The NHL Draft is on Sunday (3 p.m. ET) and this is our final mock draft. It appeared for the longest time that the Avalanche, who select first, would select one-time Denver native Seth Jones, but it looks like Nathan MacKinnon will be taken with the first overall pick.
One thing that you should count on is that there should be plenty of trading, most likely in the middle and at the end of the first round. As was seen during the NBA draft on Thursday, one pick off the board changes the whole draft.
David Burstyn, McKeen's Hockey Director of Scouting, has put together the capsule comments for first round of the Mock Draft. My comments are in italics.
Don't forget to check out McKeen's Hockey Draft Guide. McKeen's Hockey has put out their top 120 picks for the 2013 Draft. In addition, they also preview the 2014 and 2015 Drafts. Click here to enter their site, it's a great buy.
1. Colorado Avalanche Nathan MacKinnon (C)
MacKinnon finished off strong in the final two rounds of the QMJHL playoffs before shooting out the lights at the Memorial Cup. MacKinnon gives the Avalanche star power and is a player who can easily jump into their line up next season as his speed and hand skills are NHL ready. He missed 14 games in the regular season with a knee injury and still had 32 goals and 75 points in 44 games for Halifax but really took his offensive game to a new level in the playoffs with 11 goals and 33 points in 17 games.
It was thought that the Avs were a lock to take Seth Jones but Colorado seems to think that MacKinnon is a special talent who cannot be overlooked. It helps that new head coach Patrick Roy saw MacKinnon play plenty of times in the QMJHL.
2. Florida Panthers Seth Jones (D)
Jones gives the Panthers a legitimate first pairing defenseman who brings a winning attitude and strong athletic abilities to the table. Coupled with a strong point shot Jones could become a PP option as early as his rookie season and having Brian Campbell to help out will not hurt his development offensively. The son of former NBA player Popeye Jones, had 14 goals and 56 points in 61 games with Portland of the WHL.
The Panthers really need help up front so we would not be surprised if they traded down or took Jonathan Drouin as he would look good alongside Jonathan Huberdeau. Carolina needs defensive help badly but may not have enough to package up and trade for Jones.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning Jonathan Drouin (RW)
A dynamic player who oozes offensive skills, Drouin can score just as easily as he can make a nice pass. He would be a perfect complement to Stamkos in the next few years with some of the Lightning players such as Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis getting long in the tooth. The MVP of the Quebec League, Drouin had 105 points including 41 goals in just 49 games, finishing second in scoring by five points despite missing 19 games, and then led the league in playoff scoring with 35 points.
The Lightning have been rumored to be enamored with Valeri Nichushkin and that could be a possibility if the Panthers take Drouin with the second pick.
4. Nashville Predators Aleksander Barkov (C)
Barkov has already performed exceptionally well in the SM-Liiga, the top Finnish Men's league. He gives the Predators a first line center option and one who can produce offensively, playing with heightened temperament and intensity away from the puck which helps round out his game. Barkov finished ninth in scoring with 21 goals and 48 points, the all-time best for a player of his age, surpassing Olli Jokinen who had 14 goals and 41 points at the same age.
The Predators need lots of help up front and Barkov could be just as good as anyone in the draft.
5. Carolina Hurricanes Nikita Zadorov (D)
The mammoth Russian defender has sky-high upside as his skating and physical play complement his six foot, five inch frame like no other prospect available in this draft. Zadorov had six goals and 25 points for the London Knights in 2012-13 and has the potential to become a great shut down blueliner with the capability of contributing offensively in the NHL.
The dream draft of the Hurricanes has MacKinnon, Drouin, Nichushkin and Barkov going in the top four, leaving Jones for them.
6. Calgary Flames Sean Monahan (C)
The Flames need a lot of help up front and get the strong two-way center to get things going. Monahan gives the team more size up the middle and is backed by a strong competitive streak. He had 31 goals and 78 points on a weak Ottawa squad. Some teams may want to move up and grab Monahan as he could end up being the first line center every team (with the possible exception of the Pittsburgh Penguins) looks for in a draft.
The Flames could also consider Lindholm at this spot. It's the first of three first round picks Calgary has going into the draft.
7. Edmonton Oilers Darnell Nurse (D)
The Oilers need some help on the blueline and Darnell Nurse gives their pick more value and upside as a staunch stay-at-home defender whose value in the playoffs would be considerably higher as he can match-up well against other team's best. Nurse had 12 goals and 41 points in 68 games at the Soo. He is the nephew of former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb.
The Oilers have plenty of talent up front and could still use some help on the blueline so look for Nurse or possibly Zadorov to be taken at this spot, if he is not already gone. Rasmus Ristolainen could also go here.
8. Buffalo Sabres Elias Lindholm (C)
Lindholm had a great season in the top Swedish Men's league, competing against players 10 years his senior; not only did he produce offensively but he did not back down from physical confrontations. Lindholm saw time as a top-six forward and rewarded his coach's faith in him with 11 goals and 30 points in 48 games. He is NHL ready.
Nichushkin could go here but Lindholm is a safer pick.
9. New Jersey Devils Valeri Nichushkin (RW)
Pending KHL contract may come into play however Nichushkin is a complete package whose athletic ability, skating skill, size and hands can break open a game singlehandedly . Nichushkin impressed everyone at the NHL Combine a couple of weeks ago and could still move up this draft class. He had only six points in 18 games in the KHL this season but starred in February's U18 five nation tourney in Sweden where he had five goals and 11 points in four games.
The Devils could use a goalie so Zach Fucale is being talked about, but the Devils didn't take a goalie last season when Oscar Dansk was available (I'm not comparing the two) so it's hard to believe that they will grab one here. The Devils have to forfeit a first round pick either this season or next because their original deal with Ilya Kovalchuk circumvented the salary cap but look for the Devils to forfeit next season as this draft is being held in New Jersey.
10. Dallas Stars Max Domi (C)
Dynamic torpedo is tenacious and a threat to score each time he has the puck. Unlike his father Tie, Max uses his hands to score and could get an audition next year with several openings up front for the Stars. He had 39 goals and 87 points for the OHL champion London Knights and was second in playoff scoring with 32 points in 21 games including 11 goals.
First of two picks for the Stars in the first round.
11. Philadelphia Flyers Samuel Morin (D)
Morin improved as the season progressed culminating with a sensational World U18 performance that saw him capture a gold medal. He gives the Flyers size and toughness and is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential. At 6'6/205 he has NHL size already and only needs to work on his puck skills. He had four goals and 16 points in 48 games for Rimouski of the QMJHL in 2012-13.
The Flyers are rumored to be after Jaroslav Halak which may preclude them from going after Zach Fucale. Rasmus Ristolainen could go here as well.
12. Phoenix Coyotes Bo Horvat (C)
Mr. Clutch in the OHL playoffs, Horvat scored 3 GWG, none bigger than the goal with a second left in Game 7 of the OHL Final to capture the league championship. Horvat can play on both special teams with success and thrived this season for Coach Hunter in a PK role as he won important draws and blocked shots. He had 33 goals and 61 points in the regular season but came into his own in the post-season with 16 goals to lead all OHL scorers.
The Coyotes need help scoring and Horvat came into his own during the playoffs. Fifty goal scorer Anthony Mantha could also be taken although it makes sense for the Coyotes to trade down if Mantha is their man.
13. Winnipeg Jets Curtis Lazar (C)
Lazar is a two-way forward who plays a hardnosed game and marries it with handsome offensive abilities. He competes away from the puck and will give the Jets a player who could potentially play on their top two lines but also do the dirty work to score his goals. Lazar started the season off slowly with only eight goals in his first 27 games but potted 30 in his final 45 to lead Edmonton of the WHL in goal scoring.
The Jets would love to take Bo Horvat at this spot as well, if he is available.
14. Columbus Blue Jackets Rasmus Ristolainen (D)
A player who has been in the draft spotlight for years Ristolainen was the second youngest player to play in the SM-Liiga making his debut at the tender age of 16. He plays the game with brute force but needs to constantly be playing at a heightened tempo to get the most out of his skill set. Led Finland in scoring at the WJC; finishing third in tournament scoring amongst defensemen. Ristolainen had three goals and 15 points for TPS Turku of the SM-liiga.
GM Jarmo Kekalainen's first draft pick is a fellow Finn. It's the first of three selections for the Blue Jackets in the first round.
15. New York Islanders Alexander Wennberg (C )
The Islanders go for some skill with the addition of Wennberg; a player whose hockey sense and ability to play both ends of the ice makes him such a coveted prospect. He has great feet and is tenacious in pursuit. Wennberg won a silver with Sweden at the U20 World Championships, making the team as an 18-year-old. He had 14 goals and 32 points in 46 games for Djurgardens of the Swedish Allsvenskan league.
The Islanders would also consider Anthony Mantha at this time, but the all-round skill of Wennberg could trump Mantha's scoring ability.
16. Buffalo Sabres (via Minnesota) Ryan Pulock (D)
Pulock has the best point shot in this year's draft and is a viable PP option for the Sabres. He added 20 pounds of muscle this season and can bench press over 400 pounds however agility issues have raised some concerns. Was captain of Brandon in the WHL this season and had 14 goals and 45 points in 61 games.
The Sabres need help on the blueline so they will also consider Mirco Mueller.
17. Ottawa Senators Mirco Mueller (D)
In an effort to continue to strengthen their back-end, the Senators will be happy to see Mueller still available at this spot. He is a player who logged ample minutes this year for Everett and was exceptional at the WJC for Team Switzerland. Mueller has some offensive punch as he finished second amongst WHL blueliners in scoring 31 points in 63 games.
I see the Senators grabbing a defenseman at this spot so Morrissey and Pulock could be in play should Mueller not be available.
18. Detroit Red Wings Josh Morrissey (D)
Morrissey was lights out at the World U18 Championships, helping Canada win gold and leading all defenseman in tournament scoring. Has great puck moving skills and plays a similar game to Brian Rafalski. Morrissey had 15 goals and 47 points in 70 games with Prince Albert in 2012-13, 12th best among WHL defensemen.
Detroit needs some help on the blueline as they have lost Nicklas Lidstrom, Brad Stuart and Rafalski in the last few years. Should a center like Bo Horvat or Curtis Lazar fall, the Red Wings could be tempted.
19. Columbus Blue Jackets (via New York Rangers) Hunter Shinkaruk (LW)
Adding depth to their forward unit, Hunter Shinkaruk comes with a proven track record of being able to score as he has lit the lamp 86 times in the last two seasons. Small in stature, he needs to compete more away from the puck but his speed in transition creates ample scoring opportunities. He has 177 points in 130 WHL games over the last two seasons including 86 in 64 games in 2012-13.
The second pick of the Blue Jackets now gives them a defenseman and a forward. If they take a forward with the first pick, look for them to look at Robert Hagg in this spot.
20. San Jose Sharks Robert Hagg (D)
Hagg has a booming slap shot and the rare ability to slow down the pace of the game however he suffers from bouts of inconsistency as he can lose focus and get caught standing still defensively. The MoDo defenseman had 11 goals and 24 points in 28 games for his junior team and actually played a game in the Swedish Elite League despite just turning 18.
The Sharks could easily go forward at 20, so look for them to consider Kerby Rychel and Adam Erne.
21. Toronto Maple Leafs Kerby Rychel (LW)
Looking for goal scoring and a character player, Rychel becomes an immediate option as he is coming off back-to-back 40 goal campaigns and has one of the quickest releases in the draft. Can play with sandpaper when provoked, he has a sturdy frame to lay out hits. Rychel had 87 points for Windsor in 2012-13 including a huge February as he had nine goals and 25 points in just 12 games.
The Maple Leafs could be looking at Emile Poirier if Rychel is gone.
22. Calgary Flames (via St. Louis) Adam Erne (LW)
Erne plays a high energy game and excels down low and on the cycle. He plays along boards well as he is a strong powerful body who shields the puck. Erne needs to curb his temper as he was guilty of taking some unnecessary penalties this season nonetheless he gives the Flames what they need, a gritty forward who can produce offensively. Led his Quebec team with 72 points including 28 goals this past season.
The Flames still need offense so if Kerby Rychel is available he could go 22nd overall.
23. Washington Capitals Frederik Gauthier (C)
A solid utility player with decent offensive upside, Gauthier still needs to fill out physically as he is six foot, four, weighing 215 pounds, but has a large frame and can keep other top forwards in check. Salvaged a poor second half with an outstanding performance at the World U18 Championships. Gauthier started the season off strongly for Rimouski with 10 goals and 20 points in his first 18 games but scored only 12 goals in his final 50 games including the playoffs after returning from a broken jaw suffered in November.
The Capitals will look for the top player available and hope that someone will drop to them, just like last season when Filip Forsberg was ranked as high as second in a lot of mock drafts and fell to 11th.
24. Vancouver Canucks Andre Burakowsky (LW)
Burakowsky struggled a little bit in league play but shined in International tournaments when pitted against his own peer age group. A blinding skater with great hands to match his speed, he scored 11 goals and 24 points for Malmo in the Swedish second division. His dad Robert played 23 NHL games for Ottawa in the 1993-94 season.
Burakowsky is falling down the draft board and the Canucks could pick Emile Poirier as new head coach John Tortorella likes players of Poirier's ilk. Of course, Tortorella could be long gone when the bottom players of the first round are ready to play in the NHL.
25. Montreal Canadiens Emile Poirier (LW)
Canadiens look to get more skilled while adding sandpaper as Poirier's game mirrors that of Brad Marchand while being a little less of a pest. The pugilistic forward worked his way up the depth chart of Gatineau and emerged as their offensive leader while also applying a ferocious back check and displaying strong determination away from the puck. Poirier had 32 goals and 70 points to go with 101 penalty minutes in 65 games.
After picking third last season, the Habs are thrilled to select 25th and will go to the Quebec League to pick Poirier as his type play is needed when playing divisional rivals Boston and Toronto.
26. Anaheim Ducks Chris Bigras (D)
A solid and dependable two-way threat, Bigras does everything well and has incredibly strong hockey sense in all three zones. Bigras was one of only a handful of players this season to win both a gold medal at both the Ivan Hlinka Memorial and the World U18 Championships. He broke out offensively with eight goals and 38 points in 68 games for Owen Sound of the OHL.
When getting down this deep into the first round, some teams could be trying to trade up to get the player they want. The Ducks are likely looking for blueline help after losing Jake Gardiner and Justin Schultz from their depth charts over the last three seasons.
27. Columbus Blue Jackets (via Los Angeles) Valentin Zykov (LW)
Zykov scored 40 goals and helped Baie-Comeau reach the QMJHL finals. A beast down low with a laser beam of a shot however he can play with blinders on often overlooking a pass or getting hit as he doesn't see it coming, a cause for concern at the next level. Zykov led all QMJHL rookies with 75 points after playing for CSKA of the Russian MHL league in 2011-12.
The Blue Jackets could be looking at a goalie in this spot, especially with the status of Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky still up in the air at this time. Zach Fucale would be the pick if they think that Bobrovsky is headed back to Russia to play in the KHL.
28. Calgary Flames (via Pittsburgh) Anthony Mantha (RW)
The Flames need help scoring goals and Mantha was one of only three CHL players to score 50 goals. Gangly frame and somewhat uninvolved at times, Mantha's shot and scoring dimension cannot be over looked. He also chipped in with 39 assists for Val d'Or in 69 games.
The Flames continue to need help up front and if Mantha is available at 28, it's a great pick. If not, they will look at Ryan Hartman or possibly Zach Fucale.
29. Dallas Stars (via Boston) Jacob de la Rose (LW)
Jacob de la Rose helped Leksands earn a promotion to the SEL with his fine two way play. He excelled Internationally on the junior stage for Team Sweden as he used his sizeable frame to open up scoring lanes and eagerly drove to the net. He does a little bit of everything well and complements skilled players with his tireless work ethic. De la Rose had six goals and 12 points in 38 games this season.
Ryan Hartman should be considered at this point, as well as Zach Fucale.
30. Chicago Blackhawks Zach Fucale (G)
Despite the sensational play of Crawford, the Blackhawks need to add depth to their goaltending position and Fucale has the potential to be a starter in the NHL. Calm and poised he posted a 64-7 record en route to a QMJHL Championship and a Memorial Cup. He should get a strong look to be the starter for Team Canada at next year's WJC.
Others to consider in the first round include: Ian McCoshen (D), Tommy Vannelli (D), Mike McCarron (RW), Jason Dickinson (C), Ryan Hartman (RW) and Madison Bowey (D).