The 2013 NHL draft class has been categorized as top heavy as prospects such as Nathan MacKinnon, Seth Jones, Jonathan Drouin, Aleksander Barkov and Valeri Nichushkin are expected to be stars at the next level. Because of that, several other quality prospects are receiving as much attention as they should.
Even if the top-five selections end up being the best players to come out of this draft, other guys are bound to emerge in the coming years. There isn't a single NHL draft that didn't have at least a few players outperform their draft status. The 2013 draft will be different as there are many candidates who could potentially do that.
Here are three players who may not be drafted high in the first round on Sunday but will ultimately provide the teams that take them with incredible value.
At 5'9", forward Max Domi has been dealing with stigmas for his entire hockey-playing life. Even though plenty of diminutive players have gone on to have fantastic NHL careers, there is a perception that guys like Domi are at a disadvantage.
Domi certainly wasn't at a disadvantage when he played for the London Knights of the OHL, though, as he racked up 87 points, including 39 goals in 64 goals this past season.
Domi even managed to turn it up a notch when the games mattered most as he ended up with 32 points in 21 playoff games for the Knights. Teams tend to lock down defensively come playoff time, but that had no effect on Domi.
There is no doubt that Domi is one of the most explosive offensive players in this draft class, but he still isn't expected to be taken until the middle of the first round. That remains true even though Domi has jumped to No. 10 in TSN's prospect ranking, according to James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail:
Max Domi moves up big time from TSN's midseason rankings: 18th to 10th, I believe.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) June 26, 2013
There will definitely be an adjustment period for Domi at the NHL level as players are bigger and more physical, but if guys like Martin St. Louis and Brian Gionta can carve out great careers, then there is no reason why Domi can't do the same.
He isn't your typical small player as he is feisty and willing to mix it up, much like his father, Tie Domi, who was a long-time agitator in the NHL. Domi has a varied skill set, and he will be a big-time contributor in the league.
Scoring 50 goals is an impressive feat at any level and if an NHL prospect scores 50 goals in juniors, it usually means that he is going to be a top-10 pick.
Unless a team within the top 10 pulls off a shocker, though, forward Anthony Mantha won't be taken that early. Mantha was magical for the Val d'Or Foreurs of the QMJHL this past season as he scored 50 goals in 67 games and added five more in nine playoff contests.
Mantha made huge strides as an all-around player last season as his goals and assists increased markedly, and he went from a minus-11 player to a plus-21 player. Mantha also has ideal size as he is 6'4" and still has room to bulk up. He may not be a true power forward, but he can hold his own in the dirty areas.
Most importantly, though, Mantha is considered the best pure goal scorer in this class, according to TSN's Bob McKenzie's survey of NHL scouts:
Best pure goal-scorer: Anthony Mantha with the win over Drouin, MacKinnon, Shinkaruk. Mantha scored 50 this season.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 28, 2013
In a league that is desperate for goal scorers, it's hard to believe that Mantha is likely to fall outside the top 15 picks and perhaps even outside the top 20.
As is the case with Domi, there is some concern regarding his defense. Not every player can be great at both ends of the ice, though. If Mantha lands on a team that has other defensively responsible players, then he should be perfectly fine. It's possible that Mantha won't live up to his potential, but it would be silly to pass on a 50-goal scorer in the middle of the first round.
Which prospect will have the best NHL career?
Had Brandon Wheat Kings defenseman Ryan Pulock been eligible for the draft last year, he would have easily been a top-10 selection. Pulock was one of the premier offensive defensemen in junior hockey last year as he had 19 goals and 60 points in 71 games. He was also a plus-33 player, so his defensive shortcomings weren't apparent.
Pulock's numbers tailed off this year, though, as he dropped to 45 points and was a minus-seven, so now he may struggle to be a top-20 pick.
There are a lot of factors to take into account when it comes to Pulock. His team as a whole wasn't as good this year as it was the previous season, so his numbers naturally suffered.
From a pure talent perspective, Pulock certainly didn't get any worse. He actually packs a pretty good amount of weight on his 6'1" frame at 210 lbs., so he won't be easily pushed around either. Offense is Pulock's biggest asset, and he has the best shot in the draft, according to McKenzie.
Prospect with the best shot: Brandon dman Ryan Pulock. Seth Jones got a couple of votes too.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 28, 2013
He obviously needs to tighten things up on the defensive end and he needs to prove that he can bounce back from a sub-par season. Pulock was Brandon's captain, and he has a high hockey IQ, so he does have the intangibles to go along with his considerable skill. Pulock may not be taken until around No. 20, but he could be the best offensive defenseman in this class.
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