The first round of the 2018 NHL entry draft begins tomorrow night at 7:30 PM on NBCSN, SN, and TVA Sports. The Capitals will be picking last in the first round because they won the Stanley freakin’ Cup. Here’s a look at some guys I think could be available for selection by the Caps at pick #31.
Lets start with the forwards.
Note: This is all assuming that the Capitals do actually pick at #31 and the pick is not used to trade up or down in the draft or acquire a roster player. Some of these prospects may be projected as higher or even second round selections, but that’s why they’re just projections. NHL comparables are just style comparisons, nothing else.
Akil Thomas – Right Wing, Niagara OHL – Thomas is a player that the Caps would probably be lucky to have fall in their laps at #31. He can play both center and wing and led the IceDogs in scoring with 81 points in his 17-year old season. Scouts have said that they’d like him to shoot the puck more, but he plays with an intense competitiveness, is extremely coachable, and has elite game sense for someone his age. NHL comparable: Ondrej Palat
Benoit-Olivier Groulx – Center, Halifax QMJHL – Groulx is a heady, two-way center with a hard shot and can also kill penalties. He is said to be quite the energy player, isn’t afraid to get dirty in the corners, and has a future captain makeup. What he lacks that some of his peers have that will be selected before him is standout offensive ability and he’s not exactly fleet of foot. NHL comparable: Kyle Brodziak
Jonatan Berggren – Left Wing, Skelleftea SWE J20 – Berggren is one of my favorites in the entire draft. He’s an intelligent, spunky, 5’10 winger that has a bloodhound-like mentality when it comes to tracking down loose pucks. He also has the typical Swedish “smoothness” when it comes to passing the puck and isn’t afraid to shoot it either. Berggren is of the super fast, smaller breed of forwards that has become popular in today’s faster NHL game. NHL comparable: Carl Hagelin
Jack McBain – Center, Toronto OJHL – Big bodied (6’3, 201), power forward with all the tools to become an effective two-way NHL center. Really needs to work on his skating, isn’t going to dazzle anyone with any fancy stick moves, but also isn’t afraid to go to dirty areas and work for goals. He is headed to Boston College so he will get some definite seasoning in the NCAA. NHL comparable: Radek Faksa
Jacob Olofsson – Center, Timra Allsvenskan – One of my other favorites in the draft. Same old, same old with Swedes that go this early. Olofsson is intelligent, smooth, gives max effort on both sides of the puck, and has great puck skills. A great mix of size, speed, and raw offensive talent. He was also named the top rookie in Sweden’s Allsvenskan league (the SHL’s equivalent of the AHL) for 2017-18 as a 17-year old. NHL comparable: Mikael Backlund
Liam Foudy – Center, London OHL – Arguably the fastest and best skater in the entire draft. Mixes that speed with an accurate shot, ability to handle the puck at top speed, and a relentless, pesky defensive style. He has been absolutely zooming up draft boards after a tremendous second half with the London Knights in 2017-18. His marked weaknesses are that he definitely needs to put on some weight and if he wants to stick at center, get better in the dot. NHL comparable: Paul Byron
Blake McLaughlin – Left Wing, Chicago USHL – Another potential draftee headed to the NCAA, as McLaughlin will be a Minnesota Gopher next year. Very gifted playmaker with incredibly soft hands, excellent skater, fantastic release with a hard shot. Needs a lot of work bulking up and getting consistent in the defensive zone. Great celebration game. This is another guy, like Berggren, that I really like in this draft that isn’t really being talked about as a first round talent. NHL comparable: Brandon Saad
Jay O’Brien – Center, Thayer USHS – Another player that’s surging up some boards. He is the top high school player in the US and an all around talent committed to Providence of the NCAA. His main strength is his work ethic and overall offensive awareness and creativity, but at his best he’s a goal scorer with a great wrist shot. He is also a very good forechecker, but still needs work in the defensive zone and will be a risky pick as the majority of his pre-draft experience has come against less than great competition in the US high school system. NHL comparable: Kyle Turris
Kirill Marchenko – Right Wing, Mamonty Yugry MHL – Marchenko is a winger with great size (6’3) that perhaps has more room to grow than just about any other player on this list due to his younger age. He’s very assertive in both the offensive and defensive zone, has game-breaking one on one ability, and has been trusted to penalty kill in Russia’s junior leagues. What jumped out to me most is that he has a very Kuznetsov-like aptness at keeping possession of the puck through defensive pressure both in zone and on the rush. NHL comparable: Tyler Toffoli
Jesse Ylonen – Right Wing Espoo Mestis – Another lightning quick forward at the top of this draft is the son of former NHLer Juha Ylonen. Jesse is a fantastic skater, has a good wrist shot, and in my opinion an underrated ability to make offensive reads. On top of getting stronger, he needs a lot of work in the defensive zone to cut out puck watching and stagnant positioning. NHL comparable: Jakob Silfverberg
Jake Wise – Center, USA NTDP USHL – A player that was once thought to be an easy lottery pick in this draft has fallen down boards due to injury and having to play behind the consensus #1 overall pick in next year’s draft, Jack Hughes. Wise is a very smart, elite playmaker with a quick release and ability to pick corners. He is committed to Boston University next year and would be a player that I’d love for the Capitals to take a risk on. NHL comparable: Derek Stepan
Others: Jakob Lauko (Center, Chomutov Czech Extraliga), Ryan McLeod (Center, Mississauga OHL), Niklas Nordgren (Right Wing, HIFK SM Liiga), Ty Dellandrea (Center, Flint OHL)
Headline photo: NHL
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