The 2013 NHL entry draft is just around the corner, which means that the league's worst teams in 2012-13 will have opportunities to fill their rosters with talented prospects.
Though the teams with lottery picks have a much better chance at improvement, a deep class has once again been put together. Some of these prospects are sure to make an impact.
The event is set to be held in the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. on June 30, but let's not waste any time in breaking down a mock draft of what will happen next Sunday.
1. Colorado Avalanche: Seth Jones, D
This pick seems to have been set in stone for some time.
One of the best defensive prospects in a generation, Seth Jones has the complete package to turn into an All-Star defenseman at the next level. With all his type, if he struggles, it would be seen as a complete shock.
The Avs already boast a strong line of forwards including Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and Gabriel Landeskog, who seem to be potential future franchise players. But the one thing they're missing is a franchise defenseman.
2. Florida Panthers: Nathan MacKinnon, C
The Panthers have a lot of talent to choose from with pick No. 2, but they'll end up going with a can't-miss prospect in Nathan MacKinnon.
MacKinnon executes his game just as well on defense as he does on offense, which is saying something considering his attacking presence. He'll be a top-flight player in the NHL before too long.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning: Jonathan Drouin, LW
Perhaps the most lethal offensive power in this draft class, Jonathan Drouin will be headed to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The thought of this kid teaming up with Steven Stamkos for the foreseeable future is dangerous, to say the least. His vision, puck skill and versatility will make him a star in the league.
4. Nashville Predators: Aleksander Barkov Jr., C
If he weren't just 17 years of age, Barkov might be going No. 1 overall, despite Seth Jones' upside.
Barkov is a generational offensive talent who has all of the makings of a top-six forward in the NHL. The Preds looked lethargic on offense for much of last season, so that will be priority No. 1, and Barkov fits the mold.
5. Carolina Hurricanes: Valeri Nichushkin, LW/RW
With experience playing in the Kontinental Hockey Leauge, Valeri Nichushkin will be ready to contribute immediately, and that will garner him a high draft pick.
His 6'4", 200-pound frame is reminiscent of Joe Thornton's, and we've seen just how much success he's had with his big-bodied advantage. But Nichushkinhas the background of an Alexander Ovechkin or Evgeni Malkin, which should make a general manager sweat if he can make that pick at No. 5.
6. Calgary Flames: Elias Lindholm, C
Lindholm might be the next Swedish star in the NHL due to his well-rounded game and immense hockey IQ.
The Flames will be happy they took Lindholm when his cerebral play leads the team to many victories. He would be a great candidate for the upcoming rebuilding project set to take place in Calgary.
7. Edmonton Oilers: Bo Horvat, C
Each of the forwards who went before him were well-rounded players, but Horvat's two-way play gives him his biggest advantage.
He's spent time as a defensive specialist but has always found a way to make an impact on the score line. As of late, he's proved to be a much more dangerous scorer than was once believed.
The Oilers are stout with prospects at the wing positions, but they need to add centers to fill out their future lines. Horvat would be a solid option.
8. Buffalo Sabres: Darnell Nurse, D
Darnell Nurse isn't a prototypical defenseman like Seth Jones, but he's set to become an invaluable member of the Buffalo Sabres. Nurse is the second-best defenseman in the draft, and he'll bring some much-needed intensity to the Sabres.
9. New Jersey Devils: Sean Monahan, C
Sean Monahan boasts vision and playmaking abilities beyond his years. He'll fall into a good spot with New Jersey, which isn't starved for prospects and will be able to allow him to use his own learning curve.
10. Dallas Stars: Hunter Shinkaruk, C/RW
No player in this draft is better at taking advantage of his teammates' big plays than Hunter Shinkaruk. He's always a major threat to score, and that game-breaking talent is what the Stars are currently missing.
11. Philadelphia Flyers: Rasmus Ristolainen, D
The defenseman from Finland knows how to lay the lumber, but that's far from his only asset. At 6'4" and 200 pounds, he has the size to protect the defense and serve as a longtime anchor for the Flyers.
12. Phoenix Coyotes: Curtis Lazar, C
Lazar is a hard-working player with a lot of grit and heart. He won't blow opponents away with his skill, but he won't allow them to push him around, either.
This is just the type of player who the Coyotes want, and they'll prove it by picking him at No. 12.
13. Winnipeg Jets: Nikita Zadorov, D
Nikita Zadorov makes the other defensive prospects in this class look tiny. His 6'5" frame allows him to play with strength and physicality that very few NHL players can match.
The Jets are still recuperating their prospect base after a troubling time as the Atlanta Thrashers, and it's not often that a player of Zadorov's presence is available at No. 13.
14. Columbus Blue Jackets: Max Domi, C
The undersized center makes up for his small frame by playing to his biggest advantages, which are speed and elusiveness. Domi might not turn into a player who can handle the rigors of the NHL, but if he does, he could end up having a great career.
15. New York Islanders: Ryan Pulock, D
The Islanders are in desperate need of an offensive defenseman who can handle the pains of playing a two-way game in the NHL, and they'll luck out if Ryan Pulock is on the board for them. The 6'0", 210-pounder has a knack for putting great shots on the net from the blue line. He's not overly physical, but that shouldn't concern New York.
16. Buffalo Sabres (from Minnesota Wild): Valentin Zykov, LW
The Sabres' biggest need is on defense—their eighth-overall pick of Darnell Nurse is proof of that—but they aren't set at forward, either. They could use some goal scoring, and that's exactly what Zykov has after showing up the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 29 goals as a rookie.
17. Ottawa Senators: Frederik Gauthier, C
The Senators aren't desperate to fill a certain need, but they'll benefit from selecting Frederik Gauthier. The big-bodied center towers at 6'5" and weighs 210 pounds, which is sure to strike fear into opponents. He has the potential to be a No. 2 center and is hard to push off the puck.
18. Detroit Red Wings: Adam Erne, RW
The Wings would have loved Gauthier, but with him off the board, Adam Erne is a solid pick. Like many Red Wings, he's a hard-working player with a high motor who feeds off earning his scoring chances.
19. Columbus Blue Jackets (from New York Rangers): Josh Morrissey, D
The Blue Jackets will look to add a formidable offensive threat to their blue line with this pick, which makes Josh Morrissey a fantastic option. His swift approach to the game pays off on defense, but his decision-making in the offensive zone must improve. Columbus will have time to make sure it does.
20. San Jose Sharks: Pavel Buchnevich, LW
The Sharks only averaged one goal per game in their four losses to the Los Angeles Kings that bounced them from the playoffs, so goal-scoring production is a major issue. Not on a nightly basis, but it needs to be shored up.
Buchnevich is a pure offensive player who doesn't bring much to the table other than goal scoring, so it's a match made in heaven for San Jose.
21. Toronto Maple Leafs: Alexander Wennberg, C
The Maple Leafs will look long and hard at centers with this pick, but they won't be able to pass up on Wennberg. He's a great two-way player who still has some coming out to do once he enters the league.
22. Calgary Flames (from St. Louis Blues): Robert Hagg, D
The Flames passed up on an opportunity to take a franchise defenseman earlier in the draft in Darnell Nurse at No. 6, but they'll still get great value with this pick. Hagg is a dependable blueliner with the ability to quarterback a power play.
23. Washington Capitals: Anthony Mantha, LW
Anthony Mantha fits the mold of a Joe Thornton or Logan Couture; he's a big-bodied forward who uses power to his advantage. Mantha may take some time to develop his strength in the NHL, but he'll have a great support system to do so.
24. Vancouver Canucks: Kerby Rychel, C
The Canucks are sound offensively, but the chance to develop Kerby Rychel into the next wave of top-six forwards in Vancouver is way too good to pass up. He put up back-to-back 40-goal seasons in the Ontario Hockey League and has the physicality to stand tall in the NHL.
25. Montreal Canadiens: Jason Dickinson, C/LW
Jason Dickinson emerged as one of the best two-way players in the Ontario Hockey League, and that will allow him to get a first-round pick here for a playoff team. The Canadiens have their fair share of elusive talent, and Dickinson will serve as a great alternative since he excels at all of the fundamentals.
26. Anaheim Ducks: Samuel Morin, D
We've talked plenty about imposing defensemen in this draft, but the party doesn't begin until 6'7" Samuel Morin walks in and hits his head on the door frame.
He doesn't possess the elite skill tools of some of the other first-round blueliners, but as a work in progress, he could turn into a top-four defender for the newly risen Ducks.
27. Columbus Blue Jackets (via LA Kings): Andre Burakovsky, LW
The Blue Jackets are on the cusp of perennially making the playoffs, and these three first-round picks won't hurt. With pick No. 27, they'll get a highly skilled player in Burakovsky who can bring the playmaking skills that the team has lacked since trading Rick Nash.
28. Calgary Flames (via Pittsburgh Penguins): Madison Bowey, D
Madison Bowey's statistics won't jump off the page, but he's already shown an NHL-ready game that will show when he makes his Flames debut. It's not a sure-fire selection, but going boom-or-bust at pick No. 28 after already making two first-round picks isn't a huge gamble.
29. Dallas Stars (via Boston Bruins): Jacob de la Rose, LW
De la Rose is a fearless player who gets in all of the traffic jams, but he won't be scoring any game-winning breakaway goals. Still, every team needs its grinders, and this would be that type of pick for Dallas.
30. Chicago Blackhawks: J.T. Compher, C
Not just any skilled NHL-worthy player can join the Blackhawks and thrive. It takes a player with a certain skill set and hockey IQ, and Compher has both, as he'll turn into a third or fourth-liner.
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