NHL Draft 2013: 15 Players That Are Already Locks to Go in the First Round
Though it is early in the season, it is becoming clearer and clearer who is going to be a top prospect and who isn't.
Ultimately, only 30 can be picked in the first round. Here are 15 who already are locks.
Sasha Barkov: C, Tappara (SM-Liiga)
After making his SM-Liiga debut as a 15-year-old last season, Finnish phenom Aleksander "Sasha" Barkov went on to become the youngest ever Finn to score at the World Juniors at 16 years and four months. Incredibly, he has only gotten better since then.
In 15 games in 2012-13, the 17-year-old native of Tampere has totaled nine goals and 17 points in the men's league, numbers made all the more unbelievable considering the youngster was already considered a top prospect for the draft after last season, when he posted just seven goals and 16 points in 32 games. On top of that, Barkov has no penalty minutes and is plus-five.
An outrageously talented player, the son of former Russian international Alexander Barkov is the complete package. A center with composure beyond his years, tremendous size (6'2", 205 pounds) and dynamic offensive skills, Barkov has already cemented his spot as a lottery prospect, and if he continues his impressive play, it will be very, very hard for whoever is picking first overall to pass on him.
Jacob De La Rose: C, Leksand (HockeyAllsvenskan)
Jacob De La Rose is the latest in a long line of dynamic and dominant two-way centers to come out of Sweden.
The 17-year-old has not had the strongest of starts to the season for Leksand in the Swedish HockeyAllsvenskan with just one goal in 12 games, but his team is very strong—they currently have the best record in the league—and his stats should soon improve.
Last season, the Washington Capitals stole Leksand's Filip Forsberg at 11th overall. With his versatility, size (6'2", 189 pounds) and vision, De La Rose could very well follow in his teammate's footsteps.
Max Domi: C, London Knights (OHL)
Offense is the name of the game for London Knights forward Max Domi, the son of former NHL enforcer Tie Domi.
And after managing just 49 points in 62 games last season, Domi has raced out of the gates in 2012-13, scoring six goals and 19 points in his first 11 games to go along with an impressive plus-10 rating.
Domi is very skillful and very talented, but, like his father, he does not shy away from the physical side of the game and can more than hold his own on the ice. Despite his small stature (5'9", 193 pounds), Domi plays with a big heart, and with the offensive upside he provides, he should be a solid top-15 pick in the draft.
Jonathan Drouin: LW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Jonathan Drouin might well be the most naturally skilled player available in the draft. Over the past year, he has developed extremely well in the shadow of his better-known linemate, Nathan MacKinnon.
He suffered an injury early on in the season, but he has still managed to total over two points per game—actually better than MacKinnon—with five goals and 10 assists through seven games. He is also plus-10.
A scintillating stick-handler with terrific skill and a very good shot, Drouin combines his talent with hard work and very good defense. An all-round talent, Drouin is establishing himself as a top-five prospect in the draft.
Robert Hägg: D, Modo (Elitserien)
Since Nicklas Lidström came into the league, Swedish defensemen have rightfully become a hot commodity in the NHL, and as Hampus Lindholm proved in 2012, it is very difficult to pass on them. Robert Hägg is the next in line.
A knock on Hägg might be that he has not yet played in the Elitserien, Sweden's top men's league, but he has really excelled in the under-20 SuperElit with 11 points in 12 games. He has only been held back because of the strength of his Modo team, but he should still see his breakthrough come sooner rather than later.
With veteran patience, good vision and strength and impressive offensive upside, Hägg is very much a blueliner in the Nicklas Lidström mold. He'll never be as good as the NHL's greatest defenseman of all time, but his tremendous hockey IQ and high-end skill should be enough to secure his place as a top-10 prospect.
Seth Jones: D, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
When you think of the son of former basketball pro Popeye Jones, your mind wanders to NHL legend Chris Pronger. Seth has the potential to be the kind of defenseman that only comes around once in a decade.
Jones has not blown anyone away statistically in his first season with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks, having totaled just six points and a minus-six rating in 11 games, but his potential as a defenseman is undeniable. Furthermore, once he adjusts to life in his new league, the American should see his numbers improve.
The native of Plano, Texas is a pure athlete, which translates into his powerful skating stride and ability to move effortlessly around the ice. The 6'4", 208-pound defenseman is not overly physical, but he uses his body well, and what he lacks in physical aggressiveness, he more than makes up for in hockey IQ. His offensive upside is also very sound.
Seth Jones is right now the consensus No. 2 pick, but he will need to improve to fight off the advances of Sasha Barkov and Elias Lindholm.
Curtis Lazar: C, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Curtis Lazar is the best two-way forward available in the 2013 NHL draft.
A player with a skill set perhaps best suited to take on an elite third-line center role in the NHL, Lazar has posted 11 points in 13 games this year, which is a drastic improvement over his performance from last year. He also has a plus-five rating.
The quintessential two-way center, Lazar is just as good in the defensive zone as he is in the offensive zone. Quick, smart and strong, Lazar is a lock to be a first-round pick.
Elias Lindholm: RW, Brynäs (Elitserien)
Elias Lindholm's rise through the draft ranks early this season has been meteoric, and judging by his recent form as a 17-year-old with Brynäs of the Elitserien, one of the world's top leagues, it's unlikely to end soon.
Through 15 games with the Swedish champions, Lindholm has four goals and six assists in 10 games, numbers that put him on track to top the likes of Nicklas Bäckström, Magnus Pääjärvi and Mika Zibanejad in their draft years.
The Swede has speed, skill and smarts, and given his impressive play, if anybody not named Sasha Barkov is going to break the seemingly impenetrable top two of Seth Jones and Nathan MacKinnon, it is likely to be Elias Lindholm.
Nathan MacKinnon: C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Nathan MacKinnon has been the most highly rated 2013 prospect for ages, and his play this season has done nothing to suggest that might change.
The 17-year-old Canadian, touted as the next Sidney Crosby, has scored an outrageous 15 goals in 13 games, adding nine assists to his total for 24 points. He is also plus-17.
MacKinnon is a phenomenally talented offensive prospect with All-Star-calibre speed and dynamic skills. At this point, he is not only a lock for the first round, but also a lock for the first overall pick.
Sean Monahan: C, Ottawa 67's (OHL)
Already 18, Sean Monahan is older than most draft-eligible forwards, but that takes nothing away from his talent or the way he has absolutely torn up the OHL so far this season.
Monahan has five goals and 12 assists for 17 points in 12 games, and though he is a minus-10 after ending 2011-12 as a plus-25, the Brampton, Ontario native is on track to shatter his point total of 78 in 62 games from last season.
Monahan has a lot of offensive tools in abundance. A lethal offensive prospect with a great shot and good skating, he has 50-goal potential in the NHL. His first-round spot is already solidified.
Ryan Pulock: D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
Ryan Pulock was named to the WHL All-Star team as a 17-year-old sophomore after putting up 60 points with a plus-33 in 71 games, but he is on track to improve on that in 2012-13.
Through 14 games with the Brandon Wheat Kings, Pulock, a defenseman with outrageous offensive potential, has a ridiculous seven goals and 18 points. He is also a plus-10.
Pulock has the ability to lead the rush and quarterback a power play. A dynamic blueliner, he is better than most prospects in both zones. Pulock is right now a top-10 lock, but if his incredible play continues, he could rise into lottery position.
Rasmus Ristolainen: D, TPS (SM-Liiga)
It's not often 18-year-olds become key players on men's league teams.
But in his second season with TPS of the SM-Liiga, Ristolainen has five assists in 14 games. The blueliner has become one of his team's most important players, averaging just under 21 minutes of time on ice per game on a team that currently has two NHL players—Alec Martinez and Kris Russell—on its blue line.
Ristolainen is a calm, mature defenseman who excels in his own zone. A confident puck-mover with good size (6'3", 203 pounds) and hockey IQ, the Finn is a force in his own zone. He has top-pairing potential in the NHL.
Kerby Rychel: LW, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Power forwards do not usually come with as much offensive upside as Kerby Rychel.
A promising prospect, Rychel is coming off a 74-point season, and he has racked up eight goals and 11 points in his first 14 games.
The assistant captain of the Canada U18 team last year is big (6'1", 200 pounds) and powerful, but he's still growing. He is very quick, very skilled and very hungry. He may not be one of the better players in his draft class right now, but his goal-scoring potential in the NHL should be more than enough to solidify his spot as a first-rounder.
Hunter Shinkaruk: C, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
He may be small (5'10", 166 pounds), but Hunter Shinkaruk's offensive tools are off the charts. While he may have dropped from being a certain lottery pick to being a top-10 prospect, he is still widely regarded as the top WHL forward available.
Shinkaruk's production has decreased dramatically to start the season, where he has gone from being a 91-point, plus-17 player in 2011-12 to having notched just 13 points with a minus-nine rating in 14 games. The fact that he is still considered an elite prospect speaks volumes about how good he was last year.
Shinkaruk has a hard shot and very good skating stride. A lethal offensive talent, the Medicine Hat Tigers captain will fit in well with a team needing immediate top-line help.
Nikita Zadorov: D, London Knights (OHL)
Big, strong, powerful and intimidating, Nikita Zadorov stands at 6'5", 230 pounds, and he plays every bit as big as that.
A tremendous defensive prospect, Zadorov's offensive stats won't jump out at you, but he is as solid as they get in the defensive zone. He has only posted four assists in 12 games with the OHL's London Knights, but his plus-12 rating says it all.
Pure defensive players are hard to come by, and while Zadorov likely won't bring much offensive upside to the NHL, his blue-line prowess and the intimidation factor he brings should be enough to secure his place as a top-20 pick.