Future Stars: The Top 30 Prospects of the 2011 NHL Draft

Kyle NicolasContributor IJanuary 7, 2011

Future Stars: The Top 30 Prospects of the 2011 NHL Draft

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    Every NHL team will tell you success is a long and difficult road that starts with the most basic building blocks.

    Those building blocks come to light every summer with the NHL Draft. It can be the single most amazing day of a young man's life or also the most disappointing, as futures of the game are made, and the next superstars find out what franchise they'll first be putting on their colors for.

    This year's NHL draft has a large amount of promise as some of the most talented youngsters in the world work their tails off to increase their chances of being taken in the NHL draft this coming June.

    Here's a look at the Top 30 prospects so far.

1. Sean Couturier

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    The speedy center was recently given the honor of representing Canada at the World Junior Championships in Buffalo. He's known for his brilliant stickhandling skills and his awareness on the ice, particularly in the defensive end, which is a very valuable trait for a scoring forward.

2. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

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    The accomplished center currently plays for Red Deer of the WHL, and upon being drafted, should see time in the NHL next season. He really does need to bulk up however, being only 160 lbs for his 6'0" size. His goal-scoring prowess will make him a very high draft selection without question and will put up some massive numbers in his career.

3. Gabriel Landeskog

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    The Swedish-born winger is putting up phenomenal numbers as the captain of the Kitchener Rangers and will no doubt carry some of that goal-scoring instinct to the NHL, making him another player sure to go early in this summer's draft. Additionally, his skating ability allows him to use his talent on any part of the ice.

4. Adam Larsson

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    The Swedes have a very large presence among the top prospects this year. Larsson is a big, smooth-skating defenseman who already weighs in at 200 lbs. He's got a lot of muscle and will make a great pickup for a team in need of a good franchise defenseman with a knack for play in the offensive zone.

5. Ryan Murphy

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    Some teams may not like his small stature for a defenseman while standing at only 5'10" and weighing a meager 160 lbs. That being said, passing on this Kitchener Ranger would be a major mistake. He skates very well and is incredibly creative with the puck, something very few defenseman specialize in. Whatever team gives him the chance will gain someone who plays a lot like Lubomir Visnovsky and will likely score at the same rate as him.

6. Joel Armia

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    This big-bodied winger was given the honor of representing his native Finland at the World Junior Championships. Domestically, he's looking to make the jump from his domestic club Assat, where he has 12 goals this season, to the NHL level, and between his large size, good hands, and great speed, he should go early.

7. Ryan Strome

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    Between his amazing stickhandling, incredible speed, and well... what you can see in that video, Ryan Strome is a dazzler of a hockey player. Currently playing for Niagra of the OHL, the 5'11" center already has 22 goals in 37 games. He will have to do some serious bulking up if he hopes to see any time in the NHL soon however, since his 160 lbs. will likely see him getting pushed around a lot if he doesn't change it.

8. Brandon Saad

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    Yet another big winger in this draft, the 6'2", 200 lbs. Saad has a tendency to favor the physical game, which could work well for an undersized offensive team like Montreal. He currently has 21 goals in 34 games for Saginaw, but many predict that his grinding, physical style of play will make him into more of a third-line winger, and that could see him fall down the draft board significantly. However, the big boy should still be taken in the first round.

9. Dougie Hamilton

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    He's going to need some serious bulking up before he sees any time in the NHL, being a mere 180 lbs despite his 6'3" stature. However, the Niagra Ice Dog has shown some great potential as a puck moving defenseman, demonstrated by his 25 assists in 36 games. He may not be ready next season, but after some development and some intense muscle building, he should be a great future investment.

10. Duncan Siemens

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    One thing's for certain; you learn something about a guy when a search on YouTube for him brings up a slew of hockey fight videos.

    It's quite apparent that the big 6'3" defenseman is unafraid to drop the mitts if he needs to, and that's an element that will no doubt be a major factor in his selection. He'll need to bulk up currently sitting on 192 lbs but expect him to see time in the NHL soon if he can build his strength.

11. Tomas Jurco

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    Currently playing for Saint John, the Slovak-born winger currently has 17 goals in 33 games for the Sea Dogs. Like many other guys on this list, he too will need to bulk up and likely will see time in the minor leagues before taking to the NHL. He's known for his particularly impressive hockey sense and brilliant stickhandling ability. He'll make a great selection for shootouts when he gets up to the big club.

12. Jonathan Huberdeau

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    The 6'1" center needs some serious workouts being a featherweight 155 lbs, and that alone will probably prevent him from being an NHLer at the start of next season. However his, numbers for the Saint John Sea Dogs are outstanding, with 26 goals and 34 assists in 39 games this season. These outstanding numbers should see him getting some serious looks at a roster spot soon and could see him moving up the draft board to possibly even a Top-10 spot.

13. Sven Bartschi

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    The only Switzerland-native player in the Top 30, Sven Bartschi is putting up great numbers with 21 goals and 26 assists for the Portland Winterhawks this season. Recently returned from his trip to the World Junior Championships, he definitely opened some eyes with his great hockey sense and his ability to control the play.

14. David Musil

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    The commentators in the video have it right: he's big and strong.

    Standing at a towering 6'3" and weighing in at 191 lbs. the Vancouver Giant is tough and unafraid to stand up for himself. He does not have very good numbers, however, and he could slide down the draft order as a result. He does have the genetics of an NHL great however, being the nephew of former NHL great Bobby Holik.

15. Ty Rattie

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    Not the greatest skater in the world for a forward and will need to improve that if he wants to make it to the big club anytime soon.

    Additionally, his 167-pound weight is pretty thin. However, he has a great work ethic and great hockey sense. His biggest attribute is his tendency to always play great defensively as well as offensively, something teams would love to see in any player.

16. Matt Puempel

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    The Peterborough Petes winger is certainly not short on the numbers with an impressive 22 goals and 27 assists this season.

    Just watch this video and you can see why he's catching the eyes of scouts everywhere. He's got great hands and a deceptive shot that will make him a great player in the NHL and possibly slide him up the draft rankings before June rolls around.

17. Nathan Beaulieu

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    He's not a very big defenseman at only 165 lbs., but this Saint John's Sea Dog is chock full of puck-moving skill.

    His 20 assists demonstrates his keen hockey sense and his great awareness on both sides of the puck. He'll need to undergo some serious strength training to get his weight up but expect him to be a great defenseman soon.

18. Alexander Kokhlachev

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    The Russian-born Windsor Spitfire has a fantastic nose for the net and a great finishing prowess.

    His skating ability gives him the opportunity to use those skills. He does need to gain strength, but his playmaking abilities make him one of the most versatile offensive players in the draft this season. Just look at the video and you'll see what I mean by some scoring ability.

19. Seth Ambroz

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    He's a big winger standing at 6'3" and already weighing in at just under 200 lbs.

    That compliments his playing style which features a lot of barging to the net and grinding out the gritty goals. For a winger, his numbers aren't particularly high and that could see him falling down the draft board to potentially the second round, unless he can find a more consistent scoring touch.

20. Victor Rask

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    Known for his particularly good puck handling and ability to protect possession, Rask is a great skater with a lot of potential.

    However, the Swedish-born center does not have very good numbers for his Leksands club this season, with only nine points in 29 games, so despite his heralded skills, he could see his draft selection slip to the second round.

21. Vladislav Namestnikov

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    The London Knight needs to pick up his physical game if he wants to make it in the North American-dominated NHL, but he does have the work ethic to improve and is getting better.

    Combine that with great speed and fantastic stick skills, and this Russia native, who's drawing comparisons to former-Knight Nazem Kadri, could be taken as high as the Top 10.

22. Dimitrij Jaskin

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    The Czech-born winger is already very strong and bulky, but his stats thus far are not very impressive.

    He's got a good nose for the net but could use some work on his skating ability. Other than that, he's got some solid talent that could see him go in the first round this summer.

23. Matthew Nieto

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    The current Boston University Terrier is not seeing very good numbers in his freshman season, but those should improve in the next couple years.

    He'll likely remain in the college program for at least a couple years after the draft even though he will probably go in the first round this year because of quick skating and great stick skills. He most needs to improve his shot if he wants to get a good-scoring touch in the NHL game.

24. Nicklas Jensen

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    The 6'2" Oshwa General is an outstanding skater for his size.

    On top of that, he's got a great hockey sense and knows where to be on the ice, both with and without the puck. Just check out this fantastic goal if you need an example of how skilled he can be.

25. Scott Mayfield

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    Talk about an urgent need to bulk up, Mayfield weighs a meager 175 lbs. despite his 6'4" height.

    However, his outstanding defensive skills put him up into the Top 30 of this prospects list. He's got great defensive abilities and is not afraid to jump in and play physical to keep opposing forwards at bay.

26. Rocco Grimaldi

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    The USA U-18 player could be in some serious jeopardy of being selected at all in this draft due to his extremely small stature.

    Measuring a ridiculously tiny 5'6" and weighing 157 lbs., Rocco needs to work on his skating speed if he wants to have any hope of a team taking a chance on him. However, he has proven his durability, and he's not afraid to crash the rough areas of the net to grind out a few goals.

27. Tyler Biggs

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    Biggs is a very strong winger for the US National Team Development Program.

    Already weighing 202 lbs. for his 6'2" stature, that could be seen as an extremely big benefit to some teams. His numbers are decent at best, however, and he's really more of a third-line or grinder-type player. Some teams have a need for this kind of a guy, but he could see his selection delayed a couple rounds as teams go for scorers or defenseman in the early rounds.

28. Myles Bell

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    The Regina Pats defenseman is already incredibly strong for a 17-year-old and is one of the most versatile players in this year's draft class.

    For a defenseman, he has a great scoring ability and has the capability of playing forward as well as defense. He can play the power play with an excellent point shot or even kill penalties with his decent size. He could go even as high as one of the Top 10 for a team who wants a very versatile, Dustin-Byfuglien-esque player.

29. Maxim Shalunov

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    In all of my searches of the Internet, I haven't been able to find a single photo of this elusive Russian.

    He has pretty good numbers though with seven goals in nine games for Chelyabinsk this season. However, not too much is known about him other than he's pretty large, standing at 6'3" in height, and his elusive skating ability makes him one of the top Russian prospects in this year's draft, which could see him go as early as the first round.

30. Daniel Catenacci

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    Catenacci has an excellent 48 points in 38 games so far this season and could see his selection move upwards on the draft board significantly. He's got great skating skills and a fantastic offensive sense. The 5'10" center will need to bulk up a bit, but he could see some time in the NHL very soon and will make a great pickup for a team looking for a future 20+ goal-scorer.