Releasing my final rankings for a draft is always difficult. The list grows organically throughout the season, building as more players catch my eye and put themselves on the radars of NHL teams. There is always the temptation to tinker up until the last second and even then, I wonder: should I wait a little longer, in case new information or buzz comes out about a particular player?
This season, it's defenseman Noah Dobson, who is coming off a Memorial Cup championship with Acadie-Bathurst, where he played incredibly well. Should he get a bump, while the rest of his competition watched on TV? And what happens when I get a peek at the lists of other draft pundits? Peer pressure is real, my friends.
In the end, I have stood pat. The ensuing rankings follow THN's Draft Preview (on sale now!) and if you want more information on the top 100 picks, I highly recommend the purchase. I reference it constantly once it comes out and I love seeing it in the hands of scouts and other writers at the combine and the draft itself. The rankings are basically Best Player Available; consider this a conservative forecast of what will happen, should no crazy trades upend things.
As a web bonus, I've added another 20 picks again this year. These are kids that just missed the cut, or simply slot in as mid-rounders. As for the sleepers and dark horses, stay tuned: I will have another blog on my faves in the coming week. Other than that, things are pretty straightforward. The section to really keep an eye on would be late first round/early second round, as that tends to be the most chaotic. Some teams go safe, some take risks, so you'll see a mix of said players in the 25-40 range. They're all pretty close anyway.
Goalies are another theme to watch. Because netminders are so hard to forecast, their actual slots don't always reflect their talent. So you're going to see goalies higher on this list than they might be taken because otherwise there wouldn't be many of them here. Judge the goalies against themselves; obviously my surer things are highest on the list.
With all that in mind, let's get to the fun part. With the first pick in the 2018 NHL draft, the Buffalo Sabres are proud to select...
1. Rasmus Dahlin, D, Frolunda (SHL): The no-brainer pick. Dahlin has franchise defenseman potential and his combination of size, speed, smarts and skill check off all the boxes. Enjoy him, Sabres fans.
2. Andrei Svechnikov, RW, Barrie (OHL): No slouch himself, Svechnikov's abbreviated season (due to injury and international play) in Barrie showed off a ton of upside. He's a big-bodied sniper who goes to the net.
3. Brady Tkachuk, LW, Boston U. (Hockey East): The third and fourth picks are a coin flip, but Tkachuk is just too pro to ignore. He's got size, nastiness, talent and you can trust him when the game's on the line.
4. Filip Zadina, LW, Halifax (QMJHL): Another fantastic winger, Zadina has game-breaking qualities and proved it at the world juniors. His scoring power and energy are impossible not to enjoy.
5. Adam Boqvist, D, Brynas (Swe.): He doesn't have the size of Dahlin, but he does have the mobility, smarts and puck skills. Boqvist can also take care of his own end, making him a great investment.
6. Quinn Hughes, D, Michigan (BigTen): There is so much talent in Hughes' game. He can hang on to the puck like few others and his skating is elite. He won't be in college much longer, that's for sure.
7. Evan Bouchard, D, London (OHL): In a pack of slick skaters, Bouchard brings other tools. He's big, he's got a great shot and may be the best passer in the entire draft class.
8. Oliver Wahlstrom, RW, U.S. NTDP (USHL): When it comes to scoring, Wahlstrom is elite. He's already got an NHL shot and he's a student of the game. Watch for him at Boston College next year.
9. Noah Dobson, D, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL): The potential in the big puckmover became even more apparent at the Memorial Cup, where Dobson soared. The sky is the limit with this kid.
10. Ty Smith, D, Spokane (WHL): Another mobile defenseman, Smith doesn't have a ton of size, but it rarely seems to matter. Plays against top lines and defends better than many of his peers in this draft class.
11. Joe Veleno, C, Drummondville (QMJHL)
12. Barrett Hayton, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
13. Joel Farabee, LW, U.S. NTDP (USHL)
14. Isac Lundestrom, C, Lulea (SHL)
15. Bode Wilde, D, U.S. NTDP (USHL)
16. Ty Dellandrea, C, Flint (OHL)
17. Rasmus Sandin, D, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
18. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Assat (Fin.)
19. Akil Thomas, RW, Niagara (OHL)
20. Ryan McLeod, C, Mississauga (OHL)
21. Jett Woo, D, Moose Jaw (WHL)
22. Grigori Denisenko, LW, Loko (Rus.)
23. Jacob Olofsson, C, Timra (Swe.)
24. Vitali Kravtsov, LW, Traktor (KHL)
25. Rasmus Kupari, C, Karpat (Fin.)
26. K’Andre Miller, D, U.S. NTDP (USHL)
27. Martin Kaut, RW, Dynamo Pardubice (Cze.)
28. Dominik Bokk, RW, Vaxjo (SHL)
29. Serron Noel, RW, Oshawa (OHL)
30. Sampo Ranta, LW, Sioux City (USHL)
31. Mattias Samuelsson, D, U.S. NTDP (USHL)
32. Ryan Merkley, D, Guelph (OHL)
33. Benoit-Olivier Groulx, LW, Halifax (QMJHL)
34. Jared McIsaac, D, Halifax (QMJHL)
35. Scott Perunovich, D, Minnesota-Duluth (NCHC)
36. Jonatan Berggren, C, Skelleftea (SHL)
37. Jakub Lauko, C, Pirati Chomutov (Cze.)
38. Filip Johansson, D, Leksand (Swe.)
39. Jacob Bernard-Docker, D, Okotoks (AJHL)
40. Adam Ginning, D, Linkoping (Swe.)
41. Jonny Tychonick, D, Penticton (BCHL)
42. Nicolas Beaudin, D, Drummondville (QMJHL)
43. Filip Hallander, C, Timra (Swe.)
44. Liam Foudy, C, London (OHL)
45. Calen Addison, D, Lethbridge (WHL)
46. Allan McShane, C, Oshawa (OHL)
47. Jesse Ylonen, RW, Espoo (Fin.)
48. Jack Drury, C, Waterloo (USHL)
49. Jakub Skarek, G, Dukla Jihlava (Cze.)
50. Justus Annunen, G, Karpat Oulu (Fin.)
51. Nils Lundkvist, D, Lulea (Swe.)
52. Blake McLaughlin, C, Chicago (USHL)
53. Alexander Khovanov, C, Moncton (QMJHL)
54. Alexander Alexeyev, D, Red Deer (WHL)
55. Slava Demin, D, Wenatchee (BCHL)
56. Albin Eriksson, LW, Skelleftea (SHL)
57. Dmitri Zavgorodny, C, Rimouski (QMJHL)
58. Kevin Bahl, D, Ottawa (OHL)
59. Olof Lindbom, G, Djurgarden (Swe.)
60. Jack McBain, C, Toronto (OJHL)
61. Jay O’Brien, C, Thayer (Mass. HS)
62. Alexis Gravel, G, Halifax (QMJHL)
63. Curtis Douglas, C, Windsor (OHL)
64. Matej Pekar, C, Muskegon (USHL)
65. Kirill Marchenko, LW, Yugra (KHL)
66. Cam Hillis, C, Guelph (OHL)
67. Sean Durzi, D, Owen Sound (OHL)
68. Axel Andersson, D, Djurgarden (Swe.)
69. Riley Sutter, RW, Everett (WHL)
70. Anderson MacDonald, LW, Moncton (QMJHL)
71. Egor Sokolov, RW, Cape Breton (QMJHL)
72. Jordan Harris, D, Kimball-Union (NH. HS)
73. Olivier Rodrigue, G, Drummondville (QMJHL)
74. Eric Florchuk, C, Saskatoon (WHL)
75. Oscar Back, C, Farjestad (Swe.)
76. Luke Burzan, C, Moose Jaw (WHL)
77. David Gustafsson, C, HV71 (SHL)
78. Jan Jenik, C, Liberec (Cze.)
79. Philipp Kurashev, C, Quebec (QMJHL)
80. Jachym Kondelik, C, Muskegon (USHL)
81. Logan Hutsko, RW, Boston College (Hockey East)
82. Jared Moe, G, Waterloo (USHL)
83. Gabriel Fortier, C, Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)
84. Keegan Karki, G, Muskegon (USHL)
85. Tyler Madden, C, Tri-City (USHL)
86. Blade Jenkins, C, Saginaw (OHL)
87. Alec Regula, D, London (OHL)
88. Joey Keane, D, Barrie (OHL)
89. Jake Wise, C, U.S. NTDP (USHL)
90. Xavier Bouchard, D, Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)
91. Cole Fonstad, C, Prince Albert (WHL)
92. Vladislav Kotkov, RW, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
93. Niklas Nordgren, RW, HIFK (Fin.)
94. Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup, LW, Fargo (USHL)
95. Milos Roman, C, Vancouver (WHL)
96. Lukas Dostal, G, Kometa Brno (Cze.)
97. Curtis Hall, C, Youngstown (USHL)
98. Kevin Mandolese, G, Cape Breton (QMJHL)
99. Jake Pivonka, C, U.S. NTDP (USHL)
100. Ryan O’Reilly, RW, Madison (USHL)
101. Luke Henman, C, Blainville-Boisbriand (QMJHL)
102. Akira Schmid, G, Langnau (Swi.)
103. Martin Fehervary, D, HV71 (Swe.)
104. Jack Perbix, C, Elk River (Minn. HS)
105. Declan Chisholm, D, Peterborough (OHL)
106. Alexander Romanov, D, CSKA (Rus.)
107. Arttu Nevasaari, RW, Karpat (Fin.)
108. Ruslan Iskhakov, RW, CSKA (Rus.)
109. Adam McCormick, D, Cape Breton (QMJHL)
110. Nico Gross, D, Oshawa (OHL)
111. Ivan Morozov, C, Yugra (Rus.)
112. Giovanni Vallati, D, Kitchener (OHL)
113. Angus Crookshank, LW, Langley (BCHL)
114. Samuel Fagemo, LW, Frolunda (Swe.)
115. Jack Jensen, C, Eden Prairie (Minn. HS)
116. Lenni Killinen, RW, Espoo United (Fin.)
117. Mitchell Hoelscher, C, Ottawa (OHL)
118. Yegor Zamula, D, Calgary (WHL)
119. Jacob Ingham, G, Mississauga (OHL)
120. Mathias Emilio Pettersen, C, Muskegon (USHL)