Many have said that the 2011 NHL draft will not be all that strong. While for the most part this could likely hold true, it still has a fair helping of top end talent, that could make a huge difference for whichever team drafts them.
The main issue for this draft is depth. The first round will have the excitement and intrigue that previous drafts have had, but after the first or second rounds the talent pool dips a fair bit.
The first round though will be fairly strong, and that's what we are here to talk about. Lets get on to the bottom 10 picks.
30. Jesse Forsberg (D)
Current Team: Prince George Cougars
Stats: 51GP, 1G, 15A, 16P
Forsberg has a solid two-way game, but his best work is done in his own end. Forsberg has good size and isn't afraid to use it. A solid checker, and a good fighter Forsberg will get down and dirty if needed. Add on good potential on the offensive side of the ice and you have a solid blue chipper.
29. Michael St. Croix (C)
Current Team: Edmonton Oil Kings
Stats: 66GP, 18G, 28A, 46P
St. Croix is one of those players who has a lot to gain or lose come draft time. While his stats don't scream star, he does have a lot of potential up front. In a highly defensive league a 46 point rookie year is quite good, and he will only go up from here. If he can go about a solid sophomore year don't be surprised if Michael St. Croix's name is announced much higher then this.
28. Adam Clendening (D)
Current Team: Boston University
Stats: 65GP, 14G, 35A, 49P (with US Development Program)
Clendening's late birthday will allow him to gain an extra years experience over the competition. Spending two years with the USDP has allowed him to really develop into a very promising defender. The best part of his game would be his offensive side. 49 points in 65 games, and 10 points in 7 games in the U-18 tournament really proves what he brings to the table. With two gold medals under his belt, and a shot at a gold this coming year at the world juniors should really show what he has to offer.
Clendening will be playing for Boston U. this coming season. Under the tutelage of legendary coach Jack Parker Clendening should evolve into a tremendous talent on the back end.
27. Jonathan Huberdeau (C)
Current Team: Saint John Sea Dogs
Stats: 09/10: 61GP, 15G, 20A, 35P
Stats: 10/11: 2GP, 2G, 4A, 6P
Huberdeau could best be described as a very solid two-way player. Playing fairly limited time on a stacked Sea Dogs lineup Huberdeau still managed to show he has the chops to play at a high level. Starting the 10/11 season Huberdeau is off to a flying start, and should see the ice much more often. Expect a breakout year from the young star.
26. Tyler Biggs (RW)
Current Team: USNTDP
Stats: 24GP, 6G, 5A, 11P
Tyler Biggs can really only be described as a power forward. Biggs already has a massive frame at the age of 17, and will only get bigger and stronger here on out. Biggs has great hands for his size, and is fairly mobile as well. He has shown he can put up impressive offensive numbers, and impressive PIM's as well, but whether he can do that at a high level of competition has really yet to be seen. Tyler has committed to Miami University in Ohio, which will really make or break his career.
25. Garrett Meurs (C)
Current Team: Plymouth Whalers
Stats: 62GP, 16G, 18A, 34P
Garrett Meurs like many players at his age really don't quite stand out amongst the crowd, but when the camera's finally turn towards the draft class of 2011, Garrett Meurs should be a main focus. The young Whaler still needs a little filling out to do, but he has shown that he can play quality hockey at both ends of the ice. In the offensive zone he has shown that he has amazing goal scoring potential. In his own end, he is very calm, and often makes the smart play to clear the puck. This year with the potential loss of Tyler Seguin the Whalers will likely turn towards Meurs for a much bigger role, and if he can handle the pressure he could turn into an exceptional player.
24. Nathan Beaulieu (D)
Current Team: Saint John Sea Dogs
Stats: 66GP, 12G, 33A, 45P
In his first full season with the Sea Dogs, Nathan managed to put up more then 10 goals, and 45 points in just 66 games. A highly regarded offensive defender, Beaulieu can put the puck in the net, and set up players with relative ease, he is a perfect PP QB. His defensive side of the game is strong as well as he doesn't make any glaring mistakes in his own end. While he may never be a legitimate top two defender in the league, he would be an excellent special teams player.
His big weakness is his size. Various reports put him around the six foot 160-170 pound range, and as a defender that is not that big. Many teams could pass him over for the bigger, stronger player.
23. Nick Shore (F)
Current Team: University of Denver
Stats: 26GP, 6G, 14A, 20P (with US development program)
Nick Shore has been a solid player in the USHL so far, he has decent size, his defensive game for a forward is by all accounts quite developed, and he can dish the puck quite well. While he will not likely blow you away, what he brings is a very serviceable player who can be thrown in any situation and compete.
Shore will play alongside brother Drew Shore with the University of Denver this season, and should be able to further develop his skills in all facets of the game.
22. Robbie Russo (D)
Current Team: University of Notre Dame
Stats: 52GP, 7G, 24A, 31P (with US Development Program)
Russo is a very solid prospect. At the moment he is rated fairly low, but as the season progresses his draft stock is most certainly going to rise. Playing with the US development program Russo has proven his great ability in his own end, and up front. Tremendous poise and composure are his two greatest attributes, and with time in the NCAA next season we could see a very strong player develop.
21. Lucas Lessio (LW)
Current Team: Oshawa Generals
Stats: 41GP, 30G, 42A, 72P (with St. Michael's Buzzers)
Lucas Lessio has yet to lace up for a regular season OHL game, but the buzz he has created can already be felt. Lessio is going to be an offensive star in Oshawa has at the junior A level. Lessio has amazing hands, good foot speed, and he is willing to fight for every puck and will do whatever it takes to win the battles.
In all likelihood he will be much higher then this come draft time, but for the time being he is an unproven talent, and he may not be able to live up to the hype.
* special thanks to Dan Sallows for allowing me to read his reports, and gain a better knowledge of many of the players discussed.
If you wish to view any of Dan Sallows' works please use the following link: www.dansallows.com