Jonathan Drouin at the Top Draft Prospects Press Conference
The 2013 NHL draft is only a few days away, and the front offices of all 30 teams have their perfect player earmarked in hopes of getting the chance to draft him. While we'll never know for sure who each team is praying to the hockey gods to land, it's easy to speculate.
We can take a look at the roster and farm of any given team and figure out pretty easily where the greatest needs are.
To be a "perfect pick" for these teams, a player must fill an organizational need and have a high probability of still being on the board at the given spot. Of course, Seth Jones would be a perfect selection for, say, the Edmonton Oilers, but he just won't be there.
We're also assuming that these players will reach their projected potential. And lastly, this isn't a mock draft. We're not saying that this is the way the first 14 selections will go. Rather, we're examining which prospect would be a perfect fit on the given team.
(Note: Some of the compilation videos used in this slideshow contain NSFW language. Feel free to kill the noise and watch the show.)
Draft Position: 1st overall
Organizational Need: Quality defensemen capable of playing impactful hockey at the NHL level.
Prospect Who Perfectly Fills Need: Seth Jones
While the Colorado Avalanche are doing a great job making it seem like they'll select Nathan MacKinnon with the first overall selection—something they very well could do—that doesn't mean he's the player who best fills an organizational need.
If anything, an ultra-talented center is the last thing that the Avs should be looking for. They already roster Ryan O'Reilly, Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny and are paying that trio a boatload of bucks.
Given the recent track record for defenders who have gone first overall (Erik Johnson in 2006, Chris Phillips in 1996), one could forgive Colorado's brass for getting cold feet when it comes to drafting Jones. Yet, the quality that the teenage defender possesses is impossible to ignore.
He may not end up playing for Colorado, but Jones is without a doubt the perfect prospect for the Avalanche.
Draft Position: 2nd overall
Organizational Need: Another talented forward who can truly take over a game on a shift-by-shift basis.
Prospect Who Perfectly Fills Need: Nathan MacKinnon
After years of toiling in the NHL's basement, the Florida Panthers have built up one of the most outstanding talent pipelines in the league. While their farm doesn't have any major glaring weaknesses, the Panthers could use another game-breaking forward at the NHL level.
Jonathan Huberdeau won the Calder Trophy this season as the league's best rookie and appears poised for big things, but he could use a little help on down the line.
Enter Nathan MacKinnon, who would give Florida one of the best young one-two punches in the NHL. It's forward depth like that that wins titles, and the Panthers would take a big step in the right direction if MacKinnon falls into their lap at No. 2.
That said, the team also has a need for offensive-defenders, so Seth Jones would be a good fit here too. The Panthers have the easiest job in the first round in scooping up whichever elite player the Colorado Avalanche decide to pass on.
Draft Position: 3rd overall
Organizational Need: Young, top-end offensive talent. General manger Steve Yzerman has done an outstanding job of restocking the farm system, but the franchise could use another rock star on the offensive end of things. A shutdown defenseman is the Tampa Bay Lightning's biggest need, but burning a No. 3 selection on one seems unlikely.
Prospect Who Perfectly Fills Need: Aleksander Barkov
The Lightning really need a home run with this selection. Jonathan Drouin will still be on the board at this juncture, but Tampa doesn't need another smallish yet talented winger. It had one of those in Cory Conacher, but he was considered expendable when the team went fishing for a No. 1 goaltender.
What Tampa needs is a bit of size and a boatload of talent. That's exactly what Aleksander Barkov brings to the table.
While he could take another year to develop, Barkov was outstanding as a teenager playing in Finland's SM-liiga. He was (the equivalent of) a sophomore in high school yet was playing some outstanding puck against adults nearly twice his age.
While Drouin has a flashier game and Valeri Nichushkin has more size, Barkov is the perfect marriage of these two elements and would be a near can't-miss prospect for the Lightning.
Draft Position: 4th overall
Organizational Need: Simply put, more offense. More goals, more assists, more of an ability to be dangerous in the offensive zone.
Prospect Who Perfectly Fills Need: Valeri Nichushkin
Some scouts believe that Valeri Nichushkin will eventually be the most dangerous offensive player taken in the 2013 draft. It's likely that the talented European would have been ranked higher had the whole "Russian Factor" not scared teams and scouts off early.
Such is the cost of being a teenage phenom playing in the KHL.
It seems like people focused on the wrong part of that equation: "Oh, he'll never come to North America to play in the NHL. He's already locked into a contract in the KHL!"
Instead, they should have been saying "Holy dang, is that a teenager blowing by professional hockey players before he's even eligible to be drafted into the NHL?"
There's no two ways about it: Nichushkin is a big, strong and fast forward. Which is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Nashville Predators—a team with a sound defensive core that just couldn't score enough goals in 2013.
Drafting a player like Nichushkin would be a huge and automatic upgrade to an anemic offense, which is something Nashville really needs to find in this draft.
Draft Position: 5th overall
Organizational Need: The Carolina Hurricanes could use some help on the blue line, but there is no immediate assistance available at No. 5 unless they reach down a bit. With a top-five selection, they have a chance to add some depth at forward—the bottom-six couldn't score in 2013, putting too much pressure on the team's top players.
Prospect Who Perfectly Fills Need: Jonathan Drouin
It'd take an unforeseen selection by one of the top four teams in the draft for Drouin to fall all the way to No. 5, but stranger things have happened.
The Hurricanes possess strength down the middle, but could stand to add some talent on the wings. Drouin is arguably the most talented winger available in this draft. He's the kind of player who brings fans to their feet every time he hits the neutral zone with speed and has the kind of finish all NHL teams require.
It's been widely speculated that Carolina could trade the No. 5 selection for proven NHL help, but if it ends up hanging onto the pick, then Drouin or Nichushkin will likely be the newest member of the Hurricanes.
Draft Position: 6th overall
Organizational Need: Bona fide No. 1 center. The Calgary Flames have been without a top pivot for the better part of a decade, and none of the stopgaps (we're looking at you, Olli Jokinen) were long-term solutions.
Prospect Who Perfectly Fills Need: Elias Lindholm
The Flames need a talented center who can play in various situations. Lindholm is that kind of player. It's tough to find a hole in the Swedish center's game, and he's about as close to a can't-miss prospect as Calgary can acquire with the sixth overall selection.
Once the rebuild was officially on and the likes of Jay Bouwmeester and Jarome Iginla were shipped out of town, Calgary's kids really started to play with some pizazz. Sven Baertschi, in particular, was outstanding, finishing the season on a seven-game point streak.
Lindholm would give the Flames another stellar young talent to build around. He plays a puck-possession game and is incredibly responsible in all three zones. He's a center who can anchor a top-six unit and inspire a particular brand of play as well.
All that bodes well for Calgary.
Draft Position: 7th overall
Organizational Need: A north-south forward with a little bit of sandpaper to his game.
Prospect Who Perfectly Fills Need: Sean Monahan
While he's not the flashiest prospect available in this draft, Monahan is among the most efficient and rangy scorers around. He's not prone to making bad choices with the puck and has a knack for making the most out of high-percentage plays.
Whether he's digging the puck out of the corner, setting up screens in front or battling to win a faceoff, Monahan is the kind of player the Edmonton Oilers desperately need to add to their fireworks-heavy, offensive-minded forwards.
The biggest plus to Monahan's game for Edmonton is his ability in the faceoff circle. No team was worse on the draw than the Oilers in 2013, and even the world's best forwards have a hard time producing when they are chasing the play half of the time.
In Monahan, the Oilers get a little bit of everything that they're looking to add to their top six, making him the perfect prospect for Edmonton.
Draft Position: 8th overall
Organizational Need: Toughness, size and some help on the blue line.
Prospect Who Perfectly Fills Need: Darnell Nurse
The Buffalo Sabres could really stand to add some size and nastiness to their defensive core, and Nurse provides both in spades. He's been one of the fastest risers among this year's crop of prospects and is now widely considered the best defenseman available aside from Seth Jones.
While he's never been an overly mean player, he's really identified that as an area of his game that works and has made it a focal point moving forward. Nurse loves to hit and typically will utilize open-ice checks to separate the puck carrier from the biscuit as they enter the neutral zone.
For his overt physical edge and ability to impact the game in all three zones, Nurse is the perfect prospect for the Sabres.
Draft Position: 9th overall
Organizational Need: The New Jersey Devils have a lot of pro-quality prospects in the system, but none that stand out as potential stars. In this draft, it's likely New Jersey will attempt to rectify that issue.
Prospect Who Perfectly Fills Need: Bo Horvat
While he isn't an electric forward along the lines of Jonathan Drouin or Nathan MacKinnon, there's still plenty to like about Horvat's versatile game. This is a player who brings 110 percent effort on a nightly basis and never (ever) takes a shift off.
He's a fan favorite with the London Knights because of how hard he plays the game—he forechecks and backchecks with a ferocity that is rarely seen, is outstanding in the faceoff circle and possesses elite attention to detail in his own end.
Horvat is one of the better second-tier scoring threats available in the draft, but his leadership abilities and tenacity on the puck more than make up for the lack of markers.
Draft Position: 10th overall
Organizational Need: A quality center or defenseman.
Prospect Who Perfectly Fills Need: Hunter Shinkaruk
The Dallas Stars suffered from a lack of depth at both center and defenseman last year, so they'll draft one or the other with their 10th overall selection. While there are likely to be some outstanding defenders left at 10, the addition of Hunter Shinkaruk would be too good to pass up.
One of the most offensively gifted forwards in the draft, Shinkaruk would give the Stars a lights-out option at center or wing moving forward. His hands are well above average, and he's capable of some outstanding maneuvers and puck magic while entering the zone at top speed.
He can skate, score and is very capable as a setup man as well. Shinkaruk would become arguably the best forward prospect for Dallas if it decided to draft some help up front, making him an attractive add at 10th overall.
Draft Position: 11th Overall
Organizational Need: Defense, defense, defense.
Prospect Who Perfectly Fills Need: Rasmus Ristolainen
Despite what the brass in Philadelphia apparently believes, great goaltenders still require some help from the defense when it comes to preventing goals from being scored. As it stands right now, Steve Mason is the starting netminder for the Flyers, putting even more emphasis on the need for quality defenders.
Rasmus Ristolainen is big, mean and effective. All of which makes him a prime candidate to join the Flyers as a defensive prospect.
Ristolainen hits really, really hard, and when he connects in open ice, the recipient doesn't tend to stand back up right away. All this makes him the perfect fit for Philly in this draft.
Draft Position: 12th overall
Organizational Need: While it's not so much a need, the Phoenix Coyotes have taken to drafting and developing skilled and tenacious players. With the 12th overall selection, it's likely that they continue to maintain this draft philosophy.
Prospect Who Perfectly Fills Need: Curtis Lazar
You'll be hard-pressed to find a harder working player in this draft than Curtis Lazar. He's an absolute hound on the puck and hates to lose. He's willing to do whatever it takes to secure a victory, and his attitude and determination would be right at home with the Desert Dogs.
He reminds some scouts of Milan Lucic, in that he won't ever dominate with skill, instead counting on his will and desire to get the job done in all three zones. Lazar has been a leader at every level and possesses the kind of intangibles that coaches and managers love at the NHL level.
It may take some time for Lazar to find his way to the NHL, but once he does, he'll be able to effectively play anywhere in the lineup. The offensive instincts are there for him to perform as a top-six guy, while his checking game lends itself more to a bottom-six role.
Draft Position: 13th overall
Organizational Need: Quality players throughout the prospect pool. (Let us not forget that this squad used to be the Atlanta Thrashers.)
Prospect Who Perfectly Fills Need: Samuel Morin
Morin is a project selection, but that distinction doesn't carry with it the weight that it normally would. Mostly because 6'7'' defensemen don't become available all too often, and especially considering the ceiling that a lot of scouts think Morin has.
He's a so-so skater, and while he'll need to work on that aspect of his game, it's the chance that he develops into a Zdeno Chara-like presence in the defensive zone that has scouts excited. Morin doesn't have a slap shot that breaks the 100 mph barrier, but it's still a solid weapon that he's still learning to use.
On the defensive end of things, Morin is just starting to figure out how to use his size to his advantage. He's been a steady climber in this draft class and impressed a lot of people with his level of play during the last half of the season while in the QMJHL.
Draft Position: 14th overall
Organizational Need: Talented forwards who have the skill needed to break shifts wide open.
Prospect Who Perfectly Fills Need: Max Domi
While Domi is undersized (listed at 5'9''), the skill he brings to the table is incredible. If he was a bigger player, it's likely he'd be challenging for a spot in the top five. NHL scouts still have an obsession with size, however, despite the league slowly moving toward more of a skill game since 2005.
Gone are the days of a slow defender being able to water ski behind a talented guy. That bodes well for Domi, who has the softest hands in the draft and arguably the most delicate touch around the net as well.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are full of heart-and-soul players who will dig deep on every shift. Domi has that same type of "never say die" mentality, except it comes in a highly skilled package. This is a bit of a boom-or-bust selection for the Jackets, but with three selections available to them in the first round, they can afford to take a chance on their perfect pick at 14.