NHL Entry Draft 2011: A Mock Draft of the Entire 1st Round
The NHL entry draft is one of the most important events on the NHL calendar every year, and, along with the first day of free agency, is one of those few bright spots in what is otherwise a dull and relatively lifeless NHL summer.
And for over 200 kids aged 17-19 years, this could be the single most important day of their lives as their futures can be made or possibly broken by where they are drafted, if they are even drafted at all.
This is also the one event where the future of the game comes together to start to paint a picture of what we will soon be seeing.
Who out of this year's draft class will be NHL-ready as soon as next year?
Who will be making an investment for two, three or even five years down the line?
Here is my personal mock draft of the entire first round's selections.
Side note: This mock draft assumes each team will be taking their first-round picks in their current order. Trades do occur on the draft floor which shake up each team's positioning and the order in which these players are selected.
1. Edmonton Oilers: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Center, Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
This year's draft class is very different in that there really aren't a lot of players who stand out as key pieces to a team's future.
This has led to a lot of debate about what will actually happen at this year's draft.
However, there's one thing that pretty much everyone agrees on: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be the first player taken in this year's NHL entry draft.
Edmonton will be getting a natural leader, a team player and a brilliant setup man to accompany the likes of Taylor Hall, last year's first overall pick.
2. Colorado Avalanche: Gabriel Landeskog
Left Wing, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Not only will the Avalanche be getting an extremely skilled power forward in the Swedish-born Gabriel Landeskog, but they'll be getting a player who many experts believe is NHL-ready.
Playing with a maturity beyond his 18 years and measuring up at a stout 208 lbs, Landeskog will make a great addition to the Avalanche and a great linemate for guys like Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene.
3. Florida Panthers: Adam Larsson
Defenseman, Skelleftea (SWE)
The second Swedish-born player to go in the draft, Adam Larsson will be a great addition to a Florida blue line that is looking to boost its young skill.
Many believe he will make a great partner for their other young defensive hotshot, Erik Gudbranson, and will give the Panthers a solid back end to build their team around.
Additionally, if Larsson were to go here, he would be the first Florida player to put on their new, red-based home sweater, which they will be debuting at this year's entry draft.
4. New Jersey Devils: Nathan Beaulieu
Defenseman, Saint John's Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
The Devils are pretty stacked up on offense for the next seven years or so; however, they will be in need of some skilled defensemen soon.
They got a great glimpse of the future with Matt Taormina this past season, but they do need to strengthen their ranks at the back.
Enter Nathan Beaulieu, who some experts are saying was the reason the Saint John's Sea Dogs were able to win the Memorial Cup.
He's extremely skilled, and could even be NHL-ready as soon as this fall.
5. New York Islanders: Dougie Hamilton
Defenseman, Niagra Ice Dogs (OHL)
He could use a little time in the minor leagues to bulk up and build some muscle, but he's big, burly and will be an absolute defensive force for Long Island in a very short amount of time.
Standing 6'4", Dougie Hamilton is the type of defenseman the New York Islanders need, as their rebuild is now beginning to show some signs of life.
6. Ottawa Senators: Jonathan Huberdeau
Center, Saint John's Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
The second Sea Dog to go in this year's draft, Huberdeau will be a great piece of the Senators' future, particularly if that future sees them have to fall into a full-fledged rebuild.
He was the MVP of the Memorial Cup tournament, making him an extremely hot prospect who could even go earlier than this sixth position.
7. Winnipeg Thrashers: Ryan Strome
Center, Niagra Ice Dogs (OHL)
After struggling for so many years in Atlanta, the franchise's first action with the word "Winnipeg" in its name will likely be to draft this offensive superstar in the making.
Ryan Strome put up some outstanding numbers for the Niagra Ice Dogs last season, scoring 33 goals and (yes, this is correct) 109 points.
The faster he gets into the NHL to complement the likes of Evander Kane, the better for this team.
PS: Yes, I know that's not really their franchise name, but nobody knows what they're going to be called yet, so don't get after me for it.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets: Sean Couturier
Center, Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)
Boasting a league MVP title, Sean Couturier has been a force in the Quebec Major Juniors over the past couple seasons and will make an outstanding prospect for the Blue Jackets.
In fact, that league MVP comes with some impressive resume statistics: He led the league in scoring as a 17-year-old, a feat last accomplished by some guy named Sidney Crosby that everyone keeps talking about.
He also finished with a dazzling plus-62 rating while often playing against some of the best players in the QMJHL.
9. Boston Bruins (from TOR): Ryan Murphy
Defenseman, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
The Boston Bruins will once again have the Toronto Maple Leafs' first pick this season, a deal which has given the Bruins enormous success and a great depth system.
Ryan Murphy would be a great addition to this system, as he's a brilliant defenseman with a ton of scoring prowess.
Known for his love to pinch and join the rush, Murphy will no question have to figure out how to adopt his style to the NHL level, but he's drawing a few comparisons to a young Bobby Orr, appropriate for Boston to pick him up.
His numbers support those claims as well, with 26 goals (14 of which came on the power play) and 79 points last season.
10. Minnesota Wild: Mika Zibanejad
Center, Djurgarden (SWE)
You want to talk a complete package...
Not only will Mika Zibanejad help the Minnesota Wild win the NHL's game of player-name Scrabble (seriously...38 points without bonuses right there), but he'll definitely provide a skilled pair of hands the Wild will love to have prowling around the opposition goal.
Additionally, his right-handed shot makes him versatile to playing both center and right wing, where the Wild could use a boost in both areas.
11. Colorado Avalanche (from STL): Duncan Siemens
Defenseman, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
Colorado may look like they're going down hard, but this year's draft will definitely be kind to them, or at least the first round will be.
Duncan Siemens has to be about as perfect a combination between scoring and snarl that you could ask for in a young defenseman.
Not only did he finish last year with a stellar 43 points, he did so while also racking up 121 penalty minutes, making him the type of defenseman they could really build their future blue line around.
12. Carolina Hurricanes: Sven Baertschi
Left Wing, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
The Swiss-born winger will be a great addition to the dwindling Carolina offense, and could one day make a brilliant linemate for an equally young and flashy Jeff Skinner.
Baertschi is thought by many to be one of the better kept secrets of this year's draft, boasting some excellent stick-handling skills to accompany a great scoring touch.
His 34 goals and 85 points for Portland last season make him an excellent pickup for a team looking for some offensive depth.
13. Calgary Flames: Mark McNeill
Center, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
Mark McNeill is a big boy standing at 6'2", 202 lbs, and he uses that size extremely well on the defensive end of the game.
However, he's got one of the best sets of hands in this year's NHL draft, making him a consistent scoring threat.
Because of that, the comparisons to one Ryan Getzlaf continue to roll in and make McNeill one of the best young prospects in the draft and a great addition to the Flames forwards.
Another odd fact: McNeill has represented Canada in the world of ball hockey, winning the gold medal in 2008 at the World Championships.
14. Dallas Stars: Joel Armia
Right Wing, Assat (FIN)
Joel Armia has accomplished a lot in his 18 years thus far.
Not only did he show a lot of talent and poise in this past year's U-18 World Championship, Armia played a key, pivotal role in the lineup for Assat, one of the top teams of the Finnish Elite League.
Plus he's got a lot of size to boot, standing 6'3", making him a great power forward that Dallas can hopefully one day use to fill the role of power forward, which they seem to be lacking now with the departure of James Neal.
15. New York Rangers: Mark Scheifele
Center, Barrie (OHL)
Mark Scheifele is a brilliant pickup for the New York Rangers, who are in need of some depth at their center position.
Scheifele finished last season with Barrie with an impressive 75 points, and led Canada in scoring at the 2011 U-18 World Championships.
Additionally, he's revered for his two-way play, which makes him useful on the power play, penalty kill and even strength play. His 13 power-play goals last season came against some of the best defensive players in the OHL.
16. Buffalo Sabres: Jamieson Oleksiak
Defenseman, Northeastern University (HockeyEast)
The Buffalo Sabres have proven to be a pretty good defensive team as is; however when an opportunity like this comes along, they're going to be hard-pressed to pass it up.
Jamieson Oleksiak has been a force on the blue line for Northeastern, using his massive 6'7" size to give forwards nightmares as they approach his net.
Just picture it...combine 6'7", 244-lb Oleksiak combined with the 6'8" 227-lb Tyler Myers...scoring forwards are already dreading having to play in Buffalo.
17. Montreal Canadiens: Zack Phillips
Center, Saint John's Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Zack Phillips finished second on the Sea Dogs in points with 95, including a sparkling 38 goals.
Between his proven scoring ability, vision for the game and versatility as a center, he's the type of playmaker the Montreal Canadiens would love to add to their depth system.
Plus, the Montreal natives will be happy to see a guy coming from the Quebec Major Juniors sticking around in French Canada for a while.
18. Chicago Blackhawks: Tomas Jurco
Right Wing, Saint John's Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
One year removed from winning the Stanley Cup, the Blackhawks were forced to fight for their lives and wound up making the playoffs on the very last day of the season (thanks to some good luck and a little help from the Minnesota Wild).
They're now being forced to bulk up their youth system as much as possible, and Tomas Jurco will do just that.
The fancy right wing has become a YouTube sensation with his unbelievable stick-handling skills, but his play extends beyond that, as his 57 points in 60 games is a nice average to boast.
19. Edmonton Oilers (from LAK): Joseph Morrow
Defenseman, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
The Oilers are in need of some depth on their blue line, and this 6'0" 197-lb Portland Winterhawk might be their answer.
Joseph Morrow was a key cog to the Portland defense that got them all the way to the WHL final.
Additionally, his 49 points last season have many people believing this could be the dark-horse steal of the first round.
Side note: This pick comes from the Los Angeles Kings in the Dustin Penner trade, meaning Los Angeles will not have a pick in this year's first round unless they trade for one. Kind of a risky move for a team that appears to still be emerging from a decade-long rebuild.
20. Phoenix Coyotes: Christopher Gibson
Goaltender, Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)
It's very fitting for the team that just lost one of the best goaltenders in the league to need to rebuild its goaltending system, and Chicoutimi's ace backstop might be just the guy.
Even though the Sagueneens had a losing record last season, Gibson still managed rack up a .920 save percentage and a 2.42 goals against average with four shutouts.
Perhaps even more encouraging is he hails from the land of amazing goaltenders: Finland. His name might sound as North American as any, but he hails from Espoo, and speaks both English and Finnish as his father is of English descent.
21. Ottawa Senators (from NSH): Nicklas Jensen
Right Wing/Left Wing, Osahwa Generals (OHL)
The Predators will not have a first-round pick this year either, as the deadline deal that sent Mike Fisher to Music City now comes to payment.
Nicklas Jensen is another one of possibly the best steals of the first round, who I believe was under-ranked by NHL Central Scouting.
With the ability to play either wing, he's going to make an outstanding linemate to a talented center one day, and could even replace Daniel Alfredsson once he moves on.
Plus, his 29 goals and 58 points in 61 games show just how lethal the Danish-born forward can be.
22. Anaheim Ducks: Vladislav Namestnikov
Center, London Knights (OHL)
The "experts" really weren't in very much agreement as to how the Ducks would take their first-round pick this season, however I believe this young Russian-born star is their answer.
With a great set of hands, some flashy stick-handling skills and blinding speed, Namestnikov fits the bill as a great depth forward with a lot of the tendencies of Ducks superstars Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan.
He will have to work on bulking up, however he could see some time in the NHL soon if his game improves over the next year or so, particularly with the Ducks looking for increased depth at their forward positions.
23. Pittsburgh Penguins: Brandon Saad
Left Wing, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
It's just too hard to picture the Pittsburgh Penguins not picking this kid up.
Not only is Brandon Saad a native of Gibsonia, Pennsylvania (just a short distance from Pittsburgh), but his 55 points in 59 games make him a brilliant talent for the Penguins to hold in their system.
Additionally, his big and bulky stature (6'1" 208 lbs) makes him an ideal power forward and net-front presence, which could be a great addition to the Penguins power play (where he had 12 goals with Saginaw last year).
24. Detroit Red Wings: Oscar Klefbom
Defenseman, Farjestad (SWE)
It should come as no surprise to anyone that a Swedish-born player would go here. Between Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Kronwall, Johan Franzen and others...it's pretty obvious the Red Wings love their Swedes.
Jonas Brodin will have a lot of time to mature in the Detroit system, which is good for the young 17-year-old to adapt to the North American game.
However, his 6'4" frame will make him an extremely appealing prospect to the Wings, as will the fact that he's managed to earn playing time on the reigning Swedish Elite League champions.
Did I mention that he's 17?
25. Toronto Maple Leafs (from PHI): Boone Jenner
Center, Oshawa Generals (OHL)
A pick acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers gives the Maple Leafs the chance to pick up yet another piece of what Toronto hopes will be a brilliant team soon.
Boone Jenner is the type of guy who can come into a team and make an instant impact, averaging more than a point per game last season with the Generals.
He's big (6'1", 204 lbs), smart and more aggressive than a provoked junkyard dog. With that size and skill, he's known for making a nuisance out of himself on the forecheck, causing turnovers and creating scoring chances off the opposition defense.
26. Washington Capitals: Connor Murphy
Defenseman, USA U-18 Development Program (USHL)
After the Tampa Bay Lightning proved that the Capitals work on their defense was in fact nowhere near done, odds are Washington will be loving the chance to pick up this D-man.
Connor Murphy is a brilliant-looking prospect, boasting both size (6'3" 185 lbs) and scoring ability (six points in 14 games).
The Capitals can't afford to rush him into their lineup, but with some development time and play in Hershey, the Capitals may have a future defensive gem on their hands.
27. Tampa Bay Lightning: Ty Rattie
Right Wing, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
If Tampa Bay is unafraid of smaller forwards like Martin St. Louis, then Ty Rattie might be the perfect fit in their lineup.
His size is a bit of an issue as he stands at only 5'11", 163 lbs, but his speed and scoring prowess have managed to boost him up the draft rankings to the No. 17 slot amongst North American skaters.
This pick will also give the Lightning some forward depth, as superstars like St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier continue to age and Steven Stamkos continues to mature.
28. San Jose Sharks: Tyler Biggs
Center, USA U-18 Development Program (USHL)
Tyler Biggs had a great performance at the entry draft fitness combine, making him that much more appealing to GMs around the league.
He's also demonstrated some impressive success on the ice, bringing in 17 goals in 48 games for the US development program.
Add that to a big 6'2", 210-lb frame and a pretty good snarl for the physical play, and you've got a guy who looks like he was built for the San Jose game of speed, skill and bone-crunching hits.
29. Vancouver Canucks: David Musil
Defenseman, Vancouver Giants (WHL)
Just look at it this way: If David Musil does wind up getting drafted here, he won't have to move very far.
The Canucks are in need of some defensive depth as they will likely lose one of their regulars this summer, and maybe more soon.
Musil's a talented player, and in addition to his great defensive play, he's known for being a bruiser, standing at 6'3" and unafraid to drop the gloves to stand up for a teammate.
The Sedins might have just found their new protector.
30. Toronto Maple Leafs (from BOS): Matt Puempel
Left Wing, Peterborough Petes (OHL)
With the last pick of the first round, one that formerly belonged to the reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, the Toronto Maple Leafs will likely be looking for some form of an offensive force they can rely on for regular scoring.
Enter Matt Puempel, an extremely impressive Peterborough Petes prospect who brought in more than a point per game last season, including 34 goals.
The Leafs will no doubt love his amazing scoring ability and his already bulky 196-lb weight on a 6'0" frame, and Puempel will love getting drafted by his favorite NHL team.
This kid could be NHL-ready within a year or two.
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