2013 NHL Mock Draft: Very Early First-Round Predictions
Assuming they make their respective teams, Nathan MacKinnon and Seth Jones will share a sheet of ice on Dec. 30 when Canada engages the United States in the IIHF World Junior Championship.
Ditto in mid-January, when they shall serve as opposing captains in the Canadian Hockey League’s annual Top Prospects Game.
The more they match up directly against one another in the next six months, the stronger the case can get for one or the other as the most valuable player eligible for the next NHL entry draft.
Outside of that debate—which is likely to pick up greater fervor as the 2012 NHL Lockout drags on and the seasons for all amateur leagues keep rolling—the best-available topic at this time for NHL fans is the 2013 draft class in general.
Much, though not all, of that class will surely see action at the WJC. The rest can be found somewhere in the Canadian major junior, U.S. top-tier junior or European elite circuits.
If all goes according to plan, these prospects will be assembling at Newark’s Prudential Center in another six-and-a-half months.
Shortly beforehand, we should have a better impression of who is the best fit for a given team, and therefore who makes sense in what slot based on the lottery.
For now, on the basis of assets and pure performances of late, here is a raw, reverse order of first-round candidates.
30. Shea Theodore
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One of the more efficient defenders on the Seattle Thunderbirds, who have already allowed 115 goals this season, Shea Theodore is fast honing a hotter twig that has already inserted a career-high seven goals, including four on the power play.
Within the past month, he has ascended to the Top 30 leaderboard in the eyes of the International Scouting Service.
29. Jacob De La Rose
That, along with versatility (his Elite Prospects profile indicates he can play either center or wing), can help nudge de la Rose over the top between the first-round/second-round borderline.
There is also no reason to think he could not shore up his scoring hand-in-hand with using his strength to create more quantitative and qualitative opportunities.
28. Frederik Gauthier
The chief reason for Frederik Gauthier’s only three-game scoring drought so far was that the first pointless night preceded a two-week injury, and the latter two constituted his re-acclimation to game action.
Since then, though, he has produced in six of his last seven ventures, including each of the last five.
27. Jason Dickinson
26. Anthony Mantha
25. Kerby Rychel
Piloting one of the shallowest offenses in the Ontario League, Kerby Rychel has inserted 19 of the Windsor Spitfires’ 87 goals and earned credit for setting up another 13. Nine of his firsthand strikes have been on the power play.
Beneath those surface stats, Rychel has commendable versatility that scout Chris Edwards detailed with nhl.com’s Adam Kimelman.
Said Edwards to Kimelman, “He’s got some real good play-making ability and puck skill. He’s used in all situations -- power play, penalty kill, four-on-four. He also does a real good job in the faceoff circle.”
24. Adam Erne
On a sophomore surge in the Quebec League, Adam Erne is poised to facilely surpass his rookie output whilst co-piloting a team highlighted by 2012 first-rounder Mikhail Grigorenko and some fellow 2013 candidates (more on that to come).
Somewhat surprisingly, Erne was omitted from Team USA’s WJC training camp roster, which features only two 18-year-olds.
23. Ian McCoshen
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Despite playing but 13 games, Ian McCoshen is second among USHL defensemen with a plus-15 rating on the year.
His reason for the missed time, by the way, was so he could represent his country at the World Junior A Challenge for the second consecutive year.
The veteran Waterloo Blackhawk and one-time Shattuck-St. Mary’s bantam also made an offensive dent on the power play during his second campaign with a 4-6-10 scoring log.
Only four months removed from his 17th birthday and committed to the regal Boston College program, McCoshen emits many signs of maturing beyond his years.
22. Artturi Lehkonen
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That is all the more impressive, given that this circuit is dense with former NHL players and, this particular season, current NHLers who are passing the time during the 2012 lockout.
21. Zach Fucale
The top-ranked netminder by the Central Scouting Service, Zach Fucale is running away with the best record among individual Quebec League goaltenders in a fairly offense-oriented league.
No QMJHL netminder has a goals-against average lower than 2.00, and Fucale is one of merely seven to have allowed an average of less than three goals per night.
It certainly cannot hurt his development to be spending every practice session staring down the league’s most potent strike force, which is fueled heavily by a couple of skaters to be mentioned later.
20. Valentin Zykov
Second in points (31) and first in goals (19) among Quebec League rookies, Valentin Zykov has also supplied five deciders for the Baie-Comeau Drakkar.
The way he has hit the ice sprinting in North America was recently underlined by an anonymous scout in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Allan Muir amidst the Subway Super Series.
19. Morgan Klimchuk
Before his Regina Pats even ventured out for their last game on Sunday, Morgan Klimchuk had already matched his 36 points from 2011-12 in 35 fewer games.
18. Curtis Lazar
Salim Valji of the Edmonton Journal, which has naturally had more time to spotlight the Oil Kings of late, recently posted this assessment of Curtis Lazar’s stalled development and its potential implications.
Was that a wake-up call?
Well, Lazar has charged up five goals in the five games since that Nov. 29 post was published.
17. Rasmus Ristolainen
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Naturally, though, he has time to remedy that and will most certainly be given that time in the form of one or two more development years after he is drafted.
Assuming he is involved in the WJC, his performance against fellow 20-and-under prospects ought to be more indicative of his capabilities.
16. Ryan Hartman
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Ryan Hartman has picked up the pace after a relatively slow start and is now impossible to miss on a deep Plymouth Whalers team featuring six double-digit goal-getters (Hartman included) and Tom Wilson, a first-rounder to the Washington Nationals last spring.
Besides his pure skating, playmaking and finishing aptitude, the candidate for a U.S. WJC roster spot has garnered acclaim for his size-defying physicality.
Both U.S. head coach Phil Housley and scout Chris Edwards indicated as much in an nhl.com feature.
15. Robert Hagg
Owing more to his competition in that deep pool than anything else, such a ranking is a bit high, at least at this time. Still, Hagg has no shortage of what would logically be expected from an elite defenseman and has not left much, if any of it, in his locker room stall.
14. Max Domi
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Max Domi is second in every key category, from goals and assists, to points and plus/minus ratings on the London Knights, as they defend the OHL playoff championship and safeguard the league’s best record.
As a rookie last season, Domi had a 21-28-49 scoring log in 62 regular-season games. When he had played half as many games this season, he had already tallied a 17-24-41 transcript, putting him on pace for at least 13 more goals and 33 more points in the same 62-game window.
13. Nikita Zadorov
Of the London Knights’ Russian defenseman, London Free Press writer Ryan Pyette penned a brilliant one-liner: “You can just see the Don Cherry-fed, dyed-in-the-wool Canuck traditionalists turning pale.”
All but universally acclaimed for his willingness to make the most of his hulking body without a second thought, Nikita Zadorov is getting welcome results.
In his first OHL season with the defending champions and regular-season league leaders, he has logged 31 appearances and a team-best plus-26 rating, seeing only 13 of the Knights’ 78 goals-against go in while he is on the ice.
12. Josh Morrissey
As thrilling and effective as Nikita Zadorov is in his day job, Josh Morrissey is among the more complete blueliners.
Using his evaluation system, as detailed in the video above, Craig Button of TSN gave the Prince Albert Raider no lower than what essentially translates to a 90-percent (A-minus) rating in any aspect of his game.
Like Robert Hagg, Morrissey may or may not fulfill the prophecies of some gurus by going within the first 10 picks. Regardless, he likely will not fall far, assuming he keeps his developmental course intact.
11. Anthony Duclair
Due to an ankle injury, Anthony Duclair missed all of October and the first week of November. He has not, however, missed a beat upon reviving his routine and rhythm since his return. He has tallied five goals and 13 assists in his first 14 games back.
In addition, despite missing 13 total games, he is second on the Quebec Remparts with a plus-15 rating, meaning he might have been their leader in that category if not for that injury-induced absence.
Duclair is in a better situation, in that he was not out as long and has been consistently saturating his transcript when given the chance.
10. Ryan Pulock
Maturity juts out in every respect when it comes to Ryan Pulock.
He is physically advanced, with a 6’1, 211-pound posture―the most bulk among Brandon blueliners―and has had his leadership qualities verified by receiving the Wheat Kings captaincy 16 days before his 18th birthday.
All of those attributes can practically make one forget the fact that Pulock also has a point per night and a team-best four power-play goals to go with an unsurpassed plus-12 rating.
None of that hurts him, either, especially when he is proving to bear the least of the liability on a struggling Wheat Kings squad.
9. Darnell Nurse
Dense athletic bloodlines are always an enticing attribute.
Now consider how they have not-so-shabbily fulfilled their own promise in the NHL.
Darnell Nurse, the son of a former Canadian Football League player and a women’s basketball standout, is flaunting a satisfying skill set of his own amidst his first OHL season.
All things considered, it has translated with relative smoothness: His 17 assists and plus-eight rating make him the second-most prolific playmaker and the most efficient defenseman on a sub-.500 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds team.
8. Elias Lindholm
In mid-September, a headline on nhl.com listed Elias Lindholm as the potential top European in the 2013 draft board.
Based on how he and fellow Scandinavian scorer Aleksander Barkov are performing among men in their respective home country’s leagues, that sentiment should rightly change.
Then again, the World Juniors Championship and the rest of the regular season are yet to come, so there will be ample time and multiple opportunities for Lindholm to make a better final impression.
The Russian-raised Valeri Nichushkin can similarly amplify his stock if he makes a substantive splash in the KHL, arguably the best league anywhere outside of North America.
(More on Nichushkin and Barkov to come.)
Regardless, there is no way to interpret Lindholm’s stock and give him a disappointing trajectory. He emits an unadulterated first-rounder vibe and will only be sharper for having started young in Sweden’s topmost circuit.
7. Hunter Shinkaruk
The third-year member of the Medicine Hat Tigers has been as consistently impactful, as most every top-echelon prospect is expected to be since the start of his sophomore season.
Dating back to last autumn, Hunter Shinkaruk has not gone more than two consecutive games without a tangible contribution at any time. This season, he has stepped up in the absence of the explosive Emerson Etem and has arguably made Curtis Valk, his linemate and Medicine Hat’s leading point-getter, better.
Shinkaruk has not relocated from his slot last year in second place among the Tigers scorers. Valk, however, has gone from a fourth-best 55 points all through last year to a team-high 44 almost halfway through 2012-13 while working with Shinkaruk.
6. Jonathan Drouin
In his last game before an October injury idled him for 18 days, Jonathan Drouin charged up his third straight multi-point effort with a goal and two assists. In his first game back from that ailment, he pitched in two goals and two assists and then tallied a hat trick in his next outing three nights later.
In all, the second-most radiant Halifax Moosehead has been scoreless in only two outings this season and is currently boasting an average of exactly two points per game.
Of Drouin, Mooseheads skipper Dominique Ducharme recently told the QMJHL’s website, “He’s a complete player and he’s doing things at 17 years old that most veterans can’t do.”
5. Valeri Nichushkin
Last month, on the heels of breaking from his normal regimen to help Russia in the Subway Super Series, Valeri Nichushkin put a stamp on his advanced skill set by hopping on board with the KHL’s Traktor Chelyabinsk.
He has since put in six appearances in what most likely can be deemed the best non-NHL pro league of all.
4. Sean Monahan
Naturally, he will need to find a way to tame his otherwise gratifying physical game, but Monahan can kick quick ice chips over that unsavory development by cracking Canada’s WJC roster.
Working and fitting in with a more talented and successful group than the struggling 67's would only embolden Monahan’s outlook.
3. Aleksander Barkov
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Only one draft-eligible player has made a bigger impression in Finland than Artturi Lehkonen.
The aforementioned Elias Lindholm has logged an irreproachable 18 points through 30 games played in a Swedish league featuring Jason Krog, Alex Steen and Ladislav Nagy.
Aleksander Barkov, on the other hand, has tallied 10 more points than that in the same number of games in a Finnish league featuring such competitors as Ville Nieminen, Mikkel Boedker and Erik Karlsson, among others.
2. Nathan MacKinnon
Nathan MacKinnon’s profile on Pro Puck Prospects has likened him to Steven Stamkos, while his background and career path have drawn inevitable parallels to Sidney Crosby.
Already with 158 points in 105 regular-season and playoff games in his Mooseheads career, MacKinnon does not have much left to prove in the amateur ranks. Although it certainly would not hurt him to toss in an electric two weeks at the World Juniors.
1. Seth Jones
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While the last decade has practically left open the notion of an unwritten rule requiring the first overall pick to be a forward, American defenseman Erik Johnson bucked that trend in 2006.
Do not be surprised if Johnson’s countryman, Seth Jones, does the same in 2013.
Jones, who has captained multiple international teams, hit the ice sprinting upon joining the Portland Winterhawks of the Western League this autumn. He has garnered fairly facile acclaim for having all the trimmings of a world-class blueliner and is putting all of those assets to can’t-miss use with the league-leading Winterhawks.
For all of the buzz MacKinnon has justifiably generated, Jones’ output from his position makes him more impressive by just one or two ice chips.