The Prospect of Best Fit

There’s somebody out there for everyone. The 2013 NHL Draft is no exception.

With a draft as deep and diverse as 2013 has potential to be, it’s hard to imagine any team picking in the top 15 coming away disappointed.  An impressive selection of skilled centers, playmaking wingers and mobile defensemen means that most teams should easily be able to fill their most pressing needs within the 1st round. This is my attempt at playing matchmaker.

The Task: Take all the non-playoff teams from 2011/2012 and pair them with the 2013 prospect that best fills their most pressing need. Or in other words, find the best “fit”.

Note: This is not a mock draft. The teams are listed as they finished the 2011/2012 season and the order the prospects are listed is not necessarily where I believe they will be picked.

1. Columbus Blue Jackets

Prospect of Best Fit: Nathan MacKinnon

Bringing good size, exceptional speed and an elite skill set unmatched by anyone else in the draft, MacKinnon would be the perfect #1 center to build a franchise around and would form a solid foundation with Ryan Murray for a struggling franchise.

2. Edmonton Oilers

Prospect of Best Fit: Nikita Zadorov

Nikita Zadorov of the London Knights is the most physically imposing shut down defenseman in this year’s draft and would perfectly compliment recently added offensive blueliners Justin Schultz and Oscar Klefbom.

3. Montreal Canadiens

Prospect of Best Fit: Jonathan Drouin

Jonathan Drouin is an offensively gifted winger with some of the best vision and playmaking ability in this year’s draft. Hailing from Quebec, Drouin could become a true homegrown talent and fan favourite in Montreal.

4. New York Islanders

 Prospect of Best Fit: Valery Nichushkin

Valery Nichushkin is a big, dynamic scoring winger who would fit in well in an Islander’s system heavy in young centers. A dangerous pick given his hesitancy to come over to N.A. so far, but could pay off in a big way. He would compliment Tavares nicely on the Isle’s top unit.

5. Toronto Maple Leafs

Prospect of Best Fit: Sean Monahan

Leaf fans are desperate for two things: a top line center and true homegrown talent. Sean Monahan has both covered. He’s also got some of the best hockey sense and two-way play in the draft.

6. Anaheim Ducks

Prospect of Best Fit: Elias Lindholm

The Ducks have long been searching for a gifted second line center that, coupled with Getzlaf, would give them a solid 1-2 punch down the middle. Elias Lindholm is a highly skilled center with elite playmaking skills who has had success in a professional league at the age of 17. He’s the kind of player who makes those around him better, not unlike Getzlaf. Not a bad “2” punch.

7. Minnesota Wild

Prospect of Best Fit: Max Domi

It’s hard to imagine the Wild needing much more after signing both Parise and Suter this off-season, but with great center prospects like Granlund and Coyle in the pipeline and good overall defensive depth, they could benefit from adding a highly competitive scoring winger like Domi to strengthen the second line in the future.

8. Carolina Hurricanes

Prospect of Best Fit: Andre Burakowsky

With the Staal brothers holding down the top two center spots and a surplus of mobile defensemen, the Hurricanes would likely benefit from adding a scoring winger with size, especially if the Alex Semin experiment is a flop. Burakowsky is just that type of winger; big, skilled and willing to go through a wall to score.

9. Winnipeg Jets

Prospect of Best Fit: Curtis Lazar

The Jets need bluechip talent in a big way, at all positions. Curtis Lazar is a tenacious forechecker with a great shot and solid all around game. He would look good forechecking opposing d-men alongside Evander Kane or sliding into the role of responsible #2 behind Scheifele in the future.

10. Tampa Bay Lightning

Prospect of Best Fit: Hunter Shinkaruk

There’s a dire need for young talent at all forward positions in Tampa Bay, but with Stamkos and Lecavalier holding down center positions for the foreseeable future and St. Louis rounding out his career soon, the wing may be the biggest positional needs for the Bolts and adding a talent such as Hunter Shinkaruk would be ideal.

11. Colorado Avalanche

Prospect of Best Fit: Ryan Pulock

Colorado would love to find an elite skating defenseman to pair with Erik Johnson for their top defensive unit and Ryan Pulock may just be the man for the job. He’s a smooth skater, reliable defender and has an absolute cannon of a shot.  The Avs would be set on defense for a long time with this pick.

12. Buffalo Sabres

Prospect of Best Fit: Adam Erne

The Sabres would love to add a gritty, scoring winger to compliment some of their smaller, skilled forwards. Adam Erne’s got the size and he can definitely score. A familiarity with recent Buffalo 1st round pick Mikhail Grigorenko doesn’t hurt either.

13. Dallas Stars

Prospect of Best Fit: Seth Jones

Is there any team in the NHL more in need of a #1 defenseman than the Dallas Stars? Jones is an extremely rare and unique blend of size, mobility and skill. He’s the perfect foundation for a defensive core in need of an injection of youth.

14. Calgary Flames

Prospect of Best Fit: Sasha Barkov

It seems like Calgary has been searching for a center to play with Iginla for…well, a long time. Sasha Barkov is a physically mature 17 year old already putting up points at a PPG pace in a professional league. His body is NHL ready and his skills are not far behind. His work along the boards and exceptional vision would make Iginla a happy man for a long time.

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