2013 NHL Draft: Overhyped?
by, 12-31-2012 at 10:59 (5428 Views)
For the last few months (and even longer in some cases), so many have been pouring praises on the 2013 NHL Entry Draft class. In summary, the "hype" revolves around the first round's apparent depth of talent at multiple positions and styles as well as some "once-in-a-generation" type of talents. Much of the hockey world is focused on how these young hockey talents have fared thus far following the conclusion of round robin play at the 2013 IIHF under-20 World Junior Tournament.
In any assessment of any newly draft eligible player in the U-20 tournament it is important to remember that most of these players competing are a year or two past this stage in their development. Especially on the top teams most of them have only seldom played together at best, making styles, systems, and chemistry a chore sometimes. Additionally some do not fit the overall their country's playing style, which can be for a variety of factors like the increasingly common journey to the CHL for some European players while others play domestically. Also certain nations have differing amounts of depth on their rosters, which will position some players in roles they are not ready for or unaccustomed to playing.
Given all the factors, here is a look at some possibly demythologizing analysis of these top prospects after the Canadian victory over Russia concluded pool play.
1) Nathan MacKinnon- Canada
MacKinnon hails from the same hometown as Sidney Crosby, which is frequently mentioned along with the fact that even though they train together that they are different types of elite "can't miss" type players. MacKinnon has fabulous skating, which he has demonstrated in the tournament if you look for it carefully. He is explosive with gears few have but MacKinnon also has a smooth elusiveness that makes him an extra special talent with stickhandling skills that can keep up with his blistering speed.
Noted to have more of an edge to his game along with a great knack to accumulate points like he usually does with the QMJHL powerhouse Halifax Mooseheads, MacKinnon is certainly in a very different role with Team Canada. Through the first four games of the tournament, while playing few minutes on Canada's lower lines, MacKinnon has one assist.
Many will unfairly just look at the statistics and compare him to Crosby's quite respectable world junior results from the 2004 and 2005 tournaments. In both trips to the under-20s, Crosby had 14 points in 12 games. The more relevant aspect is not to arbitrarily compare him to Crosby, despite their commonalities but to analyze MacKinnon's play on its own.
His two undisciplined penalties in the round robin finale could have really costed Canada and should at least make some question if his edge could be a liability for awhile when adjusting to NHL play. It is also inadvisable to make too many wider assumptions about MacKinnon's true upside and likelihood to reach it because of the more minor role that he has been playing in for his country. However compared to countryman and Halifax teammate, Jonathan Drouin's four points and plus-five +/- rating, MacKinnon has certainly been less impressive.
2) Seth Jones- USA
Another great story comes with top prospect Seth Jones of the United States. The son of a former-NBA veteran and assistant coach for the Brooklyn Nets, Seth Jones has a great package of skills. A defender with good skating and size, Jones has three points during Team USA's first four games. However his three points and plus-three rating are mostly the byproduct of the Americans' two blowouts. Jones had two points in their opener against Germany, which ended in as an 8-0 U.S. win and the other point came in their 9-3 victory over Slovakia.
At times in the tournament Jones has been found frequently trying to do too much, becoming predictable, and generally struggling with the stronger teams in the tournament. Along with Winnipeg Jets 2012 first round selection, Jacob Trouba the majority of the American defense can appropriately be characterized as a group of high flying riverboat gamblers, which alternate between being very effective in both ends or extremely costly.
Some of Jones' issues against Canada and Russia could be characterized as careless. Occasionally the problems for Jones occurred under forechecking pressure, but the more alarming part is that many of them were largely examples of unforced errors where the WHL's Portland Winterhawk regular got carried away trying to do something inadvisable.
There is no doubt that Jones possesses an impressive range and quality of skills that make him an intriguing prospect. However his struggles to preform against the better competition, while having a big role for Team USA has been a bit of a disappointment. At least Jones and his teammates mustered up a dominant performance against the Slovakians to give them more chances to prove themselves in the elimination rounds against stronger opponents.
3) Aleksander Barkov- Finland
Another highly thought of forward, Sasha Barkov has three points for Finland as they head into the relegation round following a comeback that fell short against Sweden on the last day of action in Group A. A Finnish forward of Russian descent, Barkov has tons of raw upside both in hockey skills and from his impressive 6'3'' frame. During the 2012-13 SM-liiga season, the 17-year-old has produced a very solid 28 points in 32 games for Tappara.
In 12 shots on net for Finland, Barkov has come up empty. He has contributed three assists thus far and has competed hard alongside his teammates, who collectively also manage to add a dramatic flair to their games through massive momentum swings. As Finland comes into the relegation round as favorites to crush the lesser competition, Barkov has had a decent showing but should really shine given the added experience during these four games.
4) Valeri Nichushkin- Russia
Before taking an ill-advised and costly major penalty during the game against Canada on New Year's Eve, the top Russian for the 2013 NHL Draft was having a pretty quiet tournament. He had the primary assist on Vladimir Tkachyov's game-winner against the United States in a crucial Group B game.
Similar to MacKinnon, not in talent but in situation on his country's team, Nichushkin has had a slightly more important role for Russia. He is only considered a smaller level scorer for Russia, compared to the likes of top talents like Nail Yakupov, Nikita Kucherov, and Mikhail Grigorenko, but a scoring role nonetheless. However also like MacKinnon he took a bad penalty in their head-to-head matchup but unfortunately in his case, Canada scored twice off of his five minute major infraction.
Long term, Nichushkin is still relatively an uncertain and unknown commodity. He certainly has plenty of talent and upside. However more assurances to relieve doubts about his future intentions, known as the "Russian question" also need to be addressed as well as more analysis off of a larger sample of his on-ice performances.
Next up: Positive WJC performances from 2013 draft eligible prospects