Jun 17, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Seth Jones is interviewed during a press conference for top prospects for the upcoming 2013 NHL Draft at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

2013 NHL Draft Preview and Projections

All seven rounds of the 2013 NHL Draft are scheduled to take place at 3 p.m. today, Sunday, June 30, at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The event will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network here in the United States from 3-8 p.m.with the NHL Network providing continuing coverage from 8 p.m. through the draft’s conclusion.

It may be a long evening for Penguins fans because the Black and Gold do not have a pick until the third round at No. 77 and No. 89, following the trades for Jarome Iginla, Douglas Murray and Brenden Morrow. Along with their two third-round picks, the Pens have a single pick in the fourth round at No. 119, two picks in the sixth round at No. 164 and No. 179, and finally, a pick in the seventh round at No. 209 overall.

General Manager Ray Shero and the Pens have made a habit of taking a defenseman with their first pick, having done that three of the past four years. Many experts consider defense being one of this draft’s positions of strength.

With the signing of Chris Kunitz to a three year contract extension, Shero now has seven players under contract after the 2013-2014 season. Kunitz joins Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Paul Martin, James Neal and Beau Bennett in the fold. The rumor mill is still talking about Ray Shero possibly making a move, with Kris Letang, to get back into the first round. Or, perhaps, moving someone like Pascal Dupuis to get back into the second round of the draft.

Five other teams join the Pens in not having a pick in the first round: the St Louis Blues, the Los Angeles Kings, the Minnesota Wild, the Boston Bruins, and the New York Rangers.

The Columbus Blue Jackets have three picks in the first round on Saturday. They have their own pick at 14; another pick at 19 from the New York Rangers; and a pick at 27 from the Los Angeles Kings. Also with three picks in the first round is the Calgary Flames. They have their own pick at 6; another pick at 22 from the St Louis Blues; and a pick at 28 from the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Due to trades, a couple of other teams currently have two picks in the first round. The Buffalo Sabres have their own pick at 8, with another pick at 16 from the Minnesota Wild. And the Dallas Stars have their own pick at 10, and another at 29 from the Boston Bruins.

Now, the questions we are asking ourselves are: Will the teams with multiple first round picks wheel-and-deal on Sunday afternoon? Could we see one of these teams move up into the Top Five in this draft?

“We’re listening to a lot of offers right now, trying to get things in place for tomorrow and see what occurs, There could be a situation where we’ve talked to teams about scenarios where if certain players are available at No. 14 or No. 19 or No. 27, we’d be willing to make a move for this guy or that guy.” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen told the Columbus Dispatch on Saturday

Based on the current order, here are my predictions for the first Ten Picks of the 2013 NHL Draft:

1) Colorado Avalanche – Nathan McKinnon, center, who played for Halifax in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season. Not only do the scouts love his offensive skills, they also love the competitive spirit that he brings to the game. He led the Memorial Cup tournament with seven goals and 13 points in four games.

2) Florida Panthers – Seth Jones, defenseman, who played for Portland in the Western Hockey League last season. A great skater who averaged nearly a point a game for the Winterhawks. Many experts believe he can step in and play right away in the NHL.

3) Tampa Bay Lightning – Jonathan Drouin, left wing/center, who played for Halifax of the QMJHL last season. The Canadian Hockey League player of the year put up 41 goals and 105 points in just 49 games this season. Many scouts feel he is a dynamic playmaker and will be featured in highlight reel goals in the years to come.

4) Nashville Predators – Aleksander Barkov. center, who played for Tampere in Finland last season. He has often been compared to Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings in his scoring ablility and defensive prowess. He set a team record with a 29-game point streak this season.

5) Carolina Hurricanes – Darnell Nurse, defenseman, who played Sault Ste Marie of the OHL. He is a blue liner with an edge and is good in transition. He put up 12 goals and 45 points in 68 games this season, along with 116 penalty minutes.

6) Calgary Flames – Sean Monahan, center, who played for Ottawa in the Ontario Hockey League last season. He is coming off back-to-back 78-point seasons with the 67’s. Monahan excels on faceoffs and contributes on both the power play and the penalty kill.

7) Edmonton Oilers – Rasmus Ristolainen, defenseman, who played for TPS in Finland last season. Many feel he is effective at both ends of the ice, brings a nasty streak to his game, and has All-Star potential.

8) Buffalo Sabres – Valeri Nichushkin, right wing, who played for Traktor in the KHL last season. The Russian is a big, skilled forward with a nose for the net when you need a goal the most in a game. Nichushkin is determined to play in the NHL next season.

9) New Jersey Devils – Hunter Shinkarak, center/left wing, who played for Medicine Hat of the WHL last season. He is a speed forward, with a left-handed shot, who put up 37 goals and 86 points in 64 games this season.

10) Dallas Stars – Elias Lindholm, center, who played for Brynas in Sweden last season. Expert opinions consider the young Swede as one of the finest two-way European forwards in this draft and could be a real steal for whichever team selects him.

Any of these four players could break into my Top Ten: Ryan Pulock, a defenseman from Brandon of the WHL; Max Domi, a center from London of the OHL; Bo Horvat, also a center from London of the OHL; and finally, Ryan Hartman, a center/left wing from Plymouth of the OHL. If not, they will all most definitely hear their names in picks 11 through 20.

It would appear that defenseman Ian McCoshen of the Waterloo Black Hawks is the best USHL prospect to go in the first round this year, probably between picks 21 to 30.

The top goaltending prospect in this draft is Zachary Furcale, who played for Halifax of the QMJHL last season. He is certainly expected to be chosen in the first round, with some experts having him going as high as No. 11 to Philadelphia, while others are projecting him to go as low as No. 22 to Calgary.

In my mind, though the real question of the day is simply: will NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman be able to handle the “boo’s” of the crowd as well as NBA Commissioner David Stern did at the NBA Draft this past Thursday?

Tags: NHL Pittsburgh Penguins Ray Shero

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