NHL Mock Draft 2013: Pre-Combine Predictions for 1st Round Picks
The 2013 NHL Draft Combine is upon us and is scheduled to take place from May 27 through June 1. The combine gives 101 of the top prospects in the world—including Seth Jones and Nathan MacKinnon—a chance to show off their raw physical abilities by participating in various tests.
This is all a prelude to the draft itself, which will take place in its entirety on June 30 at the Prudential Center in New Jersey.
Since the playoffs are still ongoing, the back third of the draft is still very much subject to change. To handle the fact that those selections aren't settled yet, we just made the assumption that the top seed would win through to the Stanley Cup Final and take the prize.
1. Colorado Avalanche: Seth Jones, D
Biggest Strengths: Seth Jones is smart, fast and has a brutal slap shot. He can take the body when he needs to and has all the tools necessary to jump right into NHL play. He's already big enough, he's calm enough and he is a borderline generational character.
Projected Role: Franchise savior. It might be a tall order for a teenager, but that's what the Colorado Avalanche need right now. He'll anchor their blue line for the next 15 years and hopefully have the wherewithal to return the once-mighty Avs to prominence.
Why He's the Pick: The brass in Colorado can posture all they want. That team is set at forward for a long while with Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog in town. They need to improve on defense. They are also looking a player that will put fans in seats.
Here it is, on a golden platter: a Disney movie in the making. Kid grows up rooting for team. Team falls on hard times. Kid turns out to be a spectacular player and is drafted by that team.
2. Florida Panthers: Nathan MacKinnon, C
Biggest Strengths: If Jonathan Drouin is dynamic, then Nathan MacKinnon is downright prolific. He responds to the big moments with bigger performances and plays with a chip on his shoulder when challenged talent-for-talent. He's the best offensive prospect available this year, with his knack for hitting teammates with impossible passes and occasionally scoring a goal or three while making Seth Jones look like an amateur. Oh, and he's really fast and agile as well.
Projected Role: Franchise center. The Panthers already have one of those in Jonathan Huberdeau, but the Pittsburgh Penguins seem to do alright with the dual franchise-center model, so it might be worth a shot in Florida.
Why He's the Pick: His skating and vision are second to none in this draft. It's a tough choice between MacKinnon and Drouin, but the former has absolutely taken off in the playoffs this year and shown what kind of player he could be in the NHL.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning: Jonathan Drouin, LW
Biggest Strengths: Jonathan Drouin is dynamic. There's really no other word for what he does on a nightly basis. He's remarkably quick and can finish just as well as anyone else who's come along since Alex Ovechkin. There sn't a more creative player available in this draft.
Projected Role: Drouin is a franchise winger. He's the kind of player that puts butts in the seats and turns people from casual viewers into cheering fans. Steven Stamkos and Drouin could absolutely terrorize defenses for the next decade-plus.
Why He's the Pick: General manager Steve Yzerman would have to be secretly working for someone else to pass on Drouin here. There's absolutely zero reason to not take Drouin if he "falls" to No. 3.
4. Nashville Predators: Aleksander Barkov, C
Biggest Strengths: There isn't a better pure playmaker available in the draft this year. Aleksander Barkov sees all and knows where everyone is on the ice at any given time. He uses his size and speed to create holes for his teammates and then zips perfect passes through the gaps he's created. Just a smart hockey player that always knows what to do with the puck.
Projected Role: Barkov has NHL-ready size, reach and vision and has all the tools needed to do some heavy lifting as a top-line center in the league for a long time. He plays a steady and smart game and knows when to take risks and when to back off.
Why He's the Pick: For a team desperate to score goals, Barkov is a godsend. The Nashville Predators will go from not having much explosive talent up front to having it in spades after drafting Barkov and trading for Filip Forsberg at the deadline.
5. Carolina Hurricanes: Darnell Nurse, D
Biggest Strengths: Darnell Nurse started 2013 as a middle-of-the-pack defender and has played out of his mind since then. He's an incredibly talented but raw package, bringing the presence of a physically gifted athlete to the ice every night. Nurse loves to hit and is much stronger in his own zone than he is on offense, but that part of his game is coming along as well.
Projected Role: The pieces are there for Nurse to develop into a top-pairing guy at the NHL level. His hits are downright destructive, and his defensive IQ is off the charts. He doesn't tend to make mistakes with the puck either, making him a welcome addition to either the first or second pair.
Why He's the Pick: Carolina has selected several boom-or-bust offensive defenseman prospects over the last half-dozen years. Nurse would give them a strong, steady anchor to compliment those free roamers.
6. Calgary Flames: Sean Monahan, C
Biggest Strengths: The Ottawa 67's weren't particularly good this year, and Sean Monahan was one of their only bright spots. As such, the talented center often dealt with opposing players trying to box him out as the only real scoring threat, but that didn't prevent him from racking up the points. Monahan plays a simple but effective north-south game.
Projected Role: This is what a second-line center looks like a few years before he actually fills that role. Monahan doesn't screw around with the puck and tends to make the simple play, but his game is very results-oriented. Things just happen when he's out on the ice and Monahan tends to be in the middle of it.
Why He's the Pick: While some of the flashier top-end prospects dangle and deke their way to goals, Monahan just gets the job done. Some may view that as a negative, but his game is very likely to translate to the NHL. Needless to say, the Flames can not continue to blow draft selections, and picking a guy like this is a good way to kick that habit.
7. Edmonton Oilers: Rasmus Ristolainen, D
Biggest Strengths: Likely one of the meanest Finnish hockey players ever, Rasmus Ristolainen hits to hurt. He doesn't get his elbows up on people and he doesn't charge—he just legitimately thrives on the physical aspect of the game. Ristolainen can play in every situation and is capable of doing damage on the scoreboard as well.
Projected Role: This is a guy that can do just about anything from the back end. Ristolainen can be an anchor on any unit, whether it be a top pairing or a penalty killing group.
Why He's the Pick: The Edmonton Oilers are (obviously) stacked at forward, but are looking to add some snarl and need help in their own zone. They hit two targets with one shot by selecting this down and dirty Finn. They'll need to resist the urge of selecting a guy like Hunter Shinkaruk, but the Oilers need to stop loading up on offensive talent eventually. Right?
8. Buffalo Sabres: Elias Lindholm, C
Biggest Strengths: Embody Swedish training and playing methods into a player, and you'll get something close to Elias Lindholm. He combines the best that this school has to offer—creativity, shiftiness and a hard-working demeanor. Scouts may be asking a bit too much of the kid by comparing him to countryman Henrik Zetterberg, but you get the picture.
Projected Role: Lindholm has the smarts and skill to be a No. 1 center in the NHL. He knows when to play conservative and hang out in the neutral zone, or attack the net. The stick work is there defensively, and the vision is there offensively.
Why He's the Pick: The Sabres continue their overhaul by picking up this rock-solid Swede. Cody Hodgson has worked out wonderfully, and Lindholm would give them a one-two punch worth building around for years to come.
9. New Jersey Devils: Valeri Nichushkin, RW
Biggest Strengths: Some scouts believe that Valeri Nichushkin will eventually become the best player taken in the 2013 draft. He is a dominating force in the offensive zone and has earned some bullish comparisons to Evgeni Malkin. He's already 6'4", 201 pounds and plays a North American-style game.
Projected Role: Nichushkin has the makings of an All-Star winger. Everything from his shot and skating down to this presence in all three zones is nothing short of elite.
Why He's the Pick: If he's so good, then why does he almost fall outside of the top 10? The dreaded Russian factor is at play here, but not without merit. Some teams will be scared off by the fact that Nichushkin has a two-year deal to play in the KHL.
The Devils need to do their best St. Louis Blues impression by drafting and stashing this legit game-breaking talent. That patience will pay off in a big way in two seasons.
10. Dallas Stars: Hunter Shinkaruk, LW/RW
Biggest Strengths: Aside from Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, Hunter Shinkaruk might be the most outstanding offensive talent available in the draft this year. What he lacks in physicality he more than makes up for with his shot. Word on the street is that his hockey IQ is every bit as high as the top guys in the draft as well.
Projected Role: This is a top-line winger in the making. Shinkaruk's shot is deadly and accurate and he might actually have wings on his skates. If he continues to evolve along his current curve, he'll be playing alongside Jamie Benn in no time.
Why He's the Pick: New general manager Jim Nill has an all-important chance to knock this selection out of the park. There isn't a better player available at this spot, and the Stars could use some help on the wings anyway.
11. Philadelphia Flyers: Nikita Zadorov, D
Biggest Strengths: If you put Nikita Zadorov into a lineup with defenders already in the NHL, he'd likely be bigger than at least a quarter of them. Standing at 6'5'' and weighing more than 228 pounds, this is a big, mean and imposing presence on the blue line. Zadorov skates well for a player his size and has a rocket for a shot, but he really shines in the defensive zone.
Projected Role: This is a player that can anchor any pairing and play on both the power play and penalty kill. Given the state of the defensive core in Philadelphia, Zadorov would likely be given the chance to do anything and everything he could handle.
Why He's the Pick: It's no secret that the Flyers are in the hunt for help in their own zone. It's also no secret that Philly prefers its players to be a bit on the mean side. Kettle, meet kettle.
12. Phoenix Coyotes: Curtis Lazar, C
Biggest Strengths: Curtis Lazar's game is chock full of the "intangibles" that you're likely to hear pro scouts talk about if you listen to them chat about players for more than 30 seconds. There's a ton of fire and grit here, and the young center molds his game after Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks.
Projected Role: Lazar isn't likely to turn out as a true No. 1 center, but the talent is there for him to be a solid No. 2 or an above-average No. 3 while performing special team duties on both sides of the puck. Regardless of where he plays, he's an intense leader on and off the ice.
Why He's the Pick: This is the kind of player that the Phoenix Coyotes aim to draft. Lazar's hard-working, never-say-die attitude would fit in perfectly with the mindset that is prominent in the desert.
13. Winnipeg Jets: Max Domi, C
Biggest Strengths: Dom is only 5'9'' and weighs 184 pounds, but there's a lot of fight in this dog. He is as slick as any other forward in the draft and is capable of breaking games wide open with his skill.
Projected Role: There will be obstacles to overcome, but Domi could find himself as a top-line forward if things go according to plan. There's no question that this kid has the drive and the will needed to make it at the NHL level, and no one should be shocked if they see him tearing up the league within the next four or five years.
Why He's the Pick: The Winnipeg Jets are still slowly building up their prospect pool after management in Atlanta drove it into the ground. Domi is another outstanding and talented player to add to the ranks of up-and-coming Jets.
14. Columbus Blue Jackets: Ryan Pulock, D
Biggest Strengths: When general managers and coaches daydream about drafting an offensive defenseman, they are thinking about players like Ryan Pulock. His shot is downright explosive, his speed in outstanding and he has the ability to either carry the puck up ice himself or hit a streaking forward with a breakout pass.
Projected Role: Pulock could eventually evolve into one of the better players taken in this draft. He arguably possesses the strongest shot from the point that is available this year, so his future as a power-play quarterback is bright. Due to his strong skating, the possibility exists for him to grow into the offensive half of a top pairing.
Why He's the Pick: While the Jackets are flush with defenders, there isn't a forward worth passing over Pulock for at this spot. There are some interesting guys left on the board, but he is the kind of offensive defenseman teams covet for years before finally securing one.
15. New York Islanders: Valentin Zykov, LW
Biggest Strengths: Some folks still get a little squeamish when it comes to drafting European players, as there's a fear that their games won't translate to the more physical brand of North American puck.
There should be no such fear when it comes to Valentin Zykov. He posted 40 goals in the QMJHL as a rookie and has the strong build needed to excel at the next level.
Projected Role: Zykov isn't a slam-dunk goal-scoring selection, but he'll bring an offensive spark to whichever line he ends up skating on. He has the speed and tenacity needed to play a checking role, but Zykov also possesses an elusive shot that could be right at home on a top line.
Why He's the Pick: The Islanders like their forwards to have excessive amounts of foot speed, and Zykov has a ton of it. He'd be right at home alongside other quick players like Michael Grabner and John Tavares and has the finish needed to possibly evolve into a solid NHL scorer.
16. Buffalo Sabres (via Minnesota Wild): Adam Erne, LW
Biggest Strengths: The Buffalo Sabres need a boost to overall team toughness and Adam Erne is a shot in the arm in that regard. He's a big, tough player that isn't afraid to drive to the net to create scoring chances.
Erne isn't your typical north-south big man, however. He has an outstanding hockey IQ and can make outstanding plays in all three zones.
Projected Role: Erne has a mixed bag of skills, some lending themselves to a top-six role while others would be more valuable in a checking role. That kind of versatility is what makes him such a valuable prospect—he could slot in on a top line just as easily as he could kill a penalty.
Why He's the Pick: The Sabres tried the quick rebuild via free agency, only to see that fail. They'll now try the more appropriate route by selecting strong prospects like Erne. While he's not a franchise-caliber player, he could easily signal a new direction by Buffalo as a whole, especially with the team also possessing the No. 8 selection.
17. Ottawa Senators: Alexander Wennberg, C
Biggest Strengths: If you didn't know who Alexander Wennberg was before the WJC tourney, you did afterwards. After flying under the radar earlier in the season, the talented center came out of his shell in a big way while playing with and against the top young players in the world. Wennberg has the uncanny ability of being able to mold his game to match up better with his linemates, making him a bit of a Swiss Army Knife-forward.
Projected Role: Even if Wennberg doesn't continue to evolve as an offensive threat, he has the defensive skills and awareness needed to play on the second or third line. He'll always posses enough of a scoring touch to be a threat, even if he's not taking plays over or making end-to-end rushes.
Why He's the Pick: The Ottawa Senators have several other plays cut from this sort of mold. Mika Zibanejad was noted for his strong two-way play and 200-foot game in his draft year, much like Wennberg. While the latter player doesn't have quite the upside, the Sens still like to lean on these kinds of players come draft time.
18. Detroit Red Wings: Robert Hagg, D
Biggest Strengths: Already a talented power-play quarterback, Robert Hagg possesses an awesome and accurate shot and above-average vision. He's far from a one-dimensional player, though, and finds himself out on the ice in all situations. Hagg can defend leads, attack the net and kill penalties, as well as be a contributor on the power play.
Projected Role: If he continues along his developmental path without any missteps, then Hagg could become a top-four defender in the NHL. Detroit loves to over-season its prospects, so he'd likely be given at least two years in the AHL before cementing a spot in the top-six.
Why He's the Pick: The Red Wings have had a lot of success in drafting Swedish born and trained players, and Hagg would just be another name to tack on to that list. While the blue line isn't in nearly as bad of shape as it was at the beginning of the year, the team still needs to restock the blue-line cupboard now that Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl have finally arrived in the NHL.
19. Columbus Blue Jackets (via New York Rangers): Mirco Mueller, D
Biggest Strengths: Smooth-skating defenders are always in demand at the NHL level. Offensively talented blueliners that also show poise with the puck while in their own zone are a premium, and that's exactly what Mirco Mueller is. He's quick, makes a solid first pass out of the zone and isn't prone to turning the puck over.
Projected Role: The Columbus Blue Jackets drafted Ryan Murray with the second overall selection in 2012 to become the franchise's cornerstone defender. Mueller and Murray were defensive partners prior to that selection, so one could assume that if Mueller pans out, he could be a top-pairing guy in Columbus in due time.
Why He's the Pick: Mueller spent a lot of time with Murray as he recovered from a shoulder surgery that ended his rookie season before it even began, so the Jackets have an inside track on Mueller's development over the last year. The two were highly effective together at the junior level, and it might be worth a bottom-third pick to try and preserve that chemistry.
20. San Jose Sharks: Anthony Mantha, RW
Biggest Strengths: Anthony Mantha is among the best power-forward types available in 2013. He was the QMJHL's leading goal scorer, proving that his particular combination of size, speed and shooting ability is deadly. Mantha loves to skate to the dirty areas and scores just as many ugly goals as he does pretty ones.
Projected Role: The talent is certainly there for the 6'3", 200-pound forward to work his way into a top-six spot on a Sharks team that prefers their forwards to have a nice blend of size and skill. San Jose is thin on the right side, so if it selects him here, it won't be to use him in a bottom-six role.
Why He's the Pick: Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton give the Sharks a lot to like down the middle. However, the team hasn't been quite as adept at loading up on big and strong wingers. Mantha would automatically become the top right wing in the system and could find himself on the fast track with a strong showing in training camp.
21. Toronto Maple Leafs: Frederik Gauthier, C
Biggest Strengths: While he isn't the flashiest of prospects, Frederik Gauthier has impressed scouts with his ability to play in all three zones. He hustles and battles all over the rink, possessing a strong 200-foot game. Among the best two-way players available, he's also shown small flashes of offensive brilliance this season, which makes him all the more intriguing.
Projected Role: Gauthier is capable of playing either the wing or center, improving his value greatly. If he can develop into a top-flight offensive forward, then a top center spot isn't out of the question. His skill set would translate just as well on the fourth line as it would on the third, so there are options when it comes to utilizing the kid.
Why He's the Pick: This type of hustle 'n flow forward is the kind of guy that the Toronto Maple Leafs could really use. The team has been legendarily thin at center over the last several years and could look to change that in a hurry by selecting Gauthier.
22. Calgary Flames (via St. Louis Blues): Joshua Morrissey, D
Biggest Strengths: Elite skating ability and a strong game in the offensive zone are the calling cards of Josh Morrissey's game. He wasn't projected as a first-round pick at the beginning of the year because of some questionable play in his own zone, but he's seemingly shored up those shortcomings and rounded his game out nicely.
Projected Role: Morrissey has power-play specialist written all over him, but he could also evolve into a fleet-footed puck-carrying defender in the NHL. Whether that makes him a top-pairing guy or not depends on the state of the blue line in Calgary by the time he makes the lineup.
Why He's the Pick: The Flames are in desperate need of talent up and down the lineup and, having committed to a rebuild in 2013, can afford to allow Morrissey another year or so to round out his game. Offensive defensemen are at a premium in the NHL at all times, and Calgary would be doing itself a favor in snagging this guy late. He'd be higher if he wasn't a bit on the small size.
23. Washington Capitals: Bo Horvat, C
Biggest Strengths: Arguably the most complete player in the draft this year, Bo Horvat is an outstanding two-way forward with a scoring touch, as evidenced by the fact that he led the London Knights in postseason goals this year. He's also an outstanding penalty killer and has improved his skating stride greatly over the last 12 months.
Projected Role: Horvat has the finish and defensive acumen needed to become a No. 1 center in the NHL. The safer projection would be a sound and above-average No. 2 guy, which works out for the Capitals since they already have Nicklas Backstrom on the roster.
Why He's the Pick: This is the kind of player that Stanley Cup runs revolve around. Horvat has a ton of heart and guts, and when paired with his hustle and scoring touch, there's really no reason to think that Washington would pass on him with this selection.
24. Vancouver Canucks: Nicolas Petan, C
Biggest Strengths: The 5'9'' frame might make some people nervous when they view Nicolas Petan—then he does something special with his speed and agility while driving to the net. While undersized, it hasn't prevented him from stockpiling points in the WHL with the Portland Winterhawks. Petan posted 120 points in 71 games and showed that he wasn't afraid of the dirty areas of the ice along the way.
Projected Role: If Petan can overcome his lack of size—and he has the talent and drive to do so—then the sky really is the limit. He's shown an incredible knack for offense across three seasons in the WHL and has demonstrated his toughness on a number of occasions.
Why He's the Pick: The Vancouver Canucks can use picks later on in the draft to increase the overall toughness of the team. If Petan is still on the board at 24, there's no way an offensively focused team like the 'Nucks passes on a 120-point player of this caliber.
25. Montreal Canadiens: Ian McCoshen, D
Biggest Strengths: Standing at 6'3'' and weighing in at 207 pounds, Ian McCoshen already has NHL-ready size. The scary thing? He'll only be 17 when he's drafted.
This is a defender that can do it all. McCoshen has a massive shot from the blue line, knows how to use his frame well and is already sound in his own end.
Projected Role: His wicked shot will garner him consideration for power-play time, and he has the skill and size needed to eventually evolve into a top-four guy. McCoshen was a bit of a late bloomer and riser in this draft class and is still a few years away from arriving in the NHL.
Why He's the Pick: The Montreal Canadiens are in need of a bit of size throughout their lineup, and McCoshen brings that very thing to the table. He's a well-rounded player that possesses a solid skill set and could eventually find a home as a regular in Montreal's top-six defenders.
26. Anaheim Ducks: Kerby Rychel, C
Biggest Strengths: Kerby Rychel is a talented finisher with a nose for the net. He scored 40 goals (on top of 47 assists) in 68 games for the Windsor Spitfires this year while receiving plenty of attention from opposing defenders. Rychel also has a mean streak and is a talented faceoff man.
Projected Role: With his talent in the faceoff dot, Rychel is the kind of player that could eventually find his way onto a penalty-killing unit in the NHL while holding up duties as a second or third-line scoring center.
Why He's the Pick: He doesn't sound like an Anaheim Duck already? A mean, talented center that likes to take the play to the front of the net fits the mold of what they go for in Anaheim.
27. Columbus Blue Jackets (via Los Angeles Kings): Andre Burakovsky, LW
Biggest Strengths: If the Columbus Blue Jackets are in the market for a slick-skating and creative forward late in the first round, they'll need to look no further than Andre Burakovsky if he is still on the board. With above-average acceleration and the ability to stick handle through traffic, he's a prototypical talented but smallish forward.
Projected Role: This is more or less a home-run selection for the Jackets. Burakovsky possesses the tools to potentially become a game-breaking player at the NHL level, as his speed and creativity are off the charts. Those aren't the traits most teams look for in a bottom-six forward though, so with this skill set, it's really top six or bust for Burakovsky.
Why He's the Pick: With three selections in the first round and a well-stocked prospect pool, the Jackets can afford to take a mild shot in the dark with this selection. If a player like Bo Horvat or Nicolas Petan is available at this spot, Columbus could take the safer route, but Burakovsky has to be an enticing package for a team that doesn't have any lights-out finishers in the NHL.
28. Dallas Stars (via Boston Bruins): Samuel Morin, D
Biggest Strengths: Out of all the prospects available in the draft, Samuel Morin is one of the most interesting. He's a towering 6'6'' defender that skates well for a kid his size. He's also capable in the offensive zone and isn't afraid to use his size for evil, as he has become increasingly aggressive over the last few years of his development.
Projected Role: Morin is already used to playing piles of minutes and could evolve into a top-pairing guy. If he doesn't mature into a top player, he could still be a very useful NHL defender—guys this large don't become available all the time and he's solid enough in his own zone that he isn't a "risky" project.
Why He's the Pick: The Dallas Stars have shown a penchant for drafting large defenders over the last few years. New general manager Jim Nill hasn't been particularly forthcoming about what sort of draft philosophy he'll be applying here, but pairing Morin with the 6'7'' Jamie Oleksiak (the team's 2011 first-round selection) might be a bit too tempting to pass on.
29. Calgary Flames (via Pittsburgh Penguins): Zach Fucale, G
Biggest Strengths: Regarded as the best netminder available in this draft, Zach Fucale is noticeably poised for a young guy. His lateral movements are quick and concise, and he moves from one side of the net to the other without sliding out of position. While capable of making acrobatic saves, Fucale relies more on his speed and controlled movements to stop the puck.
Projected Role: Goalies are tough to project. It typically takes several years for netminders to begin to show their true colors. That said, Fucale is the best goalie available for a team hoping to land a future NHL starter.
Why He's the Pick: Miikka Kiprusoff isn't getting any younger and is injury prone at this stage of his career. There also aren't any slam-dunk goaltending prospects in the system. The addition of Joey MacDonald via the waiver wire was a good temporary fix, but the 33-year-old journeyman isn't the answer in net. That leaves the crease to Leland Irving, and it's never a good idea to pin all your netminding hopes on a single youngster.
30. Chicago Blackhawks: J.T. Compher, LW
Biggest Strengths: J.T. Compher is a confident player that thrives when he has the puck on his stick. He likes to hold onto the biscuit for as long as possible, baiting defenders into committing before dishing off to open teammates. Compher's vision is above-average, but he also possesses a deceptive release.
Projected Role: He's a versatile forward that can slot in on any line, as he showed during the WJC tourney while playing with the United States. Compher has the offensive skills to potentially fill a top-six role. If not, he could evolve into an above-average third liner.
Why He's the Pick: The Chicago Blackhawks tend to lean toward these kinds of players. Compher is rock steady and you know what you're getting when you draft him. He's not a project prospect, which is a plus this late in the first round.