The 2011 NHL Entry Draft - Mock Edition. Part I
By Alan Bass
Welcome to Hockey54.com's 2011 NHL Entry Draft - Mock Edition - Part I, featuring resident writers Alan Bass, and his cohort, Bryan Thiel.
Despite living on separate sides of the 49th parallel, Bass and Thiel flipped a coin to see how they would go about selecting the first round.
After some squabbling about who really called tales, U.S. and Canadian relations remained intact and the breakdown of this mock entry draft ended up with Alan picking the evens, and Bryan selecting the odds.
So without further explanation, here we go...
1. Edmonton Oilers
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Red Deer (WHL)
While there is the possibility that the Oilers trade out of this position if someone is enamored enough with one of the four or five players that could go first overall, expect them to keep it and target either Nugent-Hopkins or Adam Larsson. The Oilers have plenty of talent on the wings, so Gabriel Landeskog would simply be an addition to those riches, and with Nugent-Hopkins' high-end puck sense and vision, he'd form a dynamic top-line with fellow number one Taylor Hall. Edmonton is fortunate though, that both Larsson and Nugent-Hopkins address a need for the franchise.
2. Colorado Avalanche
Gabriel Landeskog, LW, Kitchener (OHL)
There is also a possibility that the Avs may trade out of this pick, specifically if Bryan Murray and the Ottawa Senators desperately want to draft the star winger out of Kitchener. But if Colorado hangs on here, Landeskog would be a great addition, providing both offensive and defensive capabilities, in addition to a physical presence - one who can play on a first line with Matt Duchene or Paul Stastny. Defense is also a need right now, but Landeskog can provide more help in the short-term and the long-term, while Adam Larsson could take longer to develop.
3. Florida Panthers
Jonathan Huberdeau, C, Saint John (QMJHL)
Adam Larsson's "slide" from first overall continues simply because there is a wealth on the back-end in Florida's system. Back-to-back first round selections of Dmitri Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson (provided he can sign this time around) mean that the Panthers can concentrate on some needs up front. Huberdeau's smooth hands put him in a great position to succeed alongside some of the young wingers Florida picked up last year, namely Quinton Howden. With solid two-way centres Scott Timmins and John McFarland in place, Dale Tallon can add that scoring centre he'll need whether or not Stephen Weiss is around.
4. New Jersey Devils
Adam Larsson, D, Skelleftea (SEL)
Although the Devils do have Jon Merrill and Matt Corrente waiting to make the jump to the NHL, neither translate into a top-two defenseman. However, after winning the draft lottery, Lou Lamoriello will be able to replenish his blue line with the 6-foot-3 Swede, at one point a potential number one overall pick. Larsson will provide both offense and defense to the New Jersey organization and can help ease the transition to a new era when Martin Brodeur retires in the next two years.
5. New York Islanders
Dougie Hamilton, D, Niagara (OHL)
People have fallen in love with Hamilton's all-around game and he's certainly earned those endorsements. An all-around defenseman with a hulking 6'4" frame and a flair for offense, Hamilton takes pride in his defense as well, making him a complete defenseman with a nasty side as well. Hamilton's ascension through the draft ranks is difficult to overlook, but it's well deserved. He'll bring grit to the back end along with leadership and give the Isles a great potential top-pairing with Calin de Haan.
6. Ottawa Senators
Sean Couturier, C, Drummondville (QMJHL)
If the Senators can't move up to take Gabriel Landeskog (and believe me, they'll try their best), then Couturier would be the next best choice. Although he seemed to hit a wall at points throughout the season, he performed well in the playoffs, averaging over a point per game. Couturier would make a great number-two center in 2011-12 behind Jason Spezza, and could take over the number one spot within a few years.
Ryan Strome, C, Niagara (OHL)
The Niagara Ice Dogs and Marty Williamson have produced two players with top-ten potential in this year's draft, and with the defenseman off the board, the Thrashers go with forward Ryan Strome. Winnipeg/Manitoba have a number of young wingers in the NHL right now and their defense is established, meaning that another young centre to help out Alexander Burmistrov is key. Like Burmistrov, Strome is a little smaller, but he's a speedy, crafty centre with grit and toughness to go with it. While Strome is a talented player, it's his ceiling as a prospect (which may be one of the highest in the draft) that will draw the interested parties.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets
Ryan Murphy, D, Kitchener (OHL)
Columbus has never had a franchise defenseman since their inception in 2001. However, with the selection of offensive defenseman Ryan Murphy, that will change for the next two decades. Murphy may still be a couple years away from the NHL, but once he fills out his 5-foot-11 frame and hones his defensive skills, he will anchor the Blue Jackets' blue line for years. His 26 goals and 79 points this past season will translate well into NHL production, specifically when playing with Rick Nash.
9. Boston Bruins (from Toronto)
Nathan Beaulieau, D, Saint John (QMJHL)
After using the first pick they acquired from the Maple Leafs to draft Tyler Seguin last year, the second first rounder they got in the Phil Kessel trade will go to further stabilizing Boston's blueline. That may sound silly considering Zdeno Chara is patrolling the blueline, but the hulking 34-year old won't be around forever. The Bruins have a strong nucleus of young forwards doing the heavy lifting (Lucic, Horton, Bergeron, and Krejci are all 26 or younger), Brad Marchand and Seguin are long-term, controllable assets at centre, while Jordan Caron and Zach Hamil got call-ups this year to go along with a handful of other young forwards. Like Seguin, Beaulieau would find himself in a fortunate situation with the Bruins as the key cogs in this defense have a few years left, allowing him more time to grow and mature into the physical puck-mover he can be.
10. Minnesota Wild
Mika Zibanejad, C, Djurgarden (SEL)
After selecting center Mikael Granlund last year in the 2010 Draft, Minnesota will go with another two-way forward from Europe, one whose stock has risen drastically over the past year. Zibanejad is a bit of a project, but at 6-foot-2, 191 pounds, he is physically capable of stepping into the NHL next year. He and Granlund could make a great 1-2 tandem down the middle, contributing on both sides of the puck.
Now that picks one through ten are taken care of, stay patient for eleven through twenty...