Trio of teams had good showing at the 2013 NHL Draft

By Ian Altenbaugh

2013 NHL Draft - Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo Sabres

Photo: Finnish defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen was the first of 11 players to have the Buffalo Sabres call their name at the 2013 NHL Draft (courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The 2013 NHL Draft was considered by many to be the deepest draft in the last decade, with potential franchise players not just available at the top of the order, but all the way through the first round and into the second.

In all, 21 forwards and nine defensemen were selected in the first round, with the first goaltender not selected until early in the second round.

Below is a compilation of the Hockey’s Future staff picks of the winners, losers, steals, and questionable picks of the 2013 NHL Draft. The winners and losers by team were selected based upon total talent added by way of the draft, as well as addressing positional needs within the organization.

The losers were selected for failure to:

1. Maximize their draft position.
2. Round out their organizational depth.
3. Show consistency over the seven rounds of the draft.

Individual players were considered steals or questionable picks based upon a variety of factors including but not limited to CSS ranking, ISS ranking, staff projections, firsthand observation, and the quality of players who remained on the board when they were selected.

Winners

Columbus Blue Jackets

New Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen did not package any of his three first-round picks to move up in the draft, instead opting to pick three skilled forwards in Alexander Wennberg, Kerby Rychel, and Marko Dano. The trio of forwards adds an immediate injection of talent into a prospect pool that was thin on skill up front. Kekalainen also got very good value in the later rounds of the draft, selecting Oliver Bjorkstrand, Nick Moutrey, and Markus Soberg, all players who were not expected to be available at the spots they were picked at. The Jackets also got good news shortly after the draft as their Vezina-winning goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky, agreed to a two-year contract extension.

Winnipeg Jets

The Jets managed to improve their team for the short term without having to sacrifice their future. They upgraded their penalty killing unit, which was ranked 24th in 2012-13, by acquiring Michael Frolik from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for the 74th and 134th picks of the draft. They then recouped those picks by sending a second rounder (the 61st) to the Washington Capitals for picks in the third (84th), fourth (114th), and fifth (127th) rounds of the draft. In all the Jets made 10 selections at the draft, including five in the first three rounds. Though they drafted several forwards, including the talented Nicolas Petan, the Jets focus was shoring up their blue line, as five of their 10 picks were used to select defensemen, including Josh Morrissey at 13th overall.

Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres left the 2013 draft with 11 selections, the most of any team. Last year, the organization selected two potential franchise centers in Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons in the first round, so it seemed only fitting they use their two first round picks in 2013 to select two potential franchise defensemen in Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov. The Sabres added seven forwards with their remaining nine picks, including Buffalo native Justin Bailey.

In addition to their large draft haul, the Sabres also acquired young puck-moving defenseman Jamie McBain, as well as the 35th pick in the draft, from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for two-way defenseman Andrej Sekara.

Questionable Calls

Calgary Flames

Before the 2013 NHL Draft had even started, Flames GM Jay Feaster declared 2013 one of the most important drafts in franchise history, as the team had three picks in the first round, including the sixth overall, and aspirations to package some of those picks in order to move into a top three spot. The Flames, however, were not able to get a deal done and instead tried to make good with the picks they had in hand.

They were off to a good start when they selected Sean Monahan sixth overall. A talented and gritty center, Monahan could compete for an NHL spot as early as training camp. Their next pick however, Emile Poirier was a head-scratcher, as he was viewed to have some major deficiencies in his game and was considered more of a second-round quality prospect. Feaster however spoke glowingly of Poirier, stating that the Flames had him ranked as a top 10 prospect. Regardless, there seemed to be a belief among pundits that the Flames could have traded down in the draft, added more picks, and still have been able to select Poirier. Furthermore, the Flames neglected two of their greatest organizational needs, waiting until the fifth round to select a puck-moving defenseman (Eric Roy) and not picking a goaltender at all.

Carolina Hurricanes

While no one can dispute the talent of center Elias Lindholm, the defensively challenged Hurricanes would have benefitted far more from selecting one of the top-rated defensive prospects available, such as Darnell Nurse (EDM) or Ristolainen. The team did receive Sekara from the Sabres in exchange for McBain and their second rounder, but the move is more of a lateral hockey trade than an upgrade for the Hurricanes blueline. Furthermore, the trade left the Hurricanes with only four selections in the entire draft.

Steals

Though the Los Angeles Kings did not possess a pick until the second round, they still managed to find a first-round quality talent in forward Valentin Zykov, who was ranked 7th on Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American Skaters. A Russian currently playing in the QMJHL, Zykov is a talented goal-scoring forward who does his best work around the net and in traffic. He won CHL and QMJHL Rookie of the Year honors while leading all first year Canadian major junior players with 40 goals.

The Montreal Canadiens had to be happy to see Zachary Fucale, the top-rated goaltender in the 2013 draft, still available at the 36th spot. Projected to go in the first round and possibly as high as the top 10, Fucale projects as an NHL starter in a few years, and his presence gives the Canadiens long-term flexibility at the goaltender position.

Madison Bowey is another player who, several years from now, could be viewed as one of the real high value picks in the draft. Selected 53rd overall by the Washington Capitals, Bowey was expected to explode offensively in 2012-13, but instead managed just 12 goals and 18 assists through 69 games with the Kelowna Rockets. Bowey did improve his defensive game last year, however, and combined with his already strong, mobile skating ability, he should develop into a very good top four defenseman in the NHL.

The Philadelphia Flyers managed to get a first round quality talent in the second round when they selected Robert Hagg 41st overall. Ranked second among European defensemen by Central Scouting, Hagg was a defensive standout at the 2013 WJC's, filling in for the concussed Hampus Lindholm (ANA). Hagg is considered to be a very instinctive defenseman, who is equally adept at transitioning the puck up ice and shutting down an opponent’s top forwards.

Some other picks with the potential to be late-round steals are: Vincent Dunn, a high-scoring forward selected by Ottawa in the fifth round; Pavel Buchnevich, a Russian sniper selected by the Rangers in the third; and William Carrier, a big, speedy forward selected by the St. Louis Blues in the second.

Head-Scratchers

Calgary’s selection of Emile Poirier at 22nd overall may have been the biggest surprise in the first round. The Flames selected Poirier over more highly regarded prospects such as Shea Theodore (ANH), Hunter Shinkaruk (VAN), and Fucale.

The Minnesota Wild made a curious selection in the third round when they selected Kurtis Gabriel, a 20-year-old forward out of the OHL. Not ranked by Central Scouting, Gabriel projects as little more than a gritty journeyman forward. The Wild made another interesting pick in the fourth round when they selected Dylan Labbe, a puck-moving defenseman out of the QMJHL who last year posted a minus-40 rating with the Shawinigan Cataractes.

The San Jose Sharks traded the 20th and 58th overall picks to move up to the 18 spot and select Swiss defenseman Mirco Mueller. While Mueller is thought be a solid defensive prospect, it seemed like a high cost for the Sharks to pay in order to move up two spots in the draft, especially for a player who still likely would have been available at 20.

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