When is 10-0 not considered an absolute rout?
When it's 10 NHL scouts being unanimous in picking Halifax Mooseheads' centre Nathan MacKinnon No. 1 on TSN's Pre-Season Top 10 NHL Draft Rankings.
The Cole Harbour, N.S., native (same as Sidney Crosby), who left home to play prep school hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary's (same as Sidney Crosby) before being chosen first overall in the Quebec League draft (same as Sidney Crosby), starts this season as the favorite to be the first pick in the NHL draft following a lockout (same as Sidney Crosby).
Are you noticing a pattern here?
But we're still a long way from the 2013 draft and there's a lot of race still to be run and in spite of the overwhelming 10-0 vote, it's quite likely to be a very close and competitive race.
More than half the 10 scouts surveyed by TSN, all of whom tabbed MacKinnon No. 1, were to quick to say there's not a lot to choose between the Maritimer and Portland Winterhawk defenceman Seth Jones, the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones.
"It could come down to position," one scout said. "If a team needs a forward, take MacKinnon. Need a defenceman? Take Jones. They're both outstanding prospects. MacKinnon should be an elite offensive player and Jones should be an elite blueliner."
MacKinnon possess elite level skill and an ability to score big goals in big games. Some scouts, after watching him rip it up in the QMJHL playoffs last spring, said they would have taken MacKinnon No. 1 overall last year, over Edmonton's Nail Yakupov, if he had been eligible. MacKinnon scored a hat trick in Canada's 4-0 win over Finland in the championship game of the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in August.
Jones, meanwhile, is an incredibly athletic defenceman who can dominate games with his outstanding speed, desire to create offence by skating the puck up the ice, big shot from the point and strong physical play. Jones was all set to play for Team USA at last year's World Junior Championship but suffered a shoulder injury in the USA Hockey final evaluation camp just prior and wasn't able to play. But he dominated at the World Under-18 championships last April and scouts are looking forward to seeing him in the WHL this season.
Of the 10 scouts surveyed by TSN, 9 ranked Jones at No. 2. One slotted him at No. 5.
The consensus is MacKinnon and Jones, at least to start the season, are in a class above the rest of the field, but, again, the gulf between the top two and next few top prospects is not huge.
Ottawa 67s centre Sean Monahan is ranked third on the TSN pre-season, followed by Swedish centre Elias Lindholm and Finnish defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen.
Scouts love the hockey sense and elite two-way play of Monahan, they're intrigued by the high-end playmaking ability of Lindholm and are quite taken with Ristolainen's size, mobility, physical approach and booming shot.
A number of scouts noted that MacKinnon and/or Jones stumbled, Monahan, Lindholm and Ristolainen are capable of mounting a challenge to the two top dogs.
Finnish centre Sasha Barkov, who along with Ristolainen played as 16 year olds on Finland's world junior team last Christmas, is No. 6, followed by Swedish speedster and goal-scoring winger Andre Burakowsky, the son of Robert Burkakowsky, who had a cup of coffee with the Ottawa Senators in 1993-94. Another Swede, centre-winger Jacob de la Rose is No. 8.
Edmonton Oil King centre Curtis Lazar, who played right wing on a line with MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin on Canada's top unit at the Ivan Hlinka tourney in August, is No. 9 and Windsor Spitfire winger Kerby Rychel, who scored 41 goals last season in the OHL for the that is managed by his father and former NHLer Warren Rychel.
A total of 25 players got at least one vote in the 10 scouts' top 10 ballots. There wasn't a lot to choose between those players ranked 8 through 10 and the 10 others who got "Honorable Mentions."
That group includes: London forward Max Domi, the son of former NHL tough guy Tie Domi; Russian defenceman Nikita Zadorov, also with the OHL Knights; MacKinnon's Moosehead teammates, left winger Jonathan Drouin and netminder Zach Fucale, who is the clear No. 1 goaltending prospect in this draft; American forward Adam Erne of the Quebec Remparts; Soo Greyhound defenceman Darnell Nurse, whose father Richard played in the CFL; Medicine Hat Tiger goal-scoring forward Hunter Shinkaruk; Prince Albert offensive defenceman Josh Morrissey; Brandon offensive defenceman Ryan Pulock and Swedish defenceman Robert Hagg.
The other five prospects to get a mention were: USA Under-18 forward J.T. Compher, forward Ian McCoshen of the USHL's Waterloo Black Hawks, Quebec forward Anthony Duclair, Russian forward Valery Nichushkin and Guelph forward Jason Dickinson.
TSN's next draft rankings will come out in mid-season, sometime after the 2013 World Junior Championship.