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NHL Draft

Mock draft: Dahlin will go No. 1 to Sabres

Defenseman is unanimous choice by NHL.com experts after Buffalo wins lottery

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

NHL.com writers Adam Kimelman, Mike G. Morreale and Guillaume Lepage are unanimous in their belief that Rasmus Dahlin will be the first pick of the 2018 NHL Draft, which will be held at American Airlines Center in Dallas on June 22-23.

They agreed on little else.

Following the results of the 2018 NHL Draft Lottery on Saturday, the three NHL.com writers made their predictions on how the first 15 picks of the draft could go.

Video: Go inside Draft Lottery Room as picks are selected

The Buffalo Sabres won the lottery on Saturday and have the No. 1 pick, followed by the Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadiens.

The New York Islanders will pick back-to-back at No. 11 and No. 12. The 12th pick was acquired from the Calgary Flames as part of the Travis Hamonic trade on June 24, 2017.

The Philadelphia Flyers have the No. 14 pick, which they received from the St. Louis Blues as part of the Brayden Schenn trade on June 23, 2017.

 

1. Buffalo Sabres

Kimelman -- Rasmus Dahlin, D, Frolunda (SWE): Dahlin is the unquestioned best player available in the 2018 draft class. His offensive instincts are first-rate, and at 6-foot-2, 181 pounds, he's not afraid to play physically if needed. Despite not turning 18 until April 13, after his season ended, he was the best defenseman at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, starred in the Swedish Hockey League and played for Sweden at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. He's the kind of player you build your franchise around.

Morreale -- Dahlin: The one player in the 2018 draft class who is considered a generational talent, because of his skating, puck-handling, vision and intelligence. Dahlin excelled against players his own age at the World Junior Championship and was the youngest player by seven years with Sweden at the Olympics.

Lepage -- Dahlin: The Sabres will get a player who has the ability to join center Jack Eichel as the leaders in the Sabres' quest to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The dynamic defenseman undoubtedly will have a significant role next season. 

Video: Sabres earn No. 1 choice in 2018 NHL Draft

 

2. Carolina Hurricanes

Kimelman -- Andrei Svechnikov, RW, Barrie (OHL): One scout who watched Svechnikov play said he already looked like an NHL player. The Hurricanes need to add offense, and the 6-2, 188-pound wing is the best forward in the draft. 

Morreale -- Svechnikov: A power forward with great offensive instincts, high-end skills, puck control and a fantastic shot. He had 72 points (40 goals, 32 assists) in 44 games in his first OHL season, including 58 points (30 goals, 28 assists) in 34 games after returning Dec. 8 from a hand injury that kept him out two months.

Lepage -- Filip Zadina, RW, Halifax (QMJHL): The Czech Republic-born forward had a great first season in North America and took advantage of every opportunity to shine. A sharpshooter with good size (6-0, 195), he can change the course of a game when he decides to take matters into his own hands. Making the fit even better is that he showed good chemistry with center Martin Necas, the Hurricanes' first pick (No. 12) in the 2017 NHL Draft, at the World Junior Championship.

 

3. Montreal Canadiens

Kimelman -- Brady Tkachuk, LW, Boston University (H-EAST): A big (6-3, 196), skilled linemate to play with No. 1 center Jonathan Drouin is a must in Montreal, and Tkachuk is an NHL-ready power forward.

Morreale -- Zadina: He'll go to the tough areas to generate scoring chances and is a dynamic goal scorer with a quick, accurate release. Zadina won the Michael Bossy Trophy as the top professional prospect in the QMJHL after leading the league's rookies with 44 goals and 82 points.

Lepage -- Tkachuk: The son of United States Hockey Hall of Fame forward Keith Tkachuk and younger brother of Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk, Brady may not be the most talented forward available but has a unique set of qualities that the Canadiens should find too tantalizing to pass up. In addition to holding his own offensively, Tkachuk brings an intense and gritty style of play.

 

4. Ottawa Senators

Kimelman -- Zadina: Zadina made the transition from the Czech Republic look easy, finishing tied for third in the QMJHL with 44 goals. He is the dynamic offensive force the Senators need to add to their top six.

Morreale -- Tkachuk: Tkachuk can dictate and control the play with his speed and physical attributes. He has the size, hands and ability down low to create matchup problems, and revels in high-pressure moments.

Lepage -- Noah Dobson, D, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL): Dobson steadily increased his value during the season, led by his intelligence and vision. With his size (6-3, 180) and easy skating stride, he eventually should establish himself as a complete NHL defenseman. It's easy to see him forming a solid pair with Thomas Chabot.

 

5. Arizona Coyotes

Kimelman -- Evan Bouchard, D, London (OHL): Big (6-2, 193), strong, skilled right-shot defensemen are a rare commodity, and Bouchard dominated at each end of the ice this season. The Coyotes have done well building a nice group of young forwards, and now is the time to add some top-end defensemen.

Morreale -- Dobson: The right-shot defenseman has ascended draft boards all season. He has an effective two-way game, makes good decisions under pressure, and has a big shot from the point. He had 69 points (17 goals, 52 assists), can transition the puck well and plays big minutes in all situations.

Lepage -- Svechnikov: Svechnikov piled up the points this season in the OHL and looks like he's ready to make the leap to the NHL as soon as next season.

 

6. Detroit Red Wings

Kimelman -- Quintin Hughes, D, Michigan (BIG10): His ability to control the game far exceeds any questions about his size (5-9, 170). He's a dazzling skater and puck-handler with a hard, accurate shot from the point. The Red Wings should be able to stay in-state to fill a major need.

Morreale -- Adam Boqvist, D, Brynas Jr. (SWE-JR): Boqvist (5-11, 168) is a skilled right-shot defenseman with excellent vision and on-ice awareness with a very good understanding of the game. He is a finesse-type player, but at times has shown a willingness to play a bigger game. He has a tremendous shot and a big upside with proper development. 

Lepage -- Bouchard: The right-shot defenseman showed this season that he can be a leader on a young London team. The Red Wings won't pass on the opportunity to select a defenseman this talented. 

 

7. Vancouver Canucks

Kimelman -- Dobson: The Canucks have built an exciting crop of young forwards. Now they need someone to get them the puck, and Dobson, a right-shot who does well in all areas of the ice, would be a big help in improving their transition game.

Morreale -- Bouchard: Bouchard tied for seventh in the OHL with 87 points (25 goals, 62 assists), the first defenseman to finish among the top 10 scorers in the OHL since Windsor's Ryan Ellis (Nashville Predators) was tied for fourth with 101 points in 2010-11. David Gregory of NHL Central Scouting called Bouchard the prototypical new-millennium defenseman teams look for.

Lepage -- Hughes: He has a few shortcomings with his defensive-zone play, but Hughes has the potential to become a star. Canucks fans will appreciate his vision and instincts.

 

8. Chicago Blackhawks

Kimelman -- Oliver Wahlstrom, RW, USA U-18 (USHL): The Blackhawks need an infusion of young skill and Wahlstrom (6-1, 205) is a strong skater who scored 47 goals in 60 games with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program under-18 team, and seven goals in seven games to help the United States win the silver medal at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship. He has the puck skills to create room for himself and get his shot off from above the face-off dots, and the size and strength to execute below the circles.

Morreale -- Hughes: A prototypical offensive-defenseman, Hughes is a strong skater with good poise and puck skills. He can play at any pace and rarely is overpowered by bigger players. He's also started to understand how to be more effective in all three zones.

Lepage -- Wahlstrom: Not only is Wahlstrom fast, but he probably has the best wrist shot in this draft class. With that kind of power to go with his formidable size, the Blackhawks will be in business.

 

9. New York Rangers

Kimelman -- Serron Noel, RW, Oshawa (OHL): At 6-5, 205, Noel has a classic power-forward build combined with good speed; one scout said Noel reminded him of Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler. The Rangers drafted two top-end centers in the first round last year (Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil) and focused on young defensemen at the trade deadline (Ryan Lindgren, Libor Hajek). A high-skill wing would be the next smart addition to that group.

Morreale -- Barrett Hayton, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL): Hayton (6-1, 190) knows where to locate linemates as a natural playmaking center; he had 60 points (21 goals, 39 assists) in 63 games this season. He has great hockey sense, can play the power play or penalty kill and is projected to transition into a solid two-way NHL center. He has a high compete level and scored eight power-play goals and five game-winning goals.

Lepage -- Boqvist: The Sweden-born defenseman is cast from the same mold as Hughes, from a size aspect as well as his well-developed offensive instincts. The next step for him is proving he can excel against men after spending most of the season playing in Sweden's junior league. 

 

10. Edmonton Oilers

Kimelman -- Boqvist: The right-shot defenseman has the skills and size of another Sweden-born defenseman, Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators. Like Karlsson, Boqvist likely will need another season in Sweden to prove himself in the SHL, but then should add a high-end puck-moving piece to the Oilers attack.

Morreale -- Wahlstrom: Wahlstrom already has an NHL-caliber shot with a quick release and the ability to create space for himself and linemates. He's most known for his goal-scoring ability and elite shot, and can hit a one-timer as good or better than many professional players.

Lepage -- Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Assat (FIN): Even though Kotkaniemi (6-1, 188) had a disappointing playoff series in Liiga, Finland's top professional league, with one assist in seven games, he did enough through the course of the season to show that he's among the top prospects in this year's draft class.

 

11. New York Islanders

Kimelman -- Kotkaniemi: Kotkaniemi played regular minutes in Liiga and won't turn 18 until July 6. He's used in the middle and on the wing, and kills penalties, which speaks to his high hockey IQ.

Morreale -- Ty Smith, D, Spokane (WHL): Smith (5-10, 175) emerged as a leader for Spokane in his second full WHL season. He was extremely effective on the power play, where he had 27 points (three goals, 24 assists). The left-shot defenseman can dissect the forecheck and pick it apart with a smooth transition pass from his own zone. He's smart and can adapt his game to any situation he encounters. 

Lepage -- Hayton: Hayton is one of the most complete centers in this year's draft class. He showcased his defensive effectiveness on a deep Sault Ste. Marie team, but also distinguished himself offensively when the opportunity presented itself. With the unknown future of No. 1 center John Tavares, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, the Islanders have the chance to build for the future at center.

 

12. New York Islanders (from Calgary Flames)

Kimelman -- Smith: He won't solve all the Islanders' defensive issues, but Smith has the ability to make all the right plays in his end, either skating the puck out of the zone or carrying it and creating in transition. He also excelled offensively with 73 points (14 goals, 59 assists).

Morreale -- Joseph Veleno, C, Drummondville (QMJHL): A fantastic playmaker who rediscovered his scoring touch after a Dec. 19 trade from Saint John to Drummondville, with 48 points (16 goals, 32 assists) after he was moved. Veleno (6-1, 193) has a great work ethic, is willing to learn and plays with a lot of pace. He also has strong leadership traits.

Lepage -- Veleno: The center's excellent second half of the season allowed him to increase his value and rise to be ranked among the best at his position, which won't go unnoticed by the Islanders.

 

13. Dallas Stars

Kimelman -- Hayton: Hayton averaged close to a point per game on an offensive juggernaut in Sault Ste. Marie, but he's more than just a scorer. He had a plus-24 rating, won 49.9 percent of his face-offs and is used to playing against the opposition's best. He might not be a big scorer in NHL, but he plays a complete game and likely will develop into a valuable top-nine forward. 

Morreale -- Kotkaniemi: Kotkaniemi, who compares his style of play to Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, is a playmaker with strong hockey sense, a good compete level, a quick shot, and a nose for the net. He gained valuable experience in Liiga with 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists) in 57 games. 

Lepage -- Rasmus Kupari, C, Karpat (FIN): The Finland-born center (6-1, 183) has impressive offensive skills, and the Stars certainly will not overlook a center of his caliber available beyond the top 10. The Stars feel they found success by taking a player from Finland with their first pick (No. 3) of the 2017 draft, defenseman Miro Heiskanen, so going back there with their first pick this year makes sense.

 

14. Philadelphia Flyers (from St. Louis Blues)

Kimelman -- Joel Farabee, LW, USA U-18 (USHL): The Flyers have drafted a number of talented forwards the past two years, including five in the first four rounds in 2017. But what separates Farabee (5-11, 164) is his speed, combined with a high hockey IQ and a quick-release shot that produced 33 goals this season.

Morreale -- Farabee: Farabee, a two-way puck mover with outstanding vision, plays a hard game in all areas of the rink. Committed to play at Boston University next season, he's earned praise for his passing, hockey sense and compete level. Farabee was second with the NTDP under-18 team with 74 points (33 goals, 41 assists) in 60 games. He had eight power-play goals and four game-winning goals.

Lepage -- Noel: Noel's size draws attention, but it's his offensive skills and skating ability that would make him too hard for the Flyers to pass on.

 

15. Florida Panthers

Kimelman -- Veleno: Panthers general manager Dale Tallon likes big, skilled players with high-end skating ability, and Veleno checks all three boxes. He also has a high hockey IQ and a strong work ethic.

Morreale  -- Vitali Kravtsov, RW, Chelyabinsk (RUS): Kravtsov (6-2, 170), a left-shot forward, made a rapid ascent on draft boards after a solid performance in the Kontinental Hockey League playoffs, with 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 16 games after he had seven points (four goals, three assists) in 35 regular-season games. He's a strong skater with balance and speed, plays with an edge and can create offense around the net. He's been compared to Evgeny Kuznetsov of the Washington Capitals.

Lepage -- Farabee: He was part of arguably the best line at the World U-18 Championship, along with Wahlstrom and 2019 draft prospect Jack Hughes; he had eight points (four goals, four assists) to help the U.S. win the silver medal. He's impressed scouts with his work ethic and hockey IQ.

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