With the five-year anniversary of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft approaching, this provides a milestone year to look back at the top picks to see how their careers are progressing. This draft proved to be a transformative year for many teams, with franchise-defining players being selected throughout the top-10 picks.
Note: The 2013 Draft took place at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey and occurred entirely on June 30 due to the lockout-shortened season.
#1. Nathan MacKinnon – Colorado Avalanche
Heading into the draft, there was great debate over which player the Colorado Avalanche should take with their first overall pick. With three high talent forwards and a potential franchise defenseman available, there seemed to be no wrong choice on the board. Ultimately, the Avalanche selected Nathan MacKinnon, and have been reaping the rewards of his success ever since.
During his rookie season in 2013-14, MacKinnon would help lead the Avalanche to a division championship en route to winning the Calder Memorial Trophy. After suffering through an injury-filled 2014-15 season, he would return to form with a bad Avalanche team, scoring more than 50 points in two straight seasons. Then, he had a second breakout in 2017-18, posting 97 points and carrying his team back to the playoffs.
The future is bright for both MacKinnon and the Avalanche. Despite their struggles in the years prior, it appears that the franchise has been able to build a solid core of young talent around their superstar. After lofting them to a surprise run to the 2017-18 playoffs, this could be the beginning for one of the top talents in the NHL.
#2. Aleksander Barkov – Florida Panthers
As the second overall pick in 2013, there were high expectations on what Aleksander Barkov could become for the Florida Panthers. Before the draft, Barkov was producing at a high rate as a teenager in the Finnish professional league, SM-liiga. While it was clear that Barkov showed the potential to be a first-line center for the Panthers, there was the potential for him to become a true star.
Over the course of his first five years in the NHL, Barkov has quickly developed into one of the top players at his position. Even with injury struggles, he put together three straight 50-point seasons, including a career year in 2017-18. This season he posted 27 goals and 78 points en route to a nomination for the 2018 Lady Bing Award.
With a young core of talented players around him in Florida, everything is in place for Barkov to build off of this breakout year. If he can stay healthy, he could take that next step to lead the Panthers back to the postseason, and win their first playoff series in close to two decades.
#3. Jonathan Drouin – Tampa Bay Lightning
After starting the first few weeks of the lock-out shortened season 7-1-0, the Tampa Bay Lightning collapsed down the stretch, costing head coach Guy Boucher his job and landing the team with the third overall pick. Despite a clear need for a high-end, right-shot defenseman to pair next to Victor Hedman, the Lightning couldn’t resist the goal-scoring ability of Jonathan Drouin and selected the Halifax Mooseheads’ star third overall.
With a core of high-talent forwards including the likes of Steven Stamkos, the potential was there for Droiun to make an instant impact with the Lightning. However, he was sent back to Halifax at the start of the 2013-14 season to work on his game, and was never able to find consistent footing when he was on the starting roster. This led to scratches, poor utilization and a trade request from the young forward.
After three contentious seasons with Tampa Bay, Drouin was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for defensive prospect Mikhail Sergachev. While Sergachev made an immediate impact with the Lightning as a rookie, Droin largely struggled in Montreal, only scoring 13 goals.
Of anyone in the NHL, though, Drouin arguably has the greatest untapped potential. He has the natural talent to become a true star in the league, but he just needs to match these intangibles with a consistent level of nightly effort. Should he put it all together, though, the Canadiens will have the next face of their franchise.
#4. Seth Jones – Nashville Predators
Heading into the draft, many considered Seth Jones to be the top player available due to his size, strength and rare talents. As said by CBS Sports in their final prospect rankings:
He thinks the game at an elite level, has added more offense to his top-end defensive game, he skates well and at times has the ability to take a game over… He’s the best story in the draft, but more importantly, he is the best player.
Even though he was seen by many to be the best player in the draft, Jones would fall to the Nashville Predators with the fourth overall pick. Despite their need for offensive fire-power, Nashville couldn’t pass on adding a sure-fire top-four defenseman to their already impressive blueline.
After solid years of development, Nashville would trade Jones to the Columbus Blue Jackets for centerman Ryan Johansen in order to address their lack of a true number one center. Since the trade, Jones has become a top-line defender for the Blue Jackets, seemingly reaching that full potential many saw in him on draft day. Johansen has been no slouch for the Predators either, so this was a perfect example of hockey trade where both sides mutually benefitted.
#5. Elias Lindholm – Carolina Hurricanes
As the fifth overall pick in a highly talented draft, there were lofty expectations for the career of Elias Lindholm. Things started out quickly for the young forward, as he made the Carolina Hurricanes’ 2013-14 opening night roster as an 18-year-old and became the youngest Swedish-born player to score an NHL goal that same season.
After this excellent start, though, Lindholm has just been… there for Carolina. His production is steady, but his statistics lack that wow factor you would expect from a high draft pick. While He has averaged around 40 to 45 points in each of the last four seasons, he still has yet to eclipse the 20 goal mark in his career.
There’s no telling if this is the peak production for Lindholm, or if he will eventually put it all together and have that breakout season from a player with his skillset. As a restricted free-agent this summer, one would expect the Hurricanes to either give him one more bridge deal or move on from him at the draft. While a change of scenery may help Lindholm in the longterm, his window in Carolina is quickly shrinking as the team struggles to break into the playoffs.
#6. Sean Monahan – Calgary Flames
There’s little doubt that Sean Monahan has been a true star in the making for the Calgary Flames. After scoring 20 goals in his breakout rookie season, Monahan has not looked back statistically. He posted at least 20 goals in each of his first three seasons in Calgary while breaking the 30 goal mark during his second year in the NHL.
This strong play was quickly rewarded by Calgary, who re-signed Monahan to a massive seven-year contract in 2016, tying the future of the franchise to the young forward. He has rewarded this contract extension by posting 27 goals and 58 points in 2016-17 and 31 goals and a career-high 64 points in 2017-18.
The only real concern for Monahan’s future is his recent wrist injury. Despite putting up great offensive numbers, he played in a career-low 74 games in 2017-18 and had multiple surgeries after being shut down late in the season. While it is impressive that he still posted career-high numbers while injured, wrist injuries can sometimes have lingering long-term effects on a player. If he is able to retain his current level of play, however, Monahan will continue being one of the brightest young stars in the NHL.
#7. Darnell Nurse – Edmonton Oilers
After having the first overall pick in three straight drafts, the Edmonton Oilers found themselves in unusual territory with the seventh pick in 2013. It was clear that the Oilers needed to address their weak defensive core with this selection after taking three highly skilled forwards in the years prior, so they selected one of the best defenseman available in Darnell Nurse.
It took until the 2015-16 season for Nurse to get a full-time taste of the NHL, and while his play was far from refined at first, he has seen solid development over the last three seasons. The 2017-18 season was a true standout in particular, where he posted 26 points in 82 games, all while averaging around 22 minutes on the ice each night.
As Rob Soria of THW said about Nurse back in December:
Believe it or not, he has anchored the Oilers backend this season and for anyone to have even suggested that was a possibility following last season would have been laughable…and yet, here we are.
If his development continues as well as it did in the 2017-18 season, the Oilers will likely have found a much-needed backstop for their defense. While there’s no telling if this year was a fluke yet, things are looking positive for the young blueliner.
#8. Rasmus Ristolainen – Buffalo Sabres
As a high-talent, big-bodied defenseman, there was clear interest in Rasmus Ristolainen heading into the 2013 draft. Many saw him as the second best defender in the draft behind Jones since he had the size and skill to make an immediate impact in the NHL. While there was some speculation that he could slip out of the top-10, the Buffalo Sabres decided to take him eighth overall with the hope that he would develop into a top-line defender.
It took a few years for Ristolainen to grow into the NHL game, but he got there by the 2015-16 season. That season, he scored nine goals and 41 points all while averaging 25 minutes on the ice each night. Since then, he has been a true workhorse in Buffalo, posting at least 40 points each year while averaging more than 26 minutes on ice.
There’s no doubt that Ristolainen has been as good as advertised for the Sabres in his first five years. Arguably, if he were on a more productive team on all fronts, he could have even more impressive statistics. Even with that in mind, there’s a lot of positives so far to build upon, and he seems primed to have a fruitful career with the Sabres.
#9. Bo Horvat – Vancouver Canucks (via Devils)
Sometimes the story of how a player is acquired can dictate the perception of that player’s career no matter what they are able to produce on the ice. Many expected this to be the case for Bo Horvat, whom the Vancouver Canucks selected with the ninth overall pick that they acquired by sending, then goaltender of the future, Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils.
However, five years after this blockbuster trade, it appears that Horvat has been able to carve out his own story with the Canucks despite the massive return the Devils bagged of his acquisition. When healthy, Horvat has seen fantastic success, scoring a career-high 20 goals and 52 points during the 2016-17 season. Even in an injury-shortened 2017-18 campaign, he still posted 22 goals and 44 points in only 64 games.
While the loss of Schneider hurt Canuck fans in the short-term, Horvat’s production has made that loss a thing of the past. He has the potential to not only be a top scorer on the team but a true leader both on and off the ice. With the two Vancouver legends retiring this year, Horvat seems destined to become the next captain in Vancouver.
#10. Valeri Nichushkin – Dallas Stars
Despite being seen as one of the top-five offensive prospects in the 2013 draft, Valeri Nichushkin fell down the charts due to uncertainty surrounding the ‘Russian-Factor’ that has caused great players to slip in the past. Despite these factors, the Dallas Stars decided that his talents were worth the risk, and selected him with the tenth overall pick.
Even with a high-end offensive ceiling, Nichushkin was never able to fully find his game in Dallas. In his rookie season, he scored 14 goals and 34 points in 79 games. After that season, he was largely held off the ice due to injury, then followed that up with a somewhat disappointing 29 point campaign in 2015-16.
After that contentious season, Nichushkin decided to leave the Stars and return to Russia in order to play in the KHL for CSKA Moscow. It is unknown if he will ever make a return to the NHL, and even if he does, it seems unlikely that he would do so to play with the Stars. While he is young enough to come back and have an impact, it would ultimately take a perfect situation for him to do so. For now, Nichushkin seems happy to continue playing in the KHL.