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Like On Leadership? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.With less than one year to go until Christmas time, the final days leading into the season are rapidly approaching for NHL rookies. The draft in late June will be the most important for many reasons, but most importantly, is a chance for players to make a statement for their first season in the American Hockey League.
Last season, four of the 12 first-round picks from the 2013 Draft went on to have successful NHL careers.
This year, six prospects may be in for a strong NHL debut by season’s end. Here are six players who have received some extra attention in the run up to the draft.
6. (NR) Nicolas Petan
Drafted 4th round, 112th overall, 2012
Season to date: 13 GP, 3 G, 6 A, 9 PTS, +4
The Vancouver Canucks got a steal at fourth, selecting former Colorado Avalanche rookie forward Nathan MacKinnon with the second overall pick. MacKinnon proved to be an NHL-calibre talent in his first couple of months, but was unable to put it all together and his numbers dwindled considerably as the season went on. That is not to say that Petan won’t be a success this season, but a lot of his production was likely driven by opportunity.
Petan had a decent season in the USHL while playing for the Sioux City Musketeers in his home state of Minnesota. The offensive playmaker scored 33 goals and added 44 assists in 50 games.
Though not drafted, MacKinnon’s former coach Craig MacTavish is currently playing on Team North America’s coaching staff and that’s likely not a coincidence.
5. (5) Jake Virtanen
Drafted 4th round, 95th overall, 2012
Season to date: 20 GP, 20 G, 30 A, 55 PTS, +19
The Vancouver Canucks were one of the team’s worst team in the NHL at even strength last season, and at the trade deadline GM Jim Benning dealt the rights to Cody Glass in exchange for one of the two first-round picks.
This was undoubtedly a smart trade for the Canucks as it sent a player who was a clear number-one centre with the potential for another big season over to the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League.
If Virtanen is anything like the forward he’s projected to become, there is no reason why he had less than 30 points last season. He was clearly ahead of MacKinnon at this stage in his development and there is reason to believe that he will take yet another step forward this season.
4 (10) Elias Pettersson
Drafted 5th round, 150st overall, 2011