2013 NHL draft: Scouts preview the top 10 prospects

Kelly Friesen

Back by popular demand, Buzzing the Net has teamed up with scouts from independent scouting services to put together a top-10 prospects list of the 2013 NHL draft class.

Even though the Colorado Avalanche has already said they’ll take a pass on him with the first pick of the draft, Portland Winterhawks star defenceman Seth Jones topped the ranking based on a consensus.

Halifax Mooseheads snipers Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin slotted in past Jones without any debate. But after that, opinions greatly varied to complete the list.

Thanks to Yahoo Canada Sports’ friends in the scouting industry, here is a look at BTN’s official draft ranking.

1. Seth Jones, defence, Portland Winterhawks (WHL) —Jones is a winner if there ever was one. He not only led Team USA to gold at the world junior championship, but he also carried the Winterhawks to an Ed Chynoweth Cup in his rookie season. His swagger and sheer ability to lead is possessed by few and far between in the NHL, let alone this draft.

What separates Jones from past high-end defensive prospects is his ability to control a game. The 6-foot-4, 206-pounder can slow down and speed up the pace of the game with his impeccable instincts and strong skating. In addition, he is poised to be a power-player quarterback and a catalyst on the penalty kill in pros. These appealing aspects of his game combined with his workhorse endurance have elicited comparisons to Chris Pronger.

If the Avalanche’s statement of going for a forward isn’t a bluff, it seems the Plano, Texas, native will be Florida-bound with the Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning holding the next picks behind Colorado in that respective order.

Scout’s take: “Jones is an elite skater in every facet including balance, acceleration, power and the manner in which he is able to pivot should make the transition to the NHL easier next season,” says former NHL scout and Mckeen’s Hockey head scout David Burstyn. “His puck skills are also very polished as he can mount an attack on his own just as easily as he can execute a first pass. Jones possesses a sonic boom of a point shot that is not only laser quick but dangerously accurate. Jones is, however, still raw and developing defensively as he has an impulsive nature as he is constantly looking to aggressively close his gaps with his mobility, but at times does not always drive through his checks.”

2. Nathan MacKinnon, centre, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) — The Cole Harbour, N.S., isn’t the next Sidney Crosby, but rather the first Nathan MacKinnon, a player who possesses unlimited potential and an uncanny competitive nature.

The bigger the game, the bigger performance you can expect from MacKinnon. After scoring 11 goals and 33 points in 17 playoff games, the 5-foot-11, 179-pounder scored a hat trick and two assists in the MasterCard Memorial Cup final against the Winterhawks to lead his club to sweet victory.

Even though it’s nearly impossible to suggest MacKinnon is ahead of Drouin or vice versa on paper, all of the scouts BTN talked to said there is no question MacKinnon has the edge on his teammate. Therefore, it seems the 17-year-old will be looking at housing prices in Denver sooner than later.

Scout’s take: “MacKinnon is a very complete, hard-working player who seems to do everything well,” says McKeen’s Hockey scout Rick Springhetti. “As a skater, he is a rare mix of speed, power and mobility who sees openings quickly and pounces in them in an instant which really complicates things for opponents as they need to be square on him to contain him properly. As a centre, he seems to know exactly when to be aggressive or when to back off and be responsible in his assignments. Although he doesn’t seem huge, his core strength is very impressive, and when he has a chance, he can dish out hard hits.”

3. Jonathan Drouin, wing, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) — Drouin wasn’t widely regarded as a top-10 prospect last year as he only suited up in 33 games for the Mooseheads after waiting until nearly midseason to commit to major junior. A 41-goal, 105-point season, strong showing for Canada in the WJC, and a Memorial Cup ring later, there is no debate on whether he will have his name called early in the draft.

Although it seems the comparison is somewhat forced because most believe Drouin is going to be selected with the third pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning, the 5-foot-11, 176-pounder has elicited comparisons to Bolts playmaker Martin St. Louis. They, however, do share some similarities. Both players have incredibly soft hands, a real knack of being at the right place at the right time, and make players around them better.

Scout’s take: “Drouin is quick skater who makes sharp and fluid turns and is one of the most dynamic players I have seen when he has control of the puck,” says Springhetti. “His great passing and puckhandling abilities are taken to another level due to his ability to see what everyone is doing on the ice, process that information quickly, and make great decisions with the puck. Although he may seem a little frail, opponents have quickly realized that he is difficult to knock off the puck or even contain as he possesses great balance and good lower-body strength.”

4. Aleksander Barkov, centre, Tappara (SM-liiga) — Barkov was a teenager among men in the Finnish Elite League the past two years, but the 17-year-old looked anything but out of place. After learning the ropes last year, the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder blossomed into a star for Tappara this season, showcasing his elite vision, puck support, drive, and physicality; he scored 21 goals and 48 points in 53 games. Barkov’s speedy development, along with his large frame and raw offensive talent has drawn some comparisons to Los Angeles Kings star Anze Kopitar.

It is believed the Nashville Predators will select Barkov, who is ranked the top European skater by NHL Central Scouting Service, with the fourth pick in the draft. Stranger things, however, have happened at the draft than Barkov jumping ahead of Drouin or sliding.

Scout's take: "Barkov is a big and powerful forward who loves the middle of the ice,” says Dennis MacInnis, International Scouting Services’ director of scouting.” He’s a strong all-around player with tremendous hockey IQ and the playmaking ability to amplify the skills of those around him. He has elite vision with the puck and can at times seem like he has eyes in the back of his head. He plays a good physical style and generally proves to be responsible in his own end as well. He could use more strength and maybe work on his foot speed, he lacks explosiveness, but like I said he is a very complete prospect without glaring holes.”

5. Valeri Nichushkin, wing, Chelyabinsk (KHL) — Even though Nichushkin passed on the CHL import draft last minute last year to stick in Russia, his draft has stock stayed steady as a top-10 prospect. There is, however, a real chance Nichushkin could drop heavily in the draft because of the “Russian factor,” especially since he is keen on playing in the KHL until he makes the jump to the NHL.

Nichushkin is hyped as a boom-or-bust draft pick. If the 6-foot-4, 202-pounder finds consistency in his game and reaches his full potential, he could develop into the top player in the draft. At the other end of the spectrum, if he becomes a hit-and-miss performer and runs to the KHL when things aren’t going his way in North America, the team that drafts him could relive the Columbus Blue Jackets’ nightmare with Nikita Filatov.

Scout’s take: “He's already a pro and depending on the team that picks him up he could be ready to provide immediate support,” says International scouting Services’ head scout Ross MacLean. “He's big, very strong on the puck and has excellent creative offensive skills. He's a strong competitor who wants to win and seems to have success with every team he's a part of.”

6. Darnell Nurse, defence, Sault. Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL) — Nurse’s ceiling isn’t as high as Jones’, but he does have a similar complete game. The Hamilton, Ont., native has the size, standing 6-foot-4, 192 pounds, offensive talent, scoring 12 goals and 41 points in 68 game, a chip on his shoulder, racking up 116 penalty minutes, and mobility.

Nurse comes from a family of athletes. His father, Richard Nurse, played for the Hamilton Tiger Cats in the Canadian Football League. His uncle, Donovan McNabb b, is a former National Football League quarterback. His mother and two sisters, meanwhile, played basketball at the college level.

Since the Edmonton Oilers hold the seventh pick in the draft and desperately lack talent on the back end, it seems Nurse could be Alberta bound.

Scout’s take: “His one-on-one defending ability, mean mentality, punishing hits, and leadership qualities has drawn comparisons to Chis Pronger,” says Steve Cocker, who is an Ontario-based scout for ISS. “Nurse in the top 10 would be absolutely no surprise as he has shown incredible athleticism and overall potential to be an anchor on an NHL blueline down the road. He may not be able to step into an NHL lineup next season as Seth Jones will have the chance to, but looking 5-10 years down the road, I personally don't see Darnell being far off from Jones in terms of them both being household names on the blueline."

7. Sean Monahan, centre, Ottawa 67’s (OHL) — Monahan was regarded as the draft’s third best prospect behind Jones and Mackinnon in BTN’s summer ranking. His draft stock, however, has since taken a bit of a dive. The 6-foot-2, 193-pounder scored the same amount of points as his sophomore season, netting 31 goals and 47 assists for 78 points in 58 games. Keep in mind, though, he had far less accomplished wingers this past season than he did in his first two seasons, when he regularly played with AHL rookie of the year Tyler Toffoli, who also contributed to the Los Angeles Kings' playoff run this spring.

Although there are some clean-cut differences between Monahan and Philadelphia Flyers centre Sean Couturier, such as the 67 is a faster skater and isn’t as lanky, they do have some similarities. Both players fell in draft rankings and have the skills and tools to develop into strong second-line centres. Couturier was selected eighth overall in 2011 after initially garnering top-3 talk.

Scout's take: “Monahan is one of the smartest players in the draft,” says Grant McCagg, who is a correspondent/scout with The Hockey News. “He sees the ice very well and has elite vision and playmaking skills, and is especially lethal on the power play when he has time and space. His above average vision and anticipation makes him very effective in his own end as well. His skating is a minor issue as he needs work on his first step and overall quickness. He’s not overly aggressive, but he’s not afraid to get his nose dirty.”

8. Elias Lindholm, centre, Brynas (Elitserien) — Lindholm leads Swedish prospects in the 2013 draft class. The 6-foot, 192-pounder, who turned 18 in December, made a successful and impressive transition from the junior ranks to the Swedish Elite League this year, potting 11 goals and 30 points in 48 games on a struggling Brynas club.

Hockey runs in the family for Lindholm. His father, Mikael Lindholm, was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in 1987 and went on to play 18 games for them. His cousin Calle Järnkrok, meanwhile, was drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft by the Detroit Red Wings.

Scout’s take: “Lindholm is a very talented all-round forward who can play either wing or center,” says Göran Stubb, who is a Sweden-based scout for NHL Central Scouting Service. “Elias is a very good and hardworking skater with first-step quickness. His stick work and vision is excellent. He is, perhaps, a bit underrated for the draft as he had a tough season. His team, Brynas, was struggling during the 2012-13 season and it was not easy for a young talent to carry the team.”

9. Hunter Shinkaruk, wing/centre, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL) — Following scoring 49 goals and 91 points in 66 games last year, all signs pointed to Shinkaruk going on to be a top 10 pick in the 2013 draft. But after struggling through nagging minor injuries and taking a dip in point production with 37 goals and 86 points in 64 games, the 5-foot-11, 175-pounder is a bit of a wildcard.

Shinkaruk’s great attitude, maturity, and work ethic makes him a “safe” pick. The Tigers captain is well beyond his years, looking to ways such as PowerPoint and motivational books to improve his on-ice production. This type of strive for success is priceless in his future transition to the pros.

Scout’s take: “Shinkaruk is a gifted offensive player with excellent scoring instincts and puck presence, there is a lot he can offer,” says MacLean. “As good as Shinkaruk is technically, it's the intangibles he brings that are what truly make him an elite prospect in my mind. In my experience working with high-performance athletes, I can't recall a player who loves his sport as much as Shinkaruk. His passion and dedication will take him as far as he wants to go. You can guarantee that he will immerse himself in whatever organization drafts him and will take it on himself to make them better."

10. Bo Horvat, centre, London Knights (OHL) — Horvat doesn’t possess as much raw skill as the other forwards ranked in BTN’s top 10; he earned his keep by being a dominant force at both ends of the ice. The 6-foot, 204-pounder not only scored 33 goals and 61 points in 67 games, but he was also voted the second best faceoff man and top shot blocker in the OHL’s Western Conference poll.

Scout’s take: “Horvat is a coach’s dream,” says McCagg. “He brings high intensity and an intelligent two-way game to every game. He’s a proven winner that scores big goals, is relentless, has a strong work ethic and anticipatory skills makes up for a lack of foot speed. He is one of the grittier first-round talents that has character, leadership and a competitiveness that makes him one of the most desired prospects of the draft. He also has high-end vision and playmaking skills which makes him a complete player.”

Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen.