Despite it being just under a year away I felt that it was time to start looking forward to at least one aspect of the hockey world that is bound to occur next season CBA or not. The doldrums of summer are in full sway and many feel concern over the fate of the season to come. However there is some light on the horizon, whatever may happen with the regular season the NHL Draft will still occur. So while we wait for the owners and the players to reach a reasonable compromise let us take a look ahead at the 2013 NHL Draft.
Firstly its important to note, as many among you already know, that a lot changes over the year from one draft to the next. Those expected to be in the first round could drop while others that were off the radar get picked in the top rounds. Just look at Nick Ebert, formerly projected as a top 5 pick and was selected with the last pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, or Mark Jankowski, unknown this time last year and was the first round selection of the Calgary Flames. Some of the players I might talk about will almost certainly fall from their lofty status while others I don't mention will rise to potentially a first round selection.
While it may seem that every year the draft and scouting geeks proclaim that years draft class as one of the best its undoubtedly true that the projected top two prospects in this draft are excellent. Whether its true or not that this draft will challenge the 2003 draft for its legendary depth there are certainly plenty of interesting prospects. At first glance there appears to be a reasonable number of good prospects although its unknown at the moment whether they will develop as expected and become one of the best draft classes since 2003.
Beyond the jump a brief view of the top two prospects and two other prospects that catch my eye.
Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL is generally accepted as the top prospect entering the draft. He has drawn favourably comparisons to Sidney Crosby by playing in the same league and growing up in the community where Sidney Crosby played his Midget game. Though his points totals are not close to what Crosby achieved (In MacKinnon's rookie season in the QMJHL he scored 78 points in 58 games, Crosby scored 135 points in 59 games) he has proven himself to be the top forward entering the draft. He has an excellent puck handling skills and is also an excellent skater making him a dynamic forward.
The second of the dynamic duo at the top of this years draft class is Texas Native Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. Some may remember him from the 2011 development camp where he did some training alongside Dallas Stars prospects. Seth Jones stands out as a 6"3 17 year old who has shown great skill and skating ability alongside his innate natural leadership. By the end of last season he was considered by scouts to already be NHL ready. He moved to the Winterhawks at the end of last season from the US National Development Programme and will play top minutes in the WHL.
Beyond these top two prospects there are several interesting looking players, some of which have already been brought up by my fellow draft/prospect geeks in previous posts. In particular one name that has appeared fairly constantly from you, our readers, is Kerby Rychel. Though things are fairly unpredictable for the 2013 draft he is one player that Stars fans might wish to keep an eye on over the year, especially if any potential lockout drags out. He missed being eligible for the 2012 draft by 4 weeks and would have likely been a top round selection. He has an excellent shot which is both hard and accurate, he positions himself well and despite lacking a mean streak is effective in all three zones.
Another interesting player, and one who is likely to be a complete unknown currently for most Stars fans, is Rasmus Ristolainen of TPS of the SM Liiga. He played his first game in the SM Liiga as a 16 year old defenseman and became a regular at the age of 17 playing 40 games in the SM-Liiga during the 2011-2012 season. This surprises me a lot and despite possibly being out of his depth in the SM-Liiga, he finished the season at -21, the fact he is trusted there is impressive. He's a big 6"3 defenseman who is mature and can play both the puck and the body. He strikes me as a physical but smaller version of Jamie Oleksiak, a player potentially in the mould of Patrick Nemeth. Whether he stays as a projected first round pick is debateable but he is definitely an intriguing prospect.
It's possible that if there is an extended period of negotiations over the CBA a situation could arise simular to the 2005 NHL Draft. The chances of getting the first overall pick was determined by the number of playoff appearances in the past three years and the number of first overall picks over four years. The more playoff appearances and the more first overall picks the less likely it was to get a top pick in the 2005 NHL Draft. Unfortunately the Stars fit these criteria reasonably well and therefore could get themselves a top 10 pick if any labour dispute drags on too long. Though I hope this won't be the case it's important to note when thinking ahead to the draft.
Though this is just a very brief look forward to the draft and several players within it I could write some more pieces on players by position eligible for the 2013 draft. They are highly unlikely to be accurate by the draft itself but it is some positive hockey talk in a hockey-less summer with the dark clouds of a potential lockout on the horizon. If you, our readers, would like to hear more on possible prospects for the draft or would prefer to wait until the build up to the draft itself then make your opinions known in the poll below.