The NHL Draft matters.
Ask the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are currently playing in the Eastern Conference Finals thanks to the first overall draft pick in 2008, Steven Stamkos. Perhaps Tyler Seguin, who was drafted less than 12 months ago, can attest to the impact young players can make. After all, the rookie did carry the Bruins to a Game 2 victory in the Eastern Conference Finals.
These kids are making an impact like never before. In fact, between the years 1997 and 2008, Patrik Stefan and Erik Johnson are the only two players drafted first overall who have not appeared in an All-Star Game.
Meanwhile, four of those players drafted with the first pick have hoisted the Stanley Cup, and Steven Stamkos has a shot to do so this season.
Teams are built through the NHL Draft. The talented youngsters available early in the draft have the ability to impact the game immediately. With the NHL transitioning to a game that is more focused on speed than physicality, an 18-year old can jump from juniors to the NHL seamlessly given he has the talent.
On June 24th and 25th at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. the stars of tomorrow will be given new homes at the 49th NHL Entry Draft.
Canadian born playmaking center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and the offensively gifted blue-liner from Sweden Adam Larsson, have entered what appears to be a two horse race to be selected first overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
The rest is a mystery.
Without elite top end talent in the first round, it's anyone's guess as to where this tightly ranked group will fall into place.
Here's the second edition of my 2011 NHL Mock Draft.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter @MatthewFairburn for analysis of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the NHL Offseason and of course plenty of scouting notes for the 2011 NHL Draft Prospects.