Top talent litters blueline in 2013 draft

Dan Stewart2013 Draft CenterLeave a Comment

It’d be impossible to hide the talent – and hype – of Portland Winterhawks defenseman Seth Jones.

Or Ryan Pulock. Or Rasmus Ristolainein.

Their talents have been furiously discussed as the upper echelon in eligible defensemen set to see themselves taken early in the 2013 NHL Draft.

But they’re not the only talents that will slide off the board on the first day of the draft in New Jersey.

MODO defender Robert Hägg, who has some high-end potential at both ends of the rink, has already joined in that conversation.

The Uppsala, Sweden product is at his best in the offensive zone controlling play with his calm demeanor, on ice vision and puck distribution skills. He has everything NHL teams covet with his good size, solid feet, solid positioning and willingness to use his body to defend.

Although he had both a hot and cold showing for scouts at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial in August due to some exciting offensive plays as well as some bad defensive reads, there is no question he shows the raw and intriguing potential that leaves one to think he is just scratching the surface of his abilities.

Josh Morrissey may just be scratching the surface as well.

Playing on a bad team last season, Morrissey really stood out from the crowd in Prince Albert.  He served as part stay-at-home defensive stalwart, part puck rushing offensive dynamo as well as part physical enforcer from the backend for the Raiders last season. He did everything for them and really stood out as far as 2013 eligible prospects went last year.

The former Calgary Royals standout is smart and can truly do it all but needs to add more strength to be able to take his game to the next level.

Size and strength is something London Knights big Russian import Nikita Zadorov, standing at six-foot-five, has in spades.

He has great mobility for such a lanky frame and shows good hockey sense and defensive zone smarts as well as one heck of a booming rocket from the point. He is nearly impossible to battle against and come out with the puck in the corners because of his mobility and reach. His offensive game is an area that also has some intriguing upside. Zadorov is one of the few guys who could really jump in the rankings by mid-season if he plays up to his potential in the CHL.

Darnell Nurse is another that is poised to be bursting out this coming season from the OHL.

The big, mobile Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound was impressive at the spring time U18 Championships for Canada and has taken that impressive showing and run with it. He looks to contribute more offensively from the Greyhounds blueline as well as maintain his strong defensive presence.

USNTDP U18 blueliner Steve Santini has no problem displaying his strong, defensive presence and is a potential Adam Foote/Brooks Orpik type who has a ways to go to reach those lofty comparisons but does hold that type of potential.

The Mahopac, New York product is a strong skating rearguard who contributes at both ends of the ice. He can distribute the puck as well as leave an opponent wondering where he is with a well-timed open ice hit. Has some size and strength and uses it well. He is a reliable defensive zone presence and shows some strong leadership qualities as well.

Other blueliners who possess possible first round talents include big Waterloo Black Hawk Ian McCoshen. The Faribault, MN product is a strong two-way defender who skates well, plays strong in his own zone and has the ability to become a complete package. If he jumps out and produces well in his third season his draft stock will soar.

Winnipeg product Madison Bowey also fits the bill.

Bowey is a slick skating defender with strong offensive skills but is still very raw. He likes to rush the puck, makes strong passes and uses his size well but he can get a little too quick to jump into the rush and leave his defensive positioning at times.

Coming out of a Kelowna Rockets defenseman factory that has produced many high-quality NHL defenseman over the past decade, Bowey has some big shoes to fill.

Whether or not the likes of Bowey, Morrissey, Ristolainen, Pulock and Jones can fill the shoes of recent draft classes remain to be seen.

Regardless, the attention from the blueline in the 2013 NHL Draft is enough to get excited about.

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