The following first round projection for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft is based on a multitude of factors, including talking to sources in the industry, educated guessed based on NHL teams' tendencies, who I believe will be available at a particular spot, how the industry views a player, and of course, organizational needs. Most teams do select based on a best-player-available method, but from discussions with NHL teams, some do factor in organizational need when making a selection.
I have shied away from complete first round mock drafts in the past. I have felt I should only do one if I could make reasonable, educated guessed on the projected picks, rather than randomly guessing. I feel this column accomplishes that goal, although by knowing how the draft process works, expect many of these projections to be incorrect.
However, I have found this process more legitimate of late, as NHL executives have told me that they, too, conduct mock drafts internally to try to get an idea of what players will be there for them at a particular draft position.
As a reminder, my rankings and writeups on players in this draft class can be found here.
1. Colorado Avalanche, C Nathan MacKinnon, Halifax (QMJHL)
Colorado executive Joe Sakic has repeatedly said, on the record, that the Avalanche will select either Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, or Aleksander Barkov. New coach Patrick Roy told ESPN's Craig Custance that MacKinnon will be their pick if the team does not trade out of the first overall selection. If it is a bluff of some kind, Colorado is pushing it very far. For now, the smart move is to take them at their word.
2. Florida Panthers, D Seth Jones, Portland (WHL)
If Colorado keeps the top selection and uses it on Nathan MacKinnon, I have heard there is a good chance Jones goes at two. The Panthers have a stocked system at every position, and their skater base has impressed at the NHL level despite their poor results this season. Their future defense looks bright, with Erik Gudbranson, Alex Petrovic, Michael Matheson, and Dmitry Kulikov, and now potentially Seth Jones taking his talents to South Florida.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning, LW Jonathan Drouin, Halifax (QMJHL)
I am unconfidently projecting Drouin to Tampa Bay, but I have heard from the odd source that Aleksander Barkov or Valeri Nichushkin could be in the hunt to go in this spot. If anyone were to take Nichushkin highly, it would be the Lightning, who have been very aggressive in taking risks when acquiring amateur players. They have also shown significant interest in Nichushkin.
4. Nashville Predators, C Aleksander Barkov, Taapara (SM-Liiga)
The Predators' selection will likely be between Barkov and one of Nichushkin or Drouin, depending on what Tampa Bay does. I have also heard that Nashville has placed Elias Lindholm under consideration. With the news that Nichushkin will transfer to North America, it seems more likely he will go in the top five, but that is not a guarantee. Despite that, I have heard Nashville is quite high on Barkov. He embodies the qualities that this organization tends to look for: two-way play, elite hockey sense, size, intangibles, and offensive ability down the middle. As a side note, this would be as far as Seth Jones could fall (If Colorado takes Drouin or Barkov, Florida takes MacKinnon, and Tampa Bay takes Drouin or Nichushkin).
5. Carolina Hurricanes, RW Valeri Nichushkin, Traktor (KHL)
There is a "big five" of sorts in this draft, comprised of Jones, MacKinnon, Drouin, Nichushkin, and Barkov, although some scouts would group it at four (the three CHLers, and one of Barkov or Nichushkin). Carolina likely takes whichever of the "big five" is left at this pick, although CBC's Elliotte Friedman has reported this selection is very much on the trading block. Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer has reported that if Carolina's target is taken by the fifth pick, there is a good chance that they will trade down. I have heard they are interested in Nichushkin, but regardless who selects here, it likely will be the last remaining member of the "big five."
6. Calgary Flames, C Elias Lindholm, Brynas (SEL)
Calgary has been debating between Nichushkin, Lindholm, and Sean Monahan, and even Finnish defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen has an outside chance to go at this slot. I have not heard any specific knowledge on this selection, but Lindholm is a best guess.
7. Edmonton Oilers, C Sean Monahan, Ottawa (OHL)
Several sources believe the big Russian defenseman Nikita Zadorov is Edmonton's target at this spot, but the team has been very straightforward about wanting a center, even naming Sean Monahan. If Monahan is taken by now, I have heard that Edmonton is high on Lindholm as well. If the Oilers trade down, there are a number of players I believe they would target, including Zadorov, Darnell Nurse, Bo Horvat, and Curtis Lazar.
8. Buffalo Sabres, D Rasmus Ristolainen, TPS (SM-Liiga)
Buffalo will be looking at one of the three big defenseman of Ristolainen, Zadorov, and Nurse. The Sabres are looking to add more size to the organization, and the best forwards at this range are mostly small centers, a position Buffalo is very deep at throughout the organization.
9. New Jersey Devils, C Max Domi, London Knights (OHL)
It is very uncommon for a team to notably incorporate organizational need at this high point in the draft. That being said, the Devils have high-end quality in their prospect pool at defense to couple with former lottery pick Adam Larsson, while they are starving for some skill in their pipeline. The top forwards here are also arguably the best players available. The pick could be Shinkaruk, Max Domi, or Swedish forward Alex Wennberg. I have also heard there is an outside shot of Curtis Lazar going at this selection.
10. Dallas Stars, D Darnell Nurse, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Dallas' pick is hard to pin down. I cannot see them in on Andre Burakowsky or Anthony Mantha. Domi, Wennberg, and Ryan Pulock could be options at this spot, with Zadorov and Lazar as outside-shot options. Even with good defense prospects in their system, Dallas could still take a defenseman here, and Nurse fits the best-player-available mold. He also fits the two-way type of player that Dallas tends to look for, plus he exhibits the great hockey sense Stars executive Jim Nill valued in Detroit.
11. Philadelphia Flyers, D Nikita Zadorov, London (OHL)
Zadorov seems to fit the Flyers' team philosophy, and he is the best player available at this spot, per the scouting industry consensus. If not Zadorov, Domi could go here, but it is hard to imagine Zadorov falling past this spot. For some who may be skeptical of the Flyers selecting a Russian, they did draft a similarly tough, physical Russian defenseman in Valeri Vasilev in 2012, albeit with a seventh round pick.
12. Phoenix Coyotes, D Ryan Pulock, Brandon (WHL)
Pulock has extremely high variance in his scouting reports. Some scouts characterize him as a low/fringe first round candidate, whereas one head scout (not Phoenix's) says that he is in the clear top tier of the draft. This slot has a high amount of uncertainty. Phoenix likes to build from the net out, while keeping their defensive pipeline strong. If an off-the-board pick like Samuel Morin, or even goaltender Zach Fucale were to occur, I would bank on it coming from Phoenix, but they are just as likely to trade down.
13. Winnipeg Jets, RW Curtis Lazar, Edmonton (WHL)
A few NHL scouts believe Lazar could go in the top 15, and he possesses a lot of the qualities that Winnipeg looks for. He has off-the-charts intangibles and he is a gritty, physical player, with good hockey sense and offensive ability. This seems like a plausible landing spot for him, but Bo Horvat could go here as well.
14. Columbus Blue Jackets, C, Hunter Shinkaruk, Medicine Hat (WHL)
If Shinkaruk does not go to New Jersey or Dallas, he could slide a tad, as NHL sources have been more bearish on him as of late. It is hard to get a read on Columbus, thanks to the recent change in general manager to Jarmo Kekalainen, but Shinkaruk is a highly skilled and speedy individual who could be the best player available at this slot.
15. New York Islanders, C, Alexander Wennberg, Djurgardens (Allsvenskan)
Wennberg is projected here at 15 with a degree of caution. A number of NHL scouts consider him a top-12 prospect. The Islanders have a stocked system at every position, so they will assuredly be selecting the best player available, and Wennberg is that player at this point. As a side note, the top 15-16 players here are a soft tier (per the scouting community), and my best guess is that the Islanders and Sabres will select the final few prospects from that tier.
16. Buffalo Sabres (from Minnesota), LW, Anthony Mantha, Val-d'Or (QMJHL)
The first already-traded selection in the 2013 NHL Draft, Buffalo acquired this pick from the Wild in the Jason Pominville deal. Again, I believe the Sabres will try to add size, especially up front. Given the industry consensus, Mantha slots in well at 16. He is a 6'4" forward who can skate and score. Horvat and Kerby Rychel are possibilities here, as well.
17. Ottawa Senators, D, Samuel Morin, Rimouski (QMJHL)
Morin has been the hot name over the past few weeks, as he has progressed from a mid-second rounder at midseason to a top-20 player on some teams' boards. Exactly where he will slot is unknown, but Ottawa is a possibility based on how this mock has played out. As with Buffalo, Horvat or Rychel could go here, and Adam Erne is another name to watch at this slot.
18. Detroit Red Wings, D, Robert Hagg, MODO (SEL)
Detroit is another difficult selection to pin down. They will likely be in on highly skilled players like Hagg, Josh Morrissey, or Andre Burakowsky. Unless someone like as Domi or Wennberg falls, Detroit may trade down, as they are prone to doing. If the board plays out as listed here, teams may be interested in moving up to acquire Horvat, Burakowsky, or Mirco Mueller. If the Red Wings remain at 18, Hagg is a more likely pick than Burakowsky, due to the concerns over the latter's hockey sense.
19. Columbus Blue Jackets (from New York Rangers), C, Bo Horvat, London (OHL)
The second of three Columbus first rounders, acquired in the Rick Nash trade. If Horvat drops this far, which is a questionable assumption, he will not drop any farther, and Columbus will walk away with a physical, skilled center who can play the tough minutes. Mueller is another strong possibility at this slot.
20. San Jose Sharks, D, Mirco Mueller, Everett (WHL)
Given how the board has played out, the 19th and 20th picks are interchangeable, with Horvat and Mueller being the best players available. Given how defense prospects Nick Petrecki and Taylor Doherty have struggled as professionals for San Jose, acquiring a good defense prospect would be beneficial for the Sharks, despite already possessing solid talents in Matt Tennyson and Dylan DeMelo.
21. Toronto Maple Leafs, LW, Kerby Rychel, Windsor (OHL)
I am skeptical Rychel will fall this far, as a few teams in the top 20 like him, but I could not find a fit for him to be selected higher, given the other players on the board. Rychel is a gritty, skilled forward with a big shot. He has amassed a lot of points in the OHL over the last two seasons. Swedish forward Jacob De La Rose is another name to watch here.
22. Calgary Flames (from St. Louis), G, Zach Fucale, Halifax (QMJHL)
It has been rumored that Calgary is looking at a goaltender, and if they take one at this pick, acquired in the Jay Bouwmeester trade, it will likely be Fucale. I am skeptical, given that that the Flames acquired goaltender Reto Berra in that Bouwmeester trade, not to mention the fact that they brought Karri Ramo over from the KHL last year. Furthermore, college prospect Jon Gillies looks very good, and the Flames have good AHL goaltenders. Still, if I had to peg any team as the likeliest to be the first to select a goalie, it is Calgary.
23. Washington Capitals, LW, Andre Burakowsky, Malmo (Allsvenskan)
Burakowsky is the hardest player to place in this mock draft. Some sources deem him a top-10 prospect, and others believe he will not be a first round pick. He is quite toolsy, but he had an up-and-down season, and he has some holes in his game. Washington has been known as a risk taker at the draft table, and they typically target upside. It would be ironic to see them draft a top Swedish winger just after trading Filip Forsberg away, but Burakowsky seems like a plausible scenario. As a sidenote, if anyone will gamble on Russian winger Pavel Buchnevich, it would be the Capitals at this selection.
24. Vancouver Canucks, C, J.T. Compher, USA Under-18 (USHL)
Compher brings many qualities that Vancouver has been known to look for under GM Mike Gillis. He is a center who projects to stay at center, and he is very smart, skilled, and gritty. A two-way player, he may be a tad small, but due to his advanced play, he is likely not far away from being NHL-ready, despite being a late first rounder.
25. Montreal Canadiens, LW, Adam Erne, Quebec (QMJHL)
While projecting Montreal to select a QMJHL prospect might seem lazy, the Habs have been linked to Erne as well as Mueller, should he fall. Hagg is also a possibility here, but after his up-and-down international tournaments over the second half of the season, his stock seems to have fallen a bit. Erne was considered a mid-first rounder early in the year, but after some off-ice incidents, scouts have been more bearish on him. He could definitely be available at this selection.
26. Anaheim Ducks, D, Steven Santini, USA-Under-18 (USHL)
Along with Morin, Santini is one of the prospects generating the most buzz over the last few weeks, and he could absolutely go in the mid-first round. Anaheim has quality at every position, so they should be selecting the best player available. Based on how the draft plays out to this point, Santini may be that player.
27. Columbus Blue Jackets (from Los Angeles), LW Jacob De La Rose, Leksands (Allsvenskan)
De La Rose has a large amount of variance in his projected draft slot. Some scouts characterize him as a top-15 prospect, and others do not see him in the top 60. I suspect that he will go in this late-first round area, as he is a power forward with upside, though that upside is heavily debated among scouts.
28. Calgary Flames (from Pittsburgh), C, Nicolas Petan, Portland (WHL)
Some scouts think Petan will sneak into the first round, which would not be off the consensus, but it is far from a sure thing. The co-scoring leader of the WHL, despite lacking size, Petan certainly fits what Calgary looks for in a forward, which is high levels of hockey sense.
29. Dallas Stars (from Boston), D, Josh Morrissey, Prince Albert (WHL)
The draft starts to open up this late in the first round, and I could see any of Frederik Gauthier, Madison Bowey, Morrissey, or a few others go at this pick. It is hard to imagine Morrissey going any lower than this, and while he may not be a complete, two-way guy, he brings a lot of skill and offensive instincts.
30. Chicago Blackhawks, RW, Valentin Zykov, Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)
Chicago, under Stan Bowman, has been known to like forwards with skill and hockey sense early in the draft. Zykov fits that model. He is a skilled, strong power forward, and he would add a lot of upside to the Chicago pool this late in the draft. He is also viewed by many NHL people as a Russian without the stereotypical "Russian factor."
Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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