2013 NHL Draft: The Top 10 Storylines Surrounding This Year's Prospects
Prospective first-round selections in the 2013 NHL entry draft bear a multitude of common threads.
There are those who have most recently been playing together for the same accomplished amateur team. There are those who can endear themselves to a given fanbase not only with their own performances on the ice, but also with the help of famous families in hockey or other sports.
A little further down the ladder, though not very far, are those who stand more than a reasonable chance of remaining available when the team they grew up the closest to is on the clock. Then there are those who, either single-handedly or in tandem, could land in a position to help rekindle an intrastate or provincial rivalry.
All of those brands of storyline fabric are in sufficient stock to create a supply of two or three leading up to Sunday afternoon’s event in Newark.
With that in mind, here is a sample of potential developments to watch for as well as items worth remembering regardless of what happens at the draft.
For the fans of amateur programs, pride only begins with any success the current installment of the team attains. What the alumni do at the next level is an equally potent source, and this year’s NHL draft class presents an overwhelmingly savory opportunity for one franchise to pride itself for one or two decades to come.
The 2012-13 Halifax Mooseheads went an otherworldly 58-6-4 in the regular season, 16-1 in the QMJHL playoffs and 3-1 at the Memorial Cup. That cumulative 77-8-4 ride was good enough for a league regular-season title, a league playoff pennant and a national title.
Now three key cogs on arguably the best team in major junior hockey history have a chance to follow up on their ride by each going in the first round of the NHL draft. Forwards Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon have consistently sat among the top three North American skaters, while Zach Fucale figures to be the first goaltender selected.
According to at least some expert projections, Halifax is not the only major junior program with the potential to produce three first-rounders in the 2013 draft. On Monday, Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News released a leaderboard that had London Knights players Nikita Zadorov, Bo Horvat and Max Domi ranked eighth, 10th and 25th, respectively.
On Wednesday, NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman posted a mock draft that had those three Knights ranked no lower than No. 24. Kimelman’s colleague, Mike G. Morreale, has the London troika all within the top 21, while Steven Hoffner envisions them all going no later than No. 23.
Not quite as impressive a collective projection as the Moosehead trio, but still a fitting follow-up on London's OHL banner campaign.
Darnell Nurse’s Connections
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A likely top-10 selection, defenseman Darnell Nurse is both the son and nephew of two former football players, his father being a former Canadian Leaguer and his uncle being Donovan McNabb.
McNabb, a former NFL quarterback and now a sports talk radio personality, noted the following when he took an interview with Dave Isaac of the Courier-Post: “He teaches me, now that I’m doing sports radio and doing analyst work, a lot about hockey. I can talk about it on the radio a little bit. I ask him questions and about different players to get different ideas or what’s going on.”
That’s an encouraging sign for the NHL, publicity-wise. The fact that McNabb has supported, and will surely continue to support, his nephew’s endeavor means paving a platform for new multisport enthusiasts.
That should hold true all the more as long as McNabb is on the air, with at least some sound bytes hitting a national ear, and giving hockey its fair share of attention. It should hold true regardless of where Nurse goes and whether or not he is the focus of the discussion.
Seth Jones’ Connections
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Even if the Colorado Avalanche opt to make a forward the first overall pick, which they are hinting at with exponential believability, defenseman Seth Jones will still have a chance to spark a resurgence of hockey interest on multiple fronts.
He could still end up going to Colorado. If not, based on the slated picking order, he is most likely bound for Florida or Tampa Bay.
Either way, he will bring athletic name recognition to either a market that his father, retired NBA player Popeye Jones, once played in, or he will bring it to a non-traditional hockey market in the southeast.
Similar to the situation with Nurse and McNabb, Jones can amplify hockey interest by way of luring in crossover basketball buffs with his familial connection and his impressive skill set.
Max Domi’s Roots
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The Toronto Sun recently made note of a Maple Leafs Facebook fan poll, wherein fans overwhelmingly favored Max Domi, son of former fan favorite Tie Domi, as their preferred first-round pick for 2013.
With Toronto owning the No. 21 overall pick, that is not out of the question. Although, Kimelman's NHL.com mock draft has Domi going to the Ottawa Senators at No. 17, a proposition that would be equally spicy in the view of nonpartisan observers looking for a rivalry reheat.
Foundations For A Florida Feud?
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As noted in the slide on Jones, one of three endlessly touted prospects will likely be going to the Florida Panthers, while another goes to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Pick any combination you want. It could be the top blueliner Jones opposite the top forward MacKinnon, Jones versus the top pure playmaker Drouin or allies-turned-adversaries Drouin and MacKinnon.
Regardless, once those individuals begin to assimilate with their NHL employers, the front offices will doubtlessly be bent on making them an integral part of a rise back to relevance.
With the in-state rivals Lightning and Panthers both picking and the talent available, there is a great chance that some major junior products with great familiarity could help rekindle a franchise feud down the road.
It will either be a pair of former allies in Halifax suddenly separating in the Sunshine State, or if Jones is involved, it could be former adversaries from the World Junior Championship and Memorial Cup continuing that rivalry.
That is, unless a scenario assessed in the next slide unfolds.
Will A European Crash The Big 3?
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All scenarios that rely on Jones, MacKinnon and Drouin constituting the top three in any order could be broken up, and some believe they will. The aforementioned Kimelman of NHL.com, for instance, has the Bolts making Finnish phenom Aleksander Barkov the third overall pick in his final mock draft, published Wednesday.
If Barkov, or maybe even Russia’s Valeri Nichushkin, does go to one of the Florida-based teams, they will not be the first European-born player to go that high in recent memory. After all, the Russian-born Nail Yakupov constituted the first overall pick last year.
However, Yakupov had been playing with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting leading up to his selection by the Edmonton Oilers. Not since 2009, when Tampa took Victor Hedman second overall, has a single top-three pick played overseas in his draft year.
Before Hedman, the last players to go that early in the draft after playing in Europe the preceding season were Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, first and second, respectively, in 2004. Just throwing that out there for a little perspective.
The Rise Of Samuel Morin
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Of those who have at least a chance to go in the first round, defenseman Samuel Morin easily made the biggest leap in the rankings between the midterm and final revision. He elevated a whopping 53 slots among North American skaters from No. 76 to No. 23.
Given that there are also European skaters as well as goaltenders to think about, that still does not quite translate to a first-round projection. However, come draft day, more time will have passed since the release of those final rankings, meaning there has been more time for Morin’s stock to either rise further or possibly descend.
Because of the path he has taken on the prospects leaderboard over the course of this season, Morin is the single-most intriguing will-he-or-won’t-he potential first-round selection in this year’s draft.
He will be worth sitting on the edge of one’s seat for as time inches closer to the 30th overall pick, unless he surges yet again and goes in the teen-range or early 20s.
Will The Flames Take A Local Product?
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As it happens, the Flames hold both the No. 22 and No. 28 overall picks.
Put a literal two and two together and the odds of a born-and-raised Calgary product going into his home team’s system are greater than usual.
A recent report by Scott Cruickshank of the Calgary Herald noted that the Flames were one of 21 NHL teams to interview Shinkaruk at the draft combine. Meanwhile, Morrissey told Cruickshank the fact that they did not interview him “doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not going to draft me for sure.”
Could Ryan Hartman Come Home?
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Power forward Ryan Hartman of the Plymouth Whalers is native to West Dundee, Ill., which according to Indo.com is 36 miles from Chicago. Before going elsewhere to accelerate his development, he played travel hockey for the Chicago Mission in 2009-10.
Based on where he sits in the eyes of some scouts and pundits, he just might have a chance to go to his hometown franchise, which holds the last pick in the first round by virtue of winning the Stanley Cup.
At the other extreme, the International Scouting Service did not put him anywhere in the top 30. In between the two, and probably within a more realistic realm, Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News projects Hartman as the 29th pick, only one spot ahead of the Blackhawks' turn.
This is not to say that puckheads in the Windy City should hold their breath, but they certainly need not rule out this possibility, either. Can you imagine if Hartman does, in fact, have his rights go to his local boyhood team at a time like this?