2013 NHL Mock Draft: Nathan MacKinnon is No. 1 pick

Nathan MacKinnon looks poised to be the No. 1 pick at the NHL Draft. (USATSI)
Nathan MacKinnon looks poised to be the No. 1 pick at the NHL Draft. (USATSI)

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The 2013 NHL Draft is really loaded, which makes it almost entirely unpredictable. There are so many things that could happen when everything gets started Sunday that it’s just about impossible to foresee when compiling a mock draft.

So many team executives and scouts have said 2013’s class could rival the tremendous first round of 2003, which included the likes of Eric Staal, Thomas Vanek, Ryan Suter, Dion Phaneuf, Dustin Brown, Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Jeff Carter, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler. That makes for a lot of excitement.

It also makes for some really difficult decisions. Some great players are going to get skipped in the first round. That means some top-end prospects are going to be available in the second round this year, which makes those picks just as valuable as some of the later first-round selections when it comes to making trades. There’s a group of at least 45 players who have terrific cases to be first-round selections.

Needless to say, this was a pretty tough mock draft to put together. In order to make the most educated guess possible, I took into account multiple public draft rankings from reputable outlets, public statements from general managers and tried to research draft tendencies of each executive. Note that this is different than our NHL Draft Big Board, which is a player ranking, as opposed to a prediction of draft order.

If there's one thing putting together a mock draft has taught me, those 30 picks run out really quickly. It should be a lot of fun to watch Sunday when the NHL crams the entire seven-round draft into one night.

2013 NHL Mock Draft by Chris Peters
1. Colorado Avalanche -- Nathan MacKinnon (QMJHL) - C
The Avalanche have been telling anyone with a tape recorder that the team will be taking a forward and it is likely to be MacKinnon. That is assuming Colorado doesn't trade the pick. This team probably could use Jones more now, but it's hard to fault them for wanting an elite talent up front like MacKinnon. He should make an immediate impact and is one of the draft's most explosive players overall.
2. Florida Panthers -- Seth Jones (WHL) - D
Speculation was that Colorado was trying to bait Florida into a trade for the No. 1 pick, but Florida general manager Dale Tallon has been laudatory toward Seth Jones in recent weeks. They'll "settle" for Jones and be perfectly happy with another piece to add to a promising young defensive group. He can hop into that lineup right away.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning -- Jonathan Drouin (QMJHL) - LW
Tampa is a tough team to pin down. They've talked about all four of the top forwards glowingly, but it would appear the safest bet here is Drouin. He is the draft's best playmaker and the Lightning just so happen to have an elite goal-scorer on the roster. A Drouin-Steven Stamkos connection could be really intriguing over the next several years.
4. Nashville Predators -- Aleksander Barkov (SML) - C
Predators brass has said it will take Seth Jones if he's there at No. 4, as the defenseman is No. 1 on their board. It's doubtful he will be available. Then it comes down to likely Barkov or Valeri Nichushkin. The safer and most ready of the two is Barkov. On a talent level, Barkov will be one of the most skilled picks Nashville has made in its 15 years of existence.
5. Carolina Hurricanes -- Valeri Nichushkin (KHL) - RW
Carolina has said they might deal this pick if the player they want is gone by the time its name is called at the draft. Considering Nichushkin will clearly be the best player available, he makes too much sense to let pass, even with the "Russian Factor." He'll instantly become the Hurricanes' best prospect. If he does go back to Russia for a year or two, the Hurricanes will be fine in the interim. He has potential for dominance at the NHL level.
6. Calgary Flames -- Sean Monahan (OHL) -- C
The Flames have said they want someone to come in right away and contribute next year at No. 6. It should be a lengthy debate between Elias Lindholm and Monahan in this slot. It's very close, but seeing as Jay Feaster wants someone right away, I think Monahan is slightly more NHL ready than Lindholm, who would likely need another year in Sweden.
7. Edmonton Oilers -- Elias Lindholm (SEL) -- C
New general manager Craig MacTavish might end up dealing this pick, and there will be a lot of clamoring for it based on the players who will be remaining. The Oilers have said they're looking for a center or a defenseman in this slot. If Lindholm is there, they should hold onto the pick and take him. He's got a ton of upside and plays at both ends of the ice.
8. Buffalo Sabres -- Rasmus Ristolainen (SML) - D
The Sabres are in need of defensive depth and Ristolainen would certianly shore that up quickly. Next to Jones, he is the most NHL-ready rearguard in the draft. Ristolainen has spent the last two years in Finland's top pro league. He has good hands and sound defensive skills. With two first-round picks, there's a chance Buffalo takes a chance on defensemen Darnell Nurse or Nikita Zadorov here as well, but I think Ristolainen is the safest.
9. New Jersey Devils -- Max Domi (OHL) -- C
The Devils like drafting forwards in the first round, and when they do, it's almost always a center. Domi lacks size, but he's probably the most skilled player left on the board and he plays with tenacity. The Devils are going to need some more skill in their pipeline and Domi is worth the slight risk here.
10. Dallas Stars -- Hunter Shinkaruk (WHL) - LW
Another team that could use a dose of skill in its prospect system, Shinkaruk is the most skilled remaining player on the board. Once considered a potential top-five pick, Shinkaruk has been sliding. He still has some tremendous skills and a nose for the net. He needs a little work yet and could get a bit stronger, but Shinkaruk's offensive upside is immense.
11. Philadelphia Flyers -- Darnell Nurse (OHL) - D
This could be a match made in heaven, if it happens. There's a chance Nurse will go higher as scouts just absolutely love him. He has some decent upside, but he already plays NHL-style hockey. There's a nastiness to Nurse, but he's added some more touch to his game as well. If he's here, I think Flyers scouts will be falling over themselves to get to the podium.
12. Phoenix Coyotes -- Bo Horvat (OHL) - C/W
The Coyotes have mostly shored up their defensive pipeline over the last few years at the NHL Draft and could use some forward depth. Horvat is another scout's darling, as he does so many little things well and had a surge in his second half with the London Knights. Don Maloney has mentioned center as a position he could see filling at the draft.
13. Winnipeg Jets -- Nikita Zadorov (OHL) - D
General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff is on the record saying he's leaning toward taking a defenseman or center in this slot. The best defenseman left on the board at this point is Zadorov, though I think there's a chance Winnipeg looks to a guy like Alexander Wennberg in this range at forward, too. Zadorov has such high upside, though. He's still rounding out his game, but he could be a potential top-pairing guy down the line.
14. Columbus Blue Jackets -- Alexander Wennberg (Allsvenskan) - C
First-year GM Jarmo Kekalainen was a draft wizard at previous scouting stops in St. Louis and Ottawa. He has three picks in this draft and could be the most exciting exec to watch Sunday. Wennberg is a high-upside center who has shown some good two-way ability with a lot of offensive potential. He's probably a somewhat safe play at No. 14.
15. New York Islanders -- Anthony Mantha (QMJHL) - RW
The Islanders have leaned heavily toward selecting forwards in the first round. Just a year removed from selecting defenseman Griffin Reinhart, I expect them to look offense again. Anthony Mantha scored 50 goals in the QMJHL last season and has tremendous size. I think he's a semi-risky pick at 15, but Garth Snow isn't known for playing it safe.
16. Buffalo Sabres (from MIN) -- Adam Erne (QMJHL) - LW
After looking to the blueline with the first pick, I'd assume the Sabres will dip into the tremendous scoring depth of this forward class. Erne has tumbled down some lists this year, but he has potential to be a really good power forward at the NHL level. If Buffalo gets him, he can be reunited with former junior linemate Mikhail Grigorenko in the future perhaps.
17. Ottawa Senators -- Ryan Pulock (WHL) - D
It's around this range where I think we'll see more of a run on defenseman as there are some seriously talented blueliners who would bring value in this range. There are several high-upside defenseman, but I think Pulock is least risky in this spot for Ottawa. He has an elite shot, with good offensive instincts and strong mobility. Pulock could turn into a solid all-around blueliner if he continues on this development track.
18. Detroit Red Wings -- Mirco Mueller (WHL) - D
Detroit has some solid, older forward prospects in the system who have been developing well. Bringing the focus back to defense makes sense here since Mueller is still on the board. He has terrific size and a very high ceiling. Mueller moves the puck well enough, but he's best in his own end and has a good hockey IQ. He'd be an easy call here.
19. Columbus Blue Jackets (from NYR) -- Samuel Morin (QMJHL) - D
After playing it safe with its first pick, I think this second of three first-round selections is where Columbus could take a swing on raw potential. Of all the defenseman, Morin may have the most upside, but his rawness makes him fairly risky. He's 6-foot-6, moves well and has a good physical game. He might be a gamble, but he also might be gone by this point come Sunday. Scouts really seem to love this guy.
20. San Jose Sharks -- Curtis Lazar (WHL) - C/W
Opinions on Lazar are all over the map, but I've spoken with enough scouts who see him as a sure-fire contributor at the NHL level. He had 38 goals this season in the WHL and Lazar is a tremendous skater. San Jose's prospect pipeline is a bit uninspiring. The Sharks have multiple second-round picks, so they can play it safe with Lazar here and look for more project-type players in the second.
21. Toronto Maple Leafs -- Kerby Rychel (OHL) - LW
I could see the Maple Leafs looking for a center in this position, which would make Frederik Gauthier a possibility, but I think Rychel may be too attractive to pass up here for Dave Nonis. After a 40-goal season in the OHL, Rychel is generating more buzz. He also plays with an edge and may be able to round out into a punishing, scoring power wing.
22. Calgary Flames (from STL) -- Ryan Hartman (OHL) - RW
There's a possibility Calgary could look to bolster its goaltending depth and go after Zach Fucale in this range, but Hartman seems like the kind of player Feaster really likes and wouldn't let pass by. Hartman plays with grit and has enough skill to make things happen offensively. He's tough to play against and has really grown on scouts, but might be a slight reach here.
23. Washington Capitals -- Robert Hagg (SEL) -  D
The Caps could go in a number of directions with this pick, so this is a much more shot-in-the-dark guess than some others. Getting a highly-mobile defenseman with a lot of upside would be a sound move at No. 23. However, after dealing away 2012 first pick Filip Forsberg, there might be a desire to go for a forward. Valentin Zykov or Frederik Gauthier might make sense at this slot then.
24. Vancouver Canucks  -- Valentin Zykov (QMJHL) - LW
Vancouver hasn't drafted a defenseman in the first round since 2005, and I don't think that will change this year. After his eye-popping 40-goal season in his rookie year in the QMJHL, Zykov has gotten a lot of attention. Not only that, but he has some great physical strength and adds some toughness to his skill. He could develop into a power-forward type.
25. Montreal Canadiens -- Andre Burakowsky (Allsvenskan) - LW
Burakowsky has been all over the map in terms of projections, but he is a solid playmaking winger who has a lot of potential for his offensive game to grow. He's a very good skater and would be a high-value pick in this range. Montreal could potentially look to bolster its defensive pipeline should a forward of Burakowsky's caliber not be available at this slot.
26. Anaheim Ducks -- Josh Morrissey (WHL) - D
The Ducks have some terrific forwards in their pipeline, which is why I think they can afford to look closer at defense. Morrissey is a crafty offensive defenseman, who creates well from the back end and jumps into plays. There's a chance Anaheim goes on the opposite end of the defensive spectrum and looks at a more defensively-minded guy like Steven Santini.
27. Columbus Blue Jackets (from LAK) -- Frederik Gauthier (QMJHL) - C
With their third pick in the first round, the Blue Jackets will have a variety of options, but if they take a swing with that second pick, they could rein it back in for this one. If Gauthier is still available here, it offers the Blue Jackets a high-upside forward, with size. He's good at both ends of the ice and might have a little more than meets the eye offensively.
28. Calgary Flames (from PIT) -- Zachary Fucale (QMJHL) - G
The Flames need goaltending and the only goalie in the class worth taking in the first round is probably Fucale. He may go higher, as he seems to be the consensus No. 1 netminder, but if Calgary can get him here after taking skaters with the first two picks, it makes a lot of sense. Fucale is a workhorse and the upside is there. Flames will need patience, though.
29. Dallas Stars (from BOS) -- Steven Santini (USHL) - D
Santini might be one of the best defensive defensemen in the draft. He doesn't have a lot of offensive upside, but he'd fit really well into Dallas' prospect system. Madison Bowey would be another nice option if Dallas is looking for defense. If rookie general manager Jim Nill is looking to make more of a splash, he could looks to another skilled forward here with Morgan Klimchuk, Arturri Lehkonen or Nicolas Petan could work in this slot.
30. Chicago Blackhawks  -- J.T. Compher (USHL) - C

Chicago has the luxury of being the Stanley Cup champion, but this is not a team that will rest on its laurels. The Blackhawks have built a good prospect system by drafting well, particularly recently. J.T. Compher could be a good fit within the system as a gritty, two-way forward with plenty of offensive skill. Chicago has exclusively drafted forwards in the first round during the Stan Bowman era.

CBS Sports Writer

Chris Peters has been a hockey writer for CBS Sports since 2012. Prior to that, he wrote for numerous outlets and edited the United States of Hockey blog, covering the sport at all levels. Peters also... Full Bio

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