This is my first mock draft of 2013. The Jackets are in a prime position to finally rebuild their team properly, armed with a trio of first round picks. New GM Jarmo Kekalainen is a draft guru, so the team is in good hands.
The draft order is based off of standings prior to the start of games on the 20th of Febraury, 2013. There will of course be movement up and down between now and the draft, this is a first iteration. My picks are based off of a combination of personal live and television viewings, available scouting reports, and draft rankings from various outlets.
Without further ado:
1) Columbus Blue Jackets: C Nathan MacKinnon, Halifax Mooseheads QMJHL
With the first pick of the draft, the Jackets grab the impact forward they so desperately need.
2) Washington Capitals: D Seth Jones, Portland Winterhawks WHL
Jones is the foundation with which to build the next great Caps team.
3) Florida Panthers: C Aleksander Barkov, Tappara Finland
The Panthers are a mess, but are flush with high-end prospects. Barkov gives Florida the top flight center they need feeding pucks to Jonathan Huberdeau.
4) Buffalo Sabres: LW Jonathan Drouin, Halifax Mooseheads QMJHL
Drouin arguably has the best hands and offensive instincts in the draft. He gives the Sabres another prolific scoring winger to compliment Thomas Vanek.
5) New York Islanders: C Elias Lindholm, Brynas Sweden
The Isles would love to add a stud defender, but they go with the best player available here. Lindholm is another top forward to add to their growing stable.
6) Winnipeg Jets: C Sean Monahan, Ottawa 67's OHL
With Mark Scheifele and now Monahan, the Jets are in good shape up the middle in the near future.
7) Calgary Flames: LW Hunter Shinkaruk, Medicine Hat Tigers WHL
The Flames take a Western Canadian boy, a high-scoring winger who adds much-needed offense to Calgary's organization.
8) Colorado Avalanche: D Nikita Zadorov, London Knights OHL
The Avs swing for the fences in taking Zadorov. He's huge, and has very good offensive ability. He needs work in his own zone, but has a ton of potential.
9) Columbus Blue Jackets (Los Angeles Kings): D Rasmus Ristolainen, TPS Finland
New GM Jarmo Kekalainen goes with familiarity here. Ristolainen plays in Finland's top league, where Kekalainen was most recently the GM of Jokerit. Familiarity aside, Ristolainen is the total package on defense.
10) Philadelphia Flyers: D Ryan Pulock, Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL
The Flyers are flush with great young forwards, but things aren't so rosy on the blueline. Pulock gives the Flyers a big upgrade at the position.
11) Edmonton Oilers: D Josh Morrissey, Prince Albert Raiders, WHL
You have to think the Oilers finally turn their attention to the blueline with the first round pick. Morrissey would combine with Justin Schultz to give the Oil a pair of offensive-minded defenders who can quarterback the powerplay.
12) Minnesota Wild: C Frederik Gauthier, Rimouski Oceanic QMJHL
Gauthier gives the Wild another high-end offensive forward. He's got good size and playmaking ability. A perfect compliment to Mikael Granlund.
13) Detroit Red Wings: RW Valeri Nichushkin, Chelmet Russia-2
Nichushkin is already the enigma of the draft. Some have him in the top five, others out of the first round. The issue is consistency with Nichushkin. He's got undeniable skill and size, but whether or not he can bring it all together is another story. In Detroit, he'll have Pavel Datsyuk to teach him the ropes.
14) Dallas Stars: RW Anthony Mantha, Val D'Or Foreurs QMJHL
The Stars are one of those teams that can use a bit of everything. Mantha offers Dallas a top offensive talent.
15) Columbus Blue Jackets (New York Rangers): C Max Domi, London Knights OHL
In need of high-end offensive punch, the Jackets use their third pick in the first round to nab Domi, one of the OHL's scoring leaders. He's in an excellent program in London and has NHL bloodlines. The Jackets' brass will have had various opportunities to see him while keeping tabs on current prospect Josh Anderson.
16) Tampa Bay Lightning: LW Valentin Zykov, Baie-Comeau Drakkar QMJHL
The Lightning have serious firepower up front, but Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St.Louis aren't getting any younger. Zykov gives the Lightning another sniper to pair with Steven Stamkos. Tampa has shown a willingness to draft Russians with their high picks recently.
17) Carolina Hurricanes: D Darnell Nurse, Sault St. Marie Greyhounds OHL
Nurse gives the Hurricanes a physical defender who plays a smart, steady game. He would make a great defense partner for Carolina prospect Ryan Murphy, who likes to pinch into the play.
18) Phoenix Coyotes: RW Nick Sorensen, Quebec Remparts QMJHL
It was only after reviewing this mock draft that I realized that this pick would give the Coyotes two of the most talented Danes to ever suit up in the NHL. The other is of course, Mikkel Boedker. Sorensen would give the Dogs a top offensive forward, who can join Boedker, Martin Hanzal and Oliver Ekman-Larsson as the core of the team.
19) St. Louis Blues: RW Curtis Lazar, Edmonton Oil Kings WHL
The Blues have lots of talent in the top six. They could really use a player like Lazar, a two-way player who can contribute in all three zones and be a fixture on the third line. He has enough offensive ability to moonlight in the top six. He's an intangibles guy.
20) San Jose Sharks: D Robert Hagg, MODO Jr. Sweden
The Sharks are in a tailspin. A quick look at their organizational depth reveals a need for a high-end blueliner. Hagg is a minor steal at the 20th spot.
21) Ottawa Senators: C Bo Horvat, London Knights OHL
The Sens have slowly built a great young blueline, but could use more up front. Enter Horvat, a prolific scorer with London of the OHL.
22) Toronto Maple Leafs: LW Jacob De La Rose, Leksand Sweden-2
De La Rose is a power forward winger, who goes through defenders, rather than around. He would bring an element currently lacking in Toronto- a physical winger who can score.
23) Vancouver Canucks: C Alexander Wennberg, Djurgardens Sweden-2
Wennberg is steadily climbing up draft charts. The Canucks are a well-rounded organization, but Wennberg gives them another weapon up front.
24) Boston Bruins: RW Ryan Hartman, Plymouth Whalers OHL
I can't think of another player who's a better fit than Hartman in Boston. He was a treat to watch at the CHL Top Prospects game, throwing a pair of huge hits and playing the style of hockey that Bruins fans are used to seeing.
25) Nashville Predators: C Nicolas Petan, Portland Winterhawks WHL
The Predators have never possessed a true sniper, outside of the basket case that is Alexander Radulov. Petan is undersized, but he puts up serious points.
26) New Jersey Devils: G Zach Fucale, Halifax Mooseheads QMJHL
The first goalie taken in the first round, the Devils have their man when Martin Brodeur hangs ‘em up.
27) Pittsburgh Penguins: D Mirco Mueller, Everett Silvertips WHL
The Penguins have some excellent young defensemen in the pipeline, and Swiss blueliner Mueller adds to the group.
28) Montreal Canadiens: LW Adam Erne, Quebec Remparts QMJHL
Erne was once a candidate to be a top-ten pick. The Remparts collapse, combined with a mid-season suspension by coach Patrick Roy lowered his stock. Nonetheless, he remains a talented offensive forward, something the Habs can definitely use.
29) Anaheim Ducks: C J.T. Compher, USNTDP USHL
Compher is a two-way forward committed to the University of Michigan. The Ducks can afford to be patient on him, given their depth elsewhere in the organization.
30) Chicago Blackhawks: LW Morgan Klimchuk, Regina Pats WHL
The Hawks are loaded, plain and simple. Klimchuk gives them another offensive weapon.