Leading up to the 2018 NHL Draft I wanted to provide some quick rankings of the best prospects at each position. The first look starts at the center position.
#1.) Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Assat (Liiga)
A smart offensive player with great size and shot. Can get up and down the ice with speed. Ranks at the top of the draft in terms of hockey intuition and ability to make plays with or without teammates.
#2.) Joe Veleno, Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)
Veleno is a skilled playmaker that loves to work with the players around him to create chances. High offensive upside but has drawn critics when it comes to effort going the other way.
#3.) Rasmus Kupari, Karpat (Liiga)
A fast-moving and quick thinking centerman that can make some exciting highlight reel plays with his feet and his hands.
#4.) Akil Thomas, Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL)
Two-way center that is used in all situations, including the point on the powerplay. Takes strong defensive draws and fuels scoring chances through his shot.
#5.) Barrett Hayton, Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
A shifty center that sets plays up well in the offensive zone. Holds up very well in the defensive zone and takes important faceoffs.
#6.) Jacob Olofsson, Timra IK (Allsvenskan)
Recent winner of Allsvenskan’s rookie of the year after his 10-11-21 output this past season. Olofsson is a powerful center at both ends of the ice. Carries a heavy shot.
#7.) Ryan McLeod, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Ryan McLeod handles the puck really well in some tight spaces but does lack speed. High offensive upside and can contribute to defensive play.
#8.) Isac Lundestrom, Lulea (SHL)
A terrific skater that uses that aspect to his advantage against defenders. One of the best centers in the draft in terms of playmaking ability.
#9.) Ty Dellandrea, Flint Firebirds (OHL)
One of the more “highly touted yet underrated” prospects in this draft. Dellandrea creates plays on offense through his work down low and his great moves in tight spaces. Another center that can be plugged on the penalty kill.
#10.) David Gustafsson, HV 71 J20 (Superelit)
A two-way center that is strong with the puck and strong on the forecheck. A big frame at 6’2” and 196 lbs, he uses that size to out-muscle his defenders but can easily slip out of a tight scenario with a creative dish or slick move with his underrated hands.
#11.) Ivan Morozov, Mamonty Yugry (MHL)
Morozov is a centerman that can do it all and is powered by his strong legs. High energy in the offensive zone, contributor in the defensive zone and takes key draws in both zones.
#12.) Philipp Kurashev, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
Kurashev holds a wicked shot that comes off a quick release and can be disguised due to shifty moves to get in and out of traffic. Rather consistent in the faceoff circle. More than likely to take the open shot but possesses the skill to get the pass off.
#13.) Jake Wise, U-18 (USNDTP)
A skater that was originally ranked rather high in early projections for the 2018 NHL Draft. Fantastic hockey sense on the ice which aides his soft hands and ability to saucer the puck. Finds the open man even if it seems impossible.
#14.) Benoit-Oliver Groulx, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Groulx excels at the defensive half of the two-way center role. Brings power and high energy to both ends of the ice and from time to time can provide a spark on offense. High value in transition and really works the boards well.
#15.) Jacob Lauko, Chomutov (Extraliga)
High quality scorer. Quick on his feet and quick with his hands. There is danger for him to taken as a one dimensional player, but does have intelligence in transition. Makes some incredible plays on the attack. His shot is comes off quick and picks corners with ease.
#16.) Milos Roman, Vancouver Giants (WHL)
A power forward that can also provide skill in the offensive zone. A fairly gifted playmaker that will outwork for possession and then set up a scoring chance.
#17.) Jack McBain, U-18 (USNDTP)
This future Boston College Eagle is always moving when he is on the ice. Not afraid to go into the corners at either ends. A disturbance in the defensive zone for the oncoming attack. Comes back in transition and has a quick intuition to find where the play is developing.
#18.) Allan McShane, Oshawa Generals (OHL)
One of the better true playmakers among the centers. Has a knack for finding the open stick and finding the open ice that leads to it. Really creative with the puck as well. Can block the defender in tight spaces.
#19.) Ryan Chyzowski, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
A power forward with some offensive capabilities. Blasts a heavy shot from distances. Can be a force down low and on the boards.
#20.) Jay O’Brien, Thayer (HS)
A smaller frame but a tremendous talent on the ice. Athletic and deadly in one-on-one scenarios. Decisions and feet slow down just a bit when with the puck but still a force that can make defenders look silly.
#21.) Filip Hallender, Timra IK (Alssvenskan)
A power forward that creates space on his own followed by some soft touches to teammates in open ice. Heavy on the forecheck and causes turnovers in transition. Powerful legs and quick feet as well.
#22.) Gabriel Fortier, Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
5’11” and 170 lbs, but is not afraid of high traffic areas. Has really good hands that work well with his teammates. Uses quick feet and agility to get to high quality areas on the ice.
#23.) Adian Dundas, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Dundas is a producer. Whenever on the ice, Adian is buzzing around the opposition until a turnover is created. He then gets to work on offense by using his agility to find open space then create scoring chances with his soft hands.
#24.) Oskar Back, Farjestad J20 (Superelit)
A very large center at 6’3” and 205 lbs. Uses that frame to separate himself from the defender. Uses that space to find teammates and then get low. Takes key draws on the penalty kill and fills his role well in that area.
#25.) Jake Pivonka, U-18 (USNDTP)
A speedy center man that acts as a great set-up man but can also fire one past the competition. When down low, Jake has some really creative and underrated hands that can find openings and create scoring chances. Quick in transition and can blow by sleepers at the blueline.