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NHL Draft

2018 NHL Draft should have plenty of impact talent

Sweden defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, USHL forward Andrei Svechnikov among top candidates to go No. 1

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- No sooner had the 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas ended Saturday than teams turned their attention to next year.

There should be no shortage of impact talent available in the 2018 draft.

Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who plays for Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League, figures to get a lot of attention from scouts. Dahlin (6-foot-1, 166 pounds) played for Sweden as a 16-year-old at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship, and he's expected to be a key contributor for his country at the 2018 WJC in Buffalo.

 

[RELATED: Complete 2017 NHL Draft coverage]

 

"I've never seen a player like him in that you give him a couple of chances and shifts at a higher level and he can easily adapt to that level," Sweden national junior team coach Tomas Monten said. "He has a certain way of pushing his game against better players and at higher speeds. He's skilled and talented and a defenseman we can have a lot of use for. A couple years down the road, for sure, he's going to be a good player."

Dahlin, 17, didn't see a lot of ice time at the 2017 WJC, but he did have one goal and one assist in seven games after earning a spot on the team ahead of two players taken in the first round of the 2017 draft: Erik Brannstrom, who was selected No. 15 by the Vegas Golden Knights, and Timothy Liljegren, who went No. 17 to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Dahlin played 26 regular-season games and 14 playoff games this season for Frolunda in the SHL, as well as 25 total games with the club's top junior team.

"He's a smart, two-way defenseman; an excellent skater and puck-handler," said Goran Stubb, NHL director of European scouting. "He loves to join the rush and does not shy away from the physical part of the game. He needs to learn to play it more simple, and he will.

"As it looks right now, he will likely be the No. 1 player [on NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of international skaters for the 2018 draft in January]."

Among other players projected to be first-round candidates are center Joseph Veleno (6-1, 190) of Saint John in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, defenseman Jared McIsaac (6-2, 209), left wing Benoit-Olivier Groulx (6-1, 184), and goaltender Alexis Gravel (6-2, 205) of Halifax (QMJHL), and right wing Andrei Svechnikov (6-1, 188) of Muskegon in the United States Hockey League.

Svechnikov is the younger brother of forward Evgeny Svechnikov, who was chosen by the Detroit Red Wings with the No. 19 pick in the 2015 draft.

"[Svechnikov] is so elite as a young player in a very tough league," Central Scouting's David Gregory said. "He was dominant in the USHL as a 16-year-old. He just does so many things well, from his skating skills, puck skills and hockey sense. He's definitely in the discussion to be selected No. 1 next year."

Veleno was the first player from the QMJHL to be granted exceptional player status and was drafted No. 1 by Saint John in 2015. He has 83 points (26 goals, 57 points) in 107 games during two seasons with Saint John, including 40 points (13 goals, 27 assists) in 45 games in 2016-17.

"I don't know if his game has come where a lot of people expected offensively since he's battled injuries, but he's a guy that I'm excited to watch next year," Central Scouting's Troy Dumville said. "He'll have a leadership role and they'll have a veteran team, so next year he'll be the guy, and it'll be fun to see where he takes that team.

"Veleno is a highly intelligent kid with a good compete level and a lot of confidence."

There could be as many as four players from USA Hockey's Under-18 National Team Development Program selected in the first round.

Leading the way as high picks are defensemen Bode Wilde (6-2, 194), K'Andre Miller (6-3, 204), Mattias Samuelsson (6-3, 205), the son of former NHL defenseman Kjell Samuelsson, and Adam Samuelsson (6-5, 230), the son of former NHL defenseman Ulf Samuelsson.

The top two players coming from college hockey could be Boston University center Brady Tkachuk (6-2, 194), the younger brother of Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk and son of former NHL forward Keith Tkachuk, and University of Michigan defenseman Quinn Hughes (5-9, 167). Born in Orlando, Florida, Hughes can run a power play, has good vision and skates extremely well. He had 53 points (10 goals, 43 assists) in 65 games for the U-18 USNTDP in 2016-17.

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