With the 2013 NHL draft just days away, anticipation is rising steadily. With the Stanley Cup champion now crowned, the focus turns to the day when some teams' fortunes will change dramatically.
The lives of many of these prospects will never be the same as they take the first step to making it in the NHL. The depth in this particular draft is very good, and there is little consensus on how things will play out in a few days.
Halifax Mooseheads centre Nathan MacKinnon is expected to be the first player selected when New Jersey plays host to the NHL this weekend.
The following mock draft predicts all of the first- and second-round picks, beginning with the Colorado Avalanche's selection.
All references to current rankings are from the final Central Scouting lists on nhl.com
Nathan MacKinnon will join a very talented group of young forwards.
Because there is a lot of depth at centre for the Colorado Avalanche, MacKinnon could be moved to wing in his rookie season.
MacKinnon should flourish in Colorado amid all of the talented forwards. MacKinnon is a heady player and is an exceptional skater in terms of speed and agility. MacKinnon can create off the rush or he can join the cycle. Either way, it should not take him long to be one of Colorado’s top point producers.
Finding enough ice time for all of his talented forwards might be new head coach Patrick Roy’s most difficult task.
If the Avalanche follow through with their vow to bypass Seth Jones, the Florida Panthers will receive a number of offers for the second pick.
The Panthers will be able to consider several prospects that could join the NHL roster in 2013-14. Jones is one of the rare defencemen who should be ready to take a regular shift. Jones is the total package on the point.
He is a great skater and has exhibited tremendous leadership skills at the junior level.
Great NHL teams have a strong group of forwards, but the best ones are anchored by several talented defencemen. Jones will be a top-pairing defenceman sooner rather than later.
Diehard Panther fans will have one of the better young rearguards in recent memory to cheer for in a few months.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are one of the most exciting teams to watch in the NHL.
They could use another top defenceman, but with Jones unlikely to be available after the first two picks, it is most likely that they will select one of the many talented forwards.
The Lightning could use some more size within their group of top-six forwards. Valeri Nichushkin should get a long look from general manager Steve Yzerman. However, Alexander Barkov is the better pick for Tampa Bay.
Granted, Barkov is still 17. However, he had a very good season playing against men in Finland’s best league, the SM Liiga. All indicators are that the talented Barkov, listed at 6’2” and 205 pounds, could play and contribute significantly next season.
Much like many other young centres, Barkov could shift to the wing in order to ease his transition to the NHL game. He would improve the Lightning immediately.
The Nashville Predators took a step back in the standings this year and failed to qualify for the playoffs in the lockout-shortened season.
The Predators always work hard and have numerous forwards who reflect the no-nonsense approach of the organization’s only head coach in its history, Barry Trotz.
Left winger Jonathan Drouin, as exciting and talented a forward as there is in this draft class, could morph into the Predators’ first superstar offensive force.
Drouin had an excellent year both individually and teamwise. He helped lead his team to the MasterCard Memorial Cup with his fine play.
Drouin is a wizard with the puck, but he’s not selfish and was a big factor in Nathan MacKinnon’s success with the Halifax Mooseheads.
The Carolina Hurricanes have some talented forwards and are led by one of the best players in the world, centre Eric Staal. GM Jim Rutherford is one of the shrewdest hockey people in the NHL, so he will relish the opportunity to select a blue-chip prospect in the five spot.
The Hurricanes have a number of options, but the best choice is Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound defenceman Darnell Nurse.
Nurse is another defenceman, much like Jones, who is ready to play in the NHL next season. Nurse improved a lot over the season and is a force at both ends of the rink.
He is a big, strong defender who can intimidate opposing forwards but has the offensive game to hurt opponents on the scoreboard as well.
The Calgary Flames have an enviable three picks in the first round of this year’s draft.
GM Jay Feaster has the option to package one or more of these picks with roster players to make a significant deal, but given the depth in the 2013 class he would be well-served to retain all three picks.
If Valeri Nichushkin slips to the No. 6 spot, he should be the Flames’ pick.
The talented 6’4” Russian forward can play at centre or on the wing. The Flames lack a true power forward with the loss of superstar Jarome Iginla. Nichushkin has the talent to score in bunches off the rush and to make his linemates more productive players.
Nichushkin is raw, but he would be a top-six forward next season in Cowtown.
Rookie GM Craig MacTavish has vowed to make bold moves to better his talented young team for the 2013-14 season.
In other words, the Oilers are no longer focusing on the future, but on the here and now.
The Oilers have to upgrade in almost all key areas. The draft is an opportunity to address some of these needs. With the seventh pick, the Oilers should select Elias Lindholm from Sweden if available.
Lindholm has all the tools to become a wonderful NHL centre. Being able to put Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on one shift and follow that up with Lindholm would cause most opponents fits.
The Oilers have been weak at centre for almost a decade now and Lindholm could potentially play significant minutes in the NHL starting this fall.
Lindholm would fit in perfectly with the handful of talented Oiler wingers. New head coach Dallas Eakins has a reputation of developing young players. Lindholm would be a great initial project for Eakins.
The Buffalo Sabres never found their collective groove in 2013 and had a disappointing year in most respects.
The Ottawa 67’s also had a disappointing season, but one of the few bright spots was the responsible two-way play of centre Sean Monahan. He was great offensively, yet never shirked his defensive responsibilities.
Monahan would bring additional stability to the Sabres, who have had a lot of turnover through trades in the past two seasons.
He is a future captain and will fit in nicely with a team looking to have a much better year than in the shortened 2013 season.
The New Jersey Devils have not had a lot of opportunities to draft in the top 10 over the past 15 seasons.
The Devils have several good prospects and young players at defence. With a number of skilled offensive players available in the 2013 draft, it makes sense for the Devils to take a forward.
Max Domi has an exceptional set of hands. He may be the best pure offensive player after Jonathan Drouin in the draft.
Domi has world-class skill, and he should flourish by playing with other elite forwards. He is willing to take chances in the attacking zone. Although he is just 5’9”, he is nearly 200 pounds. He should have no major issues in handling the day-to-day physical pounding of the NHL.
Domi has the potential to be a scoring sensation in the NHL if allowed to be as creative as he was with the London Knights.
He needs to work on his defensive zone coverage, but that does not make him unique among talented offensive players.
The Dallas Stars have had some excellent teams in their relatively short NHL history in Texas.
The club seems ready to ascend to these previous heights and will be led by one of the better hockey minds in the league, newly hired head coach Lindy Ruff.
The Stars had an up-and-down year in 2013, but can boast a lot of talent at every position. If he remains available, Nikita Zadorov of the London Knights would be a great selection to bolster their defence corps. The hulking Russian defender has the physical tools to become a dominant NHL defenceman.
Nikita loves to hit and punish his opponents physically. He is mobile at 6’5” and 230 pounds and has the potential to be a game changer in Big D. Zadorov’s game is ready-made for the NHL.
Ruff will insist that Zadorov play a more disciplined game, and the fit in Dallas would be very good for all concerned.
The Philadelphia Flyers were a disappointment this past season and failed to live up to the expectations of management and their fans.
The Flyers have one of the most talented players in the league in Claude Giroux. Scoring goals does not seem to be an issue for the Broad Street Bullies. Help on defence is one need.
With several offensive-minded defencemen available, the Flyers should select Finnish star Rasmus Ristolainen. Ristolainen is an excellent prospect who projects to be a top-pairing NHL defenceman. He is a dyanamic blueliner who can both join and lead the rush. He has an excellent shot from the point, and it’s both hard and accurate.
Ristolainen needs to work on his defensive zone play, but his offensive potential more than outweighs any defensive shortcomings.
He will be a fan favorite in Philadelphia.
Turmoil and uncertainly have surrounded the Phoenix Coyotes for multiple seasons. Despite the ongoing issues, the Coyotes have been a relatively competitive team.
The Coyotes are a disciplined group and head coach Dave Tippett demands a lot from his players. The Desert Dogs always seem challenged to score. By taking Calgary native Hunter Shinkaruk, Phoenix would be getting one of the most creative forwards in this draft class.
Shinkaruk is also a talented sniper who has been one of the better Medicine Hat Tigers in the last 15 seasons. Shinkaruk can play in the middle or on the wing. This makes him valuable on a few levels for Tippett.
Shinkaruk projects to be a top-six NHL forward sooner rather than later.
The Winnipeg Jets are led by Claude Noel, who might be the best quote in the NHL today.
He speaks his mind and delivers so much more substance than the overwhelming majority of head coaches in the league. He is a coach that players can rally around easily
At No. 13, the Jets should be able to select a player that is ready to help the club in 2013-14. Winnipeg should select Bo Horvat, a centre with the powerhouse London Knights. Horvat is a selfless player who may become a second-line NHL centre but is more likely to be a pivot on the third line, especially immediately. He's a coach's dream.
Horvat has great leadership potential and could learn a lot from one of the better captains in the league today, Andrew Ladd.
The Jets have one of the best fanbases in the league and an honest player like Horvat will endear himself to fans in the Manitoba capital.
The Columbus Blue Jackets appear on the verge of being a playoff team.
They played some great hockey down the stretch and can now boast the Vezina trophy winner, Sergei Bobrovsky.
The Blue Jackets have some young talent at all positions but could use some defensive depth. The 2013 class has a number of mobile and offensive defencemen that could develop into top-four defenders.
Ryan Pulock of the Brandon Wheat Kings would make a lot of sense for Columbus as the No. 14 pick. The Jackets wouldn’t need him next season, so he could continue to develop his game either in junior hockey or in their minor league system over the next two years.
Pulock loves to join the attack and is an above-average skater. His defensive play needs attention and further development will allow for this. Pulock should fit nicely in Columbus.
The New York Islanders turned a corner this year in not only making the playoffs, but by pushing the Pittsburgh Penguins in their playoff matchup. GM Garth Snow has built a talented team that can score almost at will on most nights.
Snow has built well through the draft and has a lot of players on the cusp of becoming NHL regulars. The Edmonton Oil Kings’ Curtis Lazar would be a logical choice for the Islanders if he is available with the No. 15 pick.
Lazar has a complete game and is a natural leader. His unselfish play and ability to play hard in all three zones make him valuable to any team.
Curtis has a chance to be a top-six forward, although he could be a dependable third-line player to begin his NHL career.
The Buffalo Sabres have an opportunity to add two great prospects in the 2013 draft with two picks in the top 16. If the Sabres select an NHL-ready forward with their first pick, look for them to take more of a project with their second.
Hulking QMJHL defenceman, Samuel Morin, would fit that description. Morin needs some more time to develop, but he should be well worth the wait.
The 6’6” defender will make life miserable for opposing NHL forwards. He has good mobility for such a large young man and his ability to take the body has him primed to be a premiere defensive blueliner for years.
The Sabres will have a good one in big-bodied Morin.
The Ottawa Senators displayed resolve and fortitude in battling through a series of injuries to key players this season.
Head coach Paul MacLean did a great job of motivating his young team and guiding it through some very challenging circumstances.
The Senators have one of the better minor league systems in the league. This allowed them to plug in a number of young players to compensate for losses due to injury. They have good depth at every position. Adding a talented centre from this year’s strong class would make a lot of sense.
Swedish standout Alexander Wennberg would be a strong move. Wennberg has already played a season of pro hockey in Sweden and this will serve him well in his NHL career.
He is very slick in the offensive zone and can handle the puck with poise and skill. He plays well in the defensive zone as well.
The Senators would have a well-rounded prospect in Wennberg.
The Detroit Red Wings were just one win away from knocking off the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
The Wings have been able to add young players to their roster while retaining a core of talented veterans. The Red Wings are a model of consistency for the entire league.
GM Ken Holland is always looking for more skill, and he could have that in QMJHL winger Anthony Mantha. Mantha is also a physical presence and would fill the Wings’ need to add some size to their top six forwards.
Mantha tallied 50 goals last year and has tremendous potential.
The Red Wings can afford to bring Mantha along at a modest pace so he won’t be asked to do things he’s not ready for yet. If he’s available at No. 18, he would be a smart pick.
Columbus is in the enviable position of having multiple first-round selections in an exceptionally deep draft.
This flexibility would mean they could select a defenceman with their first pick and then potentially add a depth forward with the No. 19 pick.
Andre Burakovsky may not last until their second pick, but if he does, he would be a fine addition to the Columbus organization.
Burakovsky is an agile skater and his highest gear is among the best in the 2013 draft class. Burakovsky uses this speed wisely though and is more than just a speedster.
Burakovsky is a natural scorer, and if he continues to grow, he could be a real force in the attacking zone in another couple of seasons.
Much like the Detroit Red Wings, the San Jose Sharks have been able to re-tool their roster without taking a significant step backwards.
The Sharks had an inconsistent year but were very good when they were playing their best hockey.
The Sharks often turn to the CHL at the draft and doing this to select winger Valentin Zykov would be a good move. Zykov adjusted very well to the North American game and lit the lamp 40 times for Baie-Comeau.
He is listed at 6’1” and over 200 pounds. Zykov is a talented scorer but does not shy away from contact. He can beat defenders in a number of ways and offers solid defensive play.
He would fit in well with the other big bodies on San Jose’s roster. He’s the right pick for the Sharks.
The Toronto Maple Leafs gave their fans a lot to cheer about this year.
Expectations for next season will be high and for good reason. The recent addition of talented goaltender Jonathan Bernier will solidify the goaltender position for the foreseeable future.
Head coach Randy Carlyle favours an up-tempo game and wants his players to dominate opponents physically whenever possible. Frederik Gauthier plays the game with a high level of skill, and at 6’5” and 200 pounds, he will be the prototypical centre for Carlyle’s system of pressuring opponents all over the ice.
Gauthier has good hockey instincts, and his ceiling is high on several fronts.
He could develop into a great second-line centre and he would add some much-needed size to the Leafs’ roster when he’s ready to make the jump to the NHL in another year or two.
The Calgary Flames can re-stock their cupboard if they retain all three of their first-round picks.
It will not be surprising if they trade at least one of these picks. But, given the depth in this draft, they have the opportunity to meet immediate needs and long-term goals of organizational stability.
Calgary native Morgan Klimchuk could be a great fit in Calgary. Klimchuk has made very good progress with the Regina Pats and has developed into a great scorer in the tight-checking WHL.
Klimchuk began his career as a 15-year-old in the league, and there is a maturity to his game that is matched by only the elite players in this draft class.
Klimchuk can play in all game situations and has played very well for Canadian teams internationally. He would be a great fit in Calgary and could become an important part of the team in the future.
The Washington Capitals had somewhat of a roller-coaster season.
Once the team became more comfortable with Adam Oates’ new system, the club seemed to flourish. Led by MVP Alex Ovechkin, the team came together and enjoyed some consistency at the end of the regular season and in the playoffs.
The Capitals are well stocked at the forward position. Similar to most teams, adding a defenceman always makes sense. Washington does not have to hit a home run here although defenceman Josh Morrissey has real potential.
Morrissey’s game is built on offence and skill. The defensive game can be taught much more easily than the skilled parts of the game. This makes Morrissey an attractive pick, particularly if he lasts until the latter part of the first round.
Morrissey is dynamic in the attacking zone and the Prince Albert Raider put up 47 points in the 2012-13 regular season.
He is a bright player and could lead a power play at the NHL level down the road.
The Vancouver Canucks will be led by John Tortorella next season.
The new head coach demands a lot from his players but has shown the flexibility to change his system to match his team's strengths.
The Windsor Spitfires’ Kerby Rychel makes a great deal of sense for the Canucks if he remains available this late. Rychel offers great offensive touch and can score goals with flair. His calling card is his ability to work hard and support his teammates.
His hockey I.Q. is higher than most, and his game is as smart as it is hard-working. If Rychel improves his skating in the next season or two, he should be a top-six forward for the Canucks for a lot of years.
Rychel would be a good choice as the Canucks make the move to a new division next season that includes teams with a lot of heavy players.
The Montreal Canadiens were a surprise to most this year.
Michel Therrien did a great job with the Habs and fans should be excited about what lies ahead.
The Canadiens don’t have any glaring needs, and with Carey Price anchoring the team, they are in every game that he starts. What the Canadiens do need is more grit on their roster. There were times where their smallish forwards were pushed around by some of the larger Eastern Conference teams.
American Adam Erne can score and mix it up. He enjoys the physical game and will challenge defenders in the offensive zone.
There is a lot of upside in Erne’s game, and all signs point to him becoming a top-six forward with improved speed and agility.
The Anaheim Ducks had one of the better regular seasons in the NHL this season.
They have responded very well to head coach Bruce Boudreau, who seems to truly enjoy coaching in southern California.
The Ducks have one of the best offensive tandems in the league, with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf possessing speed, size and abundant skill. Like some other top organizations, the Ducks would be best served by adding a defender to the organization.
This 2013 draft has an inordinate number of offensive defencemen, and Madison Bowey from the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets makes good sense in the No. 26 slot.
Bowey is mobile, like nearly all of the top defencemen in the draft, and is responsible defensively. He is the latest in a long list of great Kelowna defencemen such as Shea Weber, Duncan Keith and Tyler Myers.
The Winnipeg native needs further time to develop, and the Ducks would be in no rush to have him join their NHL roster.
There is a lot to like in Bowey’s game and the Ducks would have much to look forward from him.
The Columbus Blue Jackets could look to the long-term health of the organization and select the top-ranked goaltender in the draft with their third first-round pick.
Goaltender Zachary Fucale has exemplary athletic ability, and his fundamentals continue to improve. Fucale is very mentally strong and is a proven winner, as he recently backstopped the Halifax Mooseheads to the Memorial Cup in Saskatoon.
Fucale will be given every opportunity to be the starting goaltender for Canada at the World Junior Championships in 2014.
There is no need to excel his progression, and Fucale can afford to hone his game without too much pressure, too soon.
Goaltenders take more time to develop than position players, and Fucale should be worth the wait.
If the Calgary Flames retain all three of their first-round picks, and select two forwards with the first two, Swedish defenceman Robert Hagg would be a good choice here.
Hagg is an effortless skater and can control the pace of the game from the point. Poise and no panic define his game. He can make the long pass from his own zone or move the puck out with his great skating.
Hagg contributes at both even strength and on the power play.
He has a skill set that should allow him to be a top-four defenceman at the NHL level.
The Flames could take some huge strides in another season or two once their young prospects develop into the kinds of players that many expect them to be.
The Dallas Stars have both skill and size in their lineup. They are a difficult team to play against on most nights, with a number of offensively skilled forwards at their disposal. What they could use up front, is an energy player who has some skill.
Ryan Hartman of the Plymouth Whalers could fill that role. Hartman enjoys playing an agitating, physical style. He is the kind of player that teammates love to have by their side, while opponents would prefer not to have to deal with him.
Hartman is not likely to be a consistent top-six forward but could become an excellent third-line player in the NHL.
He would be a good fit with the Stars.
The Chicago Blackhawks have proven that skill is still vital to be a winner in the NHL.
The team also has some size and grit, but the 2013 Stanley Cup champions were built mostly on speed and skill.
Head coach Joel Quenneville has a very talented roster, and the organization has the luxury to add players that other teams might be leery on selecting.
Centre Nicolas Petan has all kinds of talent, and if he were 6’0” tall he would be a top-10 pick in this year’s draft. His puck-handling is superb, and his scoring touch contributed to his WHL-leading 120 points last season.
Petan has proven a lot of critics wrong by excelling at each new level of hockey he encounters. It will be exciting to see him test the pro game shortly.
31. Florida Panthers: Chris Bigras, D
GM Dale Tallon is an astute judge of talent, and defenceman Chris Bigras offers both offence and defensive responsibility from the blue line.
32. Colorado Avalanche: Shea Theodore, D
If the Avalanche select MacKinnon with their first pick, look for them to add some defensive depth with the No. 32 pick.
33. Tampa Bay Lightning: Mirco Mueller, D
The Swiss defender offers size and offensive skill as a solid defender.
34. Montreal Canadiens (from Nashville Predators): Laurent Dauphin, C
Skill wins on many nights, and the talented Dauphin has an excess of it.
35. Carolina Hurricanes: J.T. Compher, LW
Compher offers decent size and an energy level that all teams covet.
36. Montreal Canadiens (from Calgary Flames): Steve Santini, D
The Canadiens should look to add depth to their defensive prospects.
37. Edmonton Oilers: James Lodge, C
The talented Lodge will help address the Oilers’ huge need at centre.
38. Buffalo Sabres: Michael McCarron, RW
The American winger is a blend of size at 6’5” and skill.
39. New Jersey Devils: Ian McCoshen, D
McCoshen has good size and a willingness to help out offensively.
40. Dallas Stars: Jason Dickinson, C
This versatile forward has a lot of potential and would be a much higher pick in a weaker class.
41. Philadelphia Flyers: Eric Comrie, G
Comrie offers athletic ability and a willingness to battle on every play around his net.
42. Phoenix Coyotes: Jacob De La Rose, C
De La Rose offers versatility and an ability to play well in all three zones.
43. Winnipeg Jets: Artturi Lehkonen, F
Lekhonen has had some concussion issues that may lead to him slipping on draft day despite his speed and skill.
44. Columbus Blue Jackets: Connor Hurley, C
The young Minnesotan is years away, but the upside is huge.
45. Anaheim Ducks (from New York Islanders): Anthony Duclair, LW
Duclair offers tremendous speed off the wing and an ability to create multiple chances in a game.
46. Minnesota Wild: Taylor Cammarata, F
The talented centre offers big offensive numbers in a small package.
47. St. Louis Blues (from Ottawa Senators): Justin Bailey, RW
Bailey offers size at 6’3” and a good skill set from the right side.
48. Detroit Red Wings: Jordan Subban, D
Subban would fit in very well with the Wings’ puck-possession game.
49. San Jose Sharks (from New York Rangers): Emile Poirier, LW
The winger scored at better than a point-per-game pace in 2012-13.
50. San Jose Sharks: Bogdan Yakimov, C
With back-to-back picks, the Sharks could take a flier on the talented and big Russian centre.
51. Toronto Maple Leafs: Dillon Heatherington, D
Don’t be surprised if the Leafs take the talented WHL defenceman with this pick.
52. Buffalo Sabres (from St. Louis Blues): Adam Tambellini, C
The Sabres could be one of the big winners on draft day, and adding Tambellini would help.
53. Washington Capitals: Pavel Buchnevich, LW
The Capitals are built around speed and skill up front, and Buchnevich has both.
54. Dallas Stars (from Vancouver Canucks): Ryan Fitzgerald, C
Look for the talented yet small Fitzgerald to be a star in college hockey next year.
55. Montreal Canadiens: Jonathan-Ismael Diaby, D
Imposing size from the blue line from this QMJHL product.
56. Edmonton Oilers (from Anaheim Ducks): Tristan Jarry, G
The Oilers know Jarry’s game well, and he would bolster their goaltending depth in the minor leagues.
57. Los Angeles Kings: Oliver Bjorkstrand, LW
The young Danish winger is a natural goal scorer off the wing.
58. San Jose Sharks (from Pittsburgh): Eric Roy, D
The Sharks are deep across the board, but look for them to select a defenceman from the great crop available.
59. Winnipeg Jets (compensatory): Tyler Lewington, D
Look for the Jets to target a defenceman with one of the their two late picks.
60. Boston Bruins: William Carrier, LW
The talented winger was injured for much of this year, but has great offensive tools.
61. Winnipeg Jets (from Chicago Blackhawks): Ryan Kujawinski, C
The Jets have stuck to North American players for many recent picks and look for that trend to continue.