Popular opinion says the 2013 NHL Draft is the deepest in years, possibly the best since 2003 that featured the likes of Nathan Horton, Jeff Carter, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Patrice Bergeron and Shea Weber. While most draft prognosticators have similar selections amongst the top 15, things really start to get interesting after that.
Of the scouts I spoke to, many of them feel as if there are several gems to be had from 15-50, and some teams will be surprised as to what’s available to them when their picks come around.
What makes this draft interesting is the depth at all positions. In goal, Zachary Fucale is the head of the class, while Eric Comrie, Tristan Jarry, and Philippe Desrosiers are all top prospects. There is varying opinion on how the defencemen are ranked, but at least seven of them should go in the first round. When it comes to centremen, there’s an abundance of riches, starting with Nathan MacKinnon and moving to Sasha Barkov, Sean Monahan and Bo Horvat to name a few. And on the wing, who wouldn’t want Jonathan Drouin or Valeri Nichushkin?
Compliance buyouts, the salary cap moving down, new coaches and GM’s in a couple of markets and ownership issues in New Jersey and Phoenix make for a lot of moving parts.
Another factor that will play prominently is the number of teams with multiple picks in the first two rounds. Calgary, and Columbus each have three first-round picks, Buffalo and Dallas each have two. Montreal, Winnipeg and San Jose have three second-round picks, while Edmonton, Buffalo, and Dallas each have a pair of seconds.
Subsequently the draft board you see now, will likely look a lot different come Sunday at three p.m.
The toughest part about any mock draft is keeping with the notion that most teams draft based on best player available as opposed to organizational need. In some instances, it doesn’t hold true. For example, the Colorado Avalanche have gone on record about Nathan MacKinnon fitting into a third line centre role right away. And, in the case of the Edmonton Oilers where youth and depth up front are evident, it would be hard to see the Oilers taking a forward with the seventh-overall pick. But, for the most part, teams tend to stick to the best player available theory.
In any event, here’s how I see things shaking down as the draft board stands today.
Nathan MacKinnon, F (Halifax, QMJHL)
The story book ending with Jones going first overall seems like a distant memory. I think the Avs put it out there to spark trade interest, but in any event, a right shot centre with explosive quickness and hands to match along with the watchful eye of Patrick Roy during the QMJHL season just became too much not to take MacKinnon. The pick remains in play as trade bait.
Seth Jones, D (Portland, WHL)
Dale Tallon had a lot of success building from the back end out in Chicago. About a month ago, the Panthers felt is if MacKinnon was all theirs, and a perfect fit to play with Calder Cup winner Jonathan Huberdeau. Now, they’ll be tempted by taking Drouin or Barkov, but the opportunity to get a defenceman that can play next year, move pucks, and join the rush will be too much for Tallon to pass-up.
Aleksander Barkov, F (Tappara, SM-liiga)
He’s already proven to be a top player against men in Europe. His game is more complete than he gets credit for and with his size, could step into Tampa’s lineup tomorrow. He won’t be able to replace Vinny Lecavalier right away, but within a year or two, he might. Tampa isn’t afraid to buck convention as they did taking Slater Koekkoek 11th overall in 2012.
Jonathan Drouin, F (Halifax, QMJHL)
In recent draft history, it’s been the number three spot that has proven to be gold as the top two teams make the decision for you (see Alex Galchenyuk in 2012, Jonathan Huberdeau in 2011 and Matt Duchene in 2009). But in this case, Nashville will be given a gift from the heavens at number four as their pick will be dictated by the three teams picking ahead. If not for his size, Drouin would be considered to be the best player available in the draft and the Preds will kiss the draft floor if Tampa bucks convention.
Valeri Nichushkin, F (Chelyabinsk, KHL)
After the year Alexander Semin had, the ‘Canes won’t be afraid to draft Nichushkin. The two players share the same agent, and an opportunity for mentorship will be presented right away. If the ‘Canes feel they can wait on Nichuskin, he’ll get a chance to be a top flight player in the KHL. It’s NHL or back home for this ultra-skilled forward. He’s shown scouts the best of times and the worst of times over the past 12 months, but when he’s on, he’s an impact player with huge offensive upside that will only get better as he fills out.
Sean Monahan, F (Ottawa, OHL)
A victim of over-scouting because of his late birthday, Monahan is still the real deal. He’s a second-line centre in the NHL all day long, and while it might take another two years to get him there, the Flames will be all set for a long-long time after Monahan makes his NHL debut. He’s smart, has good size and the two-way game is already an asset.
Nikita Zadorov, D (London, OHL)
Zadorov grew by leaps and bounds this season, starting the year like a deer in the headlights, but asserting himself at the end of the year like a guy who’s potential is unlimited. There is some risk with this pick here as Darnell Nurse will be available, but Zadorov has no ceiling. Having said that, he needs to take better care of himself and will draw much tougher assignments this season in London. How he handles those things will go a long way in telling you how long it will take him to make it to the show and how good he’ll be once he gets there.
Elias Lindholm, F (Brynas, SEL)
One scout told me Lindholm should’ve had at least some consideration for being taken first overall. Had he been in North America, that might’ve happened. Lindholm has great hockey sense, and an enviable two-way game. Rarely can you go wrong with Swedes. Generally Swedish players are brought up well, are in great shape, are coachable and conduct themselves as pros on and off the ice. Scouts have compared Lindholm with Daniel Alfredsson and Henrik Zetterburg. This is a safe pick for Buffalo and will allow them to be more risky with the 16th-overall pick should it feel the need.
Darnell Nurse, D (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL)
Some will consider this a slip for Nurse. Lou Lamoriello will be thinking of guys like Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko with this pick and the Devils’ faithful should be on their feet with a guy who’s super athletic, is a pain in the rear-end to play against and will have no trouble defending himself or his teammates. Some have overrated Nurse’s offensive upside, but he’ll bring so many more things to the table that offense will be the least of New Jersey’s concerns.
Bo Horvat, F (London, OHL)
The “Ox” as he’s known in London, has the most complete game of anyone in the draft. Having learned from Corey Perry and Drew Doughty in the lockout, Horvat added net-front presence to his already vast arsenal this past season. He’s always improving in the faceoff circle, he’s a big boned guy whose frame should stand up to the rigors of the NHL and he’ll be able to play second and third line minutes while giving you all you need in the special teams department. When he gets to the show, he’ll likely start as a third line guy and with some NHL seasoning will figure out how to produce enough to make him a mainstay as a second line centre for years to come.
Rasmus Ristolainen, D (TPS, SM-liiga)
He’s a perfect fit for the Broad Street Bullies style of play. He’s got great character, leadership skills and is as hard-nosed a European player as you’ll find. There will be some limits on his ability to produce, but he should be able to handle himself appropriately in his own end. He was able to get by on strength alone this past season, but upon his arrival in the NHL, he’ll need to keep his game simple to be effective.
Max Domi, F (London, OHL)
His Mastercard Memorial Cup was very pedestrian other than the highlight reel, between the legs assist. Domi possess first step explosiveness and the ability to cut across the ice better than anyone in the draft. His shot is NHL calibre, and size will not be an issue as he’ll play as gritty as Pat Verbeek did. He showed signs of fatigue down the stretch, but when he’s right, he’ll make something happen on just about every shift. NHL bloodlines are always nice to have in the back pocket, but Domi has definitely made a name for himself and will continue to do so with another Memorial Cup appearance and likely a spot on Canada’s world junior team at Christmas.
Anthony Mantha, F (Val d’Or, QMJHL)
Things came easy to Mantha, and a 60-goal season wasn’t out of the question. An entire NHL skill set is present fronted by his big-league shot. Mantha will need to challenge himself more this season and show some more bite in his game. But, his ability to score off the rush or in front of the net is an huge asset few in this draft possess. Size and high-end skill are tough to find in one package.
Alexander Wennberg, F (Djurgarden, Allsvenskan)
For a top-15 pick, Wennberg has been under the radar. He interviewed with 28 teams at the NHL Combine in May and will be a perfect first pick for Columbus as they will try and re-stock their development system. Wennberg has two years remaining on his Swedish contract, but that may be a good thing as he continues to learn his trade from teammate Patric Hornqvist, He will have to add strength and size to his frame. No one should be more in tune with the European market than Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen.
Samuel Morin, D (Rimouski, QMJHL)
A hulking blue liner who’s a rink rat, Morin has huge upside. His rise to the middle of the first round reminds me of how far Stuart Percy came in 2011 when Toronto took him 25th overall. Morin was used perfectly while winning gold at the 2013 U-18 championship and as he continues to develop, he’ll be a player you can put out in any situation. He’s got long reach and uses his stick well defensively. The most underrated part of Morin’s game is puck skill. Several scouts I spoke to feel he’ll be more of an offensive player than what he’s been credited for up to this point. He does have a bomb of a shot that will be an asset to an NHL power-play.
Mirco Mueller, D (Everett, WHL)
The Sabres will be overjoyed when Mueller falls into their lap here. One scout said confidently, “he’s the second best defenceman in this draft.” Mueller stayed out of the spotlight playing in Everett and took some time to adjust to playing without Ryan Murray. He’s loaded with determination but lacks some of the flash and dash as those that will be chosen ahead of him. As a youngster in Switzerland, Mueller had to commute a total of 1.5 hours daily to play in Kloten, which gave him the best coaching and opportunity to develop.
Kerby Rychel, F (Windsor, OHL)
No team has had more recent draft success than Ottawa. At the end of the season, the Sens were full of home-grown talent at every position. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Ottawa move down in order to acquire another asset, likely in the second round as it will not pick again until midway through the third round. Having said that, if they do pick here, Rychel will be a good fit. Not only does he possess the ability to score, but he’s got high hockey IQ. Projections of where he will fit at the NHL level are tough, but a combination of Chris Neil grit and Kyle Turris-like skill should eventually come to the forefront and make Rychel a top-six forward down the line.
Adam Erne, F (Quebec, QMJHL)
Considered by some teams to be a project, Erne possess off the charts skill. He can skate, shoot it a ton, and when pushed, can play a physical game. His interviews with teams were all over the map. He comes with a reputation of being a locker-room lawyer and concerns about his shape have been evident since day one. Detroit is no stranger to taking first round talents later in the draft (Martin Frk 49th overall in 2012, Andreas Athanasiou 110th overall 2012), but Erne won’t be around past the first round so Detroit will jump if he’s there.
Curtis Lazar, F (Edmonton, WHL)
Lazar is character plus. He’s an huge hockey fan and possesses an even keel temperament essential to having success at the NHL level. He’s been compared to Bo Horvat, but Horvat’s ability to master centre ice has put him ahead of Lazar. Other than that, his attention to detail in all three zones, a big league shot and creativity are all traits Columbus will covet with this surefire player. He’s as safe a pick as this draft has to offer, and will be a huge boon for Columbus in this spot.
Ryan Pulock, D (Brandon, WHL)
Pulock possesses the best defenceman shot in this draft and for that reason alone, he’ll contribute to an NHL power play in the coming years. He’s had to mature quickly with a Brandon team that has been mediocre the last two years, but that has only helped speed-up Pulock’s development. In street clothes, he might be mistaken for the Incredible Hulk. The first impression he gave me was one of an introvert, but scouts tell me you really need to get to know him before his personality comes out. At times, he gives off hints of complacency, but that can be coached out of him as he matures.
Hunter Shinkaruk, F (Medicine Hat, WHL)
Skill is the most coveted asset for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Shinkaruk is loaded with it. A year ago, people would’ve been shocked to see Shinkaruk outside of the top 10, but scouts say he has the potential to be the biggest first round slider in this class. You can’t teach goal-scoring, and Shinkaruk will do that in the NHL as well. Two things will lead to his sliding outside the top-20. His relative indifference to defending and his slight frame that some scouts don’t see getting a whole lot bigger.
Morgan Klimchuk, F (Regina, WHL)
If for nothing else, Klimchuk will play in the NHL because of his versatility. He’s played various roles while representing Canada internationally, most recently as a puck mover to the second coming of Wayne Gretzky (Connor McDavid) during the U-18’s. In both of his most recent international events, Klimchuk’s role evolved and changed, showing great adaptability. Klimchuk won’t be an instant top-six forward, and will likely need some AHL seasoning, but once he cracks an NHL roster, he’ll find a way to get into the top-six if not consistently, for sure occasionally.
Frederik Gauthier, F (Rimouski, QMJHL)
Early projections showed Gauthier as a top-10 pick, but he does lack finish in his game to be placed there. Other than that, this man child should be a menace in the NHL once he fills out and gets more reps against high-level competition. Gauthier will have to improve in the faceoff circle and become more of a physical presence commiserate with a guy his size, but there’s a lot to like and potential becoming of his size.
Ryan Hartman, F (Plymouth, OHL)
He has the potential to be Ryan Kesler like. An American born who plays with a burr under his saddle at all times. Hartman doesn’t possess Kesler’s size, but does possess similar determination to be a difference maker on most nights. Hartman interviewed well and comes from a top program in Plymouth where Mike Velucci continues to churn out NHL first rounders.
Zachary Fucale, G (Halifax, QMJHL)
The best goaltender this draft has to offer. Fucale has played more games than any other first-year draft eligible goalie in recent memory. Fucale has all world skill and a calming demeanor that allows him to put poor performances behind him quickly. Although he’s played on an Halifax team that always has the puck, Fucale has had to challenge himself to practice hard and be sharp despite long lulls of in-game activity. A Montreal area native, Habs fans will fall instantly in love. And with multiple second round picks, the Canadiens will be able to find help in other areas with those picks.
Valentin Zykov, F (Baie-Comeau, QMJHL)
Eric Veilleux and Baie Comeau helped bring much needed structure to Zykov’s life and to his game. He plays a heavy game and has committed himself off the ice to learn English, showing me that he’s dedicated to a career in the NHL. Zykov has a big-league shot and the hands to allow him to create space where space is at a premium. His skating needs work, but with effort and coaching, that will come.
Laurent Dauphin, C (Chicoutimi, QMJHL)
A beautifully smooth skater, Dauphin has answered the call at every turn. He had no issues making the jump from midget AAA to the QMJHL. He became a go-to guy in Chicoutimi and was clutch in the process, amassing nine game-winning goals. Dauphin was parachuted into the Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects game and had the game-winning goal there as well. If not for an injury, he would’ve been more of an impact player for Don Hay at the U-18’s, but with the injury still held his own.
Emile Poirier, F (Gatineau, QMJHL)
I see great potential in Calgary moving this pick, but if they do keep it, they’ll stick with the forward position and come up with he sleeper pick of the first round. Having already acquired skill up front with their picks at six and 22, Poirier will add grit and grease with enough skill to produce in a third-line role in the NHL. Poirier is the only player on NHL’s Central Scouting list to put up at least 70 points and 100 PIM. He jumped off the charts in the second half, and is well coached by Benoit Groulx — Maxime Talbot, Claude Giroux and David Krejci to name a few. More than any other player, scouts felt Poirier would be a first round sleeper.
Nic Petan, C (Portland, WHL)
With Jim Nill now at the helm, he’ll preach patience in the Dallas organization. Petan will push that patience within the next two years because of the completeness of his game. Petan has plenty of offensive abilities, but his defensive awareness gets overlooked. He reads the game well and gets to places on the ice where he can impact a play in all three zones. Petan’s size will leave doubt, but getting to know him and how driven he is, will ease those concerns.
Josh Morrissey, D (Prince Albert, WHL)
Chicago won’t believe its eyes when Morrissey is still around at the end of the first round. While size is really the only knock against this guy, he’ll be passed over because of the upside of those ahead of him. One thing is for certain with Morrissey; he’ll do everything in his power not just to play in the show, but to have a serious impact there. You won’t find a kid in the draft with better awareness of his surroundings. Morrissey is a safe bet to play and because he’s so coachable, will carve out his own niche despite is average size.