• PROSPECT-UPDATE ARCHIVE
This has been said here a few times before, but it bears repeating in the wake of Friday's strong performances by 2018 NHL draft prospects. Quite simply, this is a remarkably deep draft. The evidence is in the number of players who manage to dominate their games despite being on the younger side of their leagues.
There were so many outstanding efforts on Friday, that is was hard to put together a list of the 10 best. If your favorite NHL team is struggling, take heart -- picking higher up in the draft's first round is probably better than getting trounced in the playoffs' first round.
The list below includes seven major-junior players, one Swede, one from the USHL, and one from Tier II. Nine of the 10 are forwards. Have a look:
JUSTIN BLANCHETTE -- What a night for Blanchette, who stopped 49 shots in Baie-Comeau's 4-3 shootout win at Saint John. The Drakkar goaltender made 16 saves in the first period, 18 in the second, 15 in the third, three in the overtime, and was a perfect 3-for-3 in the shootout. His final stop came against highly-regarded 2018 prospect Joe Veleno. It's easy to forget that Blanchette is actually his QMJHL team's No. 2 goaltender. He will be drafted despite his backup role. (Note: Third appearance on this list in 2017-18)
KODY CLARK -- Come draft day, everybody is going to want Wendel Clark's son -- if only because he's Wendel Clark's son. But Kody is turning out to be a great player in his own right. On Friday night, he put up three assists and seven shots in Ottawa's 5-3 win over Oshawa to earn No. 3 star honors. He had the primary assist on the game's opening goal at 2:19 of the first period, the primary assist on a power-play goal at 6:37 of the second for a 2-1 lead, and the primary assist on a another man-advantage goal at 8:11 of the third to make it 3-3. Clark now has eight goals and eight assists in 20 OHL games, exceeding his totals from 57 games last season. (Note: Fourth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
NATHAN DUNKLEY -- Dunkley, forward, had a big night with a goal and assist to help Kingston rout Peterborough 7-1. He began with the game's first goal on a power play at 3:40 of the opening period and followed up with the primary assist on a goal at 4:50 --the eventual game-winner -- to make it 2-0. He later assisted on a goal at 13:08 of the second period to make it 6-0. Dunkley now has a four-game OHL point streak. He has three goals and four assists over the span.
GABRIEL FORTIER -- Fortier has been unbelievably hot of late, and he kept it up Friday with a goal, two assists, and a 12-for-17 faceoff showing in Baie-Comeau's 4-3 shootout win at Saint John. He began with an assist on the opening goal at 1:31 of the first period. He then assisted on a power-play goal at 2:53 of the second period for a 2-0 lead and soon stretched the lead to 3-0 with a goal at 6:11. This was Fortier's fourth multi-point performance in the past six games. He now has 22 points in 20 QMJHL games, blowing past last year's 17 in 25. (Note: Fifth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
OLOF LINDBOM -- Sweden's goaltender led his nation to a 2-0 win over Team USA at the Five Nations under-18 tournament in Hameenlinna, Finland. He was the difference in the game, as the Swedes were outshot 37-24 by an American team that dropped to 0-2. Lindbom was amazing in the third period, stopping all 23 USA shots.
JACK McBAIN -- the man among boys in the OJHL was the No. 1 star with a goal and assist in the Toronto Jr. Canadiens' 5-0 blowout win at Milton. McBain had the primary assist on a power-play goal (the game-winner) at 2:55 of the first period. Less than three minutes later, he scored for a 3-0 lead at 5:22. It was the third time this season that McBain has been a game's No. 1 star. He now has 29 points in 24 games -- tied for ninth in the league in scoring. (Note: Sixth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
ALLAN McSHANE -- McShane had a hat trick, six shots, and won 11 of 13 faceoffs in Oshawa's 5-3 loss at Ottawa. The No. 2 star provided all of the Generals' goals, starting with his first on a power play at 3:39 of the opening period for a 1-1 tie. He later scored a power-play goal at 2:21 of the second to tie it at 2-2, and scored at 6:38 of the second for a 3-2 lead. It was McShane's third three-point game this season, giving him 22 points in 19 games. (Note: Second appearance on this list in 2017-18)
RYAN O'REILLY -- O'Reilly, a University of Denver recruit, scored twice in Madison's 6-3 win over Cedar Rapids and was the game's No. 2 star. His first goal was scored shorthanded at 10:24 of the second period for a 2-1 lead. Soon after that, he scored at 12:36 to make it 3-1. O'Reilly was among the three stars for the fourth time in 10 USHL outings. He also has seven goals in those 10 games. (Note: Second appearance on this list in 2017-18)
MILOS ROMAN -- Roman quietly posted three assists in Vancouver's 5-4 overtime loss at Kelowna, and the Slovak play-maker now has 17 points in 18 WHL games. On Friday, he assisted on a power-play goal at 16:46 of the first period to tie it at 1-1. He later had the primary assist on a goal at 4:45 of the third period that put the Giants ahead 3-2, and he assisted on another power-play goal at 14:36 of the third to force overtime. (Note: Second appearance on this list in 2017-18)
TY SMITH -- The only defenseman on this list, Smith continued to shine for the Spokane Chiefs in a 6-3 victory at Lethbridge with a goal, two assists and a plus-4 rating. His first assist was the primary oner on a goal 7:29 into the game for a 1-1 tie. He later scored with 33 seconds left in the middle period to make it 5-2, and assisted on the final goal at 18:22 of the third. Smith, who will likely be the first WHL defenseman drafted, has 19 points in 19 games. (Note: Third appearance on this list in 2017-18)