The 2013 NHL draft came one step closer with the conclusion of the lottery draft, and the Colorado Avalanche should thank the hockey gods for the chance to draft Seth Jones with the first overall selection.
Colorado jumped over the Florida Panthers via the lottery and earned the right to draft either a franchise winger, defender or center with the top selection. Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin are tough to pass up, top-notch options as well.
For this mock draft, team needs were taken into account first and foremost. This isn't a "best player available, one through 30" mock draft. This is about what teams need, and where they could go to get it.
Aside from the adjustments following the lottery, the selections are in inverse order of the standings. It's not an attempt to select the teams that will be in the Stanley Cup Final. The draft order for this mock up is just the standings flipped on its head.
Biggest Strengths: Andre Burakovsky is a slick skating Swedish forward. His acceleration is above average, and he's able to handle the puck through traffic while skating at top speeds. He's a shifty small forward who can do some very creative things in the offensive zone.
Projected Role: The potential is there for Burakovsky to become a game-breaking forward at the next level, but there are some concerns about the entirety of his game not translating well to the NHL. If this pick turns into a home run, he could end up playing some top-six minutes for the Chicago Blackhawks down the line.
Worst-case scenario, Chicago ends up with a very skilled player in its bottom six who can razzle opponents on occasion.
Why He's the Pick: The Blackhawks are stacked at every position and have enough organizational depth to warrant this high-risk, high-reward selection. Burakovsky would be a nice complement to the talented forwards already playing in Chicago.
Biggest Strengths: J.T. Compher loves to have the puck on his stick and make things happen. He tends to hold onto the puck in the offensive zone until the defense commits, and when they do he has the vision to find the open man.
Projected Role: Compher is a guy who can slide in and play on any line. He showed off his versatility while playing with the U.S. WJC18 team, where he put up seven points in seven games en route to a gold medal.
He has a nice finishing touch as well and is capable of snapping off deceptively quick shots.
Why He's the Pick: The Calgary Flames need rock-steady performers throughout their lineup and in the farm system. The rebuild is officially on now, and a safe pick like Compher toward the end of the first round would be another great addition to the system.
Biggest Strengths: In true Anaheim Ducks fashion, Curtis Lazar plays with fire, grit and a lot of passion. He's a talented guy who isn't afraid to get to the dirty areas to score goals. His favorite player is Ryan Getzlaf, and he molds his game after the longtime Ducks center.
Projected Role: Lazar brings a solid overall skill set and above-average IQ to the table, and he is just as capable of scoring goals as he is setting them up. Down the road, he could end up playing on Anaheim's second line, or skating as an above-average third-liner.
Why He's the Pick: Anaheim loves players like Lazar. He's molded his game after Getzlaf, so why not bring the kid in and give him the mentor of his dreams? His IQ is exceptional, and his character is through the roof. This is the kind of player you hope to secure when you pick later on in the first round.
Biggest Strengths: William Carrier is an absolute dog on the puck, constantly harassing the opposition's forwards and defenders until they cough it up or make a mistake. He's a quick, sizable player who can play either forward or wing.
Projected Role: Speedy, puck-pursuing forwards typically find themselves skating on either the third or fourth line, but Carrier has enough talent to perhaps find a home on the second line at some juncture. His hockey IQ is above average, and he knows what to do once the puck is on his stick in the offensive zone.
Why He's the Pick: The Montreal Canadiens could use a little size, but they still have the later rounds to go digging for grit. Selecting Carrier here sticks with the direction the team is going in right now. He's speedy, competitive and loves to get in on the forecheck.
Biggest Strengths: The 6'3'', 207-pound Ian McCoshen already has NHL-ready size and doesn't turn 18 until August. This is a massive 17-year-old with a booming shot from the point who knows how to play in his own zone as well.
Projected Role: McCoshen is a bit of a late riser and will need plenty of time to develop into a contributor at the NHL level. He has the tools needed to be a top-four guy, and his shot belongs on at least the second power-play unit.
Why He's the Pick: The Boston Bruins love their players big and strong, with a touch of a mean streak, and McCoshen fits the bill perfectly. He also recently committed to continuing his hockey career with Boston College, making this a perfect fit for the B's.
He put up 44 points in 53 games while playing for the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL, and he appears to have the makings of an offensively talented big man on the blue line. A team can never have too many of those in the system.
Biggest Strengths: A highly skilled player, Kerby Rychel posted 87 points in 68 for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. Forty of those points were goals, so this is a forward who knows how to finish plays as well as he can set them up.
Rychel has a nasty streak as well and is a beast in the faceoff circle.
Projected Role: It's never a good idea to call a prospect a can't-miss guy, but Rychel at the very least projects as an outstanding third-line role player at the NHL level. Forwards like this don't always get all the press, but they are the glue that holds teams together.
His nastiness, scoring touch and faceoff prowess make him a valuable, movable asset.
Why He's the Pick: This is another safe and sturdy selection for the Calgary Flames. Rychel is the kind of player they need to add to the lineup. He brings a competitive spirit and edge to the ice every night and could eventually be a good player for the Flames for a long time.
Biggest Strengths: Teams are always on the lookout for smooth skating, puck-moving defenders, and that's exactly what Mirco Mueller is. He maintains his poise under pressure and isn't prone to turning the puck over when dealing with forecheckers.
Projected Role: Mueller was Ryan Murray's defense partner for the Everett Silvertips before the Columbus Blue Jackets snapped him up with the second overall selection in 2012. Murray mentored Mueller all season while rehabbing a severely injured shoulder.
Taking all that into consideration, it wouldn't be surprising for the Jackets to keep the pair together since they've worked so well together after the last few seasons. If that's the case, Mueller is a top pairing guy who is capable of skating on a power-play unit as well.
Why He's the Pick: The Blue Jackets have a bit of an inside scoop on Mueller's development as a professional due to his involvement with top prospect Murray. While Columbus has plenty of defensemen floating around, it has three picks to use in the first round and would be wise to select its top defensive prospect's junior partner,
Biggest Strengths: Robert Hagg is an outstanding all-around defenseman who plays in all situations. He is already 6'2'', 205 pounds and is out on the ice regardless of whether his team is defending a lead or going for the late equalizer.
He is also a capable power-play quarterback and is an excellent skater.
Projected Role: The upside for Hagg is actually quite high, as he's already played against men in the Swedish Elite League with MODO. He hasn't produced fireworks, but he hasn't looked out of place either.
Why He's the Pick: The Vancouver Canucks need to add to their pool of defensive prospects, and Hagg would automatically become the best blueliner in the system, overtaking the likes of Frank Corrado and Patrick McNally.
Biggest Strengths: Ryan Hartman is the kind of player who fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs would fall in love with after just a few shifts. He's a physical power forward who isn't afraid to get nasty when the time comes.
He's thrown his share of headhunting hits and brings a serious edge to the ice along with solid offensive talents.
Projected Role: This is a traditional project pick, but Hartman has the same look that Charlie Coyle had back before the San Jose Sharks picked him late in the first round in 2010.
He projects about the same as Coyle as well. He has the skill to play on a top line, but mostly as a physical facilitator who can free up space for his teammates while finishing his chances when he has them.
Why He's the Pick: Hartman is a prototypical power forward who would fit in nicely among Toronto's nice mix of size and skill. He's a mean player who will stick up for his teammates at any opportunity and isn't afraid to throw massive, open-ice hits.
Biggest Strengths: Josh Morrissey is a real gambling man on the blue line. He brings a high-risk, high-reward style of play, relying on his instincts and frequently pinching in from his perch on the back end. If he were bigger, he'd be a top-10 selection. His smallish 6'0'', 185-pound frame is really the only knock on him as he doesn't tend to guess wrong on plays.
Projected Role: The pieces are in place for Morrissey to be top-pairing defender in the NHL. He can run a power play, has a good shot and as he shapes up his game in his own end he'll only become more valuable.
Why He's the Pick: Morrissey is a perfect fit for the run-and-gun style that the Washington Capitals play with. They thrive with defenders who are capable of jumping into the play as a "fourth forward," and that's what the Calgary native does on a nightly basis.
This is a match made in hockey heaven.
Biggest Strengths: Bo Horvat is a gritty center who has a nose for the net. He loves jamming away for loose pucks and battling opponents in the corners for position. He brings grit and tenacity on every shift and is an outstanding two-way player and penalty killer.
Projected Role: Horvat's willingness to stand in front of the net makes him a potential top-six player. So few guys are willing to absorb the abuse necessary that that skill alone makes Horvat an outstanding addition to this lineup.
He also appears capable of anchoring a penalty-kill unit and isn't half bad on faceoffs either.
Why He's the Pick: This is the kind of player that San Jose loves to draft. Big, skilled and efficient. Horvat is a battler who goes hard every night, leaving everything out on the ice during every shift. A time of transition may be coming for the Sharks, and Horvat would be a great addition to that moving forward.
Biggest Strengths: Alexander Wennberg had quite the coming-out party at the WJC tourney this year, proving that he could hang with the best young players in the world on a nightly basis. He's a strong two-way center with good offensive upside who comes out of his shell a bit when playing with talented players.
Projected Role: Wennberg safely projects as a second- or third-line center. With the Columbus Blue Jackets dealing Derick Brassard in the Marian Gaborik trade, there is certainly an opening for a young pivot to jump in and grab some playing time.
The talent is there for him to evolve into a top-six forward, but his two-way play might lend itself to a third-line role if Wennberg doesn't continue his evolution as a scoring threat.
Why He's the Pick: The Jackets almost snuck into the playoffs on the back of the type of game that Wennberg plays. He's responsible with the puck and plays strong in all three zones.
Biggest Strengths: Adam Erne is a tough customer who plays hard in all three zones. He likes to hold onto the puck until there is pressure on him, and things tend to happen when he is on the ice. Erne is a quick skater with outstanding hockey IQ. His attitude and character are also worth of note, as he tries to outwill opponents at every turn.
Projected Role: Erne would be right at home playing alongside some of the skill guys the Detroit Red Wings posses. Odds are Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg would be winding down a bit by the time he became a regular for the Wings, but he could have what it takes to be a top-six forward in the NHL.
He has outstanding hockey sense and doesn't tend to make bad choices with the puck.
Why He's the Pick: If Erne wasn't tough, he'd have the Winged Wheel written all over him. The fact that he is a bit feisty is obviously a plus for a Red Wings team that gets pushed around on occasion. Several of Detroit's upcoming prospects have a snarl to their game, however, and Erne would be a great selection for a team that tends to look overseas for hidden gems.
Biggest Strengths: While scouts don't tout Frederik Gauthier as a flashy forward, they have been impressed with his ability to play all 200 feet of the game on a nightly basis.
He's probably the best two-way player in the draft, and while he won't blow anyone away offensively, Gauthier is a dependable scorer who has shown flashes of offensive brilliance.
Projected Role: The Ottawa Senators have several other young players who are cut from the same fabric as Gauthier, including 2011 first-round pick Mika Zibanejad. He could fit in anywhere from the wing on the first line to the center on the third. His versatility makes all options worth considering.
Why He's the Pick: The Senators are a hardworking bunch, and Gauthier is a hardworking player. He's responsible with the puck and plays hard in all three zones. What coach wouldn't want to add a 6'5'', 209-pound, hardworking forward to the equation?
Biggest Strengths: Zachary Fucale is widely regarded as the best available netminder in the draft. His poise is unquestionable, and his lateral movement is quick yet controlled. Fucale is just as athletic as any other goaltending prospect in recent memory as well, but he tends to keep his movements sharp.
Projected Role: It can be tough to project goalies accurately, but Fucale is that best option in net in this draft.
Why He's the Pick: The Buffalo Sabres will look to begin the post-Ryan Miller era by selecting the best netminder available. It just makes sense here. The team doesn't have any home run goalies waiting in the wings, and things could get ugly if the responsibility falls to backup Jhonas Enroth.
Biggest Strengths: The QMJHL's leading goal scorer, Anthony Mantha is a massive power forward with noticeable speed and good hands. He's not afraid to go to the gritty areas of the ice to work for a goal and is among the best big men available in 2013.
Projected Role: The 6'4'', 190-pound scoring machine could eventually earn top-line duties alongside John Tavares with the New York Islanders. Kyle Okposo is finally starting to show signs of life, but he never evolved into the power forward that management envisioned him as.
Why He's the Pick: The Islanders would love to add some size to their top-six, and Mantha fits the bill. He isn't just big, though, as he was a top-10 point-getter in the QMJHL and still has plenty of time to add more muscle to his large frame.
Biggest Strengths: Ryan Pulock has a massive shot from the point and is an excellent skater to boot. He's fluid on the ice, making choices with little hesitation. Pulock moves the puck up ice in a hurry, either via pass or skating it himself.
Projected Role: Pulock could eventually turn into the offensive half of a top-two pairing in the NHL. He has power-play quarterback skills, and if he continues to develop along this same curve, he may eventually be viewed as one of the best players out of the 2013 draft.
Why He's the Pick: The Columbus Blue Jackets would solidify what is already one of the best young groups of blueliners with this selection. Championship teams are built from the net out, and the Blue Jackets already have several outstanding players both on their roster and in the farm system.
Adding Pulock to a group that already includes Ryan Murray, Tim Erixon and Cody Goloubef would bode incredibly well for the franchise moving forward, especially considering Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski are already in town for the long haul.
Biggest Strengths: Scoring 40 goals in his first season playing North American hockey, Valentin Zykov has seen his draft stock skyrocket over the last half of the QMJHL season. He's an impeccably smooth skater, getting up to top speed quickly and handling the puck along the walls while taking the offensive zone.
He has an underrated shot, and his quick release has lead to a handful of his 40 goals this year,
Projected Role: Zykov could be a first-line sniper just as easily as a speed, tenacious third-line forward. He'll bring an offensive spark no matter where he slots in, as he's capable of producing offense with a variety of players.
Why He's the Pick: The Winnipeg Jets continue to stock the cupboard that was left so dry and bare by the Atlanta Thrashers and their awful management. Zykov gives Winnipeg a bit more of a pure goal scorer to slot in with its strong, power forward types.
He plays the game at a very high rate of speed and could make interesting things happen when playing alongside other forwards who tend to open up space.
Biggest Strengths: Max Domi would most likely be a top-five selection if he wasn't considered undersized. The saying goes that it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the Domi, and there is plenty of grit in this one.
He has prolific scoring skills, unlike his father Tie Domi, who was better known as a... pest (trying to keep it PG here, folks).
Projected Role: If Domi can pull a Martin St. Louis and overcome his lack of stature, then the sky is the limit for this ultra-skilled center. He's quick on the puck, makes fast choices when the biscuit is on his stick and has quite the finishing touch.
He jumped from 49 points last season to 87 this year while playing with the OHL's London Knights, so his game is headed in the right direction.
Why He's the Pick: This might be a bit more of a boom-or-bust pick than the Phoenix Coyotes would like, but there's just too much talent here to pass on. There isn't a more offensively talented player available at this pick for the Coyotes, so there's little reason to not roll the dice on the underdog Domi.
Biggest Strengths: This kid is massive, mean and offensively talented. Nikita Zadorov would already be an imposing presence if he stepped onto the ice for his first NHL game next season. He's already 6'5'', 230 pounds, which might actually make him a bit bigger than your average defenseman in the league.
He brings more than an impressive wingspan to the ice every night, though, as he has above-average vision and a laser of a shot from the point. Zadorov isn't a bad skater for a big man either.
Projected Role: At worst, this is a guy you send out on a second pairing to lean on the opposition's top guys a bit. But Zadorov might have a bit more upside than a second-pairing defender, especially on a Philadelphia Flyers team that is desperate for help on the blue line.
Why He's the Pick: Some players just make sense on certain teams, When the Flyers traded for Chris Pronger, the hockey world collectively said "well... yeah." If Philly manages to snag the hulking defender here, it'll make just as much sense.
Biggest Strengths: Sean Monahan proved that he could do it all, and mostly on his own, on a weak Ottawa 67's team. He's a supremely gifted center, keeping his game simple and to the point. Which actually leads to a lot of points. He's a good skater and possess a deceptive shot.
Projected Role: Anything short of a top-six spot would be a letdown for this talented kid. Monahan already plays an NHL-ready game and doesn't mess around with the puck a whole lot like other forwards are prone to do while playing pre-pro hockey.
Why He's the Pick: The Dallas Stars need their top pick in 2013 to work out, as they are a team that is undergoing a bit of an evolution right now. They traded their veterans and allowed their kids to play. The result was a near-playoff berth for the Stars.
Along with Radek Faksa, the addition of Monahan would give Dallas a one-two punch at center that would be worth getting excited over for a long time.
Biggest Strengths: Outside of the "big three" there might not be a more offensively gifted player available in the draft. Hunter Shinkaruk is a supreme skater and has a wicked shot. His hockey IQ is also every bit as good as that of Nathan MacKinnon or Jonathan Drouin.
Projected Role: Top-line winger. There is no telling how high Shinkaruk could climb if he can overcome a mild lack of physicality.
Why He's the Pick: He sticks out in a draft that seems to feature a lot more size than usual, but his finishing ability makes him one of the most coveted prospects in the top 10. The New Jersey Devils need another bona fide goal scorer and would secure that by selecting Shinkaruk.
Biggest Strengths: Few players have seen their pre-draft stock rise like Darnell Nurse. He started the year as a middle-of-the-pack defenseman and has done nothing but blow scouts away with his raw package of physicality, nastiness and occasional finish or impressive offensive play.
Projected Role: Nurse has what it takes to be a top-pairing blueliner in the NHL. He'd likely secure the role as the shutdown half of a tandem, and his ability to lay massive hits would be a welcome addition to any back end.
Why He's the Pick: The Buffalo Sabres need help everywhere. The team really doesn't have a stockpile of talent at any given position. The Sabres are particularly thin in the defensive zone, however, and selecting Nurse could be a huge step in the right direction for the troubled franchise.
Biggest Strengths: The word mean doesn't get thrown around a lot when describing Finnish hockey players, yet that's one of the first words that comes to mind when talking about Rasmus Ristolainen. He loves to hit, and he hits to hurt people.
He's not a dirty player, but he doesn't want to see the other guy get back up too quickly either.
Ristolainen is far from just a goon, however. His offensive abilities are outstanding, and he's capable of playing in literally any situation. He always seems to know what to do, which is odd for a 17-year-old playing against men twice his age.
Projected Role: Top-pairing defender, possible power-play quarter back and go-to penalty killer. These are all roles that Ristolainen could grow into over time. He'll eventually be one of those guys who plays 30 minutes a night and quietly never seems to make a mistake with the puck.
Why He's the Pick: The Edmonton Oilers need less pretty and more gritty, and they need help in their own zone. Talk about killing two annoying birds with one stone. The combo of Justin Schultz and Ristolainen should return the Edmonton faithful back to all that dynasty talk, at least for a little while.
Biggest Strengths: Elias Lindholm embodies the best of what Swedish-trained hockey players offer. He's incredibly creative, shifty, works hard in all three zones and never gives up on a play. Scouts who are bullish on him compare him to countryman Henrik Zetterberg.
That's a tall bill to fill, but you get the point.
Projected Role: Lindholm has top-line center written all over him. He knows when to play aggressive, knows when to scale it back and backchecks hard on every play. He'll be a guy who teams can trust to shut down the opposition's top line while still creating scoring chances.
Why He's the Pick: Unless the Calgary Flames are looking to make another Mark Jankowski-esque "who in hockey god's name is that?" selection, there's no way they could leave the enticing package that Lindholm presents on the board.
The team has always had an issue at center, and it could take a large stride in fixing that issue by selecting a true top-10 player with its top-10 pick.
Biggest Strengths: Some scouts maintain that Valeri Nichushkin will eventually be viewed as the best player taken in the 2013 draft. The makings of an elite, super tar forward are there. He's 6'4'', 200 pounds and plays a North American style of hockey already.
Nichushkin has wowed scouts by dominating his opposition with his size and frame, protecting the puck and driving to the net at any given opportunity. He's also capable of sniping goals from the slot and beating guys one on one.
Projected Role: All-Star winger. There isn't anything that this kid doesn't do well. There have been whispers that he could evolve into the next Evgeni Malkin, but even if he falls short of that lofty comparison, he'll still be a damn good hockey player.
Why He's the Pick: The hangup on Nichushkin is that he is signed for another two years to play in the KHL. The Carolina Hurricanes are currently in a position where they don't need help right away, so expect them to do with him what the St. Louis Blues did with Vladimir Tarasenko.
Pick him, retain his NHL rights and be patient.
Biggest Strengths: Aleksander Barkov may be one of the best playmaking centers to come along in recent memory. His vision is superb, and he's able to use his 6'2'', 210-pound frame to fight through traffic while looking for an open teammate.
He's the kind of player who makes the guys around him better because of his speed and size. There are holes abound when Barkov is out on the ice. All it takes is a teammate with enough awareness to fill them to make him deadly.
Projected Role: Barkov has all the tools needed to be a top center in the NHL for a long time. His size is already NHL-ready, and his reach and vision are both top-notch.
Why He's the Pick: The Nashville Predators need forwards who can facilitate offense. For a team that simply doesn't score enough, adding a guy like Barkov is almost a must. While there are better finishers available here, those players can't generate offense like Barkov can.
Filip Forsberg and Barkov could be a deadly combo for years to come.
Biggest Strengths: Nathan MacKinnon is arguably the most dynamic and prolific forward available at the 2013 draft. His vision is scary good, and his ability to blow by players who are expecting the pass makes him a constant threat to score.
MacKinnon is an eyes-in-the-back-of-his-head center, and he has a penchant for squeezing pucks through small areas to open teammates. Or threading the needle and securing a goal himself.
Projected Role: Franchise center. He might not be as flashy as his counterpart in Jonathan Drouin, but he's every bit as unstoppable. The bag of tricks is endless, and this is the kind of center you can build championships around.
Why He's the Pick: The Tampa Bay Lightning and their faithful should freak out with joy over the chance to add a player like MacKinnon to the roster. He's close to being ready for the NHL and could make a crater-sized impact alongside Steven Stamkos once he arrives in the pros.
Biggest Strengths: Jonathan Drouin is the kind of player who sells season tickets. He's electric and exciting, and fans are on their feet nearly every time he touches the puck because awesome things tend to happen when he has the biscuit.
There isn't a more creative player in the draft, and there isn't a better pure goal scorer either.
Projected Role: Franchise winger. Any doubt about Drouin's ability to produce without Nathan MacKinnon was erased when the center went down with injury, leaving the winger alone to his production. He was arguably more explosive after MacKinnon left the lineup. There's a fire in his chest, and he loves to score goals.
Why He's the Pick: The Florida Panthers already have a franchise center in Jonathan Huberdeau. Huberdeau is just as creative with the puck as Drouin, and those two combined could be a really positive sign of things to come for a team that also features a top-notch young goaltender in Jacob Markstrom.
Biggest Strengths: Where to begin. Seth Jones is a fleet-footed franchise-caliber defender who possesses outstanding vision, a cannon for a shot and the ability to play the body when needed. He's an almost flawless blue-line specimen for a kid his age.
Projected Role: Cornerstone defenseman. There really is nothing that Jones doesn't do well, and he's NHL-ready now. He'll need to be eased into a top-four role, but within the next year or two he could evolve into an All-Star.
Why He's the Pick: The Colorado Avalanche faithful need something to cheer about. Seth Jones is that something. He's been the top player available in this draft for at least six months now and has been among the top-ranked players over the last two years of play.
Jones was huge for the U.S. during its gold-medal run in the WJC, and he has a nose for big moments. Then there's all that stuff about "cross-over appeal" as well. He's the total package, and the Avalanche should thank their lucky stars for being able to move up via the lottery to draft him.