WJC studs – 2013 draft

Some of the hyped 2013 draft eligible players didn’t necessarily show very well in Ufa, like Nathan MacKinnon (hockey IQ issues?) and Aleksander Barkov (too slow?), although this will probably not adversely affect their elite status in the draft. But there were also some players who may see their draft stock go up, because of their strong play in the WJC U20 tournament. Here are my top four picks, based on their recent performance, and why the Blue Jackets should consider drafting them later this year.

Seth Jones – USA, Defenseman

I must admit that I was somewhat questioning all the hoopla surrounding Seth Jones. Sure, I knew that he was a big, strong d-man with a cannon of a shot, but did he really have the kind of hockey IQ that is needed to become a great NHL defenseman? Well, count me as one of his biggest fans after spending a little more time watching him on the ice. Jones was the defensive rock of this WJC American team together with Jacob Trouba, and I am not sure that I have ever seen a big guy being such a fast and smooth skater. His positioning is excellent and his reach and size is such that he forces the opposing forwards away from the scoring areas. I know that MacKinnon is the favorite to go No. 1 this year, and he is clearly a very unique player, but if I go by what I have seen in Ufa, Seth Jones is the best 2013 draft prospect. Jones had 1 goal, 6 assists and plus-8 rating and was just simply a beast.

Jonathan Drouin – Canada, Forward

With 2 goals and 2 assists and a plus-5 rating, Drouin was by far the most positive surprise on the Canadian team. His combination of speed, soft hands and terrific on-ice vision is very uncommon and he was thriving in the pressure packed atmosphere of the World Juniors. The fact that he was getting some serious first line minutes on a team that had high caliber NHLers like Nugent-Hopkins speaks for itself. If Drouin continues on this path he may even pass his Halifax teammate Nathan MacKinnon as the best forward in the draft.

Elias Lindholm – Sweden, Forward

I knew that Lindholm was a very interesting draft prospect and he confirmed this to be true with his solid play at the WJC. Elias has explosive speed coupled with great playmaking and a compete level that is second to none. Furthermore he is very smart with the puck, knowing when to hold on to it, when to pass and when to take it to the net. He loves to battle in the dirty areas, but he is also a great back checker and penalty killer. You sometimes hear the phrase "a complete player" and in Lindholm’s case this is an accurate description. With 2 goals and 2 assists and a minus-1 rating, Elias Lindholm made a real offensive impact for Sweden in addition to his physical defensive play.

Robert Hagg – Sweden, Defenseman

With Sweden’s three best defensemen Oscar Klefbom, Jonas Brodin and Hampus Lindholm out for the tournament, Hagg was leaned on heavily by the Swedish coach Roger Ronnberg to play against the opposing team’s best players. The 6’-2", 200 pound defenseman was simply brilliant in shutting down Nail Yakupov in the Semis and has grown leaps and bounds over the last year as a prospect. In addition to his shut down ability he is a very capable two-way defenseman with great hockey sense. He actually reminds me a lot of Adam Larsson, the very talented New Jersey Devils player, although that comparison may be a stretch. To be a really good NHL prospect he still needs to improve his foot speed, but he is by no means slow. Hagg has now cemented himself as a legitimate first round pick in the draft, possible going as high as top 15. He had 1 goal, 1 assist and a minus-1 rating in the tournament.

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