by Corey Pronman
We’re still nearly a year out from the 2013 draft, but early indicators are that this class is going to be quite strong. I don’t like to summarize draft class strength until near the end of the draft season because things can change significantly in the course of one season, but the 2013s did stand out to me in a good way this past season. Here’s my early top 10 for next year:
1. Nathan MacKinnon, Center, Halifax-QMJHL:
MacKinnon is a prospect whose talents level as of now looks along the same lines of John Tavares entering his draft year. He’s as good a skater as I’ve seen in years, he has elite puck skills, good sense and despite being below-average in terms of size he’s unusually strong for his age and works very hard. His ceiling is scary good, especially when you consider he’s two weeks removed from being in the 2014 draft class.
2. Seth Jones, Defense, Portland-WHL:
I’m breaking one of my cardinal rules ranking a D this high, but it’s for two reasons: 1. Jones is really, really good and 2. No other forward has emerged as an elite prospect yet along the same lines of MacKinnon and Jones. There are a few candidates I think could, and I wouldn’t be as confident in saying Jones will remain in my top two all draft season as I would with MacKinnon. His hockey sense is elite in both ends, he’s a high-end skater and moves ridiculously well for a player with above-average size. Jones has skill and a good shot, but I wouldn’t qualify him as a dynamic offensive player.
3. Aleksander Barkov, Center, Tappara-SM-Liiga:
Barkov was disappointing at the Under-18’s, but for most of this past season he was very impressive and unusual (in a good way) for a 16 year old in Finland’s top pro league. His puck skills and hockey sense are high-end if not better and he has the kind of possession tools you dream on in a 6′2 center. His skating is below-average which is main weakness. Like MacKinnon, he’s also two weeks removed from being 2014 eligible.
4. Elias Lindholm, Center, Brynas- J20 SuperElit:
While I would have liked to see more than 0 points in 12 SEL games, Lindholm who is a fantastic all-around offensive talent has played very well at the U-20 level. His puck skills and vision are both plus and he skates at a solid level too. He has the ability to dazzle and when playing alongside top prospect Filip Forsberg this year in International play he stood out.
5. Sean Monahan, Center, Ottawa-OHL:
Monahan is a very skilled player who has the puck skills and hockey sense to be dangerous and has the kind of skill set for a big center teams yearn for. I don’t see him as a dynamic talent that could rise into the top 2, but he should hang around the tail end of the lottery for most of the year.
6. Andre Burakovsky, Left Wing, Malmo- J20 SuperElit:
I don’t hear his name thrown around as a top five candidate in 2013 much but I think it’s very possible he could get into that range and challenge Lindholm for the top Swede. He can skate, handle the puck and pass at an above-average level and his possession skills at times flash-end. He’s got pro-size, plays a hard-nosed style on top of hustling back to help on defense. As a fun fact, he was born in Austria.
7. Hunter Shinkaruk, Center, Medicine Hat-WHL:
49 goals and 91 points as a 17 year old is a good way to get on the radar. He’s got a ton of puck skills and has the ability to create chances in bunches between his possession ability and skating. His physical game is the main concern for Hunter.
8. Valeri Nichushkin, Center, Belie Mevedi-MHL:
He’s a high-end skater if not better which is rare to find a 6′2-6′3 forward especially when you add the fact he’s got a desirable skill level. Valeri didn’t produce all that much in the MHL this year with not much ice time, but impressed a lot in International play.
9. Anthony Duclair, Left Wing, Quebec-QMJHL:
Duclair and Adam Erne will be a fun duo to watch next season in Quebec, and I really like the skill Duclair shows. He has plus puck skills, good speed and while his size is a little worrisome, he has so much upside and could put up huge numbers next season.
10. Pavel Buchnevich, Right Wing, Almaz-MHL
I admit from scouts I’ve heard from I’m out on a limb on Buchnevich but I like his skill set a ton. He’s a high-end skater if not better and is a gifted puck handler. He’s slightly below-average size-wise but should he bulk up that area won’t be much of an issue. He was nearly a point per game in Russia’s Junior league as a 16 year old which is rare.
I left off quite a few prominent names like Adam Erne, Jusso Ikonen, Ryan Poluck, Rasmus Ristolainen, Sergei Tolchinsky and Nikitz Zadorov to name a few which speaks to how, at least at this point, the quality of the 2013 draft looks.