The 2013 NHL draft has become one of the most anticipated drafts in recent memory. Although there aren't two headliners as there have been in seasons past, there are a number of potential stars in the draft class.
There is not a lot of consensus after that selection, and there could be a lot of jockeying between today, and June 30, in New Jersey, the site of this year's draft. Teams can significantly improve their organizational depth at this year's draft. It is one of the deepest drafts, in terms of overall talent, in the last 20 years.
The following mock draft predicts all of the first-round selections, starting with the Colorado Avalanche's first pick.
Nathan MacKinnon is one of the youngest draft-eligible players in the 2013 draft, yet he boasts the top all-around game.
With the Colorado Avalanche there would not be instant pressure on him to score, and he could play second-line minutes in his rookie season. He will be playing in the NHL next season. There is, however, every reason to believe that he will be pushing for Matt Duchene’s spot as the Avalanche’s top centerman in a couple of seasons.
MacKinnon has blistering speed and uses it to create chances for himself and his wingers. He is an unselfish player and a natural leader. He is a worthy first overall pick.
The Florida Panthers will receive a number of offers for this pick. If the Avalanche decide to pass on Seth Jones, unless the Panthers receive an offer they truly cannot refuse, the pick is Seth Jones.
The Panthers need to address a few areas of need, possibly considering Jonathan Drouin or Valeri Nichushkin ahead of selecting a defenceman, but Jones offers too much upside. While there may be some questions on whether or not Jones will develop into a Norris Trophy candidate down the road, there is no reason to think he will not be a top-pairing defenceman in a few seasons.
Jones offers an instant upgrade to the Panthers defence corps. He should be the pick if passed on by Colorado.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have a good mix of young players and veteran stars. But this lockout-shortened season was a disappointing one for the organization. It has some offensive standouts that can dominate, at times, in the offensive zone. One area that the Lightning need to address is their lack of size up front.
If they hope to match up with teams like the Boston Bruins, they need to add forward Valeri Nichushkin. Nichushkin has some work to do on his game to become a top-line forward, but with the Lightning, he would not have to put up great offensive numbers in his first few seasons.
Nichushkin is unlikely to be an instant star, but if he is allowed some time to develop, he could be a difference-maker for a long time.
The Nashville Predators have one of the best defenceman in the NHL in Shea Weber, along with a number of forwards who work hard night in and night out.
The one element they have lacked for a number of years is elite scorers. Jonathan Drouin would bring excellent offensive skills to Nashville. He is a great skater, and his ability to accelerate from a near stand-still might be the best in this class.
Predator fans should be ecstatic about the prospects of Filip Forsberg and Drouin growing together as an offensive tandem. They could become one of the better one-two punches in the NHL in a year or two.
Alexander Barkov has all the skills to become a top-line centre in the NHL.
While the Carolina Hurricanes are deep at centre, Barkov is too talented to pass up with the fifth pick. Barkov could develop without the pressure of being a first-line centre immediately and all that comes with that. Potentially, he could even move to wing to play with either Eric or Jordan Staal.
Alexander couldn’t be mentored by two better centres and would have the opportunity to further develop his play at both ends of the rink. Barkov is one of the youngest members of this draft class, so it should be exciting to see him develop in the next two or three seasons.
The Hurricanes could claim to have the best group of centres in the NHL if they select Barkov.
The Calgary Flames, whether or not they want to proclaim it loudly, are in a rebuilding mode.
While they don’t have to start completely from scratch, they have a number of holes to fill in most positions.
The good news is they have some talented young players such as T.J. Brodie and Sven Baertschi. The Flames will need to add additional scoring, and with the sixth pick, they would do well to take Elias Lindholm.
Lindholm’s game is not as flashy as either MacKinnon or Drouin, but there are no glaring weaknesses either. Lindholm is a great passer, and if he’s paired with a sniper, his offensive numbers should be very good.
Despite having some of the best young talent in the NHL, the Edmonton Oilers have some gaping holes on their roster.
They need to add at least two NHL-ready defenceman before next season as a starting point. With the seventh pick, the Ottawa 67’s Sean Monahan would seem to make the most sense. The Oilers will be moving Shawn Horcoff by all accounts, so Monahan could even slip into the third-line centreman role next season. While he projects to be an excellent second-liner, putting him in this lesser role, at least to begin, seems obvious.
Monahan could quickly become one of the league’s better third-line pivots.
The Oilers desperately need size down the middle, and the 6’2” Monahan will fill that role instantly. He is NHL-ready.
The Buffalo Sabres had a disappointing regular season and failed to make the playoffs. The Sabres need to address a few areas, but if Darnell Nurse is available in the eighth spot, they will have to take him.
Nurse is formidable on the point and developed some very good offensive skills this year. He contributed to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds offence with 41 points this past season. At 6’4” and over 200 pounds, Nurse can punish opponents with his mobility and physicality.
He should be a top-pairing defenceman in the next two or three seasons if he continues to develop as well as he has in the OHL.
The New Jersey Devils have a few needs, including another goaltending prospect and a top-pairing defenceman. However, with the number of gifted offensive players available this year, the Devils are likely to select one of them. There will be several offensive-minded players available at the ninth pick.
The London Knights’ Max Domi would be a great choice for the Devils. Domi is undersized at 5’9”, but at almost 200 pounds, he should have no issues dealing with the physical pounding of the pro game. Domi loves to create offence, and the Devils certainly need to add additional offence to their roster.
Max can score goals or make that extra pass to set up his linemates. He could likely step into a top-six role with the Devils next season.
The Dallas Stars will be led by new head coach Lindy Ruff next season. Ruff will have some great young forwards to work with, but the organization could use another top blueliner. There are a number of excellent defenceman in this year’s draft. If Nikita Zadorov is available at No. 10, then the Stars should select him.
Ruff likes his teams to play a hard-nosed style with a focus on defence and intimidating other teams physically. Zadorov loves to mix it up in the corners and will drop the gloves if necessary.
Zadorov’s game should translate very well to the NHL, and he may develop into a top-pairing defenceman given his excellent skating abilities.
The Philadelphia Flyers will have several talented players available to them with the 11th pick.
There should be some gifted offensive players available, along with some strong defenders. Scoring has not been an issue for the Flyers in recent seasons, so the most likely pick would be a big, physical defenceman.
There are not many who come bigger than Samuel Morin. The 6’6” Morin is surprisingly mobile and has even logged top-unit minutes on the power play in junior hockey. Fans in Philadelphia would grow to love Morin. He has the potential to make life miserable for attacking forwards. He does need to work on his skating and add some weight to his growing frame.
However, there is a lot of upside to the towering Morin’s game, and he could develop into a premier shutdown defender.
The Phoenix Coyotes are a highly disciplined team led by head coach Dave Tippett. Their attention to detail is excellent, and Tippett preaches defensive play first.
The Coyotes have been offensively challenged in recent seasons and will likely select a prospect with offensive skills. Medicine Hat Tiger Hunter Shinkaruk would make the most sense with the Coyotes’ pick. The Calgary product has been a prolific goal scorer in the WHL. He tallied 49 this past season. He is also a great passer with on-ice vision that rivals the best skaters in this year’s draft.
Shinkaruk can play at centre or on the wing, and Coach Tippett will appreciate his versatility.
The Winnipeg Jets should have some great options with the 13th pick. The Jets are on the cusp of becoming a better-than-average team in the coming years with a good core of young players such as Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian. There are also a number of prospects already in their system that are poised to grab NHL jobs soon.
The Jets could use more offensive depth, and Bo Horvat of the London Knights is likely to be the best player available.
While his statistics aren’t eye-popping, nevertheless, he could develop into a valuable second-line forward. He ability to contribute at centre or on the wing makes him more valuable than other, more one-dimensional skaters.
It is unlikely that Horvat has the offensive upside to become a first-line pivot, but the Jets aren’t in need of one with Andrew Ladd continuing to play great hockey and the highly regarded Mark Scheifele likely developing into that role in the future.
Horvat makes a lot of sense in Winnipeg.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have several talented young forwards and multiple first-round picks in this year’s draft. In other words, they have some flexibility. If Swedish defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen is available at No. 14, they should take him. He is a great skater who can join the rush in just a few quick strides.
He’s 6’3” and has the type of game that could see him develop into a top-pairing defenceman.
There are some questions about Ristolainen’s defensive game. He can get caught out of position and needs to work on his overall commitment to defence. He has a lot of talent, and while the Jackets have some talented young defenceman, adding another one to their NHL roster would only improve the team’s chances of becoming a perennial playoff club.
The New York Islanders had an exciting regular season and pushed the Pittsburgh Penguins in their spring playoff series. They have a talented group of forwards, with many under the age of 25. Led by budding superstar John Tavares, this team should be even better next year.
General manager Garth Snow selected a number of defenceman last year in the 2012 draft, so look for him to add talented centre Curtis Lazar.
The Edmonton Oil Kings product has a great shot and likes to use it. He plays a physical game and enjoys contact all over the ice. He may not be a first-line centre at the NHL level, but the Islanders have that covered for the foreseeable future.
Lazar is an unselfish player and will contribute to the team in any way that he is asked.
The Buffalo Sabres will have some choices to make with two picks in the first 16. The Sabres did not perform as well as fans would have liked last season. These two draft picks could see themselves on the Sabres’ 2013-14 NHL roster.
If the Sabres take Nurse with their first pick, adding an upper-tier forward makes sense. Alexander Wennberg from Sweden would be a great choice for the Sabres.
There is a lot to like in Wennberg’s game; he has good size at 6’0” and nearly 200 pounds. He is always around the puck. He is a slick playmaker and more than holds his own in the defensive zone. He has the chance to be a top-six forward in the NHL.
The Ottawa Senators have a solid system in place and are led by Jack Adams Trophy winner Paul MacLean. MacLean is a demanding coach but understands how to get the most out of each player.
The Senators have no immediate needs as they have been developing young talent very well organizationally. The team is young and fast. Adding an offensive defenceman who can move the puck as well as any defenceman in the 2013 draft class makes sense.
Brandon Wheat Kings rearguard Ryan Pulock would be a great pick.
Pulock loves to roam in the offensive zone, and he will be able to run an NHL power play in the near future. Pulock has to refine his defensive game—he'll have time to do so. The Senators wouldn’t need him next year, so a season or two of development in junior and the Senators’ minor league system would be best for his long-term development.
The Detroit Red Wings were expected to take a large step back by many hockey experts this season. While they weren’t as dominant as they have been in recent seasons, they had a good playoff run and almost knocked off the Chicago Blackhawks.
The one area the Red Wings have some need is size up front. They want all of their players, regardless of their role, to have some skill, so the CHL’s leading goal scorer, Anthony Mantha, would fit the bill. Mantha is a pure sniper who offers tremendous size and skill. The Wings play a puck-possession style, and adding another finisher to their roster makes a lot of sense.
Given some time to develop with the Red Wings should allow the big winger to blossom into a top-six NHL player.
If the Blue Jackets select a defenceman with their first pick, adding some depth at forward would be recommended with this pick. The Jackets could use more skill up front. Andre Burakovsky would be a very good pick for the Jackets.
He is one of the fastest skaters in this draft class. He manages this speed well as he can handle the puck and distribute it beyond his pure straight-line speed. The Jackets' ability to attack the offensive zone improves immediately with the addition of a player of Burakovsky's ilk.
Burakovsky would have an outside chance of playing in Columbus next season in a top-nine role.
The San Jose Sharks have been able to retool their lineup without completely dismantling. They were inconsistent this past regular season, but at their best, they were one of the best teams in the Western Conference.
The Sharks have some good young prospects in all positions. They could use some more speed on the wing, and Valentin Zykov would be a good choice. The Baie-Comeau winger offers tremendous speed and the ability to put the puck in the net. He adjusted well to the QMJHL and could develop into a second-line right wing with the Sharks.
Zykov has a heavy shot and will use it anywhere in the offensive zone. His defensive game needs improvement, although not as much as many talented offensive players.
The Toronto Maple Leafs exceeded most expectations this year in both the regular season and the playoffs. The Leafs played very well for head coach Randy Carlyle, who implemented a system that brought structure and responsibility in the defensive zone.
Carlyle likes his teams to play with a physical edge, and forward Frederik Gauthier would be a fine addition to the Leafs. At 6’5” and 200 pounds, Frederik will add even more muscle in the coming years, and he will be a force in all three zones on the ice. He’s much more than just a big body. He has good hockey sense and should develop into a very good second-line centre.
Gauthier would be the right pick for the relatively undersized Maple Leafs.
The Calgary Flames could be the big winners in the 2013 NHL draft with three first-round picks. The Flames need help at all positions, so adding a very good defenceman with this pick works well.
Josh Morrissey has been a great offensive defenceman in the demanding WHL. Morrissey is at his best in the offensive zone and exhibits skill beyond his years with the puck. Morrissey will not intimidate anyone physically, but he enjoys the more physical aspects of the defensive game.
Morrissey is a few years away from NHL play, but if the Flames are patient with him, he could become a top-four defenceman in time.
The Washington Capitals were one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference in the second half of the shortened season. Adam Oates implemented a new system, and it took some time for the team to become comfortable with it.
The Capitals, like most other teams, could use some additional defensive depth. The Kelowna Rockets’ defensive standout, Madison Bowey, would be a good fit in Washington. The Capitals have some great offensive players led by league MVP Alex Ovechkin. In a few years, Bowey could bolster this offence from the point.
He is an above-average skater with an NHL-ready frame.
The Vancouver Canucks are an aging team and need to infuse youth into their lineup in the next few seasons. The Canucks have some solid prospects at all positions. However, a winger with both size and offensive skills is a high priority.
Kerby Rychel would be a great choice for the Canucks, if he is available. He is a proven sniper in the OHL. He led the Windsor Spitfires in points this past season with 87. His consistency has been an issue throughout his junior career and has contributed to him not being a top-10 pick.
Rychel has a lot of offensive ability, including a lot of hockey sense that separates him from the pack in many ways.
He could be a very good second-line winger if he commits himself fully to improving his skating and his overall defensive play.
The Montreal Canadiens were one of the more impressive regular-season teams in 2013. They have a lot of talented forwards, along with the 2013 Norris winner, P.K. Subban, patrolling the point.
What they are lacking is forwards who play with some snarl in their games. Adam Erne would be the kind of player to address this void. Erne has put up points at the junior level and brings a great deal of physicality to the rink every night.
Adam has the talent to develop into a top-six forward if he works on both his skating and his ability to dominate along the wall. There would be no need to rush Erne to the NHL, and with some more polish to his game, he could become a very good NHL forward.
The Anaheim Ducks were dominant in large stretches in the 2013 season. They have some of the most talented forwards in the league in Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. They also have a solid defence corps, so they can afford to take a young defenceman who needs a few years to become an impact NHL defenceman.
Defenceman Chris Bigras would be a good selection for the Ducks. He has been an offensive threat in the OHL but needs to continue to develop physically to make him a more complete player. The Ducks can wait for him to become stronger and learn the pro game in the minor leagues.
If he is allowed to do so, he should develop into a top-four defenceman for the Ducks.
The Blue Jackets could be the team to select the first goaltender. Zachary Fucale from the Halifax Mooseheads would be the pick. The Blue Jackets can boast the Vezina trophy winner, but the organization is not particularly deep in goal. Fucale may play another year or two in junior. He also has the inside track to represent Canada at the 2014 World Junior Championships.
Fucale’s athleticism, combined with a solid base of fundamentals, bodes well for him being able to make the jump to the NHL. The Blue Jackets shouldn’t need him any time soon, so he’ll have time to develop into an NHL regular.
The Calgary Flames need to bolster their defensive depth. If Robert Hagg slips to the late first round, he would be an excellent addition to the Flames.
Hagg is a very good skater who has a lot of poise with the puck. He never seems to panic regardless of the level of puck pressure. He moves the puck smartly and quickly.
Hagg needs to work on his intensity and his consistency. He can have stretches in games where he does not seem to be at his best. He has a lot of talent, but he does need to bring his A-game shift after shift to become a top-four NHL defenceman. The necessary tools are there to do so.
The Chicago Blackhawks have a great blend of speed, size and skill at both the forward and defence positions. The Blackhawks are one of the fastest teams in the league, and the organization seems intent on drafting and trading for good skaters.
Because he is relatively undersized at 5’9” and about 165 pounds, Nicolas Petan of the Portland Winterhawks may be available at the end of the first round. The Blackhawks could afford to gamble on the WHL’s leading point-getter as they wouldn’t need him for a few seasons. He would be afforded the time to play another year in junior before taking the next step to the AHL.
Petan is an exceptional skater and can do things with the puck that few players his age can do. He would be a very good selection for the Blackhawks with this late first-round pick.
The Dallas Stars have had two of the league’s better agitators in the past 15 years in Pat Verbeek and Steve Ott. They are the types of players teammates enjoy having on their side, but opponents are slowly driven crazy by their style of play.
J.T. Compher would be a great pick for the Dallas Stars, particularly if they select a highly ranked blueliner with their earlier pick. Compher would not be available to the Stars for at least a couple of seasons since he is committed to the University of Michigan.
J.T. does not have top-line offensive skills, but he should become a very good third-line player. He has the potential to be an integral component on an NHL roster. Getting under an opponent’s skin, night after night, is not as easy as it looks.
Compher seems a likely candidate to become one the NHL’s better superpests as his game develops over time.