The ISS recently released it’s initial draft ranking for the 2013 season, here are a few items of note from the initial release.

1. Nathan MacKinnon – C – 6’0 – 182lbs – Shoots R – Halifax (QMJHL)

No surprise for us here, we’ll likely have MacKinnon in the top spot throughout the year unless top candidate for the number one overall spot, Seth Jones, happens to have a strong run through the middle portion of the season and we see MacKinnon fall off a bit. MacKinnon has 17 points (11+6) in 10 games so far this season. His game is a fantastic mix of finesse, power, and strength. His hockey vision and IQ are both above average for his age and that’s been a trend since he was 15 years old.

MacKinnon has the opportunity this season to distance himself from his recent first overall predecessors as he’s established a track record of superstar ability since 2010. With Connor McDavid and other young super talents nipping at his heels, expect MacKinnon to put on a show at the QMJHL level this year. As with other recent first overall selections, MacKinnon exhibits a natural knack for offense and will certainly assist the NHL in increasing scoring and marketing great young players.

3. Sasha Barkov – C – 6’2 – 205lbs – Shoots L – Tappara (FinE)

There’s been an undercurrent of Aleksander “Sasha” Barkov talk since the the summer of 2011, but it’s come to fruition in the form of a generous three overall ranking by the ISS. It’s difficult to argue with placing Barkov this high; he’s currently tops in the FEL in goals, playing major minutes in all situations against adults as a 17 year old.

Barkov has the size to distance himself from his smaller Finnish counterparts. Board control and size is a major aspect of his game, and he’s finding himself earning additional time on the PK. I’ve seen Barkov described as a Datsyuk with a bigger frame. I am not willing to go that far just yet, but the fact remains that Barkov can dangle with the best of them and can be found in the defensive zone with regularity. I’ll let you piece the rest of the puzzle together.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of Barkov throughout the year. He’s off to a torrid pace in the top league in Finland with 17 points (9+8) in 13 games. Keeping that pace could find Barkov usurping some of the attention his North American counterparts are receiving.

17. Adam Erne – F – 6’1 – 195lbs – Shoots L – Quebec (QMJHL)

We’ve been on Adam Erne watch for about two years now after our mystery contributor told us about his work with the Indiana Ice of the USHL. Now, with a full year of QMJHL hockey under his belt, Erne steps into the scene as one of the wildcards of the 2013 NHL draft.

Erne is a great prospect at forward that can play both wings but primarily sticks with the right side. Erne has a knack for finding those soft spots in the slot and has a generally elusive sense about his offensive zone presence in the sense that he can be difficult to mark and follow down low. His shot is very accurate and has a quick release. His first step could use some work but has significantly improved since he entered into the CHL. He’s a dynamic offensive threat that thrives with top talent and big minutes.

From behind Pittsburgh-colored glasses, we like what Erne brings to the table to supplement the offensive depth that the Penguins currently have in the system with the likes of Beau Bennett, Kenny Agostino, and Josh Archibald. Erne is off to a decent start with four goals and eight assists in nine games thus far. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye on him as the season progresses.

21. Kerby Rychel – LW – 6’1 – 200lbs – Shoots L – Windsor (OHL)

Kerby Rychel is a player that we anticipate to be a riser as the year progresses. Rychel is a net front presence that has decent wheels but simply knows how and where to score goals. Defensively we’ve seen vast improvements in his game, but some overall refining needs to be done.

A 1994 birth year, Rychel has two years of experience under his belt, that experience might be what it takes to launch him into the top 15. As the year progresses and the hockey gets tougher, Rychel will continue to thrive, it’s a question of his overall game and defensive presence that will ultimately define how he finishes in the rankings this year.