Though the incredible 2003 NHL draft class will likely never be matched, the 2013 NHL draft class is often compared to the event that was held a decade before.
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. Here’s the top five of that draft, and we’ll be back to look at the rest of that Draft’s first round selections.
Nathan Mackinnon – Colorado Avalanche
The first-overall selection in the 2013 Draft flew out of the gate, and had one of the best rookie seasons in recent memory (over the past 15 seasons, only Sidney Crosby and Jeff Skinner have posted more points as 18-year-olds than Nathan Mackinnon). He had a disappointing sophomore season in terms of production, but his underlying metrics were the opposite of disappointing.
In terms of relative score adjusted shot attempt percentage, Mackinnon was seventh in the league (among skaters who played at least 750 minutes) with a 7.09-percent rating, placing him ahead of forwards such as Jakub Voracek, Anze Kopitar, and Claude Giroux. His individual scoring chances per 60 minutes of ice time was 10.61, good for 18th in the league. Mackinnon is essentially a top-30 forward in the NHL, at the age of 20.
Colorado needs him to produce more and be one of the team’s top two centers, but if he continues to pile on the scoring chances, and dominate possession, there’s no reason to expect that the Cole Harbour native won’t be able to fulfill that role, and maybe even establish his position as one of the league’s top forwards.
Aleksander Barkov – Florida Panthers
Though Aleksander Barkov may not have had the impressive rookie season of Mackinnon, the young Finn is going to be just integral to the success of the Panthers as his Canadian counterpart will be to the Avalanche. In 2014-2015, Barkov led the team’s forwards in relative SAT-percentage, and was third on the team in points per 60 minutes.
All of this comes while receiving difficult usage. In 2014-2015, only Dave Bolland had tougher usage among Florida centers (looking at expected and delta Corsi). For a 19-year-old rookie to be thrown to the wolves, and come out as the best forward on his team is nothing short of incredible.
Barkov hasn’t played on a team with a forward corps as good as the Avalanche’s top six, and has, at times, had to be the best forward on the team. Statistical projections done by Dom Luszczyzyn place Barkov as having the highest WAR on the Panthers in 2015-2016, a thought that isn’t entirely out of the question. He will be his team’s first-line center, and he’s more than capable of stepping up to the task.
Jonathan Drouin – Tampa Bay Lightning
Jonathan Drouin hasn’t experienced the same NHL success as many of his counterparts, but he is primed for a breakout season. At the age of 19, he scored at about half a point per game in very limited ice time.
His points per 60 of 1.98 was better than Barkov’s 1.74, and was only 0.02 off of Nathan Mackinnon’s 2.00. If Drouin played for any other team, then he wouldn’t be buried behind tons of other capable forwards. The Tampa Bay Lightning are extremely deep at forward, and as a result, Drouin spent plenty of games in the press box during the 2014-2015 season. Who’s to say Drouin wouldn’t put up 60 points last season if he played in a top-six role?
Based on Drouin’s underlying numbers, the former Halifax Moosehead is more than capable of contributing at the NHL level. The youngster may force Steve Yzerman’s hand in 2015-16, especially if Drouin is able to put up a strong performance at training camp.
Seth Jones – Nashville Predators
After the Colorado Avalanche won the Draft Lottery, it was considered a slam dunk for them to take defenseman Seth Jones. Not only was the team’s back end lacking key pieces, but Jones also learned how to play hockey in the state of Denver, with Joe Sakic even telling Jones’ father to enroll him in skating classes if the youngster was serious about playing hockey.
The Predators had to have been ecstatic when Jones fell to fourth overall, and they were quick to add the speedy skater to their already impressive blue line corps. Though there was a learning curve, the Texas native jumped into the NHL right away, learning the ropes as an 18-year-old rookie. He wasn’t as successful as Aaron Ekblad was, but Nashville’s young defenseman flashed star potential, and showed just how dominant he can be in his sophomore season.
Consider his HERO chart. Despite playing bottom pairing minutes over the past two seasons, Jones’s influence on puck possession has been that of a top pairing defenseman.
It appears that the replacement for Ryan Suter in Nashville has been found. Roman Josi and Shea Weber are the bona-fide first pairing in Nashville, but second pairing minutes (and possibly first pairing, if either Josi or Weber gets injured) are a strong possibility for Jones. He’s shown he’s more than capable of handling these minutes, and will be an important piece in Nashville’s defensive corps.
Elias Lindholm – Carolina Hurricanes
Though the other players mentioned have received more recognition around the league, Elias Lindholm isn’t too far off of their caliber. He was sixth among Canes forwards in ice time per game last season, so he’s been playing in a top six role and succeeding. Averaging half a point per game as a 19-year-old is no easy feat, but this is exactly what Lindholm has been able to do.
The young Swede will likely continue to play in a top-six role for the Hurricanes, and continue to succeed. The Hurricanes had solid possession numbers that were wrecked by atrocious goaltending last season, so if they can get league average goaltending from Eddie Lack, a surprise playoff appearance just may be in the cards for the team that last played postseason hockey in 2009.
If they do end up making the playoffs, you can bet that Lindholm will have played a key role in the team’s resurgence.
(data taken from war-on-ice.com)