In preparation for this year’s NHL Entry Draft, NashvillePredators.com spoke with NHL.com's Deputy Managing Editor Adam Kimelman about this year’s draft class and other items of note around the weekend.
Nashvillepredators.com: You and some others put together mock drafts on NHL.com. What’s the process for that? Are you actively going out and scouting players, or do you rely on the opinions of Central Scouting and try to find the best fit for the team/player?
Kimelman: For my mock drafts, I rely on both Central Scouting's scouts as well NHL scouts I know. The information I get from them than weighs into my decision for each team, but some of it also comes from a look at recent draft picks, prospects coming up through the team's system and in some cases what they might need right away at the NHL level.
NP.com: Many say the talent in this year’s draft compares to 2003, do you agree with that assessment?
Kimelman: I usually say you need to wait five years to assess the relative strength of a draft class, but one look at the depth and skill of the players coming through the class of 2013, and it does, right now, appear to be as strong as the 2003 draft. In my opinion, this could be the best draft since 2003.
NP.com: How deep is this draft? Any positions deeper than others?
Kimelman: In talking to scouts, they agree that center and defense appear to be the deepest positions. As far as overall depth of this year's draft, there could be high-quality players going through the middle of the second round.
NP.com: Any names to keep an eye on in the later rounds?
Kimelman: One player who could slide into the second or third rounds is Tri-City Americans goalie Eric Comrie. Comrie probably is the second-best North American goalie in this year's draft class, but a hip injury sidelined him most of the season. He should be fine by the time next season starts, but if he slides some team could get an outstanding prospect later in the draft.
NP.com: With the outcome of the Memorial Cup – did it hurt Seth Jones’ stock or simply improve Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin’s?
Kimelman: It's hard to put much weight into one five- or six-game tournament. I think going into the Memorial Cup Jones, MacKinnon and Drouin were the top three players, and there was no reason to change that after the event.
NP.com: Aleksander Barkov and Valeri Nichushkin have been playing against men in their respective leagues. How much stock do scouts put in that compared to the offensive numbers of guys like MacKinnon and Drouin?
Kimelman: I think it speaks well of both players -- especially Barkov, who had an outstanding season playing Finland's top league -- that they did well against more developed men. It's a bit of apples and oranges, though, to compare the two. The European leagues feature more developed players, but the prospects playing in the Canadian Hockey League play much closer to an NHL-style schedule, on an NHL-size rink.
NP.com: What sort of wrinkle does the Nichushkin factor throw into the Top 5?
Kimelman: I think Nichushkin was a top-seven pick based on talent. That he set up his contract to allow him to play in the NHL next season only removes one question from the equation.
NP.com: David Poile has said his team needs to get more dynamic at the forward position. Do you believe any of the top-rated forwards can provide that element right away?
Kimelman: I believe MacKinnon, Nichushkin and Barkov are capable of playing in the NHL right away. Drouin is also a possibility to stick in the NHL next season.
NP.com: With teams trimming salary to fit under the cap for next year, do you foresee an active draft day with trades?
Kimelman: I think there certainly is a chance we see a lot of activity as the cap goes down, and those trades could involve draft picks.
NP.com: If you were the Preds GM on draft day, what player tops your list?
Kimelman: In my mock draft, I predict the Predators will take Jonathan Drouin. I think one thing they lack as an organization is dynamic, offensively-gifted forwards, and I think Drouin fills that need. Aleksander Barkov, Valeri Nichushkin and Hunter Shinkaruk also are possibilities.
NP.com: Do you see any teams actually trading out of/into the Top 5? Calgary, Tampa, Colorado, Nashville?
Kimelman: Moving into the top five this year is going to be extremely expensive. One team I could envision trying, though, is the Columbus Blue Jackets. Having three first-round picks could be tempting to one of the teams in the top five.
NP.com: Each year there seems to be a surprise in the first round – either a player falling further down than expected, or a team selecting what most teams think is a “reach” player. Any predictions for this year?
Kimelman: This year's draft is full of so many talented players, there's about 15 or 20 players that potentially go in the top 10. So it's hard to say any of them could "rise" or "fall."
For more information on the 2013 NHL Entry Draft stay tuned to nashvillepredators.com. Keep up with Adam Kimelman during the draft on NHL.com or follow him at @NHLAdamK.