1. Colorado Avalanche
Several members of the Avalanche organization have been beating the drum about taking a forward with the first pick, bypassing defenceman and Denver kid Seth Jones. Centre Nathan MacKinnon, left-winger Jonathan Drouin and centre Aleksander Barkov head the list, according to what Joe Sakic has told the Denver Post and others.
Colorado already has Paul Stastny, Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duchene down the middle, but MacKinnon might be a talent too good to pass up, especially if he could play on a line with young captain Gabriel Landeskog. The Avalanche have a few young defensive prospects, namely 2009 pick Tyson Barrie, but no one with the potential of Jones.
If members of Colorado's front office are being truthful, MacKinnon should be the pick at No. 1.
2. Florida Panthers
Seeing Seth Jones fall to them wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for the Panthers, who lack a true top defenceman of the future. If Jones goes, Florida would be foolish not to take one of the elite forwards available.
That's even considering the Panthers' strength there, with Calder Trophy-winner Jonathan Huberdeau already contributing in the NHL and Nick Bjugstad and Drew Shore not far away. Drouin, MacKinnon's teammate with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, would seem to fit well.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning
Unlike the Avalanche and Panthers, the Lightning don't need a star to build their team around. Steven Stamkos is doing just fine as the young face of a franchise that includes Art Ross Trophy-winner Marty St. Louis and young defenceman Victor Hedman.
Tampa Bay has a strong pool of prospects at the American Hockey League level and could use a young, talented forward who might be NHL ready. Barkov and Valeri Nichushkin would fit, but so would Drouin if he slips to No. 3.
4. Nashville Predators
The Predators could use offence and a lot of it.
It's a good draft to be in need of playmakers, especially after the Predators traded top-six winger Martin Erat at the deadline for prospect Filip Forsberg. GM David Poile is in a spot where he can take one of the top forwards who are left between MacKinnon, Drouin, Barkov and Nichushkin.
It'd be hard-pressed to see MacKinnon falling, but Nashville getting a dynamic offensive player out of this draft has to be a top priority.
5. Carolina Hurricanes
Among the teams in the top five, the Hurricanes seem the most able to bounce back in 2013-14 and make the playoffs. That's a testament to Carolina's core but also makes the No. 5 pick challenging for GM Jim Rutherford.
The Hurricanes could try to take an NHL-ready player, like Nichushkin if he's left, trade the pick for immediate help or build more organizational depth. Justin Faulk and Ryan Murphy give Carolina a couple of strong defencemen, but Darnell Nurse from Sault Ste. Marie might be the best player available.