BY: Margann Laurisa
5. Carolina Hurricanes -- Elias Lindholm (C/RW, Brynäs IF, SHL)
Many thought that the Carolina Hurricanes were going to trade their first-round pick but it will remain to be seen if they did the right thing by doing so. The Hurricanes used their fifth-overall selection to draft Elias Lindholm, a forward from Brynäs, the same system that developed the likes of Washington Capitals centre Nicklas Bäckström. Lindholm has one year remaining on his contract in Sweden and, looking at the majority of the key forwards on the Hurricanes, it will not just be a question of signing him after that but if it will be a salary cap issue. The Hurricanes have five players under contract beyond the 2014-15 season, including Jordan Staal's that will see him in Raleigh until the 2022-23 season (gah!), so money could be the issue. Finding a place for Lindholm in the lineup, however, should not be that problematic. Beyond the top two lines, there will be a need to fill those spots, and a player constantly making the nearly three-hour trek to and from Charlotte does not seem like a good enough choice. It also seems to be a bit advantageous since there are not many players in the Hurricanes system picked in the 2011 and 2012 drafts who are ready for the next level. Victor Rask is still some time away and Erik Karlsson is, as well. Lindholm could very well become a second-line forward in the NHL and it seems as though he may stay there for a while considering the contract extensions that some of the veteran players in Carolina currently possess.
6. Calgary Flames -- Sean Monahan (C, Ottawa 67's, OHL)
From a strictly positional standpoint, the Calgary Flames' selection of Sean Monahan was perhaps one of the most intelligent choices of the first round. The Flames are absolutely decimated down the middle. Most of their actual pivots have had to do so despite being natural wingers. The only true centres they have are Matt Stajan and Roman Horak, which does not bode well for an organization that also lacked significant scoring from those two. In Monahan, Calgary finds themselves with a truly gifted offensive centreman who has shown that he can do everything that is expected of him and more. He plays in all situations, he has great leadership and he will even play injured. Monahan has good size and speed, too, something that the Flames will surely exploit. Over the years, it seems as though the Flames have not been kind to their first-round picks, especially coming from the OHL (Greg Nemisz, I'm looking at you), but it appears that Jay Feaster is not going to allow that to happen again. Monahan will be given ample opportunity to prove himself right away. He knows from coming from a no-nonsense organization like the Ottawa 67's what to expect with new head coach Bob Hartley. He will have to work his way up the forward lines, just like he did in junior, but he will become a #1 centre in very good time.
7. Edmonton Oilers -- Darnell Nurse (D, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL)
Just like the Calgary Flames needed centres with the sixth overall pick, the Edmonton Oilers knew that they needed defencemen with the seventh overall pick. They got an awesome blueliner in Darnell Nurse. The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound has shown over the course of two OHL seasons that he is capable of being a big-time performer. It just seems incredible that, with twelve goals, he found himself third on the Soo in defenceman goal scoring since both Ryan Sproul and Colin Miller had twenty goals each. That just shows that he has committed himself to his offensive game and followed great examples. Nurse will not just provide offense from the back end for Edmonton, but he will also give them considerable size back there, too. At 6'5", Nurse could very well be the tallest defender on the Oilers come the start of next season if he sticks in the NHL. He also joins a considerable youth movement on the blueline in Edmonton, one that also includes 25-year-old Jeff Petry, 23-year-old Philip Larsen and 23-year-old Justin Schultz. Too much depth, however, could hinder his chances of making the team on a full-time basis for this season but anything is possible. He will be a top-pair defenceman as his career goes along.
8. Buffalo Sabres -- Rasmus Ristolainen (D, TPS Turku, SM-liiga)
When the Buffalo Sabres went into the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, they knew that they were in desperate need of depth on the blueline. Looking at their prospect pool, it does appear quite shallow, with perhaps the only true blue-chip prospect they have being Jérôme Gauthier-Leduc, who is still with the AHL's Rochester Americans until such time as he gets the chance to be called up. That being said, the Sabres knew that they were going to need defensive help, also given the fact that Mark Pysyk will become a restricted free agent after the 2014-15 season and Mike Weber's contract expires the following season. That is why it made sense for the Sabres to nab Finnish defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen. Much like former Sabre and current assistant coach Teppo Numminen, Ristolainen, who played in his first SM-liiga game at the age of sixteen, is a quick-skating offensive-minded defenceman. He is big and mobile, which makes him a great asset. Although Ristolainen still needs work on the defensive side of his game, he has shown already that he is capable of incredible reliability, making the Finnish World Junior team for the first time as a seventeen-year-old and playing big minutes; he also played 52 games in the SM-liiga last season, one of the best men's professional leagues in Europe, showing that he is more than capable of playing against men. Ristolainen has two years remaining on his contract with TPS but, while he could come over before the beginning of the 2014-15 season, it would play out perfectly for him to come over when that contract expires; the Sabres just may very well be ready for him at that time. He has the potential to be a top-four defenceman and it would not be impossible to fathom that he could play on a pairing with fellow 2013 draft first-rounder Nikita Zadorov.
9. Vancouver Canucks -- Bo Horvat (C/LW, London Knights, OHL)
When the New Jersey Devils sent the ninth overall pick to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for goaltender Cory Schneider, one of the immediate following questions had to have been, "Who will the Canucks pick?" For the third straight year, Vancouver opted to choose a player from the OHL, drafting London Knights forward Bo Horvat. (They chose Nicklas Jensen and Brendan Gaunce in 2011 and 2012, respectively.) Horvat had a great season this year, his second in major junior, with 61 points in 67 games; however, it was his MVP-worthy play in the postseason that got him noticed. He had 23 points, including sixteen goals, in helping the Knights win their second consecutive OHL championship, scoring the J. Ross Robertson Cup-winning goal with less than one second remaining in Game 7 against the Barrie Colts. It seemed as though he had found a way to climb the Central Scouting rankings and endear himself to NHL general managers, thanks also to superlative statistics at the NHL Scouting Combine. Him going to Vancouver, though, seems a bit iffy. Over the years, the Canucks have been very unkind to first-round picks. They seem to bury them in the minors until they feel that they are ready for a callup... not when the player is ready but when the team is ready for him. Cody Hodgson had to wait four years after he was drafted to become a full-time NHL player and, by the time Vancouver realized it was his time, he was traded. Nicklas Jensen has played in only two NHL games so far and he is expected to be in the AHL for the majority of next season. Jordan Schroeder managed to appear in 31 games this past season and, thanks to him being buried in the minors, his entry-level contract has now expired. Hopefully, that will not happen to Horvat. It could prove difficult since the Sedin twins' contracts expire after this upcoming season (extensions should be imminent), same with Jannik Hansen; as well, David Booth's contract expires the following year. Horvat will have to bide his time. Unfortunately, the way the Canucks have moulded their team, he may not be any higher than a third-liner, made all the more difficult by having to impress John Tortorella, one of the stingiest coaches in the NHL.
10. Dallas Stars -- Valeri Nichushkin (RW/LW, Traktor Chelyabinsk, KHL)
It was quite an enigmatic pick for the Dallas Stars when they used their tenth overall selection to draft budding Russian star Valeri Nichushkin. When looking at his statistics from the last two seasons of junior and professional hockey, they may not look as stellar as his play would testify to. He only recorded six points in the KHL last season with Traktor, all coming in a total of 18 games; this was actually quite impressive considering that he also bounced around the MHL and VHL, too. Nichushkin won the Alexei Cherepanov Award for the KHL's rookie of the year award for his efforts. Not to be overlooked, however, is the fact that Nichushkin has demonstrated at the international level that he is capable of being a big-game player, most notably scoring the overtime-winning goal against Canada in the bronze medal at the World Juniors this past year. He is a solid skater but he lacks consistency; sometimes, he looks stellar while he looks mediocre in other situations. Thankfully, due to his size and his tenacity, he does have the potential to be a solid contributor. Nichushkin has made it known that he wants to come to North America as early as the 2013-14 season, especially with his contract with Traktor expired, but he should not be selfish about it; if he gets assigned to the AHL's Texas Stars, he should take it gracefully, not like how some Russian prospects handle demotion. (If all else fails, he does have a KHL contract with Dynamo Moscow waiting for him.) Nichushkin has a lot to learn, including not to be selfish, which a stint in the AHL could really help with. He could very well be a top-line winger in Dallas, joining solid prospects such as Brett Ritchie, Radek Faksa, Emil Molin and Matěj Stránský; that, coupled with Jamie Benn under contract until the 2016-17 season and newly acquired Tyler Seguin under contract until the 2018-19 season, will make Dallas a strong team for years to come. Unless Nichushkin is dedicated to improving all aspects of his play, as well as to learn how to utilize his teammates better, it may be another two or three years before he makes it full-time in Big D.