NHL draft 2018 preview. - March

Well it's a tad early but in June the draft arrives. The year a tall 6ft 2 inch Swedish defender named Rasmus Dahlin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dv5eJZ4uKHQ  looks a shoo in to go number one. He has drawn comparisons to Karlsson but may be bigger and more like Hedman with major skills. Word is this is an average draft, so not as loaded say as the 2015 McDavid draft. As per Sportsnet. Bear in mind drafts vary and are projections. In this draft you may see highly differing opinions after the top 10. The Leafs depending on how far they go into the playoffs will likely be drafting after the top 20 and may be as low as say 25th overall.

Odds to win the 2018 NHL Draft lottery

Arizona Coyotes55 points18.0%48.1%
Buffalo Sabres56 points12.5%36.2%
Vancouver Canucks59 points10.5%31.2%
Ottawa Senators59 points9.5%28.6%
Montreal Canadiens62 points8.5%25.9%
Detroit Red Wings63 points7.6%23.4%
Edmonton Oilers64 points6.7%20.9%
Chicago Blackhawks68 points5.8%18.3%
New York Rangers69 points5.4%17.1%
New York Islanders70 points4.5%14.4%
Carolina Hurricanes71 points3.3%10.7%
New York Islanders (via Flames)              78 points    2.7%    8.8%
Florida Panthers                                       75points     2.2%    7.2%

Anaheim Ducks                                        80 points    1.8%     5.9%
Philadelphia Flyers (via Blues)                 79 points    1.0%     3.3%

Rasmus Dahlin, D, 6-foot-2, 181 pounds (Frolunda, SHL): Erik Karlsson, Victor Hedman and now Dahlin. Are you ready for the next franchise-changing defenceman from Sweden?
2. Filip Zadina, RW, 6-foot-1, 196 pounds (Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL): The Mooseheads’ import factory strikes again and sends a high-end sniper to the top of the NHL draft.
3. Andrei Svechnikov, RW, 6-foot-2, 186 pounds (Barrie Colts, OHL): Led all scorers at the Five Nations tournament and has put up points at a torrid pace with the Barrie Colts since the world juniors (38 in 22 games).
4. Brady Tkachuk, LW, 6-foot-3, 196 pounds (Boston University, NCAA): Better than older brother Matthew?
5. Adam Boqvist, D, 5-foot-11, 170 pounds (Almtuna IS, Allsvenskan): A fantastic skater and playmaker who isn’t afraid to shoot. If you don’t end up with Dahlin, getting Boqvist is more than just a consolation prize.
6. Noah Dobson, D, 6-foot-3, 180 pounds (Acadie-Bathurst Titan, QMJHL): The secret is out, this righthand shot blueliner is legit.
7. Oliver Wahlstrom, RW, 6-foot-1, 205 pounds (USNTDP): Eight points at the Five Nations (tied with tourney leader Svechnikov) and a solid spot on the U.S U18 top line, Wahlstrom continues to produce big in his draft year.
8. Evan Bouchard, D, 6-foot-2, 193 pounds (London Knights, OHL): Despite his Knights trading away most of their vets, Bouchard has continued to excel in all areas. February’s defenceman of the month in the OHL is also a natural leader.
9. Quinn Hughes, D, 5-foot-10, 174 pounds (U of Michigan, NCAA): One of the most creative players in the draft. An outstanding skater who can create even in the most challenging situations.
10. Isac Lundestrom, C, 6-foot, 185 pounds (Lulea, SHL): As one scout told me “he’s the Swedish Patrice Bergeron.” A lofty compliment, but the comparisons are there.
11. Barrett Hayton, C, 6-foot-1, 191 pounds (Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds, OHL):Extremely focussed and hard-working, Hayton is the “all-in” guy every team loves to have. Nursing a small injury and the ‘Hounds are being careful with him.
12. Joel Farabee, LW, 6-feet, 164 pounds (USNTDP): Hard-working, skilled playmaker who is magical with the puck on his stick.
13. Bode Wilde, D, 6-foot-3, 195 pounds (USNTDP): Offensive defenceman who plays physical. Leads all USNTDP blueliners with 32 points. Hard wrist and slap shot from the point.
14. Joe Veleno, C, 6-foot-1, 195 pounds (Drummondville Voltigeurs, QMJHL):Has excelled since the trade from Saint John to Drummondville where he’s being coached by the excellent Dominique Ducharme.
15. Grigori Denisenko, LW, 5-foot-11, 176 pounds (Yaroslavl Jr.): Great passer who also boasts a good shot. Played on the top line with Andrei Svechnikov and Alexander Khovanov for Russia at the Five Nations tourney.
16. Ty Smith, D,D, 5-foot-11, 176 pounds (Spokane Chiefs, WHL): Speed and smarts, those are the calling cards of the first overall pick in the 2015 WHL draft.
17. Rasmus Kupari, C, 6-foot-1, 183 pounds (Hermes, Mestis Finland): Not the biggest guy on the ice by any stretch, but can create and finish. And does it all with great bursts of speed.
18. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, 6-foot-2, 190 pounds (Assat, Finnish Liiga): Physically he has everything you want – skill, speed, size and he keeps improving.
19. Jet Woo, D, 5-foot-11, 205 pounds (Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL): Has more than a bit of ‘old school’ in his game and isn’t afraid to throw the body around.
20. Rasmus Sandin, D, 5-foot-11, 190 pounds (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL): Even with the Conor Timmins (COL) injury the ‘Hounds have not skipped a beat on the blue line mainly due to Sandin’s work. Plays tough minutes in all situatio.

21. Jared McIsaac, D, 6-foot-1, 195 pounds (Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL): Good skater with offensive instincts and has just enough bite in his game to keep players honest.
22. Serron Noel, RW, 6-foot-5, 201 pounds (Oshawa Generals, OHL): Skilled yet raw power forward who keeps getting better and better.
23. Ryan McLeod, C, 6-foot-2, 200 pounds (Mississauga Steelheads, OHL): A slippery and skilled centre, McLeod has high-end vision. As one OHL GM told me “where his brother Michael (NJ) smashes down the front door to score, Ryan sneaks in through the side.”
24. Alexander Khovanov, C, 5-foot-11, 179 pounds (Moncton Wildcats, QMJHL):Great puck distributor with excellent vision.
25. Jacob Olofsson, C, 6-foot-1, 192 pounds (Timra, Allsvenskan): A reliable two-way centre who almost made the Swedish WJC team. Plays a lot with Canucks prospect Jonathan Dahlen.
26. Ryan Merkley, D, 5-foot-11, 170 pounds (Guelph Storm, OHL): Has top 5 skill without a doubt and can skate.
28. Dominik Bokk, LW, 6-foot-1, 180 pounds (Vaxjo, SHL): Another great hockey story for Germany in 2018.
29. Akil Thomas, C, 5-foot-11, 170 pounds (Niagara IceDogs, OHL): Huge ceiling here that Thomas is only now starting to scratch.
30. K’Andre Miller, D, 6-foot-3, 206 pounds (USNTDP): Was outstanding and probably the top U.S defenceman at the U18 Five Nations. Great skating blueliner who isn’t shy about joining the rush.
31. Mattias Samuelsson, D, 6-foot-4, 217 pounds (USNTDP): Big, strong, and safe defenceman. Son of former NHLer Kjell Samuelsson.

all scorers at the Five Nations tournament and has put up points at a torrid pace with the Barrie Colts since the world juniors (38 in 22 games).y Tkachuk, LW, 6-foot-3, 196 pounds (Boston University, NCAA): Better than older brother Matthew.

Babcock sounds the alarm as nemesis Buffalo looms. March madness....

A big game looms for Toronto against arch nemesis the Buffalo Sabres on Monday in Buffalo. The Sabres are fresh off a victory against the  Eastern conference leading Tampa Bay Lightning , just as Babcock hits the red button putting the Leafs through a high tempo 40 minute practice on Sunday. "Yeah..it was a lot of skating." said one Leaf player. The Leafs record against Buffalo over the last 10 or so years is a good reason for Babcock to be concerned. The Leafs have played Buffalo 206 times winning 75 games for .434 winning percentage. To make things a little tougher, it will be in Buffalo where Toronto rarely wins. Toronto is now 2-5-2 without star American Auston Mathews going up against a team they in theory should beat, otherwise they are 0-4 in the last few games. Not the way Babcock wants his team to enter the final quarter of the season where being hot going into the playoffs is almost critical. Below Toronto is Florida, 15 points behind with games in hand but 6 - 0 and very hot lately.

Naturally, Babcock was on top of it and concerned. It isn't time to panic just yet and Babcock will not be interested in using the Mathews is injured card. The Leafs have a young but loaded lineup and many teams often say this situations create opportunity. To date it can't be said that Plekanec has had much impact but then players often take 10 games or so to gel with a new system and environment. All of a sudden a game that shouldn't be all that important is. Babcock knows that 15 point lead can cause complancey and if Florida did win its' 4 games on hand that lead would quickly shrink to a mere 7 points. To furthur complicate things losing to the 2nd worst team in the NHL who just lost Evander Kane might hurt their psyche. The truth is Mathews alone can't beat Boston, Washington, Pittsburgh or Tampa Bay this year. As the games get tougher now and more like the playoffs there are far more 1 goal and OT games where Babcock wants this team to excel entering the playoffs hot. Buffalo is an excellent test and if the players don't respond Babcock is right to be alarmed and so is Lou Lamorello the Leafs' GM. Lou just gave up a 2nd rounder but some fans will have the expectation of it paying dividends now. There are many fans who are hardcore rebuild mode and if the Leafs lost the first round the year would be perceived by many as a failure. The argument being Toronto still needs to load up on picks and prospects to have organizational depth when the spending spree on their young stars(Mathews, Nylander and Marner) begins soon. The truth is Toronto most likely is long odds against the big 4 in the Eastern conference and adding Plekanec at 35 isn't going to change that. Stay tuned for Monday's game.

 Like it or not, this is an important game and portends whether Toronto will be ready or not come playoff time as only 14 games will be left in their season and Mathews is still out with a shoulder injury. As of 3 pm Eastern interviews with the Buffalo players "It is an easy game to get up for, there is a rivalry there."  Sounds like this is a good test for the Leafs tonight and perhaps Mike Babcock saw something in their play lately and gave good cause for his concern. Going 0 and 4 tonight will put Leaf nation on high alert as we have all seen the cliff dive at the end before.It would be nice to see some veterans start contributing again. Did anyone tell JVR the trade deadline is over yet and that his free agency loom$? At this time it is unlikely injured star center Auston Mathews will be in the game. He is skating but no timeline truly exists yet.

Coming back to the fold tonight is Leaf enforcer Matt Martin who is all smiles understandably. Looks like we should expect a fiesty playoff style game tonight. Chad Johnson will be starting in net for Buffalo does that qualify as an advantage? Probably he is 31, I haven't seen him play but sounds like a backup to me.

Early in the first Buffalo has Toronto on it's heals in their own zone down by 2 goals. Reinhart struck on the PP and Pominville at even strength. 2 to 1, Komorov jumps on a Nylander rebound as the first ends on a powerplay goal assist to Marleau. In the 2nd Komorov scores again, assist to Martin. Looks like that 40 minute practice may have slowed them down in the first and we have a game again. 3 to 2 Buffalo, goal by Reinhart on a fluker odd goal. JVR bats one out of the air with some good hand eye co ordination but Johnson stops it. 4 to 2 for Buffalo, O 'Reilly beats Andersen glove side. The 5th goal by Buffalo showed the NHL has no bias against Toronto as the Buffalo players slew foots Andersen and then pounces on the puck as Andersen lies on his back.Marner gets a nice deflection off the Buffalo defenseman but too little too late. Game over Buffalo 5 Toronto 3. Leafs enter March 0 and 4. They now get a few days off.

The Leafs faced two consecutive time Stanley cup winners Pittsburgh on Saturday at home. The

Leafs were on an 0 and 4 skid looking to put some space between themselves and red hot Florida who beat NYR 4 to 3 in OT. The Leafs played well in their 5 to 2 win with one controversial goal being disallowed to Pitts when their player struck Andersen in the head while he had the puck frozen between his skate and the post. Johnson, Pittsburgh's coach was livid but tonight the puck rolled Toronto's way as Kadri scored twice and shutting down Crosby. Marner, Marleau and Kapanen chipped in singles as Andersen saved 38 shots, he had another busy night. The Leafs played well , broke their mini slump and now face the Dallas Stars in Toronto on Wednesday. Dallas will be looking for payback as they lost to the Leafs last time in Dallas.

Wow, quite the game on Wednesday in Toronto with a wild 6 to 5 OT shootout win for the Leafs. It wasn't quite playoff style but had some urgency to it. Kadri got lucky as Dallas' goaltender wobbled a clearing pass straight to him giving Toronto the first goal. JVR scored 1 of 3 goals on his hatrick night putting Toronto up 2 to 0. Then Dallas started to hit on all cylinders. After Benn and Seguin were done it was 4 to 2 Dallas and Andersen was out with an upper body injury. Toronto then got a couple as the game seesawed until with some 15 seconds left in the game Marleau scored on a Marner shot putting the game into OT at 5 to 5 even. There was no scoring in OT and so Marner became the penalty shot hero giving Toronto a nice cushion of 2 points over Florida on one crazy offense filled game.

On March 13th Buffalo came back to Toronto and the Leafs injury list grew as Komorov got hit accidentally by Nylander and hobbled of the ice unable to out weight on one leg. JVR scored twice as Toronto took a 4 to 1 lead into the 3rd period. Buffalo got the score to 4 to 2 but pulled the goalie allowing Marleau to place an empty netter in and make this sleepy game 5 to 2 on the back of 38 saves by McLhenney. 2 points and Florida still faces Boston several times. The playoffs are now in view. Mathews, Andersen, Zaitsev and now Komorov are injured or still out. JVR is laser hot with 5 goals in just 2 games.

Saturday Montreal was in town but it was Andreas Johnson's night. Smiling all game Johnsson had his chances and finally got his first NHL goal the fourth of night. McElhinney got his 3rd shutout of night and is unbeaten in 8 games now. Nylander opened it scoring first then Kapanen struck with a nice goal. Kadri had a sweet tip in. Getting chances all night Johnson lifted the puck in tight to get an in close goal to remember. Tonight a non playoff team played a playoff team and it showed. I think it is safe to say, Toronto unofficially clinched the playoffs tonight and earned it. Mathews is out but is allowed contact again, he expects the injury to linger....hmmmm. I suspect in Andersen's case he is being rested for the playoffs.With 93 pts Toronto has a comfortable 16 pt lead and 10 games left to play this year before playoffs. Florida sitting at 77 pts has to play the red hot Bruins 4 more times.

Tampa Bay 4 Toronto Maple Leafs 3.
It was the best of times , it was the worst of times. Toronto went up 3 to zip on the back of 2 more JVR goals but a veteran Tampa Bay team scored late in the 2nd to make it 3 to 1. Tampa scored 3 in the 3rd as Toronto didn't respond. A wake up call onto Nashville.

Welcome back Auston Mathews ! Toronto got a plethora of goals from JVR, Mathews,Nylander, Marner and Gardiner. They looked a threat on every shift. In the end it was a 5 to 2 win over Nashville one of the best teams in the league at home. Toronto was flying and looked the bigger threat all night. A great win now off back to Toronto for Detroit at home Saturday. A win here surely claims playoffs and the first time the Maple Leafs are back to back years in the playoffs for a long time. This team is starting to look very promising.

Well on Saturday the Leafs won their 13th straight home game against Detroit on the strength of Kadri's 13th go ahead goal. It wasn't a playoff type game but they won it in a close game.They now face Buffalo on Monday and Florida on Wednesday both games are at home and a win will surely seal the playoffs where we might even face two time stanley cup winner Pittsburgh, what a test that would be.

Current league tables :NHL Standings March 25th 2018.

March 27th was the Jack Eichel show as he scored 2 ending our 13 game hone win streak. Buffalo considers us a rival and gets up for these games. Full credit to Buffalo for a well deserved 3-2 win. We now play Florida and a win here should seal playoffs, it should be a good test as Florida is hunting for a playoff spot and must play Boston 4 more times.

March 28th Florida came to town and the Leafs started out strong going up 3 to 0 with Mathews launching the 2nd goal to get his 30th of the year. Toronto now has 3 -30' goal scorers in JVR, Kadri and Auston Mathews. In the 2nd Florida ripped back with 2 nice goals by Hurbedeau making it 3 to 2 Toronto after 2 periods. It would be far worse if not for Luongo's play. JVR shovels in his 35th of the season while falling and Toronto holds on to win 4 to 3 over the Panthers setting a new franchise record with 46 wins and putting Florida in bad situation as New jersey won last night. We now move on to play NYI in New York.Last game of the month of march will be in Toronto versus the powerful Winnigpeg Jets and Laine.

Ottawa clinches the playoffs(March 29th) for Toronto beating Florida on a penalty shot. If the playoffs started today we face the Tampa Bay Lightning. Funny reward for our best season ever.

Current standings March 30th 2018 NHL standings for March30th 2018

On the last day of March we found out who the best team in Canada is. Winnipeg handed Toronto a 3 to 1 loss in Toronto. The Leafs took the lead on a Marleau tip in from Mathews in the first. Then Winnipeg took over the next 2 periods using size and grit even running McElhenney. The difference was defense and size. Winnipeg is built to win a cup, Toronto still has some building to do this summer. Time will help as our core ages but we have a dire need for a top 2 defenseman and are in denial about our lack of size.