The 2013 NHL draft may seem like a distant star compared to the looming playoffs and the recent trade deadline, but the likes of Seth Jones and Nathan MacKinnon are only a few short months away from hearing their names called in New Jersey.
The trade deadline may have caused some minor shakeups towards the back end of the upcoming draft, and there have been a few shakers and movers among the draftees themselves as well.
How will the tight race for first overall pan out between the top players available this year, and who will your favorite team be able to select at their current position?
The following draft order reflects the NHL standings as of Wednesday, April 3rd.
Biggest Strengths: Robert Hagg possesses good size and brings a rocket of a shot to the table. He excels at both ends of the ice and knows how to quarterback the power play.
Projected Role: A job with Chicago's top two pairings wouldn't be out of the question, nor would a spot on the power play. He has the skills needed to be a top-four guy, and the stay-at-home instincts to be a shutdown defender.
Why He's the Pick: The Blackhawks have a solid stable of prospects, and Hagg would be a great addition to the defensive side of things.
Biggest Strengths: Smooth-skating defenseman are all the rage in the NHL, and Mirco Mueller fits the bill perfectly. He has great size and maintains his composure under pressure.
Projected Role: The Calgary Flames have no offensive-defenders coming up the pipeline, so Mueller will eventually be given every opportunity to find his ceiling. He'll most likely settle in nicely on the second pairing someday.
Why He's the Pick: As the third selection for Calgary on draft day, Mueller gives the Flames yet another sound prospect with which to restock the barren cupboards.
Biggest Strengths: Jacob De La Rose is a big forward who is tough to play against. He thrives in physical games, and has a nice finishing touch around the net to boot.
Projected Role: The Anaheim Ducks love their forwards big and tough, and that's exactly what De La Rose brings to the table. He could find himself skating on the second or third line as the Ducks don't boast as much depth on the left wing as they do at center and right wing.
Why He's the Pick: Anaheim boasts one of the deepest pools of right wing prospects in the NHL, but are mildly lacking on the other side. De La Rose helps fill that gap at left wing, and also plays a brand of hockey that they love within the Duck organization.
Biggest Strengths: Justin Bailey plays a rock solid two-way game and seems to know what to do in all three zones. He's a versatile forward with a lot of speed and a great shot.
Projected Role: If he can put all of the pieces together he could be a top-six NHL forward. If not, Bailey still is a quick and agile player that could fit in nicely on a third line.
Why He's the Pick: The Montreal Canadiens love their forwards speedy and mobile, so going with Bailey is almost a no-brainer. They've also had quite a run of luck with their American selections, so why mess with a good thing?
Biggest Strengths: Kerby Rychel is a large, mean forward that knows how to score goals and dish out big hits. He's no fun to play against and brings a versatile skill set to the ice every night.
Projected Role: This is a a power forward that could end up fitting in nicely with the collection of like-minded players that the Boston Bruins boast. Rychel has enough sandpaper to fill out a checking line roll, and enough finish to play with more skilled players.
Why He's the Pick: Rychel is a prototypical Bruins forward. If he's still on the board when Boston takes the stage at the draft, it would be surprising to see it pass on him.
Biggest Strengths: Anthony Duclair is a remarkably quick forward that has the hockey IQ to make things happen at top speeds. Acceleration and agility while carrying the puck are also noteworthy aspects of Duclair's game.
Projected Role: If the explosive forward can get over the mild hurdle that his 5'11'', 182-pound stature presents, he could become an effective second-line scoring threat. Due to his speed, Duclair could also sync up nicely with a more physical presence on a third or fourth line as well.
Why He's the Pick: Duclair could end up being one of the best late "value picks" selected this year, and his skill and offensive bag of tricks would mesh nicely in Toronto with the Maple Leafs.
Biggest Strengths: When you watch J.T. Compher play, his strong suits quickly become evident. He is a hard working, gritty forward that can score goals and win races for loose pucks all over the ice.
Projected Role: Compher could slot in nicely as the third line center for the Buffalo Sabres within a year or two of the draft.
Why He's the Pick: The Sabres already have Cody Hodgson and Mikhail Grigorenko to center their top two lines, so selecting an all-heart, go-go center like Compher for the third line could finally solve the center crisis in Buffalo.
Biggest Strengths: Curtis Lazar has elite speed and has started to show off a scoring touch after a slow start. He doesn't shy away from contact and can give as often as he gets.
Projected Role: Lazar has the skills needed to be an outstanding second- or third-line center. He has the finish and speed to fill in as a second-line pivot, but could possibly dominate against the opposition's weaker players.
Why He's the Pick: The Ottawa Senators boast plenty of youth down the middle, and Lazar fits into the same mold as players like Mika Zibanejad.
Biggest Strengths: Anthony Mantha is already 6'3'', 200 pounds and will be a very hard forward to contain after he finishes growing. He has a great shot and capitalizes on his opportunities more often than not.
Projected Role: The Vancouver Canucks have been looking to add a little more grit and size to the lineup for a few years now. As such, Mantha could find himself as the "wrecking ball" on one of the top two lines. If not, he'll be a wrecking ball on the third of fourth line.
Why He's the Pick: The Canucks are trying to become a little less pretty and a little more gritty, so grabbing Mantha here fits in perfectly with that philosophy. Facing Zach Kassian on one shift and then Mantha on the next is the kind of positional one-two punch that teams like to have.
Biggest Strengths: Bo Horvat is a multi-situation forward who is a dog on the puck in all three zones. He also possesses a better scoring touch than your average "Swiss Army Knife" prospect.
Projected Role: Horvat is the kind of guy that can play on just about any line or in any circumstance. He might not have the finish of a true first line guy, but his nose for loose pucks could alter that outlook.
Why He's the Pick: Teams covet players like Horvat, who can effectively log minutes in a multitude of situations. He could go a bit earlier than this, but the San Jose Sharks would be delighted to nab him at 21.
Biggest Strengths: Max Domi will be an injection of pure offensive skill for whichever team grabs him. He has the skill and finish to be a top-10 pick—the only question mark for this talented forward is his size.
Projected Role: Domi has the offensive flair and creativity to fit into a top six with just about any team in the NHL. He has the goal-scoring touch and IQ to be a top-flight forward, and the tenacity and speed to be a grinder.
Why He's the Pick: The Columbus Blue Jackets have morphed themselves into a pesky team to play against, and could use a little more offense in their farm system. If Domi is still available here, there's no way they pass on him.
Biggest Strengths: Ryan Pulock possess one of the hardest slap shots in the draft, and is a very creative puck-rushing defender.
Projected Role: The speed and defensive acumen is there for Pulock to develop into a great second-pairing defenseman, and perhaps even eventually a first. Where he would be a huge boon is on the power play, where his rocket of a shot and wheels open up opportunities on a nightly basis.
Why He's the Pick: The Detroit Red Wings are still stocking up on the blue line after the departures of several mainstays over the last few years. They were forced to ice AHL-caliber talent this season due to a lack of NHL-ready defenders. Pulock would instantly become the best defensive prospect in this system now that Brendan Smith has finally made it to the NHL.
Biggest Strengths: A built-Ford-tough forward, Adam Erne is very difficult to knock off the puck and has developed into a very good skater over the last year. He already plays a pro-style game and isn't one to mess around with the end-to-end stuff that some more talented forwards get wrapped up in prior to joining the NHL.
Projected Role: Erne has the skills needed to become a top-six forward at the NHL level, and on a retooled Columbus Blue Jackets team he could fit in nicely with a guy like Boone Jenner.
Why He's the Pick: Columbus has changed the way that it plays the game, and would love to add a tough-as-nails guy like Erne with one of its three selections.
Biggest Strengths: Ryan Hartman has a little bit of everything. He's shown that he can play a more defensive style, but is also a point-per-game player with the Plymouth Whalers. He's also a big-bodied winger who can handle himself physically.
Projected Role: Projections on Hartman are all over the place. He could have enough skill to play on the first or second line, but also brings the work ethic of a grinder.
Why He's the Pick: The Edmonton Oilers already have enough pure-skill players up and down their roster. What they need is a physical forward to play alongside the likes of Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Hartman fits the bill.
Biggest Strengths: Another big forward, Frederik Gauthier is already 6'5'', 209 pounds. If all he brought was size it still might be enough for him to sneak into the first round, but he has shown flashes of brilliance and seems to have a huge offensive upside.
Projected Role: Gauthier could develop into the kind of center that you build around. Not that he is necessarily an all-World talent, but he is very difficult to play against and also has the skill to hang with other top-line forwards.
Why He's the Pick: The New Jersey Devils are thin when it comes to could-be All-Star prospects. Gauthier fills that void. If he doesn't pan out as a top-six guy, he still has the size and defensive skills to fit in on a lower line.
Biggest Strengths: Artturi Lehkonen is a smallish winger with the stickhandeling and shot needed to make things pop in the offensive zone. He also has a good hockey IQ and isn't afraid to engage physically.
Projected Role: The New York Islanders already have John Tavares as their No. 1 center, but have had a rough time filling the left wing slot. Lehkonen could slide in there or end up skating alongside Ryan Strome at some point on the second line.
Why He's the Pick: The Islanders have one truly elite center in Tavares, and hope that Strome can develop into a strong second line pivot. Lehkonen has the hands and the finishing capabilities to click with either of these guys.
Biggest Strengths: Alexander Wennberg had a great showing at the most recent WJC, proving his hockey sense and two-way prowess didn't fade when skating against some of the best young players in the world.
Projected Role: Wennberg has a giant upside, and could develop into a first- or second-line center.
Why He's the Pick: The Calgary Flames are going to add the most talented player possible with every selection they have in 2013. They have no top-flight prospects to speak of outside of the professional ranks, and Wennberg has the kind of upside that the team needs, especially at center.
(This pick will remain property of the St. Louis Blues should they fail to make the playoffs this season.)
Biggest Strengths: A good skater with a quick release, Hunter Shinkaruk is a sniper who was once considered a top-five prospect. His game hasn't fallen off, he's just been surpassed by the more elite talent available and is still a standout forward prospect.
Projected Role: With his hockey sense and shooting ability, Shinkaruk could easily squeeze into a top-six roll on a Nashville Predators team that currently has issues scoring. A Filip Forsberg-Shinkaruk duo could light things up for the Preds for years to come.
Why He's the Pick: The Predators are always on the lookout for more offense, and with Shinkaruk they get plenty of it. Also, how awesome would it be to have a guy named Hunter on a team called the Predators?
Biggest Strengths: Rasmus Ristolainen is a strong and nasty defender that makes life miserable for opposing forwards. He might not have the offensive upside of other defenseman, but he's almost NHL-ready and can distribute the puck well enough that he isn't a detriment.
Projected Role: Ristolainen is a blue-line anchor, capable of holding down the defensive end of things while a more offensively capable partner takes care of the heavy lifting in the other two zones.
Why He's the Pick: The Winnipeg Jets weren't done any favors by management in Atlanta before the relocation. There aren't a lot of noteworthy prospects in the system and drafting this S.O.B of a defender is another step towards rectifying that.
Biggest Strengths: Puck-moving defenders are the most sought after type of player in the NHL every year, so it should come as no surprise to see the smallish but talented Joshua Morrissey going so high. The only knock on him is his size—everything else about him is elite.
Projected Role: He could be a top-pairing defenseman and power-play specialist if he can shake the size issue.
Why He's the Pick: The Columbus Blue Jackets have plenty of capable defenders in the pipeline, but none are armed with the offensive capabilities of Morrissey. Adding him would be a boon to the power play within two or three years after he bulks up a bit.
Biggest Strengths: At only 17 years old, Jason Dickinson is already 6'2'' and punches in at nearly 180 pounds. That's massive for a teenager. His size doesn't prevent him from being a fluid skater, however, and he's also an excellent playmaker.
Projected Role: If Dickinson can learn how to use his size to his advantage, he could develop into a top-flight center that creates opportunities for his linemates with his physicality and vision.
Why He's the Pick: The Washington Capitals recently traded away Filip Forsberg (per the Washington Post), so there is a hole on their farm where an elite center prospect used to be. Adding Dickinson fills that void and gives them a large body to add to the lineup down the road.
Biggest Strengths: Some defenseman hit to create separation between an opposing forward and the puck. Others hit to cause physical separation of the opposing forward's body. Nikita Zadorov is the latter.
Projected Role: The Phoenix Coyotes have a handful of offensive-minded defenseman in the pipeline and in the NHL, and adding a guy like Zadorov to do some damage to the opposition makes sense.
Why He's the Pick: By drafting Zadorov the Coyotes would be shoring up a toughness quotient and landing themselves a blue-liner capable of logging heavy minutes in all situations.
Biggest Strengths: There isn't a scouting report out there on Darnell Nurse that doesn't describe him as a workhorse defenseman. He's capable of playing nearly half of a hockey game due to impeccable conditioning, and brings plenty of snarl on a shift-by-shift basis.
Projected Role: The Philadelphia Flyers are in the process of rebuilding things in their own zone, and Nurse would be a rock solid addition.
Why He's the Pick: A pairing of Nurse and Luke Schenn might make this mild reach worth it alone. He's a guy that can shut down the best players on the opposing team, and can move the puck up the ice by a variety of means.
Biggest Strengths: Some scouts have claimed that Valeri Nichushkin reminds them of Evgeni Malkin. He's quick and agile, and is nearly impossible to take off of the puck.
Projected Role: Nichushkin has unquestionable top-six talent, and posseses all the weapons to be an elite scorer at the NHL level. The only question mark by his name is the "Russian Factor."
Why He's the Pick: The Dallas Stars couldn't do better with the seventh pick. There isn't a more talented player on the table at this point, and if this guy was Canadian he'd be a top-three or -four selection.
Biggest Strengths: Sean Monahan is a big, mobile center that excels in all aspects of the two-way game. There are more talented players available at this slot, but Monahan is a safe pick due to his excellent hockey sense and ability to fill various rolls.
Projected Role: On a team outside of the Carolina Hurricanes he'd be used as a top-six guy. This team already has the top two center positions filled for the foreseeable future, but championship teams are built down the middle. That fact won't be lost on the 'Canes.
Why He's the Pick: Jordan Staal would be the first to attest to how huge it can be to have such a talented pivot playing on the third line. When the Pittsburgh Penguins won their Stanley Cup, it was with a Sidney Crosby-Evgeni Malkin-Staal trio down the middle. This selection gives Carolina that kind of depth, minus the generational talent.
Biggest Strengths: Elias Lindholm is a creative forward who can play either center or wing. He brings a lot of energy and effort on every single shift and also possesses a quick stride. Lindholm is already playing in Sweden's top pro league and could be close to seeing NHL action.
Projected Role: The Buffalo Sabres probably wouldn't take him at fifth overall if they didn't think that his upside was that of a top-six center or wing. Adding Lindholm and a few other talented players could quickly turn the ship around for this team.
Why He's the Pick: The Sabres initiated a rebuild at the deadline this year and will look to quickly reload at the draft. Adding a guy like Lindholm is a great first step in that process.
Biggest Strengths: After already putting up great numbers in Finland's top league, Aleksander Barkov could be ready to bring his electric and intelligent brand of hockey to the NHL next season.
Projected Role: Barkov could play at the same level that he is currently at and handle a second- or third-line role in the NHL. While he doesn't have the upside of the three guys ahead of him, he still holds the promise of being a very good first-line player.
Why He's the Pick: The Tampa Bay Lightning have a talent drop off after their three or four best players. Adding a player like Barkov instantly makes them a better, deeper and more capable hockey team.
Biggest Strengths: Where to begin. Jonathan Drouin is the only player besides Pavel Datsyuk that is constantly being referred to as a magician. Every time he is on the ice something happens in the offensive zone.
Projected Role: Drouin should eventually turn into a truly elite winger at the NHL level. He's explosive in every sense of the word, and will put fans in the seats because of his magical abilities with the puck.
Why He's the Pick: If any GM can mess up this selection, it's Jay Feaster. Still, this is a pick where not a lot of thinking and critical evaluation is needed. Drouin will give Calgary Flames fans something to cheer about in the coming years, and could form quite the scoring duo with Sven Baertschi.
Biggest Strengths: Nathan MacKinnon is a very quick, smart and capable player in all three zones. He can make incredible things happen at top speed and tends to make defenders look silly when they try to close the gap.
Projected Role: MacKinnon could evolve into a top-flight center with the kind of ability to break games wide open.
Why He's the Pick: The one-two punch of MacKinnon and Jonathan Huberdeau would make the Florida Panthers a fearsome team for years to come.
Biggest Strength: While Seth Jones turns plenty of heads with his defensive acumen and offensive flair, his biggest strength is his hockey IQ. He seems to know where everyone is on the ice at any given time, and rarely makes a mistake with the puck.
Projected Role: Jones has all the tools needed to become a cornerstone NHL defenseman and could evolve into a perennial Norris threat.
Why He's the Pick: The Avalanche have several defensive prospects that could make an impact at the NHL level, but they don't have anyone with nearly as much upside as Jones. With Stefan Elliot struggling to stick on the pro roster, and Duncan Siemens projecting as more of a two-way defender, the Avs won't have any trouble making room for Jones.