This is it, folks. The picks come down on Sunday and the draft class of 2013 will finally have NHL sweaters to wear. A lot has happened since my third installment of this series and though the prospects themselves have made moves, some of the shifts are based on what the teams are saying. The big news is at the top, where Nathan MacKinnon returns to No. 1, based not only on his skill, but also what I have been told by sources. And while you should never believe anything an NHL team tells you before the draft, I have confidence in my people. Here we go…
1. Nathan MacKinnon, C, Halifax – Two hat tricks at the Memorial Cup, including one in the final. MacKinnon bolstered his resume by showing his big-game capabilities again and became a near lock when Colorado, the franchise holding the first overall pick, publicly stated not only that the Avs would take him, but that he would start as the third-line pivot. MacKinnon’s pro-style game has been lauded all year long and he is ready to damage the NHL’s goalie fraternity.
2. Seth Jones, D, Portland – Still the top defenseman available, Jones becomes an excellent consolation prize at second overall. He had his own flashes of brilliance at the Memorial Cup, helping the Winterhawks to the final before falling to Halifax. An all-around blueliner who can jump into the rush and wow you with his offense, Jones is big, smart and slick.
3. Jonathan Drouin, LW, Halifax – Another gem from The Herd, Drouin is a competitor who has made the area diagonal to the goalie’s left shoulder his office, where he can both distribute and finish. Great wrister, great vision – he’s an offensive dynamo.
4. Aleksander Barkov, C, Tappara– A shoulder injury kept him out of the SM-Liiga final, but his team wouldn’t have been there without him. A big-bodied teen with hockey roots who controls the game and plays tough minutes, Barkov was a revelation in Finland this season.
5. Valery Nichushkin, RW, Chelyabinsk – The biggest favor Nichushkin did himself was publicly stating he would be coming over in the fall to compete for an NHL job right away, despite a big contract waiting for him back in the KHL. His blend of size, skill and grit was already enough for scouts to ignore his passport details; now it looks all clear anyway.
6. Sean Monahan, C, Ottawa – During a suspension that occurred at the same time as the NHL lockout, Monahan skated with NHLers such as P.K. Subban and Clarke MacArthur and apparently didn’t look out of place. The kid has size, can be effective in all situations and possesses excellent hockey sense that allows him to jump routes and create offense from turnovers.
7. Darnell Nurse, D, Sault Ste. Marie – His stock has risen throughout the season thanks to a developing offensive game that added a new dimension to an already impressive arsenal. Nurse has great size at 6-foot-4 and pairs that with a great mean streak and impressive skating acumen for a big man.
8. Nikita Zadorov, D, London – A fearless defender who can hit like a dump truck, Zadorov proved his mettle in the OHL playoffs when he blew up Washington first-rounder Tom Wilson with a hit – and Wilson is no shrinking violet. The big Russian will play an even bigger role for the Knights next year when they host the Memorial Cup.
9. Elias Lindholm, C, Brynas – Grit and compete level give Lindholm a couple extra checkmarks, but his resume with Brynas is pretty stellar already. A two-way forward who played a key role in Sweden’s surprise run to a silver medal at the world juniors, Lindholm was great playing against men in local league play.
10. Bo Horvat, C, London – A clutch performer who seemed to pop one in whenever the Knights were in need, Horvat also boasts a solid frame and a responsible mindset. He’s the type of player a coach wants on the ice in the last minute if the team is up or down by a goal.
11. Curtis Lazar, C, Edmonton
12. Rasmus Ristolainen, D, TPS
13. Hunter Shinkaruk, LW, Medicine Hat
14. Alexander Wennberg, C, Djurgarden
15. Adam Erne, LW, Quebec
16. Anthony Mantha, LW, Val-d’Or
17. Josh Morrissey, D, Prince Albert
18. Frederik Gauthier, RW, Rimouski
19. Robert Hagg, D, Modo
20. Morgan Klimchuk, LW, Regina
21. Zach Fucale, G, Halifax
22. Kerby Rychel, LW, Windsor
23. Valentin Zykov, LW, Baie-Comeau
24. Ryan Pulock, D, Brandon
25. Max Domi, C, London
26. Steven Santini, D, U.S. NTDP
27. Jacob de la Rose, C, Leksand
28. Ian McCoshen, D, Waterloo
29. Ryan Hartman, LW, Plymouth
30. Mirco Mueller, D, Everett