WEEHAWKEN, N.J. — Dan Marr’s job as director of NHL Central Scouting involves ranking all the prospects from around the globe in order. It sounds tough, but he’d rather do that than put together a mock draft.
“Anybody trying to guess the order of this year’s draft, good luck with that,” he said Friday.
The depth and razor-thin differences in talent level make this year’s entry draft, which will be held Sunday in the New Jersey Devils’ arena, intriguing and unpredictable. Still, a cottage industry exists for mock drafts, and the prospects can’t help but see them.
“They’re hard to stay away from,” Sean Monahan, the fifth-ranked skater in North America, said at the league’s annual prospects luncheon. “People show you them or you get tweeted at. They’re all over.”
They’ve become a source of worry for Hunter Shinkaruk, the sixth-ranked North American.
“Everyone here has a feeling of maybe a team that might take you, and then you’re waiting and they don’t take you, then it’s like, ‘Uh-oh,’ ” the forward said. “That feeling is what I’m most nervous for.”
It’s possible Shinkaruk or Monahan could hear his name called when Buffalo picks eighth. They attended the Sabres’ scouting combine and interview session this month and walked away feeling both sides benefited from the experience.
“I went on the ice and I was looking up, and it was another NHL rink that I’ve skated on now,” said Shinkaruk, who totaled 86 goals the past two seasons for Medicine Hat of the Western Hockey League. “Everything went well.”
Monahan was a one-man show on a poor Ottawa team, which allowed the center to learn every aspect of the game. His scoring ability and two-way awareness would fit in well with Buffalo.
“I think I had a pretty good impression with them,” he said along the Hudson River with the New York skyline in the background.
Still, as Marr said, there’s little use in guessing destinations. That’s true even at the top.
Colorado is set to select first and has strongly implied it will take center Nathan MacKinnon rather than No. 1-ranked prospect Seth Jones. The Avalanche, though, have met with both and didn’t tell either one they will or won’t take him.
“I can’t think about getting drafted by a certain team,” MacKinnon said. “I try not to get too high about that kind of stuff. The draft is still a couple days away, and I don’t want to have my expectations too high going into it since I can’t control anything. It’s up to them. Whatever decision they make will be the right one.”
Indeed, it seems there’s no way to go wrong at the top. Jones projects as a stud defenseman, while MacKinnon and Halifax teammate Jonathan Drouin are first-line talents.
Toss in Aleksander Barkov, the top-rated European, and four teams should be very, very happy.
“I’m not going to be surprised at any of the top three or four players that can go No. 1,” Marr said. “That order is just completely up in the air. The teams that are making their choices, it’s going to be a difficult choice, but it’s going to be a great one for their fans.”
Although the prospects look like kids – and in some cases still are – they’ve already begun the transition from NHL fans to NHL players.
Jones, MacKinnon, Drouin and the fourth-ranked skater, defenseman Darnell Nurse, attended Game Three of the Stanley Cup finals and were more than casual observers.
“As a kid when you go to games, you’re just excited to be there,” MacKinnon said. “Now, and speaking for the other three guys over there, we kind of look at it differently. We were just trying to see how we fit in.”
By all accounts, they should fit in just fine. It’s just a matter of guessing the order.
“I think the top four, all could be NHL-ready,” Marr said. “If any of them were to make a team out of camp, it wouldn’t surprise me.”