There is plenty to be excited about when it comes to the 2013 NHL draft as the top of the board is stacked with can't-miss talent such as Seth Jones, Jonathan Drouin, Nathan MacKinnon and Aleksander Barkov.
Aside from that, however, there is plenty of uncertainty as well.
Several prospects appear to have all the tools necessary to be NHL stars, but there are big-time concerns as well. Whether it has to do with national ties, size concerns or inconsistency, every player outside the top four has some red flags. Some will hit and some will miss, so drafting in the first round certainly isn't for the faint of heart.
Here are three exciting prospects who have some issues that could cause them to fall in the draft, but are ultimately worth taking a chance on.
Valeri Nichushkin, F, Chelyabinsk (Russia)
Perhaps the biggest wild card in this year's draft is Russian forward Valeri Nichushkin. At 6'4" and 202 pounds with incredible speed and hands, Nichushkin has been compared to Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins. That type of comparison isn't usually thrown around recklessly, so there is obviously a lot to like about him. With that said, Nichushkin's Russian ties could scare some teams off.
According to Jason Gregor of the Edmonton Journal, Nichushkin has two years remaining on his KHL contract.
Since relations aren't particularly good between the NHL and KHL, it's highly unlikely that the KHL will let him out of his contract early. With that in mind, the team that takes him may have to come to grips with the notion that he won't come to the NHL for at least two years. Even so, a Tampa Bay Lightning scout considers Nichushkin to be a top-five prospect, according to Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times.
Whichever team takes him will be rolling the dice and hoping that he won't opt to remain in Russia beyond his contract. A fellow Russian in Mikhail Grigorenko fell to the Buffalo Sabres at No. 12 last year, and although he didn't have a KHL contract, there was some thought that he could go to Russia. Grigorenko decided to stay, and while he had a sub-par rookie season, he has a promising NHL career ahead of him.
Nichushkin is considered to be just as good, so he shouldn't fall far outside the top five.
Max Domi, C, London (OHL)
London Knights center Max Domi is easily one of the most exciting prospects in the 2013 class.
Based on production alone, Domi should be a surefire, top-10 selection. He scored 39 goals and racked up 87 total points during the regular season this year and has an incredible 27 points in 17 playoff games. Despite that, teams are wary when it comes to Domi due to his diminutive size at 5'10" and 184 pounds.
There is no doubt that size can be a major asset in the NHL, but plenty of smaller players have thrived in recent years.
Martin St. Louis, Brian Gionta and Danny Briere are just a few who come to mind. Provided a small player knows how to get to scoring areas and avoid devastating hits, that player can be just as effective as anyone. Sean Lafortune of TheScout.ca has no reservations about Domi heading into the draft.
Also, it's important to remember that Domi is the son of long-time Toronto Maple Leafs agitator Tie Domi. Max is already 100 times more talented than his father, so if he has even an ounce of his dad's will and effort, he should be a great player in the NHL. Domi isn't guaranteed to succeed at the next level, but he has all the elements necessary to thrive.
Frederik Gauthier, C, Rimouski (QMJHL)
When it comes to physical tools, Rimouski center Frederik Gauthier has them all.
NHL teams are constantly looking for big, talented centers and Gauthier—who is currently ranked as the No. 20 overall prospect by International Scouting Services—fits the bill. He is only 18 years of age, but he is already 6'4" and 219 pounds and obviously has even more room to grow. The problem with Gauthier, however, is consistency. He did managed 60 points in 62 games this season but they often came in bunches, and there were some games in which he disappeared.
Gauthier did recently score the gold-medal-winning goal against the United States in the U-18 World Championships, so he is somewhat of a national hero. He has proven that he can produce on the big stage against elite talent, which should go a long way in improving his draft stock.
It seems like Gauthier is more of a developmental prospect than most other first-round prospects this year. He needs to continue growing into his body, he needs to exert himself more physically and he needs to improve his skating. Gauthier probably won't sniff the NHL for at least three years, but he could pay big dividends down the line as a Ryan Getzlaf-esque pivot.
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Lead image courtesy of TheHockeyWriters.com.