1. Colorado Avalanche - Nathan MacKinnon (C)
With likely the highest offensive upside of any player in the draft, MacKinnon is just about as dynamic as they come. MacKinnon has top-end speed combined with a wicked release, making him very difficult to defend. He uses his body well, and is tough to move off the puck. He is more capable on the defensive end then he may appear, as there is a physical aspect to his play. He'll need to improve on the back check, but he is well on his way to becoming a complete player. There are lofty expectations for MacKinnon, and despite some reservations about his current ability to play at the next level—especially considering his disappointing 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship effort—he should make a huge impact in the coming years. In the short-term though, it might be best to temper your expectations as Colorado's depth up the middle could result in MacKinnon starting the season on the third line.
2. Florida Panthers - Aleksander Barkov (C)
Florida made a bit of shocker by selecting the Barkov with the second overall pick. Barkov is the full package and unique among Finnish players. Blessed with an NHL-ready body, the 6-2, 207-pound power forward has top offensive skills and is an exceptional competitor who can easily win puck battles because of his strength. He set the record for most points by a 17-year-old this season in the Finnish SM-liiga with 48 (21 goals, 27 assists). A two-way center, Barkov isn't just a great offensive player, he has hockey smarts and plays a sound game away from the puck, too. He may not be the best skater in the draft, but he’s improving. Barkov doesn't play an overly physical game, but he has been successful against older competition and should transition well to the North American style provided he is over a shoulder injury that ended his season prematurely. He should compete for a roster spot at training camp.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning - Jonathan Drouin (RW)
According to certain scouts, Drouin is an even better prospect than his Halifax teammate Nathan MacKinnon. The 18-year-old put together an incredible season, culminating in being named CHL Player of the Year. Drouin finished with an outrageous stat line, scoring 41 goals and registering 64 assists in only 49 regular season games. He was just as good in the playoffs, registering 44 points in 21 contests, en route to winning the Memorial Cup. Drouin's top skills are his ice-vision and his puck handling, and despite his lack of explosive speed, his acute hockey sense gives him the unique ability to see the play even before it fully develops. Size could be an issue, but he’s proven himself against larger opponents, especially in the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship, when he finished the tournament on Team Canada’s top line. There are openings in Tampa for a few forwards and Drouin is poised to grab a roster spot with a good showing in training camp.
4. Nashville Predators - Seth Jones (D)
Seth Jones is considered by most hockey pundits to be the best prospect of a very talented NHL draft class. He’s a workhorse armed with great size, athleticism and bravado. He hits, skates, quarterbacks the power play, and is both a shooter and a playmaker. Jones does need to hone his defensive positioning but that may be his only weakness. He is the complete package and will contribute immediately to his NHL club next season. What makes him special though is his potential impact to be a leader both on and off the ice. Jones wasn't expected to drop further than second in the draft, so Nashville must be feeling pretty thrilled about this pick. They certainly could have used a forward, but Jones is just too promising a defenseman to pass up.
5. Carolina Hurricanes - Elias Lindholm (C)
There is nothing not to like about Lindholm's game. He's a center who can do a little bit of everything well in all three zones. Even though he only had 11 goals and 19 assists this season, he is a talented and passionate player with a tremendous work ethic and an extraordinary hockey IQ. The center has hands, stickhandling and passing skills that are advanced for his age. Even though he's not the biggest guy, he's strong for his size and finishes his hits. Lindholm is a tenacious, quick player who excels in creating turnovers and generating offense in transition. He's also a great faceoff man. Lindholm might never be a top-line center, but he's responsible and has the ingredients to be a future NHL captain. Carolina was shopping this pick heavily, but they ended up using it on a player who should turn into talented forward.
6. Calgary Flames - Sean Monahan (C)
After losing a significant number of players from last year’s squad, the Ottawa 67's relied more heavily on Monahan and he responded with the increased responsibility. He was team captain in 2012-2013, a testament to his natural leadership skills. Monahan isn't flashy on the offensive end, but he is arguably the best two-way player in the draft. He uses his above average size well, being physical when necessary. He played in all situations for Ottawa, and was an absolute monster in the faceoff circle. While Monahan may not be a dynamic game-changer, a la Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, he does everything the coaches ask of him and does it well. Many scouts agree that he will develop into a top-six forward in the NHL. As the Flames are very thin at center Monahan will have a very real chance to break camp with Calgary in 2013-14.
7. Edmonton Oilers - Darnell Nurse (D)
Tall, tenacious and tough to beat, Darnell Nurse is one of the elite shutdown defensemen in this year’s draft class. In 2012-13, Nurse's second OHL season, his offensive output exploded from 10 to 41 points, as he played big minutes on the Greyhounds' top pairing and established himself as a defensively sound leader with excellent skating abilities and a fiery physical edge. Nurse needs to beef up his lanky frame and improve his offensive instincts and capabilities if he hopes to be a scoring threat in the NHL. His on-ice skills are polished and if he has a strong off-season in the weight room, he could crack an NHL roster this spring with the potential of earning a top four spot in the near future. The Oilers already have plenty of skilled forwards and getting Nurse will help them become a far more balanced team in the long run.
8. Buffalo Sabres - Rasmus Ristolainen (D)
Rasmus Ristolainen has been making scouts salivate for years now. An extremely talented and smart defenseman with three years of professional experience, the Finn plays a shutdown game with a decent offensive upside. He’s capable of quickly and effectively moving the puck up the ice, he plays tough minutes and is very gritty and physical. Ristolainen makes impressive reads, has a great shot, is calm with the puck and commonly jumps into the rush. His skills are NHL ready and he is physically mature. It will not be long until he blossoms into a top-pairing defenseman.
9. Vancouver Canucks (via New Jersey) - Bo Horvat (C)
Some scouts tout Horvat as the best shutdown center in junior hockey. Whether that's accurate or not, there is no denying that he plays the game with a combination of toughness and skill that few players can match. He's known best for his defensive prowess, excelling in the faceoff circle, while showing tremendous ability on the back check and in the corners. Horvat stepped up as a leader on a loaded London team this season, a testament to his upbeat character and determination. He's also improved his offensive game scoring 33 goals in 67 games for the Knights. He has a nose for the net but is also a strong playmaker who can center scoring wingers. There are a ton of things to like about Horvat, who could make an impact in the NHL as soon as 2014. There will be a considerable amount of pressure on Horvat as the player who was acquired for Schneider.
10. Dallas Stars - Valeri Nichushkin (RW)
Nichushkin is a monster with a 6-4, 202-pound frame and tremendous offensive skills. The winger has a powerful stride and superb vision and playmaking ability. He’s a menace to contain for defenders, as he has the ability to bulldoze his way to the net and utilize his smooth hands to create scoring chances at will. Nichushkin progressed to the KHL this year, and he turned heads at the World Junior Championships and Five Nations. He’s still a little raw and needs to be a little more consistent, though. His defensive game also needs refining. But the comparisons to Alex Ovechkin or Evgeni Malkin speak to his upside. Nichushkin's already got some experience playing with men in the KHL, but it will probably take him time for him to transition from European hockey to the NHL.
11. Philadelphia Flyers - Samuel Morin (D)
Sam Morin is a smart and smooth skating giant of a defenseman who made impressive strides in his second QMJHL season with Rimouski. He's now a first-round caliber pick who could potentially anchor an NHL blueline a few years down the road. Morin is solid in his own end, using his size and reach to disarm attacking forwards with relative ease. He shows poise with the puck and despite registering only 16 points in 46 regular season games in 2012-13, he proved he has some offensive flair by recording seven points in six playoff contests. Morin needs time to develop his technical skills and get stronger, but should eventually evolve into a capable two-way NHL defender. The Flyers were thought to be thinking defense heading into the draft, so this move isn't surprising.
12. Phoenix Coyotes - Max Domi (C)
Much has been written about Domi, especially since he's following in his popular father's footsteps. However, Domi's game is vastly different than his father Tie's as he is more of a scorer than a fighter. He had a breakout 2012-13 season leading a loaded London team with 39 goals and 87 points in 64 games. He's a dynamic player in the offensive zone, combining unique playmaking skills and elite ice vision. When he's not setting up his teammates, Domi spends his time crashing the net or winning board battles. Obviously size is a concern for Domi, but scouts do praise his strength on the puck, which could counteract any disadvantage he may have due to being vertically challenged. He also has a strong compete level and his energy is infectious on his teammates. Domi has the tools, but he'll need to prove he can withstand the level of physical play at the NHL level. It is unlikely Domi spends any time in the NHL this upcoming season.
13. Winnipeg Jets - Josh Morrissey (D)
Josh Morrissey sure makes a big impact with his small body. Logging big minutes in all situations for Prince Albert this past season, Morrissey proved to be a gifted offensive puck mover with fantastic skating and mobility. He is also creative and possesses an excellent hockey IQ that is showcased on the power play, but he could stand to reign in some of his offensive aggressiveness. Although Morrissey doesn't shy away from physical contact, he's not physically dominant. Morrissey needs to beef up in order to reach his potential, which could be a top-four blueliner in the NHL and power-play specialist. He's something of a long-term project and shouldn't be a factor in fantasy leagues for at least a couple years.
14. Columbus Blue Jackets - Alexander Wennberg (C )
Wennberg has seen his draft stock soar throughout the season. Considered the second-best Swedish prospect in the draft, the center has been compared to a chameleon by scout Kyle Woodlief because you can slot him in any line and he'll fit to whatever that role necessitates. Wennberg is an extremely adaptable player who can literally play in any situation and those types are a coach's dream. The lanky pivot could stand to get stronger, but he's a plus skater and isn't afraid to play with some sandpaper in his game. An intelligent player, Wennberg has an innate sense of where to be on the ice, which makes him very opportunistic. An 18.9 percent shooting percentage and four game-winners for Djurgarden proves that.
15. New York Islanders - Ryan Pulock (D)
Pulock's character alone makes him an NHL prospect. The fact that he contributes offensively, is reliable defensively and understands how to think and play the game makes him one of the best in this draft class. Pulock has an explosive shot and projects as an offensive defenseman as his 105 points in 132 WHL games over two seasons attests. What makes that point total even more impressive is that Pulock had little offensive support and battled multiple injuries last season. Although he's not very flashy, physically intimidating or elite in his skating or puck moving abilities, his guts, tenacity and offence will be welcomed on an NHL blueline within the next two years. Pulock will not hit the NHL next season but may be ready to contribute in 2014-15.
16. Buffalo Sabres (via Minnesota) - Nikita Zadorov (D)
Nikita Zadorov is near the top of this year's class in the big, powerful and physical defenseman category. The OHL rookie played a pivotal role in London’s title run, improving immensely as the season went on. Zadorov’s speed, balance, crisp pivots and impressive edgework make him an excellent skater who can fill big gaps with his long reach. The Russian plays an intimidating brand of hockey, makes bone-rattling hits and drops his gloves when challenged to fisticuffs. Zadorov’s offensive skills are still raw and he lacks poise with the puck making him prone to turnovers and bad passes. His defensive shutdown capabilities can translate well into the NHL as soon as next season, but a little seasoning in the juniors will improve his offense and polish. Between Rasmus Ristolainen and Zadorov, the future of the Sabres defense is looking very bright.
17. Ottawa Senators - Curtis Lazar (C)
Before the season, Lazar was considered one of the top prospects in the draft, but a change of role into a more defensive-minded position seems to have unfairly lessened his value in the eyes of many scouts. He still scored 38 goals in 72 games for the Oil Kings, despite being asked to shut down opponents' top players on a nightly basis. Lazar is one of the top two-way forwards in the draft, and is seen as one of the surest bets to make an NHL roster. He knows how to position himself at both ends of the ice, and uses his size well despite his relatively small frame. While Lazar knows when to make the safe, smart play, he can sometimes be a little too conservative which detracts from his offensive capabilities. How he develops those capabilities will determine how far he will go once he reaches the NHL.
18. San Jose (via Detroit) - Mirco Mueller (D)
Mueller is a tremendously smart and quick defenseman with the sound fundamentals you like to see in a prospect. His rookie season with the Silvertips took an unexpected twist when his star defense partner Ryan Murray suffered a major injury early in the campaign. The Swiss national stepped up big time, registering 31 points in 63 games as Everett's go-to defenseman and was arguably their best player. Mueller's quick footwork and smart positioning of both his body and his stick compensates for his lack of physical prowess. That said, he still has a lot of beefing up to do in order to make the jump to the NHL. Scouts love his playmaking abilities, especially his breakout passes. He generally plays consistent, mistake-free shifts and could be an asset worthy of a roster spot in San Jose as soon as next season.
19. Columbus Blue Jackets (via New York Rangers) - Kerby Rychel (LW)
The Blue Jackets got this pick from the New York Rangers as part of the Rick Nash trade. Rychel registered back-to-back 40 goal campaigns for the Windsor Spitfires, but his production increased this season as he added more points and penalty minutes to his totals. While he has a scoring touch, he's also a very gritty player who is willing to drop his gloves to shift the momentum in a game and stand up for his teammates. Scouts do worry about his consistency, however, as he tends to get lazy when the puck is out of his vicinity. Moreover, he's not a great skater and will need to improve in this area before he makes an NHL club. However, when engaged, Rychel is a load to stop and looks to be one of the top players out of this draft.
20. Detroit Red Wings (via San Jose) - Anthony Mantha (RW)
Mantha led the QMJHL in goals in 2012-13 with 50 to go along with 89 points in 67 games played. He has a natural scoring ability that teams covet, which will likely get him to the NHL faster than his overall play might warrant. He doesn't need much time and space to get his shot off thanks to his lightning-quick release. However, there are concerns about his lack of intensity and fight in the defensive end. He doesn't use his 6'4 frame to his advantage and absolutely needs to become more physical if he's to succeed in the pros. Moreover, he needs to raise his compete level in the defensive zone as he often takes the easy way out, which results in opponent’s counter chances. Nonetheless, his ability to score goals may mask his deficiencies in other areas of his game. Detroit tends to take their time with their prospects though.
21. Toronto Maple Leafs - Frederik Gauthier (C)
Gauthier is a very solid two-way player, who uses his well-developed hockey sense to make plays at both ends of the ice. His mature game will translate well in the NHL, though he isn't viewed as a game-changing prospect. Gauthier showed some offensive ability this year, scoring 22 goals and registering 60 points in 62 games in his first season with Rimouski. However, it is his defensive play that is his ticket to the NHL. He’s strong in the faceoff circle and is very effective on the penalty kill. Though he doesn’t use his 6'3" frame to physically intimidate his opponents, he understands how to use his body in the cycle game and in shielding defenders from the puck. With some more development, he projects as a prototypical second or third-line player who could be used against an opposing team's top line. The Maple Leafs sure could use this type of player but will likely have to wait a year or two before he can contribute in NHL.
22. Calgary Flames (via St. Louis) - Emile Poirier (LW)
Poirier might not be the biggest offensive threat, but he plays a competitive, aggressive game and could bring the blend of penalty minutes and points that fantasy owners love. He's not slow, but his skating could use some work as he can be awkward in that regard. He had 70 points and 101 penalty minutes in 65 QMJHL games in 2012-13. He could stand to beef up and should be regarded as a bit of a long-term project.
23. Washington Capitals - Andre Burakowsky (LW)
Burakowsky is a "tweener" right now – too good for the Swedish junior team but not yet good enough for the pro team. He plays with a "give me the puck" mindset and has exceptional offensive tools with great speed, though his 11 points in 43 games with Malmo this past season were somewhat disappointing. Constantly on the move, the winger has a knack for finding open spaces to generate offense. Even though he performs well in tight checking, he is not a player who asserts himself in the dirty areas for offense, mostly due to the fact that his body is still maturing. Burakowsky is an average player on defense but his calling card is offense. In time, he has the potential to be a game breaker.
24. Vancouver Canucks - Hunter Shinkaruk (LW)
Despite his small stature, Shinkaruk is one of the most aggressive forecheckers in the draft. He is an exceptional skater and keeps defensemen off-balance on his offensive rushes. He’s not overly physical, but he's willing to take a hit to advance the puck. When he has the disc, Shinkaruk is dangerous and can score by crashing the net or utilizing his plus shot. He was captain of this year’s Medicine Hat squad, and produced excellent results in back-to-back seasons, scoring 49 goals last year and registering 86 points in 64 games this season. Defensively, Shinkaruk will need to add some bulk if he's to make a difference in his own end, but his persistence and puck skills will help him get out of trouble in the meantime. Shinkaruk may think he can contribute in the NHL right away, but it is likely he will need at least a year of seasoning before he makes the jump.
25. Montreal Canadiens - Mike McCarron (RW)
McCarron is a bit of a risky pick as scouts have been divided on his future. If he is the sum of his parts, then he could be a great pick for Montreal, but he can leave observes unsatisfied given all his skills. At 6-foot-5, 228-pounds, he's certainly a big man and he moves nicely for one. He'll also use that size to his advantage and consequently has potential as a two-way forward at the NHL level. He had 10 points and 84 penalty minutes in 19 USHL games last season.
26. Anaheim Ducks - Shea Theodore (D)
Shea Theodore is a strong-skating offensive defenseman who sees the ice very well, boasts a great shot and possesses pinpoint passing accuracy. He lacks strength, a physical edge and defensive prowess, but he can quarterback a power play and rush the puck with exciting moxie. Theodore finished in the top of WHL defenseman in scoring with 50 points in 71 games, but has also compiled a disappointing minus 50 rating in his two years with the Thunderbirds. Modeling his game after Mike Green, Theodore’s ability to create and manufacture offense along with his gifted ability to identify and execute good plays are the primary reasons why he is a top pick, but patience will be needed as he develops strength, positioning and defensive awareness over the rest of his junior career.
27. Columbus Blue Jackets (via Los Angeles) - Marko Dano (C)
One thing is certain with Dano--he’s going to be an offensive player. Beyond that, it’s tough to say how good he will become (top-end forward or average player) and what his ultimate upside will be. The Austrian-born pivot combines good speed and strength with a solid presence around the net and decent puck awareness, but he’s still a bit of a project. In the World Junior Championships, he led Slovakia with nine points in six games, though he struggled in the KHL with just seven points in 37 games. Still, there is a lot to be said about an 18-year-old playing in arguably the world’s second-best league. It would behoove him to come over to North America as soon as possible in order to adapt to an NHL style of play.
28. Calgary Flames (via Pittsburgh) - Morgan Klimchuk (LW)
Klimchuk flew under the radar on a pretty weak Regina team this season. However, he had an impressive year just the same, registering 76 points in 72 games, while showing the ability to play at both ends of the ice. Klimchuk has quick hands and feet, and uses his exceptional speed to pressure opponents off the puck. He’s very good on the powerplay and can even be used on the point, as he has a knack of getting hard shots through to the net. He’s a bit undersized, but competes hard in the corners. He won’t wow anyone at the NHL level, but he could develop into a very serviceable player. Calgary had three picks in the first round and replenished their forward depth with Klimchuk, Elias Lindholm, and Emile Poirier.
29. Dallas Stars (via Boston) - Jason Dickinson (RW)
Dallas acquired this selection from Boston as part of the Jaromir Jagr trade. Dickinson has seen his stock drop over the past few months in part due to his relatively poor second half of the season. However, he has huge potential and is only scratching the surface of his offensive skill set. He improved his production in 2012-2013, registering 47 points, but scouts point to his plus-19 rating after finishing a minus-15 in his rookie year as the greatest indication of his progression. He has very quick hands and uses his creativity to set up teammates for scoring chances. Some scouts are concerned with Dickinson’s consistency issues and his lack of compete level, as he seems to take shifts off at times. If he can gain some strength and become more reliable on a nightly basis, he has a real chance to become a very good offensive player in the NHL.
30. Chicago Blackhawks - Ryan Hartman (C/RW)
Hartman made a name for himself in his first season removed from the United States National Team Development Program playing for the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL. He's known for his gritty, agitating style of play, as he finished with 120 PIMs in 56 games. However, he is deceptively effective offensively as his 60 points for Plymouth this past season will attest. He's also a gifted skater. While Hartman may take poor minor penalties at times, he’s one of the best in the draft at rattling his opponent. Moreover, he's very versatile and can fit in on lines with different types of players. He sustained a severe cut on his wrist early in the OHL playoffs, but returned later in Plymouth's post-season run. The prevailing thought is that the injury won't be an issue going forward.