NHL Draft 2013: Pros and Cons of the Top 20 Prospects
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This year is the deepest crop of top prospects for the NHL Draft since 2003.
Some years, experts begin talking about players as projects after the first five picks.
For the 2013 NHL draft, there is a possibility that at least a dozen of these players could play regularly in the NHL next season. With the reduced salary cap and several teams needing to cut payroll, talented, young and relatively cheap players will be in high demand.
The following list features the top 20 prospects, in ascending order, for the 2013 NHL draft.
The list includes the pros and cons for each prospect. Honorable mentions go to Adam Erne, Frederik Gauthier and Robert Hagg.
1. Nathan MacKinnon, C
Pros: Nathan MacKinnon is the most complete player in the 2013 draft. He will be a first-line centre within the next two years of getting to the NHL, and he will thrive in a second-line role in the meantime.
MacKinnon has proven he can lead a championship team, and he will bring a winning attitude to the organization that selects him.
Cons: MacKinnon has played with talented teammates, and if he plays on the second line to begin his career, he will have to carry even more of the load than what he has been used to in junior. While MacKinnon had an excellent Mastercard Memorial Cup, he did disappear at times at the World Junior Championships this past winter.
He will need to play at a high level all season to avoid the criticism that will surface should he falter.
2. Seth Jones, D
Pros: Seth Jones is an excellent skater and is capable of playing top-pairing minutes. He is effective in all situations. He can lead the power play or be a great penalty killer with his great positioning.
Jones is a natural leader and will demand that his teammates be better.
Cons: Jones is not always as physical as one would like to see from a player with his size and reach. He has not developed a nasty streak and may never do so. In some ways, this could limit his effectiveness as a defenceman. When a player with Jones’ size and talent crosses the line from time to time, oftentimes, he never has to look over his shoulder again.
3. Valeri Nichushkin, C
Valeri Nichushkin, C
Pros: Valeri Nichushkin is 6’4” and over 200 pounds.
However, Valeri is much more than a physical presence with his ability to take the puck into the scoring areas. He is a powerful skater, and on many NHL shifts he will be the fastest player on the ice.
Cons: Nichushkin has not spent much time skating on North American ice surfaces, so there will be an adjustment period for him. He likes to drive the puck wide and use his speed to beat defenders. This will not be easy to do on NHL rinks, and it may take some time for him to adjust to the new angles and lack of space. Additionally, it is difficult to assess Nichushkin based on limited KHL action and less-than-spectacular international play.
4. Jonathan Drouin, LW
Jonathan Drouin, LW
Pros: Jonathan Drouin is the most talented left wing in the draft.
He has a deft touch around the net and does everything at high speed. Drouin is an unselfish player and should make everyone around him look good in the offensive zone.
Cons: While Drouin is not small, there may be some questions about how he will perform when he faces the physical pounding at the pro level. Drouin has played with quality players at the junior level and in international play. If he does not crack the first two lines in his rookie season, it may be a lot to expect him to skate on the third line with heavier defensive responsibilities.
5. Alexander Barkov, C
Pros: Alexander Barkov should develop into a top-line centre in the next two or three seasons. Barkov has played well against older competition and should not be intimidated by older NHL competition, either. He has a nice blend of power and speed that is difficult to contain.
Cons: Barkov has not consistently displayed aggression and abrasiveness when pushed.
He will need to develop that component in his game to become an elite NHL centre. He does not seem to have the scoring ability to be in the 70-point-plus range, so he will need to bring more physicality to his game.
6. Sean Monahan, C
Pros: Sean Monahan is another centre capable of playing a 200-foot game. He has had to persevere while playing on a relatively weak team for the past two seasons.
He did this, and displayed little frustration, despite the limitations of his supporting cast. Monahan is a mature player and future NHL captain.
Cons: Monahan’s numbers do not translate to him being a lock as a first-line NHL pivot. Some of this is due to the lack of talent on his junior roster. He may be an excellent second-line centre, but he will not be able to be a consistent points leader with his new club.
7. Darnell Nurse, D
Pros: Darnell Nurse offers the elusive mix of size, skill and physical play.
Nurse has the ability to intimidate opposing player and can hurt opponents in their own end. He improved his offensive numbers dramatically this year with 41 points in the 2012-13 OHL season.
Cons: Nurse will need to continue to hone his offensive skills to develop into a Norris Trophy candidate in the future. While he made great strides this year, offensively, further work is needed.
At 6’5” and about 200 pounds, Nurse will need to add another 20 to 30 pounds in the next few years in order to play his style of play against bigger opponents.
8. Elias Lindholm, C
Pros: Lindholm is one of the best skaters in this year’s draft.
He is extremely agile and mobile. He also has a lot of offensive upside to go along with his tremendous skating. He is a sublime passer with an uncanny ability to find the open man.
Cons: Lindholm has not played a lot against other junior players. Therefore, it is more challenging to assess his play compared to many other draft-eligible players. There are also some questions as to how he might adapt to the more physical NHL play and to the smaller ice surface.
9. Max Domi, C
Pros: Max Domi is a gifted offensive player who finished second in OHL playoff scoring this past spring.
He is a better passer than sniper with exemplary on-ice vision. He has never been tall, so he understands how to use his body to gain advantage against larger opponents.
Cons: Domi is 5’10,” and this leads to some uncertainty as to whether he can flourish at the NHL level. Domi has had the benefit of playing with other high-end talent, so there are questions as to whether or not his numbers are inflated.
He is exceptional in the offensive zone but does need to improve his defensive play to be a top-six NHL forward.
10. Nikita Zadorov, D
Pros: Nikita Zadorov is 6’5” and well over 200 pounds. He enjoys the physical play, and his style is well-suited to the pro game. Zadorov will not score a lot of points at the NHL level, but he is the type of defenceman that opposing forwards will try to avoid.
Cons: Zadorov needs to learn how to pick his spots in order to not take him out of the play in search of the big hit.
In order to be a more complete player, refining his offensive game, even to a small degree, will increase his effectiveness in the attacking zone.
11. Bo Horvat, C
Pros: Bo Horvat is another centre that appears to be NHL-ready.
Horvat has a high level of offensive skill and is defensively responsible at all times. Horvat has the potential to be a Selke candidate in the future.
Cons: If teams are looking for a first-line centre, Horvat will is unlikely to fill that role. As with other players, he needs to continue to work on his offensive game. Without some significant work, he may be a second-line centre, at best.
12. Samuel Morin, D
Pros: Samuel Morin is 6’7” and just over 200 pounds. He is a strong skater with the ability to contain players in the defensive zone with his skating ability combined with his impressive size.
Morin also enjoys mixing it up with willing participants.
Cons: Morin needs to continue adjusting to his physical size. His size creates unique issues for an 18-year-old. Also, Morin’s offensive skills need a lot of work for him to become an elite NHL defenceman.
13. Rasmus Ristolainen, D
Pros: Rasmus Ristolainen is one of the more mobile defenceman in the 2013 draft. Ristolainen is very creative in the offensive zone, and at 6’3”, he has the size that all NHL teams are looking for in today’s NHL.
With his ability to move the puck quickly, and to join the rush, there is reason to believe that he could be a No. 1 or No. 2 defenceman at the NHL level.
Cons: Rasmus is great offensively, but his defensive game is not at the same level as some of the other top prospects. In assessing his general play, his positional play could be improved, and there are moments where he would do better to make the simple play.
14. Hunter Shinkaruk, C
Pros: Hunter Shinkaruk is oozing with high-end skill that ranks right with Domi and Drouin at the upper tier of the draft-eligible players.
He is an excellent skater and his shot is both accurate and hard. He is an unselfish player with an ability to feed linemates in better scoring positions.
Cons: Shinkaruk is relatively slight at 5’11” and about 175 pounds. While some players flourish in the league at this size, because he likes to play in the high-traffic areas, Shinkaruk does need to add some weight.
If he does not add some bulk, Hunter may need to adjust his game and not enter the fray as much as he has in the WHL.
15. Nicolas Petan, C
Pros: Nicolas Petan is a scoring machine.
If he is paired with another offensive player, there are strong indicators that he can continue his high scoring ways at the NHL level. Nicolas is a terrific skater with tremendous acceleration and agility. He was one of the fastest skaters in the WHL this past season, and he has put up great offensive numbers at every level of play.
Cons: Petan stands about 5’9”, so, necessarily, there are questions as to whether or not he will be able to excel at the NHL level.
Because he has been such an offensive dynamo, and focused primarily on offense, he will have to improve his play away from the puck in order to play regularly in the NHL.
16. Alexander Wennberg, C
Pros: Alexander Wennberg has soft hands and is a great passer.
He excels in the offensive zone and has great instincts. He also covers the entire ice well. He is defensively responsible when it is required.
Cons: Wennberg enjoys physical play but will need to be even more physical to develop into a top-six forward in the NHL. While he has played against men, and done very well for his age, he lacks experience playing against North American skaters on smaller rinks.
17. Zachary Fucale, G
Pros: Zachary Fucale offers prospective teams a great deal of athleticism as well as advanced fundamentals in goal.
Fucale has held up well in high-pressure situations and is a proven winner. He is a battler in net and will not give up on a play.
Cons: Fucale does not have the size that many clubs are looking for in their goalie prospects. Additionally, he has played on some excellent junior teams, but his save percentage has not been eye-popping.
His .909 save percentage in 2012-13 might raise concerns for some NHL scouts.
18. Curtis Lazar, C
Pros: Curtis Lazar has been a good scorer at the junior level while playing a strong defensive game.
Lazar is tireless on the ice and plays a heavy game. He enjoys physical contact and can take a leadership role. Curtis will offer both skill and character to his NHL organization.
Cons: Lazar does not have the high skill of most of the other top prospects in this draft. It is unlikely that he will develop into a top-line centre, but he should be an effective two-way centre. One area that Lazar can work on is his passing.
He tends to hold a shoot-first mentality in most circumstances. Not everyone considers this a drawback.
19. Ryan Pulock, D
Pros: Ryan Pulock is one of the top offensive defencemen available in this year’s draft. He is a threat to score on most shifts. He loves to join and lead the rush.
He will be an asset to an NHL power play and has great vision from the point.
Cons: Pulock has had some injuries in his WHL career, so there are questions of durability. Like most offensive-minded defenceman, he also needs to improve his defensive zone play.
With his skating ability, he should be able to remedy his defensive shortcomings over time.
20. Anthony Mantha, LW
Pros: Anthony Mantha is a pure goal scorer. He lit the lamp 50 times this past QMJHL season.
He has soft hands and loves to shoot the puck. He has a knack for getting open despite his 6'4" frame. He is an underrated passer and can move the puck quickly and accurately.
Cons: Mantha's size works against him in that it is expected that he be more intense. He doesn't shy away from traffic, but he doesn't seek the big hit as often as some would like. He needs to bring more of a physical element to his play to warrant top-line minutes in the NHL.