2013 NHL Entry Draft: Top-5 Defenseman Rankings

Getty Images

Photo credit: Getty Images

By Todd Cordell (@ToddCordell)

The 2013 NHL Entry Draft is quickly approaching and debate about who should be taken where is really starting to heat up. General managers, scouts, media members and fans alike are polishing up their rankings for this year’s draft.

Now it’s my turn. Here are my rankings for the top-5 defenseman in this year’s class.

Top-5 Defenseman

5. Ryan Pulock – (Brandon – WHL)

Projection: Top-4 offensive defenseman

Pulock is one of the best offensive defenseman in this year’s draft class. He makes a good first pass and has the ability and confidence to rush the puck up the ice if needed. He possesses an extremely hard, accurate shot and is quite effective quarterbacking a power play. Pulock’s offensive instincts are well above average and he has the ability to read defenses and adjust accordingly in the offensive zone to make a play. Pulock is average defensively and could still use some work in his own zone, but there’s no glaring weakness that quality coaching can’t fix.

4. Darnell Nurse –  (Sault Ste. Marie – OHL)

Projection: Top pairing shutdown defenseman

Nurse is an excellent defensive defenseman, and is arguably the best defenseman in this year’s class when it comes to taking care of the defensive zone. He’s a very strong skater despite his tall, lanky body. Nurse isn’t shy about using his size and is very good at shutting opponents down, whether it be by using his body or active stick to poke the puck off the opposing player. Nurse is a very hard worker and doesn’t back down from anyone. He uses his big frame as you would expect someone his size would and he’s not afraid to drop the mitts, either. He’s incredibly smart, positionally sound and really understands the game. Nurse can produce some offence if given the opportunities and should be able to help generate a little bit at the next level. The question is, how much?

Photo credit: Teemu Saarinen / HC TPS

Photo credit: Teemu Saarinen

3. Rasmus Ristolainen –  (TPS – SM-Liiga)

Projection: Two-way top pairing defenseman

Ristolainen is a very smart, mobile, well-rounded defenseman. He’s a very good skater who can get from point A to point B in a hurry. He’s positionally sound and is really good when it comes to reading a play and reacting. Ristolainen isn’t afraid to use his body to knock an opponent off the puck, either.  He makes a good first pass and is capable of playing on the power play and producing offense. How much of that will translate remains to be seen. Overall, his defensive play and skating ability are well above average so regardless of how much offense translates, he should still be a fine NHL player.

Photo credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images

Photo credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images

2. Nikita Zadorov –  (London – OHL)

Projection: Two-way top pairing defenseman

Zadorov is one of, if not my favorite draft eligible defenseman in this year’s draft class. He has big, powerful strides and is an above average skater, which is impressive given his size. He has a huge frame and when he uses it to his advantage and plays with an edge, he’s a dominant player. The good thing about Zadorov is that he often does just that. At just 18 years of age, he has man strength and isn’t afraid to use it. Zadorov makes a good first pass and can move the puck quite effectively. He’s a confident player and will have no problems carrying the puck up the ice, either. His puck skills are by no means elite, but he does have above average skills and is a good puck possession player. He is very hard to get around and is strong in his own zone. He doesn’t lose many puck battles and for the most part is positionally sound. Zadorov doesn’t get rattled easy and can consistently eat up big minutes. He plays in all situations and, while he’s not a power play dynamo, he’s not out of place on the power play and can play on the penalty kill as well.

1. Seth Jones – (Portland – WHL)

Projection: Number one defenseman

Jones is arguably the best defensive prospect to come through the ranks in years. He’s a very smooth skater who can move up and down the ice effortlessly. He’s a smart player who knows when to jump into the rush and when to stay back. Jones makes a good outlet pass, has a good shot and is capable of quarterbacking a power play unit quite effectively. On the defensive side of things, Jones allows the play to come to him and is a dominant defensive player because of his near perfect positioning, long reach, and active stick. Jones has the size to be a dominant physical presence but there isn’t much of a mean streak to his game at this point in his career. That said, he has all the tools needed to become a top-tier defenseman in the NHL and should become just that.

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