The Nashville Predators have the fourth overall selection for the 2013 NHL Draft, which takes place Sunday at New Jersey. A look at six of the top prospects, one of whom most likely will be Nashville’s choice, with comments from Predators chief amateur scout Jeff Kealty:
Center, 6-3, 209, Tappara (Finland)
Of note: A two-time member of Finland’s World Junior Championship team, he is that country’s youngest player ever to score a goal in that tournament. His father was a professional hockey player and his mother was a player on Russia’s national basketball team.
Kealty says: “This guy is a guy that is an excellent two-way player. Very well-rounded. … A guy that can posses the puck and really contribute at both ends with his size and two-way game. Great vision. Great ability to make plays. He played in the Finnish Elite League at 17 years old. When you consider what he’s accomplished at that level, at that age – he scored a point a game this year – and you add that to the well-rounded game that he has, he’s a terrific prospect.”
Left wing, 5-11, 186, Halifax (QMJHL)
Of note: He was named the Quebec League’s Most Valuable Player, Best Professional Prospect and its personality of the year for 2012, 13, when he had 105 points (41 goals, 64 assists) in 49 games.
Kealty says: “He’s an electric offensive player. Terrific skills. Great puck skills. Creativity. … One of those guys that brings you out of your seat. He not only has the offensive skill to produce and make plays but he’s got some of that flare to him that a lot of the stars in the game have.”
Defense, 6-4, 205, Portland (WHL)
Of note: The son of former NBA player Popeye Jones has been a member of three gold medal winning USA Hockey teams, including the 2013 World Junior Championship team, of which he was the youngest member. He was the WHL’s highest scoring defenseman.
Kealty says: “He’s pretty unanimously the top defenseman in the draft. This guy is 6-foot-4, an excellent skater. … He can skate the puck out of trouble and move the puck up ice. He can get involved at both ends. He’s a terrific athlete. … Obviously, he has the athletic genes. He is just a terrific player and with the upside that he has he’s only going to get better.”
Center, 5-11, 192, Bynas (Sweden)
Of note: He is from a hockey family – his father played briefly in the NHL with Los Angeles and a cousin is a Red Wings prospect. He was a full-time player in the Swedish Elite League this season.
Kealty says: “A very good two-way player. Very good sense. Very good competitiveness. Makes plays at both ends. Has great vision. One of those guys that makes people around him better and with the two-way game that he has the competitiveness that he has, he’s a real versatile guys. For him to be competing at the level he is, in the Swedish Elite League, at 18 years old is very impressive.”
Center, 6-0, 182, Halifax (QMJHL)
Of note: He had a hat trick in Canada’s gold medal game victory at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and led the QMJHL with seven game-winning goals. He is from the same hometown as Pittsburgh Penguins great Sidney Crosby.
Kealty says: “This guy is an explosive talent, probably the best skater in the draft. A powerful lower body. Explosive. He can change the game on a dime with his skating because he can just explode away from people and can really make things happen in open ice. He’s one of those guys that is really driven and focused to score. You combine that with the skating and power he has and he’s a pretty dynamic player.”
Left wing, 6-4, 196, Chelyabinsk (Russia)
Of note: He scored the overtime winner against Canada in the bronze medal game at the World Junior Championships. It was his only goal of the tournament but was a showcase moment for his high-end skill.
Kealty says: “This guy is a massive, massive winger. A big wingspan. He’s a very good skater. He’s got power to him with the way that he can posses the puck and hold people off and take it to the net and make plays. He’s got a little of a Rick Nash type of game with that size and that wingspan.”