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Lucky 13?

Jets looking to score with first pick -- or possibly move up

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NHL draft prospects Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov, Hunter Shinkaruk, Sean Monahan, Jonathan Drouin, Zachary Fucale, Seth Jones and Darnell Nurse (left to right) are pumped for Sunday.

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NHL draft prospects Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov, Hunter Shinkaruk, Sean Monahan, Jonathan Drouin, Zachary Fucale, Seth Jones and Darnell Nurse (left to right) are pumped for Sunday.

NEW YORK -- Watching a National Hockey League GM at work on draft day is a bit like taking in a juggling act at the carnival. A juggling act featuring chainsaws... with the juggler blindfolded and walking a high wire.

Yes, there can be a lot going on when 30 NHL GMs gather in one room sporting itchy trigger fingers, with the salary cap dropping and 29 of them -- everybody but Stan Bowman of the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks -- trying to find the missing piece(s) to get their squad into the winner's circle.

Expect Winnipeg Jets' GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to be right in the mix of it all, although he's hardly carved out a reputation as a wheeler-dealer through two years on the job. That said, it was Cheveldayoff himself who spoke of his flexibility earlier in the week -- after all, the Jets have cap room, a number of holes to fill and a swack of picks to possibly package.

All of which should make Sunday's one-day draft extravaganza compelling drama.

Here's our own juggling act of sorts, a multi-faceted handy-dandy guide to the 2013 NHL entry draft:

5 QUESTIONS THAT WILL BE ANSWERED

WHO GOES NO. 1? AND NOS. 2 and 3 AND ....

The 2013 talent pool is being called the deepest and most gifted since the 2003 draft that saw Marc-Andre Fleury, Eric Staal, Nathan Horton, Thomas Vanek, Milan Michalek, Ryan Suter, Dion Phaneuf, Dustin Brown, Brent Seabrook, Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Mike Richards and Corey Perry all go in the first round.

The Colorado Avalanche have said they'll pluck Halifax Mooseheads forward Nathan MacKinnon first overall, seemingly bumping Portland Winterhawks defenceman Seth Jones -- who grew up in Denver -- out of that perch. MacKinnon's teammate Jonathan Drouin is also in the mix. Many experts believe any one of those three, and possibly Finnish centre Aleksander Barkov, all would have been selected ahead of Nail Yakupov, last year's No. 1 choice overall by Edmonton, had they been in the 2012 draft.

All that elite talent is why so many GMs will be working the phones and the floor through Sunday.

HOW LEGIT ARE THE BYFUGLIEN/BURMISTROV TRADE RUMOURS?

Well, about as legit as any rumour swirling around on the eve of the draft. There's no question the Jets are still bothered by Dustin Byfuglien's fitness issues, but there also seems to be more of an acceptance of who he is -- a difference-maker when he's on, a liability when he's not. But if the team is considering moving him, remember Buff's flaws/strengths are clearly visible to 29 other GMs as well. And there's no escaping this: He's 28, will earn $5.75 million this coming season and can still hammer the puck.

The Alex Burmistrov situation is more mysterious. He's just 21 but has already played close to 200 NHL games. He has been capable defensively, but his offensive production has been mediocre. Cheveldayoff didn't really deny the rumours earlier this week but, predictably, wouldn't offer much on them either.

WHAT DO THE JETS NEED?

Have you seen their depth chart? Everything, pretty much. Winnipeg has nine unrestricted free agents and a pile of restricted free agents. Even if Mark Scheifele was to make the club they lack depth at centre, are coveting a top-six forward -- preferably a right-winger -- and could always use more defence. About the only position we would suggest isn't a priority early in the draft is goaltender, as the Jets have three or four legit prospects in Eddie Pasquale, Connor Hellebuyck, Jason Kasdorf and Juho Olkinuora.

WHAT'S THE MANITOBA FACTOR IN THIS DRAFT?

A few to keep an eye on as the draft unfolds:

-- Grandview's Ryan Pulock (D, Brandon Wheat Kings) was ranked in the top 10 earlier this year, but according to Central Scouting's final rankings, is now 12th among North American skaters.

-- Madison Bowey of Winnipeg (D, Kelowna Rockets) is ranked 32nd.

-- Paul Stokewych of Winnipeg (D, Winnipeg Blues) is ranked 204th among North American skaters.

-- And while London Knights forward Max Domi grew up in Toronto, he was born in Winnipeg when his father Tie was a member of the Jets. He is ranked 19th.

WHO MIGHT STILL BE THERE WHEN THE JETS PICK 13th?

The five most common names at No. 13 in mock drafts are:

-- Max Domi, C, London Knights: Lots of offensive skill and oodles of hockey smarts.

Domi rankings: Craig Button, TSN: 10; NHL Central Scouting: 19 (North American Skaters, NAS); International Scouting Services: 25; The Hockey News: 15; McKeen's: 9.

-- Hunter Shinkaruk, C, Medicine Hat Tigers: Very good numbers the last two years with 86 goals in 130 games.

Shinkaruk rankings: Button: 14; NHL CS: No. 6 NAS; ISS: 13; THN: 23; McKeen's: 22.

-- Frederik Gauthier, C, Rimouski Oceanic: Solid two-way player who is 6-5, 210 and still growing.

Gauthier rankings: Button: 21; NHL CS: 8 (NAS); ISS: 18; THN: 30; McKeen's: 23.

-- Bo Horvat, C, London Knights: Character player with some offensive pop.

Horvat rankings: Button: 19; NHL CS: 15 (NAS); ISS: 10; THN: 16; McKeen's: 14.

-- Samuel Morin, D, Rimouski Oceanic: A monster 6-6 D-man whose game is said to be progressing quickly.

Morin rankings: Button: 13; NHL CS: 23 (NAS); ISS: 32; THN: 20; McKeen's: 10.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 29, 2013 0

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