TORONTO -- The opinion among the group at NHL Central Scouting involving the finalization of the rankings of the top draft-eligible prospects in North America this past weekend was unanimous.
In the end, that general manager of the team owning a high pick at the 2013 NHL Draft in Newark, N.J., on June 30 is going to be one happy camper.
"I think what everyone recognizes, and what they accept, is that there are no mistakes that are going to be made," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr told NHL.com. "There are no wrong choices at the top end of this draft. The top three or four players are all bona fide NHL candidates, and this year there is a variance on it because a team is going to take who they want (based on position of need). This is a nice luxury to have, where that caliber of a player you need to service your team for years to come will be available among those first three or four picks."
The team holding a later pick in the opening round also will have plenty to get excited about when all is said and done.
"I think the first round makes this year a deep draft," Marr said. "Every team should get a good player. But as you drift down into our top 60, a lot of those names will be selected among the top 100 of the draft. So there are a lot of players in the top 100 that could ultimately become solid NHL players."
The names have already become a who's who among hockey prospects around the globe, featuring defenseman Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks, forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin of the Halifax Mooseheads, center Aleksander Barkov of Tappara in Finland, and goalie Zachary Fucale of Halifax.
"There's so much talent in that first round, that there's only a little bit of separation from the guys that are 1-2-3 and then 4-5-6," Central Scouting's David Gregory said. "I feel strongly that we got the order right. There was a lot of discussion and a lot of debate over some guys and the years those players had, but I think we had it right."
As you might expect, there was plenty of discussion regarding the top three prospects on Central Scouting's midterm list: Jones, MacKinnon and Drouin. There were strong arguments for each player and each scout had personal views and observations to share with their colleagues.
But, as Central Scouting's Chris Edwards would admit in the end, somebody had to be first, second and third. There's no question the arguments presented provided the most intriguing dialogue at the final meetings since the Taylor Hall-Tyler Seguin debate in 2010.
The official release of Central Scouting's top 210 skaters and 30 goalies is expected later this month.
"You put a lot of work into the midseason list and you go back and watch the players and it's always interesting to see those that improve based on the expectations you have and those who stalled a little bit and didn't come along as much as you'd like," Marr said. "You always like to find the surprises … guys that pop up that weren't in the mix before, and now you have some new names there."
Overall, the second-year director was satisfied and thankful for all the hard work put in by the scouts.
"It takes some time to craft the list, so I was glad to see that, with the entire staff, there weren't any players coming out of left field," Marr said. "The work we did [Saturday] was very productive because, the bottom line is you want to have an order that you can feel proud about. Crafting the list takes time, but the guys were prepared. In this first round, you're talking about good players, so while it's fun, it only gets tougher the deeper you go into the draft."
Central Scouting's newest member, Greg Rajanen, who was hired in September, said he appreciated the businesslike approach all the scouts took at the final meeting.
"I've been in team scouting meetings (as a part-time scout with the Calgary Flames) but this was a little different," Rajanen told NHL.com. "Still, you're trying to get guys in the right order so you push for the guys you believe in. You want to make sure they're in the right spot, as well on our overall list."
Next up is the NHL Draft Lottery on April 29, followed by the NHL Combine in Toronto, May 27 through June 1; prospects will be interviewed by team scouts and general managers May 27-30 and the testing portion will be held May 31 and June 1.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL
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