Blue chip prospects are running all over the NHL this year. With the 2010-11 season a little past the half-way point, now is a good time to catch up with the top five of the 2011 draft class and get a progress report of how our young hot-shots are doing.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was undoubtedly the most highly touted prospect in the 2011 NHL draft. The crafty left hander had been playing for the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL before the Edmonton Oilers took him with the first overall pick. Nugent-Hopkins quickly moved his way up to the first line in Edmonton and was the only member of the Oilers to be invited to the NHL All-Star game. Nugent-Hopkins was placed on the injured reserve list on Jan. 3 due to an injured shoulder. Despite the time he has missed he will certainly be a top candidate for the Calder Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL's rookie of the year.
Gabriel Landeskog was selected second overall in the 2011 draft by the Colorado Avalanche. Like Nugent-Hopkins, Landeskog immediately jumped to the fist line. As of Jan. 2 Landeskog has 11 goals and 16 assists for the season. These are decent numbers even for seasoned players. The thing that really sticks out on Landeskog's stat sheet is his 139 hits as of Jan. 2. This number of hits would be high for a defenseman, let alone a left wing. This style of play is not new for Landeskog. According to his bio on the Kitchener Rangers website, "he has managed to mix the typical Swedish hockey sense and skill with the physicality of North American hockey to become a dominant player…"
Jonathan Huberdeau was the third overall pick in the 2011 draft. Huberdeau hasn't quite made it to the show yet. The Florida Panthers are letting the young man marinate with the Saint John Sea Dogs for now. In the 2010-11 season Huberdeau had 43 goals, 62 assists, and an amazing plus/minus of plus 59. So far this season the Saint John Sea Dogs are leading the QMJHL in total points and they may be on the way to win another league championship to go with the one they won in 2011. If Huberdeau keeps up his winning ways he should be with the Panthers in no time.
Adam Larsson was the fist defenseman taken in the 2011 draft. He was also the first international player drafted. Larsson is from Skelleftea of the Swedish Elite League where he has been playing since he was 16 years old. Larsson is a stay at home style defenseman, so his offensive numbers don't accurately reflect his total skill set. The Devils thought enough of him to take him fourth overall in the draft and bring him promptly to New Jersey where is moving quickly up in the depth chart.
Ryan Strome is a blue chip prospect from the Niagara Ice Dogs of the Ontario Hockey League. Strome was drafted fifth overall by the New York Islanders. Before the season started there were rumors that Strome may fall into a second line center position behind John Tavares. The Isles instead decided to go with Frans Nielsen and Tim Wallace who are a bit older and have more experience. Meanwhile, Strome is playing this season with the Ice Dogs. As of Jan. 2 Strome had 18 goals and 22 assists in 28 games played-that's 1.43 points per game for you stats wizards. Despite his immaturity, expect to see Strome in the face off circle for the Isles next season.
Sean Couturier was actually not one of the top five players selected in the draft but it would be foolish not to mention him. Courturier was drafted eighth overall by the Philadelphia Flyers. Courturier was born in Phoenix Arizona. He played his minor hockey in the QMJHL with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. The reason he is worth mentioning is because he has been one of the highest impact rookies in the NHL this season. He has settled into the second line in Philadelphia behind Claude Giroux. As of Jan. 2 Couturier had 10 goals and 9 assists for the Flyers and will probably be in the discussion for rookie of the year.
Kristain Eberwein is a sports writer from Orlando Fla. Follow him on Twillter @kriseberwein