There are several prospects from the 2013 NHL draft class who won't need another year of development in junior hockey or in overseas leagues prior to the 2013-14 season.
They will be able to compete for a spot on an NHL roster just a few months after being drafted.
It's often not wise for teams to rush top prospects to the NHL level, but if they are ready, there's no point in having them develop more in junior hockey or the AHL when they are good enough to compete with the best competition in the world.
Determining which prospects will be NHL-ready less than 12 months from now is not easy, but here are four players who should be able to make their NHL debut in the fall of next year.
Seth Jones, Defenseman, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Jones' incredible offensive talent will help him make the quick jump from the WHL to the NHL after being drafted high in the first round.
His athleticism, shot power, power-play ability and vision are already polished, and he isn't afraid impact games physically in all three zones.
Jones isn't a shut-down defenseman yet, but he certainly has the potential to be a top-pairing player who defends the opposing team's first line for 20-plus minutes each game.
If Jones keeps improving his two-way game, he will definitely make his NHL debut in the 2013-14 season. Whichever team drafts him will want to upgrade its blue line with Jones' offensive skill right away.
Sean Monahan, Center, Ottawa 67s (OHL)
Monahan is a gifted offensive player, and he has also improved the defensive aspect of his game quite a bit over the last two-plus seasons he's spent in the OHL for the Ottawa 67s.
The 18-year-old center is responsible defensively and understands the importance of being strong on the forecheck. He has the tools needed to be a very good NHL power forward.
He has scored 13 goals with 24 assists in 26 games this season, and he's becoming a better playmaker for the 67s.
Monahan also has good size (6'2", 193 pounds) and will be able to make an impact in the NHL if he makes his debut next fall. He has the size and skill needed to play a role on a team's second or third line as a rookie.
Rasmus Ristolainen, Defenseman, TPS Turku (Finland)
Ristolainen is the best defensive defenseman in this draft class, and he would bolster an NHL team's second or third pairing as a rookie next year.
The Finnish star wins puck battles with his size, delivers big hits all over the ice and is well-positioned on defense.The composure and mental toughness he displays on the ice is also impressive.
Since he is already a good defensive player, Ristolainen will likely earn a spot on an NHL roster when training camps begin next September.
His offense is improving, but any player who excels defensively like Ristolainen deserves a shot to prove himself at the NHL level as soon as possible.
Nathan MacKinnon, Center, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
MacKinnon will almost certainly be one of the top two picks in the 2013 draft, and he could play a top-six role next season for his NHL team, depending on that team's forward depth.
He could have a rookie season similar to Edmonton Oilers star Ryan Nugent-Hopkins because of his ability to put up points consistently from the center position.
Just like RNH, MacKinnon should be able to score 15-20 goals with 30-40 assists as a rookie. His points total will be affected by the quality of the teammates around him, but MacKinnon is the type of player who makes everyone around him better.
Not only is MacKinnon ready for the NHL based on his hockey talents, the team that drafts him will likely want to bring him to the NHL as soon as possible because he is the type of player who can help fill an arena that is usually half-empty on most nights.
Expect MacKinnon to earn an NHL roster spot when he gets an opportunity next year. He's ready to make an impact offensively from day one.
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