With the first round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft in the books, there are some interesting storylines to break down.
For starters, the first three selections in the draft were European. For the first time in 19 years, a Canadian or American player was not among the top three picks.
Also, 14 defencemen were picked in the first round. That’s a first.
The Buffalo Sabres had the first overall selection and went with Swedish defenceman Rasmus Dahlin, as expected. The 18-year-old is the second Swedish player drafted first overall. He is the highest-scoring under-18 defenceman in Swedish Hockey League history and was the best defenceman at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship. The Sabres expect him to be NHL-ready out of training camp and will probably slip him into a top four role.
The Carolina Hurricanes had the second pick and went with Russian winger Andrei Svechnikov. Scouting reports consider him, like Dahlin, as NHL-ready out of camp. He’s the Canadian Hockey League Top Prospect of the Year and had 72 points in his first season in Barrie. Carolina has a spot for him among their other top young offensive players and it’s likely Svechnikov could be a top-six guy, with skill along the boards and a commanding drive to the net.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi was scooped by the Montreal Canadiens with the third overall pick. The Finnish forward can play centre and left wing and skated for Assat in Liiga. Rated sixth by Central Scouting, Kotkaniemi is a pick that meets a need for the Habs. He wasn’t necessarily a logical choice, but Montreal believes that they can develop him as a top-line centre.
With the fourth overall pick, the Ottawa Senators drafted Brady Tkachuk from Boston University. He finished fourth in scoring for his team and was tagged as the best power forward in this year’s draft class. Tkachuk had nine points in seven games for the United States at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship and is the brother of Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk. He’s a physical player and loves to hound the net.
Rounding out the top five was Barrett Hayton, who went to the Arizona Coyotes. This, like the Kotkaniemi pick, was somewhat of a surprise. Slotted ninth by Central Scouting, Hayton can play centre or wing and won the Bobby Smith Trophy as the OHL scholastic player of the year. He had 60 points in 63 games for Sault Ste. Marie and his proficiency lies as a defensive forward.
There were other surprises in the first round, like Dallas’ selection of Ty Dellandrea and Philadelphia picking Jay O’Brien. Dellandrea was ranked 25th overall by Central Scouting and went 13th, while the Flyers took the 32nd-ranked O’Brien with the 19th pick.