The 2013 NHL draft is almost upon us, as the bottom-feeders look to rise and the top teams in the league look to make sure that doesn't happen.
The Chicago Blackhawks are coming off a championship, while teams like the Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers hope they can begin to turn things around in a hurry.
Don't be surprised if some trades go down on Sunday, but if that doesn't happen, here is how I see the draft panning out.
1. Colorado Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon, C, Halifax (QMJHL)
It would be a surprise if the Avalanche didn't nab center Nathan MacKinnon. Both Patrick Roy, according to Craig Custance of ESPN, and executive vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic have been pointing to the young man. You can't ignore his production last season: 32 goals and 75 points in the regular season, seven goals and 13 points in four Memorial Cup games.
2. Florida Panthers: Seth Jones, D, Portland (WHL)
Pairing Seth Jones with Erik Gudbranson would be an excellent move for this franchise. Jones has the size and ice IQ to be a formidable player moving forward.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning: Aleksander Barkov, C, Tappara (FIN)
The most coveted power forward in the draft, Aleksander Barkov can be an explosive scorer, having notched 21 goals and 48 points in 53 games in the top Finnish league.
4. Nashville Predators: Jonathan Drouin, LW, Halifax (QMJHL)
The Predators have plenty of young defensive talent. Adding Jonathan Drouin—the Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year—would be a step in the right direction. Drouin posted 41 goals and 105 points in 49 games last season.
5. Carolina Hurricanes: Valeri Nichushkin, RW, Chelyabinsk (RUS)
Eric and Jordan Staal need some help, even if it means a player simply taking some attention away from them. Valeri Nichushkin has the skills, size, toughness and clutch ability to be a game-changer for the Hurricanes.
6. Calgary Flames: Sean Monahan, C, Ottawa (OHL)
Not only did Sean Monahan post 31 goals and 78 points this season for a poor Ottawa team, he also excels in faceoffs and penalty kills. The two-way player will help guide the Flames in a rebuilding effort.
7. Edmonton Oilers: Darnell Nurse, D, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
The Oilers have selected a forward first in their past six drafts. Now it's time to add a talented defenseman in Darnell Nurse. Nurse is a tough player with a powerful shot. He registered 116 penalty minutes this season in the OHL.
8. Buffalo Sabres: Elias Lindholm, C, Brynas (SWE)
Elias Lindholm is a two-way center whose skills translate well to the next level. He should provide a boost to Buffalo moving forward.
9. New Jersey Devils: Hunter Shinkaruk, C/LW, Medicine Hat (WHL)
After the departure of Zach Parise last offseason, it's obvious that the New Jersey Devils need to add talent on the front line. Skilled, intelligent and explosive, Shinkaruk has the makings of a Zach Parise 2.0.
10. Dallas Stars: Rasmus Ristolainen, D, TPS (FIN)
Rasmus Ristolainen has the makings of an All-Star at the next level, given his strength, toughness, skating ability and strong shot. The Stars need a defenseman who can instill fear in the opposition.
11. Philadelphia Flyers: Ryan Pulock, D, Brandon (WHL)
Ryan Pulock is a tough leader with a powerful shot who excels on the power play. The Flyers need some help on the blue line. Bingo.
12. Phoenix Coyotes: Anthony Mantha, RW, Val-d'Or (QMJHL)
Anthony Mantha scored an astounding 50 goals this past season as a junior. With the Coyotes in need of some big-time offensive talent, Mantha would be a great get at No. 12 overall.
13. Winnipeg Jets: Frederik Gauthier, C, Rimouski (QMJHL)
Frederik Gauthier has a complete game, exhibiting strong skating, offensive ability and size. The Jets need to find a difference-maker at center.
14. Columbus Blue Jackets: Valentin Zykov, LW, Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)
The Blue Jackets can address a variety of needs with three first-round picks this year. Valentin Zykov would be a good start, as he is an explosive scorer who will keep defenders on their heels moving forward.
15. New York Islanders: Max Domi, C/LW, London (OHL)
A quick, intelligent player with a dangerous left-handed shot, Max Domi also seems to play his best in big moments. He would add depth to New York's front line.
16. Buffalo Sabres (via Minnesota): Ryan Hartman, RW, Plymouth (OHL)
Ryan Hartman is not only a versatile scorer, he's also extremely tough, playing through injury in the second half of last season. Don't sleep on the potential of this kid.
17. Ottawa Senators: Bo Horvat, C, London (OHL)
It's possible that Bo Horvat goes earlier in the draft this year, but if he lands here, consider him a steal for the Senators. Horvat is a two-way player who excels in faceoffs—something the Senators will welcome with open arms.
18. Detroit Red Wings: Mirco Mueller, D, Everett (WHL)
With a need on the blue line, the Red Wings could do much worse than Mirco Mueller. Mueller is a smooth skater who excels at blocking shots and killing penalties.
19. Columbus Blue Jackets: Alexander Wennberg, C, Djugarden (SWE)
Alexander Wennberg may not develop into an All-Star, but it's hard to imagine him not being a solid player, given his instincts and production playing against men in Sweden.
20. San Jose Sharks: Zachary Fucale, G, Halifax (QMJHL)
San Jose has gone a long time without drafting a goalie. Zachary Fucale is too good to pass up at this spot. The Sharks will be happy they grabbed him down the line.
21. Toronto Maple Leafs: Kerby Rychel, LW, Windsor (OHL)
Kerby Rychel scored 40 goals on a mediocre Windsor team this past season. He backed that up by displaying his impressive strength at the scouting combine.
22. Calgary Flames (via Philadelphia): Nikita Zadorov, D, London (OHL)
A strong, physical, smooth skater, Nikita Zadorov should be of nice help on Calgary's blue line. He will add some toughness and determination to the Flames.
23. Washington Capitals: Adam Erne, LW, Quebec (QMJHL)
Adam Erne has been compared to Jeff Skinner due to his explosive offensive abilities. The Capitals could certainly use some more power up front.
24. Vancouver Canucks: Nicolas Petan, C, Portland (WHL)
You can't argue with Nicolas Petan's production this past season—he boasted 120 points in 70 games. Passing on that kind of ability this late is an unwise decision.
25. Montreal Canadiens: Chris Bigras, D, Owen Sound (OHL)
A two-way player, Chris Bigras posted eight goals and 30 assists for the Owen Sound this past season. Adding a player like that figures to help Montreal's attack.
26. Anaheim Ducks: Curtis Lazar, C/RW, Edmonton (WHL)
Curtis Lazar finished last season strong, pointing to a player who is beginning to soar. He's a versatile forward who would certainly fill a need up front for Anaheim.
27. Columbus Blue Jackets: Robert Hagg, D, Modo Jr. (SWE-JR)
Not only does Robert Hagg possess a strong, accurate shot, he was an aggressive, consistent performer for Modo Jr. this past season.
28. Calgary Flames (via Pittsburgh): Ian McCoshen, D, Waterloo (USHL)
Ian McCoshen is a two-way defender with an excellent point shot. Calgary could do much worse at No. 28 overall.
29. Dallas Stars (via Boston): Jacob de la Rose, LW, Leksand (SWE-2)
Possessing a strong two-way game, Jacob de la Rose can pass and shoot with accuracy without breaking stride. He could be a steal at No. 29 overall.
30. Chicago Blackhawks: William Carrier, LW, Cape Breton (QMJHL)
A hard worker on the ice, William Carrier has been compared to Patrice Bergeron, based on his faceoff ability, leadership and hockey IQ. Another potential difference-maker for Chicago.
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