If you’re looking for a typical mock draft with a list of names and only a sentence or two on the reasoning behind the pick, this is not your mock draft. This mock draft is attempting to familiarize you with the current 2013 draft class and will also give you an idea of what each team is thinking when they make their selection. This is the first post of a few more to come, all based on this years draft from a Flyers perspective. This draft is already being talked about as the strongest draft in ten years, since the famous 2003 draft that produced the likes of Richards, Carter, Parise, Perry, and many more. The thing that sets the 2013 draft apart is the depth. This draft will be very hard to predict from 15-45 because there are so many guys who project to be legitimate impact players.
Without further ado, the first pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft belongs to the Colorado Avalanche...
1. Colorado: Seth Jones, D, WHL- Seth Jones is the best defensive prospect in a while. The prototypical 6-4, very skilled, extremely mobile, extremely physical, ---and most importantly---extremely intelligent two way defender is a near lock to be taken at #1. If there was any doubt as to who was going to be selected #1 before the lottery, it was erased when the Avalanche got awarded the pick as Jones is from Denver. Colorado has a lot of holes, but a prospect like this doesn’t come around every year and the heavy majority of the NHL scouting world thinks that Jones will go #1.
2. Florida: Nathan MacKinnon, C, QMJHL- Florida is another team with a lot of holes, and the best forward in the draft seems like another good fit. Florida could go with MacKinnon’s junior teammate Jonathan Drouin here, as some would argue that Drouin has better offensive skills than MacKinnon. I don’t see Florida going anywhere but the 6-0, 182lb. Nathan MacKinnon due to his truly elite skating, his hard-nosed two-way play, and the fact that MacKinnon is a center. True #1 two-way centers are hard to find and there are only a handful of them in the NHL right now. MacKinnon has high end skills to go along with the skating that gives him the potential of being a perennial 70 point guy.
3. Tampa Bay: Jonathan Drouin, LW, QMJHL- Drouin’s teammate may be a slightly better overall prospect, but it doesn’t mean that Drouin isn’t the real deal. It was Drouin who got the call to play on the Canadian U-20 World Junior Championship top line, not MacKinnon. Although MacKinnon had a better Memorial Cup, points-wise, it was Drouin who won the CHL player of the year award. Drouin could come in to Tampa and be the heir to Marty St. Louis, as they play a similar game. Both players are smaller (Drouin is 5-11, 176lbs.) and are incredibly skilled. Drouin’s puck skills are by far the best in this heralded class and you could argue that his hockey sense is tops as well. He may not have elite skating like MacKinnon, he is still a high end skater. The only knock on Drouin is he does not project to be a physical player, however his skating and IQ are more than enough to compensate.
4. Nashville: Alexander Barkov, C, SM-Liiga (Top pro league in his native Finland)- After the big three, there’s another tier of three. The thing that separates Barkov from the other two is his elite hockey sense. Barkov’s skating may be slightly below average, he parlays his tremendous hockey IQ with great puck skills, finishing ability, and physicality. The 6-2, 205lb. could be the first true number one center in Nashville’s history as he lit up the top men’s league in Finland for 48 points in 53 games, playing twenty minutes per game as a 17 year old. Coming off a trade deadline that saw the Predators trade top-6 winger Marty Erat to the Capitols who were trying to make a playoff push for blue-chip left winger Fillip Forsberg. I mention this because if they didn’t make that trade to acquire the former first pick, I’d be inclined to predict Nashville taking Russian winger Valeri Nichushkin. However, with a potential top line winger in the pipeline and a loaded young blue line, Nashville seems as if it could finally have its future top center in Barkov.
5. Carolina: Valeri Nichushkin, RW, KHL- The Caines have five forwards locked up until 2016: Staal, Staal, Semin, Skinner, and Ruutu. They need top six help immediately and if Valeri falls to five, I expect him to be snatched up by Carolina. The 6-3.5, 200lb. power forward has already made it clear enough that he wants to be in the NHL next year, and will expect to be there. He’s a great fit to fill out Carolina’s top six this year and should provide value for many years to come. Valeri’s skating ability is at an extremely high level, especially for a big guy, and he’s got high end skills across the board, including physicality. While his IQ is only above average, he’s still able to take over games with his size and speed combination. The guy that comes to mind when reading about Nichushkin’s skill set is Rick Nash.
6. Calgary: Elias Lindholm, C, SEL (Top Swedish pro league)- This pick has a lot to do with draft philosophy: team need vs. best player available. In the case of the Calgary Flames, considering their first rounder last year was considered to be a “long term project”, I think they’ll again choose the player they think has the highest upside. Considering three of their last six first rounder’s weren’t North American (Backlund, Baertschi, Erixon) its not as if they’re not familiar with the overseas prospects. I mentioned team need earlier because the Flames don’t have one defender, according to Hockey’s Future, who projects to be a top-4 defender; they have eight forwards with a top-6 potential grade. Considering the Flames are a long time away from winning, they will have plenty of time to add defenders to their prospect group, but this kind of talent is too good to pass up. Lindholm draws an easy comparison to Peter Forsberg with his high end skating, puck skills and IQ; they both are Swedish as well. Lindholm also brings great physicality to his game as he’s not afraid to throw his 6-0, 192lb. frame around. His 30 points in 48 games vs. men as an 18 year old shows the kind of offensive potential this kid possesses.
7. Edmonton: Sean Monahan, C, OHL- The scouting community has this pick all over the board. I’ve seen defenders, wingers, and forwards alike assigned to the Oilers over the past month or so. Looking at the roster of the Oilers, there seems to be one glaring hole: a two-way center. Eberle, Gagner, Hall, Yakupov, and Paajarvi are a very good group of young, skilled forwards. Nugent-Hopkins should continue to develop the franchises #1 center, but they don’t really have anything behind him as far as youth goes. While the Oilers aren’t loaded on the back end, they do have some quality youth. Justin Shultz was dominant in his rookie year last year and guys like Oscar Klefbom and David Musil (recent high picks) are waiting for a crack at the roster. Where there is a big three and then a next three, Sean Monahan falls into his own tier as the seventh best player in this draft. He’s not projected to be a true #1, but he should be a great #2 center. He captained his junior team this year, something none of the former #1 picks have done, and could bring great leadership to a team that lacks it among its young core. He’ll also bring a big 6-2, 193lb. frame with good skating ability and he isnt’ afraid to throw around that weight although he’s not a physically imposing player. His above average puck skills and high end shot; combine those skills with a high end two way thinker and you have a very good prospect.
After the top seven guys are off the board, this draft could really go all different kinds of ways. Most teams are selecting the best player they have on the board due to the fact that players picked outside of the top five rarely get immediate NHL playing time, and there’s no real way of knowing the way teams rate specific players. As far as my rankings go I have three defenders in my next tier: Rasmus Ristolainen (6’3” Finnish TWD), Darnell Nurse (6’4” DFD from the OHL), Ryan Pulock (6’1” OFD from the WHL), and some will argue Nikita Zadorov (6’5” DFD from the OHL by way of Russia) fits in this tier as well. The elite forward talent is gone as well and we are left with three kids out of the OHL who all fit the mold of a solid second line, two way center: Hunter Shinkaruk (5’10.5”), Max Domi (5’9”), and Bo Horvat (6’0”). Part 1 of this mock draft is only up to the Flyers pick and I would be shocked if anyone not named thus far is gone before the Flyers pick.
8. Buffalo: With Vanek only signed for one more year and likely to be traded at the deadline if Buffalo isn’t likely to make the playoffs, Buffalo is looking at a full rebuild. The Ville Leino deal was horrible and he will likely be bought out before next season as well. There isn’t a lot going on in the top-6 as far as the future is concerned other than Cody Hodgeson (pending RFA) and Mikail Grigorenko (last year’s first round pick). On the back end, the Sabres have Tyler Myers and Christain Ehrhoff signed for the foreseeable future, but don’t have any promising top-4 youth established in the NHL yet. They have some quality prospects on defense, but nothing that projects to be a true first pair guy. If Buffalo is going to take a forward I think they’ll go Shinkaruk. Hunter’s smaller frame is overcome by his great skating, high end offensive skills and his two way, high end hockey sense. He’s also an above average physical player as he battles hard on the boards. The comparison I think of when I read his scouting reports is Zach Parise. I would not be surprised at all if they went with a defender, and Rasmus Ristolainen is my pick for second best defender behind Seth Jones. Rasmus played the tough minutes as an 18 year old in Finland’s top professional league and is the most NHL ready defensive prospect other than Jones (although Risto could probably use another year of development). He’s an above average skater, with great puck skills. Scouts debate whether he’s got a true mean streak, although no one is calling him soft as he isn’t afraid to throw around his 207 pounds. His best asset is his high end thinking, which is the most important area for a defender.
9. New Jersey: The Devils have managed to turn their roster over, losing key players to free agency year after year, and still maintain their competitiveness. They’re most likely going to have to do so again this year as most analysts have David Clarkson and Patrick Elias signing elsewhere this offseason, as they are UFAs. The blue line is held together with a core of Volchenkov, Tallinder, Salvador, and former top-5 pick Adam Larsson. Larsson is yet to show the top-pair upside he showed as a prospect, but that doesn’t mean the Devils are thin on defensive prospects. Jon Merril and Damon Severson were both recent 2nd round picks that seem likely to be headed to the NHL in the near future, and Hockey’s Future has four more defensive prospects rated as second-pair potential or higher. The Devils may have 6 defenders rated a “7.0” or higher, they only have three forwards rated that high. If Clarkson and Elias leave, especially, the Devils look to be very thin offensively for years to come without much scoring punch other than Lokitonov, Kovalchuk, and Henrique going forward. With Zajac aging and Zubris a pending UFA, the Devils could really use another young center to compliment Adam Henrique. If Hunter Shinkaruk is still available at this slot, the Devils front office would be licking their chops at picking a player who’s compared to their beloved Zach Parise. If Shinkaruk isn’t there, two London Knights seem to be the next best two options. London’s top two centers this year were Max Domi (son of Tie) and Bo Horvat. Max has a little bit of his father’s agitating tendencies, but he’s truly a playmaker at heart. He racked up 87 points this season, helping lead the Knights to an OHL championship. He’s a high end skater with high end offensive abilities. Some would argue his puck skills are better than Drouin’s. Max may be small in height (5’9”) but he’s a thick 194 pounds and has a very good physical game. Horvat may have not put up the offensive numbers that Domi did, but Horvat was the one playing other team’s top players. Horvat’s skating and skills may be a tad below Domi’s, they’re still above average. Horvat has the physical edge over Domi as Bo’s a solid 6’0”, 200lbs. While Domi is a high end thinker, most of that thinking comes in the offensive zone as a play maker, opposed to Horvat who’s the more cerebral defensive player. Horvat’s still a point producer with 60 points in 67 games. New Jersey’s conservative style seems to be a better fit with the safer Bo Horvat pick, as he has a much higher floor than Domi.
10. Dallas: Here’s another team that doesn’t have any blaring weaknesses as far as individual positions go, so there’s not a lot as far as hinting where they’re going to go. Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson and Erik Cole are the three wingers leading the way for Dallas in the near future, but there aren’t any quality centers on the roster. Radek Faksa was the teams first round pick last year and is still few years away, but that doesn’t mean they wont go with a center. One of Domi or Horvat should still be on the board, if not both of them---either would be a good fit in big D. Robidas, Gonchar, and Goligosky don’t scream “youth”, but they are capable defenders for now. In the pipeline they do have Joe Morrow, who was a former Penguin first rounder that Dallas received in the Brandon Morrow trade, who should be a top-4 guy in a few years in addition to 6’7” Jamie Oleksiak who was Dallas’ 1st rounder last year. If Ristolainen is on the board still, he has to be in consideration for this tenth overall pick as well. The other guy who could possibly go here is Darnell Nurse. Nurse stands at 6’4” weighing 185lbs. and projects as a shutdown guy with an outside chance of developing some offensive ability. He’s a great skater, especially for his size. He’s got above average puck skills, but lacks the cannon you’d expect from a 6’4” top-flight blue line prospect. While he shoots very hard, he struggles with his accuracy. He’s a high-end thinker and has that elite physicality you love in a shut down guy.
11. Philadelphia: I want Rasmus Ristolainen very badly. Not badly enough to trade up for him, but I do think he’s the second best guy after Jones. If he’s not there, I prefer Ryan Pulock to Darnell Nurse. Pulock is only 6’1” but is built very well, weighing 209 pounds. He was the captain of his junior team this year, although he did have a wrist injury that cost him the second half of his season, including all of the top prospect game. There are scouts all over the board on Pulock’s skating and I think it is slightly above average. He’s a great puck mover and projects to be a power-play quarterback on a top NHL unit sooner rather than later. He’s had his shot clocked at 101 MPH at a skills competition, giving him a unique skill at such a young age. He’s a very physical player for being only 6’1” as he routinely lays big time hits. He’s not the best defensive defender right now, but he’s by no means a liability. He is prone to some breakdowns but Metzler calls him “fairly reliable defensively.” I doubt that Pulock will be gone by 11, and I think he’s a safe bet to be a top-4 defender with PP1 quarterback capabilities. If, by chance, Pulock, Risto, and Nurse are gone, that means that Hunter Shinkaruk, Sean Monahan or Elias Lindholm will still be on the board, which would make trading that pick very attractive. If we could move down a few spots and pick up a 2nd or third round pick in the process, I would have to give that serious thought as this draft is so deep. With that said, I’m going to be sitting on my couch come June 30th hoping that every time Bettman makes an announcement he doesn’t say the name “Rasmus” until the 11th pick in the draft!
The next part of this series will hopefully come out shortly. I would really like to get all the way to our 3rd selection at 71st overall. I’m not sure how I’m going to break it down, please suggest any ideas you have. I hope you enjoyed the early first round mock!
**Note: My notes are compiled from various free websites: hockeyprospectus.com, lastwordonsports.com, thenextones.com, thehockeyguys.com, dobberhockey.com, capgeek.com, hockeysfuture.com, hockeydb.com, eliteprospects.com.