The Xcel Energy Center will be full of electricity and youthful enthusiasm as the top prospects enter the arena in under a weeks’ time hoping to find a new hockey home for the future. The 2011 draft class features a few game breakers at the top but it will become known as the draft that featured 30-40 players tightly grouped together between the 10th and 40th pick. Teams have been required to perform extensive analysis of each prospect in order to determine the slightest differences that separate these players.
The 2011 draft class features a weaker goaltending class and defensemen could fall as it’s expect that 2012 will bring the deepest class of defenders in recent memory. Follow along closely as one “surprise” pick could change the draft significantly for a number of teams – especially in the Top 10.
My following mock draft was published previously on my personal blog a few weeks back and initially used an in-depth format highlighting each NHL team’s needs and a full player analysis. You can view this format by following the links below.
- Dean Youngblood’s 2011 NHL Mock Draft #1-10
- Dean Youngbloods 2011 NHL Mock Draft – #11-20
- Dean Youngblood’s 2011 NHL Mock Draft – #21-30
Below is a condensed version for easy referencing. Enjoy!
1. Edmonton Oilers – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Red Deer (WHL)
Taylor Hall will welcome this dynamic playmaking center with open arms. The Oilers find their number one center whom they have been searching years for. Nugent-Hopkins would be the first WHLer selected first overall since Chris Phillips did it 15 years ago (1996).
The Avs select the winger they need who just also happens to offer a solid all-around game. The smooth talking Swede can shoot, pass, fight, defend and oozes leadership qualities. Landeskog is the full package.
3. Florida Panthers – Jonathon Huberdeau, C/LW, Saint John (QMJHL)
The elusive playmaking centerman owns tremendous hands and showed that he could take his game to a new level in the playoffs for the Memorial Cup Champions. Florida will welcome an offensive player that has the potential to draw in more fans and carry them into the post season.
If the top-ranked defenseman drops to the Devils this pick becomes a no-brainer. New Jersey has turned to drafting Swedes in recent drafts (Tedenby, Josefson, Urbom) and Larson provides them with a defender who can log big minutes and provide a calming influence in both the offensive and defensive zones.
The big pivot from Drummondville has been almost over-scouted where teams are found searching for flaws more than strengths. His stock hasn’t risen but others have closed the gap on Couturier. With Tavares already in place, Couturier would be a tremendous number two jack-of-all-trades type of centerman for the Islanders.
Improving your point totals by 93 points is a sure-way of getting you notice in a draft year. Strome took full advantage of his trade to Niagara and showcased his offensive abilities. Strome is an explosive center who has elite vision and can fire the biscuit in the net as well.
7. Winnipeg (Jets?) – Dougie Hamilton, D, Niagara (OHL)
The CHL Scholastic Player of the Year has had a season to remember. Hamilton has the potential to become the best defender of the draft as he has an unique ability to defend and provide good offensive numbers with his high hockey IQ and above average puck moving skills.
The Jackets have been searching for a true puck moving defenseman since their inaugural season and they will add one with their first round pick. Murphy has the highest offensive upside of any 2011 defenseman and Columbus would fill a long awaited need.
9. Boston Bruins – Duncan Siemens, D, Saskatoon (WHL)
The Bruins are in need of a solid two-way defender and Siemens fits that billing perfectly. As one of the younger skaters in the draft, Siemens’ accomplishments this past season shouldn’t be overlooked. He skates well, moves the puck well and can thrive in the physical aspect of the game.
10. Minnesota Wild – Mika Zibanejad, C, Djurgarden (SEL)
The third Swede selected in the Top 10, Zibanejad has become one of the most talked about prospects in recent months. Mika plays a complete game with good offensive upside and most scouts have compared him to Jeff Carter. At tenth overall, Minnesota would be getting a steal.
11. Colorado Avalanche – Sven Bartschi, LW, Portland (WHL)
The 2012 draft class appears to be loaded with defensemen which allow the Avalanche to take a second winger in the top half of the draft. The small Swiss winger owns a ton of offensive upside and notched an impressive 85 points (66 games) in his rookie WHL season.
12. Carolina Hurricanes – Nathan Beaulieu, D, Saint John (QMJHL)
The Hurricanes are a team that usually believes in taking a forward with their first round pick but their biggest need is a defenseman. Beaulieu plays a smooth transitional two-way game that would fit nicely in the youthful core of Carolina.
13. Calgary Flames – Mark McNeil, C, Prince Albert (WHL)
Calgary’s search for a top line center comes to an end as they select the big, strong edgy Mark McNeil. The comparison of McNeil to Getzlaf is fitting at times as Mark skates well, owns elite vision and who could develop into an offensive juggernaut.
14. Dallas Stars – Joel Armia, RW, Assat (SM-Liiga)
The Stars in need of a defenseman in their system but the talent of this 6-foot-3 skilled forward might be too much to pass up on. Armia has great puckhandling skills, good skating ability and a dynamic offensive playing style but he just needs to put it together on a consistent basis. If the Finn can do that, he’ll be the steal of this draft.
The OHL rookie had an impressive year for the Barrie Colts racking up 75 points (66 games) and has been considered the “safe pick” of this draft class. Considered to be “safe” mainly because Scheifele has a well-rounded game and can play in a number of different situations. The big responsible center has the potential to develop into a playmaking pivot.
16. Buffalo Sabres – Boone Jenner, C, Oshawa (OHL)
There are several scouts who are extremely high on the kid with the best name in hockey. Jenner is a jack-of-all-trades type of player who can defend on your top penalty killing unit or snipe on the powerplay. Jenner will give a team 100% effort and is a sure-bet to fit somewhere in a team’s top nine.
17. Montreal Canadiens – Jamieson Oleksiak, D, Northeastern (NCAA)
The 6-foot-7-inch Toronto native was on full display in the NHL’s draft combine as he impressed in several testing areas. Oleksiak is a project pick but he has the potential offensively and defensively to develop into a top-pairing defenseman.
18. Chicago Blackhawks – Zach Phillips, C, Saint John (QMJHL)
The Sea Dogs’ top line pivot was exposed to plenty of scouts this past season as he played on a line with Jonathon Huberdeau. The duo combined for 200 points and helped each other drastically improve on their previous season’s totals. Phillips projects to be a goal scorer but has good playmaking abilities in his back pocket as well.
19. Edmonton Oilers – Joseph Morrow, D, Portland (WHL)
If the copper and blue decide to go with their top line center with the 1st overall pick then It’s expected they opt to use their 19th pick to add something to the backend. There are a few experts who have Morrow ranked inside the Top 15 as he possesses good offensive instincts, a smooth transition game and envious cannon of a shot.
20. Phoenix Coyotes – Matt Puempel, LW, Peterborough (WHL)
The Coyotes will be looking to add an offensive skilled forward or goaltender to their lineup with the 20th pick and Puempel fits the billing of a goal scoring winger perfectly. Puempel has had to answer a lot of questions surrounding his health but the winger with good size has shown the ability to score goals after posting back-to-back OHL seasons of 30 goals or more.
21. Ottawa Senators – Nicklas Jensen, RW, Oshawa (OHL)
What team doesn’t want a 6-foot-3 winger, who has tremendous speed, can make ‘thread the needle’ passes and score with an impressive pro release? Jensen represents a rare combination of size and skill that teams often spend years trying to find.
22. Anaheim Ducks – Jonas Brodin, D, Farjestad (SEL)
Brodin will bring stability to the Ducks’ defence core to allow Fowler and Sbisa to attack offensively. Brodin plays a simple game but he is a tremendous skater and makes the first pass effectively.
23. Pittsburgh Penguins – Brandon Saad, LW, Saginaw Spirit
The Penguins select a Pittsburgh native. Brandon Saad owns great speed, soft hands and can physically take over the game along the boards. Scouts definitely like Saad’s potential and he could just become that perfect fit alongside Crosby in Pittsburgh. Saad could become a player capable of scoring 30+ goals at the next level.
At the NHL Draft Combine last week people were raving about Klefbom’s outgoing personality and overall impressive demeanor. Klefbom’s offensive upside is one of the highest in this year’s draft class as he likes to rush the puck and his tendency to lay the big hit will get Red Wing fans out of their seats as well.
25. Toronto Maple Leafs – JT Miller, C, US Under-18 (USHL)
Surprise! Burke picks a pivot that owns good size (6-1, 190 lbs), plays aggressive and just happens to be an American. Miller has been described as “Kesler-lite” and his compete level will be enough to frustrate the opposition on a nightly basis.
26. Washington Capitals – Vladislav Namestnikov, C, London (OHL)
The speedy and elusive Namestnikov plays a strong two-way game and prides himself on being responsible at both ends of the rink. In his first OHL season, Vladislav was quite impressive notching 30 goals and 68 points and played in all 68 games.
27. San Jose Sharks – Ty Rattie, RW, Portland (WHL)
The undersized smooth skating winger with tremendous creativity has the potential to be one of the better playmaking forwards from this draft class. Rattie offers an arsenal of offensive skills that feature effortless puckhandling, elusive skating and elite playmaking abilities.
28. Tampa Bay Lightning – Rocco Grimaldi, C, US U18 (USHL)
Grimaldi would be considered a top 5 pick in this year’s draft class if it weren’t for his small 5-foot 6-inch frame. The Lightning showed last year with their Brett Connolly selection that they are willing to take the most talented player available regardless of any ‘red flags’ associated with them. Grimaldi is undersized but he plays with a lot of energy, owns a deceptively quick shot and is very difficult to knock off the puck with his low center of gravity.
Jurco probably represents the biggest “boom or bust” player in this year’s draft class. The young Slovak winger would help Vancouver’s depleted right side and he possesses the skillset worthy of first round selection. The YouTube sensation is one of the best puck handlers of the ’11 draft class but he owns good size (6’2″) and great skating abilities.
30. Toronto Maple Leafs- Brett Ritchie, RW, Sarnia (OHL)
Ritchie has great puck protection skills and thrives in the cycle game down low. He drives to the net and owns a good quick shot making him dangerous when in tight. Ritchie can pass, score, hit and drops the mitts with no questions asked. There is a chance Ritchie becomes their target with their second round pick (39th) but I doubt if he’s around when the 39th pick comes due.
31. Edmonton Oilers – Scott Mayfield, D, Youngstown (USHL)
The Oilers could use a stable presence on the backend and Mayfield offers just that. The Youngstown defender projects to be a top 4 pairing defenseman who skates very well, passes well and has an extremely accurate point shot. Mayfield’s stock has fallen but I believe that can be attributed to playing on a poor Youngstown team.
32. St. Louis Blues – Alexander Khokhlachev, C/LW, Windsor (OHL)
The dynamic Russian skater plays extremely hard at both ends of the rink and can be a gritty type of player at times. Quick feet, good hockey smarts and a knack for scoring goals will attract teams to Khokhlachev but the small Russian will need to improve his play against bigger players. He has a tendency of getting knocked off the puck easily.
33. Florida Panthers – Connor Murphy, D, US Under-18 (USHL)
Connor Murphy is coming off a season that saw him play only 14 games due to injury. Murphy has a solid all-around game where he is valuable both defensively and offensively. The Florida Panthers could beef up their blueline depth and continue to build from the net out. Plus, Connor’s dad, Gord, played fourteen seasons in the NHL and currently serves as the Panthers Assistant coach.
34. New York Islanders – Tyler Biggs, RW, US Under-18 (USHL)
Biggs best attribute is his physical presence and compete level. Biggs is a good skater who thrives in the dirty areas of the ice. He eludes great leadership qualities too and would fit nicely on the island.
35. Ottawa Senators – Stefan Noesen, RW, Plymouth (OHL)
Noesen is a personal favourite of mine and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him drafted within the first round. The Texas born winger may just be one of the purest “two-way” players in the draft as he brings a boat-load of work ethic to the rink and can kill penalties with the best of them. The gritty forward doesn’t have that ‘wow’ factor but he has found an ability to score goals with a hard heavy shot.
36. Chicago Blackhawks – John Gibson, G, US Under-18 (USHL)
Corey Crawford appears to have reached the big leagues for good so it’s time for the Blackhawks to re-stock their farm. John Gibson has good size between the pipes and has shown early in his career that he plays a consistent game. The starting netminder for the US Under-18 Team, Gibson was named the Top Goaltender en route to a Gold Medal win at the 2011 U-18 World Championships.
37. Columbus Blue Jackets – Shane Prince, C, Ottawa (OHL)
The small center from Rochester, NY has deceptively quick speed that he often uses to beat defenders wide. Prince put up strong numbers this past season playing alongside Kings’ prospect Tyler Toffoli. Prince projects to be a set-up man but does own a good shot. Scouts have some concerns about his compete level but he that shouldn’t make him fall too far in the draft on day two.
38. Nashville Predators – Rickard Rakell, RW, Plymouth (OHL)
Rakell has “typical Nashville forward” written all over him. The hard working Swede has very good hockey smarts and plays the game almost flawlessly. His stats aren’t that encouraging but I believe he has more offensive skill than numbers indicate. Rakell is the type of player who will see the NHL sooner rather than later as he’s already proven that he’s strong enough and smart enough to compete against the OHL’s top player.
39. Toronto Maple Leafs – Victor Rask, C, Leksand (SWE-2)
Rask was once considered within the elite players of the 2011 draft class but after struggling in his draft year with consistency issues his stock has fallen. It wouldn’t be crazy to think Rask could fall another 15 spots but Toronto might be attracted to his offensive upside and physical size. Rask needs to be motivated and if that happens then he could become one of the 2011 steals.
40. Boston Bruins – David Musil, D, Vancouver (WHL)
Another former highly touted 2011 draft pick, Musil experienced a frustrating season playing for a poor Vancouver Giants team. The Calgary native comes from good hockey and athletic blood lines as his father (Frantisek), uncle (Bobby Holik) and mother (professional tennis player) passed on some good athletic traits. Musil projects to be a defensive defenseman but his offensive upside is limited. He will need to improve his skating if he is going to find success at the next level.
41. St. Louis Blues – Dmitri Jaskin, RW, Slavia (Czech)
The big Czech winger was once projected inside the first round but after struggling with consistency he will likely fall somewhere after the 30th pick. Jaskin is an aggressive hard working player who has one of the better shots of this draft class. Scouts haven’t seen a lot of Jaskin this year but those who did have noticed that he thrives in the high traffic areas and is extremely good with the puck in tight spaces.
42. Carolina Hurricanes – Phillip Danault, LW, Victoriaville (QMJHL)
Danault was named captain of his QMJHL team as a seventeen year old and that speaks volumes to the type of player he is. Teams will be drawn to his tireless work ethic and responsible defensive play. The small winger never gives up on a play and is always circling the puck and while he isn’t flashy, Danault is the type of player who will help win those close games.
43. Chicago Blackhawks – Daniel Catenacci, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
The former first-overall selection in the OHL Draft can skate, dangle and plays with a ton of jam. At 5’10″, Catenacci plays much bigger than his size and doesn’t shy away from trouble on the ice (sometimes to a fault). This fiery center has the ability to come up big when his team needs him but also is dependable defensively. Scouts were almost certain Catenacci would be a first round pick earlier in the season but after a disappointing U18′s where he was virtually invisible, Daniel is likely to slide outside of the Top 30.
44. Dallas Stars – Ryan Sproul, D, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Sproul was brought up during the season from Jr.A and truly defines the term “riser” as he jumped from 124th to 54th on Central Scouting’s rankings of North American skaters. The smooth skating defenseman is very raw but the offensive upside will be tempting for clubs come draft weekend. Sproul notched an impressive 14 goals once he joined the average Greyhounds team and impressed scouts with his excellent mobility and hard shot.
45. Calgary Flames – Stuart Percy, D, Mississauga (OHL)
Percy’s stock has risen dramatically over the course of the season especially considering he wasn’t initially listed in Central Scouting’s preliminary rankings. Percy’s strengths stem from his strong hockey sense as it allows him to make smart plays. Percy thrives when he is sending outlet passes, maintaining proper defensive positioning and reading plays correctly.
46. St. Louis Blues – Mario Lucia, C/LW, Wayzata (HS-MN)
The Minnesota teenager is considered the top ranked high school player in this draft and there’s a good chance that Lucia doesn’t make it out of the first round or even this far. Lucia is a big strong center who skates phenomenally well. Lucia scored at will this past season for Wayzata High Sschool as he notched over a goal per game and he should continue to develop offensively once his frame fills out where he can better utilize his size.
47. Florida Panthers – Nick Shore, C, Denver (WCHA)
Shore entered this season with high expectations and many people believed he would contend as a first-round selection. The strong two-way center would be joining older brother Drew if Florida selected him but the Panthers could be reaching a bit if they take him at 47th. However, the stocky Shore has a good offensive skill set that features good speed, creativity and great hockey IQ. After missing some time due to injury and struggling to meet the lofty expectations of him, Shore will be a player who will slide further than most projected.
48. Ottawa Senators – Seth Ambroz, RW, Omaha (USHL)
The Senators have enough picks in the second round (3) to make a few gambles and if (big if) Ambroz falls to them at 48th he would be hard to pass over. Once touted as a high first round pick, Ambroz has seen his draft stock fall after scouts noticed little improvement in his game – specifically his skating. Ambroz represents a boom or bust player but he does own soft hands, a quick release and thrives playing the physical game with his 6-foot-2 frame. Ambroz is a man child who can score but when a team takes a gamble on his poor skating is still unknown.
49. Los Angeles Kings -Nikita Kucherov, RW, CSKA2 (Russia-JR)
The Under-18 standout for Russia, has rocketed up the rankings after his record setting tournament performance scoring 21 points in just 7 games. Kucherov is a dynamic winger who oozes offense and the Kings aren’t shy about drafting Russians either. The small quick skating Russian had a strong season in Russia’s junior league but has been questioned because he often looks disinterested and takes undisciplined penalties. Kucherov possesses first round talent.
50. New York Islanders – Adam Clendening, D, Boston University (H-East)
The undersized defenseman would be ranked higher (45th among North American skaters) if he were a few more inches taller. Playing for Boston University, Clendening impressed scouts with his tremendous ability to distribute the puck and is one of the better puck-moving defensemen in this draft class. Clendening has good upside but will need to work on his foot speed and mobility to thrive in the NHL as a smaller defenseman.
51. Phoenix Coyotes – Christopher Gibson, G, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
The Coyotes won’t be keeping starting goaltender Bryzgalov around after he wanted too much coin so expect Phoenix to use one of their top picks on a franchise goaltender. Chris Gibson has an American name but don’t let that fool you as he hails from Finland – a country that is known as a goaltending factory. Gibson has good size and covers the net well which complements his aggressive goaltending style. Gibson is ranked as the second best netminder in the draft and teams will surely be attractive to his lightning quick reflexes.
52. Nashville Predators – Lucas Lessio, LW, Oshawa (OHL)
Lessio’s calling is his hard-working approach to the game as he offers a strong two-way game with decent offensive upside. Doesn’t that sound like Nashville? Scouts have been disappointed with Lessio at times as he often becomes frustrated too easily and that can throw him off of his game. Teams will draft Lucas based on his strong two-way game and capability of holding his own in the dirty areas.
53. Anaheim Ducks – Matt Nieto, LW, Boston University (H-East)
Anaheim wouldn’t mind adding another California kid to their lineup. Nieto grew up playing alongside the Ducks’ 2010 1st round pick Emerson Etem, so there could be some campaign action for Nieto from within the Ducks organization. Matt Nieto is an undersized winger who is one of the quickest skaters in the draft. Lightning speed, dangerous hands and a quick release make Nieto an offensive weapon that teams will be eager to select.
54. Pittsburgh Penguins – Joseph Lebate, C, Holy Angels (MN-HS)
The Minnesota high-school star has made quite the name for himself as a goal scorer entering his draft year. At 6-foot-4-inches, Labate owns great size and with his natural goal scoring abilities a team could get a steal with him late in the second round. Labate plays with the intensity that scouts love and when he adds some bulk to his frame the lanky pivot will display even more of his offensive potential.
55. Detroit Red Wings – Joachim Nermark, C, Linkoping Jr (SWE -Jr)
Nerward has all the tools to become a solid second line center but he will need to quiet all of the critics after struggling through the World Junior Championships and Under-18s in Germany. Nermark had a fantastic Ivan Hlinka Tournament impressing scouts with his quick release, playmaking abilities and good skating. The versatile Swede has all of the skills to become an NHLer but a team will need to be patient with this raw centerman. There is no better place than Hockeytown for patience.
56. Phoenix Coyotes – Reid Boucher, C, US U-18 (USHL)
The Michigan native was one of the more impressive players at the Under-18 Tournament in Germany. Boucher is ranked 113th among North American skaters (4th round) but I like him to make a late 2nd or early 3rd appearance. The 5-foot-10-inch center has a rare ability to score goals and with his late birthday he still has room to grow. Boucher is a boom or bust type of player but with several picks in the second round, the Coyotes can take a risk.
57. Calgary Flames -Michael St. Croix, C, Edmonton (WHL)
With Michael St. Croix a team will get a player who is responsible in all three zones and has the ability to chip in offensively too. St. Croix is a playmaker first and shooter second but he does seem to have a knack for being in the right spot at the right time. The native of Winnipeg has a good quick shot and puck handling skills to create opportunities for himself or teammates.
58. Tampa Bay Lightning – Myles Bell, D, Regina (WHL)
By now, we are all aware of Myles Bell’s off-ice issues with the impaired driving causing death charges but if a team does their due diligence then this pick could prove worthy. The Lightning have a history of drafting prospects from the WHL and Bell certainly has good offensive instincts. Myles likes to rush the puck and is very effective on the powerplay which should be appealing to the Lightning organization.
59. San Jose Sharks – Miikka Salomaki, RW, Karpat (SM Liiga)
Salomaki is an interesting player as he plays with a lot of energy and jam. Ranked seventh among European skaters, Salomaki plays an aggressive in-your-face type of game with the ability to block shots, kill penalties and does whatever else is needed to win. He played for Karpat in Finland’s top league and scouts say that he didn’t look out of place.
60. Vancouver Canucks – Joel Edmundson, D, Moose Jaw (WHL)
Ranked 33rd among North American skaters, the large rangy defender has seen his draft stock sore after making the jump from Midget to the WHL early in the season. Edmundson projects to be a defensive defender at the next level and has been compared to former WHLer Dylan McIIrath in the way that he plays. In his rookie WHL season, Edmundson showed that he can skate well, make a good first pass and most importantly shut down and intimidate the opposition’s best players.
61. Ottawa Senators – William Karlsson, C, Vasteras Jr (SWE-Jr)
The luxury of having a boat-load of picks is always nice and Ottawa has the priviledge to go off the board with one or two of them. I can almost gaurantee that one of Ottawa’s three second round picks will be a Swede and why not add a third “Karlsson” to their depth chart? William is a good skater with high hockey sense and can be especially shifty when on the attack. After posting an impressive 54 points in the Swedish junior division he was called up to play with the senior club Allsvenskan where he notched four points in 14 games. Karlsson has a tremendous compete level and was one of Sweden’s best players at the World Under-18 tournament en route to a silver medal and five points in six games.
Follow Brendan Ross on Twitter @rossyyoungblood for prospect info and updates.