With the 2013 NHL Entry Draft approaching its’ eighth-anniversary this offseason, let’s look back at the top picks to see how their careers have progressed. So, have the top-10 picks managed to live up to expectations, or have they struggled to establish themselves in the NHL?
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 helped 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 returned to form with a bad Avalanche team, scoring more than 50 points in two straight seasons. Then, he had a second breakout year in 2017-18, posting 97 points while carrying his team back to the playoffs and receiving a nomination for the Hart Memorial Trophy.
The future is bright for both MacKinnon and the Avalanche. The franchise has built a solid core of young talent around their superstar, making them one of the top contenders for the Stanley Cup. After lifting his team to a surprise run to the 2018 playoffs along with a visit to the second round in 2019 and 2020, this should be just 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 for what Aleksander Barkov would become for the Florida Panthers. Before the draft, Barkov was producing at a solid rate as a teenager in the Finnish professional league, SM-liiga. With his impressive experience playing against professionals, it was clear that Barkov could become a first-line center for the Panthers and there was potential for him to develop into a true NHL star.
Over the course of his first seven years in the NHL, Barkov became one of the top players at his position. Despite injury struggles, he put together five straight 50-point seasons, including a career year in 2018-19 when he posted 35 goals and 96 points en route to winning the 2019 Lady Bing Award.
With a young core of talented players around him in Florida, everything is in place for Barkov to continue dominating the league. If he can stay healthy, the Panthers’ newest captain could take that next step and lead his team to their first postseason series victory in close to two decades.
#3. Jonathan Drouin – Tampa Bay Lightning
After starting 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 with 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 players already in place, Drouin had the potential 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 with the franchise. This led to scratches, poor utilization and a trade request from the young forward.
After three contentious seasons with the Lightning, Drouin was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev. Though Sergachev made an immediate impact with the Lightning as a rookie, Drouin 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 needs to match the intangibles with a consistent level of nightly effort. Should he put it all together, 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 talent for a defensive prospect. As CBS Sports noted 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 firepower, Nashville couldn’t pass on a sure-fire top-four defenseman, choosing to add him to their already impressive blue line.
After several years of development, Nashville traded Jones to the Columbus Blue Jackets for center Ryan Johansen in order to address their need for a true number one center.
Since the trade, Jones developed into a top-pairing defender for the Blue Jackets, reaching the full potential that many saw in him on draft day. Johansen has been no slouch for the Predators either, so this became a perfect example of a true hockey trade.
#5. Elias Lindholm – Carolina Hurricanes
As the fifth-overall pick in a highly talented draft, there were lofty expectations for Elias Lindholm’s career. 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, Lindholm was just… there for Carolina. His production was steady, but his statistics lacked that wow factor you would expect from a high pick. He averaged around 40 to 45 points in each season with the Hurricanes, but he never managed to eclipse the 20-goal mark.
With this lack of high-end production, Lindholm was eventually traded to the Calgary Flames along with Noah Hanifin in a monster deal that brought Dougie Hamilton to the Hurricanes. After acquiring him, the Flames gave him an unexpected six-year, $29.1 million extension.
The change of scenery was good for Lindholm, as he produced a career season in Calgary. With 27 goals and 78 points in 2018-19, he proved that his best hockey could still be in front of him.
#6. Sean Monahan – Calgary Flames
There’s little doubt that Sean Monahan was a star in the making for the Flames. After scoring 20 goals in his breakout rookie season, he has not looked back, posting at least 20 goals in seven-straight seasons while breaking the 30-goal mark in his second NHL season.
His strong play was quickly rewarded by the Flames, who signed Monahan to a massive seven-year contract in 2016, tying the future of the franchise to the young forward.
Even with some struggles in the postseason, Monahan is one of the faces of hockey for Calgary. If this franchise is going to get over the hump and compete for a Stanley Cup, he will need to continue to be a driving offensive force for the Flames.
#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 team 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 defensemen available in Darnell Nurse.
After a slow start to his career, Darnell Nurse found his defensive game in the 2018-19 season and looks to be the defenseman of the future the Oilers needed. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers
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 consistent development in his overall play. 2017-18 stands out in particular, where he posted 26 points in 82 games while averaging around 22 minutes of ice time each night.
As Rob Soria of THW said about Nurse:
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.
While his play may not be eye-catching, Nurse has become that solid defenseman who will eat 20-plus minutes of ice-time each night without looking out of place. For a team with superstar talents on offense, this is exactly what Edmonton needs to help balance out their roster and build around for the future.
#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. Sure, there was some speculation that he could slip out of the top 10, but the Buffalo Sabres decided to take him eighth-overall with the hope that he would develop into a top-end defender.
It took a few seasons for Ristolainen to grow into his NHL game, but he got there by 2015-16. That season, he scored nine goals and 41 points while averaging 25 minutes of ice time. This workload was rewarded by Buffalo, who signed him to a six-year, $32.4 million extension that offseason. Since then, he has been a true workhorse for the Sabres, posting at least 40 points each year while averaging more than 26 minutes a game.
Even if he is a constant name for trade rumors, there’s no doubt that Ristolainen has been as good as advertised for the Sabres in his first seven seasons. Arguably, if he was on a more productive team, his statistics would be more impressive. With that in mind, there’s a lot of positives to build on, and he should continue to have a fruitful career in Buffalo.
#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, who the Vancouver Canucks selected with the ninth overall pick, acquired by sending their goaltender of the future, Cory Schneider, to the New Jersey Devils.
However, six years after this blockbuster trade, Horvat has been able to carve out his own story with the Canucks despite the massive cost to acquire him. When healthy, Horvat has seen fantastic success, scoring 20 goals in four straight seasons and posting at least 50 points three times.
While the loss of Schneider hurt Canuck fans in the short-term, Horvat’s production made that loss feel like a distant memory. He has the potential to not only be a top scorer for the franchise but a true leader both on and off the ice. To cap it all off, he was named Vancouver’s Captain at the start of the 2019-20 season, making him the face of a storied franchise.
#10. Valeri Nichushkin – Dallas Stars
Despite being seen as one of the top five offensive prospects, Valeri Nichushkin fell down the draft charts due to uncertainty surrounding the ‘Russian-Factor,’ which has caused great players to slip in the past. Despite this, 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 year, he scored 14 goals and 34 points in 79 games. He was largely held off the ice due to injury the following season, 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 for CSKA Moscow of the KHL for two years. While it was unclear if he would ever play in the NHL again, he signed a two-year contract in the 2018 offseason that brought him back to the team that drafted him.
Nichushkin’s return was not a pleasant one, however. In 2018-19, he scored zero goals and 10 points and was subsequently bought out by the Stars. He then signed a with the Avalanche, where he has carved out a consistent, niche role with the franchise
The 2013 Draft Was a Mixed Bag
Overall, the top-10 picks of the 2013 Draft have been a bit of a mixed bag. For some, their selections were a complete whiff, with the player leaving the franchise in short order. For others, the draft proved to be a transformative one, with franchise-defining players selected throughout the top 10.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.