The question on everyone's mind heading into the 2013 NHL Draft is whether or not a defenseman will finally get the nod over a forward as the first pick.
After all, the last time that happened was 2006 when Erik Johnson of the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., went to the St. Louis Blues with the No. 1 choice.
The top defenseman on the radar of every scout this year is Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League. Jones, who played a big role for the gold medal-winning United States National Junior Team at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship, currently leads all rookies in the WHL with 28 points, including eight goals and a plus-27 rating, in 31 games with Portland.
Forward Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has also been touted as one of the best prospects in recent years. MacKinnon leads Halifax with 23 goals, 55 points and a plus-29 rating in 32 games.
On Tuesday, NHL Central Scouting will shed some light on that very topic with the release of its midterm rankings. In addition to revealing the top 210 skaters and 38 goalies from North America, Central Scouting will also unveil the top 116 skaters and 10 goalies from Europe.
The projected top two European prospects on the board, according to Central Scouting's preliminary ratings in November, are Finland's Aleksander Barkov of Tappara and Sweden's Elias Lindholm of Brynas. According to Goran Stubb, the director of European Scouting, both players were not only thisclose heading into the midterm meetings earlier this month, but both are expected to be selected among the top five picks.
Check back to NHL.com on Tuesday morning for additional features and the complete midterm rankings report.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL