211 youngsters entered the National Hockey League at Sunday’s entry draft in New Jersey, and now that the dust has settled, it is time to analyze the action. Though it will be years before most of the 2013 draft class debuts at the highest level, here are few teams that stood out.
The Predators won the lottery when super prospect Seth Jones fell into their collective lap at number four. The American defenseman projects to be a franchise player sooner rather than later, and he is on track to be on the ice come opening day. Though the Predators were likely expecting to take either Aleksander Barkov or Jonathan Drouin to help their long struggling offense, Nashville GM David Poile knows enough to not pass on a player like Jones.
The 6’4″ Jones captained Team USA to World Junior gold in January, and he has the athleticism, skill and leadership to finally push Nashville to the next level. He will also have the opportunity to learn from perennial Norris candidate Shea Weber. If all goes to plan, Jones could look a lot like Weber in a few years, excelling in all aspects of the game.
The Preds failed to make much of a splash in the later rounds, and they didn’t get much offensive help. Even without nabbing a goal-scorer, Nashville likely acquired the best player in the draft, and they still have cap room to bring in scoring via free agency.
The Canucks controversially sent Corey Schneider to New Jersey for the ninth overall pick, and although they probably overpaid for the selection that became Bo Horvat, they have to be happy with their haul of incoming prospects. The Canucks picked up an excellent thunder and lightning pair of forwards in Horvat and first-round steal Hunter Shinkaruk.
Horvat’s physical forechecking and Shinkaruk’s elite skill should provide a significant boost for John Tortorella’s new club down the road. The Canucks were shocked to see Shinkaruk available when time came to make the 24th overall pick. The Calgary-native was considered a top-10 prospect after a 96 point season in the WHL last year, and although he dropped a bit this season, he has incredible upside.
The Canucks also picked up sleeper Jordan Subban in the fourth round. Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban‘s little brother lacks the Montreal star’s size, but he is an offensive-defenseman who can put up points in bunches. He is a raw talent that could be a gem in the long run.
Entering the draft without Lindy Ruff as their head coach for the first time since the mid-90’s, the Buffalo Sabres did an excellent job of stocking the cupboard for new head coach Ron Rolston. With the eighth overall pick, the Sabres selected offensive-defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen who should help them at both ends of the ice. The Finnish prospect raised his profile with six points in six games at the World Junior Championships, and he is not far from the NHL
Seven picks later the Sabres nabbed giant Russian blue-liner Nikita Zadorov. The London Knights defenseman has spectacular size, and he knows how to use it. One of the hardest hitters in this years class, he will help shore up the Sabres vulnerable back end.
The Sabres also found value in round 2, selecting American J.T. Compher. Committed to the University of Michigan, Compher is a long term project with a tremendous compete level. Once projected as a first round pick, he will play with a chip on his shoulder and could be a steal.
Calgary GM Jay Feaster arrived at the draft under a mountain of pressure. After dealing Jarome Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester at the tail end of a 19-win season, the Flames are finally committed to rebuilding, and Feaster’s redesign could hinge entirely on this draft. With three picks in the first round, the Flames desperately needed to find core players, and it doesn’t look like they were successful.
Sean Monahan was the obvious choice at number six, but debate rages on about whether Monahan is the next Jonathan Toews or a high-end third liner. With his remaining two picks in the first round, Feaster defied conventional logic much like he did last year when picked Mark Jankowski 21st overall. At 22, the Flames passed on home-town star Hunter Shinkaruk opting for Emile Poirier. Six picks later they snagged Morgan Klimchuk, who like Poirier might have been available much later.
Feaster claimed that the Flames had Poirier and Klimchuk in their top 13, but until the pair proves scouts wrong the Flames will struggle to return to the postseason.
The Florida Panthers took an enormous risk passing on Seth Jones with the number two overall pick, and it will likely come back to bite them. Panthers GM Dale Tallon opted for Finnish center Aleksander Barkov, who is widely considered to be the most NHL ready prospect in the 2013 class.
Barkov has excelled playing against grown men in Finland’s SM-liiga over the last two seasons, but there is reason for concern. He has all of the tools to be a top-six center in the NHL, but he is far from perfect. He entered the World Junior Championships in December surrounded by tons of hype, but he was invisible far too often for a disappointing Finnish team. Barkov’s physicality stands out in Finland, but in a harder-hitting league, he won’t be nearly as dominant.
With the first pick in the second round, the Panthers overlooked goaltender Zach Fucale and a host of other top talents in favor of Boston College-bound defenseman Ian McCoshen. McCoshen has some upside, but he is likely more than four years from the NHL, while Fucale has the opportunity to become the elite NHL netminder that Florida desperately needs. Even if Jacob Markstrom is the goalie of the future in south Florida, Fucale could have given the Panthers a top tandem or at the very least a valuable trade asset.
Ten years from now, the Florida Panthers and their fans may think of 2013 as the legendary draft that could have been.