With a lineup stocked with first round draft, picks the Winnipeg franchise is hoping to land a franchise player with a 7th overall pick.
With the NHL Board of Governors approving the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, the new franchise in the Manitoban capital now sets its sights on the 2011 NHL Entry Draft upcoming in St. Paul, Minnesota at the Xcel Energy Center.
Though the current roster is stocked with previous picks, such as Bryan Little (2006, 12th overall), Zach Bogosian (2008, third overall), Evander Kane (2009, fourth overall), and Alexander Burmistrov (2010, 8th overall), the franchise's track record beyond the first round of the draft is dismal at best.
In Atlanta, the Thrashers managed to select 24 players who have played at least one game in the NHL past the first round out of 87 picks. Out of those 24 players, only six have played more than 100 career games in the NHL.
The Thrashers have picked first overall twice and second overall twice. In their 12 years of drafts have picked in the top ten nine times and have picked in the top five six times.
In an attempt to turn the franchise's poor drafting track record around, Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff relieved head scout Dan Marr from his duties as Director of Amateur Scouting and Player Development when the team relocates to Winnipeg.
Winnipeg has the seventh overall pick in the upcoming draft. Let's diagnose the team's needs and the possible prospects that should and possibly will be around come the seventh overall pick.
With only a few players between the 5-8 pick, we will examine the top three players who could be available come the seventh overall pick.
With 106 points in 65 games with Niagara last season, Strome's 6' figure could help Winnipeg's depth down the middle.
In Atlanta, the team's needs were down the middle. They needed a franchise centre badly.
When Ilya Kovalchuk was the star in Atlanta, they found Marc Savard to play with him. However, Savard's track record with injuries made him expendable and he was shipped to Boston and the franchise never recovered from losing their number one centre.
In Ryan Strome, Winnipeg could get a possible franchise centre in the first or second line position to play with a young Evander Kane and help a future star centreman such as Alexander Burmistrov form a formidable one-two punch in the centre position.
During the 2010-11 OHL campaign, Strome netted 33 goals and added 73 assists with 82 PIMs in 65 games. He plays with an edge and doesn't shy away from the physicality of the game.
His six-foot figure could give Winnipeg some size up the middle, but he could be limited to a second line role when the team moves to the West next season.
At 6'4, Couturier could be the franchise centre Winnipeg could build upon in the future.
If Winnipeg is ever going to be competitive when they shift over to the Western Conference against the likes of Ryan Getzlaf in Anaheim, Joe Thornton in San Jose, and Jonathan Toews in Chicago, they will need a big, strong centreman to play both an offensive and shutdown role for their first line.
Sean Couturier comes in ranked as the sixth highest ranked North American skater in Central Scouting's final ratings.
His size alone makes him a worthy pick for any GM. At 6'4", 197 lbs, Couturier is developing into a player in the mold of Getzlaf or Thornton. If he could use his size and strength while filling out his frame, Couturier could be a force as a first line centre in the NHL.
In Winnipeg, their first line centre is Nik Antropov whose 41 points in 76 games last year in Atlanta probably won't suffice for Winnipeg fans this season.
If selected, Couturier could become the franchise centre the new franchise needs to build. With 223 points in 184 games with the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the QMJHL, he will only get better as he gets into the professional ranks.
Ryan Murphy's offensive skills from the blueline could compliment the style of Tobias Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien.
In Ryan Murphy, you have an NHL ready defenseman who shows both offensive and defensive upside.
With 79 points in 63 games (26 goals, 53 assists) with the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL, Murphy has shown that he can play at both ends of the ice, yet his defensive skills still need some tweaking.
But out of all defenseman in the draft, besides possibly Adam Larsson, Murphy is the most ready to become an NHL defenseman in 2011-12.
His 79 points in 2010-11 was a drastic improvement from having 39 points (6 goals, 33 assists) in 62 games in 2009-10.
Murphy will only continue to get better and his work ethic will hopefully improve as his skills improve.
With a blueline already boasting Dustin Byfulgien, Tobias Enstrom, and Zach Bogosian, Murphy would only add to an offensively charged blueline.