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2018 NHL Draft Rankings: March Edition (#16-31)

Will the Leafs draft a centre?

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds v Windsor Spitfires
Barrett Hayton’s two-way game should make him a quality NHL player.
Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

In case you missed it, the first part of these rankings (#1-15) can be found here. The majority of prospects in this article should be available in the Leafs range, and in particular, the centres could particularly appeal to them. There’s far more “sleepers” in this range of my rankings, and the gap between players gets smaller and smaller.

16) C Barrett Hayton- Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

I’m just going to copy and paste what I wrote about Blues prospect Robert Thomas last year, as I see similarities between the two centres:

(Thomas) is a 6’0 centre who scored at a point per game pace in the OHL this season, and his ability to make an impact in all-situations makes him a strong choice towards the end of the first round. He is slightly above average in terms of puck carrying, highly competitive, and one of the more intelligent forwards in this class.

As one of the younger players in this class, a bit of patience is required here. He offers enough defensive potential to stick at centre long term. His passing and vision give him second line upside, but he needs to create more scoring opportunities for himself.

Ryan O’Reilly also put up a point per game in the OHL in his draft year, but his two-way style and intelligence took off at the NHL level. I see a lot of the same attributes in Thomas, but the players ahead of him are simply more offensively dynamic at this stage. His limited track record in terms of scoring is not impressive enough to be picked in the top 15, but he would provide strong value in the later portion of the first round.

Hayton plays behind Morgan Frost on a stacked team in Sault Ste Marie. Like Thomas, I get the feeling that he will make Canada’s World Junior team right away thanks to his complete game. He was one of the better scorers for Canada at the Ivan Hlinka, and he’s skilled enough to breakout offensively once he is given more opportunity.

17) LW Joel Farabee- US Under 18 Team (USHL)

He’s an impressive puck handler, and skilled enough to make a goalie look foolish during a shootout. He’s formed a strong duo throughout the years with Oliver Wahlstrom, and he’s more pass-first than his linemate. He gets knocked in this ranking for being a winger, and he will not win a ton of physical battles down low.

Farabee plays a respectable two-way game for a winger, and could potentially become a half decent NHL penalty killer down the road. However, his offensive game is certainly his calling card, and he could improve in the dirty areas once he fills out. I think he can be a solid secondary scoring option at the NHL level, and he will definitely earn time on the powerplay. I wouldn’t consider him if I was picking in the top 10, but he could be a steal if he falls outside of the top 15.

18) RD Bode Wilde- US Under 18 Team (USHL)

Wilde is a 6’2 right-shooting defenceman who is putting up impressive scoring numbers with the US Under 18 Team this year. I have yet to see him control a game to the same extent as Hughes or Boqvist, but he’s a legitimate scoring threat from the point on the powerplay.

He’s fairly similar to Evan Bouchard, as they are both taller, right-shooting defencemen who can score plenty of goals by jumping up in the rush. Wilde is a confident puck handler in the offensive zone, but it is not clear if he is quick enough to defend elite forwards at the NHL level. He certainly boasts the size and strength to do so, but I want to see a little bit more from him in terms of his transition game.

19) C/ LW Filip Hallander- Timra (Allsvenskan)

He’s a 6’1 centre who stands out in the transition game, as he’s a good carrier with slightly above average speed. I’d like to see a little bit more from him on the powerplay, but he’s a good enough puck carrier to develop into a decent playmaker at the NHL level.

He offers the size and carrying ability to stick up the middle, and all the tools are here to develop into more of a two-way force. He’s been one of the more skilled forwards while playing for Sweden over the years, and he’s one of the younger players in this draft. I’d be a bit surprised if he was taken in the top 15, but he could be a late riser similar to Filip Chytil last year. He’d be one of my favourite picks if he’s available in the early second round, but i’m not sure if he’s enough of a game-breaker offensively to go in the top 15.

20) RD Calen Addison- Lethbridge (WHL)

He was excellent at the Ivan Hlinka, and he’s one of the better skaters in this draft. He’s only 5’10, but he’s coordinated with the puck and competes well. He brings more to the table than Ryan Merkley defensively, and I think he could end up being strong enough to contribute in all situations. I was going to put him in the first round based on my eye test alone, but he’s followed up last year’s Hlinka with excellent scoring production this season.

Addison is scoring around a point-per-game clip in the WHL this season, and he gets his shot off in a hurry. I don’t think he’s a good enough handler to be an elite powerplay quarterback, but he’s an above average puck mover who can keep up with the NHL’s speedy forwards. He owns a strong point shot, and this could be a sneaky good pick later on in the draft, similar to Brandon Montour.

21) LW/RW Vitali Kravtsov- Traktor (KHL)

He’s a 6’2 winger who has spent the majority of his season in the KHL, and he’s off to an amazing start in the playoffs. He’s a fairly impressive puck handler for a player of his size, and could develop into a respectable secondary scoring option. I haven’t watched him play as often as the majority of players on this list, but from what I have seen, he looks quick and crafty enough to be a sleeper in this class.

He’s quite light for a 6’2 forward. If he can get stronger and put on some weight, he might be able to standout by playing more of a powerful style. This overall skillset allows him to project as a solid middle six winger, and I’d be willing to take a shot on him in the late first or early second round. I’m interested to see if he will be this year’s late riser on draft boards.

22) C/LW Jonatan Berggren- Skelleftea (SHL)

This is one of my favourite sleepers in this draft, and you won’t see him as a first round talent on many lists. Berggren is a 5’10 forward with impressive quickness and skill. I see him as one of the better puck carriers in this draft, and he boasts incredibly impressive numbers in the SuperElit league this season. He scored five points in five games at the Ivan Hlinka tournament, and even got into some games in the SHL.

Berggren is one of the youngest players in this draft, and I think he could breakout given his offensive toolkit. He probably ends up on the wing rather than at centre, and i’m not completely sold on his two way game, but he could end up as a solid secondary scoring option in the NHL. He stood out as one of Sweden’s most talented forwards at the Hlinka, and his scoring numbers back that up this season. He will need to score at a solid clip to make the NHL, so this is selection is a little bit of a lottery ticket.

23) RW Dominikk Bokk- Vaxjo (SHL)

He’s a scoring winger who impresses as an above average puck carrier, but he’s going to have to score at a strong clip if he wants to earn minutes at the NHL level. As a result, this is a bit of a “boom or bust” pick, as he’s unlikely to ever play in a checking line role. The question becomes: just how good is he offensively?

He’s leading his SuperElit team in scoring, and earned a look in the SHL as a result. He’s a talented forward coming down on the rush, but he’s more of a perimeter player, and I’d like to see more from him in terms of a physical game. I haven’t seen him play as much as the vast majority of players on this list, but his offensive skillset has looked good, rather than elite, from what I’ve seen thus far.

24) C Jacob Olofsson- Timra (Allsvenskan)

Olofsson is a 6’2 centre who can live in the slot and score his fair share of goals. He’s an adequate skater and carrier, and a solid physical presence down low who can help establish a strong cycle game. He’s not an elite skater or playmaker, but he can win puck battles at both ends of the ice, and he’s probably good enough as a puck mover to stick at centre.

He’s a talented finisher, and has no problem finding a corner of the net with his wrist shot. He can add a few goals in the garbage areas, and could develop into an all-situations forward. I think he’s quick enough to become a NHL forward, and he would be a solid selection towards the end of the first round.

25) C Ryan McLeod- Mississauga (OHL)

Just like his brother, he’s a 6’2 centre who can fly. He’s easily one of the better skaters in the draft, but he has to work on his ability to slow the game down at times and make plays in tight spaces. He’s scoring around a point-per-game rate in the OHL this year, and that does not spell first line upside.

His skillset should allow for a seamless transition to the NHL level, and his speed could become a valuable weapon on the penalty kill. He’s a talented enough puck carrier to stick at centre, but he could spend some time as a two-way winger to start his career. This is a conservative pick, as all the tools are here to be a solid NHL player, but he’s not scoring at a rate that makes you think he could be a future superstar.

26) LW Gregori Denisenko- Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)

This is one of the toughest players to rank, and he’s more of a boom-or-bust type of prospect. He’s a slightly undersized winger with fast hands, and his ability to make defenders miss provides him serious scoring upside. His playmaking and puck-carrying ability can “wow” you, but he needs to get stronger before he’s ready for the NHL level. To make sure everything is about the Leafs, he is somewhat similar to Mitch Marner, and it is easy to see him developing into a dominant puck mover on an NHL powerplay someday.

Denisenko is not going to lead an NHL checking line, and he’s not going to be the physical forechecker that gets the puck back for your skilled players. He won’t be a role player, and the question becomes: can he score enough to be a “top-6” winger? He’s certainly talented enough with the puck, but he needs to prove he’s fast enough to be a game-breaker.

27) C/RW Akil Thomas- Niagara (OHL)

He’s a lighter forward with some craftiness to his game, and he should be one of the best puck carriers available towards the back-end of the first round. He’s an effective playmaker on the powerplay, and he is above average in terms of zone entries. Thomas is leading his OHL team in points this season, but his numbers do not exactly scream “top 10 talent”.

If you take Thomas in the first round, you are betting on his scoring potential. He can pull of a gorgeous toe-drag when coming down on the rush, and make high-end passes. He’s a little bit undersized at 5’11, and will have to get stronger if he wants to stick at centre. His shooting percentage is a tad low this year, and I think his best case scenario is an offensively-focused second line centre. It will take him a while to reach the NHL, and he might not make Canada’s World Junior team right away, but he certainly carries some decent offensive tools.

28) LD Jonny Tychonick- Penticton (BCHL)

Tychonick is going the NCAA route, and as a result, I haven’t seen him play as much as the majority of players on this list. From what I have seen, he’s a slightly undersized defenceman who is both quick and skilled with the puck. He’s a solid powerplay quarterback, and offers enough grit to hold his own.

He’s clearly an above average skater, and I do not carry any concerns about his ability to be a solid puck mover. My biggest concern is in terms of his reach, and I am hoping to watch more of him to better evaluate his ability to defend the blueline against opposing forwards. It’s tough to project his defensive game at this point, but he’s talented enough offensively to warrant a selection in the back half of the first round.

29) LD Rasmus Sandin- Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

He was one of Sweden’s best players at the Hlinka, and made up one half of a strong top pairing alongside Adam Boqvist. He’s followed this up with strong scoring production as an OHL rookie, and he’s certainly quick enough to keep up at the NHL level someday. He’s not overly physical, but moves the puck quite well and is a reliable option at both ends of the ice.

Sandin does not shoot often, in fact, he’s under two shots per game this year. He moves the puck well enough to crack a second powerplay unit, and he will hold his own in the transition game. His tools do not jump off the page, but he always seems to be one of the better players when he is on the ice, and I would be interested in taking him in the early second round.

30) RW Jesse Ylonen- Espoo (Mestis)

Ylonen is a thinner winger who will need to get stronger, but he’s one of the quickest players every time he’s on the ice. He broke out in last year’s U-18 tournament, and he carries a great set on hands. He can fool a goalie completely in tight, and he’s a solid distributor on the powerplay.

He’s not great in puck battles, and he will have to score at a solid clip to make the NHL. This is a bit of a “boom or bust” pick as a result, as his speed and skill give him an outside chance at becoming an impact scorer, but he’s never going to be great in the dirty areas. He’s an interesting lottery ticket towards the end of the first round.

31) RD Jett Woo- Moose Jaw (WHL)

Woo is a right-shooting defenceman who is slightly undersized, yet there are not many concerns about his defensive game. His lateral quickness is a major selling point, and he’s a heavy player for his size. He flew around the ice at the Hlinka, and while he might sneak on to a second powerplay one day, his two-way game will be his calling card.

He lacks the size to be a typical shutdown defenceman, but he can keep up with speedy forwards, and does well to defend the line. He is not a top offensive defenceman in this class, and this keeps him out of the top 15, but he’s worth taking in the late first round or early second round.

Final Thoughts

The first round of the 2018 draft is on June 22, and there’s plenty of time for a player to alter their position in this ranking. Let’s hope that the Leafs have the 31st overall pick, and I’d hate to see Rasmus Dahlin end up in Edmonton or Chicago. There will be more draft coverage leading up to the event, but for now, enjoy the final stretch of the regular season.

Craig Button posted his updated rankings just yesterday, which can be found here. As you can see, there are several major differences compared to my rankings, and it will be interesting to see if players such as Ryan Merkley and Joe Veleno end up falling in the draft. If you have any further questions about a prospect or this ranking, feel free to ask in the comments!