The Pick: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Red Deer Rebels (WHL). Details: There’s no denying his elite skill level or desire, and Nugent-Hopkins has great vision and playmaking skills. An excellent skater and top-end offensive talent. At 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, he needs to get bigger to survive the rigors of the NHL and it’s anticipated he’ll be returned to junior in 2011-12.
The Pick: Gabriel Landeskog, LW, Kitchener Rangers (OHL). Details: A leader, a hard worker and perhaps the prospect most ready to step into the NHL next season. Landeskog has spent the past two years in Kitchener, and was the team’s captain this season. At 6-foot-1 and 207 pounds, he’s a powerful player with a big shot. He might not match Nugent-Hopkins’ high-end skill level, but he’ll give it his all each and every night.
The Pick: Jonathan Huberdeau, C, Saint John (QMJHL). Details: A key member of the Memorial Cup-winning Sea Dogs, Huberdeau continued to climb the draft rankings all season. He’s great with the puck and uses his teammates well, and is a heady player who sees the ice. Like Nugent-Hopkins, he comes in at about 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds. That needs to be addressed, and he’ll work on his foot speed, too.
The Pick: Adam Larsson, D, Skelleftea (Sweden). Details: Make room for the next great Devils defenseman. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder has played against men in Sweden’s top league for the past two years and, like his countryman Landeskog, is close to NHL-ready. Sturdy in his own end, he’s got a hard shot and can contribute offensively. His skating needs work, but his hockey sense is second to none.
The Pick: Ryan Strome, C, Niagara IceDogs (OHL). Details: The 6-foot, 183-pounder is fast and slick. He can hold his own offensively with anyone in the 2011 draft. Great hands, great playmaker and quick shot. Plus, he’s worked out with John Tavares in the off-season and seems happy to be headed to Long Island. If he can pack on some muscle and ramp up his work ethic, who knows, he might be there next season.
The Pick: Mika Zibanejad, C, Djurgarden (Sweden). Details: A force at both ends of the ice, the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder plays a physical game. He doesn’t look for trouble, but don’t cross him. Relentless worker, strong on faceoffs and generally a smart player, his puck skills need improving.
7. Winnipeg Jets
The Pick: Mark Scheifele, C, Barrie Colts (OHL). Details: The Jets’ first draft pick in 16 years is a player who was barely on scouts’ radar 12 months ago. The 6-foot-2, 177-pounder has an abundance of offensive skills: soft hands, hard shot and crafty with the puck. He’s not a power forward, but his hockey smarts more than make up for it.
The Pick: Sean Couturier, C, Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL). Details: The rangy 6-foot-4, 195-pounder began the season battling with Nugent-Hopkins for the No. 1 draft ranking. His stock fell, but he’s solid all over the ice, with good puck sense and passing skills. He works hard and can play in any situation. The knock on Couturier is his skating.
The Pick: Dougie Hamilton, D, Niagara IceDogs (OHL). Details: The Bruins add another big, solid defenseman in the 6-foot-4, 195-pound rearguard. Might be a steal at ninth overall. A very good skater for his size, you’re not going to beat him wide. He’s smart on and off the ice, and he’s got some offensive upside, too. He’ll have to bulk up his big frame; maybe the Bruins will put him on the Zdeno Chara Diet.
The Pick: Jonas Brodin, D, Farjestad (Sweden). Details: An intelligent, well-rounded defenseman, Brodin is an excellent skater who makes a good first pass and shuts down lanes in his own end. At 6-foot-1 and 165 pounds, he needs to get bigger. He’s skilled, but doesn’t pile up points. A great feel for the game, he uses his mobility to get in the right position, which helps compensate for his lack of size.
The Pick: Duncan Siemens, D, Saskatoon Blades (WHL). Details: He’s old school. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound blue liner plays it hard and physical, taking care of business in his own end. A good skater with a hard shot, Siemens also has promise as a puck-mover.
The Pick: Ryan Murphy, D, Kitchener Rangers (OHL). Details: Easily the most gifted offensive defenseman in the draft. The knocks on Murphy are his size (5-foot-11, 176 pounds) and his one-dimensional game. But, it’s a pretty impressive dimension. He’s a spectacular skater, passer and has a hammer of a slapshot. He could help juice the Hurricanes’ power play tomorrow, but his defensive game needs work.
The Pick: Sven Bartschi, LW, Portland Winterhawks (WHL). Details: Speedy, feisty and plenty of skill with the puck. He flies around the ice, and is a good playmaker and has a sneaky-fast shot. At 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, he doesn’t bowl anybody over, but he never stops, he competes hard and he’s got good hockey sense.
The Pick: Jamie Oleksiak, D, Northeastern (U.S. college). Details: He’s Texas-sized, at 6-foot-7 and 245 pounds, and skates well for a behemoth. There aren’t many that are stronger in the 2011 draft, that’s for sure. He’s a raw talent, but has flashed some offensive talent. He has a ways to go, but let’s face it, there’s a lot to work with.
The Pick: J.T. Miller, C, USA U-18 (Team USA). Details: At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Miller has power-forward potential. Not overly slick, but he takes care of the puck and passes well. A second-tier talent who plays with an edge.
The Pick: Joel Armia, RW, Assat (Finland). Details: The first Finnish native selected in 2011 was impressive at home, but struggled in international competition which probably hurt his draft standing. Armia has good size (6-foot-3, 195 pounds), but needs to use it much more effectively to make an impact at the next level. His skill set is top 10-worthy, especially his stickhandling. If he’s ready to put in the work, he could be a go-to forward for the Sabres.
The Pick: Nathan Beaulieu, D, Saint John (QMJHL). Details: A superb skater and a stellar offensive defenseman. An impressive passer and puckhandler, and uses his mobility to create time and space. He’s dangerous with the puck, and he has the puck a lot. Good size, too, at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, but his defense needs to be developed.
The Pick: Mark McNeill, C, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL). Details: Big body (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) and capable skills. Decent speed and nifty with the puck, and reliable in all three zones. Needs to work on his compete level.
The Pick: Connor Murphy, D, USA U-18 (Team USA). Details: The son of former NHL defenseman Gord Murphy, Connor has been sidelined with injuries for big chunks of the past two seasons. But he’s a good gamble, with his size (6-foot-3, 185 pounds), skating ability and offensive talents. He’s a good passer and has a hard, accurate shot. If he’s over the injury hump, this could be a great pick at No. 20 for the Coyotes.
The Pick: Stefan Noesen, RW, Plymouth Whalers (OHL). Details: A native of Texas, Noesen improved vastly in his second OHL season, jumping from three to 34 goals. That’s the kind of trend that scouts love. Noesen plays a full-contact game, but has above-average skills, especially his playmaking and shot. His skating is the question mark.
The Pick: Tyler Biggs, RW, USA U-18 (Team USA). Details: Leafs GM Brian Burke traded up for the chance to pick Biggs, sending Toronto’s 30th and 39th selections to Anaheim. No wonder. Biggs is Burke’s type of a player, rough and tumble and all about grit. At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, he was a man against boys at times this season. He’s not going to be a 40-goal scorer, but he has upside as a hardnosed second-liner who’ll protect his teammates and create space for his linemates.
The Pick: Joe Morrow, D, Portland Winterhawks (WHL). Details: He brings a nicely balanced game, headlined by his skating, passing and physical play. Morrow’s talents are on display in the offensive end, but sometimes betrayed in the defensive zone where he sometimes gets caught.
The Pick: Matt Puempel, LW, Peterborough (OHL). Details: Perhaps the best pure scorer in the draft. A superb skater with sweet hands, he has the knack for finding the soft spots in opponents’ defenses. When his team doesn’t have the puck, though, Puempel isn’t much of a factor. If he makes the jump to the NHL, it’ll have to be as a top two-liner.
The Pick: Stuart Percy, D, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors (OHL). Details: The Leafs went with a safe choice in Percy, who is solid at both ends of the ice. He’s a smart player who works hard and is usually in the right position. He won’t wow you with his skills, but he does a lot of things well and works hard.
The Pick: Phillip Danault, LW, Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL). Details: The Blackhawks opted for character and they get it in Danault, who has one of the best work ethics in the draft. His skating could be better, but he doesn’t need to be the smoothest guy out there to be effective. He gives his all, and is a heady player with vision.
The Pick: Vladislav Namestnikov, C, London Knights (OHL). Details: Another son of a former NHLer, Namestnikov is Russian by birth but grew up in Michigan. He had 68 points as a rookie OHLer, putting his skating and playmaking on display. Packing on some muscle to his 170-pound frame would bolster his chances to develop into a top pivot.
The Pick: Zack Phillips, C, Saint John (QMJHL). Details: They’ll harp on his skating, but not his offensive prowess. A super passer and playmaker, Phillips was a key part of the Sea Dogs’ Memorial Cup championship. His vision makes him lethal on the power play.
The Pick: Nicklas Jensen, LW, Oshawa Generals (OHL). Details: The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Danish native impressed as an OHL rookie. He skates well, gets off a hard shot quickly and protects the puck with his frame. If he smells a chance to score a goal, he goes all-out. However, he needs to bring the same level of urgency to other aspects of his game.
The Pick: Rickard Rakell, RW, Plymouth Whalers (OHL). Details: A fine skater with a good change of pace, he plays with drive and likes to initiate contact. His offensive upside is somewhat limited, but he’s willing to work hard and always competes.