The gurus of NHL Central Scouting will put the finishing touches on their final rankings for the 2013 NHL Draft when their final meetings start Friday.
While those final ratings won't be released until later this month, NHL.com couldn't wait that long. In the interim, two veteran NHL scouts -- one representing a team from each conference -- were asked to provide their first-round projections in exchange for anonymity.
The following two mock drafts might very well be the closest thing you'll see anywhere on the Internet in terms of how the opening round of the 2013 Draft might pan out.
Things certainly will change between now and when the teams congregate at Prudential Center on June 30 for the annual selection extravaganza, but our Eastern and Western scouts were more than willing to give it a shot.
Both scouts believe Portland Winterhawks defenseman Seth Jones will become the first player at his position to be selected with the first pick since 2006 when Erik Johnson of the United States National Team Development Program went No. 1 to the St. Louis Blues. Additionally, center Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads of Quebec Major Junior Hockey League was the unanimous choice to go second.
After that, there's some discrepancies, particularly with the order in which the top draft-eligible forwards will come off the board. In fact, one of our scouts projects Russian right wing Valeri Nichushkin to be picked ahead of Halifax forward Jonathan Drouin.
Our Eastern scout feels it's possible that as many as eight players starring in Europe could hear their name called in the opening round of the Draft. Our Western scout projects seven Euros taken among the first 30 picks.
Is there any possibility a player other than center Aleksander Barkov of Finland is selected first among the European contingent? According to our Western Conference scout, there is.
The draft order in place for this exercise was based on inverse order of League standings on March 13, and because of travel and time constraints, does not include the conditional first-round pick the Calgary Flames acquired from the St. Louis Blues in the Jay Bouwmeester deal Monday.
In addition, the New Jersey Devils retain the right to surrender their first-round pick as penalty for circumventing the salary cap in signing Ilya Kovalchuk in 2010; they have until the 2014 draft to make that decision.
The writers for NHL.com will be offering their second mock drafts of the first round following Central Scouting's final rankings release.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL
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