NHL Draft 2011: Top 11 American-Born Players Available and Where They'll Go
American hockey fans know the drill. Canadian-born players dominate the NHL Entry Draft. Even European players give the American-born kids a run for their money. The 2011 NHL Draft ought to be the same old song and dance for USA's finest.
That being said, there is a solid core of American-born players carrying the load for the United States in the various junior tournaments. Team USA has won three straight gold medals at the World Under-18 Championships and has also medaled in consecutive World Junior Hockey Championships, with a gold in 2010 and a bronze in 2011.
Brandon Saad, Tyler Biggs and other top American prospects look to continue that legacy and put USA Hockey back on the map.
Check out the 11 best American prospects and where I see them landing this weekend.
1. Tyler Biggs, RW, U.S. National Team Development Program
Tyler Biggs, RW, U.S. National Team Development Program
6'2", 210 Pounds, Shoots: Right
Tyler Biggs' stock has been all over the map this season, but he seems to have settled down in the top half of the first round.
Biggs has the trifecta: hockey sense, work ethic and leadership. In addition, Biggs has solid size and is difficult to remove from the puck. He's one of the best power forwards available and the top American-born prospect in the 2011 NHL draft.
Where He'll Go: Montreal Canadiens
Biggs would be exactly what the Montreal Canadiens need. He has size, skill and a bit of grittiness that the Habs could definitely use.
2. Johnathan Miller, C, U.S. Nat. Team Development Program
Johnathan Miller, C, U.S. Nat. Team Development Program
6'1", 198 Pounds, Shoots: Left
Johnathan Miller is a tremendous influence in the locker room and plays a very steady and dependable two-way game at the center position.
He skates and passes well and has an adequate shot. Miller's spotty play this season may hurt him in the NHL Draft.
Where He'll Go: Chicago Blackhawks
Miller is a top-20 lock after an impressive showing at the U-18s. He is a terrific kid to have in the locker room and can bring it on the ice. Miller projects as a solid second or third-line center and will learn tons playing behind Jonathan Toews.
3. Brandon Saad, LW, Saginaw (OHL)
Brandon Saad, LW, Saginaw (OHL)
6'1", 208 Pounds, Shoots: Left
It seems laughable to think that Brandon Saad was once mentioned in the same breath with top-five lock Gabriel Landeskog. Unfortunately, Saad suffered through an injury-riddled season of mediocre play.
Saad has plenty of size, but it's his ability and willingness to use it that is being called into question by scouts. He's hyped up to be a power forward, but plays far too finesse for that tag.
Where He'll Go: Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs would love to add a big skilled winger to their repertoire, and Saad fits the bill perfectly.
4. Rocco Grimaldi, LW, U.S. National Team Development Program
Rocco Grimaldi, LW, U.S. National Team Development Program
5'6", 163 Pounds, Shoots: Right
A bottle rocket of speed and energy on the forecheck, Rocco Grimaldi could prove to be the steal of the draft.
Not likely to get drafted in the first round due to his size, the highly skilled 5'6'' forward has the skill set to make a serious impact at the NHL level.
Where He'll Go: Colorado Avalanche (2nd Round)
The Avs are likely going to have a shot at a top-flight defenseman and an impressive center with their first two picks this weekend.
Why not take a flier on a talented winger to develop and insert into the lineup around anyone of the centers in the system?
5. John Gibson, G, U.S. National Team Development Program
John Gibson, G, U.S. National Team Development Program
6'3'', 205 Pounds, Shoots: Left
John Gibson is definitely the best North American goaltending prospect available in the draft and perhaps the best goalie period.
He has tremendous athleticism for his size, and has great focus and poise in the net.
Like most goalies, Gibson will require some seasoning, but the Pittsburgh native could make a reliable starter between the pipes down the road.
Where He'll Go: Columbus Blue Jackets (2nd Round)
I see Gibson flying off the board early in the second round, and the Columbus Blue Jackets would be happy to scoop him up.
With questions surrounding the future of Steve Mason, the Jackets would be wise to nab another tender.
6. Mario Lucia, LW, Wayzata (Minnesota, High School)
Mario Lucia, LW, Wayzata (Minnesota, High School)
6'2'', 185 Pounds, Shoots: Left
Mario Lucia has the opportunity of a life time; get drafted in the first round of NHL Draft in your home state of Minnesota.
Lucia has a very real shot at doing so, as he has rare goal-scorin g ability and an insanely quick release on his shot.
The Wayzata High School standout is still growing into his lanky figure, but could be an even more dangerous offensive weapon when he finally does max out his size.
Where He'll Go: San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks have shown a tendency to draft and develop American-born players. They also need a forward with top line potential. Bingo.
7. Shane Prince, Center, Ottawa 67's (OHL)
Shane Prince, Center, Ottawa 67's (OHL)
5'11'', 185 Pounds, Shoots: Left
Shane Prince is a steady playmaker who is reliable on the defensive side of the puck. Prospects like Prince may not offer the immense upside of some other players available, but the team that drafts him knows he'll contribute in the bottom six someday.
Where He'll Go: Florida Panthers (2nd Round)
Shane Prince appears to have played his way into the early portion of the second round, and the Panthers will be looking for a center after missing out on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the first round.
8. Connor Murphy, Defense, USA U-18
Connor Murphy, Defense, USA U-18
6'3'', 185 Pounds, Shoots: Right
If it weren't for injuries this past season, Connor Murphy would be a first round lock. Unfortunately, Murphy is fighting for his place in Friday's festivities.
The Miami of Ohio commit plays with tons of hockey sense, poise and confidence on the ice. Murphy also has all of the physical tools to succeed at the NHL level.
Where He'll Go: St. Louis Blues (2nd Round)
The Blues have the second selection of the second round via the Colorado Avalanche and could use some depth in their defensive prospect pool after sending their best blue liners to the pros.
9. Seth Ambroz, RW, Omaha (USHL)
Seth Ambroz, RW, Omaha (USHL)
6-3, 215 Pounds, Shoots: Right
Seth Ambroz presents tremendous value at the bottom of the first round. His size is exactly what NHL teams look for at 6'3'' and 215 pounds.
Ambroz also possesses the skill to make a difference on the score sheet. He's got a deadly size and speed combo.
Where He'll Go: Ottawa Senators (Late 2nd Round)
The Senators have the luxury of three second-round draft picks, so they can take a shot on a riskier prospect like Seth Ambroz.
10. Robbie Russo, Defense, U.S. National Team Development Program
Robbie Russo, Defense, U.S. National Team Development Program
5'11'', 193 Pounds, Shoots: Left
While Robbie Russo is not the most physically imposing or offensively gifted center, his intangibles are on par with any rearguard in this draft.
Russo is an ideal leader and plays the game with a high level of awareness in his own zone.
He'll attend the University of Notre Dame in the fall.
Where He'll Go: Winnipeg (3rd Round)
Winnipeg could definitely use some depth on the blue line in the system, and what better way to add depth than to bring in a leader with outstanding hockey sense?
11. Matthew Nieto, LW, U.S. National Team Development Program
Matthew Nieto, LW, U.S. National Team Development Program
5'11'', 175 Pounds, Shoots: Left
A standout at Boston University, Matt Nieto is arguably one of the 10 best skaters available in the 2011 NHL Draft. He can absolutely fly up and down the ice and has solid awareness, especially in the offensive zone.
However, many scouts wonder if he has what it takes to grind it out in the corners and get to the front of the net. Those concerns are warranted given his size and play at times this season, but Nieto's upside is recognizable.
Where He'll Go: Nashville Predators (3rd Round)
The Predators are desperate for goal scoring and will take a shot on Nieto in hopes that he can become a 15-20 goal scorer at the NHL level.