People often say hindsight is 20/20, however, when it comes to the 2018 NHL draft, it is just not that simple. I am sure a lot of NHL teams would love a do-over on some of their past selections, and although that is not possible, it is still fun to take a look at what could have been. Keeping in mind that the NHL has still yet to see the full potential of the players selected in this draft, I am going to look back and take my best shot at a 2018 NHL redraft and try to determine who teams should have selected, in comparison to who they did select. Without further ado, here is my 2018 NHL redraft.
2018 NHL Redraft – Top Five Selections
#1 – Buffalo Sabres – Andrei Svechnikov (Actual 2018 #1 Pick – Rasmus Dahlin)
Right away, people may be pretty surprised by this selection, but hear me out. This has nothing to do with the play of Dahlin, and everything to do with the play of Svechnikov. Over the course of the past two seasons, the Buffalo Sabres have ranked in the bottom 10 in the NHL in the goals-for category and currently sit at second last in the league in this category. Now although Rasmus Dahlin is a defenseman with offensive tendencies, he is clearly not the answer to this problem, in fact, no defenseman is.
This brings us to the topic of Mr. Svechnikov. Andrei Svechnikov has served as an offensive force since entering the league and is currently a member of one of the best lines in hockey. Through 167 games, Svechnikov has scored 51 goals, and marked 63 assists, for a grand total of 114 points. Perhaps the most impressive of statistical feats has been his +11 ranking over the course of the past 3 seasons. The Buffalo Sabres, on the other hand, only had one player able to tally as many markers as Svechnikov last season, that being Jack Eichel.
With Jeff Skinner and Taylor Hall both not living up to their offensive expectations this season, one can assume that Andrei Svechnikov would be the guy that could give the Sabres’ the offensive boost they need, just as he has done in Carolina. I think the Sabers would certainly be happy with him in a 2018 NHL redraft
#2 – Carolina Hurricanes – Rasmus Dahlin (Actual 2018 #2 Pick – Andrei Svechnikov)
Although Dahlin’s name has not been up in lights as much as it was expected to be when they entered the league, this can be primarily attributed to the Sabres’ lackluster performance, not that of Dahlin. The wonderboy from Sweden has played with the same offensive spark that had him so highly rated coming into the draft, tallying 91 points over a span of 157 games. This is no mean feat for a young defenseman playing on one of the most consistent basement teams in the NHL.
Looking away from the Sabres for a second, Dahlin is still a force in comparison to defensemen throughout the league. From the time of the 2018 draft until now, Dahlin ranks 18th in the league in defenseman scoring over that time span. By far the youngest on that list, fans, and experts are in agreement that we may not even have seen close to what the kid has to offer.
If you’re wondering how well he would fit in on Carolina had he ended up with them, well, my guess is, probably pretty well. With Dougie Hamilton rising as one of the league’s best defensemen, it would honestly be pretty fantastic to see what they could accomplish together. Carolina is slowly becoming a playoff mainstay, and everyone knows offensive production from your defenseman gets that much more important down the stretch.
Obviously, if you ask Carolina fans now, they would tell you they are glad that they got Svechnikov and that they would probably keep him in a 2018 NHL redraft. But the fact remains if Dahlin would have somehow come to them in the draft, Canes fans would have been jumped for joy.
#3 – Montreal Canadiens – Quinn Hughes (Actual 2018 #3 Pick – Jesperi Kotkaniemi)
In the 2018 NHL draft, Quinn Hughes was selected with the number seven pick, making him, by far, the biggest jump on my list. There’s actually probably a couple of people reading this right now wondering why he’s not higher, largely due to his stellar performance in the NHL playoff bubble. Regardless, Quinn Hughes has become a household name in Vancouver, and there is a very good chance that management over in Montreal kicks themselves on a regular basis over missing out on him.
Although Quinn Hughes is the only player on this list who did not play the full season immediately after being drafted, he has proven that he was well worth the wait. In his first full year with the Vancouver Canucks, Hughes finished second in voting for the Calder Memorial Trophy, the honour awarded annually to the NHL’s best rookie. Hughes was able to tally 53 points in 63 games during his rookie campaign and anchored the Vancouver Canucks’ back end to the second round of the playoffs. Not too shabby for a 20-year-old defenseman, eh?
Although his offensive numbers are more than impressive, Quinn Hughes still needs to improve a little defensively in order to keep rising through the ranks. Quinn Hughes currently has the lowest plus-minus rating on the Canucks’ roster, sitting at -13. On a team with high expectations, such as the Vancouver Canucks, this is less than ideal. The hope is that as Quinn Hughes settles into his game, that he will be able to produce offensively while still providing competent defensive zone coverage. I personally think he will do it, and possibly move up this 2018 NHL redraft list in a couple of years’ time.
#4 – Ottawa Senators – Brady Tkachuk (Actual 2018 #4 Pick – Brady Tkachuk)
If you want to talk about perfect player-team fits, look no further than the Ottawa Senators and Brady Tkachuk. Part of me thinks if the Ottawa Senators were handed the first overall pick and were able to go back, they might still select him. Tkachuk has been everything the Senators hoped he would be and is only showing signs of improvement. Grit and goalscoring are what he brings to the table, and he has already become a clear leader on and off the ice.
The youngest Tkachuk lives in front of his opposition’s net and has put up some good numbers doing so. Since entering the league, Tkachuk has scored twenty goals in both seasons and already has eight so far this year. He has become a mainstay on the Senators’ first line and was named an alternate captain at the beginning of this season.
When looking at his plus-minus totals, some may be concerned over the fact he has finished as a minus each season he has played in the league. However, this speaks more to the team he has played on, and not to his individual efforts. Ottawa has finished each of their last two seasons with a negative goal differential, therefore I think it is fair to give Brady a break. Overall, Tkachuk has quickly become a fan favourite, and no one should be surprised if the Senators try to lock him up long-term this offseason. He stays put in my 2018 NHL redraft.
#5 – Arizona Coyotes – Jesperi Kotkaniemi (Actual 2018 #5 Pick – Barrett Hayton)
Finishing off our list is Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Kotkaniemi was drafted with Montreal’s number three spot in 2018, and although he has not put up the numbers they had hoped he would, he still deserves a spot in the top five.
Kotkaniemi has played two full seasons in the NHL thus far, however, he went down with an injury last year that only allowed him to play 36 games. In those 36 games, he only tallied 6 goals and 2 assists, giving him a total of 8 points. In his rookie campaign, he was able to put up 36 points but has remained relatively quiet since.
Looking at the 5th spot in this redraft, it really came down to two players, Jesperi Kotkaniemi or Barrett Hayton. Hayton was able to lead Canada’s World Junior roster to an impressive gold in January of 2020, but we haven’t quite seen his skillset transfer over at the NHL level. Although Kotkaniemi has yet to show the abilities that made the Habs reach for him with their number three pick, the fact remains that he has shown glimpses of offensive prowess. In my 2018 NHL redraft, he is still a top-five pick.
Will he become the number one centre the Habs were hoping for? Probably not, but I still do believe he will develop into a 20 goal-a-year guy at some point. And hey, maybe he does become the number one centre and I look like an idiot. If that happens, I will be more than happy for him and will consider deleting this article so I don’t end up on the freezing cold takes Twitter page.
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