Just because the National Hockey League’s locked out doesn’t mean there isn’t another NHL Draft coming up next June. It’s to be held in New Jersey this time around, home of the defending Eastern-Conference champion Devils, and like every season we’ll offer a mock draft or two to get a sense of how it might play out.
Much like year’s past, there are two premier prospects who are considered potential number-one picks at the moment. One’s a forward from eastern Canada, the other’s a big, American defenseman playing in the west.
While the names are obviously different, the stories are still very much the same: there are hundreds of passionate teenagers dreaming of hearing their name called in a few months’ time. Their seasons have been underway for around a month or so now, meaning mock drafts are already popping up across the web.
This is The Hockey Writers’ first mock draft of the season. For this one, a weighted draft-lottery was done. Teams who have not made the playoffs as often in recent years were given three ballots, teams who had made the playoffs more often received two, and teams who have recently made the playoffs or received high first-round picks were given one ballot. Since there are no standings to base this off of, the lottery was done to ensure a reasonably fair draft order.
Our 2013 NHL Mock Draft
The Winnipeg Jets receive the first overall pick, and are thrilled to select Nathan MacKinnon. He’s seen as one of the best offensive prospects to have come around in years, and the Jets are sure to take advantage of the opportunity. The 5’11”, 180 pound center/right-wing is the star of a stacked Mooseheads squad. Mackinnon’s acceleration, hockey sense, and pro-calibre shot are seen as his primary assets.
Though the Panthers may be in more need of a complimentary offensive weapon to work with Jonathan Huberdeau in a year or two, Jones is the appropriate selection. Much like MacKinnon, he’s seen as one of the best prospects in years, except Jones will make a career on the blueline. He’s a physical, top-pairing defenseman who is being called the next Chris Pronger. Florida general manager Dale Tallon would be happy to select Jones here. “If Seth Jones was eligible for the 2012 draft, he would have given Ryan Murray (the second pick) a run for his money as the top defender chosen,” said Dan Marr, NHL Central Scouting’s director.
Aleksander Barkov isn’t as well known in North America as he should be. The Finnish forward has been excelling in Finland’s top men’s league, and this is playing against grown professionals. Barkov is seen as an all-around player with a nose for the net, and is a sleeper pick to go first overall. It will be a challenge to charge by MacKinnon and Jones, but many scouts believe Barkov has the ability to do it. The Avs may need a defenseman more than a forward, but there’s no sense in passing on Barkov at the moment.
4. Sean Monahan F (Ottawa 67’s) (OHL)
Monahan is a late-1994 birthday, and it’s given him more time to develop his game before his draft year. It’s paying off so far, as Monahan is seen as one of the elite forward prospects for this year’s draft. The 6’2”, 186 pound center was terrific on a dynamic 67’s squad last season, and this year he’s the team’s captain. “He’s obviously a high-end player but also a really good character kid,” said Ottawa head coach Chris Byrne. A native of Brampton, Ontario, Monahan is viewed as a relatively safe first-round selection.
5. Elias Lindholm F (Brynas) (Sweden)
Scouts have said that Lindholm might just be the most complete player in the 2013 Draft class. Lindholm plays just as hard in the defensive zone as he does on offense, where his quick-decision making gives him an edge over opponents. He’s often seen as a playmaker, and could end up being Alex Ovechkin’s setup-man in Washington if chosen by the Capitals. While scouts would prefer to see him go for more goals, Lindholm’s a good candidate to go in the top ten.
Ristolainen becomes the second Finnish player to be chosen in this mock draft, and the third European. He’s a two-way defenseman who has a great tandem of size and skill. “He’s a mobile, strong, offensive-minded defenseman with very good puck-handling and passing skills,” NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb told NHL.com. Sounds like exactly the kind of player Philadelphia’s looking for.
The Stars have selected large defensemen and powerful centers in recent year’s opening rounds, meaning it’s time for a winger. At the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, scouts apparently believed Burakowsky was the second-best player in the tournament, only behind this mock draft’s number-one pick, Nathan MacKinnon. Burakowsky is known for a skill-set that includes a never-give-up mentality, something that could lead to a long NHL career. “Burakowsky is not getting much ice time with Malmo in Sweden 2, but he has talent,” said Goran Stubb, European Director of NHL Central Scouting. “He’s got vision, skating and overall skills.” Consensus says Burakowsky could be a solid top-ten pick come draft day.
Prior to the start of the season, and mainly after last year’s draft, Shinkaruk was seen as a potential top-three pick. It’s not the case currently, but there’s still plenty of time to put himself back in that conversation. He’s often called a pure goal scorer, and he showed it last season when he scored 49 goals in 66 games for the Tigers. A common player comparison to Shinkaruk his Chicago Blackhawks’ winger Patrick Kane. “Going into my draft year I hit the gym a lot harder than I have,” Shinkaruk told The Calgary Herald. “I got a lot stronger while working on my skill level.” Having just lost Rick Nash, the Blue Jackets could use a player like Shinkaruk to put some pucks in the back of the net.
Curtis Lazar is considered a consistent two-way forward in the WHL. The concern is his long-term offensive potential. While he’s still first-round material at the moment, some people believe he could fall a bit in the draft. This will be a big season for Lazar to prove he has offensive skills that can translate to next level. However, there’s not much doubt about his effort or reliability. Through fourteen games with the Oil Kings this season, Lazar has scored eight goals. Right now, the 6’0”, 200 pound forward is doing just fine.
The Flames’ selection of Pulock at number ten makes for the third straight WHL pick in this mock draft. Pulock is seen as one of the Western Hockey League’s best young defensemen, and this is for a player who wasn’t selected until the seventh round of his WHL draft year. Pulock is a blueliner who puts up points regularly – he has 18 through 16 games this season for Brandon. He has good size to go with his skill too; at 6’1”, 211 pounds, Pulock is already physically mature enough for the next level. With Calgary’s need for defensive help, Pulock would be a terrific pick in this position.
The London Knights selected Zadorov ninth overall in this past summer’s CHL Import Draft. He came over with heavy expectations on his shoulders, but has more than lived up to them so far. Zadorov plays a somewhat surprisingly physical game, and even dropped the gloves against one of the OHL’s heavyweights in his first game for the Knights. “Thus far, he has shown a sharp learning curve. He’s exhibited an ability to play a mean, aggressive style while maintaining good defensive positioning,” said Sean Lafortune, regional scout for McKeen’s Hockey. The Wild selected another blueliner, Mathew Dumba, in in the 2012 draft, and Zadorov could potentially be the second half of a hard-hitting Minnesota pairing some day.
As unfair as it is, Drouin is essentially the number-two prospect on the Moosheads. It’s by no fault of his own; he just happens to be draft-eligible in the same year as Nathan MacKinnon. Though he’s not the team’s top prospect, Drouin could still very well go in the top-ten come next June. By doing so, he could make Halifax this year’s Sarnia, as the Sting had both Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk selected in the first few picks last season. In 7 games for the Mooseheads this season (he was sidelined by injury early on), Drouin has 15 points, good for an average over two points per game. Keep an eye on him; he could be a real sleeper in a few months’ time.
This would be just too much, wouldn’t it? “The Toronto Maple Leafs are proud to select…Max Domi,” would probably cause Max’s father Tie to jump for joy. Tie was a legend in a Leafs’ uniform for his tough-guy style of play; he was the little guy who would throw ’em with anyone on the ice. Max is more of a playmaker, and that’s exactly what makes him first-round material. It’s been said that the younger Domi can saucer passes just as effectively on both sides of the stick. Though he prefers to dish the puck, Max also has a knack for burying it. In fact, in his first OHL game, he scored a hat-trick. Not bad for a guy who’s often marked down because of his 5’9”, 190 pound stature.
Josh Morrissey is one of those players who causes a bit of disagreement when it comes to where he should be ranked. However, there’s not much arguing about the kind of player he is. “I’m a two-way player,” Morrissey said. “I skate with the puck well and I see the ice. My first pass is really strong and I can also jump into the play. I like to see myself as a quarterback when I have the puck out there.” The Canucks selected power forward Brendan Gaunce in the 2012 first-round – a defenseman makes sense this year. “He’s the most dynamic defenseman in the class,” one scout said of Morrissey. Mike Gillis, the Canucks’ general manager, should be content with that kind of player at fourteenth overall.
Valeri Nichushkin could be the player every team wishes they had picked when they had the chance. Or he could be be the player teams wish they had stayed away from. Ah, how the Russian Factor works its magic. The 6-foot-4, 196-pound forward is known for a high skill level, but question marks remain about his commitment to North America. Teams were forced to avoid him in the summer’s CHL Import Draft because Nichushkin’s camp made it clear he wasn’t interested in crossing the pond just yet. As of today, there’s just too much potential to pass on. Nichushkin’s been compared to Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins, meaning Ottawa may want to take a chance on him if he’s still available.
This mock draft is going to conclude after fifteen picks. After this point, there are no real solid differences between the remaining players projected to be first rounders. Placing certain players ahead of others in the remainder of this mock draft wouldn’t be particularly fair. This is just the first of many mock drafts you’ll see on this site in the coming months, so hopefully you’ve enjoyed this one.
Be sure to keep an eye on the junior hockey ranks this season. Just because there’s no NHL doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of great hockey in your local rinks.
David O’Connor is a managing editor with the Sunbelt Hockey Journal. His writing has been on the Los Angeles Times’ website, among other places. O’Connor also does some scouting work for the local Junior B hockey club. Please feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.