Welcome to the first installment of my rankings for the 2013 NHL draft. We’re going to post these quarterly and you can expect a lot of variance as the season goes on because this is a stacked year. One NHL talent exec told me it’s the deepest draft he’s seen in nearly a decade. One final note – because the prep/high school systems have yet to begin their regular campaigns, a few players were not considered for the list. Tyler Hill and Connor Hurley are the most prominent in that situation and could be first-rounders next time out.
1. Nathan MacKinnon, C, Halifax
One of the top scorers in the Quebec League, MacKinnon brings explosive speed and offensive creativity to the best squad in the country right now. He’s strong on his skates and has a bit of an edge to his game, which only makes him more tantalizing.
2. Seth Jones, D, Portland
A physical specimen on the blueline at 6-foot-4, 206 pounds, Jones is one of the top rookie scorers in the Western League and that’s not even his biggest strength. His diversity – his lack of a weak area in his game – make him the most coveted defenseman around.
3. Sasha Barkov, C, Tappara
Barkov’s dominance in Finland’s top league this season is stunning. Playing against much older competition, he has anchored Tappara’s top line and leads the team in scoring. Bred from pro stock (his dad is a Russian who made his career in Finland), Barkov brings great size and skill to the table.
4. Elias Lindholm, C, Brynas
When Lindholm was given suitable ice time to show off his skills in Brynas, he dazzled. A tenacious competitor who can also put up points in bunches, he and cousin/linemate Calle Jarnkrok were a wrecking crew in late October. He’s been given the “Next Peter Forsberg” tag.
5. Sean Monahan, C, Ottawa
Great size and smarts make Monahan the top Ontario Leaguer available this year. Playing for a wretched 67’s organization, he has still put up top-3 point totals in the OHL and was a bright spot in the 2-1 loss to Russia in the CHL Super Series. Could jump straight to the NHL and have a Sean Couturier-like impact on a team.
6. Curtis Lazar, C, Edmonton
Playing for the reigning WHL champs, Lazar is a two-way player with skill who broke out offensively during Edmonton’s run to the Memorial Cup tourney. Though his numbers aren’t earth-shattering right now, he has the makeup to be at least a consistent NHLer for years to come.
7. Jonathan Drouin, C, Halifax
Playing on a line with MacKinnon, Drouin has upped his stock more than any other skater so far. His vision and his abilities with the stick, both as a passer and shooter, are sublime. He’s a top-15 scorer in the ‘Q’ right now, even though he missed six games out of 20 with an upper body injury.
8. Rasmus Ristolainen, D, TPS
A big, solid blueliner who plays a mature game and is competing against men in Finland’s top league this year, Ristolainen is physical and also can contribute offensively.
9. Hunter Shinkaruk, C, Medicine Hat
One of the top scorers in the WHL, Shinkaruk is an elite skater – one scout called him the best in the league. He’s a late birthday and Medicine Hat’s captain, giving him straight-to-the-NHL potential.
10. Robert Hagg, D, Modo
Like Ristolainen, Hagg is a big, sturdy defenseman who can also contribute offensively. Hagg has a nice physical side and leadership attributes and always shows up internationally. He’s playing against men in Sweden’s top circuit.
11. Adam Erne, RW, Quebec
12. Darnell Nurse, D, Sault Ste. Marie
13. Josh Morrissey, D, Prince Albert
14. Ryan Pulock, D, Brandon
15. Nikita Zadorov, D, London
16. Artturi Lehkonen, RW, KalPa
17. Anthony Mantha, LW, Val d’Or
18. Jacob De La Rose, C, Leksand
19. Hudson Fasching, RW, U.S. NTDP
20. JT Compher, C, U.S. NTDP
21. Valery Nichushkin, C, Chelyabinsk
22. Frederik Gauthier, C, Rimouski
23. Zach Fucale, G, Halifax
24. Steve Santini, D, U.S. NTDP
25. Jason Dickinson, C, Guelph
26. Morgan Klimchuk, C, Regina
27. Andre Burakowsky, LW, Malmo
28. Max Domi, C, London
29. Kerby Rychel, LW, Windsor
30. Eric Comrie, G, Tri-City
Ryan Kennedy, the co-author of Young Guns II, is THN's associate senior writer and a regular contributor to THN.com. His column appears Wednesdays and The Hot List appears Tuesdays. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/THNRyanKennedy.