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Stock Watch for the Top 10 Picks from the 2013 NHL Draft

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistNovember 27, 2013

Stock Watch for the Top 10 Picks from the 2013 NHL Draft

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    Noah Graham/Getty Images

    The 2013 NHL draft was notable for its activity at the top.

    As the draft approached last winter, it appeared that American-born defenseman Seth Jones had the inside track on being selected with the No. 1 pick. However, as the draft came closer, Jones was surpassed by Nathan MacKinnon and the defenseman wasn't drafted until the fourth slot.

    The top picks in the draft, MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Drouin and Jones are on their way to becoming top players. All but Drouin are playing in the NHL right now.

    Here's a look at the stock watch for the top 10 picks in last June's NHL draft.

1. C Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche

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    Team: Colorado Avalanche (NHL)

    2013-14 stats: 22 games, three goals, 10 assists, plus-four.

    Analysis: The No. 1 pick in the draft has looked like he belonged in the NHL from his first day in training camp. While Nathan MacKinnon has much to learn, he is soaking everything up like a sponge and he is starting to get a feel for the NHL game.

    MacKinnon displays his skills on an every game basis. He can handle the puck, make sharp passes and he has an accurate, hard shot. However, the best part of his game is his blazing speed.

    "That's the scary part," Avs' captain Gabriel Landeskog told Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post. "It's unbelievable. I haven't seen this speed from anyone, especially 18 years old. It's fun to watch, and at the same time, he can handle the puck at the speed. At practice, he'll do things and you're just standing there, scratching your head."

    Stock Watch: Growth stock that is starting to climb the charts.

2. C Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Team: Florida Panthers (NHL)

    2013-14 stats: 25 games, four goals, six assists, minus-three

    Analysis: Aleksander Barkov may not have the point totals of the leading rookies in the NHL, but the Florida Panthers have been increasing his ice time because he is showing growth on both ends of the ice.

    His overall average ice time is 16:51 per game, but he averaged nearly 20 minutes per game in the Panthers' recent West Coast road trip. He also sees more ice time than any other Florida forward with the man advantage, as he gets 3:41 of power-play time per game.

    Barkov, 18, is the youngest player in the league. He wouldn't have been drafted in the second spot or made the team if he didn't have sensational gifts. However, Barkov has a full understanding of the game and he knows his responsibilities. Barkov is performing well and he has not been overwhelmed by the competition.

    Stock Watch: Keep this stock for the long term. Plenty of dividends along the way.

3. C Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    Team: Halifax Mooseheads (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League)

    2013-14 stats: 19 games, 14 goals, 32 assists, plus-17

    Analysis: The Tampa Bay Lightning decided to go the conventional route by not rushing their top draft pick to the NHL this season.

    Drouin has dominated the QMJHL and he has basically scored at will for the Halifax Mooseheads. He has the talent to compete in the NHL, but the Lightning just want to give him some time before he has to face bigger and stronger competition.

    Drouin, 5'11" and 192 pounds, has remarkable quickness and a gift for going to the open areas of the ice. He can take advantage of time and space like few others, and he is a brilliant scorer. Drouin may wish he were playing in the NHL like the other top draft picks, but he will be ready when he gets the call.

    The idea of Drouin playing with Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos (when he recovers from his broken leg) should be a formidable one for Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper. It's just a matter of time.

    Stock Watch: Currently not much activity, but insiders look for a huge spurt in 2014-15.

4. D Seth Jones, Nashville Predators

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    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    Team: Nashville Predators (NHL)

    2013-14 stats: 24 games, three goals, six assists, minus-nine

    Analysis: The numbers may not seem very impressive for Seth Jones, but he is already a legitimate NHL-caliber defenseman.

    Head coach Barry Trotz is working Jones into the lineup and trying to find spots where he can be successful. Trotz is giving Jones a regular shift on defense and the rookie is averaging 23:38 of ice time per night.

    Jones, a 19-year-old, right-handed shot, has also played the left defense slot much of the time this season. That makes a difficult job (source: Sporting News) even harder because he must shift from his backhand to his forehand when he has the puck along the wall. It's a time-consuming maneuver that can lead to turnovers.

    Jones makes mistakes, but he doesn't make the same ones twice. He appears to be on course for a very long and productive career in the NHL.

    Stock Watch: A long-term growth stock that requires patience.

5. C Elias Lindholm, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images

    Team: Charlotte Checkers (AHL)

    2013-14 stats: Six games, one goal, two assists, minus-four

    Analysis: Elias Lindholm started the season with the Hurricanes and he scored two goals and had one assist and a minus-five rating before general manager Jim Rutherford decided to send him to the Hurricanes' minor-league affiliate in Charlotte.

    Lindholm has the size at 6'1" and 192 pounds, but he had a tough time staying up with the play at the NHL level, and he often seemed a step or more behind. Lindholm may very well become a very strong player in the years to come, but he is not ready to compete right now.

    Lindholm has excellent hands and he reads the play very well. He can sidestep checks, but he is not the most physical player and he has to understand that big-time contact is a part of the NHL game. He is a good but not great skater.

    Stock Watch: Lindholm should be a solid player in the NHL for many years, but he may not have superstar potential like the four players who were picked before him. His playmaking and skills are obvious, but he may not have the ceiling you want from a player taken with a top-five pick.

6. C Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames

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    Derek Leung/Getty Images

    Team: Calgary Flames (NHL)

    2013-14 stats: 23 games, eight goals, six assists, minus-six

    Analysis: Sean Monahan is the leading scorer among rookies who were drafted in 2013.

    In many ways, Monahan has an ideal situation in Calgary because he is a rookie playing for a rebuilding team. The Flames do not have realistic playoff aspirations, so a mistake or two will not cost his team in any appreciable manner.

    That allows Monahan to play in a less-pressurized environment, at least in theory. The fans in Calgary know exactly where their team stands, but once the puck is dropped, they become demanding and they want their team to play solid hockey.

    When those fans get to see Monahan with the puck, they see a young star in development. He plays the game with great maturity and understanding, and he knows what to do when he gets it in the offensive zone. He is a first-rate passer and he has a surprisingly good shot and excellent moves.

    Stock Watch: Monahan is already producing and he could reach high levels in his rookie season. Solid growth stock as well.

7. D Darnell Nurse, Edmonton Oilers

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    Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Spor

    Team: Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (Ontario Hockey League)

    2013-14 stats: 23 games, seven goals, 18 assists, plus-five

    Analysis: The Edmonton Oilers are struggling quite a bit this season and the fans are not the least bit happy about it.

    This team has been stockpiling high draft picks over the years, and many expected them to become one of the better teams in the Western Conference and at least qualify for a playoff spot.

    With the team having already played more than 25 percent of its schedule, making the playoffs does not appear to be a realistic possibility.

    However, the Oilers did the right thing in not rushing Darnell Nurse up to play at the NHL level. It would be one thing if the Oilers were a strong defensive team, but they struggle in that area. If the team's top draft pick were playing at the NHL level, he would be getting a lot of scrutiny and all of his mistakes would be heavily magnified.

    Nurse is a brilliant talent who is still developing his game at the junior level. He is getting time to grow into his 6'4", 193-pound frame. Once he gets stronger, he will be better equipped to deal with the NHL competition. He is an excellent skater with high-end skills.

    Stock Watch: This stock is percolating. It may not be very profitable until 2014-15 or 2015-16, but it will be one to watch at that point. The growth could be amazing.

8. D Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo Sabres

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    Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Spor

    Team: Rochester Americans (AHL)

    2013-14 stats: Three games, no goals, no assists, minus-two

    Analysis: Rasmus Ristolainen played 19 games (one goal, no assists, minus-four) with the Buffalo Sabres this year before he was sent to Rochester of the American Hockey League.

    The move corresponded with the firing of Sabres general manager Darcy Regier and head coach Ron Rolston. New team boss Pat Lafontaine sent Ristolainen and several other young Buffalo prospects back to the minors or juniors because he saw no need for them to play on a losing team with a negative atmosphere.

    Ristolainen has the potential to be a solid puck-moving defenseman in the NHL and he appeared to be quite close to being ready to perform at the top level when he was drafted last June. However, close and actually being ready are two different things. Ristolainen may have the potential to be a star, but he is not ready yet.

    Stock Watch: A rough start in the NHL means that he needs more seasoning. While he still has potential, he needs his time in the minor leagues to develop his talent.

9. C Bo Horvat, Vancouver Canucks

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    Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

    Team: London Knights (Ontario Hoceky League)

    2013-14 stats: 21 games, 11 goals, 21 assists, plus-15

    Analysis: Look for Bo Horvat to become a future star for the Vancouver Canucks whenever he gets the call to join the big club.

    He is a 6'0", 205-pound bull-strong center who plays the game with toughness and skill. He is solid on the defensive end and he is a difficult assignment for anyone who has to play against him.

    Horvat is a skilled playmaker who should be productive when he gets the call up to the NHL. He wants to win badly and that shows in the efforts he makes in the face-off circle and when playing defense. He has plenty of sandpaper to his game, and that makes up for a lack of flashiness.

    Stock Watch: A solid and productive center who may not ever become a superstar. However, he has the kind of nastiness and enough talent to become the exact type of player the Canucks need.

10. RW Valeri Nichushkin, Dallas Stars

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Team: Dallas Stars (NHL)

    2013-14 stats: 22 games, two goals, six assists, plus-three

    Analysis: The Stars thought they saw enough of Valeri Nichushkin to keep him at the NHL level in his rookie season.

    Nichuskin, 18, is a 6'4", 205-pound bull who has all the skills to become a superstar. In addition to his size and strength, he is an excellent skater who has the moves to shake defensemen and either make plays on his own or set up his teammates with his excellent passes.

    Those talents have not translated yet on the NHL level. He is treading water and has just missed converting on a number of his chances. However, head coach Lindy Ruff still believes in him and it may be just a matter of time before Nichuskin starts contributing at the same level as linemates Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.

    Stock Watch: Nichushkin may have as much potential as any of the top four picks in this draft. If he plays with a consistent effort, there may be no stopping him. Hockey's Future said he could be compared to Evgeni Malkin, although it stopped short of saying he had as much talent as the Penguins' superstar.

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