The 2013 NHL draft could go down as one of the better drafts in recent memory, with options for lottery teams looking to grab a defender or a forward to build around.
With maybe more than 10 elite options available early on, teams not making the playoffs would be benefited by not freaking out, and not moving their selections for established NHL players. There are some home runs to be found here after all.
With the chance of a home run comes the inherent risk of a strike out however, and the 2013 draft class isn't without some question marks and risk.
Let me make my stance on Jonathan Drouin very clear before I get mean mugged and scalded for never watching hockey in my life, or some other ridiculous and outlandish charge against me.
I think Drouin could end up as the best player to come out of the 2013 draft class. He has all the skills needed to be an all-world, top-flight All-Star-caliber player. However, if just one or two of the skills in his offensive skillset (for whatever reason) doesn't translate to the NHL, then he could just as easily be a bust.
That being said, the 17-year old is just dazzling with the puck, and can do things at top speed most players only dream about. However, we've seen this kind of skill set work out very well before, and we've seen it work out not so well before.
If I'm betting, I say that Drouin ends up falling into the "worked out" bin, but that doesn't make him any less risky. It's top six or bust for this kid.
If Hunter Shinkaruk doesn't make it in the NHL, it surely won't be due to lack of effort.
Smaller players tend to have the tenacity and drive that some larger guys may not have, and this Medicine Hat Tigers triggerman is no exception. He's fought his way back from a severely broken leg before making it to the WHL, and is generally the guy the opposition focuses on shutting down.
One could argue that if Shinkaruk can make it in the scrappy WHL that he could make it in the NHL, but there is a difference between playing in a rough league and playing in a big one.
Having guys that are 40 pounds heavier than you hanging off your shoulders night in and night out can wear a guy down.
Unlike Drouin, who typically finds himself at the center of only the offensive action, Shinkaruk has a solid two-way game and can contribute in all three zones. Adding that dimension to his game makes him a little less risky, but he'll need to beef up a bit before hitting the ice for an 82-game NHL schedule.
160 pounds dripping wet just isn't going to cut it.
Call me crazy, but when the main knock against a 6'5'', 220-pound man playing among kids is that he doesn't use his body enough or in a dominating fashion, I get a red flag or two.
That being said, Nikita Zadorov has an incredibly tantalizing group of capabilities. As we saw last year when the Dallas Stars selected Jamie Oleksiak, size can get you pretty far in the NHL draft. Zadorov already has an NHL size body, and if he didn't ever grow another inch or add another pound he would be fine.
He skates better than you would think, and is capable of joining the rush. However, if a team reaches for him because of his size they may end up mildly disappointed. There are also some mild questions about his compete level on a nightly basis as well.
Sounds like a risky selection to me. One that could pan out well or be devastating to a team that passed on some of the other guys that will be available this year.
When it comes to skating circles around uninspired junior-level defenses, Max Domi is all the rage.
He has posted noteworthy numbers for the London Knights over the last two years. Domi has 64 points in 47 games so far, and has been every bit electric as his father, Tie, was tough. His coaches have said that his skating is "Crosby-esque", and he is magnificent with the puck.
So where's the risk?
Even if we look beyond his size (5'9'', 193 pounds), it's hard to ignore that Domi is a dominant force on a dominant team. My point is, when he is slated to play on the second line of a bottom five or 10 team, where will the offense come from?
We've seen players like Nail Yakupov arrive from loaded teams and deliver at the NHL level. A team's belief that Domi can do the same thing will either cause him to rise or fall in the 2013 draft.
There are a lot of alluring offensive talents in this class, and it'll be fun to see where the smaller, firecracker-type players like Domi end up.
Andre Burakowsky has seen his stock fall considerably since last summer. After failing to make the final cut for Sweden's WJC team, he hasn't posted good numbers in the Swedish Elite League either.
People still find a lot of things to like about Burakowsky. According to several scouting reports, he has great speed and a nose for the net, but may need to learn to pass the puck a bit more. For a team looking for a boom-or-bust type player later in the first round, they would be hard pressed to do better than the upside shown by Burakowsky.
Still, he's struggling against tougher competition overseas already, and didn't do much better when attempting to make the WJC team against guys that were his age.