The Vancouver Canucks will pick seventh overall at the 2018 NHL Draft.
It’s certainly not the result fans had hoped for, but it was always the most likely outcome. On the bright side, there will be a plethora of talent available when the Canucks are on the clock.
There has been a lot of shifting in draft rankings and scout opinions over the past few weeks. But although there are some who like a dark-horse candidate in the top five, the consensus top four remain the same: Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov, Filip Zadina, and Brady Tkachuk.
While there could be a surprise pick mixed in, it’s likely those four will be gone before Vancouver takes to the podium. But after that, things are much less clear.
Here are five players that could put on a Canucks sweater on June 22:
1. Evan Bouchard (London Knights, OHL)
Size: 6-foot-2, 192 pounds
Evan Bouchard led all London Knights with 87 points (25-62-87) and ranked second in goals scored – as a defenceman – last season.
A right-hand shot, Bouchard loves to get involved offensively and knows exactly what to do with the puck on his stick. He can lead an up-ice rush with the puck on his stick or a crisp outlet pass, before jumping in on the attack to contribute in the offensive zone.
His heavy shot and excellent passing make him a weapon on the power play as well.
Thanks to his high hockey IQ and incredible poise, Bouchard makes the right decisions consistently. And while he is mostly known for what he does with the puck, his defensive game has steadily improved as well. Bouchard is a smooth skater with great awareness and an active stick, making him a strong defensive player.
All in all, Bouchard is a strong two-way defenceman with fantastic offensive upside.
2. Adam Boqvist (Brynäs IF, SHL)
Size: 5-foot-11, 170 pounds
Adam Boqvist has been taking a lot of heat for underperforming in the SHL, Sweden’s top-tier men’s league, this season. But whenever he faced off against opponents in his age group, he was downright dominant.
In 25 games in the under-20 SuperElit, the defenceman scored 14 goals and recorded 24 points.
Boqvist is a flashy and dynamic blue-liner who can dominate games from the backend. An extremely smooth skater with quick hands, Boqvist knows how to make opponents miss before setting up a scoring chance for his teammates or going to the net himself. In addition to his offensive skill, Boqvist is a solid defender who is especially strong defending the rush early in the neutral zone.
Some may be worried about Boqvist’s performance in a limited SHL role, but it’s always worth remembering that the SHL is one of the best leagues in the world, and Boqvist is a 17-year-old rookie with plenty of time to develop.
3. Oliver Wahlstrom (USA U-18, USNTDP)
Position: Right wing, Centre
Size: 6-foot-1, 205 pounds
Oliver Wahlstrom has been in the spotlight for some time now. In 2017, he was one of three 2018-eligible skaters that represented Team USA at the under-18 World Championship, putting his goal-scoring talent on display with four tallies in seven games. Over the past 12 months, he just continued to impress.
Wahlstrom is a natural goal scorer with an incredible shot arsenal, which helped him become the No. 1 on the USNTDP’s U18 team in goals (47) and points (92) this season. The forward possesses a powerful stride and a quick set of hands, making him extremely difficult to defend. He can casually create scoring chances out of nothing and finish them off with a lightning-quick release.
If the Canucks want to add to their growing group of forward talent, Wahlstrom would be an excellent choice.
4. Noah Dobson (Acadie-Bathurst Titan, QMJHL)
Size: 6-foot-3, 179 pounds
Along with Evan Bouchard, QMJHL defenceman Noah Dobson has risen quickly up the rankings. Commonly ranked as an early second or late first-round pick going into the year, he continuously moved up throughout the season and is now considered a likely top-10 selection.
And like Bouchard, Dobson is a right-shooting, two-way defenceman who put up an impressive 69 points (17-52-69) in 67 games.
Dobson is a smooth-skating, reliable defensive player with strong hockey sense and excellent positioning, keeping danger away from his goalie. But, he likes to contribute offensively at least as much.
Dobson can make accurate outlet passes and join the rush, and he is an excellent puck distributor in the offensive zone, especially on the power play. He might not become a top-pairing defenceman at the next level, but he has all the tools to be a minute-munching top-four contributor.
5. Quinn Hughes (University of Michigan, NCAA)
Size: 5-foot-10, 175 pounds
Quinn Hughes is one of the flashiest and most talented defencemen in the 2018 class. But due to his small frame and occasionally risky play, he is a bit of a polarizing figure too.
While some scouts believe Hughes has the kind of talent that warrants a top-three selection, Bob McKenzie’s panel of NHL scouts put him at ninth overall – right in Canucks territory.
Hughes is a fantastic skater and puck-carrier. A breakout machine for the Michigan Wolverines and Team USA’s under-18 team, he can drive the play up ice from the backend and set up his teammates for scoring chances. Hughes is incredibly dynamic with the puck, which allows him to make plays in the offensive zone and create danger consistently.
The Canucks have been craving a power-play quarterback for a long time – so Hughes could be a desirable pick.
As Canucks Army’s Jeremy Davis shows in the April edition of his consolidated rankings, the first significant drop-off in the industry averages happens after ninth overall. But even a few of the lower-tier players have been creeping into the conversation for a top-10 selection, and the Canucks could certainly justify reaching for one of them.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi (Assat, Finland)
Centre Jesperi Kotkaniemi is one player who could sneak into Canucks territory. The Finn has a well-rounded offensive toolkit and possesses strong hockey sense along with a 6-foot-2, 190-pound frame.
Joe Veleno (Drummondville, QMJHL)
Unlike Kotkaniemi, Canadian centre Joe Veleno dropped from a potential top-five pick down to a mid-to-late first rounder in the first half of the year. But after scoring 48 points (16-31-48) in 33 games after being traded to the Drummondville Voltigeurs, he has been put back in the top-10 conversation. Veleno is another well-rounded centre and hard worker with a pro frame.
Barrett Hayton (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL)
Another centre, Barrett Hayton is an excellent two-way player. His offensive upside is not as high as some others in this class, but the 6-foot-1, 185-pound forward has a relatively high floor. Some scouts believe he is one of the most pro-ready players in the 2018 draft.
Ty Smith (Spokane, WHL)
Finally, Ty Smith is a promising defender who was consistently ranked between fifth and 15th throughout the year. An elite skater with an outstanding two-way game, Smith has the potential to become a strong top-four contributor in the NHL.