Early Draft Predictions: January

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This year, Calm Before the Storm has decided to bring back a popular series. This series provides insight on players eligible for the 2018 NHL Draft, while also guessing which players the Canes would most likely want. In this article, we’ll go up to four rounds of the draft! Each round will have a small report on each player, and then I’ll pick my favorite of the ones listed. Keep in mind that I’m not a draft expert, so it’s more than likely that the Canes will draft someone else. The purpose of these articles is just to give you all information on some draft eligibles!

Also, the Canes could possibly trade away some of their picks in the next month or so. As of right now, they have their picks in the first four rounds. I’ll keep it that way and just adjust in future articles. For this article, I’ll be using rankings from Recrutes, The Draft Analyst, Sportsnet, Future Considerations, and Dobber Prospects.

First Round

There’s no doubt that this is a defense heavy draft, especially for the first few rounds. The Canes don’t need another defenseman in the first round, so they should look at a forward or two. They have plenty of centers in the system, but Necas is the only one with legitimate top six potential. We have a few other center prospects, but few of them will actually become full time NHLers. I’d go with either a center or a RW in this round. We have some good prospects in our system, but we don’t know if any of them will turn into goal scorers at the NHL level just yet. Martin Necas looks promising, but he’s more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. His shot is good enough, but there’s no telling how he’ll perform at the NHL level. Valentin Zykov has been one of the AHL’s top scorers this season, but injuries have slowed him down a good bit. We don’t know if he’ll be able to play top six minutes in the NHL. Aleksi Saarela is in a similar situation, his shot is deadly, but he’s been hit with the injury bug quite often in his career.

Barrett Hayton: He’s a prospect that’s projected to go in the mid to late first round range. He’s fairly quick, and has been a threat for the Greyhounds all season long. He’s a point per game player on the OHL’s best team, which is encouraging. Not many players can make that kind of impact on their teams in their draft year. He can play center, but has been playing on the left wing with Morgan Frost centering him. Would be a solid option if he could be a full time center.

Akil Thomas: He’s a playmaker that sees the ice exceptionally well. Has 36 assists in 40 games this season, but only 11 goals. A bit of an undersized forward at 5’11 and 170 pounds, but the skill is there. He’s an above average skater, but can’t win a whole lot of puck battles. He’s a talented forward, but not who the Canes are looking for at this point.

Grigori Denisenko- He’s a fun player. Fast, good footwork, and dangerous with the puck. He’s able to create plays with ease, and score important goals for his teammates. Not the biggest forward, but the talent is there. He also doesn’t hesitate to engage in puck battles, which is encouraging. What I’ve read about him reminds me a little bit of Aho, just slightly less skilled. If the Canes make it to the second round of the playoffs, he’ll likely be available. The only concern with this pick is that the Canes don’t have many scouts, if any, in Russia. The last time we drafted a Russian player was in 2001, so this likely won’t be the pick we make.

Dominik Bokk- Here’s hoping that GMRF takes advantage of teams not scouting Europe as much. Bokk is every scouting site’s favorite sleeper pick, for the most part. He’s super quick, and has really nice hands to go along with an above average set of offensive skills. He crushed it in U20, so now he’s with Vaxjo in the SHL. Being in the SHL as a 17 year old is really impressive, so he might not be available when the Canes draft in the first round this summer. Still, he’s got a great combination of size and skill on the wing.

Oliver Wahlstrom- I really like this player, and you should too. Every time I watch him, I’m in awe. He makes smart plays, but also has a finesse aspect of his game. Wahlstrom is quick, and can stop on a dime. His work and strength on the puck are phenomenal, even for a 17 year old kid. Wahlstrom is a strong offensive force on the right wing, and could really make an impact sooner rather than later. He is committed to Harvard for the 2018-19 season, but he’ll likely only need one year there.

My Pick: Oliver Wahlstrom. Dominik Bokk is intriguing, and I really think that he could be an impact player. I’ve seen Wahlstrom a lot more, and I really do like his game. The Canes’ depth on the right side isn’t terrible, but adding another piece on that wing wouldn’t hurt. Wahlstrom looks like he’ll be able to become more of a power forward or a goal scorer, while Bokk looks to be a speedy playmaker. The Canes already have one of those, so Wahlstrom would be my pick.

Second Round

Should the Canes draft a defenseman? There are lots of defensemen in this draft, so it might not hurt to take one. The Canes have quite a few defensemen in the pipeline, but only Luke Martin has top four potential. Taking another defenseman might be a safe move if no forwards are available. What type of player? There’s no harm in drafting another forward, and maybe GMRF goes with a LW here. There are quite a few players in the second round that might make an impact. Goal scoring is paramount, but as Pat said in the 328 mailbag this past week, an agitator wouldn’t hurt. On defense, we might look for a two way player. We have plenty of defensive specialists in the system (Pesce, Martin, McKeown, De Jong), but none of those players will be able to contribute offensively. As for offensive defensemen, we have Jake Bean and Justin Faulk.

Jesse Ylonen- Yeah, I know I said that we should take a defenseman. Hear me out. Ron Francis has taken advantage of teams neglecting Finland, and he’s found some really good prospects there. Jesse Ylonen has been pretty solid in the Liiga’s minor league, Mestis. He’s fallen down the draft boards a little bit, but he’s still a really solid prospect that plays a similar game to Luostarinen. Quick, but not overly fancy. He’s strong on the puck, but like many Finnish forwards, he’s very light. He’d need to bulk up before we looked at him some more, but the offensive talent is there.

Kevin Bahl- The NHL is doing a draft diary on him, so I’ve actually looked at him a good bit. Nothing stands out about his game other than his defensive responsibility, and that’s perfectly fine. The kid is going to be the Big McLargeHuge (credit to Mr. Workrate) on the team that drafts him. He’s 6’5, 225 pounds. He’s strong, and it’s hard to get around a guy that size, especially at the junior level. I’d like to see him play a little more physical. Sometimes he never plays physical, but he’s got the size for it. He could be a serious defensive zone threat if he played with a little bit of an edge. He won’t ever be great offensively, but that’s okay. He wouldn’t be my first choice, but I wouldn’t be disappointed either.

Alexander Alexeyev- He’s a bit of a stretch, but I’m adding him for a reason. Alexeyev is a really promising defender that will more than likely be a second or third pairing NHL defenseman. He’s tall, fairly quick, and has enough offensive talent to get by in the NHL. Alexeyev is playing on a middle of the pack Red Deer team, and he’s put up respectable numbers. He’s looking good after a knee injury last season, and his speed has improved. Still, he’s a LHD, and might not have a role on the Canes in the future.

Philipp Kurashev- He’s fallen down the draft boards a little bit this season. He went from a late first round pick to being projected as an early to mid second round pick. Still, Kurashev has a lot of talent. He can play center or left wing, and is incredibly smart. He’s not a goal scorer, unfortunately, but he plays a solid two way game. Ron Francis doesn’t draft one dimensional forwards, so Kurashev could be a solid pick. The QMJHL isn’t known for defense, so his numbers might be a little skewed.

Calen Addison- This kid is a really solid RHD that can set up plays. He moves the puck well, and his passes are usually accurate. He has a decent shot, and is above average defensively. He does miss a few assignments, but he’ll have plenty of time to work on that. Not the tallest defenseman, but he makes up for it with his play. Lethbridge just traded a lot of their players, so his ice time may increase. 40 assists in 44 games is a huge bonus.

My pick: This is a tough one. Both Ylonen and Addison are really solid picks, and I’d be happy with either one. I think the Canes pick Addison, especially if they’re thinking about dealing Faulk in the future. Addison could be a really effective power play quarterback in the future.

Third Round

After the second round, I’m willing to take a player that’s a bit of a project. It’s apparently a pretty weak draft for forwards, so our scouting department will really have to earn their money in this draft. Assuming the Canes don’t take a defenseman in the second round, now might not be a terrible time to take one. We likely see the Canes draft at least one more player playing for either a European team or an NCAA school in the future. The CHL has some decent players available, but GMRF will probably choose a player that will be a little bit of a longer term project.

Blade Jenkins- The only CHL player I’ll put here, and it’s because of his name. He’s risen up the draft boards after a decent season on an average Saginaw team. He’s a pretty big forward with decent offensive skills, and his defensive skill set is above average. He’d be a bottom six two way forward in the NHL someday, and might not be a bad pick if GMRF likes his game. Nothing about his game excites me, but the puns we could make about his name would be fantastic. He’s just average, but that’s what you should expect after the first two rounds.

Sampo Ranta- This is a GMRF sleeper pick waiting to happen. Not a whole lot of scouts have taken notice of him, especially since he’s a Finnish forward in the USHL. His numbers aren’t terrible, but not overly fantastic either. He’s got good offensive skills, and can hold his own in the defensive zone if needed. For a Finnish forward, he’s got decent size. He’ll be going to the University of Wisconsin next year, where he’ll compete with Max Zimmer for a roster spot.

Alexis Gravel- Maybe take a goalie? Gravel has solid potential, and I like the way he plays. He’s quick, has a good push to get to the other post quicker, and has good speed. He’s still got a lot of work to do, but his numbers have improved since last season. Gravel had a little bit of a rough Hlinka tournament, but he’s improved a lot during the regular season.

David Levin- He’s definitely a bit of a project. He fell out of some rankings pretty quickly this season, but it may just be due to him playing on a terrible Sudbury team. He has solid playmaking abilities, but Sudbury hasn’t been able to produce lots of NHL talent in recent years. I’d steer clear.

My pick: Sampo Ranta is really the only player that excites me out of the third round. I feel like he’s a bit of a sleeper pick, and I like what I’ve seen from him. Gravel might be another solid pick, but the Canes have a lot of goalies in the system. Helvig deserves a contract, and there are two other goalie prospects still in the system.

Fourth Round

At this point, just take the player with the highest ceiling. Nobody should expect another Slavin.

Kevin Mandolese- He’s a goalie that plays on Cape Breton, and he’s putting up subpar numbers. His mechanics are good, however. Mandolese is a really young player, so he definitely has time to grow into an NHL backup.

Curtis Hall- He plays on the Youngstown Phantoms, and they have the coolest jerseys that I’ve seen. He’s putting up solid numbers in the USHL, and will be going to Yale next year to play with Luke Stevens. Hall goes to the net with speed, and could add a quick two way dynamic to a team’s bottom six after a few years of college.

Gustav Lindberg- He’s a Swedish forward that can be a threat in the offensive zone. He has an above average shot, but his defensive zone play is subpar, even for a forward. Lindberg is fairly quick, however, which is always a plus.

My pick: I’d go with Hall. He’s got untapped potential, and will be able to develop for as long as he needs at Yale. I really like his speed, and he might not be a terrible pick. In the fourth round, you’re just taking shots in the dark.

Recap

Three forwards and a defenseman were my picks, but I wasn’t too thrilled with the last two. This draft is looking to be really underwhelming, especially for forwards. If I were Ron Francis, this would be the year to trade a few picks at the deadline. He could easily trade a pick or two for either rentals or a big time forward. Those would improve the team much more than a player drafted after the second round, especially in this draft. After the first two rounds, you’re not going to draft a player that can make an impact in the next three years. Still, it’s ultimately up to Ron Francis to determine whether or not he’s comfortable with trading picks. We’ve only seen him trade extra picks that the team had, so perhaps it’s time to change that.

1 Comment
  1. Randy Yale says

    There are better options based on need. The biggest need for the 2-5 year window in which picks develop is scoring. I would think using picks in the first three rounds for players with scoring upside makes the most sense.

    In addition, the Canes are actually pretty thin at RW. Both Williams and Stempniak only have a couple years left. So that leaves Lindholm as the only holdover (and he might get another shot at center)–unless you think Teravainen will remain playing his offside. My guess is that Aho will eventually be a center with TT on his LW and a scorer on his right. Zykov and Roy are right shots in Charlotte, though Roy looks more likely to be 3rd/4th center option in the future. Gauthier is a talented RW, but seems to be struggling in his first year in the AHL. Gauthier may in time figure it out and become a 2nd or 3rd line RW. Mattheos is putting up good numbers in the CHL, so he might also be a 3rd/4th line RW in the future. Still, I think the need is for more RW scoring potential. The LW, especially if TT moves back to his natural side, is much deeper.

    So the Canes need to draft players with scoring upside–getting at least one or two who are right-shots capable of playing RW.

    1st Round–Wahlstrom is a great option, but he is likely go in top 7 picks. So Canes would have to continue to struggle for Wahlstrom to be viable. I too like Bokk as a right-shot who seems to be a scorer. But I have read some comments that he is not always committed in all three zones, which probably lowers his value for GMRF. The three likely choices in the first round: A) Ryan Mcleod–left-shot, noted for being really fast so might be a good match for Necas in the future. B) Serron Noel who possesses the same tools as Gauthier in that he is big, fast, and a right shot. C) Martin Kaut. If the Canes manage to turn their season around and make the playoffs and win one round, then they draft around 25. This linemate of Necas at the WJC20 is much like Bokk in that he is a right-shot who is an excellent playmaker.

    2nd Round–I don’t see the need for another puck-moving D-man. Bean is still in the system. If the organization moves Faulk, the best option is probably moving Slavin to the right where he played in college and has stated he is equally comfortable. That opens a LD spot for Bean. At that point, only van Riemsdyk is even close to “aging out” in the next five years. Martin should be ready to play in Raleigh in 2-3 years. So using a 2nd on a RD is mostly wasting a pick. A) You are correct that Ylonen would be a strong pick. Though he might go at end of 1st or beginning of 2nd. If he is available, he makes the most sense as a RW with scoring upside. B) If the team gets a right shot in the first, then Blake McLaughlin would be an excellent choice in the 2nd. He has shown the ability to produce points in the USHL, which is not a league of high scorers. C) Bokk might still be available if the Canes don’t make the playoffs, he would definitely be worth the pick if it was between 40-45. D) Filip Hallander is basically the left-shot version of Ylonen. He shows up on the score sheet in international tournaments and currently in a men’s league. However, also like Ylonen he is likely to be gone between 30-40.

    Third Round is still too early to take a D-man in this draft because there will be several available in both the 4th and 6th who have the potential to develop. So again the team should consider a forward with scoring potential, a right shot if possible. A) Kody Clark is a RW who is 6’1″, 175 lbs and the son of Wendell. He has shown the ability to score in his draft year in the CHL. He might not be available when the Canes draft in the third, but if he is he makes tons of sense. B) Yegor Sokolov is another player worth a third round pick, especially if the Canes don’t get Noel in the first. He is a big (6’3″ 223 lbs) right shot who scored like crazy in the Russian U16 and U17 leagues. He is still scoring at a solid pace in the CHL. C) Jonatan Berggren has displayed the ability to score against players his age in both league play and international competition. GMRF has shown a preference for taller forwards, but this 5’10” left-shot is not slight at 180 lbs. and is likely to be the player with the highest scoring upside still available around pick 75-80.

    Fourth Round will be the the time to think about defense. At least one of the following should be available: Caleb Everett, Ty Emberson, Santeri Salmela, Saku Vesterinen, Jacob Ragnarsson. All are at least 6-feet tall and have solid statistics that indicate they are improving at each stage of development. Depending on whether the organization drafts a right or left shot, they can draft a counterpart in the 6th round.

    Sixth Round. One of these D-men should be available: Martin Bucko, Juuso Ketola, Jakub Adamek, Christian Lindberg. Again all have decent size and have reasonable statistics given their age/leagues.

    Seventh Round. With two picks, the Canes should take a couple of high reward chances. All three of Alexander Peresunko, Oliver Okuliar, and Andrej Kukuca have scored near the top of several leagues in less well-known countries. There is always the possibility that some of that ability will translate–and picking two of these three would not be wasted in the 7th.

    Glad to have someone else thinking about the draft in January!

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