1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C - Red Deer, WHL (6’1″, 170 – NHL:1, TSN: 1, ISS: 1)
He’s by far the most talented kid in this year’s class so that totally negates the Oilers’ need to take a defenseman. Truth be told, the Oilers need a centre anyway and last year passed on Tyler Seguin, who was my top 2010 prospect, so they won’t be doing that again. You can’t really go wrong with a WHL kid anyway.
2. Jonathan Huberdeau, C - Saint John, QMJHL (6’1″, 168 – NHL: 3, TSN: 3, ISS: 3)
I hear rumours that the Avs are really high on Huberdeau and with constant rumours about Peter Stastny‘s murky future with the team, I can see Greg Sherman completely revamping the team and going with Matt Duchene and Huberdeau down the middle. They just got Erik Johnson so they’ll pass on Larsson.
3. Gabriel Landeskog, LW - Kitchener, OHL (6’1″, 207 – NHL: 2, TSN: 4, ISS: 5)
This pick was a little hard to make out because I’m not sure how Dale Tallon wants to build this team. Is he looking for a franchise forward or building from the net out starting with Jacob Markstrom? He already has Erik Gudbranson, but if he takes Larsson he could have two potential Norris guys. If he wants to build the Panthers like the Blackhawks, he’ll need a Jonathan Toews-type, a franchise-material player, and that’s what I think Tallon does. He does like his Canadian kids but Landeskog’s like Ryan Kesler - Canadian game, wrong passport.
4. Adam Larsson, D - Skelleftea, Elitserien (6’3″, 200 – NHL: 1, TSN: 2, ISS: 2)
If I’m Lou Lamoriello, I’m ecstatic. Larsson’s a potential top three pick and it just so happens he fell to a team that desperately needs defensemen. The Devils are already playing 5-on-4 in their own zone on a nightly basis thanks to Ilya Kovalchuk anyway so Larsson’s a no-brainer here.
5. Ryan Strome, C - Niagara, OHL (6′, 183 – NHL: 8, TSN: 7, ISS: 9)
The Islanders may be tempted to take a defenseman but Travis Hamonic made an impression this year (26 points, +4, 103 PIM) and Calvin de Haan is turning pro next year. The focus is on offense and the Islanders love high-end skill players (Nino Niederreiter, 41 goals), and since Josh Bailey can’t win face-offs (44%) and Jack Capuano has no other scoring centre, Strome is the best fit.
6. Sean Couturier, C - Drummondville, QMJHL (6’4″, 195 – NHL 6, TSN: 5, ISS: 4)
I wasn’t too impressed with Couturier at the WJC but he still projects to be a solid two-way player, which is what the Sens need after dealing away Chris Kelly and Mike Fisher. The Sens have taken defensemen in their previous two first round picks (Erik Karlsson in ’08, Jared Cowen in ’09) so Bryan Murray has to be leaning towards a forward here. The last time the Sens used a top 10 pick on a forward was in 2001 when they took Jason Spezza (2nd overall) but all the top-flight pivots are already off the board. They’ll pick the Patrick Eaves (2003) and Nick Foligno (2006) type here.
7. Dougie Hamilton, D - Niagara, OHL (6’4″, 193 – NHL: 4, TSN: 6, ISS: 6)
It’s hard to tell what Kevin Cheveldayoff will do because he has no body of work to reference from at the NHL level. I don’t trust Dustin Byfuglien yet so he’ll have to have another 50-point season to convince me (same with Tobias Enstrom) so I’d play it safe and go with the best defenseman available. (Sidenote: once the first defenseman after Larsson goes, the rest will get snapped up in a hurry.)
8. Ryan Murphy, D - Kitchener, OHL (5’11″, 176 – NHL: 9, TSN: 8, ISS: 8)
In another version I had the Jets upping the ante and taking the more talented Murphy, but I think Cheveldayoff will like Hamilton’s size more. The Jackets aren’t averse to picking players who lack considerable size (Matt Calvert, Kris Russell) so they’re not going to be shy about taking Murphy, who will be taken this high thanks to Ryan Ellis (100 points in 58 games) silencing any doubters about small but skilled defensemen. (EDIT: The Flyers just acquired this pick and Jakub Voracek (and another 3rd round pick) in exchange for Jeff Carter. The Flyers need defensemen so this pick remains unchanged – in fact, Murphy makes more sense on Philly, which already has an outstanding Kitchener alum in Mike Richards.)
9. Nathan Beaulieu, D - Saint John, QMJHL (6’2″, 185 – NHL: 5, TSN: 11, ISS: 14)
Since players with French names have served Boston so well (Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand), why not continue the trend? The B’s already have Seguin so they’ll want to shore up an old blueline with a kid they can really take their time to develop.
10. Mika Zibanejad, C - Djurgardens, Elitserien (6’2″, 191 – NHL: 2, TSN: 9, ISS: 7)
I imagine the Wild would want to add a little more excitement so I wouldn’t be surprised if they moved up (likewise for Winnipeg). Unfortunately there are no hometown kids to pick this year (not that they would’ve cared to anyway – they traded Nick Leddy and passed on Jordan Schroeder) but the Wild have done some good things with Euros. Zibanejad’s mysterious enough to cause some buzz.
11. Sven Bartschi, LW - Portland, WHL (5’11″, 175 – NHL: 7, TSN: 16, ISS: 11)
I just kinda have a feeling on this one. If Sherman was smart he’d take a defenseman, probably Brodin or Siemens, but I just can’t see it. The Avs were built with some top-flight European wingers back in their heyday and Bartschi fits that Marek Svatos (Slovak) / Wojtek Wolski (Polish) mold, although this is a whole new different regime. (Might as well collect all the countries – Bartschi is Swiss).
12. Duncan Siemens, D - Saskatoon, WHL (6’3″, 197 – NHL: 10, TSN: 13, ISS: 12)
We know Jim Rutherford‘s revamping the defense and Joni Pitkanen is walking. The smart money’s on Rutherford to take a defenseman, although we all know he doesn’t like to do it and the last one didn’t quite pan out so well (Jack Johnson). I think the Hurricanes would like to get bigger and stronger, more Bryan Allen than Pitkanen.
13. Mark McNeill, C - Prince Albert, WHL (6’1″, 204 – NHL: 14, TSN: 19, ISS: 21)
The Flames need just about everything in the pipeline but since there are no defensemen and goalies worth taking anymore, they’ll fill a need by taking a scoring centre. I had Mark Scheifele going to the Flames here at one point but McNeill’s a WHL kid and West teams tend to stick with the Dub.
14. Joel Armia, RW - Assat Pori, SM-liiga (6’3″, 191 – NHL: 4, TSN: 14, ISS: 13)
The Stars have had tons of success with Europeans and Joe Nieuwendyk‘s played with a couple good ones too. Armia’s Finnish, which works in his favour because this is the same organization that’s produced Jere Lehtinen (1992, 4th round), Jussi Jokinen (2001, 6th), and Antti Miettinen (2000, 7th), although none were first round picks. I have a feeling Armia’s going to be a player of similar ilk, but more of Lehtinen’s calibre than the latter two.
15. Brandon Saad, LW - Saginaw, OHL (6’1″, 208 – NHL: 19, TSN: 22, ISS: 24)
From what I’ve heard, Saad was going to go the NCAA route before suddenly changing his mind. He’s big, strong, and he can score, exactly the type of the players the new John Tortorella-era Rangers like. It might be a reach taking Saad this high but that’s why the Rangers are never boring on draft day.
16. Mark Scheifele, C - Barrie, OHL (6’2″, 177 – NHL: 16, TSN: 12, ISS: 18)
The Rangers could use a centre too but I think Saad was too enticing a player to pass up, which means the Sabres can quit whining about Tim Connolly. Mark Pysyk and Brayden McNabb are already in the system and the forwards lack size, so adding Scheifele helps, even if he needs to add about 20-30 lbs.
17. Jamie Oleksiak, D - Northeastern, H-East (6’7″, 244 – NHL: 13, TSN: 17, ISS: 16)
The Habs love their NCAA kids (Max Pacioretty, Ryan McDonagh) and I think they finally realized the importance of having a real stay-at-home guy like Hal Gill. Oleksiak has the size and infinitely more talent than Gill. With Carey Price and PK Subban the Habs will have to build from the net out in the future, so you might as well beef up the last line of defense a little more.
18. Ty Rattie, RW - Portland, WHL (5’11″, 170 – NHL: 17, TSN: 25, ISS: 28)
I don’t know what it is about the Blackhawks, but they’ve got some really good hockey names going on over there – Sharp(ie), Kane(r), Keith, (Seab(s))rook, (Hoss)a, and Leddy. They’re easy to remember and even easier to come up with lame monikers for. Ratttie will join that group and I really never have any doubts with Blackhawks picks. They just know how to pick ‘em.
19. Jonas Brodin, D - Farjestad, Elitserien (6’1″, 165 – NHL: 3, TSN: 10, ISS: 22)
Now that we have small forwards galore, how’s about we shore up that blueline, Steve? At this point Brodin’s the best defenseman left in the draft and given the recent success of Europeans with the Oilers, they won’t be shy to come over. Some don’t think Brodin will fall this far but I think after Ryan Murphy and co. go, it’ll be awhile before we see another defenseman.
20. Zack Phillips, C - Saint John, QMJHL (6’1″, 181 – NHL: 15, TSN: 28, ISS: 34)
I envision Phillips more as a winger than a centre and Huberdeau and Beaulieu lead the pack in Saint John, but I trust Don Maloney. Whoever he takes has a good chance of making the NHL and even though Phillips’ skating may hold him back, I can see him eventually on a line with Kyle Turris.
21. Oscar Klefbom, D - Farjestad, Elitserien (6’4″, 196 – NHL: 6, TSN: 21, ISS: 10)
The Sens are like the Canucks of the East – little history to speak of when compared to the other Canadian teams in the same conference but just really, really good at drafting Swedes. He can really fire the puck and after what Erik Karlsson showed this year (13 goals), how can you not take him?
22. Tyler Biggs, RW - US NTDP, USHL (6’2″, 210 – NHL: 22, TSN: 15, ISS: 31)
The Ducks are like the Flyers – no matter how small or skill-oriented their teams are, you’re gonna leave the game with bruises and cuts. The Ducks like their players rugged – at least tough enough to play a phyiscal game and score goals (Emerson Etem) - and Biggs definitely fits the bill, even if he doesn’t come with the high-end talent Corey Perry does.
23. Tomas Jurco, RW - Saint John, QMJHL (6’2″, 193 – NHL: 20, TSN: 29, ISS: 25)
From now until the end of Sidney Crosby‘s time, Ray Shero might just as well devote his entire staff to scout just wingers. With the defensive corps locked up long-term and Marc-Andre Fleury in net, the Pens just need to keep mucking about until they find the magic formula. Jurco’s got the hands… but is he top six? The Pens are willing to bet that he is.
24. Nicklas Jensen, LW - Oshawa, OHL (6’2″, 188 – NHL: 21, TSN: 24, ISS: 22)
The biggest criticism against Jensen is that he isn’t a very physical player despite possessing good size. That’s not a problem for the Red Wings, who aren’t afraid to select Europeans or take players that maybe need a little longer than usual to develop. His big size and scoring ability reminds me of Johan Franzen.
25. Boone Jenner, C - Oshawa, OHL (6’1″, 194 – NHL: 18, TSN: 26, ISS: 38)
While there are only a handful of standouts in this year’s class, by the mid to late first round team’s will be drafting based on need. It’s a deep draft in that there’s tons of guys who can play in the NHL, it’s just that they might be only bottom six players. Jenner’s got the right attitude the physical skills to do just that.
26. Vladislav Namestnikov, C - London, OHL (6′, 170 – NHL: 11, TSN: 31, ISS: 37)
Some teams don’t take Russian kids in certain rounds of the draft because there’s always so much uncertainty with them. With the Caps it’s different because the allure of being able to play with Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin is quite substantial. Taking Namestnikov is a great pick and he’s already on the same continent, which always helps.
27. Rocco Grimaldi, C - US NTDP, USHL (5’6″, 160 – NHL: 32, TSN: 23, ISS: 15)
The Lightning surprised everyone by taking Brett Connolly last year and I think they’ll surprise everyone again by going with the smallest player in the draft. I’ve heard tons about Grimaldi but never seen him play, but he’s been compared to Martin St. Louis so that’s great news.
28. JT Miller, C – US NTDP, USHL (6’1″, 198 – NHL: 23, TSN: 18, ISS: 17)
The Sharks scouting staff scored huge points unearthing Joe Pavelski from Wisconsin and Miller may sneak under the radar (ranked 59th by THN). He’s a centre right now but probably fits better as a winger in the NHL and the Sharks are deep down the middle already anyway.
29. David Musil, D - Vancouver, WHL (6’3″, 200 – NHL: 38, TSN: 41, ISS: 27)
The Canucks have let so many kids get plucked from their own backyard, they really should start to defend their territory. The big one, of course, is Milan Lucic (2006), but there have been others, like Cody Franson (2005) and Jon Blum (2007). Kevin Connauton played superb hockey with the Giants (72 points). The Canucks would like to nab a forward here but with Vancouver you can never have enough defensemen.
30. Stuart Percy, D - Mississauga, OHL (6’1″, 184 – NHL: 53, TSN: 34, ISS: 50)
Percy’s the name everyone’s whispering that could be a surprise first rounder, and if that’s the case, there’s a headline to be had, so you know Brian Burke‘s on it. I’m not bashing him, but if anyone can give his team a little more (mostly) positive nudge it’s him. The Leafs could use another forward but Percy’s a good prospect.
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