Potato Picks: 2018 Draft

In this post we will go over the potato rankings for the 2018 draft. I guarantee you it will be unlike other rankings found.

One thing that is unusual about this draft is the number of highly-ranked defenders at the top. Most of the rankings for prior drafts do not see any defenders at the very top. Victor Hedman was ranked first overall in 2009 and OEL ranked 4th in that same draft. Other top-ten defenders for 2009-2017 include:

Esa Lindell
Adam Larsson
Cody Ceci
Dougie Hamilton
Seth Jones

Generally speaking, evaluating defenders in this way is difficult, but the weak spot is more in finding defenders who do not put up points. When a defender does put up points in their draft year, they seldom completely miss.

With all that pre-amble out of the way, let's take a look at the top twenty for 2018:

  1. Rasmus Dahlin
  2. Evan Bouchard
  3. Andrei Svechnikov
  4. Noah Dobson
  5. Filip Zadina
  6. Jesperi Kotkaniemi
  7. Isac Lundeström
  8. Martin Kaut
  9. Jacob Olofsson
  10. Filip HÃ¥llander
  11. Joe Veleno
  12. Alexander Alexeyev
  13. Akil Thomas
  14. Oliver Wahlstrom
  15. Ryan McLeod
  16. David Gustafsson
  17. Jonatan Berggren
  18. Linus Karlsson
  19. Carl Wassenius
  20. Nathan Dunkley

This is, I guarantee you, a different ranking than you have seen elsewhere. Most notable is 3 of the top 4 being defenders. Dahlin's score is the highest for a defender since Hedman, which shouldn't be a big surprise given the similarity of their numbers in the top Swedish league.

Bouchard is the one who stands out as he is a D who led his team in scoring by a wide margin but seems to be talked about as a lesser player than the other D due to concerns over his skating. We will see if those concerns are founded. Dobson rounds out the D as the 3rd D in the top 4 players, highly unusual.

Isac Lundestrom and Martin Kaut are both highly ranked due to their performance in good men's league. I do not have a super strong read on the Czech league as the data is limited, so Kaut could realistically be anywhere on this list depending on how you rate its strength. Olofsson and Hallander are the other two players playing in strong leagues who could probably be snagged in the 2nd round, along with Jonatan Gustafsson and Berggren.

The potato really likes the European players in this draft. I don't think it is a systemic bias in the system but something unique to 2018 as there are just not a lot of North American forwards putting up big numbers this season. Brady Tkachuk's numbers are underwhelming enough to put him outside the top-20, along with Bode Wilde and a few other American players.

Linus Karlsson and Carl Wassenius are especially interesting, as players who are probably not going to be drafted, Wassenius especially. Both are playing in the Swedish SuperElit which is a relatively weak league but their numbers are strong enough to keep them high and they might be worth a look in the later rounds.

Where are Quinn Hughes and Adam Boqvist? Well, as mentioned the hardest thing for the potato to evaluate, and where it misses the most often, is with defenders who do not put up big points. This is simply a blind spot that it will likely always have. Hughes is a 5'10" defender with pretty meh numbers in the relatively weak Big 10, so is never going to be a target for the potato. Boqvist is the player for whom data is just so limited. He played in the SHL this season but registered only a single point in 15 games, to go along with 2 points in 7 Allsvenskan games. His 24 points in 25 games in the junior league is okay, but not enough to overcome his small size. It will be fascinating to follow the progression of these two players to see how much value was added by scouts.

One last player who is not in the top-20 but I have talked about previously is Einar Emanuelssonn. This is a player who previously ranked in the top-20, however a few minor changes to the model have been enough to push his ranking lower down, as the incorporation of more data has indicated that I was previously overrating 21-year-old players. It will still be interesting to follow him although I am not expecting him to be drafted, I would be curious to know if he is worth signing after the draft as a free agent.

Regardless of how it all plays out, the 2018 draft will be a fascinating one to follow. With this post I am setting the absolute baseline for draft performance, and all scouting staffs cam be evaluated based upon how much better they perform than the potato. Are they right about Bouchard's skating to put him on a lower tier than small defenders like Boqvist and Hughes? We will see!

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