Jim Neveau, NHL Correspondent
St. Paul, MN – The 2011 NHL Entry Draft got off to a pretty tame start in the Twin Cities. Other than the trade that sent Ryan Smyth to the Edmonton Oilers for Gilbert Brule and a draft pick, nearly the entire first round went off without any picks swapping hands today. Then, as the Draft neared the conclusion of the first round, all hell broke loose.
The first domino to fall was the deal that sent Blackhawks forward Troy Brouwer to the Washington Capitals in exchange for the 26th pick. This deal happened after an earlier trade sending him to Ottawa for a second had been rumored to occur, but in the end the Hawks got a better deal for their gritty forward.
The next deal was a huge blockbuster, as the Sharks dealt newly signed forward Devin Setoguchi, along with Charlie Coyle and their number 28 selection this evening, to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Brent Burns and a second round pick in 2012. This deal came as a shock primarily because it was widely assumed that the Wild would deal Burns earlier in the day, and things had calmed down significantly on that front. Setoguchi signing a three-year contract extension yesterday also fed in to the surprise element of the trade.
Finally, Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks pulled off another trade, sending defenseman Brian Campbell to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Rostislav Olesz. The deal was a stunner simply because it was assumed that no one would want Campbell’s sizable $7.14 million cap hit on their books for the next five years. Dale Tallon did the Hawks a favor on this one, and likely opened up more cap room for Chicago to chase down a free agent this off-season.
When you add in the pick swaps involving Toronto and Anaheim (the 22nd pick in exchange for the 30th and 39th selections), and Ottawa and Detroit (24th pick in exchange for the 35th and 48th), you ended up having a very eventful first day at the Draft.
There was plenty of action in the war rooms and team tables at the Xcel Center as well. For a better overview of that, here is a recap of how each of the teams did on Day One in St. Paul:
The Ducks made one of the better trades of draft night, acquiring the 30th and 39th picks from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for their 22nd pick. Getting two top-40 picks in a relatively weak draft may not seem like a huge steal, but the Ducks knew that they were just as likely to get a gamebreaker picking eight spots lower. Rickard Rikell, their selection with the 30th, is a decent defensive forward with the potential to score 50 points a year, so it will be interesting to see how he develops.
Boston Bruins: A-
The defending champions got arguably one of the best conditioned players in the entire draft in Dougie Hamilton. The youngster played over 30 minutes a game for Niagara this season, and he is a big guy at 6’4″. Having some extra time to develop will be good for him as he tries to gain strength, and it will also give him ample opportunity to hone his defensive skills after converting from the forward position.
It’s tough to hit a home run in the middle of the first round, but the Sabres got a very solid player in this spot. Joel Armia is a 6’3″ forward who skates wonderfully for a guy his size, and he is effective in all areas of the game. He does need to improve on his defense, especially considering he only had 29 points in 48 games in Finland last season, so that’s why Buffalo gets docked a little bit here.
Calgary Flames: B+
Sven Baertschi is a very solid player for only being 5’10″, and he has been compared to players like Mike Cammalleri and Derek Roy. He is a prototypical finesse player, picking up 85 points (34 G, 51 A) in 66 games with Portland of the WHL last season. He is a speedy guy too, and could fit in very well on a Calgary team who’s looking for some scoring punch.
Drafted a player who could be this year’s Cam Fowler in Ryan Murphy, who shot up the boards thanks to his stellar play with Kitchener. At only 5’11”, he does need to gain some weight in order to compete effectively in the NHL, but with his quality play on the power play, he could very well find himself with Carolina this season.
Any night where a team unloads a burdensome contract for very little in return is a good thing, but the Hawks’ trade of Brian Campbell may come back to bite them if their defense struggles this year. Their sele ction of Mark McNeill with the 18th pick was perfect for a team looking for a second line center, and Phillip Danault could be a solid winger for the club in the future.
The Avalanche did the right thing by drafting Gabriel Landeskog with the second pick, and while Duncan Siemens could be a solid defensive addition for a team that traded away Kevin Shattenkirk last season, Colorado may have been better off taking Nathan Beaulieu or Jamie Oleksiak in this spot. Time will tell.
Columbus didn’t technically do anything on draft day, but they were rumored to be pursuing Brian Campbell before he was dealt to Florida, and they did acquire Jeff Carter earlier in the week. They did have to give up the eighth pick (which was used to take Sean Couturier), but at least Carter is a proven commodity.
Dallas Stars: C+
With so many areas of need, it was hard to determine the biggest one, but the selection of Oleksiak was a decent one for a Dallas team that prides itself on physicality. The hulking defenseman does need to improve his shot accuracy if he is going to be a force in the NHL.
The Wings once again traded out of the first round, and while there wasn’t anyone that was screaming to be taken in this spot, it would have been an interesting choice for them to opt to take a guy like Zack Phillips or another risky venture like Tomas Jurco. Doubting Ken Holland is usually a fool’s errand, however.
Edmonton Oilers: A-
The Oilers addressed multiple needs on Friday night, grabbing a top-line center to accompany their stable of talented wingers, and they also drafted a guy in Oscar Klefbom who not only has one of the coolest names in the draft, but also could be a difference maker on the defensive side of the puck for a team in desperate need of blue line help.
Florida Panthers: B-
Their selection of Jonathan Huberdeau made sense, and while they didn’t have to give up a lot to get Campbell from the Blackhawks, this is still a risky trade for Dale Tallon. Campbell has the potential to add some great veteran leadership to this team’s blue line, but at the price tag that he will carry for the next five years, he could become a millstone around Dale’s neck.
The Kings got as decent a return for Ryan Smyth as they could. Gilbert Brule will help replace some of the grittiness they lost when they dealt Wayne Simmonds to Philadelphia in the Mike Richards trade. The big question now for them is whether or not they will be able to thrive if Richards proves as much a distraction in their locker room as he did in Philly’s.
Minnesota Wild: B+
The Wild started out the draft by taking Jonas Brodin, a defensive defenseman that essentially does the same things that the Wild have always looked for. Then, instead of staying the course that has led them to semi-mediocrity, they spiced things up by dealing for sniper Devin Setoguchi from San Jose and drafting Zack Phillips, a tremendously talented offensive weapon. Things could take on a new look in Minnesota in the near future with those guys.
Montreal played it safe in the first round, and that’s perfectly fine for them. Drafting a defenseman like Nathan Beaulieu will improve their blue line in the future, and while they could have chosen to bolster their offense instead, there’s nothing wrong with taking a kid from your home province with the skill set that the youngster has.
The Predators were completely quiet on draft day, with the exception of their new jersey, which was easily visible from the press box with its bright yellow tones.
Always known as being a gritty and gifted defensive club, the Devils did nothing to move away from that reputation on Friday by taking the best defenseman on the board, Adam Larsson. He will be a great compliment to this team, and provided he makes the opening night roster, he should help them in what will likely be a quick turnaround from a disappointing season.
The Islanders picked the perfect guy for their team in Ryan Strome. Not only is he a humble kid who will fit in well in a young dressing room, but he also is very close to Isles’ center John Tavares. Their bond could prove to be useful to an Islanders team that is stockpiling gifted forwards, and could really make a good jump this coming season with a healthy Kyle Okposo and rookie of the year finalist Michael Grabner leading the way.
New York Rangers: C-
It feels as though the Rangers reached with this pick. More polished centers like Mark McNeill were still on the board when the Blue Shirts picked 15th, and the team could have helped its dressing room chemistry for years to come if it had selected Boone Jenner.
Ottawa Senators: C+
The Senators did a great job to move up to acquire three picks in the first round, but some of those picks were questionable. Mika Zibanejad needs to work on improving his discipline, and Stefan Noesen is a solid offensive player but a bit of a reach at 21. The real steal of Ottawa’s draft could very well be Matt Puempel, who is an incredibly dynamic player out of Peterborough who could invigorate a moribund offense in the near future.
The Richards and Carter trades left some fans scratching their heads in disbelief: why would a team who picked up 106 points during the regular season trade away two of its most prized assets? When you look at the return Philly got, those questions should subside. Brayden Schenn is a dynamite prospect, and the Flyers used the eighth pick to select Sean Couturier, a polished center who can play defense and still pick up tons of points. He could be a tremendous replacement for either of the two veterans who were dealt.
Phoenix Coyotes: B-
The Coyotes made a decent selection at number 20 with Connor Murphy, but they may have been better off taking Portland Winterhawks’ product Joseph Morrow. He had 49 points in 60 games last season in the WHL, and while his passing his solid his defense is just as stout. Regardless, Phoenix made a safe pick, and they’ve made a habit of fitting guys into their system under Dave Tippett, so it’ll have to be a wait and see approach with this guy.
It looks as though the Penguins have done it again at the Draft. After quietly taking Beau Bennett during last year’s draft, the Penguins took Joseph Morrow, a deft passer and solid defenseman who can take his time developing in their system. Ray Shero has made a habit of taking substance over flash, and that has definitely led to the team’s success in the playoffs over the years.
The Sharks gave up a lot to acquire Brent Burns from the Wild. Giving up Setoguchi, Coyle, and a first round pick is a steep price for a defenseman as maligned as Burns is, but the return could be fantastic. Along with Dan Boyle, Burns is going to give the Sharks a unique amount of punch from the blue line, and that could certainly help this talented group finally get over the hump in the 2011-12 season.
St. Louis Blues: n/a
The Blues were quiet in the first round, thanks to their trade in February that sent their first round pick, Erik Johnson, and Jay McClement to Colorado. The Blues do have three second round picks and two more in the third, so they still have plenty of time to make noise in this draft.
Leave it to Steve Yzerman to pick the Russian guy. Vladislav Namestnikov has great vision, is a speedy player, and is defensively smart. His favorite player is Pavel Datsyuk, and that shows how dedicated he is to playing hard on both ends of the ice. He needs to bulk up a little bit, but when he does, he should be a very solid addition to the Lightning.
Toronto Maple Leafs: D+
The Leafs didn’t exactly have a stellar night. They traded two top-40 picks to move up three spots to take a guy in Tyler Biggs who almost certainly would have fallen to them at number 25, and their other pick of Stuart Percy was solid but not great. Brian Burke has been known not to overvalue draft picks, but he seems to have pumped that philosophy up with steroids for this draft.
The Canucks didn’t need to make a big splash and they took a guy who may take a few years to develop in Nicklas Jensen. He is going to be a very solid winger in the years to come, and you may see him on a line with Ryan Kesler or the Sedins someday for the Canucks.
Washington Capitals: C
The Capitals didn’t end up picking on day one, and they traded their pick to the Blackhawks for Troy Brouwer. Brouwer is a very nice player who will give the Caps a good mix of physicality and scoring, but giving up a first round pick doesn’t seem like good value. Perhaps time will prove skeptics wrong, but as of right now, the move seems like a win for Chicago.
Winnipeg Jets: C+
In their first pick since moving from Atlanta, the Jets continued the trend that the Atlanta team had: reaching for players. Scheifele is a decent player who could end up being a Paul Stastny-esque player, but he definitely needs to bulk up some, and his passive approach may not play well on a team that isn’t loaded with snipers. It will be interesting to see how he develops.