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published 06/17/13 8:27am
Ottawa's Sean Monahan (left) and Edmonton's Curtis Lazar.
Photo: Keith Hamilton / Icon SMI
Building a strong middle line is crucial to the future success of any NHL organization. Luckily, this year's crop available for the upcoming Draft promises to be deep in talent at the pivot position. Here are five youngsters who will garner much of the attention:

1. Nathan MacKinnon, Halifax (QMJHL)

Has tremendous overall skill. Skates well and owns the hands of a natural goal-scorer. Can also be a quality setup man and two-way presence. Is quite versatile, overall… Since he's from the same area as Sidney Crosby, there will always be an abundance of expectations placed upon him. Can he handle the constant burden of comparison?... Talented, versatile scoring forward with big upside.

2. Aleksander Barkov, Tappara Tampere (SM-Liiga)

Blessed with ideal size and strength for the center position at the National Hockey League level, he competes for every square inch of ice. Produces good numbers thanks to his poise and playmaking ability… Must prove he can be a dominant figure in North America. In fact, he may need to amp up his physicality in order to do so. Must also live up to expectations as the son of a legendary player in his hometown… Big scoring center with very good upside.

3. Elias Lindholm, Brynas (Elitserien)

Owns great two-way upside. Competes very well in all three zones. Has excellent versatility up front and plenty of skill. Is not afraid of sticking his nose in the dirty areas of the ice and works hard… The jury is still out on his ability to light the lamp with regularity at the highest level. Also doesn't have ideal size for the center position in the NHL, so he must add more strength to his frame… Talented two-way forward with upside.

4. Sean Monahan, Ottawa (OHL)

Owns a very projectable 6-2 frame and a wealth of playmaking ability and hockey sense. Is the type of center who makes his linemates better players. Also owns two-way appeal… Needs to gain more strength and fill out his big frame in order to maximize his NHL potential. Also, he's not a very physical player, despite his size. Is only an average skater… Talented playmaking center with good upside.

5. Curtis Lazar, Edmonton (WHL)

Has excellent two-way ability and a tremendous work rate. Owns plenty of character and usually plays much bigger than his below-average frame suggests. Can score goals, too… Needs to become a more consistent point producer. Also needs to get stronger in order to play his abrasive style effectively at the highest level. Needs to also improve his setup skills… Quality two-way center with upside.

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