Its early and there is still a full year of hockey to be played before the 2013 NHL draft, but today I take an early look at the prospects expected to go at the top of that draft.
1) Nathan MacKinnon, Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL, Centre
We’ve been hearing about MacKinnon for over 2 years now. The talented playmaker has even drawn comparisons to Sidney Crosby based on his Nova Scotia roots. While I don’t think MacKinnon is quite in that class of generational player, he may be the next best thing. Blessed with extremely good skating skills, a fantastic wrist shot and release, and exceptional vision and passing ability he has all the skills necessary to be an offensive force in the NHL. MacKinnon is also willing to battle along the boards and is not afraid to get his nose dirty to make a play.
2) Seth Jones, USNTD, USHL, Defence
Jones is the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones. He is an outstanding skater who glides all over the ice. This skating ability allows him to join the rush or to play shut down defence. Already 6’4″ at the age of 17, and with his pedigree, he may end up a monster on the back end. Offensively talented he is cool and calm with the puck on his stick and makes smart passes leading to a strong breakout. His passing and huge shot also make him a natural in the offensive zone and on the PP. Jones will be highly sought after, and we may have ourselves a very close race at 1-2 this year. Jones will play next season for the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL.
3) Sean Monahan, Ottawa 67s, OHL, Centre
A 1994 birthday, Monahan already has 2 full seasons in the OHL under his belt, Monahan spent the year centring the first line for the Ottawa 67s. Already 6’2″, Monahan is developing into a power forward at the centre position. He uses his strong skating ability, powerful stride and good balance to drive the net in the offensive zone. Monahan’s shot and release are already at pro level, and he can use them to beat goalies with regularity. Monahan is also an excellent playmaker and his vision and passing skills helped linemate Tyler Toffoli lead the OHL in goals.
4) Hunter Shinkaruk, Medicine Hat Tigers, WHL, Left Wing
Shinkaruk was a member of Canada’s 2011 Ivan Hlinka team which won the gold medal. The talented winger has an outstanding shot and release leading to him scoring 49 goals this season. He is a shifty player who is always moving his feet and looking for open space to receive a pass and let his shot go. When carrying the puck, he protects it well and uses good vision and crisp passing skills to set up teammates with scoring opportunities.
5) Alexsander Barkov, Tappara, SM-Liiga, Centre/Left Wing
As a 16 year old Barkov played in the 2012 World Juniors for Team Finland and became the youngest player ever to score a goal in the tournament. He followed that up with an impressive performance for Team Finland at the U18s. Already 6’2″ and 205 lbs, while still just 16 Barkov is a force on the boards. He creates offence by winning battles and then using his passing skills to find open teammates. He has excellent vision and hockey sense and almost always makes the smart play. He does need some work on his skating as he just does not have the speed and quickness of the other top 5 prospects. With a September 1995 birthday, Barkov is one of the younger players in this draft class, and that may mean there is room for him to move up this list.
6) Elias Lindholm, Brynas, Elitserien, Centre
Lindholm was very impressive in helping Sweden win a silver medal at the 2012 U18s. Lindholm is an excellent skater who is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. He has great stickhandling ability and uses it to deke past defenders and protect the puck. With his excellent vision and ability to feather a crisp pass through a maze of sticks and skates he should be able to rack up assists and create offence. He is also a gritty forward willing to start the forecheck, and to battle down low and play a puck possession game on the cycle.
7) Curtis Lazar, Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL, Centre
Lazar was a huge part of the Oil Kings winning the WHL title and advancing to the Memorial Cup. Given time on a line with Henrik Samuellson, Lazar scored 19 points in 20 playoff games. Lazar has great quickness and outstanding acceleration. He is able to use his quick and powerful stride to go wide on defence, and if he manages to get a step on them he puts it into another gear and drives the net hard. His powerful skating and excellent balance make him difficult to handle down low and he cycles the puck very well. He plays a rugged game and is willing to hit on the forecheck or battle along the boards. Lazar also possesses an excellent shot and pro-level release which he used to score 8 goals in the WHL playoffs.
8) Ryan Pulock, Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL, Defence
Pulock was selected as a forward in the 2009 WHL Draft, but has made the transition to defence. As expected the offensive skills in his game are evident, as he scored 19 goals and 60 points in 71 games this season. He has an absolute rocket of a slapshot and is a feared shooter on the Powerplay. A natural PP Quarterback, Pulock makes smart crisp passes and sees the ice extremely well. While not as fast as some of the other players in the top 10, Pulock is still an above average skater with good mobility on the blue line.
9) Max Domi, London Knights, OHL, Centre
Max is the son of former NHL tough guy Tie Domi, but you wouldn’t know it watching the young Domi on the ice. Domi is an elite skater who uses his shiftiness and changes of pace to confuse and beat defenders. He has excellent hockey sense and is able to find openings in the offensive zone to unleash a quick and accurate wrist shot. He is extremely dangerous with the puck on his stick as he can beat defenders one on one or use his excellent vision and passing ability to create an opening for his teammates. He will need to work on improving his defensive game this season, but he has the drive to succeed and the coach, Dale Hunter, who can help him make that happen.
10) J.T. Compher, USNTDP – U17, USHL, Centre
The leading scorer for the USNTDP U17 squad, Compher is a talented agitator who plays an irritating game. Always yapping and always in an opponents face after the whistle, Compher has the ability to get opponents off their game and draw penalties. He also has the skills to back up his chirping as he has the speed, vision, and passing ability to be an extremely effective playmaker. He also has a very good shot and release, and knows how to put the puck in the back of the net.
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