NHL ETAs for All of the Top Picks in the Draft

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2013

NHL ETAs for All of the Top Picks in the Draft

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    The NHL draft is an opportunity for scouts and general managers to evaluate talent and show off their skills at figuring out which players will have the biggest impact in the future.

    Some rookies may be ready to play in 2013-14, but most need quite a bit of seasoning. That factor has to be considered when drafting. Top teams may have more patience and understand that their prospects need more time to develop.

    Teams that have struggled may not have that luxury. They may rush a player into playing at the NHL level if they think there's a chance he may be ready.

    In this piece, we look at the top 30 draft picks selected and estimate when they will become NHL regulars.

No. 1: Nathan MacKinnon, C, Colorado Avalanche

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    Best Asset: Nathan MacKinnon is one of the most explosive players in the draft (32 goals, 43 assists and 75 points in 2012-13 for Halifax of QMJHL). His top-end speed is sensational, and he makes quick and decisive moves with ease. He has the ability to cut through the defense, get himself open and take hard shots with a quick release.

    Area to Improve: MacKinnon has plenty of sophistication to his offensive game, and he plays hard all over the ice. However, he's not quite the finished product on the defensive end and needs a bit more consistency in that area.

    NHL ETA: 2013-14

No. 2: Aleksander Barkov, C, Florida Panthers

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    Best Asset: Aleksander Barkov is a rare talent who stays calm at all times and tends to see the openings that other top-level players may miss. He has an understanding of what the defense is going to do, and that allows him to find the shooting and passing lanes and create excellent scoring opportunities.

    Area to Improve: Barkov's skating does not match his playmaking or shooting at this point. That does not mean he is a liability; he's just going to have to pick it up in that area. The Scouting Report compared him to John Tavares and Jason Spezza and said he could jump to their class if he could improve his skating.

    NHL ETA: 2014-15

No. 3: Jonathan Drouin, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Best Asset: Jonathan Drouin is a naturally gifted offensive player who scored 41 goals for Halifax this season. He is a top-end skater who combines speed and agility with exceptional leg strength. That makes it very difficult to knock him off the puck.

    Area to Improve: As with any exceptional offensive player, there are bound to be issues with his defensive play at the next level. In addition to taking more responsibility on that end, he's going to be slotted against exceptionally talented players and that could be an issue early in his career.

    NHL ETA: 2013-14

No. 4: Seth Jones, D, Nashville Predators

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    Best Asset: Seth Jones is a huge defenseman (6'4", 205 pounds) who plays to his size. He has superior skating ability, and he combines that with a big shot, accurate passing and the talent for making big plays at key moments.

    Area to Improve: Jones has strength and some aggressiveness, but he has the frame to get bigger and tougher. He does not have any clue how physical the game gets at the next level, and he may have to learn this on the fly.

    NHL ETA: 2013-2014

No. 5: Elias Lindholm, C, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Best Asset: Elias Lindholm is a smart, sharp player who has an understanding of what it takes to be a winning hockey player. He plays all 200 feet of the ice and has excellent defensive abilities in addition to being a skilled passer and shooter. He is the kind of player TSN personnel analyst Craig Button says a coach can count on in all situations.

    Area to Improve: Many of the top picks in this year's draft have massive goal and point totals. Lindholm did not, as he scored 11 goals and 19 assists in 48 games for Brynas of the Swedish League.

    NHL ETA: 2014-15

No. 6: Sean Monahan, C, Calgary Flames

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    Best Asset: Sean Monahan is an impressive stick-handler and playmaker who can hold on to the puck until the last second before setting up his teammates or taking the shot himself. Monahan shows an excellent touch around the net—he scored 31 goals for the Ottawa 67's last season—and he also does the little things well that don't show up on the scoresheet.

    Area to Improve: Monahan may not be the kind of player who impresses the fanbase because of his speed or fancy moves, but he will contribute consistently. He will have a greater impact once he starts to pick up his skating level in the next year or two.

    NHL ETA: 2015-16

No. 7: Darnell Nurse, D, Edmonton Oilers

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    Best Asset: Scouts were impressed with Darnell Nurse this season, as he improved quite a bit and became a highly respected player in this year's draft. Nurse has a big shot, and he is also a skilled puck-mover who has the talent to step into the play and have a big impact on the scoresheet. He had 12 goals and 29 assists for Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League.

    Area to Improve: There are some rough edges to Nurse's game, particularly on the defensive end. The nephew of former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb is very competitive and has shown that he will do whatever it takes to improve.

    NHL ETA: 2015-16

No. 8: Rasmus Ristolainen, D, Buffalo Sabres

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    Best Asset: Rasmus Ristolainen is a right-handed shooting defenseman who is not the flashiest player, but he is quite consistent. Ristolainen understands the responsibilities of his position, and he will jump into the play on the offensive end with a powerful, hard shot. He is a smart player who rarely finds himself out of position.

    Area to Improve: Ristolainen is not afraid to engage in physical battles for the puck, but he is not likely to deliver a game-changing hit. That's somewhat concerning because he has the size and strength at 6'2" and 189 pounds to do just that. He may need to pick up his intensity if he is going to match the competition in the NHL.

    NHL ETA: 2015-16

No. 9: Bo Horvat, C, Vancouver Canucks

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    Best Asset: Bo Horvat is a strong and tough center who knows how to bull his way to the net and search out scoring opportunities and take advantage of them. He scored 33 goals last year for London of the OHL, and he also has the agility to change directions quickly and get open with his athleticism.

    Area to Improve: Horvat is a good but not great skater at this point, and he's going to have to improve in that area if he is going to become an impact player. There are conflicting reports about his competitive nature.

    NHL ETA: 2015-16

No. 10: Valeri Nichushkin, LW, Dallas Stars

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    Best Asset: Valeri Nichushkin is the top-rated Russian player on the draft board, and he has the size, strength and other physical assets needed to become a dominant player. Nichushkin excels at using his speed to get open and then create and finish scoring opportunities.

    Area to Improve: There are no doubts about Nichushkin's talent level; however, there are some questions about his consistency. Nichushkin does not come with the same effort level on an every-night basis, according to The Scouting Report.

    NHL ETA: 2015-16

No. 11: Samuel Morin, D, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Best Asset: Samuel Morin has the potential to be a game-changing defenseman at the next level. His most obvious assets are his size and strength at 6'6" and 206 pounds, but he is also an outstanding skater for a man his size. He has a solid understanding of his position, and he knows when to jump into the play and when to stay at home.

    Area to Improve: Morin is becoming a much more aggressive player, but he has not always played that way. If he can continue to grow in that area, he will be a solid contributor. Morin has a fine skill set, but he needs to develop a bit more offensive sophistication.

    NHL ETA: 2016-17

No. 12: Max Domi, C, Phoenix Coyotes

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    Best Asset: The son of former NHL tough guy Tie Domi, Max is a far more skilled prospect who has shown the ability to score goals in bunches after lighting the lamp 39 times for London in the OHL last year. Domi is an excellent skater with superb change of direction and the ability to get to the net and score tough goals even though he is only 5'9" and 185 pounds.

    Area to Improve: His lack of size is likely to have an impact on his ability to play in the defensive end. At this point, his defense is not quite at the same level as his offense, but that is not likely to keep him from playing consistently at the next level.

    NHL ETA: 2015-16

No. 13: Joshua Morrissey, D, Winnipeg Jets

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    Best Asset: There's little doubt that Joshua Morrissey has the skills to become an impact offensive defenseman in the NHL. He's got a hard, crisp shot, excellent skating ability and the intelligence to jump up into the attack when the opportunity presents itself.

    Area to Improve: If there's a problem with his game, it's the ability to hang in there with bigger forwards. At 6'0" and 186 pounds, Morrissey is going to have to put on weight and strength before he can go into the corner and win the battle.

    NHL ETA: 2016-17

No. 14: Alexander Wennberg, C, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Best Asset: Alexander Wennberg has a versatility and sophistication to his game that make him a very valuable prospect. While his best position appears to be center, he can play right wing or left wing and has a willingness to move around. Wennberg has a knack for always being in the right spot, allowing him to make some big plays.

    Area to Improve: Wennberg does not have the look of a classic player because he is often hunched over when skating. That aspect of his game needs quite a bit of work, but he does move better than it first appears. The young Swede appears to coast from time to time, and that's something that will have to change as he advances up the ladder.

    NHL ETA: 2015-16.

No. 15: Ryan Pulock, D, New York Islanders

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    Best Asset: Ryan Pulock figures to be the kind of defenseman who will be able to improve any team's power play as soon as he gets to the NHL. He is an excellent puck-mover with a terrific shot, and he has the ability to find the soft spots in the defense that allow him to get his shot through the defenders and put it on net.

    Area to Improve: Pulock is a physically strong player with the potential to be the quarterback on any power play. However, he has some lapses on the defensive end that often manifest themselves with poor footwork. He is going to have to improve in this area before he can become an NHL regular.

    NHL ETA: 2015-16

No. 16: Nikita Zadorov, D, Buffalo Sabres

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    Best Asset: Nikita Zadorov is a big defenseman at 6'5" and 220 pounds who can impress you with his shot, his ability to make up ground with each stride, and his ability to thump opponents. Zadorov has a willingness to throw his body around, and when he starts hitting, he can turn the momentum of a game around.

    Area to Improve: Zadorov is not always as consistent as you want him to be. Scouts often disproportionately focus on his potential, and that means he's a bit more of a gamble than some of the other top picks. However, it's difficult to ignore Zadorov's value simply due to his physicality and slap shot.

    NHL ETA: 2015-16

No. 17: Curtis Lazar, C-RW, Ottawa Senators

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    Best Asset: Curtis Lazar is a hard-working forward who has an edge to his game and will go to the dirty areas of the ice and score goals. While he doesn't have a lot of flair, he is the kind of player who has the determination and instincts to become a solid forward.

    Area to Improve: Lazar does not have a slew of moves, and he is not a slick shooter or passer. He may need to develop a few more moves when he has the puck in the offensive zone.

    NHL ETA: 2016-17

No. 18: Mirco Mueller, D, San Jose Sharks

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    Best Asset: Few players came into the draft with as much momentum as Mirco Mueller. He had a sensational season in the Western Hockey League and made dramatic leaps up the ladder from the middle of the season to the close. Mueller is a solid skater who appears to be a shutdown defenseman with some offensive skill as well.

    Area to Improve: The problem with Mueller comes with his rapid climb into the first round. Did he really get that much better, or was he simply on a hot streak? Mueller needs to show some improvement on the offensive side of the game.

    NHL ETA: 2016-17

No. 19: Kerby Rychel, LW, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Best Asset: Kerby Rychel's the kind of player who shows his hunger and desire to score goals on an every-game basis. Rychel has the size and strength to go to the front of the net, and he also has the escapability to get away from the defense and create scoring opportunities. Rychel scored 40 goals last season for Windsor in the Ontario Hockey League and is not going to be denied when he gets to the dirty areas.

    Area to Improve: Rychel does not have the fluid stride that many scouts want to see from first-round prospects. However, he skates hard and has good speed even though his balance does not always look superb. A hard worker, he should improve in this area.

    NHL ETA: 2015-16

No. 20: Anthony Mantha, LW, Detroit Red Wings

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    Best Asset: One of the most improved prospects in this year's draft, Anthony Mantha scored 50 goals in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League after scoring 22 the year before. Mantha is a force in the offensive zone, as he can stickhandle in a phone booth, control the puck, fend off the defense and get his shot. He has the kind of acceleration that allows him to get open as well.

    Area to Improve: His consistency in the neutral and defensive zone is an area of some concern. He has to up his effort level and become a 200-foot player.

    NHL ETA: 2015-16

No. 21: Frederik Gauthier, C, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Best Asset: Frederik Gauthier has the makings of a mature player who is very responsible in his own end. Gauthier is an imposing player at 6'5" and 210 pounds. He covers a lot of ground and can break up any play. He has also shown a tendency to pick up his offensive game when it matters most.

    Area to Improve: Gauthier appears to be a strong player who can play the game in all three zones. However, his offensive talent is not as impressive as his defensive abilities at this point. His lack of sophistication on the offensive side makes him a fairly limited player at this point of his career.

    NHL ETA: 2015-16

No. 22: Emile Poirier, LW, Calgary Flames

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    Best Asset: Emile Poirier was a bit of a reach at pick No. 22 by the Calgary Flames, but he has the tools to become an excellent goal scorer. He has an excellent shot and the kind of first step that allows him to get free to release that shot. He also has some grit that helps him win corner battles.

    Area to Improve: Poirier has a fairly awkward-looking stride, and he's going to have to work on his overall skating before he gets a chance to show off his talent in the NHL. He also needs to show he can play a complete game in all three zones.

    NHL ETA: 2016-17

No. 23: Andre Burakovsky, LW, Washington Capitals

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    Best Asset: Andre Burakovsky is a very impressive skater and the kind of athlete who can be a difference-maker. The Austrian-born Swede has the kind of speed to put defenders on their heels, skate around them and then make plays once he gets by.

    Area to Improve: Burakovsky is a solid all-around player, but he is not a gifted scorer. He is going to have to improve his consistency when going to the net if he is going to advance to the next level. He had a slow start last year and was not included on the Swedish Under-20 team.

    NHL ETA: 2016-17

No. 24: Hunter Shinkaruk, LW-C, Vancouver Canucks

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    Best Asset: Hunter Shinkaruk seems to have a propensity for scoring. His skating allows him to get in and out of tight spaces and demonstrates a hunger to get to the net and make opponents pay. He is a very competitive player who is willing to go up against bigger players and win the battle. He had 37 goals for Medicine Hat in the Western Hockey League last season.

    Area to Improve: Shinkaruk is going to take quite a bit of physical pounding as he climbs the hockey ladder. He is on the small side at 5'10" and 181 pounds, though he will not hesitate to engage. He needs to show more creativity with the puck.

    NHL ETA: 2015-16

No. 25: Michael McCarron, RW, Montreal Canadiens

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    Best Asset: Michael McCarron appears to be a perfect fit for an undersized team like the Montreal Canadiens. The Michigan native gives them a big bruiser who can go into the corner, bang bodies and come away with the puck. The 6'5", 228-pound prospect has good hands, but he was selected for his strength and toughness.

    Area to Improve: McCarron is not a sophisticated offensive player. While he is not a bad skater, he needs to improve in the area. He needs to develop a few more moves and some skills around the net.

    NHL ETA: 2015-16

No. 26: Shea Theodore, D, Anaheim Ducks

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    Best Asset: The Anaheim Ducks selected a boom-or-bust defenseman in Shea Theodore, who has excellent offensive skills. If Theodore can make the necessary steps, he will give the Ducks an outstanding puck-mover who has the potential to be a difference-maker on the power play.

    Area to Improve: Theodore has to step up on the defensive aspects of the game. He is a long way from being able to compete in the NHL, because he has too many mental lapses. He often does not stick with his man long enough, and that will likely keep him from slipping on an Anaheim uniform any time soon.

    NHL ETA: 2016-17

No. 27: Marko Dano, C, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Best Asset: Marko Dano spent a season in the KHL, which undoubtedly served as an invaluable learning experience. Dano is a gritty player who can take a hit, stay on his feet and still make his way to the net.

    Area to Improve: Dano has the attitude and nastiness to make it at the next level, but there are questions about his offensive ability. It's one thing to be a defensive specialist, but he has to develop his offensive game further.

    NHL ETA: 2016-17

No. 28: Morgan Klimchuk, LW, Calgary Flames

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    Best Asset: Morgan Klimchuk is going to give the Flames a versatile offensive player. He has excellent skating ability, a quick and accurate shot, solid passing and he can think the game better than most, often affording him the all-important half-step on the competition.

    Area to Improve: He was underrated and undervalued in the draft, possibly because he played for a weak Regina team in the Western Hockey League. He is not overly physical at 5'11" and 185 pounds, so he is going to have to spend time in the weight room.

    NHL ETA: 2015-16

No. 29: Jason Dickinson, C, Dallas Stars

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    Best Asset: Jason Dickinson can be an explosive scorer. He started the year on a hot streak for the OHL's Guelph Storm, and he was also very solid with his all-around game and abilities on the penalty kill. That demonstrates his understanding of the game—something all coaches appreciate.

    Area to Improve: He may have started the season hot, but he could not sustain his success over a long period. Dickinson needs to get stronger; he can have a head of steam when carrying the puck, but he has a difficult time fighting through checks.

    NHL ETA: 2016-17

No. 30: Ryan Hartman, RW, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Best Asset: Ryan Hartman grew up in Northbrook, Ill., so he will get the chance to play for his hometown team. Hartman is a fiery player who will use his aggressiveness to win the battle in the corner, and he's not afraid to drop his gloves in order to stand up for his teammates or himself.

    Area to Improve: Hartman is not the kind of explosive skater who can make a difference at the NHL level at this point. While he can battle on the boards and make plays with the puck, he's going to have to improve his skating to regularly contribute for the Blackhawks.

    NHL ETA: 2015-16