NEWARK, N.J. – Now that all the selections have been made, 211 more players have an NHL sweater to call their own. But the journey has only begun for these prospects and many have decisions when it comes to where they will continue to develop.
Nathan MacKinnon had been slotted in as Colorado's third-line center before the Avs even selected him, but second overall pick Sasha Barkov must decide what's best for him next year. Barkov helped his Finnish team, Tappara, to the SM-Liiga final this season, though a shoulder injury knocked him out just before the championship series.
“I think I will come and play for Florida if my shoulder is ready,” Barkov said. “I think it will be ready. I played two years against men in Finland. It's a very good league and that helped me develop a lot.”
Asked if Florida GM Dale Tallon had told him there was a roster spot waiting to be taken in Florida, Barkov grinned mischievously.
“Maybe,” he said.
Dallas got a bit of a steal with the 10th pick, nabbing big talent Valeri Nichushkin. The strapping young Russian had said before the draft that he would come over right away to compete for an NHL job and did not back down once he was in his Stars jersey. Through a translator, Nichushkin was asked if he would settle for duty in the American League, rather than return to the KHL next season.
“I don't want to look that far ahead, because anything can happen,” he said. “But I'm pretty sure I can make the NHL.”
And Nichushkin had no plans on going home this summer: his itinerary was to go from New York straight to Dallas.
One of the biggest conflicts in all of hockey is the recruiting battle between major junior and the NCAA and while the lack of college-bound players in the first round took some of the sizzle out of that question, there is one to watch. Montreal first-rounder Michael McCarron is committed to Western Michigan University, but his Ontario League rights are owned by the London Knights and he has been in contact with the major junior team more than once. If he goes to Western Michigan, he'll be coached by former NHL bench boss Andy Murray, while perennial powerhouse London offers a guaranteed spot in the Memorial Cup, which the Knights host in 2014. The Michigan native will take counsel from the Habs before reaching a destination.
“I'll see what they think is best for me and then talk to my family,” McCarron said. “Western Michigan is two hours from home, London is two hours the other way, so I'm right in the middle.”
One possibility in London would be a top line of 2013 first-rounders McCarron, Max Domi and Bo Horvat. At Western Michigan, he would join a program that has become elite in a very short amount of time.
Another player who might be in a major junior uniform in the future is Washington Capitals first-rounder Andre Burakowsky, who had a tough, up-and-down year back home in Sweden, but clearly has the skill set of an elite scorer. The CHL Import Draft is on July 3 and Burakowsky would be a candidate.
“I have to talk to my agent,” he said. “But maybe.”
The New York Rangers nabbed scoring forward Adam Tambellini early in the third round and while Portland of the Western League has been beckoning, he was steadfast in his commitment to the University of North Dakota.
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 @THNRyanKennedy.
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