The 2013 NHL draft scouting process is under way. While many players will spend a few more seasons getting pro-ready, there are some who are ready to step in and play in the NHL right away.
In order to play right away, these prospects need to have one exceptional skill that makes them stand out from their peers. The jump from junior hockey to the pros is not easy. But if a player has a truly exceptional skill, then he has a chance.
Which players have the best chance to contribute immediately in the pros next season?
Read on to find out.
Seth Jones, D, Portland Winterhawks, WHL
Seth Jones is probably going to be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and for good reason. The 6'4", 206-pound defenseman scored 14 goals and had a remarkable 42 assists in just 61 games. In the playoffs, Jones had 13 points in 15 games.
He's an elite skater who understands angles and positioning. He has the size and strength to win battles in the corners. His skating ability will allow him to make the jump from junior hockey to the NHL more easily. The ones who can make that difficult jump usually have an elite skill—for Jones, it's his skating.
Analyst Pierre McGuire raved about Jones' potential (via USA Today):
"He's the franchise defenseman every team is looking for," McGuire said. "His ability to one-time the puck is huge. He can really skate. He can log big minutes. He's not going to be intimidated."
Simply put, he's an all-around defenseman. He should step in right away and play big minutes while putting up points on the offensive side. Jones is the next great defenseman in the NHL and will make an immediate impact.
Jonathan Drouin, LW, Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL
Jonathan Drouin is an offensive wizard who will score a lot of goals in the NHL.
The 5'11", 176-pound winger made junior defensemen look silly, as he scored 41 goals and had 64 assists in just 49 games. That means that Drouin averaged over two points per game.
He's a bit small, but Drouin is an excellent passer with incredible vision, as evidenced by this ridiculous play:
Drouin will make an immediate impact in the pros because of his vision. He might be small and won't be much of a factor on defense. But his vision is elite, and that ability will make him a weapon on the power play from the moment he steps into the league.
Aleksander Barkov Jr., C, Tappara, SML
Aleksander Barkov Jr. is a solid, no-frills prospect who will play in the league for a long time. He scored 21 goals and had 28 assists in the Finnish Elite League, where he played against some of the best competition in the world.
Barkov is a well-rounded player who earned high praise from former general manager Craig Button (via USA Today):
"Barkov is a complete two-way centerman," Button said. "Barkov reminds me of Ronnie Francis, and that's why I think he steps right into the league and starts contributing."
A comparison to Ron Francis is quite the compliment.
Barkov should step in right away and play an all-around game. He's not as flashy as Drouin, but he will play in all situations and could settle in on the second line as a rookie. He provides great hockey sense and has the ability to put up points.
Barkov will be selected in the top five, and whichever team selects him will have an immediate contributor. Look for Barkov to have a really good rookie year and an excellent career overall.