Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ready for prime time

Several top picks could play right away in NHL

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NEW YORK -- Today's NHL Draft promises to be a boon for some bad teams. There is plenty of quality, with a few players ready for prime time next season.

Prying away one of those top picks will be costly. There is rich cream at the top of this crop.

"You've suffered so greatly to end up picking first or second, it better be a heck of deal to have to move that pick, to go back or even to move forward," said Florida GM Dale Tallon, who holds the second overall pick after finishing runner-up to Colorado in the draft lottery.

How deep is the Panthers' hole? The worst team in the league last season is offering season tickets for US$7 a game, complete with a free jersey and parking.

Defenceman Seth Jones, winger Jonathan Drouin and centres Nathan MacKinnon and Aleksander Barkov are seen as the top prospects available Sunday at the Prudential Centre in Newark, N.J.

In an unusual turn of events, the Avalanche have said publicly that they are leaning towards the 17-year-old MacKinnon.

If that's the case, Florida has first crack at Jones, rated the top North American skater by NHL Central Scouting. But Tallon says Colorado's transparency hasn't made their decision any easier.

"We're still talking about it," Tallon said Saturday after attending a USA Hockey news conference. "Before I came here this morning, we were still having heavy discussions on it.

"We're very fortunate, we're going to get a good player. At whatever position and whoever it is, it's going to be someone that's really going to fit in with whatever we have coming as far as our prospects are concerned."

Nashville president and GM David Poile, whose team picks fourth after Tampa Bay, sees difference-makers on the board.

"We're real excited to find out who we get (Sunday)," said Poile. "Because if all goes well, there's about six players that could be what I call franchise players. And they're the guys that are going to take us to the promised land for the next several years."

"This is a great draft," said Tallon. "We're happy that at (No.) 31 (the first pick in the second round), we're going to get a really good player too."

Carolina picks fifth. Calgary, at No. 6, holds the highest pick among Canadian teams. The Flames also pick 22nd (St. Louis) and 28th (Pittsburgh) in the first round.

Edmonton selects seventh followed by Winnipeg at No. 13, Ottawa at No. 17, Toronto at No. 21, Vancouver at No. 24 and Montreal at No. 25.

Some have compared this draft to that of 2003, a talent-laden year that produced the likes of Patrice Bergeron, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Marc-Andre Fleury, Ryan Getzlaf, Nathan Horton, Ryan Kesler, Zach Parise, Corey Perry, Dion Phaneuf, Eric Staal, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber.

Ottawa assistant GM Tim Murray sees it as a good year, but not 2003 good.

"I don't buy into the 2003 talk and that type of thing. But certainly the first round we like. ... I think there's a drop-off. Whether that's the second round or the third round, I think there's a drop-off that in the best drafts we haven't seen. What makes a draft great is the depth obviously.

"But there's a lot of talent in this draft," he added. "Teams picking high are going to get if not franchise players, impact players."

Ottawa director of scouting Pierre Dorion is also less bullish than some.

"It is a good draft," he said. "I think a lot of people that don't really scout have built it up to something that it's not."

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 30, 2013 B5

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