The dreams of a few hundred young men, along with the future of all 30 NHL teams, is largely impacted by what happens today.
The 2011 NHL Draft is finally here.
Trade rumors are lingering, and no one can seem to come to an agreement as to which players will go where. By this point, usually there is more or less a consensus about at least the top two or three players. But I don't think anyone's jaws would drop if the Edmonton Oilers decided to draft Adam Larsson over Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
This draft is deeper than is has been the past few years, and teams looking to fill particular holes in their rosters will have more than one option to do so at each position.
A player like Sean Couturier was considered to be a top three pick to start the season. He has since slipped. Will he go in the top five now, or slide even farther as projected?
Jonathan Huberdeau is a dynamite player, but won't be ready for a year or two. Where does he end up? Questions surround the entire draft, as trades seem imminent and no pick seems certain.
We are just a few short hours away now, Here is how I project the first round going based on the needs of each team. I paid attention to the CSS rankings, as well as several other mock drafts to a degree. But I'm going to try to think like a GM here.
It's evident why they make the big bucks, after all.
Think I got one wrong or misidentified a need? Let me know in the comments section below. Enjoy the draft.
(Some of these compilation videos are fan-made, and as such, may contain lyrics that aren't appropriate for younger ears or the workplace. Please mute your speakers during the compilation videos if you are not pleased with foul language.)
There really is no reason Ryan Nugent-Hopkins won't be selected first overall.
The Edmonton Oilers have had several young, talented wingers land on their squad through the last few drafts but really don't have a bona-fide number one center. Sam Gagner would do fine just fine playing on the second line, and the Oilers would then have strength down the middle, as role players are allowed to be just that.
Nugent-Hopkins is a phenomenal skater and is slicker than the ice he plays on. There are some trendy blogsphere arguments against the player—mostly that he scores too many of his points on the power play. But to me, this shows how deep you have to dig to find something wrong with a player.
When you have to start cranking off division problems to find a weakness, you may have a pretty good young player on your hands.
Enjoy Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton. He's a special player.
Colorado Avalanche fans won't have much more time to miss Chris Stewart, as I think it's very likely that GM Greg Sherman dealt him with this pick in mind.
Gabriel Landeskog is everything that a power forward should be, and as such, is everything the Avs could use on the wing. He has size, skill, sandpaper and is one of the most NHL ready forwards available in the draft.
Expect him to suit up in the big leagues next season.
He was the Captain of the Kitchener Rangers last season—a rarity for a Swede to say the least. But he has all the intangibles to go with his rockin' skill set. Colorado is in the midst of a rebuild of sorts and could also use help on the backend.
Adam Larsson will be tough to pass on here, but the Avs pick again at number 11 and should be able to secure a top defensive prospect there. Maybe the deal with the Blues will work out after all.
The Florida Panthers are in full rebuild mode. They desperately need talent up front, and with Landeskog off the board, they select the next most dynamic forward available in Jonathan Huberdeau. If Adam Larsson hops up to pick number two, which is a definite possibility, then the Panthers will take Landeskog.
But in my mind, it shakes down like this.
The Panthers need goals and are going to begin building a puck possession game according to new coach Kevin Dineen. While he may not have the stature that other top prospects have, he has an outstanding skill set and could turn out to be an elite NHL winger.
At 17, he puts up similar goal and assist numbers and has a nose for the big goal. Huberdeau already has several big moment markers to his credit and only seems to get bigger when the minutes are more important.
There are more NHL ready players available still, but the talent and poise here is too good to pass up. Florida has seven picks through the first three rounds and can address size with deeper picks.
The New Jersey Devils get a gift here in Adam Larsson.
He should be a top three pick, but team needs may slide him down to the fourth spot—and there is no way he goes any further than that. Standing at 6'3'', and weighing in at over 200 pounds, he already is physically ready to play NHL games.
And he has the skills to match.
Larsson is the total package defensemen. His skating is superb, and he has plenty of offensive upside. A rocket for a shot, and he doesn't shy away from the physical aspect of the game one bit. Larrson's outlet pass is strong, but he'll need to work on carrying the puck up ice when that option isn't available.
While he has a bit of work to do before being part of a top two pairing in the NHL, Larsson has all the tools needed to be an impact blueliner at the next level. The Devils are in need of help in their own zone, and Larsson could be the elite defender they've been missing for the last few years.
The New York Islanders may have several promising defensemen in their system, but that won't prevent GM Garth Snow from taking standout blueliner Dougie Hamilton—he's just too good to pass on at pick No. 5.
Hamilton more towers than he does stand, coming it at close to 6'7'' at the NHL Combine recently. Yikes. And scouts were drooling over Jamie Oleksiak and his frame. Add in Hamilton's outstanding skill set, and you have a defender that you'd only kick yourself for passing on.
Despite his size, he may not be quite NHL ready, as he's still working on some aspects of his defensive game that could cost an NHL team big time. Hamilton apparently buckles a bit under harsh forechecking and sometimes loses his area of the ice by following his man when he crosses.
But the offensive upside and mostly solid defensive acumen are too top notch to not pick up here. If Snow snaps up Hamilton here and allows him another year or so to truly blossom, he could be very handsomely rewarded.
The Senators need personality, grit and some more power to their forward core. As such, they'll pass on Ryan Strome and even Sean Couturier for the grittier two way center in Mika Zibanejad.
Let's be clear: He does not have the sheer offensive prowess pf either Strome or Couturier. His offensive ceiling is lower, and he probably won't ever be in contention for any NHL regular season hardware besides a Selke.
That isn't to say his capablities in the offensive zone are sub par. They are anything but. He just isn't the pure point producer like Strome or the elite forward that Couturier could turn out to be.
But this is the kind of player that puts a limping team on his back during a must-win Game 5 and wills his teammates to victory. Zibanejad is ultra competitive and does all of the little things you want out of a top-six forward.
He's above average in all three zones and has an understanding of his defensive role. He is a coach's dream and has all the makings to be a fan favorite where ever he suits up. All of these intangibles make a lot of sense for a Senators team that lacks a bit in the personality and grit department.
The draft isn't always about picking the outright best player. Sometimes it can be about picking the right player. If Ottawa is buying into this philosophy at all today, they'll call Zibanejad's name at the podium.
Winnipeg will tip their hats to the six teams that passed on Ryan Strome on their way to the front to make him the team's first first round pick since they selected Shane Doan (oddly, Doan was also a No. 7 overall pick).
Almost a too good to be true scenario for Winnipeg fans, Strome is the kind of player that pulls people to their feet on a nightly basis with his puck control and offensive mastery. He is a whirlwind of stick and puck, performing the trickiest of dangles while at top speed.
The question mark for Strome is his size. But he doesn't shy away from board play and can use his speed to quickly get to the front of the net to bang home rebounds. His hockey sense is very strong, and he parlayed that into a regular shift on the penalty kill in IceDogs.
Oh, and he'll drop the gloves to stick up for himself and teammates as well.
Think this is the kind of hockey player that fans, media and management alike would appreciate in a player? He may not get by the Senators, but if he does, he will be a Winnipeg Jet. If not, the team could very well take a look at the guy that I think will go to Ottawa.
Sean Couturier is going to be an NHL star someday. Mark my words. Bookmark this page if you're the "I told you so" type so you can scurry back after he is dealt five years from now for a third rounder, but I don't think that is going to happen.
Picks six through eight are pretty interchangeable in my eyes, but I think team needs drives the bus on draft day. So I see couturier wearing orange and black in the very near future. Any pain that the shocked Flyers fanbase is currently feeling should be alleviated when they hear this name called.
Because, as the kids say these days, Couturier is a boss.
He was the most valuable player in the QMJHL last year—oddly a season that saw him fall out of the contention for the first overall pick and then out of the top five. This just doesn't make sense to me, and Couturier could very well be the victim of overexposure.
Scouts have been watching this kid play for the last three years and have had a lot more time to critique his game than they have for some of the trendier picks. Make no mistake, though. This kid can play.
Couturier possesses great hands and plays a ton of minutes for the Drummondville Volitgeurs in any and all situation. He can be a shut down guy for one game and then be counted on the carry the offensive load the next. This kind of versatility will go over big in Philly and make the loss of Jeff Carter a distant memory.
The Tomas Kaberle experiment has failed in Boston. While Kaberle gets to walk with a Cup ring, the Bruins are still in need of a puck moving blueliner. And they won't look much further than Ryan Murphy.
Murphy is a dynamo from the blueline and is an outstanding puck handler. While he isn't particularly big, he knows that and uses his stick and skating to overtake opponents instead of brawn. Skating at a considerable top speed, he still sees the ice very well and has the hockey sense needed to choose between an outlet pass or a carry up ice.
Still, he'll need to get bigger than 165 pounds, fun as it would be to see him in a top pairing with Zdeno Chara.
Boston has the time and space to allow Murphy to continue to develop his frame and physical poise elsewhere if need be, and that makes this a good fit for both player and team. Boston has plenty of size on the backend and could use a little razzle dazzle.
It has to be a positive when the downside to a defensemen is that he doesn't play as mean as he wants to. But that is the knock on Nathan Beaulieu. He sees the ice very well and was a key to Saint John's breakout for the past two seasons. However, he does have a mean streak and is an entirely different, dynamic player when he taps into it.
He's been a plus player, logging above plus-40 in the last two years—a fact some people discount because of how good the Sea Dogs have been. But Beaulieu is as steady a defender as you'll find. He isn't stay at home by any means, though.
He has a keen sense of when to sneak and when to stick. The Wild are in need of a top flight defender, as they have mostly same-style guys who can fill in the bottom two pairings. Adding an offensive minded blueliner of this caliber could go a long way in aiding the system Minnesota is trying to materialize.
The Avalanche got their offensive upgrade with their No. 2 overall pick and will survive passing on Adam Larsson if Duncan Siemens is still available at the No. 11 slot. This is a best case scenario for the Avs and could very well end up playing out this way.
Siemens is a physical defensemen and also one of the smoother skaters available in the draft. He keeps his head in his own zone and tends to step up at the right time to make a play. The guy will fight and knows how to quarterback a power play.
Some compare him to Chris Pronger because of his edge, hitting ability and nastiness.
I believe that Colorado will shore up their blueline this pick, either with Siemens, Murphy or Beaulieu. One of these players could jump a spot or two, but the ninth, 10th and 11 picks will probably all be used on defensemen. Siemens doesn't have the offensive upside of the two skaters taken before him, so I think he'll slide down to this pick.
That is no detriment to his game, though, as he is just as solid in his own zone as these guys, if not more so.
The Hurricanes need a dynamic winger, and they'll take a bit of a chance on the inconsistent but highly talented Joel Armia.
I have seen some people drop Armia down to pick No. 25 or 26, but I think the raw ability here is too great for that to occur. He is a creative, shoot first player who excels at using his large 6'3'' frame to guard the puck and get off quick shots while in traffic.
Armia can take games over with his high end talent set, controlling the puck and game flow with his skating and body. When he is mentally locked into a game and is imposing his will, Armia is a very hard player to contain.
If he can continue to grow, he could end up as an elite right wing talent in the NHL.
Right now, the only thing holding up Armia is Armia, and he plays against himself on as many nights as he plays against the opposition.
When things aren't going his way in the offensive zone, or he isn't able to hold onto the puck and make anything happen across several shifts, he is susceptible to checking out of a game early.
Nothing some good coaching or confidence can't fix. The talent is there, and the team that can coax it out of him will derive great benefits from it. The Hurricanes have a nice mixture of prospects across all positions and are able to take on this project type player without risking the farm.
Armia won't be called on immediately in Carolina—something that may be very important to his development.
The Calgary Flames have an aging offense and are in dire need of an explosive, electric player to reinvigorate the fan base. Sven Bartschi is that kind of player and would fit in nicely with a team that needs a bit of a youth movement.
He has an underrated shot and can pick his points while approaching the net very well. Bartschi is effective inside of the slot and down towards the goalmouth, where his latteral movement and wrister are harder to deal with.
This prowess as an excellent shooter makes him hard to defend, since he is even better as dishing the puck. Bartschi seems to have a knack for keeping track of everyone on the ice mentally and distributes the puck in high percentage scoring plays.
A player that can keep teams on their heels down low and also add some sandpaper along the boards is a great pickup for the Flames moving forward. He isn't NHL ready—an asset that Calgary may value. But the pick makes too much sense for them to go older and less talented.
With the loss of James Neal via trade last season and the impending departure of Brad Richards, the Dallas Stars find themselves with a few big holes to fill at forward.
Luckily for them, Mark McNeill is a highly versatile player that can project himself into many roles given the situation. He scores goals, defends, leads and is a key faceoff guy. Standing at 6'2'' and weighing in at a whopping 210 pounds, McNeill is also a guy who could beat up more grown men than he'd lose to.
If you doubt that, then just check out a few of the kid's fights (oh, yeah. He does that too.).
He's a grinder with a very good offensive skill set; this is a player Dallas could use to begin to reshape the forward core. It may be just me, but the chance to see this kid playing on a line with Brenden Morrow would put some fans in the seats.
The video posted above is two years old, but you get the general idea—if there is a player who fits into the outwork, out hustle mentality that is growing in New York, it's Tyler Biggs.
John Tortorella has very specific expectations of his players. Don't lose a battle for the puck, a battle for a spot on the ice or get outworked for anything. Biggs is a player who is already playing that system in his own right on every shift and would fit right in on the Rangers.
There are more talented plays here. There are guys with higher ceilings still left on the board. But the way that Biggs brings it every night—the mental and physical toughness, and the way he carries himself on and off the ice—will be too enticing for New York to pass up.
With Biggs, you know exactly what you are getting.
Torts is a guy that knows how to get a lot out of these kinds of players, and this is a player-coach relationship made in hockey heaven.
In recent draft years, the Buffalo Sabres have made a habit out of selecting outside of need to land the best players available. A name like Zack Phillips could end up slotted here, but the playmaking capability and vision of Mark Scheifele would be a very good fit for the reinvigorated Sabres.
He has a solid stature, can absorb a hit to make a play and creates opportunities very well in the offensive zone. Scheifele's forte is hanging onto the puck until the last second and then slide a pass through some microscopic window to an open teammate. He forces defenders to commit with his vision, and the Sabres would be hard pressed to find a guy with more potential here.
While the two way game could use some work, time will be on the side of Scheifele and the Sabres as they try to rebuild a serious contender.
Matthew Puempel was a player scouts believed could climb into the top 10 as last season progressed. His deft scoring touch—every shot he takes seems to hit a hole or corner, no matter where he is in the slot—and outstanding offensive instinct stood out.
However, injuries cut Puempel's all important season short, concluding with a hip injury that ended the year for him.
His scoring ability can not be questioned, however, as the kid has done nothing but score goals at every level he has played. The Canadians could use a shoot-first kind of player, as they have several setup types. While Puempel may like to shoot just a little too much, the time and when aspect of his game could develop in the next season or two, turning him into a dangerous, intelligent two way threat.
His plus minus is a concern (minus-33), but he didn't tend to make glaring turnovers or appear to be a liability in his own end. The Habs need scoring, and they'll get plenty of it from Puempel.
In their defense of Lord Stanley's Cupm, the Chicago Blackhawks found that they sorely missed some of the talent that the cap had forced them to deal away.
Enter Zach Philips.
While he may not be the most intimidating, he has intangibles that compliment his goal scoring touch. A lot of clips from the video here may look familiar, and that's because he was involved in a lot of the Sea Dogs highlight reel goals.
Philips racked up 40 goals and pushed 100 points in the regular season, but really took off during the playoffs. He has a track record for being a game game player, and adding him to the mix with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews could make for a scary trio of players with a killer instinct.
The Oilers have been able to stockpile young talent through the last few drafts, selecting outstanding offensive players for their top six. After selecting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at No. 1, they will have possibly landed the franchise center that has eluded them for so long.
Adding a steady, pucking moving defensemen in Joe Morrow only adds another piece to a team that could have a dangerous and vaunted attack within the next few years. His hockey sense allows him to make quick choices with the puck, and he's very good at making the initial breakout pass.
He's run into some injury troubles in his early career, but when healthy, Morrow provides plenty of offense from the blueline. Morrow also grew up an Edmonton Oilers fan, which may provide a bit of motivation for Morrow to continue to make strides in his game.
The Coyotes have several dynamic young forwards in the system—with the No. 20 pick, it may make sense for the 'Yotes to take a bit of a flyer on a highly talented Russian forward to add to the mix.
Vladislav Namestnikov is a very well rounded forward and isn't a liability in his own end. He's a swift skater and can really hurt opponents on the score sheet if they allow him too much time and space. His passing is also better than average, as he uses the space his skating creates to find an open man.
While Phoenix could look to shore up goaltending here, there isn't any supreme or outstanding goaltender that will go in the first round (most likely.)
They'll be able to use a latter pick on this need and continue to add pieces on offense in Namestnikov. The question mark here is would he sign in the US and leave Russia to play hockey. For this kind of talent, it may very well be worth the risk involved.
The Senators look to continue to add character and grit up front by taking Boone Jenner. Landing two players like Zibanejad and Jenner can do wonders to change the fortunes of a team—if the Sens decide to go this route, it would likely be the case for them.
In Jenner, they get a player who loves to work on the boards and win battles for 50/50 pucks. He is a responsible, two way player who loves to compete. He works hard every night and can play in a variety of situations.
Jenner is a monster with the puck and doesn't generally give up possession very easily. As with any prospect, there is a downside. This is a player who needs to improve the mental aspect of his game and bring the same intensity on a nightly basis.
With these two picks, the Senators have added two future top-six forwards with the drive to turn them into a playoff team once again.
The hype surrounding Jamie Oleksiak is believed by some to be only because of his hulking size. While he is massive—6'7'', 240 pounds—there is more to his game than that. The Anaheim Ducks hark back to their Stanley Cup winning days and shore up a need on the blueline with effective size and strength by making this pick.
He's a defensive defensemen and prefers to take care of things in his own end before comfortably moving up ice. While he has Tyler Myers type offensive upside, right now, he projects as a guy who can shut down the oppositions better players on a nightly basis. Not a job that will get you a sponsorship from Reebok, but it is one that can lead to a Ring or two.
The Ducks have puck moving blueliners to deal with that aspect of the game. They stole Cam Fowler last year, and bringing in Oleksiak to pair with those offensive minded players would be a good move in Anaheim.
The big need in Pittsburgh has been the same since Sidney Crosby started filling up stat sheets on a nightly basis: Get this guy a winger who can finish.
The things Sid has managed to do with depth players is astounding, but by drafting Ty Rattie, the Pens finally give their captain the goal scoring counterpart he's always needed.
Rattie scores a lot of goals, and Sidney is a helluva setup man. The pick just makes too much sense for it not to happen. If he's still on the board, the goal scoring machine in Ty Rattie will be heading to Steel City.
The Detroit Red Wings have built their team into constant contenders by using a simple draft strategy: always select the best player available.
And skill wise, the argument could be made that the most skilled player since pick No. 9 or 10 has been Rocco Grimaldi. He is a walking textbook on how hockey should be played. Outstanding shot, faster than snot, wonderful hockey sense and love for the game.
Grimaldi, despite his size, is very difficult to knock off the puck. He stays low to the ice and is harder to hit than one might think.
Odds are he'd be going much higher in this draft if it wasn't because of his size.
And it is a factor; don't get me wrong. But this kid is simply too talented and fits in too well with Detroit's philosophy and play style for this to not be considered.
Jonas Brodin would be the pick that most people would expect the Wings to make here—a Swedish, solid defender And this makes sense too, since the Wings obviously are going to be in need of some help on the blueline in the coming season.
But Detroit already has a few outstanding defensive prospects and will restock the blueline to some degree via free agency this summer. That sets the scene for Detroit to roll the dice on an ultra-skilled forward. If the trend of picking up the most talented guy holds true, Grimaldi could be a Detroit Red Wing.
Brian Burke stepping up to the podium to select an American born defenseman. I could be off base here, as it's tough to get a read on these last few picks. But at 6'3'', 192 pounds, Connor Murphy could fit in on a blueline that is designed around size and hitting.
He was injured during a lot of the prime viewing showcases, showing off his good shot and steady stick. Murphy has a strong base of skill on both ends of the puck and could be a mainstay on the Leafs' blueline in the near future.
He'll take some time to develop—something Toronto has more of than they think—but he has no glaring mental weakness or areas of play that desperately need help.
The Washington Capitals would be doing themselves a favor in adding rock solid blueliner Oscar Klefbom.
The 6'3'', 201 pound defender is only 17 years old and could quite possibly turn out to be a very steady NHL blueliner in the future. He likes the physical side of things and plays with a lot of fire—something the Capitals sorely need in their system.
Klefbom wore the C for Sweden at the U18 tourney in Germany and is a natural leader. He's a great fit in Washington should he still be available this late. Is Klefbom isn't, then his defensive partner Jonas Brodin could be of interest to the Caps, though Klefbom is preferable because of his edge.
Washington already has a steady top six and wouldn't be in any rush to get Klefbom to the big leagues.
Tampa Bay may have one more season left to not have to worry about their situation in net, and that is only if Dwayne Roloson decides to stay on board. There's no reason to believe that he won't, but he may be getting too old for the rigors of being a starting netminder in the NHL.
John Gibson could helps the Lightning shore up their short supply of goaltenders in a big way. He is an athletic goaltender who uses his size to cut down angles and challenge shooters. Gibson's hockey sense is also strong for a netminder, and he uses this to make outlet passes to help out his defensemen often.
While consistency is a bit of an issue for the youngster and he is a bit of a project, he should have no problem becoming a reliable backstop in the future.
The San Jose Sharks love their talented, slick forwards. Adding the stick wizard Tomas Jurco only makes sense for the Fins. The one word the people use for Jurco is "game breaker."
His talent is off the charts, his speed is dazzling and players that can change the momentum of a game with a dangle or top speed move are a rarity. When Jurco is going, he is hard to contain. But when he is off he is hardly noticeable.
Which is why the Sharks can afford to take him.
They have one of the best playmakers in the world in Joe Thornton. If that guy can't get you out of a goal scoring slump, then you may have bigger issues than consistency. And San Jose wouldn't be leaning on Jurco to light it up constantly. They are deep at forward and have other talented players who can do that.
Learning to be less hot and cold would obviously be a boon for both the player and team, but even if he stands pat, the Sharks would still possess another player who can kill the opposing team with immense talent.
There are some uber talented forwards available in the draft, and the proof is that a player like Nicklas Jensen could slip this far.
He has everything needed to be a high scoring, dangerous NHL winger. Jensen is big enough (6'3'') and strong enough to win puck battles, but is an alarmingly strong skater. His top YouTube moment is a pretty ridiculous coast to coast OT winner.
Because that happens all the time.
Jensen would fit right in with the kind of game that the Canucks play—a high skill, high IQ, run circles around you offense. He'll take time to develop into that kind of player, but if he finds a way to get all the gears going at once, he could very well be the steal of the draft.
Yeah. That's a Burke kind of player.
Stefan Noesen, while not an overly physical player, is not afraid of the corners and understands the toughness it takes to win battles there and at the front of the net on a nightly basis. While he isn't an alarmingly talented player, he tends to find creative ways to use his body to make passes to open teammates.
His hockey IQ isn't staggering either, but Noesen shows up in the big games and has a knack for putting up numbers when they matter the most. This isn't a flashy pick for the Maple Leafs, but it gives them a bit of a different look to go along with some of the most impressive, talented players that they have on their forward lines.