There's a good chance at least two right-handed defensemen are selected among the top-7 picks in the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center in Dallas.
The first round is June 22 (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS). Rounds 2-7 are June 23 (11 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS).
After Frolunda left-hander Rasmus Dahlin is likely the first defenseman off the board, expect a pair of right-handers, Evan Bouchard of London in the Ontario Hockey League and Noah Dobson of Acadie-Bathurst in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, to hear their names announced not too far behind.
Bouchard is No. 4 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters. Dobson is No. 5.
Who should be selected first?
"Bouchard and Dobson each have the ability to control and dictate the play, and do so in their own unique way to get results," said Dan Marr, Director of NHL Central Scouting.
Bouchard (6-foot-2, 193 pounds) led all OHL defensemen with 87 points (25 goals, 62 assists) in 67 regular-season games. He's the first defenseman to finish among the top 10 scorers in the league since Windsor's Ryan Ellis (Nashville Predators) was tied for fourth with 101 points in 2010-11.
Video: Evan Bouchard performs at 2018 NHL Scouting Combine
"Bouchard is very composed and able to execute plays at speed," Marr said. "He sees the ice, reads the play and moves the puck quickly."
Dobson (6-3, 180) set career-highs in goals (17), assists (52), points (69), power-play goals (11) and shots on goal (276) in his second season for the Titan.
"Dobson plays a heads-up game and possesses an up-gear to pull away or lead a rush; his smarts and puck skills make him an effective player at both blue lines," Marr said.
Dobson helped the Titan win their first Memorial Cup title after scoring seven points (two goals, five assists) in four tournament games.
"To me, Dobson has a little more skating ability that allows him to have more of an impact," said Craig Button, TSN resident director of scouting, NHL analyst and former NHL general manager. "Evan is a real smart player, but for a player as smart as Noah at the next level, not that the demands are easier, but the game is easier because everyone is in the right position. I give the edge to Noah."
In a poll conducted by NHL.com of 10 NHL scouts, Dobson had a 6-4 advantage.
NHL.com sought the opinions of NHL scouts who watched Bouchard and Dobson this season. They promised honesty for anonymity.
Video: Noah Dobson performs at 2018 NHL Scouting Combine
In favor of Bouchard
"Depending which team gets him, he's probably an NHL player next year, in my opinion. I think he's going to be on a team that potentially could use him right away and play. I've heard some stories of two teams who would step up to take him at either No. 5, No. 6 or No. 7 because they think he can play for them next year if paired up with the right guy."
"Bouchard has too much of a complete game. I like Dobson's shot and ability, but I think his skating has to smooth out a little bit. I think Bouchard is already there. To score like he scored this season was pretty amazing to watch."
"I've never seen a defenseman get every single shot through with so much consistency. He's got an NHL one-timer that will translate to the next level and knows how to take velocity off his one-timer to still get it on net, and it's still a hard shot. I don't see Dobson producing like Bouchard. I've seen Bouchard go toe-to-toe with some of the fastest players in the OHL. He's got no issues with his feet so those worries were put to bed for me a long time ago."
In favor of Dobson
"To me there's just so much upside with Dobson and he hasn't even come close to filling out. Bouchard is a third-year guy in the OHL and next year I think Dobson is going to be really impressive as an 18-year-old. I think Dobson is going to be even more impressive than what Bouchard did at 18. Dobson is special, and has so much more room to grow into that body and get stronger and better."
"Dobson has a longer runway, more upside. We're witnessing the tip of the iceberg with the potential he has."
"Historically, the prospects from The Maritimes are behind the curve, but where Dobson has come in his two years is too good to ignore. He's a right shot, is 6-foot-3 and can skate all day. He's a hockey junkie, too. In our interview with him, we asked him to give us the top line for Victoriaville and he listed the players, 'bang-bang-bang.' We discussed the forecheck implemented by Regina in the Memorial Cup championship game and he offered his take on what he felt they were trying to do. He studies the game, and had great responses to those questions."