2018 NHL draft preview: Top 10 forwards
The Blackhawks will have plenty of good options at No. 8
The overwhelming consensus for the 2018 NHL draft is Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is the best player available.
There’s a noticeable gap between Dahlin, who’s widely regarded as one of the best blueline prospects in recent memory, and the remaining crop of players who’ll be selected with the first few picks. But there’s still plenty of talent available here, including some familiar last names with storied NHL backgrounds of their own.
Last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Nico Hischie,r appeared in all 82 games for the New Jersey Devils, scoring 20 goals with 32 assists. Nolan Patrick, who went second to the Philadelphia Flyers, had 13 goals and 17 assists in 73 games. Only one other player from the 2017 draft appeared in more than 10 games: New York Islanders defenseman Sebastian Aho.
The Chicago Blackhawks have two draft picks in the first round at Nos. 8 and 27 this year.
Here are 10 of the top forward available. Up first are two players who likely won’t be on the board when the Blackhawks hit the clock at No. 8:
Andrei Svechnikov, Barrie (OHL)
Size: 6-foot-2, 188 pounds
Stats: 40 goals, 32 assists in 44 games
Svechnikov looks poised to go much higher than older brother, Evgeny, who was taken 19th overall in 2015 by the Detroit Red Wings. Andrei Svechnikov has been doing it all in his young hockey career, including ample time last season as a penalty killer with the Barrie Colts in the OHL. He has the combination of speed, size and skill that has had scouts salivating for the last few seasons. The majority of outlets have him rated as the best available player not named Dahlin in this draft.
Filip Zadina, Halifax (QMJHL)
Size: 6-0, 195 pounds
Stats: 44 goals, 38 assists in 57 games
The biggest weapon in Zadina’s arsenal is his shot, which was on display in the QMJHL and in the World Juniors this hockey season. But any part of the game involving Zadina’s hands is one he’ll thrive in, because he’s just adept at setting a teammate up for a goal as he is at scoring them.
The remaining players could be available for Chicago to pick at No. 8:
Oliver Wahlstrom, USA Hockey NTDP
Size: 6-1, 207 pounds
Stats: 48 goals, 46 assists in 62 games
Wahlstrom is the player we selected for the Blackhawks in the SB Nation mock draft, for reasons that go well beyond his YouTube fame from nearly a decade ago. The story for Wahsltrom begins with his shot, which is considered the best in the draft, making him one of — and probably the — best goal scorer available this weekend. If Wahlstrom is drafted by Chicago and makes it to the NHL level, it’s not difficult to imagine him on the left half of the ice opposite Patrick Kane, ripping one-timers on goal the way a former carbohydrate-heavy Blackhawk used to do.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Assat (Liiga)
Size: 6-2, 188 pounds
Stats: 10 goals, 19 assists in 57 games
Kotkaniemi is one of the more intriguing prospects in this draft, because he’s yielded a wide debate on just how high he’ll go. A majority of rankings have him listed in the low teens, while Corey Pronman at The Athletic and TSN have him in the top five. The Finnish forward has been playing with full-grown adults in the Finnish Elite League for two seasons now while still just a teenager. Hands and playmaking ability are two of his hallmark traits.
Brady Tkachuk, Boston University (Hockey East)
Size: 6-3, 196 pounds
Stats: 8 goals, 23 assists in 40 games
Depending on your age, this is either the son of former NHLer Keith Tkachuk or the brother of current NHLer Matthew Tkachuk. Either way, Brady Tkachuk has the power forward prototype that is a trademark of his hockey-rich family. A strong showing at the World Juniors only boosted Brady Tkachuk’s status, with many projections placing him in the top five (including our own SB Nation mock draft).
Joe Veleno, Drummondville (QMJHL)
Size: 6-1, 193 pounds
Stats: 22 goals, 57 assists in 64 games
Veleno’s stock has been high since the age of 15, when he was granted exceptional status that allowed him to play in the QMJHL. He was the fifth player to do so, joining a list that includes Connor McDavid, John Tavares and Aaron Ekblad. But whether or not Veleno can live up to that billing remains to be seen. He has the skating ability of a player well beyond his years, but he hasn’t drawn quite the attention that some of the aforementioned exceptional status players have in their careers.
Joel Farabee, USA Hockey NTDP
Size: 6-0, 164 pounds
Stats: 33 goals, 43 assists in 62 games
A player of Farabee’s stature (he’s been listed at 5-11 at multiple outlets to go with his lighter 164-pound frame) may not have been in as high of demand a few years ago, before players like Johnny Gaudreau and Alex DeBrincat got to the NHL and showed smaller players can thrive. Farabee has been playing on a line with Wahlstrom for much of the season and hasn’t received as much hype as his teammate. But there’s plenty of hockey ability here, although prospect rankings can’t seem to agree on how much. Some projections have had him in a range that would make him available for the Hawks to select at No. 27 with their second pick of the first round.
Vitali Kravtsov, Chelyabinsk (KHL)
Size: 6-2, 170 pounds
Stats: 4 goals, 3 assists in 35 games
Kravtsov’s regular season numbers were nothing impressive and he was also cut from Russia’s World Juniors team. But he played his way into this list with a breakout performance during the KHL playoffs, scoring 11 points in 16 games. Kravtsov also displayed versatility in Russia, playing all three forward positions throughout the season.
Rasmus Kupari, Karpat (Liiga)
Size: 6-2, 183 pounds
Stats: 6 goals, 8 assists in 39 games
Much of the hype around Kupari centers on his skating ability, an attribute that’s becoming more and more desirable in the faster-paced NHL game being played today. But Kupari’s been sliding in a lot of prospect rankings throughout the season. The TSN website had him down at 20 in its most recent rankings after having him at 13 in the middle of the season. Much of that has been attributed to an inability to make his hands perform as well as his feet.
Barrett Hayton, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Size: 6-1, 190 pounds
Stats: 21 goals, 39 assists in 63 games
All the talk about Hayton centers around his two-way game, making him a reliable player in virtually every hockey situation. Hayton has the hands to make quality passes and fire hard shots on net, but his on-ice vision and hockey IQ often leaves him in the right place at the right time, all the time. How much Hayton would contribute on offense at the NHL level remains a question, however.