The depth of the 2013 Draft may not match that of the 2003 Draft, but the first rounds match up very well. In the two years since Draft day, the 30 players selected in the first round of the 2013 NHL Draft have impressed and wowed, and now, several of them will likely be playing important roles on their respective teams.
Nikita Zadorov – Colorado Avalanche
When the Colorado Avalanche traded Ryan O’Reilly to the Buffalo Sabres at the 2015 NHL Draft, one of the key pieces that they received in return was Nikita Zadorov, a 20-year-old defenseman with the potential to become a number one defenseman during his prime.
Last season, Zadorov saw significant time with the Buffalo Sabres and didn’t look out of place, putting up a respectable 15 points in 60 games. His underlying metrics don’t show any red flags, as the Russian’s relative score adjusted shot attempt numbers are positive (1.7%), and he outperformed his usage (3.13 dCorsi/60). With another year of development under his belt, Zadorov is likely more than capable of handling himself in a top six role on an NHL team.
Given the current state of Colorado’s backend, however, Zadorov will likely have to jump into a top-four role. It’s hard to see Colorado experiencing a massive jump in possession metrics, considering that their defense isn’t massively improved, and that they lost a great possession player in O’Reilly.
Still, Zadorov will likely play a prominent role on the team in 2015-2016, and for years to come.
Curtis Lazar – Ottawa Senators
Curtis Lazar captured the hearts of many Canadian fans with his performance during the 2015 World Junior Championships, as he captained Team Canada to the gold medal and posted nine points in seven games.
He also had a solid rookie season, as his middling point totals fail to tell the whole story. Though the young center managed only 15 points in 67 games, his possession metrics show that the Senators were better with him on the ice (1.3 rel SAT-percentage), and that Lazar outperformed his usage (4.27 dCorsi/60).
On a team that’s low on centers, Lazar should be an important fixture in the lineup most nights. Though the possibility of a sophomore slump is always present, it’s more likely than not that Lazar make a positive impact on the Senators’ success in 2014-2015.
Andre Burakovsky – Washington Capitals
The Washington Capitals have been wildly successful at finding elite talent at the NHL Draft by looking overseas, and Andre Burakovsky is no exception. He joins countryman Nicklas Backstrom and Russians Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov as players that will likely see time in Washington’s top six at some point in the season, especially if Backstrom misses the start of the season due to injury.
Last season, Burakovsky had an impressively high relative SAT-percentage (4.43%), and it wasn’t just a result of playing with Ovechkin and Backstrom; his dCorsi/60 of 3.16 shows that he outperformed his usage in his first season with the Caps.
His points per 60 minutes of 1.68 ranks 138th out of 564 skaters who played at least 500 minutes last season, so he’s in the upper portion of the league when it comes to production. At the age of 20, Burakovsky still has room for improvement, and could really start to showcase his high-end potential if given quality ice time in 2015-2016.
Marko Dano – Chicago Blackhawks
With salary cap concerns becoming more and more of a pressing issue, the Chicago Blackhawks traded Brandon Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Artem Anisimov, Jeremy Morin, Corey Tropp, a fourth-round pick and Marko Dano.
Though replacing Saad’s 22 goals and 29 assists is no easy task for Chicago, it’s not completely insane to think that Dano could be up to the task. In 35 games with the Blue Jackets in 2014-2015, the 20-year-old forward posted some incredible underlying numbers, averaging 2.7 points per 60 minutes of even strength ice time (6th among forwards who played 400 minutes at 5 on 5 last year), with an impressive relative SAT-percentage of 7.4% (9th among skaters who played 400 minutes).
He also massively out-performed his usage, as indicated by his dCorsi/60 of 15.03. If the Slovakian forward can get considerable amounts of ice time with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, there’s a strong possibility that he can fulfill the void left by Brandon Saad’s absence, something that Chicago will need if they want a shot at repeating in 2015-2016.
The Honorable Mentions
Though it’s possible that the following players make their respective teams, and play prominent roles, there are question marks about their play based on their performance last year.
Mirco Mueller – San Jose Sharks
Mirco Mueller played 39 games with the San Jose Sharks last season, as he missed a fair number of games for the World Junior Championships, and because of a thumb injury.
In his brief stay with the pro team, Mueller only managed four points, and was negative in possession metrics. If the young defenseman falters, it’s easy to see San Jose’s management sending him down to the AHL for an extended stay.
This isn’t a knock on Mueller; it’s incredibly difficult for young defenseman to succeed in the NHL. One reason that we talk about the successes of players such as Aaron Ekblad and Seth Jones is because what they’ve accomplished at their ages is incredible. Mueller still has the potential to develop into a top pairing defenseman; it just might take some time in the AHL to get there.
Kerby Rychel – Columbus Blue Jackets
Kerby Rychel had a cup of coffee in the NHL during the 2014-2015 season, and spent the majority of the season playing for the Springfield Falcons in the AHL. He did well in the AHL, scoring 12 goals and adding 21 assists for a total of 33 points in 51 games.
Though there’s limited data from his NHL stint, it’s likely that the 20-year-old forward would be able to handle himself in a bottom six role, and NHL.com has Rychel arriving in the league during the 2015-2016 season.
Bouncing back from a season ending concussion is never easy, but if Rychel can impress during training camp, there’s no reason to expect that he won’t see consistent NHL time, especially at the start of the season.
(data taken from war-on-ice.com)