The 2011 NHL Draft is around the corner, and general managers across the league are making final preparations to make sure they end up with the very best youngsters to help their respective teams in the coming years. This is a look at how the draft will pan out and a look at which players each team decides are going to lead them to the Stanley Cup.
Adam Larsson – D – Skellefteå AIK (Elitserien)
Oilers have no need for forwards, with talented Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson already in the system. 6’3 Swede Adam Larsson is the most NHL ready player in the draft and can step right in on a thin blueline.
Gabriel Landeskog – RW – Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Colorado have already expressed interest in the all-round Swede. Great guy and great player, Gabriel Landeskog can step in in any situation and perform. Will stand up for teammates, and will be Colorado’s captain in a few years. Can play right away.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – C – Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Florida gets a huge steal at number three with center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The ultra-talented playmaker goes to a struggling team with a desperate need for a true franchise player. Needs to build muscle, but 106 points in 69 games is worth the waiting game: Another year in junior hockey beckons for RNH.
Mika Zibanejad – C – Djurgården (Elitserien)
Devils get hard-working Swede with sky-high potential. The late-bloomer could be the perfect complement for Zach Parise should the Devils re-sign him. If not, Zibanejad is new franchise player. Third Swede in top four picks has NHL size at 6’2", but will require at least another year back home. Power forward.
Jonathan Huberdeau – C – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
A skilled center with good size, Huberdeau is a proven winner that joins a team in the middle of a long rebuilding phase. Also is winner of Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as QMJHL Playoff MVP. Islanders create a one-two punch at center, with the Quebec native joining John Tavares down the middle.
Ryan Strome – C – Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
A team stacked with defensive prospects, Ottawa replenishes its offensive prospect pool with an outrageously skilled center. The tenacious Ontario native is a pure goal-scorer, maybe more so than any other 2011 prospect; just what Ottawa needs.
Dougie Hamilton – D – Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Zach Bogosian looks set to leave the team, and 6’4" Dougie Hamilton is the perfect replacement. Physical, and surprisingly able offensively, he is the second IceDog picked in a row. Future partner for Toby Enström, both as number one defensive pairing and on power play.
Sean Couturier – C – Drummondville (QMJHL)
Provided they haven’t traded the pick, the Blue Jackets are extremely fortunate to have Couturier fall to them at number eight. Has the skill to be a first overall pick, but 2010-11 season was plagued by injuries. Will challenge Ryan Johansen to be Rick Nash’s center, or can move to right wing to create a stellar first line. Has NHL bloodlines.
Ryan Murphy – D – Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Bruins select offensive dynamo, the player they were looking for when acquiring Tomas Kaberle at the deadline. Power play specialist isn’t the biggest guy but makes up for it with hard-working and tenacious defense and stellar offensive performances.
Duncan Siemens – D – Saskatoon (WHL)
Wild are in need of an all-round defenseman, and they get their man in Duncan Siemens. Arguably the most physical draft-eligible player, will mix it up if needed. Skates well and has excellent mobility for a big man. He can chip in offensively with points on a team used to winning.
Nathan Beaulieu – D – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Having drafted Landeskog, Colorado take a two-way defenseman with their second pick. An offensive dynamo, Beaulieu has progressed a long way this season, and the talented blueliner may have the highest ceiling among all 2011 draft-eligible defensemen.
Sven Bärtschi – LW – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Hurricanes pick up the best left winger in the draft. They add good depth at a position where they are thin, especially if Stillman is done. May be ready to play in NHL next season. Jeff Skinner finds future center in Swiss dynamo.
John Gibson – G – USNTDP
Long-term replacement for Miikka Kiprusoff is athletic monster. Had an awesome showing at the draft combine, adding on to another solid season. Will battle Henrik Karlsson for playing time when Kipper is gone.
Vladislav Namestnikov – C – London Knights (OHL)
Versatile forward joins a prospect pool thin on centers. Has high skill level and a lot of potential; put up good numbers on disappointing Knights team. Will battle Jamie Benn for number one center job, maybe as soon as 2012 season.
Joel Armia – RW – Pori Ässät (SM-Liiga)
Rangers draft a big need, a big right-winger. Will have to compete with Gaborik, Callahan, Thomas and Fasth for time, but will win battle. Big power forward broke through big time this season in Finland’s top league.
Brandon Saad – LW – Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
A team with no glaring needs picks up a long-term project with Brandon Saad. May be considered a reach pick by some, but the Sabres love power-forwards, and this is a prototypical one with size, strength and goal scoring ability.
Phillip Danault – LW – Victoriaville (QMJHL)
Habs desperately need right wingers, but help is on the way in the pipeline. Danault is a versatile forward who will be able to move to the right if needed. Quebec native is future winger for super-prospect Louis Leblanc.
Jamie Oleksiak – D – Northeastern Huskies (NCAA)
First college player drafted joins a deep Hawks blueline. They have everything, except a big, physical shut-down guy. 6’7, 240 pound Oleksiak is the new Chara. Plays with an edge, was a monster at the combine and the frightening thing is that he’s likely not finished growing. Will form ultimate shut-down pair with Niklas Hjalmarsson. Colossal…
Zack Phillips – C – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
A versatile forward with bags of skill, Phillips put up great numbers on a winning team. Joins skilled group of Oilers forwards. Was playmaker for Jonathan Huberdeau, will make Taylor Hall 100-point man. Can play any forward position.
Mark McNeill – C – Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
With Mark Visentin developing and Ilya Bryzgalov all but gone, Coyotes resist urge to take goalie and go with powerhouse center. Will complement Kyle Turris perfectly as one-two punch, as he brings a lot of strength and power-forward qualities. Beast at the NHL combine…
Niklas Jensen – LW/RW – Oshawa Generals (OHL)
Having drafted Strome, Ottawa grabs his winger. Jensen can play either side and has good size. The Dane put up excellent all-round numbers on strong team. Good speed for a big man and great hockey sense.
Scott Mayfield – D – Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
Big, intelligent blue-liner is perfect fit in California. Will be the perfect complement to Cam Fowler when he comes to the NHL. Needs to fill out, but he has plenty of time, as he will most likely be headed to the NCAA. Solid offensively as well as defensively.
Joseph Morrow – D – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Though Pens could use wingers, the draft is thin on them at this point. So, they go for an awesome two-way defenseman that really brings everything to the table. Good skater, solid defensively, dynamic offensively, not much needing improvement. Will be a steal and is crucial for Penguins to pick up.
Rikard Rakell – RW – Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
No-brainer choice for the Wings… A high-energy Swede that was hugely impressive at world juniors brings everything the Wings like in a player: Great forechecker, hard worker, responsibility defensively and of course, he’s Swedish.
Boone Jenner – C – Oshawa Generals (OHL)
Jenner is an energetic player with size that finishes checks and forces turnovers. He can also can put up serious points. Local kid will battle Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak for top line duties. Either way, Brian Burke’s search for a number one center is over, and he’s very lucky to have Boone Jenner fall to him at 25.
Oscar Klefbom – D – Färjestad (Elitserien)
Swedish defenseman had a breakthrough year in the Elite League, and his performances have propelled him into first-round considerations. Was good at world juniors and was an important two-way d-man on championship winning Färjestad team. Impressed everyone during interview phase at combine. Has everything the Caps need: great size, good puckmover, very solid defensively…and it continues their recent trend of drafting Europeans.
Christopher Gibson – G – Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)
The one real area of need for Lightning is a goaltender, and they solve it with Finnish/British goalie Christopher Gibson. He is athletic and has a good all-round game, but he is still very raw and will require at least a couple years seasoning. Cedric Desjardins may be the temporary solution.
Alexander Khokhlachev – C – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
The Russian forward can play any position and is the perfect injection of youth for an aging Sharks core. "Koko" is a natural center, but will move to the wing to complement Logan Couture on a future dangerous first line. Pesky forward that will get in your face has speed and energy, but lacks size.
Tomas Jurco – RW – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Toronto continue to build on their forward depth, taking the fourth SeaDog in the draft with Slovakian Tomas Jurco. A youtube sensation, Jurco proved that he has more to his game than his incredible stickhandling skills and is on the fast-track to the NHL. However, Brian Burke must be patient with a player destined for the Leafs top line.
Jonas Brodin – D – Färjestad (Elitserien)
Canucks are extremely fortunate to have Brodin drop to them at the end of round one. Klefbom’s teammate Brodin is perfect fit for Swede-oriented Vancouver. Though he is a good puck-mover, he won’t provide anything flashy offensively, but that said, he is an excellent defensive defenseman and will be in Vancouver before long.