2013 NHL mock draft – June 23rd
We now know the order of the top 28 picks, so with that information I couldn’t help but put out my 5th mock draft of this season….and yes, if you’ve been reading these you may notice I basically just edited that first scentence. Just 1 mock draft left after this one. I like to do one prior to Bob McKenzie’s final rankings, and one after. So I’m not certain when exactly I will do my final mock, but it won’t be any later than next Sunday morning.
Just a briefing, I’m not a scout and can’t see much of these kids and in some cases I haven’t seen them at all. I just try to compile as many opinions as I can (especially Bob McKenzie’s rankings) and go from there. While some fans scream to take the BPA (best player available) the truth is teams don’t always and can’t always do that. It is getting tougher and tougher to trade in the NHL, so filling needs is becoming a must much like the NFL draft. So I look at what the team has in the organization about 27 and under, and then take the best fit from a grouping of players. This is a GREAT draft. I’ve read and heard their are going to be about 15-20 players who normally would be 1st round picks in any other year dropping to the 2nd round this year. So this draft is getting a lot of the same buzz that one got 10 years ago.
1. Colorado Avalanche – Seth Jones 6’4 208 D Portland WHL
I will be honest, I don’t know at this point. I’ve gone back and forth on weather or not the Avs are just trying to create a huge smoke screen here, or if Sakic is just trying to give his fans a heads up so they aren’t shocked and disappointed on draft day when the selection isn’t Jones. But man alive, the fact that he would even have to do that is proof that it’s the wrong pick if they DON’T take Jones. I have written basically 2 blogs on why Jones has to be the pick for the Avs. This process is really showing what a sh*t show this organization has seemingly become. Who is in charge? Sakic? Roy? Does Sherman have any say at this point? What about the amateur scouts, don’t they get any say in this? It is insanely difficult to trade in the NHL these days. So if they take MacKinnon or Barkov or Drouin 1st, how in the hell are they going to address what is far and away the worst blueline in the league? They can’t deal O’Reilly until the trade deadline, Stastny has little trade value anymore, and even if they dealt Duchene who in the heck is willing to give up a franchise or even potential franchise defenseman for him? D-men are a total crapshoot in the draft which is why some people like Bob Stauffer advise against it. I totally get that, and agree with it. But there are always exceptions to the rule and this HAS to be one. For starters, he’s the top prospect. 2nd, this team is loaded up front. 3rd, they’re horrific on the blueline. And in sports, when something is so obvious and a team over thinks it those decisions just seem to have a way of biting those teams in the ass. As for Jones, he’s the real deal. He has it all. And I know some don’t like that he isn’t too physical, well their aren’t many high end d-men that are physical anymore. Hell, Chara isn’t even THAT physical. He has a very high IQ, great skater, great stick, can QB a PP, can log big minutes, and has amazing upside on top of all this. He has it all and the Avs would be flat out stupid to pass on him, and that doesn’t even include that he is the hometown kid.
2. Florida Panthers – Nathan MacKinnon 6’0.5 190 C Halifax QMJHL
The Panthers should take MacKinnon because he’s incredible and would go 1st in just about any other draft. What more do I need to say? Again I’ll talk about the Panthers and how from a hockey stand point this season is a blessing in disguise. It looks like they’ll have their franchise goaltender in Markstrom. They have a potential top pairing in Kulikov and Gudbranson. They have Nick Bjugstad as a potential elite 2nd line center. They have Jonathan Huberdeau who may be able to play the middle but they would probably prefer him to play the wing, and likely will have it that way if they take MacKinnon. Like I said, he goes 1st overall any other year. Obviously he could go 1st this season but if he doesn’t it’s not because he’s not great. Same thing happened to Malkin, Doughty, Eric Staal, Spezza, sometimes you just don’t go 1st. Doesn’t mean you don’t have superstar potential and MacKinnon does. Ridiculous upside and yet will step into the league next season. Blazing speed and don’t let the listed size fool you, this kid is a bull on skates. People question his playmaking but kids like Stamkos and Duchene aren’t the best playmakers in the league and I don’t think the Lightning or Avs are crying about that. And obviously has proven how clutch he is. It wasn’t just in the Memorial Cup, he was incredible throughout the QMJHL playoffs. Slam dunk 1st line center. Should the Avs take him, even though they have a need up the middle in Miami they should take Jones. Huberdeau could make the move to the middle. Sure like I said they would probably prefer him to stay on the wing but he doesn’t need to. Jones, Kulikov, Gudbranson would be an incredible 1/2/3 to build around.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning – Aleksander Barkov 6’2.5 207 C Tappara FIN
I’m back to this and as I have preached for the Lightning pick in the last 2 mock drafts, Barkov is the right pick….should he be there for them. 2 reasons this is back to Barkov. 1, Nichushkin had an awful combine apparently both in testing and the interviews. Kirk Luedeke of Redline Report told me he believes its a smoke screen, but you can’t smoke screen the testing aspect. I don’t put much stock into the testing, I don’t think anyone does, but if a kid quits on some of the testing like Nichushkin did then THAT is a pretty big red flag. 2, talk is now that the Lightning will buy out Lecavalier. So this team already needed help down the middle in my mind, if Vinny is gone then they’re desperate for it. I will say it again, while Stamkos is an elite sniper in this league, I don’t think he’s an elite player. He doesn’t seem to care about playing a 200 foot game, improving his playmaking, and doing everything he can to take his team to the next level. Not yet anyway. I like Stamkos, but this bothers me about him. So give him that big, 2 way center that he needs playing behind him. Teams that are great up the middle usually have great success in the playoffs. After goaltending I believe being great up the middle is more vital than having a great blueline, it is that important. As for Barkov, I already touched on his size and 200 foot ability. He also tore up the Finnish league this season playing against men. He has good vision, a great shot, uses his size very effectively, and he doesn’t even turn 18 until September. This kid is so polished, and yet has tremendous upside. Again, for me he is Anze Kopitar 2.0. As for Drouin, it isn’t as if the Lightning would be getting some bust, but it just isn’t the fit or need that people think it is. And I’ve said it in every mock draft when breaking down Drouin vs Barkov….you simply don’t take the franchise winger over the franchise center.
4. Nashville Predators – Jonathan Drouin 5’11 187 LW Halifax QMJHL
And since we are back to Barkov at 3, we’re back to Drouin at 4 just like the mock draft in May. Although this one makes me wonder too. Don’t discount Elias Lindholm being the Preds guy here. We talk about franchise centers, well he isn’t far off MacKinnon and Barkov. Different player, about 10 months older than those 2, but he has 1st line center potential too. However, I just have a feeling the Preds wouldn’t pass on Drouin. They’ve never had a forward with this elite level of talent who has stuck around. Sure, they had Peter Forsberg for about a week in 2007. They did have one guy like this for 2 years, Paul Karyia. And that is the type of talent Drouin is. People may forget just how good Karyia was in the late 90’s, and then again in 06 and 07 for the Preds. Zach Parise, Pat Kane, Jordan Eberle, Drouin is that kind of talent. I’ve said many times before and will again that his style probably resembles Eberle more than anyone, although Drouin has quicker feet at this age than Eberle did. Amazing hands, amazing shot, great playmaker, will go to the tough area’s. In most drafts he would be a sure fire top 3 pick. Obviously he could be in this one, but I could also see him sliding as far as 8 just based on how deep this draft is and the needs of the teams. I doubt that happens, but crazier things have happened. Nobody thought Filip Forsberg (ironically now of the Predators) would fall past 5 last year and he ended up sliding all the way to 11. Zach Parise back in 03 fell all the way to 17. It happens every year and I don’t feel it is ironic that it mostly happens to wingers.
5. Carolina Hurricanes – Darnell Nurse 6’4 189 D Sault Ste. Marie OHL
I really believe Carolina will be looking to trade down. I believe what could happen is the Oilers, Sabres, Blue Jackets and even the Flyers will be inquiring about this pick. The Sabres could offer 8, 38, and 52. The Jackets could offer 14 and 19 or 14, 27, and 44. The Oilers could offer 7 but the other asset would have to be a player because after 3 picks in the first 2 rounds the Oilers don’t have another pick until 128 (5th round). The Flyers maybe could offer Sean Couturier, but I don’t know why the Canes would be interested in another center. 11 and 41 is about the best they could do other than a massive overpayment. What a story it would be if the Flyers could trade up to this spot and take Nurse being Donovan McNabb’s nephew. But the Canes want a d-man. Color commentator Tripp Tracy has said that, a lot of Hurricanes fans are saying that, and most insiders believe that is where Jim Rutherford and Ron Francis want to go. This is my own personal opinion of Nurse: In 5-10 years, Nurse will be the best defenseman to come out of this draft. I think he has just a little bit better upside than Jones. Nurse hasn’t got his offensive game going yet, but I think he will. He just has too much talent not to figure out that end of the game. And he might be a sharper kid than Jones. He was the OHL scolastic player of the year. Watching him interviewed by Grapes on Monday night I thought he was a 10 year vet. So smooth with the microphone. That stuff matters. You hear Jay Bouwmeester interviewed it doesn’t exactly scream intelligence. And then you add in what he already does great on the ice. Great size, great skater, moves the puck very well, he has that mean streak that so many of us want to see in high end d-men. I just love this kids upside.
6. Calgary Flames – Sean Monahan 6’2.5 188 C Ottawa OHL
First of all thoughts and prayers with everyone in Calgary. I have family down there, I have friends down there, so I hope everyone is safe and doing ok. I think everyone agrees that the Flames need to take a center….desperately! They might not do that, but if you do a mock draft and don’t have the Flames taking a center you’re an idiot. But really, who the hell knows what the Flames will do! Their GM believes he’s the smartest man in the room, their assistant GM drafted Dwight Howard….thank god he was the Orlando Magic GM when he did so….and the belief in Calgary is that they don’t allow their director of amateur scouting Tod Button have much of a say on draft day. So nobody really knows what the Flames might do on draft day but the feeling is that they really like Sean Monahan. As far as intangibles go, it’s tough to argue with that. I have read and heard that Monahan has the same type of makeup as Trevor Linden and Jonathan Toews in terms of character and leadership. That’s amazing praise! Where scouts are split on him however is his skill level. Some think he can be a 1st line center, most think he will be a great 2nd line center, and I’ve heard one scout suggest he will probably only be a great 3rd line center. I’ve seen him play a bit and what I personally believe has happened is his skill has got ignored a bit with so many being so enamored with his character. A great 2nd line center, much like a Jordan Staal is what I believe he will be. That’s a great kid to start building around. Obviously possible that they trade up with 3 1st round picks, but it sounds more and more like the Canes are the only team willing to move out of the top 5, and most of the Calgary media believes they will use all 3 picks. I believe that’s the right course for the Flames. Its a deep draft and they have a lot of needs so this is a great chance to fill them.
7. Edmonton Oilers – Elias Lindholm 6’0.5 181 C Brynas SWE
Well this broke down pretty bad for the Oilers….again. In fact, this broke down worse for the Oilers this time than it did in my last mock. Word is that the Oilers will trade the 7th pick. The big question is if it is to move up? Move back? Or land a player? If I had a guess….I think its moving back. If they could get 14 and 19 from the Blue Jackets for 7 I think they have to do it. Craig MacTavish has spoken about how much he loves so many of the kids in this draft, and he has a head amateur scout in Stu McGregor whom he can trust to make shrewd picks. The Oilers despite having picked high not just the last 3 years, but in the top 10 in 5 of the last 6 drafts, they still have quite a few holes (2nd line center, top 4 D, number 1 netminder). If you give McGregor two 1st round picks in a deep draft, I’m sure he could fill 2 of those 3 holes. But again, I don’t do trades in my mock drafts so if they stand pat and this is how things shake down, he’s not ideal but they would have a gem in Elias Lindholm. I keep comparing him to Henrik Zetterberg not just because of his nationality, but he plays almost identical to him. The last write up I had about him though had some flaws. I insinuated he was small. As you can see he’s not that small. If you have noticed, these heights and weights are new for most of the guys. They’re the official heights and weights from the combine and as you can see Lindholm is nearly 2 inches bigger than what he was listed at. So he has decent size, he is willing to get his nose dirty and go to tough area’s on the ice, very high IQ, he already plays a pretty good 200 foot game, he competes hard everywhere on the ice, great skater, has great vision and great hands. I believe he has a better 200 foot game than Sam Gagner already (although that just speaks to Sam Gagner’s lack of a 2 way game). They need a center, he’s not EXACTLY what they would like I’m sure (probably prefer Monahan), but a kid over 6 feet who plays like Zetterberg and is a RH shot….worse things have happened.
8. Buffalo Sabres – Nikita Zadorov 6’6 230 D London OHL
Last mock draft I said a lot could happen within the top 7, and really didn’t give the thought of the Sabres trading up much credit. According to reports Darcy Regier is VERY interested in trading up seeing as how he owns two 1st rounders and two 2nd rounders. Also reading what some of the people who cover that team say, Zadorov isn’t even a consideration and they believe they will look for a center with that pick. But unless they can move up I don’t know of a center that makes sense to take ahead of Zadorov. Sure you could take a Horvat or Gauthier, but Zadorov just has such amazing upside and is such a unique talent that it would be so difficult to say no to that in my opinion. The Sabres went heavy on centers last year as I’ve now said in these mocks a ton. Trade for Hodgson, drafted Grigorenko, traded up and drafted Girgensons. So while I don’t know if those 3 are the answer to a teams needs at center, I believe they will look to take Nikita Zadorov. Huge (not as tall as Tyler Myers, but much thicker), clumsy at this point but skates decent, a bomb of a shot, and pretty good skill to go along with the fact that he is a crusher in his own zone. I know that some scouts are just simply drooling at this kids upside. The Sabres could have Myers and Zadorov as their top pair for 8-10 years…that’s a combo I would want NOTHING to do with! But obviously he is a high risk, high reward type which is why he only goes 8th (at least in this mock). But again, watch for the Sabres to move up. Carolina makes a lot of sense, although if the Canes want Nurse then trading 1 spot behind the Oilers might hurt because Craig MacTavish has raved about Nurse.
9. New Jersey Devils – Valeri Nichushkin 6’4 205 LW Chelijabinsk 2 RUS
Is this a need? Not really, although huge talent and size is a combination a team can never have enough of. Should they take a d-man or perhaps even Zach Fucale? I probably would, although with Nurse and Zadorov now off the board that only leaves them Ristolainen to choose from. I would guess Lou’s thinking here would be that he can get a kid who could step right in next season and has the perfect mentor for him in Ilya Kovalchuk. At 9, if you think you can get the best out of Nichushkin then its going to be a total steal. The kid has amazing upside. Size, wheels, hands, shot, he has it all. He is a flight risk though, so that will scare some teams off. Also as I said earlier, the word is that he was unimpressive at the combine both in the testing and the interviews. Now teams could be just sending out smoke screens in terms of how he interviewed as Mr. Luedeke said to me. But it was Gare Joyce who said in an interview with Bob Stauffer that Nichushkin quit in the middle of his VO2 testing which is a major red flag. You can have a poor showing during it, but you can’t quit. This kid is your classic boom or bust pick. Since Lou seems to be desperate to win now these last few years, I think this would be the pick. But if a team were to trade down I could see them doing that as well. Again, Columbus has three 1st rounders to play with.
10. Dallas Stars – Bo Horvat 6’0.5 211 C London OHL
First, I love their new uni’s but I hate that symbol. Why change from that old symbol? And why no gold? What was wrong with the gold on the uni’s? Not a lot, just some gold outlining would have looked good. Anyway, this isn’t Soups on Sports fashion correspondent Dustin Harvie’s piece. New GM in Dallas as Jim Nill takes over for Joe Nieuwendyk who did not have a good track record drafting in his 4 seasons as GM of the Stars (although with drafting, most of the blame/praise should fall on the amateur scouting). Nill comes from the Red Wings and so you can expect him to do something similar to what Ken Holland would do. Peter Loubardias believes Horvat is the surest thing in this draft, says he can play in 11 of 12 spots in an NHL’s forward group. He reminds me a TON of Patrice Bergeron. He doesn’t have great size but nice size, plays 200 feet, physical, and very clutch. So many times this kid has come up big with the game on the line, including the most clutch goal of the OHL season with virtually no time left on the clock in game 7 of the OHL final to send the London Knights to the Memorial Cup. He’s not the most skilled kid, but he has some finesse in his game. Long term, I think he becomes one of the league’s top 2nd line centers. Gauthier and Wennberg are heavy considerations here too if it’s the route the Stars go. I have it on pretty good authority that the Stars want a center with this pick and in fact I believe it is now on the record that Nill wants to get a center. You can talk to 3 different scouts and all 3 would have Horvat, Gauthier and Wennberg ranked in different order, and I really shouldn’t discount Max Domi or Curtis Lazar here either.
11. Philadelphia Flyers – Rasmus Ristolainen 6’4 203 D TPS Turku FIN
Ahhh Philly, the soap opera that will never be taken off TV. Will they trade up? They don’t have many picks, and don’t have much in the system, but trading up is fun so why not?! I don’t like this spot for Philly at all if 1 of Nurse, Ristolainen or Zadorov doesn’t fall to them. This organization is horrendously desperate to get some blueliners in the pipeline. Of course they don’t have to do that through the draft. They could look to deal Sean Couturier this summer for a young stud on D. They also could look to trade up from this spot to ensure they land 1 of those aforementioned d-men. Luckily for the Flyers, I have Ristolainen falling right into their laps at 11 just like the last 2 mock drafts. RH shot d-man, great skater, plays physical, can QB a PP, he really reads a lot like Joni Pitkanen and obviously part of that is the fact he’s a Fin, but he’s almost identical in stature and style. Hopefully he’s a lot better in terms of attitude because Pitkanen has always left teams wanting more out of him, but the same fear is there for scouts with Ristolainen. The gap has closed in terms of how wildly different scouts view him, but this question marks are still there. For me this would be a no brainer, but Paul Holmgren, Chris Pryor and the Flyers LOVE the QMJHL so watchout for a kid like Samuel Morin to be their guy if they take a d-man. Also Zach Fucale is a strong possibility.
12. Phoenix Coyotes – Fredrick Gauthier 6’4.5 215 C Rimouski QMJHL
I was going to put Hunter Shinkaruk in this spot. And then I gave it thought. I looked back at what the Maloney/Treliving/Knickle/Tippett regime have been doing. 2009 it was Oliver Ekman-Larsson, 2010 it was Brandon Gormley, and 2011 it was Connor Murphy, then last year they took one of my 2012 favorites (you like how I spell like an American?) Henrik Samuelsson. Sure, last season was a bit different because they took a forward, but that forward was a big guy that can play at both ends of the ice and has a lot of dimensions to his game. Now lets take a look at what was there previous to their arrival. 2006 they took Peter Mueller who they dealt to Colorado. 2007 they took Kyle Turris who of course was dealt last season after a bitter contract dispute. But of course if they really wanted to keep Turris I’m sure they would have done everything they could to smooth things over. Instead they dealt him for a former 1st round pick in defenseman David Rundblad. Knowing all this, I just can’t project them to take Shinkaurk despite how electric of a player he is. I don’t see them passing on a kid like Gauthier or Horvat should he slip to them or if neither is available then Wennberg. Gauthier has kind of flown under the radar of late after a great under 18’s where he and the rest of his teammates got overshadowed by 2015’s likely 1st overall pick Connor McDavid. But I’m a big fan of Gauthier. As you can see he has amazing size, skates very well for a kid so big, plays a 200 foot game, has good vision and good hands as well. He needs another year in the Q for sure, but his upside is awesome. Craig Button has compared him to Keith Primeau. Primeau got flack for not being physical enough, and Gauthier isn’t physical at all so don’t expect that out of him. But look at big centers like Thornton, Kopitar, Hanzal, Berglund, they don’t need to be physical. They just need to know how to use their size and Gauthier does that.
13. Winnipeg Jets – Alexander Wennberg 6’1.5 183 C Djurgardens SWE
I won’t lie, I love this team but they’re in big trouble next season in their new division. The Hawks, Blues, Wild, Preds, Jim Nill now running the Stars and the Avs despite the mess in their front office, it is going to be a BIG change from the Southleast. But they’re on the right track. Trouba is coming on defense (although I see him as a 3 or 4 as opposed to some people who see him as a top pairing guy), Scheifele, Adam Lowry had a great season this year, so adding Wennberg with those 2 and the big skilled kids they already have on the roster and perhaps the Jets can compete with some of those teams soon. Wennberg is a really well rounded player who is one of the top skater’s in the draft. Not an explosive stride, but extremely smooth. He also has a really well rounded game and a very high IQ. He isn’t getting a lot of hype because he does nothing that really jumps out at people, and of course playing in Sweden a lot of people haven’t seen him play. But make no mistake Wennberg is right there with Horvat, Gauthier, Domi and Lazar in that 2nd wave of centers grouping, all of whom have the upside to be an elite 2nd line center.
14. Columbus Blue Jackets – Hunter Shinkaruk 5’10.5 172 RW Medicine Hat WHL
As I’ve said a lot already, I would watch for them to package 2 of their picks in an attempt to move up. However if they pick in this spot I think Shinkaurk makes the most sense should it shake down this way (no shot of that happening). This would be a bit of a fall for Shinkaruk, but again it is a safe bet for it to be a winger who falls in a draft. His size is a little troubling, he actually was smaller than his listed size prior to the combine. Most of these kids were actually measured to be bigger than their listed size. But what Shinkaruk lacks in size he makes up for with his incredible speed and lazer of a shot. I don’t expect Shinkaruk to be a great all around player who has a great 200 foot game. But what I do expect is 30 goals a season, with a few seasons of 40 mixed in there. He is a classic sniper, like a smaller version of Phil Kessel. The Blue Jackets really lacked a player like this last season, which is why they did the deal for Marian Gaborik at the trade deadline. They look pretty good down the middle moving forward, but of course they could also add in that position later in the draft if they are using all three 1st round picks. But they really need to address the lack of talent up front in this draft, and Shinkaruk falling to them would be a great start.
15. NY Islanders – Zachary Fucale 6’1.5 177 G Halifax QMJHL
3rd mock in a row I’ve had it this way, and I doubt I will change it for the last one. This humiliating franchise sure did prove me wrong this season. I love to talk about how absolutely disgustingly revolting they are and boom….they make the playoffs. They didn’t just make the playoffs, they gave the Pens a heck of a series! I absolutely love this pick for the Islanders if this is how things shake down. There is a chance that Fucale won’t be around by the 15th pick, its very tough to read what will happen with goaltenders in the draft these days. But the Islanders to me could really use that potential stud number 1 goaltender in this spot. They have guys like Kevin Poulin, Anders Nilsson and Mikko Koskinen in the system, but none of them rival the upside of Fucale. Craig Button has recently said this is the best 17 year old goaltender he’s ever seen. Peter Loubardias told me that this kid is one of the best PEOPLE he’s ever met, and Kirk Ludeke a scout for Redline Report said on twitter that he talked to a few scouts and they basically echoed those words. That’s pretty high praise. He is tremendous post to post, extremely sound positionally, and has the right mental makeup to be a number 1 guy. He will be the best goaltender taken in the 1st round since 2005 when both Carey Price (5th) and Tuukka Rask (21st) were drafted.
16. Buffalo Sabres via Minnesota – Max Domi 5’9.5 190 C London OHL
For the 2nd straight season Darcy Regier has two 1st round selections. How he got as much as he did for Jason Pomminville I will never know, but he had to be laughing once the deal was complete. Don’t get me wrong, I like Pomminville, but he wasn’t worth a 1st in this draft and Matt Hackett let alone 2 more pieces going to Buffalo. Anyhow, the Sabres have this pick and since I picked a d-man for them at 8, I think a talented center who could also play the wing makes a lot of sense at 16. You already know that Max is a kid who might be small but he plays with bite and a boat load of skill. I don’t know if many people will use this comparison, but he reminds me of Mike Comrie when Comrie first came into the league. Almost the same size, Mike was highly skilled, fiesty, wasn’t afraid to go to tough area’s, throw hits, or even drop the gloves. Is that not Domi? Max I think is a more explosive skater than Comrie was though. Of course as I hit on earlier, the Sabres are pretty loaded down the middle right now, but it’s never a bad play to take a center. Much like d-men, centers are very tough to find and will command a lot in a trade. And again, he can play the wing or the middle.
17. Ottawa Senators – Curtis Lazar 6’0 191 C Edmonton WHL
2 mock drafts ago I had Max Domi to the Leafs, then last one I had Lazar to the Leafs. Last mock I had Domi to the Sens, and now I have Lazar taking his spot yet again. So I guess Lazar ends up in Buffalo on the final one? We will see…. This might be the deepest organization in hockey right now. They don’t have a big flaw, its unreal. I’m not a big Bryan Murray fan but the last few years he has done a terrific job getting them back on track and in very short order. As for Lazar, he is a pretty shrewd pick for a team that is pretty loaded up. Lazar is versatile and could play the wing if need be, I know he played on Nathan MacKinnon’s wing in the Ivan Hlinka tournament last summer. Some are turned off because he’s not that classic playmaking center, but for me that is secondary for a center. I believe a 2 way game is more important and he might be the best defensive center in this draft. This kid is ridiculous below the hash marks in his own zone for a draft eligible kid. I have made this comparison a few times, but he really does remind me of Mike Richards, just not as in your face. He also has a great shot. By the time Lazar is ready to play in the league, Jason Spezza might be 32 or 33 years old so maybe he would have a spot down the middle by then on this team.
18. Detroit Red Wings – Ryan Pulock 6’1 211 D Brandon WHL
They still have a lot up front to work with in this organization, but the blueline has taken a flat out beating in the last 24 months or so. You know who has left, and the reason you don’t know what’s coming is because they don’t have much coming. Xavier Ouellet got a lot of hype prior to the WJC, and while I wouldn’t say he was a disappointment, he didn’t live up to the hype either. Ryan Sproul is a nice d-man with really good size and great offensive talent. But he’s REALLY soft for a kid who is 6’4. Danny DeKeyser has stepped in and done a nice job, but many believe the kid is limited. So they need to start building up their blueline again and while he’s had a rough year I’m still really big on Ryan Pulock. He has that Al MacInnis like bomb from the point, a great puck mover, really good mobility, and doesn’t get pushed around. His biggest flaw at this point and time is that he is prone to some pretty bad turnovers in his own zone, but that is something many d-men have to work through on their way up to the pro’s. Lots of D options at this point other than Pulock too. Josh Morrissey is still on the board, Samuel Morin is pretty intriguing being 6’6, and Robert Hagg….we all know the Wings love them some Swedes on their blueline.
19. Columbus Blue Jackets via NY Rangers – Valentin Zykov 6’0.5 206 RW Baie Comeau QMJHL
The 2nd of 3 selections for new GM Jarmo Kekalainen and the Blue Jackets. We won’t know until draft day what a first time GM like Kekalainen will do because some GM’s rely heavily on their scouting staffs and some who have come from scouting (like Kekalainen) will get heavily involved in the process. Add to that confusion is the fact that the Jackets have 2 directors of amateur scouting in Tyler Wright and Paul Castron. I’m sure they would love to get their hands on a center with one of these 3 picks (should they keep them all), but Zykov falling to 19 would likely be too sweet to pass up with a lot of the bigger name centers off the board. Not that I’m an expert, I just play one on the internet. But IF they passed on Shinkaruk at 14 and took Domi or Lazar with that pick, I would bet they would still get one of Zykov or even Shinkaruk in this spot. But Shinkaruk at 14 is a pretty awesome talent to pass up at that point. They certainly aren’t the same guy. As you can see, Zykov has really decent size and unlike fellow Russian Valeri Nichushkin, it was my understanding that Zykov really impressed at the draft combine. Gare Joyce said that in one of his interviews when asked about ever going back home to play in the KHL he responded with something along the lines of “when I’m 40 and out of shape and can no longer play in the NHL, then I’ll go there”. Pretty good stuff! This kid is committed to playing in the NHL, and plays like a North American kid. Willing to go to the tough area’s, great hands, great shot, and really tough to handle on the wall and down low. With those 2 picks, the Jackets wouldn’t have to be worried about a lack of skill up front any longer.
20. San Jose Sharks – Kerby Rychel 6’1 198 LW Windsor OHL
This organization needs everything basically. The current roster is obviously good, but it’s aging and they have nothing coming other than last year’s 1st round pick Tomas Hertl. Now this will look like I’m thinking that they need to replace Clowe but he actually has nothing to do with this pick. More so, it’s looking at the Sharks and the way they’ve drafted. They always stick to their board (which a lot of times is very different from others) and they have area’s they love. One of the area’s they love is the OHL, and since the West is more about size now than skill I have Rychel selected with their pick. Rychel plays the game with a little more skill than his old man did, but he still has a lot of what his dad brought to the table. Always finishing his hits, willing to drop the gloves, and a beast in front of the net. He doesn’t skate fluid, but he has pretty good speed nonetheless. He plays with a lot of passion too which is usually a concern with power forwards, not Rychel. Would look great next to Logan Couture in 3-4 seasons.
21. Toronto Maple Leafs – Nicolas Petan 5’8.5 163 C Portland WHL
Well this will be a controversial selection by me with Leaf fans, and I might have as many Leaf fans reading this as I do Oiler fans (what’s up Reggie, Lowrie, JT, Robb, Harv, Haygs, and whoever the hell else I’m forgetting). Basically what has happened is that everyone I think they would love is gone. Domi, Lazar, Rychel are all gone at this point. The one kid that I gave big thought to was Ryan Hartman. But in the end I’m going with Petan. I think the offensive ability would be just too intriguing to turn down. This kid tore up the WHL this season with 120 points and was +68. Those numbers in the WHL for an 18 year old are pretty hard to ignore. Unbelievable hands, incredibly quick, slippery, great vision, its tough not to compare him with Tyler Ennis who is about the same size and a Western Canadian kid. My theory is that it is easier for an Eastern conference team to pick a kid like this than a Western team. Having said that, the Leafs might be looking at the Bruins model and try to beef up with a kid like Adam Erne, but his stock has dropped quite a bit this season. I have little doubt however that they will go with a forward with their top pick. They may lose Tyler Bozak to free agency this summer, if they don’t lose him then there is a chance they use one of their compliance buy outs on Mikhail Grabovski, they did a great job building up their blueline during Burke’s tenure, and now this morning they land Jonathan Bernier to sure up the goaltending.
22. Calgary Flames via St. Louis – J.T. Compher 5’11 177 C USNTDP USHL
Ok Flames fans I let Feaster off the hook with the first pick by expecting him to do the right thing, but now we are in USHL/NCAA/ridiculous pick territory. Fortunately though, what I’m suggesting isn’t really far off the board at all. The only thing I wonder about is that even the Flames would have to realize at this point they would really need a d-man and Josh Morrissey is a pretty good one and is a Calgary kid, he’s still on the board. But I’m not trying to do this the way I would, I’m trying assess what the teams would want to do. If Compher is there I can’t see them passing on him. Assistant GM John Weisbrod loves him some American kids. He is believed to be the big reason as to why the Flames have seemingly stockpiled USHL/NCAA kids through the draft and trades…most noteably the Jarome Iginla trade. If Tod Button has some say in this pick, than a kid like Morrissey is possible. Anyways….Compher wouldn’t be a bad pick. He is potentially a 2nd line center. A kid who does everything good but nothing great. Plays a 200 foot game, good skater, good vision, good hands, good shot. Now, if they go off the board like Calgary would do in a spot like this (like last year) keep an eye on Connor Hurley, either here or at 28. He is the youngest player in the draft, and is very raw just like Mark Jankowski.
23. Washington Capitals – Ryan Hartman 5’11.5 185 RW Plymouth OHL
If you have been reading these mock drafts, then you know I have had Hartman going to the Canucks a few times. He’s a total pest, he dives, he’s cheap, he’s miserable to play against….something the Caps could really use. I have tried to get a center to the Caps with their 1st, but there isn’t one that fits the bill for them at this point and their organization views Evgeny Kuznetsov as the teams future 2nd line center. Also Hartman has played some center so that is a possibility though most see him as a winger. Ironically another little bonus is he plays with Caps 1st rounder from 2012 Tom Wilson in Plymouth. But the Caps really need a guy like this who is just such a headache to play against. You can’t have a team full of them like the Canucks have put together, but you do need 1 or 2 of them. And it’s not like he can’t play, he does have some pretty good skill and nice touch around the net. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve really liked the idea of this being the Caps pick at 23. They have a pretty loaded system so it’s tough to find their needs, but Hartman fills a big one in my mind.
24. Vancouver Canucks – Michael McCarron 6’5.5 234 RW USNTDP USHL
Torts to the Canucks, PERFECT! A guy who looks to riot after every game joining a city that does the same, awesome!!! Well I no longer believe in the dream of the Carburners selecting one of their own in Ryan Hartman with the 24th pick. Some things are too good to be true. But reading between the lines, Mike Gillis is looking to get big and mean now. He didn’t say that exactly in his press conference when he fired Alain Vigneault, but he loudly hinted at it. So with that being said I have them taking McCarron who had a great U18’s for the U.S. and is one BIG kid! That’s where the league is heading unfortunately. That is why so many people would love to see Chicago win the final because they are more about skill than size…although both those teams are pretty big. As for McCarron’s skill set, he uses that amazing size as much as he can. He’s a beast down low, on the wall, and has no problem crushing opponents. And for such a big kid, he is a good skater, good agility and a great shot. He might become a complimentary guy in a top 6 role much like Bryan Bickell is doing right now for the Hawks.
25. Montreal Canadiens – Anthony Mantha 6’4 190 LW Val d’Or QMJHL
Awesome size, awesome wheels, hands, playmaking, this kid seemingly has it all. So why is he going 25th in the draft? Soft. No other way to say, this kid has all the tools to be a star, but simply refuses to get his nose dirty. It’s not as if he has to be Milan Lucic, Bryan Bickell, Dustin Brown or Andrew Ladd. He just has to go to tougher areas on the ice and use his size to his advantage. He has to take the puck to the net, don’t stay on the perimeter so much. And he’s doing this in the Q…not exactly the toughest of the 3 CHL leagues. And speaking of the Q, of course it plays a factor in this pick. Certain teams in this league love their own. Minnesota, Toronto and Montreal are 3 that come to mind. But at this point in the draft the best center’s are off the board and the Habs I believe would love to add more size up front. Again, Mantha needs to actually start using his size, but once he turns pro after next season he will learn that he will need to go to the tough area’s on the ice and grind out some of his goals. The Habs are another team who are likely to trade up in this draft. They have three 2nd rounders and two 3rd rounders, so simply by taking lets just say the 36th and 71st picks and packaging them with 25 I would guess they could entice a team like the Red Wings perhaps who have never been shy to move back and pickup some extra assets. Another one I would pitch, 34 and 36 to the Ducks for 26. The Ducks 2nd rounder is owned by the Oilers.
26. Anaheim Ducks – Josh Morrissey 5’11 182 D Prince Albert WHL
I believe this would be pretty sweet for the Ducks to see Morrissey still on the board with the 26th pick, but a LOT stranger things have happened than this. To me, the Ducks despite having taken d-man with their top pick in 2 of the last 3 years with their 1st round picks still need more on defense. Obviously this would not have been the case if Justin Schultz hadn’t of left miserable Anaheim for sunny and spectacular Edmonton….I’ve said this before and will say it yet again, there is a lot of P.K. Subban/Matthew Dumba in Morrissey’s game. Yet he isn’t AS high risk/high reward as those 2 are. Great skater, not very big but is fearless on the ice, can QB a PP, makes a great first pass, has a good stick and has good gap control. A straight up steal for the Ducks should he fall this far in the draft. He could easily go in the 15-20 range. If not Morrissey here, perhaps a kid like Morgan Klimchuk would fit the bill as I believe they could use some depth down the middle in the organization.
27. Columbus Blue Jackets via Los Angeles – Samuel Morin 6’6 200 D Rimouski QMJHL
I couldn’t find a spot for him before this, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be reached for. Calgary at 22 makes a lot of sense, as does Detroit at 18 if they don’t like Pulock, and Anaheim with the pick ahead of this one if they don’t like Morrissey. I know Morin intrigues me, I would have no issue with him falling to the Oilers at 37. He is very raw, and isn’t very strong (I believe he was the worst at the combine in the bench press). But that’s not a red flag, in fact for a lot of scouts that is intriguing. Its looked at as “look at what he’s done before he has any strength, just imagine how good he will be once he has some!” There is definitely logic to that. Morin skates really well for a kid his size too. His offensive game is what has him going late in the 1st in my opinion. Its not as if he can’t contribute, but 16 points in 46 games this season in the Q isn’t exactly tearing it up. But Craig Button has him 13th on the Craig’s list. His list is all about projecting players, and again it is very tough to ignore Morin’s upside. As for the Jackets taking him, again I would say it is a coin flip weather they own this pick come 27 or not, but if they do make all 3 picks they will likely want another d-man with one of them. Mirco Mueller would make sense being a teammate of Ryan Murray’s as I explained in my last mock draft.
28. Calgary Flames via Pittsburgh – Ian McCoshen 6’2 207 D Waterloo USHL
Not much left to say about the Flames, and not sure if they’ll use all three 1st’s. But if they do select in this spot and they do use all 3 1st round picks they will need to take a defenseman at some point. McCoshen fits the bill here but so does Shea Theodore, Mirco Mueller, Chris Bigras, and Madison Bowey. But again with the Flames, they love their USHL/NCAA American kids so I can’t help but assume they’ll go that route. McCoshen is your typical USHL d-man. Good size, very good skater, not very physical, but he has more puck skill than some of the USHL d-men taken in last year’s draft. He projects to be a PP QB down the road, and he is very smart in his own zone. He might not be a crusher but he uses his size to his advantage and does a very good job clearing the front of the net.
29. Dallas Stars via Boston – Andre Burakowsky 6’2 178 RW Malmo SWE
And with the Bruins going to the Eastern conference final, the Stars probably end up getting a better deal for Jagr than the Flames got for Iginla. Wow. Anyhow, I have Jim Nill getting a center with his 1st pick so now I was going to suggest he go out and get a d-man, but Burakowsky has fallen to 29 and is too good to pass up. Also, he is a Swede, and coming from the Red Wings you know that Jim Nill will love his Swedes! Burakowsky is raw but has awesome upside. He is an explosive skater who is willing to drive the puck to the net. Decent size but as you can see at 178 he still has some filling out to do. His scouting report reads very similar to fellow Swede Magnus Paajarvi. The Oilers are just starting to see Paajarvi’s game develop now so the lesson that needs to be learned with Burakowsky is don’t rush him. Let him play in Malmo for another 2 seasons, and then bring him over for a year in the AHL. No need to rush him and if a team doesn’t then they could have a star on their hands….no pun intended.
30.Chicago Blackhawks – Mirco Mueller 6’4.5 184 D Everett WHL
I really believe that defense is the play with this pick. In their system they are pretty deep up front, even if they lose a kid like Bickell as a UFA this summer they have about 5 forwards who have the ability to step into his spot. But while the strength is up front, they are weak on defense and really weak in net in the organization. However, with no goaltender making much sense at 28 they could do one of three things. Trade up, trade back, or take a d-man here and a goaltender like Tristan Jarry or Eric Comrie in the 2nd round. Mueller is a great skater for a 6’3 kid, and is very sound defensively so right there the upside is pretty big. At 184 he has a lot of filling out to do, but once he does get up to 200-210 pounds he could be a gem of a prospect. And the Hawks would be a great spot for him to go, because much like the Red Wings the last thing the Hawks are going to do is rush their kids. He will get his final 2 years in the WHL, at least 1 year in the AHL, and see where he’s at then.
Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups