NHL Central Scouting's latest prospect rankings for North American and international skaters are now available, which has given hockey fans something to talk about that doesn't include the NHL lockout.
These players are all eligible for the 2013 NHL draft.
Here are the top players featured in Central Scouting's ratings from the top junior hockey leagues in North America, as well as some notable international teams. (Full CS rankings for players in North American leagues can be found here, and players in international leagues can be found here.)
|Player||Team (League or Country)||Position|
|JT Compher||USA U-18 (USHL)||LW|
|Seth Jones||Portland Winterhawks (WHL)||D|
|Sean Monahan||Ottawa 67s (OHL)||C|
|Nathan MacKinnon||Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)||C|
|Elias Lindholm||Brynas (Sweden)||C|
|Alexander Barkov||Tappara (Finland) ||C|
|Eduard Simun||B. Bystrica (Slovakia) ||C|
|Valeri Nichushkin||Chelmet (Russia) ||RW|
Here are a few of the top goaltenders:
|Player||Team (League or Country)|
|Zachary Fucale||Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)|
|Eamon McAdam||Waterloo (USHL)|
|Eric Comrie||Tri-City Americans (WHL)|
|Spencer Martin||Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)|
|Ivan Bocharov||MVD Balashikha 2 (Russia)|
As you can see, it will be a great draft for teams that need forward depth or a possible No. 1 center. The amount of playmaking and scoring talent in this draft is just spectacular.
It's going to be tough for teams to take a defenseman with a top 15 pick even if they don't have too many offensive needs. There are so players in this class with the potential to be good first or second-line players at the NHL level.
Last year's draft was full of impressive defensemen, but that probably won't be the case this season.
Teams who want a top-paring blueliner might have to consider trading up for Seth Jones, who is the total package.
Jones, Sean Monahan and Nathan MacKinnon are the three prospects with the best chance to be drafted No. 1 in the next draft.
If there's one international player who could move up scout's boards this season, it's Russian winger Valeri Nichushkin, who is a power forward that can also score a ton of points.
(For analysis on the top prospects at each position in the 2013 class, click here.)
The lockout could make this draft very interesting because if the entire 2012-13 season is lost, the league will probably hold a draft lottery similar to the one prior to the 2005 NHL draft, which was the first time a draft had been held after no season was played.
In this lottery, teams with the fewest playoff appearances since the previous lockout would have the best chance of winning the top pick, which is good news for Toronto Maple Leafs fans, whose team failed to make the playoffs in each of the seven seasons between lockouts.
The Leafs have not selected a player first overall since Wendel Clark in 1985, and when you consider the fact that general manager Brian Burke's top need is a true No. 1 center, this is the perfect draft class for the Leafs to address their major weakness.
The lucky team with the first pick will have plenty of options to consider before it is on the clock in June, which will make the choice of which player to take quite difficult.
While the lockout continues, hockey fans should take some time and watch these talented prospects play. The best place in North America to watch the NHL stars of tomorrow is the CHL.