I found the time to put one of these together again this season. As always, it was definitely a challenge because it's such a talented and deep group in the top 30 and beyond. You'll find the top 30 down below, along with the first 5 picks of the second round. Along with the top 30 picks, you will find a bit of a description of the player and reasoning for the pick. I have also included a "secondary option" for the given selection, just to give some insight into what teams might be thinking just before they make the final call and walk up to the podium.
Just as a note, the bottom 4 picks of the first round are based on regular season standings position, not on the actual yet-to-be-determined results of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Mocks like this are meant to be fun and it's pretty rare to be even somewhat accurate when it's all said and done. I ended up predicting something like 7 for the top 30 picks in the 2011 NHL Draft and I considered that to be a pretty big success, so that is saying something. With that being said, I fully expect to nail the first 5 picks of the draft considering the teams and the logic that goes into the decisions. I guess we'll find out soon!
1 - Colorado Avalanche - Seth Jones - RD - Portland Winterhawks - The Avalanche realize that you need horses on the blueline to be true Stanley Cup contenders and draft Jones 1st overall. I'm usually not a fan of considering "positional needs" at the draft, but that definitely needs to play into their decision making in this case. Jones will slot directly onto their 2nd defensive pairing next year, ideally with a veteran like Jan Hejda.
If not Seth Jones: Nathan MacKinnon
2 - Florida Panthers - Nathan MacKinnon - CR - Halifax Mooseheads - The Panthers run to the podium to select the MacKinnon 2nd overall. He was the biggest standout at the Memorial Cup, had great interviews at the combine and is a great combination of skill and character. Will combine with Jonathan Huberdeau to create an amazing 1-2 punch in Florida.
If not Nathan MacKinnon: Jonathan Drouin
3 - Tampa Bay Lightning - Jonathan Drouin - LW - Halifax Mooseheads - The Lightning think long and hard about both Sasha Barkov and Valery Nichushkin, but opt for the extremely skilled Drouin. He's an ideal fit for their franchise going forward, will be an excellent replacement for Martin St. Louis in the future and is NHL-ready, in my opinion.
If not Jonathan Drouin: Valery Nichushkin
4 - Nashville Predators - Aleksander Barkov - CL - Tappara - The Predators are happy to select the big two-way center in Barkov. He's not only a very skilled offensive player with size, but he also fits their style of play as a very good defensive forward. Stylistically he compares to a player like Anze Kopitar. I fully imagine he'll jump straight to the NHL in 2013-14.
If not Aleksander Barkov: Elias Lindholm
5 - Carolina Hurricanes - Valery Nichushkin - RW - Traktor - The Hurricanes gladly take a chance on a dynamic Russian forward at 5th overall. There have been varying opinions on him leading up to the draft, with some people holding the opinion that he's talented enough to be a 1st overall type of prospect. Like the players picked ahead of him, I fully expect him to be in the NHL next year and could see some time on a line with fellow Russian Alexander Semin.
If not Valery Nichushkin: Darnell Nurse
6 - Calgary Flames - Sean Monahan - CL - Ottawa 67's - The Flames fill a huge organizational need by drafting a big, two-way center in Monahan. Monahan is a player that does a little bit of everything for the 67's and can be one of those guys that's considered a franchise cornerstone for Calgary for the next 10 years. He might not make an immediate jump to the NHL, but I could see him getting several games under his belt to start off next season.
If not Sean Monahan: Hunter Shinkaruk
7 - Edmonton Oilers - Bo Horvat - CL - London Knights - Two things have been rumoured for this pick. First, that Mac-T and the Oilers want to trade it for immediate help on the blueline. Second, that they want to take a center at this spot. That's what they'll opt to do as they draft Bo Horvat of the Knights. He's a great two-way center that proved he can elevate his game in key situations during the Knights run to a second-consecutive OHL title.
If not Bo Horvat: Darnell Nurse
8 - Buffalo Sabres - Darnell Nurse - LD - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds - The Sabres are the second team to nab a defender in the draft as they grab big, rugged blueliner Darnell Nurse. The Sabres are poised to grab two very good first round prospects in 2013 and getting Nurse is a great grab as he's a guy that could develop into a two-way franchise pillar for a team that needs to get bigger and tougher.
If not Darnell Nurse: Elias Lindholm
9 - New Jersey Devils - Elias Lindholm - CR - Brynas - The Devils are very happy to nab one of the most skilled players in the draft at 9th overall. I could honestly see him going anywhere from 4th to 10th. He could be one of those guys that is good enough to jump straight to the NHL but even if he doesn't due to his Swedish contract, he's a kid that will look great in their top 6 down the road.
If not Elias Lindholm: Hunter Shinkaruk
10 - Dallas Stars - Hunter Shinkaruk - LW - Medicine Hat Tigers - The Stars have a solid pipeline of defenders and that allows them to add another nice piece to their future top 6. Shinkaruk's a skilled goal scorer, playmaker and is a hard worker. He lists Dallas as his favorite NHL team, due to the fact that he used to enjoy watching Mike Modano while growing up. He's a great fit for the Stars.
If not Hunter Shinkaruk: Alexander Wennberg
11 - Philadelphia Flyers - Rasmus Ristolainen - RD - TPS - Ristolainen is another one of those guys that could go anywhere from about 5th-15th, in my opinion. I've been a big fan of his over the last couple of years as he's a rugged player that takes care of his own end of the ice first. The Flyers are also a team with a nice group of young forwards and that aids in their decision to take a high potential defenceman at this spot.
If not Rasmus Ristolainen: Nikita Zadorov
12 - Phoenix Coyotes - Mirco Mueller - LD - Everett Silvertips - The Coyotes add another talented defenceman to their mix by drafting Mirco Mueller of Switzerland. Mueller does a bit of everything for the Tips, while also putting up a very solid performance at this year's World Junior Hockey Championships. I personally have him rated as a 2nd rounder, but I wouldn't be shocked if he ended up going in the top 15.
If not Mirco Mueller: Ryan Pulock
13 - Winnipeg Jets - Max Domi - LW - London Knights - The Jets add more skill to their system by taking the shifty and dynamic Max Domi. He might not be the biggest player, but he's got game-breaking ability and has the potential to be one of the best scorers to come out of this draft.
If not Max Domi: Ryan Pulock
14 - Columbus Blue Jackets - Nikita Zadorov - LD - London Knights - A pair of Knights go back to back as the Blue Jackets grab the big, rangy defenceman from London at 14th overall. Zadorov skates extremely well for a big man and hits hard. He compares well to current Jacket Fedor Tyutin and is another piece to add to an improving club in Columbus.
If not Nikita Zadorov: Alexander Wennberg
15 - New York Islanders - Valentin Zykov - RW - Baie-Comeau Drakkar - The Islanders continue to add to their group of skilled forward prospects by nabbing the CHL's Rookie Of The Year in Zykov. He's got good size and puck-possession skill and could look nice alongside the likes of Tavares and Strome someday soon.
If not Valentin Zykov: Alexander Wennberg
16 - Buffalo Sabres (from Minnesota) - Ryan Pulock - RD - Brandon Wheat Kings - The Sabres add another top-end defensive prospect in Pulock after grabbing Darnell Nurse 8th overall. Pulock possesses the hardest shot of any player in the draft, took good strides defensively this season and is a leader and character kid.
If not Ryan Pulock: Anthony Mantha
17 - Ottawa Senators - Curtis Lazar - CR - Edmonton Oil Kings - The Senators are well stocked at every position going forward, but happily take a player in Lazar that possesses a large amount of all-round potential. He's got good speed, a good shot and release and is also very aware defensively. Could be a great fit as their 3rd line center in only a few years, with converting to the wing also a possible option.
If not Curtis Lazar: Alexander Wennberg
18 - Detroit Red Wings - Alexander Wennberg - CL - Djurgarden - After many teams look long and hard at Wennberg, the Wings happily snap him up at 18th overall. He's an extremely skilled player from Sweden who has above-average hockey sense. He might be a few years away from primetime, but Detroit is always patient with their prospects.
If not Alexander Wennberg: Andre Burakovsky
19 - Columbus Blue Jackets (from NYR) - Andre Burakovsky - LW - Malmo - The Blue Jackets add an offensive force to their prospect pool after grabbing a towering defenceman earlier in the first round. Burakovsky is another one of the talented Swedes available in this draft as he's not the thickest player, but has great hands around the net. Depth at the wing isn't an immediate issue for the Jackets at the NHL level, but is an area they can round out when it comes to their prospect pipeline.
If not Andre Burakovsky: Ryan Hartman
20 - San Jose Sharks - Anthony Mantha - LW - Val-d'Or Foreurs - The Sharks are happy to grab the 50 goal scorer in Mantha at 20th overall. It's no shock that the Sharks aren't getting any younger and adding a future linemate for Logan Couture is an ideal move. He skates pretty well for a big man and I wouldn't be shocked if he ended up going off the board earlier than the 20th position.
If not Anthony Mantha: Frederk Gauthier
21 - Toronto Maple Leafs - Madison Bowey - RD - Kelowna Rockets - Teams are always looking for big defenceman who can skate and provide offense and with that in mind, the Leafs grab a guy who fits that mold from the defender-factory in Kelowna. Bowey is a big, strong kid with leadership capabilities who's also represented his country on the national stage. The Leafs have a stable of young talented defenceman and will be pleased to add another to that group.
If not Madison Bowey: Kerby Rychel
22 - Calgary Flames (from STL) - Steven Santini - RD - USNTDP - After adding a potential franchise pivot in Monahan, the Flames grab a gritty and defensive American in Santini with their second of three 1st round picks. He's coming off of a strong U-18 showing and rides that wave into a first round selection in 2013.
If not Steven Santini: Josh Morrissey
23 - Washington Capitals - Josh Morrissey - LD - Prince Albert Raiders - The Capitals posses a solid group of talented forwards, plus some great prospects in Kuznetsov and Wilson, and they take that to heart when selected Josh Morrissey 23rd overall. Morrissey is primarily an offensive defenceman and is great at both skating and passing the puck.
If not Josh Morrissey: Robert Hagg
24 - Vancouver Canucks - Robert Hagg - LD - MODO - The Canucks are happy to select a Swedish blueliner who's just scratched the surface in regards to his potential in Robert Hagg. He's got good size at 6'2 and over 200 lbs. He's been on the radar for quite some time, but had a strong second half to the year and is known for being a very smart defender with above-average hockey sense.
If not Robert Hagg: Shea Theodore
25 - Montreal Canadiens - Frederik Gauthier - CL - Rimouski Oceanic - The Canadiens are happy to add some more size to their future forward group after selecting Gauthier 25th overall. He's a monster at 6'5, skates well for his size, is a solid two-way center and had a very strong U-18 Championship for Team Canada.
If not Frederik Gauthier: Ryan Hartman
26 - Anaheim Ducks - Ryan Hartman - RW - Plymouth Whalers - Hartman is a gritty and versatile forward for Plymouth. He skates well, has solid offensive ability, hits hard and is known for having a mean streak. He fits the style of game that the Ducks like to play to a tee.
If not Ryan Hartman: Adam Erne
27 - Columbus Blue Jackets (from LA) - Morgan Klimchuk - LW - Regina Pats - The Jackets add another skilled piece to their puzzle with their final selection of the first round. Klimchuk is a kid with blazing speed, a good head on his shoulders and he tested extremely well at the draft combine. There's a lot to like and the Jackets happily grab him.
If not Morgan Klimchuk: Adam Erne
28 - Dallas Stars (from Boston) - Kerby Rychel - LW - Windsor Spitfires - The Stars select their second left-winger of the first round by nabbing Spitfires scorer Kerby Rychel. He's a hard working kid who tested extremely well at the combine and has a knack for scoring goals. I would not be shocked if he actually came off the board earlier than where he's listed here, as long as that team feels that his skating will be an area he can improve on as it's his main weakness.
If not Kerby Rychel: Jacob De La Rose
29 - Calgary Flames (from Pittsburgh) - Zach Fucale - G - Halifax Mooseheads - The Calgary Flames add the best goalie available in the draft to their pipeline with the selection of Fucale. He's coming off a big season for Halifax, including winning both the QMJHL and Memorial Cup Championships. He's got an impressive mix of size and skill between the pipes and the Flames happily snag him with their third pick of the round.
If not Zach Fucale: Nic Petan
30 - Chicago Blackhawks - Adam Erne - LW - Quebec Remparts - The Blackhawks laugh their way up to the podium to select Erne. He's a player with good size and a very solid north-south game. Might not have the skill or creativity to be a star player, but could definitely fill a hole as an above-average complimentary player down the line.
If not Adam Erne: Shea Theodore
31 - Florida Panthers - Shea Theodore - D - Seattle Thunderbirds
32 - Colorado Avalanche - Nic Petan - CL - Portland Winterhawks
33 - Tampa Bay Lightning - Laurent Dauphin - CL - Chicoutimi Sagueneens
34 - Montreal Canadiens (from Nashville) - JT Compher - CR - USNTDP
35 - Carolina Hurricanes - Pavel Buchnevich - LW - Severstal KHL