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Lightning director of amateur scouting Al Murray optimistic about 2013 NHL Draft Class

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning director of amateur scouting Al Murray was inside the offices of the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Monday, where reporters gathered to field his thoughts, comments, and opinions about who is perceived to be some of the top picks at this year’s 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

As some background information, Murray, in his professional opinion, did not think there were any “A+” players in this year’s pool, but he did acknowledge that there were at least five to 10 “A” or “A-” players, that according to him, have potential to go first overall. With the Lightning holding the third overall pick at this year’s selection showcase, Murray is confident that he, Steve Yzerman and the remainder of the hockey operations staff will select “a very good player.” put together the top five players that potentially have the best chance of being selected by the Bolts at the NHL Entry Draft in New Jersey on June 30. Here are Murray’s thoughts on each:

“I’ll do it alphabetical, so we don’t tip our hat here,” he joked.

Aleksander Barkov

“He’s a 6-foot-3 center. His dad is a Russian who played in Russia and then finished his career in Finland, which is where the family settled, so that’s why he plays for Finland in all the international tournaments. He’s a combination of a

He’s a combination of a goal-scorer and a playmaker.Al Murray on Barkov

goal-scorer and a playmaker. He played the past two years in the Finnish Elite League and this past year was very impressive. He was top 10 in scoring in the men’s league as a 17-year-old. The one thing that’s interesting about this kid is that we’ve never ever seen him play in his own age group at some of the international tournaments. When they had the U-17 championships, he was the third-line center of the Finnish World Juniors team. He’s big, he’s mobile, he’s a very good skater, he’s got puck handling ability and he’s a good defensive player.”

Caveat: “He had a shoulder problem, a dislocation. We have not received all the X-Rays yet, and you don’t want to drop a guy due to injury, but you certainly do all the checking you can about how the procedures went and everything. Hopefully he’s back and healthy. He’s a candidate to go very high in the Draft.”

Comparable NHL Players: Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau

Jonathan Drouin

“A lot of people want to compare him to Martin St. Louis, but I’m not sure he’s that caliber. We’ve had him in the top 10 of our list since the Ivan Hlinka tournament last summer when a lot of people had him as a borderline first-round pick or a

He’s got a lot of confidence in his own ability, but he might be as good as a playmaker as there ever is in the Draft.Al Murray on Drouin

second-round pick. We watched him the year before in Halifax and when we watched him at the tryouts for Team Canada for the Ivan Hlinka tournament, he was the best player. He was the best guy there. He’s a dynamic offensive guy who’s a combination of a goal scorer and playmaker. He’s a terrific skater and he doesn’t have blazing speed, but he has above average speed and strong ability and quickness, which allows him to take the puck down either wall and cross diagonally in front of the D or put it through the D. He’s got a lot of confidence in his own ability, but he might be as good as a playmaker as there ever is in the Draft. Like St. Louis, he could be one of those playmaking wingers who can see a center and move the puck to somebody who is open at the appropriate time. That makes him very dangerous on the power play and his one-on-one skills are pretty impressive. If you play him too tight, he can take the puck and embarrass you.”

Caveat: “At the time of the tryouts for the Ivan Hlinka tournament, a lot of people were concerned about his size. At the time he was 5-foot-9, but everybody in his family is big, so he’s expected to be 6-feet when all is said and done, or bigger. Right now he’s 5-foot-11, 185 pounds.”

Comparable NHL Player: Patrick Kane

Seth Jones

“On a lot of lists, he’s the number-one prospect. He’s a very good player and you see the comparisons to Nicklas Lidstrom or Chris Pronger, but I don’t think those are even close. Pronger is much more vicious and much harder to play against than Seth, and Lidstrom’s hockey sense was at a level that not too many, or maybe even none, have ever played at. Seth is an easy skater and he’s a big right-handed shot defenseman. He can play a lot of minutes, he can lug the

On a lot of lists, he’s the number-one prospect.Al Murray on Jones

puck out of his zone and take it end to end, he can make plays, make quick passes or hit guys at the far blue line or run the power play. He’s both a shooter and a playmaker. He’s a very skilled player and he’s going to be a terrific addition to any team.”

Caveat: “He needs some work at his own end, as far as his defensive positioning and his commitment defensively.”

Comparable NHL Player: Alex Pietrangelo

Nathan MacKinnon

“He’s a pretty interesting guy. I think if you talk to him he says he’s more of a power forward who has skill, but to a lot of other people, he’s a highly-skilled forward who plays with a lot of power. It’s a nice combination to have. His skating is

...he’s a highly-skilled forward who plays with a lot of power.Al Murray on MacKinnon

elite. He’s a durable guy and he’s been a terrific player and I really don’t know what more to say. He can play the game any way you want him to play it.”

Caveat: “His hockey sense is maybe a notch down from Drouin, but not far. His competitiveness too has maybe given him a little bit of trouble because he’s capable of taking on people one-on-one, but sometimes it leads to a train wreck because he winds up in a lot of collisions where he’s taken some hits.”

Comparable NHL Players: Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin

Valeri Nichushkin

“He’s a guy with all kinds of talent. He’s big, he’s a tremendous skater, but in February at the Under-18 tournament, that was maybe the most dominant performance I’ve seen at any of those Under-18 or World Junior tournaments. He

He’s a guy with all kinds of talent. He’s big, he’s a tremendous skater...Al Murray on Nichushkin

absolutely took over the tournament. He was good on the forecheck, he was finishing checks, he was making plays or scored big goals in the third period when his team was behind, he never quit on a shift and he was just spectacular. I think when you see that potential and the level he played at in the Russian men’s league, you see a very good prospect.”

Caveat: “He’s got great one-on-one individual skills with the puck, and that was maybe the problem with him, is that you thought maybe he didn’t see the other options and he didn’t play with other players real well.”

Comparable NHL Players: Alex Ovechkin or Evgeni Malkin

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