An early glimpse at a mock draft

Updated: February 18, 2013, 11:18 AM ET
By Craig Custance

It appears to be almost a certainty that a good team will end up in the draft lottery. The unusual circumstances of the shortened season combined with injuries, untimely losing streaks and everything else that happens over the course of a condensed season all but guarantees it. The Capitals, Flyers, Sabres and Kings are all teams that you could have made a strong playoff case for at the start of the season, and they're all teams that are currently in the bottom 10. Some of those teams are going to pull it together and make a run but other strong teams in the top half of the standings are due for a fall. Like Ottawa. The Senators are a great young team headed in the right direction as a franchise, but would anyone be surprised if they slipped into the lottery without Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson?

This is the year to do it. Even as the dissection of this group of prospects reaches its highest point, the opinion of this draft remains high.

"We're excited about it," said one Eastern Conference head of amateur scouting. "There's a real strong first and second round of prospects. After that, you never know what you're going to be able to pluck out of there."

With all that in mind, here's a look at where some of the elite-level talent could land based on the standings following this weekend's action:

1. Columbus Blue Jackets: D Seth Jones, Portland (WHL)
Columbus' biggest need is up front, where the Blue Jackets could use more scoring, but when you're picking first, you don't pick for need. You take the best player, and right now that's Jones. It's tight with center Nate MacKinnon and wing Jonathan Drouin, but Jones' performance at the World Junior Championships has pushed him to the top. Columbus already has a defenseman in Ryan Murray to build around, but Jones has everything Murray has but with more offensive upside. John Davidson believes in accumulating the best talent and dealing from a position of strength in the future to meet organizational needs. Columbus is still in the accumulating talent mode.