Despite appearing at No. 2 on some lists, Halifax Mooseheads star Nathan MacKinnon remains No. 1 in our ranking. (Getty Images)
A fantastic turn at the World Junior Championship has scouts and scouting services buzzing about Portland Winterhawks defenseman Seth Jones. In some cases, he’s jumped ahead of buddy Nathan MacKinnon for the No. 1 slot. But when the NHL draft actually happens in late June, will a team pick a defenseman over a No. 1 center? The simple answer is, “depends on which franchise is picking.” But it hasn’t happened since 2006 and blueliners traditionally take more time to make an impact.
For now, MacKinnon remains the top selection in my rankings, but it is clearly a 1A and 1B proposition. Through no fault of his own, Jones may have to wait until the lottery balls come out to make his move to the top.
1. Nathan MacKinnon, C, Halifax
Though his role with Canada at the world juniors was limited, it did prove that the dynamic offensive presence can also play a complete game and a physical one, at that. Scouts weren’t flustered, either; they love his explosiveness and North American pro game.
2. Seth Jones, D, Portland
A key to Team USA’s gold medal performance at the world juniors, Jones locked down some of the most dangerous opponents thrown at him while also demonstrating his puck-moving abilities. He’s got the offense, the defense and the edge. Is there anything else?
3. Jonathan Drouin, LW, Halifax
The highlight-reel type of player that everyone loves. Drouin has an unparalleled set of hands for his age and teams them with vision for deadly results. Size is a slight drawback, but only in a nitpicky way that won’t affect his stock too much.
4. Sasha Barkov, C, Tappara
Had a decent world juniors, though Finland as a whole disappointed. The son of a local hero is dealing with an incredible amount of hype back home, but is still putting up points and his big frame makes him an enviable asset for the future.
5. Elias Lindholm, C, Brynas
As part of a young Swedish team that surprised the WJC in earning a silver medal, Lindholm backed up his stature as a two-way player who can really contribute. He showed great hands in Russia and a commitment to defense.
6. Sean Monahan, C, Ottawa
With the 67’s stripping themselves down for a rebuild, Monahan is pretty much on his own for the rest of the season. That may hurt his stats (and definitely his plus-minus), but at his core he’s still an intelligent player with a great frame and excellent offensive capabilities.
7. Robert Hagg, D, Modo
Another breakout player at the world juniors, Hagg was a late injury replacement for the Swedes, but ended up playing an integral shutdown role on the blueline, taking on Nail Yakupov head-to-head. On top of defensive prowess, Hagg can also rush the puck with ease.
8. Rasmus Ristolainen, D, TPS
Surrounded by locked-out NHLers before heading to the world juniors, the big Finnish kid gained valuable experience in his nation’s top league. In Russia, he was surly without being careless and proved himself to be a threat at both ends of the ice.
9. Hunter Shinkaruk, LW, Medicine Hat
Points machine on a middling Tigers team has a mid-sized frame, but his speed is his main gift. Paired with that explosiveness, Shinkaruk also has great offensive skills and with time he has the character to become a more complete player.
10. Adam Erne, RW, Quebec
The points kept coming even without Mikhail Grigorenko around and Erne is now the Remparts’ leading scorer. A power forward in the making, Erne is getting great direction from Patrick Roy in Quebec and he’s not afraid to mix it up in the corners.
11. Darnell Nurse, D, Sault Ste. Marie
12. Curtis Lazar, C, Edmonton
13. Valery Nichushkin, LW, Chelyabinsk
14. Anthony Mantha, LW, Val d’Or
15. Josh Morrissey, D, Prince Albert
16. Morgan Klimchuk, LW, Regina
17. Jacob De La Rose, LW, Leksands
18. Ryan Pulock, D, Brandon
19. Frederik Gauthier, C, Rimouski
20. Valentin Zykov, RW, Baie Comeau
21. Zach (Zachary) Fucale, G, Halifax
22. Nikita Zadorov, D, London
23. Artturi Lehkonen, LW, Kalpa
24. Max Domi, C, London
25. Steve Santini, D, USNDTP
26. Jason Dickinson, LW, Guelph
27. Ian McCoshen, D, Warterloo
28. Eric Comrie, G, Tri City
29. Alexander Wennberg, C, Djurgardens
30. Kerby Rychel, LW, Windsor
Ryan Kennedy, the co-author of Young Guns II, is THN's associate senior writer and a regular contributor to THN.com. His column appears Wednesdays and The Hot List appears Tuesdays. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/THNRyanKennedy.