It won’t surprise anyone who is familiar with how the draft rankings have been breaking down, but International Scouting Services released their December rankings with zero change in the top five. The 51st NHL Entry Draft will start in June of 2013 and will take place in Newark, New Jersey.
Nathan MacKinnon of Halifax leads the way. The 17-year-old pivot currently laces the skates for the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and has drawn comparisons to Sidney Crosby from more than a few analysts.
MacKinnon was recently named to the 2013 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships squad for Canada, so hockey fans will have a good chance to check him out up close and personal starting December 26. He first skated for Canada on the international stage in 2011 in the World U-17 Hockey Challenge in Winnipeg. He was the second youngest player at that tournament and he finished seventh in scoring, potting five goals and totalling eight points in just five games.
In 2011-2012 on the Mooseheads, MacKinnon landed 78 points in 58 games – including 31 goals. He’s been holding down the top spot in the draft rankings for some time now and, given a good performance at the Juniors, should be able to skate into June’s draft with high expectations intact.
Seth Jones, an 18-year-old defenceman from Texas, is the second prospect in the rankings. He currently plays for the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. At 6’3, 201 pounds according to Hockey’s Future, Jones brings good size to the table.
He’s spent two seasons in the U.S. National Team Development program, playing games on the USHL squad, U-17 and U-18 teams. The son of Brooklyn Nets assistant coach and former NBA player Popeye Jones, Seth has been called “the poster boy for growth of hockey in the U.S.”
Finnish centre Aleksander Barkov Jr. is third. He currently skates for SM-liiga’s Tappara (Battle axe!) club. In 2011, he became the youngest Finnish player in the IIHF World U20 Championships. In January of 2012, Barkov Jr. made more news by becoming the second youngest player to score a goal at the World Juniors (Viktor Alexandrov was the youngest).
At 6’3, 205 pounds, he’s got the size to manage the centre ice position well. The book on him from the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp is that he can be a “tad apprehensive,” but that may have changed with more experience and ice time.
Jonathan Drouin of Ste-Agathe, Quebec, has been ranked fourth by the International Scouting Service. He plays for the Halifax Mooseheads, like MacKinnon. He’ll also skate for the Canadian Junior squad this round.
In the 2011-2012 season with the Mooseheads, Drouin scored 29 points in 33 games. He also won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2012 Ivan Hlinka memorial tournament.
Rounding out the top five is centre Sean Monahan. The Brampton native plays for the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s. In the 2011-2012 season, he had 78 points in 62 games. Despite good buzz, Monahan didn’t end up selected for the Canadian Junior squad despite a decent showing at the Canada-Russia Challenge in August.
At 6′, 193 pounds, Monahan has decent build for the draft and has held on to its top five spot despite pressure from Sweden’s Elias Lindholm and Russia’s Valeri Nichushkin.