Revisiting Preseason Rankings for 2018 NHL Draft

Scouting is not an exact science and hindsight can be
hilarious at times.

The draft year offers a ton of time for development and so much can change from September to June.

Still, it’s both fun and educational to look back — to laugh
and learn.

After publishing my preseason rankings for the 2020 NHL draft — my top 124 following the Hlinka Gretzky Cup — I decided to take a look back on my preseason rankings from 2018 and 2019.

I wanted to see how those rankings held up come draft day.
For better or worse.

Starting with 2018, which was the first year my rankings were publicly available — my annual mock drafts date back to 2012, but I published my rankings for the first time on Sept. 16, 2017. That was a preseason top 100 for 2018 and it looked like this.

NOTE: Listed next to each player is their actual draft position, with the variation from my preseason rankings in parenthesis. UD is short for undrafted and NR for not ranked.

First Round

1) Rasmus Dahlin — 1 (=)

2) Andrei Svechnikov — 2 (=)

3) Adam Boqvist — 8 (-5)

4) Brady Tkachuk — 4 (=)

5) Filip Zadina — 6 (-1)

6) Joe Veleno — 30 (-24)

7) Quinn Hughes — 7 (=)

8) Ryan Merkley — 21 (-13)

9) Ty Smith — 17 (-8)

10) Rasmus Kupari — 20 (-10)

11) Jesperi Kotkaniemi — 3 (+8)

12) Bode Wilde — 41 (-29)

13) Ryan McLeod — 40 (-27)

14) Barrett Hayton — 5 (+9)

15) Jared McIsaac — 36 (-21)

16) Oliver Wahlstrom — 11 (+5)

17) Joel Farabee — 14 (+3)

18) Alexander Khovanov — 86 (-68)

19) Vitali Kravtsov — 9 (+10)

20) Jett Woo — 37 (-17)

21) Calen Addison — 53 (-32)

22) Evan Bouchard — 10 (+12)

23) Jakub Lauko — 77 (-54)

24) Isac Lundestrom — 23 (+1)

25) Jack McBain — 63 (-38)

26) Luka Burzan — UD (2019, 171)

27) Akil Thomas — 51 (-24)

28) Benoit-Olivier Groulx — 54 (-26)

29) Dmitry Zavgorodniy — 198 (-169)

30) Samuel Fagemo — UD (2019, 50)

31) Mathias-Emilio Pettersen — 167 (-136)

Second Round

32) Jesse Ylonen — 35 (-3)

33) Nando Eggenberger — UD

34) Mattias Samuelsson — 32 (+2)

35) K’Andre Miller — 22 (+13)

36) Jakub Skarek — 72 (-36)

37) Milos Roman — 122 (-85)

38) Anderson MacDonald — UD

39) Ty Dellandrea — 13 (+26)

40) Libor Zabransky — UD

41) Xavier Bouchard — 185 (-144)

42) Kevin Bahl — 55 (-13)

43) Giovanni Vallati — 153 (-110)

44) Vladislav Kotkov — UD (signed by San Jose)

45) Grigori Denisenko — 15 (+30)

46) Philip Kurashev — 120 (-74)

47) Jake Wise — 69 (-22)

48) Jan Jenik — 65 (-17)

49) Pavel Rotenberg — UD

50) Jonathan Tychonick — 48 (+2)

51) Alexander Alexeyev — 31 (+20)

52) Filip Hallander — 58 (-6)

53) Jacob Olofsson — 56 (-3)

54) Gilian Kohler — UD

55) Dominik Bokk — 25 (+30)

56) Olivier Rodrigue — 62 (-6)

57) Lukas Wernblom — UD

58) Jonatan Berggren — 33 (+25)

59) Allan McShane — 97 (-38)

60) Liam Foudy — 18 (+42)

61) Johnny Gruden — 95 (-34)

62) Carl Stankowski — UD

Third Round

63) Alexis Gravel — 162 (-99)

64) Jacob Ingham — 175 (-111)

65) Filip Johansson — 24 (+41)

66) Egor Sokolov — UD

67) Kirill Nizhnikov — UD

68) Samuel Salonen — UD

69) Jake Tortora — UD

70) Jack Drury — 42 (+28)

71) David Levin — UD

72) Gabriel Fortier — 59 (+13)

73) Adam Liska — UD

74) Noah Dobson — 12 (+62)

75) Nico Gross — 101 (-26)

76) Blade Jenkins — 134 (-58)

77) Jake Gricius — UD

78) Filip Kral — 149 (-71)

79) Rasmus Sandin — 29 (+50)

80) Riley Sutter — 93 (-13)

81) Riley Stotts — 83 (-2)

82) Carson Focht — UD (2019, 133)

83) Keegan Karki — UD

84) Justus Annunen — 64 (+20)

85) Toni Utunen — 130 (-45)

86) Krystof Hrabik — UD

87) Martin Kaut — 16 (+71)

88) Oliver True — UD

89) Samuel Bitten — UD

90) Eli Zummack — UD

91) Liam Kindree — UD

92) Brodi Stuart — UD

93) Chase Wouters — UD

Honourable Mentions

94) Ivan Muranov — UD

95) Kyle Topping — UD

96) Olof Lindbom — 39 (+57)

97) Jacob Semik — UD

98) Sean Comrie — UD

99) Dawson Barteaux — 168 (-69)

100) Jack Perbix — 116 (-16)

Reviewing Rankings

The Good

Perhaps it was beginner’s luck, but my preseason rankings for 2018 were quite impressive.

For starters, my top seven featured six of the top eight picks with four of them already ranked exactly where they went. Those being Dahlin, Svechnikov, Tkachuk and Hughes.

Dahlin Svechnikov Kotkaniemi
The top three picks in 2018 were, from left, Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. (Jerome Miron/USA TODAY)

The two prospects from my preseason top seven that weren’t selected in the top eight were Veleno and Merkley, two of that draft’s biggest fallers. And for the record, my final rankings for 2018 had those two dropping out of my top 10 with Veleno at 12 and Merkley at 16, albeit still too high.

Further, 17 of my preseason first-rounders were selected in
the top 31. That is 55 per cent. And, yes, that is good when that many stay in
the top 31 from September to June.

Of the 14 misses, Wilde, McLeod, McIsaac, Woo, Addison and
Thomas were still considered first-rounders by several scouts in their final
rankings for 2018. So I really only had eight glaring misses in my preseason
top 31: Khovanov, Lauko, McBain, Burzan, Groulx, Zavgorodniy, Fagemo and
Pettersen. I’m still high on Lauko, who fell to the third round but seems to be
outperforming that draft spot. As are Zavgorodniy and Pettersen, who could both
prove to be later-round steals. Time will tell on those three.

Bode Wilde - Islanders
Bode Wilde fell to the New York Islanders in the second round despite being a first-round talent. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Perhaps my biggest successes from that preseason top 31 were
the two kids that went undrafted in 2018: Burzan and Fagemo. Both had “bad”
draft years but were selected as overagers in 2019, which goes to show the
talent I saw back in September 2017 was real.

Two more of the undrafted prospects from these preseason
rankings are looking like lesser successes in Focht, who was also selected as
an overager in 2019, and Kotkov, who impressed immediately after getting passed
over in signing with San Jose from their summer development camp in 2018.

The Bad

My biggest misses from the preseason rankings are pretty obvious — Dobson, Sandin, Kaut and Denisenko — but they were also some of the biggest risers over the course of the draft year. As evidenced by my final rankings, which had them all in the top 31: Dobson (8), Kaut (19), Denisenko (22) and Sandin (25). I even correctly mocked Sandin to Toronto in the first round. So I’ll take the good with the bad there.

Noah Dobson Islanders
Noah Dobson was climbing the rankings from start to finish for the 2018 NHL draft. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In total, 24 players from my preseason top 100 were selected
higher in the 2018 draft. Here are 10 of the other double-digit risers that
were taken in the top 40, with my final ranking for them: Evan Bouchard (10),
Kravtsov (14), K’Andre Miller (18), Berggren (20), Bokk (21), Dellandrea (30),
Alexeyev (33), Foudy (36), Filip Johansson (54) and Lindbom (NR). Those final
rankings were much closer to reality, with the exception of the latter two. I’m
not sure how I had Lindbom became an omission from my final rankings after
starting the season in my top 100 and going on to get selected in the top 40.
Goalies are voodoo, right?

As for the fallers, 42 players from my preseason top 100
were selected lower in the 2018 draft. That includes the aforementioned Veleno and
Merkley. Here are 10 of the other double-digit fallers, with my final ranking
for them: Wilde (17), Kupari (23), McIsaac (28), Thomas (29), McLeod (37), Lauko
(40), Addison (44), Woo (45), Groulx (64) and Skarek (71). As was the case with
the risers, those final rankings look a lot better. Again, goalies are voodoo
with regards to Skarek.

And here are 12 more fallers that stayed within the top 100
for my final rankings: Wise (31), Zavgorodniy (58), Khovanov (59), Kurashev
(60), McBain (61), Roman (66), Jenik (72), McShane (65), Utunen (79), Gruden
(89), Jenkins (84) and Kral (93). For the most part, those final rankings were
also more accurate in terms of their draft position.

Philipp Kurashev of the Quebec Remparts
Philipp Kurashev proved to be a sniper for Switzerland at this year’s World Juniors. (photo courtesy Quebec Remparts)

Interestingly, a number of my preseason top 100 prospects
did not appear in my final rankings for 2018. Among those not ranked in my
final top 100 but still drafted: Pettersen, Gravel, Barteaux, Xavier Bouchard
and Vallati. However, none of them were drafted in the top 100, so that isn’t
necessarily a negative reflection on me or my preseason top 100 since they all
proved to be fallers.

The Ugly

A total of 30 prospects from my preseason top 100 went
undrafted in 2018 — yes, 30 per cent of them, which is pretty bad.

As mentioned, three of them wound up getting drafted as
overagers in 2019 and a fourth signed as a free agent within a month of getting
overlooked. But that still leaves 26 undrafted, unsigned prospects from my
preseason top 100 for 2018. That isn’t good any way you look at it.

Where it really gets ugly for me is in the amount of
undrafted prospects from my preseason top 100 that are clearly busts already —
or sure looking that way as of today, just two seasons later. That list is as
follows:

Second Round

33) Nando Eggenberger

38) Anderson MacDonald

40) Libor Zabransky

49) Pavel Rotenberg

54) Gilian Kohler

57) Lukas Wernblom

62) Carl Stankowski

Third Round

66) Egor Sokolov

67) Kirill Nizhnikov

68) Samuel Salonen

69) Jake Tortora

71) David Levin

73) Adam Liska

77) Jake Gricius

83) Keegan Karki

86) Krystof Hrabik

88) Oliver True

89) Samuel Bitten

90) Eli Zummack

91) Liam Kindree

92) Brodi Stuart

93) Chase Wouters

Honourable Mentions

94) Ivan Muranov

95) Kyle Topping

97) Jacob Semik

98) Sean Comrie

Bust is a strong word considering most those kids are still
teenagers heading into this season and the majority of them took a decent step
last season despite not getting drafted again in 2019 as overagers.

Truth be told, I still have some level of hope for upwards of 20 of those 26. MacDonald, Rotenberg, Kohler, True, Bitten and Semik are the only ones that I’m willing to write off right now. True and Bitten both have older brothers having success in the AHL — Alex True and Will Bitten — but I don’t foresee the younger siblings amounting to much. MacDonald was once a hyped prospect — considered a first-rounder or even a top-10 talent for his draft class in his younger years — but he’s struggled with mental health after failing to live up to those expectations. Rotenberg, Kohler and Semik just don’t seem to be progressing.

Stankowski is a smaller goalie that has struggled with
injuries and illness. Karki is a huge goalie making the move to WHL Everett but
his numbers have left a lot to be desired. Muranov made Russia’s world-junior
team as an undrafted forward, but his stat-lines weren’t very promising overall.
Hope is fading for those three.

Outside of those nine, though, I still think there could be
some NHL players among the other 17. Hrabik and Liska took big strides and could
have been drafted in 2019 — dare I say should have been drafted? I’m excited to
see what Zabransky and Comrie can do in the WHL as 19 year olds with Saskatoon
and Kelowna, respectively. Kindree could have a breakout season for Memorial
Cup host Kelowna too, and Topping will be one of the leaders on that team again.
I’m still a big fan of the little guys Tortora and Zummack as well. Not all
hope is lost for them.

Krystof Hrabik Tri-City Americans
Krystof Hrabik enjoyed a strong first season with the WHL’s Tri-City Americans — producing 21 goals and 51 points in 63 games — but was passed over for a second time in the 2019 NHL draft. (Photo courtesy Tri-City Americans)

Lastly, I should share the 44 players drafted within the top 100 in 2018 that didn’t appear in my preseason rankings. However, eight of them were overagers and I typically don’t include overagers in my rankings until the second half of the season — keeping my focus on the first-time eligibles for the first half — thus those eight wouldn’t have appeared in my preseason top 100 even if I liked them that high.

My final rankings did include overagers for 2018 and of those 44 omissions from my preseason top 100, the following 28 were included in my final top 100, with only 16 not ranked in the end:

First Round

19) Jay O’Brien — 50

26) Jacob Bernard-Docker — 46

27) Nic Beaudin — 43

28) Nils Lundkvist — 26

Second Round

34) Serron Noel — 35

38) Alexander Romanov — NR

43) Ruslan Iskhakov — 97

44) Albin Eriksson — 98

45) Scott Perunovich (overager) — 80

46) Martin Fehervary — 67

47) Kody Clark — NR

49) Kirill Marchenko — 52

50) Adam Ginning — 55

52) Sean Durzi (overager) — NR

57) Axel Andersson — NR

60) David Gustafsson — 38

61) Ivan Morozov — 53

Third Round

66) Cam Hillis — 62

67) Alec Regula — 70

68) Tyler Madden — 90

70) Jakob Ragnarsson — NR

71) Jordan Harris — 92

73) Ty Emberson — 57

74) Niklas Nordgren — 39

75) Oskar Back — 82

76) Semyon Der-Arguchintsev — 95

78) Sampo Ranta — 73

79) Blake McLaughlin — 47

80) Marcus Karlberg — NR

81) Seth Barton (overager) — NR

82) Bulat Shafigullin — 77

84) Jesper Eliasson — NR

85) Lukas Dostal — 99

87) Linus Karlsson — NR

88) Joey Keane (overager) — NR

89) Logan Hutsko (overager) — NR

90) Dmitri Semykin — NR

91) Nathan Smith (overager) — NR

92) Connor Dewar (overager) — NR

Fourth Round

94) Matej Pekar — 49

96) Luke Henman — NR

98) Ryan O’Reilly — 83

99) Slava Demin — 69

100) Adam Mascherin (overager) —
NR

I was still low on a lot of them, but at least they were on
my list when it came to the final rankings.

The most regrettable miss is Romanov, who looks like a real
player in the making for Montreal after standing out at the World Juniors. Durzi
was really good in the OHL playoffs and Los Angeles could wind up winning that
Jake Muzzin trade if he pans out as a pro.

Alexander Romanov Team Russia
Alexander Romanov was named to the tournament all-star team and also won the top defenceman award at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship in helping lead Russia to a bronze medal. (Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Barton and Dewar were frustrating misses since they were playing in my backyard — in the BCHL and WHL, respectively — but I did have them getting selected in my 2018 mock, albeit both as seventh-rounders when they went in the third round. I had Barton at 195 and Dewar at 201. Barton was taken at 81 and Dewar at 92.

As bad as that discrepancy looks, I’m still considering it a
small victory of sorts in taking a glass half full outlook on these 2018
results.

For that draft year, I published five rankings of my top 100 prospects: preseason (Sept. 16), midseason (Feb. 5), following regular season (March 29), following under-18 tournament (May 1), and final following the combine (June 4).

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