If things go right for the Nashville Predators this Sunday, they may have the option to select Jonathan Drouin with their fourth overall pick. Drouin is the third overall ranked skater, according to the International Scouting Services.
Jon Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon were teammates last season in the QMJHL for the Halifax Mooseheads and for Team Canada during the 2013 World Junior Championships in Russia. Drouin outperformed MacKinnon throughout the tournament as a 17 year old, which raised questions whether Drouin or MacKinnon was to be the top forward leading up to the 2013 NHL Entry Draft in Newark, New Jersey.
Said Drouin: "I learned a lot from the older guys [like] Scheifele, Huberdeau and [Nugent]-Hopkins. You take a lot from those guys. They're real mature."
Drouin finished the 2012-13 season in Halifax with 105 points (41g, 64a) and a +48 rating in 49 games, allowing him to win the 2013 CHL Player of the Year Award.
The Huberdeau, Quebec native is compared to NHLers like Patrick Kane and Martin St. Louis. Drouin is all skill and finesse, but is definitely not a power forward. But because of his elite hands, excellent vision and great hockey sense, he will fit into the NHL well. Coaches and teams will have to pair their top defensemen against him night-in-and-night-out.
"His hockey sense and play-making abilities are just over the top," said Dan Marr, NHL Director of Central Scouting.
One possible factor teams like the Predators would surpass Drouin is that he might not be NHL-ready. According to Ken McKenna of Hockey's Future, he believes it wouldn't hurt Drouin to spend another year in the QMJHL before he makes his professional appearance.
If David Poile and the Predators draft crew decide they want an NHL-ready player now, they will pass on him–if he is available–and draft the likes of Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon and Valeri Nichushkin, if they are available as well.
The last issue teams face, and probably asked Drouin during their one-on-one interviews at the combine, is if he could still produce the same without MacKinnon by his side. The general consensus amongst experts is that he probably made MacKinnon better, rather than Mac making Drouin better. This is a huge strength and is something the Predators were missing last season. A Patrick Kane-like forward would explode the offense and generate scoring to the likes that fans have never seen in Nashville.
Chief Amateur Scout of the Predators Jeff Kealty told NashvillePredators.com, "He is one of those guys that brings you out of your seat when you watch him play. He has not only the offensive skill to produce and make plays, but he’s got some of that flare to him that a lot of the stars in the game have.”
There are a few factors that come into play before the Predators even have the opportunity to select Drouin.
Since Avalanche executive vice president and head of hockey operations Joe Sakic said they will pass on Seth Jones and likely draft a forward, many believe Nathan MacKinnon is going to be who they select first overall.
Before Sakic made this surprise comment, Jones was expected to be selected first overall by the Avs, who needed defense rather than forwards since they already have Matt Duchene, Milan Hejduk, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O'Reilly and Paul Stastny.
Of course some may call Sakic's comments a bluff, but as for now, we accept it as truth and swallow the pill.
If the Avs do not take Jones, he will likely be drafted second overall by the Panthers, who could use defensive help as well.
There has also been talk that Valeri Nichushkin could be drafted by the Lightning. If that becomes true, that leaves Nashville with selection between Barkov or Drouin. The obvious selection would be Drouin.
This would be the only way the Preds are able to get their hands on Drouin. It is not an impossible scenario whatsoever, which is what will make this year's early picks the most unpredictable and intriguing draft since 2003.
(Photo by Mike Dembeck)