NHL Draft 2011: Final Rankings of Skaters and What the Florida Panthers Will Do

Thomas KrulikowskiContributor IApril 11, 2011

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Ryan Nugent-HopkinsClaus Andersen/Getty Images

My favorite, Gabriel Landeskog (and rumored Florida Panther target), ranks second for North American skaters, Sean Couturier falls to sixth and Dougie Hamilton jumps into the top five as the draft's second best D.

1NUGENT-HOPKINS, RYANWHL04/12/936' 0.5"164C69317510651
2LANDESKOG, GABRIELOHL11/23/926' 0.5"207LW5336306661
3HUBERDEAU, JONATHANQMJHL06/04/936' 1.25"170C67436210588
4HAMILTON, DOUGIEOHL06/17/936' 4.25"187D6712465877
5BEAULIEU, NATHANQMJHL12/05/926' 1.75"174D6512334552
6COUTURIER, SEANQMJHL12/07/926' 4"197C5836609636
7BAERTSCHI, SVENWHL10/05/925' 10"181LW6634518574
8STROME, RYANOHL07/11/936' 0"175C6533731062
9MURPHY, RYANOHL03/31/935' 10.5"166D6326537936
10SIEMENS, DUNCANWHL09/07/936' 2.5"192D7253843121
11NAMESTNIKOV, VLADISLAVOHL11/22/925' 11.5"166C6830386849
12MORROW, JOSEPHWHL12/09/926' 0.25"197D609404967
13OLEKSIAK, JAMIESONH-EAST12/21/926' 7"244D34391251
14MCNEILL, MARKWHL02/22/936' 1.5"201C7032498153
15PHILLIPS, ZACKQMJHL10/28/926' 1"178C6738579516

*top 15 only*

In Europe, Adam Larsson remains top dog and will most likely go in the top three. Sweden is the dominant country, with Larsson, forward Mika Zibanejad and D Jonas Brodin as the top three skaters.

1LARSSON, ADAMSWEDEN11/12/926' 3"200D3718941
2ZIBANEJAD, MIKASWEDEN04/18/936' 1.5"191C265492
3BRODIN, JONASSWEDEN07/12/936' 1"169D4204412
4ARMIA, JOELFINLAND05/31/936' 3"191RW4818112924
5JASKIN, DMITRICZREP03/23/936' 1"196RW33371016
6KLEFBOM, OSCARSWEDEN07/20/936' 3.5"200D231122
7SALOMAKI, MIIKKAFINLAND03/09/935' 11"198RW40461053
8NERMARK, JOACHIMSWE-JR.05/12/936' 1"187C378182616
9GRANLUND, MARKUSFINLAND-JR.04/16/935' 10"169C4020325249
10BENGTSSON, RASMUSSWEDEN-205/14/936' 2.5"189D452796
11HOFMANN, GREGORYSWISS11/13/926' 0"170C4139122
12RASK, VICTORSWEDEN-203/01/936' 1.5"194C3756118
13FRIBERG, MAXSWEDEN-311/20/925' 11"185LW341327406
14BOYCE ROTEVALL, JEREMYSWEDEN08/28/936' 0"169LW331234
15JOHANSSON, KARLSWE-JR.01/21/935' 8.5"167D35651149

*top 15 only*

The Florida Panthers finished with the third-worst record in the NHL this year and most likely will have the third overall pick. With their deep, young core of defenseman, it is expected that they are going to take a forward.

With Nugent-Hopkins most likely going in the first two picks, the Panthers could take Swede Gabriel Landeskog of the OHL. Landeskog, according to scouts, may not be the best player in the draft, but is the most complete and NHL-ready player.

Nugent-Hopkins and Larsson are considered to be the best of the draft, although I wouldn't put Landeskog far behind them.

If Nugent-Hopkins falls to the Panthers, I would not be unhappy. This is a possibility as the Edmonton Oilers are stocked with young offensive talent, but lack any defensive talent. They could take Larsson first, and the Panthers could get second in the lottery.

However, the Panthers are attracted to Landeskog's leadership capabilities. They need their Mike Richards or Jonathan Toews. Nugent-Hopkins, while more talented offensively, does not have natural leadership qualities like Landeskog.

A key to drafting players is not always taking the best available player overall, but rather the best available player that matches your wants and needs. Hopefully, Landeskog turns out to be both for the Florida Panthers.

We will know more as June 24th approaches.

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Original article @ www.zelepuckin.blogspot.com