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Ranking: Top Five 2018 Draft Eligible Defensemen

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The upcoming draft is deep on defense in the first round. Max and Chad share their current top five on the blue line

Canada v Sweden: Gold Medal Game - 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

Chad’s Top Five

1. Rasmus Dahlin | Frolunda – SHL | LD

Dahlin is the unquestioned top pick in the upcoming NHL Draft. He’s a special talent with his offensive upside, skating, skill and defensive ability. He’ll step right into the NHL next season and have the potential to be a franchise-altering player for the team that wins the lottery in April.

2. Adam Boqvist | Byrnas IF J20 – SHL | RD

If you follow me on Twitter you would have noticed I’ve been saying I believe Evan Bouchard is the second best defensemen in this draft. Well, I’ve had a change of heart recently.

I’m moving Boqvist into the second spot behind Dahlin now. After watching some of Boqvist game action, reading and talking to people about the young Swede. I undervalued his NHL potential.

He may need another two years before he’s ready to jump into the NHL. However, his ceiling is very high. Similar to Dahlin he’s very talented on the offensive end of the ice and a great skater. On the flip side, he’s not as polished in his own end as Dahlin. Boqvist will need the next year or so to improve that aspect of his game.

3. Evan Bouchard | London Knights – OHL | RD

With the bumping Boqvist up to two. Bouchard now slides to third in my rankings. It’s not that I’ve soured on the Canadian born defender. As I mentioned I just undervalued the ceiling of Boqvist.

Bouchard is having a great season for London with 23 goals and 84 points in 64 games. He’s the Captain of the Knights and has led the club from the blue line this season.

He has good size at 6’2” and 192 pounds to go along with his smooth skating ability. Bouchard is a well-rounded defenseman. He has the offensive potential and is reliable in the defensive zone.

4. Quinn Hughes | Michigan University – NCAA | LD

A lot of people have Hughes ranked higher than where I have him here. He’s having a good freshman year at Michigan with four goals and 28 points in 34 games. Hughes is a dynamic skater with the offensive skill to go along with it.

He’s on the smaller side at 5’10” and 174 pounds. We’ve seen smaller defenders have success in the NHL, so that isn’t a big deal.

Where I get caught up with Hughes is his play in his own end of the ice. His offensive ability is unquestioned. I do question his ability to handle the defensive responsibilities of a top-four defenseman at the next level.

5. Ty Smith | Spokane Chiefs – WHL | LD

Smith may be one of the best skating defensemen in the draft. He flies up and down the ice when you watch him play. He has 14 goals and 73 points in 67 games this season for Spokane.

He’s another blueliner that fits the mold of today’s NHL defender with his offensive upside. Like Hughes, he’s on the small side at 5’10” and 174 pounds. He also needs to work on his defensive game to make the jump to pro level.

He’s two or three years away from getting to the NHL in my opinion but will have fans of the team that drafts him dreaming about his potential.

Max’s Top Five

1. Rasmus Dahlin | Frolunda - SHL | LD

As Chad mentioned above, Dahlin is a lock for the first overall selection in June’s NHL Entry Draft and seems to be a lock to be an impact defender right away at the NHL level.

One of the greatest traits of Dahlin’s game is his ability to take over a game with his strong rushes up the ice and his smooth stick work that opens up the ice.

2. Evan Bouchard | London Knights - OHL | RD

While the competition for the second-ranked defender is a very tight one, the edge, for me, goes to Evan Bouchard. Bouchard could end up being the best all-around defender in this draft class.

His responsibility in his own end is at a professional level, he has been developing a strong transitional game, and while his offensive skills do not match those of a Dahlin, he makes efforts to move the puck up ice with his legs and aggressively keeps plays going in the o-zone with smart and timely pinches.

3. Adam Boqvist | Byrnas IF J20 – SHL | RD

Boqvist is another strong offensive defenseman in this upcoming draft class that has turned heads with his hands and skating ability. His size is on the smaller side but it has not shown to hinder his game yet.

Breakouts and offensive playmaking come easily to Boqvist. He can move the puck into tight windows with pace and accuracy. He can be relied on to set-up plays at the blueline while sneaking down to finish them occasionally. Can frequently make stick checks in his own zone.

4. Ty Smith | Spokane Chiefs – WHL | LD

Ty Smith blew me away the first time I watched him play. He is a defender that can make plays all over the ice and on the offensive and defensive side of the puck.

Smith is not a defender that looks to make a play right away. He is very comfortable with the puck. He can skate with it himself and make the right play that will create a chance rather than giving the puck to the forward group right away. Another defender that can join the rush. Smith does a wonderful job spacing at the net front and often make the correct judgment in gap control.

5. Quinn Hughes | Michigan – NCAA | LD

I thought long and hard whether or not I should go with a safe bet in Hughes or make a bold statement with Red Deer’s Alexander Alexeyev. I opted to play it safe with Hughes because of how long his offensive play has been at an elite quality.

An incredible skater that creates offense, Hughes flies up and down the ice with and without the puck. Is guaranteed to join or even create rushes into the offensive zone. Does wonderful things with his hands and it can be debated that Hughes has a great release to his shot.

I, like Chad, am not sold on his defensive traits. Has and can make plays with his stick in his own end, but lack the familiarity in the defensive zone that other defensemen at the top of this draft have.