Without further ado, I present my 2011 NHL Entry Mock Draft.
With the #1 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Edmonton Oilers select...
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (C, Red Deer - WHL)
To me this is a no-brainer... if Edmonton were to keep the #1 overall pick. Trading down a couple spots and selecting Larsson would be the smartest move, in my "humble" opinion. While every team is always looking for a new up-and-coming #1 center, the Oilers have brutal depth in their defensive prospect pipeline (I love Martin Marincin, but really, who are we kidding?) and a plethora of tiny, offensive forward prospects in their depth chart. Tambellini needs to take the Lombardi approach to this rebuild and accumulate as many quality prospects as possible: with such a deep draft pool and such obvious needs, a trade with someone like Florida or New York would make perfect sense.
Otherwise, if you're looking for reasons for the Oilers to pick RNH, there are numerous other mock drafts that will give you some in-depth background on all he has to offer. For now though, I'll simply say he is far-and-away the best prospect in the draft, getting some facets of his game compared to the likes of Sakic and Datsyuk. While I personally think those comparisons are a little optimistic, I really think Nugent-Hopkins can develop into a Henrik Sedin type of player (given he clicks with someone a la Daniel).
With the #2 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Colorado Avalanche select...
Jonathan Huberdeau (C, Saint John - QMJHL)
I'm a huge cynic when it comes to Huberdeau and his future role in the NHL; however, with an already impressive prospect pool you just have to go with the guy you think is the best available. The Avalanche lost a lot of close games this year, so the fact that Huberdeau threw the Sea Dogs on his back in the QMJHL playoffs as well as the Memorial Cup shows he has what it takes to perform when it matters most. Plus, Huberdeau's game should fit in flawlessly with the likes of Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny, Tomas Fleischmann (who I think will be back with the Avs next year) and Joey Hishon (off-topic, but you heard it here first: Hishon will make the Avs out of camp next year and be a prime candidate for the Calder Trophy).
Lots of people would suggest the Avs select Gabriel Landeskog or Adam Larsson: here is why they shouldn't.
- Landeskog does provide the big body presence left void by trading away Chris Stewart; however, there are lots of those types of players to be had later in the draft. Also, outside of the four aforementioned Avs, the top offensive players in their pipeline are Ryan Stoa, Mark Olver, and maybe Ryan O'Reilly - that's some slim pickin's!
- Larsson would be a great defenceman to have lined up with Erik Johnson, but Colorado's defensive prospect depth is magnificent - even after trading Kevin Shattenkirk and Colby Cohen. Cameron Gaunce impressed in his brief stint with the Avs late in the '10-'11 season, Stefan Elliott was the WHL's Defenceman of the Year, Tyson Barrie is last year's WHL Defenceman of the Year. That doesn't even include guys like Jonas Holos, Joel Chouinard, Troy Rutkowski, and Stephen Silas.
With the #3 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Florida Panthers select...
Sean Couturier (C, Drummondville - QMJHL)
The former consensus #1 pick for this draft, Couturier has, for some reason, fallen out of favor of mock drafters everywhere. They can say what they want: Couturier is still a top prospect, and Dale Tallon won't let Florida miss out on a potential franchise center (it's a very similar situation to Chicago drafting Toews, minus the long-term hype).
All of that said, I wouldn't be surprised if Tallon went off-the-board a little and drafted Strome.
With the #4 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the New Jersey Devils select...
Gabriel Landeskog (LW, Kitchener - OHL)
No matter how much people may say the Devils will take Larsson if he's there, Landeskog to New Jersey just makes sense on so many levels if he is still available at #4:
- Since 2003, the Devils have only drafted a defenceman once with any first round pick, and that was Matt Corrente (who hasn't necessarily been bad, but hasn't really lived up to the first-round selection to-date).
- The past three forwards taken by the Devils in the first round are all Swedish (Bergfors, Tedenby, Josefson).
- New Jersey is screwed, cap-wise. Drafting, arguably, the most NHL-ready prospect would be a luxury, as they could throw him right into the line-up.
- Landeskog can play any forward position, so he could be thrown on the right wing (the Devils should be set long-term with Parise and Kovalchuk at left wing and with Zajac and Josefson at center).
With the #5 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the New York Islanders select...
Adam Larsson (D, Skellefteå - SWE-SEL)
While I would assume the Isles would be happy selecting either Hamilton or Beaulieu at this spot, seeing Larsson fall to them is too great to pass up. Larsson immediately becomes the Isles' top prospect, as he is the only candidate with the potential to be a #1 NHL defenceman (let's face it: none of Hamonic, de Haan, Wishart, and Donovan have that). If he's willing to do so, I could see Larsson stepping into a second-pairing role next season, assuming Hamonic will provide a big, physical presence with Streit on the number one unit.
With the #6 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Ottawa Senators select...
Ryan Strome (C, Niagara - OHL)
The rebuilding Sens are showing signs of promise after winning the 2011 Calder Cup, but outside of Bobby Butler they don't have anyone in their system that has almost a sure-fire shot at becoming a top-6 forward with the NHL club. Enter Ryan Strome, arguably the most dynamic offensive forward in the draft, who could jump into a second-line center job with Ottawa as soon as next season.
Couturier is off the board here, so for me Strome is an easy selection here, but I - cringing while I type this - wouldn't be surprised if Ottawa took Zibanejad here instead.
With the #7 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Winnipeg Whatevers select...
Dougie Hamilton (D, Niagara - OHL)
Before discussing Hamilton, I have two predictions related to Winnipeg's orders of business at the draft:
- Winnipeg will officially announce their team name tomorrow right before their selection.
- Zach Bogosian will be traded to the Western Conference, and I'm even going to predict it's a California team. Los Angeles, Anaheim, and San Jose all have the pieces and the wherewithal to make a move like this happen.
With the #8 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Columbus Blue Jackets select...
Nathan Beaulieu (D, Saint John - QMJHL)
I seem to be saying this every year, but hopefully Scott Howson and company finally use this pick to address their mega-glaring need for a stud blueliner. Beaulieu has performed on all of the big stages he's played on and provides an all-round skill-set with some big offensive upside. Hopefully the Jackets do the right thing and, perhaps, lock up Beaulieu so they have someone to run their powerplay.
With the #9 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Boston Bruins select...
Jamie Oleksiak (D, Northeastern University - NCAA)
An off-the-board selection, the easy rationale for the Bruins selecting Oleksiak is the fact that he's a carbon copy of Chara at the same age. Digging deeper, though, one can see that all of the Bruins' top up-and-comers are forwards: 2010 #2 pick Tyler Seguin, clutch-performing rookie Brad Marchand, Jordan Caron, Jared Knight, and Ryan Spooner. On defence, the Bruins have much less swagger, with guys like Steven Kampfer, Matt Bartkowski, and Ryan Button at the top of their prospect depth charts.
Some would pitch for the Bruins to add some fire to their powerplay with the likes of Ryan Murphy, but I just don't see Peter Chiarelli going down that road.
With the #10 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Minnesota Wild select...
Mika Zibanejad (C, Djurgårdens - SWE-SEL)
Apparently this guy has sky-rocketed up draft rankings because of his size and his potential as a two-way power forward, often being compared to Mikko Koivu. What better team to draft Zibanejad than Minnesota: a team that could desperately use a #2C behind Koivu (yes, I know there's Mikael Granlund, but I think he's a winger in the NHL)?
People will pull for Joel Armia to be selected here in forming an all-Finn super line of Granlund-Koivu-Armia: it just seems silly to force something like that.
With the #11 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Colorado Avalanche select...
Tyler Biggs (RW, USNTDP - USHL)
If there's a team with a consistent drafting tendency, it's Colorado: they just love the OHL, the US-NTDP, and the USHL, having used 14 of their past 21 top-60 picks on players from these leagues. While OHL options like Brandon Saad and Matt Puempel may tempt the Avs, Biggs is exactly what his name says - big!
Once considered a potential top-5 pick in this draft, Biggs had somewhat of a disappointing season; however, Biggs provides that big-bodied bull-in-a-china-shop presence I alluded to earlier.
With the #12 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Carolina Hurricanes select...
Mark McNeill (C, Prince Albert - WHL)
McNeill had an awesome combine and is seen as one of the best two-way centers in the draft thanks to his all-round package of size and skill. With the Hurricanes likely moving Jeff Skinner to the right wing full-time to play with Eric Staal, the need for a #2 center is apparent even with the likes of Brandon Sutter and Zach Boychuk around.
I'd personally think that Carolina should pursue a defenceman at this spot, but Jack Johnson is the only defenceman the 'Canes have taken in the first round since 2002 and we all know how that turned out. Don't be surprised if Carolina trades down a bit and acquires another second round pick to use on a defenceman like Murphy, Clendening or Russo.
With the #13 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Calgary Flames select...
Matt Puempel (LW, Peterborough - OHL)
Calgary needs goal-scorers, so they select Matt Puempel - probably as good as they come in this draft. Once seen as a potential top-10 pick, Puempel managed to survive a roller coaster season with the lowly Petes. Jay Feaster is all over the place with his drafting history, so taking the chance on Puempel's upside is definitely in the cards.
With the #14 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Dallas Stars select...
Duncan Siemens (D, Saskatoon - WHL)
If there's a team that needs Ryan Murphy's skill in their system, it's the Dallas Stars. Too bad here they decide to go with Steady Eddy Siemens - a punishing blueliner who could step in a play a key role in a more defensive-minded Stars sytem.
With the #15 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the New York Rangers select...
Ryan Murphy (D, Kitchener - OHL)
When the Rangers see something they like, they go after it no matter what state their farm system is in: they drafted Alexei Cherepanov and Michael Del Zotto after their free-falls from the top of pre-draft rankings, and New York does it again with the selection of Murphy.
With the #16 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Buffalo Sabres select...
Zack Phillips (C, Saint John - QMJHL)
Phillips has it all, and those tend to be the players the Sabres go after. It's yet to be seen if Tyler Ennis can take on the load as a center in the NHL, so Buffalo adds a guy with big upside into the mix, taking their time with his development.
With the #17 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Montreal Canadiens select...
Joel Armia (RW, Ässät - FIN-SML)
Aside from late-round pick Alexander Avtsin, the Canadiens really lack size on the wings in their prospect pool. Add this with the fact that the Habs don't mind going after Finnish talent (Saku Koivu is a prime example, and they recently signed '09 selection Joonas Nattinen) and you can cue the addition of hulking winger Armia, who posted a very solid season in Finland's top men's league.
With the #18 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Chicago Blackhawks select...
John Gibson (G, USNTDP - USHL)
With Crawford and Salak around, the Hawks have time to let Gibson refine his game at the University of Michigan.
With the #19 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Edmonton Oilers select...
Jonas Brodin (D, Färjestad - SWE-SEL)
While the Oilers' blueline needs help sooner rather than later, Brodin gives Edmonton a two-way defenceman that can move the puck while playing some solid D.
With the #20 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Phoenix Coyotes select...
Boone Jenner (C, Oshawa - OHL)
Some may suggest that the 'Yotes go with Jenner's teammate, Nicklas Jensen, Jenner provides Phoenix with a potential #2C with solid two-way ability, size and offensive upside.
With the #21 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Ottawa Senators select...
Sven Bartschi (LW, Portland - WHL)
The slight, but very skilled, Swiss winger has talent for days and through-the-roof upside. The Sens seem to be willing to make sure they rebuild for the long-term, not the short-term, so there is no need to rush Sven.
With the #22 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Anaheim Ducks select...
Scott Mayfield (D, Youngstown - USHL)
Cam Fowler needs help, badly, and, after trading away Jake Gardiner, the Ducks' defensive prospect pool has potential - but only on offense. Mayfield should be able to compliment that perfectly, with the punishing style that may remind Ducks fans of a certain defenceman who led them to a Stanley Cup.
With the #23 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Pittsburgh Penguins select...
Oscar Klefbom (D, Färjestad - SWE-SEL)
With Simon Despres likely to make his NHL debut for the Penguins next season, Pittsburgh rolls the dice on the ever-rising offensive defenceman that dominated the U18s.
With the #24 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Detroit Red Wings select...
Adam Clendening (D, Boston University - NCAA)
We're at the point of this draft where everything goes haywire. With Brian Rafalski no longer with the team, ironically the Wings decide to draft someone who I think can be that exact type of player. Clendening dominated the USNTDP program last year as well as the U18 tournament. One of the older players eligible this year, Clendening put up an excellent freshman season for BU with 26 points in 39 games - a number good enough to rank him 5th in team scoring.
With the #25 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs select...
J.T. Miller (C, USNTDP - USHL)
Miller dominated the U18s this year and has the total package Leafs' GM Brian Burke looks for in his players.
With the #26 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Washington Capitals select...
David Musil (D, Vancouver - WHL)
Musil had a rough draft year, but still has the size and bloodlines that teams love. Even if Musil never develops into the top-end defenceman he was once touted to be, he should still develop into a serviceable two-way defenceman that is solid in his own zone.
With the #27 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning select...
Connor Murphy (D, USNTDP - USHL)
Tampa GM Steve Yzerman knows how important defencemen are in winning championships and, with the prospect cupboard rather bare in this respect, snags the solid two-way Murphy.
With the #28 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the San Jose Sharks select...
Shane Prince (C, Ottawa - OHL)
The Sharks don't mind going off the board in grabbing guys they see as a fit for their team. The Sharks also have a history of grabbing talent from the OHL's 67's and opt to go with Prince, who racked up the numbers on Ottawa's top line this year.
With the #29 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Vancouver Canucks select...
Joseph Morrow (D, Portland - WHL)
With all of the changes that will likely transpire in Vancouver's defence corps this offseason, some former Moose are going to find themselves in the position to make the jump into the NHL lineup. Because of this, the Canucks grab the offensively-gifted Morrow to replenish its stock.
With the #30 selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs select...
Mark Schiefele (C, Barrie - OHL)
The big-bodied Colt helped carry the load this season for a horrible team, and showed solid two-way ability with offensive upside as a #2C.