With the influx of NHL rookies having a major impact this season, there is little doubt as to why organizations and fans around the league are excited about the 2013 draft class. Considered one of the best groups of eligible draftees in recent years, the list of promising players is topped by potential NHL stars, but the talent also runs deep, and plenty of prospects continue to impress as we inch closer to the draft, which kicks off June 28 in Newark, N.J.
After spending the past several months on the road scouting prospects and talking to talent evaluators around the NHL, it's clear that several of this year's top draft picks could play as early as next season. Among them, Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and Seth Jones remain the top three, though Drouin has replaced Jones as my No. 2 prospect. In terms of players on the rise, Aleksander Barkov, Valeri Nichushkin and Max Domi all vault up the rankings on the strength of solid seasons and/or impressive playoff runs.
In December, I ranked the top 30 prospects in the 2013 NHL draft. To be clear, my prospect rankings differ from my recent mock draft because the latter incorporates organizational needs and value on the draft board. The prospect rankings are solely my evaluation of which draft-eligible players project the best at the NHL level.
Following international tournaments, a season of play and some very telling recent playoff performances, I've updated and expanded my rankings. Here's a look at my top 50 prospects for the 2013 NHL draft.
Note: Statistics are updated through April 17 and reflect those for each player's current team, or, if the prospect played fewer than 10 games for his current team, the team he played the most games with during the 2012-13 season.
TEAM: Halifax (QMJHL)
MacKinnon gets a raw deal from many based on his play in the World Junior Championships, where Canada used him in a limited role. The bottom line is that he is a special player with outstanding skills who is suited for the NHL. Specifically, his speed is dangerous -- especially his quickness -- which is critical in winning short races in today's game. His hands are equally quick, and, similar to many star players, he makes puck decisions before he has possession. While there are other players in this draft class with perhaps better individual puck skills, MacKinnon's are more than adequate for him to thrive in the NHL. He carries himself like a veteran. Plus, as a high-character individual, he has qualities that teams look for when building a roster around a franchise player.
TEAM: Halifax (QMJHL)
Drouin possesses elite offensive hockey sense and the ability to make plays both off the rush and from tight checking situations. He finished just shy of the QMJHL scoring title after playing considerably fewer games. (Plus, he's tallied 15 points in eight playoff games.) Overall, he has elite individual puck skills and is the most creative player in the draft. The NHL team that selects this winger will get a player who will find chemistry with his linemates and create magic on offense.