At a time when the stars of today are fighting to the end in pursuit of the Stanley Cup, the stars of tomorrow are in a dog fight of their own. A fight for a first-overall selection and a fight to get drafted in the first round and get some prime-time television exposure.
After the junior and college championships have been decided, the hardest and most grueling tests to hockey prospects lives so far comes to life: Beast Mode Training, as Toronto Blue Jays catcher JP Arencibia would put it.
Prospects are put through what I like to call death drills in hopes that the fittest remain. Interviews and general exhibition games are also used as guidelines when deciding on players as well.
Right now, rankings all over the internet and elsewhere have different first-overall selections, and as many as 60 players could go in the first round, so this year may be a free for all, where each pick could surprise.
I hope you enjoy reading this mock as much as I enjoyed researching and writing it. The order is courtesy of the final regular-season standings.
A very solid two-way defenceman who has the ability to play top-four minutes down the road, Mayfield is blessed with a cannon from the point, so he may just be used primarily on the power play in his first season.
At 6'4", he has the height to be a very good defender, but right now his size and weight are the major warning signs. Listed at only 200 pounds, Mayfield is probably closer to 180 pounds, so an extra 15-to-25 pounds of muscle and mass gain could be in store for this Denver University product.
Great size at 6'3", 190 lbs, and good vision and skill make Jensen a quick riser in this year's draft. Likely to go higher by the time the draft rolls around, Jensen has eyes on a top-15 pick and could likely get it by the end of June.
Right now, however, I'm slotting him in at 29.
He had a very good year this year with the Generals, getting 58 points in 61 games. Pretty good for this Dane who got his first taste of North American hockey this year. From Denmark, he'll look to make a mark on the NHL in the near future.
Zack Phillips has the potential to be the steal of the 2011 NHL Draft if taken this late. Blessed with great vision and a nose for the net, the Prince Edward Island native could surprise everyone and actually amount to something in the NHL. His passing ability could be used on a Leafs team that has been sorely lacking a potential No. 1 center since the days of Mats Sundin
At only 6'0" and 180 pounds, Phillips lack of size and lack of good competition on a daily basis is the reason why he's picked so late in the first round.
At nearly 6'3" and 200 pounds, Jenner, for an 18-year-old, already has NHL-ready size. He has a good ability to find the back of the net and loves to shoot the puck.
He'll need to learn the pro game and mature more as a player before making the jump to the next level. Also, his skating leaves a lot to be desired, so improving his foot speed comes at the top of Jenner's to-do list before June rolls around.
Morrow, who comes in around 6'3" and 190 pounds, is a good candidate here for the defenseman-hungry Sharks to attack with their first-round selection.
Blessed with good vision and a great ability to find the open man, Morrow will likely be a top four defenseman at the NHL level, with the ability to play the power play.
Injured to start off the 2010-11 season with the Portland Winterhawks, Morrow saw his stock immediately go up when he started the season out on a tear, but eventually his stock would plateau around being a top 25 pick.
The Sharks would do well if they are able to nab Morrow this late.
Jurco probably has among the more magical set of hands in the entire 2011 draft. He has the ability to single-handedly change the game with his skill and hands.
With all that skill, however, comes some of his downfalls. He has the ability to change a game very quickly, but questions regarding his size, work ethic, and his overall inconsistency at the QMJHL level raise eyebrows with Jurco.
Is he the next Pavel Datsyuk, a player whom he models his game after, or is he another Angelo Esposito,
Puempel, who generally was a top-15 player coming into the draft last year, has seen his stock fall dramatically after a poor season with the offensively-challenged Peterborough Petes squad.
The Leafs, which will be looking for the best available player at this draft, jump on Puempel quickly here. Puempel, who has a prolific release on his shot, has shown the ability in the past to find the net.
Probably one of the only players this late to have first-line ability at the next level, Puempel will look to eventually play next to the likes of Phil Kessel, Nikolai Kulemin and the other Toronto Maple Leafs.
At a very small 5'6", Grimaldi has all the offensive tools to be a very good offensive talent for years to come in the NHL. His size, however, leaves major questions going forward.
Grimaldi generally has drawn comparisons to Pat Kane and Martin St. Louis, but more realistically, I feel he could develop into more of a Nathan Gerbe type of third-line player. He could make the jump, playing with Stamkos or Lecavalier, into a very good top-six threat, but for right now, we'll err on the side of caution.
He has very good size and skill for a kid his size. He has yet to really fully grow into his body and some would view him as a project with a lot of upside.
He has a good offensive game, with good hands and an adept touch. He is an under-the-radar type of guy who could flourish in the proper system.
A little on the small side, Rattie still has the ability to be a top-six forward someday. Some compare his game favorably to Brian Gionta, and if that's the case, then the Senators could really steal Rattie by taking him at 21.
Rattie, who is a very good skater, has the ability to finish around the net as well and play a decent defensive game. Rattie could even see himself go higher than 21 if all goes well at the combine.
Scheifele is a very good-sized center for his age, and while hitting the weight room is of utmost importance going forward for him, his skating ability will also need some work as well.
There's no denying his three-zone approach to the game. This Barrie Colt center plays well in the corners and has a good head for the game. His game would fit into Dave Tippett's system like a glove.
Oleksiak is a pure upside pick here. Drawing comparisons to Zdeno Chara and Victor Hedman, Oleksiak has some very good upside to go along with some mammoth size. At 6'7" and said to be still growing, Oleksiak's potential to be a top-four defender is obviously there.
The Oilers, which are in great need for a shutdown defenceman, have drafted one here in Oleksiak.
Biggs already has a pro body, listed at 6'2" and 210 pounds. His ability to skate and turn has been questioned constantly and remains the one trait that is holding him back.
If he was a better skater, he would likely be a top-10 pick, but right now I see the Blackhawks nabbing this potential top-six forward at 18. His game is similar to Zack Kassian, the Sabres first-round selection in 2009, 13th overall, if you were looking for a comparison.
The need for some size up front to help combat the lack of size in players like Pat Kane, and to some extent Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp, in the teams' top six is definitely an offseason priority for GM Stan Bowman.
A rather good-sized defenceman (6'3" 200 lbs), Musil has a very NHL-friendly game. He has a very good two-way game, where he makes great first passes out of the zone, but also doesn't shy away from the physical aspect of the game, which is something more Habs players should welcome.
Musil's game won't wow you, but he makes the smart, simple plays look routine. He has the potential to be a top-four defenceman. Some comparisons I have read have been Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Carl Gunnarsson and Paul Martin.
A very big center, listed at 6'2" 210 lbs, McNeill would fit in great as the Sabres new second or third-line center down the line. Playing in Prince Albert, with limited help, McNeill's offensive game was steady, averaging over a point per game with 81 points in only 70 games.
McNeill may not have the offensive ability at the next level, but his three-zoned play again is very valuable to the Sabres. He plays in every situation for the Raiders and has one quality that can't be taught; the ability to hustle and anticipate with every stride he takes on the ice. His hustle will allow him to get drafted high.
Ambroz, a hulking force and your prototypical NHL power forward, saw his stock drop dramatically as the season went on while he played for the Omaha Lancers. He's a good goal scorer and likes to use his body at all times. When I see his videos, I can't help but think of David Backes.
With a huge influx of softer, more finesse wingers in the Rangers lineup, having a huge-bodied presence down low and in front of the net could be the ticket for some of the Rangers scoring woes.
Ambroz in a Rangers jersey makes sense to me, even if the pick is a bit off the charts.
Generally thought of as a riser for the draft, Armia is a big winger with good size, strength and hands, as he looks to be a top-15 pick for this upcoming draft.
Armia had a relatively average World Juniors this past year, but his size and skill draw comparisons, albeit rather lofty expectations, to that of Teemu Selanne.
Armia will need a year or two of pro hockey seasoning so he can catch up to the speed of the game and the defensive aspects of the game.
At 17 years old, Armia is already playing for Assat in the Finnish Elite league, a testament to the level of maturity this kid possesses.
Siemens, number 5, fights with David Musil, number 6 in white.
Not a real offensive defenseman, Siemens is more of your stay-at-home defender who is tough as nails. In Juniors, he was a shutdown defenseman, and a very good one, for the Saskatoon Blades this season.
He was a plus defenseman who worked extensively on his offensive game this season. He was able to make better outlet passes this year and showed some offensive upside by tallying 43 points this season in 72 games for a rather stacked Blades squad that featured World Junior MVP Brayden Schenn, and Canadian junior teammate Curtis Hamilton.
Siemens at the next level compares right there with Flames defenceman Robyn Regehr, a pretty good insurance policy if you ask me.
Aside from Ryan Murphy and Adam Larsson, Beaulieu probably has the most offensive ability among any of the defenceman in this draft.
Beaulieu competes hard, skates well, has an absolute cannon from the point and is a good passer. But the fact remains that at only six feet tall and a meager 170 pounds, he could stand to improve his strength greatly so he doesn't get manhandled at the next level.
Another downside to his game is his head for the game. What I mean by that is he likes to show off a little bit and make the great plays, when a simple, effective play would suffice.
Aside from that aspect of his game, his upside is close to that of Mike Green, Dan Boyle and Joni Pitkanen. Speaking of Pitkanen, who is an unrestricted free agent July 1st, getting Beaulieu at the draft could spell the end of Pitkanen in Carolina if his demands are too great.
A risky pick based on how quickly he skyrocketed up the charts, but the reports say this kid is a dynamic player.
With some good size (6'1", 190 lbs), Zibanejad was able to play in the Swedish Elite league with Djurgårdens as a teenager.
His combination of size, skill, ability to play both ends and much more, make him a shoe-in as a top 15 drafted player this year.
Outside of Adam Larsson, Zibanejad will likely be the second Swedish player to be taken this year. He will still need to work on his skating before he ever reaches the NHL, but all the other aspects of his game are there. It's up to him to figure out the rest.
Saad I feel has top-10 size and skill. It's just a matter of if his heart and soul is into the game. His ability to bring it each night is still a major question mark regarding this guy.
At 6'2, 200 pounds, Saad, before the season began, was drawing top-six consideration in many mock drafts, but his stock has taken a hit a little bit. Look for Saad, if he doesn't go top 10, to possibly fall out of the first round.
When he's screwed on properly, Saad has a game that resembles Andrew Ladd. Saad will likely need to show a constant level of competitiveness from here on out if he wants to remain in this draft position.
Likely to be the first and only Swiss player taken in the first round, Bartschi is a dynamic two-way forward who fits into the Boston Bruins mold perfectly.
Has a very good offensive skill set, but will need to work on the defensive aspect of the game before reaching the next level. After player with Portland this past year, scoring 85 points, Bartschi saw his value rise considerably.
He has drawn comparisons to Hurricanes winger Tuomu Ruutu and Brenden Morrow, two pretty good players to get at number nine in a relatively weak draft for the Bruins.
Coming in at number eight is Dougie Hamilton, a defenceman from the Niagara Ice Dogs of the Ontario Hockey League.
Hamilton has a rare combination of size, skill, grit, offensive and defensive ability that a kid his age would love to have.
He'll likely be an Alex Pietrangelo type of defenceman, meaning he'll need to adjust to the speed and pace of the NHL game, but he has the make-up to be an effective top two defender on any team. He's a guy the Jackets have longed to have on their blueline.
A very small, but very skilled young centermen, Strome has elite level offensive capabilities, that personally fit in well with the center starved Atlanta Thrashers
Strome finished the year with 105 points in 65 games with the Niagara Ice Dogs this past season and will likely need a year or two seasoning before making his mark with the Thrashers.
When he makes it, he'll likely be their number one center and a guy to be relied upon to put points on the board on a daily basis.
A very skilled, quick, handsy center that unfortunately could draw some comparisons to former Sens no. 1 pick Alexandre Daigle. He draws better comparisons nowadays to Mike Ribeiro and Scott Gomez though.
Skilled passer with a very good hockey IQ. He has all the tools to be a very good center in this league for a very long time.
Huberdeau's arrival could mean a Jason Spezza's depature down the road, but for right now, I'm holding my breath on that one as a Leafs fan.
Easily the best offensive defenceman in the entire draft, Murphy is a powerplay quarterback ready to happen. Think of a more offensive, lightning quick Brian Rafalski when thinking of Murphy.
Murphy will need to work on his strength since he's on the smallish side, and work a little on the defensive aspect of the game, but he has some of the best upside in this years draft.
The Islanders, with Mark Streit not getting any younger, are looking to add to an already dangerous powerplay that includes the likes of John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, and the junior prospect Nino Niederreiter.
Before the start of the season, Sean Couturier was the unanimous number overall selection for many experts out there, but after a less than stellar two-way performance at the World Juniors and a relatively low-key finish to his QMJHL season, Couterier saw his stock drop dramatically.
Some experts even had him dropping out of the top eight. Right now, I think he's still a top 5 talent.
He's already got great size and skill, just again another player needing to work on his body and strength.
With the added pounds, he'll likely compare favorably to Jordan Staal.
Landeskog will likely come out of this draft as the best pure two-way forward of the draft. I'd like to think of him as the Swedish Mike Richards. He has future captain written all over him.
Luckily for the Panthers, who are a franchise in disarray, they could really use the franchise cornerstone that Landeskog will undoubtedly be.
He saw his stock take a hit when he was unable to finish the World Juniors with an ankle injury. Despite his stock taking a hit, the Swedes definitely took a hit, as a once Gold Medal threatening team, had to settle for Bronze instead.
The highest ranked North American skater makes his home here at the second overall selection. The Oilers decided to pass on him because they're looking to build a team that doesn't include 18 forwards, they will need to add depth defensively.
Because of that, the Avalanche get their hands on Nugent-Hopkins and couldn't be happier. The Avalanche honored Joe Sakic this past season, and with Sakic now gone, the Avalanche welcome another Joe Sakic like player to the fold.
With Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and now Nugent Hopkins at center, I can feel a possible Stastny trade on the horizon if all falls into place--regardless of who they take at 2 if Larsson goes first which...
The first overall draft selection, and the best defenseman in the draft, and that's Adam Larsson.
Incredibly calm, cool, and collected on the ice, Larsson is a future number one defenceman and could have a Hall of Fame career if all goes right.
He's constantly drew comparisons to Niklas Lidstrom since he was a boy, and those comparisons will most likely continue through his long career.
At 6'2 200 pounds, Larsson is likely the most NHL ready amongst any of the prospects this year, and the Oilers decide to make him their cornerstone on defence.
With Taylor Hall, Magnus Svensson Paajarvi, Jordan Eberle and much more up front to build around, having the likes of Larsson on the back end as well to build around, means the rebuild plan in Edmonton will likely turn into a re-tooling plan sooner, much rather than later in the coming season or two.
# 9 - Boston receives Toronto's 2011 1st Round Pick, 2010 1st and 2nd Round Picks for Phil Kessel.
# 11 - Colorado receives St. Louis's 2011 1st round pick, D Erik Johnson, and C Jay McClement for RW Chris Stewart, D Kevin Shattenkirk, and a 2nd round pick.
# 19 - Edmonton receives Los Angeles's 2011 1st round pick, a conditional 2012 3rd round pick, Colten Teubert for Dustin Penner.
# 21 - Ottawa receives Nashville's 2011 1st Round Pick, and a 2012 conditional draft pick for Mike Fisher.
# 24 - Toronto receives Boston's 2011 1st Round Pick, Joe Colborne and a conditional 2012 pick (if Boston re-signs or reaches the Cup Finals, Toronto will get a 2nd round pick for Tomas Kaberle.
# 28 - Toronto receives Philadelphia's 2011 1st and 3rd Round Pick for Kris Versteeg