|ESPN.com: NHL||[Print without images]|
|Questions will follow Seth Jones, the fourth pick in the draft, to Nashville and beyond next season.|
OK, so we're not quite ready to resume just yet. Let's enjoy the minute or two that passes for an NHL offseason before rushing back into the fray.
Still, it's never too early to imagine what might come to pass in the coming season. And goodness knows the Olympic orientation camps in late August, as well as rookie and training camps shortly thereafter, will be upon us all too soon.
With that in mind, we thought we would spend the week looking ahead to the 2013-14 season.
TODAY: THE KIDS
Every year it's interesting to see which of the highly touted draft picks not only makes his way onto an NHL roster but also has an immediate impact.
Often there are dark horses, like the Minnesota Wild's Jonas Brodin, who was the best first-year defenseman in the league this past season but did not end up on the final ballot for rookie of the year. Or the Montreal Canadiens' Brendan Gallagher, who was fourth in rookie scoring, or Cory Conacher of the Ottawa Senators, who was third. Given the blue-chip talent that was available at the top of the 2013 draft in Newark, this fall will represent a terrific study in player prognostication.
The top four players selected all are being penciled into their respective teams' opening-day lineups and have been labeled as franchise or cornerstone players.
• Will Nathan MacKinnon, the first overall pick, instantly reward the Colorado Avalanche with quality NHL performances and help lead a much-needed return to the playoffs?
• Will Jonathan Drouin, MacKinnon's former teammate in Halifax, start the season playing alongside Steven Stamkos with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who drafted Drouin with the third pick?
• What of Aleksander Barkov, the big Finn whom the Florida Panthers drafted second overall? Does he find chemistry with rookie of the year Jonathan Huberdeau?
• Perhaps most interesting of all will be how No. 4 pick Seth Jones fits in with a Nashville Predators defensive unit that includes former Norris Trophy nominee Shea Weber. Like many teams, the Predators had the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones at the top of their list, and he is considered a cornerstone defender for years to come.
Throw in Swedish center Elias Lindholm, the fifth overall pick who's drawn early comparisons to fellow Swede Peter Forsberg and who'll get a chance to earn a starting job with the Carolina Hurricanes, and 2013-14 could indeed be the year of the kid.