It’s hard to keep the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Sean Monahan, Aleksander Barkov, Hunter Shinkaruk and the other top-end prospects for the 2013 NHL Draft a secret.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some hidden gems along the way, though.
The 2013 NHL Draft is littered with forwards that teams are already chomping at the bit to go see, scout, evaluate and eventually pick this June.
Malmo winger André Burakovsky is one such forward.
Burakovsky is an exciting forward who just looks like he will be a strong winger in the NHL one day. While he is a little on the wiry side right now, he still makes a big impact in the games he plays – just as he did at the Ivan Hlinka this past August.
Burakovsky looks to make the Allsvenskan squad this season but if he does not and instead dominates the Superelit J20 instead, that might be better for his development in the long run. Regardless of the road he takes, the Klagenfurt, Austria product has the skill to be mentioned in top forwards for 2013.
So does London Knights centre Max Domi, who was one of the top rookies in the Ontario Hockey League last season.
The surname might ring a bell as Max’s father is former NHL heavyweight pugilist Tie Domi, although the younger plays nothing like the elder. Domi is a skilled, dynamic playmaker who skates well, has strong hands and puck control and makes a crisp mid-stride pass. His shot is also a powerful weapon as it is both hard and accurate. He will be looking to explode offensively in London as one of the team’s top offensive threats.
Kerby Rychel, son of another former NHL player in coach Warren of the Windsor Spitfires, has sky-high expectations after a very productive year in which he tallied an impressive 41 goals.
Rychel is not a one-trick pony that is all offense all the time and as a matter of fact the offense he produced last season was a bit of a surprise for the gritty, two-way forward. Coming into the OHL, he was seen as more of a grind it out type forward who will battle for loose pucks, forecheck hard and chip in the odd goal. He is not seen as that guy any longer as the Los Angeles born winger holds some real top-six pro potential.
Another high-end winger to watch is Adam Erne of Quebec in the QMJHL. Erne has been a highly regarded American kid for a few years now as the North Brandford, CT native came up through the New England system.
Erne’s game is a power forward style game with a good work ethic and some strong goal scoring abilities. He plays a full 200-foot game and will use his body to make life difficult on his opponent. He just came off an incredibly offensively productive Ivan Hlinka Memorial for his American squad and looks to continue that with the Quebec Remparts.
There are also those forward prospects that are slated to be mid-to-late first round prospect and a few in this group include Hudson Fasching, who is patrolling the right wing for the US National Team’s Under-18 squad.
The Apple Valley, MN product is a big, strapping kid who not only can play a role on the offensive side of things but is also of strong character and a true leader. He plays physical, possesses a good hard shot and skates well for a kid his size. He could have a breakout year and really move up the draft board as he has many intangibles that NHL teams crave.
Cherepovets centre Pavel Buchnevich is one of those talents that can play like he belongs in the top-5 for this draft but does not do so with enough consistency. Add that to the fact that he signed a three-year deal to play with Severstal of the Kontinental Hockey League recently and his stock takes a dip.
Buchnevich’s blend of smooth skating ability and ultra quick hands can pull fans out of their chairs and that is what has NHL talent evaluators excited – his game breaking ability.
Halifax centre/winger Jonathan Drouin was impressive with Canada at the Hlinka and looks like he could play a big offensive role riding shotgun with MacKinnon for the Mooseheads this season.
Drouin is a hockey player that possesses high-end hockey sense, vision and anticipation. His natural size will not allow him to be a real physical force but he does use what little he has to will puck battles and protect it. His real strength lies in his role as a playmaker and someone who can handle the puck. A big season is expected from the skilled forward this year.
Northbrook, IL product Joseph Taylor (J.T.) Compher was impressive last season not only with his U17 squad but also during his call-up to the U18 squad as an underage player.
Using his vision, strong work ethic and playmaking ability, Compher was able to contribute offense not only against USHL and NCAA competition but also in many international games as well last season. He will be counted on as one of the top point producers for the US squad this season. He has some strong two-way upside as a future pro but must bulk up his thin frame to fully reach that potential.
How Compher, and his fellow 2013 NHL Draft classmates fare leading up to the draft will be of great interest to NHL teams looking to call their names to the podium on the first day of the draft.
Will all of them get that honour?
In nine months, we’ll find out.