There's nothing I enjoy more than the days leading up to the NHL Draft. Last year was the first time in the past 3 years I didn't write my mock draft, and it just didn't feel right. So this year, I'm back again to share my thoughts on how the 2013 NHL Draft might go. This is a strong year in my eyes, with 5 players who could dramatically change the fortunes of a few lucky franchises. Let's get to it! (Just a note, in the past, I predicted trades. This year, I'm not doing it to keep things more realistic.)
1. Colorado Avalanche select Nathan MacKinnon, C (Halifax - QMJHL)
Unless Colorado is head faking everyone, Nathan MacKinnon will be the #1 selection on Sunday. I'm just not so sure Colorado will be the one making the pick. MacKinnon vaulted himself to number 1 on most boards with his standout performance at the Memorial Cup, using his breath taking speed and laser wrist shot to carry Halifax to victory over the Portland Winterhawks. MacKinnon is a potential franchise player, and has the potential to become one of the league's elite with time.
2. Florida Panthers select Seth Jones, D (Portland - WHL)
If MacKinnon goes #1, Mr. Jones goes #2. That's not debateable. The real question, again, becomes, who will be making the pick? The Panthers can stand to upgrade their blueline, and there's no better way to do it then to add one of the best defensive prospects to come along in 20 years. But if a trade offer comes up that's too good to pass up, Dale Tallon won't hesitate to take it. Either way, it's a win for Florida.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning select Jonathan Drouin, LW (Halifax - QMJHL)
The first tough call of the draft is Drouin vs Nichushkin for Tampa. Although Steve Yzerman likes his Russians, he can't pass up on a potential Drouin-Stamkos pairing. The electric CHL MVP is a wizard with the puck on his stick and will more than help replace the impact of Vincent Lecavlier and, eventually, Martin St. Louis.
4. Nashville Predators select Alexsander Barkov, C (Tapparra - SM-Liiga)
Barkov just seems like an ideal fit for Dave Poile and Barry Trotz in Nashville. A big two-way center, Barkov was impressive against grown men in the Finnish Elite League this past season. He will team with Filip Forsberg to form the future of the Nashville Predators offense.
5. Carolina Hurricanes select Valeri Nichushkin, RW (Chelyabinsk - KHL)
The #5 spot is another potential trade spot. Jim Rutherford has made it clear he will listen to calls, and he'll get plenty if the 6-4 Russian power forward is still on the board. Scouts have Nichushkin ranked as high as #2 on their boards, and many believe he'd be consensus top 3 if his passport was different. There's Evgeni Malkin type of upside here, and playing in Carolina with a fellow countryman in Alex Semin could help ease the transition for young Valeri.
6. Calgary Flames select Sean Monahan, C (Ottawa - OHL)
Tough choice for Calgary General Manager Jay Feaster here as it comes down to Monahan vs Elias Lindholm. In this mock, Feaster opts for the pro ready Monahan to keep the #1 center line role warm until future superstar Mark Jankowski makes his highly anticipated debut... what, you really thought I could mention the Flames with out a Jankowski joke? In all seriousness, it comes down to preference, and I believe Feaster will prefer the bigger more well rounded Monahan to the smaller more skilled Lindholm. Either way, Calgary finds a potential #1 pivot.
7. Edmonton Oilers select Elias Lindholm, C (Brynas - SEL)
On the surface, it doesn't make much sense that the Oilers would select Lindholm here. Although Craig MacTavish has said he'd like to select a center, it was assummed he'd want a guy that can fill a 3rd line role this upcoming season. In the end, MacTavish opts for the future, going with the skilled Swede who will make a nice 1-2 punch with RNH, and also paves the way for a trade of Sam Gagner for some help on the backened. This pick can also be seen as a potential trade slot.
8. Buffalo Sabres select Rasmus Ristolainen, D (TPS - SM-Liiga)
BPA here for Buffalo, a team who needs talent everywhere. I have Ristolainen and Nurse pretty close together on my board, but I would opt for Ristolainen because there's less projection ccnsidering he's already playing well against men, and just as much upside. A solid grab for Darcy Regier here.
9. New Jersey Devils select Hunter Shinkaruk, LW (Medicine Hat - WHL)
New Jersey picks one of the draft's wild cards in Shinkaruk. A sensation in his two underrage years as Emerson Etem's linemate, Shinkaruk seems to be suffering from over exposure this year. Still, this guy can score, and New Jersey needs somebody to help fill the void left by Zach Parise's departure last summer. I like the fit here.
10. Dallas Stars select Bo Horvat, C (London - OHL)
New Stars GM Jim Nill surprises with his first selection, going with the hard nosed two-way center Bo Horvat here. Horvat's compete level and intangeables are off the charts, as the kid does anything to win. He's also a very safe pick, as he will almost assuredly become an NHLer in some capacity one day.
11. Philadelphia Flyers select Darnell Nurse, D (Sault Ste. Marie - OHL)
Nurse to Philadelphia is an ideal situation for both parties. On the Flyers end, they get that high end potential top pairing defensive prospect their organization has been lacking. For Nurse, he gets to play in the same town his famed uncle Donovan McNabb did. Even if his offense never comes around, Nurse is a strong enough skater and a good enough shut down guy to be a valuable defenseman in this league.
12. Phoenix Coyotes select Max Domi, C/LW (London - OHL)
A team that has a severe lack of offensive threats, the Coyotes find what they desperately need in Max Domi. Terrific speed, hands, and vision define Domi's game, as does his lack of size. Still, Phoenix bets the Tie's son can overcome this and be an impact forward in the league.
13. Winnipeg Jets select Anthony Mantha, LW/RW (Val-D'Or - QMJHL)
Mantha burst onto the scene this year, scoring more goals than any other draft eligible prospect. 6-4 with a raw power game, Mantha is a lethal sniper. The defensive game has yet to come around, but Winnipeg needs goals. Mantha could provide that.
14. Columbus Blue Jackets select Alexander Wennberg, C (Djurgarden - SWE2)
I have a strong feeling that at this point in the draft, Wennberg will be the top rated player left on GM Jarmo Kekalainen's board. Unknown to many in North America, Wennberg excels in almost every facet of the game. A very versatile player, he'll fit in nicely to Columbus' rebuild.
15. New York Islanders select Curtis Lazar, C (Edmonton - WHL)
Lazar is that one player that everyone in the league seems to like. He possesses a top-6 type shot but plays the game with bottom-6 type grit. The Islanders have a pretty well stocked prospect base, so taking the best player available is the move here. I think John Tavares will like having this guy on his team down the road.
16. Buffalo Sabres select Adam Erne, RW (Quebec - QMJHL)
Buffalo uses their second 1st round pick to make Mikhail Grigorenko happy. Erne was at his best when paired with Grigorenko in Quebec, and Darcy Regeir hopes that the duo can rekindle their magic in Buffalo.
17. Ottawa Senators select Nikita Zadorov, D (London - OHL)
Bryan Murray is shocked to see Zadorov still on the board here. A player who could easily go in the top 10, Zadorov becomes the victim of the annual "we had one guy above him on our board" draft slide. He finds a comfy home in Ottawa where he can take his time developing and eventually slide onto Erik Karlsson's defensive pairing.
18. Detroit Red Wings select Ryan Pulock, D (Brandon - WHL)
Pulock is an enigma in this years draft class. Armed with an outstanding slap shot that makes goalies cringe, Pulock has other areas of his game that are still incomplete, including his consistency in his own zone. Detroit decides the reward outweighs the risk here and decides to take a flyer on him here.
19. Columbus Blue Jackets select Samuel Morin, D (Rimouski - QMJHL)
Columbus takes the high upside 6-7 defenseman here. Morin took a big step forward in his development this year, playing shut down defense while showing sparks of offensive upside. Still, he's very raw at this point, and will need some development time. Columbus can wait on him.
20. San Jose Sharks select Valentin Zykov, RW/LW (Baie Comeau - QMJHL)
Zykov is one heck of a story. Going from little known CHL Import Draft selection to CHL Rookie of the Year is no easy feat, yet Zykov astonishingly pulled this off. A power forward who carried Baie Comeau to the QMJHL finals this year, Zykov is a solid player for the Sharks to watch develop over the next few years.
21. Toronto Maple Leafs select Josh Morrissey, D (Prince Albert - WHL)
A strange pick on the surface, but Morrissey could potentially be the BPA at this point in the draft. There's some rumblings that Toronto may ship off Jake Gardiner this offseason, so taking a defenseman with two-way ability such as Morrissey doesn't sound like a terrible idea. The only question mark with Morrisey's game is his size. Toronto hopes he pans out.
22. Calgary Flames select Zachary Fucale, G (Halifax - QMJHL)
A bit of cliche pick, but it makes sense. Fucale is the top rated goalie in this draft. Calgary, while owning a few good goaltending prospects, doesn't own an elite one. It's a roll of the dice to take a tender in the first, but Feaster is no stranger to taking risks, and he pulls the trigger on Fucale here.
23. Washington Capitals select Andre Burakovsky, LW (Malmo - SWE2)
Burakovsky is the premier high risk-high reward guy in this years draft. A very fast, toolsy, hands type guy, Burakovsky struggles with consistency. Washington has time to wait on him, and hopes they got a gem here late in the 1st.
24. Vancouver Canucks select JT Compher, C (USNTDP - USHL)
Something tells me new coach John Tortorella will eventually like coaching JT Compher. A two-way center with the USA U18s this year, Compher struggled through some injuries and didn't live up to all his hype. Still, this is a talented two-way player, and Vancouver can sit back and watch him develop with Michigan in the NCAA for a few years.
25. Montreal Canadiens select Fredrik Gauthier, C (Rimouski - QMJHL)
What's the one thing the Montreal Canadiens are severely lacking? Size. What's Fredrik Gauthier's biggest asset? Size. Easy enough. Gauthier is already very solid in his own zone, but there are question marks about his offensive upside. Montreal selects him here, banking on strong development over the next couple of years.
26. Anaheim Ducks select Steve Santini, D (USNTDP - USHL)
The choice came down to Santini vs Kelowna's Madison Bowey, and although I'm one of Bowey's biggest supporters, I believe Bob Murray will lean towards a shut down guy in Santini. The U18s were a coming out party for the native of New York, as he was named the tournament's best defenseman. Headed to Boston College next year, it will be interesting to see if the offense ever develops. If not, you still have a mid pairing shut down guy that can be a valuable asset.
27. Columbus Blue Jackets select Ryan Hartman, RW (Plymouth - OHL)
There's a lot to like about Hartman's game. He's very pest-like, easily getting under opponents skin. He's also very well rounded, as he showed great awareness in both the offensive and defensive zones this year. Columbus selects Hartman and is well on their way to building an extremely tough team to play against.
28. Calgary Flames select Morgan Klimchuk, LW (Regina - WHL)
Calgary goes with a local product in speedster Morgan Klimchuk. The Regina Pat really broke out this year, consistently playing hard and making an impact at both ends of the rink. Calgary continues to stockpile talent with their third pick in the first round.
29. Dallas Stars select Mirco Mueller, D (Everett - WHL)
With their second pick in the 1st round, the Stars select the Swiss defenseman out of the Dub. Mueller was pressed into the #1 role in Everett after last years 2nd overall selection Ryan Murray went down with a shoulder injury. Mueller flourished, showing off some impressive two-way ability. Dallas adds a solid prospect to their system.
30. Chicago Blackhawks select Justin Bailey, RW (Kitchner - OHL)
When you draft as well as the Chicago Blackhawks have the past few seasons, you can take chances on players you like. Well, Bailey is a raw talent, but could be special down the line. A big, fast winger with a riffle of a shot, Bailey still needs to fill out. Clearly, the Stanley Cup Champs don't need him right away, and will wait on his development.
Notable players not selected:
Madison Bowey, D (Kelowna - WHL)- As I mentioned earlier, I'm a Bowey fan. That being said, I can see teams being nervous to select him in the first. He still needs to get stronger and improve his defensive play, but if he puts it all together, you have a stud.
Nic Petan, C (Portland - WHL)- Nic Petan suffers the same drop many similar sized guys before him have. Standing at around 5-9, Petan was sensational for Portland this past season, amassing 120 points. I wouldn't be shocked if he went in the first because he's really that good, but his size could easily drop him to the 2nd.
Kerby Rychel, LW (Windsor - OHL)- Rychel could easily go in the 1st, but falls in my mock draft here. Another potential power forward, Rychel had a solid year with Windsor in the O this past season. He would be a huge coup for a team selecting outside the top 30.
Shea Theodore, D (Seattle - WHL)- An offensive defenseman, Theodore has a chance to be a top 30 pick, but is more likely to go early in the 2nd. His defensive game needs work, but his offense makes him an easy choice to QB an NHL team's power play in the future.
Robert Hagg, D (Modo - SEL)- I'd go out on a limb and say Hagg is the draft's biggest wildcard. He has arguably the largest range of this year's prospects, and this is largely based on his inconsistent play. Expect him to go quick in the 2nd if this scenario plays out.
Michael McCarron, RW (USNTDP - USHL)- Now here's a guy who will cause a lot of debate. He's a love-hate type of prospect, but you can't deny that guys like him do not come around often. At 6-5 and over 225 pounds, McCarron is surprisingly skilled. His skating has improved over the past few years, but he's still just average in this area. It only takes one team to see him as Milan Lucic and select him in the 1st, but most likely he goes in the top half of the 2nd.
Thanks for reading!