Last season, the word around the NHL was that the 2011 draft class would be the weakest one of the past ten years. Now? NHL GMs are saying this draft is deep, and is even drawing comparisons to the famed 2003 draft. This mock draft was much harder to put together than the one I did last year because of the amount of players that have a chance to go in the first round. Low and behold, here is my 2011 NHL Mock Draft.
1. Edmonton Oilers select Ryan Nugent Hopkins, C (Red Deer – WHL)
No questions asked here, RNH is going to be the pick. The only other player who is in contention for the selection is Adam Larsson, but a #1 center is a more valuable commodity in the NHL today. Nugent-Hopkins should not crack the NHL next season, but many said the same thing about Patrick Kane in 2007, and he proved everybody wrong. I have a feeling Taylor Hall is going to be very pleased with this pick.
2. Colorado Avalanche select Jonathan Huberdeau, C/LW (Saint John - QMJHL)
I've had Gabriel Landeskog here for awhile now, but recently word has leaked out that Huberdeau is the favorite for the Avs at #2. Huberdeau is an outstanding offensive player, but seriously needs to bulk up. His situation reminds me alot of Ryan Johansen's last year, as both are lanky centers that have the talent to play in the NHL as 18 year olds, but just don't have the bulk. It'll be intresting to see how the Avs handle this situation.
***TRADE*** The Florida Panthers trade the #3 pick to the Ottawa Senators for the #6 and #21 picks
3. Ottawa Senators (from Florida) select Gabriel Landeskog, LW (Kitchener - OHL)
As soon as Huberdeau went to Colorado, GM Brian Murray was on the phone trying to move up. The cost was heavy, but Murray was able to move up and get the man he covets. Gabriel Landeskog will be groomed to eventually replace Daniel Alfredsson. Widely considered the most NHL ready player in the draft, Landeskog can play in any situation, and really resembles a young Mike Richards on the ice. A great pick for the Senators franchise.
4. New Jersey Devils select Adam Larsson, D (Skelleftea – SEL)
Sweet Lou will be running up to the stage to make this pick, as New Jersey has a franchise defenseman fall right into their lap. Larsson had ridiculous expectations placed on him this year and obviously couldn’t live up to them. Many teams are also concerned that he may not be coming over next season, but I believe if anybody can convince him to come over, it's the Devils. There’s no way he falls past here.
5. New York Islanders select Sean Couturier, C (Drummondville – QMJHL)
Many have the Islanders going defense here, but Garth Snow’s track record shows he likes to go offense in the 1st. Sean Couturier was widely considered the top prospect in the draft before the season, and really has fallen because of scouts nit picking. Remember, this is the QMJHL MVP and the only draft eligible player to make Canada's World Junior team this year. Couturier could pave the way for John Tavares to move to the wing.
6. Florida Panthers (from Ottawa) select Mika Zibanejad, C (Djurgarden – SEL)
A worst case scenario here for the Panthers. They want a center, specifically Nugent-Hopkins or Huberdeau, but they were both gone by the time they picked. Dale Tallon trades down expecting Sean Couturier to be there, only to see him selected one pick earlier. Tallon now has to go to "plan D" and select Mika Zibanejad. The Swede is a terrific talent and has been the fastest riser in the draft recently. He could potentially step into the NHL next season.
7. Winnipeg Jets select Ryan Strome, C (Niagara – OHL)
This selection was a tough call as Dougie Hamilton is the BPA. Winnipeg is going to want to make a splash though, and selecting the electric Strome will do that. Will Strome be the first kid to throw on a new look Jets jersey?
***TRADE*** The Columbus Blue Jackets trade the #8 pick Jakub Voracek and Nikita Filatov to the Philadelphia Flyers for Jeff Carter
8. Philadelphia Flyers (from Columbus) select Ryan Murphy, D (Kitchener - OHL)
The Flyers needed to clear cap space, and the easiest way to do that was trade Jeff Carter. Make no mistake about it though, the Flyers made a great trade. The worst prospect base in the NHL gets a huge life with the selection of Ryan Murphy. Many have said that if the 5'10" Murphy was a 6 footer he'd easily be the first player selected. Boom or bust here.
9. Boston Bruins (from Toronto) select Nathan Beaulieu, D (Saint John - QMJHL)
The Stanley Cup champions have the luxury of taking a risk on a player here. They do that by selecting Nathan Beaulieu. The B's will hope Beaulieu can give them the extra dimension that they expected Tomas Kaberle to bring when he was acquired from Toronto.
10. Minnesota Wild select Joel Armia, RW (Assat – SM-Liiga)
Armia has seen his stock go all over the place recently, but I can't picture Minnesota passing on him. His scoring prowess and Finnish nationality makes him a perfect compliment to either Mikko Koivu or Mikael Granlund.
11. Colorado Avalanche select Dougie Hamilton, D (Niagra - OHL)
I can't believe that Hamilton will actually fall this far, but it is a possibility. The Avs will more than likely go defense here, and barring something crazy like this, will go off the board (ex. selection of Joey Hishon last season). Hamilton is a scary presence and potnetially could be the top defenseman in the draft. Quite a steal if he's around at #11
12. Carolina Hurricanes select Sven Bartschi, LW (Portland – WHL)
Jim Rutherford has stated he doesn’t like to select defenseman in the 1st, so that makes Bartschi the pick here as the best forward available. Matt Puempel (my pick for "the next Jeff Skinner) could be an option here as well. Bartschi is similar to teammate and fellow countryman Nino Niederreiter and will fit in nicely the real Jeff Skinner.
13. Calgary Flames select Jamieson Oleksiak, D (Northeastern - H-East)
High risk, high reward here for Calgary. Oleksiak is a monster, 6'7" 240 pounds and still bulking up. Some experts believe he can play at 275. That's down right scary. Calgary will select him here and poke and prod him until he agress to jump to Major Junior.
14. Dallas Stars select Mark McNeill, C (Prince Albert – WHL)
Brad Richards replacement? Uh, no, but don’t sleep on McNeill. McNeill has top 6 upside and has been reminiscent of a young Ryan Kesler at times.
15. New York Rangers select Tomas Jurco, RW (Saint John – QMJHL)
A bit of a surprise pick here, but the Rangers are no strangers to that. Jurco had a fantastic playoff, and has all the skills you look for in a 1st round pick. He just needs time to put it all together.
16. Buffalo Sabres select Mark Scheifele, C (Barrie – OHL)
Buffalo is in need of some centers, and they grab a good one here in Scheifele. Playing on a weak Barrie team, Scheifele really stands out as a potential top 6 forward in the NHL. Will be given time to develop before hitting Buffalo.
17. Montreal Canadiens select JT Miller, C (USNTDP – USHL)
The Canadiens draft from south of the border once again, this time going with JT Miller, a standout center from the USNTDP. Miller really saw his stock rise based on his performance at the U18s. A safe pick here.
18. Chicago Blackhawks select Boone Jenner, C (Oshawa – OHL)
A bit high for a player like Jenner, but he fills a huge need for Chicago. The #2 center spot in Chicago is vacant, and in a year or two Jenner is the perfect player to fill it. Needs to work on his skating.
19. Edmonton Oilers select Duncan Siemens, D (Saskatoon – WHL)
Duncan Siemens falls all the way to #19 here where Edmonton will gladly scoop him up. The big defenseman has top pairing potential and will have time to develop some more in the Dub before jumping to the NHL.
20. Phoenix Coyotes select Zack Phillips, C (Saint John – QMJHL)
Phoenix selects the goal scorer from Saint John here. Questions are in abundance about Phillips’ skating, and they are legitimate. Might be better suited to play on the wing in the NHL.
21. Florida Panthers (from Ottawa) select Matt Puempel, LW (Peterborugh – OHL)
The Panthers need scoring. Matt Puempel is a high volume goal scorer. If only everything was this easy. If he successfully recovers from his hip injury, Puempel could end up being 2011's "Jeff Skinner".
22. Anaheim Ducks select Joseph Morrow, D (Portland – WHL)
Morrow is a solid under the radar pick for the Ducks. Playing on a blue line packed with NHL draft picks in Portland, Morrow got tons of playing time. Should be a good partner for Cam Fowler down the road.
23. Pittsburgh Penguins select Brandon Saad, LW (Saginaw – OHL)
The on going search for Sidney Crosby’s winger leads to Pittsburgh drafting hometown kid Brandon Saad. Saad saw his stock fall over the course of the year, but will be very happy to end up in the Pens organization.
24. Detroit Red Wings select Jonas Brodin, D (Farjestad – SEL)
Suddenly the Detroit blue line looks quite thin. With the retirement of Brian Rafalski and Niklas Lindstrom not getting younger any time soon, the Wings go back to Sweden for another talented blue liner. Brodin is a great value pick here.
25. Toronto Maple Leafs select Ty Rattie, RW (Portland – WHL)
Brian Burke gets the man he covets here in Ty Rattie. A right winger with a heavy shot, Rattie will have time to develop before being asked to jump to Toronto.
26. Washington Capitals select Phillip Danault, LW (Victoriaville – QMJHL)
Many experts have Vladislav Namestnikov or Alexander Khokhlachev pegged in here, but that doesn’t make much sense to me. The Capitals have a plethora of Russian skill forwards. Adding a player like Danault gives the Caps a different look up front.
27. Tampa Bay Lightning select Rocco Grimaldi, C (USNDTP – USHL)
Does anybody really think the Lightning will pass up a chance to draft the “next St.Louis”? Yeah, I don’t either. Grimaldi has a ton of skill, and even more heart. Tampa is the right fit for him.
28. San Jose Sharks select Connor Murphy, D (USNTDP – USHL)
The Sharks are known to draft American born players and let them develop in the college ranks. That’s what they’ll do here with Miami-bound Connor Murphy. The son of former NHLer Gord, Connor has much more offensive upside than his father.
29. Vancouver Canucks select John Gibson, G (USNTDP – USHL)
The Canucks nab the first goalie off the board by selecting big John Gibson. With rumors swirling that Corey Schneider will be dealt, the Canucks want to keep the goaltending cupboard full. Gibson will head to Michigan in the fall.
30. Toronto Maple Leafs select Stuart Percy, D (Mississauga – OHL)
The Leafs cap off the 1st round by selecting one of the risers of this draft. A fantastic Memorial Cup run leads to the rise of Percy’s stock. A solid defenseman with top 4 potential.
Notable players not selected:
Vladislav Namestnikov, C (London – OHL)- Namestnikov’s inconsistent play as well as his Russian bloodlines haunt him here. Will still be a high pick in the 2nd round. Question is, if things don’t go his way, will he bolt back to Russia?
Alexander Khokhlachev, C (Windsor – OHL)- Same situation as Namestnikov, but there’s also size concerns with Khokhlachev. Many teams view him as a winger.
Oscar Klefbom, D (Farjestad – SWE Jr.)- Big Swedish defenseman could very well find his way into the 1st round. Very talented but a bit raw.
Scott Mayfield, D (Youngstown – USHL)- Big shutdown defenseman has drawn comparisons to Chris Pronger. Should be a high 2nd round pick.
David Musil, D (Vancouver – WHL)- Lack of development this season cause a huge slide for Musil. Somebody will take a chance on him and get a very solid player.