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BLUELINE BRIGADE
published 06/13/13 7:50am
From left: Nikita Zadorov and Rasmus Ristolainen.
Photo: Keith Hamilton / Icon SMI
Defensemen can be taught the intricities of the position, but starting off with an impressive package of talent and tools helps to rise above the rest. Here are five draft-eligible players with everything needed to succeed in the NHL. Sooner or later.

1. Seth Jones, Portland (WHL)

The son of former NBA power forward Popeye Jones is a great athlete with impressive all-round upside from the back end. Can put up good point totals, log a ton of ice time and play a shutdown role if need be. Is a difference-maker… While he has impressive size (6-4, 205 pounds), he needs to become a greater physical presence game in and game out. Also, he could stand to work on his shot accuracy from the point so as to score more goals at the highest level… Talented all-round defenseman with huge upside.

2. Nikita Zadorov, London (OHL)

Has the great size NHL teams love, as well as a plethora of shutdown potential. His great reach helps thwart offensive opportunities against his team… Is still somewhat raw in all facets of the game, so he needs to hone his skills. Needs to become a more intimidating physical force for the NHL… Mammoth project defenseman with big upside.

3. Darnell Nurse, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

Owns a huge frame and plenty of nastiness to his rock-solid defensive game. Is naturally athletic and displays plenty of shutdown potential. Is also a willing pugilist if need be. Skates very well… Is not a natural point-producing defenseman, so he will make his living on the defensive side of the puck. At times, he can get caught out of position when seeking out the massive body check… Talented shutdown defenseman with upside.

4. Rasmus Ristolainen, TPS Turku (SM-Liiga)

Has great size, a big shot, shutdown appeal and some physicality to his game, so he projects as an all-round type. Skates very well and can produce offense, as well… Needs to put it all together, since he has all the tools needed to be a dominant defenseman (but rarely does). Must also keep things simple, since he can over-play the puck… Big all-round defenseman with upside.

5. Ryan Pulock, Brandon (WHL)

Owns a heavy point shot and plenty of shooting ability, which makes him a very effective power-play performer. Also has good size and a rather simple approach to playing defense… Doesn't have great skating ability, so his offensive game may not transition perfectly well at the highest level. Also, he could stand to become a greater physical presence… Quality offensive defenseman with some upside.

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