June 23, 2011
MINNEAPOLIS The top part of last years NHL Draft produced three instant producers Edmontons Taylor Hall, Bostons Tyler Seguin and Carolinas Jeff Skinner quickly abandoned their junior teams and didnt spend a day in the minors.
Hall took a regular shift with the Oilers before a season-ending ankle injury, Seguin was last seen hoisting the Stanley Cup as a role player and Skinner won the Calder Trophy Wednesday as the leagues top rookie.
NEWS: Sharks' Couture second in Calder Trophy voting
This years draft, which starts with the first round Friday in St. Paul, Minn., lacks the star quality, which also means a jumbled Top 10 and each teams board could look a little different.
Here are capsules on the Top 10 players in the draft:
1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
2010-11 team: Red Deer (Western Hockey League).
Statistics: Scored 31 goals and a league-high 75 assists to finish fourth with 106 points.
Comment: The consensus top pick to go to Edmonton and form a 1-2 punch with Hall. The Oilers are obviously doing their homework general manager Steve Tambellini hosted RNH at his home for dinner last week. Nugent-Hopkins has drawn comparisons to two-way Detroit star Pavel Datsyuk.
2. Adam Larsson
2010-11 team: Skelleftea (Swedish Elite League).
Statistics: One goal, nine assists in 37 games while playing 25 minutes a night.
Comment: If the Oilers go defense and they have to consider it because they lack organizational depth on the blue line, Larsson could be the choice. Like most Swedish defensemen, he idolizes Detroits Nicklas Lidstrom but some observers says his game is more like Tampa Bays Mattias Ohlund but with more offensive ability. If Nugent-Hopkins goes first, Colorado would be making a mistake if it passed on Larsson.
3. Gabriel Landeskog
Position: Left wing.
2010-11 team: Kitchener (Ontario Hockey League).
Statistics: Limited to 53 games because of an ankle injury but scored team-best 36 goals and had 66 points.
Comment: NBCs Pierre McGuire said Landeskog is ready to play in the NHL and some scouts believe hes a future captain and the safest pick in the draft. He would be a great fit for Florida at No. 3 because the Panthers need immediate contributors. He was headed toward 50 goals until being injured in the World Junior Championships playing for Sweden. Kitchener coach Steve Spott compares Landeskog to former captaincurrent Flyers captain Mike Richards.
4. Jonathan Huberdeau
2010-11 team: Saint John (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League).
Statistics: Scored 43 goals and a team-record 105 points in the regular season but turned it on in the postseason, totaling 16 goals and 30 points to help the Sea Dogs win the Memorial Cup.
Comment: Just turned 18 on June 4 and arrived in Minnesota later than the other prospects because he was graduating from high school. One scout told The Hockey News that Huberdeaus hands are comparable to Chicagos Patrick Kane. Among the top dozen picks, he rose the most in the ratings from the start of the year to his MVP performance in the Memorial Cup. He probably needs at least another year with Saint John to add some strength.
5. Dougie Hamilton
2010-11 team: Niagara (OHL).
Statistics: In his second full year of major junior hockey, had 12 goals and 46 assists in 67 regular season games.
Comment: Its unanimous among the three mock drafts on NHL.com Hamilton will go fifth overall to the Islanders. The imposing blue-liner won most of his battles in the corner but also showed offensive skill by upping his point total from 16 in 2009-10 to 58 points this past season. His defense partner, older brother Freddie, was selected by San Jose in last years fifth round and scouts point to Dougies mobility (despite his frame) as being effective in not getting beat one-on-one.
6. Sean Couturier
2010-11 team: Drummondville (QMJHL).
Statistics: Scored 36 goals and 96 points in 58 games, including a stretch of 20 goals in 21 games after the World Juniors.
Comment: Started slow because of mononucleosis in August, but the big, two-way centerman was a dominant scorer in the QMJHL. Some services said Couturier didnt show much improvement from last season (96 points in each campaign) but his size allows him to protect the puck in high traffic areas and he has some creativity. He impressed at the World Juniors, scoring three points in seven games for Canada. He could be a possibility for Ottawa with the sixth pick.
7. Ryan Strome
2010-11 team: Niagara (OHL).
Statistics: In 65 games, scored 33 goals among his 106 points.
Comment: Stromes 79-point improvement was the best in the OHL and he finished third in the regular season scoring race. If the Islanders dont go defense, they could go for Strome to provide a one-two punch at center with John Tavares. Strome started the season projected as a second-round pick, but impressed with his competition level to win loose pucks. Like a lot of the picks, needs to add strength to be effective every night in the NHL.
8. Mika Zibanejad
2010-11 team: Djurgarden (Swedish Elite League).
Statistics: Five goals and four assists in 26 games. Also scored 21 points in 27 games for a lower-level Swedish team.
Comment: Zibanejad doesnt possess the flashing offensive numbers of the other top prospects, partly because he was a young player on a strong team. Hes been playing against men in the SEL since he was 16 years old, aiding his physical development. He has drawn comparisons to Washingtons Nicklas Backstrom and Nashvilles Mike Fisher and scouts are impressed with his ability in the face-off circle.
9. Ryan Murphy
2010-11 team: Kitchener (OHL).
Statistics: Totaled 26 goals and 79 points in 63 games.
Comment: The most talented offensive defenseman in the draft he set a Canadian record with 13 points at the Under-18 World Championships. He reminds former NHL general manager Craig Button of Sergei Zubov, who could end-to-end several times a game to either score himself or set up a teammate. Murphy was named Best Skater in the OHLs Western Conference and he upped his production by 40 points last year for the Rangers. Needs to add weight to survive in the NHL.
10. Sven Bartschi
Position: Left wing.
2010-11 team: Portland (WHL).
Statistics: Scored 34 goals and totaled 85 points in 66 games and had two points in six games playing for Switzerland in the World Juniors.
Comment: Like other European prospects, decided to come to North America to get acclimated to the game and lifestyle and improve his draft stock. Its worked he thrived in his only year with the Winterhawks. The Swiss may be onto something. Bartschi followed countryman Nino Niederreiter to Portland and should also be drafted in the first round.
Contact Ryan OHalloran at email@example.com