Even though there's no NHL hockey currently taking place there is still lots of junior hockey going on. In the same sense, regardless of whether or not there is a 2012-2013 NHL season, there will still be a 2013 NHL Entry Draft. The early season rankings were released on Tuesday so today it's time to break down the top 5 American prospects.
*Please Note Here Are the Official Rankings and they are based on each league the players are from*
5. Darnell Nurse: Defenceman Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds OHL
The fact I hadn't heard of Nurse before these rankings came out means the majority of you probably haven't heard about him either. Good, let's learn about him together. The defenceman was taken 3rd overall in the OHL draft and has earned comparisons to NHL blue-liner Chris Pronger because of his size and defencive skill. The 6 foot 4 defenceman was ranked on top of the central scouting division in mid-September and is expected to go high in the first round. Durnell is in his second year in the OHL and is more ready for the intense pressure and responsibility that comes with the role; In 23 games he has 4 goals and 13 assists and is a solid +6. Durnell is a guy too look out for in the 2013 draft, he was ranked 2nd in the OHL behind Sean Monahan.
4. Hunter Shinakaruk: Forward Medicine Hat Tigers WHL
Shinakaruk is arguably the best forward in the WHL right now and could easily be slated 1st in the WHL rankings if not for Seth Jones. Shinakaruk is in his 3rd season with the Tigers and is looking to follow up his breakout 91 point season with another productive year, in fact he's already on pace to match his numbers from last season. Being the captain, he needs to make sure he sets a good example for the rest of the team especially the rookies, which is why he feels he can't let up after his 48 goal season. Shinakaruk has lighting fast speed and a shot that leaves goalies clueless, those attributes combined with his strong play and leadership capabilities may make this his last season in junior. Despite his high ranking and projection of being drafted in the first round, the Tigers Captain will have to show up to camp and earn his spot on the Team Canada roster against some very stiff competition because of the lockout. Any other year he'd likely be a lock for the World Juniors, but this year he needs to prove he can compete and belong. Shinakaruk has 17 goals and 35 points through his first 24 games, each goal he scores you shows just how exciting he is to be living the dream.
3. Sean Monahan: Forward Ottawa 67's OHL
For the guys eligible to be drafted there is a lot of pressure riding on them. Some need to put up quick starts to earn invites to World Junior camps that will include many top notch players who would normally be in the NHL. Then of course there's the draft, but when Monahan was given the role of alternative captain with his 67's, the pressure became a little more intense. When the 67's are on the road he will be given the opportunity to don the "C" on his sweater, when they play at home that honour goes to Ottawa Senators draft pick and close friend Cody Ceci. A lot of pressure for an 18 year-old but if anyone can handle it, it's Monahan; Whenever there have been high pressure moments throughout his junior career he's always risen to the occasion and often leads his team straight to victory. He won gold at the World U-17 hockey challenge, won gold at the Ivan Hlinka tournament in 2011 and was the youngest player on the roster during last years Subway Super Series. He's a great pivot and a player that many teams will be anxious to get their hands on at the draft, if you want to hear his name called you better tune in early. Through 23 games, Monahan has racked up 11 goals and 22 assists for 33 points, whichever team lands this prized prospect will be in for a real treat.
2. Seth Jones: Defenceman Portland Winterhawks WHL
The only reason I put Jones 2nd instead of 1st is because of everything thats being said about MacKinnon and how well he's playing in the "Q". But Jones has a very good shot aexpectedt going first overall and it will likely be decided based on whether a team wants a defenceman or a forward with their pick. Jones, like MacKinnon, is expected to be a franchise-changing prospect. The type of player that can change an entire team around for the better just by stepping on the ice. As Jones is American he spend the previous 2 seasons playing for the US national team development program before finding his home in the WHL. Seth is the son of former NBA pro Popeye Jones and at 6 foot 3 would have made a solid basketball player. While Jones will one day be a solid NHL defenceman his he will need a few years to develop and wont have the immediate impact that MaKinnon will. With 6 goals 8 assists through 21 games, Jones will have to step up his game offensively in order to out rank his Canadian counter-part. A team with the first overall pick who wants a quick turn around may choose a forward instead of a young defencive, in the last 13 years 11 forwards have been taken first overall.
1. Nathan MacKinnon: Forward Halifax Mooseheads QMJHL
There's not much to say about MacKinnon, other than the fact he has it all. He's the complete package of speed, skill and determination, plus he's Canadian too boot. To be honest I'd be surprised if the Cole Harbour native is not taken first overall. The kids talented, so talented he's drawing comparisons to Sidney Crosby. Just like Crosby, MacKinnon has the potential to be a franchise changing centre which makes him the top prize for every NHL team. There's no question this kid can and will an NHL star one day, with the potential to score 50 goals more than once in his career. Through 22 games, MacKinnon has 19 goals and 37 points and is 8th in scoring in the "Q". Wherever he plays he elevates his game to the next level and is ready to prove he's ready for the next level. The World Junior Championships will be a big test for the potential first overall pick.
There you have it folks, a rough look at the top 5 picks for the upcoming 2013 draft. Of course these picks are subject to change throughout the course of the year and outside of the top 2-3 anything can change. These picks do not include European hockey prospects, who will also work their way into the top 5. We're in for a treat for the next draft.