2013 NHL Draft: A Banner Year? Not So Fast

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Over the next several months leading up to June’s NHL draft, I will present you with an in-depth profile of a future star, or in some cases a feature on one, almost every single day.  If things are like 2012, you can expect 80 player profiles, almost unrivaled in the industry, along with a number of special features along the way (a Memorial Cup Preview, A detailed Mock Draft, amongst others), so check in now, and check in often, right here at www.lastwordonsports.com, and follow me on Twitter for regular updates and analysis – @LastWordBKerr

Some of you may have already read our 2012 articles, or you may have been following along throughout the year as I gave early previews of the 2013 draft, last summer, again in November, and yet again in February.  If you have read our stuff before, great, I’ll be trying to bring more of the same.  If you haven’t then you can get an idea of what we are about by looking at our 2012 coverage here, and our Top Shelf Prospects series (including the 2013 draft previews) here.

Before we get into player’s profiles, I want to spend a few moments characterizing this draft and preparing you, our loyal reader, for what we can expect to see in this class.

TopShelfProspectsEarlier in the year we heard many prognosticators and draft gurus characterize the 2013 NHL draft as “one of the deepest in years”, “an exceptional draft class”, or other such superlatives.  Some have even tried to compare the 2013 class to the famous 2003 NHL draft class, and the multiple star players that entered the league via that draft.  So here we are, less than 3 months to draft day; should we believe the hype?  How does this class look?  Is there any position that is particularly deep?  How do we at LWOS address these questions?

1) Is this a deep draft? Exceptional? Ground Breaking?

In a word, no.  Now keep this in mind, when I assess the depth of a draft, and the overall quality of a draft, I am typically looking at the players who I expect to be drafted between 10-60, and comparing them to previous years.  The fact is that this year’s draft is really no better (and no worse) than the 2012 draft, the 2011 draft, or other recent years.  In many ways the overall talent level this year is comparable to most other years.  I’m not seeing the level of talent that made 2003 so special, nor do I see the lack of talent that made 2007 a really weak year overall.  Now keep in mind that even in a deep year there will be busts, and even in a bad year, there will be surprise gems, so no draft can really be ignored.

While I think the overall talent level in this draft is similar to 2012, keep in mind that I also think that 2012 was a much better year than many other analysts were giving it credit for in the weeks and months leading to draft day.  As I said last year, I thought there were a lot of good players, whose injuries caused them to slip down the board and who are better players than were given credit for.  I think that today, when we look back at both the high picks like Mikhail Grigorenko, Morgan Rielly, Alex Galchenyuk, and later picks such as Scott Laughton, Cody Ceci, Martin Frk, Charles Hudon, and others have done in junior this year, we can see that these guys should have been more highly rated than they were if not for a number of freak occurences.  This year has seen the draft class in general, stay much healthier than the 2012 class, which will make scouting easier for NHL teams.  But overall I don’t think the talent level is better.

Now that said, this draft is slightly above average.  Its a good draft, its just not living up to the immense hype that I’ve seen it get.

I admit that I am one of the few saying that this draft is not all its been hyped-up to be in the last year, but I’m not alone either.  You can also check out these opinions from The Hockey News.

2) What is different then?

First off, the top of this draft class is great in that there are three legit contenders for the number 1 pick.  Usually we see one guy run away with this honour like Nail Yakupov in 2012.  In some years we see two players compete for the coveted spot such as the 2010 battle between Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin.  But this year, there is a legitimate competition between Nathan MacKinnon, Seth Jones, and Jonathan Drouin.  The great thing about this competition is that it is a true race, and not something created because no one player is worthy of such status.  These three guys would all be worthy of competing for #1 overall in most NHL drafts (exceptional years like 2005 excluded of course).  MacKinnon, Jones, and Drouin are at an elite level, and it would not be a surprise to see any of the three taken with the top pick.

The next few players, Lindholm, Barkov, Nichushkin, Monahan, Pulock (etc… in no particular order) up to about the 8th pick or so, are also great prospects, and have a legit opportunity to be superstars in the NHL.  In this way, the 2013 draft is more top heavy and better than the 2012 edition.  Really it would be a mere five players from 2012 (Yakupov, Galchenyuk, Grigorenko, Rielly, and Murray) who would fit in with the elite group of my top 8 or 9 this year.

The second big difference is the type of players who are coming out.  2012 was the year of the defenceman, especially WHL defencemen.  There was just wave after wave of great young defence prospects coming out of the WHL last year.  This year we see that defencemen are more scarce, but then which position that has taken over?  Power Forward.  There are a ton of big, strong, and talented potential power forwards in this year’s class, especially in the 10-60 range I’ve talked about earlier.

A third difference?  The resurgence of the QMJHL in this year’s draft.  The Q has produced a ton of great prospects this year including the aforementioned Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin who are at the top of draft boards.  Add to them players like Adam Erne, Anthony Mantha, Anthony Duclair, Frederick Gauthier, William Carrier, Zach Fucale, Valentin Zykov, Nick Sorenson, Ryan Graves, and so many others,  and we have seen a resurgence in the Q, and a depth of QMJHL talent that has not been this prevelant in early draft rounds in a long time.

One league that is slightly down this year is the OHL.  Of course they regularly have the most first round picks of any league and will likely be up there again, but I feel they are just not as dominant as previous years.  For example, an OHL player has been the #1 pick in the draft in 5 of the last 6 years (and went 2nd in 2011 the only year they didn’t get 1st overall).  This year, I don’t have an OHLer in my top 5, and overall the depth is a little less than we normally expect.  The OHL should be well represented, but its a bit of a down this year versus previous seasons.

That said, the WHL has another strong class of talent (and more forwards than last season) and the talent coming from the United States, Europe, and the other junior leagues has not really slowed down.  We can expect a very diverse representation of prospects come draft day.

Check back in tomorrow when I start the player profiles, and reveal LWOS’ pick of the number 1 player available for the 2013 draft.  Will we stay with our pick of Nathan MacKinnon who was number 1 in all three ranking cycles, or has he finally been overtaken by Seth Jones, or maybe even his teammate Jonathan Drouin?  Check in tomorrow, and find out.

Until then, we can enjoy the CHL playoffs which are in full swing, and look forward to the upcoming IIHF U18 World Championships, which is a great showcase event for the young guns we’ll be looking at.

Thanks for reading, as always feel free to leave comments below and follow me on twitter @lastwordBKerr.  Give the rest of the hockey department a follow while you’re at it – @BigMick99, @IswearGAA, and @LastWordOnNHL, and follow the site @lastwordonsport.

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