With the World Junior Summer Showcase recently ended and the Ivan Hlinka Tournament in progress, NHL prospect talk has picked up.
Now an apt time to examine some of the top candidates for early selection in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Here are a few of the most promising defensemen.
Rasmus Dahlin – D
Newest of the star Swedish blue line pipeline, the left-shooting Dahlin played for Frölunda in the Swedish Hockey League, the nation’s top men’s league, at just age 17 last year and in the 2017 WJC at only 16.
Currently 6-2, 181-pounds he’s considered a franchise-changer by some, with comparisons to fellow countryman Erik Karlsson. Several scouts saying he’s further along at his age than Karlsson when 17. He’s hockey-smart, a fast, fluid skater and puck-handler with skilled hands. He lends a physical presence, offensive intuition off the charts, and a wicked shot.
Solid on defensive end with some room to develop in terms of positioning. In just 24 contests with Frölunda’s 2016-17 U-18 squad, Dahlin landed nine goals and 13 assists, with 74 penalty minutes.
Quinn Hughes – D
Not a large rearguard at 5-9, 168-pounds, Hughes is a quick and crafty playmaker with impressive on-ice awareness hailing from Team USA.
Like Ryan Merkley, he amassed 43 assists to go with 10 goals last year in junior play, and added another 26 points, 22 of them assists, in 26 USHL contests.
A University of Michigan commit, he often dictates the pace of the game. He quarterbacks offensive sequences by initiating plays that lead teammates toward the net with pinpoint passes.
Ryan Merkley – D
An offensive blueliner who took significant strides in his defensive game with Guelph last year, his first in the OHL.
Racked up impressive points totals with 12 goals and 43 assists in 62 games, adding 50 penalty minutes. Merkley’s a slick puck handler that’s adept at leading teammates with accurate passes and setting up high-percentage scoring opportunities.
Not a huge defender at 5-11, 165-pounds, Merkley positions himself well and can skillfully slow attackers with his stick, but is developing in his own zone. Still 16 years old, he’ll turn 17 in August.
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