2018 NHL Draft Prospect Profiles: Defensemen
Later this week, hundreds of prospects will have a new home following the NHL Draft. In particular, the first round can hold many potential stars in the league for years to come.
The Flyers have two picks in the first round at 14th and 19th overall. Throughout the week, we're looking at prospects available at each position as potential targets and top players available in the draft.
We conclude our preview series with defensemen.
It's really no question that Rasmus Dahlin is going to be the first overall pick to Buffalo. The Swedish defenseman is a future superstar in the NHL, bringing an elite talent and skill set of skating, smarts and all-around play to the blue line.
Dahlin plays the same style as Erik Karlsson, and if Karlsson has been viewed as a franchise cornerstone, Dahlin has the potential to follow in his footsteps. He's an explosive skater with tremendous offensive talent while being very responsible and rounding out his game.
His hockey sense is off the charts. He can take control of a game with his skating and dynamic offensive ability. He really has no weakness and comes NHL ready and will certainly be among the top rookies in the league next season. So for Dahlin, it isn't a matter of if he goes first, it's just when his name is actually called, because he's heading to Buffalo.
"Elite level defensive prospect; effortless skater and puck skills, constantly surveying the play and anticipating his next move," ISS Director of Scouting Dennis MacInnis writes in the 2018 ISS NHL Draft Guide. "Can be a difference maker in every game. When he has the puck on his stick, he is one of the most electric players in this age group."
After Dahlin, there is a select group of defensemen that are certainly Top 10 worthy. Quinn Hughes is one of them.
The Michigan defenseman is a smooth skater with a lot of poise to his game. He's got great offensive talent, but does still need to work on rounding out his game. In his draft year, he's improved as the year progressed and become better in all situations while taking on a big minutes role. As a college freshman, that was impressive development in his draft year.
He's on the smaller side at just 5'9" and 170 pounds, but he's got the skill set and potential to become a dynamic offensive top-pairing defenseman.
"Tremendous poise and presence on the ice and has a very low panic point," MacInnis writes for the 2018 ISS NHL Draft Guide. "Jumps into the play -- good offensive instincts. Not an overly physical defender but instead uses his smarts and body position."
You look at Adam Boqvist and his makeup as a defenseman and you might see shades of Shayne Gostisbehere. He is a very impressive skater with a lot of pizzazz, combining speed and skill with hockey smarts. His offensive instincts are very good and he has that same kind of offensive prowess that Gostisbehere has.
The big concern with Boqvist is his size. He's 5'10" and 168 pounds and definitely needs to add size to be a dynamic defenseman at the NHL level.
His shot is very strong and he's probably the next best skating defenseman behind Dahlin, making him a constant threat. He competes hard, giving him a bit of an edge, though he's not overly physical given his size.
"Terrific passer, elite skater and plays the game with confidence," ISS Scout Joakim Eriksson writes in the 2018 ISS NHL Draft Guide. "He likes to join the rush and act like a fourth forward. He runs the power play like a quarterback. He needs to bulk up and add more muscles to his frame to be able to play at the next level."
For many teams, it's a rarity to get a top-notch right-handed defenseman. Evan Bouchard has the potential to be one for an NHL team.
Bouchard is the first right-handed defenseman on this list, and brings a well-rounded game. Bouchard is still a mobile defenseman with solid offensive skills -- scoring 25 goals and 62 points with London last season -- but has a much better two-way game and can move the puck well.
More impressive than his smooth skating and vision on the ice is his poise and composure in the defensive zone. He rarely panics and protects the puck well. He's got good size but could still add more and improve on his physicality.
"Quarterbacks the PP. Makes a great first pass and isn't afraid to rush the puck up ice," ISS Scout Matt Manners writes in the 2018 ISS NHL Draft Guide. "Effortless skater with good quickness. Plays a complete game smart player. Not many weaknesses. Needs to get stronger to play at the pro level."
Perhaps the biggest riser in the draft, Noah Dobson got some extra exposure as part of the Memorial Cup champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
Dobson is probably not the most NHL ready defenseman among the others behind Dahlin, but he's grown tremendously in his time in the QMJHL and continues to emerge as a budding star.
He has excellent instincts and is a strong and steady two-way defenseman. He can make an impact offensively -- 17 goals and 69 points in 67 games -- and brings a solid work ethic and compete level to the ice in all situations. At 6'3", he needs to add to his 180-pound frame to become more of a stud defenseman, but his hockey sense is very good and he's able to read the game well, which gives him a lot of upside in his draft year coming off a championship season.
"Strong play all season; played in all situation and a lot of minutes," ISS Scout Chris Mooring writes in the 2018 ISS NHL Draft Guide. "Has good size, skating, puck skills and intelligence. There is a lot of upside; would like to see more physical dimension for size. Projects as top pairing two-way defender."
There is a good crop of defensemen that should be available beyond the Top 10. Spokane defenseman Ty Smith is one of them.
Smith has an interesting combination of offensive talent and all-around skill. He's got the smarts to play well in all three zones, but also carries himself with confidence and has impressive skating ability to be an impact player.
He has the potential to be an offensive defenseman, as he is a standout offensively, but has also proven reliable in his own zone. He needs to add some size and add a physical edge, but with a lot of defensemen fitting the smaller and mobile mold, he'll easily be a fit at the NHL level.
"Smart, skilled, controls the play like a true quarterback," ISS Scout Milan Dragicevic writes in the 2018 ISS NHL Draft Guide. "Lots of patience and smart decisions with the puck. Size is slight concern, but he plays with swagger, confidence and makes players around him better."
Bode Wilde comes equipped with an excellent shot, fluid skating ability and offensive upside. While his potential is not nearly as high as other prospects, he's got the potential to be a valuable second-pairing defenseman with offensive talent and mobility.
His decision-making and consistency need work, which will go a long way in his defensive play, but next to Hughes, he's one of the top American-born defensemen available in the draft this year.
"He is a good skater, sees the ice well, and has a way to get his shot through to the net," ISS Scout Jose Charbonneau writes in the 2018 ISS NHL Draft Guide. "He is effective on powerplay and can be used at this level on PK . Would like him to be more engaged physically which could help him to crack the lineup at the next level."
Much like with Barrett Hayton, the Flyers got a good look at Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenseman Rasmus Sandin, beings that Morgan Frost is his teammate. Sandin had a solid season, scoring 12 goals and posting 45 points in 51 games.
He's not near as much of a mobile defenseman as some other prospects, but moves the puck well and is active in the offensive zone. He does a lot well, good skater, good with the puck and can get a good shot off.
His defensive play needs improvement and he needs to add size, but the combination of mobility, vision and playmaking ability offensively give him solid potential to be a second-pairing defenseman who can contribute on special teams.
"Modern style defenseman: small puck mover with excellent feet," ISS Scout Justin Scheerer writes in the 2018 ISS NHL Draft Guide. "Aggressive play on both offense and defense. Steps up early at his own blue line to attack puck carrier and break up plays. Struggled to contain bigger forwards down low in his D zone, and off the rush. No question about his puck skills and skating, just wonder if he can handle the physicality at the next level."
Another US-born defenseman, K'Andre Miller has improved throughout the years with a strong work ethic and good size to become a first-round prospect in the draft. He's more of a shutdown defenseman than an offensive dynamo, but he's got the ability to jump into the play with his mobility and moves the puck well.
Miller's skill set is the opposite of most draft prospects. His defensive game is well-formed already and has a great foundation and his areas of improvement are more focused in consistency and skating than his defensive play or physicality.
If a team is looking for more of the big, physical defenseman, this may be the guy.
"Miller has all the physical tools needed to intrigue NHL scouts," Dennis MacInnis writes in the 2018 ISS NHL Draft Guide. "He's big, strong and physical with a long reach. He projects as a stay-at-home, shut down defender."
Here's a name that should look familiar. Mattias Samuelsson is the son of former Flyers defenseman and current development coach Kjell Samuelsson.
While his pedigree as a big, physical defenseman is certainly there -- he's 6'3", 217 pounds -- the Western Michigan University commit has some solid offensive tools and a well-rounded defensive game already.
He's able to play long minutes in all situations, he uses his size to his advantage, he has great reach and has all the makeup of a shutdown defenseman. His potential is to likely fit into a second-pairing role and possess great smarts to his game, especially in his positioning. The Flyers connection here is something to watch as the first round progresses, pending how the board plays out.
"Good base and power output. Strong in battles, good d-stick," ISS Scout Luke Curadi writes in the 2018 ISS NHL Draft Guide. "Good shot from up top on PP. Better offensively when he doesn't try to do too much and makes more simple plays. Some sandpaper in his game."
Kevin Durso is Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.