The NHL draft tends to be pretty predictable. The vast majority of top picks turn into star players. If you’re picking in the top 10, there’s a good chance you’re getting a solid player at the very least. Picks 11-20 are filled with boom-or-bust type players. You’ll get your Marek Zagrapan types, but you’ll also get the Vlad Tarasenkos of the world. After the first round, there’s no real guarantee of anything.
Of course, some drafts are better than others. The 2003 Draft is generally held as the best draft in recent years. It’s starting to look like 2013 might join that conversation.
While the 2013 Draft doesn’t have any McDavid/Crosby-level talent, it has a litany of players making an impact already. Despite the draft being just two-and-a-half years ago, every player picked in the top 10 has already seen some pretty significant playing time.
Nathan MacKinnon: The Colorado forward has easily been the best pro of the bunch thus far. With 138 points and a Calder Trophy, MacKinnon has totally justified his draft status. It really looks like Colorado has a star on its hands.
Aleksander Barkov: The Finnish forward is emerging as a star in the first half of his third season. Barkov has 28 points in 33 games played for the suddenly-dominant Florida Panthers. He has the kind of two-way talent to challenge MacKinnon for the best player from this draft.
Seth Jones: Normally great players don’t get traded in their early 20’s. This is the exception. Jones has offensive ability and is adept at moving the puck out of his own zone. With a loaded defensive corps, Nashville might not miss Jones much. But Columbus is certainly lucky to have him.
Rasmus Ristolainen: The Buffalo defenseman and eighth-overall pick is enjoying a breakout season. Ristolainen has 27 points in 42 games and drags any partner he plays with to positive possession (even black hole Mike Weber). Despite only recently turning 21, he already does everything you want out of an elite defenseman.
Sean Monahan: Monahan has 66 goals already – more than anyone else in his draft year. While it helps to play with someone as talented as Johnny Gaudreau, Monahan has shown a near-elite ability to put the puck in the net. The next step is for him to become more of a possession driver and rely less on his incredibly-talented linemate.
Elias Lindholm: The Swedish forward put up a solid 39 points in his first full season last year. But he isn’t really on pace to top that this year (he’s on pace for about 34 points). Carolina is a team in transition, almost totally devoid of high-end skill. It would be huge for them if Lindholm’s game continued to develop.
Jonathan Drouin: The former top pick has had a rough go of it thus far. He’s showed flashes of talent but hasn’t been able to earn a spot on the loaded Tampa Bay top six. It seems he might not totally see eye-to-eye with Coach Jon Cooper. However the situation unfolds, it’s difficult to see Drouin not shining once given the proper opportunity.
Max Domi: The young Coyote forward and son of legendary bruiser Tie Domi is changing the narrative of the Domi name. Despite falling to the 12th pick, Domi has 28 points in his rookie year and has helped bring the Coyotes back to respectability.
These eight players are just the ones who have made a name for themselves early in their career. Considering most of the players taken in this draft can’t legally drink in America yet, there’s a good chance many more break out in the next couple years.
Valeri Nichushkin has shown flashes for Dallas but hasn’t become a consistent scorer yet. Darnell Nurse and Nikita Zadorov have both shown promise despite playing in difficult situations. Andre Burakovsky (23rd pick) is starting to look like a steal for the Capitals. Then there’s Sam Morin, Bo Horvat, Curtis Lazar, Anthony Mantha and Marko Dano.
And that’s just the first round. We’ll be talking about this draft for a long time.