The NHL Draft is scheduled for Sunday, June 30. The following is one man's opinion on who gets drafted in the first round.
Team: Colorado: Player - Nathan MacKinnon (Halifax), C
Notes: This is the pick that until recently everybody assumed Colorado would use to select defenseman Seth Jones. At first, it seemed like Joe Sakic and the Avalanche front office could've been bluffing about selecting a forward over Jones, but they haven't backed off that statement, so it's hard not to take them at their word. MacKinnon is a guy with high-end scoring ability and expects to play at the NHL level in 2013-14 and it appears the Avs covet his skill set over Jones.
Team: Florida: Player - Seth Jones (Portland), D
Notes: MacKinnon, or another one of the top forwards, would fill a big need for the Panthers, but if Jones isn't snagged by the Avs then Florida GM Dale Tallon should be thrilled. Jones has the size, skill and poise to be an elite NHL defenseman and Colorado is taking a big risk if they let the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones fall to No. 2.
Team: Tampa Bay: Player - Jonathan Drouin (Halifax), LW
Notes: Although MacKinnon is the more highly-regarded player overall, Drouin actually turned in a better season than his linemate in Halifax in 2012-13. Drouin was named the CHL's most valuable player this season after posting 105 points (41 goals, 64 assists) in 49 games. MacKinnon projects as more of a pure sniper at the NHL level, while Drouin is considered more of a creative playmaker. He's the kind of guy who could be an excellent fit alongside Tampa's resident sniper, Steven Stamkos.
Team: Nashville: Player - Aleksander Barkov (Tappara), C
Notes: The son of a former Russian national team player, this Finnish forward is the top-rated European prospect in the 2013 draft. Barkov already has NHL size at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds and scouts believe he can be a valuable two- way pivot at the NHL level. The 17-year-old Barkov played among men in the SM- Liiga -- the top Finnish professional league -- in 2012-13 and finished second on Tappara with 48 points (21G, 27A) in 53 games. He could step in a play a role for the Predators as early as this season.
Team: Carolina : Player - Darnell Nurse (Sault Ste. Marie), D
Notes: Believed to be the second-best defensive prospect in this year's draft behind Jones, Nurse is the Canadian nephew of former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb. Listed by Central Scouting at 6-foot-4, 185 pounds, Nurse is still growing and is said to have all the tools to be a two-way force in the NHL. Carolina desperately needs a difference-maker at the back end and Nurse could be that guy.
Team: Calgary: Player - Sean Monahan (Ottawa), C
Notes: This is the first of three Calgary picks (6, 22, and 28) in the first round and the Flames may try to use that glut of early selections to move up in the draft. Although the Flames, who are clearly entering a rebuilding phase, may be better off using all three of them to restock the talent pool. Monahan, a centerman noted for his solid overall game, has been likened to Colorado forward Gabriel Landeskog and could fill one of Calgary's several immediate needs.
Team: Edmonton: Player - Valeri Nichushkin (Chelyabinsk), RW
Notes: This is the first year since 2009 that Edmonton doesn't have the No. 1 overall pick, which the Oilers used to select three straight blue-chip forward prospects (Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov). Unless Oilers president Kevin Lowe can move up to get either Jones or Nurse, it looks like Edmonton will add another talented forward to an already impressive group. Nichushkin, however, plays a different style than Hall, Nugent-Hopkins or Yakupov, as he uses size more than finesse. Already 6-foot-4 and 202 pounds, the smooth skating Russian looks like a prototypical power forward and he could bring another dimension to Edmonton's already dangerous offense.
Team: Buffalo: Player - Elias Lindholm (Brynas), C
Notes: Lindholm played the entire 2012-13 season for Brynas at the Swedish Elite level and was a finalist for Rookie of the Year in the country's top professional league. The Sabres were ranked 22nd in the NHL in offense last season and could use an influx of talent up front. Lindholm may not be a prolific scorer at the NHL level, but has a polished overall game and could help Buffalo out immediately.
Team: New Jersey: Player - Hunter Shinkaruk (Medicine Hat), C/LW
Notes: The Devils went from a Stanley Cup finalist in 2011-12 to not qualifying for the postseason this season and could lose several forwards to free agency this summer. Shinkaruk is an undersized but versatile forward who can play either left wing or center. He has drawn comparisons to current NHL star Zach Parise, who the Devils lost to free agency last summer, for his ability to create in the offensive end while playing a responsible overall game. He could jump into the Devils lineup in the fall and contribute right away.
Team: Dallas: Player - Rasmus Ristolainen (TPS Turku), D
Notes: This Finn expects to be the first European defenseman taken in this year's draft and boasts a similar skill set to Jones and Nurse. Listed at 6- foot-3, 201 pounds, Ristolainen has played among men for TPS of the SM-Liiga in each of the past two seasons and spent the entire season at Finland's top level in 2012-13. While he has similar size and offensive skill to both Jones and Nurse, those players are believed to further along than Ristolainen in terms of playing responsibly in their own zones. The Stars could use a two-way threat on their blue line and Ristolainen would be the likely play at 10.
Team: Philadelphia: Player - Nikita Zadorov (London), D
Notes: The Flyers are infamously known for their aversion to Russian players, but beggars can't be choosers and Philly is still looking for someone who can replace Chris Pronger's sizeable presence on the blue line. Zadorov, a Russian playing for London of the OHL, is said to have a mean streak to his game like Pronger and he could fit the bill for Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren.
Team: Phoenix: Player - Bo Horvat (London), C
Notes: Although not an explosive skater with a dynamic skill set, Horvat is plays a strong two-way game and he could fit well under Dave Tippett's defense-first system in Phoenix. He does have the size and ability to be an above-average scorer in the NHL, but his play in his own zone, and his knack for winning faceoffs is what will attract Phoenix to Horvat.
Team: Winnipeg: Player - Samuel Morin (Rimouski), D
Notes: Morin is listed by Central Scouting as 6-foot-6, 202 pounds, but this enormous defenseman is still considered to be a raw talent. Still, his size, physicality and skating ability could prove too difficult for Winnipeg to pass up.
Team: Columbus: Player - Alex Wennberg (Djurgardens), C
Notes: Another player who played with much older players in Sweden last season, Wennberg ranked second among junior players in goals and assists in the country's No. 2 pro league. Probably needs to bulk up a bit before making the jump to the NHL, but at this spot he could be Columbus' best bet to improve its offense.
Team: NY Islanders: Player - Ryan Pulock (Brandon), D
Notes: After losing defenseman Mark Streit to Philadelphia, the Isles could use a replacement on the blue line and Pulock, who possesses possibly the best slapshot of this year's defensive prospects, may be able to help in that regard.
Team: Buffalo: Player - Max Domi (London), C
Notes: The son of former NHL enforcer Tie Domi is nothing like his father, as he relies on his skill, not his fists, to intimidate the opposition. At 5- foot-9, he is small player with a strong center of gravity and tremendous playmaking skills. He could prove to be another solid addition to Buffalo's sagging offense.
Team: Ottawa: Player - Curtis Lazar (Edmonton), RW/C
Notes: Ottawa was one of the best defensive teams in the NHL this past season, but ranked 27th in scoring. Lazar is projected as a solid, two-way player in the pros, although there's is some question about his offensive upside. This would be safe pick, but the Sens have to like his all-around game and versatility.
Team: Detroit: Player - Josh Morrissey (Prince Albert), D
Notes: At 6-feet, 186 pounds, Morrissey isn't the biggest defenseman, but he makes up for that lack of size with terrific skating ability. After losing Nicklas Lidstrom to free agency last summer, the Red Wings could use a defenseman and with guys like Jones and Nurse out of Detroit's reach, Morrissey could be the best available D-man left.
Team: Columbus: Player - Adam Erne (Quebec), LW
Notes: A skilled offensive player who is still learning how to use his size (6-foot-1, 210 pounds), Erne could play an important role on the Blue Jackets, provided he is developed properly.
Team: San Jose: Player - Anthony Mantha (Val d'Or), RW
Notes: Has an NHL-ready frame at 6-foot-4, but could use a bit of seasoning and time to add weight. The Sharks don't need the help on offense immediately and could wait for Mantha's overall game to develop. And no, he is not related to former NHL journeyman defenseman Moe Mantha.
Team: Toronto: Player - Frederik Gauthier (Rimouski), C
Notes: Although some scouts question Gauthier's offensive upside at the NHL level, he is a big kid with a strong skating stride who loves to help out on defense. The Leafs need help up the middle and Gauthier could be capable of playing a third or fourth-line role for the club in the near future.
Team: Calgary: Player - Zach Fucale (Halifax), G
Notes: Whether of not the Flames can talk longtime goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff to put off retirement for another year, Calgary needs to add a netminder at some point in this draft. Fucale is not only the top goaltending prospect in this draft, he's also the most NHL-ready.
Team: Washington: Player - Valentin Zykov (Baie Comeau), LW
Notes: Washington selected winger Filip Forsberg in the first round last year, but traded the Swedish prospect away to Nashville for forward Martin Erat at the most recent trade deadline. They could restock the pool with Zykov, a Russian winger who won the QMJHL's Rookie of the Year Award in 2012-13.
Team: Vancouver: Player - Kerby Rychel (Windsor), LW
Notes: The son of former NHLer Warren Rychel is a relentless forechecker with the ability to knock guys off the puck. He could be a good fit for new head coach John Tortorella's system in Vancouver.
Team: Montreal: Player - J.T. Compher (U.S. NTDP), C
Notes: The Canadiens have been criticized for a lack of grit at times and this American centerman could bring that element to Montreal. Scouts also rave about Compher's hockey sense, a good attribute to have when playing for the beloved Habs, who boast some of the smartest fans in the league.
Team: Anaheim: Player - Morgan Klimchuk (Regina), LW
Notes: Said to be a pure sniper, Klimchuk jumped from 18 goals for Regina in 2011-12 to 36 markers last season. He could come in handy if the Ducks ever deal Bobby Ryan, who always seems to be on the trading block.
Team: Columbus: Player - Ryan Hartman (Plymouth), RW
Notes: Despite being listed as 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, Hartman's excellent physical game is what scouts talk of the most. Again, the Blue Jackets could use all the help it can get up front and Hartman could prove to be a valuable addition.
Team: Calgary: Player - Madison Bowey (Kelowna), D
Notes: Bowey is a raw defenseman with tremendous skating ability and could be a few years from helping Calgary at the NHL level. With their rebuilding project still seemingly in the early stages, the Flames have time to wait for him to develop.
Team: Dallas: Player - Emile Poirier (Gatineau), LW
Notes: The Stars acquired this pick in the deal that sent Jaromir Jagr to Boston and Poirier's offensive skill set could make him a bargain at No. 29.
Team: Chicago: Player - Nicolas Petan (Portland), C
Notes: The recently crowned-NHL champions preach puck possession and Petan could fit easily into the Blackhawks' system. Listed at 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, the highly-skilled centerman will only be available this late due to his lack of size.