With the sports world paused due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to take a look back and redo the first round of several past NHL Entry Drafts. Each article will feature a brief summary of who the team selected at the time, and who we believe they would select now in hindsight.
Part 8 – featuring the class of 2018, is below...
(Note: team needs are not taken into account at the time of selection)
1- Buffalo Sabres: Andrei Svechnikov (F, Barrie-OHL), Original Pick: Rasmus Dahlin (D, Frolunda-SHL): The difference between Svechnikov and Dahlin is so small that if I ran this exercise ten times, I'd probably pick each of them five times. Svechnikov is already one of the league's better snipers while Dahlin is an excellent skater and poised with the puck. Both are future superstars.
2- Carolina Hurricanes: Dahlin, Original Pick: Svechnikov: See above.
3- Montreal Canadiens: Quinn Hughes (D, University of Michigan-NCAA), Original Pick: Jesperi Kotkaniemi (F, Assat-Liiga): Hughes is one of the most talented and elusive players in the league at any position. He's small and slight but makes up for it with his smarts. Kotkaniemi is a perfectly fine prospect in his own right but Montreal reached here.
4- Ottawa Senators: Brady Tkachuk (F, Boston University-NCAA), Original Pick: Tkachuk: Tkachuk has made a seamless transition to the NHL. He should be good for 30 goals and 60-plus points in his peak years, all while annoying the heck out of every single player on the opposing team.
5- Arizona Coyotes: Filip Zadina (F, Halifax-QMJHL), Original Pick: Barrett Hayton (F, Sault Ste. Marie-OHL): Like Kotkaniemi, Arizona reached just a tad for Hayton. I preferred Zadina on draft day and nothing has changed since. It took Zadina a little while to adjust to the professional pace but he had a strong season for both Grand Rapids (AHL) and the Red Wings this year.
6- Detroit Red Wings: Vitali Kravtsov (F, Traktor-KHL), Original Pick: Zadina: Kravtsov is a hill I'm willing to die on. He's so talented offensively that I refuse to believe he won't develop into an excellent top-six offensive forward despite a rough season that saw him bolt for the KHL only to return to AHL Hartford a short time later.
7- Vancouver Canucks: Grigori Denisenko (F, Yaroslavl-KHL), Original Pick: Hughes: Denisenko originally went No. 15 overall to Florida and probably would have gone a handful of picks higher if not for the "Russian factor". They had to wait a few seasons, but Denisenko recently signed with the club following the completion of his KHL deal. There are some consistency issues here but Denisenko should be ready to challenge for a roster spot immediately.
8- Chicago Blackhawks: Ty Smith (D, Spokane-WHL), Original Pick: Adam Boqvist (D, Brynas-SHL): The Boqvist pick was a solid one but Smith is one of the safest defensive prospects in the league. He has been named WHL Defenseman of the Year in back-to-back seasons. Smith makes everything look remarkably easy. It would be shocking if he wasn't ready for full-time NHL duty in New Jersey next season.
9- New York Rangers: Kotkaniemi, Original Pick: Kravtsov: The Rangers made a point of going to Russia to scout Kravtsov on numerous occasions. They were enamored with his skill set and pulled the trigger. Kotkaniemi needs a complete reset after no-showing (eight points in 36 games) during his sophomore NHL campaign.
10- Edmonton Oilers: Joel Farabee (F, US NTDP-USHL), Original Pick: Evan Bouchard (D, London-OHL): Bouchard spent the entirety of this past season in the AHL. He remains a highly-rated prospect. Farabee is a multi-faceted offensive weapon who's calling card is his versatility. I liked him in his draft year and I like him now.
11- New York Islanders: Nils Lundkvist (D, Lulea-SHL), Original Pick: Oliver Wahlstrom (F, US NTDP-USHL): I loved the Wahlstrom pick at the time and still feel he has a boatload of potential despite an up-and-down career to this point. The Isles wouldn't have taken Lundkvist even if they passed on Wahlstrom. He ended up going 28th overall to the Rangers and recently set a SHL record for most points in a season by an under-20 rearguard.
12- New York Islanders: Boqvist, Original Pick: Noah Dobson (D, Acadie-Bathurst-QMJHL): It's difficult to get a read on where Dobson is at this point because he barely played this past year. He was too young to play in the AHL so the Isles kept him on their roster all season long and left him in the press box most nights. He played just 34 games, registering seven points. Boqvist has a high ceiling because of his offensive ability but his play in his own zone needs some work.
13- Dallas Stars: Dobson, Original Pick: Ty Dellandrea (F, Flint-OHL): Dellandrea was widely considered to be a reach on draft day, but he lit up the OHL this season and will be vying for a roster spot with the Stars during training camp next year.
14- Philadelphia Flyers: Wahlstrom Original Pick: Farabee: Wahlstrom's stock has taken a dip since he's been drafted but he's still an elite goal-scoring prospect and those guys are difficult to find. I liked him just a tad more than Farabee originally.
15- Florida Panthers: Hayton, Original Pick: Denisenko: I remain undecided as to whether Hayton is a a serviceable player or a potential above-average. He didn't show much in 20 games with Arizona (one goal, four points) but he dominated for Canada at the World Juniors. He turns 20 years of age this coming June.
16- Colorado Avalanche: Bouchard, Original Pick: Martin Kaut (F, Pardubice-Czech): Bouchard's stock is steady despite the fact he has played just seven NHL games to date. It's about time the Oilers pushed him. It should happen this fall. I wasn't a fan of the Kaut pick at the time because I didn't think he had top-six offensive potential. I feel the same way today.
17- New Jersey Devils: Alexander Romanov (D, Krasnaya Armiya-MHL), Original Pick: Smith: There are some who think Romanov is one of the very best defensive prospects in the league. I'm not willing to go that far but he should be a useful middle-pairing, two-way guy. He has signed his entry-level deal with Montreal and I expect he will be on the Opening Night roster next season.
18- Columbus Blue Jackets: Rasmus Kupari (F, Karpat-Liiga), Original Pick: Liam Foudy (F, London-OHL): I was a big fan of Kupari heading into the draft and felt he was a steal at No. 20 overall for the Kings. He spent this season in the AHL but was injured for the majority of the campaign. He should rebound next season if healthy. Foudy was a reach. He skates like the wind and projects as an ideal depth player but his offensive upside is limited. He played a few games with Columbus this season in an emergency capacity.
19- Philadelphia Flyers: Rasmus Sandin (D, Sault Ste. Marie-OHL), Original Pick: Jay O'Brien (F, Thayer Academy-USHS): Sandin's game is a bit understated but he's really good. He moves well and he knows what to do with the puck when he has it. He's going to be an anchor for the Leafs for a long time. It's obviously too early to make a judgement but the O'Brien pick has not yielded positive returns in the early going. He posted a whopping five points in 25 games for Providence College back in 2018-19. O'Brien clearly wasn't ready for the NCAA level so he left school and played this past season in the BCHL, where he finished tied for fourth (66 points in 46 games) in league scoring. He will transfer to Boston University and be eligible next season.
20- Los Angeles Kings: Scott Perunovich (D, Minnesota-Duluth-NCAA), Original Pick: Kupari: Perunovich is one of my favorite prospects in the entire league. He's been NHL-ready for two years. The Blues finally got him under contract this past spring and he should make his NHL debut this fall. An immediate Adam Fox-like impact is a possibility.
21- San Jose Sharks: Akil Thomas (F, Niagara-OHL), Original Pick: Ryan Merkley (D, Guelph-OHL): Thomas was basically universally viewed as a late first-rounder, at worst, but somehow managed to fall to the Kings at No. 51 overall. His stock has only increased since. Merkley's range was seemingly anywhere from the lottery to Round 2. The Sharks pulled the trigger late in Round 1. The skill set is not in question but some of the maturity questions remain.
22- New York Rangers: K'Andre Miller (D, US NTDP-USHL), Original Pick: Miller: The Rangers thought enough of Miller to trade up four spots to nab him. A converted defenseman, Miller had a brilliant freshman season at the University of Wisconsin before fading a bit this past year. He has since signed his entry-level deal with New York and is ticketed to begin his pro career in the AHL (if there is an AHL) this fall.
23- Anaheim Ducks: Merkley, Original Pick: Isac Lundestrom (F, Lulea-SHL): The fact Merkley remains this high is a testament to his natural abilities. I don't love the odds of Merkley reaching his immense ceiling, but he's got a shot. Lundestrom has played with Anaheim a bit and looks like a respectable third-line pivot.
24- Minnesota Wild: Dominik Bokk (F, Vaxjo-SHL), Original Pick: Filip Johansson (D, Leksands-Allsvenskan): Bokk is a native of Germany who was drafted out of the SHL. He is one of the more talented offensive prospects in the league and has since been dealt to Carolina. Not to pile on, but the Johansson pick is widely viewed as one of the very worst first round selections in recent memory. No one had any idea what Minnesota were thinking on draft day and that hasn't changed nearly two years later. It's early, but Johansson is barely on the prospect radar.
25- St. Louis Blues: Justus Annunen (G, Karpat U20-Liiga), Original Pick: Bokk: Annunen was an early third-rounder of Colorado as your typical draft-and-stash goaltending prospect. He responded with a 1.77 GAA and .929 save percentage for Karpat's men's team this past season. He has since signed with Colorado and figures to be loaned back to Karpat for one more season. He's clearly Colorado's goaltender of the future.
26- Ottawa Senators: Tyler Madden (F, Tri-City-USHL), Original Pick: Jacob Bernard-Docker (D, Okotoks-AJHL): Madden's offensive awareness is exceptional. He dropped to the third round (68th overall) on draft day due to concerns about his foot speed. He had zero issues dominating Hockey East for two seasons at Northeastern. His original team, the Canucks, inexplicably dealt him in February for a rental in Tyler Toffoli. Bernard-Docker does everything well and does it all in a quiet, understated way. He has decided to return to the University of North Dakota for his junior year.
27- Chicago Blackhawks: Kirill Marchenko (F, Mamonty Yugry-MHL), Original Pick: Nicolas Beaudin (D, Drummondville-QMJHL): Marchenko continues to be one of the KHL's better U20 players. He had a strong season for SKA St. Petersburg (seven goals, 16 points in 31 games) and should take on an even bigger role next season. A Columbus property, Marchenko's KHL contract reportedly runs through 2021-22. Beaudin is an undersized offensive defenseman and he's behind Boqvist on the depth chart. It doesn't look like a great pick at this point.
28- New York Rangers: Dellandrea, Original Pick: Lundkvist: Dellandrea was a reach at No. 13 but he would have been fine here. He's got some offensive potential and works his tail off. I think he's a good depth player who can move up in the lineup if injuries strike.
29- Toronto Maple Leafs: Joe Veleno (F, Drummondville-QMJHL), Original Pick: Sandin: Veleno's drop on draft day was baffling. Some had him rated as a potential top-ten pick and he ended up going 30th overall. He gets by due to skill and smarts. His first AHL season (11 goals, 23 points in 54 games) was up and down.
30- Detroit Red Wings: Alexander Khovanov (F, Moncton-QMJHL), Original Pick: Veleno: Khovanov missed most of his draft year due to illness and his stock suffered as a result. He was a clear first-round talent who ended up going 86th overall to Minnesota. He led the QMJHL in plus/minus (+58) this past season in addition to posting 99 points in 51 games.
31- Washington Capitals: Bernard-Docker, Original Pick: Alexander Alexeyev (D, Red Deer-WHL): The difference between Bernard-Docker and Alexeyev is minimal. JBD is a bit steadier while Alexeyev probably offers a bit more offensively.