Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who could be the first Sweden-born player in 29 years to be chosen No. 1 in the NHL Draft, earned an "A" rating on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list for the 2018 draft, which was released Tuesday.
The last Swede to be selected No. 1 was center Mats Sundin to the Quebec Nordiques in 1989. Dahlin (6-foot-2, 181 pounds) has two points (one goal, one assist) and six shots on goal in four games as the youngest player (17) for Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League this season.
[VIEW: NHL Central Scouting Players to Watch | Full list (PDF)]
"He's been the best prospect in Sweden for years," said Goran Stubb, the NHL director of European Scouting. "He's a smart, two-way D-man who can control the game in almost every situation using his stickhandling, smooth skating and overall skills. He's not overly physical but can give and take a hit."
The players to watch list is Central Scouting's compilation of top prospects from all the major development leagues throughout North America and Europe. The list is updated throughout the season while scouts travel to evaluate the players live.
The 23 players on the list with "A" ratings are considered potential first-round picks. Players with "B" ratings are considered possible second- or third-round choices, and those with "C" ratings are potential fourth-, fifth- or sixth-round selections.
Right wing Andrei Svechnikov (6-2, 186) of Barrie in the Ontario Hockey League was one of 11 players from the Canadian Hockey League to be recognized as an "A" prospect.
Svechnikov, chosen by Barrie with the No. 1 pick of the 2017 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft on June 28, is the younger brother of Detroit Red Wings prospect Evgeny Svechnikov (2015 Draft, No. 19). He was rookie of the year in the United States Hockey League last season after finishing sixth in the league with 58 points (29 goals, 29 assists) in 48 games for Muskegon.
"Svechnikov plays a responsible game without the puck, has a strong stride with good top-end speed, good instincts at reading the play to set up or be open for chances," said Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting. "He also has an excellent finishing touch to bury his chances."
Among the A-rated North American skaters who could be selected in the first round are defensemen Quinton Hughes (5-10, 174) of the University of Michigan (Big Ten), Jared McIsaac (6-1, 195) of Halifax in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Ryan Merkley (5-11, 170) of Guelph in the Ontario Hockey League; centers Joseph Veleno (6-1, 195) of Saint John (QMJHL) and Ryan McLeod (6-2, 200) of Mississauga (OHL); right wings Oliver Wahlstrom (6-1, 205) of USA Hockey's Under-18 National Team Development Program (USHL) and Filip Zadina (6-0, 196) of Halifax (QMJHL); left wings Brady Tkachuk (6-3, 196) of Boston University in Hockey East and Benoit-Olivier Groulx (6-1, 192) of Halifax (QMJHL).
Tkachuk is the younger brother of Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk and son of U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Keith Tkachuk. He had 54 points (25 goals, 29 assists) in 61 games for the U.S. U-18 NTDP last season and helped the United States win the gold medal at the 2017 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.
"Tkachuk is a throwback; he has the skill set, hands, shot and net-front play to be a real high-end goal scorer in the NHL," said USNTDP U-18 coach Seth Appert. "Some players hit because they know it's part of the game and the coach wants them to go hit to create a turnover. Tkachuk absolutely craves physical contact."
Halifax may have lost center Nico Hischier, who is expected to remain with the New Jersey Devils after being selected No. 1 in the 2017 NHL Draft, but they have three others projected high on most 2018 draft boards in Zadina, McIsaac, and Groulx.
Zadina, selected No. 10 in the 2017 CHL Import Draft, has eight points (three goals, five assists) and 14 shots on goal in five games this season. Originally chosen No. 4 in the 2016 CHL Import Draft by Vancouver (WHL), he opted to stay in the Czech Republic and had two points (one goal, one assist) in 25 games for Dynamo Pardubice last season.
"Zadina is adapting quickly and putting up points," said Troy Dumville of NHL Central Scouting. "He's a smart player with very good puck skills, vision and finish around net."
Veleno, the first player from the QMJHL to be granted exceptional player status, was selected No. 1 by Saint John in the 2015 QMJHL draft as a 15-year-old. He has four points (one goal, three assists) and 10 shots on goal in five games this season, his third with the Sea Dogs.
Among the eight A-rated players from Europe, Dahlin, center Rasmus Kupari (6-1, 183) of Karpat Jr. (Finland), center Isac Lundestrom (6-0, 185) of Lulea (Sweden), and defenseman Adam Boqvist (5-11, 168) of Brynas (SWE) have received a lot of attention.
Boqvist, the brother of Devils prospect Jesper Boqvist, had eight points (one goal, seven assists) to help Sweden to a bronze medal at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. He is almost as skilled but not as mature as Dahlin, according to Stubb.