Sunday, June 2, 2013

2013 NHL Draft, Part 1--An overview of this year's draft class

The 2013 NHL Draft will be upon us soon. The Buffalo Sabres, for the second season in a row, have four picks in first two rounds. They have the #8 and #16 in the first round, #38 and #52 in the second.

Many believe that the team should do anything they can to get into the top-3 this year to land a "franchise player." Sabres GM Darcy Regier is actively trying to move up, but going from 8th into the top-3 is nearly impossible, and as we'll see later, not many picks in the 4th-6th spots get moved.

Chances are the Buffalo Sabres will be drafting somewhere around #8.

The following series looks at past drafts from 1979-2003, bookending what are widely considered the best drafts ever over that 25-year span, and what that might mean for the Sabres in this year's draft.

Part One:  The 2013 Draft Class--An overview

Most draft experts and hockey pundits all seem to believe that defenseman Seth Jones will be the top pick in the NHL Draft. Although not considered a runaway choice, Jones has nudged ahead the other top-prospects mainly on the strength of two factors:  his overall talent and the needs of the team that has the first selection in this year's draft, the Colorado Avalanche.

MacKinnon (l,) Jones (c,) and Drouin (r)
will likely be the top three picks in the
2013 NHL Draft. Their order, though,
remains to be seen.
Central Scouting has Jones perched atop it's final North American Skaters rankings.

Most also agree that C Nate MacKinnon, who ended up atop the International Scouting Services board, and LW Jonathan Drouin, who has been ranked #1-overall this past season at one time or another, round out the top-3. If either were selected #1-overall, especially MacKinnon, not an eye would be batted at the choice.

Center Aleksander Barkov, who tops Central's International rankings, is rated as a top-2 talent on some boards and there's a chance Barkov could crack the top three at the draft. At the very least he's as strong a #4 as you can get.

The next grouping is a little bit harder to corral, but the #5 to #9 area almost invariably includes LW Valeri Nichushkin, D Darnell Nurse, C Elias Lindholm and C Sean Monahan. There are variations as to where they are slotted, and one or another might be replaced by another prospect, but for the most part those four names appear on nearly every mock draft in the 5-9 grouping.

Below the top-nine is said to be another grouping that will be even more varied. Depth is said to be had as low as #18 with names like fast-rising Bo Horvat, Alexander Wennberg, Hunter Shinkaruk, and goalie Zachary Furcal in that area.

Although many have been saying that the 2013 draft class is deep, often comparing it to the 2003 class, just how deep and what constitutes depth won't be known for years.

Sabres director of amateur scouting, Kevin Devine, at the Draft Combine in Toronto, talked about the class. He called it a deep draft saying that "it probably goes into the low-20's. A team is going to get a very good player and player at 20 may be just as good as a player at 11."

The Sabres currently have the #8 and #16 picks in the first round, and it would seem as if he's pretty confident that they'll be able to land quality players at those two spots.

Corey Pronman of sees this draft class as a "very strong one, with a fantastic top end, good depth in terms of the top tier of prospects, and quality overall depth."

He has Druoin up top with MacKinnon second and Jones rated third.

His next two tiers are filled with familiar names and he thinks that there are 16 top-end prospects this year as opposed to a normal eight to 10 with "six or seven elite prospects available."

Brian Costello of The Hockey News, though, penned a piece back in February tempering expectations for this group.

He wrote, "Contrary to popular belief, the 2013 draft isn’t nearly as deep as scouts initially projected the past couple of seasons," as he leaned on the opinion of two unamed scouts to back him up.

“The 2013 draft is not as strong or as deep as we first thought,” Costello quotes one scout. “It’s a deep top 10 and an OK first round, but I don’t see a lot of depth."

“The 2013 draft won’t come close to 2003,” another scout said. “Let’s make that clear right now. Take away the first eight or 10 picks and you’re looking at guys who can contribute on the third and fourth lines, not the first line.”

The Calgary Flames have the #6 pick in the draft. Flames assistant GM of player personnel John Weisbrod offered that "There are five or six names, in my mind, that could still conceivably be worthy of first-pick consideration."  Weisbrod was with the Boston Bruins organization for the 2011 draft where he witnessed a "two horse race" that year between Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin.

He continues by adding "[I] consider this draft to be a really deep one, and usually what that depth means, is that depth shows up starting in the latter part of round one and carries as far as the middle of round three.

Depth or not, the Buffalo Sabres at #8 are a few slots back of the "potential superstar" area where the top-3 (or 4) are, and may be right at that cut-off point between "elite" and "top-end."

GM Darcy Regier, along with Devine, will have a ton of decisions to make as to that #8 pick. Regier has also stated that he would like to move up in the draft and the team has some trade-package options to shop as well.

The Sabres have veterans Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek entering the final years of their contracts and both could be on the move. Either might be used as "chips" to move up or could possibly be used to secure another first round pick either this year draft or in the future.

The Sabres also have two picks in the second round--again--and may be able to use one or both to move up.

Regardless of whether the Sabres can move up in the draft from the 8th pick, nearly everyone agrees that there are at least six, maybe even seven or eight, blue-chip prospects in this draft with elite/top-end talent possibly stretching to the 10th pick.

Even if the team can't trade up, they're in a good spot, and dependent upon how this draft class shakes out, they could be looking at an impact player with the 8th pick.

A lot depends upon the draft class.

For this series, we'll be focusing upon the #8 area looking at 25 years of drafting between 1979 and 2003--two draft classes that are considered the best ever.

Next: Five draft years including the oft-referenced 2003 draft class and what's considered the greatest draft class ever, 1979.

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