NHL Draft 2013: The 10 Biggest Wild Cards in This Year's Class
The NHL draft always features surprise picks. Some prospects are selected much higher than projected while other players end up slipping for various reasons.
Most 18-year-old hockey players are continuing to develop physically, skill-wise and in terms of maturity. In other words, organizations cannot be certain that what they are seeing from these young prospects is what they will get in a few seasons.
In addition to this, metrics, while important and valuable, cannot account for some intangibles such as desire, adaptability, intelligence, hockey sense and so forth. A player’s country of origin is often another important consideration.
In this context, the following list of 10 wild cards, in ascending order of predicted selection, reflects a variety of these elements of uncertainty. This makes their projected draft spot somewhat unpredictable.
10. Bogdan Yakimov, C
Bogdan Yakimov is a talented centre who stands a towering 6’4” and weighs more than 200 pounds. He is from the same hometown as former first overall pick Nail Yakupov.
Yakimov is a wild card, as he has had limited play against the highest levels of competition, and as with many other talented Russian players, there are questions about him coming to North America.
Bogdan needs a lot of work on his skating, although he moves well for such a big body. He has offensive skills but may not have enough scoring touch to be a top-six NHL forward.
Given his size and potential, Yakimov could be a first-round selection. Conversely, he may slip into the second or even third round.
9. Jordan Subban, D
Jordan Subban has first-round talent and is offensively versatile. He thinks offense first and certainly shares some of his older brother’s ability to create chances from the point.
Subban is a great skater with the ability to find higher gears than most of his opponents. He is a wild card because he’s 5’9” and there are questions about his ability to defend at the next level.
He needs to continue to work on body positioning and not getting caught out of position. At the next level, his skating may not be able to compensate to the same degree, as it does in the OHL.
8. Kerby Rychel, F
Kerby Rychel is a wild card because some prominent lists have him in the first 15 picks, whereas others have him not being selected until the second round.
Some of this is a testament to the strength of the draft and the number of talented forwards.
Rychel was a standout for the Windsor Spitfires and finished in the top 10 in OHL scoring. Rychel seems to be quite adaptable in that he can match the style of his opponents. He can play a skilled and polished game, or he can muck it up in the corners if necessary.
There are some questions about his defensive game. He lacks the complete game of some of the top picks like Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm.
However, defence is much easier to teach than offense. Rychel may end up being picked in the first half of the first round.
7. Robert Hagg, D
Robert Hagg is a skilled Swedish defenceman who joins the rush with ease and is a threat in the offensive zone. Hagg is not exceptionally fast and skates more like a forward with shorter strides than many taller defenceman. His acceleration is average, but he does close well on attackers with the puck.
Hagg is very good in his own end, but there are moments of nonchalance on some shifts. He appears disinterested at times. This may account for him being projected to going anywhere from a top-10 to an early second-round pick. Despite these shortcomings, the potential is certainly there.
6. Nicolas Petan, C
Nicolas Petan had a tremendous year with the Portland Winterhawks. He can flat out score and put up 120 points in the WHL in 2012-13.
He is a wonderful passer and a gifted goal scorer. He scored 46 goals and proved that he’s much more than a playmaker.
Petan is a wild card, as he is generously listed at 5’9” and there are questions about how he will handle the rigors of a full NHL season. He may have to shift to the wing at the pro level. Nicolas has the game to do this seamlessly.
Petan could go in the middle of the first round, or possibly not until the second round. His talent cannot be questioned.
5. Bo Horvat, C
Bo Horvat is a great blend of talent and perseverance. There are more talented players in the draft, but not many work harder than Bo.
He earns every point he gets while taking the body at every opportunity. Horvat is a wild card in that there are questions about how his numbers might translate to the NHL.
He may not develop into a top-six forward and may be a very good third-line centre instead. Some project him to be a top-10 pick, while others see him being a late first-round pick.
4. Rasmus Ristolainen, D
Finnish defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen has been slotted anywhere from an early first-round pick to falling somewhere in the high 20s.
Ristolainen is an offensive-minded defenceman and can handle the puck as well as any blueliner in the draft.
Rasmus is a risk-taker and needs to work on his defensive game in many respects. More than likely, this accounts for the variance in predicting where he will be selected. He has tremendous upside and could be a top-pairing defenceman in the right organization.
3. Samuel Morin, D
Few players have seen their projected draft spot rise as dramatically as Sam Morin. In the middle of the season, Morin was projected to be a third- or possibly even a fourth-round pick.
There is an outside chance that the 6’6” rearguard could crack the top 10 on June 30. Conversely, he may not be selected until late in the first round. He is unlikely to be an offensive threat in the NHL. But he is a physical defenceman who can dominate opposing forwards in his own end.
He is aggressive and will not back down from anyone at the pro level.
2. Nikita Zadorov, D
Nikita Zadorov has all the tools. For a 6’5” defender, he has excellent mobility. He has exceptional speed for a player of his size and can use it at both ends of the rink. Nikita can make life miserable for opposing players in the corners.
Zadorov has garnered increasing attention in recent weeks. There is a very real possibility that he could be taken in the first dozen picks on June 30. In other scenarios, he is seen as a mid- to late-round pick.
He may not put up big offensive numbers in the NHL, whereas some of the other top prospects on defence have a lot more offensive upside. This explains the reluctance by some to make him an early first-round pick.
1. Max Domi, C
The biggest wild card in the 2013 NHL draft is the London Knights’ Max Domi. He has had a lot of attention and focus on him for years with his famous father, Tie, having had a long NHL career.
Max is a much different player and will be a top-six player in the NHL.
Domi could be a top-10 pick if teams decide his small stature will not be an issue for them. He also needs to work on his defensive play if he wants to be a top centreman in the NHL.
There are several talented forwards with size available in the 2013 draft. Because of this, there is a chance that Domi could be available outside the top 20 picks.
If Max goes anywhere beyond the first 15 selections, that team will be getting a great deal.