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2013 NHL Mock Draft: Nathan MacKinnon, Seth Jones lead first round

SI Now: NHL draft prospects on who will be first pick
On Friday's SI Now, Sports Illustrated's Maggie Gray talks with top NHL draft prospects on who they think will be the first pick in this weekend's draft.

This year's event promises to be more memorable than most. There's a good chance that a major star (or two) in the midst of a contract squabble will be swapped, but even nothing short of a blockbuster could steal attention away from a pool of young talent that many scouts have called the best since the epic 2003 class.

"This group, especially at the top, is the best we've seen in years," said a Western Conference scout. "We'll have to wait and see how well it [matches up to 2003], but there are a number of kids with the potential not just to star in this league, but to be really exceptional players. They'll be challenging for awards...maybe leading their team to a Cup down the road."

"It's not just the top end [that's exciting]," said another. "There's a lot of depth. There are going to be players coming from late in the first and well into the second. This is a good year to have a lot of picks."

Several teams have loaded up in anticipation of hitting the jackpot. Columbus and Calgary each have three picks in the first round. Buffalo and Dallas will select twice.

Who they'll choose, though, is tough to predict.

There's a consensus that the first four players selected will be forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, and Alexander Barkov, and defenseman Seth Jones. The order in which they'll be picked is up for debate.

HACKEL: Jones question adds intrigue to draft day

"Our guys made a case for three of them to go [first overall]," said an Eastern Conference scout of his team's internal debates. "They were pretty good arguments, too."

After that group though, the floor is wide open. Most teams have adopted a Best Player Available approach, but every team's definition of the BPA is sure to differ. And with so many passionate arguments being made for favorite players, we could see a number of trades in the first two rounds as teams jockey to acquire the apple of their eye, or add assets in exchange for a pick if they're not sold on anyone when it's their turn at the podium. It's going to be a busy day.

Here's how I see it playing out on Sunday:

 
1
Nathan MacKinnon
C TEAM: Halifax - QMJHL
BORN: Cole Harbour, NS, CANADA
AGE: 17HT: 6-0WT: 182
   
If you take Joe Sakic at his word, the Avs will overlook the "local boy makes good" narrative when making this franchise-defining pick. It won't be easy to pass on top-ranked Seth Jones, but given the track record of defenders taken first overall, MacKinnon is a safer bet to emerge as an elite player. There's been a lot made of his success in the Memorial Cup as being the tipping point in the debate. That's true, to a point. Several scouts pointed to his domination of the QMJHL playoffs as the reason they believed him to be the best choice. "You want to see a kid step up his game at [that] time of the year," said one. "He has that killer instinct. When the other team is down, he won't let them up." MacKinnon is a shoot-first center who can beat a goalie from anywhere on the ice with power or finesse. He has that burst of quickness and remarkable lateral agility that gets him past defenders into the prime shooting areas. "If you want a comparison to [Sidney] Crosby, look at his legs," said one scout. "So much power down there already and he's only going to get stronger." It's worth noting that he's almost a full year younger than Jones. Given the benefit of that extra development time, this race wouldn't have been so close.
 
2
Jonathan Drouin
LW TEAM: Halifax - QMJHL
BORN: Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, QC, CANADA
AGE: 18HT: 5-10WT: 186
   
The Panthers have taken a defender with their first rounder in four of the past six years, with Calder-winner Jonathan Huberdeau the only forward tabbed during that span. Adding some skill up front to bolster the league's second-worst offense has to be their focus. I think they have their eyes on Drouin or Sasha Barkov, so I'll be surprised if GM Dale Tallon doesn't try to trade down to three or four in order to secure the forward he really wants while adding a sweetener for giving up the second overall pick. If he sticks at two, look for him to tab Drouin, the CHL Player of the Year and the only one to average two points per game. "He's got the best hands and the best hockey sense of any player in junior hockey," said a scout. "He scores goals, but it's his ability to create plays that sets him apart. You know, you talk about needing time and space to make something happen, right? He needs less of that than anyone. Just the briefest opening and the puck's in the back of the net." He's the consensus choice as best hands and best stickhandler in his class. "He works the puck like Picasso used paint," offered one eloquent observer. "He thinks at a whole different level."
 
3
Seth Jones
D TEAM: Portland - WHL
BORN: Plano, TX, USA
AGE: 18HT: 6-4WT: 205
   
I'm tempted to say that there is no known universe in which Jones falls lower than three, but GM Steve Yzerman showed last year that he wasn't afraid to go with his gut over the rankings when he took Slater Koekkek at 10. Barkov could tempt him here, but I think Yzerman decides there's nothing wrong with employing two big, franchise-caliber defensemen. Don't look at Jones dropping as a reflection on anything he did, or didn't do, over the final months of the season. He's still regarded as the complete package, a puck-moving defenseman blessed with speed and exceptional lateral ability that makes him dangerous at both ends of the ice. He has exceptional defensive awareness and a healthy nastiness to his game. He's still raw and probably needs some time to work on the finer points, but that time will also buy him time to get bigger and stronger. "He's the best [defensive] prospect since Chris Pronger," a scout said.
 
4
Aleksander Barkov
C TEAM: Tappara - FINLAND
BORN: Tampere, FINLAND
AGE: 17HT: 6-2WT: 205
   
The top-rated international skater could be the guy to make the Preds abandon their low-boil approach to prospect development if he's still there at four. The 17-year-old man-child appears to be NHL-ready after netting 48 points in 53 games to finish ninth in the SM-Liiga scoring race, and could (eventually) be the premier first line center that Nashville needs to complement a solid array of wingers already in its system. Barkov comes with impressive papers -- his father played 22 seasons as a high-end scorer in Russia and Finland -- and a natural aptitude for the game. "He can stickhandle in a phone booth," said one scout, betraying his age, "but he's not selfish about it. He knows when to dish and when to drive the net." The same scout raved about Barkov's two-way game: "He reads the play so well, he's always in the right place. He'll be a premier penalty killer." The only knock on Barkov is his skating. "It's average at best," the scout said. "If he was just a tick faster you'd hear a lot more talk about [taking him first overall]."
 
5
Elias Lindholm
C TEAM: Brynas - SWEDEN
BORN: Boden, SWEDEN
AGE: 18HT: 6-0WT: 191
   
The odds are against Carolina making this choice -- GM Jim Rutherford is actively shopping it in search of immediate defensive help -- but whoever's in this slot will be hard pressed to pass on Lindholm, who reminded one scout of Washington's Nicklas Backstrom. He scored 30 points in 48 games as an underager with Brynas, and while some scouts expressed doubt that he'll be able to score at an elite level in the NHL, he was universally lauded as a gritty, two-way performer who plays much bigger than his size. "Never gives up, never takes a shift off," a scout said. "He's a character guy who should develop into a solid second-line center."
 
6
Sean Monahan
C TEAM: Ottawa - OHL
BORN: Brampton, ON, CANADA
AGE: 18HT: 6-2WT: 186
   
With three picks in the first round, the Flames are looking to package a couple of them to move up and maximize their draft-day impact. If that can't be worked out, they'll be happy to nab Monahan here. He's a skilled forward who managed to score 78 points in each of the past two seasons with the 67s. What's interesting about that is he was surrounded by a lot of talent during his rookie season, but still put up the same total this year despite playing on one of the worst teams in the CHL. That's impressive, and suggests that his numbers would be significantly higher if he hadn't faced top defenses on his own every night. "He didn't have the guys around him who could take advantage [of his playmaking skills]," a scout said. "Get him around better players and his hockey sense really stands out." Monahan is one of those rare players who can slow a game down, a skill that's obvious when he's on the power play, and he's dedicated to his defensive responsibilities. "Doesn't matter if he has the puck or not," the same scout said. "He plays the game the right way." The question about Monahan is upside. While there are scouts who see him developing into a solid second liner who can finish as well as make plays, others wonder if he tops out as a high-end checking center. I don't see that scaring off the Flames.
 
7
Darnell Nurse
D TEAM: Sault Ste. Marie - OHL
BORN: Hamilton, ON, CANADA
AGE: 18HT: 6-4WT: 185
   
One Western Conference scout said he would bet on the Oilers taking a forward with this pick. I don't think so. After grabbing forwards with their last five top picks, I think they're looking at a big defender, and I think it's going to be Nurse over Rasmus Ristolainen. Either would be a good choice here, but Nurse has impressed me all season. He's impressed a lot of scouts, too. "Watch the way he imposes himself physically now and it's easy to imagine the kind of damage he'll do when he finishes filling out," a bird dog said. "He loves the physical side of the game. He's a natural at it. You can see him as the No. 2 on a shutdown pair." While most of the attention focuses on his defense, Nurse's offensive game might be the difference-maker here. He started showing some confidence in the second half when the Greyhounds' staff gave him more responsibility. He looked comfortable joining the rush or setting the team into transition with a quick, accurate pass. "It's all about opportunity with him," the scout said. "He can make plays, and you can see the upside. I think you'll see him develop that [offensive aspect of his game]. But even if that doesn't come together, he still has that nasty edge to his game that every team wants."
 
8
Valeri Nichushkin
LW TEAM: Chelyabinsk/Chelmet - RUSSIA
BORN: Chelyabinsk, RUSSIA
AGE: 18HT: 6-4WT: 196
   
The Sabres took a chance on an enigmatic Russian in 2012: Mikhail Grigorenko. Will they do it again? Some scouts say Nichushkin may be the top prospect in this year's class, bar none. With a power game that maximizes his size and strength, he's expected to be an NHL point producer, maybe as soon as next season. He's said to be a top playmaker, but not a stereotypical Russian foward. He'll bowl defenders over. He has a great shot, makes the most of his linemates, is diligent on the backcheck, effective without the puck, blocks shots and kills penalties. He soothed concerns about his intentions by announcing that he's free to play in the NHL this fall, but raised more with a performance at the combine earlier this month that led one scout to say, "Maybe he tears up the league. Maybe he's Dustin Penner." The code is clear: underperforming; unmotivated; frustrating; risky. Teams are left to wonder if he's arrogant or has the necessary work ethic while they weigh his jaw-dropping performance at the U-18 in February and surprisingly effective effort in the KHL playoffs against grown men. Fair or not, there's no denying the Russian Factor, and his dismissive approach to the combine has raised concerns maybe enough that he'll slide. If they keep him on the board to this point, Buffalo will gladly take another slider dropped into its lap.
 
9
Max Domi
F TEAM: London Knights -- OHL
BORN: Toronto, ON, CANADA
AGE: 18HT: 5-9WT: 197
   
Tie's kid is a totally different cat than his pugilistic pop. Max has his dad's size (unfortunately), and his competitive edge, but sets himself apart with a high-end finesse game. "The puck seems to follow him around the ice," a scout said. "He has a way of making things happen." The same scout raved about Domi's stickhandling skills, pointing to a couple of shifts in the Memorial Cup where he paralyzed defenders with his slick hands. "You know what [Domi] can do, but he still finds a way to surprise you," the scout said. You'll hear a lot of Patrick Kane comparisons with Domi -- not a bad thing -- because of that creativity with the puck and his ability to quickly shift directions. He doesn't have quite the same scoring touch, but he might have stronger legs and play a more determined game." He's fearless in traffic and he's so strong on his feet ... he's really tough to knock off the puck. Once he heads to the net, he usually gets there ... and he can do some pretty special things." With Zach Parise and (likely) David Clarkson gone, and Patrik Elias on the way out, the Devils could use an injection of pure skill up front. Domi is the obvious choice.
 
10
Rasmus Ristolainen
D TEAM: TPS Turku - FINLAND
BORN: Turku, FINlAND
AGE: 18HT: 6-4WT: 207
   
The Stars made several deals over the course of the year with an eye on overloading their cache of blueline prospects, so there's a chance they may be eyeing a forward with this pick. But new GM Jim Nill advocates a best possible athlete philosophy, so it's hard to imagine Dallas passing on a high-skill, two-way defender who Nill might be able to plug into the lineup as soon as next season. Ristolainen has some Shea Weber in his game. "The size, the skating, the edge, it's all there," a scout said. And he can eat the minutes. He was a stalwart for a bad Turku team last year, averaging more than 25 minutes a game and serving as the team's top blueliner while playing against men. "He's a beast," wrote another. Like Weber, he excels in transition. He can move the puck smartly, join the rush and create chances with his passing or a heavy blast from the point. Add that he's a right-hand shot, an element in short supply in this organization, and he seems like the right fit.
 
11
Nikita Zadorov
D TEAM: London Knights - OHL
BORN: Moscow, RUSSIA
AGE: 18HT: 6-5WT: 221
   
This could be a tough choice for Paul Holmgren. Faced with a desperate need for an infusion of talent on the blueline, he has his pick of two players who seem ideally suited for the black and orange. Samuel Morin is a fast riser and could easily get the call here, but the smart money is on Zadorov, who was dangerous from the moment he joined the Knights. "He's a physical threat who forces the opposing team to keep their heads on a swivel at all times," wrote a scout. "He's a punishing hitter and he's willing to drop the gloves if the situation calls for it." Another scout praised Zadorov's mobility and his active stick. "He's surprisingly quick for his size, almost nimble," he said. "He's aggressive in his own end, quickly taking away time and space. He'll play a shutdown game in the NHL, but is beginning to develop a two-way game. He has a heavy shot, but he needs to be smarter about when to use it." Big and mean. Perfect for Philly.
 
12
Bo Horvat
C TEAM: London Knights - OHL
BORN: Rodney, ON, CANADA
AGE: 18HT: 6-0WT: 206
   
I've never been this high on Horvat myself --I see him more as late first-rounder -- but several scouts are sold on the versatile forward as being greater than the sum of his parts, with his defensive commitment making him a perfect fit for the Coyotes. "There's not a lot of flash to his game," one said, "but there's so much determination." Horvat excels on the draw, and always finishes his checks, "so at worst he's a 15-20 goal defensive center who can anchor your [penalty kill]," a scout said. "But I think he's the kind of kid who has the size and net drive to give you a little more [offense]. His puck skills improved [over the course of the year] and he's got the eye to make plays in traffic."
 
13
Anthony Mantha
RW TEAM: Val D'Or Foreurs - QMJHL
BORN: Longueuil, QC, CANADA
AGE: 18HT: 6-4WT: 190
   
The only 50-goal scorer among draft-eligible players, Mantha hasn't completely won over scouts. "There's a bit of Eric Daze in his game," said one, echoing the concerns of others who have questioned Mantha's work ethic. "Some nights there's just no intensity. Not as often [as last season], but you're still left wondering how bad he wants it." No questions about his talent. He's "toolsy," an ideal mix of size, quickness, on-ice vision and a great shot that made him the QMJHL's top goal-scorer. Despite his big build, he's not particularly physical. He relies on a nasty wrister and heavy slapper to do most of his damage from outside the hashmarks. "He's a natural, a terrific shooter with a deceptive release," a scout said. "He'll put it on the net from anywhere on the ice. He's a volume shooter." He also seems to have worked on other elements of his game that came under fire. "He's more engaged along the boards and in his defensive responsibilities," the same scout said. "He has to keep working on these things and he needs to develop an inside game. He's got to make it a priority to get to the middle of the ice. If he does, he can be a premier scorer." Winnipeg needs some touch. With the proper coaching, Mantha could be a steal.
 
14
Hunter Shinkaruk
F TEAM: Medicine Hat Tigers - WHL
BORN: Medicine Hat, AB, CANADA
AGE: 18HT: 5-10WT: 181
   
He has his detractors. There are concerns about his size, and maybe more important, his inability to improve on last season's offensive numbers makes some scouts wonder how much of his previous success was due to skating alongside Anaheim first rounder Emerson Etem. But there's no denying that he brings some world-class offensive talent to the table. One scout compared Shinkaruk to David Perron, and in terms of his ability to dazzle you with a burst of speed or offensive creativity, that's pretty accurate. But there's more consistency to his game and a more reliable compete level that earned him the captain's C in Medicine Hat. Shinkaruk "carried that team a lot of nights," a scout said. "He sets the tone off and on the ice. He's small, but he has a lot of battle in him. He's fearless in traffic. He's terrific in pursuit [of the puck] and has some feathery soft hands to finish plays once he gets it." He projects as a top-six scoring winger, a quality the Jackets need more of.
 
15
Zach Fucale
G TEAM: Halifax - QMJHL
BORN: Rosemere, QC, CANADA
AGE: 18HT: 6-1WT: 181
   
He may be gone by this point (the Devils could be interested with Martin Brodeur likely to retire within the next 10 years or so), but if he's still here, I think the Isles jump on him as a franchise-type goaltender who could help guide them to the Cup. "He's a winner," a scout said. "The [Under-18] tournament, the Memorial Cup ... he gets into these big games and he's unflappable. They bring out his best." Fucale is a classic butterfly goalie, whose style comes with a great degree of efficiency. "He doesn't make the spectacular save because his positioning is so strong," a scout said. "He stays within himself, doesn't get to scrambling around because he trusts his technique. His teammates pick up on that calmness and it sets a tone." Several scouts mentioned his side-to-side quickness, glove hand, and rebound control, but they were most enthused about his reads. "He sees the play so well. Tremendous vision," wrote one. "He understands the options that the puck carrier has, and that allows him to react quickly and correctly as the play develops." Said another: "I don't know how much more refined his technique can get. But you know he's going to get bigger, stronger, more confident [as he gets older]. He's going to be special."
 
16
Samuel Morin
D TEAM: Rimouski -- QMJHL
BORN: Lac-Beauport, QC, CANADA
AGE: 17HT: 6-6WT: 202
   
With their second pick in the round, the Sabres can afford to take a player who left scouts raving over his raw potential. Of course, the graveyard of Drafts Past is littered with prospects whose limitless futures were never realized, so this choice isn't without risk. Morin's size is his obvious hook. He's already 6'-6" and projected to play at 230 to 240 pounds. He's developing a physical edge, but that's not his bread and butter. He's more effective now gaining position and angling off the attacker. He's a smooth skater (even without adding "for his size"), but he still has some work to do in that area to make himself more effective in his own zone. He's got an emerging offensive game based on some surprisingly nimble hands. He makes good decisions with the puck and moves it effectively. He's a project -- probably four years, at a minimum -- but the potential for true greatness as a reward for that patience will be too great for the Sabres to pass up.

Pick acquired via trade with Minnesota

 
17
Alexander Wennberg
C TEAM: Djurgardens -- Sweden
BORN: Nacka, SWEDEN
AGE: 18HT: 6-1WT: 174
   
The Sens have had pretty decent luck drafting out of Sweden lately, so a sliding Wennberg is an easy call at 17. He plays an up-tempo style with a bit of an edge that makes him an ideal fit in Ottawa. His two-way game would allow him to fill multiple roles on the team, but he's best known for his fearless offensive forays that see him blowing by defenders and crashing the net. "He does his best work down low," one scout said. "He scores a lot of his goals on tips and rebounds. He's not afraid of contact, that's for sure." Said another: "He has tremendous vision. He's got soft hands, but it's the way he reacts to the play unfolding in front of him that really makes him effective."
 
18
Ryan Pulock
D TEAM: Brandon -- WHL
BORN: Grandview, MB, CANADA
AGE: 18HT: 6-0WT: 211
   
Pulock was drafted as a center then converted to a defender by the Wheat Kings, which would explain his offensive instincts. And when you see his shot, you understand why the team moved him to the blueline. He might have the hardest slapper in the Dub, a screaming howitzer of a shot that once was clocked at 101 MPH. "He can really let it fly," said a scout. "He's good off the rush, too. He's straight-line quick and very confident with the puck. And while he has that great shot, he doesn't think 'shoot first.' He reads the play well and can make smart plays." Pulock could be a big boost to an NHL power play. While he was able to rely on his offense in the past, he worked hard to round out his defensive game. He's physical, but not a banger. He uses his big body to gain position and muscle opponents off the puck instead of destroying them. He has decent mobility, but needs to work on his cuts so he can react more effectively when forwards try to turn him inside out.
 
19
Curtis Lazar
F TEAM: Edmonton -- WHL
BORN: Vernon, BC, CANADA
AGE: 18HT: 6-0WT: 190
   
I may be a little lower on Lazar than some mocks. That's a reflection of my concerns about his ability to score at the next level. "I'm not sure he's a center in the NHL," a scout said. "He'll have to prove he can be as effective [offensively] on the wing. Whether he's a 30-goal man or not, Lazar is sure to be a player. He plays the sort of responsible, two-way game that makes him valuable in any situation. As another scout noted, "He plays a hard, 200-foot game. He competes as hard in his own end as he does five feet from the net. He has a quick release and a good, hard shot that makes him effective on the outside, and he's willing to drive the net [to be] dangerous down low." Lazar has a rep as a team-first guy and a great leader. Those are qualities that should appeal to the new-look Blue Jackets.

Pick acquired via trade with New York Rangers

 
20
Adam Erne
LW TEAM: Quebec -- QMJHL
BORN: North Branford, CT, USA
AGE: 18HT: 6-0WT: 210
   
Word is that teams are willing to overlook the discipline problems Erne had earlier this season and focus on his potential as a middleweight power forward. "No one is crazy about his skating, but he gets to where he needs to be," a scout said. "He'll bang and crash his way along the boards and then head to the net. Definitely one of those guys that demands you keep your head up or he'll take it off for you. He has good hands down low. He really matured as a playmaker this year, which added a nice dimension to his game." There's a bit of Ryane Clowe evident in Erne's style, so he'd make a nice replacement in San Jose for the departed winger some time down the road.
 
21
Ryan Hartman
RW TEAM: Plymouth -- OHL
BORN: West Dundee, IL, USA
AGE: 18HT: 5-11WT: 185
   
One scout called Hartman, "a better skating Steve Ott." He's flat out miserable to play against, a gritty grinder who never takes a shift off and whose energy switch is always flipped to MAX. He's one of the elite skaters in the draft and has enough touch that some project him to eventually fill a top-six role. He's terrific on the forecheck, great on the cycle, and has that knack for finding another gear to match the importance of the game. He might be best suited for a checking/energy role, but he has the hands to chip in offensively. Add a fiery personality and natural leadership skills and he'll be a player. A scout's take: "He's got a bit of Ryan Callahan in him. He has a nasty edge to his game, but he knows when to tone it down. He's smart enough to hurt the other team, not his own...[and] he's constantly working on his game."
 
22
Michael McCarron
RW TEAM: USNTDP
BORN: Macomb, MI, USA
AGE: 18HT: 6-5WT: 228
   
Let's just call this one a hunch. The rebuilding Flames could use a hulking winger with decent hands and they don't come much bigger than McCarron. He plays a simple north/south game with the occasional stop along the boards to diminish an opponent's competitive spirit. He won't dazzle with his skating or stickhandling, though both are adequate, but that's not his thing. He simply goes to the net and dares the defense to move him. "That usually doesn't work out too well for the other guys," laughed a scout. "He's all about wreaking a little havoc with his net presence. He has a decent shot, but he causes most of his damage [with] tips and rebounds." As another wrote: "He has a nice edge to his game and makes the most of his physical dominance. He's a project, but the potential is there for McCarron to develop into a top-six power forward and a looming presence."

Pick acquired via trade with St. louis

 
23
Mirco Mueller
D TEAM: Everett -- WHL
BORN: Winterthur, SWITZERLAND
AGE: 18HT: 6-3WT: 176
   
The way his stock rose the last couple of months, it wouldn't be surprising to see him go higher. Mueller "was one of those kids who seems to get better every time you see him," said a scout. "There's not any one thing that makes him special, just an overall well-roundedness to his game." He finished second in scoring among rookie defensemen in the Dub, trailing only Seth Jones, but is not expected to be an elite scorer in the NHL. He's a player who makes good decisions with the puck and moves it out of his zone effectively, a strong skater who uses mobility and positioning to quell opposing sorties, and he can handle a heavy workload. He does all the little things well enough that scouts aren't too concerned about his wiry frame. He's pretty easy to push around now, but he should add mass and strength the next couple of years. "Ideally that weight would give him the confidence to assert himself physically," said another scout. "I don't expect him to ever play with an edge, but if he can learn to use the body even a bit, he could be a very useful piece of the puzzle."
 
24
Kerby Rychel
LW TEAM: Windsor -- OHL
BORN: Los Angeles, CA, USA
AGE: 18HT: 6-1WT: 205
   
A two-time 40-goal scorer with the Spits, the son of former NHL enforcer Warren Rychel has a little more touch, but when he's at his best he mirrors the tenacity his dad brought to the rink. "He plays a hard game," a scout said. "He plays with a lot of heart. He loves to bang, he likes the physical side of the game. And he'll drop the gloves to defend himself or a teammate." Rychel's skating is an issue -- in fact, one scout suggested that it had gotten worse this season instead of better -- but it isn't so bad that he'll slip out of the first round. "He's not a playmaker by any stretch," said another scout. "He needs someone to make the play and then he can finish it off down low. He can get his shot off quickly and he loves to battle for rebounds and tips." Rychel might be limited to a third-line role in the NHL, but the Canucks could use that kind of grit.
 
25
Valentin Zykov
LW TEAM: Baie-Comeau -- QMJHL
BORN: St. Petersburg, RUSSIA
AGE: 18HT: 6-0WT: 209
   
You always have to be aware of the risk involved with drafting Russians, especially in the first round. The fact that Zykov is regarded as a bit of an odd character hurts his standing, too. But then you look at that size, and you watch him dominate along the boards and go hard to the net, you know why he scored 40 goals as a rookie. "Some kids just want to score goals. Zykov's like that," said a scout. "He has great instincts. He loves to battle in traffic and he's really tough to contain. He pays the price to get to the net." Another scout said that he has concerns about Zykov's motivation, but added that he understood why another team would take a chance on him in the first. "He could end up being a buy who scores a lot of goals for you."
 
26
Fredrik Gauthier
F TEAM: Rimouski -- QMJHL
BORN: Mascouche, QC, CANADA
AGE: 18HT: 6-3WT: 193
   
The book on Gauthier is that he's not likely to be much of a scorer at the NHL level, but his size, strength and defensive reliability make him a safe bet to play a lot of years in the league. "He's the sort of player that's made Los Angeles so successful the past couple years," offered a scout. "You talk about being hard to play against? This kid fits the bill." That's swell, but can a team afford to take a player who's likely to top out as a third-line checker in the first round? If the Ducks are feeling a little more adventurous, they might take a flyer on a high risk/high reward scorer like Justin Bailey, but the sense is they might want Gauthier to hunker down for internecine battles with the Kings.
 
27
Josh Morrissey
D TEAM: Prince Albert -- WHL
BORN: Calgary, AB, CANADA
AGE: 18HT: 6-0WT: 186
   
A product of his father's D-Rules Hockey Academy, Morrissey has benefited from the best position-specific training available. It shows, too. He's a prototypical puck-moving defenseman, blessed with elite hockey sense and his wheels work both ends of the ice. Unfortunately, his father couldn't teach him to grow to a prototypical size for a blueliner. A bit more on his frame and he'd be a lock for the top half of the first round, but with multiple picks, Columbus can take a chance on Morrissey filling out. He'll never be physical -- he just needs to be big enough to take the pounding.

Pick acquired via trade with Los Angeles

 
28
Robert Hagg
D TEAM: MoDo -- SwedenL
BORN: Uppsala, SWEDEN
AGE: 18HT: 6-2WT: 193
   
The Flames could close out their first-round trifecta with a rugged defender who wins points for his physical play, high skill level and skating, but also drives some scouts crazy with his inconsistency. "No way I'd slot him in the first," said one. "There were nights when he looked like he'd rather be anywhere but playing the game." But there were plenty of good nights, too. Nights where Hagg's hockey sense clicked in and every play was a beauty, or where he dominated with his aggressive play in the corners and in front of the net. "You see him on a night like that and you might project him as a top-four," the scout added. "Maybe he'll work these things out as he grows up." Not the most ringing endorsement, so here's a stronger one from another scout: "Prototypical, big-bodied Swedish defender who can beat you with his physical play, his skating or his passing ... plays a reliable two-way game."

Pick acquired via trade with Pittsburgh

 
29
Jason Dickinson
F TEAM: Guelph -- OHL
BORN: Georgetown, ON, CAN
AGE: 17HT: 6-1WT: 179
   
The Stars can thank the choking Maple Leafs for this pick. If Toronto had held onto its third period lead in Game 7 of the first round, Boston would have sent Dallas a second rounder to complete the Jaromir Jagr deal. Instead, the Leafs wet the bed and the Bruins advanced to the conference semis, so they had to cough up a first rounder for a player who spent the spring driving up save percentages around the league. That's a long way of saying that this is a bonus pick ... but not a throwaway. Dickinson might not have the flashy upside of a Nic Petan, but his size and strength make him a consensus choice to play in the league. "Great skater, agile, hits top speed quickly," wrote a scout. "A creative offensive player with above-average puck skills and hockey sense. Can beat a defender one-on-one with his hands or by running over him." Concerns about Dickinson's consistency and potential to fill out enough to be effective in the NHL lower his stock, but the versatile forward is a low-risk chance worth taking for a team that could use some zazz up front.

Pick acquired via trade with Boston

 
30
Shea Theodore
D TEAM: Seattle -- WHL
BORN: Aldergrove, BC, CAN
AGE: 17 HT: 6-2WT: 178
   
There's some risk to this pick due to concerns that Theodore won't be able to add the muscle weight he needs to play at the next level and that he occasionally sacrifices his defensive game in search of offense. (That minus-60 over the past two seasons is ug-lee.) And one scout said, "I question his reads." But there's still universal agreement about a high upside to go along with that risk. "I think he'll be a really good offensive defenseman," a scout said, comparing Theodore to Washington's Mike Green. "He's a silky skater and really clever with the puck. He can beat you one-on-one, or beat you with a stretch pass. He has great vision .. he knows where his teammates are. He reads the play quickly and makes good decisions [with the puck]."
 
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