There are only a few more days until the 2013 NHL draft commences and it’s still unclear as to what every team is going to do with its first-round pick.
Now that the Stanley Cup has been won, each organization in the league is fully focused on what’s to come Sunday night. There are several teams that need immediate help on their first lines and first defense pairings. There are also teams that don’t need assistance until a few years down the line.
It’ll be especially interesting to see how some of the teams with multiple picks in the first round go about the draft. The Calgary Flames and Columbus Blue Jackets each have a trio of first-rounders. There will certainly be a lot of talent going to those two franchises, but who will be going to the other 28 teams?
Let’s take a look at a full prediction of how the first round of the draft will play out, looking into what each team needs, doesn’t need and who they will end up selecting.
*Italicized picks represent organizations with additional analysis on how they’ll make the most of their first-round draft pick.
1. Colorado Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon, C
The Avalanche lucked out at the NHL Draft Lottery, securing the top pick in the draft. While it’s still unconfirmed as to who Colorado will select at No. 1 Sunday night, it appears that Nathan MacKinnon will be their choice. Colorado has a lot of young talent at the center position, but it’s still a smart decision.
If Colorado selects MacKinnon, there’s a strong likelihood that he’ll be the third-line center. While most top picks go on to play on the first line or on the top defensive pairing, that won’t be the case with Colorado. There’s no question that Matt Duchene will be on the first line. Ryan O’Reilly will likely head the second line.
That leaves MacKinnon on the third line and Paul Stastny on the fourth line—if Colorado doesn’t deal the 27-year-old during the offseason. By taking MacKinnon, Colorado will add to its young core of talented centers, which it hopes will take the team to the postseason for the first time since 2008.
2. Florida Panthers: Seth Jones, D
Florida is stacked with forwards with huge potential. While it wouldn’t hurt to take an additional one like MacKinnon—if Colorado doesn’t take him—it makes much more sense for the Panthers to go with a defenseman. The Panthers' defense could certainly use some fresh legs for the future.
As of right now, Florida employs a pair of defensemen who are 35 or older: Ed Jovanowski and Filip Kuba. Those two, along with a few other players, didn’t do a great job at all this past season. Florida finished the season with the highest goals against average in the league at 3.54 goals per game.
The problem for Florida is that it also scored the fewest goals per night at 2.27. The Panthers could let Seth Jones fall to the Lightning at No. 3, but the need for a top defenseman is more glaring right now. The Panthers at least have a few bright forwards that can improve the offense. That can’t really be said about the defense.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning: Jonathan Drouin, LW
The Lightning already have one of the top offenses in the NHL and it appears that it’s only going to get better after the draft ends. This past season, Tampa Bay scored the third-most goals per game in the NHL, behind the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.
Tampa Bay currently employs a pair of forwards who are among the league leaders in points each season: Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. St. Louis is signed for the next two years and Stamkos is signed for the next three—although one would presume that the Lightning would try to extend him before his contract expires.
If Tampa Bay takes Jonathan Drouin at No. 3, the Lightning will easily have one of the top first lines in the NHL. With Stamkos at center and St. Louis and the rookie on the wings, that trio would be as feared as they come. They would easily have the potential to each have 85-plus points in a full season.
4. Nashville Predators: Aleksander Barkov, C
Nashville finished this past season tied with the Panthers for the fewest goals per game. The Predators desperately need a center or winger to aid the struggling offense. Aleksander Barkov is easily the top player available after the three aforementioned prospects. He can join one of the top lines and make an immediate impact on offense.
5. Carolina Hurricanes: Valeri Nichushkin, LW/RW
The top line for the Hurricanes seems pretty set in stone, unless one of the three forwards would fall to No. 5. Carolina will likely put the combination of Jeff Skinner, Eric Staal and Alexander Semin out before any other forward. Carolina would add Valeri Nichushkin to the line that’s centered by Jordan Staal. That's where he would learn the most and likely score the most often.
6. Calgary Flames: Sean Monahan, C
Matt Stajan is the top center under contract for the Flames and they need someone who can lead the second line. Sean Monahan knows how to put the puck in the net and always plays well on defense. Calgary couldn’t get its hands on Ryan O’Reilly during this past season, but Monahan wouldn’t be a bad player to have instead.
7. Edmonton Oilers: Rasmus Ristolainen, D
Rasmus Ristolainen is easily the second-best defenseman in this year’s class behind Jones. Edmonton’s defense isn’t too bad, but Justin and Nick Schultz are only under contract through next season. Ristolainen could step in and play on one of the top two pairings and be the face of the defense in future years.
8. Buffalo Sabres: Darnell Nurse, D
The Sabres would like to get their 2.90 goals against per game average down from a year ago. Buffalo has Christian Ehrhoff and Tyler Myers under contract for a long, long time, but the defense needs more depth. Darnell Nurse played in the OHL like it was the NHL and has a ton of upside. He would lead the second pairing for Buffalo.
9. New Jersey Devils: Bo Horvat, C
There’s no guarantee that Adam Henrique is going to back to the Devils next season, as he’s currently a restricted free agent. New Jersey needs to prepare itself in the scenario where it doesn’t want to—or can’t—retain the center. Bo Horvat would be a nice pickup regardless of whether or not Henrique is back next year.
10. Dallas Stars: Elias Lindholm, C/RW
While Dallas has a strong first line, which features Jamie Benn, Erik Cole and Ray Whitney, the second line needs a bit of work. Loui Eriksson is definitely the second-line left-winger, but who is at center and at right wing is up for debate. Elias Lindholm can play either position, giving the Stars a bit of flexibility.
11. Philadelphia Flyers: Samuel Morin, D
The Flyers have several good players on defense, but for some reason, they weren’t good defensively this past season. Philadelphia ended the year allowing 2.90 goals per game, which was tied for the eighth-most in the league. Maybe a little more young talent would spark the Flyers into the 2.25-to-2.45 range.
12: Phoenix Coyotes: Max Domi, C
Max Domi might have the best hands in this year’s class. The things he can do with a hockey stick and a puck are nearly unthinkable. He has the potential to be one of the top goal scorers for the Coyotes next season. While he’s small, he uses his frame as an asset instead of a liability. He likely would center the third line for Phoenix.
13. Winnipeg Jets: Nikita Zadorov, D
Winnipeg nearly allowed three goals per game this past season, which has to improve if the Jets are going to be one of the better teams in the NHL. While the Jets also need a bit of help on offense, taking a defenseman at No. 13 appears more likely. If the Jets can play better defensively, they could be playoff contenders.
14. Columbus Blue Jackets: Alexander Wennberg, C
Columbus will certainly use the first of its three first-round picks on a forward and if Alexander Wennberg is available, look for the Blue Jackets to select him. Wennberg is a great two-way forward who could potentially play on the first line. At the very least, he’d give Ryan Johansen a run for his money. He’d easily be on the second line.
15. New York Islanders: Hunter Shinkaruk, C/RW
While the Islanders scored the seventh-most goals per game a year ago, New York still needs help on offense. The first line carried most of the load and the second and third lines must improve. Hunter Shinkaruk could easily be the No. 2 center on the team, behind John Tavares.
16. Buffalo Sabres (from MIN): Curtis Lazar, C
After taking a defenseman with their first pick, center is the next position Buffalo needs to address. Ville Leino will definitely be on the first line, but we may see the Sabres bring in someone like Curtis Lazar to provide some competition to Steve Ott and Mikhail Grigorenko on the second and third lines.
17. Ottawa Senators: Mirco Mueller, D
Ottawa had the second-best defense in the league a year ago in terms of goals allowed per game—a few percentage points behind the Blackhawks. The Senators could add depth to the defense by taking Mirco Mueller, but could also look to add a left or right wing instead. Ottawa could use help at any of those three positions.
18. Detroit Red Wings: Frederik Gauthier, C
The Red Wing are one of the most complete teams in the NHL, and it’s a bit of a toss-up as to what type of player they’ll end up taking at No. 18. Frederik Gauthier will be the best forward available and while Detroit doesn’t need a center on its top three lines, the team could see if he could play left wing instead.
19: Columbus Blue Jackets (from NYR): Josh Morrissey, D
The second pick for the Blue Jackets needs to be used on a defenseman. Columbus can use its later pick on another forward, but the better defensemen are going to start going off the board quickly. Josh Morrissey has the potential to step in right away and make a big impact on defense for Columbus.
20: San Jose Sharks: Ryan Pulock, D
San Jose needs a spark on defense. The current pairings featured a bunch of seasoned veterans whose contracts will soon be expiring. Marc Vlasic is the only big name under contract past 2015. Pulock would provide a lot of depth to the second or third pairing for the first few years, until moving up to the first a couple of years down the line.
21. Toronto Maple Leafs: Anthony Mantha, LW
Anthony Mantha would provide a huge boost to the third line for the Maple Leafs. While Toronto could use a second-line right wing, Mantha will provide plenty of scoring no matter which position he plays or what line he plays on. He’s a big kid who has a very hard shot. Look for him to be a big-time goal scorer in the future.
22. Calgary Flames (from STL): Zach Fucale, G
It’ll be interesting to see who starts the season in net for the Flames next season. It definitely isn’t going to be Miikka Kiprusoff, who will be stepping away from the game. It seems unlikely that Calgary would be comfortable starting Joey MacDonald for the future. Don’t be surprised when Calgary takes a goalie to throw into the mix.
Calgary has a couple of young goaltenders, but it’s unclear as to whether the Flames would promote any of them. Reto Berra, Laurent Brossoit and Joni Ortio are all candidates to win the job, though. Calgary’s defense has been good recently, meaning the guy in net needs to be strong in net all year long.
Zach Fucale is the only goalie worthy of a first-round pick, as the crop for netminders is very thin in this year’s draft class. Whether he’d be ready to start in net for Calgary next season is up for debate, but he would at least be in the conversation. The Flames will give him the opportunity to win the spot.
23. Washington Capitals: Adam Erne, LW
Don’t expect Adam Erne to take Alexander Ovechkin’s job anytime soon, but he could give a couple of other left wings a run for their money. Erne could end up going somewhere in the top 15 picks of the draft, and Washington would be foolish to pass on him if he drops to No. 23.
24. Vancouver Canucks: Madison Bowey, D
The Canucks have a strong defensive core and if Madison Bowey were to go to Vancouver, he’d likely be on the third pairing—potentially with Keith Ballard. It would be tough to move Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa, Jason Garrison and Dan Hamhuis off the two top pairings. Bowey does have the potential to move up after some NHL experience.
25. Montreal Canadiens: Andre Burakovsky, LW
The Canadiens could use a right wing instead of a left wing, but Montreal could select Andre Burakovsky and see if he’s capable of moving to the other side of the circle. Montreal currently has Max Pacioretty, Rene Bourque, Brandon Prust and Travis Moen at left wing and all under contract through the next few years.
26. Anaheim Ducks: Kerby Rychel, C/LW
If Kerby Rychel falls to No. 26, there’s no way the Ducks can pass on him. Rychel skates about as hard as anyone in this year’s class and knows how to rack up points as well. Anaheim needs to use its only pick of the first round wisely and there won’t be a better prospect on the board than Rychel.
27. Columbus Blue Jackets (via LAK): Valentin Zykov, LW
With a center and defenseman already going to Columbus with the previous two picks, the Blue Jackets will look to add more depth to its collection of forwards. Valentin Zykov has a lot of potential, but is definitely a high-risk, high-reward candidate. He needs some more development, but could eventually be a star.
28. Calgary Flames (via PIT): Nicolas Petan, C
The Flames could go in a lot of different directions with their third pick of the first round. If Calgary decides to take position players with its top two selections, expect them to take a goalie here—like Fucale. Calgary must take two forwards and a goalie no matter which order it decides to do so.
29. Dallas Stars (via BOS): Ryan Hartman, RW
Dallas will likely have taken a right wing or center with its first pick of the first round, and expect them to make a similar selection at No. 29. Behind Erik Cole, there doesn’t seem to be a primary second-, third- or fourth-line right-winger. Reilly Smith looks to have the most potential of the group.
30: Chicago Blackhawks: Morgan Klimchuk, C/LW
The Blackhawks don’t need a lot of help in this year’s draft. They were clearly the top team in the NHL in 2012-13 and don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. If Chicago is going to take a forward, it doesn’t need to be a center, where it’s clearly full right now. Left wing is a position where the Blackhawks could use some depth.