TORONTO -- NHL scouts are expected to do plenty of cramming over the next three months when they prepare evaluations and compile their wish list of players they hope will be available in the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas on June 22-23.
NHL Central Scouting hopes to make that process easier when the bureau conducts its meetings to determine the final rankings of the top 217 North American skaters and 31 North American goaltenders eligible for the 2018 draft beginning Wednesday. Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting, will chair the six-day meeting that will include the input of eight full-time scouts.
"The challenging part of any final ranking meeting is determining the order between each of the players, particularly those in the first round, based on their NHL projection," Marr said. "Some players ranked high might be at a development level to which they can go right to the NHL while some others require additional development time, yet their upside potential could be much higher when projecting 3-4 years away."
Goran Stubb, NHL Director of European Scouting, will supply and recommend to Marr his ranking of the top skaters and goaltenders on the international list later next week.
Here are five questions to consider entering NHL Central Scouting's final meetings:
Who will likely be No. 1 on Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters?
Right wing Andrei Svechnikov (6-foot-2, 186 pounds) of Barrie in the Ontario Hockey League was No. 1 in Central Scouting's midterm release in January. He has certainly lived up to those expectations when in the lineup this season.
Svechnikov had 51 points (26 goals, 25 assists) in a 23-game point streak to end the regular season and has 72 points (40 goals, 32 assists) in 44 regular-season games. He missed 17 games with a broken wrist.
Will it be difficult to determine the No. 2 player on the North American list?
The debate for No. 2 is going to be good. Right wing Filip Zadina of Halifax in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and left wing Brady Tkachuk of Boston University in Hockey East each had productive seasons. Zadina was No. 2 and Tkachuk No. 3 in the midterm list.
Zadina (6-0, 196) had 82 points (44 goals, 38 assists) in 57 regular-season games in his first season in North America. Tkachuk (6-3, 196) had 31 points (eight goals, 23 assists) in 40 games as a freshman for the Terriers.
Is there a dark horse to keep an eye on down the stretch?
Center Aidan Dudas, No. 131 in Central Scouting's midterm list of North American skaters, had 65 points (31 goals, 34 assists), six power-play goals and 221 shots on goal in 68 regular-season games for Owen Sound (OHL). Now in his second full season with the Attack, Dudas (5-7, 162) isn't the type of player who will knock an opponent off the puck but has an ability to spin off checks and create offensively.
Who are the top North American goalies in the 2018 draft?
There are few goaltenders who could hear their name as early as the second or third round, including Jacob Ingham (6-3, 186) of Mississauga (OHL), Kevin Mandolese (6-3, 181) of Cape Breton (QMJHL), Olivier Rodrigue (6-0, 159) of Drummondville (QMJHL) and Alexis Gravel of Halifax (QMJHL).
All four goalies participated in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January. Rodrigue, No. 2 on Central Scouting's midterm list of North American goalies, made 13 saves on 14 shots for Team Don Cherry. Mandolese (No. 4) made 18 saves on 20 shots for Team Bobby Orr. Gravel is No. 1 in the midterm list. Ingham is No. 3.
Who is the top high school player available in the 2018 draft?
Two players are vying for the top honor: Center Jay O'Brien (5-10, 185) of Thayer Academy in Massachusetts and defenseman Jordan Harris (5-11, 179) of Kimball Union in New Hampshire. Each participated in the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in September.
"They are each two of the top U.S. high school players and they have many similarities as prospects," Marr said. "They are both excellent skaters, have very good puck skills, are competitive and leaders on their respective teams."
The right-handed O'Brien, No. 44 on Central Scouting's midterm list, had 80 points (43 goals, 37 assists) in 30 games for the Tigers. He's committed to Providence College in 2018-19.
The left-handed Harris, No. 46 on Central Scouting's midterm report, had 26 points (seven goals, 19 assists) in 39 games for the Wildcats. He's committed to Northeastern University in 2019-20. Harris, selected by Youngstown in the third round (No. 40) of the 2016 United States Hockey League futures draft, will likely play for the Phantoms next season.