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London Knights Max Domi, son of Toronto Maple Leafs enforcer Tie Domi skates with the puck during the Knights game against the Soo Greyhounds at the John Labatt Center in London, Ontario November 11, 2011. (Geoff Robins For The Globe and Mail)
London Knights Max Domi, son of Toronto Maple Leafs enforcer Tie Domi skates with the puck during the Knights game against the Soo Greyhounds at the John Labatt Center in London, Ontario November 11, 2011. (Geoff Robins For The Globe and Mail)

NHL OFF-SEASON

Profiling the NHL’s 2013 draft class: The Top 10 Add to ...

There may not be a consensus No. 1 pick this year at the NHL draft, but there is something every team appears to agree on.

All around the league, it’s widely acknowledge that the top eight to 10 picks of the 2013 class are going to be very good ones, which is why so many teams are interested in trading into that select group.

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The top five or six players, in particular, are all considered potential superstars and are of such comparable quality that who goes where will depend more on team preference than anything.

“We had three different guys No. 1,” Ottawa Senators director of player personnel Pierre Dorion said of his scouting staff. “And [the debate] was pretty intense.”

“This draft is very good compared to the past few years, particularly at the very top where we are,” said Jeff Kealty, the Nashville Predators chief amateur scout and one of the lucky ones with a top five selection to make on Sunday in Newark. “There’s a lot of talent and a lot of depth. This particular year, four is a good spot to be in.”

For a close look at the prospects teams will be fighting over this weekend, what follows is a breakdown of the consensus top 10, based on conversations with several scouts and rankings by TSN’s Bob McKenzie, McKeen’s Hockey and Hockey Prospectus.

There was unanimity in who the top three and the top six players available are, but little agreement beyond that.

 

Rankings

#

Player

Pos.

Team

 

TSN

McK

HP

1

Nathan MacKinnon

C

Halifax (QMJHL)

 

1

2

2

MacKinnon scouting report: On the NHL draft radar for years in part because he hails from Sidney Crosby’s hometown of Cole Harbour, N.S., MacKinnon is one of the youngest players available given he doesn’t even turn 18 until September. In addition to his offensive gifts, he brings a fierceness to his game that scouts love. His stock jumped even higher with a tour de force performance at the Memorial Cup, where he led the tournament with seven goals and 13 points in four games. “He’s a game-breaking type of talent,” Kealty said.

McKeen’s says: “Highly-competitive, tireless worker with a natural internal drive that compels him to operate at a frenetic pace.”

 

2

Seth Jones

D

Portland (WHL)

 

2

1

3

Jones scouting report: The son of former NBA player Popeye Jones is coming off one of the best junior seasons for a draft eligible defenceman in years. Jones won the under-18 gold medal, a world junior gold medal and nearly took home a Memorial Cup, serving as the anchor of a powerhouse Winterhawks team all season. A remarkable skater for his size, Jones had nearly a point a game in the WHL and projects as a workhorse No. 1 defenceman. “This guy has unbelievable athleticism,” said David Burstyn, director of scouting for McKeen’s Hockey. “He’ll eventually be a minute muncher at the NHL level, but he can step in right away.”

McKeen’s says: “A vibrant, full-range blueliner blessed with extraordinary athleticism, co-ordination and mobility.”

 

3

Jonathan Drouin

LW/C

Halifax (QMJHL)

 

3

3

1

Drouin scouting report: He may be sitting third on many teams’ lists, but Drouin’s talent level could ultimately mean he is the top player from this draft. Several scouts, in fact, have him No. 1 and believe he can step directly into the NHL. A late bloomer who exploded for 41 goals and 105 points in just 49 games this season, he can play either wing or centre and has the kind of elite skills with the puck that will put him on highlight reels for years to come. “He can really pull you out of your seat with the plays he can make,” Kealty said.

McKeen’s says: “Dynamic playmaker with elite vision and skills powered by a tireless engine and great determination. Driven to be the best and has hands and feet that are both lightning quick.”

 

4

Aleksander Barkov

C

Tampere (Finland)

 

4

5

5

Barkov scouting report: Another very young player in this draft, Barkov played a full season in Finland’s top pro league at 17 and finished ninth in league scoring in one of the most impressive performances ever by a draft eligible teenager playing in Europe. One of the top Finnish prospects in a decade, he compares favourably to Anze Kopitar, as he has shown similar size, scoring ability and defensive acumen. “He’s very polished and does all the little things,” Kealty said. “Contributes offensively and defensively.”

McKeen’s says: “Big, skilled playmaking pivot who can control the tempo of a game. Uncanny hockey sense.”

 

5

Elias Lindholm

C

Brynas (Sweden)

 

5

4

6

Lindholm scouting report: A smallish centre who plays with an edge and brings a great all-around game. Some scouts believe he has flown too under the radar and could become the steal of the draft, as he has already logged big minutes in Sweden’s top pro league despite only turning 18 in midseason. “He doesn’t back down; he doesn’t give anybody an inch,” Burstyn said. “He has a very similar disposition to Peter Forsberg. There’s just something about this guy.”

McKeen’s says: “A gifted catalyst equipped with an intuitive feel for the game. Slick and elusive in a Claude Giroux-like way.”

 

6

Valeri Nichushkin

RW

Chelyabinsk (KHL)

 

6

6

4

Nichushkin scouting report: A huge power forward with terrific skating skills, he could well be this year’s victim of the Russian factor, just as Mikhail Grigorenko was high on predraft lists but fell to Buffalo in 12th a year ago. Not helping matters, Nichushkin made it abundantly clear at the combine that he has no interest in playing in the AHL. “From a skill standpoint, he’s one of the top five guys,” Burstyn said. “But then you take in some of the other variables… He’d be a few years away anyway.”

McKeen’s says: “Dominates shifts while also disappearing for long stretches but can be a suffocating backchecker when inspired. An enticing pick given his size and offensive prowess.”

 

7

Sean Monahan

C

Ottawa (OHL)

 

7

11

7

Monahan scouting report: He may not possess the top end skill of some of those above him, but Monahan brings the type of all-around game that means he will play in the NHL even if it’s ultimately as a defensive forward. And he is coming off of back-to-back 78-point seasons with the 67’s. “A very competitive two-way guy,” Burstyn said. “If his skating improves, he could be a top six forward. But if it doesn’t, he’s like a Daniel Paille. That’s the big question mark on him.”

McKeen’s says: “A large multi-purpose forward who combines skill, grit and determination. Not flashy but fearless and highly competitive.”

 

8

Darnell Nurse

D

Sault Ste Marie (OHL)

 

9

8

11

Nurse scouting report: Getting a lot of attention for his familial relations (father Richard was a CFL receiver and uncle Donovan McNabb was an NFL quarterback), Nurse is a big, no-nonsense defenceman with good mobility who broke out in a big way offensively with 41 points in 68 games this season. “What scouts really like about this guy is he’s got high character,” Burstyn said. “Off the charts. He’s a warrior. He’ll do whatever it takes to win.”

McKeen’s says: “Strength of his game lies more on the defensive side as he projects as a shutdown guy who can match up against top lines.”

 

9

Max Domi

C

London (OHL)

 

10

9

9

Domi scouting report: Son of former NHL tough guy Tie Domi doesn’t play like his old man, and he used that finesse to lead the Knights with 87 points in 64 games in a breakthrough campaign. Small but strong, Domi has benefitted from working out with fitness guru Gary Roberts and could surprise by playing in NHL earlier than many think. “He’s got Patrick Kane like natural ability,” Burstyn said. “He just puts up points. This guy gets a lot of touches – he’s always on the puck.”

McKeen’s says: “Shifty and highly skilled possession player that owns a repertoire of slick skating moves and puckhandling maneuvers that can paralyze defenders.”

 

10

Nikita Zadorov

D

London (OHL)

 

11

7

16

Zadorov scouting report: Enormous Russian defenceman (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) made a big impact with one of the best teams in junior hockey, playing most of the season as a 17-year-old and catching the eye of scouts everywhere. Could be a significant force for Russia – which hasn’t produced a ton of top defensive prospects lately – internationally in the future. “He’s very complete already,” Burstyn said. “He’s such an unbelievable skater for his size. His blades barely touch the ice.”

McKeen’s says: “Possesses all the components to develop into a stout shutdown defender who could surprise with his offensive contributions.”

 

Honourable mentions: Rasmus Ristolainen, Alexander Wennberg, Hunter Shinkaruk, Ryan Pulock, Andre Burakowsky, Bo Horvat, Samuel Morin, Curtis Lazar

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