|1. D Seth Jones||Portland Winterhawks|
|Date of Birth: October 3, 1994||Height: 6.04||Weight: 205||Shot: Right|
Jones maintains the pole in our Final rankings after sitting at #1 in the Mid-Term edition in January. The 18-year-old is a complete defender with high-end potential in all 3 zones. His raw athleticism and natural skating ability brings a dynamic element to his game that has made him one of the top defensive prospects in the past 10 years.
His long-term franchise potential may be mitigated early as he will likely encounter some growing pains in contrast to the class' top forwards. A key cog in his transition to professional hockey will depend on his ability to ramp his game up and compete with consistent intensity and purpose.
|2. C Nathan MacKinnon||Halifax Mooseheads|
|Date of Birth: September 1, 1995||Height: 6.00||Weight: 185||Shot: Right|
A spectacular performance in the Memorial Cup has propelled public momentum back to MacKinnon's corner heading into the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. The Cole Harbour, N.S. native has been nothing short of fantastic in his QMJHL career and it was only fitting for him to go out with the Memorial Cup title in what will certainly be his last Major Junior hockey game.
MacKinnon's game projects to that of his potential future teammate Matt Duchene in that his powerful skating stride and silky hands allow him to make dynamic plays few can match. Where MacKinnon's game becomes even more enticing is his hockey sense and understanding of the play around him. MacKinnon should have no issues adjusting to the NHL but will need to reform his offensive game to take what the defense gives him at times rather than forcing the issue and being drawn into poor turnovers.
|3. C Aleksander Barkov||Tappara|
|Date of Birth: September 2, 1995||Height: 6.02||Weight: 205||Shot: Left|
In the midst of the Jones/MacKinnon/Drouin hoopla, many have forgotten about a towering Finnish centre who will ultimately have a large say in how the early part of the draft plays out. While Barkov's game won't blow you away with style, it certainly will with substance. The 6-foot-2 centre is far from polished on his blades but makes up for this perceived weakness with an outstanding skillset and innate ability to find shooting lanes and generate scoring opportunities.
Barkov has excellent poise with the puck and rarely panics in traffic areas. He consistently demonstrates elite playmaking skills and is a crafty passer with top level puck handling ability. With the success that players such as John Tavares and Jason Spezza have had in their NHL careers, if Barkov continues to improve his skating as they did, he possesses the potential to emerge as the top talent in this draft when we look back on it.
|4. LW Jonathan Drouin||Halifax Mooseheads|
|Date of Birth: March 27, 1995||Height: 5.10||Weight: 185||Shot: Left|
Do you remember where you were in December 2011? Jonathan Drouin was still playing Midget AAA hockey so it's safe to say the last year and a half have been nothing short of a whirlwind for the former #2 pick in the 2011 QMJHL Draft. Since breaking into the league, all Drouin has done is throw up a ridiculous 1.63 PPG average with 86 assists in only 82 regular season games.
With no shortage of competition, Drouin is the best playmaking forward in this draft as his ability to control pace and read the ice are unmatched in this draft class. Despite being slightly undersized, Drouin shows a remarkable ability to elude checks and absorb contact well when he doesn't. While we have Drouin at #4 on our board, the team that lands Drouin on draft day will be getting a premier talent who is fully capable of being interchangable with those in front of him.
|5. RW Valeri Nichushkin||Chelyabinsk|
|Date of Birth: March 4, 1995||Height: 6.04||Weight: 195||Shot: Right|
The top rated Russian on the board boasts and impressive collection of natural physical talent that would likely put him in the Top 3 or contending for top honours in several other drafts of recent memory. Standing at 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, Nichushkin's powerful skating ability makes him a force to contain before even factoring in an elite offensive skill-set. The Russian winger really made his mark on international grounds this year first at the World Juniors before donning the Russian colours again at the Under 18 Championships.
While Nichushkin's talent is enticing, he does not come without some holes in his game. He struggled to find offensive consistency at times this year and his compete level for a full 60 minute game has been questioned. If he can continue to grow as a player and realize the full compliment of talent he possesses, Nichushkin has the ability to be a top-line winger sooner than later.
|6. C Elias Lindholm||Brynas|
|Date of Birth: December 2, 1994||Height: 6.00||Weight: 183||Shot: Right|
A run on forwards early on won't be surprising in the least when you look at a guy like Elias Lindholm possibly being on the board around this mark. Lindholm is coming off a fantastic season where he finished 3rd in scoring with the Brynas of the newly minted Swedish Hockey League. A cerebral 200-foot player, Lindholm is capable of logging heavy minutes against top lines while still being a dependable offensive catalyst.
Playmaking is the main offensive forte of his game as Lindholm does a great job of controlling the pace of play and allowing the game to come to him. He shows exceptional positioning and on-ice awareness for an 18-year-old and if his goal scoring and shot improve, he has all the potential to be a top line center in the National Hockey League.
|7. C Sean Monahan||Ottawa 67's|
|Date of Birth: October 12, 1994||Height: 6.02||Weight: 185||Shot: Left|
Expectations were high for Sean Monahan after a breakout sophomore season in 2011-12, but Monahan was unfortunately bogged down by a pouros Ottawa squad that lacked any real support up front or on defense - especially after the team sold off what little they had before the OHL's trade deadline. While his numbers flatlined in Year 3, Monahan's game continues to take steps forward which reflects positively on his professional upside.
Like Lindholm, Monahan is a crafty offensive player who drives puck possession using his puck protection skills and high level hockey sense. The rangy pivot possesses slick stick handling and a deceptive release that allowed him to remain productive even without established support on his flanks. Monahan's skating still has a lot of room for improvement but a few seasons of added development should see him emerge as a dependable Top 6 center in his early 20's.
|8. D Nikita Zadorov||London Knights|
|Date of Birth: April 16, 1995||Height: 6.05||Weight: 225||Shot: Left|
In our Mid-Term rankings, we lamented using the word 'Potential' to aptly describe what Nikita Zadorov is about, but we still feel the same way. Luckily for the team that selects one of the draft's most intriguing prospects, that potential is something that could very well come to fruition. Standing at 6-foot-5 and nearly 220 pounds, Zadorov is a rare breed of defensive prospects especially when you consider what would have to be considered above-average offensive potential.
Zadorov's mobility makes him an extremely exciting player even when he doesn't have the puck as no player on the opposition is safe when he's in the area. He consistently shows a willingness to throw his weight around and alter the momentum of the game with physically punishing bodychecks. His raw talent allows him to be a standout player in all 3 zones at the Major Junior level right now, but as he is groomed for professional hockey these will be areas of important development as the margin for error grows finer.
|9. D Rasmus Ristolainen||TPS|
|Date of Birth: October 27, 1994||Height: 6.03||Weight: 210||Shot: Right|
Where Zadorov projects as a risky high-ceiling defenseman, Ristolainen shapes up as the 'safer' pick - even if history has occassionally been unkind to those labled as such. With 2 seasons of SM-Liiga hockey under his belt, Ristolainen has acquitted himself extremely well against professional players and top junior competition on the international circuit. The Finnish blueliner has NHL ready size and brings a calming presence that could allow him to contend for an NHL roster spot as early as 2013.
Ristolainen is an efficient puck mover who rarely makes low percentage plays. While he tends to shy away from the game changing hit, he competes hard and shows no chagrin about engaging in physical battles. Ristolainen does need to continue to polish his defensive game and will need to refine his gap control and defensive positioning if he's to make a serious bid at an NHL spot this fall.
|10. D Darnell Nurse||SSM Greyhounds|
|Date of Birth: February 4, 1995||Height: 6.04||Weight: 195||Shot: Left|
Rounding out the Top 10 is Sault Ste. Marie defenseman Darnell Nurse, another projectable defenseman with a high ceiling. Nurse was the 3rd Overall pick in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection and has since established himself as a formidable OHL defenseman and was recently rewarded with the captaincy of the Greyhounds moving into the 2013-14 season.
Like Zadorov, Nurse's game is still a bit rough around the edges but there is no doubting the upside. His combination of size, athleticism, and skating ability will give him a great opportunity to be a top pairing defenseman at the NHL level. Nurse's game took a major step forward in his OHL sophomore campaign, now the expectation will be for him to take his defensive game to the next level and truly assert himself as a world class prospect.
|11. D Ryan Pulock||Brandon Wheatkings|
|Date of Birth: October 6, 1994||Height: 6.00||Weight: 205||Shot: Right|
Unlike some of the D in front of him, Pulock isn't the sexy pick, but he's a guy who has done nothing but establish himself as a force in the WHL from Day 1. Like Monahan, Pulock is a late-birthday 94 YOB who was relied on heavily for his leadership with a rebuilding Wheat Kings team this year. To call Brandon an offensively challenged team would be an understatement as Pulock tied for the team lead in points with 45 despite having games in hand.
On his shot and powerplay skills alone, he projects to have value as a potential powerplay quarterback as a legitimate offensive catalyst. His strength is an asset to his defensive game but Pulock will need to show improvement with his footwork as he remains prone to defensive lapses where he allows forwards to gain positioning on him as a result of not moving his feet.
|12. C Frederik Gauthier||Rimouski Oceanic|
|Date of Birth: April 26, 1995||Height: 6.05||Weight: 210||Shot: Left|
Gauthier inches up from his #14 ranking in January as we see him as a player worth a roll of the dice in the Top 15. After bypassing an NCAA offer from Harvard, Gauthier had an up and down rookie season with Rimouski that culminated with a U18 Gold Medal in Sochi. Gauthier's mammoth size and adept skating ability will obviously jump out to any observer right away, but there's more to his game that projects value at the next level.
The Laval, Que. native has a well developed two-way game and has shown inviting flashes of projectable offensive potential. The main concern is centered around whether or not that potential will be realized. Gauthier has the tools to be an NHL player as a polished defensive center, but there is legitimate risk that the offensive game doesn't come around to the level it needs to be for him to be a true Top 9 player.
|13. C Alexander Wennberg||Djurgarden|
|Date of Birth: September 22, 1994||Height: 6.01||Weight: 182||Shot: Left|
Wennberg is a late birthday player who has really emerged this season playing key minutes in his first season of professional hockey in the Allsvenskan. The 6-foot-1 winger doesn't look like much at times, but he certainly has a penchant for making things happen every shift. More of a playmaker than a shooter, Wennberg has proven to be very crafty with the puck and does a great job of identifying lanes and buying time.
His skating is an area that NHL teams will look for increased polish as an awkward hunch creates some limitations for future development. Wennberg projects as a player capable of playing anywhere on a team's depth chart, but if his game continues to develop he certainly has Top 6 upside.
|14. C Hunter Shinkaruk||Medicine Hat Tigers|
|Date of Birth: October 13, 1994||Height: 5.10||Weight: 175||Shot: Left|
In his 3rd WHL season, Shinkaruk took on the leadership reigns in Medicine Hat as the team's captain, but failed to outproduce his exceptional 2011-12 season on the scoresheet. The diminutive forward can be tough to get a read on at times, but we strongly believe there is an NHL player here. While Shinkaruk is often physically outmatched even at the WHL level, his innate hockey sense makes him a unique breed of goal scorer that we feel will translate into production at the NHL level.
The 5-foot-10 centre has explosive skating and separation ability which is the driving factor behind a lot of his offense. To have success at the next level he will need to show improved creativity as he adjusts to professional defenseman, as well as improving his playmaking game and knowing when to utilize his teammates.
|15. RW Adam Erne||Quebec Remparts|
|Date of Birth: April 20, 1995||Height: 6.00||Weight: 200||Shot: Left|
Erne's second year in the QMJHL was a success as the 17-year-old rugged winger replicated his 28-goal season from a year ago while upping his point totals to a team best 72. The North Brandford, Conn. native possesses a unique blend of size, skill, and pest-like qualities that we feel scream NHL player. You can be sure that NHL teams will be thoroughly vetting Erne, however, as he landed himself in some hot water this past season with a negative rapport with teammates that needed to be shored up before he was re-instated onto the roster.
That aside, you can't help but be enamored with the overall package he brings to the table. A player who projects as a capable 20/20+ player at the NHL level who also finds a way to get under the opposition's skin almost every game doesn't exactly fall of trees these days. Erne plays a pro style game and on his path, he could be helping an NHL team within 2-3 years.
|1. C Sam Reinhart||Kootenay Ice|
|2. D Aaron Ekblad||Barrie Colts|
|3. C Michael Dal Colle||Oshawa Generals|
|4. C Leon Draisaitl||Prince Albert Raiders|
|5. C William Nylander||Rogle|
|6. LW Nick Ritchie||Peterborough Petes|
|7. D Haydn Fleury||Red Deer Rebels|
|8. D Roland McKeown||Kingston Frontenacs|
|9. LW Sam Bennett||Kingston Frontenacs|
|10. C Jared McCann||Soo Greyhounds|