Speed, skill, power. If you're an NHL team looking for an instant impact and potential franchise player, those characteristics top the list - and Nathan MacKinnon has all three.
He's unanimously considered to be the most explosive offensive player in this year's deep draft class and MacKinnon stands a very good chance to be a difference maker at the NHL level right out of the chute. MacKinnon has ideal NHL size, is a powerful skater and can finish plays in the blink of an eye. Simply put: he's the total package that teams look for in high-end draft picks.
There's virtually no way MacKinnon slides out of the top three of this NHL Draft, so either the Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers or Tampa Bay Lightning will be feeling pretty good about themselves walking off the stage with MacKinnon in tow. Obviously, we don't know what kind of trades will take place at the draft so another team could jump into the fray, but let's assume for now that these teams remain where they are.
As part of a dynamic 1-2 punch with the Halifax Mooseheads, MacKinnon and teammate Jonathan Drouin (also a projected top-three pick in this draft) completely re-energized the Mooseheads franchise and brought an exciting, offensive style of hockey every single night.
Winning the Vezina Trophy is an enormous accomplishment for 24-year-old Sergei Bobrovsky, but a new opportunity born from change may be even bigger.
Coming from an organization which signed him out of Russia and helped put him on track to become a solid, young NHL goaltender, Bobrovsky perhaps needed a change of scenery and a new challenge to jump-start his career after things got stale for the Flyers following the 2010-11 season. It was deemed time for change between the pipes and Bobrovsky was no longer "the guy."
He continued to work - that's pretty much his hallmark, if you talk to goaltending observers around the sport - and push forward in pursuit of getting another crack at being a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL. When he was traded to the Blue Jackets a year ago, his life and career completely changed.
Perhaps exactly what Bobrovsky needed was to take the reins of the Blue Jackets and be part of the club's extensive remake that began at the 2012 NHL Draft, selecting Ryan Murray at No. 2 overall and selecting two other young goaltenders to form a solid pipeline for the organization. A few weeks later, it was the acquisitions of Nick Foligno, Adrian Aucoin, and then the blockbuster deal with the New York Rangers that brought three players and a first-round draft pick back to Columbus.
The re-shaping was in full swing, and when John Davidson came aboard in October, there was a new confidence and attitude instituted.
At just 18 years old, Jonathan Drouin has already been compared to NHL stars Martin St. Louis and Pavel Datsyuk. Though these comparisons are lofty, the praise is well-deserved.
Drouin was off to a slow start due to injury this year but he had people’s heads turning and mouths dropping all season. Because of his impressive 105 points in the regular season for the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, Drouin was named the CHL Player of the Year and the QMJHL’s Most Valuable Player. He carried that momentum into the QMJHL playoffs, where he was awarded the MVP of the postseason for posting 35 points in 17 games.
Drouin didn’t rack up the awards and accolades without reason. His impeccable vision allows him to find his teammates, including top-three NHL Draft prospect Nathan McKinnon. Without each other, Drouin and McKinnon would not be the players they are headed into June 30. Simply put, they made the other a better player.
At 5-foot-10, size has been the main question surrounding Drouin’s potential. However, he plays bigger than his size, eliminating those doubts from everyone’s minds. When Drouin is on the ice, he puts on a show, making defenders look motionless and goalies look helpless.
Emile Poirier took the second half of this season by storm for the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques.
He led his team to a first-round upset of Rimouski Oceanic in the Presidents Cup, the QMJHL's league playoff tournament, but lost to the eventual Memorial Cup champions from Halifax in the second round. He also posted 70 points, with the majority coming during the home stretch of the season.
Though he has an awkward skating stride, Poirier has had his share of breakaway goals thanks to his quick reaction and pick-up speed. His ability to walk around defensemen with balance and ease creates offensive chances, and with his quick puck-handling skills and breakout speed, Poirier is a player that defensemen can’t leave alone in the zone.
Poirier plays a great two-way game, willing to back-check and pressure the attacking forwards relentlessly. His vision allows him to disrupt passing lanes, creating the occasional odd-man breaks and scoring chances for his teammates. Poirier is also known to drop the gloves to defend and energize his teammates, which is something you just can't teach.
Near the top of Darnell Nurse's list of attributes is an athletic pedigree.
His mother, Kathy, was basketball player and dad Richard was a wide receiver with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League. Oh, and his uncle is former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb, making for quite the lineage when it comes to performing on the field.
The standout defenseman for the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds just completed his second season of junior hockey, both with the Greyhounds, and the 2012-13 season was his strongest to date. Nurse netted 12 goals and 41 points in 68 games played, leading the Soo defense in a season that was anything but ordinary: the Greyhounds fired coach Mike Stapleton on Dec. 3 and replaced him with Sheldon Keefe, who brought a track record of success and experience with Hockey Canada with him to the club.
The Greyhounds qualified for the OHL playoffs for the first time in three years in 2012-13, and a large part of that was due to stability on defense that allowed for a strong puck possession style of hockey. Nurse is known as a solid skater with a high hockey IQ, and a guy that can shut down offense as well as make plays of his own.
He's a monster, too: Nurse checks in at 6-foot-5 and a shade under 200 lbs., giving him an NHL-type frame that he's only going to further grow into. Scouts have regularly compared his game to that of Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber, and those lofty comparisons are not without merit.
Though listed at No. 32 in this year’s final rankings for the NHL Draft, Morgan Klimchuk is considered one of the most underrated players in the 2013 draft class.
Klimchuk won a gold-medal win for Team Canada at this year’s IIHF World Under 18 Championship tournament, playing on the team’s top line and top power play units. Though his team, the WHL’s Regina Pats, did not make the playoffs, Klimchuk posted impressive and consistent numbers throughout the season, totaling 76 points in 72 games.
Klimchuk is a talented sniper with a sharp wrist shot and dangerous one timer. His ability to read plays allows him to set up for a quick shot or give his teammates an excellent scoring opportunity. NHL teams in search of offense will covet his sharpshooting ability because it is such a rare talent to teach.
Teams in the market for a steady, smooth-skating defenseman (read: many teams) may find themselves taking a long look at Mirco Mueller at the 2013 NHL Draft.
A year after his Everett Silvertips teammate and former defense partner Ryan Murray was selected No. 2 overall by the Blue Jackets, Mueller finds himself to be on the radar of several NHL clubs as draft day approaches. The 17-year-old native of Switzerland started to garner significant attention last season, as he stepped up and played big minutes after Murray's season-ending shoulder surgery in November.
The 2012-13 season was Mueller's first in North America after playing two seasons in Switzerland's Kloten organization, both with the big club and the junior squad. Mueller, who checks in at 6-foot-3 and roughly 180 pounds, has room to grow into his NHL-style frame but displayed an advanced, mature game as one of the younger players on Switzerland's 2013 World Junior tournament team.
Mueller was the 12th-ranked North American skater on NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings and finished the draft year ranked No. 9, putting him in prime position to be a top-15 pick when the draft begins at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Elias Lindholm, a highly-regarded Swedish center, is ranked third on NHL Central Scouting’s final list of 2013 European draft prospects. He has a hockey pedigree with two of his family members drafted into the NHL: his dad Mikael Lindholm was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings and his cousin Calle Jarnkrok was drafted in 2010 by the Detroit Red Wings.
Lindholm, however, is considered to be the best of the three. The skilled pivot helped Sweden win the silver medal in both the 2013 World Juniors and 2012 IIHF Under-18 Championships.
The points he posted are among the best for a Swedish player going into the draft in several years, making him an intriguing prospect in this NHL draft, a class widely considered to be deep and rich with NHL caliber players. As the go-to center for Brynas in the Swedish Elitserien, he put up 30 points in 48 games - and over half of those points came from assists.
Physically, Lindholm isn’t afraid to be a grinder and win puck battles along the boards. He has great patience with the puck, finding passing lanes, small openings and possesses the special ability to create chances when it appears there's no opportunity.
This from the NHLPA's statement on proposed rule changes (specifically grandfathering the mandatory use of visors for the 2013-14 NHL season) by the Competition Committee, which met earlier this week in Toronto:
"Under the proposal, players who have played less than 25 NHL regular season or playoff games in their career by the end of the 2012-13 season, would be required to wear a visor. If given the green light by the NHLPA Executive Board and the NHL Board of Governors, the grandfather visor rule would come into effect for the start of the 2013-14 NHL season. The full NHLPA/NHL Competition Committee have agreed to meet next week to develop the transition rules regarding visor use."