Monday, June 27, 2011

2011 NHL Entry Draft Recap: Sleeping Studs

The 2011 NHL Entry Draft has come and gone, making us hockey nuts wait another year much like kids await Christmas.

Prior to the draft I posted 10 sleepers to watch in the 2nd round and later of the draft, and I would say I was quite accurate in my prophecies as 8 of 10 prospects were snagged.

Adam Clendening (D, Boston University - NCAA)
Pre-draft rank: #45 North American Skater
Selected:: #36, Chicago via Winnipeg

Clendening made me look a little wise on Saturday: after being passed over on Day 1, he was taken with Saturday's 6th pick of the day. After going with Canadians Mark McNeill and Phillip Danault in the first round, Clendening started a spree of American-born players selected by the Hawks.

In my opinion, Clendening becomes Chicago's best offensive defenceman prospect and one of their top prospects overall. I can see Adam playing one more season with the Terriers before making the jump to AHL hockey.

Matthew Nieto (LW, Boston University - NCAA)
Pre-draft rank: #47 North American Skater
Selected:: #47, San Jose via Montreal via Florida

After trading away his teammate, Charlie Coyle, the Sharks jumped up in the second round to take Nieto. San Jose loves their NCAA prospects and Nieto should be a perfect fit with the team when one considers his versatility and his skill set.

There will be no rush for Nieto to make the Sharks in the near future, so expect Nieto to play at least two more years with BU before taking a run at a slot on the wing on the Sharks' second or third line.

Miikka Salomaki (RW, Karpat - FIN-SML)
Pre-draft rank: #7 European Skater
Selected:: #52, Nashville via Florida

This selection is a bit of a double-edged sword. The "up" side: Salomaki is a perfect fit for Nashville as he has the offensive upside with the overall two-way ability to eventually make a run at a spot anywhere in the Preds' lineup. The "down" side: if things progress with Salomaki the way I think they should, his offensive ceiling is extremely hindered by the move to Nashville.

Only time will tell, but with the Predators always running a low-budget team and with their constant need for some offensive spark, Salomaki should be a very useful player for Nashville in a few years.

Michael St. Croix (C, Edmonton - WHL)
Pre-draft rank: #59 North American Skater
Selected:: #106, New York

An excellent pick by the Rangers - already deep at the forward position, they have plenty of time to allow St. Croix to develop into the player he can be. That's about all I can say for now, but I'm sure we'll be revisiting this down the road sooner than one would expect.

Nick Cousins (C, Sault Ste. Marie - OHL)
Pre-draft rank: #71 North American Skater
Selected:: #68, Philadelphia via Columbus

This was considered to be the most insignificant piece of the Jeff Carter trade, and, while that still may be the case, I'm really starting to think Philly ran away with this deal. Cousins has the skill set to be a very effective player within the Flyers organization: he has the two-way skills to play anywhere in the lineup, yet has offensive upside which could eventually vault him into Philly's top 6.

Alan Quine (C, Peterborough - OHL)
Pre-draft rank: #72 North American Skater
Selected:: #85, Detroit

As a Red Wings fan, I absolutely love this pick. It's well known that Detroit takes their sweet, sweet time in developing their prospects, and Quine is a prime example of how this strategy could pan out.

Red Wings' Assistant GM, Jim Nill, has compared Quine's style to another favourite of mine - Darren Helm - but I think that's more in overall style rather than strengths and weaknesses. Unlike Helm and his defensive prowess, Quine is an offensive-minded player; however, the two have similar skating and puck skills with the upside to play in a team's top-9 if everything goes as planned.

Victor Berglind (D, Brynäs - SWE-U20)
Pre-draft rank: #22 European Skater
Selected:: N/A

No one took a chance on Berglind, who was one of the better offensive defencemen in this draft - especially out of Europe. I'm sure the main problem was the lack of exposure to playing against high-level competition, so look for Berglind to make his Elitserien team in the fall and perhaps warrant a selection in one of the later rounds of next spring's draft.

Yannick Veilleux (LW, Shawinigan - QMJHL)
Pre-draft rank: #130 North American Skater
Selected:: #102, St. Louis

It's clear that acquiring depth at the wing position was the Blues' main concern in this year's draft as three of their first 5 picks play the position. Taking Veilleux in the 4th round is a swing at the fence, in my opinion.

While Veilleux could very well turn into a solid pro regardless of the next steps he takes, his role for Memorial Cup host Shawinigan will play a vital role in his overall development, as I had previously mentioned. Time will tell how things transpire with the big Quebecois winger, but with St. Louis looking anywhere and everywhere for guys who can play, Veilleux is definitely one to keep an eye on.

Dillon Simpson (D, University of North Dakota - NCAA)
Pre-draft rank: #157 North American Skater
Selected:: #92, Edmonton

This was possibly a reach in rolling the dice on a player with bloodlines reaching back to Edmonton's glory days, but Simpson definitely has the upside to warrant a selection as the first pick of the early 4th round. Look for Simpson to finish his NCAA career with UND before making the jump to Edmonton and taking a stab at what could - and, for the sake of Oilers fans everywhere, should - be up-and-comers by this time.

Seth Griffith (C, London - OHL)
Pre-draft rank: #158 North American Skater
Selected:: N/A

With Tampa Bay drafting Namestnikov in the first round I was sure that the Lightning would, at the very least, grab Griffith with one of their seventh round picks. Griffith is a prime candidate to get drafted by them this season if he can up his game: scouts love grabbing teammates of players already in their system.

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