2013 NHL Draft: Predicting the Best Value Picks for the 1st Round
In an NHL draft class dominated by some of the best prospects in years, teams able to see through each player's hype and determine their true value could be the real winners.
Thirty 17- and 18-year-old hockey phenoms will be drafted in the first round come the morning of June 30; the select few big names, from Seth Jones to Nathan MacKinnon to Aleksander Barkov, will undoubtedly attract most of the attention.
But for the franchises not fortunate enough to be drafting in the top five or 10 picks, choices will have to be made with more caution and difficulty.
Many of them will end up with youngsters destined to never completely fulfill expectations. Some, however, will find diamonds in the rough that could carry their team for decades to come.
Three or four years down the road, those so-called "value picks" will finally come to the forefront. In the meantime, though, hockey experts and onlookers alike can only speculate about who they will be.
Predictions for the top five value draft selections (in alphabetical order) in this year's first round fall on the coming slides.
The correct time to draft a goaltender is always somewhat uncertain in the NHL draft—while it may be the single most important position for success, prospects often carry extremely long-term development curves and become passed over like punters and kickers in football.
Unanimous No. 1 netminder Zachary Fucale is out to change that trend this summer.
With Halifax of the QMJHL, Fucale won 44 of 55 regular-season and 16 of 17 postseason starts to the league title. In the scoring-heavy junior leagues, Fucale's .909 save percentage and 2.35 GAA were both at elite levels.
"He’s a big-game goalie who doesn’t panic and plays with the mental resolve and maturity that belies his age," raves Sportsnet's Patrick King. "His versatility and maturity will make him a hot commodity."
With so many teams searching for a goaltender of the future, Fucale is a good bet to be snatched up in the first round. We fully expect him to be a star netminder in the NHL soon enough.
After missing last year's draft cutoff by one day, 6'4" winger Anthony Mantha exploded into a breakout season in 2012-13.
The lanky Quebec native more than doubled his 2011-12 goal-scoring total, jumping from 22 to 50, in his 89-point, 67-game campaign with the QMJHL's Val d'Or. Scouts were impressed by the 18-year-old's ability to stay patient with the puck despite his top-class shooting skills.
"He can slow the game down, and he exhibits good calmness, often finding the right plays to make with the puck," writes Hockey Prospectus' Corey Pronman. "He is a top-end finisher, possessing a bullet shot. When he gets an opportunity to one-time a puck, he winds up high, delivering a lot of weight through the shot."
His mid-first round projection should sound tantalizing to offensively-hungry squads like Phoenix (12th pick) and Columbus (14th pick).
Defenseman Samuel Morin leaped from 76th in the CSS's mid-season rankings for North American skaters to 23rd by season's end. He's definitely a long-term project, but Morin shows flashes of Zdeno Chara at times, and that alone may be enough to bump him into the first round.
Officially listed at 6'6, 202 pounds, Morin accumulated 117 PIM and a plus-10 rating in 46 appearances for Rimouski of the QMJHL this year.
"He moves really well for a big guy and he has a good sense of the game, offensively and defensively," CSS director Dan Marr told the Montreal Gazette last month. "When you get a guy that’s that big, that rangy, can make the first pass out of the zone and has a good stick to defend and he’s got a little bit of a physical element...that’s a pretty nice package."
For a team willing to wait a while, Morin should be well worth the risk late in the first round.
At a measly 5'8", 165 pounds, many compare 18-year-old center Nicolas Petan to famously small Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Yet the comparison extends even further than size.
Petan lit up the WHL with Portland in 2012-13, ripping home 46 goals and a whopping 74 assists in 71 games to become the highest-scoring player in this year's NHL draft class. Hockey's Future calls him "offensively gifted with high-end skating skills" and a "slick passer of the puck," and those attributes certainly showed on the box score this season.
Nonetheless, Petan hasn't received much nationwide attention and is far from the household name status that his WHL opponents Seth Jones, Hunter Shinkaruk and Ryan Pulock have already achieved—and that's probably because of his size.
The club that puts those worries aside and jumps on Petan will be blessed with an incredibly talented offensive weapon. His upside is far more important than his shortcomings.
Opinions vary widely on colossal defenseman Nikita Zadorov—the ISS ranks him among their top 10 while the CSS spots him as a fringe first-round player—but we're absolutely sold on this monster in the back end.
He's officially listed at 6'4", 200 pounds, but others (such as TSN) have him measured as big as 6'5" and 230 pounds. Either way, Zadorov is a huge presence in his own zone. The Moscow native is as tough and punishing as they come (consider him a bigger, meaner, better Tim Gleason) and appears on the fast track to a true shutdown role in the NHL. He racked up 25 points and 54 penalty minutes in 63 appearances for OHL London this past campaign.
"Zadorov is an elite physical player who possesses many tools for future success," says Hockey Prospectus' Corey Pronman. "He is unusually strong for a player his age [and] he uses it to his advantage, as he loves to take the body and land highlight reel hits."
While fellow rearguard prospects Seth Jones and Darnell Nurse will almost certainly be drafted ahead of him, Zadorov could easily be the third-best defenseman in this year's draft class. The Dallas Stars (drafting 10th), Philadelphia Flyers (11th), Phoenix Coyotes (12th) and Buffalo Sabres (8th and 16th) could all come knocking in the early to mid first round.