays square, uses minimal effort on the L pad kick, and pushes off smoothly and quickly into standup facing his redirect.
Again, it’s not chaotic flair that catches you, it’s the fact that Gravel has such calm mannerism when surveying the developing play. He navigates the play around his zone, and is more than ready when that point shot is taken. Gravel makes a really difficult R leg kick save on a close range shot look easy.
This is a real simple frame demonstrating Gravel’s poise with Acadie-Bathurst bringing the puck and bodies at the net full force. He keeps his position with opponents barreling at him, and makes a easy L pad save.
vs. Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
2018 NHL Draft top prospect Filip Zadina has trouble opening himself up for a shot for most of the clip at the right circle, until Max Fortier finds him sneaking towards the crease. Zadina finishes off a beautiful backhand pass by Fortier by being ready with a sure shot.
Zadina doesn’t score on this effort, but he shows his possession ability on the perimeter and doesn’t stop there. Watch how he drives to the slot and goes after the play. With two Titan all over him, he’s relentless and won’t stop getting that second backhand shot off. A supremely skilled kid with that type of intense determination makes a star.
Zadina finishes off a play he started deep in the defensive zone. It wasn’t a clear solo push by Zadina in his own zone, but there’s no mistaking his posture when he first picks up the puck. He’s going to be an elite forward who can provide great defensive support over the year. A great play all around sees New York Islanders prospect Arnaud Durandeau thread a pretty tape-to-tape pass and sharp snipe on the go by Zadina.
More Zadina being a hound on the puck and causing a turnover with his effort and stickwork.
vs. Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
2018 NHL Draft top prospect Noah Dobson gaps up fellow draft eligible Benoit-Oliver Groulx, puts a stop to his left wing drive, and manages to pressure him into leading the puck out of the offensive zone right after the entry. Groulx’s a thick 6’1” 190 so it’s nice to see Dobson move confidently against him.
On this play, unlike the last, Dobson can’t handle the overwhelming closing speed of Benoit-Olivier Groulx and gets pressured into a turnover that is righted with the help of his teammates.
Dobson and Groulx are back at it again, this time with Dobson gapping up just like the first clip. While this is becoming an apparent matchup, keep watching. Dobson has the presence of mind to present himself right after the stop as a breakout option, delays for support, then takes off again in the neutral zone, and then stops himself at center ice and peels off. Very impressive offensive patterning with smart executional instincts.
This clip is about a minute long showcasing Dobson as a triggerman on the PP. He has a very secure handle on the puck, as the first reception and subsequent body angling for a shot shows.
Dobson loses the puck initially in the corner boards, but sticks with the play and is able to recover possession. From there, you can see his puck moving ability shine as he accelerates through a check in a dangerous spot behind the net and gains separation. He is able to swiftly hit the center point in his own zone with momentum and head man a crisp pass to his teammate streaking into the offensive zone.
vs. Barrie Colts (OHL)
Undrafted 98DOB Justin Brazeau has shown to be a threat on the PK with ample size at 6’5”, reach, a lot of effort, and a little bit of skill. On this PK break, he shows competency with the puck in open ice to drive to the middle and create a shot.
On this play, Brazeau accents all of his positive traits with excellent hockey sense. He opens this clip up by intercepting a pass and immediately translating it into a scoring chance. Then, he goes after his rebound and closes in on not one, but two Colts in the same sequence. Brazeau gets after the last Colt to have the puck and swiftly takes it from him. Surrounded by four Colts, he loses the war, but not after he drains about :20 from the other team’s PP. Look for further development from this overage prospect as he has some nice qualities, in a pro frame, and most important of all work-rate.