By Paul Bartosz aka wogman56

This Sunday at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, 211 young men will hear their names called from the podium, marking the start of a new chapter in their lives. This year’s draft has potential to be one of the best in decades, combining a mix of young North American and international talent. The Colorado Avalanche possess the first overall pick in Sunday’s draft. The Avs are widely being rumored to take stud center Nathan MacKinnon from the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL. MacKinnon has drawn many comparisons to a previous #1 overall pick from his hometown that has made quite a name for himself in the big show, Sidney Crosby. Their hometown isn’t the only thing these two have in common. Both are excellent goal scorers and excellent passers.

If the Avs pass on MacKinnon, the other name being tossed around as a potential #1 overall is defenseman Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. If picked #1 overall, Jones would be the first African-American taken as the top pick in the NHL draft. Jones picked up the game of hockey in the Denver area at a very young age while his father Ronald “Popeye” Jones played for the NBA’s Denver Nuggets. Popeye bumped into Colorado Avalanche Hall of Famer Joe Sakic in the concourse of the Pepsi Center in Denver and asked Joe how his sons could become better hockey players. Sakic told Popeye to have the boys work on their skating. After hearing that advice from one of his idols, Seth enrolled in figure skating classes for a year before finally signing up for youth hockey. Seth possesses a rocket of a shot and sports a mammoth 6’4, 206 lb. frame, huge for an 18 year-old. He put up 56 points in 61 junior games this season, drawing comparisons to defenseman Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins, another offensive-minded defenseman. His Winterhawks team made it all the way to the Memorial Cup Finals, losing to MacKinnon’s Mooseheads in the championship game. Whether he or MacKinnon go #1 to Colorado or #2 to the Florida Panthers, both will undoubtedly help their new teams this upcoming season.

While Jones and MacKinnon are projected to be the top 2 picks, the next few picks will have an immediate impact as well. The projected #3 pick is young winger Jonathan Drouin, MacKinnon’s teammate and the leading scorer of the Mooseheads. Drouin stepped right into the leadership role when MacKinnon went down with an injury and didn’t look back, putting up 105 points in 49 games. One of the quickest skaters in the draft, Drouin also possesses a shot capable of beating a goalie from any spot on the ice. If Drouin goes to the Tampa Bay Lightning at #3, watch for him to put up some huge numbers in his freshman season if he plays alongside the NHL’s most dangerous goal scorer, Steven Stamkos. The sky is the limit with Drouin. He has drawn comparisons to NHL superstars Claude Giroux and Martin St. Louis. However, he could become a much larger star if he continues to put up large numbers at the NHL level.

While those are the projected top three picks in the draft, the talent level does not drop off there. The top rated goaltender, Zachary Fucale of the Mooseheads has drawn many comparisons to another young Canadian (or should I say Canadien) goaltender, Carey Price. While Fucale does not make highlight reel saves like a Dominik Hasek or Henrik Lundqvist, his positioning is out of this world for an 18 year old. Watch for him to be scooped up in the second half of round one and an NHL backup at the worst this coming fall. Other notable names that will appear on the NHL’s big board on Sunday include Aleksander Barkov, a young Finn who will not be 18 until September, Elias Lindholm of Sweden, possibly the best two-way player in the draft, and Bo Horvat, the only 50 goal scorer amongst this year’s draft eligible players.

Whether your team is picking #1 overall or at the later end of the round, chances are that whomever they draft will be a solid prospect. This year’s draft is drawing many comparisons to the 2003 draft in which 25 All-Stars were picked. You might recognize a few of the names that were chosen in 2003: Eric Staal, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Shea Weber. Be sure to tune into the NHL draft on Sunday at 3 PM EST to see if your team finds that player that will turn your franchise around or make it that much stronger for the upcoming season!